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The Digital Age

After 17 Years, Trump Finally Ends it Y2K Prep Program

July 21st 2017

Computers multiple

We can finally say good-bye to the threat of the Y2K bug. Twenty years after preparations began the federal government is ending requirements to track the so-called Y2K bug.

In 1997, actions were begun to avert what some thought was a coming catastrophe.  Many electronic systems formatted a year’s date using only the final two digits.  Such as 97, 98, and 99.  It was thought that systems would mistake the year 2000 as the 1900 creating unimaginable havoc.

Government at the federal, state and local levels prepared for the worst.  So did business.

Some predicted a disaster of epic proportions.  In the end, the year 2000 came and went.  With a whimper. Read more ..


The Race for Hyperloop

Futuristic Hyperloop Delivers an Exciting Status Check

July 11th 2017

silver robot

What is Hyperloop?

Hyperloop is on track to be the next great transformation in mass transportation. The concept is simple: a network of on-demand, electrodynamically levitated pods traveling in evacuated tubes at 95% of the speed of sound. The term 'Hyperloop' was first coined in 2012 by technology billionaire and serial entrepreneur, Elon Musk. It is a radically new concept of point-to-point travel at speeds over 700mph, covering the distance between Edinburgh and London in 35 minutes.

How could Hyperloop influence the way that we travel in the future?

The implications of a Hyperloop corridor are immense; intercity commuting becomes comparable to taking the metro, injecting economic stimulus throughout the country and creating a superproductive population. Beyond connecting cities, Hyperloop has the potential to combine separate airports into terminals of an integrated airport network. Read more ..


The Edge of Physics

LHC Physicists Unveil a Charming New Particle

July 8th 2017

CERN CMS Endcap

Physicists using the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, have discovered a new kind of heavy particle, they announced this week at a conference in Venice.

The particle, known as Xi-cc++ (pronounced “Ksī-CC plus-plus”), is composed of three smaller elementary particles called quarks—specifically, one lighter-weight “up” quark like those found in protons and neutrons as well as two “charm” quarks, which are a heavier and more exotic variety. (The designations “up” and “charm” are two of the six “flavors” physicists assigned to quarks based on the particles’ varying masses and charges.) The Standard Model of particle physics predicts Xi-cc++ and many other possible particles with various configurations of the six known flavors of quarks.

But until now such “doubly charmed” particles had eluded conclusive detection. Further studies of the new particle—and other members of the doubly charmed particle family—could reinforce the Standard Model or lead to new vistas in particle physics. Either way, the new particle could be a tool to unlock a deeper understanding of the fundamental “strong” force that binds quarks together to form protons and neutrons, which in turn form atoms—as well as planets, stars, galaxies and people. Read more ..


The Edge of Amazon

Amazon Patents Drone Tower

July 6th 2017

Amazon Box2

Originally filed in late 2015, the patent application describes the concept as a "multi-level fulfillment center designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)." In addition, unlike conventional fulfillment warehouses - which are typically located outside of cities where space is available - the new fulfillment center concept is designed to be located in an urban setting, "such as in a densely populated area," allowing quicker delivery.

The new concept is not intended as drone only. The application indicates that it could also support traditional deliveries, including by ground vehicles, as well as self service pick-up.

Externally, the tower concept may include "apertures" - of many possible shapes - to allow authorized UAVs to enter and exit the center. However, the centers would be designed to blend in with other high-rise buildings in the area.

Amazon completed its first successful delivery by drone last December in a small town located near Cambridge, England. According to the company, the "Prime Air" delivery was accomplished in 13 minutes "from click to delivery."

Originally filed in late 2015, the patent application describes the concept as a "multi-level fulfillment center designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)." In addition, unlike conventional fulfillment warehouses - which are typically located outside of cities where space is available - the new fulfillment center concept is designed to be located in an urban setting, "such as in a densely populated area," allowing quicker delivery. The new concept is not intended as drone only. The application indicates that it could also support traditional deliveries, including by ground vehicles, as well as self service pick-up. Externally, the tower concept may include "apertures" - of many possible shapes - to allow authorized UAVs to enter and exit the center. However, the centers would be designed to blend in with other high-rise buildings in the area. Amazon completed its first successful delivery by drone last December in a small town located near Cambridge, England. According to the company, the "Prime Air" delivery was accomplished in 13 minutes "from click to delivery."

Originally filed in late 2015, the patent application describes the concept as a "multi-level fulfillment center designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)." In addition, unlike conventional fulfillment warehouses - which are typically located outside of cities where space is available - the new fulfillment center concept is designed to be located in an urban setting, "such as in a densely populated area," allowing quicker delivery.

The new concept is not intended as drone only. The application indicates that it could also support traditional deliveries, including by ground vehicles, as well as self service pick-up. Externally, the tower concept may include "apertures" - of many possible shapes - to allow authorized UAVs to enter and exit the center. Read more ..


Scientists Suggest Light Momentum Carried By Atomic Shock Wave

July 5th 2017

Nagasaki_Bomb

Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

To solve the momentum paradox the paper's authors show that the special theory of relativity requires an additional atomic density wave or shock wave to travel with the photon. The total momentum of light is split into two components. The photonic share of momentum is equal to the Abraham momentum while the total momentum, which also includes the momentum of atoms driven forward by the optical force, is equal to the Minkowski momentum.

An explanatory video can be seen here:

"Since our work is theoretical and computational it must be still verified experimentally, before it can become a standard model of light in a transparent medium," said researcher Mikko Partanen, in a statement. "This should be feasible using present interferometric and microscopic techniques and common photonic materials," he added.

The researchers are working on potential optomechanical applications enabled by the optical shock wave of atoms predicted by the new theory. However, the theory applies not only to transparent liquids and solids but also to dilute interstellar gas. Thus, if verified the theory could have implications for astronomy and cosmology

Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

To solve the momentum paradox the paper's authors show that the special theory of relativity requires an additional atomic density wave or shock wave to travel with the photon. The total momentum of light is split into two components. The photonic share of momentum is equal to the Abraham momentum while the total momentum, which also includes the momentum of atoms driven forward by the optical force, is equal to the Minkowski momentum.

An explanatory video can be seen here:

"Since our work is theoretical and computational it must be still verified experimentally, before it can become a standard model of light in a transparent medium," said researcher Mikko Partanen, in a statement. "This should be feasible using present interferometric and microscopic techniques and common photonic materials," he added.

The researchers are working on potential optomechanical applications enabled by the optical shock wave of atoms predicted by the new theory. However, the theory applies not only to transparent liquids and solids but also to dilute interstellar gas. Thus, if verified the theory could have implications for astronomy and cosmology

Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

To solve the momentum paradox the paper's authors show that the special theory of relativity requires an additional atomic density wave or shock wave to travel with the photon. The total momentum of light is split into two components. The photonic share of momentum is equal to the Abraham momentum while the total momentum, which also includes the momentum of atoms driven forward by the optical force, is equal to the Minkowski momentum.

An explanatory video can be seen here

"Since our work is theoretical and computational it must be still verified experimentally, before it can become a standard model of light in a transparent medium," said researcher Mikko Partanen, in a statement. "This should be feasible using present interferometric and microscopic techniques and common photonic materials," he added. Read more ..


The Digital Age

Always-on Face Recognition Promised by New Chip

June 19th 2017

Baby Boomer

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a Convolutional Neural Network Processor on silicon that they combined with a custom made image sensor to perform face recognition with a 97% accuracy while only drawing 0.62mW.

Using such embedded artificial intelligence, the researchers claim their solution consumed only 1/5000 the power that would be required by a GPU performing the same tasks.

This unique processor owes its incredibly low power consumption thanks to its CNN whose circuitry, architecture, and algorithms have all gone through optimization steps. On-chip memory has been integrated in the CNNP so it could be read in a vertical direction as well as in a horizontal direction, reports KAIST.

In the CNNP, 1024 multipliers and accumulators operate in parallel and the chip is capable of directly transferring the temporal results to any of those without access to external memory or to an on-chip communication network.

Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Cars

Automobile Software Can Now be Updated While Driving

June 15th 2017

Traffic Jam

With the amount of software in today’s cars in the dimension of millions of lines of code, updating vehicle software today is a cumbersome business. Now Continental has created the necessary technology and infrastructure to enable secure software updates over the air, doing away with the need to visit the garage for every update.

With significance for software for the user experience of car buyers updates having dramatically increased over the past decade or so, automotive manufacturers are feverishly working on solutions to establish similar mechanisms for their vehicles. So far, only Tesla dares to update the software of its cars automatically. All others look jealously over the fence, frightened by the prospect of a terrible glitch or, even worse, a cyber attack against the transmission path. Also, updating a vehicle’s software is somewhat more complex than updating a smartphone’s operating system: Up to 100 computers are involved, and since they are all connected, the activities of most of them can have side effects on others. Plus, the number of possible variants and options in a car is much bigger than in a smartphone. And last but not least, no one can afford a failed software update – in a car such a situation would have far more serious consequences than with a smartphone.

Read more ..

The Digital Age

Fingerprint Sensors Mass-produced for Smartcards

June 3rd 2017

credit cards

Taiwanese card manufacturer Jinco Universal Co., Ltd, the fingerprint sensor IC design house Elan Microelectronics Corporation, and the Korean biometric authentication technology company KSID have joined forces to supply what they believe will be the world first biometric fingerprint bank card to Korean Worri Bank.

This bank card has integrated EMV dual interface chip, capacitive fingerprint sensor, and a rechargeable battery.  This card can last for more than 300 usages on a single full charge.

Jinco Universal is a world leader in the powered smart card industry. A year ago the company has entered into a contract agreement with the bank to supply 3 million cards over a 3-year period but mass production has only started recently and half a million biometric fingerprint bank cards could be delivered this year. Read more ..


The Race for Autonomous Cars

Why Israel Is A Fast-Moving Force In Smart Transportation

June 3rd 2017

Israeli battery vehicle MIA

In June 2013, 250 Israeli smart-transportation visionaries flocked to the inaugural EcoMotion “unconference” to share their crazy fantasies about the future of moving people from one place to another.

Only four years later, leaders of the global automotive and transportation industry were among 1,500 participants at the fifth annual EcoMotion Main Event at the Peres Center in Jaffa last month.

It hasn’t taken long for Israel to emerge as a significant source of innovation for autonomous  and connected vehicles, navigation, public transportation,  alternative fuels, super-efficient engines, urban parking and environment-friendly personal and mass transportation. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Self-powered Flexible Mic/Speaker is 0.1mm Thin

May 18th 2017

Man cupping his ear

Led by Nelson Sepúlveda, Associate Professor at the Michigan State University, a team of researchers who recently reported a breakthrough in ferroelectret nanogenerators (FENGs) was able to further characterize the behaviour of their thin-film FENG as a flexible acoustic transducer capable of operating both as a loudspeaker and a microphone.

Their paper "Nanogenerator-based dual-functional and self-powered thin patch loudspeaker or microphone for flexible electronics" published in Nature Communications examines the FENG's energy conversion mechanism under various sound pressure levels (SPL). Because the 0.1mm thin polypropylene ferroelectret (PPFE) includes compressible charged voids behaving as deformable dipoles in a metal-insulator-metal structure (with conductive silver layers for electrodes on the faces of the film), the alternating waves of sound pressure are faithfully transduced into alternating electrical signals. Here, rather than focus on energy generation, the study focused on reading out the analogue signal produced by the polymer-based FENG and the results are compelling.

Read more ..

The Race for Mars

Want To Live On Mars? Gala Dinner In LA Unveils First Opportunities To Eat Like A Martian

May 9th 2017

Red Planet

If you could move to Mars, what would your house look like? Would you eat from your local hydroponic Martian farm, drink wine from the Martian vineyard and eat meat cultured by vegetarian butchers?

Mars architect Very Mulyani is building the first Mars City, on Earth, and is pretty sure your future home on Mars, with 40% less gravity, won’t be anything like what you own or rent on earth today: “With lower gravity, a house doesn’t have to have a door touching the ground,” she says.

And for food? These questions and more will be answered in Los Angeles on May 25, at the world’s first dinner for Mars. Grab a date, and take advantage of discount tickets, ($150 instead of $300 for Green Prophet readers, and $500 for VIP) as Mulyani lays the foundations for the first Martian city she is creating on Earth, in the Mojave Desert. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Smart Farming Gaining Acreage

May 2nd 2017

wheat fields

Big data, industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). Terms most of us associate with professional services companies, not with farming and agricultural businesses.

However, automation technologies form a critical part of modern livestock and farm management systems. Many farmers though, especially those operating small and medium sized farms, might be overlooking a critical aspect of power quality in their automated livestock farming systems.

The smart agriculture market is currently growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8 per cent and is expected to be worth $18.45 Billion by 2022, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. The main factors driving growth include an increased adoption of technology in agriculture generally, a higher demand for food globally and assistance in monitoring livestock performance and health.

Read more ..

The Race for Smart Cities

LED Streetlights Can Be Programmed to Adapt to Traffic

April 26th 2017

Downtown LA Neighborhood

IoT systems provider Echelon Corporation has developed a patent-pending cognitive vision-based technology that can enable a wide range of smart city and smart campus applications, including traffic-adaptive lighting.

Using artificial intelligence in vision-enabled edge devices, Echelon's InSight technology collects traffic data and processed at the edge of the network instead of on a central server. It then uses the Echelon's Lumewave lighting platform to transmit traffic information, reducing response time and improving reliability.  This architecture is said to enable faster action in response to changing conditions and minimizes network bandwidth requirements.

Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Separator Layer Can Make Lithium-ion Batteries Fireproof

April 15th 2017

batteries

Lithium-ion batteries, though being considered as the power source of choice for today’s electric vehicles, are having a significant disadvantage: They are not fireproof. Even worse, they tend to catch fire under overload and short circuit conditions which can occur as a consequence of accidents. Researchers from the Stanford University have developed a potential solution.

The reason why lithium ion batteries can start burning so easily is that the electrolytes necessary to enable the exchange of electrons between cathode and anode are flammable and highly reactive. Though battery manufacturers have tried to minimize this risk through internal protective covers or by adding flame retardants, the risk persists, acknowledged Stanford researcher Kai Liu. In addition, these measures have side effects: They reduce the energy density and ion mobility which in turns reduces the battery performances.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Electromobility: The Big Leap has Yet to Come

April 14th 2017

Electric car Israel

The annual Electromobility Index from consultancy Roland Berger and the fka automotive technology research institute (Aachen, Germany) certifies Germany and France the leading positions in terms of technology. Though the market shows growth in all regions, the market share for electric vehicles is still very low.

The Electromobility Index periodically compares the competitive positions of the seven most important automotive geographies China, France, Germany Italy, Japan South Korea and USA in terms of technology, industrialization and market.

According to the study, Germany currently holds the technology pole position in the race about electromobility – a little bit surprising, given the success of Tesla in the US and the relatively high market penetration of electric vehicles in France. Wolfgang Bernhardt, Roland Berger Partner and expert for automobile markets, explains why.

Read more ..

The Digital Age

Smartphone Fingerprint Security Vulnerable

April 13th 2017

Smart phone

No two people are believed to have identical fingerprints, but researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and Michigan State University College of Engineering have found that partial similarities between prints are common enough that the fingerprint-based security systems used in mobile phones and other electronic devices can be more vulnerable than previously thought.

The vulnerability lies in the fact that fingerprint-based authentication systems feature small sensors that do not capture a user's full fingerprint. Instead, they scan and store partial fingerprints, and many phones allow users to enroll several different fingers in their authentication system.

Identity is confirmed when a user's fingerprint matches any one of the saved partial prints. The researchers hypothesized that there could be enough similarities among different people's partial prints that one could create a "MasterPrint."

Nasir Memon, a professor of computer science and engineering at NYU Tandon and the research team leader, explained that the MasterPrint concept bears some similarity to a hacker who attempts to crack a PIN-based system using a commonly adopted password such as 1234. "About four percent of the time, the password 1234 will be correct, which is a relatively high probability when you're just guessing."

Read more ..

The Edge of Defense

Glove Biosensor Detects Nerve Agents

April 6th 2017

Worker contemplates nuclear waste

An international team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Australia-based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have devised a disposable 'lab-on-a-glove' enabling the wearer to identify health-threatening biochemical agents through a simple and secure swipe across a surface to be tested.

The researchers used tailor-made printable inks stencil-printed as serpentine patterns on regular purple nitrile powder-free exam gloves to create stretchable, yet robust conductive circuits. The thumb is used as a sample collection surface and only sports a printed stretchable carbon disk to ensure the adhesion of analyte residues.

At the tip of the index, part of an electrochemical cell is printed, immobilizing the enzyme organophosphorus hydrolase (OPH) capped with a conductive semi-solid gel matrix (covering an enzymatic OPH/Nafion layer) for analyte diffusion from the collection pad towards the OPH enzyme layer on the working electrode. The enzyme reacts to the presence of organophosphate (OP) compounds, also known as nerve agents for their high neurotoxicity.

Read more ..

The Edge of Technology

Easily-tricked Microprocessors are Security Threat

March 27th 2017

Trendy Kitchen

Microprocessors have had numerous layers of software protection wrapped around them to improve security as well as hardware support provided for the encryption of keys for encoding and keeping secret data and communications. However, this is effort primarily addressed the threat of hacking over wired or wireless communications channels. Little or no thought has been given to the data that comes from local sensors, which has just been assumed to be valid.

The rapid growth of the market for embedded systems and the Internet of Things and the broad deployment of sensors means a traditional lack of security around sensors has become a security problem, the university research team asserts. Read more ..


Media on Edge

Science Sting Exposes Corrupt Journal Publishers

March 23rd 2017

Physician and stethoscope

Spring break season is here, and, like a lot of beachgoers, science too is suffering some stings — albeit not of the jellyfish kind.

In the latest ploy, reported Wednesday, a group of researchers at the University of Wroclaw, in Poland, tried to seat a fictional scholar onto the editorial boards of 360 academic publications.

The goal: to test whether, with just a CV — full of fake scientific degrees — and a profile on Academia.edu as well as a fake university, some would accept a scholar named “Anna O. Szust” (which translates to “Anna, a Fraud” in English) as a member of their editorial boards.

And many did. The sting, reported in Nature, netted 48 journals — nearly all of which were so-called “predatory” journals. Such journals accept manuscripts without reviewing them, print them without editing them, and otherwise make a mockery of the scientific literature by pumping out low-quality work. Read more ..


The Edge of Science

Paper-based Thermometer Wraps around Objects Monitoring Temperatures on All Sides

March 20th 2017

Test Tubes

Researchers from the Renmin University of China have devised a very cheap and scalable temperature sensor made out of paper and traces of gold (for the electrodes) joined by a line of inkjet printer-ready ionic ink as the thermistor.

Publishing their results in the ACS Sensors journal under the title "Ultrafast Paper Thermometers Based on a Green Sensing Ink", they detail a very simple implementation where they leverage the benefits of paper as a flexible substrate and the ionic liquid, 1-ethyl-3-methyl imidazolium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide ([EMIm][Tf2N]) for its non-volatile and hydrophobic nature.

Transferred to regular A4 paper by pen writing or inkjet printing, the ionic liquid holds onto the paper through the capillary effect, showing no leakage during bending and folding. The electrical conductivity of the ink trace is measured between two sputtered gold electrodes (5mm wide and 1.5cm long in the experiment) connected to an external power supply.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Recharge EVs from Under the Roadway

March 16th 2017

Traffic Jam

As more and more electric vehicles hit urban streets across the world, better battery-recharging solutions are desperately needed to improve range, keep costs low and boost user confidence.

Oren Ezer (CEO) and Hanan Rumbak (CTO) cofounded ElectRoad in 2013 to develop their unique twist on the concept of underground electric coils that recharge vehicles as they travel on the road.

In a few months, ElectRoad’s dynamic wireless electrification system is beginning a pilot project in Tel Aviv involving a short public bus route.

“The idea of electrifying vehicles from the road is trendy right now and you can see several companies trying to do a similar concept to us, but our technology is totally different, from the coils under the asphalt to the transfer of energy to the bus,” Ezer tells ISRAEL21c. Read more ..


The Edge of Physics

The Quest to Crystallize Time

March 14th 2017

Taurus Molecular Cloud

Christopher Monroe spends his life poking at atoms with light. He arranges them into rings and chains and then massages them with lasers to explore their properties and make basic quantum computers. Last year, he decided to try something seemingly impossible: to create a time crystal.

The name sounds like a prop from Doctor Who, but it has roots in actual physics. Time crystals are hypothetical structures that pulse without requiring any energy—like a ticking clock that never needs winding. The pattern repeats in time in much the same way that the atoms of a crystal repeat in space. The idea was so challenging that when Nobel prizewinning physicist Frank Wilczek proposed the provocative concept in 2012, other researchers quickly proved there was no way to create time crystals.

But there was a loophole—and researchers in a separate branch of physics found a way to exploit the gap. Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, and his team used chains of atoms they had constructed for other purposes to make a version of a time crystal. “I would say it sort of fell in our laps,” says Monroe. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Molecular 'Leaf' Harvests Sunlight Without Solar Cells

March 13th 2017

graphene

An international team of scientists have engineered a molecule that uses light or electricity to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide that could replace solar cells.

The team, led by Liang-shi Li at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) with researchers from Nanchang University and the University of Science and Technology of China, used a nanographene-rhenium complex connected via an organic compound known as bipyridine to trigger a highly efficient reaction that converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide.

"If you can create an efficient enough molecule for this reaction, it will produce energy that is free and storable in the form of fuels," said Li, associate professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry.

Read more ..

The Anthropological Edge

Australia was Colonized by a Single Group 50,000 Years Ago

March 9th 2017

Neanderthal man

There are two central mysteries about human history in Australia. First, when did people arrive on the world's southernmost inhabitable continent? And second, how did they colonize it? A paper in Nature offers new answers, based on an extensive analysis of decades-old DNA.


The Edge of Nature

How Plants Evolved into Carnivores

February 7th 2017

Amazon rainforest

Any insect unlucky enough to land on the mouth-like leaves of an Australian pitcher plant will meet a grisly end. The plant's prey is drawn into a vessel-like ‘pitcher’ organ where a specialized cocktail of enzymes digests the victim.

Now, by studying the pitcher plant's genome—and comparing its insect-eating fluids to those of other carnivorous plants—researchers have found that meat-eating plants the world over have hit on the same deadly molecular recipe, even though they are separated by millions of years of evolution.

