Ford Makes Backing Up a Trailer as Easy as Turning a Knob

Wired News - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 4:01am

Ford has a new feature for the 2016 F-150 that makes backing a trailer as easy as turning a knob.

The post Ford Makes Backing Up a Trailer as Easy as Turning a Knob appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

NASA new CubeSat concept for planetary exploration

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 3:46am

Technologist Jaime Esper and his team are planning to test the stability of a prototype entry vehicle — the Micro-Reentry Capsule (MIRCA) — this summer during a high-altitude balloon mission from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico (credits: NASA/Goddard)

Jaime Esper, a technologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a CubeSat concept that would allow scientists to use less-expensive cubesat (tiny-satellite) technology to observe physical phenomena beyond the current low-Earth-orbit limit.

The CubeSat Application for Planetary Entry Missions (CAPE) concept involves a service module that would propel the spacecraft to its  target and a separate planetary entry probe that could survive a rapid dive through the atmosphere of an extraterrestrial planet, all while reliably transmitting scientific and engineering data.

CAPE in its deployed configuration (credit: Jaime Esper/NASA Goddard)

Planetary landings

Esper and his team are planning to test the stability of a prototype entry vehicle, the Micro-Reentry Capsule (MIRCA), this summer during a high-altitude balloon mission from Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The CAPE/MIRCA spacecraft, including the service module and entry probe, would weigh less than 11 pounds (4.9 kilograms) and measure no more than 4 inches (10.1 centimeters) on a side. After being ejected from a canister housed by its mother ship, the tiny spacecraft would unfurl its miniaturized solar panels or operate on internal battery power to begin its journey to another planetary body.

Once it reached its destination, the sensor-loaded entry vehicle would separate from its service module and begin its descent through the target’s atmosphere. It would communicate atmospheric pressure, temperature, and composition data to the mother ship, which then would transmit the information back to Earth.

The beauty of CubeSats is their versatility. Because they are relatively inexpensive to build and deploy, scientists could conceivably launch multiple spacecraft for multi-point sampling — a capability currently not available with single planetary probes that are the NASA norm today. Esper would equip the MIRCA craft with accelerometers, gyros, thermal and pressure sensors, and radiometers, which measure specific gases; however, scientists could tailor the instrument package depending on the targets, Esper said.

A generic CAPE operations concept, from system deployment to probe release and entry into a given planetary atmosphere. Three mission phases are identified: 1. Deployment, 2. Targeting, and 3. Planetary Entry. (credit: Jaime Esper/NASA Goddard)


Categories: Science

Will robot pets replace the real thing?

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 3:28am

Sony’s Aibo pet robot dogs. — credit | Sony

University of Melbourne animal welfare researcher Jean-Loup Rault, PhD says pets will soon become a luxury in an overpopulated, high-density world and the future may lie in robot pets that mimic the real thing.

“It might sound surreal for us to have robotic or virtual pets, but it could be totally normal for the next generation,” Rault said. “If 10 billion human beings live on the planet in 2050 as predicted, it’s likely to occur sooner than we think. We are already seeing people form strong emotional bonds with robot dogs in Japan.

“Pet robotics has come a long way from the Tamagotchi craze of the mid-1990s. In Japan, people are becoming so attached to their robot dogs that they hold funerals for them when the circuits die.

“You won’t find a lot of research on pet robotics out there, but if you Google robot dogs, there are countless patents. Everyone wants to get ahead of this thing because there is a market and it will take off in the next 10 to 15 years.”

“Robots can, without a doubt, trigger human emotions,” Rault added. “If artificial pets can produce the same benefits we get from live pets, does that mean that our emotional bond with animals is really just an image that we project on to our pets?

Sony’s Aibo pet robot dogs. — credit | Sony

“Of course we care about live animals, but if we become used to a robotic companion that doesn’t need food, water or exercise, perhaps it will change how humans care about other living beings.”

Rault says robot pets of the future could learn to think and respond on their own.

“When engineers work on robotic dogs, they work on social intelligence, they address what people need from their dogs: companionship, love, obedience, dependence,” he said.

“They want to know everything about animal behavior so they can replicate it as close as possible to a real pet.”

And what about robotic cats? “Well, that’s a little harder because you have to make them unpredictable,” he concluded. His open access paper is in the latest edition of Frontiers in Veterinary Science

related reading:
Sony | Aibo
Paro Robots | Paro
Bandai | Tamagochi Friends

The Japan Times | Takara Tomy previewed toy robots Hello MiP and Hello Zoomer in Tokyo, from its Omnibots series.

Sony | An Aibo demonstration.

Dig Info | The Paro theraputic cute baby seal robot, designed to have a positive emotional effect on people who interact with it.

Family Gamer TV | Tamagotchi Friends toy line by Bandai, virtual pets.
Wikipedia | As of 2010, over 76 million Tamagotchis have been sold worldwide.

related reading:
Robot Shop | robot dogs & pets

Categories: Science

Nature inspires first artificial molecular pump

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 3:06am

A blueprint for an artificial molecular pump that acts to organize rings in a high-energy state on a polymethylene chain. The flashing energy ratchet mechanism shows how redox chemistry can be used to prime the pump with rings (top) under reducing conditions and then have it pump the rings (bottom) under oxidative conditions into a high-energy state. Hypothetical distributions of the components of the pump on a simplified potential energy surface diagram are indicated by purple dots in the reduced state and blue dots in the oxidized state. A solid green arrow indicates a surmountable energy barrier. (credit: Chuyang Cheng et al./Nature Nanotechnology)

Northwestern University scientists have developed the first entirely artificial molecular pump, in which molecules pump other molecules. The pump might one day be used to power other molecular machines, such as artificial muscles.

The new machine mimics the pumping mechanism of proteins that move small molecules around living cells to metabolize and store energy from food. The artificial pump draws power from chemical reactions, driving molecules step-by-step from a low-energy state to a high-energy state — far away from equilibrium.

While nature has had billions of years to perfect its complex molecular machinery, modern science is now beginning to scratch the surface of what might be possible in tomorrow’s world.

Imitating how nature transfers energy

“Our molecular pump is radical chemistry — an ingenious way of transferring energy from molecule to molecule, the way nature does,” said Sir Fraser Stoddart, the senior author of the study. Stoddart is the Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“All living organisms, including humans, must continuously transport and redistribute molecules around their cells, using vital carrier proteins,” he said. “We are trying to recreate the actions of these proteins using relatively simple small molecules we make in the laboratory.”

“In some respects, we are asking the molecules to behave in a way that they would not do normally,” Cheng said. “It is much like trying to push two magnets together. The ring-shaped molecules we work with repel one another under normal circumstances. The artificial pump is able to syphon off some of the energy that changes hands during a chemical reaction and uses it to push the rings together.”

The tiny molecular machine threads the rings around a nanoscopic chain — a sort of axle — and squeezes the rings together, with only a few nanometers separating them. At present, the artificial molecular pump is able to force only two rings together, but the researchers believe it won’t be long before they can extend its operation to tens of rings and store more energy.

Compared to nature’s system, the artificial pump is very simple, but it is a start, the researchers say. They have designed a novel system, using kinetic barriers, that allows molecules to flow “uphill” energetically.

Powering artificial muscles

“This is non-equilibrium chemistry, moving molecules far away from their minimum energy state, which is essential to life,” said Paul R. McGonigal, an author of the study. “Conducting non-equilibrium chemistry in this way, with simple artificial molecules, is one of the major challenges for science in the 21st century.”

Ultimately, they intend to use the energy stored in their pump to power artificial muscles and other molecular machines. The researchers also hope their design will inspire other chemists working in non-equilibrium chemistry.

“This is completely unlike the process of designing the machinery we are used to seeing in everyday life,” Stoddart said. “In a way, one must learn to see things from the molecules’ point of view, considering forces such as random thermal motion that one would never consider when building an agricultural water pump or any other mechanical device.”

The National Science Foundation supported the research, published May 18 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Northwestern University | Artificial Molecular Pump Animation

Animation shows the steps of the pumping mechanism, which operates in response to redox cycling, with simplified illustrations of the corresponding energy profiles. The dumbbell and the ring repel each other initially, then reduction favors complexation both thermodynamically and kinetically. Oxidation restores the repulsion between the components and causes the ring to be trapped around the dumbbell during thermal relaxation. When another reduction step is performed, attraction of a second ring from the bulk solution is kinetically favored. After oxidation and thermal relaxation, the second ring falls into the same kinetic trap as the first, resulting in the mutually repulsive rings being held in close proximity to one another.

Abstract of An artificial molecular pump

Carrier proteins consume fuel in order to pump ions or molecules across cell membranes, creating concentration gradients. Their control over diffusion pathways, effected entirely through noncovalent bonding interactions, has inspired chemists to devise artificial systems that mimic their function. Here, we report a wholly artificial compound that acts on small molecules to create a gradient in their local concentration. It does so by using redox energy and precisely organized noncovalent bonding interactions to pump positively charged rings from solution and ensnare them around an oligomethylene chain, as part of a kinetically trapped entanglement. A redox-active viologen unit at the heart of a dumbbell-shaped molecular pump plays a dual role, first attracting and then repelling the rings during redox cycling, thereby enacting a flashing energy ratchet mechanism with a minimalistic design. Our artificial molecular pump performs work repetitively for two cycles of operation and drives rings away from equilibrium toward a higher local concentration.

