The MacGuffin

Archive for March, 2009

Better Blood

Posted by Lauren Rugani on March 31, 2009


New research out of UPenn School of Medicine marks the first time a protein has been built from scratch, which could open doors toward fighting diseases or creating artificial blood for use in emergency situations.

Proteins are complex structures made up of amino acids. Over the course of evolution, these structures have mutated to include many branches, pockets and folds that leave scientists to decipher how – or even if – specific structural properties are related to protein function. Until now, engineers have created new proteins by altering the structures of natural proteins to code the molecules for new and different tasks, but all at the expense of stability and predictable activity.

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Posted in Biotechnology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Graphene Scores Again

Posted by Lauren Rugani on March 26, 2009


If carbon forms were superheroes, graphene would be Superman. Stronger and lighter with seemingly magical electrical properties, the one-atom-thick sheet of carbon seems to have a leg up on almost any other material known to man. And researchers at MIT have figured out a way to use graphene to make frequency multipliers, which enhance data transmission speeds in cell phones or other communication devices while consuming less power than current silicon-based chips.

Their work won’t be published until the May issue of Electron Device Letters so no details on how they manufactured the chips, just that they were able to produce graphene sheets large enough for commerical use (a tricky hurdle that has been plaguing researchers since the material was discovered in 2004) and transfer the frequency multipliers to those sheets. By putting several devices one after another, they could theoretically create systems operating in the 500 to 1000 gigahertz range. (A gigahertz is a billion cycles per second, which governs how fast chips can carry out calculations. Most phones today operate at about 5 gigahertz.)

If and when I can get this paper I’ll update with more details. For now, I’ll continue to worship graphene.

Posted in Computing, Nanotechnology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The New [insert personal technology of choice here]

Posted by Lauren Rugani on March 25, 2009


This video was posted a few weeks ago and a friend brought it to my attention. A research group at MIT’s Media Lab compiled a bunch of off-the-shelf components like cameras, phones, and projectors to create a “sixth-sense” device that effectively turns the user into an iPhone. Right now it’s a pretty crude model, but costs only about $350 and its completely mobile. Seriously worth watching. Seriously cool.

Really Cool, New Sixth-Sense Technology Video.

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Getting in Touch With Your Feelings

Posted by Lauren Rugani on March 25, 2009


Philips Electronics unveiled a jacket this week at the 2009 World Haptics Conference that aims to provide moviegoers with anxiety, fear, tension and a slew of other emotions that apparently we aren’t capable of creating with our own instinctual reactions to nerve-racking situations. The jacket is lined with 64 actuators along the sleeves and chest that respond to signals encoded in a DVD, causing the viewer to experience a chill along their spine or an elevated heart rate as though they were the main character trying to escape a near-death experience.

OK. I get that it’s the 21st century and we have all sorts of virtual reality technologies. But are we really that lazy that we can’t produce our own emotions? Did these guys see The Hills Have Eyes and turn to each other and say, “Dude, I wish my jacket would electrocute me so I’d at least be a little nervous that a malformed cannibal was chasing me with a meat hook?” And I think it’s safe to say that this jacket nixes any and all cuddling opportunities for watching a scary movie on a rainy Saturday night with that special someone.

Save the total body experience for die-hard gamers. My anxiety level is fine as is.

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ACS Conference Looks to the Future

Posted by Lauren Rugani on March 25, 2009


The theme for this year’s American Chemical Society national meeting in Salt Lake City is Nanoscience: Challenges for the Future (a topic that many of you know is near and dear to my own heart) and therefore perfect for my debut post on In Futuro, a blog covering the next generation of science. Of course, research presented at the conference also covers a wide range of chemistry and multidisciplinary topics outside nanotechnology that will also affect the future. Here are a few pieces of research that might be important to those of us without a Ph.D.

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Posted in Energy, Medicine, Nanotechnology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »