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Self-Poofing Fabric Transforms From T-Shirt to Parka

A small team at Otherlab, which does all kinds of weird things, has been using ARPA-E funding to develop what they’re calling “thermally adaptive materials.” We’ll call it self-poofing fabric, for its ability to dynamically change its insulation in response to temperature. The idea is that the fabric will provide a small amount of insulation when it’s warm out, and then increase how insulating it is (by trapping more air) in response to colder temperatures. When you see the prototype fabric in action, it looks like magic.  

Watch This Robot Navigate Like a Rat

At the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia, roboticists have spent the last 14 years honing a robot navigation system modeled on the brains of rats. This biologically inspired approach, they hope, could help robots navigate dynamic environments without requiring advanced, costly sensors and computationally intensive algorithms.  

Zaps of Electricity Can Identify Mysterious Molecules

There are about a trillion ways to put six sugar molecules together. Since some sugars signify diseases, telling them apart could lead to better disease detection or medicines. But identifying some molecules, including sugars, usually takes many samples or pricey hardware. So at Arizona State University, researchers are working on a device that could easily identify long molecule chains by how they respond to electricity.   In early lab experiments with a special, chemically-attractive molecule that can coat electrode plates, the researchers were able to elicit unique current spikes from other molecules—making it possible to tell them apart with a…

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