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  • Feature

    Virtual reality therapy has real-life benefits for some mental disorders

    Edwin adjusted his headset and gripped the game controller in both hands. He swallowed hard. The man had good reason to be nervous. He was about to enter a virtual environment tailor-made to get his heart pumping way more than any action-packed video game: a coffee shop full of people.

    Determined to overcome his persistent fear that other people want to hurt him, Edwin had enrolled in a...

    11/01/2018 - 08:24 Technology, Mental Health
  • News in Brief

    A new robot decides how and when to transform to get the job done

    A robot made of several smaller robotic pieces can autonomously transform its body into shapes best suited for a particular task. 

    The bot primarily consists of wheeled, cubic “modules” that link up with one another using magnets, forming a small assortment of body types reminiscent of cars or snakes. The brains of the operation reside in a specialized module equipped with cameras and a...

    10/31/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A new palm-sized drone is mini, but mighty

    A new type of mini drone can pull a lot more than its own weight.

    The drone latches onto a surface and uses a cable to reel in objects up to 40 times its mass, researchers report. This feat is a marked improvement over other flying robots, which generally can’t tote objects heavier than about their own weight (SN: 2/7/15, p. 18). The new palm-sized flyer, described October 24 in Science...

    10/24/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Technology
  • News

    Artificial intelligence crowdsources data to speed up drug discovery

    A new cryptographic system could allow pharmaceutical companies and academic labs to work together to develop new medications more quickly — without revealing any confidential data to their competitors.

    The centerpiece of this computing system is an artificial intelligence program known as a neural network. The AI studies information about which drugs interact with various proteins in...

    10/18/2018 - 14:00 Artificial Intelligence, Biomedicine, Technology
  • News

    A new ultrafast laser emits pulses of light 30 billion times a second

    Blazingly fast lasers have just leveled up.

    Ultrafast lasers emit short, rapid-fire bursts of light, with each pulse typically lasting tens of millionths of a billionth of a second. A new laser pulses 30 billion times a second — about 100 times as fast as most ultrafast lasers, researchers report in the Sept. 28 Science.

    The speed boost was thanks to a new technique for making...

    10/05/2018 - 07:00 Physics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    This reflective paint could keep sunbaked buildings cool

    A new polymer-based paint that reflects nearly all incoming sunlight could help keep buildings, cars, airplanes and other sunbaked structures cool.

    This polymer paint, described online September 27 in Science, can be applied to various surfaces, including plastics, metals and wood. It also could be fashioned into recyclable tarpaulins for covering homes, cars or other enclosed spaces....

    09/28/2018 - 09:00 Materials, Technology, Sustainability
  • News

    Laser mapping shows the surprising complexity of the Maya civilization

    A laser-shooting eye in the sky has revealed the previously unappreciated size and complexity of ancient Maya civilization, both before and during its presumed heyday, scientists say.

    Maya people in what’s now northern Guatemala built surprisingly extensive defensive structures and roads as part of political systems featuring interconnected cities, starting at least several hundred years...

    09/27/2018 - 14:22 Archaeology, Technology
  • News

    Fiberglass-spinning robots could be construction workers of the future

    Much like a silkworm uses a single thread to swaddle itself in a cocoon, a new kind of robot spins a single strand of material around its body to build custom-shaped fiberglass structures.

    The new robots could create customized construction materials on-site, unlike other industrious bots that assemble premade building blocks (SN: 3/22/14, p. 8). Fleets of the fiberglass-spinning bots...

    09/26/2018 - 14:00 Robotics, Technology
  • Feature

    Anshumali Shrivastava uses AI to wrangle torrents of data

    Anshumali Shrivastava, 33Computer ScienceRice University

    The world is awash in data, and Anshumali Shrivastava may save us from drowning in it.

    Every day, over 1 billion photos are posted online. In a single second, the Large Hadron Collider can churn out a million gigabytes of observations. Big data is ballooning faster than current computer programs can analyze it.

    “We have...

    09/26/2018 - 08:28 Artificial Intelligence, Numbers, Technology
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers contemplate water on Mars and more

    Life signs

    Scientists estimate that there are roughly 10 billion liters of liquid water beneath a polar glacier on Mars, Lisa Grossman reported in “Mars (probably) has a lake of liquid water” (SN: 8/18/18 & 9/1/18, p. 6).

    Some online readers wondered what the detection meant for the possibility of life on the Red Planet.

    Grossman wrote about the lake’s implications for life...

    09/26/2018 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Pollution, Technology