The humble hagfish produces a sticky slime to defend itself from predators, as well as to hunt for its own food. Now a team of Swiss scientists has figured out the physics behind how the hagfish can use the same slimy substance for both purposes, according to a new paper in Scientific Reports.
In news that offers hope that human civilization won’t end up drowning in soda bottles and plastic wrap, Chinese chemists have developed a remarkably efficient method for converting polyethylene into liquid fuel. If it proves scaleable, it could make a real dent in global plastic pollution.
The powerful, hammer-like rounded claws of the mantis shrimp are incredibly strong, making them ideal for cracking open the hard shells of clams and crabs (its favored prey), and for warding off predators. Now those claws are also inspiring scientists keen on building super-strong materials to make tougher body armor…
Back in 2006, Nike introduced the high-performance SUMO 2 golf club driver, specially engineered to help golfers hit straighter shots, even for slightly off-center hits. There was just one problem: the newly designed club made an unpleasantly loud, tinny sound when it struck the ball—so much so, that most players…
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown property of spider silk, and used it to create a remarkable new “hybrid” material. The new bio-inspired thread, which acts like both a solid and a liquid, could lead to a host of new materials and technologies.
Wood is a great material because it’s cheap, renewable, and versatile. But this crazy transparent wood that scientists in Sweden brewed up is nuts. It could replace glass for some seriously eye-catching architecture, and even be used in cheap solar panels or windows.
Not all gemstones are of the same quality. While some rubies are clear and beautiful, others are dull, filled with flaws, and the color of old blood. Scientists have found that chucking them in a serious microwave can really improve them.
Violin makers routinely finish their instruments with a thick coat of varnish, the better to protect and preserve the wood. Now Swiss scientists claim that this varnish also plays a role in the overall sound quality of the instrument.
Physicists have used an old technique to make a new kind of material: a fabric that looks like glass. This material is clear enough to see through, incredibly thin, and snatches dust out of the air—all while seemingly evading the laws of classical physics to let the air flow unimpeded.
Tweaking the structure of graphene so that it matches patterns found in the eyes of moths could one day give us “smart wallpaper,” among a host of other useful technologies.
Fans of woodpeckers and materials science will be thrilled to hear that MIT has just released a series of eight short-form videos explaining how woodpeckers can bang their heads against trees all day without suffering major brain trauma — or even getting so much as a headache.
Materials scientists typically rely on their eyes to analyze data, but soon they could employ their ears as well. Setting the motions of molecules to music can help scientists identify hidden patterns in their data that might otherwise be too small, or occur over such short time scales that they’re easily missed by…
Here’s a question worthy of the ball boy at Wimbledon: if you have 128 tennis balls packed into a container, how many different ways can you arrange them? Answer: 10250 — more than the entire number of subatomic particles in the universe.
Spider silk is nature’s Kevlar. It’s stronger than steel, it’s waterproof, and you can stretch it as much as 30 to 40 percent before it snaps. Now biophysicists at Johns Hopkins University think they know the secret to spider silk’s remarkable elasticity: protein threads that serve as stretchy “superstrings.” The…
We all know what happens when a chocolate bar sits inside of a backpack on a really hot day: it melts, and even if it resolidifies, it will never quite look the same. But what if you could tailor your chocolate to have a higher melting point?
Researchers at the University of Queensland have made a cool new discovery in the quest for better condoms. It turns out a component of spinifex, a coastal grass, could make condoms much, much thinner. Thinner is better.
There is now a better way to image the internal structure of biological molecules at the atomic scale, using powerful x-ray lasers. This could eventually lead to important new innovations in clean energy technologies and drug development, among other uses.
The good minds at MIT have used a rubber-like polymer to predict how much light gets transmitted through a material, depending on its thinness and stretchiness. The material could lead to windows that automatically adjust the amount of light that’s let in.
There are already machines out there equipped with good pressure sensors, but those sensors are rarely sensitive or durable enough to make the machines as useful as humans at performing fine motor tasks. A new kind of graphene “skin” could change that, making it possible to create touch-sensitive robotic hands or even…
The very definition of a crystal relies on the notion of symmetry: the atoms line up in highly ordered, repeating honeycomb patterns, and that symmetry should be evident whichever way you look at it. Now physicists have stumbled upon a new type of crystal inspired by the orbits of satellites.