Highest resolution printing

There is a limit to the resolution of an image that can be perceived. Researchers have now demonstrated a printing technique that operates at this limit. Any lower resolution will produce a blurred image as light refracts between the pixels forming the picture.

To print an image of the highest perceivable resolution, stacks of nano-scale materials are built up in three dimensions then capped with gold or silver to produce a full gamut of colours through structural colour. The image below has been produced with this technique: in reality, this image is less than the width of a typical human hair.

If you’re up for along read, the entire paper is available here.


Water droplets in microgravity

The video below has made an impression around the web in recent days, and dovetails nicely with a unit I’m currently teaching on electrical charge.

The astronaut, Donald Pettit, who created this and many other demonstration videos for NASA – available on the ReelNASA channel – is presenting here a variation on an experiment that can be done on Earth with a knitting needle or comb and a stream of water from a tap.

Have a go at doing this at home. It really is quite amazing.


The Three Terras

A trio of ‘super-Earths’ has been found, amongst a batch of 45 new, extra-solar planets.

Last month astronomers reported to a conference in that they had found three large, rocky planets orbiting a single star 42 light years from Earth. This brings the total of planets found outside our solar system, since the first one in 1995, to 270.

These planets were discovered by careful observations of tiny wobbles in the star they orbit caused by the gravitational drag they exert.

Pics from ESO PR site here.


Strange properties of glass explained

Although glass is a hard, seeemingly solid substance, we’ve known for a while that the atoms are actually able to move but jammed, like cars in gridlock.

Because atoms are too small to see directly, scientists have approached the problem of exploring the structure of glass by using a substance (called a colloidal gel) that behaves and look like glass at a molecular level but forms structures large enough to see. What they’ve found is that the icosahedral shapes formed by the atoms in glass as it cools prevent the atoms from crystallising into a regular lattice.

As , the Univeristy of Bristol’s Paddy Royall explains:

“An icosahedron is like a 3-D pentagon, and just as you cannot tile a floor with pentagons, you cannot fill 3-D space with icosahedrons… Without a regular structure, the atoms are caught between the solid and liquid phases.”

In future, this understanding could be applied to the manufacturing of materials that are light, strong and flexible materials that don’t experience stresses like most metals.


Eco-disco

A night club in London is now generating 60% of its energy requirements from the dancing of its patrons!

Under the dancefloor is a an array of piezoelectric elements that produce electric current when they are squashed by the dancers’ movements.

And it’s not the first. Another club in Rotterdam has been going for some time now using the same technology. Clever, isn’t it? I’d love to see more of this. Imagine generating electricity in public spaces like train station concourses or shopping centres, schools, libraries, museums just from the footsteps of the people walking through.

From Inhabit.com via Engadget


It’s certainly Large!

CERN‘s Large Hadron Collidor – pictured here – will begin in May to smash protons together in an effort to find out what gives matter its mass.

cms_higgs-event.jpg

The leading theory explaining the origin of mass revolves around a mechanism whereby the presence of virtual particles called Higgs bosons generate a field through which matter moves, acquiring mass as a kind of ‘drag’.

The aim of the LHC is to reveal direct evidence of the Higgs bosons, thereby improving our understanding of the mechanism of mass creation.

And they need an apparatus the size of a large building to do it!


Out for a while – back now, and swinging!

Back again after a week at a school camp. No web access is a real killer. I wonder when it will be regarded in the same way as running water and electricity?

The biggest consumer tech news last week was the complete and utter capitulation of HD-DVD’s main manufacturing backer, Toshiba, in what had been touted as the HD Format War.

Following declarations by the major movie studios that they planned to exclusively embrace HD-DVD’s competitor, Blu-ray, Toshiba decided not to throw any more good money after bad abandoning HD-DVD and leaving a single format for physical HD media. And until broadband web access in homes is fast enough to support a market in downloadable HD content Blu-ray is unlikely to feel much pressure from competition in the near future. Here in Australia, I can see that taking a very long time…

In other news, a failing US satellite was successfully shot down by a sea-launched missile. Nice shooting. Glad to see all those billions of dollars are good for something. However, an alternative was suggested: catching satellites on re-entry in a ‘blanket’ that would allow for a more controlled destruction or even retrieval after the event.

Then there was talk of self-healing rubber; an attempt to sail a wave-powered boat from Hawaii to Japan; implantable, blood-powered communication devices and efforts to make fuel from algae. A big week indeed.