Wifi Sidewalks: Coming Soon to England
Solving a problem people the First World over face, the streets of Chesham’s town center in Buckinghamshire, England, are getting a cool new feature: Smart Wi-Fi Pavements.
Developed by Virgin Media, this technology will allow passersby and those chilling on the patios of local coffee shops to surf the Net. But won’t everything take hours to load? Nope! The service will be fast enough to download a 45-minute episode on a video streaming site in just 35 seconds.
Mammal Species That Survived Dinosaur Extinction Discovered
Published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, scientists announced that they have identified the “rodent-like” mammal species, Kimbetopsalis simmonsae. This plant-eating mammal looked kind of like a beaver and offers clues as to how mammals “took over” following the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Found in the New Mexico badlands, this mammal is notable as well for its teeth – it had “complicated rows of cusps at the back and incisors at the front for gnawing.”
UCLA Researchers Create New Super Strong, Lightweight Metal
The possibilities this could bring are intriguing … and perhaps endless.
A team of UCLA researchers, from the University’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, have announced that they have created a new ultra-strong, but still lightweight metal.
The metal, which UCLA researchers report has an extremely high stiffness-to-weight ratio, consists of “magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles.”
UCLA researchers say this metal could be used to make lighter cars, airplanes and even spacecrafts, subsequently improving their fuel-efficiency rates as well. They add that the metal could also be used for mobile and biomedical devices as well.
The research team created the ultra-strong, yet lightweight material by manipulating nanoparticles in molten metals.
“It’s been proposed that nanoparticles could really enhance the strength of metals without damaging their plasticity, especially light metals like magnesium, but no groups have been able to disperse ceramic nanoparticles in molten metals until now,” said Xiaochun Li, a principal investigator on the research team and UCLA Raytheon Chair in Manufacturing Engineering, with the research published in the Nature journal. “With an infusion of physics and materials processing, our method paves a new way to enhance the performance of many different kinds of metals by evenly infusing dense nanoparticles to enhance the performance of metals to meet energy and sustainability challenges in today’s society.”
He later added: “The results we obtained so far are just scratching the surface of the hidden treasure for a new class of metals with revolutionary properties and functionalities.”
Cars that can talk to each other to avoid crashes.
Car-to-car communication should also have a bigger impact than the advanced vehicle automation technologies that have been more widely heralded. Though self-driving cars could eventually improve safety, they remain imperfect and unproven, with sensors and software too easily bamboozled by poor weather, unexpected obstacles or circumstances, or complex city driving. Simply networking cars together wirelessly is likely to have a far bigger and more immediate effect on road safety.
Creating a car-to-car network is still a complex challenge. The computers aboard each car process the various readings being broadcast by other vehicles 10 times every second, each time calculating the chance of an impending collision. Transmitters use a dedicated portion of wireless spectrum as well as a new wireless standard, 802.11p, to authenticate each message.
CRISPR makes the cut
It was conceived after a yogurt company in 2007 identified an unexpected defense mechanism that its bacteria use to fight off viruses. A birth announcement came in 2012, followed by crucial first steps in 2013 and a massive growth spurt last year. Now, it has matured into a molecular marvel, and much of the world—not just biologists—is taking notice of the genome-editing method CRISPR, Science’s 2015 Breakthrough of the Year.
Pocket-Size Device Turns Smartphone into a High-Powered Microscope
Ever wonder what weird microorganisms are crawling around on your kitchen counter? Or, perhaps you’d like a close-up view of those dust bunnies in the corner of your room. Well, there’s a new pocket-size tool that could help you take a much closer look at these and other household specimens.
A sleek, smartphone-powered microscope, dubbed μPeek, recently reached its funding goal on Kickstarter. The device, which attaches to the back of any smartphone (over the top of the camera lens), is about the size of a credit card and is controlled via an app, allowing you to view crystal-clear images of tiny objects and make adjustments to the microscope right on your phone.
But the powerful microscope isn’t “just another magnifying lens for your smartphone,” Patrick Galliker, co-founder and CEO of Scrona, the company behind μPeek, said in a Kickstarter video promoting the new device. The microscope is equipped with a motorized lens and sophisticated optical components — two things usually found on expensive (and relatively big) professional microscopes.
To use μPeek, attach the device to your phone and place it on any surface that you want to look at on the microscopic level. You can peer at the microcosm contained within the living room carpet or get a close-up view of a fallen leaf, for example. If you’d rather use μPeek to look at something on a microscope slide, you can do that, too. The device comes with a standard-size slide holder and a set of blank slides, plus a guide that explains how to prepare specimens.
The company’s Kickstarter video shows the device being used in a variety of settings, including what appears to be a professional laboratory. Though μPeek definitely does not look like conventional microscopes, it really could be useful for real-life scientists, Galliker explained in the video. In fact, the scope is so “simple and powerful” that it’s likely to become a professional scientist’s “first choice,” he said.
Tattoo Removal Cream Invented by Ph.D. Student
Alec Falkenham, a Ph.D. student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, invented a topical cream that could eventually be used to remove embarrassing or unwanted tattoos. The cream works by killing the cells that hold tattoo pigment without damaging the surrounding cells (unlike laser removal, which heats the pigment and can cause cells to rupture).
So far, he has only tested the cream on mice, but it could make the leap to human tattoos in the near future (after some testing on larger animals like pigs, of course). When it does, it could be a much cheaper and less painful alternative to traditional removal.