Nov 25, 2014

How Ross Perot saved the world's first electronic computer

posted by Laura Domela

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Ross Perot is a collector. He once bought a copy of the Magna Carta in 1984. But more intriguingly, he also bought and resurrected ENIAC, the world's first electronic computer.

ENIAC stands for the "Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer" and was conceived of during World War II as a way for artillerymen to calculate the trajectory of bullets. It is an absolutely massive machine weighing in at 27 tons and occupying 1,800 square feet when fully assembled. Construction began in 1943, but by the time it was finished in 1945, the war was over. The Army kept a tight lid on things at first. Even the maintenance manual (below) remained classified until 1946. So what did the United States Army do with this marvel of technology? They used it to design the first hydrogen bomb. Then, in 1955, they threw the thing away.
via Gizmodo

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Nov 25, 2014

Multiphysics invisibility cloak manipulates both electric current and heat

posted by Laura Domela

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Invisibility cloaks can make objects invisible not just to light in the visible part of the spectrum, but to many other physical excitations. These include acoustic waves, matter waves, heat flux, and infrared or ultraviolet electromagnetic (EM) waves. But so far, any single invisibility cloak can manipulate only one of these types of excitations.

Now in a new study, scientists have provided the first experimental demonstration of an invisibility cloak that can simultaneously manipulate two physical excitations: electric current and heat flux. The cloak is made of silicon and other materials, which opens up a range of new applications such as on-chip devices that involve both current and heat, as well as high-performance solar cells.
via PhysOrg

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Nov 25, 2014

Children will change behavior that’s rewarded in order to conform

posted by Larra Morris

 

The researchers used a problem-solving task that produced a reward for the participants—peanuts for chimps and orangutans, and chocolate drops for children. Participants were given the chance to play with a box with three sections. One of the sections would produce a reward when a ball was dropped into it, while the other two wouldn’t. The researchers could control which of the sections produced the reward.

The participants played with the boxes long enough to learn which section would give them a reward. Once they had learned this, they watched three peers (of the same species) dropping balls into a different section—and getting a reward. Finally, the participants were given three new balls and allowed to drop them into any of the sections. With each ball, participants could choose to stay with the initial section that they had learned would dispense rewards, switch to the section they had seen give rewards to their peers, or choose the third section.

Only this time, all of the sections gave a reward. So, if the participant decided to switch, they wouldn’t be put off their decision by a lack of reward.

Only a third of the children stayed with the section they already knew, while two-thirds switched to their peers’ choice with at least one of their three balls. In comparison, only 17 percent of the chimps and orangutans switched.
via Ars Technica

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Nov 25, 2014

3D printing technique will put electronics into just about everything

posted by Larra Morris

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You can use 3D printing to make a handful of electronics, such as antennas and batteries, but LEDs and semiconductors have been elusive; you usually need some other manufacturing technique to make them work, which limits what they can do and where they'll fit. A team of Princeton researchers recently solved this problem, however. They've found a way to make quantum dot LEDs (and thus semiconductors) using only a 3D printer. The scientists choose printable electrodes, polymers and semiconductors, which are dissolved in solvents to keep them from damaging underlying layers during the printing process; after that, the team uses design software to print the materials in interweaving patterns. In this case, the result is a tiny LED that you could print on to (or into) many objects, including those with curved surfaces.
via Engadget

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Image: McAlpine Group

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Nov 24, 2014

James Bond's laser-cutting watch is finally a reality

posted by Larra Morris

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Thanks to some clever special effects, the gadgets that Q creates for James Bond and other MI6 agents are often well ahead of their time. So much so that it's only now, more than 31 years afterNever Say Never Again hit theaters, that we finally have a wristwatch with a built-in laser powerful enough to do some damage.
via Gizmodo

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Nov 24, 2014

The feral cats who call Disneyland home

posted by Larra Morris

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Disneyland has allowed feral cats to call the park home since the very beginning, but by 2001 the park’s feral cat population was growing out of control, so they allowed animal rescue group Best Friends Catnippers to perform TNRs (trap-neuter-return) on the furry populace.  

Today there are at least 100 feral cats roaming around the park after dark, but Disney doesn’t want to discuss these guest gatos, and some naturalist groups are worried these hungry kitties are going to wreak havoc on the local wildlife.
via Neatorama

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Nov 24, 2014

3D-printed livers go on sale to impatient scientists

posted by Larra Morris

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So far, the biggest benefit of 3D-printing organs is that you don't need someone to donate their body to medical science before you can do an experiment. That's why Organovo's big news is so exciting for scientists, since the company has let it be known that its 3D-printed livers are now on sale. The bio-printed tissues can be used for drug testing programs, since causing unexpected liver damage is one of the biggest causes for pharmaceutical recalls. Unfortunately, with a rated lifespan of around 42 days, we won't be able to use these stamp-sized organs in transplants just yet, but who knows? Maybe in a few years time, the idea of asking a relative or close friend for a slice of their liver will be as outdated as sending them a fax.
via Engadget

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