I was talking about the planets with my 5-year-old daughter the other day. I was trying to explain how taking a summer vacation to Mars in the future will be a much bigger undertaking than a trip to Palm Springs (though equally as hot). I kept trying to describe the distance using metaphors like “if the earth was the size of a golf ball, then Mars would be across the soccer field” etc., but I realized I didn’t really know much about these distances, besides the fact that they were really large and hard to understand. Pictures in books, planetarium models, even telescopes are pretty misleading when it comes to judging just how big the universe can be. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring all the emptiness?
Not that pixels are any better at representing scale than golfballs, but they’re our main way of interpreting most information these days, so why not the solar system?
Science Daily has this story about engineering a low cost inkjet printer to do much more than just printing ink.
Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials….
A recently discovered technology called plasmonics marries the best aspects of optical and electronic data transfer. By crowding light into metal structures with dimensions far smaller than its wavelength, data can be transmitted at much higher frequencies such as terahertz frequencies, which lie between microwaves and infrared light on the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that also includes everything from X-rays to visible light to gamma rays. Metals such as silver and gold are particularly promising plasmonic materials because they enhance this crowding effect. “Very little well-developed technology exists to create terahertz plasmonic devices, which have the potential to make wireless devices such as Bluetooth — which operates at 2.4 gigahertz frequency — 1,000 times faster than they are today,” says Ajay Nahata, a University of Utah professor of electrical and computer engineering and senior author of the new study.
Using a commercially available inkjet printer and two different color cartridges filled with silver and carbon ink, Nahata and his colleagues printed 10 different plasmonic structures with a periodic array of 2,500 holes with different sizes and spacing on a 2.5-inch-by-2.5 inch plastic sheet.
Scientists are studying ways to use the potential of waste heat in order to reduce carbon emissions. Via Phys.org.
Industrial processes that require high temperatures often expel any surplus heat into the environment. While industries are fairly good at using as much of this surplus as possible, a small amount of heat is always wasted…
In a new study, published in Applied Energy, scientists from the University of Bath evaluated the opportunities for industry to recover heat, and analysed which technologies would work best.
‘A large potential was seen in opportunities for re-use on site, which is the simplest method often practiced at the moment. If you have this heat currently going into the atmosphere, and you have a demand for heat at a lower temperature elsewhere in the manufacturing process you can directly use it,’ explains Dr Jonathan Norman of the University of Bath, lead researcher on the project.
‘We also found good potential for converting heat into electricity. The advantage with this is that you don’t need to re-use the heat nearby, because electricity is easily transported, and can be used for many things,’ Norman says….
‘If we supplied electricity from the heat surplus, it wouldn’t have to be generated by a fossil fuel, and if it was used locally then it wouldn’t place more pressure on the emission-intensive national grid. Overall, through a combination of technologies, we think recycling heat would save about 2.2 mega tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. In comparison, onshore wind generation in the UK saved about 3.5 Mt of CO2 equivalent in 2010, compared to the average emissions of the national grid’ Norman explains.
NASA Science News has the scoop on a telescope that, believe it or not, is bigger than a galaxy.
… At the January 2014 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers revealed a patch of sky seen through a lens more than 500,000 light years wide.
The “lens” is actually a massive cluster of galaxies known as Abell 2744. As predicted by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the mass of the cluster warps the fabric of space around it. Starlight passing by is bent and magnified, much like an ordinary lens except on a vastly larger scale.
Lately, the Hubble Space Telescope, along with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, has been looking through this gravitational lens as part of a program called “Frontier Fields.”
“Frontier Fields is an experiment to explore the first billion years of the Universe’s history,” says Matt Mountain from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The question is, “Can we use Hubble’s exquisite image quality and Einstein’s theory of general relativity to search for the first galaxies?”
The answer seems to be “yes.” At the AAS meeting, an international team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and La Laguna University discussed Hubble and Spitzer observations of the Abell 2744 cluster. Among the results was the discovery of one of the most distant galaxies ever seen—a star system 30 times smaller yet 10 times more active than our own Milky Way. Bursting with newborn stars, the firebrand is giving astronomers a rare glimpse of a galaxy born not long after the Big Bang itself.
