Sci/Tech briefs

New devices could replace scientists

Scientists at Cornell University have come up with a new computer program that can go through large amounts of data and formulate theories based on that data.
The program is based on a principle called genetic programming, and came up with correct physical laws after it analyzed complex data from a system consisting of a double pendulum. The scientists described the working of the program in an issue of the journal Science.

In the same issue of Science, British scientists reported the development of a robotic scientist called Adam. This robot is able to come up with hypotheses and test them by performing experiments.

Source: The New York Times

Researchers build a battery with viruses

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have manipulated a virus, called M13, such that it is able to build a powerful lithium battery.
The scientists did this by changing two genes of the virus.

This change of genes allowed the virus to construct a shell made of iron phosphate and also connect the shell to carbon nanotubes.
Although iron phosphate is usually not a good conductor, nanoparticles of the substance help make a good battery.
This gives rise to a small yet powerful electrode that can be used in such devices as MP3 players and cell phones.

An iPod can be run for three times as long with this battery than with normal iPod batteries. These batteries are also more environmentally friendly than traditional batteries.

The research was reported in the journal Science.

Source: Reuters

New technology controls space fires

NASA gave a $100,000 grant to Colorado-based ADA Technologies to develop fire extinguishers for space fires. Space fires, caused due to accidents on space shuttles, are different from those on earth as they are spherical and hence harder to control.
The fire extinguishers consist of tiny droplets that will coat the flames in a mist and contain the fire. The device uses water and nitrogen and is also non-toxic. NASA wants to implement this technology in its Orion spacecraft.

The current space shuttle fleet will be retired in 2010 and NASA plans to build the Orion spacecrafts, new capsule-style ships, that can travel to the moon and back.

Source: Discovery News

New fuel tanks help hydrogen cars

New research conducted at Purdue University has made it possible to fill the fuel tanks of hydrogen-powered cars within five minutes, enabling the car to run for 300 miles.

The device consists of a fine metal hydride that can absorb hydrogen gas.
A heat exchange system, which prevents the device from heating up, has also been created. This is especially helpful, as the efficiency of absorbing hydrogen decreases with an increase in temperature.

The stored hydrogen will then be used to power a cell that can generate electricity and drive the car.

Source: Science Daily