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Noise power on adhesion: New model may help robotic fingers, made of a soft surface, manipulate small objects

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Dec. 17, 2012 — Imagine a solid ball rolling down a slightly inclined ramp. What could be perceived as child's play is the focus of serious theoretical research by Manoj Chaudhury and Partho Goohpattader, two physicists from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.

Their study, which is about to be published in EPJ E, has one thing in common with childhood behaviour. It introduces a mischievous idea, namely studying the effect of random noise, such as vibrations, on the ball. They found it could lower the energy barrier to set the ball in motion.

The authors used a ramp with a micro‐textured surface. This surface is akin to that of a gecko's feet, made of so-called microfibrils capable of adhering to any...

X-ray laser takes aim at cosmic mystery

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An illustration of the Chandra spacecraft, an orbiting X-ray telescope. Experiments at the LCLS X-ray laser could help researchers better understand their X-ray observations from space. (Credit: NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory)

Dec. 12, 2012 — Scientists have used powerful X-rays from the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to study and measure, in atomic detail, a key process at work in...

Whirligig beetles inspire energy-efficient robots

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Light micrographs of the whirligig beetle. (A) Dorsal view of the beetle, demonstrating the overall shape. (B) Ventral view of the beetle showing the fore, middle and hind legs. (C&D) Micrographs of dissected middle right (C) and left (D) legs. (E&F) Micrographs of dissected hind right (E) and left (F) legs. Measurements of leg length (Lh and Lm) and area (Sh− and Sm−) were made from micrographs of dissected legs. The scale bars are 1 mm. (Credit: Zhonghua Xu...

River floods predicted using new technology

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TechAndComputer (Oct. 29, 2012) — Scientists are now using high-tech solutions to provide real-time forecast of the dangers of river floods caused by climate change and human activities to help avoid disasters.

Not all countries are equal in the face of floods. To provide support for the variety of scenarios encountered, the RAMWASS research project developed a tool for gauging and managing the dangers of floods in specific river zones. The system can also be used for preventing...

Data storage: Going with the grain

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TechAndComputer (Oct. 25, 2012) — Reducing information stored in magnetic thin films to the physical size of single grains could improve computer hard drives.

Despite the increasing competition from alternative technologies such as solid-state drives, magnetic disks remain an important data-storage technology. They are not only reliable and inexpensive, but their storage density has potential for even further improvement. One method under current investigation is storing each...