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Glass Bead And 3-D Printer Make Cheap, Powerful Microscope

by Txchnologist staff

Researchers working to transform bulky and expensive lab tools so they can be deployed far and wide cracked open their history books to put a cheap microscope in every pocket. 

Rebecca Erikson, an applied physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, takes a simple glass bead and embeds it in a housing she built on a 3-D printer that fits over a smartphone’s camera. The system, which costs less than a dollar in materials to produce, can magnify objects up to 1,000 times. She and PNNL have made the 3-D design file freely available for all to use

Erikson’s instrument slips onto a number of smartphones and tablets, and gives the power of microscopic sight to emergency responders needing to identify biological specimens in the field, teachers, students and anyone with access to a 3-D printer. 

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Txch This Week: Shape-Shifting Liquid Metal Alloys And Camo Squid Skin Technology

by Jared Kershner

This week on Txchnologist, we watched the world’s first 3-D printed car hit the road after being made in a mere 44 hours. The vehicle, called Strati, was sent on a test drive last Saturday after being quickly printed and assembled by a Local Motors team days before. The company plans to offer 3-D printed vehicles for sale in the coming months, paving the way for innovation in automotive design and opening new doors for modern manufacturing.

The creators of an MIT project called Local Warming are pioneering a heating system that uses motion sensing to direct infrared energy beams at occupants of a space, heating them directly while the remaining space stays cold. With current space heating accounting for 37 percent of the total power consumed by U.S. buildings in 2010, funding programs that rethink how to keep people comfortable could spark a radical shift in greater building energy efficiency nationwide.

Smog-producing low-level ozone concentrations are rising globally and bringing with them heightened public health and ecological threats. Scientists studying the environmental dangers of ozone offer a simple solution—plant more trees. Their models have shown that the reforestation of regions directly abutting urban areas provides an effective tool for abating ground-level ozone pollution, and could complement technology-based controls.

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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Targeting Tumors With Electricity

by Karin Heineman, Inside Science

The days of summer vacation and fun in the sun may be over for the season, but the hours spent in the sun over the last several months can take a toll on your skin. More than 120,000 new cases of melanoma, a very serious form of skin cancer, are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and if not treated early, can spread through the body.

Now, doctors are using electricity to help kill late-stage melanoma tumors.

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The Deep Dive: The Man Who Grew Eyes

by Moheb Costandi, Mosaic Science

The train line from mainland Kobe is a marvel of urban transportation. Opened in 1981, Japan’s first driverless, fully automated train pulls out of Sannomiya station, guided smoothly along elevated tracks that stand precariously over the bustling city streets below, across the bay to the Port Island.

The island, and much of the city, was razed to the ground in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995 – which killed more than 5,000 people and destroyed more than 100,000 of Kobe’s buildings – and built anew in subsequent years. As the train proceeds, the landscape fills with skyscrapers. The Rokkō mountains come into view, looming menacingly over the city, peppered with smoke billowing from the dozens of narrow chimneys of the electronics, steel and shipbuilding factories.

Today, as well as housing the Port of Kobe, the man-made island contains hotels, medical centres, universities, a large convention centre and an Ikea store. There are also three government-funded RIKEN research institutions: the Advanced Institute of Computational Science (which is home to what was, until 2011, the world’s fastest supercomputer), the Center for Life Science Technologies, and the Centre for Developmental Biology (CDB).

At the entrance to one of the labs, a faded poster in a thin plastic frame shows the crew of the Starship Enterprise, a young Captain Kirk sitting proudly at the helm. Underneath is the famous Star Trek slogan: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

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