The Digital Edge
|Julien Happich||March 5th 2012|
GPS personal tracking devices and applications are forecast to grow with a CAGR of 40%, with both markets breaking $1 billion in 2017 according to ABI Research. Senior analyst Patrick Connolly says, “The hardware market remained below 100,000 units in 2011. However, it is forecast to reach 2.5 million units in 2017, with significant growth in elderly, health, and lone worker markets. Dedicated devices can offer significant benefits, with insurance and liability increasingly encouraging the use of approved equipment.”
“We are also seeing the first signs of leading CE companies entering the market, such as Qualcomm, Apple (via PocketFinder), Garmin, Cobra, etc. and there will also be significant partnerships and acquisitions in this space as new entrants looks to add tracking to their portfolio,” adds Connolly. Other markets include family, personal items (e.g. luggage), and pet and offender tracking. There is an addressable market of over 120 million people across these markets alone, with over two million US elderly using non-GPS Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS). However, awareness, battery life, economic conditions, and high subscription fees remain significant barriers. There is also a fear that smartphone applications will cannibalize the market. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Diego DiGhero||March 5th 2012|
The fastest wind ever discovered blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole has been observed by a team of astronomers that includes a University of Michigan doctoral student. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, an orbiting telescope, they clocked the record-breaking super wind at about 20 million mph, or about 3 percent of the speed of light. This is nearly 10 times faster than astronomers had previously observed from a stellar-mass black hole.
"This is like the cosmic equivalent of winds from a category five hurricane," said Ashley King, a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy and lead author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. "We weren't expecting to see such powerful winds from a black hole like this."
The result has important implications for understanding how this type of black hole behaves. Stellar-mass black holes are born when extremely massive stars collapse. They typically weigh between five and 10 times the mass of the sun. The stellar-mass black hole powering this super wind is known as IGR J17091-3624, or IGR J17091 for short. Located in the bulge of the Milky Way galaxy, about 28,000 light years away from Earth, it is a binary system in which a sun-like star orbits the black hole. Read more ..
Edge on Biology
|Yivsam Azgad||March 4th 2012|
|Cell lineage tree; oocytes (egg cells) red, bone marrow stem cells yellow|
In recent years, a number of controversial claims have been made about the female mammal’s egg supply, including that it is renewed over her adult lifetime (as opposed to the conventional understanding that she is born with all of her eggs) and that the source of these eggs is stem cells that originate in the bone marrow. Now, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have disproved one of those claims and pointed in new directions toward resolving the other. The method, developed over several years in the lab of Prof. Ehud Shapiro of the Department of Biological Chemistry and Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, creates a sort of family tree for cells by using mutations in specific genetic markers to determine which cells are most closely related and how far back they share a common parent cell. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Richard Solash||March 4th 2012|
Russia's parliamentary elections in December were characterized by the opposition and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as seriously flawed. Few were surprised. But what did raise eyebrows was the response of tens of thousands of ordinary Russians who took to the streets to protest. Why did so many, in a country notorious for political apathy, react so differently to violations well-known from votes in the past? At least part of the answer appears to be how those violations were reported, and by whom. The Russian case, analysts say, is a prime example illustrating that technologically-advanced, citizen-driven election monitoring has potential for impact beyond that of more traditional electoral observation by the government and international bodies.
Researchers like Lisa Kammerud of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in Washington also maintain that the pairing of citizens and new technology for election monitoring is probably here to stay, both in Russia and elsewhere. "The advent of the use of these new digital and personal technologies to monitor elections is definitely on the rise because the technology that's available now simply wasn't available before," she says. "And that's part of why this has definitely increased in the last few years. And there's no reason to think that it won't continue as more people have access to cell phones [and] personal devices that take videos and pictures." Read more ..
Edge on Paleontology
|Rick Pantaleo||March 3rd 2012|
VOA News Science World
|credit: EQ Doc|
When you hear the name Tyrannosaurus Rex, you probably think of a giant monster, the most fearsome dinosaur ever. With a mouth full of teeth that can easily rip flesh and crush bones, images of T-Rex can be quite frightening.
It turns out T-Rex’s bite was even more devastating than thought.
Scientists studying T-Rex’s toothy smile focus mostly on the huge and varying size of its teeth, but a Canadian paleontologist has gone beyond that.
After analyzing the teeth of the entire tyrannosaurid family of meat-eating dinosaurs, the University of Alberta’s Miriam Reichel found there is considerable variation in the serrated edges of the teeth. These variations, or keels, not only cut through flesh and bone, but also guided the food into its mouth. Read more ..
The Edge of Energy
|Megan Fellman||March 2nd 2012|
A polymer is a mesh of chains, which slowly break over time due to the pressure from ordinary wear and tear. When a polymer is squeezed, the pressure breaks chemical bonds and produces free radicals: ions with unpaired electrons, full of untapped energy. These molecules are responsible for aging, DNA damage and cancer in the human body.
In a new study, Northwestern University scientists turned to squeezed polymers and free radicals in a search for new energy sources. They found incredible promise but also some real problems. Their report is published by the journal Angewandte Chemie.
The researchers demonstrated that radicals from compressed polymers generate significant amounts of energy that can be used to power chemical reactions in water. This energy has typically been unused but now can be harnessed when polymers are under stress in ordinary circumstances -- as in shoe soles, car tires or when compacting plastic bags. Read more ..
The Medical Edge
|Yivsam Azgad||March 2nd 2012|
|Yeast cell membranes (credit: Masur)|
Sugar, cholesterol, phosphates, zinc—a healthy body is amazingly good at keeping such vital nutrients at appropriate levels within its cells. From an engineering point of view, one all-purpose type of pump on the surface of a cell should suffice to keep these levels constant: When the concentration of a nutrient—for example, sugar—drops inside the cell, the pump mechanism could simply go into higher gear until the sugar levels are back to normal. Yet, strangely enough, such cells let in their nutrients using two types of pump: One is active in “good times,” when a particular nutrient is abundant in the cell’s environment; the other is a “bad-times” pump that springs into action only when the nutrient becomes scarce. Why does the cell need this dual mechanism?
A new Weizmann Institute study, reported in Science, might provide the answer. The research was conducted in the lab of Prof. Naama Barkai of the Department of Molecular Genetics by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sagi Levy and graduate student Moshe Kafri, with lab technician Miri Carmi. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Nicole Casal Moore||March 2nd 2012|
University of Michigan
Computational sprinting is a groundbreaking new approach to smartphone power and cooling that could give users dramatic, brief bursts of computing capability to improve current applications and make new ones possible. Its developers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan are pushing mobile chips beyond their sustainable operating limits, much like a sprinter who runs fast for a short distance. The researchers presented a paper on their concept at the International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture in New Orleans.
"Normally, these devices are designed for sustained performance, so that they can run full bore forever. We're proposing a computer system that can perform a giant surge of computation, but then gets tired and has time to rest," said Thomas Wenisch, study co-author and an assistant professor at the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "We asked, 'What if we designed a chip to run at 16 times the sustainable rate, but only for half a second? Can we do it without burning out the chip?'" said one of the study's authors, Milo Martin, associate professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science. "We did the calculations and simulations, and we find that it is indeed possible to engineer such a system." Read more ..
Edge of Geology
|Jim Erickson||March 2nd 2012|
|Tibetan prayer flags (Credit: Marin Clark)|
Fifty million years ago, India slammed into Eurasia, a collision that gave rise to the tallest landforms on the planet, the Himalaya Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau. India and Eurasia continue to converge today, though at an ever-slowing pace. University of Michigan geomorphologist and geophysicist Marin Clark wanted to know when this motion will end and why. She conducted a study that led to surprising findings that could add a new wrinkle to the well-established theory of plate tectonics – the dominant, unifying theory of geology.
"The exciting thing here is that it's not easy to make progress in a field (plate tectonics) that's 50 years old and is the major tenet that we operate under," said Clark, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. Read more ..
The Medical Edge
|Yivsam Azgad||March 1st 2012|
When we sense a threat, the brain center responsible for responding goes into gear, setting off a chain of biochemical reactions that lead to the release of cortisol from our adrenal glands.
Dr. Gil Levkowitz and his team in the Department of Molecular Cell Biology have now revealed a new kind of “on/off” switch in the brain for regulating the production of a main biochemical signal from the brain that stimulates cortisol release in the body. This finding, which was recently published in Neuron, may be relevant to research into a number of stress-related neurological disorders.
This signal is corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is manufactured and stored in special neurons in the hypothalamus. Within this small region of the brain, the danger is sensed, the information is processed, and the orders to go into stress-response mode are sent out. As soon as the CRH-containing neurons have depleted their supply of the hormone, they are already receiving the directive to produce more.
The research, which used zebrafish as a model, was spearheaded by Dr. Liat Amir-Zilberstein, together with Drs. Janna Blechman, Adriana Reuveny, and Natalia Borodovsky, as well as Maayan Tahor. The team found that a protein called Otp is involved in several stages of CRH production. In addition to directly activating the genes encoding CRH, Otp also regulates the production of two different receptors on the neurons’ surface for receiving and relaying CRH production signals—in effect, on and off switches. Read more ..
The Ancient Edge
|Martin Barillas||February 29th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
|Re-creation of a Neanderthal child|
New findings from an international team of researchers show that most Neanderthals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable Neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised. Neantherthals are defined as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis - a sub-species of Homo sapiens sapiens or modern human beings - or as a separate species of the genus Homo known as Homo neanderthalensis.
The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals re-colonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the area. Tribes of Homo sapiens sapiens emerged from Africa, passed through the Mideast and thence to Europe and Asia. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Edwin Black||February 28th 2012|
Newly-released documents expose more explicitly the details of IBM’s pivotal role in the Holocaust—all six phases: identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination. Moreover, the documents portray with crystal clarity the personal involvement and micro-management of IBM president Thomas J. Watson in the company’s co-planning and co-organizing of Hitler’s campaign to destroy the Jews.
Buy IBM here.
IBM’s twelve-year alliance with the Third Reich was first revealed in my book IBM and the Holocaust, published simultaneously in 40 countries in February 2001. It was based on some 20,000 documents drawn from archives in seven countries. IBM never denied any of the information in the book; and despite thousands of media and communal requests, as well as published articles, the company has remained silent.
The new “expanded edition” contains 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State Department and Justice Department memos, and concentration camp documents that graphically chronicle IBM’s actions and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. On the anniversary of the release of the original book, the new edition was released on February 26, 2012 at a special live global streaming event at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall, sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists together with a coalition of other groups.
Among the newly-released documents and archival materials are secret 1941 correspondence setting up the Dutch subsidiary of IBM to work in tandem with the Nazis, company President Thomas Watson's personal approval for the 1939 release of special IBM alphabetizing machines to help organize the rape of Poland and the deportation of Polish Jews, as well as the IBM Concentration Camp Codes including IBM’s code for death by Gas Chamber. Among the newly published photos of the punch cards is the one developed for the statistician who reported directly to Himmler and Eichmann.
The significance of the incriminating documents requires context. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Enrique Rivero||February 26th 2012|
A UCLA-led group of researchers tracing disparities in life expectancy between blacks and whites in the U.S. has found that white males live about seven years longer on average than African American men and that white women live more than five years longer than their black counterparts. But when comparing life expectancy on a state-by-state basis, the researchers made a surprising discovery: In those states in which the disparities were smallest, the differences often were not the result of African Americans living longer but of whites dying younger than the national average. And, interestingly, the area with the largest disparities wasn't a state at all but the nation's capital, Washington D.C.
"In health-disparities research, there is an assumption that large disparities are bad because vulnerable populations are not doing as well as they should, while areas with small disparities are doing a better job at health equity," said Dr. Nazleen Bharmal, the study's lead researcher and a clinical instructor in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "In our study, we show that the reason there are small disparities in life expectancy is because white populations are doing as poorly as black populations, and the goal in these states should be to raise health equity for all groups." The data on which the researchers relied included both health-related and non–health-related deaths, such as murder and accidents. The findings, however, still highlight the need to improve the health of the nation's African Americans, the researchers said. Read more ..
The Nano Edge
|Jean-Pierre Joosting||February 26th 2012|
The UNSW team used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to see and manipulate atoms at the surface of the crystal inside an ultra-high vacuum chamber. Using a lithographic process, they patterned phosphorus atoms into functional devices on the crystal then covered them with a non-reactive layer of hydrogen.
Hydrogen atoms were removed selectively in precisely defined regions with the super-fine metal tip of the STM. A controlled chemical reaction then incorporated phosphorus atoms into the silicon surface.
Finally, the structure was encapsulated with a silicon layer and the device contacted electrically using an intricate system of alignment markers on the silicon chip to align metallic connects. Read more ..
The Race for Light
|Nancy Ambrosiano||February 26th 2012|
A multinational team of scientists has developed a process for creating glass-based, inorganic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that produce light in the ultraviolet range. The work, reported this week in the online Nature Communications, is a step toward biomedical devices with active components made from nanostructured systems.
LEDs based on solution-processed inorganic nanocrystals have promise for use in environmental and biomedical diagnostics, because they are cheap to produce, robust, and chemically stable. But development has been hampered by the difficulty of achieving ultraviolet emission. In their paper, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Sergio Brovelli in collaboration with the research team lead by Alberto Paleari at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy describe a fabrication process that overcomes this problem and opens the way for integration in a variety of applications. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Rick Pantaleo||February 26th 2012|
Imagine being able to use your own body heat to recharge your phone or tablet. Scientists in North Carolina have recently developed a felt-like fabric that generates power by scavenging for so-called waste heat, such as body heat. Right now, many of the electronic devices we use every day, such as cellphones or laptop computers, get their power from batteries. But, as we also know, even the best batteries eventually run low on power and need to be recharged. What the Wake Forest University scientists have done is develop technology that takes your body heat, along with other waste heat, and convert it to electrical energy. Developed at the university’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, the material is made up of carbon nanotubes, tiny tube-shaped materials made of carbon, which are held in flexible plastic fibers and made to feel like fabric. The researchers say the thermoelectric technology behind Power Felt uses differences in temperature, such as room temperature versus body temperature, to create an electrical charge. Professor David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, says that thermoelectric technology, until now, has been tied to expensive hard ceramic material which is difficult to produce. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|David Benovadia||February 25th 2012|
Going to the dentist is never a picnic, and dentists understand how their patients feel. That's why they are constantly trying new technologies to make treatment less unpleasant. For instance, instead of subjecting patients to the dreaded drill, some 12 percent of dentists worldwide now use Erbium (Er):YAG lasers to shape teeth and gums for treatment. However, the wired optic fibers that deliver the laser beam are unwieldy and difficult to focus precisely. Syneron Dental Lasers of Yokneam, Israel, has developed the new LiteTouch dental laser, "an innovation that has played a pivotal role in transforming the way practitioners perform dental treatments today," according to company president Ira Prigat.
"It's wireless, too. The laser mechanism is included inside the hand piece that the dentist uses inside the patient's mouth, making it easier to manage -- no wires or connections needed. " Just as the mobile phone freed the world from wires, so has the LiteTouch freed dentists from traditional tools, as well as bulky optic fibers, making laser dentistry completely portable, claims Prigat. "The LiteTouch system is cost-effective and a step up toward a completely high-tech clinic." Read more ..
The Edge of Physics
|Sam Orez||February 25th 2012|
Researchers say they have found a possible flaw in the setup of an experiment that appeared to show particles traveling faster than light. The result of the experiment was met with widespread skepticism by the scientific community when it was announced last September by the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN. The speed of light was considered by physicist Albert Einstein to be the ultimate speed barrier. James Gillies said two potential issues have been identified that could have influenced the timing of the speed of neutrino particles during the Swiss-Italian experiment known as OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Racking Apparatus experiment). Gillies explained that results of further measurements and tests will be announced later this year, but it looks increasingly likely that Einstein will be proven right after all.
Question: Scientist and layman alike were surprised and skeptical when CERN announced last September that neutrinos -- electrically-neutral particles -- had traveled the 730 kilometers from Geneva to Italy’s Gran Sasso 60 nanoseconds faster than light. If proven correct, the implications were enormous. Now we are being told that this ultra-sophisticated experiment may have gone slightly wrong. What’s the explanation?
James Gillies: First of all, we don't yet know whether there is an explanation, and we won't know that for sure until we repeat the measurements with [the] beam. But what the OPERA collaboration has seen is two possible effects in their operators that could affect their timing measurement. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Dieter Hartmann||February 24th 2012|
A study of X-rays emitted a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away has unmasked a stellar mass black hole in Andromeda, a spiral galaxy about 2.6 million light-years from Earth.
Two Clemson University researchers joined an an international team of astronomers, including scientists at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, in publishing their findings in a pair of scientific journals this week.
Scientists had suspected the black hole was possible since late 2009 when an X-ray satellite observatory operated by the Max Planck Institute detected an unusual X-ray transient light source in Andromeda.
"The brightness suggested that these X-rays belonged to the class of ultraluminous X-ray sources, or ULXs," said Amanpreet Kaur, a Clemson graduate student in physics and lead author of the paper published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal. "But ULXs are rare. There are none at all in the Milky Way where Earth is located, and this is the first to be confirmed in Andromeda. Proving it required detailed observations." Read more ..
The Race for Nano
|Rick Merritt||February 24th 2012|
A government researcher called for distributed nanogrids as an alternative to a central electric utility at a meeting of the Ethernet Alliance here. In a separate talk, a Google engineer proposed ways to lower power consumption for networking.
Bruce Nordman, an energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, called for engineers to define a new class of nanogrids using standard Ethernet Category 5 cables. The small grids could take several forms including an individual hut in a poor village that uses a solar panel or car battery to supply energy through its home and perhaps to its neighbor.
“If we could have an infrastructure where people can safely deliver power and manage it, we could do a lot to increase people’s quality of life,” Nordman told a gathering of about 100 Ethernet Alliance members. “Why not let Ethernet be the way to deliver it,” he said.
