March 30, 2013

Stunning Future iPhone with Wraparound Display Revealed

On March 27, 2013, US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a stunning future iPhone with a wraparound display so that both sides of this iPhone will be able to display content either individually or as one continuous display. The wraparound display will also apply to Apple's possible future wristband communication device or iWatch revealed in February. Today's invention focuses on the flexible wraparound display that could be fashioned in aluminum, aluminum and glass or a fully transparent design. This future iPhone design won't have any physical buttons so controlling the audio on the iPhone will simply require you to hover your hand over the side of the display to temporarily illustrate the controls. The new design could also produce 3D visuals through its unique dual display design. This is certainly one of Apple's hottest inventions of the year.

Radar Advance: Acoustic Time Delay Device Could Reduce Size and Cost of Phased Array Systems

Radar systems today depend increasingly on phased-array antennas, an advanced design in which extensive grids of solid state components direct signal beams electronically. Phased array technology is replacing traditional electro-mechanical radar antennas – the familiar rotating dish that goes back many decades – because stationary solid state electronics are faster, more precise and more reliable than moving mechanical parts.

Picking Apart Photosynthesis

New insights from Caltech chemists could lead to better catalysts for water splitting

Chemists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believe they can now explain one of the remaining mysteries of photosynthesis, the chemical process by which plants convert sunlight into usable energy and generate the oxygen that we breathe. The finding suggests a new way of approaching the design of catalysts that drive the water-splitting reactions of artificial photosynthesis.

"If we want to make systems that can do artificial photosynthesis, it's important that we understand how the system found in nature functions," says Theodor Agapie, an assistant professor of chemistry at Caltech and principal investigator on a paper in the journal Nature Chemistry that describes the new results.

Making Do with More: Joint BioEnergy Institute Researchers Engineer Plant Cell Walls to Boost Sugar Yields for Biofuels

When blessed with a resource in overwhelming abundance it’s generally a good idea to make valuable use of that resource. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant organic material on Earth. For thousands of years it has been used as animal feed, and for the past two centuries has been a staple of the paper industry. This abundant resource, however, could also supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels that can supplement or replace fossil fuels, providing several key technical challenges are met. One of these challenges is finding ways to more cost-effectively extract those sugars. Major steps towards achieving this breakthrough are being taken by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI).

UGA researchers track down gene responsible for short stature of dwarf pearl millet


While pearl millet is a major food staple in some of the fastest growing regions on Earth, relatively little is known about the drought-hardy grain.

Recently, plant geneticists at the University of Georgia successfully isolated the gene that creates dwarfed varieties of pearl millet. It is the first time a gene controlling an important agronomic trait has been isolated in the pearl millet genome. Their work appeared in the March edition of the journal G3: Genes, Genomics, Genetics.

Multi-Toxin Biotech Crops Not Silver Bullets, UA Scientists Warn

The popular new strategy of planting genetically engineered crops that make two or more toxins to fend off insect pests rests on assumptions that don’t always apply, UA researchers have discovered. Their study helps explain why one major pest is evolving resistance much faster than predicted and offers ideas for more sustainable pest control.

A strategy widely used to prevent pests from quickly adapting to crop-protecting toxins may fail in some cases unless better preventive actions are taken, suggests new research by University of Arizona entomologists published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Corn and cotton have been genetically modified to produce pest-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short. Compared with typical insecticide sprays, the Bt toxins produced by genetically engineered crops are much safer for people and the environment, explained Yves Carrière, a professor of entomology in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who led the study.

March 29, 2013

Do Ants Need to Estimate the Geometrical Properties of Trail Bifurcations to Find an Efficient Route? A Swarm Robotics Test Bed


Interactions between individuals and the structure of their environment play a crucial role in shaping self-organized collective behaviors. Recent studies have shown that ants crossing asymmetrical bifurcations in a network of galleries tend to follow the branch that deviates the least from their incoming direction. At the collective level, the combination of this tendency and the pheromone-based recruitment results in a greater likelihood of selecting the shortest path between the colony's nest and a food source in a network containing asymmetrical bifurcations. It was not clear however what the origin of this behavioral bias is. Here we propose that it results from a simple interaction between the behavior of the ants and the geometry of the network, and that it does not require the ability to measure the angle of the bifurcation. We tested this hypothesis using groups of ant-like robots whose perceptual and cognitive abilities can be fully specified.

Study: ‘Waste heat’ may economize CO2 capture

Rice U. team seeks to optimize CO2 removal from power plant emissions

In some of the first results from a federally funded initiative to find new ways of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-fired power plants, Rice University scientists have found that CO2 can be removed more economically using “waste” heat — low-grade steam that cannot be used to produce electricity. The find is significant because capturing CO2 with conventional technology is an energy-intensive process that can consume as much as one-quarter of the high-pressure steam that plants use to produce electricity.

March 28, 2013

New Vaccine-Design Approach Targets HIV and Other Fast-Mutating Viruses

A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has unveiled a new technique for vaccine design that could be particularly useful against HIV and other fast-changing viruses.

The report, which appears March 28, 2013, in Science Express, the early online edition of the journal Science, offers a step toward solving what has been one of the central problems of modern vaccine design: how to stimulate the immune system to produce the right kind of antibody response to protect against a wide range of viral strains. The researchers demonstrated their new technique by engineering an immunogen (substance that induces immunity) that has promise to reliably initiate an otherwise rare response effective against many types of HIV.

Scientists identify brain’s ‘molecular memory switch’

Common fruit fly key to discovery as to how memories are written into brain cells

Scientists have identified a key molecule responsible for triggering the chemical processes in our brain linked to our formation of memories.  The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits, reveal a new target for therapeutic interventions to reverse the devastating effects of memory loss.

The BBSRC-funded research, led by scientists at the University of Bristol, aimed to better understand the mechanisms that enable us to form memories by studying the molecular changes in the hippocampus — the part of the brain involved in learning.

Previous studies have shown that our ability to learn and form memories is due to an increase in synaptic communication called Long Term Potentiation [LTP].  This communication is initiated through a chemical process triggered by calcium entering brain cells and activating a key enzyme called ‘Ca2+ responsive kinase’ [CaMKII].  Once this protein is activated by calcium it triggers a switch in its own activity enabling it to remain active even after the calcium has gone. This special ability of CaMKII to maintain its own activity has been termed ‘the molecular memory switch’.

Even graphene has weak spots

Rice, Tsinghua theorists find junctions in polycrystalline graphene sap strength of super material

Graphene, the single-atom-thick form of carbon, has become famous for its extraordinary strength. But less-than-perfect sheets of the material show unexpected weakness, according to researchers at Rice University in Houston and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The kryptonite to this Superman of materials is in the form of a seven-atom ring that inevitably occurs at the junctions of grain boundaries in graphene, where the regular array of hexagonal units is interrupted. At these points, under tension, polycrystalline graphene has about half the strength of pristine samples of the material.

Notre Dame researchers using new technologies to combat invasive species

A new research paper by a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) demonstrates how two cutting-edge technologies can provide a sensitive and real-time solution to screening real-world water samples for invasive species before they get into our country or before they cause significant damage.

The placodonts are fellow Europeans

Placodonts were among the first marine reptiles. With their trademark crushing teeth, they fed on shellfish and crustaceans. However, when and where these highly specialized marine reptiles originated remained unclear until now. A 246-million-year-old skull of a juvenile placodont was recently discovered in the Netherlands. Paleontologists from the universities of Zurich and Bonn have now proved that it is one of the earliest examples of this saurians and that it originated in Europe.

For around 50 million years, placodonts populated the flat coastal regions of the Tethys Ocean, in modern day Europe and China.

Air conditioning versus heating: climate control is more energy demanding in Minneapolis than in Miami


Energy demand for climate control was analyzed for Miami (the warmest large metropolitan area in the US) and Minneapolis (the coldest large metropolitan area). The following relevant parameters were included in the analysis: (1) climatological deviations from the desired indoor temperature as expressed in heating and cooling degree days, (2) efficiencies of heating and cooling appliances, and (3) efficiencies of power-generating plants. The results indicate that climate control in Minneapolis is about 3.5 times as energy demanding as in Miami. This finding suggests that, in the US, living in cold climates is more energy demanding than living in hot climates.

Better than X-rays: A more powerful terahertz imaging system

Low-energy terahertz radiation could potentially enable doctors to see deep into tissues without the damaging effects of X-rays, or allow security guards to identify chemicals in a package without opening it. But it's been difficult for engineers to make powerful enough systems to accomplish these promising applications.

Now an electrical engineering research team at the University of Michigan has developed a laser-powered terahertz source and detector system that transmits with 50 times more power and receives with 30 times more sensitivity than existing technologies. This offers 1,500 times more powerful systems for imaging and sensing applications.

More fat, less protein improves canine olfactory abilities

From sniffing out bombs and weapons to uncovering criminal evidence, dogs can help save lives and keep the peace. Now, researchers have uncovered how to improve dogs' smelling skills through diet, by cutting protein and adding fats.

Such a diet, say the researchers, appears to help dogs return to lower body temperatures after exercise, which reduces panting and, thereby, improves sniffing.

The findings could change how detection dogs are fed and boost their detection abilities, says Joseph Wakshlag, associate professor of clinical studies and chief of nutrition at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine. Wakshlag, who collaborated with researchers at Auburn University, is presenting the findings at the Companion Animal Nutrition Summit in Atlanta, held March 22-24.

Development of an Audio-based Virtual Gaming Environment to Assist with Navigation Skills in the Blind


Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is virtual environment software designed to improve real world navigation skills in the blind. Using only audio based cues and set within the context of a video game metaphor, users gather relevant spatial information regarding a building's layout. This allows the user to develop an accurate spatial cognitive map of a large-scale three-dimensional space that can be manipulated for the purposes of a real indoor navigation task. After game play, participants are then assessed on their ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggest that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building as indexed by their performance on a series of navigation tasks. These tasks included path finding through the virtual and physical building, as well as a series of drop off tasks. We find that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the AbES software appears to greatly engage the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. Applications of this approach may extend to larger populations of visually impaired individuals.

March 27, 2013

Two pesticides target same learning centre of bee brain

Research shows combined pesticides impact on bee brain function

Bees become slower to learn and forget floral scents

Two new studies have highlighted a negative impact on bees' ability to learn following exposure to a combination of pesticides commonly used in agriculture. The researchers found that the pesticides, used in the research at levels shown to occur in the wild, could interfere with the learning circuits in the bee's brain. They also found that bees exposed to combined pesticides were slower to learn or completely forgot important associations between floral scent and food rewards.

Changes in gastrointestinal microbes may produce some benefits of gastric bypass

Transferring microbial population into germ-free mice produced weight loss without surgery

Changes in the population of microbial organisms in the gastrointestinal tract may underlie some of the benefits of gastric bypass surgery, reports a team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard University.  In the March 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine, the investigators describe experiments in mice finding that previously observed post-bypass alterations in the microbial population (also called the microbiota) are caused by the surgery itself, not by weight loss, and that transferring samples of the changed microbiota to mice raised in sterile conditions induced weight loss in those animals without surgery.

UCLA physicists' technique for cooling molecules may be a stepping stone to quantum computing

The next generation of computers promises far greater power and faster processing speeds than today's silicon-based based machines. These "quantum computers" — so called because they would harness the unique quantum mechanical properties of atomic particles — could draw their computing power from a collection of super-cooled molecules.

But chilling molecules to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, the temperature at which they can be manipulated to store and transmit data, has proven to be a difficult challenge for scientists.
Now, UCLA physicists have pioneered a new technique that combines two traditional atomic cooling technologies and brings normally springy molecules to a frozen standstill. Their research is published March 28 in the journal Nature.

Park perks: Teenagers who live close to a park are more physically active

Low-income teens use parks less, citing safety concerns, UCLA research shows

California teenagers who live close to a park or open space are more likely to get exercise than those who live in areas without parks nearby, a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows.

While the findings might not be surprising, they are important in park-starved areas of California. Across the state, only 25 percent of adolescents live near a park or open space. But those who do seem to benefit, according to the study, which linked 2009 California Health Interview Survey data to park locations provided by the Trust for Public Land.

How does innovation take hold in a community? Math modeling can provide clues

Mathematical models can be used to study the spread of technological innovations among individuals connected to each other by a network of peer-to-peer influences, such as in a physical community or neighborhood. One such model was introduced in a paper published yesterday in the SIAM Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems.

Authors N. J. McCullen, A. M. Rucklidge, C. S. E. Bale, T. J. Foxon, and W. F. Gale focus on one main application: The adoption of energy-efficient technologies in a population, and consequently, a means to control energy consumption. By using a network model for adoption of energy technologies and behaviors, the model helps evaluate the potential for using networks in a physical community to shape energy policy.


IRB Barcelona scientists pave the way towards describing the conformation of proteins that do not have a defined structure

Structural and theoretical techniques are combined to develop new methodologies for the analysis of proteins

Researchers with the joint program between IRB Barcelona and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) have devised a new strategy to study the shape of proteins. This study has been led by Modesto Orozco, head of the Molecular Modeling and Bioinformatics Group, and Xavier Salvatella, head of the Molecular Biophysics Group, both ICREA scientists at IRB Barcelona. According to Orozco, also senior professor of the University of Barcelona and director of the Life Sciences Department at BSC, “by combining computational modeling and experimental physicochemical techniques, we have revealed the structures of proteins, which, until now, were unachievable because of technical barriers”. The results are available from today in the electronic version of the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

New DNA test identifies ingredients in foods

Scientists at Mainz University develop a novel screening procedure for accurately determining the amount of animal, plant, and microbial substances in foods

Almost all foodstuffs contain the genetic material of those animal and plant species that were used in their preparation. Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Genetics, Genetic Security Research and Consulting at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have developed a novel screening procedure that provides for highly sensitive, quantifiable analysis of animal, plant, and microbial substances present in foodstuffs. For this, the researchers have adapted the latest techniques of DNA sequencing, which are otherwise currently employed in human genetics to unravel the genetic information of thousands of patients.

"The innovative aspect in comparison with conventional DNA detection methods such as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR for short, is that by means of bioinformatic analysis of all biological DNA data available worldwide we can identify the presence of material from species that we would not otherwise expect.

Harvesting unused energy with flat thermoelectrics

A large proportion of the energy we produce disappears unused into thin air via waste heat. Tiny thermoelectric generators can tap this potential, whereby the electricity is produced by way of temperature differences. However, so far their production has been laborious and expensive. At the same time there is a lack of suitable materials. At the Hannover trade fair researchers are now presenting a new manufacturing process with which these generators can be cost-effectively produced in the form of large-area flexible components from non-toxic synthetic materials (hall 3, booth D25).

Lunar cycle determines hunting behaviour of nocturnal gulls

Swallow-tailed gulls hunt most often under a new moon, when fish come to the surface under the cover of darkness

Zooplankton, small fish and squid spend hardly any time at the surface when there's a full moon. To protect themselves from their natural enemies, they hide deeper down in the water on bright nights, coming up to the surface under cover of darkness when there's a new moon instead. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell discovered that this also influences the behaviour of swallow-tailed gulls (Creagrus furcatus), a unique nocturnal species of gull from the Galapagos Islands. They fitted the birds with loggers and wet/dry sensors which enabled them to see how much time the animals spent at sea at night. Their findings show that the birds' activity was greatest at new moon, in other words the time when the most prey was gathered at the surface of the water. The cycle of the moon therefore also influences the behaviour of seabirds.

Sun block for the "Big Dog"

Astronomers detect titanium oxide and titanium dioxide around the giant star VY Canis Majoris

An international team of astronomers, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and from the University of Cologne, successfully identified two titanium oxides in the extended atmosphere around a giant star. The object VY Canis Major is one of the largest stars in the known universe and close to the end of its life. The detection was made using telescope arrays in the USA and in France.

The discovery was made in the course of a study of a spectacular star, VY Canis Majoris or VY CMa for short, which is a variable star located in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog).

