science tech optics engineering invisable cloak surgery transportation lens focal_point

Cloaking System Could Make Blind Spots, Surgeons’ Hands Disappear

by Michael Keller

Scientists investigating the principles of how light behaves have developed a simple way to make objects disappear right before your eyes. It’s not magic; it’s optics.

University of Rochester researchers have used a set of lenses to manipulate focal lengths and create a region that is invisible when peering through the looking glass. They set up four lenses in a way that maintains cloaking in the region even when viewed from several degrees off of straight on.

The team says their system is the first to offer flexibility in viewing angles with a simple, inexpensive design.

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Gourds Of War: Pumpkin-Chucking Machines Put Physics In Action

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by Michael Keller

The leaves have started changing in the northern latitudes. Crops are coming in from the fields and harvest festivals are popping up on the season’s calendar in many communities. Smells of cinnamon and nutmeg are beginning to waft out of bakeries and breweries.

Autumn is in the air and nothing says fall has arrived like throwing squashes hundreds or thousands of feet across an empty field. The event is called pumpkin chucking (or punkin chunkin, as some rhyme-focused adherents like to say), and it now attracts thousands of competitors and spectators at international events every year.

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Txch This Week: Bridge-Building Robots And Brain-To-Brain Instant Messaging

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by Jared Kershner

This week on Txchnologist, we watched Purdue University engineers work on “robotic fabric” – a material that blends cotton with flexible polymer sensors and actuators made of shape-memory alloy that bends and contracts when electric current is applied. Because of its ability to change shape, the material could be used to create customizable soft robots as well as wearable performance-enhancing garments.

Rebecca Erikson, an applied physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has created a microscope capable of magnifying objects up to 1,000 times by taking a glass bead and embedding it in a housing she built on a 3-D printer. This system can fit over a smartphone’s camera and costs less than a dollar in materials to produce, can magnify objects up to 1,000 times, giving the power of microscopic sight to emergency responders needing to identify biological specimens in the field, teachers, students and anyone with access to a 3-D printer.

NASA research scientist Walter Meier has reported that the Arctic Ocean is losing around 13 percent of its sea ice per decade – the ice that covers the Arctic region reached its likely minimum extent for the year last week. However, the Antarctic’s ice coverage has now surpassed its largest maximum extent since 2013.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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You Cannot Ignore Dust: First Evidence Of Universe’s Early Expansion In Doubt

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by Ben P. Stein, Inside Science

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This phrase, popularized by the late Carl Sagan, kept going through my head on March 17, the day that researchers involved with BICEP2, a telescope in Antarctica, made a big announcement at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The researchers reported that BICEP2 detected gravitational waves from the first moments after the big bang, a feat, which if confirmed, would open up a new field of study and would surely be recognized in a future Nobel Prize. [Ed. note: Txchnologist reported on this news when it broke here.]

Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time. They’re created when any object with mass accelerates. However, they’re extremely weak, making them very hard to detect directly. Even for the most massive and cataclysmic events, such as the collision of two black holes, their effects, observed from Earth, are very hard to detect.

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