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Txch This Week: Dynamic Chairs And Compact Fusion Reactors

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by Jared Kershner

This week on Txchnologist, we watched researchers make strides in robotic technology by mimicking sidewinder rattlesnakes’ movements. Carnegie Mellon’s modular snake robots have already demonstrated proficiency at climbing trees and are now on their way to traversing difficult terrain like soft sand. With the sidewinder’s unique J-shaped form of locomotion, robots capable of these movements could have an advantage over others in exploring extraterrestrial worlds or tight spaces like those found in the aftermath of a mine collapse.

NASA researchers will be testing out a robotic aircraft for the coming year to see if it can aid in catching forest and brush fires before they grow out of control. The drones are equipped with a camera to track rising smoke plumes as well as an infrared camera to scan for hidden hot spots. The program will proceed once the Federal Aviation Administration approves UAV overflights, and could mean cost and time reductions for detecting nascent wildlands fires.

Researchers have developed a new technology that tracks the positions of nanoparticles as they move within the body or a single cell. The nanoparticles can also be manipulated by applying a magnetic field to pull them along and control where they move. This discovery means scientists can better probe biological functions within cells and improve our understanding and treatment of cancer.

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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Researchers Magnetically Control Nanoparticles Inside Cells

Scientists have figured out a way to make tiny magnetic particles that they can watch and manipulate inside the body. 

An international team of researchers built nanoparticles whose core is made of magnetic materials encapsulated in a uniform fluorescent coating.  The breakthrough means that researchers can watch the movement of the particles inside an individual cell and move them around that cell by applying a magnetic field. 

See the video below.

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Carnegie Mellon’s modular snake robots are learning some new moves thanks to an effort across several universities. The machines, which have already shown proficiency at climbing trees, are being designed to overcome all sorts of difficult terrain. Now they are demonstrating that they have taken more tips from their flesh-and-blood namesakes. 

This time, roboticists have trained the modular snakes to move across soft sand like the venomous pit vipers called sidewinder rattlesnakes that live in the southwestern U.S. Sidewinders use a sideways J-shaped form of locomotion to efficiently climb up yielding sandy slopes without slipping.  

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Scientists Cast Electric Hooks To Catch Invasive Fish

by Txchnologist staff

Throughout the Northern Rockies, one type of Easterner has worn out its welcome. The brook trout, a freshwater fish that populates the streams of the Eastern U.S., Wisconsin and Michigan, has been busy swamping large areas of Montana, Idaho and other Western states.

Anglers love catching brook trout, but its success in its adopted region has come at the expense of native cousins like the cutthroat trout. Brook trout have been such tough competitors for resources, in fact, that native fauna have been significantly reduced or disappeared entirely from some waterways.  

To combat the invasion, fishery managers typically apply chemicals called piscicides, which are highly toxic to all aquatic life including fish and insects. Though effective at controlling non-native species and the damage to the ecosystem is thought to be relatively short-lived, many see this technique as a sledgehammer tool where a scalpel is needed.

Now ecologists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Montana State University and other organizations say they have found a more targeted way of clearing brook trout from streams. Instead of chemicals or mechanically harvesting brook trout, they have found that a technique called electrofishing can eradicate the fish from streams while leaving other species alone. They also found that electrofishing would cost about the same as using piscicides.

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