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Technique from biology helps explain the evolution of the American car1

Researchers have taken a unique approach to explain the way in which technologies evolve in modern society. Borrowing a technique that biologists might use to study the evolution of plants or animals, the scientists plotted the "births" and "deaths" of every American-made car and truck model from 1896 to 2014.

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'Squishy' motors and wheels give soft robots a new ride1

A small, squishy vehicle equipped with soft wheels rolls over rough terrain and runs under water. Future versions of the versatile vehicle might be suitable for search and rescue missions after disasters, deep space and planet exploration, and manipulating objects during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), according to its creators. Their most important innovation is a soft motor that provides torque without bending or extending its housing.

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E-wheelchair should weigh less

Whilst the advantages of a wheelchair with auxiliary drive are self-evident, they do not always outweigh the disadvantages. The weight of the construction can pose a physical burden on a certain group of wheelchair users, according to new research.

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Robots come to each other's aid when they get the signal1

Sometimes all it takes to get help from someone is to wave at them, or point. Now the same is true for robots. Researchers have completed work on a project aimed at enabling robots to cooperate with one another on complex jobs, by using body language.

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Moral dilemma with driverless cars: Who gets protected, the driver or pedestrians?

A new study shows that the public is conflicted over safety scenarios concerning driverless cars, taking a notably inconsistent approach to the safety of autonomous vehicles, should they become a reality on the roads.

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Airplanes make clouds brighter1

Contrails from airplanes make clouds brighter, shows new research. The researchers used a combination of flight tracking data and satellites equipped with sensitive lasers for detecting small changes in cloud optical thickness, i.e. the degree to which a cloud prevents light passing through it. When they looked at flight tracks from Honolulu to LA and Seattle to San Francisco, they found a significant increase in the optical thickness of the clouds close to the flight tracks compared to those further away.

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Loofah-based material could give lithium batteries a boost

Today's mobile lifestyle depends on rechargeable lithium batteries. But to take these storage devices to the next level -- to shore up the electric grid or for widespread use in vehicles, for example -- they need a big boost in capacity. To get lithium batteries up to snuff for more ambitious applications, researchers report a new solution that involves low-cost, renewable loofah sponges.

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Innovative approach makes for a smoother ride

Moving through water can be a drag, but the use of supercavitation bubbles can reduce that drag and increase the speed of underwater vehicles. Sometimes these bubbles produce a bumpy ride, but now a team of engineers has an approach that smooths out the ride and stabilizes the bubble.

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