Toyota is creating a combustion engine that directly generates electricity | Science! |

Electric vehicles have come a long way in recent years, but even the premium-priced Tesla cars are short on range compared to good old internal combustion. Gasoline is probably going to remain part of our transportation makeup into the foreseeable future, even if only as a component in hybrid vehicles. However, we can still refine internal combustion to make more sense in a hybrid, which is exactly what Toyota is doing with its new Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG).

Raspberry Pi used to build motion-controlled smart mirror that compliments you | News |

In this day and age, just about every consumer object is becoming “smart.” Generally, the moniker is overused, bestowed upon consumer products that simply come with a connected monitoring app or with basic functions and tasks that can be scheduled. Michael Teeuw bestowed that smart moniker upon his mirror, but this time around, the functionality Teeuw gave the mirror truly is smart: it compliments you whenever you step into its view.

Thin film can be painted onto objects and sees pressure as color | Science! |

A study published in the journal Nano details a new thin film that uses gold nanoparticles to visualize pressure as color. The technology uses the gold particles’ tendency to form ordered chains, and that these chains have a stable, predictable effect on the optical properties of the film. When those chains are broken or disturbed, there is a concomitant (and permanent) change in the film’s color. The color change is extremely accurate relative to the amount of kinetic energy it absorbed — you end up with a map of pressure interactions that can be studied with a high level of accuracy.

New 2D material could self-assemble into a transistor | Science! |

In the race to build smaller, faster transistors scientists have been tinkering with graphene for the last decade. Graphene has many remarkable properties, but one major hurdle in the way of making microchips based on it is the lack of a bandgap — essentially, it’s hard to make graphene act like a semiconductor because all it wants to do is conduct. This has led researchers to modify graphene by changing the structure or adding other molecules, but it might be easier to use a different material altogether.

Kepler measures first alien day, and it’s incredibly fast | News |

I can’t think of a field that has ever progressed as quickly as exoplanetary science has in the last five years. Despite “knowing” all sorts of things about the planets that simply had to be out there in the galaxy, it was surprisingly recently that we actually saw or directly inferred the existence of any planet outside our solar system. With the launch of the Kepler space observatory and a few other pieces of specialized equipment, astronomers quickly began documenting exoplanets by the thousands. Now, just finding them isn’t enough to impress; we need to learn something interesting about them, too. Sometimes it’s their mass or likely chemical makeup, other times their atmospheric conditions or the surface temperature. This week, observations from the European Very Large Telescope revealed a particularly affecting piece of astronomical data: the length of an alien day.