“Just as some people went from having no phone to having a cellphone, they may go directly to having distributed nanogrids, bypassing our legacy expensive central grids,” he said. “I am not proposing getting rid of the central grid, I just think it could be less crucial,” he added. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Joe DeCapua ||February 24th 2012|
Treating people infected with the AIDS virus involves using a combination of antiretroviral drugs. But some combinations work better than others. Now, a mathematical formula has been developed that may eventually help doctors decide which drugs to use. Prescribing a cocktail of drugs has become the gold standard in preventing HIV from replicating. It’s called HAART, which stands for highly active antiretroviral therapy. The cocktail combinations may be changed periodically to prevent the virus from building up resistance. The new mathematical formula is based on a 5-year analysis of how the drugs keep HIV in check.
Dr. Robert Siliciano, senior study investigator and a specialist in infectious disease, said, “I’ve always been interested in why some combinations of HIV drugs work well and some don’t. Most of the progress in the HIV treatment field in terms of deciding which treatments should be used in patients has been based on empirical studies – trial and error clinical trials – in which different combinations are tested against each other. And you look at how many patients after one year of treatment have (an) undetectable level of virus.” Siliciano is a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. “There hasn’t been a lot of theoretical basis of why some combinations should work better than others. [With] what we know about how the virus replicates, it should be possible at least to predict some aspects of treatment outcome, specifically how well the drugs actually inhibit the virus,” he said. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Dylan McGrath||February 23rd 2012|
Future televisions will be smarter, more intuitive and feature even more technically logical advanced displays, according to a panel of experts at the International Solid State Circuits Conference on Tuesday (February 21). Among the technologies that will become more prevalent in coming years are glasses-less 3-D technology and free-viewpoint television (FTV)—a a visual media that allows users to view a 3-D scene by freely changing the viewpoint, as if they were there, panelists said.
"Over the last few years, there have been big changes in mobile phones and communication devices. I think similar changes will happen in television, as well," said David Min, vice president of LG Electronics' software center. "However, I think the changes that will happen in TV will be somewhat different from what has happened in mobile phones." Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Joe Eaton||February 23rd 2012|
It seemed simple enough at the time. In 2009, John Harrison, a 63-year-old oil industry sales manager in Mission, Texas, had surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, a routine procedure that usually requires at most a single night’s stay in the hospital, followed by physical therapy. For Harrison, however, there was nothing routine about the ordeal that ensued. In the weeks following the surgery, his scar turned bright red, hot to the touch, and oozed thick fluid that looked “like butter squeezed from a bag.” Alarmed, Harrison’s wife Laura called The Methodist Hospital in Houston, where the surgery was performed. The doctor urged Harrison to immediately make the seven-hour drive back to Houston for an emergency checkup. That night, surgeons opened up Harrison’s shoulder and found that infection had eaten away part of his shoulder bone and rotator cuff. Screws and metal hardware surgeons placed in his shoulder had pulled loose. Sutures had come undone. Surgeons cleaned out Harrison’s shoulder, installed two drains and gave him antibiotics to battle the infection. Read more ..
The Edge Of Nature
|Abigail Klein Leichman ||February 22nd 2012|
Plenty of people talk to their plants, believing it encourages them to grow. And although plants can't talk back, an Israeli research group has discovered that they do manage to exchange vital information with each other. The team, led by Prof. Ariel Novoplansky of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, found that plants are able to perceive and respond to warning signals emitted from the roots of stressed neighbors. They can even actively anticipate coming perils and stresses, such as drought, by picking up on vibes from their buddies.
"We tested the hypothesis that unstressed plants are able to respond to stress cues emitted from their stressed neighbors and, in turn, induce stress responses in additional unstressed plants located further away from the stressed plants," said Novoplansky, who works at the Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research. Read more ..
After the Holocaust
|Martin Barillas||February 21st 2012|
Cutting Edge News Senior Correspondent
Bestselling author Edwin Black has announced that a provocative, new edition of IBM and the Holocaust will be released in the coming days, on the anniversary of the book's original publication in 2001. Buy it here.
The new “Expanded Edition” will include some 32 pages of never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State and Justice Department memos as well as concentration camp documents that will graphically chronicle exactly what IBM did and what they knew during the twelve-year Hitler regime. IBM has never denied any of the information in the book, and for years has claimed that it has no information about its Hitler-era activities involving the Third Reich.
The new Expanded Edition was necessitated after 1.2 million copies of IBM and the Holocaust sold worldwide and the book became completely out of print at the end of 2011.
The new edition is scheduled to be released on February 26, 2012, 3 PM during a special Live Global Streaming Event to be held at Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall in New York City. The event is sponsored by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, co-sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Office of Pre-Law Advisement, Jacob Hecht Pre-Law Society, Beren and Wilf campuses, in partnership with StandWithUs, and in association with NAHOS--National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, Generations of the Shoah International, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the State of California Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance, The Auto Channel, History Network News, Spero Forum, the Jewish Virtual Library, together with other groups. Read more ..
The Prehistoric Edge
|Katherine Unger Baillie||February 21st 2012|
Pompeii-like, a 300-million-year-old tropical forest was preserved in ash when a volcano erupted in what is today northern China. A new study by University of Pennsylvania paleobotanist Hermann Pfefferkorn and colleagues presents a reconstruction of this fossilized forest, lending insight into the ecology and climate of its time. Pfefferkorn, a professor in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science, collaborated on the work with three Chinese colleagues: Jun Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yi Zhang of Shenyang Normal University and Zhuo Feng of Yunnan University. Their paper will be published next week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study site, located near Wuda, China, is unique as it gives a snapshot of a moment in time. Because volcanic ash covered a large expanse of forest over the course of only a few days, the plants were preserved as they fell, in many cases in the exact locations where they grew. "It's marvelously preserved," said Pfefferkorn. "We can stand there and find a branch with the leaves attached, and then we find the next branch and the next branch and the next branch. And then we find the stump from the same tree. That's really exciting." The researchers also found some smaller trees with leaves, branches, trunk and cones intact, preserved in their entirety. Read more ..
Edge of Physics
|David Lewis||February 20th 2012|
New research, published by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), takes a significant step towards changing the international definition of the kilogram – which is currently based on a lump of platinum-iridium kept in Paris. NPL has produced technology capable of accurate measurements of Planck's constant, the final piece of the puzzle in moving from a physical object to a kilogram based on fundamental constants of nature. The techniques are described in a paper published in Metrologia on the 20th February. The international system of units (SI) is the most widely used system of measurement for commerce and science. It comprises seven base units (metre, kilogram, second, Kelvin, ampere, mole and candela). Ideally these should be stable over time and universally reproducible, which requires definitions based on fundamental constants of nature. The kilogram is the only unit still defined by a physical artifact.
In October 2011, the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) agreed that the kilogram should be redefined in terms of Planck's constant (h). It deferred a final decision until there was sufficient consistent and accurate data to agree a value for h. This paper describes how this can be done with the required level of certainty. It provides a measured value of h and extensive analysis of possible uncertainties that can arise during experimentation. Although these results alone are not enough, consistent results from other measurement institutes using the techniques and technology described in this paper will provide an even more accurate consensus value and a change to the way the world measures mass – possibly as soon as 2014. Read more ..
The Canine Edge
|Abigail Stevenson ||February 20th 2012|
Owners of obese dogs that are successful in losing weight notice significant improvement in their dogs' health-related quality of life, a collaborative team of researchers has shown. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of Liverpool (UK), the Pain and Welfare Group at the University of Glasgow (UK), ROYAL CANIN and the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition.
The study involved fifty obese dogs, representing a mix of breeds and genders that had been referred to the ROYAL CANIN Weight Management Clinic based at the University of Liverpool. Owners were asked to complete a standardised questionnaire to determine the health-related quality of life of their dog prior to weight loss. Owners of the thirty dogs that successfully completed the weight loss programme and reached their target weight then completed a follow-up questionnaire. The completed questionnaire responses were converted into scores corresponding to a range of factors, including vitality, emotional disturbance and pain.
The results showed that quality of life improved in the dogs that successfully lost weight, as seen by their increased vitality scores and decreased scores for emotional disturbance and pain. The improvements in vitality score were greater the more body fat the dogs lost. The research also found that the dogs that failed to complete their weight loss programme had lower vitality and higher emotional disturbance scores than those successfully losing weight. "Obesity is a risk for many dogs, affecting not only their health, but also their quality of life," said lead study author, Dr. Alexander German from the University of Liverpool. "This research indicates that, for obese dogs, weight loss can be important for staying both healthy and happy." Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Julien Happich||February 19th 2012|
EE Times Europe
Like the closely-linked market for home energy management systems (HEMS), the smart appliances market has, so far, failed to take off as many had expected. Many products are still involved in small pilots and have failed to hit retail outlets in any large number. However, shipments will soon begin to pick up and exceed 24 million units by 2017.
With smart meter deployment growing apace, energy costs following a seemingly upward trajectory, and progress made on improving interoperability of all aspects of the smart grid, it is only a matter of time before shipments gather momentum. However, it is likely that it will take a couple of years for ultra-premium price tags to erode and for dynamic pricing structures to become more widely implemented in order to titillate consumer demand. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|David Ruth||February 18th 2012|
A mixture of current drugs and carbon nanoparticles shows potential to enhance treatment for head-and-neck cancers, especially when combined with radiation therapy, according to new research by Rice University and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The work blazes a path for further research into therapy customized to the needs of individual patients. The therapy uses carbon nanoparticles to encapsulate chemotherapeutic drugs and sequester them until they are delivered to the cancer cells they are meant to kill.
