Week in Review: 10/4/15 – 10/10/15

October 9, 2015

Scientists paint quantum electronics with beams of light
A team of scientists from the University of Chicago and Penn State University has accidentally discovered a new way of using light to draw and erase quantum-mechanical circuits in a unique class of materials called topological insulators. In contrast to using advanced nanofabrication facilities based on chemical processing of materials, this flexible technique allows for rewritable “optical fabrication” of devices. This finding is likely to spawn new developments in emerging technologies such as low-power electronics based on the spin of electrons or ultrafast quantum computers.

How Dragonflies Could Help Develop Human Eyesight and Driverless Cars
An Australian mechanical engineering team has developed a computer program emulating a dragonfly’s eyesight. Published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the researchers also have aspirations to apply this research in artificial sight for robots and driverless cars.

If the going gets tough, when should the tough give up?
But a new study suggests there are risks in having too much grit to quit. Researchers found that the trait can be hard to switch off — and those who have it sometimes set themselves up for failure by overreaching.

October 7, 2015

Predictive policing test substantially reduces crime
Can math help keep our streets safer? A new study by a UCLA-led team of scholars and law enforcement officials suggests the answer is yes. A mathematical model they devised to guide where the Los Angeles Police Department should deploy officers, led to substantially lower crime rates during a recent 21-month period.

Porous material holds promise for prosthetics, robots
Crnell researchers have developed a new lightweight and stretchable material with the consistency of memory foam that has potential for use in prosthetic body parts, artificial organs and soft robotics. The foam is unique because it can be formed and has connected pores that allow fluids to be pumped through it.

October 6, 2015

The Cocktail Party Problem
New study asks: are musicians better at understanding conversation in a crowd?
Scientists call it the “cocktail party problem,” and it’s familiar to many people, even those who pass standard hearing tests with flying colors: they can easily hear one-on-one conversation in a quiet room, but a crowded restaurant becomes an overwhelming auditory jungle. For people with even slight hearing problems, the situation can be stressful and frustrating. For those with significant hearing loss, hearing aids, or cochlear implants, cocktail parties become an unnavigable sea of babble.

October 5, 2015

Physicists turn toward heat to study electron spin
The quest to control and understand the intrinsic spin of electrons to advance nanoscale electronics is hampered by how hard it is to measure tiny, fast magnetic devices. Applied physicists at Cornell offer a solution: using heat, instead of light, to measure magnetic systems at short length and time scales.