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The Edge of Space

Astronomers Discover Rare Galaxy at Dawn of Time

December 26th 2011

Science - Young Galaxy NASA

Astronomers, including the University of California, Riverside's Bahram Mobasher and his graduate student Hooshang Nayyeri, have discovered that one of the most distant galaxies known is churning out stars at a shockingly high rate. The researchers made the discovery using NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The blob-shaped galaxy, called GN-108036, is the brightest galaxy found to date at such great distances.

The galaxy, which was discovered and confirmed using ground-based telescopes, is 12.9 billion light-years away. Data from Spitzer and Hubble were used to measure the galaxy's high star production rate, equivalent to about 100 suns per year. For reference, our Milky Way galaxy is about five times larger and 100 times more massive than GN-108036, but makes roughly 30 times fewer stars per year. Read more ..


Environmental Edge

Christmas Cards and Gift Wrap in United Kingdom provide enough Energy for a Moon Trip

December 26th 2011

Europe Topics - British bus

If all the UK's discarded wrapping paper and Christmas cards were collected and fermented, they could make enough biofuel to run a double-decker bus to the moon and back more than 20 times, according to the researchers behind a new scientific study.

The study, by scientists at Imperial College London, demonstrates that industrial quantities of waste paper could be turned into high grade biofuel, to power motor vehicles, by fermenting the paper using microorganisms. The researchers hope that biofuels made from waste paper could ultimately provide one alternative to fossil fuels like diesel and petrol, in turn reducing the impact of fossil fuels on the environment.

According to some estimates 1.5 billion cards and 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper are thrown away by UK residents over the Christmas period. They currently go to landfill or are recycled in local schemes. This amount of paper could provide 5-12 million litres of biofuel, say the researchers, enough to run a bus for up to 18 million km. Read more ..


Edge on Health

HIV/AIDS Breakthrough of the Year shows Anti-Retroviral Drugs limit Transmission of Virus

December 25th 2011

Health/Medicine - HIV/AIDS

The journal Science has lauded an eye-opening HIV study, known as HPTN 052, as the most important scientific breakthrough of 2011. This clinical trial demonstrated that people infected with HIV are 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to their partners if they take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

The findings end a long-standing debate over whether ARVs could provide a double benefit by treating the virus in individual patients while simultaneously cutting transmission rates. It's now clear that ARVs can provide treatment as well as prevention when it comes to HIV, researchers agree.

In addition to recognizing HPTN 052 as the 2011 Breakthrough of the Year, Science and its publisher, AAAS, the nonprofit science society, have identified nine other groundbreaking scientific accomplishments from the past year and compiled them into a top 10 list.

Myron Cohen from the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C. and an international team of colleagues kicked off the HPTN 052 study in 2007 by enrolling 1,763 heterosexual couples from nine different countries: Brazil, India, Thailand, the United States, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Each participating couple included one partner with an HIV infection. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Astronomers Discover Deep-Fried Planets

December 25th 2011

Science - New Earth Sized Planets

Two Earth-sized planets have been discovered circling a dying star that has passed the red giant stage. Because of their close orbits, the planets must have been engulfed by their star while it swelled up to many times its original size.

This discovery, published in the science journal Nature, may shed new light on the destiny of stellar and planetary systems, including our solar system. When our sun nears the end of its life in about 5 billion years, it will swell up to what astronomers call a red giant, an inflated star that has used up most of its fuel. So large will the dying star grow that its fiery outer reaches will swallow the innermost planets of our solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Researchers believed that this unimaginable inferno would make short work of any planet caught in it – until now.

This report describes the first discovery of two planets – or remnants thereof – that evidently not only survived being engulfed by their parent star, but also may have helped to strip the star of most of its fiery envelope in the process. The team was led by Stephane Charpinet, an astronomer at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, Université de Toulouse-CNRS, in France. "When our sun swells up to become a red giant, it will engulf the Earth," said Elizabeth 'Betsy' Green, an associate astronomer at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, who participated in the research. "If a tiny planet like the Earth spends 1 billion years in an environment like that, it will just evaporate. Only planets with masses very much larger than the Earth, like Jupiter or Saturn, could possibly survive." Read more ..


Edge of Space

Closest Supernova in 25 Years Yields New Insights into Its Formation

December 24th 2011

Science - ptf11kly supernova
Credit: D. Andrew Howell et al., LCOGT

Type 1a supernovae are such regular features of the Universe that astrophysicists use them to measure cosmic distances; however, we still don’t know exactly what makes these giant explosions occur. Now, scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, as part of an international effort to study supernovae, are beginning to clear up the mystery of why certain stars explode in a brilliant display at the ends of their lives.

New research began last August, when the automatic telescopes at the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) in California that search for signs of developing supernova spotted one just a half a day into the explosion process. Not only was this a very early observation, but the supernova (dubbed PTF 11kly) was in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), a mere 6.4 Megaparsecs away—the closest one in the last 25 years.

The scientists participating in PTF, including Drs. Eran Ofek and Avishay Gal-Yam of the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics, have recently published three new papers based on their initial observations and analysis, two of them appearing in Nature and one in The Astrophysical Journal. Read more ..


The Edge of Life

Scientists Find Microbes in Lava Tube Living in Conditions Like Those on Mars

December 24th 2011

Science - Lava flow at Krafla

A team of scientists from Oregon has collected microbes from ice within a lava tube in the Cascade Mountains and found that they thrive in cold, Mars-like conditions.

The microbes tolerate temperatures near freezing and low levels of oxygen, and they can grow in the absence of organic food. Under these conditions their metabolism is driven by the oxidation of iron from olivine, a common volcanic mineral found in the rocks of the lava tube. These factors make the microbes capable of living in the subsurface of Mars and other planetary bodies, the scientists say.

The findings, supported by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are detailed in the journal Astrobiology. “This microbe is from one of the most common genera of bacteria on Earth,” said Amy Smith, a doctoral student at Oregon State University and one of the authors of the study. “You can find its cousins in caves, on your skin, at the bottom of the ocean and just about anywhere. What is different, in this case, is its unique qualities that allow it to grow in Mars-like conditions.” Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Notre Dame Researchers Develop Paint-On Solar Cells

December 23rd 2011

Energy Topics - Solar Paint

Imagine if the next coat of paint you put on the outside of your home generates electricity from light—electricity that can be used to power the appliances and equipment on the inside.

A team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame have made a major advance toward this vision by creating an inexpensive "solar paint" that uses semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy. "We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology," says Prashant Kamat, John A. Zahm Professor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry and an investigator in Notre Dame's Center for Nano Science and Technology (NDnano), who leads the research. "By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we've made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment." Read more ..


The Noise Edge

Do You Hear What I Hear? Noise Exposure Surrounds Us

December 23rd 2011

Science - Sound little boy

Nine out of 10 city dwellers may have enough harmful noise exposure to risk hearing loss, and most of that exposure comes from leisure activities. Historically, loud workplaces were blamed for harmful noise levels.

But researchers at the University of Michigan found that noise from MP3 players and stereo use has eclipsed loud work environments, said Rick Neitzel, assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health and the Risk Science Center. Robyn Gershon, a professor with the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco is the principal investigator on the study. This proved true even though MP3 player and stereo listening were just a small fraction of each person's total annual noise exposure. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Fear No Supernova

December 21st 2011

Science - supernova

Given the incredible amounts of energy in a supernova explosion – as much as the sun creates during its entire lifetime – another erroneous doomsday theory is that such an explosion could happen in 2012 and harm life on Earth. However, given the vastness of space and the long times between supernovae, astronomers can say with certainty that there is no threatening star close enough to hurt Earth.

Astronomers estimate that, on average, about one or two supernovae explode each century in our galaxy. But for Earth's ozone layer to experience damage from a supernova, the blast must occur less than 50 light-years away. All of the nearby stars capable of going supernova are much farther than this. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Meteorite Shockwaves Trigger Dust Avalanches on Mars

December 21st 2011

Science - Mars-scape

Dust avalanches around impact craters on Mars appear to be the result of the shock wave preceding the actual impact, according to a study led by an undergraduate student at the UA.    

When a meteorite careens toward the dusty surface of the Red Planet, it kicks up dust and can cause avalanching even before the rock from outer space hits the ground, a research team led by an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona has discovered.

"We expected that some of the streaks of dust that we see on slopes are caused by seismic shaking during impact," said Kaylan Burleigh, who led the research project. "We were surprised to find that it rather looks like shockwaves in the air trigger the avalanches even before the impact." Read more ..