“We’re really looking at a classic case of convergent evolution,” says Victor Albert, a plant-genome scientist at the University of Buffalo, New York, who co-led the study. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

New Era of Exoplanet Discoveries In Store

January 24th 2017

New Earth Sized Planets

For astronomers seeking Earth twins around other stars, the exoplanet GJ 1132 b probably isn’t an identical sibling—but it may be the closest cousin yet found. It weighs in at just over one Earth mass, but circles its star in a warm orbit that could make it more like Venus than our own world. Moreover, its diameter is nearly 50 percent larger than that of Earth, suggesting it possesses a thick atmosphere. Now, after taking the closest-ever look at GJ 1132 b, a European collaboration has confirmed the presence of its atmosphere and found hints it might contain water and methane. The results are currently under review for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

As mere discoveries of exoplanets become routine, efforts to learn more about them—their compositions, climates and histories—are moving to the fore, with studies of their atmospheres occupying center stage. Although astronomers detected the first exoplanet atmosphere more than 15 years ago, they have only managed to observe a handful ever since, mostly for very hot worlds as big as Jupiter or even larger. With their first glimpse of GJ 1132 b’s alien air, astronomers are now entering a new frontier as they examine the atmospheres of smaller, more Earth-like worlds.

Read more ..

The Edge of Science

Scientific Breakthroughs in 2017 May "Blow Your Mind"

January 11th 2017

Research and Development Chemistry

The Pentagon’s research and development division, DARPA—the creative force behind the internet and GPS—retooled itself three years ago to create a new office dedicated to unraveling biology’s engineering secrets. The new Biological Technologies Office (BTO) has a mission to “harness the power of biological systems” and design new defense technology. Over the past year, with a budget of about $296 million, it has been exploring challenges including memory improvement, human–machine symbiosis and speeding up disease detection and response.

DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is hoping for some big returns. The director of its BTO, neuroprosthetic researcher Justin Sanchez, recently spoke with Scientific American about what to expect from his office in 2017, including work on neural implants to aid healthy people in their everyday lives and other advances that he says will “change the game” in medicine. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

NASA Should Build a Superhighway in Space

January 5th 2017

Mars & Earth, Christopher Leather U Chicago

Donald Trump will take power any minute now, and we need to take advantage of the change in the White House to change NASA's focus.

Why? NASA needs to get out of the rocket business and shift its attention to a permanent space transport infrastructure, an Eisenhower-style highway in the sky. An infrastructure with:

  • Gas stations (propellant depots),
  • Rest stops and permanent housing—roomy human habitats with windows and vegetable gardens,
  • Truck stops and freight yards—logistics bases with cargo-handling equipment,
  • Trucks, SUVs, and dune buggies—Moon-and-Mars ground vehicles; plus tugs to haul loads around in space,
  • Fuel production equipment—units to turn the water of the Moon and Mars into rocket fuel, breathable oxygen, and drinkable water,
  • Units to turn the carbon dioxide in Mars' atmosphere into plastics, graphene, and carbon fiber with which 3-d printers can build more habitats, tools, and rovers—more trucks, SUVs and dune buggies.
  • Units to turn the rusty rocks lying around on the Martian surface into high strength steel for habitats. 

Why move NASA into space highway construction? Because no one else will do it. And our future in space depends on it. Our future share in a space economy that United Launch Alliance (a joint venture rocket company from Boeing and Lockheed Martin) estimates will be worth $2.7 trillion in thirty years.

Read more ..

The Edeg of Nature

Do Dogs Know Other Dogs Are Dogs?

January 2nd 2017

Labrador

Do you see dogs everywhere?

My ears perk up to the jingle jangle of metal-on-metal, hopeful that it predicts a dog and his collar, disappointed when it turns out to be keys on a belt (boring).

A person walking down the street with their arm outstretched holds the promise of a leash with a dog on the other end (sometimes it’s a stroller holding a kid. Oh well).

From a distance, my eyes play a cruel trick on me, where shopping bags are dogs and dogs are shopping bags until I get close enough and one wins out (obviously I'm rooting for the dog).

But catch any part of a tail, and I know I'm in. You could say my motto is, “dog, until proven otherwise.”

How about dogs?

Does a dog know, merely by sight, that an approaching being is a fellow dog? Before you answer, remember this: Canis familiaris is the least uniform species on the planet. Members of this species come in a wide range of body shapes and sizes from itty bitty teeny weeny to absolutely ginormos. Adult members of this species appear as tight little packages, huge weightlifters, lean ballerinas, elongated hotdogs and everything in between.

Read more ..

The Edge of the Universe

Hunting Dark Matter between the Ticks of an Atomic Clock

December 21st 2016

Massive black hole disrupting star formation

Dark matter is thought to make up some five sixths of all matter in the universe. Yet incredibly sophisticated projects ranging from the most powerful atom smasher ever built to vats of chilly liquid xenon have failed to find a trace of it. But now some scientists are hoping atomic clocks, the most precise timekeepers ever made, could be used to help explain this elusive phenomenon.

Many physicists believe dark matter is an invisible substance whose predicted gravitational effects on known matter would help explain a variety of cosmic mysteries, such as why galaxies can spin as fast as they do without flying apart. Despite its apparently colossal importance to the very structure of the universe, however, no one knows anything for certain about what it might be composed of or where it came from.

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The Edge of Health

New Diagnosis for Parkinsons Advanes the Cause

December 15th 2016

walking-cane

Doctors diagnose as many as 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease (PD) every year in the United States. Yet diagnosing PD with certainty can take years — long after early signs and symptoms have appeared.

The Israeli startup BioShai has a game-changing product on the horizon: PDx, the world’s first simple blood test for the early diagnosis of PD.

The test results can be combined with clinical data, providing a more accurate diagnosis to help physicians decide on the best course of treatment at a much earlier stage.

More than 10 million people worldwide are living with this chronic and progressive movement disorder caused by the malfunction and death of neurons that produce dopamine, a chemical that coordinates the brain’s control of movement and coordination.

“Having a diagnosis at an earlier stage can lead to a more precise treatment and a higher quality of life for the patient,” says BioShai CEO Jennifer Yarden, who has a PhD in medical science and formerly was responsible for clinical and commercial development of diagnostic assays and kits at Glycominds. Yarden is also CEO and cofounder of Curewize Health.

“Offering a simple and inexpensive test for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s is considered essential for the development of neuroprotective therapy,” she explains, “because by the time a patient has the many movement symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, a majority of the dopamine-producing neurons are lost or become impaired by the disease.”

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Environment on Edge

Tuna’s Declining Mercury Contamination Linked to U.S. Shift Away from Coal

November 30th 2016

School of tuna

Levels of highly toxic mercury contamination in Atlantic bluefin tuna are rapidly declining, according to a new study. That trend does not affect recommended limits on consumption of canned tuna, which comes mainly from other tuna species. Nor does it reflect trends in other ocean basins. But it does represent a major break in the long-standing, scary connection between tuna and mercury, a source of public concern since 1970, when a chemistry professor in New York City found excess levels of mercury in a can of tuna and spurred a nationwide recall. Tuna consumption continues to be the source of about 40 percent of the mercury contamination in the American diet. And mercury exposure from all sources remains an important issue, because it causes cognitive impairment in an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 babies born in this country each year.

Read more ..

The Edge of Medicine

World’s First Blood Test To Aid Diagnosis Of Parkinson’s

November 25th 2016

walking-cane

Doctors diagnose as many as 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease (PD) every year in the United States. Yet diagnosing PD with certainty can take years — long after early signs and symptoms have appeared.

The Israeli startup BioShai has a game-changing product on the horizon: PDx, the world’s first simple blood test for the early diagnosis of PD.

The test results can be combined with clinical data, providing a more accurate diagnosis to help physicians decide on the best course of treatment at a much earlier stage.

More than 10 million people worldwide are living with this chronic and progressive movement disorder caused by the malfunction and death of neurons that produce dopamine, a chemical that coordinates the brain’s control of movement and coordination.

“Having a diagnosis at an earlier stage can lead to a more precise treatment and a higher quality of life for the patient,” says BioShai CEO Jennifer Yarden, who has a PhD in medical science and formerly was responsible for clinical and commercial development of diagnostic assays and kits at Glycominds. Yarden is also CEO and cofounder of Curewize Health.

Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

The Stealthy Gallium War

November 23rd 2016

F-35

War is going on over special integrated circuits based on a material called Gallium Nitrite. Winning this war will effect not only the United States national security, but also its ability to protect key global partners in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Unfortunately the battle for Gallium Nitrite is very complicated, because the material has extensive commercial as well as military application.

But perhaps the single most important use for Gallium Nitrite is for detecting stealth aircraft and defeating long range weapons including so-called Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles launched from aircraft.

The United States is totally committed to stealth as the game changing technology of the present and future.  So deeply is the United States committed, that the only air superiority multi-mission aircraft being produced today is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).  The JSF is hugely costly and less stealthy than its big brother the F-22, but the F-22 was sacrificed so the JSF program could be financed, so mostly everything going forward hangs on this single airplane.
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The Defense Edge

Plants Can Now Be Used to Detect Explosives

November 3rd 2016

Leaf

Scientists at MIT have successfully bioengineered spinach to wilt if explosive material is detected in groundwater, according to a paper put out in the prestigious Journal of Nature Materials.

The research paper is titled “Nitroaromatic detection and infrared communication from wild-type plants using plant nanobionics.”

Here, we demonstrate that living spinach plants (Spinacia oleracea) can be engineered to serve as self-powered pre-concentrators and autosamplers of analytes in ambient groundwater and as infrared communication platforms that can send information to a smartphone,” the paper’s authors said their introduction.

