Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot.

The basic idea behind this robot is straightforward. It’s a tube of soft material folded inside itself, like an inside-out sock, that grows in one direction when the material at the front of the tube everts, as the tube becomes right-side-out.

The growth of the tip is under remote control, allowing the robot to maneuver itself around obstacles.  A remote camera can be carried along by the tip as well, allowing for navigation, as well as observation of the local environment.

In other demonstrations, the robot lifted a 100-kilogram crate, grew under a door gap that was 10 percent of its diameter and spiraled on itself to form a free-standing structure that then sent out a radio signal. The robot also maneuvered through the space above a dropped ceiling, which showed how it was able to navigate unknown obstacles as a robot like this might have to do in walls, under roads or inside pipes. Further, it pulled a cable through its body while growing above the dropped ceiling, offering a new method for routing wires in tight spaces.

Read more at Stanford News.

Posted in Automation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


World’s first cable-free elevator travels horizontally and vertically, driven by maglev technology.  Link here.


Posted in Engineering, Innovation | Leave a comment

Boston Leads the List of Top 25 U.S. Cities for NIH Funding


Not surprisingly, the biotech hubs cluster at the top.  Boston leads at $1.9B, New York $1.4B, Seattle, Philadelphia and Baltimore all coming in around $900M each.

Somewhat surprising is how high Boston ranks relative to San Francisco ($680M). Consolidating San Francisco, Stanford, and Berkeley vs. Boston and Cambridge (U.S.) doesn’t change the ranking much.

Boston does have the highest concentration of research universities and hospitals in the country.  By itself, the five-block square Longwood medical area (Harvard Med, Harvard Public Health, Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, Beth Israel Deaconess, Dana Farber, etc.) totals over $1 billion, which would make it the third highest “city” on the list.

Data source:  U.S.  National Institutes of Health, FY 2016 funding.

Posted in Biotech, Healthcare, Research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Single Autonomous Car Has a Huge Impact on Alleviating Traffic


Just one autonomous car out of 20 vehicles can significantly alleviate traffic congestion, according to research from the University of Illinois.  The culprit behind many traffic jams is the variability in speed of human drivers — waves of excessive braking and acceleration that can cause long backups.  By avoiding jackrabbit starts and sudden stops, a more even driving pace inserted in the traffic flow by an autonomous car dramatically reduces variability-induced congestion.  What’s more, according to the research team fuel consumption is reduced by up to 40 percent when averaged across all the cars in the traffic flow.

Fortunately, it may not take very long to gain these advantages — more uniform driving can be accomplished with relatively simple control systems (think intelligent cruise control augmented by automated braking).  A completely autonomous vehicle is not required.

Posted in Automation | Leave a comment


Handpainted scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy, with a link to a cool documentary on 1980’s special effects from Industrial Light and Magic.

Interesting recent gallery exhibit and some interviews with Tara Donovan.  See also this, and for a comprehensive look at her work, just Google “Tara Donovan” and look at the images.  Amazing stuff.

Posted in Art & Design | Leave a comment


Why Do Gas Station Prices Constantly Change? Blame the Algorithm.  Retailers are using artificial-intelligence software to set optimal prices on thousands of items a day, sometimes as often as every hour.

Watch This Robot 3D Print a Building Out of Spray Foam.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time Lapse Engine Rebuild of a Ford Flathead V8

Courtesy of the folks at Hagerty.

Posted in Engineering | Tagged | Leave a comment

Vantablack, the Darkest Substance Ever Made


This is not photoshopped…

The photo above shows two identical sculptures, one of which is painted with Vantablack, a carbon-fiber coating from surrey nanosystems. It is the darkest substance known to man, absorbing more than 99.96% of incident light; so dark that details disappear and laser light is not reflected.  The original version could only by applied by vapor disposition, but it can now also be sprayed onto a surface.  Find out more about its amazing properties at “A Visual Guide to Vantablack” and at Surrey Nanosystems.

Posted in Innovation, Science | Leave a comment

States with the most NIH funding

Updated for fiscal year 2016:


California dominates in overall funding (above), but Massachusetts, DC, and Maryland stand out in NIH funding per capita (next chart).



Below, you can see more clearly how Massachusetts has the highest per capita and second highest overall level of NIH funding.  Not surprisingly, most of the U.S. biotech clusters are located in the outlier states along the top and right edges of this chart:


Posted in Research | Leave a comment

What’s Stored in DNA? An Old French Movie and a $50 Amazon Gift Card

So many people are now tapping into the internet and social media that the torrent of data they’re creating is outstripping the storage capacity of traditional devices such as hard drives, optical discs, and magnetic tape.

New research advances hope that the same genetic chemistry found in the building blocks of life may provide enough storage to handle the explosive growth of digital data; the entire internet in a single beaker.

The technology to encode digital information in DNA has progressed to the point where as much as 215 petabytes of data can be stored in a single gram of the material.  In fact, text, images, music videos, even an Amazon gift card bar code have all been encoded in DNA.

Last April, film industry giant Technicolor made DNA copies of a 1902 French silent film called “Voyage to The Moon,” widely considered the first science-fiction film.

DNA is also extremely stable — for example fragments of wooly mammoth DNA have been recovered from animals encased in permafrost.  Under dry storage conditions pure DNA should be even more long-lived.  Good luck reading a 10,000 year old DVD.

All told, the DNA process cost about $3,500 per megabyte of storage, comparable to the cost of the first computer magnetic disk drive introduced by the IBM Corp in 1956—a memory device so big it had it to be carried on a forklift. It could store 3.5 megabytes of data and leased for $3,200 a month.

The technology is still expensive and slow, but more improvements are on the way.  As an long-term archival material, it may be the storage medium of the future.

Read the news article at the Wall Street Journal, and the original scientific article in Science:  DNA Fountain enables a robust and efficient storage architecture.  More commentary is also here: DNA Could Store All the Worlds Data in One Room.


Posted in Biotech, Innovation, Science | Leave a comment