Archive for March, 2017

Bacteria Power!

The energy crisis looms large over the ever growing human population of the world. Among the things required for survival of the species power is at the forefront if development is to proceed the way it has so far. It is obvious that scientists are exploring may options to develop power faster and more efficiently.

Therein lies the genesis of bacteria power. Certain strains of bacteria naturally generate electric current as a part of their metabolism. Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, live in oxygen-free environments. This type of bacteria can breathe in metal minerals and electrodes. They don’t breathe air. They take in the metals through a current-conducting proteins in their cell membranes.

The researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, are working on is a way to transfer this ability to non-electrogenic bacteria. What makes it even more exciting is the fact that the ability to produce electric current is being clubbed with wastewater treatment. The idea is to add the bacteria into a tank of wastewater and slip in an electrode. Now the bacteria works on cleaning the water and simultaneously produces enough electric current to be used for another purpose.

This type of science project that could provide more than one solution to possible future problems is bound to be interesting to follow.


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Securing Passwords With Your Lips

A password has become one of the most important features of functioning online. You have passwords to access the device, then your account, then a secondary level of security for transactions. There are so many passwords that you need to remember. And no matter how strong your password may seem, there is always a danger that it may get hacked!

What if it was possible to make your password even more secure? Researchers at the Hong Kong Baptist University  have invented a new technology to help do just that. They call it “lip motion password” and that’s literally what it does. Using the lip motions of the person to create a password.

Professor Cheung Yiu-ming from the Department of Computer Science has lead his team to create this technology. The idea came from the fact that a biometric measurement such as a fingerprint could not be changed once a hacker managed to copy it. However when you can move your lips and change the password, there are any number of combinations that the person can come up with using biometrics.

This system verifies a person’s identity by simultaneously matching the password content with the underlying behavioural characteristics of lip movement. So there are two layers of security and naturally the science project has received a lot of attention worldwide. Soon you would have to speak out your password and no one else will be able to hack it.

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Wearable Biosensors in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is one where doctors are under constant pressure to monitor and treat patients. It is obviously going to make life easier if there is an automated way in which a doctor can tell when someone under his care is about to fall ill.

At the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, researchers are looking at developing wearable biosensors which can tell you when you are about to fall ill. A gadget similar to the Fitbit or the Apple Watch would make it possible for sensors to track the physiological changes that indicate an onset of illness.

Essentially there are three main parameters being recorded and observed. These are the heart rate, the body temperature and the blood pressure of the person wearing the biosensor. A number of cardiovascular health problems as well as onset of infections can be easily predicted using this methodology.

A five month study conducted on human volunteers took more than two hundred and fifty thousand measurements per day. In a case during the study the biosensor monitoring was able to predict Lyme disease for a person much before any symptoms physically manifested on the body. While more studies are required this science project is bound to move things along for the better in the future.

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The Light Phone

Has your smartphone taken over your life? Do you get withdrawal symptoms if you are separated from your smartphone for a longish period of time? Or does your attention and time get sucked up by your smartphone to the extent that you can’t do other stuff? If this sounds like your problem, the Light Phone may be the solution for you.

This credit card sized phone was the brain child of Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang. They started working on a simple no texting phone in 2014 and launched a Kickstarter campaign for the product in 2015.  As the name suggests, the idea was to go Light.

With no text features the phone is simple and it is barely 38.5 grams weight. The idea is to go back to a basic phone that only makes calls. Of course it has a handy long lasting battery that doesn’t need to be charged for three days.

The creators intend the Light Phone to be a second phone. A supplement to your smartphone. When all you need to do is make a phone call you can reach of this gadget rather than the complicated and distracting main phone. Though the science project catches interest it is still to be seen how user friendly it is likely to be.

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This Computer is a Better Poker Player than Humans

Simple board games with limited number of moves possible have always been easy for the computer to play. Games like chess are easy for the artificial intelligence to play and beat human being at, but the games that require a bit more such as Poker, can be a different story.

Not only must the Artificial Intelligence know about the rules of the game to play, it must also have some amount of intuition to win. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have created a computer which is apparently advanced enough to win at Poker.

Called DeepStack, the intuitive computer is able to solve mathematical models of how decisions are made by players. It played at a Poker tournament in December last year and managed to beat 11 of the professional Poker players who managed to complete their matches with him.

By the way each match was of three thousand hands. So it was not a fluke. DeepStack repeatedly came ahead of professional poker players to prove that AI had come a really long way. Of course there are implications of this science project far beyond merely playing poker. There will be a number of applications possible when the program is refined and redirected towards other problems to solve.

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What Can Survive on Mars?

There’s always been a debate about what form of life could have survived on Mars. Now scientists at the University of Arkansas have taken up a study that could reveal just what could actually survive those extreme conditions associated with the red planet.

The front runner for life on Mars is an ancient organism called methanogen. The simple anaerobic, non photosynthetic organisms are said to produce methane gas. The presence of martian methane in the atmosphere has already been confirmed, leading to support the theory that this particular organism may already be present on the planet. Specially since most of the methane found on Earth is of bionic origin.

They could be on the surface of the planet, but would survive under deep layers of soil as well. This means it could be a while before any of the rovers on Mars are actually able to get a sample of soil containing methanogens.

The confirmation will be some time in coming. However if it does, it will mean a lot for the possibility of eventually colonizing Mars with humans. Needless to say this is one science project that many scientists and researchers would be over the top to see to a happy conclusion.


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