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Computers of the future may have eyes of an insect

Ready for the movies
Mon 01 Feb 22:02

Hold a pencil in front of you and look at it with one or the other eye closed: it appears to shift a little.

That's the key to three-dimensional vision (scientifically called stereopsis): each eye has a slightly different angle of view, then our brains "figure out which bit of the left eye's image corresponds to the same point in space as a given bit of the right eye's image," explains Jenny Read, Professor of Vision Science at the University of Newcastle.

It might seem mundane, but it's a remarkable feat. So much so that humans and other vertebrates devote quite some brain space to that, where complicated processing algorithms work their magic to bestow upon us the marvel of depth perception.

Dr. Read's team...

Why you won't lose weight with exercise alone

Sometimes exercise is just not enough
Fri 29 Jan 22:02
If magazines and health clubs are to be believed, the new year should coincide with a whole new you. Many gyms see up to a 50% increase in memberships in January and, in some places, up to two thirds of these memberships are cancelled by the end of the month. For those of us wanting to shed more than just a few pounds gained over the over-indulging season that is Christmas, we often think that sweating it out on a treadmill is the only way to go.  Dr. Herman Pontzer of the City University of New York has shown that increasing exercise alone is not the best policy if you want to lose weight and...

Religiosity as a predictor of a child's kindness

Wed 18 Nov 22:00
A recent study on the influence of religion on altruistic behavior among children was conducted by Dr. Jean Decety, at the Department of Psychology from University of Chicago along with an international team of scientists.

To test the correlation between religion and acts of kindness among kids, the scientists selected 1,170 children aged from five to twelve. This large population of children belonged to six countries- Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA and South Africa, creating a diverse mix.

The children were divided into three categories- Not religious, Christian and Islam. Although the...

A second wind for exoplanets habitability

Artist rendition of a rocky planet orbiting a red dwarf. With the right conditions, perhaps habitable.
Fri 02 Oct 22:42
Earth is the only planet we know that has life, so it's easy to think that any other habitable planet must look like it. Indeed, the study of exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) often concentrates on looking for Earth's "twins". But the universe is a weird and varied place: could some different world be habitable too?  According to a study from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, the answer is yes! If there's any chance that a planet has liquid water on its surface, it's deemed habitable. "You need liquid water for life," says Doctor Ludmila Carone, one of the authors....

Flowing water found on Mars

A slope with dark streaks caused by water seepage in Valles Marineris, photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Wed 30 Sep 15:14
In a press conference on September 28th, NASA scientists announced that they have solid evidence of liquid water on the surface of present-day Mars. For the first time, liquid water has been found on the surface of a planet other than Earth!

The evidence comes from long, dark streaks---first seen on images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter---that stretch down some mountains and crater walls on the planet. Because they grow bigger and darker during Martian summer, then recede in winter, these lines have been dubbed "Recurrent Slope Lineae" (or RSL).

Through spectroscopy (a technique that...

New approach tries to clear the air over fossil fuels

Thu 03 Sep 17:43
With an ever-increasing energy demand, the use of fossil fuels is steadily on the rise.

But so are air pollution and the concerns over its consequences on our health.

Air pollution, in fact, increases the risks of asthma and heart attacks, as well as the overall mortality rate.

However, according to a group of scientists led by engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, fossil-fuel-based power plants could minimize their health impact in an affordable way.

All it takes is some smart coordination.

The scientists developed a method to analyze the energy production in an area,...

Can we influence the evolution of an idea...

Mon 06 Jul 23:37
Read part 1 of this series at:

Can you imagine an exclusive social circle with a qualification-based filter in the interest of blossoming and evolving ideas?

If so, how would such a group function?

It would be akin to birds of a feather flocking together and as a result would preclude contact with people from different social settings.

Naturally, exchange of ideas between such distinct separated groups would become improbable if not impossible.

On the contrary, if we move towards an inclusive society where all...

Power for a charger-free world

Pulling out the plug
Wed 02 Dec 18:42
A team of engineers at the University of Washington devised a system that uses regular WiFi to power small electronics at a distance- All without affecting your ability to stream your favorite show or read The Munich Eye. The system, called PoWiFi (short for Power over WiFi), works because wireless signals also carry power. Specifically, the routers broadcast electromagnetic waves on certain frequencies, like a radio, which the antennas in laptops and smartphones collect and turn into an electric current. Normally, the receiver can decode it to retrieve the information sent from the router, be...

Cooperation catalyzes the evolution of cleaner cars

Future traffic jams won't be pollution nightmares
Thu 05 Nov 17:27
Cars generate lots of pollution, as the Volkswagen Diesel scandal lately reminded us. From the same two countries where the incident emerged---the US and Germany---come some recent advances that bring us closer to a long-awaited clean alternative: hydrogen cars. Capitalizing on the combined efforts of many scientists from several different fields, in fact, huge strides are being made in the development of nano-structured materials, particularly useful as catalysts. Catalysts are a general class of chemical agents, whose role is to facilitate reactions. Typically, they nudge the reaction over...

How basic research helped expose VW's dirty secret!

The recent Volkswagen emissions scandal has affected up to 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Fri 02 Oct 00:28
German auto giant Volkswagen's (VW) recent fall from grace is a result of the same greed that brought down Toyota nearly six years ago - the quest for becoming the most powerful automaker in the world.  But what makes the VW scandal even more nefarious? Deliberate lies by VW, misleading the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States and its consumers to believe that discrepancies found in the air pollutant (nitrous oxide) emission levels were simply technical glitches.  Where and how did this Volkswagen scandal begin unravelling?

It all started as an innocuous research...

Converting classrooms into "smart" rooms

Integrating smartphone technology within the conventional classroom setting in universities maybe the next paradigm shift, given the ubiquitous nature of smartphones. But how do we implement this?
Wed 09 Sep 16:10
Imagine a classroom setting in a university, where students have their heads bent down - not taking notes as you imagine but looking into smartphones. Doesn't that seem like an outrageous notion?

Smartphones have invaded our society and are prevalent in our everyday lives, especially among the younger generation. Therefore, it's not surprising that they are universally found in many college settings.

But that begs the immediate question - Are smartphones beneficial to the educational process or are they a mere distraction?

The answer to this is published in a recent study by a team from a...

Pluto's icy breath, young look and big heart: what we learnt from New Horizons so far

Tue 11 Aug 17:24
On July 14th, NASA's New Horizons probe completed its nine-year-long journey flying close to Pluto.

"This mission has been a big success," says Professor Andreas Burkert, an astrophysicist of the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, not affiliated with the project, "one has to congratulate the team for their excellent job."

Because the probe was traveling at almost twenty kilometers per second, it was too fast to orbit around the dwarf planet, and it had to take pictures and perform thousands of measurements while zipping by.

Being so busy, it could not make contact with Earth until a few...

The yin and yang of social interaction

Thu 02 Jul 22:50
At some point in our lives, all of us have found ourselves in a crowded bus stop or grocery store or a music concert.

But have you considered the possibility that the unknown person next to you in these crowded situations may be connected to your friend of a friend of a friend?

Much as it may sound completely random or just plain impossible, scientific studies in the past have shown that each of us could potentially connect to everybody else in the world within six links.

Many of us may be quite familiar with the phrase associated with it called "six degrees of separation".

In fact, recent...

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