Tech with a Mind of Its Own

Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to technology, and every day, incredible technological advances are unveiled. New technology has provided us with amazing solutions for a multitude of issues that range from the mundane to life-or-death. While technology often works in tandem with humans, recent innovations are proving that technology has the ability to think and work by itself. In short, humans may soon be out of the picture! From cars that drive themselves, to software that fixes itself, let’s take a look at some recent technologies that have the potential to make humans optional for operation.

Software Self-Repair

Scientists at the University of Utah have developed software that is able to detect and eradicate viruses and malware, as well as automatically repair any damage caused by the malware. The software, called A3, currently works with a virtual computer that imitates the operations of a computer, without actual hardware. A3 can detect new, unknown viruses or malware automatically by sensing when computer operations are incorrect. A3 then stops the virus, determines a code to fix the damage, and learns to prevent the bug from occurring again. Read more here.

Self-Park Electric Cars

Your car is already equipped with many various technologies that are designed to keep you safe when you’re on the road. In the future, your car may do more than notify you when your tire pressure is low or you need to refill your gas–your car might be able to drive and park itself. Researchers at E-Mobile are currently designing electric-powered vehicles that will be able to drive and park independently. The cars will also be able to locate a charging station, and they’ll do it without any human help. Read more here.

Degenerative Bone Disease Detection Gets a Helping Hand

Radiographer shortages in the workforce are further strained by the great deal of time that radiographers must spend outlining bones in x-rays, when that time could be better used to take care of patients. Developers of a new software that is able to automatically outline bones hope that their program will save thousands of hours of manual work for researchers and doctors. Developers of the software believe that automation of the process will enable medical professionals to focus more on drawing proper conclusions and developing treatments for degenerative bone diseases, such as arthritis. Read more here.

Self-Assembly Lab at MIT

Scientists working in the Self-Assembly Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are currently collaborating on creating materials that could one day build themselves. They have already successfully developed wood planks that fold into toy elephants when exposed to moisture, but the future is even more exciting. Researchers are already looking into materials that respond to weather changes, or furniture that assembles itself with a splash of water. Read more here.

Alright STEM lovers, what kind of technology is blowing your mind? Comment below.

Month in STEM: October 2014

October is heading to close, and we’ve got you covered with the latest in STEM news for the month. We’re keeping things a little creepy to celebrate Halloween. From ghostly stars to creepy critters that help solve crimes, here are some of our top picks.

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

A new report recently came to light about the rapid evolution of a lizard species native to Florida in response to pressure from an invading Cuban species. Scientists have observed and documented this lizard species evolve in the relatively short span of 15 years and 20 generations.

After initial contact with the invasive species, native lizards, called Carolina anoles, began perching higher in trees. From one generation to another, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found in the higher parts of the trees. Now, their toe pads are larger and there are more sticky scales on their feet.

Researchers believe that the changes are a response to competition for food and living space. It’s also noted that both lizard species have been documented to eat the hatchlings of the other species. Thus, the ability to scale trees at a quicker pace may be the difference between getting to safety and becoming a meal. Read more here.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

New science suggests that if you’re a leatherback sea turtle, staying on the plump size may make it easier to get around the ocean. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have found that long and lean sea turtles are not as efficient swimmers as the ones that are more robust in size. To come to these conclusions, scientists measured the forces that act on a swimming animal and the energy that is expended by the animal to move through the water. After using their measurements and recreating an environment with virtual sea turtles and experimenting with different parameters, they found that rounder sea turtles are able to cover more ground while using up the same amount of energy as their skinnier counterparts. Read more here.

Forensics

We’re getting into the spirit of Halloween with this creepy video. Dead or alive, a body plays host to all sorts of organisms. There are innumerable types of flora that are naturally found on a person’s skin, as well as inside stomachs, noses, mouths and other body parts. But when a dead body begins to decompose, it also becomes a breeding ground for certain types of bugs that act as decomposers to return the body’s nutrients back to the earth. Knowledge of the life cycles of these bugs can help forensic scientists during crime scene investigation. Watch more here.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

Miniature human stomachs can now be grown in Petri dishes. By bathing stem cells in a concoction of chemicals that boost growth, scientists have managed to create clumps of gastric tissue the size of a pin head. Like normal human stomachs, the lab-grown stomach globs contain cells that are able to make mucus and pump hormones. Scientists are hoping to use the tissue to further study gastric diseases, such as stomach cancer. Read more here.

Robotics IconSpace

NASA’s Hubble Telescope has picked up the faint glow of stars that were ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally wrenched apart several billion years ago. The “ghost lights” from the dead galaxies are no longer bound to any one galaxy. Instead, the stars drift freely between the nearly 500 galaxies in the cluster known as “Pandora’s Cluster”. By observing the light from the stray stars, scientists have gathered enough evidence to believe that as many as six galaxies were torn apart over the course of 6 billion years. Read more here.

Video Games IconTechnology

A team of scientists and engineers at the University of California recently created a new nanoparticle-based material that has the capacity to convert absorb and convert to heat more than 90% of the sunlight that it captures. It is also able to withstand temperatures of more than 700 degrees Celsius, and has the ability to withstand many years of outdoor exposure to air and humidity. In comparison, current solar absorbers have significantly shorter life spans, and are unable to function at higher temperatures. The type of energy that the material is harvesting is called concentrated solar power (CSP). The sun is still an emerging source of power, but it has a great deal of potential within the alternative energy market. CSP currently produces approximately 3.5 gigawatts worth of power at power plants around the globe, or the equivalent to the energy needed to power more than 2 million homes. Read more here.

Okay STEM lovers, what stories did you enjoy? What stories did we miss this month? We want to hear your thoughts!

STEM Works Remembers 9/11

It’s impossible to go throughout this day, September 11th, without acknowledging the extent of the impact that the terrorist attacks had on America and its citizens. In the wake of the 13th anniversary of the attacks, those of us at STEM Works wanted to show how STEM has been utilized throughout the aftermath processes of identifying victims, surveying the  damage and rebuilding Ground Zero.

Identifying Victims with Forensics 

After the initial attacks, at least 1,115 out of at least 2,753 victims remained unidentifiable, even after scientists analyzed DNA samples provided by the families of those with missing loved ones who never came home or were never identified. Despite painstaking work over the years from scientists in New York to match bone fragments to an actual identity, restraints in technology left many victims unidentified. However, recent technological advances in DNA testing and forensic identification have given both scientists and families a renewed sense of hope as these DNA tests yield results that would have been impossible 10 years ago. Scientists previously faced the challenge of identifying victims using bone slivers that contained DNA that had been damaged by fire, sunlight, bacteria, or jet fuel. Using the new technology, scientists are able to go back to the same bone fragment and attempt to extract the damaged DNA for testing. Read more here.

Engineering a Better World Trade Center

Considered a testament to the perseverance of the American spirit, the five-year re-construction projects of the new World Trade Center and National September 11 Memorial and Museum are shown in this behind-the-scenes documentary, made by PBS, in cooperation with NOVA, to demonstrate the many various challenges and high expectations that engineers and architects faced to build a stronger, taller, and safer World Trade Center. Watch Engineering Ground Zero

Engineers played a huge role in both clean up and re-building. PBS has also created a number of valuable resources to teach the public about how engineers assisted with rescuing victims, surveying the damage, and preventing unstable structures from falling and potentially injuring more people. Check out these resources here at Engineering the Clean-Up.

Other 9/11 Lesson Plan Resources

  • The National September 11 Memorial & Museum partnered up with New York City’s Department of Education and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education to develop a different sets of K-12 lesson plans to teach about 9/11. Find them here.
  • Scholastic has created and collected a number of resources to teach 9/11 to the younger kids. Find these resources here.
  • Pearson has created guides and online modules for both elementary and middle school students, parents and teachers. Find them here.
  • McGraw Hill offers a number of activities and lesson plans to teach students about 9/11. Find them here.

Tell us, STEM lovers, how are you choosing to remember 9/11? Comment below.