This week on Txchnologist, we found out that, while our power grids are more vulnerable to catastrophic failure than previously thought, scientists are finding new ways to secure them. We also looked at ways humans are taking hints from the animal kingdom when we examined a possible (and slimy) replacement for stitches and learned that echolocation could be our new party trick.
Now we’re sharing the developments, research and other cool things we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.
This week on Txchnologist, our eyes were set on the Red Planet. We shared some recipes of what future Mars colonizers might whip up in their extraterrestrial kitchens, and got an update about what Curiosity has been doing in the year since it landed. NASA’s plan to wrangle a near-Earth asteroid also came on our radar after the agency released conceptual images and a video of its proposed effort. It could be useful to lasso an asteroid: The mission’s goals include understanding potentially threatening near-Earth asteroids, finding ways to use such celestial bodies as a launching pad to get to Mars and furthering the fantastical-sounding field of space mining.
Now, we’re sharing the science and technology highlights we’ve been following this week.
University of Illinois researchers have developed new biodegradable electronics that could make medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices that melt away over time in water or body fluids.
Such medical devices might serve as diagnostic tools or programmed drug delivery systems that dissolve in the body over a predetermined time. Their coatings are made of silk like surgical sutures and the electronics are comprised of tiny amounts of harmless metal.
“We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics,” said John A. Rogers, a UI engineering professor who led the multidisciplinary team. “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”
NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite keeps a vigilant eye on the herbal Earth. A representation of its work—a compilation of vegetation data taken over the course of a year—is below.
The satellite’s visible and infrared light sensor records the reflection of sunlight off vegetation to understand how plants sprouting and shedding their leaves change the land.
While interesting to watch on its own, this data is folded into an analytical tool called the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, which is used for environmental modeling and weather prediction.
Top Image: Ecuador’s rainforest via Shutterstock.