Categories: Science

How to print stronger, bigger, conductive 3-D graphene structures for tissue engineering

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 2:26am

3D graphene inks are produced by simple combination and mixing an elastomer solution with graphene powder in a graded solvent, followed by volume reduction and thickening, a process that can be scaled up to many liters at once (credit: Adam E. Jakus et al./ACS Nano)

Northwestern University researchers have developed a way to print large, robust 3-D structures with graphene-based ink.

The new method could allow for using graphene-printed scaffolds for regenerative medicine and other medical and electronic  applications.

“People have tried to print graphene before,” said Ramille Shah, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and of surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine.  “But it’s been a mostly polymer composite with graphene making up less than 20 percent of the volume.”

Adding higher volumes of graphene flakes to the mix in these ink systems typically results in printed structures too brittle and fragile to manipulate. At 60–70 percent graphene, the new ink preserves the material’s unique properties, including its electrical conductivity. And it’s flexible and robust enough to print robust macroscopic structures.

The secret: graphene nanoflakes are mixed with a biocompatible elastomer and fast-evaporating solvents.

“After the ink is extruded, one of the solvents in the system evaporates right away, causing the structure to solidify nearly instantly,” Shah explained. “The presence of the other solvents and the interaction with the specific polymer binder chosen also has a significant contribution to its resulting flexibility and properties. Because it holds its shape, we are able to build larger, well-defined objects.”

Could allow neurons to grow and communicate

Shah said her team populated one of the scaffolds with stem cells to surprising results. Not only did the cells survive; they divided, proliferated, and morphed into neuron-like cells.

The printed graphene structure is also flexible and strong enough to be easily sutured to existing tissues, so it could be used for biodegradable sensors and medical implants. Shah said the biocompatible elastomer and graphene’s electrical conductivity most likely contributed to the scaffold’s biological success.

“Cells conduct electricity inherently — especially neurons,” Shah said. “So if they’re on a substrate that can help conduct that signal, they’re able to communicate over wider distances.”

Supported by a Google Gift and a McCormick Research Catalyst Award, the research is described in the paper published in the April 2015 issue of ACS Nano.

Abstract of Three-Dimensional Printing of High-Content Graphene Scaffolds for Electronic and Biomedical Applications

The exceptional properties of graphene enable applications in electronics, optoelectronics, energy storage, and structural composites. Here we demonstrate a 3D printable graphene (3DG) composite consisting of majority graphene and minority polylactide-co-glycolide, a biocompatible elastomer, 3D-printed from a liquid ink. This ink can be utilized under ambient conditions via extrusion-based 3D printing to create graphene structures with features as small as 100 μm composed of as few as two layers (<300 μm thick object) or many hundreds of layers (>10 cm thick object). The resulting 3DG material is mechanically robust and flexible while retaining electrical conductivities greater than 800 S/m, an order of magnitude increase over previously reported 3D-printed carbon materials. In vitro experiments in simple growth medium, in the absence of neurogenic stimuli, reveal that 3DG supports human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) adhesion, viability, proliferation, and neurogenic differentiation with significant upregulation of glial and neuronal genes. This coincides with hMSCs adopting highly elongated morphologies with features similar to axons and presynaptic terminals. In vivo experiments indicate that 3DG has promising biocompatibility over the course of at least 30 days. Surgical tests using a human cadaver nerve model also illustrate that 3DG has exceptional handling characteristics and can be intraoperatively manipulated and applied to fine surgical procedures. With this unique set of properties, combined with ease of fabrication, 3DG could be applied toward the design and fabrication of a wide range of functional electronic, biological, and bioelectronic medical and nonmedical devices.

Categories: Science

Simple Flaw Exposed Data On Millions of Charter Internet Customers

Slashdot - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 2:05am
Daniel_Stuckey writes: A security flaw discovered in the website of Charter Communications, a cable and Internet provider active in 28 states, may have exposed the personal account details of millions of its customers. Security researcher Eric Taylor discovered the internet service provider's vulnerability as part of his research, and demonstrated how a simple header modification performed with a browser plug-in could reveal details of Charter subscriber accounts. After Fast Company notified Charter of the issue, the company said it had installed a fix within hours.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Hydrogen-Powered Drone Can Fly For 4 Hours at a Time

Slashdot - Thu, 21/05/2015 - 12:24am
stowie writes: The Hycopter uses its frame to store energy in the form of hydrogen instead of air. With less lift power required, it's fuel cell turns the hydrogen in its frame into electricity to power its rotors. The drone can fly for four hours at a time and 2.5 hours when carrying a 2.2-pound payload. “By removing the design silos that typically separate the energy storage component from UAV frame development - we opened up a whole new category in the drone market, in-between battery and combustion engine systems,” says CEO Taras Wankewycz.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

New Chrome Extension Uses Sound To Share URLs Between Devices

Slashdot - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:45pm
itwbennett writes: Google Tone is an experimental feature that could be used to easily and instantly share browser pages, search results, videos and other pages among devices, according to Google Research. "The initial prototype used an efficient audio transmission scheme that sounded terrible, so we played it beyond the range of human hearing," researcher Alex Kauffmann and software engineer Boris Smus wrote in a post on the Google Research blog.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Nicotinoid, fungal disease team up to break down termites' tough defenses

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:41pm
A small amount of nicotinoid pesticide substantially weakens termites' ability to fight off fungal diseases, researchers report. This is a finding that could lead to more effective methods of pest control, they say.
Categories: Science

Common mutation linked to heart disease

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:40pm
A common mutation in a gene that regulates cholesterol levels may raise the risk of heart disease in carriers up to 49 percent, particularly among men and African Americans, according to a new study.
Categories: Science

Metabolic abnormalities may increase cardiovascular risk more in black women than white women

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:39pm
Large waistline, cholesterol disorders and other metabolic abnormalities may increase the relative risk of cardiovascular disease more among black women than among white women. Black women who were overweight or obese had elevated cardiovascular risk compared with normal weight black women even when they did not have metabolic abnormalities. White women who were overweight or obese, but did not have the metabolic syndrome had a cardiovascular risk similar to that of normal weight white women without the metabolic syndrome.
Categories: Science

Support group, home exercise improves mobility for peripheral artery disease patients

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:39pm
Group therapy that encourages walking at home improves and prevents mobility loss among patients with clogged arteries in the legs, a study concludes. Clogged arteries in the legs can cause pain and fatigue while walking. Maintaining mobility is integral to preserving functional independence, social interactions and daily activities.
Categories: Science

Seeing without eyes: Octopus's skin possesses the same cellular mechanism for detecting light as its eyes do

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:39pm
The skin of the California two-spot octopus can sense light even without input from the central nervous system. The animal does so by using the same family of light-sensitive proteins called opsins found in its eyes -- a process not previously described for cephalopods.
Categories: Science

Galaxy’s snacking habits revealed

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:38pm
Astronomers have caught a greedy galaxy gobbling on its neighbors and leaving crumbs of evidence about its dietary past.
Categories: Science

Cold weather kills far more people than hot weather

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:38pm
Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.
Categories: Science

People with depression may be more likely to develop Parkinson's disease

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:35pm
People with depression may be more likely to develop Parkinson's disease, according to a large study.
Categories: Science

Surviving harsh environments becomes a death-trap for specialist corals

Science Daily - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:35pm
The success of corals that adapt to survive in the world's hottest sea could contribute to their demise through global warming, according to new research.
Categories: Science

The Luxury Bus for Techies Is Shutting Down (For Now)

Wired News - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:27pm

Luxury private-bus service Leap has halted its service to comply with regulations. Because it knows it can.

The post The Luxury Bus for Techies Is Shutting Down (For Now) appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

Huawei's LiteOS Internet of Things Operating System Is a Minuscule 10KB

Slashdot - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 11:02pm
Mark Wilson writes: Chinese firm Huawei today announces its IoT OS at an event in Beijing. The company predicts that within a decade there will be 100 billion connected devices and it is keen for its ultra-lightweight operating system to be at the heart of the infrastructure. Based on Linux, LiteOS weighs in at a mere 10KB — smaller than a Word document — but manages to pack in support for zero configuration, auto-discovery, and auto-networking. The operating system will be open for developers to tinker with, and is destined for use in smart homes, wearables, and connected vehicles. LiteOS will run on Huawei's newly announced Agile Network 3.0 Architecture and the company hopes that by promoting a standard infrastructure, it will be able to push the development of internet and IoT applications

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Wild Weather of Distant Stars May Affect Chances for Alien Life - Wed, 20/05/2015 - 10:20pm
Alien planets likely experience "space weather," just like Earth's solar system. A team of scientists is trying to determine if such weather could make other planets inhospitable to life.
Categories: Science