Archive for November, 2011

Robotic jellyfish gets more realistic

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 28, 2011   View Article

A robot designed to look and swim like a jellyfish has gotten even more realistic, according to a researcher working on the motion component of the machine.

The robot, known as Robojelly, was developed for the Office of Naval Research in 2009 to spy on ships and submarines, detect chemical spills, and monitor the whereabouts of migrating fish.

They did this by putting little wires, called bio-inspired shape memory alloy composites, that, when heated, contract just as a muscle does.

Brewer to turn spent grains into energy

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 19, 2011   View Article

The U.S. government is giving a nearly half-million dollar grant to a beer maker in Alaska that aims to install a first-of-its-kind boiler that is fueled entirely by spent grain.

All brewers are confronted with mountains of spent grains — mostly barley. Many get rid of the waste by routing it to farmers for animal feed, a noble service that can help grow a steak to accompany your fine ale.

Energy storage breakthroughs on the horizon

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 18, 2011   View Article

Breakthroughs in energy storage technologies are on the horizon that could turn vast swathes of the world’s sun-soaked deserts and windy plains into sources of clean, renewable energy, according to experts focused on our energy future.

No one technology — ranging from storing a portion of the sun’s energy collected during the day in molten salt to run solar thermal generators at night to banks of lithium-ion batteries scattered around neighborhoods — will be the solution.

Rather, “there is going to be a portfolio of energy storage” options, Bruce Dunn, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles, told me Thursday.

Plasmas sterilize water cheaply

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 18, 2011   View Article

Ionized plasmas like those in neon signs and plasma TVs can sterilize water and make it antimicrobial as well, according to researchers studying the potential to use inexpensive plasma-generating devices to create sterile water in developing countries, disasters areas, and battlefields.

Plasmas are the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid, and gas. They are formed when gases are energized, stripping atoms of their electrons to create a collection of free moving electrons and ions.

Breakthrough chip mimics human brain function

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 17, 2011   View Article

The day that computers outsmart their human overlords may yet lie in the distant future, but a new computer chip that mimics the basis of learning and memory in the brain is a critical step towards that moment.

“We are not talking about recreating a whole brain at this point. We have to start with one system,” Chi-Sang Poon, a research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, told me Wednesday.

Oldest Antarctic Whale Found, Shows Fast Evolution

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 16, 2011   View Article

The oldest known whale to ply the Antarctic has been found, scientists say.

A 24-inch-long (60-centimeter-long) jawbone was recently discovered amid a rich deposit of fossils on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The creature, which may have reached lengths of up to 20 feet (6 meters), had a mouthful of teeth and likely feasted on giant penguins, sharks, and big bony fish, whose remains were also discovered with the jawbone.

Metabolome mined for biofuels

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 12, 2011   View Article

Japanese and American scientists are teaming up to boost the production of biofuels with a host of studies that aim to increase understanding of the metabolome.

The metabolome is the group of chemical compounds produced in living cells that are used to generate energy, build structures and other life-sustaining biological processes.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach