Category: Technology

Watch This: Cicadas Kill Bacteria with Structures on Their Wings

By Breanna Draxler | March 5, 2013 10:42 am

Clanger or clear wing cicada (Psaltoda claripennis). Image courtesy of Arthur Chapman/Flickr

Cicadas don’t use antibacterial wing sanitizer, so how do these insects keep their wings free of bacteria? Hint: it’s structural.

The wings of the Clanger cicada kill certain bacteria by ripping their cell membranes. A pattern of pillar-like nanostructures on the wings’ surface put pressure on the bacterial cell membrane, causing it to stretch and eventually tear. In a study published in Biophysical Journal in February, researchers modeled this process for the first time. They say this is the first example of a species being able to kill bacteria with a physical structure alone.

Replicating this physical structure in bio-inspired synthetic design could eventually lead to the production of antibacterial surfaces that kill bacteria on contact. Watch the video to see a magnified rendering of how the nano-pillars lead to a bacterial cell’s demise.

Video footage courtesy of Sergey Pogodin et al/Biophysical Journal

“Triple Sun [Nonimx]” music courtesy of Coil/FreeMusicArchive.com

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology, Top Posts

SpaceX’s Dragon Launch Not Smooth But Sailing

By Breanna Draxler | March 1, 2013 2:04 pm

Image courtesy of NASA

 

This morning’s launch of SpaceX’s third Dragon capsule has the twittersphere all a-flutter. Falcon 9′s blastoff from Cape Canaveral initially appeared to be a success. Read More

MORE ABOUT: dragon, Falcon 9, iss, NASA, SpaceX

Watch This: 3-D Printing an Implantable Ear

By Breanna Draxler | February 21, 2013 12:43 pm

How do you make a human ear that looks and functions like a real one? Researchers at Cornell published the first successful process in PLoS ONE Wednesday.

Step 1: Take a laser scan of a real human ear.

Step 2: Use digitization to print an ear-shaped collagen mold using a 3-D printer.

A collagen ear, to be seeded with living cartilage cells and implanted under skin. Image courtesy of Lindsay France/Cornell University Photography

Step 3: Inject mold with gel of living cells.

Read More

MORE ABOUT: 3-D printer, Cornell, ear

Retinal Implant Restores Vision to the Blind Without a Camera

By Breanna Draxler | February 20, 2013 10:05 am

Human eye. (a) The structures of the eye and (b) the retinal layers in detail. (c) The chip carries a microphotodiode array with amplifiers and electrodes and is surgically placed subretinally in the location corresponding to the layer of degenerated photoreceptors. Courtesy Katarina Stingl et al.

In people with hereditary retinal diseases like retinitis pigmentosa, the eyes’ photoreceptors, or light sensors, degenerate slowly over time, eventually leading to blindness. While these people are unable to see, the rest of their visual pathway remains intact and functional. Researchers in Germany now have a way to work around this roadblock by introducing an implant to take the place of the broken photoreceptors and restore some level of communication directly with a patient’s visual pathway.

The researchers implanted a tiny electronic device under the retina of patients to take the place of their non-functioning photoreceptors. The implant is only about a third of an inch squared—the size of a Chiclet—and converts light into electrical signals. It is powered wirelessly via a battery pack attached behind the patient’s ear.

Read More

Bionic Man Has Fully Functional Mechanical Organs

By Breanna Draxler | February 6, 2013 12:45 pm

Here Rex is shown sitting down next to the apparatus he uses to stand. Image courtesy of Science Museum, London

With working organs and a realistic face, the world’s most high-tech humanoid made his debut in London yesterday and will be a one-man show at the city’s London Science Museum starting tomorrow.

The robot goes by Rex (short for robotic exoskeleton) or Million-Dollar Man (because that’s how much it cost to build him). Rex looks somewhat lifelike in that he has prosthetic hands, feet and a face modeled after a real man. That man is Swiss social psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who himself has a prosthetic hand. Such technology is now becoming more widely available to the general public.

But where Rex really breaks new ground is his suite of working organs. Read More

Listen as Solar Flare Engulfs Radio Waves

By Breanna Draxler | February 6, 2013 8:09 am

Spectrograph of the February 2 solar flare. Image courtesy of Richard Flagg, Windward Community College Radio Observatory

We’re not supposed to look at the sun, but no one said anything about listening. If you, like amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft, had your radio tuned to the right frequency last Saturday evening, you would have heard the garbled effects of a solar flare drowning out radio waves here on Earth after it erupted on the surface of the sun. For those of you who still want to listen after the fact, you’re in luck:

Thomas Ashcraft is an independent, self-taught radio astronomer who operates his own Heliotown Observatory in north central New Mexico. Using optical telescopes and radio instruments, Ashcraft keeps an eye (and an ear) on the Sun, Jupiter, meteoric fireballs and transient luminous events called red sprites. He recorded the sound of the solar flare this weekend and shared his methodology and thoughts with DISCOVER writer Breanna Draxler via e-mail.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology, Top Posts

NASA Rocket Test Will Streak Red Over East Coast Tonight

By Breanna Draxler | January 29, 2013 2:23 pm

The rocket. Image courtesy of NASA / Wallops Flight Facility

If you live along the Eastern seaboard, keep an eye on the sky tonight. NASA will be launching a rocket sometime between 5:30 and 6:50 p.m. EST from its flight facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

The rocket is a practice run for two upcoming space observation missions. It will be loaded with two different kinds of lithium canisters. Once ignited, the lithium will vaporize and produce two cloud-like trails that will appear red in the sky. Since they are higher in the atmosphere they will be illuminated by the sun, even though it will no longer be visible from ground level. Assuming a clear night, the vapor trails should be visible to the naked eye along the length of the East Coast, from Canada to Florida, for a short time.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology, Top Posts

Watch This: View from the World’s Most Advanced Surveillance Drone

By Breanna Draxler | January 29, 2013 10:58 am

If you want to see scary science fiction in real life, watch this video. For the first time, the U.S. Department of Defense gives us a glimpse into its new surveillance system—one that puts George Orwell’s to shame. This big brother is capable of some serious spying, and his name is Argus.

Argus is actually a pretty clumsy acronym: Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System. But there’s nothing clumsy about its capabilities. Argus has the world’s highest resolution camera, which records 1.8 billion pixels in real-time. The sensor itself is classified, but the DoD gave PBS a bit of a teaser for the NOVA special “Rise of the Drones.”

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Drug Jelly May Replace Insulin Injections for Diabetics

By Breanna Draxler | January 28, 2013 5:19 pm

Blood sugar testing. Image courtesy of Ververidis Vasilis / shutterstock

As a sugar-rich foodstuff, jelly is not often seen as a good thing for diabetics. But a new gel-based method for administering drugs could cut back on injections for diabetics and virtually eliminate their blood sugar highs and lows. Scientists have come up with a new gelatinous drug form that releases a slow but regular dose of an insulin-regulating hormone. In mice, it kept glucose levels down for five straight days—120 times longer than the hormone alone. And the method could be used to deliver drugs to treat cancer and other diseases as well.

Peptide drugs are an up-and-coming method used to treat a number of diseases. There are currently 40 peptide drugs on the market, and 650 more are being clinically tested, so the pharmaceutical industry is investing a lot in the future of these treatments. One peptide drug, used to treat diabetes, relies on weekly injections of tiny plastic capsules filled with the peptide that causes insulin to be released slowly over the course of the week. This means far fewer injections than diabetics’ typical insulin regimen, but the injections are painful due to the large needles required to fit the capsules. Side effects like nausea are common. Plus the production is complicated because the drug and its capsule must be synthesized separately and then combined.

Read More

She Thinks My Tractor (Beam) is Sexy

By Breanna Draxler | January 25, 2013 2:39 pm

Schematic illustration of the tractor beam set-up. The particles (red balls) are held between a mirror (lower sheet) and a transparent slide (upper sheet). Laser light (green) is focused at the region between the mirror and slide, causing the particles to arrange themselves neatly at the left. Image courtesy of O Brzobohatý et al.

While the country song by this title refers to tractors in an agricultural context, the tractor beam is actually a theoretical physics concept. This beam is said to draw particles toward its source instead of pushing them away. Since the theoretical existence of such a sci-fi-style beam was first proposed a few years back, most physicists have come to accept the concept, and many have been trying to prove its existence ever since.

Now researchers in the Czech Republic have built the first working example of this technology. Not only did their real-life tractor beam attract polystyrene particles, but the researchers were surprised to find it could also sort them.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Technology, Top Posts
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »