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R & D

Say cheese

Using new mathematics and a silicon chip covered with hundreds of thousands of bacterium-sized mirrors, Rice University engineers have designed a more efficient camera than the digital one. It’s a time-multiplexed camera that takes high-resolution images with a single photodiode. Today’s battery-hungry megapixel cameras contain millions of photodiodes, but the new camera creates an image by capturing one pixel of light several thousands of times in rapid succession. The new mathematics comes into play in assembling the high-resolution image — equal in quality to the one-megapixel image — from the thousands of single-pixel snapshots.

Hotter is better

University of Washington researchers have discovered a limit to the forces of natural selection, at least regarding the adaptation of insects to cold climes. “Cold temperatures present a problem for cold-blooded creatures as they slow biological processes, thus reducing rates of movement, feeding and population growth,” explains lead author MR Frazier. The study suggests that adaptation to warmer or colder temperature alters the population dynamics of insects, a result that has important consequences for agriculture, public health and conservation.

Sniffer weeds

Seedlings from the parasitic plant dodder track chemical aromas to locate their preferred host plants, a new study says. “Sniffing” the air, the seedlings can even identify preferred tomato-plant hosts over less desirable ones such as wheat, researchers from Pennsylvania State University report in the journal Science. “This is a pretty cool example of plants behaving in a way that people think only animals behave,” said a researcher.

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