Soldiers and spies of the future could be given "Spider-Man" suits to climb up sheer surfaces and even stick to the ceiling, according to BAE Systems.

The British engineering firm has developed a material that closely mimics the feet of a gecko lizard. The gecko's foot is covered with hairs so small that they merge with molecules of things that they touch. This incredibly strong bond can also be easily peeled off.

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BAE Systems believes its "Synthetic Gecko" material is the closest yet to the natural version and would also be cheap to produce. A square metre is capable of holding an average family car off the ground.

The firm admitted it was "still a long way off achieving the performance of a gecko - for example sticking to dirty, wet or rough surfaces is a major issue, along with durability". However, Dr Jeff Sargent, a research physicist at BAE Systems, said: "We have demonstrated we can do multiple attachments with this material - you can stick it down once and stick it down again. Having a Spider-Man glove is a long way down the road, but in principle, you might have something like that."

In addition to the climbing suits, the firm said it would be possible to use the material to make climbing and crawler robots for inspecting and repairing planes and structures.

Via Scotsman.
See also: bearded dragon lizard at London Zoo gets a new playmate yesterday in the form of a robotic reptile.
Related: Geckos' self-cleaning feet inspire new adhesive, Gecko-like robot with sticky feet.

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The Meat of Tomorrow, by James King, explores the implications of an impending technology that will soon allow edible meat to be grown in vitro from a small sample of animal tissue, rendering the inefficiencies, cruelties, traditions, and livelihoods of livestock farming unnecessary.

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Today - tomorrow?

Imagining a world where traditional livestock farming has disappeared, King's design proposals explore how our relationship to farm animals would change and how we would choose to give shape to this new sort of food. "What will be different about this meat? What size will it be? Family size? If so, large family or small one? What shape will it be? Will we buy it in circles, cylinders, cubes, squares? Perhaps shapes more suitable for cooking will be devised. Surely lamb shop with its awkward form which is difficult enough to eat, let alone grow in vitro, would cease to exist. Whatever the answers to these questions, the whole process from production to consumption will become abstract and arbitrary, no longer bound to the size and shape of any animal.

But will there be anything to remind us what shape this stuff is or at least what it used to be?"

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King imagined a near future where mobile animal MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging] unit scours the countryside looking for the most beautiful examples of cows, pigs, chickens and other livestock. Once located, the creature is scanned from head to toe, creating accurate cross-sectional images of its inner organs.

The most interesting and aesthetically pleasing examples of anatomy are used as templates to create moulds for the in-vitro meat (we wouldn't choose to eat the same old boring parts that we eat today). The result is a satisfyingly complicated and authentic form of food.

Another of his design proposal were pieces of chicken. They would have no taste nor smell but be highly nutritive and would have to be enjoyed in proximity of the living chicken itself and a device that recreates the smells of the farm.

Cow Gone Abstract – a clever introductory animation (after Roy Lichtenstein).

Researchers at the University of Padua in Italy have developed "neuro-chips" in which living brain cells and silicon circuits are coupled together.

The scientists squeezed more than 16,000 electronic transistors and hundreds of capacitors onto a silicon chip just 1 millimeter square in size. They used proteins found in the brain to glue neurons onto the chip. The proteins acted as more than just a simple adhesive.

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The proteins allowed the neuro-chip's electronic components and its living cells to communicate with each other. Electrical signals from neurons were recorded using the chip's transistors, while the chip's capacitors were used to stimulate the neurons.

It could still be decades before the technology is advanced enough to treat neurological disorders or create living computers, but in the nearer term, the chips could provide an advanced method of screening drugs for the pharmaceutical industry.

"Pharmaceutical companies could use the chip to test the effect of drugs on neurons, to quickly discover promising avenues of research," explained Stefano Vassanelli.

The researchers are now working on ways to avoid damaging the neurons during stimulation. The team is also exploring the possibility of using a neuron's genetic instructions to control the neuro-chip.

Thanks Beverly!

Via LiveScience, IST. Image.

A laser-like beam of light shone at a unique solid makes the material appear to disappear, according to a new study.

The effect occurs at infrared light wavelengths, so it can't be seen with the human eye. "[But] if it worked in the visible light with molecules that make up your hand, when the laser hit your hand, your hand would go transparent," says Chris Phillips, from Imperial College London.

"And then if you turned the laser up a little more, the scene you'd see through your hand would become brighter," as the effect amplifies light in the beam, he says.

The method could one day work in visible light and lead to new technologies that help see through rubble to search for victims at a disaster site or observe internal body parts obscured by bone.

"Seeing through walls and bodies is exciting and possible but a long way off," said the researcher. "We have proved the principle. For wider applications we'd need a rather cleverer laser than the one we've got at the moment. But this is a technological barrier, rather than a fundamental one."

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In the meantime, we'll keep on marvelling at the invisible coat. Susumu Tachi's next project will be to develop the technology to allow people to see through walls. "My short-term goal would be, for example, to make a room that has no outside windows appear to have a view to the outside, then the wall would appear to be invisible."

Check also Cambridge Consultants's new type of radar technology that can "see through walls" and "Radar Scope," a handheld device that, when held up to a wall, allow users to detect movements as small as breathing.

Via ABC and BBC News. Press release.

Related: Light-transmitting concrete, Transparent Hotel Room project.

There are fish that glow in polluted water, fluorescent pigs (and rabbit?)... now students at Singapore Polytechnic have created a plant that can communicate with people by glowing when it needs water.

The students have genetically modified a plant using a green fluorescent marker gene from jellyfish, so that it "lights up" when it is stressed as a result of dehydration.

The light can be seen using an optical sensor developed in collaboration with students at Nanyang Technological University.

The development of such plants could help farmers to develop more efficient irrigation of crops.

Via Eyebeam reBlog.

Computer scientists in Microsoft have developed a color-coded "dance pad" with buttons you can tap with your feet -- or jump on -- to scroll through electronic files.

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StepMail is only one of more than 150 concepts that will be featured at Microsoft two-day TechFest beginning Wednesday.

"Now we're looking at broadening, thinking about accelerometers or other things you could strap onto your feet so you really could be just sitting at your desk and kicking your e-mail away under the desk," said A.J. Brush.

PDF paper.
Via CNN.

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