Tool

$2 million in prizes offered for better tools to monitor ocean acidification

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 9, 2013   View Article

The tools that scientists use to monitor the acidification of the world’s oceans are expected to get a major upgrade, thanks to a $2 million competition aimed at rewarding innovations that lower the cost and improve the accuracy of chemical sensors.

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health X Prize, unveiled Monday, is the latest multimillion-dollar prize program conducted by the California-based X Prize Foundation. Past prizes have targeted technologies ranging from commercial spaceflight to energy efficient cars— but the latest prize focuses on an even bigger global issue: climate change.

Snail’s love dart works like a syringe – a first, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 30, 2013   View Article

When certain hermaphrodite snails — that is they are male and female at the same time — mate, they stab each other with so-called love darts. Now, for the first time, scientists have discovered a snail species with a love dart that works like an injection needle.

The syringe-like dart delivers a “gland product” to the partner snail “via channels within the dart and comes out through the holes that are present on the side of the dart,” Joris Koene, an ecologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam, explained to NBC News in an email.

Want to love a robot? Let it nurture you, not the other way around

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 10, 2013   View Article

When human-like robots are standard home appliances, their owners will have increasingly warm, positive feelings for them if the robots take good care of their owners and require little maintenance, according to a new study.

In the study, participants could help Nao, a human-like robot, calibrate its eyes, or Nao could examine the human’s eye as if it was a concerned doctor and make suggestions to improve vision. After the task, the participants were asked how they felt about the robot.

The researchers found that participants trusted the robot more and were more satisfied with their relationship when they received eye care, for example, rather than gave it. In other words, when it comes to building a relationship with human-like robots, it is better to receive than to give.

Tools, artistry flourished with climate change, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 21, 2013   View Article

Sophisticated stone tool-making, artistic symbolism and trade networks were all innovated during times in the Stone Age when the South African climate abruptly became warmer and wetter, according to a new study.

The research is the first to “show that there is a link between the occurrence of these cultural innovations and climate change,” study leader Martin Ziegler, an earth science researcher at Cardiff University in Wales, told NBC News.

Mini microscopes see inside the brains of mice

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 20, 2013   View Article

Mini microscopes embedded into the brains of genetically engineered mice are providing researchers a window onto the inner workings of the mammalian mind.

The tool provides an unprecedentedly wide field of view on the mouse brain – in one mouse, for example, the team recorded the firing of more than 1,000 individual neurons – and it can record for weeks on end, allowing scientists to study how brain activity evolves over time.

Coming soon: Atomic-scale, 2-D electronics

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 30, 2013   View Article

A world filled with teeny tiny two-dimensional electronic devices is a giant step closer thanks to a pioneering technique to make atom-thick patterns that combine a conductor and an insulator.

Conventional microelectronic devices have three basic parts; a metal to conduct electricity, semiconductor components and an insulator to protect the components from the free-flowing electricity.

Laser-cut gingerbread house is perfect … if you don’t taste it

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 18, 2012   View Article

Gingerbread houses are a much-admired and tasty holiday tradition in many parts of the world. Yet until now, no one we know of has tried to improve their design and construction by using lasers. That’s precisely what one engineer with a second-hand laser cutter and some architectural curiosity did. The result is high precision … but you don’t want to eat it.

Johon von Konow, an engineer in Sweden, spends his days developing mobile phone concepts for Sony Ericsson and Huawei. At night, he and his wife, Maria, are always on the lookout for new things to try.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach