Education on Edge
|Hermandur Sigmundsson||December 23rd 2013|
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
New research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim could have an effect on how math is taught.
If you want to be really good at all types of math, you need to practice them all. You can't trust your innate natural talent to do most of the job for you.
This might seem obvious to some, but it goes against the traditional view that if you are good at math, it is a skill that you are simply born with.
Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson at Department of Psychology is one of three researchers involved in the project. The results have been published in Psychological Reports.
The researchers tested the math skills of 70 Norwegian fifth graders, aged 10.5 years on average. Their results suggest that it is important to practice every single kind of math subject to be good at all of them, and that these skills aren't something you are born with. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Eileen Scahill||December 22nd 2013|
Prescribing both a stimulant and an antipsychotic drug to children with physical aggression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), along with teaching parents to use behavior management techniques, reduces aggressive and serious behavioral problems in the children, according to a study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The study was conducted in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, Stony Brook University in New York and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The findings published online this week ahead of publication in the January issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Combination pharmacotherapy is becoming common in child and adolescent psychiatry, but there has been little research evaluating it,” said first author Michael Aman, director of clinical trials at Ohio State’s Nisonger Center and emeritus professor of psychology. Read more ..
|Andrea Estrada||December 21st 2013|
Cranial surgery is tricky business, even under 21st-century conditions (think aseptic environment, specialized surgical instruments and copious amounts of pain medication both during and afterward). However, evidence shows that healers in Peru practiced trepanation — a surgical procedure that involves removing a section of the cranial vault using a hand drill or a scraping tool — more than 1,000 years ago to treat a variety of ailments, from head injuries to heartsickness. And they did so without the benefit of the aforementioned medical advances.
Excavating burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, UC Santa Barbara bioarchaeologist Danielle Kurin and her research team unearthed the remains of 32 individuals that date back to the Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000-1250). Among them, 45 separate trepanation procedures were in evidence. Kurin's findings appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|George Putic||December 20th 2013|
The European Space Agency this week successfully launched the star-mapping satellite Gaia on a mission that will take it more than a million kilometers from Earth - to create the first three-dimensional (3D) map of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The two-ton satellite, launched from the European Space Agency’s center in French Guiana aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, reached the initial orbit and deployed a 10-meter circular sunshield to keep the instruments on-board, including a telescope, cool. In order to focus on very distant and faint stars, Gaia has to be mechanically and thermally stable, so it has almost no moving parts.
Mark McCaughrean, the mission's chief scientist, says, “It will measure the positions of a billion stars but also their speeds, their motions. And with that we can run a movie of the Milky Way. We can run it forwards, into the future, how the Milky Way will develop by looking at all the stars and how they move. But we can run it backwards as well, and we can see how the Milky Way actually formed in the first place.” Read more ..
|Diego DiGhero||December 19th 2013|
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have proposed the first design of a cloaking device that uses an external source of energy to significantly broaden its bandwidth of operation. Andrea Alù, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering, and his team have proposed a design for an active cloak that draws energy from a battery, allowing objects to become undetectable to radio sensors over a greater range of frequencies.
“Broadening the Cloaking Bandwidth with Non-Foster Metasurfaces,” was published in Physical Review Letters. Alù, researcher Pai-Yen Chen and postdoctoral research fellow Christos Argyropoulos co-authored the paper. Both Chen and Argyropoulos were at UT Austin at the time this research was conducted. The proposed active cloak will have a number of applications beyond camouflaging, such as improving cellular and radio communications, and biomedical sensing. Read more ..
|Robert Sanders||December 19th 2013|
The most complete sequence to date of the Neanderthal genome, using DNA extracted from a woman's toe bone that dates back 50,000 years, reveals a long history of interbreeding among at least four different types of early humans living in Europe and Asia at that time, according to University of California, Berkeley, scientists.
Population geneticist Montgomery Slatkin, graduate student Fernando Racimo and post-doctoral student Flora Jay were part of an international team of anthropologists and geneticists who generated a high-quality sequence of the Neanderthal genome and compared it with the genomes of modern humans and a recently recognized group of early humans called Denisovans. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Michael Bernstein||December 18th 2013|
American Chemical Society
Since insulin's crucial discovery nearly a century ago, countless diabetes patients have had to inject themselves with the life-saving medicine. Now scientists are reporting a new development toward a long-sought insulin pill that could save millions the pain of daily shots. Published in the ACS journal Biomacromolecules, the advance could someday not only eliminate the "ouch" factor, but also get needle-wary — and weary — patients to take their medicine when they should.
Sanyog Jain and colleagues explain that patients with diabetes sometimes skip doses or stop taking their insulin because the injections can be painful. But doing so puts their health in danger. An estimated 347 million people globally (about 26 million in the U.S.) are living with diabetes. In the U.S., more than a quarter of these patients are taking some kind of insulin therapy. For years, researchers have sought a way to transform delivery of this therapy from a shot to a pill, but it has been a challenge. The body's digestive enzymes that are so good at breaking down food also break down insulin before it can get to work. In addition, insulin doesn't get easily absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream. To overcome these hurdles, Jain's team combined two approaches to shield insulin from the digestive enzymes and then get it into the blood. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Abby Abazorius||December 17th 2013|
Do you have a forgettable face? Many of us go to great lengths to make our faces more memorable, using makeup and hairstyles to give ourselves a more distinctive look.
Now your face could be instantly transformed into a more memorable one without the need for an expensive makeover, thanks to an algorithm developed by researchers in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
The algorithm, which makes subtle changes to various points on the face to make it more memorable without changing a person's overall appearance, was unveiled earlier this month at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Sydney.
"We want to modify the extent to which people will actually remember a face," says lead author Aditya Khosla.. "This is a very subtle quality, because we don't want to take your face and replace it with the most memorable one in our database, we want your face to still look like you." Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Kara Gavin||December 16th 2013|
University of Michigan Health System
For tens of millions of Americans, there's no such thing as the sound of silence. Instead, even in a quiet room, they hear a constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming or other noise in their ears that isn't real. Called tinnitus, it can be debilitating and life-altering.
Now, University of Michigan Medical School researchers report new scientific findings that help explain what is going on inside their unquiet brains.
The discovery reveals an important new target for treating the condition. Already, the U-M team has a patent pending and device in development based on the approach. The critical findings are, though the work was done in animals, provide a science-based, novel approach to treating tinnitus in humans.
Susan Shore explains that her team has confirmed that a process called stimulus-timing dependent multisensory plasticity is altered in animals with tinnitus – and that this plasticity is "exquisitely sensitive" to the timing of signals coming in to a key area of the brain. Read more ..
The Edge of Nature
|Jim Erickson||December 15th 2013|
Declines of the food resources that feed lake organisms are likely causing dramatic changes in the Great Lakes, according to a new study.
The study, led by the U.S. Geological Survey and co-authored by three University of Michigan researchers, found that since 1998, water clarity has been increasing in most Great Lakes, while phytoplankton (the microscopic water organisms that feed all other animals), native invertebrates and prey fish have been declining.
These food web changes fundamentally affect the ecosystem's valuable resources and are likely caused by decreasing levels of lake nutrients, and by growing numbers of invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels. Read more ..
The Education Edge
|Faiza Elmasry||December 14th 2013|
Instead of looking at pictures in textbooks or working with simulations on computers, high school students across Maryland have a chance to experiment with professional scientists while using the latest lab equipment.
The teens conduct these experiments, not in their classroom, but in a bus outfitted as a mobile laboratory,
The traveling Bio Lab recently visited Patapsco High School and Center for Arts in Baltimore, which delighted of their teacher.
“Today, the chemistry students were able to do an acid based hydration, which means they neutralize an acid with a base," Leah Warble said. "Normally they would do it through simulations on the computer. The BioLab is allowing them to do it in real life, actual time and actually apply it to something we use in real life, which is biodiesel.” Instructor Angel Mangus, who is in charge of the 13-meter Maryland BioLab, says the converted bus has the equipment students need to explore a wide variety of sciences. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Melissa Osgood||December 13th 2013|
With a new smartphone device, you can now take an accurate iPhone camera selfie that could save your life – it reads your cholesterol level in about a minute.
Forget those clumsy, complicated, home cholesterol-testing devices. Cornell engineers have created the Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or "smartCARD," which employs your smartphone's camera to read your cholesterol level.
"Smartphones have the potential to address health issues by eliminating the need for specialized equipment," said David Erickson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author on a new peer-reviewed study. Thanks to advanced, sophisticated camera technology, Erickson and his colleagues have created a smartphone accessory that optically detects biomarkers in a drop of blood, sweat or saliva. The new application then discerns the results using color analysis. Read more ..
Edge of Space
|Tom Oswald||December 12th 2013|
Until now, scientists were pretty sure they knew how the surface of a neutron star – a super dense star that forms when a large star explodes and its core collapses – can heat itself up. However, research by a team of scientists led by a Michigan State University physicist has researchers rethinking that.
Scientists had long thought that nuclear reactions within the crust, the thick, solid, outermost layer of the star, contributed to the heating of the star’s surface. Writing in the journal Nature, Hendrik Schatz and colleagues report results from theoretical calculations that identify previously unknown layers where nuclear reactions within the crust cause rapid neutrino cooling. Neutrinos are elementary particles created through radioactive decay that pass quickly through matter. Read more ..
The Natural World
|Sandra Leander||December 11th 2013|
To protect themselves, some animals rapidly change color when their environments change, but chameleons change colors in unusual ways when they interact with other chameleons. Arizona State University researchers have discovered that these color changes don't happen "out-of-the-blue" — instead, they convey different types of information during important social interactions.
For example, when male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and much more intense. Males that display brighter stripes when they are aggressive are more likely to approach their opponent, and those that achieve brighter head colors are more likely to win fights. Also, how quickly their heads change color is an important predictor of which chameleon will win a skirmish. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jessica Berman||December 11th 2013|
Even as scientists work to develop new medications, many rarely prescribed, or even forgotten, drugs are making a comeback, being used to treat illnesses they weren't originally designed for.
“It is a very easy way to explore whether something that is therapeutically beneficial in one area and for one type of patient might be useful for another type of patient," said Aris Persidis, president and co-founder of biotechnology company Biovista. "And the difference in our thinking is, 'To date, this is done by accident. Wouldn't it be great if this could be done systematically?”
Developing a brand new drug can take 10 years or more, and costs in excess of $1 billion, according Persidis, which is why Biovista is studying new uses for safe compounds that have been supplanted by newer or better formulations and are no longer prescribed. The concept is called drug repurposing. Read more ..
|Kim Fulton-Bennet||December 10th 2013|
About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs. At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, MBARI researchers presented evidence that remnants from this devastating impact are exposed along the Campeche Escarpment—an immense underwater cliff in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
The ancient meteorite impact created a huge crater, over 160 kilometers across. Unfortunately for geologists, this crater is almost invisible today, buried under hundreds of meters of debris and almost a kilometer of marine sediments. Although fallout from the impact has been found in rocks around the world, surprisingly little research has been done on the rocks close to the impact site, in part because they are so deeply buried. All existing samples of impact deposits close to the crater have come from deep boreholes drilled on the Yucatán Peninsula. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Sarina Gleason||December 9th 2013|
Michigan State University researchers have uncovered a genetic deficiency in males that can trigger the development of one of the most common types of liver cancer and forms of diabetes. The research, published in the online issue of Cancer Cell, found that when the NCOA5 gene, present in both men and women, was altered in male mice to a deficient level, a spontaneous reaction occurred producing cells that can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer found to be two-to-four times more prevalent in men than women.
Findings also showed that prior to cancer development there were occurrences of glucose intolerance, a prediabetic condition that is believed to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans. Conversely, the study showed female mice did not develop these diseases. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Kevin Mayhood||December 9th 2013|
Case Western Reserve University
Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and University of Kansas Medical Center have restored behavior—in this case, the ability to reach through a narrow opening and grasp food—using a neural prosthesis in a rat model of brain injury.
Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a device that rapidly and substantially improves function after brain injury in humans. There is no such commercial treatment for the 1.5 million Americans, including soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or the nearly 800,000 stroke victims who suffer weakness or paralysis in the United States, annually.
The prosthesis, called a brain-machine-brain interface, is a closed-loop microelectronic system. It records signals from one part of the brain, processes them in real time, and then bridges the injury by stimulating a second part of the brain that had lost connectivity. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Barbara McMakin||December 8th 2013|
NIH/ National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
There is more than meets the eye following even a mild traumatic brain injury. While the brain may appear to be intact, new findings reported in Nature suggest that the brain's protective coverings may feel the brunt of the impact.
Using a newly developed mouse trauma model, senior author Dorian McGavern watched specific cells mount an immune response to the injury and try to prevent more widespread damage. Notably, additional findings suggest a similar immune response may occur in patients with mild head injury.
In this study, researchers also discovered that certain molecules, when applied directly to the mouse skull, can bypass the brain's protective barriers and enter the brain. The findings suggested that, in the mouse trauma model, one of those molecules may reduce effects of brain injury.
Although concussions are common, not much is known about the effects of this type of damage. As part of this study, Lawrence Latour examined individuals who had recently suffered a concussion but whose initial scans did not reveal any physical damage to brain tissue. After administering a commonly used dye during MRI scans, Latour and his colleagues saw it leaking into the meninges, the outer covers of the brain, in 49 percent of 142 patients with concussion. Read more ..
|Jade Boyd||December 6th 2013|
Scientists from Rice University and the University of Bremen's Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) in Germany have combined cutting-edge experimental techniques and computer simulations to find a new way of predicting how water dissolves crystalline structures like those found in natural stone and cement.
In a new study featured in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, the team found their method was more efficient at predicting the dissolution rates of crystalline structures in water than previous methods. The research could have wide-ranging impacts in diverse areas, including water quality and planning, environmental sustainability, corrosion resistance and cement construction.
"We need to gain a better understanding of dissolution mechanisms to better predict the fate of certain materials, both in nature and in man-made systems," said lead investigator Andreas Lüttge, a professor of mineralogy at MARUM and professor emeritus and research professor in Earth science at Rice. His team specializes in studying the thin boundary layer that forms between minerals and fluids. Read more ..
|David Kelly||December 5th 2013|
Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins.
The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.
"There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. "But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space."
The findings are based on excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in northwest Italy where both Neanderthals and, later, early humans lived for thousands of years. This study focused on the Neanderthal levels while future research will examine the more recent modern human levels at the site. The goal is to compare how the two groups organized their space. Read more ..
|Lynn Yarris ||December 3rd 2013|
Listen up nickel-titanium and all you other shape-memory alloys, there’s a new kid on the block that just claimed the championship for elasticity and is primed to take over the shape memory apps market at the nanoscale. A research team at Berkeley Lab has discovered a way to introduce a recoverable strain into bismuth ferrite of up to 14-percent on the nanoscale, larger than any shape-memory effect observed in a metal. This discovery opens the door to applications in a wide range of fields, including medical, energy and electronics.
“Our bismuth ferrite not only displayed the champion shape-memory value, it was also far more stable when reduced to nanometer size than shape-memory alloys,” says Jinxing Zhang, a post-doc for this study under Ramamoorthy Ramesh of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and now a faculty member at Beijing Normal University. “Also because our bismuth ferrite can be activated with only an electrical field rather the thermal fields needed to activate shape-memory alloys, the response time is much faster.” Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
In the arms race between bacteria and modern medicine, bacteria have gained an edge. In recent decades, bacterial resistance to antibiotics has developed faster than the production of new antibiotics, making bacterial infections increasingly difficult to treat. Scientists worry that a particularly virulent and deadly "superbug" could one day join the ranks of existing untreatable bacteria, causing a public health catastrophe comparable with the Black Death.
Now research led by Dr. Udi Qimron of Tel Aviv University's Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine has discovered a protein that kills bacteria. The isolation of this protein, produced by a virus that attacks bacteria, is a major step toward developing a substitute for conventional antibiotics. "To stay ahead of bacterial resistance, we have to keep developing new antibiotics," said Dr. Qimron. "What we found is a small protein that could serve as a powerful antibiotic in the future." Read more ..
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said privacy protections need to be in place before Amazon starts delivering packages with drones.
Markey noted that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering expanding the commercial use of drones, but said privacy worries must be met first.
“Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public," he said in a statement. "Convenience should never trump constitutional protections," Markey continued. “Before our skies teem with commercial drones, clear rules must be set that protect the privacy and safety of the public." The FAA is scheduled to issue a ruling on the impact of increasing the use of commercial drones on the U.S. airline industry by 2015. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Karin Eskenazi||December 1st 2013|
Columbia University Medical Center
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in transforming human stem cells into functional lung and airway cells. The advance has significant potential for modeling lung disease, screening drugs, studying human lung development, and, ultimately, generating lung tissue for transplantation. The study was published today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
"Researchers have had relative success in turning human stem cells into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, and nerve cells, raising all sorts of possibilities for regenerative medicine," said study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck, MD, PhD. "Now, we are finally able to make lung and airway cells. This is important because lung transplants have a particularly poor prognosis. Although any clinical application is still many years away, we can begin thinking about making autologous lung transplants—that is, transplants that use a patient's own skin cells to generate functional lung tissue."
The research builds on Dr. Snoeck's 2011 discovery of a set of chemical factors that can turn human embryonic stem (ES) cells or human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into anterior foregut endoderm—precursors of lung and airway cells. (Human iPS cells closely resemble human ES cells but are generated from skin cells, by coaxing them into taking a developmental step backwards. Human iPS cells can then be stimulated to differentiate into specialized cells—offering researchers an alternative to human ES cells.) Read more ..
|Kurtis Hiatt||November 30th 2013|
A team of American and Israeli researchers has unearthed what could be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The group made the discovery at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site in Israel, the ruins of a northern Canaanite city that dates back to approximately 1700 B.C.
The excavations at the vast palace of the rulers of the city are co-directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University (GW), and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, with Andrew Koh of Brandeis University as associate director. As researchers excavated at the site, they uncovered a three-foot-long jug, later christened "Bessie."
"We dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie's friends started appearing—five, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room," said Dr. Cline, chair of GW's Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Michael Bishop||November 30th 2013|
Sea coral could soon be used more extensively in bone grafting procedures thanks to new research that has refined the material's properties and made it more compatible with natural bone.
By partially converting calcium carbonate―found in the exoskeleton of sea coral―into coralline hydroxyapatite (CHA), the refined material, called coralline hydroxyapatite/calcium carbonate (CHACC), has been shown to 'considerably improve' the outcome of bone grafts in 16 patients.
The results of the small clinical study, showed that bone healing was observed in each of the patients after four months and that the CHACC had fully biodegraded after two years. CHA derived from sea coral has been used for many years as a successful bone graft material; however, its use has been limited to specific bones because it does not fully biodegrade. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Barbara Ferreira||November 28th 2013|
European Geosiences Union
Drivers on a rainy day regulate the speed of their windshield wipers according to rain intensity: faster in heavy rain and slower in light rain. This simple observation has inspired researchers from the University of Hanover in Germany to come up with 'RainCars', an initiative that aims to use GPS-equipped moving cars as devices to measure rainfall. The most recent results of the project are now published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Rainfall can be very variable across different parts of a region such as Northern Germany. Conventional rain gauges are accurate, but are often distributed too sparsely to capture much of this variation. Having good information about precipitation is important for flood prediction and prevention, for example. Read more ..
The Ocean's Edge
|John Chapin||November 26th 2013|
Large fish traps in the Persian Gulf could be catching up to six times more fish than what’s being officially reported, according to the first investigation of fish catches based on images recorded from space. Using satellite imagery from Google Earth, researchers at the University of British Columbia estimated that there were 1,900 fishing weirs along the coast of the Persian Gulf during 2005. These weirs may have caught as much as 31,000 tonnes of fish that year. The official number reported by the seven countries in the region to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization was only 5,260 tonnes.
Fishing weirs are semi-permanent fence-like traps that take advantage of tidal differences to catch a wide variety of marine species. Used in Southeast Asia, Africa and parts of North America, some weirs can be more than 100 metres long. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Julien Happich||November 21st 2013|
Visteon has developed a new cockpit concept that uses multiple cameras in the vehicle to keep a constant eye on both the driver and the road ahead.
Designed with input from consumers, the new cockpit concept uses cameras to automatically enlarge certain driver controls, thus limiting the time needed to operate them and helping prevent potential collisions. The concept also recognizes the driver to adjust settings while helping prevent theft.
"Auto manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to reduce driver distraction while enhancing user experiences, and this new cockpit concept addresses both issues," said Anthony Ciatti, electronics innovator. "This solution offers advantages related to user-interface, anti-theft and safety to keep the driver focused on road and potential obstacles ahead." Read more ..
The Race for BioFuels
|Debra Levey Larson||November 21st 2013|
Although invasive Asian carp have been successfully harvested and served on a dinner plate, harvesting invasive plants to convert into ethanol isn't as easy. According to a recent study at the University of Illinois, harvesting invasive plants for use as biofuels may sound like a great idea, but the reality poses numerous obstacles and is too expensive to consider, at least with the current ethanol pathways.
"When the topic of potential invasion by non-native biofuel crops has been raised at conferences I've attended, the ecologists in the room have suggested we use biomass from existing invaders instead," said Lauren Quinn, an invasive plant ecologist in U of Illinois's Energy Biosciences Institute. "They worry about the potential deployment of tens of thousands of acres of known invaders like Arundo donax for ethanol production. They'd say, 'we have all of these invasive plants. Let's just harvest them instead of planting new ones!' But when I analyzed the idea from a broader perspective, it just didn't add up." Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Byron Spice||November 20th 2013|
Carnegie Melon University
A computer program called the Never Ending Image Learner (NEIL) is running 24 hours a day at Carnegie Mellon University, searching the Web for images, doing its best to understand them on its own and, as it builds a growing visual database, gathering common sense on a massive scale.
NEIL leverages recent advances in computer vision that enable computer programs to identify and label objects in images, to characterize scenes and to recognize attributes, such as colors, lighting and materials, all with a minimum of human supervision. In turn, the data it generates will further enhance the ability of computers to understand the visual world.
But NEIL also makes associations between these things to obtain common sense information that people just seem to know without ever saying — that cars often are found on roads, that buildings tend to be vertical and that ducks look sort of like geese. Based on text references, it might seem that the color associated with sheep is black, but people — and NEIL — nevertheless know that sheep typically are white. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|Maike Nicolai||November 17th 2013|
Helmholtz-Zentrum Ozeanforschung Kiel
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions do not only affect the climate but also our seas and oceans. One-quarter of all CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans. Once there, the CO2 is converted to carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. Previous studies showed that marine species and ecosystems can suffer in an acidified environment. Although the reason for the sensitivity was seen in physiological processes, mechanisms remained unclear. Scientists from the universities of Gothenburg (GU) and Kiel (CAU), as well as GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) found that ocean acidification leads to reduced rates of digestion in larvae of the ecologically important green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. The findings are published in the international journal Nature Climate Change. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Jo Bowler||November 16th 2013|
New research suggests that the Amazon rainforest may be more able to cope with dry conditions than previously predicted. Researchers at the University of Exeter and Colorado State University used a computer model to demonstrate that, providing forest conservation measures are in place, the Amazon rainforest may be more able to withstand periods of drought than has been estimated by other climate models.
Many climate models over predict the water stress plants feel during the dry season because they don't take into account the moisture that the forest itself can recycle in times of drought. In this study, published in the Journal of Climate, the researchers removed unrealistic water stress from their model and found that the moisture that is recycled by the forest is sufficient to reduce the intensity of drought conditions. Read more ..
The Edge of Light
|Paul Buckley||November 13th 2013|
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering claim it may be possible to make microvehicles move and other devices change shape without using power source other than a beam of light.
The researchers are investigating polymers that 'snap' when triggered by light and can convert light energy into mechanical work which could eliminate the need for traditional machine components such as switches and power sources.
The research, performed by M. Ravi Shankar. “I like to compare this action to that of a Venus Fly Trap,” said Shankar, whose research focuses on innovative nanomaterials. “The underlying mechanism that allows the Venus Fly Trap to capture prey is slow. But because its internal structure is coupled to use elastic instability, a snapping action occurs, and this delivers the power to shut the trap quickly. A similar mechanism acts in the beak of the Hummingbird to help snap-up insects” Read more ..