Overall, the Hubble exposure of Abell2744 revealed almost 3,000 distant galaxies magnified as much as 10 to 20 times larger than they would normally appear. Without the boost of gravitational lensing, almost all of those background galaxies would be invisible.
Abell 2744 is just the beginning. Frontier Fields is targeting six galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses. Together, they form an array of mighty telescopes capable of probing the heavens as never before.
So what were you doing when you were 13? We bet it wasn’t building nuclear reactors for fun. The Atlantic has the story of this extremely smart kid who became the youngest person ever to build a nuclear-fusion reactor.
It started with the Internet.
“One day,” Jamie Edwards recalls, “I was looking on the Internet for radiation or other aspects of nuclear energy.” (As one does.) Through that search, he came across the story of Taylor Wilson, an American who, in 2008, had become the youngest person ever to build a nuclear-fusion reactor. Wilson was 14 at the time.
“I looked at it,” Edwards says, and “thought ‘that looks cool’ and decided to have a go.”
Edwards is 13. He is a student at the Priory Academy in Lancashire, in the U.K. He loves science—so much so that, as he told the Lancashire Evening Post, he used to try and steal his older brother Danny’s science homework. So that he could do that work himself.
Edwards—a “young boffin,” as the Post delightfully calls him—began construction of his makeshift nuclear reactor back in October in a science lab at Priory. He also kept a blog tracking his progress in the work of reactor-building, cataloguing his collection of a diffusion pump and a control panel and other components of the device that would eventually smash some atoms.
This morning, all that work paid off. Edwards smashed two atoms of hydrogen together, creating helium. Yep: From a little science lab in a school in Lancashire, a 13-year-old created nuclear fusion.
“I can’t quite believe it,” Edwards told the Post, of this accomplishment, adding that “all my friends think I am mad.” But he’s also a record-holder—and one who got his record in just under the wire. Edwards turns 14 on Sunday.
Scientists foresee great potential for advancements in a range of fields due to a new temperature sensitive magnetic material, including progress in computer memory technology, via BBC.
“We can control the magnetism in just a narrow range of temperature – without applying a magnetic field. And in principle we could also control it with voltage or current,” said Prof Schuller.
“At low temperatures, the oxide is an insulator. At high temperatures it’s a metal. And in between it becomes this strange material,” he said.
Although it’s too early to say exactly how it will be used, Prof Schuller sees an obvious opportunity in computing memory systems.
“A problem with magnetic memory is reversibility – you want it to be reversible but also stable.
“Today’s best systems are heat-assisted, but they use lasers, which involves a lot of heat. But with this new material, you barely need to heat it by 20 degrees (Kelvin) to get a five-fold change in coercivity (magnetic resistance),” he told the conference.
Another potential use is in electricity networks. Prof Schuller envisions a new type of transformer which can cope with sudden surges in current – such as during a lightning strike or a power surge.
But he points out that new phenomena such as this often lead to entirely unexpected technologies.
He gave the example of giant magnetoresistance – a discovery that radically miniaturised hard drives in digital devices, and won the 2007 Nobel prize.
“Without it, that computer you’re writing on would not work,” he told the meeting.
The video above is showing a rabbit’s heart beating perfectly outside of the animal’s body. The circuit lined, stretchable membrane covering it is allowing it to stay alive and to pump blood on its own. This incredible device was developed by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis by scanning the heart and creating a 3D printed model to act as a mold from which the membrane is cast and then integrated with the actual organ. It could become available to human hearts within the next 10 to 15 years.
This device is not just a custom-made pacemaker. According to University of Illinois’ materials researcher John Rorgers, co-leader of the team who has developed this device, it’s like an artificial pericardium, the natural membrane that covers the heart:
“But this artificial pericardium is instrumented with high quality, man-made devices that can sense and interact with the heart in different ways that are relevant to clinical cardiology.”
Washington University’s biomedical engineer Igor Efimov says that it is a huge advancement. The circuits you’re seeing are a combination of sensors that constantly track the tissues’ behavior and electrodes that precisely regulate the heart muscles movement:
“When it senses such a catastrophic event as a heart attack or arrhythmia, it can also apply a high definition therapy. So it can apply stimuli, electrical stimuli, from different locations on the device in an optimal fashion to stop this arrhythmia and prevent sudden cardiac death.”
…Benjamin S. Harrison, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, says “The impossible can be possible”. As a respected authority in the field, he strongly suggests that there are limitless possibilities for 3D printing and the duplication of human tissues that can counter the degenerative effects of aging and disease on the human body.
The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine spent the last decade building a 3D printer that can print both an artificial scaffold and living cells at the same time. They’re now using it to produce intricate ears, noses, and bones.
Institute scientists there have also designed a bioprinter to print skin cells onto burn wounds. The ability to print cells in three dimensions opened up new applications. By mapping the area, scientists can determine how many cell layers are needed for the subdermal tissue, and the printer can deliver cells more accurately and precisely than other devices.
In addition their 3D printers will also be used to print the tiny organ-like structures that mimic the function of the heart, liver, lung and blood vessels. Placed on a 2-inch (5cm) chip, these structures will be connected to a system of fluid channels and sensors to provide on-line monitoring of individual organs and the overall organ system.
But building solid organs like the heart and the liver is the hardest challenge yet. “We are working on creating solid organ implants”, said the insitute scientists. They believe the bioprinting of full size solid organs might not be far away….
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!
Although we’ve seen various shirts for measuring biometrics in the sports and fitness industries, it appears aerospace is another use. The Canadian Space Agency is currently working with Carré Technologies, creator of Astroskin, according to Mother Nature Network.
Astroskin, a prototype device to monitor astronaut health, is a garment that fits over a person’s upper body and is embedded with wireless sensors. From the ground, doctors can see an astronaut’s vital signs, as well as how well the spacefarers are sleeping and how they are moving.
The shirt needs rigorous testing to ensure that it is space ready, so arrangements have been made to test the product in Antarctica.
Crew members of the the XPAntarctik expedition, while spending 45 days in a previously unexplored region of the continent, are beaming their medical information back to civilization while wearing Astroskin. The expedition, which kicked off on Feb. 2, is quite a workout for the eight-person team, which has vowed to use no motorized vehicles. This means the suit is getting tested during skiing, walking and climbing Antarctica’s jagged peaks and glaciers.
This video not only shares information about the use of the shirt, but also shows some of the extreme locations that astronauts use for their playground.
Although this shirt is well suited for astronauts, it also has uses for other communities — telemedicine.
“The great thing about this technology is since it’s wireless, it can be monitored at a distance,” CSA chief medical officer Raffi Kuyumijian said in a new video released by the agency.
“People who live in remote communities, for example, will have an easy access to a doctor,” Kuyumijian added. “They can have these shirts on them all the time. It can trigger alarms if something wrong is happening, and alert the doctors following at a distance.”
At some point, we all have a cardio check-up with messy gel and stick-on sensors. It’s no wonder that shirts are becoming the next great solution. Perhaps in the future we will have embedded technology transmitting this data to our doctors. In the meantime, you can have your own biometric fun with our heart rate badge.
The newest way to study fish? How about a wearable submarine! Via The Verge.
The six-and-a-half foot tall, 530-pound aluminum suit looks like something out of an action movie. In reality it has an entirely different — and more intriguing — purpose. Come this summer, scientists will be using the suit, known as the Exosuit, to dive up to 1,000 feet into the ocean with the aim of collecting and studying bioluminescent fish. At such extreme depths, despite almost no visible light, a bounty of mysterious, glowing fish thrive. And with the Exosuit, scientists will observe these fish like never before.
The Exosuit itself is the latest “atmospheric diving system” — a term for suits that protect the operator in a bubble of hospitable conditions. That means divers using a suit like this feel the same pressure that you and I do here on the surface of the planet, and they don’t have to be placed in a decompression chamber immediately after a dive.
