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First the smart phone, now the smart home: Technology anticipates, meets our needs for health, efficiency

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — We have all heard of the smartphone and, any day now, most of us will have one. Not far behind: the smart home.

Writing in the latest issue of the journal Science, Washington State University's Diane Cook says it won't be long before our homes act as "intelligent agents" that use sensors and software to anticipate our needs and tend to tasks that improve our health, energy efficiency, even social media.

Many homes are already halfway there, with computer chips helping microwave popcorn, record TV shows and turn on coffee makers and thermostats.

"If you have a programmable thermostat, you have the beginnings of a smart home," says Cook, a WSU professor of electrical engineering and computer...

Ultrafast laser pulses shed light on elusive superconducting mechanism

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — An international team that includes UBC physicists has used ultra-fast laser pulses to identify the microscopic interactions that drive high-temperature superconductivity.

In the experiment,outlined recently in the journal Science, electrons in a prototypical copper-oxide superconductor were excited by extremely short 100-femtosecond (0.0000000000001-second) laser pulses.

As the material's electrons relax back to an equilibrium state, they release their...

Physicists find patterns in new state of matter

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Physicists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered patterns which underlie the properties of a new state of matter.

In a paper published in the March 29 issue of the journal Nature, the scientists describe the emergence of "spontaneous coherence," "spin textures" and "phase singularities" when excitons -- the bound pairs of electrons and holes that determine the optical properties of semiconductors and enable them to function as novel...

Why are we made of matter? Supercomputing the difference between matter and antimatter

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — An international collaboration of scientists has reported a landmark calculation of the decay process of a kaon into two pions, using breakthrough techniques on some of the world's fastest supercomputers. This is the same subatomic particle decay explored in a 1964 Nobel Prize-winning experiment performed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), which revealed the first experimental evidence of charge-parity (CP) violation -- a lack of...

New understanding of how materials change when rapidly heated

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Collaboration between the University of Southampton and the University of Cambridge has made ground-breaking advances in our understanding of the changes that materials undergo when rapidly heated.

Using cutting edge equipment and specially designed MEM's sensors on loan from Mettler-Toledo, scientists from the University of Southampton's Optoelectronic Research Centre and the University of Cambridge's Department of Materials Science were able to probe the...

'Living' micro-robot could detect diseases in humans

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — A tiny prototype robot that functions like a living creature is being developed which one day could be safely used to pinpoint diseases within the human body.

Called 'Cyberplasm', it will combine advanced microelectronics with latest research in biomimicry (technology inspired by nature). The aim is for Cyberplasm to have an electronic nervous system, 'eye' and 'nose' sensors derived from mammalian cells, as well as artificial muscles that use glucose as an...

Neutrons uncover new density waves in fermion liquids

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Scientists discover zero-sound mode oscillations in super-chilled helium. Scientists working at the Institut Laue-Langevin have carried out the first investigation of two-dimensional fermion liquids using neutron scattering, and discovered a new type of very short wave-length density wave. The team believe their discovery, published in Nature, will interest researchers looking at electronic systems, since high-temperature superconductivity could result from this type...

Turning down the heat but keeping warm

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Despite the rising global average temperatures that climate change is bringing, there is still a need to keep warm in our homes especially when it's cold outside. However, even highly efficient domestic heating systems use large amounts of energy and unless generated through carbon-neutral means will add to the ongoing outpouring of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Improved insulation can only provide so much resilience against the cold; in the...

Getting to the moon on drops of fuel

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(Mar. 29, 2012) — Imagine reaching the Moon using just a fraction of a liter of fuel. With their ionic motor, MicroThrust, EPFL scientists and their European partners are making this a reality and ushering in a new era of low-cost space exploration. The complete thruster weighs just a few hundred grams and is specifically designed to propel small (1-100 kg) satellites, which it enables to change orbit around Earth and even voyage to more distant destinations -- functions typically...