SciTech Briefs

Speedy neutrinos observed again

Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland observed neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, results similar to those they observed in September. A stricter tolerance for errors was enforced for this second test as a result of skepticism over the results in the team’s initial experiment. Reviews of this second experiment are under way, but some claim that their findings, if true, would directly clash with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. While the researchers claim that the second experiment may confirm consistency in the results, only other tests performed elsewhere will have the final word.

Source: CBS

Strange weather on the way this century

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an extensive report claiming that it was “virtually certain” that the 21st century would see an increase in warm temperature extremes and a decrease in cold temperature extremes. The report also stated that it was “very likely” that man-made emissions could be linked to this increase. Presented last Friday at the 34th session of the IPCC, the study is a compilation of the work of over 100 scientists from the past two and a half years tasked with assessing the risk of climate change caused by human activity.

Source: Nature, Reuters

Advanced DARPA heart hunters

DARPA, the arm of the United States Department of Defense concerned with the development of new military technologies, has recently announced an initiative aimed at developing better sensors that can identify a person’s “heart signature.” The program, dubbed “Biometrics-at-a-distance,” wants to take existing heartbeat-based biometric technologies and expand their capabilities to accurately isolate a target hiding behind walls or even blending in among a crowd. Similar to a person’s fingerprints or irises, a heartbeat is a also a very good biometric identifier.

Source: Wired

Silicon chip mimics the human brain

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a silicon chip capable of emulating a synapse, one of the brain structures that allows neurons to communicate with each other. The researchers decided to allow the current to flow through the device in an analog, instead of digital, manner which allowed for a faster and truer emulation of some of the brain’s seemingly analog processes. Though it only consists of about 400 transistors, the researchers claim that the creation of the chip is a significant step towards understanding how complex brain activities, like visual processing, work.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wonder tape can hold up grown man

A group of German researchers have developed a strong silicone tape based on the tiny, hair-like structures, or setae, that exist on the feet of geckos. When setae touch a surface, Van der Waals forces (attraction between molecules) cause the setae to stick to that surface. The hundreds of thousands of setae on geckos’ feet collectively hold a large amount of weight, enabling the gecko to climb up walls and other surfaces. Challenges in creating the setae-like tape included making the hairs capable of emulating these tiny setae and making them flexible enough for the task. The new tape is so strong that just one eight- by eight-inch piece of it is sufficient to hold up the weight of a full-grown man.

Source: Discovery News

World’s lightest material created

Researchers from University of California, Irvine; HRL Laboratories; and the California Institute of Technology have announced their creation of the world’s lightest material. As a reference, the researchers claim that the material is one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam. Partly designed at the nanometer scale, the new metal is composed of a unique “micro-lattice” cellular structure that is only 0.01 percent solid and 99.99 percent air. Possible future plans for the metal include improvements in battery electrodes and shock absorption technologies.

Source: Science Daily