A folding ceramic

A sophisticated nanostructure renders a wafer-thin paper made of electrically conductive vanadium pentoxide fibres both tough and pliable

Scientists in Stuttgart are currently doing things to a ceramic, which would normally result in a pile of shards. They were the first to produce a paper-like material from a vanadium pentoxide ceramic which is as hard as copper, yet flexible enough to be rolled up or folded. The material is also different from other ceramics, as it is electrically conductive. In a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the scientists from Stuttgart University, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research produced the ceramic paper consisting of conductive nanofibres of vanadium pentoxide in a straightforward and simple way. The ceramic paper’s special mechanical properties are derived from its structure, which resembles that of mother-of-pearl. The material looks promising for applications in batteries, flat and flexible gas sensors and actuators in artificial muscles.

NRL Develops Polymer Nanofibers for Chemical and Biological Decontamination

Chemical and biological threats pose a significant concern not only to the modern warfighter but an ever-increasing number of individuals and groups. This threat is compounded by the persistence of these agents and the possibilities of causing increased personnel exposure by the relocation of contaminated materials.

To combat this, NRL scientists are developing unique systems aimed at the spontaneous decontamination of a variety of materials via the incorporation of functional additives such as quaternary ammonium salt (QAS) biocides, polyoxometalates (POMs), fullerenes, and phthalocyanines capable of neutralizing chemical and biological agents.


A Stanford team has designed an entirely new form of cooling panel that works even when the sun is shining. Such a panel could vastly improve the daylight cooling of buildings, cars and other structures by radiating sunlight back into the chilly vacuum of space.

Homes and buildings chilled without air conditioners. Car interiors that don't heat up in the summer sun. Tapping the frigid expanses of outer space to cool the planet. Science fiction, you say? Well, maybe not any more.

Phinergy Develops Car Powered By Air, Water

Phinergy develops zero emission, high energy density systems based on Metal Air energy technologies which significantly increase the driving range of current Electric Vehicles.

Clays can expand under pressure

It was always believed that water is “squeezed” out of the clay structure under pressure but physicists at Umeå University together with German colleagues show that this appear to be not always true if excess of liquid water is available around. The new findings are published in Angewandte Chemie.

Clay minerals are among most common on the Earth and some of the most important materials in the construction and building industry. Layered structure of clays can easily be expanded if water is added. This phenomenon is called swelling and it is explained by the insertion of water into the inter-layer space of clays structures. Swelling affects all possible applications of these materials and is important for example in sealing of natural oil reservoirs as the hydrated clays are not permeable for oil.

Penn Research: Quitting Marshmallow Test Can Be a Rational Decision

A psychological experiment known as “the marshmallow test” has captured the public’s imagination as a marker of self control and even as a predictor of future success. This test shows how well children can delay gratification, a trait that has been shown to be as important to scholastic performance as traditional IQ.

New research from University of Pennsylvania psychologists suggests, however, that changing one’s mind about delaying gratification can be a rational decision in situations when the timing of the payoff is uncertain.

Penn Researchers Attach Lyme Disease Antibodies to Nanotubes, Paving Way for Diagnostic Device

Early diagnosis is critical in treating Lyme disease. However, nearly one quarter of Lyme disease patients are initially misdiagnosed because currently available serological tests have poor sensitivity and specificity during the early stages of infection. Misdiagnosed patients may go untreated and thus progress to late-stage Lyme disease, where they face longer and more invasive treatments, as well as persistent symptoms.

Existing tests assess the presence of antibodies against bacterial proteins, which take weeks to form after the initial infection and persist after the infection is gone. Now, a nanotechnology-inspired technique developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may lead to diagnostics that can detect the organism itself.

Penn Engineers Enable ‘Bulk’ Silicon to Emit Visible Light for the First Time

Electronic computing speeds are brushing up against limits imposed by the laws of physics. Photonic computing, where photons replace comparatively slow electrons in representing information, could surpass those limitations, but the components of such computers require semiconductors that can emit light.      

Now, research from the University of Pennsylvania has enabled "bulk" silicon to emit broad-spectrum, visible light for the first time, opening the possibility of using the element in devices that have both electronic and photonic components.

You Don't "Own" Your Own Genes


Humans don't "own" their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual "genomic liberty."

