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Science

Artificial Skin Sensitivity Rivals That of Human Skin 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-remember-that-part-in-First-Contact dept.
New submitter hebbosome writes "Researchers at Georgia Tech have provided a glimpse of a future full of highly-sensitive robots. Their nanoelectronic pressure sensors, comparable in sensitivity to human skin, are made out of new type of vertical transistor (abstract). 'In Wang’s nanowire transistors, the gate traditionally used in electronics is eliminated. Instead, the current flowing through the nanowires is controlled by the electrical charge generated when strain or force applied is to the transistors.' 'The arrays include more than 8,000 functioning piezotronic transistors, each of which can independently produce an electronic controlling signal when placed under mechanical strain.' They could immediately be used in human-machine interfaces for capturing electronic signatures, and, down the road, in robots and prosthetics."
Space

Space Junk 'Cleaning' Missions Urgently Needed 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-some-volunteer-space-garbagemen dept.
Following a conference on space debris, the European Space Agency has warned that the amount of space junk floating around in orbit is a problem that needs to be dealt with 'urgently.' They are calling for a number of test missions to examine different methods of controlling or removing the debris. "Our understanding of the growing space debris problem can be compared with our understanding of the need to address Earth’s changing climate some 20 years ago," said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the agency's Space Debris office. A couple years ago we discussed an idea for de-orbiting space junk by hitting it with a laser to change its momentum. An Australian company has now received funding from NASA and the Australian government to try just that. "We've been developing tracking systems using lasers for some years, so we can actually track very small objects with a laser rangefinder to very high accuracy. ... If you allow that velocity to change over a period of perhaps 24 hours, then you can get actually a 100-meter shift in the location of an object to deflect it from colliding with another space debris object." Other plans are in development as well, and there currently exists an international guideline saying that new hardware must de-orbit and burn up in the atmosphere after 25 years of operation — but compliance is lagging. Meanwhile, collision events are becoming more common (PDF), and experts worry about the safety of the International Space Station and important satellites. "Their direct costs and the costs of losing them will by far exceed the cost of remedial activities."
Science

'Master Gene' Makes Mouse Brain Look More Human 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the rats-of-nimh-become-real dept.
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have found a genetic mutation that causes mammalian neural tissue to expand and fold. When they mutated this gene in mice, the rodents developed brains that look more like ours (abstract). The discovery may help explain why humans evolved more elaborate brains than mice, and it could suggest ways to treat disorders such as autism and epilepsy that arise from abnormal neural development. The findings go against a common conception that 'dumber species will have different genes' for brain development than more intelligent species, Borrell says. He adds that the mechanism could help explain how New World monkeys, with their small, smooth brains, could have evolved from an ancestor with a bigger and more folded brain."

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