Apr 12, 2013

Hairy bean leaves trap bed bugs

posted by Larra Morris

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American entomologists studying the effect in the 1940s noted the bed bugs “could hardly be induced to move from the leaves,” and microscopic images suggested that fine, curved hairs called trichomes on the bottom of the leaves snagged the bugs’ feet.

Now, the California-Kentucky team has zoomed in even closer to reveal that the leaves’ sharp trichomes actually pierce the bugs’ feet like meat hooks, immobilizing them.
“It was astonishing to me that it worked at all,” says Catherine Loudon, a physical biologist at UC-Irvine and lead researcher of the new study, “You see this big muscular bug vigorously struggling, and it’s astonishing to me that the little tiny microscopic hairs don’t snap.”
via Neatorama

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Apr 12, 2013

Bizarre soft robots evolve to run (video)

posted by Larra Morris

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This crazy looking thing is a simulated robot, made up of two different kinds of muscles along with bones and soft tissue for structure. This robot wasn't designed, it was evolved over a thousand virtual generations to move as fast, as far, and as functionally as possible.
via IEEEE Spectrum

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Apr 11, 2013

Robots that get it wrong (by design)

posted by Larra Morris

OkitaandProjo.jpg

As it turned out, Projo (short for Projective Agent) was able to solve the problems, and he drew a plastic hand across his forehead in relief when Okita praised him for a job well done. But in many ways, his potential fallibility was the point. Okita and her students write programs for robots and avatars—virtual characters animated by humans through computers —to help small groups of learners (mostly elementary- and middle-school students) practice sets of problems in English, math, biology and other subjects. On the one hand, the artificial critters can assume the efficient, machine-like role you might expect, monitoring kids as they progress through their lessons and tracking the problems they get wrong, prompting repetitions with the patience that perhaps only a machine could summon. But on the other hand, the robots and avatars that Okita designs can also make the same mistakes students make—a highly valuable service that reflects Okita’s belief that learning, at its best, is a social enterprise.
via Teacher's College Media Center

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Apr 11, 2013

OK, but why? Phantom limb sensation induced in people with all their limbs (video)

posted by Larra Morris

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Today in Scientific Studies Sure To Make You Go ‘Huh’ we bring you the latest news from researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, who have succeeded in inducing phantom limb sensations that can make people feel like they have a third arm. After just a few minutes being exposed to an illusion — having their own arm, which they can’t see be stroked with a paintbrush while the air in front of them is stroked similarly — participants in the experiment were so invested in their new limb that their stress levels jumped when the fake hand was threatened with a very real knife.
via Geekosystem

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Apr 11, 2013

Self-healing “artificial leaf” produces energy from dirty water

posted by Larra Morris

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Back in 2011, scientists reported the creation of the “world’s first practical artificial leaf” that mimics the ability of real leaves to produce energy from sunlight and water. Touted as a potentially inexpensive source of electricity for those in developing countries and remote areas, the leaf’s creators have now given it a capability that would be especially beneficial in such environments – the ability to self heal and therefore produce energy from dirty water.
via Gizmag

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Image: Dominick Reuter

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Apr 11, 2013

How the chess set got its look and feel

posted by Laura Domela

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Prior to 1849, there was no such thing as a “normal chess set.” At least not like we think of it today. Over the centuries that chess had been played, innumerable varieties of sets of pieces were created, with regional differences in designation and appearance. As the game proliferated throughout southern Europe in the early 11th century, the rules began to evolve, the movement of the pieces were formalized, and the pieces themselves were drastically transformed from their origins in 6th century India. Originally conceived of as a field of battle, the symbolic meaning of the game changed as it gained popularity in Europe, and the pieces became stand-ins for a royal court instead of an army. Thus, the original chessmen, known as counselor, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, became the queen, pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. By the 19th century, chess clubs and competitions began to appear all around the world, it became necessary to use a standardized set that would enable players from different cultures to compete without getting confused.

In 1849, that challenge would be met by the “Staunton” Chess Set.
via Smithsonian

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Apr 11, 2013

Technique to create transparent brains could transform neuroscience (video)

posted by Larra Morris

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The mysteries of the human mind might soon be revealed, now that a consortium of experts has figured out how to render entire brains transparent — meaning that researchers will be able to analyze grey matter with unprecedented levels of detail.

A team of chemical engineers and neuroscientists at Stanford University collaborated on the new federally-funded technique, known as CLARITY, which was described today in the journal Nature. Experts involved in the project suggest it will play a pivotal role in the government's recently announced BRAIN project, a blockbuster venture that hopes to map the mind, much as scientists over the last decade mapped the human genome. The hope is to understand processes like memory formation and learning, and treat ailments like Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy.
via The Verge

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Apr 11, 2013

3D printed headphones you can build from the ground up

posted by Larra Morris

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It may not be as easy as print, plug, and play, but designer J.C. Karich is proving that you can make a pair of working headphones with nothing but raw materials, a 3D printer, open source designs, and a little gumption.

Karich 3D-printed the body of his headphones, which others have done before, but he made his designs with DIY function in mind. He created the speakers by coiling copper wire around a groove built into the printed casing, which also has a nice little spot on the opposite side to house the magnet.
via Gizmodo

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Apr 11, 2013

Life on the Moon as imagined in 1836

posted by Larra Morris

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From the Smithsonian Institute Image Collections:

This portfolio of hand-tinted lithographs purports to illustrate the "discovery of life on the moon." In 1836, Richard E. Locke, writing for the New York Sun, claimed that the noted British astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life on the moon. Flora and fauna included bat-men, moon maidens (with luna-moth wings), moon bison, and other extravagant life forms. Locke proposed an expedition to the moon using a ship supported by hydrogen balloons.

via Boing Boing

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Apr 10, 2013

How to wrap a pigeon for aircraft drop

posted by Laura Domela

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If you need to wrap a pigeon for aircraft-drop, this will help. From the surprisingly useful Pigeon Service Manual, Air Ministry, 1919 (featuring "Some meritorious performaces," "Writing the message," and more).

via Boing Boing

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