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Detecting Extraterrestrial Life Through Motion

Looking for life on other planets is not straightforward. It usually relies on chemical detection, which might be limited or even completely irrelevant to alien biology. On the other hand, motion is a trait of all life, and can be used to identify microorganisms without any need of chemical foreknowledge. Scientists have now developed an extremely sensitive yet simple motion detector that uses a nano-sized cantilever to detect motion. The idea comes from the technology behind an atomic force microscope, uses a cantilever to produce pictures of the atoms on a surface. The cantilever scans the surface like the needle of a record player, and its up-and-down movement is read by a laser to produce an image. The new motion sensor works the same way, but a sample is attached on the cantilever itself. If the sample is alive, it will inevitably move in some way,. That motion also moves the much smaller and sensitive cantilever, and it is captured by the readout laser as series of vibrations. The signal is taken as a sign of life. Source:

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Remediation and Prevention of Moisture in Electronics

Receiving product complaints and returns may be your first indication that there is a problem with moisture in your electronic product. Moisture in sealed electronics may result in shorting, attenuation problems, mirror and lens fogging, intermittent functionality, and catastrophic failure. The experience your customer has with your product directly affects your brand integrity, which in turn affects sales and profits. Taking steps to correct a moisture issue or prevent it early on in the design stages can help you make large strides in reclaiming or protecting your brand position.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronics, Lighting, Defense, White Papers

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Robotic Handoff Aids Space Station Installation

On Jan. 22, 2015, robotic flight controllers successfully installed NASA’s Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) aboard the International Space Station through a robotic handoff — the first time one robotic arm on station has worked in concert with a second robotic arm. CATS will collect data about clouds, volcanic ash plumes, and tiny airborne particles that can help improve our understanding of aerosol and cloud interactions and improve the accuracy of climate change models.CATS had been mounted inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft’s unpressurized trunk since it docked at the station on Jan. 12. Ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston used one of the space station’s robotic arms, called the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, to extract the instrument from the capsule. The NASA-controlled arm passed the instrument to a second robotic arm — like passing a baton in a relay race. SourceAlso: Learn about an Autonomous Response for Monitoring Volcanic Activity.

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Software Algorithm Finds Risks

At the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) this month, MIT researchers will present algorithms that represent significant steps toward “a better Siri” — the user-assistance application found in Apple products.One aspect of the software that distinguishes it from previous planning systems is that it assesses risk."It’s always hard working directly with probabilities, because they always add complexity to your computations,” said Cheng Fang, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “So we added this idea of risk allocation. We say, ‘What’s your budget of risk for this entire mission? Let’s divide that up and use it as a resource.’”The time it takes to traverse any mile of a bus route, for instance, can be represented by a probability distribution — a bell curve, plotting time against probability. Keeping track of all those probabilities and compounding them for every mile of the route would yield a huge computation. But if the system knows in advance that the planner can tolerate a certain amount of failure, it can, in effect, assign that failure to the lowest-probability outcomes in the distributions, lopping off their tails. That makes them much easier to deal with mathematically.SourceRead more Information Technology & Software tech briefs.

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Will we really wear wearables?

This week's Question: New smartwatches were showcased at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, including devices that run on operating systems and feature pedometers, sleep trackers, and audio players. Research firm Canalys forecasts that worldwide annual smartwatch shipments will grow from 8 million in 2014 to 45 million by 2017. An early 2014 Endeavour Partners survey of 6,223 US adults, however, revealed that one in ten adult consumers owns a wearable activity tracker, such as Jawbone, Fitbit, Nike+ Fuelband, or Misfit Wearables. Yet, more than half no longer continue to use them, and a third of respondents stopped using the modern activity trackers within six months of receiving them. What do you think? Will we really wear wearables?

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Metamaterial 'Bends' Acoustic and Elastic Waves

Sound waves passing through the air, objects that break a body of water and cause ripples, or shockwaves from earthquakes all are considered “elastic” waves. These waves travel at the surface or through a material without causing any permanent changes to the substance’s makeup. Now, engineering researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a material that has the ability to control elastic waves, creating possible medical, military and commercial applications.In the past, scientists have used a combination of materials, such as metal and rubber, to effectively ‘bend’ and control waves. Guoliang Huang, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering at MU, and his team designed a material using a single component: steel. The engineered structural material possesses the ability to control the increase of acoustical or elastic waves. Improvements to broadband signals and super-imaging devices also are possibilities.The material was made in a single steel sheet using lasers to engrave “chiral,” or geometric microstructure patterns, which are asymmetrical to their mirror images Huang said there are numerous possibilities for the material to control elastic waves, including super-resolution sensors, acoustic and medical hearing devices, as well as a “superlens” that could significantly advance super-imaging.SourceAlso: See more Materials & Coatings tech briefs.

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White Paper: Alternative Linear Motion Solution

Learn how Nexen’s Roller Pinion System (RPS) delivers a revolutionary alternative to today’s linear motion solutions – with unlimited run length, superior positional accuracy, zero backlash and more.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, White Papers

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