New nuclear fusion reactor design may be a breakthrough

Using permanent magnets may help to make nuclear fusion reactors simpler and more affordable.

Credit: C. Zhu/PPPL
  • Nuclear fusion is the process of fusing atomic nuclei, which can unleash vast amounts of energy.
  • Nuclear fusion reactors have existed for years, but none of them are able to sustainably produce energy.
  • A new paper describes how permanent magnets can be used on stellarators to control the flow of super-hot plasma.

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Ask Sophia the Robot: What can AI teach humans?

Through experiencing time in a nonlinear way, can artificial intelligence provide us more perspective?

  • Is Sophia the Robot, of Hanson Robotics, conscious? Not quite, she says. Instead, she reflects the consciousness of humans in the same way the moon reflects the light of the sun.
  • While we don't know if humans possess free will, she advises us to act as if we do. We can benefit from this.
  • So, what can humans learn from robots? Artificial intelligence can view the world in a way that's more objective, being present while still able to look toward the future and the past.

A very different, very clean energy source: thin air

A microbial organism pulls electricity from water in the air.

Image source: ncristian/daniiD /Shutterstock/Big Think
  • Hidden in the mud along the banks of Washington D.C.'s Potomac River may be a profound new source of electricity.
  • The microbe makes nanowires that produce a charge from water vapor in ordinary air.
  • Already capable of powering small electronics, it appears that larger-scale power generation is within reach.
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New technique turns junk into valuable graphene

Graphene is insanely useful, but very difficult to produce — until now.

Jeff Fitlow
  • Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms arranged in a chicken-wire formation, a structure that makes it very useful for a wide range of applications.
  • However, it's been very difficult and expensive to make.
  • This new technique cuts down on the cost and difficulty by flash heating any carbon-based material, such as used coffee grounds or plastic waste.
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Researchers build living robots from frog cells

Scientists envision a new type of organism ready to assist humans.

Image source: Kriegman, Blackiston, Levin, and Bongard
  • Computers designed, and scientists have constructed, programmable living robots.
  • Study announces potentially self-healing, biodegradable, purpose-build automatons.
  • Two "xenobots" are already bumbling their way around dishes of water in a lab.
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