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Electric Fields Made Visible

Physics educator James Lincoln helps people understand the natural world. The gifs above are from a Youtube video he made on how to “see” an electric field, the region around a charged object where electric force is experienced. When the object is positively charged, electric field lines extend radially outward from the object. When the object is negatively charged, the lines extend radially inward.  

Click the gifs for more info or see the full video below.

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Txch This Week: Internet Chatter Spots An Epidemic

by Annie Epstein

This week on Txchnologist, we watched MIT engineers move tiny metallic hairs using magnetic fields. The microhairs are made out of nickel mounted on stretchy silicone. Potential applications for the hairs include tunable waterproof coating, anti-glare applications and smart window coating that can control sun allowed into buildings.

Australian National University researchers manipulated wave frequencies and amplitudes to control the movement of particles on the surface of water. The researchers discovered ways to move objects against the direction of a wave. This research could help contain oil spills and even move small boats.

Japanese chemist Yosuke Okamura and his team have created a flexible, sticky coating called nanosheets that is similar to plastic wrap and, when applied to burns, creates a barrier against potentially fatal bacterial infections. The nanosheets can stick without adhesive and are made with a biodegradable polyester called poly(L-lactic acid), or PLLA.

Finally, using nanoscopic pillars of a polyurethane and adhesive mix, researchers at the University of Michigan have created a watermark only visible when a person breathes on it. Soon we’ll be fighting counterfeiting one breath at a time.

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

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How can great musicians seem to do the impossible?

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by Joel N. Shurkin, Inside Science

Even old jokes can have a scientific basis in fact.

You know the one about the tourist who stops a native New Yorker on the street and asks, “Excuse me sir, but how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

"Practice, practice, practice."

That New Yorker is absolutely correct. Scientists have found that the brains of professional musicians are physiologically different from the brains of other people, and they got that way mostly because of practice, practice, practice.

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New Technique Lets Scientists See Through Whole Organisms

by Michael Keller

Seeing is believing when it comes to understanding how organisms work. For biologists trying to learn about what’s going on inside a body, one of the biggest obstacles is not being able to put their eyeballs on a part or system without other objects getting in the way. The answer is usually going in with one invasive tool or another, which ends up damaging or destroying the thing they’re trying to investigate. 

Now California Institute of Technology scientists say they have improved upon a solution to clearing up the picture. The technique builds on work that garnered widespread attention last year. In that effort, assistant professor of biology Viviana Gradinaru and her team used detergent and a polymer to make a rodent brain transparent for study in unprecedented detail. 

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