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Harnessing Cosmic Rays to Peer Into Fukushima’s Deadly Reactors

Physicists use particles called muons to map the melted nuclear cores

10 min read
Harnessing Cosmic Rays to Peer Into Fukushima’s Deadly Reactors
Mapping the Meltdown: Five years after Japan’s nuclear disaster, the reactors’ meltdown zones are still far too dangerous for human workers. This image was produced in the first attempt to look inside a reactor using subatomic particles called muons.
Photo: IRID/TEPCO

They come from outer space. Some are born within the cozy confines of our solar system, surging forth when our sun flares up, as it routinely does, with geysers of plasma. Others have traveled from unfathomably distant reaches beyond our Milky Way galaxy, where stars at the end of their lives went supernova with mighty and sustained blasts.

They are cosmic rays: streams of electrically charged subatomic particles that perpetually bombard Earth. When they hit the thick blanket of gas that surrounds and protects our planet, they collide with atoms and split into even tinier fragments that rain down to the ground. Physicists call these assortments of particles “air showers.”

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Artificial Synapses 10,000x Faster Than Real Thing

New protonic programmable resistors may help speed learning in deep neural networks

3 min read
Conceptual illustration shows a brain shape made of circuits on a multilayered chip structure.
Ella Maru Studio and Murat Onen

New artificial versions of the neurons and synapses in the human brain are up to 1,000 times smaller than neurons and at least 10,000 times faster than biological synapses, a study now finds.

These new devices may help improve the speed at which the increasingly common and powerful artificial intelligence systems known as deep neural networks learn, researchers say.

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Amazon to Acquire iRobot F​or $1.7 Billion

The deal will give the e-retail behemoth even more access to our homes

4 min read
A photo of an iRobot Roomba with an Amazon logo digitally added to it
Photo-illustration: iStockphoto/Amazon/IEEE Spectrum

This morning, Amazon and iRobot announced “a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire iRobot” for US $1.7 billion. The announcement was a surprise, to put it mildly, and we’ve barely had a chance to digest the news. But taking a look at what’s already known can still yield initial (if incomplete) answers as to why Amazon and iRobot want to team up—and whether the merger seems like a good idea.

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A Multiphysics Approach to Designing Fuel Cells for Electric Vehicles

White paper on fuel cell modeling and simulation

1 min read
Comsol Logo
Comsol

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) often reach higher energy density and exhibit greater efficiency than battery EVs; however, they also have high manufacturing costs, limited service life, and relatively low power density.

Modeling and simulation can improve fuel cell design and optimize EV performance. Learn more in this white paper.