Sci/tech

Drones Are Turning Civilians Into an Air Force of Citizen Scientists
February 17, 2017 01:19 PM - Anna Vlasits for Wired

Last winter, as meteorologists warned of a monster El Niño, researchers at the Nature Conservancy in California prepared to mobilize. El Niño promised to bring in king tides that would raise the sea level by as much as one foot above normal during high tide, causing flooding along the coastline that researchers could study as a preview of climate change-induced sea level rise. But when a king tide arrives, it floods lots of pockets along the coastline at once. So they decided to try a new, distributed surveillance strategy: commercial drones, co-opted from a gung-ho statewide network of citizen scientists.

Drones Are Turning Civilians Into an Air Force of Citizen Scientists
February 17, 2017 01:19 PM - Anna Vlasits for Wired

Last winter, as meteorologists warned of a monster El Niño, researchers at the Nature Conservancy in California prepared to mobilize. El Niño promised to bring in king tides that would raise the sea level by as much as one foot above normal during high tide, causing flooding along the coastline that researchers could study as a preview of climate change-induced sea level rise. But when a king tide arrives, it floods lots of pockets along the coastline at once. So they decided to try a new, distributed surveillance strategy: commercial drones, co-opted from a gung-ho statewide network of citizen scientists.

Four-Stroke Engine Cycle Produces Hydrogen from Methane and Captures CO2
February 17, 2017 10:46 AM - Georgia Institute of Technology

When is an internal combustion engine not an internal combustion engine? When it’s been transformed into a modular reforming reactor that could make hydrogen available to power fuel cells wherever there’s a natural gas supply available.

By adding a catalyst, a hydrogen separating membrane and carbon dioxide sorbent to the century-old four-stroke engine cycle, researchers have demonstrated a laboratory-scale hydrogen reforming system that produces the green fuel at relatively low temperature in a process that can be scaled up or down to meet specific needs. The process could provide hydrogen at the point of use for residential fuel cells or neighborhood power plants, electricity and power production in natural-gas powered vehicles, fueling of municipal buses or other hydrogen-based vehicles, and supplementing intermittent renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics.

The reasons for our left or right-handedness
February 17, 2017 10:38 AM - Ruhr University Bochum

Unlike hitherto assumed, the cause is not to be found in the brain.

It is not the brain that determines if people are right or left-handed, but the spinal cord. This has been inferred from the research results compiled by a team headed by private lecturer Dr Sebastian Ocklenburg, Judith Schmitz, and Prof Dr H. C. Onur Güntürkün. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and from South Africa, the biopsychologists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have demonstrated that gene activity in the spinal cord is asymmetrical already in the womb. A preference for the left or the right hand might be traced back to that asymmetry.

“These results fundamentally change our understanding of the cause of hemispheric asymmetries,” conclude the authors. The team report about their study in the journal “eLife”.

 

NIST Quest for Climate-Friendly Refrigerants Finds Complicated Choices
February 17, 2017 10:23 AM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have just completed a multiyear study to identify the “best” candidates for future use as air conditioning refrigerants that will have the lowest impact on the climate.

Unfortunately, all 27 fluids NIST identified as the best from a performance viewpoint are at least slightly flammable, which is not allowed under U.S. safety codes for most end uses. Several fluids among the list of refrigerants are highly flammable, including propane, the fuel for outdoor grills.

Researchers Design Facial Recognition System as a Less Invasive Approach to Tracking Lemurs in the Wild
February 17, 2017 08:41 AM - George Washington University

A team of researchers has developed a new computer-assisted recognition system that can identify individual lemurs in the wild by their facial characteristics and ultimately help to build a database for long-term research on lemur species. The scientists hope this method has the potential to redefine how researchers track endangered species in the wild. 

Printable solar cells just got a little closer
February 16, 2017 02:28 PM - University of Toronto

A U of T Engineering innovation could make building printing cells as easy and inexpensive as printing a newspaper. Dr. Hairen Tan and his team have cleared a critical manufacturing hurdle in the development of a relatively new class of solar devices called perovskite solar cells. This alternative solar technology could lead to low-cost, printable solar panels capable of turning nearly any surface into a power generator.

The Cute Robot That Follows You Around and Schleps All Your Stuff
February 16, 2017 01:32 PM - David Pierce via Wired

IN THE SUMMER months of 2015, Jeffrey Schnapp and a few of his colleagues started collecting rideables. The hoverboard craze was in full swing, and OneWheels and Boosteds were showing up on roads and sidewalks. Schnapp and his co-founders rode, drove, and crashed everything they could find. For Schnapp, a Harvard professor and longtime technologist with a shaved head, pointy goatee, and a distinct Ben Kingsley vibe, this was market research.

The Cute Robot That Follows You Around and Schleps All Your Stuff
February 16, 2017 01:32 PM - David Pierce via Wired

IN THE SUMMER months of 2015, Jeffrey Schnapp and a few of his colleagues started collecting rideables. The hoverboard craze was in full swing, and OneWheels and Boosteds were showing up on roads and sidewalks. Schnapp and his co-founders rode, drove, and crashed everything they could find. For Schnapp, a Harvard professor and longtime technologist with a shaved head, pointy goatee, and a distinct Ben Kingsley vibe, this was market research.

Real-Time MRI Analysis Powered by Supercomputers
February 16, 2017 01:15 PM - University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center

One of the main tools doctors use to detect diseases and injuries in cases ranging from multiple sclerosis to broken bones is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, the results of an MRI scan take hours or days to interpret and analyze. This means that if a more detailed investigation is needed, or there is a problem with the scan, the patient needs to return for a follow-up.

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