Space:

Astronomers Get First Images of Exoplanet Orbiting its Star

For the first time ever, astronomers have captured images of an exoplanet orbiting its star from one side of the star to the other. The orbit of the exoplanet is at about the same distance as that of Saturn to our Sun. After interpreting the data, scientists believe that this star system may have formed in the same way as our Solar Sytem.

The star, Beta Pictoris, is actually quite young, only about 12 million years old, which is relatively young in cosmic terms. Even though the star is less than three-thousandths of our Sun’s age, it is roughly 75% more massive. At 60 light-years away, Beta Pictoris is one of the best-known examples of another star, like our Sun, that is surrounded by a debris-filled disc.

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Space:

Scientists Create Artificial Black Hole

Well, they’ve done it. Researchers in China have built a mini ‘black hole’ capable of absorbing microwave frequencies, and they’ve done it without using the LHC (which many feared would cause a black hole to develop that would swallow the earth). The device they created, officially called a “omnidirectional electromagnetic absorber,” is made of a thin cylindrical layer comprising of 60 concentric rings of metamaterial.

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last update: April 17, 2014

Space:

Atlantis Space Shuttle Has Grounded For Good

With six astronauts on board, returning from it’s 12-day mission from the International Space Station, the Atlantis has landed back on Earth successfully. This mission marks the shuttle’s thirty-second and final trip over a 25-year career (logging a cool 120 million miles in total).

For NASA, the shuttle was the fourth in the series and has spent 294 days in orbit, circled the Earth 4,648 times, carried 189 astronauts, flown to Mir Station 7 times and been to the ISS 11 times. There were 1,200 guests on-hand at Kennedy Space Center to witness the historic landing.

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General:

New Rubber Compound May Bring an End to Flat Tires

Scientists at the Industrial Physics and Chemistry Higher Educational Institution (ESPCI) in Paris have developed a new rubber compound that is capable of mending itself. The new material can be torn, ripped, cut, or punctured, and can repair itself using hydrogen bonding. This new compound would come in handy for a multitude of applications, including the need to replace tires due to punctures, etc.

The compound is actually just a manipulation of current rubber compounds. Today’s rubber can provide elasticity through covalent, ionic, and hydrogen bonding. This new development, however, uses only hydrogen bonding, which can bring itself back to original strength simply by adding a little bit of pressure at room temperature.

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General:

Japan Wants Mind-Reading Robots by 2020

A few weeks ago, an article in Japan’s largest business newspaper cast an exciting and somewhat startling vision of the future — Japan’s goal to make mind-reading devices and robots commercially available by 2020. These robots would act as personal assistants using Artificial Intelligence that could determine whether you are hungry, tired, hot or cold, or in need of assistance.

Brain-Machine Interface devices currently exist in the U.S. and abroad and involves something called an EEG (Electroencephalography) sensor synced with a computer which can be controlled by thought. We’re talking about turning on your coffee machine just by thinking about it or changing the channel on your television, or applying the brakes on your car.

We’re years away from making these technologies commercially available, but trials are promising and the thought of mind-reading AI bots is exciting. Right now, prototypes include headbands, helmets, and actual brain implants to interpret brainwaves.

Thought Controlled Wheelchair:


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General:

First Solar Cells to be Printed on Paper

We’re in one of the most fascinating times for the development of technology. We’re harvesting electricity from algae, and steering vehicles with our eyes. And now, according to professionals at MIT, we’re printing solar cells directly onto paper.

Basically, an organic semiconductor material is applied to the paper using a technique similar to that of a standard inkjet printer. This new technology would transform solar cells from large, heavy and expensive products to something you could staple anywhere. Though the technology is not yet ready for commercial markets, the ability to print solar cells is quite exciting.

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General:

Li-ion Battery That Lasts 10 Years From Hitachi

The current average lifespan of a rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is roughly 5 years. Hitachi has just announced that they think they will be able to produce a Li-ion battery with almost twice the life span. Working with Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery they’ve been able to make versions for small applications like cameras, cellphone and laptops. They hope to eventually make them larger for use in hybrids, EVs and even for storing excess energy produced by wind farm generators.

For those who are interested in the specifics, the new battery uses more manganese for the positive electrode and reduces the use of the far more expensive cobalt. The new cathode material is the composite oxide lithium manganese spinel (LIMn2O4), a crystalline material that is much more stable than the previous cathode material. This is what makes the the longevity possible, it reduces the leaching of the cathode material into the electrolyte. In addition, the new batteries will be cheaper due to the reduced amount of cobalt.

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Health:

World’s First Remote Heart Operation Using Robotic Arm

We’re upon a world first for remote medical procedure as Dr. André Ng is all set to perform the first ever heart rhythm treatment operation using the Catheter Robotics Remote Catheter Manipulation System. Dr. Ng will be able to perform the procedure from a remote location outside of the radiation zone using a robotic arm.

This procedure will take place at the Glenfield Hospital Leicester thanks to additional help and expertise from the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester.

The procedure Dr. Ng will conduct involves inserting thin wires (catheters) into veins near the groin and moving them through to the heart chambers. The catheters contain electrodes that will record and stimulate parts of the heart in order for Dr. Ng to identify the cause of the problem in the patient. Once the cause of the issue is found, the device will “burn” the tissue around the problem area to fix the abnormality. The procedure, called catheter ablation has been used for the past twenty years or so but never before using remote robotics technology.
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