A paper on the research was published this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. Read more ..
The Edge of Ecology
|Michael Adams||February 18th 2012|
Maria (Maite) Maldonado, Canada Research Chair in Phytoplankton Trace Metal Physiology at The University of British Columbia, has made understanding the intricacies of marine phytoplankton her life's work. These tiny, single-celled algae, which act as a natural sponge for carbon dioxide and are a critical part of the global carbon cycle, may play a key role in ensuring the health of the planet.
Maldonado will discuss her research and answer questions from the media as part of the February 17 Canada Press Breakfast on the Arctic and oceans. The breakfast will be part of the 178th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to be held in Vancouver, and will feature a variety of prominent researchers.
Why the emphasis on phytoplankton? Phytoplankton form the base of the ocean food chain, have an integral role in controlling global warming and provide more than half of our oxygen supply. Read more ..
Edge of Archaeology
|George Hunka||February 18th 2012|
|Artist's rendering of ancient Ramat Rahel|
Researchers have long been fascinated by the secrets of Ramat Rahel, located on a hilltop above modern-day Jerusalem. The site of the only known palace dating back to the kingdom of Biblical Judah, digs have also revealed a luxurious ancient garden. Since excavators discovered the garden with its advanced irrigation system, they could only imagine what the original garden might have looked like in full bloom -- until now.
Using a unique technique for separating fossilized pollen from the layers of plaster found in the garden's waterways, researchers fromTel Aviv University's Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology have now been able to identify what grew in the ancient royal gardens of Ramat Rahel. And based on the garden's archaeological clues, they have been able to reconstruct the lay-out of the garden. Read more ..
Edge of Health
|John Carberry||February 17th 2012|
Billions of engineered nanoparticles in foods and pharmaceuticals are ingested by humans daily, and new Cornell research warns they may be more harmful to health than previously thought. A research collaboration led by Michael Shuler, a professor of Chemical Engineering and chair of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, studied how large doses of polystyrene nanoparticles – a common, FDA-approved substance found in substances ranging from food additives to vitamins – affected how well chickens absorbed iron, an essential nutrient, into their cells. The results were reported online Feb. 12 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
According to the study, high-intensity, short-term exposure to the particles initially blocked iron absorption, whereas longer-term exposure caused intestinal cell structures to change, allowing for a compensating uptick in iron absorption. The researchers tested both acute and chronic nanoparticle exposure using human gut cells in petri dishes as well as live chickens and reported matching results. They chose chickens because these animals absorb iron into their bodies similarly to humans, and they are similarly sensitive to micronutrient deficiencies. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|Pupa Gilbert||February 17th 2012|
Nacre -- or mother of pearl, scientists and artisans know, is one of nature's amazing utilitarian materials. Produced by a multitude of mollusk species, nacre is widely used in jewelry and art. It is inlaid into musical instruments, furniture and decorative boxes. Fashioned into buttons, beads and a host of functional objects from pens to flatware, mother of pearl lends a lustrous iridescence to everyday objects. In recent years, subjecting the material to the modern tools of scientific analysis, scientists have divined the fine points of nacre architecture and developed models to help explain its astonishing durability: 3,000 times more fracture resistant than the mineral from which it is made, aragonite.
Now, in a new report (Thursday, Feb. 16) in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison show that nacre can also be deployed in the interest of science as a hard-wired thermometer and pressure sensor, revealing both the temperature and ocean depth at which the material formed. "We found a strong correlation between the temperature at which nacre was deposited during the life of the mollusk and water temperature," explains Pupa Gilbert, a UW-Madison professor of physics and chemistry and the senior author of the new JACS report. "All other (temperature) proxies are based on chemical analyses and the relative concentration of different elements or isotopes. This could be our first physical proxy, in which the microscopic structure of the material tells us the maximum temperature and maximum pressure at which the mollusk lived." Read more ..
Edge of Medicine
|Nathaniel Dunford||February 17th 2012|
Fever control using external cooling in sedated patients with septic shock is safe and decreases vasopressor requirements and early mortality, according to a new study from researchers in France. "The benefits and risks of fever control in patients with severe sepsis remains a matter of controversy," said lead author Frédérique Schortgen, MD, PhD, of the Henri Mondor Hospital in Créteil, France. "In our study, external cooling to achieve normothermia in patients with septic shock was safe, accelerated hemodynamic stabilization, decreased vasopressor requirements, increased the rate of shock reversal, and decreased early mortality." The findings were published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
In the multicenter trial, 200 febrile adults with septic shock from seven participating ICUs, all of whom were receiving vasopressor treatment, mechanical ventilation and sedation, were randomized to external cooling (n = 101) or no external cooling (n = 99). Patients underwent cooling for 48 hours to maintain a core body temperature between 36.5°C and 37°C. Vasopressors were tapered to maintain a mean arterial pressure target of 65 mmHg or more in both groups. After two hours of treatment, body temperature was significantly lower in the cooling group. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Julien Happich||February 16th 2012|
The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed an optical accessory that turns an ordinary camera phone into a high-resolution microscope. The device is accurate to one hundredth of a millimetre. Among those who will benefit from the device are the printing industry, consumers, the security business, and even health care professionals. A new Finnish enterprise called KeepLoop Oy and VTT are already exploring the commercial potential of the invention. The first industrial applications and consumer models will be released in early 2012.
The operation of the device is based on images produced by the combined effect of an LED light and an optical lens. Various surfaces and structures can be examined in microscopic detail and the phone's camera used to take sharp, high-resolution images that can be forwarded as MMS messages.
An ordinary mobile phone turns into an instant microscope by attaching a thin, magnetic microscope module in front of the camera’s normal lens. The device fits easily in the user’s pocket, unlike conventional tubular microscopes. Read more ..
Edge of the Mind
|William Harms||February 16th 2012|
Children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills, a study by University of Chicago researchers has found. Puzzle play was found to be a significant predictor of cognition after controlling for differences in parents' income, education and the overall amount of parent language input. In examining video recordings of parents interacting with children during everyday activities at home, researchers found children who play with puzzles between 26 and 46 months of age have better spatial skills when assessed at 54 months of age. "The children who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not, on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes," said psychologist Susan Levine, a leading expert on mathematics development in young children.
The ability to mentally transform shapes is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) course-taking, degrees and careers in older children. Activities such as early puzzle play may lay the groundwork for the development of this ability, the study found. Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology at UChicago, is lead author on a paper, "Early Puzzle Play: A Predictor of Preschoolers' Spatial Transformation Skill," published in the current early view issue of Developmental Science. Read more ..
Edge of Health
|Sandra McCune||February 16th 2012|
Research has shown that pregnant women who own dogs are more physically active than those who don't. Researchers found that, through brisk walking, pregnant women who owned dogs were approximately 50% more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes activity per day. The study assessed over 11,000 pregnant women in the UK using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and is the first of its kind to look specifically at the effects of dog ownership on activity levels during pregnancy. It therefore provides valuable new insights that could have important implications for maintaining women's health during pregnancy.
There is growing concern surrounding the health risks of excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Previous studies have shown that maternal obesity can lead to an increased risk of a range of health complications and may even be linked to childhood obesity. This has led to recommendations that pregnant women, and those considering pregnancy, should take steps to manage their weight and ensure regular exercise under guidance from their healthcare provider. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Andrea Estrada||February 16th 2012|
UC Santa Barbara
|Eta Carinae in 1996 (credit: Nathan Smith (UC Berkeley), NASA)|
Astronomers are watching the astronomical equivalent of an instant replay of a spectacular outburst from the unstable, behemoth double-star system Eta Carinae, which was initially seen on Earth nearly 170 years ago. Astrophysicists affiliated with UC Santa Barbara and Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) contributed to the study.
Dubbed the “Great Eruption,” the outburst lasted from 1837 to 1858 and temporarily made Eta Carinae the second brightest star in the sky. But luckily for today’s astronomers, some of the light from the eruption took an indirect path to Earth and is just arriving now. The wayward light was heading in a different direction, away from our planet, when it bounced off dust lingering far from the turbulent stars and was rerouted to Earth, an effect called a “light echo.” Because of its longer path, the light reached Earth 170 years later than the light that arrived directly. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Cheryl Gundy||February 14th 2012|
|credit: NASA; ESA; J. Rigby; K. Sharon|
Thanks to the presence of a natural “zoom lens” in space, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope got a uniquely close-up look at the brightest “magnified” galaxy yet discovered.
This observation provides a unique opportunity to study the physical properties of a galaxy vigorously forming stars when the universe was only one-third its present age.
A so-called gravitational lens is produced when space is warped by a massive foreground object, whether it is the sun, a black hole or an entire cluster of galaxies. The light from more-distant background objects is distorted, brightened and magnified as it passes through this gravitationally disturbed region.
A team of astronomers led by Jane Rigby of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., aimed Hubble at one of the most striking examples of gravitational lensing, a nearly 90-degree arc of light in the galaxy cluster RCS2 032727-132623. Hubble’s view of the distant background galaxy is significantly more detailed than could ever be achieved without the help of the gravitational lens. Read more ..
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