The Medical Edge

White Blood Cells Play Hide and Seek

December 20th 2011

Science - effector cell
Effector cell inserting appendages through endothelial cell membranes

The white blood cells that fight disease and help our bodies heal are directed to sites of infection or injury by “exit signs”—chemical signals that tell them where to pass through the blood vessel walls and into the underlying tissue. New research at the Weizmann Institute, which appeared in Nature Immunology online, shows how the cells lining blood vessel walls may act as “selectors” by hiding the signals where only certain “educated” white blood cells will find them.

In previous studies, Prof. Ronen Alon—incumbent of the Linda Jacobs Professorial Chair in Immune and Stem Cell Research—and his team in the Department of Immunology had found that near sites of inflammation, white blood cells rapidly crawl along the inner lining of the blood vessels with tens of tiny legs that grip the surface tightly, feeling for exit signs. Such signs consist of migration-promoting molecules called chemokines, which the cells lining the blood vessels—endothelial cells—display on their outer surfaces like flashing lights. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Improving Security in the Cloud

December 18th 2011

Science - cumulus clouds (credit: Michael Jastremski)
credit:  Michael Jastremski

Less and less of today’s computing is done on desktop computers; cloud computing, in which operations are carried out on a network of shared, remote servers, is expected to rise as the demand for computing power increases. This raises some crucial questions about security: Can we, for instance, perform computations on data stored in “the cloud” without letting anyone else see our information? Research carried out at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is moving us closer to the ability to work on data while it is still encrypted, giving an encrypted result that can later be securely deciphered.

Attempting computation on sensitive data stored on shared servers leaves that data exposed in ways that traditional encryption techniques can’t protect. The main problem is that to manipulate the data, it has to be first decoded. “Until a few years ago, no one knew if the encryption needed for this sort of online security was even possible,” says Dr. Zvika Brakerski, who recently completed his PhD in the group of Prof. Shafrira (Shafi) Goldwasser of the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. Read more ..


The Environmental Edge

Novel Device Removes Heavy Metals From Water

December 17th 2011

Environment Topics - outflow pipe

Engineers at Brown University have developed a system that cleanly and efficiently removes trace heavy metals from water. In experiments, the researchers showed the system reduced cadmium, copper, and nickel concentrations, returning contaminated water to near or below federally acceptable standards. The technique is scalable and has viable commercial applications, especially in the environmental remediation and metal recovery fields. Results appear in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

An unfortunate consequence of many industrial and manufacturing practices, from textile factories to metalworking operations, is the release of heavy metals in waterways. Those metals can remain for decades, even centuries, in low but still dangerous concentrations. Read more ..


Medicine Edge

Scientists May Be Able to Double Efficacy of Radiation Therapy

December 16th 2011

Health/Medicine - bladder-radiation-therapy
Radiation Therapy

Scientists may have a way to double the efficacy and reduce the side effects of radiation therapy.

Georgia Health Sciences University scientists have devised a way to reduce lung cancer cells' ability to repair the lethal double-strand DNA breaks caused by radiation therapy.

"Radiation is a great therapy – the problem is the side effects," said Dr. William S. Dynan, biochemist and Associate Director of Research and Chief, Nanomedicine and Gene Regulation at the GHSU Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics. "We think this is a way to get the same amount of cancer cell death with less radiation or use the same amount and maybe cure a patient that could not be cured before." Read more ..


The Electrical Edge

Intelligent Plug Aims To Save Energy

December 16th 2011

Technology - eliminata

A new range of intelligent plugs that tailor electricity supply to appliance usage and can pay for themselves in a year has been launched by Cambridge-based Energy Reducing Products (ERP). The ELIMINATA range claims to take the guesswork out of energy saving by supplying power to office appliances only when it is needed.

ERP was founded by two entrepreneurs, John Halfpenny and Giles Hutchinson. Halfpenny said: “It’s inevitable that at the end of a long day the last person out of the office doesn’t always remember to go around checking that every appliance is switched off. In fact, many need to be left on for a little while longer: you may want to leave a printer to finish a job overnight, and the water cooler needs to regularly run its sanitisation features". Read more ..


The Robotic Edge

Creepy-Crawly Cyborgs are the Next First-Responders

December 15th 2011

Science - Cyborg insect
Photo credit: Erkan Aktakka

Research conducted at the University of Michigan College of Engineering may lead to the use of insects to monitor hazardous situations before sending in humans.

Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of electrical and computer engineering, and doctoral student Erkan Aktakka are finding ways to harvest energy from insects, and take the utility of the miniature cyborgs to the next level.

"Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack," Najafi said. "We could then send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go."

The principal idea is to harvest the insect's biological energy from either its body heat or movements. The device converts the kinetic energy from wing movements of the insect into electricity, thus prolonging the battery life. The battery can be used to power small sensors implanted on the insect (such as a small camera, a microphone or a gas sensor) in order to gather vital information from hazardous environments.
Read more ..

The Medical Edge

New Technique Identifies Magnetized Cancer Cells and Simplifies Treatment

December 15th 2011

Science - Remy Elbiz UMichigan cancer cells
Remy Elbez in the U-Michigan physics laboratory

A technique that lets researchers monitor single cancer cells in real time as they float in liquid could help doctors study the breakaway tumor cells that cause metastasis. Metastasis is the process of the disease spreading through the body.

The approach, developed at the University of Michigan, could also pave the way for new types of targeted therapies that go beyond personalized medicine, researchers say.
 
Remy Elbez, a doctoral student in applied physics, takes a sample of a solution that contains magnetized cervical cancer cells. He will place several drops of the solution in a special magnetic field. Then, after placing the whole apparatus under a microscope, he can watch the cells spin on a screen and determine their shape and status from their rotation rates. This new technique could help doctors understand the process of cancer metastasis. Photo by Nicole Casal Moore"We're looking toward individualized treatment, not just to the person, but to the cell," said Remy Elbez, a doctoral student in applied physics. He is a co-author of a paper on the work published in PLoS ONE.
 
In recent years, researchers have come to understand that not all cells in a cancerous tumor share the same genetic code. This means some are more difficult to kill than others. And techniques that enable single-cell study are in demand. Approaches that process many cells at once aren't as useful for researchers who want to look, for example, at a small number of cells that a particular cancer drug left alive. Read more ..


Ancient America

Clues to Ancient Hunters found on the Bottom of Lake Huron

December 13th 2011

Archaeology Topics - divers in Lake Huron

Under the cold clear waters of Lake Huron, University of Michigan researchers have found a five-and-a-half foot-long, pole-shaped piece of wood that is 8,900 years old. The wood, which is tapered and beveled on one side in a way that looks deliberate, may provide important clues to a mysterious period in North American prehistory.

"This was the stage when humans gradually shifted from hunting large mammals like mastodon and caribou to fishing, gathering and agriculture," said anthropologist John O'Shea of the University of Michigan. "But because most of the places in this area that prehistoric people lived are now under water, we don't have good evidence of this important shift itself– just clues from before and after the change. Read more ..


Edge of Nature

Bee Swarms Sweetly Unlock Secrets of the Human Brain

December 12th 2011

Animals - European honeybee and flower

Scientists at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom believe decision making mechanisms in the human brain could mirror how swarms of bees choose new nest sites.

Striking similarities have been found in decision making systems between humans and insects in the past but now researchers believe that bees could teach us about how our brains work.

Experts say the insects even appear to have solved indecision, an often paralysing thought process in humans, with scouts who seek out any honeybees advertising rival nest sites and butt against them with their heads while producing shrill beeping sounds.

Dr. James Marshall, of the University of Sheffield's Department of Computer Science, who led the UK involvement in the project and has also previously worked on similarities between how brains and insect colonies make decisions, said: "Up to now we've been asking if honeybee colonies might work in the same way as brains; now the new mathematical modelling we've done makes me think we should be asking whether our brains might work like honeybee colonies. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Magna Brings Camera-Based Driver Assistance Systems to Volume Markets

December 9th 2011

Technology - camera car system

Magna International has developed a driver assistance system that uses a single, forward-looking video camera to provide safety and convenience features such as forward collision and lane departure warnings. More affordable than comparable systems, the Magna system has recently launched on General Motors vehicles in the North American market, available as an option on the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.

In the development of this camera-based driver assistance system, Magna Electronics has partnered with Dutch vision technology provider Mobileye. The first product to be introduced was the Lane Departure Warning system based on the EyeQ1, launching also with General Motors on the Cadillac STS and DTS and Buick Lucerne. The current product is based on the second generation Mobileye processor, the EyeQ2. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Strange New "Species" of Ultra-Red Galaxy Discovered

December 4th 2011

Science - Ultra-Red Galaxy

In the distant reaches of the universe, almost 13 billion light-years from Earth, a strange species of galaxy lay hidden. Cloaked in dust and dimmed by the intervening distance, even the Hubble Space Telescope couldn't spy it. It took the revealing power of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to uncover not one, but four remarkably red galaxies. And while astronomers can describe the members of this new "species," they can't explain what makes them so ruddy.

"We've had to go to extremes to get the models to match our observations," said Jiasheng Huang of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Spitzer succeeded where Hubble failed because Spitzer is sensitive to infrared light - light so red that it lies beyond the visible part of the spectrum. The newfound galaxies are more than 60 times brighter in the infrared than they are at the reddest colors Hubble can detect.

Galaxies can be very red for several reasons. They might be very dusty. They might contain many old, red stars. Or they might be very distant, in which case the expansion of the universe stretches their light to longer wavelengths and hence redder colors (a process known as redshifting). All three reasons seem to apply to the newfound galaxies. All four galaxies are grouped near each other and appear to be physically associated, rather than being a chance line-up. Due to their great distance, we see them as they were only a billion years after the Big Bang - an era when the first galaxies formed. Read more ..


The Edge of Earth

Scientists Make Key Discovery about Early Earth Atmosphere and Beginning of Life Itself

December 4th 2011

Environment Topics - Southern California Coastal

Scientists in the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have used the oldest minerals on Earth to reconstruct the atmospheric conditions present on Earth very soon after its birth. The findings, which appear in the Dec. 1 edition of the journal Nature, are the first direct evidence of what the ancient atmosphere of the planet was like soon after its formation and directly challenge years of research on the type of atmosphere out of which life arose on the planet.

The scientists show that the atmosphere of Earth just 500 million years after its creation was not a methane-filled wasteland as previously proposed, but instead was much closer to the conditions of our current atmosphere. The findings, in a paper titled "The oxidation state of Hadean magmas and implications for early Earth's atmosphere," have implications for our understanding of how and when life began on this planet and could begin elsewhere in the universe. The research was funded by NASA. Read more ..


Earth on Edge

Magnetic Pole Reversal Happens All The (Geologic) Time

December 4th 2011

Science - Blue Planet

Scientists understand that Earth's magnetic field has flipped its polarity many times over the millennia. In other words, if you were alive about 800,000 years ago, and facing what we call north with a magnetic compass in your hand, the needle would point to 'south.' This is because a magnetic compass is calibrated based on Earth's poles. The N-S markings of a compass would be 180 degrees wrong if the polarity of today's magnetic field were reversed. Many doomsday theorists have tried to take this natural geological occurrence and suggest it could lead to Earth's destruction. But would there be any dramatic effects? The answer, from the geologic and fossil records we have from hundreds of past magnetic polarity reversals, seems to be 'no.'

Reversals are the rule, not the exception. Earth has settled in the last 20 million years into a pattern of a pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it has been more than twice that long since the last reversal. A reversal happens over hundreds or thousands of years, and it is not exactly a clean back flip. Magnetic fields morph and push and pull at one another, with multiple poles emerging at odd latitudes throughout the process. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Christmas Burst Reveals Neutron Star Collision

December 3rd 2011

Science - Revolving galaxy

A strangely powerful, long-lasting gamma-ray burst on Christmas Day, 2010 has finally been analyzed to the satisfaction of a multinational research team. Called the Christmas Burst, GRB 101225A was freakishly lengthy and it produced radiation at unusually varying wavelengths. But by matching the data with a model developed in 1998, the team was able to characterize the star explosion as a neutron star spiraling into the heart of its companion star.

The paper, "The unusual gamma-ray burst GRB 101225A from a helium star/neutron star merger at redshift 0.33," appears in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature. Christina Thöne of Spain’s Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía is the lead author, and Los Alamos computational scientist Chris Fryer is a contributor.

Fryer, of the Lab's Computer, Computational, and Statistical Sciences Division, realized that the peculiar evolution of the thermal emission (first showing X-rays with a characteristic radius of ~1011 cm followed by optical and infra-red emission at ~1014 cm) could be naturally explained by a model he and Stan Woosley of the University of California at Santa Cruz had developed in 1998. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Team of Astronomers Finds 18 New Planets

December 3rd 2011

Science - Mars & Earth, Christopher Leather U Chicago

Discoveries of new planets just keep coming and coming. Take, for instance, the 18 recently found by a team of astronomers led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

"It's the largest single announcement of planets in orbit around stars more massive than the sun, aside from the discoveries made by the Kepler mission," says John Johnson, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech and the first author on the team's paper, which was published in the December issue of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. The Kepler mission is a space telescope that has so far identified more than 1,200 possible planets, though the majority of those have not yet been confirmed. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Nokia Tweaks Bluetooth for Indoor Navigation

November 30th 2011

Architecture - indoor

Nokia Research is courting partners and expanding Bluetooth as part of an initiative on indoor location-based services. The company aims to leverage its handset and mapping products to enable a wide range of services including indoor navigation and retail analytics.
"We want to take what's been done in navigation outdoors and bring it inside," said Fabio Belloni, a principal researcher in Nokia's radio systems lab that looks for new ways to use networks.

Nokia has two pilots using a new Bluetooth protocol in the works and has reached out to as many as 30 companies in an effort to set broader standards that ultimately may include Wi-Fi and other networks.

The company is leading work on a new Location Extension protocol to ride on top of Bluetooth 4.0. It could be issued as a standard by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in about 18 months.

Nokia designed a prototype based on a room outfitted with Bluetooth Low Energy antenna arrays that track devices with Bluetooth tags. The prototype uses triangulation to create 3-D maps of a room. Researchers envision equipping malls, exhibit halls and other large buildings with the antenna arrays to help people people navigate though them. They also foresee large stores using tagged carts to track and study shopper behavior. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

PC Market Lifted by iPad Demand, Says Analyst

November 30th 2011

Technology - tablet & laptop

Global PC shipments will be 415 million units in 2011, up 15 percent year-on-year, predominantly thanks to sales of iPad tablet computers, according to market research firm Canalys Ltd.
Tablet shipments are expected to reach 59 million units in 2011 with 22 million shipping in the fourth quarter. While the iPad will dominate in Q4, the recently announced Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are also anticipated to impact the US market, Canalys said.

Tablet computer popularity has propelled Apple into second place in the worldwide PC market in Q3 2011 and Canalys expcts Apple to overtake Hewlett Packard as the leading global PC vendor in the first half of 2012. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Wireless Display In a Contact Lens Takes Shape

November 27th 2011

Health/Medicine - Contact-Lens

Researchers in Finland and the US have developed and tested a prototype contact lens that could provide the wearer with a real time hands-free display.

The researchers from the University of Washington and Aalto University, Finland, have constructed a computerised contact lens and demonstrated its safety by testing it on live eyes. At the moment, the contact lens device contains only a single pixel but the researchers see this as a "proof-of-concept" for producing lenses with multiple pixels which, in their hundreds, could be used to display short emails and text messages right into the eye. Read more ..


The Race for Fuel Cells

Fuel Cell Carmakers and Industry Highlight Zero Emission Mobility

November 27th 2011

Technology - hydrogen car

On 22 and 23 November, carmakers Daimler, Honda, Opel and Toyota have organized for the fourth time their Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Drive 'n' Ride in Brussels. At the event, the companies demonstrate how zero-emission technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells tackle transport emissions, one of the European Commission's two environmental priorities for 2012.

During the Drive 'n' Ride, more than 100 EU officials and other high-level stakeholders have the opportunity to experience the reality of clean technology by driving or riding in one of eight fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on display. In addition, for the first time in Brussels, a fully mobile and compact hydrogen station, provided by industrial gases vendor Linde AG and Daimler, will demonstrate the refuelling process. Read more ..


The Edge of Earth

Earth's Core Deprived of Oxygen

November 24th 2011

Israel Topics - Judaen Desert

The composition of the Earth's core remains a mystery. Scientists know that the liquid outer core consists mainly of iron, but it is believed that small amounts of some other elements are present as well. Oxygen is the most abundant element in the planet, so it is not unreasonable to expect oxygen might be one of the dominant "light elements" in the core. However, new research from a team including Carnegie's Yingwei Fei shows that oxygen does not have a major presence in the outer core. This has major implications for our understanding of the period when the Earth formed through the accretion of dust and clumps of matter.

According to current models, in addition to large amounts of iron, the Earth's liquid outer core contains small amounts of so-called light elements, possibly sulfur, oxygen, silicon, carbon, or hydrogen. In this research, Fei, from Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory, worked with Chinese colleagues, including lead author Haijun Huang from China's Wuhan University of Technology, now a visiting scientist at Carnegie. The team provides new experimental data that narrow down the identity of the light elements present in Earth's outer core. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

UGA Scientists Invent Long-lasting Infrared-Emitting Material

November 23rd 2011

Science - Radio and Infrared Emission

In a paper just published in the early online edition of the journal Nature Materials, University of Georgia scientists describe a new material that emits a long-lasting, near-infrared glow after a single minute of exposure to sunlight. Lead author Zhengwei Pan, associate professor of physics and engineering in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Engineering, said the material has the potential to revolutionize medical diagnostics, give the military and law enforcement agencies a "secret" source of illumination and provide the foundation for highly efficient solar cells.

"When you bring the material anywhere outside of a building, one minute of exposure to light can create a 360-hour release of near-infrared light," Pan said. "It can be activated by indoor fluorescent lighting as well, and it has many possible applications."   Read more ..


The Nano Edge

New Material Nearly as Light as Air is Breakthrough for Nano-Technology

November 22nd 2011

Science - New material

A team of researchers from the University of California at Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology have developed the world's lightest material — with a density of 0.9 mg/cc — about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam. The new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique "micro-lattice" cellular architecture.

The researchers were able to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent air by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. "The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.

The material's architecture allows unprecedented mechanical behavior for a metal, including complete recovery from compression exceeding 50 percent strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption.

"Materials actually get stronger as the dimensions are reduced to the nanoscale," explained UCI mechanical and aerospace engineer Lorenzo Valdevit, UCI's principal investigator on the project. "Combine this with the possibility of tailoring the architecture of the micro-lattice and you have a unique cellular material."

Developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the novel material could be used for battery electrodes and acoustic, vibration or shock energy absorption. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Researchers Tout Chip That Mimics Brain Activity

November 21st 2011

Health/Medicine - Invisible Brain

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have designed a chip that mimics how the brain's neurons adapt in response to new information.

The 400-transistor silicon chip can simulate the activity of a single brain synapse, the connection between two neurons that enables information to flow from one to the other.

The researchers explain that operationally, about 100 billion neurons in the brain form synapses with many other neurons. The presynaptic neuron releases neurotransmitters, which bind to receptors on the postsynaptic cell membrane, activating ion channels. Opening and closing those channels changes the cell’s electrical potential. If the potential changes dramatically enough, the cell fires an electrical impulse.

Synaptic activity depends on the ion channels, which control the flow of charged atoms such as sodium, potassium and calcium.

The MIT researchers designed the chip so that the transistors could mimic the activity of different ion channels. Current flows through the transistors on the new brain chip in analog fashion. A gradient of electrical potential drives current to flow through the transistors just as ions flow through ion channels in a cell. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Cloud May Have Billion Dollar Impact on Ethernet

November 21st 2011

Computer Topics - Hand on Mouse

The Ethernet switch market is undergoing a technological transformation in the data center as virtualization changes where and how applications are connected to end users. New network topologies are driving entirely new switching platforms.

The Ethernet switch market is undergoing a technological transformation in the data center as virtualization changes where and how applications are connected to end users. New network topologies are driving entirely new switching platforms.

Over the next five years, vendors will expand and consolidate as the battle for supremacy in data center networking intensifies. The result is that there has never been a better time for new entrants or a better opportunity for existing vendors to gain share.

Two major trends will forever change the Ethernet switch market: a significant technology shift to 10 Gbit Ethernet for server access, and the emergence of powerful new cloud computing giants such as Google.

Until the past few years, almost all traffic flowed from server to user, commonly referred to as north/south traffic. Virtualized traffic and current applications now predominantly communicate server to server, commonly referred to as east/west traffic. The change in traffic patterns requires networks with fewer layers and higher bandwidth to handle east/west traffic flows. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Yeast Gene Sheds Light on Batten Disease

November 19th 2011

Health/Medicine - Black infant

Waste management is a big issue anywhere, but at the cellular level it can be a matter of life and death. An Institute study published in the Journal of Cell Biology has revealed what causes a molecular waste container in the cell to overflow in Batten disease, a rare but fatal neurodegenerative disorder that begins in childhood. The findings may form the basis for a therapy for this disorder.

In Batten disease, an insoluble yellow pigment accumulates in the brain’s neurons, causing these cells to degenerate and ultimately die. Patients gradually become disabled, losing their vision and motor skills and suffering mental impairment; they rarely survive beyond their early twenties. It’s been known for a while that the disorder is caused by a mutation in the gene referred to as CLN3, but the role of this gene in the cell was unknown. This role has now been discovered in the Weizmann Institute study, explaining the molecular dysfunction in Batten disease.

The research was conducted in the laboratory of Prof. Jeffrey Gerst of the Department of Molecular Genetics by Rachel Kama and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Vydehi Kanneganti, in collaboration with Prof. Christian Ungermann of the University of Osnabrueck in Germany. All the studies were performed in yeast, as the yeast equivalent of the mammalian CLN3 gene has been conserved almost intact in the course of evolution, making them ideal models for study. In fact, so similar are the yeast and the mammalian genes that when the researchers replaced a missing copy of the yeast gene with a working copy of mammalian CLN3, normal functioning of the yeast cell was restored. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Issa: Congress Using Google as ‘Piñata’

November 17th 2011

Technology - google

Google is being used as a “piñata” by lawmakers looking to blame the search giant for online piracy, powerful Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Wednesday in exclusive comments to The Hill.

Issa said lawmakers are beginning to realize they can’t just blame Google for the problem of online piracy, and predicted legislation opposed by Silicon Valley giants including Google, Facebook and eBay is doomed because Republican leaders will realize the damage it would do to the knowledge-based economy.

“What they’re realizing is there are so many unintended consequences that they can’t just use Google as a pińata and bash on it here,” Issa told The Hill during a break in Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is opposed by much of Silicon Valley. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Ultrathin Flexible Electrode Array Enables Unprecedented Look at Brain Activity

November 17th 2011

Science - Brain Light

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a flexible brain implant that could one day be used to treat epileptic seizures. In animal studies, the researchers used the device – a type of electrode array that conforms to the brain's surface – to take an unprecedented look at the brain activity underlying seizures.

"Someday, these flexible arrays could be used to pinpoint where seizures start in the brain and perhaps to shut them down," said Brian Litt, M.D., the principal investigator and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. The findings appear in this month's Nature Neuroscience.

"These flexible electrode arrays could significantly expand surgical options for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy" said Story Landis, Ph.D., director of NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which helped fund the work. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Leonardo DiCaprio Moves Into Israeli High-Tech

November 17th 2011

Film - Leonardo DiCaprio

Israeli startup Mobli enables users to see real-time events that others are watching. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio was so impressed he invested in the company.

Contrary to popular belief, celebrities aren't all "ditzy." If you've heard of them - and if they've made a fortune in movies or TV - chances are they are sophisticated, intelligent people who know how to market themselves. After all, there is a lot of competition out there. So when a celeb like Leonardo DiCaprio sinks a significant sum into the startup Israeli phone app/website Mobli, you have to figure he knows what he's doing.

Mobli offers a unique and exciting real-time take on mobile video and photography. When you install the app on your phone, or check out the website, you can actually see what someone else is looking at.

According to the company's website, it all started when founder Moshe ("Moshiko") Hogeg was at a concert and could barely see the stage because his view was blocked by everyone in better seats holding up their phones to film the show.

"How cool would it be if he could somehow see everyone else's video from all different angles of the same concert? Not only could he see better videos and photos from better seats, but he could see it from a bunch of different views as it happens!"

Hogeg has been in the social media business almost since its inception. Prior to founding Mobli, he was a social media manager at Nike. A serial entrepreneur, Hogeg also founded Web2sport, where he acquired a soccer team and developed an innovative system to crowd-source its management to fans, eventually selling the product to Israel's leading sports channel. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

Galactic 'Sweet Spots' Favor Formation of Complex Organic Molecules

November 13th 2011

Science - Andromeda galaxy

Scientists within the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have compiled years of research to help locate areas in outer space that have extreme potential for complex organic molecule formation. The scientists searched for methanol, a key ingredient in the synthesis of organic molecules that could lead to life. Their results have implications for determining the origins of molecules that spark life in the cosmos.

The findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal in a paper titled "Observational constraints on methanol production in interstellar and preplanetary ices." The work is collaboration between researchers at Rensselaer, NASA Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and Ohio State University. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Assistant System Checks Driver's Health Condition While Driving

November 13th 2011

Automotive - BMW M1

Researchers of the Munich Technical University have developed a car-based sensor unit that can monitor the driver's health status. At the same time, the sensor can serve for early detection of sudden weakness of cardiac attacks.

The system has been developed in cooperation with carmaker BMW. Integrated into the steering wheel, the device measures vital parameters such as heart beat frequency, skin resistance and blood oxygen saturation. According to Professor Tim C. Lueth of the Munich Technical University's chair for micro technology and medical devices technology, there have been developed a number of systems serving to measure vital parameters during the ride in the context of stress tests. None of these systems however would be suitable for automotive volume production. By integrating their sensors into the steering wheel, the researchers could make a complex wiring of the driver unnecessary. The measurement data are radioed to a microcontroller that displays the results in the center stack screen of the vehicle. Read more ..



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