Science, Space, Health & Robotics News - Page 133
Scientists manage to produce gold from a toxic gas by using bacteria, won't help our financial problems
Michigan State University scientists have figured out a way to ensure that tech geeks around the world will continue to have gold to use in their electronic connectors. If you didn't know, all of those 1000-2000 pins on a modern CPU are coated in gold, along with the pins in expansion slots on the motherboard.
Professors Kazem Kashefi and Adam Brown utilized the bacteria Cupriavidus Metallidurans to process a naturally occurring toxic gas known as Gold Chloride into 99.9% pure 24-carat gold. You can see the apparatus that was used in the experiment in the above picture. And no, it's not magical.
The bacteria used was discovered to be up to 25 times more resistant to toxic environments than previously thought. This discovery prompted the experiment that resulted in the production of gold. It's a rather simple affair, too. The bacteria is placed into a small bowl into which the toxic Gold Chloride gas is pumped.
Leave it there for about a week and you'll end up with a 99.9 percent pure gold nugget. Unfortunately, it won't be solving any financial problems or making anybody rich anytime soon. While the process is easy, the Gold Chloride gas isn't cheap and since it isn't "natural" gold, it won't be worth as much.
Scientists from the NanoRobotics Laboratory at cole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada have discovered a way of directing nanobots (nano-sized robots) inside the human body. If you're unfamiliar with nanobots, the nano-sized robots are so small that they can only be seen under a microscope.
These bots can be guided toward specific parts of the body that were too dangerous to risk surgery over - and is considered a huge breakthrough in cancer treatment. The technology is still in its infancy, with human testing not even a thought for now, but there are a few robotics firms including Quantum International, Intuitive Surgical, iRobot Corporation, and Dover Corporation, who are all committed to pushing this nanobot technology.
Robert Federowicz, CEO of Quantum, has said:
Using robots to deliver cancer-killing medicine directly to a tumor deep within the body could forever change the treatment of the disease. The market for such astonishing technology would obviously be enormous. Quantum is dedicated to bringing just such innovations out of the laboratory and into the global marketplace.
In the infamous words of Dr. Evil, the earth is filled with "liquid hot magma." Now, some scientists are looking to drill down into the inner filling of our Earth to do more studying. This is no easy task as the people who have attempted it before will tell you. The price tag will be at least $1 billion USD, with no guarantee of success.
The group of international scientists plan to drill into the mantle in one of three places. The three options are located in the Pacific ocean, along mid-ocean ridge lines where the crust is the thinnest due to the quick forming of said lines. Here, the crust is believed to be as thin as 6km, whereas other parts of Earth have up to an 80km thick crust.
This isn't the first attempt at drilling into the mantle of the Earth. Russia attempted something similar with the Kola Superdeep Borehole, which managed to drill as deep as 12km, though not in the middle of the ocean. "It will be the equivalent of dangling a steel string the width of a human hair in the deep end of a swimming pool and inserting it into a thimble 1/10 mm wide on the bottom, and then drilling a few meters into the foundations."
One of my greatest fears are injections - I don't fall onto the floor, ball up and cry - but I just hate them. I always expect they're going to bring me a world of hurt, and I can't wait for the day when this relatively primitive technology is replaced, well, my wishes are slowly coming true.
Scientists from the Seoul National University in South Korea are hoping to help people like myself, but replacing the sharp metal of an injection, with laser-powered injections - frickin' lasers! A paper published in the Optical Society's Optics Letters journal states that the new method uses laser pulses to create a precisely controlled stream, which is said to be around the width of a human hair - much more manageable.
The injections would then target the epidermal layer, which is a portion of the skin that has no nerve endings, which would create something researcher Jack Yoh calls a "completely pain-free" experience. The high-pressure steams are capable of delivering whatever the injection is being used for, without damaging skin tissue. Yoh spoke with the Optical Society, where he explains:
The impacting jet pressure is higher than the skin tensile strength and thus causes the jet to smoothly penetrate into the targeted depth underneath the skin, without any splashback of the drug.
Scientists at Harvard University are working on rat cardiomyocytes, but slightly different than most scientists. They're snaking them through wires and transistors that peer into each cell's electrical impulses. In the future, these wires might actually control their behavior, too.
"Cyborg" tissues have been created for neurons, muscle and vessels, and could be used to test drugs, or used as the basis for biological versions of existing implants. If signals can eventually be sent to the cells, cyborg tissues could eventually be used to create tiny robots, or get used in prosthetics. Charles Lieber, who leads the cyborg tissue team, has said:
It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones.
Artificial cells can already be grown on three-dimensional scaffolds that are made up of biological materials, but are not electrically active. Electrical components need to be added to cultured tissue before, but not integrated into its structure, so they were only able to scrap information from the surface. Lieber's team combined these strands of work, and created an electrically active scaffold. 3D networks were then created using conductive nanowires studded with silicon sensors.
It looks as though NASA is wanting their Small Spacecraft Technology Program to see Android-powered devices go into space. The space agency wants to see if cheap consumer-based hardware can dependably survive a journey into space.
NASA believes that sending tiny satellites into space will pave the way for a low-cost delivery system, they also hope to improve upon, or evolve new propulsion techniques by working with much smaller devices, like smartphones. The first-gen, smartphone-powered satellites will be baked into a modular, cube-based chassis named 'CubeSat'.
The first PhoneSat will measure just 10x10x10cm, or roughly double the size of a Rubik's Cube. NASA will throw in Samsung's Nexus One smartphone, one external battery, radio equipment, and a watchdog circuit that will be used to reboot the device in case of a problem. NASA have already run stress tests on the Nexus One, which it passed without any modifications required. These tests were run to see if the smartphone could handle the launch and orbit into the dark beyond of space.
It's a sad day for the space community. Pioneer astronaut Neil Armstrong has passed away at age 82. For those of you who don't know who Neil Armstrong is, a little back-story is in order. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission, the first space mission of any country to land humans on the moon.
Once on the surface of the moon, he spoke the famous words that will forever be used to describe a great achievement that advances science for the better of the world: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong was one of only 12 Americans to ever set foot on the moon.
If you've ever been camping and sat around a campfire, you know how hot your face can get. While in war, many soldiers wear camouflage face paint. The issue with the current face paint is that it is a concoction of oil and wax which, when exposed to high temperatures such as a bomb blast, melts and burns the skin.
Furthermore, any face paint is required to have Deet, an insect repellent, included in the formula so that soldiers don't get bitten to death in jungles and other settings. The problem with Deet is that it is highly flammable, not exactly something you want exposed to high heat. This is where the scientists come in.
Scientists have invented a new face paint which "resists intense heat from bombs" and can resist temperatures of up to 600*C for up to 15 seconds. Considering bomb blasts last just two or three seconds, this face paint can protect soldiers' skin from the heat produced by the blast.
The new paint is produced using silicone, something that reflects heat rather than absorbing it. The Deet problem was solved by mixing it with a water-rich hydrogel substance to keep it from catching fire. Scientists are now working on producing a clear version for firefighters so they don't have to wear warpaint when running into a burning building.
Lithium Ion batteries are the best battery technology we currently have in mass production. It's used in everything from laptop computers to hybrid car batteries. Despite this wide spread use, it still has some major drawbacks. The biggest one that comes to mind is the fact that they take so darn long to charge.
Well, that could all be about to change. New research has shown that a modification in the way Lithium Ion batteries are constructed could reduce the charging time from hours to minutes. Current batteries charge from the outside in. This means the center part of the battery isn't receiving any current until the end of charging.
By putting "a dense network of conductors throughout the electrodes of the battery," researchers were able to charge the entire battery at once. This resulted in charging times that were 30 to 120 times faster than a standard Lithium Ion cell. The only issue is that filling the battery with conductors lowers the capacity or increases the size, albeit only slightly.
But if you can charge a cell phone in 5 minutes versus 2 hours, a slightly shorter battery life is not a problem.
Continuing with a theme of science and space Friday, we would like to give you something to do over the weekend. It's time for the yearly Perseid meteor shower in the northern hemisphere and it promises to be a good one. NASA has called it the "best meteor shower of the year" so you really don't want to miss it.
The shower will run from August 11 to 13, with the night of August 12 expected to be the best. NASA is predicting that at its peak rate people could be making 100 wishes an hour. In other words, NASA expects it to peak at 100 shooting stars an hour. "We expect to see meteor rates as high as a hundred per hour," NASA's Bill Cooke says.
Heading to the countryside away from city lights is usually advisable. According to NASA, "a visit to the countryside will typically triple the number of meteors you see." The best viewing time will be in the early morning darkness just before dawn. The show should start sometime after 10PM. I'll be heading to a remote location in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas to escape the Sacramento city light pollution.