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Robotic joints could make future space suits more comfortable

Texas A&M engineers led by Ana Diaz Artiles are developing soft robotic technology that could make future "SmartSuit" space suits for planetary exploration more safe, comfortable, and energy efficient for astronauts.If humans are ever going to be more than tourists in space limited to gawking out the windows, space suits need to move into the 21st century. Today, astronauts have a choice of two kinds of space suit. One is a group of glorified flight suits that are designed to protect crews from accidental…

Exercise found to promote new blood vessel growth in diabetic mice

One of the harmful effects of diabetes is the way it impacts on the blood vessels, not only narrowing them to drive up the risk of stroke and heart attacks but preventing the formation of entirely new ones. Researchers have produced what they say is the first evidence that exercise can counter this consequence of the disease, and point to drugs already under development that could mimic these effects for sufferers of the disease.Exercise is a well-established way to manage diabetes, but there is still a lot for us to…

Ultra-thin speakers roll out like wallpaper for sound-blasting surfaces

Engineers at MIT have developed an ultra-thin speaker that could be used to make entire surfaces produce sound. The unique design should be energy efficient and easy to produce at scale, the team says.In a basic sense, speakers work by vibrating a membrane, which manipulates the air above it to produce sound waves. In speakers commonly found in audio systems or headphones, that’s done using electrical currents and magnetic fields.But in recent years scientists have developed ways to achieve similar results in much slimmer…

Microplastics found to spread deadly land-based pathogens far out to sea

The way plastic moves through the environment and endangers living organisms is of great concern to scientists, and a first-of-a-kind study has unearthed disconcerting new information on both these fronts. The authors have demonstrated that the type of plastic particles shed through laundry cycles and use of cosmetic products can carry pathogens far out to sea and endanger marine life, reshaping natural food webs as a result.The study was carried out by scientists at University of California, Davis and focuses on what are…

All five of life’s base units have now been found in meteorites

How life on Earth first arose is one of the most profound mysteries of science, and evidence is mounting that the key building blocks may have been delivered to our home planet from space. A new study makes that scenario seem even more likely, as scientists have now identified in meteorites the last two DNA nucleobases that hadn’t yet been found in extraterrestrial samples.DNA and RNA are made up of five organic molecules called nucleobases – adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine and uracil. That’s the ACGT letter code used…

New bean treatment shown to produce fruitier, flowerier dark chocolate

While many people might say that chocolate couldn't possibly be improved, such may not be the case. According to a recent study, a new cocoa bean treatment results in "fruitier, more flowery-tasting" dark chocolate.Ordinarily, once cocoa beans have been harvested for use in chocolate, they're covered in banana leaves and then left to ferment for several days.As they ferment, naturally occurring microbes break down the pulp surrounding the beans, heating and acidifying them in the process. This triggers biochemical changes…

Used face masks could find new life in stronger concrete

Over the past couple of years, disposable face masks have become a very plentiful form of garbage. There may actually be a use for them, however, as recent research shows that they could strengthen concrete when added to it.Previous studies have indicated that concrete is less prone to crack when tiny reinforcing fibers are mixed into it before it's poured. With that fact in mind, scientists at Washington State University wondered if the polypropylene or polyester fabric in discarded face masks could be a source of those…

Fast-acting enzyme breaks down plastics in as little as 24 hours

The idea of deploying enzymes to break down plastic waste is gaining momentum through a string of breakthroughs demonstrating how they can do so with increasing efficiency, and even reduce the material to simple molecules. A new study marks yet another step forward, with scientists leveraging machine learning to engineer an enzyme that degrades some forms of plastic in just 24 hours, with a stability that makes it well-suited to large-scale adoption.Scientists have been exploring the potential of enzymes to aid in…

NASA laser backpack promises GPS-free Moon mapping and navigation

NASA and partners are developing backpack-sized technology for future Moon explorers that will allow them to map and navigate the lunar surface in the darkness of the high polar regions to within a centimeter without GPS.Precision navigation is something that Earth dwellers have come to take for granted over the last 30 odd years. Satellite systems like GPS and digital mapping technologies have made us assume that we can always find accurate maps and fix our position to within a few feet at the touch of a screen.On the…