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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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Surface Changes As Microhairs Move In Magnetic Fields

MIT engineers have developed a coating with tiny metallic microscopic hairs that move when subjected to switching magnetic fields. The movement lets researchers control the direction and speed that fluid moves over the surface or optical characteristics of light passing through.

The hairs are made of nickel and stick out of a stretchy silicone skin beneath. Each hair is a pillar about one-fourth the diameter of a human hair, they say.

“We can apply the field in any direction, and the pillars will follow the field, in real time,” said mechanical engineering graduate student Yangying Zhu.

Click the gifs above or read more and see a video below.

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Could Lasers Divert Lightning From Buildings?

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by Michael Keller

The standard advice authorities offer when lightning starts crackling across the sky is for people to take shelter inside buildings. Substantial structures offer protection through lightning rods affixed to the roof, electrical wiring and plumbing that can direct the electricity away from occupants and into the ground.

But what is there to protect the buildings themselves from more than 5 billion Joules of energy in a typical lightning strike, which is enough juice to toast 100,000 bread slices? The problem is no small one—the Empire State Building (above) in New York City gets hit by lightning an average of 25 times a year. And Underwriters Laboratories reports that lightning accounts for more than $1 billion in building damage in the U.S. every year. 

Many buildings install lightning protection systems to direct lightning’s energy into the ground, which the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says are highly effective at preventing fires and destructive electrical surges after a strike.

Now researchers say there might be a next-generation protective system that prevents lightning from hitting a building at all. Their secret weapon? High-intensity lasers.

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Complete Medical Checkup On A Chip Gets Closer

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by Txchnologist staff

Engineers have demonstrated an inexpensive handheld device that can analyze up to 170,000 different molecules in a blood sample. The stapler-sized unit might one day make a doctor’s office checkup a thing of the past. 

Measuring minute changes in the intensity of light flashed through a sample, the optical lab-on-a-chip could simultaneously investigate levels of insulin in the blood, viruses and disease markers that indicate cancer or other problems. 

"We were looking to build an interface similar to a car’s dashboard, which is able to indicate gas and oil levels as well as let you know if your headlights are on or if your engine is working correctly," said Hatice Altug, an associate engineering professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and Boston University, in a statement.

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