Home-made helicopters hit northern Nigeria

KANO (AFP) - Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi, a 24-year-old physics undergraduate in northern Nigeria, takes old cars and motorbikes to pieces in the back yard at home and builds his own helicopters from the parts.

"It took me eight months to build this one," he said, sweat pouring from his forehead as he filled the radiator of the banana yellow four-seater which he now parks in the grounds of his university.

The chopper, which has flown briefly on six occasions, is made from scrap aluminium that Abdullahi bought with the money he makes from computer and mobile phone repairs, and a donation from his father, who teaches at Kano's Bayero university.

Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi, seen here, a 24-year-old physics undergraduate in northern Nigeria, takes old cars and motorbikes to pieces in the back yard at home and builds his own helicopters from the parts(AFP/File/Pius Utomi)

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The Future of Electronic Paper

Thirty-five years in the making, electronic paper is now closer than
ever to changing the way we read, write, and study — a revolution
so profound that some see it as second only to the invention of the
printing press in the 15th century. Made of flexible material,
requiring ultra-low power consumption, cheap to manufacture,
and—most important—easy and convenient to read, e-papers of
the future are just around the corner, with the promise to hold
libraries on a chip and replace most printed newspapers before the end
of the next decade. This article will cover the history, technology,
and future of what will be the second paper revolution.
A piece of history: one of the first Gyricon material to be made, about 2 centimeters on a side from the 1974 era. The image was produced by placing an Seiko e-watch (Credit: Seiko)Polymer Vision Radius prototype (Credit: Polymer Vision)Fujitsu prototype color e-book reader (left) and Irex Iliad (right)

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I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer

Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to
decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out
of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the
first new artificial life form on Earth.

The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as
early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in
San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the
development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate
about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to
new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.

Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be "a very
important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are
going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That
gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated


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U-M research: New plastic is strong as steel, transparent

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—By mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular
structure found in seashells, University of Michigan researchers
created a composite plastic that's as strong as steel but lighter and

It's made of layers of clay nanosheets and a water-soluble polymer that shares chemistry with white glue.

Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov almost dubbed it "plastic steel,"
but the new material isn't quite stretchy enough to earn that name.
Nevertheless, he says its further development could lead to lighter,
stronger armor for soldiers or police and their vehicles. It could also
be used in microelectromechanical devices, microfluidics, biomedical
sensors and valves and unmanned aircraft.

Kotov and other U-M faculty members are authors of a paper on this
composite material, "Ultrastrong and Stiff Layered Polymer
Nanocomposites," published in the Oct. 5 edition of Science.

scientists solved a problem that has confounded engineers and
scientists for decades: Individual nano-size building blocks such as
nanotubes, nanosheets and nanorods are ultrastrong. But larger
materials made out of bonded nano-size building blocks were
comparatively weak. Until now.


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A Toothy New Duck-Billed Dinosaur from Southern Utah

The newest dinosaur species to emerge from Grand Staircase-Escalante
National Monument had some serious bite, according to researchers from
the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah. “It
was one of the most robust duck-billed dinosaurs ever,” said
museum paleontologist Terry Gates, who is also with the U.’s
Department of Geology and Geophysics. “It was a monster.”


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LG.Philips bends reality, if e-paper is your reality

E-paper displays are already thin. Now they're getting flexible, thanks to a breakthrough announced by LG.Philips.

The first color "e-paper" display measures 14.1 inches wide and 0.3 millimeters thick. Replacing the usual inflexible glass substrate is a combination of foil, which holds thin-film transistors, and plastic, which holds the color filter. Electronic ink from (who else?) E Ink Corp. generates up to 4096 colors. Like paper, this e-paper doesn't just flex — it also bounces back, and maintains 180° readability even when bent.

Of course, foil and plastic can both melt, so part of the breakthrough came in proprietary video-processing technology that prevents the panel from frying its circuits and deforming. LG.Philips had previously shown the world's first flexible black & white e-paper display in May 2006.


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Water forms floating 'bridge' when exposed to high voltage

When water in two beakers is exposed to a high voltage a floating water bridge forms between the beakers. Credit: Elmar Fuchs et al.

While it's one of the most important and abundant chemical compounds on Earth, water is still a puzzle to scientists. Much research has been done to uncover the structure of water beyond the H2O scale, which is thought to be responsible for many of water’s unique properties. However, the nature of this structure, governed by hydrogen bonds, is currently unknown.

“Water undoubtedly is the most important chemical substance in the world,” explained Elmar Fuchs and colleagues from the Graz University of Technology in Austria in a recent study. “The interaction of water with electric fields has been intensely explored over the last years. We report another unusual effect of liquid water exposed to a dc electric field: the floating water bridge.”

Upon investigating the phenomenon, the scientistsfound that water was being transported from one beaker to another, usually from the anode beaker to the cathode beaker. The cylindrical water bridge, with a diameter of 1-3 mm, could remain intact when the beakers were pulled apart at a distance of up to 25 mm.

Why water would act this way was a surprise, Fuchs told PhysOrg.com. But the group’s analyses have shown that the explanation may lie within the nature of the water’s structure. Initially, the bridge forms due to electrostatic charges on the surface of the water. The electric field then concentrates inside the water, arranging the water molecules to form a highly ordered microstructure. This microstructure remains stable, keeping the bridge intact.


One giant leap for space fashion: MIT team designs sleek, skintight spacesuit

In the 40 years that humans have been traveling into space, the
suits they wear have changed very little. The bulky, gas-pressurized
outfits give astronauts a bubble of protection, but their significant
mass and the pressure itself severely limit mobility.

Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, wants to change that.

is working on a sleek, advanced suit designed to allow superior
mobility when humans eventually reach Mars or return to the moon. Her
spandex and nylon BioSuit is not your grandfather's spacesuit--think
more Spiderman, less John Glenn.

Traditional bulky spacesuits
"do not afford the mobility and locomotion capability that astronauts
need for partial gravity exploration missions. We really must design
for greater mobility and enhanced human and robotic capability," Newman

Newman, her colleague Jeff Hoffman, her students and a
local design firm, Trotti and Associates, have been working on the
project for about seven years. Their prototypes are not yet ready for
space travel, but demonstrate what they're trying to achieve--a
lightweight, skintight suit that will allow astronauts to become truly
mobile lunar and Mars explorers.

Newman in Biosuit on "Reclining Figure"


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Did Sesame Street Have It Right?

It's not just about phonics: A new study shows music instruction may improve language-processing skills by altering the brain stem
By Nikhil Swaminathan

Research has been piling up over the past decade that shows training can boost everything from pitch perception to visual and motor skills.

And now a new study says it may also improve language-processing abilities—a finding that lends support to the effectiveness of teaching letters and words to kids through songs, as TV programs like Sesame Street have done for years.

Researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that music triggers changes in the brain stem—as well as in the cortex or outer brain layers as previously reported. Senior study author Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology and physiology at Northwestern University, says this means music training may not only improve a person's ability to decipher different tones but also enhances reading and speech functions, because the brain stem is a pathway for both music and language. If that is the case, music instruction may be used as a tool to help children with speech difficulties and learning deficits.