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  • News

    Why touch can be such a creepy sensation in VR

    There’s a fine line between immersive and unnerving when it comes to touch sensation in virtual reality.

    More realistic tactile feedback in VR can ruin a user’s feeling of immersion, researchers report online April 18 in Science Robotics. The finding suggests that the “uncanny valley” — a term that describes how humanoid robots that look almost but not quite human are creepier than their...

    04/18/2018 - 14:00 Technology
  • News

    Here’s why putting a missile defense system in space could be a bad idea

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — A beefed-up missile defense system might seem like a good idea in a time of heightened nuclear tensions. But such enhancements could have dangerous consequences.

    The current U.S. missile defense system isn’t all it was cracked up to be, performing unreliably in tests, physicist and missile defense expert Laura Grego argued April 14 at a meeting of the American Physical...

    04/17/2018 - 11:52 Science & Society, Physics, Technology
  • Reviews & Previews

    ‘Weird Math’ aims to connect numbers and equations to the real world

    Weird MathDavid Darling and Agnijo BanerjeeBasic Books, $27

    Weird Math sets out to “reveal the strange connections between math and everyday life.” The book fulfills that laudable goal, in part. At times, teenage math prodigy Agnijo Banerjee and his tutor, science writer David Darling, find ways to make complex math relatable, like linking chaos theory to weather forecasting and...

    04/16/2018 - 07:00 Numbers, Computing, Science & Society
  • News

    The Facebook data debacle may not change internet behavior

    If you’re not paying, you’re the product, so the saying goes. For years, Facebook users have known that they — or, more specifically, their data — make up the bulk of the goods the social media company leverages for profit.

    Then came news that London-based data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed an estimated 87 million Facebook profiles without permission and used that data for political...

    04/15/2018 - 07:00 Technology, Science & Society
  • News in Brief

    Using laser tweezers, chemists nudged two atoms to bond

    For the first time, researchers have played matchmaker between two specific atoms, joining them together to form a molecule.

    Typically, chemists make molecules by mixing up many constituent atoms, some of which stick to each other to form the desired compounds. In the new, supercontrolled chemical reaction, researchers trapped a single sodium atom in one optical tweezer — a device that...

    04/12/2018 - 14:00 Chemistry, Technology
  • News in Brief

    This material uses energy from ambient light to kill hospital superbugs

    PHOENIX — A new material that harnesses the power of ambient light to produce bacteria-killing molecules could help stem the spread of hospital infections, including those with drug-resistant bacteria.

    About 1 in 10 patients worldwide get an infection while receiving treatment at a hospital or other health care facility, according to the World Health Organization. “Contaminated hospital...

    04/10/2018 - 07:00 Microbes, Materials, Technology
  • News in Brief

    A new soft bot mimics octopuses and inchworms to climb walls

    PHOENIX — Soft robots really get around. Some jump, others swim or crawl on the ground (SN Online: 12/13/16). Now, one can even scale walls.

    Inspired by an octopus’s suckers, researchers have constructed an inchwormlike robot that uses a pair of suction cups to scoot around vertical surfaces. The bot can clamber across rough and smooth terrain, aboveground and underwater, carrying up to...

    04/09/2018 - 12:35 Robotics, Technology
  • News in Brief

    Sheets of tiny bubbles could bring a sense of touch to virtual reality

    PHOENIX — High-tech attire that would give users the sensation of being pushed, pinched or poked could someday make virtual realities feel as real as they look.

    Today’s VR systems rely heavily on goggle-generated visual displays to transport users to simulated worlds. But superthin, shape-shifting sheets worn as sleeves or built into other garments could provide gamers with tactile...

    04/06/2018 - 15:55 Technology
  • News in Brief

    Live heart cells make this material shift color like a chameleon

    To craft a new color-switching material, scientists have again taken inspiration from one of nature’s masters of disguise: the chameleon.

    Thin films made of heart cells and hydrogel change hues when the films shrink or stretch, much like chameleon skin. This material, described online March 28 in Science Robotics, could be used to test new medications or possibly to build camouflaging...

    03/28/2018 - 14:00 Materials, Biophysics, Technology
  • News

    Earwigs take origami to extremes to fold their wings

    To quickly unfurl and refold their wings, earwigs stretch the rules of origami.

    Yes, those garden pests that scurry out from under overturned flowerpots can also fly. Because earwigs spend most of their time underground and only occasionally take to the air, they pack their wings into packages with a surface area more than 10 times smaller than when unfurled, using an origami-like series...

    03/22/2018 - 14:10 Biophysics, Animals, Materials, Robotics