Human Emotion: We Report Our Feelings in 3-D

Like it or not and despite the surrounding debate of its merits, 3-D is the technology du jour for movie-making in Hollywood. It now turns out that even our brains use 3 dimensions to communicate emotions.

According to a new study published in Biological Psychiatry, the human report of emotion relies on three distinct systems: one system that directs attention to affective states (“I feel”), a second system that categorizes these states into words (“good”, “bad”, etc.); and a third system that relates the intensity of affective responses (“bad” or “awful”?).

Emotions are central to the human experience. Whether we are feeling happy, sad, afraid, or angry, we are often asked to identify and report on these feelings. This happens when friends ask us how we are doing, when we talk about professional or personal relationships, when we meditate, and so on. In fact, the very commonness and ease of reporting what we are feeling can lead us to overlook just how important such reports are - and how devastating the impairment of this ability may be for individuals with clinical disorders ranging from major depression to schizophrenia to autism spectrum disorders.

UEA researchers make breakthrough in race to create 'bio-batteries'

cientists at the University of East Anglia have made an important breakthrough in the quest to generate clean electricity from bacteria.

Findings published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) show that proteins on the surface of bacteria can produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface.

The research shows that it is possible for bacteria to lie directly on the surface of a metal or mineral and transfer electrical charge through their cell membranes. This means that it is possible to ‘tether’ bacteria directly to electrodes – bringing scientists a step closer to creating efficient microbial fuel cells or ‘bio-batteries’.

After Newtown: A new use for weapons-detecting radar?

In the weeks after the Connecticut school shooting, as the nation puzzled over how it happened and what might prevent it from happening again, Kamal Sarabandi was listening to the news. Talk turned to giving teachers guns, and he paused.

"I said, there must be a better way," Sarabandi recalled.

Then he had an epiphany. Sarabandi is an electrical engineering professor at the University of Michigan. His specialty is remote sensing—detecting objects and gathering information from a distance. And for several years ending in mid-2012, he was funded by the Department of Defense to tweak a type of radar not too different from the kind police use to nab speeders and use it to find weapons and bombs concealed on a person's body.

March 26, 2013

Porsche at the 2013 New York Auto Show

Porsche has much to celebrate this year at NYAS. The completely redeveloped, fifth generation Porsche 911 GT3 will make its North American premiere during the flagship model’s 50th anniversary year.

The completely redeveloped fifth-generation 911 GT3 is the sportiest model of the iconic 911 family with an impressive sub-7 minute 30 second lap time on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the 911 GT3 benefits from a new engine, transmission, body and chassis. The car now sprints from zero to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds on its way to a top track speed of 195 mph.

Developed and fine-tuned on the track, the new GT3 brings the exhilaration of a sports car to everyday driving.

Jaguar XKR-S GT (2013) first official pictures

This is the new top dog of the Jaguar XK family: the XKR-S GT. Built to celebrate 25 years of Jaguar ‘R’ models, the road-legal GT carries a host of track-focused modifications: there’s carbon aerodynamic aids, chassis tweaks, and the promise of a sub-7min 40sec Nurburgring lap time. A regular XKR-S manages 7min 50sec around the 'Ring in comparison.

What’s new on the Jaguar XKR-S GT?

The carbon front winglets, front splitter and rear wing produce a combined 145kg of downforce at the car’s (electronically limited) 186mph top speed. Helping the handling is a 52mm wider front track and adjustable Bilstein dampers. Front and rear spring rates are respectively 68% and 25% stiffer than on the XKR-S. Meanwhile, carbon-ceramic brakes – a first in a road-going Jag – save 21kg in unsprung mass.

Invisibility Cloak Research Moves Forward at Michigan Tech

Michigan Technological University’s invisibility cloak researchers have done it again. They’ve moved the bar on one of the holy grails of physics: making objects invisible.

Just last month, Elena Semouchkina, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, and her graduate student, Xiaohui Wang, reported successful experimental demonstration of the use of non-conductive ceramic metamaterials to cloak cylindrical objects from microwave-length electromagnetic waves.  Previously, Semouchkina had designed a non-conductive glass metamaterial cloak that worked  with infrared frequency waves, which are shorter than microwaves.

