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5 Coolest Things On Earth This Week

Researchers built an AI that learned to how to code, found chemicals in a giant lizard’s blood that killed deadly bacteria, and proposed efficient wind turbines fashioned to behave like insect wings. This science will blow you away.

 

This AI Just Learned How To Code

Top and above: DeepCoder can cobble together programs “feasible for solving problems of similar difficulty as the simplest problems that appear on programming competition websites.” Images credit: Getty Images

Computer scientists at the University of Cambridge and Microsoft Research have built an AI system that can learn to code. Called DeepCoder, the AI “uses a technique called program synthesis: creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software – just like a programmer might,” according to New Scientist. The authors wrote in a new paper that they ran “experiments that show an order of magnitude speedup over standard program synthesis techniques.” No need to quit your coding job, yet, though. The team says DeepCoder is so far only “feasible for solving problems of similar difficulty as the simplest problems that appear on programming competition websites.”

 

This Metamaterial Is In Amazing Shape

Isomax is maximally stiff in all directions. Image credit: Jonathan Berger

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have developed an ultralight, solid foam riddled with pyramid-and-cross-shaped air cells. Called Isomax, the material’s internal geometry “is maximally stiff in all directions,” says materials scientists Jonathan Berger, who conceived the idea in 2015. The university’s journal, The Current, said that the material’s geometry “makes it versatile enough to fabricate for a variety of situations, and, functionally graded, it can be used to create objects with varying levels of stiffness from one end to another, such as prosthetics and replacement joints, and the design is compatible with manufacturing methods from origami-like folding to bonding and 3D printing.”

 

This Dragon’s Blood Could Be Good For You

Komodo dragons appear resistant to Staphylococcus bacteria, and serum from these animals has been shown to have antibacterial activity, according scientists from George Mason University. Image credit: Getty Images

Biologists studying the blood of Komodo dragons at George Mason University in Virginia have found new antimicrobial peptides that could lead to new ways to fight drug-resistant bacteria. The team focused on the world’s largest lizard because its saliva “contains at least 57 species of bacteria, which are believed to contribute to the demise of their prey. Yet, the Komodo dragon appears resistant to these bacteria, and serum from these animals has been shown to have antibacterial activity,” according to a news release. The team synthesized and tested eight promising substances called cationic antimicrobial peptides found in the reptile’s blood. Seven of them “showed significant potency” against the Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The study’s results were published in the Journal of Proteome Research.

 

Insect-Like Blades Could Allow Wind Power To Flex Its Muscle

“Bioinspired” flexible blades could make wind turbines up to 35 percent more efficient compared with classical designs. Image credit: Getty Images

A paper published by the Royal Society argues that “bioinspired” flexible blades could make wind turbines up to 35 percent more efficient compared with classical designs. The work was inspired by recent explorations of insect flight and plant reconfiguration, “which show the ability of elastic wings or leaves to adapt to wind conditions and thereby to optimize performance,” the France-based team wrote. “We show that in the context of energy production, the reconfiguration of the elastic blades significantly extends the range of operating regimes using only passive, non-consuming mechanisms.”

 

Universe To Earth: You Are Unfashionably Early

NASA scientists just discovered seven Earth-like planets orbiting a dwarf star 40 light-years away. Three of the planets were “firmly located in the habitable zone,” also known as the Goldilocks zone — not too hot or cold to hold liquid water. But according to an earlier study from the agency, we haven’t seen anything yet. It turns out that the seven planets, as well our own Earth, are unfashionably early to the planetary party. That research argues that 92 percent of potential habitable planets have yet to be born.

 

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