Thought for the month

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Origin uncertain, usually attributed as a Chinese Proverb.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Stress and wafer curvature tool installed

k-Space Associates, announced that Leti, an institute of CEA and leading innovator in nanotechnology research and technology, has installed a kSA MOS ThermalScan system for the  measurement of film stress and wafer curvature.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Towards reproducibility

More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments with selective reporting and pressure to publish being considered the biggest drivers of lack of reproducibility (http://www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on-reproducibility-1.19970 ). A better understanding of statistics and improved mentoring were identified as areas for improvement. Recent comments have focussed on the role of computers and software in the lack of transparency (https://theconversation.com/how-computers-broke-science-and-what-we-can-do-to-fix-it-49938 ). Open research, registered reports, data sharing and rewarding confirmatory work are tangible actions that should increase reproducibility (https://theconversation.com/the-science-reproducibility-crisis-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-74198). Last month one academic suggested (https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/mar/13/fraudulent-research-academic-misconduct-solutions) having an anti-corruption squad.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Losing its shine?

Dark matter is an established postulate. It needs to exist in order to explain the motions of galaxy clusters. Undetected to date, its existence has been somewhat the preferred option to modifying General Relativity’s version of dynamics. However are we seeing the start of a dark matter mood shift? Older universes seem less reliant than expected on dark matter and galaxy rings are showing anomalous behaviour. Will Einstein have to join with the dark side? Or will the force be with him?

Monday, 3 April 2017

Mind over smartphone - or vice versa?

Our habits and the way we think have always been changed by technology. The printing press, agricultural machinery, the motor car and the television have all contributed to behavioural and attitudinal changes. Is the ubiquitous smartphone something more insidious? Is our reliance on this easy to access tool outsourcing our memory functions and leading to cognitive decline? Are spatial and navigational strategies at threat from the use of GPS? Indeed are musculoskeletal changes resulting due to hours spent hunched over these devices? An interesting article looked at many of these issues and whilst it notes that we may never know just how our digital toys shape our brains, our brains are responding and adapting to it. The bigger challenge may come not from what exactly the technology does to us and our lives but what by default it displaces. Less time spent on activities such as parenting, socializing and exercise may have greater consequences for society.

The historian Niall Ferguson once opined: the law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Towards printable solar cells

New perovskite solar cells have achieved an efficiency of 20.1 per cent and can be manufactured at low temperatures, which reduces the cost and expands the number of possible applications.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Big spenders

Worldwide R&D expenditures and other science and technology indicators by ranked country.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Humans fold

An artificial-intelligence program known as Libratus has beaten the world's absolute best human poker players in a 20-day No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Energy saver

Material can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity ... all at once.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Aid or accusation?

The problem of fake data may go far deeper than scientists admit. Now a team of researchers has a controversial plan to root out the perpetrators

Monday, 20 March 2017

Graphene is good for ...?

£120m down, UK.gov finds it's still a long way from commercial potential. Wonder material, not wonder market

Friday, 17 March 2017

Beans mean graphene

A breakthrough by CSIRO-led scientists has made the world’s strongest material more commercially viable, thanks to the humble soybean.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

iPhone 7 propels Apple to record-shattering sales

Apple sold 5.4 million Macs and 78.3 million iPhones in the last three months of 2016.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Honey, I shrunk the AFM!

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have created an atomic force microscope on a chip using MEMS.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Churchill saw great opportunity for exploration in the Solar System

“Are we alone in the Universe?” an essay by a lesser known science writer, Winston Churchill, has just been unearthed.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Big chip spending on R&D

Intel spent $12.7bn on R&D in 2016, 22.4% as a percentage of sales.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Small may be vulnerable

Ever worried about your phone or tablet malfunctioning due to cosmic rays and solar flares? Apparently ‘single-event upsets’ caused by particle impact is a known phenomenon but difficult to characterise in terms of related malfunctions. The semiconductor manufacturers are concerned about this problem potentially getting more serious as the size of the transistors in integrated circuits shrink. Time for a lead lined, concrete case for my laptop?

Friday, 3 March 2017

Small may be dangerous

Further evidence emerged last month on the scale of small plastic particulates in the environment with contamination recorded in tens of thousands of organisms and more than 100 species. As well as the breaking down of larger objects, many cosmetic and cleansing products contain plastic microbeads and clothing releases plastic microfibres during washing. A recent study of mussels and oysters concluded that the average European shellfish consumer has an uptake of 6400 small plastics particles per year.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Agnotology is the study of ...?

Retraction Watch probably has enough to do dealing with the sedater pace of scientific publications without delving into the high speed, social media festooned, world of fake news. Recent electoral events have not only increased the interest in this topic but also introduced agnotology to a wider audience. Agnotology is the study of ignorance or lack of knowledge. A wider definition being the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly through the dissemination of inaccurate or misleading information. A topic whose time has come?

As Jonathan Swift so aptly wrote back in 1710: “Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believed only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…”

Slightly more than 140 characters.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Nerds and scientists

The image of scientists in The Big Bang Theory.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Perfect chips

Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes in environmental conditions at the nanoscale

Friday, 24 February 2017

Dangerous potatoes

Are potatoes now a cancer risk? Here’s what you need to know

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Hot but bothered?

World temperatures hit new high in 2016 for third year in a row

Monday, 20 February 2017

Friday, 17 February 2017

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Moore's law saviours?

EUV lithography and the use of cobalt in interconnect techniques are highlighted as innovations that might maintain Moore’s Law.