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Tag Archives: research

Pharmaceutical Researchers Use Levitation To Develop Better Drugs

Watch the video.

OMGWTF!! Amirite?

But maybe you’re wondering what’s going on. Well, it seems researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago are looking into ways of developing more efficient drugs. Specifically, they want to make more precisely calibrated drugs that would still deliver their therapeutic benefits while requiring less of the drug being taken. As part of this process, they have to evaporate the solvent that contains the active molecules while avoiding these taking up a crystalline form, as this yields a less efficient product. But if they mix the ingredients in a regular vessel (like a beaker), crystals are much more likely to form during the evaporation process (think of snowflake crystals forming only around dust particles). So they turned to “to an acoustic levitator, a piece of equipment originally developed for NASA to simulate microgravity conditions.”

Two small speakers to generate sound waves at frequencies slightly above the audible range – roughly 22 kilohertz. When the top and bottom speakers are precisely aligned, they create two sets of sound waves that perfectly interfere with each other, setting up a phenomenon known as a standing wave.

At certain points along a standing wave, known as nodes, there is no net transfer of energy at all. Because the acoustic pressure from the sound waves is sufficient to cancel the effect of gravity, light objects are able to levitate when placed at the nodes.

Crystals form when touching a surface? No problem: let’s get rid of the surface! Clearly you can only do this to small amounts at a time, so it’s more of an analytical tool than one intended to be used in mass production.

[ Full Article With Details ] VIA [ GeeksAreSexy ]

New Nanotextured Glass Could Usher Water Repellant, Self-Cleaning Gadgets

By David Ponce

A team of researchers at MIT has developed a method for turning regular glass into something far, far more awesome: glass with arrays of conical micron-scale surface nanotextures, rendering it self-cleaning, non-glare, and non-fogging. Better yet, the method they have used could potentially be scaled to produce this glass at an acceptable cost for widespread use, from building windows to optical devices, and of course, to gadgets.

So how does it work? Roughly, it’s a process that involves applying several layers of photo resistive material to the glass, then etching away with a laser. As you can see in the scanning electron microscope picture above, the glass ends up being coated in microscopic cones that are five times as tall as their base width of 200 nanometers. And as demonstrated in the two pictures after the fold, this renders the surface superhydrophobic (a lot like stuff in this article), meaning water just bounces off it as if made of rubber. It’s also non glare because the cones create a surface that makes it impossible for a ray of light to bounce off and into our eyes.

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There’s A Gun For When You Want Someone To STFU

By David Ponce

No, it’s not like you actually shoot them dead to stop them speaking. What’s the artistry in that? Instead, we’re talking about a speech jamming device, called the SpeechJammer, that is being developed by two Japanese researchers named Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada. Yes, it’s a gun-like device whose entire purpose is to make someone stop talking. It works by projecting the target’s own back voice to them, but with a slight delay (around 200 milliseconds), making it almost impossible to carry on speaking. Ever hear an echo when talking on the phone? Yeah, so it’s like that.

The device itself consists of a directional mic, a directional speaker, a distance finder and a laser for targeting the speaker’s mouth. Point it at your source of annoyance, pull the trigger and watch them stop speaking, confusion spreading across their faces. The video below does show the gun in action, and some shots look like they might have been done candidly. Or maybe not. Still, it’s interesting to watch. And sadly, the SpeechJammer appears to be nothing but a prototype at the moment.

[ Researcher’s Paper (PDF) ] VIA [ Wired ]

We Are Now Able To Harvest Electricity From Cockroaches

By David Ponce

Remember how in the movie The Matrix, humans were used as energy sources by the machines? I personally thought the idea was inefficient; why not make batteries or something? But still, it appears that we are now the machines and have been able to rig a poor cockroach up with electrodes and squeeze out some measurable amount of electricity. “Maximum power density reached nearly 100 microwatts per square centimeter at 0.2 volts. Maximum current density was about 450 microamps per square centimeter.” It’s the chemical within the roach that power this particular reaction. And if you want the gritty details of how it was done, just hit the jump for a fuller description and links.

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No Surprise: Army Developing Surveillance Insects

By David Ponce

Unmanned aircraft such as surveillance drones are really nothing compared to the stuff the Air Force is working on. Miniaturization marches onwards and gives rise to the sort of little devices you see in the picture.

At the Micro-Aviary at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, researchers rig the walls with super-sensitive motion capture sensors that track a tiny plane or helicopter’s position ”within about a tenth of an inch,” according to researcher Greg Parker. Information from those sensors helps engineers develop “flapping-wing flight” drones — “very, very small flapping-wing vehicles,” in Parker’s phrase.

And how. One of the vehicles on display in the video above, released by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Pat, is a robot dragonfly. It doesn’t appear to be much more than a circuit board, a super-tiny motor and two insect-like wings

No camera on that “insect” yet. However we can deduct a couple of things from the information that is given to us. The bleeding edge of military research is always and understandably classified. So if we’re being shown something like this little dragonfly in the picture, you can make a safe bet that there’s something far more advanced already in production. What shape this technology would have is pure speculation, but this writer is picturing this: swarms of semi-autonomous insect-sized flying bots with video reconnaissance capabilities, all simultaneously feeding back to a base station. They’d be impossible to fully shoot down and would be indistinguishable from actual insects. Are we there yet? There’s no way to know right now.

VIA [ The Telegraph ]

SMI’s Eye Tracking Glasses

SMI Eye Tracking Glasses (Image courtesy SMI)
By Andrew Liszewski

Modern 3D film technologies have managed to get most of the population used to wearing glasses. Even those like myself who are (so far) lucky enough to not need them outside of a movie theater. And while I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that SensoMotoric Instruments, or SMI, is taking advantage of this trend. I find the timing of their new eye tracking binocular glasses a little suspicious.

Mostly because the glasses don’t really benefit the person wearing them. In fact, maybe ‘test subject’ is a better term than ‘person’ since the glasses are designed to benefit researchers, or marketing types, who have a vested interest in how the human eye wanders. Whether it’s across the UI of an application, the dashboard of a car, or even an advertisement in a magazine. A couple of small cameras on the rim of the glasses constantly monitor the movement of the wearer’s eyes, while another camera records what they’re looking at in HD. Overlaid on that video is a small blue circle which indicates exactly what the wearer is focusing on. Whether it’s a shelf half way across a store, or the details on the side of a package.

In theory the technology could be applied to actually interacting with user interfaces on smartphone apps, or automobile interiors, without the use of your hands. But given the limitations of today’s technology the glasses would still be required. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from 3D over the years, it’s that no one wants to be forced to wear them.

[ SMI Eye Tracking Glasses ] VIA [ Ubergizmo ]

StripeSpotter Software Identifies Zebras Like Barcodes

StripeSpotter (Image courtesy Animal Planet)
By Andrew Liszewski

It’s admittedly a pretty niche piece of software, but if your job happens to have you keeping tabs on a large herd of zebras, or other animals that can be identified via unique striping on their bodies, you might want to look into StripeSpotter. Developed by the Computational Population Biology laboratory at the University of Illinois, and the Equid Research and Conservation laboratory at Princeton, the software is able to identify and catalog animals in the wild using nothing more than a digital photo from a run-of-the-mill P&S camera.

Researchers just have to highlight a portion of the animal where the striping is most prominent, making sure to crop out areas of the photo that might lead to confusion. The stripe pattern and the photo will then be indexed, and if a match already exists in the system, the information and metadata from the previous sighting will be loaded. And since it’s designed to be used by conservationists and researchers, the application is provided for free on Windows, Mac and Linux, and is even open source.

[ StripeSpotter ] VIA [ MSNBC ]

The End Is Nigh: Robots Evolve The Ability To Deceive


By David Ponce

Robots are now learning how to lie. Here’s how it happened. Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne setup an experiment with a bunch of autonomous bots. They programmed them to look for food (a light colored ring on the floor) and avoid poison (a dark ring). The bots also had a blue light that could be detected by the other bots. The longer the bots stayed around the food, the more points they got. Since space was limited, bots would jostle around the food while simultaneously creating a cluster of blue lights that could serve as a beacon for other bots that food had been found.

The researchers then introduced “evolution” into the experiment by “by copying and combining the artificial neural networks of the most successful robots. The scientists also added a few random changes to their code to mimic biological mutations.” By the 50th generation the found that robots were flashing their blue lights less and less when they found food. A few hundred generations later and hardly any robots flashed their lights once they had found the food, thereby increasing their chances of getting more points while concealing their find to their neighbors.

The slimy bastards.

Researchers concluded this study may help them better understand the evolution of biological communication systems.

[ Upcoming Study Abstract ] VIA [ Technology Review ]