June 2014

Thwaites Glacier Melting glaciers: A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea. Read more ....

Squid Symbiosis: The small but charismatic Hawaiian bobtail squid is known for its predator-fooling light organ. To survive, the nocturnal cephalopod depends on a symbiotic association with a luminescent bacterium that gives it the ability to mimic moonlight on the surface of the ocean and, in the fashion of a Klingon cloaking device, deceive barracuda and other fish that would happily make a meal of the small creature. Read more ....

Coral reef Protective corals: Coral reefs are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful, diverse and delicate ecosystems on the planet. A new study by an international team of scientists reveals that reefs also play the tough guy role in protecting hundreds of millions of people from rising sea levels and damaging wave action. Read more .....

Sea anemone Oceanic life: A deep-water creature once thought to be one of the world's largest sea anemones, with tentacles reaching more than 6.5 feet long, actually belongs to a new order of animals. Read more ....

Batteries Harnessing waste heat: Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials. Read more ....

Aircraft Brain-controlled flight: Pilots of the future could be able to control their aircraft by merely thinking commands. Scientists of the Technische Universitat Munchen and the TU Berlin claim to have demonstrated the feasibility of flying via brain control - with astonishing accuracy. Read more ....

Using thoughts to control airplanes


(Photo credit: A. Heddergott/TU Munchen)

Pilots of the future could be able to control their aircraft by merely thinking commands. Scientists of the Technische Universitat Munchen and the TU Berlin claim to have demonstrated the feasibility of flying via brain control - with astonishing accuracy.

The pilot is wearing a white cap with myriad attached cables. His gaze is concentrated on the runway ahead of him. All of a sudden the control stick starts to move, as if by magic. The airplane banks and then approaches straight on towards the runway. The position of the plane is corrected time and again until the landing gear gently touches down. During the entire maneuver the pilot touches neither pedals nor controls.

This is not a scene from a science fiction movie, but rather the rendition of a test at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics of the Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM). Scientists working for Professor Florian Holzapfel are researching ways in which brain controlled flight might work in the EU-funded project "Brainflight".

"A long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people," explains aerospace engineer Tim Fricke, who heads the project at TUM. "With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier. This would reduce the work load of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit."

The scientists have succeeded in demonstrating that brain-controlled flight is indeed possible. Seven subjects took part in the flight simulator tests. They had varying levels of flight experience, including one person without any practical cockpit experience whatsoever.

The accuracy with which the test subjects stayed on course by merely thinking commands would have sufficed, in part, to fulfill the requirements of a flying license test. "One of the subjects was able to follow eight out of ten target headings with a deviation of only 10 degrees," reports Fricke. Several of the subjects also managed the landing approach under poor visibility. One test pilot even landed within only few meters of the centerline.

The TU Munchen scientists are now focusing in particular on the question of how the requirements for the control system and flight dynamics need to be altered to accommodate the new control method. Normally, pilots feel resistance in steering and must exert significant force when the loads induced on the aircraft become too large. This feedback is missing when using brain control. The researchers are thus looking for alternative methods of feedback to signal when the envelope is pushed too hard, for example.

In order for humans and machines to communicate, brain waves of the pilots are measured using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes connected to a cap. An algorithm developed by scientists from Team PhyPA (Physiological Parameters for Adaptation) of the Technische Universitat Berlin allows the program to decipher electrical potentials and convert them into useful control commands.

Only the very clearly defined electrical brain impulses required for control are recognized by the brain-computer interface. "This is pure signal processing," emphasizes Fricke. Mind reading is not possible.

(Source: A Technische Universitat Munchen news release)

Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Although due care is taken, the correctness and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The science and medical research articles are for informational purposes only, aimed at kindling an interest in science. They are not intended to provide any kind of advice.