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Video: Airborne laser test | The Daily Planet

Boeing has released videos of tests using the Advanced Tactical Laser, mounted on an airborne C-130H Hercules transport, to burn a hole in the hood of a truck. Embedding the video doesn't work so you'll have to visit the site.
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Jetpacks Go Mainstream

The Martin Jetpack is capable of 30 minutes of sustained flight at up to 60 miles per hours with a ceiling of 8,000 feet. Comes with built-in parachute.

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Fake feathers could take the drag out of flights - tech - 13 April 2009 - New Scientist

A University of Genoa researcher believes that adding artificial feathers to flight surfaces could reduce drag and, by extension, increase fuel efficiency. He tested the concept using a simulated wind tunnel and found that adding small, stiff bristles reduced the drag of a cylinder by about 15%. Future research would focus on demonstrating this with real systems.
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BBC NEWS | England | Flying car reaches new milestone

Cool video of a live test of a flying car. It's essentially a dune buggy with a big fan and a parachute.

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The rocket that thinks it's a jet

The ESA has awarded a contract to develop the engine for the SKYLON space plane. This craft is supposed to launch from a regular airport, carrying up to 12 tonnes of supplies, "breathe" air when in the atmosphere, and convert to burning hydrogen and liquid oxygen when in space. The plane would then land on a regular airport runway when it returns. The goal of the project is to verify technologies that could make commercial spaceflight much cheaper than the $100 million/launch it currently costs.

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SPACE.com -- SpaceShipTwo Carrier Craft Makes Successful First Flight

The WhiteKnightTwo mothership is designed to carry the SpaceShipTwo aloft. When the combo achieves sufficient altitude, SpaceShipTwo detaches and heads for suborbital space, all for $200,000(US) from each of it's six passengers.
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Airborne Laser lets rip on first target - tech - 15 December 2008 - New Scientist

An aircraft-mounted laser was test-fired, albeit from a stationary plane. The ABL is the result of a 12-year, $4.3 billion(US) project to put a high-energy weapon in the sky. In theory, a megawatt laser should be capable to causing the pressurized parts of a missile to warp, resulting in it's disintegration.
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The British Ministry of Defense reports that some wind farms can interfere with military radar, rendering aircraft  flying over the turbines virtually invisible. The MoD is working with government and wind farm owners to find a solution to the problem.  Britain plans to greatly increase the number of turbines in operation so this problem could become far more widespread if not immediately addressed.
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Japanese researchers are serious about origami. They plan to drop an origami plane, after saturating it with silicon to make it heat resistant, from the International Space Station to test a low-weight re-entry vehicle. The 20 centimetre-long plane should initially reach a speed to Mach 20, but should slow quickly as it enters the atmosphere. They hope that its shape and low weight will allow it to slow sufficiently that it will be relatively cool  during its decent.
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The "Manned Cloud" is a 1640 square foot helium-filled airship, capable of carrying its 60 luxurious rooms aloft at more than 173 mph. The French designers of this craft expect to have it airborn in about a year. Potted petunias not included.
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The KA-56 "Wasp" is a single-person helicopter developed Russia in 1971 to be folded down small enough to be carried by a single (presumably strong) person.
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The US Air Force are planning to build robotic planes that "refuel" by attaching themselves to power lines. They even plan to have them retract their wings so that the drones appear to be debris.
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Model enthusiasts have built and flown a replica (unmanned) X-Wing fighter. Follow the link to see the model in flight (no video, but plenty of photos). Unfortunately, the model began flying erratically so had to be detonated remotely.
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National Geographic News

Giant Bugs a Thing of the Past, Study Suggests - For the giant insects that roamed Earth 300 million years ago, there was something special in the air. A higher concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere let dragonflies sometimes grow to the size of hawks, and some millipede-like bugs reached some six feet (two meters) in length, a new study suggests.

Reuters: Science

One cannabis joint as bad as five cigarettes: study - Smoking one cannabis joint is as harmful to a person's lungs as having up to five cigarettes, according to research published on Tuesday. Those who smoked cannabis damaged both the lungs' small fine airways, used for transporting oxygen, and the large airways, which blocked air flow, the researchers said.
Caffeine, exercise may help ward off skin cancer - Exercise and moderate caffeine consumption together could help ward off sun-induced skin cancer, researchers said on Monday, but cautioned against ditching the sun screen in favor of a jog and a cappuccino. Experiments on mice showed that caffeine and exercise together somehow made them better able to destroy precancerous cells whose DNA had been damaged by ultraviolet-B radiation, according to scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

BBC News | Science/Nature | World Edition

Robot fins to propel submarines - The distinctive swimming technique of a bony fish is being used to develop agile, propellerless submarines. The hope is that in the future propellerless, fish-like submarines could carry out a range of tasks, such as mapping oceans, surveying shipwrecks or sweeping for mines, with more agility and speed than current autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) controlled by propellers.
Office printers 'are health risk' - The humble office laser printer can damage lungs in much the same way as smoke particles from cigarettes, a team of Australian scientists has found. An investigation of a range of printer models showed that almost a third emit potentially dangerous levels of toner into the air.
Left-handedness gene discovered - Scientists have discovered the first gene which appears to increase the odds of being left-handed. The Oxford University-led team believe carrying the gene may also slightly raise the risk of developing psychotic mental illness such as schizophrenia.
Swifts inspire morphing wings - Tiny microplanes with unique "morphing" wings have been developed by engineering students in the Netherlands - based on studying the flight of swifts. The RoboSwifts, which have a wingspan of 50cm (20in) and weigh just 80g (3oz), mimic the swifts' abilities to change the shape of their wings in flight - potentially allowing them to be highly manoeuvrable at both very high and very low speeds.

Physics Org

Why do people have sex? Researchers explore 237 reasons - Many scientists assume people have sex for simple and straightforward reasons such as to experience sexual pleasure or to reproduce, but new research at The University of Texas at Austin reveals hundreds of varied and complex motivations that range from the spiritual to the vengeful.
Scientists grow insulin in tobacco plants - U.S. researchers have discovered insulin grown in plants can resolve diabetes in mice -- a finding holding promise for humans afflicted with the disease.
Fish eyes could hold clue to repairing damaged retinas in humans - A special type of cell found in the eye has been found to be very important in regenerating the retina in zebrafish and restoring vision even after extensive damage. Now, a UK team of scientists believe they may be able to use these cells – known as Müller glial cells – to regenerate damaged retina in humans, according to a study published this month in the journal Stem Cells.
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Physics Org
See-through transistor fabricated for future e-displays - Scientists have recently taken an important step toward the development of "see-through" flexible electronic displays by fabricating fully transparent, high-speed nanowire transistors. This piece of circuitry, the first transistor to demonstrate full transparency, could help turn ideas such as e-paper, displays on sunglasses, and maps on car windshields into a reality.
Unique Material May Allow Capacitors to Store More Energy - Imagine an electric car with the same acceleration capability as a gas-powered sports car, or ultrafast rechargeable "batteries" that can be recharged a thousand times more than existing conventional batteries. According to physicists at North Carolina State University, all of these things are possible, thanks to their research on a polymer - or plastic material - that when used as a dielectric in capacitors may allow the capacitors to store up to seven times more energy than those currently in use.
Prevent smoking to reduce risk of erectile dysfunction - Men who smoke cigarettes run an increased risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, and the more cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk, according to a study by Tulane University researchers published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Obese girls less likely to attend college - Obese girls are half as likely to attend college as non-obese girls, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin.
Robots Clear Waterways of Deadly Mines - As it slowly moves in the shallow water along a beach, the robot splashes its fins like a small child playing in the surf. But the prototype device has a serious mission: destroying mines that could kill Marines and Navy SEALs as they come on shore. Such technology is considered the future of underwater bomb detection.
More fish oil, less vegetable oil, better for your health - Scientists have provided new evidence that using more fish oil than vegetable oil in the diet decreases the formation of chemicals called prostanoids, which, when produced in excess, increase inflammation in various tissues and organs. The results, by William L. Smith, Professor and Chair of Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues, may help in designing new anti-inflammatory drugs with fewer side effects than the ones currently available.
People, animals behave better when watched: study - When people and animals know they are being watched, they behave in more positive ways toward others, according to a study published Thursday by the US magazine Science.
X-48B Blended Wing Body Research Aircraft Takes First Flight - NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., provided critical support for the first flight July 20 of the X-48B. The 21-foot wingspan, 500-pound remotely piloted test vehicle took off for the first time at 8:42 a.m. PDT and climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet before landing 31 minutes later. The Boeing Co. of Seattle developed the blended wing body research aircraft.
MIT duo see people-powered 'Crowd Farm' - Two graduate students at MIT's School of Architecture and Planning want to harvest the energy of human movement in urban settings, like commuters in a train station or fans at a concert.
MySpace Finds 29,000 Sex Offenders - MySpace.com has found more than 29,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the popular social networking Web site - more than four times the number cited by the company two months ago, officials in two states Tuesday.
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I tried to post this last night before the power went down on LJ's servers.

New Scientist Tech - Nanotechnology
Nanotubes strengthen artificial muscles - BEST known as the ultra-strong material that might one day form the cables of a "space elevator" capable of raising people into Earth orbit, carbon nanotubes also have a springy side. The discovery that nanotubes keep bouncing back after being compressed repeatedly means this exotic form of carbon may be just the thing to give artificial muscles some extra strength

New Scientist - Energy and Fuels
Exfoliation produces lighter, cheaper solar cells - An ultra-thin solar cell that could provide a cheaper, lighter alternative to existing devices has been created by researchers in the US. James Zahler from Aonex Technologies, together with colleagues from Harry Atwater's group at the California Institute of Technology and researchers at EMCORE PhotoVoltaics made the device by replacing the relatively thick semiconductor substrate normally used in solar cells with a thin "wafer-bonded" substrate. This means the new device is considerable cheaper and lighter than conventional solar cells.

New Scientist - Genetics
Genetic variation may lower HIV load by 90% - A small genetic mutation in the section of human DNA that codes for immune proteins appears able to reduce the amount of HIV in the body by an average of 90%, new research suggests. Scientists say the finding points to new ways in which vaccines might one day help boost immune protection against the virus

Technology Review Feed - Biotech Top Stories
A Better Brain Scanner - New brain scanners promise to deliver images of higher resolution than any now available from a commercial instrument. By using multiple sensors placed close to the head, the device can generate accurate images in less time, which could ultimately aid in the diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's and epilepsy. Medical imaging giant Siemens is developing a commercial version of the technology.
Saving Neurons and Memories - Scientists have shown that a gene called SIRT1 and a plant compound found in red wine called resveratrol can protect against neuron degeneration in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The researchers demonstrated that activating SIRT1 and injecting resveratrol, which have both been previously associated with life-span extension in lower organisms, can also prevent cognitive problems in the mice.

National Geographic News
Queen Bees "Brainwash" Workers With Chemicals - A new study suggests the domineering matriarch regulates her daughters' brain activity to ensure her own survival. One of the parts of the pheromone is homovanillyl alcohol (HVA). It interacts with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is found in the brains of insects and animals. In a mechanism that's still not understood, the pheromone may be able to block dopamine and prevent the young worker bees from avoiding negative stimuli. Worker bees - which surround and dote on the queen - are all female, and drone bees are male.

ABC News: Technology
Parents Steal Children's Identities - On paper, Randy Waldron Jr. was $2.5 million in debt and a convicted felon. He owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to credit card companies, owed back taxes to the state of Florida, and had liens and civil actions against him. In reality, Waldron was a 17-year-old high school junior living in New Hampshire, who in 1998 couldn't get a student loan for college or a credit card because his Social Security number had been stolen when he was just 1 year old. Making matters worse, the man who stole Waldron's identity was his father.
Jetson-Like Flying Car in Production - Moller International, a company founded by a UC Davis professor devoted to developing a flying car, announced in a statement recently that it has begun production for its "Jetsons-like M200G Volantor, a small airborne, two passenger, saucer-shaped vehicle that is designed to take off and land vertically."

Physics Org
Scientists work to create nanogenerator - U.S. scientists are developing a nanogenerator -- a tiny device that produces electricity from flowing blood, pulsating blood vessels, or a beating heart.

BBC News | Science/Nature | World Edition
Antique engines inspire nano chip - The blueprint for a tiny, ultra-robust mechanical computer has been outlined by US researchers. The energy-efficient nano computer is inspired by ideas about computing first put forward nearly 200 years ago. Chips based on the design could be used in places, such as car engines, where silicon can be too delicate.
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From National Geographic News
Plants Can Recognize, Communicate With Relatives, Studies Find - Plants are able to recognize close family members, treating them differently than unrelated neighbors, new research suggests. Susan Dudley and Amanda File of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, report they have demonstrated for the first time that plants can recognize their kin. This suggests that plants, though lacking cognition and memory, are capable of complex social interactions.

From News @ Nature
Ouch, I saw that - Some people literally feel what they see. 'Mirror touch' synaesthesia is a strange but real condition, and it might be wide-spread, psychologists have found. So-called mirror-touch synaesthetes actually feel a touch on their own skin when they watch someone else being touched. Perhaps as a consequence, they also show more emotional empathy than normal people.

From Space.com

Amazing New Mirror Reflects Ambition for Lunar Telescope - Scientists have successfully coated a liquid surface with a thin layer of silver metal, creating a highly reflective mirror that could be used to create mammoth liquid-mirror telescopes on the moon. Such a lunar observatory could be as wide as football a field, letting scientists peer back to a time when the first stars in the universe were born. Researchers led by Ermanno Borra of Laval University in Quebec, Canada, applied the silver film layer to the surface of an ionic liquid, a fluid that consists only of charged particles
Pilotless Spy Planes and Automatic Airliners - For aviation, UAVs represent the wave of the future, particularly for military uses. But a major problem must be solved for UAVs to see wide application in civil aviation. The world's civil aviation regulators must become satisfied that UAVs can operate safely and seamlessly within the complex air traffic control and civil airspace systems established for human-piloted aircraft.
Deep Hole Found on Mars - A very dark spot on Mars could be an entrance to a deep hole or cavern. The hole might be the sort of place that could support life or serve as a habitat for future astronauts, researchers speculated.

