Now, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that both water and organic material could actually have our planet surrounded, floating around space on ubiquitous interplanetary dust particles that constantly rain down on Earth and the other bodies in our solar system.… Read more
Scientists have been working for years on finding a way to harvest ambient energy continuously to power biomedical implants. The aim is to keep these vital implants running without the need for batteries, multiple invasive surgeries, and the like. From solar power to friction, to the energy produced when glucose breaks down or body temperature shifts, every rock is being turned over, looked under, and presumably considered for its potential as an energy source, too.
Now, bioengineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say they are closing in on this goal. Perhaps the holy grail of biomedical energy harvesting is using nearby organs; the energy generated by our own hearts and lungs is so, well, reliable.… Read more
Pancreatic cancer carries one of the worst prognoses of any disease, period. A whopping 99 percent of people diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer are dead within five years, and without any screening tests, it's usually found late. Even though it's one of the least diagnosed types of cancer in the US, it is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths. With such a grim record, scientists are hard at work looking for a test that can spot the disease earlier.
And while they caution that their work is preliminary, Danish scientists are reporting Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association … Read more
Sugar gives humans energy, so why not batteries, too? Researchers at Virginia Tech are developing what amounts to fuel cells, but with a sugar solution rather than hydrogen. Other attempts at sugar batteries have been made, but this one has an energy density that blows other versions out of the water. That means it can run for a much longer time before refueling is necessary.
"Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature. So it's only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery," says Y.H. Percival Zhang, associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.… Read more
Cats, rats, other mammals, and even some insects are well-known for using their hairlike tactile sensors -- whiskers -- to sense obstacles in their path and changes in the air. Now researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created "electronic whiskers" that could help robots navigate with similar sensitivity.
Their research, detailed in a paper titled "Highly sensitive electronic whiskers based on patterned carbon nanotube and silver nanoparticle composite films," appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and explains how these e-whiskers can be made and used to map airflow in real time.
The e-whiskers respond to the slightest changes in pressure -- in fact, "in tests, these whiskers were 10 times more sensitive to pressure than all previously reported capacitive or resistive pressure sensors," lead researcher Ali Javey said in a statement.… Read more
For the very first time, water vapor has been detected on an object in the asteroid belt, providing definitive proof that Ceres, the dwarf planet, contains both an atmosphere and a surface of ice. If that ice were to melt, scientists postulate, the tiny planet only 590 miles in diameter may possibly contain more freshwater than all of Earth.
The discovery, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, was made by a team at the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Herschel mission, using the infrared telescope of the same name -- the largest, most powerful ever to fly in space -- to help scientists study the evolution of the universe and its various celestial components. Herschel also is pivotal in contributing to coinciding NASA projects, namely the mission seeing the Dawn spacecraft to Ceres at this very moment. … Read more
Despite the understandable delays and roadblocks to its original timeline, the colonization initiative Mars One has succeeded wondrously in one of its less tangible goals: planting seeds in our collective subconscious.
For instance, what would it be like to live out your last days on the Red Planet, surrounded by only a handful of others in close proximity? What are the psychological effects? What will the limitations of the confirmed live stream be, and what happens when something inevitably goes wrong? These are questions the public is now seriously considering, thanks to the mission's open application process and its insistence on a one-way trip to get Earth's Mars colony up and running sooner rather than decades from now, when a return trip may be possible. … Read more
Turkeys are called "seven-faced birds" in Japanese for a reason: Their heads can actually change color -- and quite dramatically -- shifting from reds to blues to whites.
The mechanism at play is the swelling or contracting of blood vessels when excited or under duress, which in turn alters the spacing between bundles of collagen fibers that are interspersed throughout the blood vessels, which in turn alters the scattering of light waves and ultimately our perception of the color of a turkey's head.
Bioengineers at UC Berkeley are mimicking this very mechanism to build a biosensor that changes color in the presence of certain chemicals, as well as a companion app that analyzes the color changes to report on which chemicals are present. The idea is to affordably and easily use our smartphones as toxin detectors -- which could prove useful in a variety of settings.… Read more
Pacemakers supply electrical pulses so hearts can keep a steady beat -- and maybe now it's time for hearts to return the favor.
As electronics spread to smaller and smaller devices, a new technology called energy harvesting can in some cases solve the problem of supplying electrical power. Researchers at the University of Illinois-Champaign have shown they can harvest energy from the movement of internal organs to power pacemakers and other medical devices that today depend on hard-to-change batteries. … Read more
DNA has helped solved a nearly 70-year-old hoax -- one that has haunted a family and its ancestors in the debacle over the identity of a girl who was said to have died on the Titanic.
When the massive ship struck an iceberg more than 100 years ago, it was believed that only one child from the first class died in the sinking ship: Loraine Allison. The 2-year-old apparently didn't get safely on a life boat because her parents were said to have been frantically searching for her little brother, who unbeknownst to them was already on a life boat. Allison and her mother's body were never found in the ship's wreckage. … Read more