Billy's Blog

On Billy's Blog, Billy Hurley, Digital Editorial Manager, writes stories about new and innovative achievements in design engineering, from industrial robots and autonomous vehicles to 3D printers and see-through solar cells. Along with other Tech Briefs writers and editors, Billy shares his opinions, poses questions to readers, and finds the fun, interesting, and unexpected stories behind today's leading-edge inventions.

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Cellular Medical Images

A process to transmit medical images via cellular phones, developed by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher Prof. Boris Rubinsky, could provide sophisticated radiological diagnoses and treatment to most of the world's population lacking access to such technology. Designed to replace stand-alone medical imaging...

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The Forgotten Giant

“You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse.”

Raise your hand if you recall that signature line from Westinghouse TV commercials, or if you grew up in a household with Westinghouse appliances. A lot of hands, I’m sure. Far fewer if I were to ask how many still used Westinghouse products today. As...

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Harmful Silver

For years, scientists have known about silver's ability to kill harmful bacteria and, recently, have created consumer products containing silver nanoparticles. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that silver nanoparticles also may destroy benign bacteria that are used to remove ammonia from wastewater treatment...

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Globular Clusters

A new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that globular clusters might be surprisingly less mature in their development than previously thought. Globular clusters are dense bunches of up to millions of stars that are found in the outskirts of galaxies, including the Milky Way. Understanding the nature of...

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Fog and Smoke

University of California at San Diego computer scientists have created a fog and smoke machine for computer graphics that cuts the computational cost of making realistic smoky and foggy 3-D images, such as beams of light from a lighthouse piercing thick fog. By cutting the computing cost for creating highly realistic imagery from...

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Molecular Movies

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have developed techniques to create accurate movies of biological and chemical molecules. Scientists using the high-intensity X-rays at the Advanced Photon Source have measured images that are "blurred" by these motions and have used them to create...

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Stem Cell Breakthrough

Dutch researchers at University Medical Center Utrecht and the Hubrecht Institute have succeeded in growing large numbers of stem cells from adult human hearts into new heart muscle cells. The stem cells are derived from material left over from open-heart operations. Until now, it was necessary to use embryonic stem cells...

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Nature Vs. Nurture

North Carolina State University geneticists have shown that environmental factors play a large role in whether certain genes are turned on or off. By studying gene expression of white blood cells in 46 Moroccan Amazighs, including desert nomads, mountain agrarians and coastal urban dwellers, the NC State researchers and...

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Monitoring HIV/AIDS Patients

For HIV/AIDS patients, a skipped pill could mean the difference between health and hazard for the entire population. A breath monitoring device developed by scientists at the University of Florida and Xhale Inc. could help prevent the emergence of drug-resistant strains of HIV, by monitoring medication adherence in...

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Measuring Stored Anthrax

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Army Dugway (Utah) Proving Ground have developed reliable methods, based on DNA analysis, to assess the concentration and viability of anthrax spores after prolonged storage. Because traditional methods to extract DNA from Bacillus...

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Popcorn-Ball

Dye-sensitized solar cells are more flexible, easier to manufacture, and cheaper than existing solar technologies. Current lab prototypes are about half as efficient as the silicon-based cells used in rooftop panels and calculators. By using a popcorn-ball design - tiny kernels clumped into much larger porous spheres - researchers...

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3-D Camera

Stanford University researchers, led by electrical engineering Professor Abbas El Gamal, are developing a camera built around a multi-aperture image sensor whose pixels measure 0.7 microns, several times smaller than pixels in standard digital cameras. The pixels are arranged in arrays of 256 pixels each, with a tiny lens atop each...

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Sensing Hurricanes

The traditional method to detect a hurricane's strength has been to fly airplanes through the most intense winds into the eye of the storm, carrying out wind-speed measurements as they go. But that approach requires specialized planes priced at $100 million each, with a single flight costing $50,000. Nicholas Makris, associate...

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Water Pipes

With funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation, Virginia Tech researchers are working to create the prototype of a national internet-based geospatial database of underground water pipes. The objective of the water infrastructure research is to improve the decision-making process as it...

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Green Decontamination

Research by two Queen's University scientists, Stan Brown and Alexei Neverov, has resulted in a new method for rapidly and safely destroying toxic agents such as chemical weapons and pesticides. Testing by an independent European defense corporation has shown the researchers' method to be over 99 percent effective when used...

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Current Attractions

Although global warming has become a hotbed issue in recent years, the problem has been under investigation for at least 20 to 30 years, according to Dr. Steve Hipskind, Chief of NASA's Earth Science Division, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. Hipskind's group has focused on atmospheric and biospheric science research,...

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Nanowire-Based Display

Engineers at Purdue, Northwestern University, and the University of Southern California have created an active-matrix display using a new class of thin, transparent transistors and circuits. The transistors incorporate nanowires, tiny cylindrical structures assembled on glass or films of flexible plastic that are as thin...

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Cyclic Jitters

Electronic commands passed from machine to machine over data networks increasingly drive today's precisely timed and sequenced manufacturing production lines. However, timing irregularities in the signals from even one machine can result in havoc for manufacturing processes on the plant floor. The timing glitches, called cyclic...

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Algae Alternative

Scientists at U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are working to chemically manipulate algae for production of the next generation of renewable fuels - hydrogen gas. Some varieties of algae contain an enzyme called hydrogenase that can create small amounts of hydrogen gas. Many believe this is used by nature...

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Dental Fillings and Mercury

Mercury within dental fillings is not by itself harmful, but when exposed to sulfate- reducing bacteria, the element undergoes a chemical change that turns it into a potent, ingestible neurotoxin. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and at Urbana-Champaign have found that mercury particles entering...

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Biomass Becomes Ethanol

Iowa State University researchers are integrating thermo-chemical and catalytic technologies to efficiently produce ethanol from plant biomass, overcoming problems with previous conversion techniques. The process would use high-temperature, fast pyrolysis to convert plant biomass into a bio-oil, which in turn would be...

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NASA Briefs

"Generic Spacecraft" is a library of software developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that provides for simulation of a generic spacecraft that can orbit the Earth and land on the Moon (and, eventually, on Mars). The generic-spacecraft simulation serves as a test bed for modeling spacecraft dynamics, propulsion, control...

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Genome Software

Genomics analysis software developed by computer scientists at Stanford can go back 20 generations and identify what continent or broad global region an individual's ancestors were from. The HAPAA software compares an individual to all those in the International HapMap database – a genetic record of 270 individuals of...

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Alzheimer's Risks

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have estimated that one in six women are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in their lifetime, while the risk for men is one in ten. According to the researchers, the greater lifetime expectancy for women translates into a greater lifetime risk of...

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Sensing Homemade Bombs

Scientists at the University of California at San Diego have developed a tiny, inexpensive sensor chip able to detect trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide, a chemical used in the most common form of homemade explosives. The scientists believe the sensor could have widespread applications in improving industrial...

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Wireless Defibrillators

Wearing an implantable pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator equipped with wireless technology can make life a lot simpler for heart patients. Wireless technology gives physicians the ability to perform remote device checks, freeing the patient from time-consuming and potentially costly office visits. However, according to a...

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Carbon Nanotube Interconnects

Nanotechnology has taken another significant step toward someday revolutionizing the computer industry. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently used Rensselaer’s Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputer, to measure...

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Squirrel Stress

Tests on the influence of a stress-related hormone in ground squirrels could have an impact on understanding how it influences human learning, according to Jill Mateo, a University of Chicago researcher. The squirrels learn more quickly if they have a modest amount of cortisol - a hormone produced in response to stress - than...

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NASA Briefs

The Marshall Space Flight Center is working on the use of controlled illumination by light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to treat mucositis and to accelerate healing of wounds. The basic idea is to illuminate the affected area of a patient with light of an intensity, duration, and wavelength chosen to produce a therapeutic effect while...

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Tat Circuit

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered how a genetic circuit in HIV controls whether the virus turns on or stays dormant, and have succeeded in forcing the virus towards dormancy. Further studies are under way on the feasibility of using this approach for anti-HIV...

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