Crushing Diamonds with Giant Lasers

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Livermore Lab has the world’s most powerful laser, the National Ignition Facility. Smith and colleagues used its 176 beams to squeeze a tiny diamond target. The team got up to 50 million atmospheres of pressure, that’s about 10 times the density of the Earth’s core.

The diamond at the center of the capsule was at the density of lead before it was vaporized by the laser energy. The results, published in Nature, prove that diamond can withstand this kind of crushing.

Because, I suppose, one can. It also bodes well for the gas giant Neptune in our own solar system which is believed to have a core partially composed of diamond under extremely high pressures.

Via NPR.

Squishybots

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In the movie “Terminator 2,” the shape-shifting T-1000 robot morphs into a liquid state to squeeze through tight spaces or to repair itself when harmed.

Now a phase-changing material built from wax and foam, and capable of switching between hard and soft states, could allow robots to perform the same feat.

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The material could be used to build deformable surgical robots. Robots built from the material could also be used in search-and-rescue operations to squeeze through rubble looking for survivors.

The wax coating can change from a hard outer shell to a soft, pliable surface with moderate heating.

This could be done by running a wire along each of the coated foam struts and then applying a current to heat up and melt the surrounding wax. Turning off the current again would allow the material to cool down and return to its rigid state.

They’re also looking into other, even stranger materials – basically anything that can change state from liquid to solid and back again.

As described by Anette Hosoi in the journal Macromolecular Materials and Engineering via MIT News.

Robot Farmers

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At the turn of the last century, nearly half of the American workforce was dedicated to agriculture. Industrial inventions like the steel plow had made farming easier, but it was still grueling labor performed by men, women, and work animals.

Farm robots are increasingly capable of autonomously performing complex tasks including plowing, plant and soil surveillance, and even the harvesting of fruit and vegetables.

WP5 picks peppers in a greenhouse using a robotic arm equipped with a rubber gripper, two cameras, and a pair of clippers. The arm is attached to a moving apparatus that includes lighting, a compressor for the pneumatics, control electronics, sensors, and a computer to drive it all.

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WP5 via Singularity Hub for the full article.

The Ancient Greek Military Technology of the Linothorax

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[I]n ancient Greece, they thought they were cutting edge when they had developed the linothorax. [The] shirt-skirt is a linothorax. But the linothorax wasn’t a fashion statement — it was a suit of armor.

Few remains have been found at historic sites. But they are mentioned in texts — and we can see them on vases and paintings.

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University of Wisconsin Green Bay Professor Gregory Aldrete and a group of his students used these drawings and ancient texts to make versions of the linothorax, and research why they were effective.

Aldrete and his team discovered that linothoraxes are made using several layers of linen and rabbit glue. They had to get their hands on linen that was hand-woven and hand-sewn but also grown and harvested by traditional methods. That meant they had to grow their own linen. Which they did.

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Aldrete says the idea of using layers of linen (or any material) and gluing them together to create a tough, resistant material has been used for centuries.

And it’s still used today. Some of the bullet-proof vests used by armies and police forces around the world have been created using similar concept.

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The verdict?

They were light-weight, flexible…and pretty much safe from any kind of arrows in use at the time.

The UWGB Linothorax Project via PRI.org.

Robobees In Development to Pollinate Crops

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Honeybees, which pollinate nearly one-third of the food we eat, have been dying at unprecedented rates because of a mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Last year, Harvard University researchers led by engineering professor Robert Wood introduced the first RoboBees, bee-size robots with the ability to lift off the ground and hover midair when tethered to a power supply.

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The researchers believe that as soon as 10 years from now these RoboBees could artificially pollinate a field of crops.

But RoboBees are not yet a viable technological solution. First, the tiny bots have to be able to fly on their own and “talk” to one another to carry out tasks like a real honeybee hive.

Via Business Insider for the full article.

Remote Controlled Contraceptives

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A Massachusetts-based startup called MicroCHIPS has developed an implantable contraceptive chip that can be wirelessly controlled.

Because the device can be turned on and off with a remote, women will no longer need to go to a clinic for an outpatient procedure when they need to deactivate their birth control.

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The chip is a 20-millimeter square, about 7 millimeters thick, and each day, it dispenses 30 micrograms of a hormone called levonorgestrel, which is already being used as a contraceptive in the U.S.

The device is designed to last 16 years. If the patient wants to be taken off birth control, she can just turn the device off with a simple click on the remote control. Turning it back on is just as simple.

From company Microchips via IFL Science! for the full article.