By Doug Gross, CNN
Not all scientists compare themselves favorably to the lead-to-gold alchemists of King Arthur's day.
Then again, not all scientists say they've figured out a way to zap cement with a laser and turn it into metal.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory announced this week that they have unraveled a formula to do just that. The discovery, they say, opens up cheap, common cement as a material that could be used in the electronics world to make things like computer chips or thin films and other protective coatings.
“This new material has lots of applications, including as thin-film resistors used in liquid-crystal displays - basically the flat panel computer monitor that you are probably reading this from at the moment,” said Chris Benmore, a physicist from Argonne who worked with a team of scientists from Japan, Finland and Germany on the project.
The metallic glass material that results from the process has both better resistance to corrosion than regular metal and is less breakable than regular glass, the researchers say.
This change demonstrates a unique way to make metallic-glass material, which has positive attributes including better resistance to corrosion than traditional metal, less brittleness than traditional glass, conductivity, low energy loss in magnetic fields, and fluidity for ease of processing and molding. Previously, only metals have been able to transition to a metallic-glass form.
In the process, researchers melted mayenite - a component of cement made of calcium and aluminum oxides - at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius using a carbon dioxide laser beam. By keeping the piping hot material in an aerodynamic levitator, they were able to keep it from touching the sides of its container until it cooled into a glassy state.
Until now, only metals were able to be melted into a metallic-glass form. They say their discovery could lead to finding other materials that can be turned into semi-conductors.
Editor's Note: Tune in to CNN Saturday, June 1, at 2:30 pm ET to see "The Next List's" 15-minute profile of Francesco Clark.
Madonna and Michelle Obama are self-proclaimed fans. Jane Larkworthy at W Magazine calls it simply “divine.” And Harper’s Bazaar’s Alexandra Parnass says it’s the most innovative skin-care line she’s ever seen.
It's Clark’s Botanicals, which has quickly developed a cult following, particularly among the fashion elite, since its launch in 2005. The secret, according to founder Francesco Clark, is Jasmine Absolute, a blend of essential oils found in all his products. But for some, Clark's unique entry into the world of beauty is at least part of the draw.
This Saturday, June 1, marks the 11th anniversary of the accident that would forever change Clark’s life. He was just 24, enjoying the first night of a summer rental on Long Island, when he decided to take a late-night dip.
“The second I dove in,” he says, “I realized I dove into the shallow end of the pool.”
Francesco was paralyzed from the shoulders down. “You’ll never move your arms,” doctors told him. “Don’t even think about your legs. Don’t even bother.”
Clark never accepted his diagnosis. Not truly. But it wasn’t until his hero, actor-turned-disabled activist Christopher Reeve, passed away that he decided to take full responsibility for his recovery. And for the first time since his accident, Clark looked in a mirror. “I didn’t look like myself.”
One of the side effects of his spinal-cord injury was he could no longer sweat. “I had acne everywhere, but it was unreactive to any $500 cream, $3 cream, prescriptions, over-the-counter," he said. "Nothing worked.”
Eager to reclaim the friends and colleagues he’d neglected since his injury, he turned to his father, a doctor trained in both homeopathy and Western medicine.
After setting up a lab in the kitchen, Clark and his father investigated 78 botanical ingredients before landing on Jasmine Absolute, the unique blend of essential oils that solved Francesco’s skin problems. Today it’s used throughout the Clark’s Botanicals skincare line, sold in stores from New York to Hong Kong.
But far more important than the line’s success is the role it’s played in Clark’s recovery.
"It was the first time I saw the power of the beauty industry," he said. "A lot of people think it's just about the way you look. For me, it's about the way I felt."
Bolstered by the renewed sense of purpose his company has given him - and his aggressive pursuit of spinal-cord injury treatments - Clark has defied his doctors’ diagnosis. He now has partial use of his arms, wrists and hands. And as his company continues to grow, so do his dreams.
“You know, I’m very impatient and I want to do more," he said. "I want to be more independent, using my hands. And I plan to walk again in the next three to five years.”
By Heather Kelly, CNN
First responders to Monday's massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, were greeted with a blighted expanse of destroyed homes, blocked roads, downed power lines and a limited window of time to unearth survivors before the sun set.
Navigating the area on foot or by car was a challenge because of the debris. News and law-enforcement helicopters filled the air above, but while they gathered useful information for rescue crews, the noise they created was drowning out cries for help from trapped survivors.
The entire area was declared a no-fly zone.
But one airborne technology will soon make responding to these kinds disasters easier: unmanned automated vehicles (UAVs), more commonly called drones. These portable, affordable aircraft can launch quickly in dangerous situations, locate survivors and send data about their whereabouts to responders on the ground. FULL POST
By Ed Lu, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut and current founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation. His mission is to build the world’s most powerful asteroid tracking system to find asteroids on a collision course with earth. Watch his full story this Saturday at 2:30p ET on CNN’s “The Next List.”
Next week on May 31, 2013, a 1.7 mile wide asteroid, 1998 QE2, will fly past the Earth at a distance of 3.6 million miles.
If this asteroid were to hit the Earth (don't worry, it won't this time), it would be the end of human civilization. Think about that. Not only would it kill billions of people, but it would take with it our very history. Gone would be our cities, our culture, our languages, our art, our music, our scientific knowledge - everything that we as a species have built up during the past 10,000 years. Gone in an instant.
Asteroid impacts are the only global scale natural disaster we know how to prevent. We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot deflect an asteroid that we haven't found yet. This is why the B612 Foundation is building the Sentinel Space Telescope, the world's most powerful asteroid detection and tracking system, to see the millions of asteroids we can't see today and could pose threats to our planet. The B612 Foundation is a nonprofit organization, dependent on private donations for our mission. We welcome you to join our efforts at the B612 Foundation and help protect not only our planet, but our future.
By Doug Gross, CNN
It's one of science fiction's greatest unfulfilled promises, right up there with teleportation and time travel.
This week, the Woburn, Massachussetts-based aerospace company announced it has begun feasibility studies on a car capable of vertical takeoffs and landings. The TF-X would be a four-seat, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, according to the company.
“We are passionate about continuing to lead the creation of a flying car industry and are dedicating resources to lay the foundations for our vision of personal transportation,” Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich said in a media release. “Terrafugia is about increasing the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of aviation. TF-X is an opportunity to provide the world with a new dimension of personal freedom!”
Yes, the long-awaited promise of "The Jetsons" may soon become reality.
Lest you think the company is just getting our hopes up for some cheap publicity, know this - they've already created a flying car of sorts.
The Transition is a street-legal vehicle that's designed to fly in and out of airports. It was successfully flown for the first time in 2009. The second-generation version of the Transition performed a driving-and-flying demo last year.
The new TF-X project comes as work on the Transition shifts "from research and development to certification, production, and customer support activities," the company said.
Terrafugia says it has about 100 orders for the Transition, which goes for $279,000.
The big difference between the Transition, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2015, and the new flying car is that the TF-X would be able to take off anywhere, like a helicopter, and not just at an airport.
Its automation systems would make taking off and landing a self-driving process, though the driver would be able to take over manual control at any time.
Terrafugia (Latin for "escape from Earth") says it has had "preliminary conversations" with the Federal Aviation Administration about the TF-X and that the agency has "demonstrated their willingness to consider innovative technologies and regulatory solutions that are in the public interest and enhance the level of safety of personal aviation."
In other words, we might actually get to ride in one someday.
What do you think? Will we see widespread use of flying cars in our lifetimes? Let us know in the comments.
By Heather Kelly, CNN
Forget tiny iPads - the classrooms of the future might turn entire tables into interactive touchscreens.
Given that many children can sit rapturously before a glowing touchscreen for hours, such gadgets seem like a natural for the classroom. But as with any new teaching technology, it's important to make sure it actually helps students learn and teachers teach before getting caught up in its "cool" factor.
A recent study by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK took touchscreen tables into the classroom for some hands-on tests and found the technology (and training) still have to improve before they are fully effective. The researchers say theirs is one of the first studies of this type of technology in actual classrooms, instead of lab situations.
The tables were used in real classrooms over the course of six weeks for lessons in geography, English and history. The five teachers involved in the study prepared the projects based on what the kids were currently learning in class. Each table was used by two to four students at a time, though the table's creators say it can hold up to six students. On the screen were a collaborative writing program and an app called Digital Mysteries, which were designed specifically for large tabletop PCs.
