nano scale

Deadly spider's unique spinning technique could inspire tougher materials

Brown recluse spiders use a unique micro looping technique to make their threads stronger than that of any other spider, a newly published UK-US collaboration has discovered.

One of the most feared and venomous arachnids in the world, the American brown recluse spider has long been known for its signature necro-toxic venom, as well as its unusual silk. Now, new research offers an explanation for how the spider is able to make its silk uncommonly strong.

Researchers suggest that if applied to synthetic materials, the technique could inspire scientific developments and improve impact absorbing structures used in space travel.

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Author’s Note: Guess who just finally watched Big Hero 6?

“Can you believe that?” Tony scoffed, tossing the tablet down on the table. He almost wished it was analog, just so it would make a more satisfying noise. Pepper looked up from her own news feed, coffee steaming in front of her nose and eyebrows raised in a fashion that said ‘So help me God, Tony, it’s 7AM.‘

“Robert Gallaghan. Guy who taught me everything about the principles of robotics. He’s practically Dummy’s grandfather. And he turns supervillain. Can I pick ‘em or what?”

“What does that say about me?” Pepper asked, sipping her coffee and flicking her eyes back down.

“Well, you already have control of my company. Only a matter of time before you sweep all my money out from under me and leave me a homeless beggar under the Brooklyn Bridge.”

“I see you’ve uncovered my dastardly plan,” she said with a smirk. “Guess I’ll have to move up my time table.”

Tony sucked on his teeth, ticking with disgust as he looked back down at the article. “What a waste. He was one of the best professors I ever had, and when they gave him the department at SFIT…I was heartbroken he was leaving MIT, but I couldn’t blame him. Not with the budget they were offering. The selectivity. The pure, undiluted genius.”

Pepper set aside her tablet and considered Tony, inhaling the scent of her coffee and weighing her words. “What kind of program was it?”

“Stuff dreams are made of. The best and the brightest upcoming minds in robotics and engineering. Chemical. Computer. Electrical. People who had big dreams and weren’t afraid to try for them. Not military sell-outs like little old Tony Stark.”

“Tony,” she said warningly, setting the cup aside.

He flashed her a self-deprecating smile and stood, calling up the news article on one of the windows. She studied the flash and bang, the veritable media circus and zeroed in on something Tony hadn’t mentioned. “Is that…a teenager?”

“Huh? Yeah. One of Gallaghan’s prodigies. Helped put him down apparently.”

“And did you not notice the giant red flying robot behind him?”

Tony glanced at the screen and then back at Pepper, his mouth pursed and prim. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”


“Seriously, Pep. What is this robot of which you speak.”


He grinned then, devilish, eyes twinkling with the same excitement he showed whenever he had a eureka moment. “Relax, Pep. I’m not planning anything. Much.”

“Oh my god.”

“I don’t know how they’re gonna fund the department. It was all tied to Gallaghan’s name. What if we lose our scholarships? What if they shut down the lab? What if I have to go to UCLA?”

“You act like that’s the worst thing in the world. Woman up, Wasabi.”

“Where am I gonna sleep if they shut this lab down? Whose mascot am I gonna be?”

“Well, you can sleep in your giant mansion. And even if they shut us down, you’re always gonna be our mascot.”

“But guys…”

“Relax. Even if they shut us down, I’ll think of something.”

“Who said anything about being shut down?”

Hiro turned toward the door, ready to defend this place to the death, and felt his jaw drop. “You…you’re…you’re Tony Stark.”

“Yes, I am,” Tony said with a grin, tipping his sunglasses back until they perched in his hair. “And as of this moment, you are all on the Stark Stellar Stupendous Superheroes Scholarship.”

“The Stark Stellar…are you serious?”

“No, are you kidding? Pep would never let me name it that. It’s actually the Stark Engineering Scholarship for Promising Young Minds. Start earning your feed, minions, and show me what you’ve been working on.”

“Mr. Stark. I’m a huge fan. Let me show you my laser arrays. I’ve seen the one you use on your Iron Man prosthesis and I have a few suggestions…”

“No, Mr. Stark. Let me just get out my instantaneously solidifying gelatinous cement solution. I was thinking if you packed it in an arrowhead, Hawkeye could…”

“Mr. Stark. I am your hugest fan. Hugest. You have no idea. I…I have action figures of you.”

Tony looked at them all, feeling both benevolent and bemused, and then trained his eyes on the young Asian woman with the scowl. “You’re not going to offer up your latest creation?”

“I have my dignity,” she replied, turning away and heading back toward her workstation. “But if you’re at all interested in frictionless forms of transportation, feel free to take a peek.”

“Huh,” Tony said, and turned back. The others were dispersing now, apparently having realized that they might have just embarrassed themselves. But the teenager, Hiro, remained.

Tony had done his research on all of these kids, right down to their favorite restaurants and Starbucks orders. He couldn’t help but feel a little kindred spirit with the boy genius alone in the world at such a young age. And hey. Anyone who painted their first robot hot-rod red couldn’t be all bad.

“We really still have a place here?” he asked cautiously, eyes passing quickly over all his cohorts.

“You really do,” Tony replied, offering his hand. After a moment and a suspicious once-over, Hiro shook it and smiled hesitantly. “So. I hear you’ve been developing microbots. Have you thought about going even smaller? Nano-scale?”

“Would you…would you like to see, Mr. Stark?”

Tony grinned, a genuine thing that crinkled up the corners of his eyes. “Yeah, kid. I’d like that.”

48 --- Connectivity

There is something more fundamental than mathematics which underpins every subject, from the social sciences to the sciences.
It can identify the difference between good and bad. It can describe social interactions, physics, mathematics… pretty much everything.
It sounds too good to be true.
Something so simple, that it is found everywhere. Yet not formally identified.

I call it ‘Connectivity’ and it is definitely true.
The axiom or premise which is fundamental to Connectivity is that everything is made up of one or more connections through a number of dimensions.

Connections are found in everything. At nano scales, atoms and molecules connect things together, at larger scales planets are connected by gravity. In our day to day lives, connections are everywhere. Roads, the internet, mobile phones, powerlines. All these things are connections, they stick things together in order for the everything to function.

Connectivity can answer many questions in philosophy including:

  • What is good and bad?
  • What is experience?
  • What makes X different from Y?
  • What is X?

Connectivity is an identification theory. It can identify the difference between two things. Since it can quickly identify anything, it is more fundamental than mathematics. Some may argue that Connectivity is a part of Mathematics.

This is the first of a series of blog posts which will be describing the theory.

A ferrofluid is a fluid that becomes strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. Essentially, they’re nano-scale particles of magnetic iron suspended in an organic solvent. Put them near a magnet and things get really awesome really fast. (Source: Business Insider)

SpaceX's Dragon arrives at ISS with inflatable space habitat

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) today, carrying an experimental inflatable space habitat that might be crucial for future deep space explorations.

The spacecraft was successfully captured at 7:23 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (1123 GMT) by European astronaut Tim Peake, using the orbiting lab’s robotic arm, with help from US astronaut Jeff Williams.

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3D material folds, bends and shrinks on its own

Credit to Harvard SEAS/Johannes Overvelde

A Harvard University, USA, research team has created a self actuating flat pack metamaterial that can change size, shape and volume – able to withstand the weight of an elephant without breaking before reforming into a new shape for the next task.

Inspired by the origami technique snapology, the metamaterial is made of extruded cubes with 24 faces and 36 edges. Each cube within the metamaterial can be deformed into different shapes by folding certain edges. Pneumatic actuators were embedded into the demonstration unit, although Professor Katia Bertoldi, Associate Professor at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering, states that the material can be embedded with numerous actuators include dielectric, thermal and water.

Credit to Harvard SEAS/Johannes Overvelde

‘The opportunities to move all of the control systems onboard combined with new actuation systems already being developed for similar origami-like structures really opens up the design space for these easily deployable transformation structures,’ said Senior Research Scientist James Weaver.

The metamaterial is operable from the nano- to metre-scale, and Harvard believes it is suitable for a diverse range of application, including surgical stents, retractable roofs and disaster relief pop-up shelters.

Scientists record heat moving through materials at speed of sound

Providing unprecedented insight into roles played by individual atomic and nano-scale features, researchers have recorded the first-ever videos showing how heat moves through materials at the nano-scale traveling at the speed of sound.

The groundbreaking videos were made using a state-of-the-art ultrafast electron microscope called FEI Tecnai Femto, which is capable of examining the dynamics of materials at the atomic and molecular scale over time spans measured in femtoseconds (one millionth of a billionth of a second).

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