Bad Bugs Pictures Slideshow: Identify Bugs and Their Bites

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Bad Bugs Pictures Slideshow: Identify Bugs and Their Bites

Black-legged ticks and deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans.


Ticks are often found in plants and brush, and can attach to and bite people and animals. Most tick bites are not harmful; however, ticks can carry serious diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Tick burrowing into human skin where they feed on blood.

Tick Bites

Most commonly, ticks attach to warm, moist, and hard-to-see parts of the body including the scalp, armpits, groin and other hairy areas. Ticks must be removed properly to minimize the chances of infection.

  • Wear appropriate clothing outdoors to reduce exposure
  • Use tick repellant with DEET
  • Check for ticks if you spend time in the woods

Bull's-eye rash indicating Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease

A Lyme disease bacterium is carried in the deer tick (in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central U.S.) and the western blacklegged tick on the Pacific Coast. In most cases, the tick must be attached 36-48 hours to spread Lyme disease. A circular, red, expanding rash (“bullseye” rash) is one of the first symptoms of Lyme disease. Other symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Treatment in the early stages with antibiotics is generally effective.

A female black widow with its distinguishable bright-colored 'hourglass' mark on the underside.

Poisonous Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are about ½ inch wide; with a shiny, black, globular abdomen that has the distinctive red hourglass on the underside. Only the female of the species bites humans. They live throughout the U.S., but most are found in the southern regions.

Close-up tiny red fang marks of a black widow spider bite on finger.

Black Widow Spider Bites

Black widow spider bite symptoms usually start 20 minutes to one hour following the bite, and can include pain, though not all people experience pain. Other symptoms include muscle cramps and spasms, abdominal pain, tremors, weakness, or a rise in blood pressure. Seek medical attention immediately. Treatment includes antivenin (which counteracts the spider toxin) and pain medications if necessary.

Brown recluse spiders have a 'violin' pattern in the upper body, where legs attach.

Deadly Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders are extremely poisonous, and bites can cause infection and illness. They are found mostly in the Midwestern and Southeastern U.S. They are yellowish-tan to dark brown in color with darker legs that are about one inch in length. They have a characteristic violin pattern on their back.

A photo of a brown recluse spider bite.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

The bite of a brown recluse spider is usually painless, but may feel like a mild bee sting. Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite include severe pain at the site of the bite that develops about four hours after the bite; followed by severe itching, nausea, vomiting, fever, and muscle pain. See a doctor immediately if you think you have been bitten by a brown recluse spider bite. If possible, bring the spider to the ER for proper identification.

Head lice (louse) crawling out of hair onto a comb.

Itchy Head Lice

Head lice are about 2-3 millimeters (mm) long, and they infest the head and neck area, usually hidden in your hair. Head lice spread through direct contact with the hair of a person infested with head lice. It is most common among preschool and elementary school-aged children, and members of the household of children who are infested with head lice. Head lice are not known for spreading disease, however, they may cause itching, and scratching may lead to infection.

A photo of a head lice infestation and skin infection of the scalp from scratching.

Head Lice Remedies

Treatment is recommended for anyone with an active infestation of head lice. Pediculicides (medicines that kill lice) may be prescribed by your doctor. Wash all clothing and bedding used by the person infested with head lice. Often, it is recommended that family members also be treated at the same time to prevent further head lice infestation.

A close up side view of a cat flea.

Fleas: Not for Pets Only

Fleas are not just a problem for Fido – they can bite people too. Fleas are about 2.5 millimeters (mm) long, they are reddish-brown in color, and while wingless, they can jump large distances. They suck blood from their host to feed.

Flea bites shown on a leg result in raised itching spots with a puncture in the center.

Flea Bites

Some people may develop an allergic reaction to a flea bite. Scratching an itchy flea bite can cause the skin on and around the bitten area to break open, which can lead to infection. Make sure all pets in your home are on flea preventative products, keep your home clean, and treat any flea infestations that may occur.

A photo of a yellow jacket wasp which can inflict multiple stings.

Bee, Hornet, Wasp, Yellow Jacket

The stings of bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets can cause severe reactions in people who are allergic to their stings. Normal reactions include pain, redness, and swelling around the site of the sting

A wasp sting (left) and a severe allergic reaction to a wasp sting (right).

Bee, Hornet, Wasp, Yellow Jacket Stings

If you are allergic to bees, hornets, wasps, or yellow jackets, seek emergency care immediately to prevent or manage an anaphylactic reaction. Use an EpiPen (epinephrine) if you have one. In all cases, remove the stinger if possible to avoid receiving more venom, and clean the sting area with antiseptic. You may take over-the-counter antihistamines for itching or hives, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) for pain and inflammation.

A close up look at a red fire ant.

Fire Ants

The red imported fire ant is found mainly in the Southern U.S. They are reddish brown to reddish black and have a stinger. They build large dirt mounds, usually in sunny areas. Their bite usually is painful, and will cause an itchy, raised area on your skin (hive), followed by a pus-filled blister.

Painful stings from a fire ant that quickly fills with pus.

Fire Ant Stings

When a fire ant bites you, you will feel it! An itchy hive will develop. Hours later, a blister filled with pus can form. If you suffer from a severe allergic reaction to a fire ant bite, seek medical care immediately. Otherwise, to help relieve the pain and itching, use over-the-counter pain relievers and antihistamines. Do not break the blisters, and keep the area clean to avoid secondary infection.

Scanning electron micrograph of chiggers which are less than 1/150th of an inch in diameter.

Itchy Chiggers

Chiggers are a type of mite from the family known as Trombiculidae. They are barely visible to the naked eye, and in their juvenile (larval) form, they can bite humans. Chiggers found in the U.S. do not spread disease, but their bites can cause intense itching and small red bumps.

Itchy red welts from chigger bites on a man’s leg.

Chigger Bites

Itching from chigger bites is most intense 1 to 2 days following the bite. This is when the chigger falls off and can leave red welts that may resemble a blister or pimple. Scratching can lead to a secondary infection, so treatment is directed at relief of itching symptoms. Use over-the-counter antihistamine creams to help relieve itching and prevent scratching. Consult your doctor if you have concerns.

Scabies is caused by tiny mites that burrow into your skin.


Scabies are mites that burrow into the skin, causing intense itching. Scabies spread by close contact with a person infested with scabies, or by sharing towels, sheets, and other personal items with a person infested with scabies.

Scabies mite infestation showing resulting in a rash and sores on the wrist.

Treating Scabies

It can take weeks after the scabies mites burrow into the skin before you will experience severe itching or rash, with small blisters or sores. The intense itching is usually worse at night. Most commonly, the itching will be between the fingers, on the outside of the elbows or armpits, around the waistline, or on the buttocks. Scabies can only be cured with medicated creams, lotions, or pills. Family members who share a household with a person infested with scabies may also be prescribed treatment.

A photo of a bedbug feeding on human skin.


Bedbugs are reddish brown, and less than 1 millimeter (mm) in size. They are frequently found in bedding, but can also be found in areas of clutter, or in old furniture.

Bedbug bites on person's arm.

Bedbug Bites

Most of the time, the reaction to a bedbug bite is mild, and usually in the form of small, red, itchy bumps. Treatment includes over-the-counter cortisone creams and antihistamines to relieve the itching. Excessive scratching can cause a secondary infection.

A puss caterpillar or hive producing caterpillar.

Puss Caterpillar

The puss caterpillar (woolly slug, or asp) is the most toxic caterpillar in the U.S., and is found mostly in Southern states. It measures about 1 inch long and appears furry. The longer hairs camouflage spines that have venom. It feeds on shade trees such as elm, oak, and sycamore, or bushes such as holly.

Evidence of hive on skin from contact with a puss caterpillar.

Puss Caterpillar Stings

Symptoms of a pus caterpillar bite include immediate waves of intense pain, itchy rash, nausea and vomiting, restlessness, fever, muscle cramps, and symptoms of shock. If you come into contact with a puss caterpillar, remove the broken-off spines by using cellophane tape or a commercial facial peel, and call your doctor. Apply an ice pack and take over-the-counter antihistamines to relieve itching.

A photo of the Arizona bark scorpion whose venom is very dangerous.

Deadly Scorpions

Scorpions are related to spiders and mites, and are found mostly in the Southern and Western U.S. They range in length from about 9 to 21 cm, and the last tail segment contains the stinger that transmits a toxin to the recipient of a sting. Most scorpions are harmless, but some can be lethal. Scorpion sting symptoms include pain, swelling, and itching at the sting site. Severe symptoms include numbness, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, seizures, and difficulty breathing. Seek medical attention immediately if bitten by a scorpion

A close up of a deerfly biting into human skin.

Painful Deerflies

Deer flies are about the same size as houseflies, and they are yellow or black in color, with patterned wings. They are mostly active on warm, sunny days with little wind and they thrive in areas such as beaches, lakes, or woods near damp areas. Bites are usually painful, though most of the time not severe. In rare cases, the flies can transmit the Tularemia bacterium, which requires medical attention. Prevent deerfly bites by wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent.

A close-up of mosquito feeding on human skin.

Annoying Mosquitoes

For the most part, mosquitoes cause itchy hives when they bite. But they can also carry diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever virus, malaria, and others. Scratching mosquito bites can also cause infection. Prevent mosquitoes in your yard by using window screens and draining standing water. To protect yourself, always use insect repellent when outdoors, wear protective clothing, and avoid being outdoors during peak mosquito hours of dawn and dusk.

A close up of a house fly or domestic fly (Musca domestica) which can carry harmful bacteria.


The housefly is a nuisance pest that can spread diseases such as food poisoning and dysentery. They are gray-colored and about 1/4-inch long. They are attracted to trash, manure, carrion, and moist areas, and can spread bacteria from those areas to parts of your home. Proper sanitation is essential to manage houseflies. Keep trash and food in sealed containers.

A photo of a cockroach which can trigger asthma and allergic reactions.


Cockroaches can be found all over the world. They not only carry diseases such as salmonella, they can cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of allergy to cockroaches can include itchy skin, scratchy throat, itchy eyes and nose, and even asthma. Prevent cockroach infestation and manage allergic reactions by keeping your home clean and in good repair, and keeping trash covered. Use pest control if needed


Jaw-Dropping Views of Saturn Cap 2013 for NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft (Photos)

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Jaw-Dropping Views of Saturn Cap 2013 for NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft (Photos)

by Stephanie Pappas, Staff Writer   |   December 30, 2013 12:05pm ET
Winter Blues on Saturn
The spectacular rings of Saturn cast dark shadows on the ringed planet as the winter season approaches in Saturn’s southern hemisphere in this view from the Cassini spacecraft. With the cold season comes a blue hue on Saturn that is likely caused by a drop in ultraviolet sunlight and haze it produces. This image was taken on July 29, 2013 and released on Dec. 23.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has capped 2013 with a spectacular new collection of Saturn photos showcasing the planet’s beauty, as well with its trademark rings and strange moons.

The newly released Saturn photos by Cassini include two views of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon. Enceladus is a winter-appropriate ice world. Geysers at its poles shoot ice particles into space, some of which make it into orbit around Saturn. Some of this space “snow” becomes part of Saturn’s E ring, Saturn’s second outermost ring that is made of microscopic particles.

Other images highlight Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. There are no jolly elves at Titan’s north pole; liquid methane and ethane seas appear as splotchy features near the moon’s poles. At the south pole, a high-altitude vortex swirls. The hazy orange atmosphere of Titan is thought to resemble the atmosphere of early Earth. [See all of the new Saturn photos by Cassini here]

Globe of Saturn in Natural Color

The globe of Saturn, seen here in natural color, is reminiscent of a holiday ornament in this wide-angle view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The characteristic hexagonal shape of Saturn’s northern jet stream, somewhat yellow here, is visible. At the pole lies a Saturnian version of a high-speed hurricane, eye and all. This image was taken on July 22, 2013 and released on Dec. 23.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn itself is the celestial tree-topper of this trio, with a wide-angle look at its north pole revealing the planet’s hexagonal jet stream and its spinning polar vortex.
Saturn’s largest and second largest moons, Titan and Rhea, appear to be stacked on top of each other in this true-color scene from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft released on Dec. 23, 2013. The north polar hood can be seen on Titan appearing as a detached layer at the top of the moon on the top right. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of the smaller Rhea.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

“Until Cassini arrived at Saturn, we didn’t know about the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan, the active drama of Enceladus’ jets, and the intricate patterns at Saturn’s poles,” Linda Spiller, the Cassini project scientist at NASA Jet’s Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement on Dec. 23. “Spectacular images like these highlight that Cassini has given us the gift of knowledge, which we have been so excited to share with everyone.”

Saturn’s moon Enceladus, covered in snow and ice, resembles a perfectly packed snowball in this image from NASA’s Cassini mission released on Dec. 23, 2013. This view was taken by Cassini on March 10, 2012. It shows the leading side of Enceladus. North on Enceladus is up and rotated 6 degrees to the left.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrived at Saturn launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. Cassini orbits Saturn, while Huygens, a lander, touched down on Titan in 2005. In July, Cassini beamed back an amazing image ofSaturn’s rings with Earth as a tiny pinpoint of light in the background.

Cassini’s mission is expected to continue through at least 2017, after which it will be decommissioned by a controlled fall through Saturn’s atmosphere.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on TwitterandGoogle+Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Weird! Strangest Science Stories of 2013

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Weird! Strangest Science Stories of 2013

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer   |   December 27, 2013 01:19pm ET
A girl goes nose-to-nose with a Neanderthal statue in Germany. Ancient DNA research is increasingly revealing the genetic links between modern humans and our extinct ancestors, including Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans.
Credit: Neanderthal Museum (Mettmann, Germany)

2013 was a year with major scientific breakthroughs — the Higgs boson was finally caught, and scientists managed to coax human DNA from 400,000-year-old fossil bones in Spain.

Along the way, however, scientists also found that the world is even stranger than we thought. From penis-snatching fears to the mystery daddies in humans’ genetic past, here are 10 of the most bizarre science stories of 2013.

1. Mystery ancestor

Ancient humans not only got busy with Neanderthals and Denisovans, they apparently had sex with mystery relatives as well. A new DNA analysis found that humans interbred with multiple close relatives as recently as 30,000 years ago. One scientist even described our ancient past as a “‘Lord of the Rings’-type world,” with many different human species living together. Let’s just hope we’re not part Orc.

2. Penis panic

Talk about penis anxiety. In March, anthropologists reported that penis panic was spreading through parts of West Africa. The fear, called koro, is that the genitals of the victims (mostly men, but sometimes women) are somehow shrinking into the body, or have been stolen. In an effort to stop the process, many people clamp or tie their genitals until they can seek help from shamans. The idea is that an accidental brush with a stranger caused the theft of the penis (or breast or vagina), and accusations of theft have occasionally resulted in lynchings of those accused. Koro is just one example of a mass hysteria that can spread to otherwise healthy people.

3. Quantum wormholes

Quantum mechanics, the strange laws that govern the very small, is baffling enough, but now researchers have recently raised the possibility of an even stranger phenomenon: that wormholes — shortcuts predicted by general relativity that could theoretically connect distant places in time and space — could help explain quantum entanglement, where the behavior of particles is linked across any distance. The new theory suggests that wormholes are just entangled black holes.

4. New boredom

As if the existing boredom isn’t enough, scientists have discovered a new type of boredom. Researchers previously knew there were different forms of boredom, from the slightly tired and lazy form that is slightly pleasant to the more negative feeling of being stuck in a boring lecture without the ability to escape. But it turns out that many youngsters now feel apathetic boredom — a kind of disengagement akin to depression that makes them flat and incapable of emotion. This type of boredom came with a host of negative emotions, but without the antsy-ness or irritability that comes with being trapped in a boring activity.

5. Yeti uncovered?

It’s the stuff of ancient lore — a mysterious shaggy beast known as the Yeti or the abominable snowman that walks upright throughout the snow-covered regions of the world. But in October, researchers claimed they had found genetic evidence to solve the mystery of the yeti. A DNA sample taken from a strange beast shot 40 years ago linked it to an ancient polar bear from Norway, raising the possibility that the Himalayas may have been home to an ancient form of polar bear that people mistook for a bipedal monster.

6. Pee power

If some scientists have their way, the future could be powered by pee. Researchers have developed a new fuel cell that pumps pee to generate electricity. The idea is to power robotic devices that could monitor everything from bridge safety to air pollution using the new devices. [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]


A woman touches her feet
A woman’s feet
Credit: Foot photo via Shutterstock

7. Foot orgasm


Many things — from a gym class to simple thoughts — can trigger orgasms in women, but a recent case report may take things to a new level. The case described a woman who experienced orgasmic sensations in her foot. Unfortunately, the orgasms were sudden and not spurred by lusty thoughts, making them an unwanted annoyance. Doctors suspect the “footgasms” happened after nerve damage caused by a bacterial infection led to crossed wires, with sensations from her vagina being interpreted as coming from her foot. To stop them, doctors injected an anesthetic into the foot, which seemed to do the trick.

8. New body part

After centuries of dissecting humans, you would think scientists would know all there is to know about the human anatomy. Not so. A new type of tissue was found in the eye, and was dubbed Dua’s layer after its discoverer, Harminder Singh Dua, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Nottingham. The structure sits at the back of the cornea, the structure in the eye that helps focus light.

9. Weird bats

2013 was the year when scientists made a stunning conclusion: Bats are just weird. Costa Rican bats use leaves as hearing aids, with the leaves amplifying sound like an ear horn. But bats also engage in lots of other weird behavior: Both male and female bats perform oral sex. In the male’s case, the procedure is meant to make sex last longer. And when they’re not busy using hearing aids or engaging in courtship rituals, bats use tongue erections to sop up nectar.

10. Honeybee buzz

Honeybees aren’t the only workers who need a mid-afternoon boost. The insects are more likely to remember plants, such as coffee and citrus flowers, that contain caffeine. The researchers believe the bees are drawn to caffeine-laced flowers by stronger memories. That’s a win-win for the plants and the bees, making the insects more effective at their jobs, while also making them more faithful pollinators for the plants.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience@livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Archaeologists at ‘Pompeii of Japan’ site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour

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Archaeologists at ‘Pompeii of Japan’ site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour


Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour

Archaeologists working at Japan’s Kanai Higashiura site have unearthed the remains of a Kofun-period warrior and infant — both of whom were killed in a volcanic eruption. The bodies were covered in a layer of volcanic ash that dates to the early 6th century. The discovery, which is a first of its kind, is particularly remarkable in that the warrior is still wearing his lamellar suit. Though 600 armoured suits have been recovered by archaeologists over the years, none were worn by its owner.

Typically, suits like this one, what are called kozaneko or keiko, are found in tombs placed next to the owner, along with various burial goods. But this one is clearly unique.

Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour

Archaeologists believe that the Kanai Higashiura site was buried after the eruption of Harunayama Futatsudake in the early part of the 500’s. And in fact, nearby sites Kuroimine and Nakasuji were also hit by the disaster. As a result, the team has started to call these sites the “Pompeii of Japan.”

The warrior was found face down in the direction of the volcano. And judging by the position of his legs, it’s likely that he fell forward from a kneeling position (talk about cinematic!).

Based on his armour, the warrior would have belonged to an elite group of soldiers. The archaeologists are eager to study the remains in more detail — what will help them reconstruct the local history of the region, along with getting a sense of the level of administrative and military control exerted by the central Yamato authorities.

Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour

And indeed, as Ancient Japan reports, the man was likely a guard of an elite resistance:

Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site find a 1,400 year-old warrior still wearing his armour

The fact that he is not wearing a full suit of armour (only protection for his torso and thighs) may imply that he was not on official duty, but rather running for cover with his family. Others, citing the size and nature of tombs bearing similar armour, however, believe the man to have been a local ruler of sorts.

In addition to the two bodies, the archaeologists have found a number of tombs along the Tone River, and bunch of arrowheads.

Source and images: Ancient Japan.

Why you should really stop washing your hands with hot water

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Why you should really stop washing your hands with hot water


Why you should really stop washing your hands with hot water

Sure it feels nice, but it’s no more effective (not at temperatures safe for humans, at least), and can actually irritate your skin. Plus, if you’re washing with hot instead of cool, newly published research says you’re actually contributing to global warming, too (womp womp).

Top Photo: Petras Gagilas via flickr

A recent study conducted at Vanderbilt University concluded that Americans could save 6-million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year by washing their hands in cooler water;according to Smithsonian magazine, that’s about as much CO2 as the entire country of Barbados emits in the same period:

Amanda Carrico, the lead author on the paper, surveyed 510 people about their hand washing techniques and then estimated how much energy they were using. Most people—64 percent in the study—prefer to use hot water when washing. When you multiply that by the eight billion times Americans wash their hands each year, and how much energy it takes to heat that water, you wind up with a surprising amount of energy—0.1 percent of the total annual emissions of the United States.

“Although the perception that hot water is more hygienic is based in some factual evidence … there are few, if any, hygienic benefits of using warm or hot water to wash one’s hands,” Carrico and her colleagues write. “It is true that heat kills bacteria; however, the level of heat required to neutralize pathogens is beyond what is considered safe for prolonged human contact.”

“In addition to causing skin irritation, the recommendation to use an elevated temperature during handwashing contributes to another major threat to public health – climate change,”write the researchers in The International Journal of Consumer Studies. “Health and consumer protection organizations should consider advocating for the use of a ‘comfortable’ temperature rather than warm or hot water.”

One of my New Years’ resolutions just became washing with cool-not-hot water.

[IJCS via Smithsonian]

Breakthrough: The World’s First Carbon Nanotube Computer

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Breakthrough: The World’s First Carbon Nanotube Computer


Breakthrough: The World’s First Carbon Nanotube Computer

It’s only got 178 transistors, but it’s an important proof-of-concept that’s poised to keep Moore’s Law right on track. The breakthrough, in which a basic computer was powered by microscopic chains of carbon atoms, means we may have finally found a viable alternative to silicon chips.

Back in 1965, Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore famously predicted that the density of transistors would double about every two years, resulting in smaller, faster, and cheaper electronic devices. Trouble is, smaller and faster has resulted in whole lot of on/off transistor switching in increasingly smaller spaces, leading to intense heat dissipation.

No doubt. Today’s silicon-based laptops can get absolutely scorching at times, often making them impossible to use in the way they were literally intended. Eventually, these transistors could start to melt or burn electronic components. What’s more, it’s a tremendous waste of power. It’s a concern that’s plagued designers for years, leading them to worry that Moore’s Law may eventually come to an end.

Long Chains of Carbon Atoms

A ray of hope in all this, however, has been the potential for carbon nanotubes (CNT) — long chains of carbon atoms that are exceptionally efficient at conducting and controlling electricity. But they can also be fashioned into transistors within semiconductors.

And in fact, CNTs were first used as transistors 15 years ago — but engineers faced terrible issues when trying to make them work in the exact way needed. Specifically, the CNTs didn’t grow in accordance to the strict parallel lines required by engineers. In addition, depending on how they grew, some CNTs ended up behaving like metallic wires that perpetually conducted electricity instead of acting like proper semiconductors which can be switched off. This intermittent problem made the prospect of mass production a nightmare.

But scientists did not want to give up on CNTs. They’re amazing conductors. And because they’re so thin — thousands of chains can fit side-by-side in a human hair — they require a ridiculously small amount of energy to switch them off. Think of it as a garden hose; the thinner the hose, the less effort is needed to shut off the flow. Should CNTs be made to work, they could operate an order of magnitude in performance beyond silicon-based chips.

An Imperfection-immune Design

To address these problems, a Stanford team came up with a novel solution — a two-pronged approach they’re calling an “imperfection-immune design.”

Breakthrough: The World’s First Carbon Nanotube Computer

To get rid of the wire-like nanotubes, the researchers switched off all the good CNTs. They then shot a burst of electricity into the semiconductor, which was collected in the metallic nanotubes. This caused them to grow so hot that they burned up and vaporized into tiny puffs of carbon dioxide. First part of the problem solved.

Then, to bypass the misaligned tubes, the researchers developed a sophisticated computer program capable of mapping out a circuit layout guaranteed to work no matter whether or where CNTs might be misaligned.

Faster, Energy Efficient, Cooler

With these problems solved, the research team, which was led by by Stanford professors Subhasish Mitra and H.S. Philip Wong, was able to fashion a basic computer with 178 transistors. The machine can perform tasks like counting and number sorting. It also supports a basic operating system that allows it to switch between these two tasks. It can also run MIPS, a commercial instruction set designed back in the 1980s, allowing it to run over 20 different instructions.

Breakthrough: The World’s First Carbon Nanotube Computer

Though people have long considered CNTs a viable alternative to silicon transistors, this is the first proof that actually works — and it’s the most complex carbon-based electronic system yet realized. It’s one of several recent and remarkable breakthroughs, including the ‘teleportation’ of information across an electronic circuit and the first quantum hub-and-spoke digital communications network.

Once perfected and scaled-up to industrial-scale levels, the Stanford approach could revolutionize the way electronics are designed and produced. It may even represent the next-generation of chip design. As a result, the ongoing miniaturization revolution will be allowed to continue, as will Moore’s Law. Future devices will continue to run at increasingly faster rates, require significantly less energy than silicon chips, and remain cool.

Read the entire study at Nature: “Carbon Nanotube Computer.”

Related: 8 Incredible Nanotechnologies that Actually Exist Today and Carbon Nanotubes Will Rewire Your Brain, Make You Smarter.


The X-47B Drone Has Landed on a Carrier, And War May Never Be the Same

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The X-47B Drone Has Landed on a Carrier, And War May Never Be the Same


The X-47B Drone Has Landed on a Carrier, And War May Never Be the Same

It’s not often that we get to witness aviation history being made, but when we do, it’s often awesome. Such is the case with the U.S. Navy’s X-47B which just became the first unmanned aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier.

Landing a drone on an aircraft carrier was not a cheap or easy task. The so-called “Salty Dog 502” has been in training to accomplish such a feat for years now, and the program has cost the government over $1.4 billion. It won’t spend anymore, because the Navy is retiring its two X-47B’s and sending them to Navy museums in Florida and Maryland. The aircraft deserve nothing less than being enshrined. “Your grandchildren and great grandchildren, and mine, will be reading about this historic event in their history books,” Rear Admiral Mat Winter told the press ahead of the landing. “This is not trivial.”

How untrivial is it? Some of the top brass say that Wednesday’s accomplishment is second only to the introduction of naval aircraft way back in 1911. And the thought of robot planes zipping on and off of floating runways is probably just as scary to the people of 2013 as the idea of planes on boats was to the people of 1911.

The X-47B Drone Has Landed on a Carrier, And War May Never Be the Same

Nevertheless, Wednesday’s landing was just one of many milestones the X-47B has hit in recent years. The Northrop Grumman drone is a big drone with a 62-foot wingspan, though it can fold its wings into a more compact shape. The two aircraft have more or less been in nonstop testing since their first flights in 2011 and made its first “catapult takeoff” from land six months ago. The operation moved to the aircraft carrier earlier this year, and in May, the X-47B made its first catapult takeoff from the deck and made nine touch-and-go landings.

The X-47B was never armed, but the two drones will change warfare as we know it. Just imagine: now the Navy can launch unmanned aerial vehicles that can fly for dozens of hours without refueling from anywhere in the world. Although the test planes will gather dust in a museum, the technology that made the carrier takeoffs and landings possible will be applied to the rest of the drone fleet. The Navy will start accepting proposals for a new carrier-ready drone next month and hope the aircraft will be in service in three to six years.

The first landing:

The first launch: