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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Wearable Robot Skin Could See Missions In Space Or On People

Purdue University engineers are working on what they call robotic fabrics that can change shape to perform different functions. 

The material is a cotton fabric with flexible polymer sensors and actuators made of shape-memory alloy that bends and contracts when electric current is applied. The system can constrict around an object if the actuators are aligned in one direction or bend the object if aligned another way.

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Why Heat The Building When You Can Heat The Person?

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by Michael Keller

Fall is rapidly approaching and temperatures have already started to drop in some areas of the country. It’s time to figure out where the jackets got hidden at the end of last winter and whether the heater is up for the task this year. 

Residential and commercial buildings were responsible for 40 percent of all the energy consumed in the U.S. in 2013. That total makes the lighting, heating and cooling of indoor residential and commercial spaces the most power hungry of all users, beating industrial and transportation consumption by more than 10 percent each. Buildings also contribute almost 40 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. 

Focusing in, it turns out that space heating is the biggest energy hog and accounts for 37 percent of the total power consumed by U.S. buildings in 2010, according to the Buildings Energy Data Book

Why isn’t there a smarter way than heating rooms regardless of whether people are in them or that the living things that occupy a space take up only a fraction of the conditioned area?

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