The Space Edge
|Adam Phillips||November 11th 2013|
The idea that the orbiting chunks of interplanetary rocks called asteroids could hit the Earth and wipe out cities, or even life itself, is a familiar theme in space-based adventure films. But according to three just-released scientific studies in the journals Nature and Science, the likelihood that dangerous asteroids will enter Earth’s atmosphere may be greater than previously believed.
On February 15 of this year, the world was inundated with dramatic video images of a 19-meter-wide meteor streaking across the sky above Chelyabinsk, Russia at nearly 67,000 kilometers per hour. Well over 1,000 people were injured by the event, mostly from the blinding flash and from broken window glass. Still, according to physicist Paul Wiegert of the University of Western Ontario and an author of a study of the Chelyabinsk meteor just published in the journal “Nature”… Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Jessica Berman||November 9th 2013|
Researchers have developed an interface between a monkey’s brains and a machine that could eventually be used to allow someone with a spinal cord injury to control an artificial arm or leg simply by thinking about it.
Initially, interfaces developed by researchers at Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering in Durham, North Carolina, could control only a single prosthetic limb. Now, the scientists have developed an interface that allows rhesus monkeys to move two arms at the same time, as they watch an avatar - a likeness of themselves - on a computer screen.
Virtual monkey avatar are shown from a 3rd person perspective as the movements of the two arms are decoded in real-time from the brain of a rhesus monkey. In the experiment the virtual arms and 3D target objects appear on the screen from a first-person perspective to the monkey, who receives a juice reward for correctly performed trials.
Neurobiology professor Miguel Nicolelis said the monkeys first learned to control the avatar with a pair of joysticks, but then were trained to stay completely still. “They are trained not to move their arms,” Nicolelis said. “They are trained just to imagine the movements. And we get the signals from both parts of their brains - both hemispheres - to be routed to a computer that’s running a computer algorithm that translates their voluntary will to move into movements of a virtual body.” Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Sam Orez||November 7th 2013|
A Columbia University Medical Center-led research team has clinically validated a new method for predicting time to full-time care, nursing home residence, or death for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The method, which uses data gathered from a single patient visit, is based on a complex model of Alzheimer’s disease progression that the researchers developed by consecutively following two sets of Alzheimer’s patients for 10 years each.
“Predicting Alzheimer’s progression has been a challenge because the disease varies significantly from one person to another—two Alzheimer’s patients may both appear to have mild forms of the disease, yet one may progress rapidly, while the other progresses much more slowly,” said senior author Yaakov Stern, PhD, professor of neuropsychology (in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology and in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain and the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center) at CUMC. “Our method enables clinicians to predict the disease path with great specificity.” Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Phil Taylor||November 6th 2013|
As more businesses find their way into the cloud, few engage in security measures beyond those provided by the associated cloud storage firm, a new report from Georgia Tech notes. Even fewer seek heightened data protection because of concerns that usability and access to remote data would be significantly reduced.
These concerns are among findings made by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in today's release of the Georgia Tech Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2014. The report was released at the annual Georgia Tech Cyber Security Summit, a gathering of industry and academic leaders who have distinguished themselves in the field of cyber security.
"With recent revelations of data collection by the federal government, we will continue to see a focus on cloud security," said Wenke Lee, director of GTISC. "But encryption in the cloud often impacts data accessibility and processing speed. So we are likely to see increased debate about the tradeoffs between security, functionality and efficiency." Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Jim Erickson||November 5th 2013|
Mammal body size decreased significantly during at least two ancient global warming events. A new finding that suggests a similar outcome is possible in response to human-caused climate change, according to a University of Michigan paleontologist and his colleagues.
Researchers have known for years that mammals such as primates and the groups that include horses and deer became much smaller during a period of warming, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), about 55 million years ago. Now U-M paleontologist Philip Gingerich and his colleagues have found evidence that mammalian "dwarfing" also occurred during a separate, smaller global warming event that occurred about 2 million years after the PETM, around 53 million years ago.
Read more ..
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