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Want to get people excited about space exploration?  Continue to use D&D-style names like Tharsis Tholus for geological features on Mars and every young man in the world will want to visit.

Loudspeakers have improved a lot in the last 50 years but one pesky issue has remained; dead spots.  

Modern oudspeakers can be designed to deliver the full frequency range of audible sound but it is difficult to achieve a smooth frequency output in all directions. Dead spots are caused by deconstructive interference as a result of radiating sound waves overlapping and cancellng each other out. This often happens when the sound is radiating from two or more sources, like in the mid-frequency ranges where both the 'woofer' and 'tweeter' loudspeaker cones are both active. This creates areas where the frequency response of the loudspeaker is less smooth, and sound quality is diminished.

The current energy quandary means a lot of basic research is being done in alternative energy solutions; that's good, it's what basic research is for.  It also means political darlings of some politicians and environmentalists should be disqualified from future consideration if they are shown to be untenable.

The production of ethanol from lignocellulose-rich materials such as wood residues, waste paper, used cardboard and straw sounds like a great idea but that isn't a reason to start subsidizing it. A cost comparison in Biofuels, Bioproducts&Biorefining has concluded that using lignocellulose materials is unlikely to be competitive with starch any time soon.

Mask-Bot, which looks somewhat like a real person (your uncanny valley sense notwithstanding) is actually the prototype of a new robot face that a team at the Institute for Cognitive Systems (ICS) at TU München has developed in collaboration with a group in Japan.

Mask-Bot can reproduce simple dialog. When Dr. Takaaki Kuratate says "rainbow", for example, Mask-bot flutters its eyelids and responds with an elaborate sentence on the subject: "When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow". And when it talks, Mask-bot also moves its head a little and raises its eyebrows.

The biodiversity of the ecological community may impact whether a species can evolve to survive climate change, according to a numerical model that simulates the effect of climate change on plants and pollinators.

The study in Evolutionary Applications seeks to address a looming concern; whether species that have survived large climatic change in the past can survive future climate change. In the study, researchers used computer simulations to examine the effect of climate change on populations of flowering plants and their insect pollinators. 

Insects who can scale walls are able to do so because of the thousands of tiny hairs that cover their feet and legs. The hairs have flattened tips that can splay out to maximize contact, even on rough surfaces. 

The ability of insects to run up walls and hang from ceilings have fascinated humans for centuries. Scientists from the Zoological Institute at the University of Kiel, in Germany, have created a dry tape similar to the hairs on insects that can be repeatedly peeled off without losing its adhesive properties. They presented their work at the AVS Symposium held last week in Nashville, Tenn.