As the plant absorbs water from the ground it will also absorb the explosive material. Thanks to deliberately created adaptations in the plant’s leaves, the plant will wilt in response to the presence of the explosive compounds.

Fixed sensors nearby will monitor the spinach using infrared technology and will pick up on the change in the plant.  

The project was funded by DARPA, the body of the U.S. military in charge of research and development. It has an annual budget of nearly $3 billion and funds a vast array of different technologies that either have or could potentially have military application. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

IoT Growing Faster Than the Ability to Defend It

November 2nd 2016

Google Glass

With this year’s approaching holiday gift season the rapidly growing “Internet of Things” or IoT—which was exploited to help shut down parts of the Web this past Friday—is about to get a lot bigger, and fast. Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists are sure to be filled with smartwatches, fitness trackers, home-monitoring cameras and other wi-fi–connected gadgets that connect to the internet to upload photos, videos and workout details to the cloud. Unfortunately these devices are also vulnerable to viruses and other malicious software (malware) that can be used to turn them into virtual weapons without their owners’ consent or knowledge.

The recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks—in which tens of millions of hacked devices were exploited to jam and take down internet computer servers—is an ominous sign for the Internet of Things. A DDoS is a cyber attack in which large numbers of devices are programmed to request access to the same Web site at the same time, creating data traffic bottlenecks that cut off access to the site. In this case the still-unknown attackers used malware known as “Mirai” to hack into devices whose passwords they could guess, because the owners either could not or did not change the devices’ default passwords. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

The Next Zikas

October 13th 2016

mosquito biting

Disease detectives are on the lookout for obscure viruses that can be spread among people by traveling insects, and quickly become a widespread problem. Scientific papers are filled with illnesses to watch. Four particular viruses now stand out to virologists and epidemiologists, although it is not certain any of the ailments will become the next Zika or West Nile virus. But researchers give several reasons to keep a close eye on this quartet:

 

MAYARO

“For 10 years now I’ve been thinking that Mayaro is right on the cusp of being able to amplify in humans and being transmitted efficiently by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes,” says Scott Weaver, a virologist  at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Mayaro causes a disease that is clinically indistinguishable from the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus: fever, chills, rash and the characteristic joint pain that can last longer than a year. It does matter, though, which of these viruses circulates in your body. Once there are vaccines against Mayaro and chikungunya, and drugs to treat them (so far there are none), they will likely be virus-specific.

Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Vehicle-To-Infrastructure Successfully Tested Over 4G Networks

October 11th 2016

Traffic Jam

The Australian telecommunications provider Telstra and telematics group Cohda Wireless have successfully tested a range of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) applications over 4G networks. V2I, and more general, V2X is regarded as an enabling technology for intelligent connected road transport systems that will in turn open the path to better traffic management with less congestions, coordinated autonomous vehicle operation and more efficient use of the road infrastructure.

During their trials, the partners tested applications involving vehicles talking to infrastructure (such as traffic lights), vehicles communicating with other vehicles, and vehicles talking to vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. In detail, the applications included alerting a driver to roadworks ahead, giving green light priority to high priority vehicles, and testing optimal green light timing where the vehicle is informed of the optimal speed to approach a traffic light so that that they get a green light when they arrive, therefore allowing a more continuous flow of traffic.

Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

How Israel is Saving the Honeybees

September 28th 2016

Honeybee

Honeybees across the world are in a sticky situation. Their numbers are dwindling dramatically due to colony collapse disorder (CCD) for reasons that are not fully understood. Yet the honeybee population in Israel is holding steady.

That’s great news at this time of year, when sweet Jewish New Year dishes push honey demand to its peak. And most importantly, bees play a crucial role in agriculture by pollinating vegetables and fruits.

Israel takes measures to ensure that its bee population declines no more than 10 percent each year, compared to 30%-50% in the United States, where the problem is so severe that Häagen-Dazs ice cream has donated $1 million to honeybee research since 2008, and President Obama initiated a national strategy to promote bee health.

“We try all kinds of things,” Israeli Honey Board CEO Hertzel Avidor tells ISRAEL21c, such as supporting Israeli research into all the biological and botanical angles on CCD, from boosting bees’ immune systems to developing nectar-rich plants.The council helps Israel’s 500 beekeepers implement innovative tactics to support a collective 110,000 hives.

Read more ..

The Race for IoT

Smart Buildings and IoT

September 15th 2016

Minneapolis skyline

Even though the smart buildings market still suffers from a fragmented ecosystem as proprietary building automation systems continue dominate, ABI Research expects that smart buildings global facility services revenue will grow from $625 million in 2015 to more than $8 billion in 2021.

The bulk of the revenue will stem from North America and Western Europe, as large buildings in these regions implement cloud-based smart building platforms or integrate existing building management systems to smart building platforms.

Read more ..


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