Smart Tape Like Gecko Feet

Posted on January 30, 2008 by dikidee

gecko feet

Inspired by the gecko feet, University of California, Berkeley have created a new kind of tape.

Conventional adhesive tape sticks when pressed on a surface. A new gecko-inspired synthetic adhesive (GSA) does not stick when it is pressed into a surface, but instead sticks when it slides on the surface. A similar directional adhesion effect allows real geckos to run up walls while rapidly attaching and detaching toes. The gecko-inspired adhesive uses hard plastic microfibers. The plastic is not itself sticky, but the millions of microscopic contacts work together to adhere. The number of contacts automatically increases to handle higher loads. A feature of the hard plastic gecko-inspired adhesive is that no residue is left on surfaces as is left by conventional adhesive tapes.

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Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Scientists claim breakthrough

in antimatter hunt

November 19, 2010
Photo released by CERN on November 18, 2010 shows an image taken by the ALPHA annihilation detector showing untrapped antihydrogen atoms annihilating on the inner surface of the ALPHA trap.Photo released by CERN on November 18, 2010 shows an image taken by the ALPHA annihilation detector showing untrapped antihydrogen atoms annihilating on the inner surface of the ALPHA trap. Photo: AP/CERN

Scientists claimed a breakthrough Thursday toward solving one of the biggest riddles of physics, trapping an “anti-atom” for the first time in a quest to understand what happened to all the antimatter that has vanished since the Big Bang.

An international team of physicists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, managed to keep atoms of anti-hydrogen from disappearing long enough to demonstrate that they can be studied in the lab.

“For us it’s a big breakthrough because it means we can take the next step, which is to try to compare matter and antimatter,” the team’s spokesman, American scientist Jeffrey Hangst, said Thursday.

“This field is 20 years old and has been making incremental progress toward exactly this all along the way,” he added. “We really think that this was the most difficult step.”

Researchers have puzzled for decades over why antimatter seems to have disappeared from the universe.

Theory posits that matter and its opposite, antimatter — both are defined as having mass and taking up space — were created in equal amounts at the moment of the Big Bang, which spawned the universe some 13.7 billion years ago. While matter went on to become the building block of everything that exists, antimatter has all but disappeared except in the lab.

Hangst and his colleagues, who included scientists from Britain, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the United States, trapped 38 anti-hydrogen atoms individually for more than one tenth of a second, according to a paper published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.

Since their first success, the team has managed to hold the anti-atoms even longer.

“Unfortunately I can’t tell you how long, because we haven’t published the number yet,” Hangst said. “But I can tell you that it’s much, much longer than a tenth of a second. Within human comprehension on a real clock.”

Scientists have long been able to create individual particles of antimatter such as anti-protons, anti-neutrons and positrons — the opposite of electrons. Since 2002, they have also managed to create anti-atoms in large quantities, but until recently none could be trapped for long enough to study them, because atoms made of antimatter and matter annihilate each other in a burst of energy upon contact.

“It doesn’t help if they disappear immediately upon their creation,” said Hangst. “So the big goal has been to hold onto them.”

Two teams had been competing for that goal at CERN, the world’s largest physics lab best known for its $US10 billion smasher, the Large Hadron Collider. The collider, built deep under the Swiss-French border, wasn’t used for this experiment.

Hangst’s ALPHA team got there first, beating the rival ATRAP team led by Harvard physicist Gerald Gabrielse, who nevertheless welcomed the result.

“The atoms that were trapped were not yet trapped very long and in a very usable number, but one has to crawl before you sprint,” he said.

Many new techniques painstakingly developed over five years of experimental trial and error preceded the successful capture of anti-hydrogen.

To trap the anti-atoms inside an electromagnetic field and to stop them from annihilating atoms, researchers had to create anti-hydrogen at temperatures less than half a degree above absolute zero.

“Think of it as a marble rolling back and forth in a bowl,” said Hangst. “If the marble is rolling too fast (i.e. the anti-atom is too hot) it just goes over the edge.”

Next, scientists plan to conduct basic experiments on the anti-atom, such as shining a laser onto it and seeing how it behaves, he said.

“We have a chance to make a really precise comparison between a matter system and an antimatter system,” he said, “That’s unique, that’s never been done. That’s where we’re headed now.”

Hangst downplayed speculation that antimatter might someday be harnessed as a source of energy, or to create a powerful weapon, an idea popularised in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel “Angels and Demons”.

“It would take longer than the age of the universe to make one gram of antimatter,” he said, calling the process “a losing proposition because it takes much more energy to make antimatter than you get out of it.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Video on mind controlled prosthethic arm

Nature’s Insect Repellents Discovered

Science (July 17, 2010) — In the battle between insect predators and their prey, chemical signals called kairomones serve as an early-warning system. Pervasively emitted by the predators, the compounds are detected by their prey, and can even trigger adaptations, such a change in body size or armor, that help protect the prey. But as widespread as kairomones are in the insect world, their chemical identity has remained largely unknown. New research by Rockefeller University’s Joel E. Cohen and colleagues at the University of Haifa in Israel has identified two compounds emitted by mosquito predators that make the mosquitoes less inclined to lay eggs in pools of water.


The findings, published in the July issue of Ecology Letters, may provide new environmentally friendly tactics for repelling and controlling disease-carrying insects.

Many animals use chemicals to communicate with each other. Pheromones, which influence social and reproductive behaviors within a particular species, are probably the best known and studied. Kairomones are produced by an individual of one species and received by an individual of a different species, with the receiving species often benefiting at the expense of the donor.

Cohen and his Israeli colleagues focused on the interaction between two insect species found in temporary pools of the Mediterranean and the Middle East: larvae of the mosquito C. longiareolata and its predator, the backswimmer N. maculata. When the arriving female mosquitoes detect a chemical emitted by the backswimmer, they are less likely to lay eggs in that pool.

To reproduce conditions of temporary pools in the field, the researchers used aged tap water with fish food added as a source of nutrients. Individual backswimmers were then placed in vials containing samples of the temporary pools, and air samples were collected from the headspace within the vials. The researchers used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the chemicals emitted by the backswimmers.

Cohen and his colleagues identified two chemicals, hydrocarbons called n-heneicosane and n-tricosane, which repelled egg-laying by mosquitoes at the concentrations of those compounds found in nature. Together, the two chemicals had an additive effect.

Since the mosquitoes can detect the backswimmer’s kairomones from above the water’s surface, predator-released kairomones can reduce the mosquito’s immediate risk of predation, says Cohen. But they also increase the female mosquito’s chance of dying from other causes before she finds a pool safe for her to lay her eggs in.

“That’s why we think these chemicals could be a useful part of a strategy to control the population size of mosquitoes,” says Cohen, who is the Abby Mauzé Rockefeller Professor and head of the Laboratory of Populations. “We started this work from very basic curiosity about how food webs and predator-prey interactions work, but we now see unexpected practical applications. These newly identified compounds, and others that remain to be discovered, might be effective in controlling populations of disease-carrying insects. It’s far too soon to say, but there’s the possibility of an advance in the battle against infectious disease.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Hop, Jump and Stick;

Robots Designed With Insect Instincts

Science (June 28, 2010) — A swarm of flying robots soars into a blazing forest fire. With insect-like precision and agility, the machines land on tree trunks and bound over rough terrain before deploying crucial sensors and tools to track the inferno and its effects. This is a scenario that Mirko Kovac, from EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, thinks may not be so far off.


Swarm robotics is offering innovative solutions to real-world problems by creating a new form of artificial intelligence based on insect-like instincts. Mirko Kovac, from EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, is a young robotics engineer who has already made leaps forward in the field with his grasshopper-inspired jumping robot. He and his collaborators have created an innovative perching mechanism where the robot flies head first into the object, a tree for example — without being destroyed — and attaches to almost any type of surface using sharp prongs. It then detaches on command. The goal is to create robots that can travel in swarms over rough terrain to come to the aide of catastrophe victims.

“We are not blindly imitating nature, but using the same principles to possibly improve on it,” explains Kovac, who recently finished his doctoral studies as EPFL. “Simple behavioral laws such as jumping, flying and perching lead to complex control over movement without the need for high computational power.”

Jumping, gliding and perching allow for mobility over rocky territory or destroyed urban areas. This new form of AI takes its inspiration from the insect world, but is more as an abstract reflection on their instincts and design principles than merely imitating their morphology. This simplicity allows for greater mobility since the robots are not bogged down with heavy batteries. Kovac imagines swarms of his robots equipped with different sensors and small cameras that could be deployed over devastated areas to transmit essential information back to rescue command centers.

The labs most recent innovation, perching a robot, saves valuable energy by allowing the robot to rest like insects or birds do. Many previous perching mechanisms include a complicated swooping maneuver to decrease momentum and land on legs, often without the ability of detaching. The mechanism developed by Dr Kovac and Jürg Markus Germann, recently published in the Journal of Micro-Nano Mechatronics, avoids this problem by using two spring-loaded arms fitted with pins that dig into the surface, whether it is wood or concrete. The snapping of the arms creates a forward momentum, allowing for a soft deceleration of the glider and avoiding mechanical damage. A remotely controlled mini-motor then detracts the pins and allows the robot to continue on its way.

“I am fascinated by the creative process,” says Kovac, “and how it is possible to use the sophistication found in nature to create something completely new.” The perching mechanism can be easily adapted to other robots. His previous robot, a quarter-gram jumping robot that can achieve heights of up to four and a half feet, could now be fitted with the new perching mechanism as well as wings, thus creating a hybrid creature that gets around much like a flying grasshopper.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

VORTEX2 Tornado Scientists Hit the Road Again

VORTEX2 Tornado Scientists Hit the Road Again

VORTEX2 researchers trailed this Wyoming twister during last spring’s expedition. Credit: Josh Wurman, CSWR

(PhysOrg.com) — In the largest and most ambitious effort ever made to understand tornadoes, more than 100 scientists and 40 support vehicles will hit the road again this spring.

The project, VORTEX2–Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes–is in its final season: May 1st through June 15th, 2010.

VORTEX2 is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Scientists from more than a dozen universities and government and private organizations will take part. International participants are from Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Australia.

The questions driving VORTEX2 are simple to ask but hard to answer, says lead scientist Josh Wurman of the Center for Research (CSWR) in Boulder, Colo.

• How, when, and why do tornadoes form?
• Why are some violent and long-lasting while others are weak and short-lived?
• What is the structure of tornadoes?
• How strong are the winds near the ground?
• How exactly do they do damage?
• How can we learn to forecast tornadoes better?

“Current warnings have only a 13-minute average lead time, and a 70 percent false alarm rate,” says Brad Smull, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. “Can we issue reliable warnings as much as 30, 45 or even 60 minutes ahead of tornado touchdown?”

VORTEX2 scientists hope to find the answers.

They will use a fleet of instruments to literally surround and the supercell thunderstorms that form them.

An armada will be deployed, including:

• Ten mobile radars such as the Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) from CSWR;
• SMART-Radars from the University of Oklahoma;
• the NOXP radar from the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL);
• radars from the University of Massachusetts, the Office of Naval Research and Texas Tech University (TTU);
• 12 mobile mesonet instrumented vehicles from NSSL and CSWR;
• 38 deployable instruments including Sticknets (TTU);
• Tornado-Pods (CSWR);
• 4 disdrometers (University of Colorado (CU);
• weather balloon launching vans (NSSL, NCAR and SUNY-Oswego);
• unmanned aircraft (CU);
• damage survey teams (CSWR, Lyndon State College, NCAR); and
• photogrammetry teams (Lyndon State Univesity, CSWR and NCAR).

“VORTEX2 is fully nomadic with no home base,” says Wurman. Scientists will roam from state to state in the U.S. Plains following severe weather outbreaks.

“When we get wind of a tornado,” says Wurman, “we spring into action.”

More information: VORTEX2 Project: http://www.vortex2.org

Provided by National Science Foundation (news : web)

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

STAR POWER USING LASERS FOR ENERGY DRIVE

A view inside the National Ignition Facility’s target chamber, a space easily big enough for technicians to stand inside. It is hoped the NIF will eventually be a major source of carbon-free energy.

(Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Lab)

LIVERMORE, Calif.–Think clean energy is a fantasy? What if the power of a star was applied to the problem?

That’s the approach being explored at the National Ignition Facility, a huge-scale experiment in laser fusion based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory here. Scientists are looking at NIF as a potential key to producing large amounts of carbon-free power.

It’s not known if the system will ever bear the kind of fruit the scientists and administrators who run NIF would like. Still, the facility is a scientific wonder that can transform a single laser beam no wider than a human hair into 192 beams–each of which is 18 inches wide. Together, the beams are designed to produce 4 million joules, the amount of power that would produce 4 million watts of power in a single second.

Using star power for a clean-energy future (photos)


The NIF was completed in early 2009 and eventually will be used by the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as technicians from national laboratories, fusion energy researchers, academics, and others. It is “the world’s largest and highest-energy laser, [and] has the goal of achieving nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for the first time,” according to the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, “in essence, creating a miniature star on Earth.”

This is serious high technology. The NIF employs a series of amplifiers and mirrors known as switchyards to route and split the original hair’s-width laser beam over a total distance of 1,500 meters. After being separated by pre-amplifiers into 48 beams, each beam is then split into four beams, and then all are injected into the 192 main laser amplifier beamlines, according to the NIF.

