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  • News in Brief

    Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel

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    Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

    This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity....

    02/07/2018 - 13:00 Materials, Technology
  • Teaser

    New textile weathers temperature shift

    Weather changes, but thanks to a new high-tech textile, someday you may not have to switch out your outfit.

    Materials scientists and engineers at Stanford University have developed a multilayered textile that traps body heat on one side and passively radiates heat away from the body when flipped inside out. The material kept artificial skin within a comfortable range of 32° to 36°...

    02/02/2018 - 11:27 Materials, Technology, Chemistry
  • News

    New laser emits a more stable, energy-efficient light beam

    A new type of laser is modeled after an exotic class of materials called topological insulators. And it’s proving more reliable and energy-efficient than its conventional counterparts, paving the way for possible use in quantum communication and next-generation electronics.

    The device, described online February 1 in Science, is composed of a grid of semiconductor rings that convert...

    02/01/2018 - 14:35 Technology, Physics, Materials
  • News

    Lasers trace a new way to create hovering hologram-like images

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    The 3-D displays seen in such sci-fi movies as Star Wars may not be so far, far away.

    A new laser system renders full-color 3-D images in thin air, researchers report in the Jan. 25 Nature. This technology could someday make futuristic, free-floating visuals for everything from air traffic control to surgical planning.

    With this new technology, “you really can...

    01/24/2018 - 14:30 Technology, Physics
  • Feature

    Your phone is like a spy in your pocket

    Consider everything your smartphone has done for you today. Counted your steps? Deposited a check? Transcribed notes? Navigated you somewhere new?

    Smartphones make for such versatile pocket assistants because they’re equipped with a suite of sensors, including some we may never think — or even know — about, sensing, for example, light, humidity, pressure and temperature.


    01/23/2018 - 12:00 Computing, Technology
  • News

    New technique could help spot snooping drones

    Now there’s a way to tell if a drone is spying on someone.

    Researchers have devised a method to tell what a drone is recording — without having to decrypt the video data that the device streams to the pilot’s smartphone. This technique, described January 9 at, could help military bases detect unwanted surveillance and civilians protect their privacy as more commercial drones...

    01/23/2018 - 07:00 Technology, Science & Society
  • Science Ticker

    A robotic arm made of DNA moves at dizzying speed

    A new robotic arm made of DNA moves 100,000 times faster than previous DNA machinery.

    The DNA nanobot is shaped like a gearshift, with an extendible arm that ranges from 25 to more than 400 nanometers long that’s attached to a 55-by-55-nanometer platform. Researchers remotely control this DNA device, described in the Jan. 19 Science, with electric fields that tug on charged molecules in...

    01/18/2018 - 14:00 Biophysics, Technology
  • News

    Pollution is endangering the future of astronomy

    OXON HILL, Md. — Even as technological advances allow astronomers to peer more deeply into the cosmos than ever before, new technologies also have the potential to create blinding pollution.

    Three sources of pollution — space debris, radio interference and light pollution — already are particularly worrisome. And the situation is getting worse. In the next two decades, as many as 20,000...

    01/12/2018 - 13:27 Astronomy, Pollution, Technology
  • Teaser

    A new gel could help in the fight against deadly, drug-resistant superbugs

    A new antibacterial ointment could help take down drug-resistant bacteria.

    In human skin samples and mice, the medicine completely cleared wounds of MRSA, the strain of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to methicillin and other antibiotics, and antibiotic-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. Both microbes are known to cause serious infections in hospital patients. Researchers in the...

    01/10/2018 - 14:00 Microbes, Health, Technology
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers wrangle with definition of ‘species’

    Species shmecies

    In “Defining ‘species’ is a fuzzy art” (SN: 11/11/17, p. 22), Susan Milius asked scientists to define “species.” Schoolbooks may define the concept as a group of organisms that create fertile offspring when mating with each other but not when mating with outsiders. But for researchers specializing in the topic, a single definition is hard to come by.

    “It seems to me...

    01/10/2018 - 12:37 Evolution, Technology, Astronomy