A new chemical technique
could detect traces of explosives, illicit drugs (cocaine
shown) and other compounds from fingerprints. It
could also reveal signs of disease (SN: 8/30/08, p. 9).
Charging up By using an
electric field to make diesel
slightly thinner, researchers
improve the fuel efficiency
of a car by more than 18 percent. Real-world improvements would probably be
less, around 5 to 10 percent
(SN: 10/25/08, p. 9).
Scientists use DNA as a sort
of Velcro to create what
may be the first nanomate-rials that assemble themselves into 3-D structures,
which may lead to crystals
with new properties (SN:
2/16/08, p. 110).
Tackling cancer New cancer
therapies that use tiny magnets (shown in blue fluid)
to selectively deliver heat
or drugs to malignant cells
(shown with tan backdrop)
are in development (SN:
8/16/08, p. 5).
I, computer Scientists engineer bacteria to act as the
first living computers. The
bacteria use their DNA to
perform calculations to solve
the “pancake flipping” problem (SN Online: 5/19/08).
Improved efficiency A team
finds a way to make the alloy
bismuth antimony telluride
a 15 to 30 percent more efficient conductor, which may
lead to a new kind of solar
panel (SN: 3/29/08, p. 206).
Goodbye transistor A new
type of electronic component that changes electrical
resistance depending on past
experiences, called the mem-ristor ( 17 shown between
platinum wires above), could
make computer chips more
compact and powerful (SN:
5/24/08, p. 13).
Diamonds in nano
Manipulating the quantum properties of diamond impurities
could bring researchers a
step closer to quantum computers and finer-scale microscopes (SN: 10/25/08, p. 9).
Monkey brain moves arm
technology could lead to better prostheses
macaque monkeys with electrodes implanted in their brains
learned to control a robotic arm with their thoughts. after practice, the monkeys appeared to treat the robotic arm as their own
and could feed themselves with the arm using fluid motions.
“the thing that struck me was how naturally the animals
interacted with the device,” comments John kalaska of the University of montreal (SN: 6/21/08, p. 9). a computer interpreted
the electrical activity of muscle-control neurons in the monkeys’
brains that normally move the monkeys’ arms. based on these
electrical patterns, the computer deciphered the movements
that the monkeys intended to make with their own arms, which
were restrained, and used that information to operate the
robotic arm. similar experiments wired a paralyzed monkey’s
brain to the animal’s forearm muscles, enabling the monkey to
make simple forearm movements (SN Online: 10/15/08).
in past research, electrodes implanted into the brains of animals or humans lost contact with the nerve cells after months
or weeks because cells in the brain treated the electrodes as
foreign objects and attacked them. these obstacles would have
to be overcome before thought-controlled robotic limbs would
be feasible for people, kalaska says.
Just by thinking about reaching for food, monkeys maneu-
ver a robotic arm to grab food and put it in their mouths.