The hope is that NIF will be online as a power plant within 15 to 20 years. For now, the facility is a proof-of-concept system, albeit one comprising two 10-story buildings and more than $3 billion of investment. Eventually, the 192 laser beams reunite to focus on a target fuel pellet that is just millimeters in size, yet placed inside a target chamber that towers over the technicians who sometimes work inside.

And 192 laser beams of this magnitude create some serious heat. The theoretical maximum, according to LLNL retiree and docent Nick Williams, is 100 million degrees Celsius.

For now, because of the amount of power necessary to produce the beams, and the heat created, scientists are only able to fire the laser system once every two or three hours. Eventually, the idea would be to fire it many times a second.

And by 2030, it is hoped, the NIF will be helping produce commercial power and helping scientists and researchers better understand the nature of the universe. That, it would seem, would be a main benefit of producing what amounts to a small star, right here in the middle of Northern California.

On June 24, Geek Gestalt will kick off Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last four years, I’ll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more throughout the American northeast. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my preparations for the project on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Sterilizing, not killing, weeds suggested


WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Agriculture Department scientists say using herbicides to sterilize instead of killing weedy grasses might be more economical and environmentally sound.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service said exotic annual grasses such as Japanese brome, cheatgrass and medusahead are harming millions of acres of grassland in the western United States. But herbicides used to control the invasive grasses also sometimes damage desirable perennial grasses.

In contrast, when used properly, scientists said growth regulators don’t greatly harm desirable perennial grasses and can control broadleaf weeds in wheat, other crop grasses and on rangelands.

ARS ecologist Matt Rinella and colleagues said they knew when dicamba and other growth regulator herbicides were applied to cereal crops late in their growth stage, just before seed formation, the plants produced far fewer seeds.

The scientists decided to see what occurred on the invasive weed Japanese brome. They found picloram (Tordon) reduced seed production nearly 100 percent when applied at the late growth stage of the weed. Dicamba (Banvel/Clarity) was slightly less effective but still nearly eliminated seed production, while 2,4-D was much less effective.

Rinella said since annual grass seeds only survive in soil a year or two, it should only take one to three years to greatly reduce the soil seed bank of annual weedy grasses without harming perennial grasses.

The research appeared in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.

Received and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Moth spit produces bigger potatoes


ITHACA, N.Y. (UPI) — Spit from a caterpillar helps Colombian Andes potatoes grow larger, a finding that could benefit farmers worldwide, scientists said.

The saliva of the potato moth larvae, Tecia solanivora, increases the rate of photosynthesis in the Colombian Andes potato plant, Solanum tuberosum, researchers from Cornell University said.

More photosynthesis means more carbon is drawn into the plant, which creates more starch and larger tubers, said co-author Andre Kessler, who teaches ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell.


The plant may be compensating for tubers lost to damage from the caterpillar, a major pest, researchers from Cornell and the National University of Colombia said in a release Thursday.

“This could be an example where the co-evolutionary arms race led to a beneficial outcome for both,” Kessler said.

Future experiments will test more commercial varieties of potatoes, as well as wild potatoes, Kessler and his team wrote in a recent issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

Received and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

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‘Computer Viruses gone to your head?’

Science (May 26, 2010) — A scientist at the University of Reading has become the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus.


Dr Mark Gasson, from the School of Systems Engineering, contaminated a computer chip which had been inserted into his hand as part of research into human enhancement and the potential risks of implantable devices.

These results could have huge implications for implantable computing technologies used medically to improve health, such as heart pacemakers and cochlear implants, and as new applications are found to enhance healthy humans.

Dr Gasson says that as the technology behind these implants develops, they become more vulnerable to computer viruses.

“Our research shows that implantable technology has developed to the point where implants are capable of communicating, storing and manipulating data,” he said. “They are essentially mini computers. This means that, like mainstream computers, they can be infected by viruses and the technology will need to keep pace with this so that implants, including medical devices, can be safely used in the future.”

Dr Gasson will present his results next month at the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in Australia, which he is also chairing.

A high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted into Dr Gasson’s left hand last year. Less sophisticated RFID technology is used in shop security tags to prevent theft and to identify missing pets.

The chip has allowed him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone. It has also enabled him to be tracked and profiled. Once infected, the chip corrupted the main system used to communicate with it. Should other devices have been connected to the system, the virus would have been passed on.

Dr Gasson said: “By infecting my own implant with a computer virus we have demonstrated how advanced these technologies are becoming and also had a glimpse at the problems of tomorrow.

“Much like people with medical implants, after a year of having the implant, I very much feel that it is part of my body. While it is exciting to be the first person to become infected by a computer virus in this way, I found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves. Indeed we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not. However we must be mindful of the new threats this step brings.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 28th May 2010