These types of tables are already commercially available and can be seen in the wild in locations like museums. SMART Technologies, for example, makes a table with a 42-inch, 1080p display for $7,749. The prices for these interactive tables will likely come down in the future, but they will still remain a big investment for any school district.
And before schools invest heavily in these kinds of tools, the study's authors say that more in-class research and tweaks to the software should be done.
A few of the issues raised were the same that come up in most group work. Some students would complete tasks faster than others, while others would lose focus and fall behind. Teachers in the study found they couldn't always tell when students were working versus just pretending to work and moving items around the screen.
Suggested improvements to the tools included more detailed progress indicators for the individual students. Researchers also recommend that the apps add more flexibility so that teachers can control, change and pause the lessons. In an old-school twist, researchers also recommended that the programs include an option for exporting kids' progress so they can print it out.
Researchers also emphasized the need for more teacher-friendly features and control over the apps, plus proper training for any educator who plans on integrating these types of tables with their regular classroom curriculum.
"To make the most use of them teachers have to make them part of the classroom activity they have planned – not make it the lesson activity,” said Dr Ahmed Kharrufa in a statement.
In other words, even the most advanced technology won't be able to replace good teachers.
Editor’s note: Jared Markowitz is a PhD candidate with Hugh Herr's Biomechatronics Group. Hugh Herr heads up MIT’s Biomechatronics Group where they invent cutting edge bionic prosthetic limbs, exoskeletons and more. Herr and his team have mobilized their resources to assist the amputee victims of the Boston bombings in some profound ways. Watch more this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST on CNN’s “The Next List.”
By Jared Markowitz, Special to CNN
The events in Boston last week were tragic in many ways: human suffering was on display for the world to see, a city was locked down while killers were pursued, and a nation was once again forced to recognize its vulnerability to senseless acts of violence. A week later, the wound is still fresh. Our community continues to mourn the dead, treat the injured, and search for ways to eliminate such attacks. Many lives have been altered irreversibly, yet there is also an abundance of resiliency and hope.
The bombings on Monday left many people with significant injuries and, in many cases, missing lower limbs. The horror of waking up with a different body as a result of a random act of terror should not be understated. Yet thanks to recent advances in prosthetic and rehabilitation technology, many of those who have suffered these devastating injuries have the hope of returning to a full and normal life.
There is now a bionic ankle, foot and calf system that allows the user to walk as quickly and efficiently as non-amputees. Computer-controlled prosthetic knees have been developed that adjust knee resistance continuously, allowing above-knee amputees to walk with improved versatility and stability. Lightweight, compliant running prostheses make it possible for amputees to excel in both sprinting and distance events, including marathons. These technologies are all improving rapidly, with researchers constantly striving to produce more comfortable, responsive and life-like prosthetic limbs.
Despite these advances, the road back from severe lower limb trauma can be long, arduous and expensive. To help those injured in the Boston bombings, the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics Group has partnered with the Mass Technology Leadership Council and No Barriers on two initiatives.
First, we are working with the Mass Technology Leadership Council to ensure that each amputee is provided with the assistive and rehabilitative solutions that best address their injury. To that end, if you have a technology that you believe could help those who suffered traumatic injuries please contact us at www.masstlc.org.
Second, the No Barriers Boston Fund has been established to give the victims devices that will allow them to lead full and active lives. The fund will provide these people with prosthetic limbs designed for athletic activities so that they can run, bike, swim and even dance again. To donate to this important effort, please visit www.nobarriersboston.org.
The symbolism of such events occurring around the Boston Marathon is difficult to ignore. Few endeavors provide such a ready analogy for the highs and lows of life as this race; it is a celebration of the city, running and the human spirit. While the motivations of those who run the Boston Marathon vary, everyone who participates has endured the grueling training required to qualify. During the marathon, runners are tested by the hills of Newton and the unavoidable "rough patches" that come with the marathon distance. However this all melts away during the triumphant finishing stretch on Boylston Street, an experience that validates all of the struggles up to that point.
It is our hope that the trials the surviving victims are currently enduring will give way to an even greater victory.