Watch Amazing Hovering Race Cars Built Using Quantum Levitation

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A few months ago we told you about quantum levitation, a process demonstrated in this video which basically allows scientists to do what you saw going on with Marty McFly’s hoverboard in Back to the Future: Part II. They haven’t actually made a hoverboard production model with it yet, but here’s something almost as cool: a race track.

The following video appears to demonstrate quantum levitation being used to create race cards which hover around a track, and race around under the control of operators, just like that slot car track you had when you were twelve. It’s incredible. But is it real? Take a look and decide for yourself…


Scientists Want To Search The Moon For Aliens

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We all know that the moon is a lifeless barren rock incapable of supporting life. Humanity gave up on the ideas of intelligent life living on the moon shortly after we figured out it wasn’t made of green cheese. But now scientists at Arizona State University think we may have overlooked something, and are urging SETI to search old photos and records of the lunar surface for signs of extraterrestrials.

Their point as outlined in this paper is that after decades of observation scientists now have huge databases of records detailing not just the moon but the sky around the Earth. The believe that if intelligent life does exist in the universe, there’s a chance it may have sent a probe to our region of the galaxy. If they did, they’re hoping there might be some sign of it in the existing records and photos they already have.

In particular they think the database of photos taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is a good place to start. If aliens had at some point in our past arrived and attempted to observe Earth, setting up a base on the moon would have been their first move. Even if it happened hundreds or thousands of years ago, some of that evidence may still exist on the Moon’s surface.


Sci-Fi In Real Life: Self-Healing Technology

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You’ve seen it in everything from Star Trek to the Terminator. A robot or a device is broken and then, thanks to some sci-fi imagination, manages to fix itself. Robotic limbs are reconstructed, connections reformed. You just can’t keep a good piece of sci-fi technology down. Now that sci-fi fiction is a reality.

Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed what they’re calling a “self-healing” system which allows broken or cracked circuits to fix themselves. Chemistry professor John Moore explains, “Rather than having to build in redundancies or to build in a sensory diagnostics system, this material is designed to take care of the problem itself.”

Here’s how it works…

The Illinois team previously developed a system for self-healing polymer materials and decided to adapt their technique for conductive systems. They dispersed tiny microcapsules, as small as 10 microns in diameter, on top of a gold line functioning as a circuit. As a crack propagates, the microcapsules break open and release the liquid metal contained inside. The liquid metal fills in the gap in the circuit, restoring electrical flow.

A failure interrupts current for mere microseconds as the liquid metal immediately fills the crack. The researchers demonstrated that 90 percent of their samples healed to 99 percent of original conductivity, even with a small amount of microcapsules. The self-healing system also has the advantages of being localized and autonomous. Only the microcapsules that a crack intercepts are opened, so repair only takes place at the point of damage.


Computers May Soon Be Able To Read Your Mind

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A lot of the coolest things in science fiction still haven’t become reality. Where’s my hoverboard? But here’s one thing I kind of wish wouldn’t come true, but probably will. Mind-reading computers.

Each year IBM releases a list of the biggest technological advancements it’s planning for the next five years. The list is called “5 in 5” and this year computers that can read your mind were on it.

IBM researchers and scientists are working on ways to link your brain to your smartphone or your laptop, so you won’t ever even have to touch it or speak to it, in order to give it instructions. Just think about calling someone, and you’ll instantly be connected.

They don’t have the technology yet, but the fact that they’re predicting it within the next five years ought to tell you how close they are to achieving it. And while it sounds like a good idea to be able to think instructions to your smartphone, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with anyone being able to read what’s going on in my brain… even my computer.


How Much Sass In A Lemonade Glass? Vintage Science & Tech Advertisements

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Neo-modernist, minimalist movie and television posters are all the rage, as we’ve mentioned before.  But there was a time when modernism was on the cutting edge of graphic design, looking into the future rather than the past.  For those graphic design and/or science industry aficionados who like their minimalist posters “vintage” instead of “retro”, Maria Propova has pulled together a wonderful gallery of mid-century modernist science and technology advertisements on Flickr (which has more detailed information about each advert). 

The advertisements all come from magazines from the 1950s and 1960s and feature companies you may have heard of (Monsanto, Sylvania) and many you probably haven’t (Avco?).  As Propova says, though, they all bring “the modernist aesthetic to the atomic and space ages” and use the aesthetic “in a manner particularly appropriate for its subject matter.” Here are a few of my favorites:

“How Much Sass In a Glass of Lemonade” (unknown designer; Ad Agency: Erwin Wasey, Ruthrauff & Ryan, Inc.)
Rhyming?  Check.  Science in layman’s terms?  Check.  Everyday object abstracted into sharp fragments?  Check.  This advertisement about “keeping the acidity of your product precisely uniform” may not be particularly space age, but it’s a bit of minimalist fun.


Higgs Boson Particle Glimpsed At Last

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The Higgs boson is kind of like the Holy Grail of particle physics – we believe it exists and that it accounts for how everything in the Universe gets its mass, but it is notoriously elusive.  Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva have been conducting experiments for years trying to track down what the media often refers to as “the God Particle”, but with little success.  That might be changing, as scientists in two separate experiments at the LHC say they’ve recently caught glimpses of the Higgs boson.

There isn’t enough data yet to allow scientists to say they’ve “discovered” the Higgs boson, but these new results are stirring up a lot of excitement in the particle physics community.  Two separate experiments tasked with looking for the particle – Atlas and CMS – have seen spikes in their data at roughly the same mass.  Such experiments at particle accelerators look for the Higgs boson (whose exact mass is not predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics) by “systematically look[ing] for it across a broad search area”, so having two independent experiments see hints of the particle at the same mass is very interesting.  It is a fairly small data set when considered in the context of the massive number of collisions happening at the LHC and, at this point, could be accounted for by “background fluctuation”, but researchers are still excited.  Professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester was heartened by the results, saying, “Within one year we will probably know whether the Higgs particle exists.”