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Technology

Study finds violent video games provide quick stress relief, but at a price

videogames

A study authored by two University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students indicates that while playing video games can improve mood, violent games may increase aggressive outcomes. The researchers looked at how video games may be used to manage emotions — specifically, whether playing the games can improve mood.

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Freezing single atoms to absolute zero with microwaves brings quantum technology closer

absolute zero

Physicists at the University of Sussex have found a way of using everyday technology found in kitchen microwaves and mobile telephones to bring quantum physics closer to helping solve enormous scientific problems that the most powerful of today’s supercomputers cannot even begin to embark upon.

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The fear you experience playing video games is real, and you enjoy it

videogame fear

With the advent of video games, a frequently asked question has been whether we get as engrossed in them emotionally as we do when we see a scary movie. The answer is yes and many game players enjoy the fear caused by the zombies, disfigured humans and darkness they often encounter, the researchers found.

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Commenters exposed to prejudiced comments more likely to display prejudice themselves

anonymous troll comments

Comment sections on websites continue to be an environment for trolls to spew racist opinions. The impact of these hateful words shouldn’t have an impact on how one views the news or others, but that may not be the case. A recent study found exposure to prejudiced online comments can increase people’s own prejudice, and increase the likelihood that they leave prejudiced comments themselves.

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Oh, to have Dr. Facebook on call!

dr facebook

If it were up to Internet-savvy Americans, more of them would be emailing or sending Facebook messages to their doctors to chat about their health. That’s the result of a national survey led by Joy Lee of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US.

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What your clothes may say about you

back to the future clothes

Moving closer to the possibility of “materials that compute” and wearing your computer on your sleeve, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have designed a responsive hybrid material that is fueled by an oscillatory chemical reaction and can perform computations based on changes in the environment or movement, and potentially even respond to human vital signs. The material system is sufficiently small and flexible that it could ultimately be integrated into a fabric or introduced as an inset into a shoe.

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A Lunatic Laboratories project “semi” reveal

the big unveil

This isn’t a science blog.

Okay, this isn’t just a science blog.

In the just shy of a year that the official Lunatic Laboratories website was set up we have yet to give you, the readers, an update. Some of you are following for the science, some for the conversation (which I must say is top notch thanks to all of you who take the time to leave us here a note), and some of you — we are not sure how many — are here specifically for new, exciting, and innovative… well inventions.

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This is your brain, on video games

Kids playing video games

A new study shows that while video game players (VGPs) exhibit more efficient visual attention abilities, they are also much more likely to use navigation strategies that rely on the brain’s reward system (the caudate nucleus) and not the brain’s spatial memory system (the hippocampus). Past research has shown that people who use caudate nucleus-dependent navigation strategies have decreased grey matter and lower functional brain activity in the hippocampus.

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The fingerprint drug test

fingerprints on a glass

Researchers have demonstrated a new, noninvasive test that can detect cocaine use through a simple fingerprint. For the first time, this new fingerprint method can determine whether cocaine has been ingested, rather than just touched.

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Mind reading: Researchers observe moment a mind is changed

mind reading

Researchers studying how the brain makes decisions have, for the first time, recorded the moment-by-moment fluctuations in brain signals that occur when a monkey making free choices has a change of mind. The findings result from experiments led by electrical engineering Professor Krishna Shenoy, whose Stanford lab focuses on movement control and neural prostheses – such as artificial arms – controlled by the user’s brain.

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A glass fiber that brings light to a standstill

Using atoms to slow light

Atoms coupled to a glass fiber: A system that can slow down light dramatically.
Image credit goes to: TU Wien

Light is an extremely useful tool for quantum communication, but it has one major disadvantage: it usually travels at the speed of light and cannot be kept in place. A team of scientists at the Vienna University of Technology has now demonstrated that this problem can be solved – not only in strange, unusual quantum systems, but in the glass fiber networks we are already using today.

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Welcome to the wikipedia for neurons

brain neuroscience

While the brain might not have more connections than stars in the universe (sorry guys), it is still complex. In fact, someone I respect defined a neuroscientist as “someone who knows how little we know about the brain.” Despite the decades worth of data that has been collected about the billions of neurons in the brain, we still don’t know much. So to help scientists make sense of the vast amount of information we already collected, researchers used data mining to create neuroelectro.org, a publicly available website that acts like Wikipedia, indexing physiological information about neurons.

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Hyper sleep- A “down to earth” space story

hyper sleep

It was every kids’ dream to go into space, not understanding the perils or the boredom that comes with it. The idea of floating weightless and “boldly going where no man has gone before” permeated the imagination as nothing had ever done before. Space, why did there have to be so much of it?

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Move over solar pannels, introducing spray-on solar cells

spray paint solar cell

Solar panels, they are big, heavy, cannot flex, and are still very inefficient. While efficiency isn’t the big issue, flexibility has relegated solar panels to rooftops and solar farms. Well that is until now, researchers have just invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.

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Dude, wheres my Hover Car? Oh wait…

Hoverboard

Photo from Back to the Future

We all (of a certain age) remember the Jetsons, a futuristic family with hi-tech gadgets and gizmos. However, nothing said, “the future is here” quite like things hovering. Even in the movie Back to the future, they have hover boards and flying cars. Unfortunately we don’t, which is a shame because according to the 1950’s we are the future, we should have hover-cars and hover boards… well the wait is over. Yep, introducing the first real hover board!

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A Venusian Mystery Explored Once More

Photo Credit goes to NASA. Venera 13 Russian Probe, offering some of the only color photos on the surface of Venus.It only operated for about an hour.

Photo Credit goes to NASA. Venera 13 Russian Probe, offering some of the only color photos on the surface of Venus. Fun fact: It only operated for about two hours before it died.

Venus, the place where women are from… supposedly. To say Venus has a harsh climate would be an understatement, this is one of many reasons why we will never (or maybe not soon) see a “long lasting” Venus rover counterpart to our Mars rover missions. Still, the planet (much like all the other plants) can teach us a lot about not just our own origins, but the origins of the universe. Also like all our neighbor planets Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds, a mystery that might be soon solved, all thanks to a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data.

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Holy Grail of Battery Design: A lithium anode

charge-battery

Technology has been racing forward at an ever increasing rate. Unfortunately, anyone who owns a smartphone will tell you that the battery life doesn’t match the advancements. That is probably why engineers across the globe have been racing to design smaller, cheaper and more efficient rechargeable batteries to meet the power storage needs of everything from handheld gadgets to the new emerging electric cars. But a new breakthrough is about to [hopefully] change all that, a stable lithium anode.

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Optical Cables, from Thin Air!

wardenclyffe-tesla-tower

It’s a project that would make Tesla proud. Just imagine being able to instantaneously run an optical cable or fiber to any point on earth, or even into space. That’s what researchers are trying to do. Did I mention it was instantaneous and involved no connection other than the air around us? Well if you are as excited as I am, then you should read on! If not, two words, laser weapons!!

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Tofu and Solar Cells: An unlikely pairing

Panel1

Solar cells, they’re kind of a big deal. Good for the environment, produce power from that big ball of burning gas we call our sun, they like long walks on the beach, cool drinks and just chilling with friends… oh sorry that’s from the wife swap [the wife and I love that show]. But in all seriousness, solar is the next oil. We had an industrial revolution and now we are going to have a more eco-friendly kind of revolution. Of course the high price of solar panels has made it all but inaccessible to the general public [I know I would love to have some on my roof!]. With natural gas and other sources of power being cheaper, solar needs to learn a few new tricks to keep up. Thankfully that is exactly what scientists at the University of Liverpool have accomplished.

Right now solar cells are inefficient at about 15% of the power actually converted to usable electricity. It is unfortunate then that solar cells need to be coated in a cadmium chloride to reach that paltry efficiency. I’ll let you in on a little secret, if it wasn’t for that coating we would only see about a 2% power conversion. Yeah damned if you do damned if you don’t stuff. That’s because that coating is roughly $0.30 a gram, doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quick. Not to mention that there is a little problem with it being very toxic, incredibly hard to handle safely and hard to dispose of after solar cell decommission [I know… details, details].

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Finally, a Better Battery!

That's the million dollar question.

That’s the million dollar question.

You know what technology hasn’t been able to keep pace with us? Well besides whatever tech the DMV uses, it’s batteries. Think about it, they are nasty, make a mess, are hazzardous, hard to recycle and weigh a freaking ton compared to the energy stored. Current battery technology is my number one problem with electric cars as it stands now. Between the weight, the resources, and the waste, electric cars are almost a wash. Not quite mind you, but almost.

That’s about to change, maybe not for the electric car, but for the energy grid. Right now power is pumped out as fast as it’s being used. There is no real storage anywhere for surplus power so it is made on demand for people to use it as it’s being produced. This use as you make it system has proven to be the bane of solar and wind, the two major renewable energy technologies we have. This problem combined with the lobbyists for oil and gas companies and you can see why we don’t have more solar or wind power plants.

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[Virtually] Free-range Chicken

Why can’t you eat soup in the Matrix? Because there is no spoon.

Dumb joke, I know, but I have another one for you. What do you call a free-range chicken that is mass produced? Caged.

Welcome to the matrix… for chickens. With the popular consumer demand for free-range chicken, but not enough space for all those chickens, what do you do? Like the modern society we are, we turn to technology to solve the problem.

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Silicon Brains: Not as Cuddly as the Real Thing.

Well played brain, well played.

Well played brain, well played.

Are you real? What is ‘real’, more of a philosophy question than a scientific one, but what if a computer worked like your brain? What if, one day the line between computer and human were blurred? That day might be coming sooner than you think.

Currently there are two major problems with designing a robotic brain. The first is hardware, the brain is an incredibly complex thing that we don’t even fully understand, even if we could theoretically produce something close to that work of art there is that second problem– The software, designing software to take advantage of that type of power would take something short of genius to do, especially if it were going to be something easy enough that you or I could use.

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Surprising New Synthetic Muscle

Photo credit goes to Popular Mechanics

Photo credit goes to — Popular Mechanics

It’s the stuff movies are made from. A new “super” synthetic muscle that is 100 times stronger than the muscle in your own body. It can be easily made, can be reused millions of times, and reacts much in the same manner as it’s natural counterpart.

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