space_donkey writes: Snake-like robots might make your skin crawl, but plenty of robotics researchers believe they could be idea for rescuing people buried beneath rubble, or perform military reconnaissance. Until now, however, no-one has developed a way to control them effectively. Researchers in Greece have now developed 'snake-bots' that can explore unknown areas on their own. Infrared sensors, which monitor the distance to the nearest wall or object, are linked directly to the robots control mechanism. This keeps them from bumping into stuff and helps them navigate along passageways and around corners.
galactic grub writes: New Scientist has this story about experiments that involved leaving toddlers with a small humanoid robot (QRIO). The robot was programmed to respond in very basic ways, but the researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that the kids became increasingly attached to it. Videos included show them hugging it, laughing when it "giggles" and putting a blanket over it when it's batteries ran down. It's not entirely clear how much they may have been simply "playing", but their behaviour changed dramatically when the robot was programmed to be less interactive.
Beenonymous writes: According to this article, African farmers have a way to ward off badly behaved elephants that trample over their crops and property. Their new secret weapon? Bees. Researchers from the University of Oxford played recordings of bees to herds of elephants and watched them stampede in terror. Some of the experts speculate it may be that one of the bees has previously been stung up its trunk.
votenoone2008 writes: Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester have discovered a molecule that could combat Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It counteracts the enzyme that allows SARS to replicate and a patent filed by the researchers suggests that — since it resembles Tamiflu — it might also help combat Bird Flu. It was discovered through computer simulations and has yet to be trialled, but it could perhaps make a very useful drug.
Space_donkey writes: Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a new type of metal that also has the vibration-dampening properties of rubber. That's according to a patent filing discovered by New Scientist. Ultimately, it might be used in aircraft engines and other systems that experience a lot of vibration. In the shorter-term it could also be seen in sports equipment such as tennis rackets and baseball bats.
Dangleboozer writes: The New Scientist Technology Blog has a post about research involving a video player that has 'emotional tags' for different scenes. In experiments, people were better able to find a particular scene using the software, called Emoplayer, than with a normal media player. Could YouTube, and similar sites, benefit from some emotional tagging? The original paper is here.
moon_monkey writes: Scientists have discovered that carbon nanotubes have remarkable springy properties, which could make them idea for use in artificial muscles. Currently, electroactive polymers are most commonly used to make artificial muscles, but these lack mechanical robustness. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute tested the nanotubes by repeatedly squashing them between to metal plates. The work is reported in Nature Nanotechnology.
plasma_droid writes: A clever chemical trick could lead to much lighter and cheap solar cells, reports New Scientist Tech. The trick, according to researchers from Aonex Technologies, EMCORE PhotoVoltaics and the California Institute of Technology, is to 'exfoliate' a layer of indium phosphide by injecting and heating helium. The creates a much thinner — 900 nm thick — layer, so many more cells can be made out of the same bulk of material. Crucially, these cells are also more reflective internally, meaning they have a 20% higher electrical output.
plasmadroid writes: It might sound like a joke, but documents unearthed by New Scientist show that the Pentagon actually funded research into 'non-lethal' bullets that would also hit a target with a dose of laughing gas. That way, they'd not only be stunned but incapacitated by fits of giggles. Another idea was to put stink bombs inside rubber bullets. I guess it would work, but the idea of crowds of rioters giggling uncontrollably while being pelted with rubber bullets is truly bizarre...
space_donkey writes: Researchers have discovered a way to protect nanoparticles from the human immune system. This could prove vital to using them to deliver new types of drugs targeted towards specific cells or organs. The nanoparticles protect themselves by hitching a ride on red blood cells. A team at the University of California, Santa Barbara, knew that some bacteria survive in the blood stream by performing a similar trick. The separated red blood cells from plasma, attached the nanoparticles, and were able to track them as they traveled through the bloodstream and through the liver and spleen. But they admit that much more testing is needed since nanoparticles can sometimes be toxic.
moon_monkey writes: Researchers in Japan have developed a display that makes 3D objects solid enough to grasp. The system, created by engineers at Japan's NTT, combines a 3D display with a haptic glove, making 3D items that look real but also feel solid to touch. Two cameras are used to image an object, to make the 3D image. A computer also uses this to render a solid representation. It could be used to inspect products remotely, or even to shake hands with someone on the other side of the world, the researchers say
Plasma_Pingu writes: According to NewScientist.com, a sensor chip controlled by a slime mold has been developed by scientists in the UK. The mould, Physarum polycephalum, is a primitive, single-celled organism that eats microorganisms in damp areas of forest. It can crawl towards its food and away from danger making it a useful sensor. Inside the chip, the mould is surrounded by electrodes that continually monitor its behavior.
galactic grub writes: Get ready for slime-powered computing. A chip developed by researchers in the UK contains a mould surrounded by electrodes that monitor conductivity and reveal the movement of internal fluids. This provides a way to experiment with the organism as a tool for sensing and computation. In this way, the slime mould can perform simple logical operations and even control a robot.
space_mongoose writes: Hitachi reckons that a simple chemical additive could significantly improve battery life. Alkaline batteries have a positive electrode of manganese oxide and a negative electrode of finely powdered zinc, but zinc oxide forms around these grains of zinc. Hitachi's solution is to replace the zinc with a fine powder of zinc-aluminium alloy, displaces the zinc within the zinc oxide layer making it a much better conductor.
Galactic_grub writes: An experimental new type of memory that uses nanosecond pulses of electric current to push magnetic regions along a wire could dramatically boost the capacity, speed and reliability of storage devices. Magnetic domains are moved along a wire by pulses of polarized current, and there location is read by fixed sensors arranged along the wire. Previous experiments have been disappointing but now researchers have found that super-fast pulses of electricity prevent the domains from being obstructed by imperfections in the crystal.