Such suits have existed for over a hundred years — early models looked more like a Big Daddy than the Exosuit — but this latest version is lighter and allows for more precise movements. That’s thanks to 18 rotary joints, highlighted in red, that allow the diver to maneuver their arms and legs. And despite the suit’s size, “it’s basically effortless to pilot in the water,” according to the American Museum of Natural History’s dive safety officer Michael Lombardi, who’s trained with the system and will be conducting the deep-sea dives later this year. A diver could technically swim with his limbs in the suit, but it’s equipped with four 1.6 horsepower thrusters that assist with movement. The Exosuit is also safer and more capable than prior models: it’s connected by a tether to a boat on the surface, but it carries enough battery power and oxygen to keep the diver alive underwater for 50 hours.
Here’s a great list of free after-school and summer programs open to NYC Students and their families – including some paid internships! Highlights include SEEK, a 3 week summer program for young engineers, ARISE (Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering) at NYU, and many more! From insideschools.org.
New York City offers children and teens a wide range of after-school and summer activities–from paid museum internships to free science research programs. The free and low cost programs listed here are a great way to explore new interests, get extra support, and supplement what is being taught during the school day. This list is not exhaustive, and we welcome your feedback and additions. Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
New York City has a wealth of opportunities for students who are looking to pursue their interest in science outside of the classroom.
Science can help a child learn new words, sharpen observational skills and re-engage a disinterested learner. Find ways to get your child outside or working in a lab in the summer. From environmental science to engineering or technology, there is a science program for every student.
Each Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!
The nine chapters in the book each focus on a different celestial body. The chapters include a description of the body, questions and answers and a page about an AOSS researcher who studies that topic.
For example, the Mars chapter has a page on Associate Professor Mike Liemohn. A student wrote: “Would you like to live on Mars?”
“No. The atmosphere is very thin and very cold, so you would have to be inside or totally covered in a space suit,” Liemohn answered. “Plus, going outside means being exposed to harmful cosmic rays, which are not shielded away from the surface by a magnetic bubble and thick atmosphere like they are on Earth.”
The book also includes activities for teachers to try in class. These activities were tested in workshops for local students held at the 826michigan headquarters and Green Baxter Court Community Center. The workshops were the starting points for each chapter.
“My favorite part about putting the book together was working with the students themselves,” Mihalka says. “It was especially interesting to see what kind of fun creative stories they would come up with…I distinctly remember a student asking Earth if the moon was his girlfriend.”
Gershman agrees the best part of working on the book was helping with workshops.
“At each location we got to work with a lot of the same students, so we got to share several different activities/planets with them.”
Mihalka says she thinks the workshops introduced the students to science in a unique way…
Each Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!
Phys.org has a write up detailing some interesting new research in stretchable electronics.
Fractals—patterns defined by their scale-invariance that makes them look the same on large scales as they do on small scales—are found in nature everywhere from snowflakes to broccoli to the beating of the heart. In a new study, researchers have demonstrated that metal wires patterned in various fractal motifs, when integrated into elastic materials, enable highly stretchable electronic devices. The fractal wire patterns could lead to a variety of new devices, such as biomedical sensors that can be attached to the skin and that have unique properties such as invisibility under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)…
In general, a main challenge in designing stretchable electronics is maintaining good electronic functionality while enabling stretching of up to twice the normal device size. Some of the most successful approaches to achieving both of these goals involve combining two separate components: a hard component that provides high conductivity and a soft component that provides mechanical stretchability.
The dual-component nature of these devices raises the question of how hard and soft materials can be ideally integrated.
The results of the new study show that fractal patterns offer a promising approach to hard-soft materials integration, and suggest that fractal patterns can influence the mechanical properties of 2D materials. In the new devices, the hard metal wires are engineered into fractal designs and then bonded to soft elastomers.
“We have established an approach, with general utility, for configuring hard materials with soft ones, in ways that have immediate relevance in all areas of stretchable electronics,” coauthor John Rogers, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Phys.org. “The resulting properties also provide advanced capabilities in stretchable/conformal devices and sensors, not only electronic, but photonic, optoelectronic and photovoltaic as well.”