APL Backpack-Sized Mini-mapper Captures Intel in Tight Spots

Engineers at APL have developed a portable mapping system—carried in a backpack—that can be used to automatically create annotated physical maps of locations where GPS is not available, such as in underground areas and on ships.

Produced for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the Enhanced Mapping and Positioning System (EMAPS) captures a floor-plan-style map of the area traversed, as well as 360-degree photos and sensor readings of that area using a combination of lasers and sensors. The system improves upon algorithms once developed for robots—which are not practical for all environments—and has a built-in allowance for normal human movement, like walking.

The robot is complete – arms and hands for TORO, the walking machine

It began in the summer of 2009, with two legs and a camera mounted on top – but it was still far from being a robot of humanoid appearance. Gradually, the TOrque controlled humanoid RObot (TORO), the German Aerospace Center's (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) walking machine, has become more human-like – an upper body, a head with camera eyes and arms have been added. TORO is now complete, with forearms and hands with sensors and flexible joints that allow it to respond to its environment with exceptional sensitivity. TORO must now learn, step by step, how to perform simple human actions – climbing stairs or opening doors, for example. "Now that the robotic body is complete, we can test processes where the robot carries out sequences of movements with foresight and fluency," explains Project Manager Christian Ott.


Solar cells are just like leaves, capturing the sunlight and turning it into energy. It’s fitting that they can now be made partially from trees.

Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees. Just as importantly, by fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.

The technology is published in the journal Scientific Reports, the latest open-access journal from the Nature Publishing Group.

Researchers Find Novel Way Plants Pass Traits to Next Generation

Inheritance Behavior in Corn Breaks Accepted Rules of Genetics

New research explains how certain traits can pass down from one generation to the next – at least in plants – without following the accepted rules of genetics.

Scientists have shown that an enzyme in corn responsible for reading information from DNA can prompt unexpected changes in gene activity – an example of epigenetics.

Epigenetics refers to modifications in the genome that don’t directly affect DNA sequences. Though some evidence has suggested that epigenetic changes can bypass DNA’s influence to carry on from one generation to the next, this is the first study to show that this epigenetic heritability can be subject to selective breeding.

UGA discovery may allow scientists to make fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere

Excess carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, and researchers the world over are looking for new ways to generate power that leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have found a way to transform the carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere into useful industrial products. Their discovery may soon lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air that is responsible for trapping the sun's rays and raising global temperatures.

Men benefit more than women from having authority on the job

Having more authority in the workplace comes with many rewards – including greater forms of job control and higher earnings. However, according to new research out of the University of Toronto, the benefits are not evenly distributed for women and men.

Sociologist Scott Schieman, lead author of the study, found key differences between men and women in both the levels and implications of greater job authority. First, roughly 24 per cent of men report managerial authority compared to only 16 per cent of women. Moreover, the association between managerial authority and job autonomy is stronger among men compared to women. In other words, men who achieved the highest levels of structural power– within a broad range of different occupations–are more likely to perceive their jobs as more autonomous and influential. When they shared the same high level of authority in the workplace, men are more likely than women to feel they have decision-making freedom and greater influence about what happens on the job.

Astronomers Discover New Kind of Supernova

Supernovae were always thought to occur in two main varieties. But a team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Wendy Freedman, Mark Phillips and Eric Persson is reporting the discovery of a new type of supernova called Type Iax. This research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

Previously, supernovae were divided into either core-collapse or Type Ia categories. Core-collapse supernovae are the explosion of a star about 10 to 100 times as massive as our sun. Type Ia supernovae are the complete disruption of a tiny white dwarf.

Mindfulness Improves Reading Ability, Working Memory, and Task-Focus

If you think your inability to concentrate is a hopeless condition, think again –– and breathe, and focus. According to a study by researchers at the UC Santa Barbara, as little as two weeks of mindfulness training can significantly improve one's reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and ability to focus.

Their findings were recently published online in the empirical psychology journal Psychological Science.

"What surprised me the most was actually the clarity of the results," said Michael Mrazek, graduate student researcher in psychology and the lead and corresponding author of the paper, "Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering." "Even with a rigorous design and effective training program, it wouldn't be unusual to find mixed results. But we found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it."