From EurekAlert! - Space and Planetary Science

Moon jobs will tax mental health of workers - According to Chester Spell, an associate professor of management at the Rutgers School of Business—Camden, the lunar settlements of tomorrow – or, for that matter, the space stations of today – carry long-term implications for the mental health of employees working in isolation for extended periods. Depression and anxiety will reach new levels among those employees, creating mental and cardiovascular health problems as well as a sharp decline in productivity.
DIY anti-satellite system - Satellite tracking software freely available on the Internet and some textbook physics could be used by any organization that can get hold of an intermediate range rocket to mount an unsophisticated attack on military or civilian satellites.

From BBC News - Science and Nature

Patient bleeds dark green blood - A team of Canadian surgeons got a shock when the patient they were operating on began shedding dark greenish-black blood, the Lancet reports.
Bear robot to rescue troops - The US military is developing a robot with a teddy bear-style head to help carry injured soldiers away from the battlefield.
Talking paper made by scientists - Researchers create digital paper that emits recorded sound in response to a user's touch.
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I'm grinding out papers so I have no been in the mood to write summaries of tech stuff. I expect this to continue for a month or so because I'm currently in thesis-writing mode with hopes of finishing the draft before the end of July.

Meanwhile, I'm simply posting the links of things that caught my attention. There's quite a backlog, but I'll keep the list down to no more than 10 per post.

From Rick Mercer's blog
Canada a creditor by 2010? - Canada could be become a creditor nation for the first time in its history by the end of the decade.
Free speech goes up in smoke at Saskatchewan school - Saskatchewan student's marijuana research spurs lockdown and suspension
India rattled by vibrating condom - A vibrating condom has sparked a fierce debate in India, over whether it is a sex toy - which are banned - or a means of birth control.
Quebec to collect nation's 1st carbon tax - Quebec will implement Canada's first carbon tax in October, collecting just under one cent a litre from petroleum companies in the province, which will raise about $200 million a year to pay for energy-saving initiatives such as improvements to public transit.
Students invent powdered booze - Dutch students have invented powdered alcohol which they say can be sold legally to minors. The latest innovation in inebriation, called Booz2Go, is available in 20-gram packets that cost €1-1.5 ($1.35-$2).

From New Scientist
New 'space jet' proposed for suborbital jaunts - The European firm EADS Astrium plans to build a rocket-powered jet to take tourists to the edge of space – if funded, it could begin flights in 2012
Uncrewed space plane passes first key test - An Italian prototype for a future space plane performed nearly flawlessly in a drop test designed to simulate the stress of atmospheric re-entry

From New Scientist
US military wants $10m space-weapon funding - Defences could be "greatly enhanced" with space-based interceptors, say military officials, but critics worry about triggering an arms race in space
US satellite to test missile defence technologies - A military satellite called NFIRE will study rocket plumes, which could help future interceptors home in on enemy missiles – but critics say it could lead to space weapons
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Source: New Scientist
Boeing has suggested a way to increase the accuracy of weather forecasts: equip commercial and military aircraft with weather radar and have them collect the data while going about their usual business. The constantly-updated data would then be used to improve simulations on which forecasts are based.

Source: New Scientist
The US House of Representatives have recently passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act which makes it illegal for a person to lose their job or be denied insurance because they have the genetic predisposition for a particular illness. All that remains is for the President to sign it into law, a step that many are confident will take place. The only question in my mind is: does this deal with the possibility of an insurance company effectively denying coverage by making the premiums astronomical?

Source: Reuters
According to Thai researchers, alcohol enhances the antioxidant properties of berries, already believed to have considerable antioxidant properties of their own. So the moral is that if you want to be sure that bowl of strawberries is going to be healthy, best mix it into a daiquiri. Better to be safe than sorry.

Source: Sky News
A British company by the name of Bladerunner is hoodies lined with Kevlar to schoolchildren. The jumpers are, apparently in demand to protect the teenagers from being stabbed. I never knew being in high-school was such a dangerous profession.

Source: Improbable Research
Morning rush got you down? How about combining two morning necessities, namely showering and the morning cup 'o jo. A new soap, called Shower Shock, is infused with enough caffeine that you can absorb the equivalent of two cups of coffee through your skin during the average wash.

Bonus fun fact from Improbable Research: The penis of a mallard duck can stretch 18 centimetres, and that of the Argentine lake duck can be as long as 42.5 centimetres. A researcher is building a transparent female duck so that she can see exactly what happens during copulation. If there are pictures or video, I don't want to see them.

January 2010

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