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Sep 21, 2015

‘Cool-Burning’ Space Flames Could Make Greener Cars

Posted by in categories: energy, space, transportation

Astronauts typically try to avoid starting fires in space, but new research on the behavior of flames in orbit could have benefits closer to home. In fact, this fiery research could lead to more-efficient car engines that contribute less pollution to the environment, according to a new study.

A series of experiments aboard the orbiting complex is investigating “cool-burning” flames in space — a type of fire that burns at lower temperatures than ordinary flames on Earth. Blazes on this planet typically burn at between 2,240 degrees and 3,140 degrees Fahrenheit (1,225 degrees and 1,725 degrees Celsius). Cooler flames produced in microgravity burn at temperatures of between 440 degrees and 980 degrees Fahrenheit (227 degrees and 527 degrees Celsius).

In the space station experiments, researchers ignited droplets of heptane fuel. These types of fires are possible on Earth, but they are typically short-lived, flickering out almost immediately, the researchers said. In microgravity, though, the flames burned for several minutes. [7 Everyday Things that Happen Strangely In Space].

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Sep 21, 2015

The Planets to Scale

Posted by in category: space

A graphic showing all 8 planets in our solar system, Mercury through to Neptune, to scale where one pixel = 279.6 km. Scales were worked out with this very useful solar system scale calculator. Find out more about the planets on the Planet Facts page.

Get the poster!

Feel free to embed the graphic on your site using this code:

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Sep 21, 2015

MIT Invented Magnetic Hairs That Can Make Water Flow Uphill

Posted by in categories: innovation, materials

Inspired by the coats of fur on some animals, researchers at MIT have developed a flexible skin-like material covered in thousands of tiny magnetic hairs that can move in varying directions in the presence of a magnetic field. That might not seem particularly useful, until MIT points out that the new material can be used to control how liquids move across its surface, even causing water to flow against the pull of gravity.

It’s a neat trick, for sure, but there are other more useful applications of this new material. The tiny magnetic micro-pillars that make up the hair can be manufactured from a fiber optic-like material allowing them to change the direction of light passing through, facilitating self-darkening windows, or revolutionary new optics for cameras. The material can also be used to create advanced artificial skins, smart waterproofing, and even a precise way to manipulate individual cells. And let’s not forget a potential radical breakthrough in self-combing toupees and wigs. [MIT].

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Sep 21, 2015

Unexpected stem cell factories found inside teeth

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Discovery could lead to new source of stem cells for research and treatment.

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Sep 21, 2015

Pentagon’s Project ‘Avatar’: Same as the Movie, but With Robots Instead of Aliens

Posted by in categories: military, robotics/AI

Soldiers practically inhabiting the mechanical bodies of androids, who will take the humans’ place on the battlefield. Or sophisticated tech that spots a powerful laser ray, then stops it from obliterating its target.

If you’ve got Danger Room’s taste in movies, you’ve probably seen both ideas on the big screen. Now Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, wants to bring ’em into the real world.

In the agency’s $2.8 billion budget for 2013, unveiled on Monday, they’ve allotted $7 million for a project titled “Avatar.” The project’s ultimate goal, not surprisingly, sounds a lot like the plot of the same-named (but much more expensive) flick.

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Sep 21, 2015

Beautiful Images of Astronauts Releasing Nanosatellites Into Space

Posted by in category: space

This is Oleg Artemyev. In his hand is a tiny satellite, known as a nanosatellite, called Chasqui 1—and he’s about to throw it into the wilds of space.

Well, throw might not be quite the right word—Artemyev would favor “deploy”—but it’s not far off. Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev conducted a 5-hour spacewalk on Monday, and part of that involved letting the satellite drift slowly into orbit, as well removing and installing some new scientific equipment.

You can see pictures of Artemyev releasing the satellite below—and choose your own word for the process. [Oleg Artemyev via NASA via Gizmodo ES].

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Sep 21, 2015

Laser ‘Lightning rods’ channel electricity through thin air

Posted by in category: energy

By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the University of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere.

The new technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 10 meters (33 feet) away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting through . It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.

Described in a paper published in The Optical Society’s new open-access journal Optica, the current system may have near-term, lifesaving applications in areas such as the remote detonation of land mines, the researchers speculate. The laser system could easily pinpoint an active land mine and then carry an electric pulse strong enough to safely discharge harmful explosives from afar.

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Sep 21, 2015

New ‘shape-shifting’ material can reconstruct faces

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, biotech/medical, materials

Called a shape-memory polymer (SMP) and developed by a team at Texas A&M University in the US, this biodegradable material can be used to fill in gaps in a damaged face and act as a scaffold to guide the growth of existing bones.

The researchers made their shape-memory polymer by linking molecules of another material — polycaprolactone, or PCL — and whipping it into a foam. According to Jackie Hong at Motherboard, the material is soft and easy to mould when heated to 60°C (140°F), and sets when it’s cooled to body temperature without becoming brittle. It can be used in 3D printing and moulding, which means it can be shaped into extremely precise models and bone scaffolds, and it’s full of tiny holes like a sponge, which allows bone-producing cells called osteoblasts to collect inside and grow.

According to Hong, the researchers enhanced this osteoblast-growing effect by coating their SMP material in polydopamine — a different kind of polymer substance that helps bind existing bones to the SMP scaffold, and has been shown in previous studies to encourage the growth of osteoblasts. Over a three-day trial, their coated SMP scaffold grew five times more osteoblasts than their uncoated scaffold.

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Sep 21, 2015

Nanogel Speeds Healing Process for Burn Victims

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, nanotechnology

Got a nasty burn? Nanogel has you covered. Using the power of nanotechnology, this cutting-edge simply sprays burns away, and speeds the healing process.

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Sep 21, 2015

Kickstarter campaign bringing magnetic charging to iPhone

Posted by in categories: energy, mobile phones

If you’ve got an iPhone, there is a good chance you also have a MacBook. The MagSafe charger on Apple’s laptop offerings is easy to use, leading some to want an iPhone with the same functionality. A recently funded Kickstarter is attempting to bring it to us, and even slaps in a battery pack for good measure.

The draw for Cabin is twofold: the magnetic charging, and the battery pack. The battery pack slips onto the rear of the device, much like we see with the Case+ lineup from Logitech. Aluminum, Cabin is relying on your sensitivity to style for the battery pack. At 2200mAh, it’ll charge you up more than once, too.

The magnetic charging is a bit more adapter than anything else. By taking a lightning connector and working a pinned magnetic charger on the end, we get simple, easy, and (hopefully) effective charging. What you won’t be able to do is use your MacBook charger. Cabin includes a Lightning adapter and dock (if you spend a touch more), though.

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