PICK AND MIX MODELS:

Paleontologists don't like to risk their precious fossils by handling them so in the past have made moulds to create replicas. The moulding process may introduce inaccuracies, and the moulds wear out after several uses. Enter 3D printing. First a CT or laser scanner captures the surface without touching it. Software creates a template than can be resized. Then models are reproduced on a 3D printer as often as needed. The ability to scale also means that parts from different skeletons can be mixed and matched to create a single individual model for study. That's a subtle but important shift in capabilities, that could enhance citizen science too.

details.

URBAN CUTIE: Urbee is a 2-seater 3-wheeler hybrid car from Canada. It's designed to use the power that solar panels on the roof of your garage collect. A single cyclinder 8 HP ethanol powered engine can extend its range or be used to charge the batteries. The body shell is created by additive 3D printing. While only 1 vehicle has been produced so far, the company hope to go into mass production in 2014. Very cute, but at only 1 metre high some of those suburban 4-wheel drive monsters may just roll right over it. BBC has more. Check out the video here.

Advertisement

GAME FOR LIFE: Proteins have a complex 3D structure, yet in a microscope appears flattened. If pharmacologists are to create drugs to interact with proteins, for example in AIDS research, they need a 3D picture. Yet while computers are great at many things they're not as good as humans at spatial reasoning and have failed at this kind of puzzle. Now gamers have produced an accurate model of one such structure in 3 weeks through a special science puzzle gaming site called Foldit. Competing teams played a fun-for-purpose video game that came up with the answer scientists needed. It's all fun and games until the health problem's cured. Sydney Morning Herald reports.

KEEP THAT DATA MOVING: Optic fibre cables carry data at high speed on the Internet, but the routers that data must pass through are slow. Photonic chips would speed them up though, and Australian researchers have made tiny nanowires that should help. The nanowires are 1000 times thinner than a human hair, in a special type of glass known as chalcogenide. The glass changes optical density according to the applied light intensity and that changes the way light moves along the wire. Let's keep that data speeding along folks. Swinburne University has the details.

WEIGHTLESS CABLES: Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated that carbon-nanotube cables can carry as much current as copper wires. The nano cables are strong but flexible and carry about 100,000 amps of current per square cm. Yet they weigh far less than copper wires, so could help save fuel in vehicles. The wires don't corrode and they don't lose energy to heat, so they could work well for computers too. Surely cables don't add that much weight to a vehicle? Would the difference even be measurable? Technology Review explains.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz