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The Digital Edge

Chicago needs 84,500 Small Cells to Deliver Hi-Speed LTE by 2015

October 20th 2011

America Themes - Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline

Chicago will need approximately 84,500 small cells to deliver truly high-speed LTE by 2015, with acceptable coverage and speeds, according to analysis from Picochip. To provide LTE everywhere in the US around 1.8 million small cells would be required, based on estimations on data growth and usage across the country. This is in addition to residential femtocells and Wi-Fi.

The analysis models what will be required to deliver the advertised data rates consistently to users wherever they are. The capacity per cell is based on extensive simulations of traffic from projected device populations and traffic service types in 2015, incorporating propagation models and calculations of network efficiency and loading. Around 20,000 of the small cells needed for Chicago would be installed in malls and retail premises where demand for data is often highest. Other sites include airports, stations, office buildings and outdoor sites providing wider coverage in busy street areas.

The report was put together by Picochip’s CTO Dr. Doug Pulley, who also concluded that worldwide there would need to be in excess of ten million small cells to deliver comparable performance. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

American Forests Have Greater Capacity for Absorbing Carbon than Previously Assumed

October 18th 2011

Environment Topics - Hiawatha Natl Forest Michigan
Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

North American forests appear to have a greater capacity to soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas than researchers had previously anticipated.

As a result, they could help slow the pace of human-caused climate warming more than most scientists had thought, a University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues have concluded.

The results of a 12-year study at an experimental forest in northeastern Wisconsin challenge several long-held assumptions about how future forests will respond to the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide blamed for human-caused climate change, said University of Michigan microbial ecologist Donald Zak, lead author of a paper published online this week in Ecology Letters.

"Some of the initial assumptions about ecosystem response are not correct and will have to be revised," said Zak, a professor at the U-Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the Ann Arbor-based institution's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Costs Up at India's R&D Centers

October 15th 2011

India Topics - Indian Tech

Operational costs are on the rise at global technology companies' Indian R&D centers as the focus shifts from cost cutting to innovation and value creation, a recent study found.

Zinnov Management Consulting reported that R&D operational costs  are on course for a 9 percent year-on-year increase—13 percent in U.S. dollar terms—in 2011, following two years of stringent cost reductions.

Operational costs next year are expected to rise between 8 and 12 percent, the consultancy projects. Attrition among employees at the country's 700 R&D centers has been as high as 20 percent this year, companies told Zinnov analysts, while salaries have increased between 10 and 15 percent.


The Race for Wind

Turkish Village Goes Off The Grid With A Wind Turbine

October 15th 2011

Turkish Topics - wind energy

The lights in Akbıyık went out one and a half years ago, when the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company cut off the village’s electricity because of outstanding utility bills that amounted to TRY 33,000 ($18,000). At that point, the villagers faced a choice: pay off the debt and get back on the national power grid, or find a new energy source that they could harness and control on their own.

They chose to stay off the grid and switch to wind power, securing their energy future and making them one of the greenest villages in Turkey.

A carefully researched decision

Akbıyık’s residents and village headman researched various forms of renewable energy before settling on wind power. They proposed a TRY 160,000 wind turbine project to the government of their province, Bursa. The villagers contributed TRY 20,000, but the majority of the initial costs were paid by the Bursa Provincial Administration. Read more ..

The Edge of Science

The Scorned Scientist Who Became a Nobel Laureate

Israel Topics - Prof. Daniel Shechtman

Danny Shechtman's rigorous Israeli upbringing gave him the tenacity to keep him on a prize-winning scientific course despite ridicule from colleagues.

During paramilitary training at his Israeli high school, Danny Shechtman was usually the first to jump on the barbed wire blocking the students' path as they ran through a field.

"Everybody steps on you and then you try to shake yourself loose and run after them," the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology professor related to ISRAEL21c at a Jerusalem press conference on Sunday after the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced he was to become the 10th Israeli to win a Nobel Prize. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

Changes in Rainfall Patterns Are Projected for Next 30 Years

October 12th 2011

Weather - Rain

Scientists at University of Hawaii – Manoa have projected an increased frequency of heavy rainfall events but a decrease in rainfall intensity during the next 30 years (2011-2040) for the southern shoreline of Oahu, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Chase Norton, a Meteorology Research Assistant at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at UH - Manoa, and colleagues (Professors Pao-Shin Chu and Thomas Schroeder) used a statistical model; rainfall data from rainfall gauges on Oahu, Hawaii; and a suite of General Circulation Models (GCMs) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to project future patterns of heavy rainfall events on Oahu. GCMs play a pivotal role in the understanding of climate change and associated local changes in weather. Read more ..

Edge of Space

Massive Stars may be Responsible for Cosmic Fog of Early Universe

October 12th 2011

Science - star burst

The space between the galaxies wasn't always transparent. In the earliest times, it was an opaque, dense fog. How it cleared is an important question in astronomy. New observational evidence from the University of Michigan shows how high energy light from massive stars could have been responsible.

Astronomers believed that early star-forming galaxies could have provided enough of the right kind of radiation to evaporate the fog, or turn the neutral hydrogen intergalactic medium into the charged hydrogen plasma that remains today. But they couldn't figure out how that radiation could escape a galaxy. Until now.

Jordan Zastrow, a doctoral astronomy student, and Sally Oey, a U-M astronomy professor, observed and imaged the relatively nearby NGC 5253, a dwarf starburst galaxy in the southern constellation Centaurus. Starburst galaxies, as their name implies, are undergoing a burst of intense star formation. While rare today, scientists believe they were very common in the early universe. Read more ..

The Plant Edge

Artificial Leaf Performs Direct Hydrolysis in Sunlight

October 10th 2011

Energy / Environment - Leaf

Researchers led by MIT professor Daniel Nocera have produced something they call an "artificial leaf": Like living leaves, the device can turn the energy of sunlight directly into a chemical fuel that can be stored and used later as an energy source.

The artificial leaf - a silicon solar cell with different catalytic materials bonded onto its two sides - needs no external wires or control circuits to operate. Simply placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, it quickly begins to generate streams of bubbles: oxygen bubbles from one side and hydrogen bubbles from the other. If placed in a container that has a barrier to separate the two sides, the two streams of bubbles can be collected and stored, and used later to deliver power: for example, by feeding them into a fuel cell that combines them once again into water while delivering an electric current.

The device, Nocera explains, is made entirely of earth-abundant, inexpensive materials - mostly silicon, cobalt and nickel - and works in ordinary water. Other attempts to produce devices that could use sunlight to split water have relied on corrosive solutions or on relatively rare and expensive materials such as platinum.


Significant Lives

Apple's Steve Jobs Passes into History and so does an Era

October 6th 2011

Computer Topics - Steve Jobs 2

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and the holder of more than 300 technology patents, died on October 5. The eccentric entrepreneur who built Apple into the world’s leading technological company started in a prosaic garage in Silicon Valley. Having built one of the first personal computers marketed, Jobs led Apple to create wildly popular devices such as the iPhone. He was 56.

Sometimes accused of egocentricity, Jobs pioneered the concept of the personal computer and of navigating them by clicking onscreen images with a mouse, which he also developed. In more recent years, Jobs introduced the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet, which changed how content is accessed and consume in the digital age. "Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera said in August. "His intuition has been phenomenal over the years." Read more ..

Edge of Outer Space

NASA Finds Fewer Deadly Planet-Busting Asteroids than Feared

October 3rd 2011

Science - asteroid belt

The U.S. space agency, NASA, says there are slightly fewer massive, planet-buster asteroids and far fewer mid-sized, city-buster asteroids than previously thought in near-Earth orbit. The findings were the latest from NASA's asteroid-hunter, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, known as WISE.

Imagine a census of the inner solar system. Specifically, imagine a count of asteroids that orbit within 195 million kilometers of the Sun into Earth's orbital vicinity.

This is a population that fascinates Amy Mainzer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She is the principal investigator for the near-Earth Orbit Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE.

"As one of my colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory likes to say, 'the best three ways of dealing with the potential of an asteroid impact are to find them early, find them early and find them early,'" Mainzer said. Read more ..

Destination Israel

WeMakeIt Mobile Pocket Hotspot Connects Israel Travelers to the Country and the Planet

October 1st 2011

Jerusalem-Temple and Wall

More than three million people visit Israel each year. More every month. They are tourists, pilgrims, businessmen, diplomats, students, and celebrants. 

Most visitors to Israel are highly wired and connected individuals who need to stay in touch with home and business. But they also need to maximize their enjoyment of Israel's endless attractions. The problem is that getting connected in Israel is difficult. Naturally, your smartphones are going to become completely stupid in Israel due to incompatible signal. Therefore, any hookup for telephone is still going to require a global phone--very expensive, or a travel phone rental--less expensive.

The workaround for smartphone apps is your laptop or iPad. But your iPads and tablets will not work because you lack an Israeli wireless connection. When you finally connect at your hotel, the daily connect fee is often double or triple the cost of a typical US hotel fee—as much as $20 to $30 per day plus tax just to get connected. All this aggravation can be avoided with a small box about the size of a wallet--the mobile hotspot. It is offered by a recently formed Israeli hi-tech company called WeMakeIt. You will find it easily available on demand from the leading car rental company, Eldan, or delivered to your hotel. The fact that Eldan makes the mobile hotspot—or MiFi—as easily available as US rental agencies do for navigators, sets Israeli travel ease a notch ahead for ease and access. Read more ..

Medical Edge

Contagion of Anti-Biotic Resistant Super-Bugs is Spread by Roads

September 30th 2011

Transportation Topics - Broken Road

Antibiotic resistant E. coli was much more prevalent in villages situated along roads than in rural villages located away from roads, which suggests that roads play a major role in the spread or containment of antibiotic resistant bacteria, commonly called superbugs, a new study finds.

Many studies on various infectious diseases have shown that roads impact the spread of disease, however this is the first known study to show that roads also impact the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, said Joe Eisenberg, co-author and professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Researchers at the U-Michigan SPH and colleagues from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and Trinity College studied a region in northwest Ecuador for five years, focusing on antibiotic resistant E. coli and the common antibiotic paring of ampicillin and sulfamethoxazole. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Smart Accessories Could Be the Next Big Thing

September 30th 2011

Technology - IC Layout

Energy Micro has reassessed its application areas to include ‘smart accessories’; devices that connect to and are powered by smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. The company has also modified its strategic goals; from 1 percent market share to $1b revenue by 2020.
The addition of two new families to its range of ultra low power Cortex-M based MCUs could help the company realise its goals. The long awaited Giant Gecko and hitherto unannounced Leopard Gecko families of MCUs more than double the company’s portfolio of devices, while also driving down the standby current to just 400nA.

Coupled with a faster core and larger memory options, it creates a product portfolio that now also includes a QFP64 package option, said to be in high demand amongst customers. Read more ..

The Magnetic Edge

Cloaking Magnetic Fields Prevent Magnetic Leaks

September 30th 2011

Science - magnetic field

Spanish researchers have designed what they believe to be a new type of magnetic cloak, which shields objects from external magnetic fields, while at the same time preventing any magnetic internal fields from leaking outside, making the cloak undetectable.
The development of such a device, described as an 'antimagnet', could offer many beneficial applications, such as protecting a ship's hull from mines designed to detonate when a magnetic field is detected, or allowing patients with pacemakers or cochlear implants to use medical equipment. In their study, published in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society's New Journal of Physics, researchers have proved that such a cloak could be built using practical and available materials and technologies, and used to develop an array of applications.

Take, for example, a patient with a pacemaker undergoing an MRI scan. If an MRI's large magnetic field interacts with the pacemaker, it can cause serious damage to both the device and the patient. The metal in the pacemaker could also interact with and distort the MRI's large magnetic field, affecting the machine's detection capabilities.The researchers, from Universitat Autňnoma de Barcelona, are aware that the technology could also be used by criminals to dodge security systems, for example in airports and shops, but they are confident that the new research could benefit society in a positive way, while the risks could be minimized by informing security officials about potential devices, enabling them to anticipate and neutralize problems. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

An Organizing Principle for our Sense of Smell

September 27th 2011

Science - Brain Light

The fact that certain smells cause us pleasure or disgust would seem to be a matter of personal taste. But new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science shows that odors can be rated on a scale of pleasantness, and this turns out to be an organizing principle for the way we experience smell. The findings, which appeared September 26 in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a correlation between the response of certain nerves to particular scents and the pleasantness of those scents. Based on this correlation, the researchers could tell by measuring the nerve responses whether a subject found a smell pleasant or unpleasant.

Our various sensory organs have evolved patterns of organization that reflect the type of input they receive. Thus the receptors in the retina, in the back of the eye, are arranged spatially for efficiently mapping out visual coordinates. The structure of the inner ear, on the other hand, is set up according to a tonal scale. But the organizational principle for our sense of smell has remained a mystery: Scientists have not even been sure if there is a scale that determines the organization of our smell organ, much less how the arrangement of smell receptors on the membranes in our nasal passages might reflect such a scale. Read more ..

Edge on Space

Scientists Discover One Planet Orbiting Two Stars

September 23rd 2011

Science - Kepler 16-B
Artist’s conception of planet (dark circle) orbiting two suns. (credit: NASA)

Astronomers say they have discovered a planet that orbits around a pair of stars. It is the first time a so-called circumbinary system has been detected.

Movie fans might be familiar with “Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope,” the blockbuster movie from 1977. Luke Skywalker stands on his stark home planet Tatooine. As he gazes pensively into the distance toward a pinkish sky, an orange sun descends toward the horizon, with a smaller white sun following close behind.

Well, move over, Tatooine, says John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic, which created the special effects for the Star Wars films.

“Again and again we see that the science is stranger and cooler than the fiction,” Knoll said.

Tatooine now has to make way for reality: Kepler-16b, the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars—a circumbinary planet. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

"Subconscious Mode" for Smartphones Could Extend Battery Life

September 23rd 2011

Technology - Droid Navigation App

A proof-of-concept stage "subconscious mode" for smartphones and other WiFi-enabled mobile devices could extend battery life by as much as 54 percent for users on the busiest networks, described in a paper titled "E-MiLi: Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening in Wireless Networks."
University of Michigan computer science and engineering professor Kang Shin and doctoral student Xinyu Zhang will present their power management approach at the ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking in Las Vegas on September 21st.

Even when smartphones are in power-saving modes and not actively sending or receiving messages, they are still on alert for incoming information and they're searching for a clear communication channel. The researchers have found that this kind of energy-taxing "idle listening" is occurring during a large portion of the time phones spend in power-saving mode — as much as 80 percent on busy networks. Their approach could make smartphones perform this idle listening more efficiently. It's called E-MiLi, which stands for Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening. Read more ..

The Robotic Edge

MABEL the Robot is the Fastest Bipedal Robot with Knees

September 23rd 2011

Science - MABEL

A robot in a University of Michigan lab can run like a human—a feat that represents the height of agility and efficiency for a two-legged machine. With a peak pace of 6.8 miles per hour, MABEL is believed to be the world's fastest bipedal robot with knees.

"It's stunning," said Jessy Grizzle, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "I have never seen a machine doing a motion like this."

MABEL was built in 2008 in collaboration with Jonathan Hurst, who was then a doctoral student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Grizzle and U-M doctoral students Koushil Sreenath and Hae-Won Park have spent the years since ratcheting up MABEL's training. They've been progressively improving the feedback algorithms that enable the robot to keep its balance while reacting to its environment in real time.

MABEL started off walking smoothly and quickly over flat surfaces. Then it moved on to uneven ground. It took its first real jog in late July, and with that, Sreenath met the ultimate goal of his research just days before he was scheduled to defend his thesis. Read more ..

The Race for Electric

Innovative Superconductor Fibers Carry 40 Times More Electricity

September 19th 2011

Science - superconducting fibers

Wiring systems powered by highly-efficient superconductors have long been a dream of science, but researchers have faced such practical challenges such as finding pliable and cost-effective materials. Now researchers at Tel Aviv University have found a way to make an old idea new with the next generation of superconductors.

Dr. Boaz Almog and Mishael Azoulay working in the group of Prof. Guy Deutscher at TAU's Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy have developed superconducting wires using fibers made of single crystals of sapphire to be used in high powered cables. Factoring in temperature requirements, each tiny wire can carry approximately 40 times more electricity than a copper wire of the same size

High power superconductor cables take up much less space and conduct energy more efficiently, making them ideal for deployment across grids of electricity throughout a city. They will also offer a more effective method for collecting energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind energy. Superconducting wires can also be used for energy storage and enable devices which enhance grid stability. Read more ..

The Genetic Edge

Genetic Markers for Schizophrenia and Bi-Polar Disorder Discovered

September 19th 2011

Science - Brain Light

Several newly discovered genetic variants may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or both, according to an international research consortium that includes the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Laura Scott, associate research scientist at U-M SPH, led the SPH group that participated along with more than 250 researchers from more than 20 countries that comprised the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium. The various groups in the consortium found six variants not previously observed, and 11 variants total.

Scott said the U-M SPH study group focused on the bipolar analysis. She was one of the leaders of the consortium's bipolar analysis team, which also included biostatistics graduate student Phoenix Kwan and other members of the Michigan group. The team found two variants, one of which was novel, that were associated with increased risk of developing bipolar disorder and possibly other conditions. Read more ..

The Race for Wireless

Wireless Power Transmission Grows For Consumer Electronics And Electric Vehicles

September 17th 2011

Technology - tablet & laptop

Over the next decade, the most vibrant Wireless Power Transmission (WPT) markets will be the contactless charging of portable and mobile equipment, in particular consumer electronics and electric vehicles. This is the focus of a new IDTechEx report, "Wireless Power Transmission for Consumer Electronics and Electric Vehicles 2012-2022. The research carried out for this report describes technologies that will be a stepping stone to contactless power for a high proportion of static consumer, industrial and military electronics and electrics.
For now, it primarily concerns wireless charging of batteries in portable consumer electronics and in electric vehicles. Both travel considerable distances and ready availability of standard, convenient, contactless, charging capability are key to their further growth in adoption. For example, the user will enjoy ever greater functionality and longer hours of use of mobile phones despite the on-going shortcomings of their batteries. Read more ..

Digital Edge

Smartphones and Wi-Fi Mobile Devices to Save Batteries in 'Sub-conscious Mode'

September 16th 2011

Computer Topics - Smart phone

A new "subconscious mode" for smartphones and other WiFi-enabled mobile devices could dramatically extend battery life by as much as 54 percent for users on the busiest networks.

University of Michigan computer science and engineering professor Kang Shin and doctoral student Xinyu Zhang will present their new power management approach at the upcoming 'MobiCom' - ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking in Las Vegas. The new invention is still in the proof-of-concept stage and is not yet commercially available.

Even when smartphones are in power-saving modes and not actively sending or receiving messages, they are still on alert for incoming information and they're searching for a clear communication channel. The researchers have found that this kind of energy-taxing "idle listening" is occurring during a large portion of the time phones spend in power-saving mode—as much as 80 percent on busy networks. Their new approach could make smartphones perform this idle listening more efficiently. It's called E-MiLi, which stands for Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Thermal Night Vision, a Feature on the Rise

September 12th 2011

Technology - Infrared

In a recent report on the uncooled infrared imaging market, Yole Développement highlights that commercial applications in surveillance, automotive and thermography will reach total volumes over 1 million units in 2016. Initially developed for the military market by US defense companies, infrared (IR) uncooled cameras are now widely used in many commercial applications. In the Infrared spectrum, long wave infrared (LWIR) is the most common wavelength (8-12 microns).

Commercial business is expanding at a high rate thanks to three main markets analyzed in this report. The thermography boom is confirmed with camera prices now available for near $1,000 from FLIR that expands the use of IR cameras to maintenance engineers and building inspectors. The automotive sector has increased by 40 percent in volume in 2010 with four new car models adopting thermal night vision. It is expected that automotive will exceed 500,000 units sales for 2016. Surveillance is becoming a key market with several CCTV big camera players introducing many new models of thermal camera: Pelco, Axis, Bosch Security, Samsung Techwin. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Developing the Next Generation of Drugs

September 9th 2011

Science - MMP-9 (enzyme)

Enzymes—the proteins responsible for chemical reactions in living cells—change their structure at dizzying speeds. This dynamic action makes them very efficient, but it can also make them difficult to study. Prof. Irit Sagi of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Regulation develops new experimental tools and procedures to study shape-shifting enzymes in real time and at the scale of individual atoms. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

NovoSpeech Allows Devices to “Hear” Clearly

September 9th 2011

Technology - Novospeech

More devices than ever use automatic speech recognition (ASR), allowing users to “tell” their device what to do—like dial a phone number by speaking a name rather than tapping a button.

However, ASR technology often doesn’t work well, says Zvi Hava, the CEO of Petah Tikva-based NovoSpeech. “Current ASR solutions are unable to attain 100 percent real-time accuracy of all words spoken by a person, because of background noise, accents and vocabulary,” says Hava.

“In general, these systems succeed only when they are in low noise-controlled environments or when they are either ‘trained’ to recognize a voice, or when the task involved requires some basic and simple commands with a limited vocabulary.” Read more ..

The Digital Edge

German Giant Bosch Invests $10 million in "Gesture Chip"

September 6th 2011

Computer Topics - Computer chips

Robert Bosch Venture Capital has led an investment of 7.1 million euro (about $10 million) in Ident Technology AG (Gilching, Germany), a developer of electric field sensors that can be used for 3-D gesture recognition. Bosch participated with existing investors MIG Funds and Danube Equity and the money is intended to support introduction of a 3D gesture recognition chip.

"Our Z-Sense technology is all about making the user experience natural, intuitive, simple and fun," said Roland Aubauer, chief technology officer of Ident, in a statement. "With our proximity technology already in production we have decided to take our innovations further and launch our own GestIC chip for the fast growing three-dimensional gesture control market in 2012."

The GestIC is set to address needs of mobile devices, consumer electronics and allows real-time tracking of free-space hand or finger movements in front of a device or display. The chip enables a broad range of signals from simple touch detection to complex 3-D movements. Read more ..

Medcial Edge

New Laser Technology will Zap Away Acne Pimples

September 2nd 2011

Science - Laser burst

A laser developed at the University of Michigan is designed to melt fat without burning surrounding tissue. It could potentially be used to treat acne, researchers say. Its 1,708-nanometer, infrared beam takes advantage of a unique wavelength that fat can absorb more efficiently than water , which makes up more than half of the human body. It can penetrate skin with minimal harm on its way to reach and destroy deeper pockets of fat, said Mohammed Islam, a professor of electrical engineering and internal medicine. The research is described in a paper published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.

The laser could treat acne by targeting the oil-producing sebaceous glands, which are known to be involved in the development of the skin disease. Read more ..

Edge on Health

Commonly Prescribed Anti-Biotic Reduces Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Attacks

August 30th 2011

Health/Medicine - nurse w/stethoscope

Adding a common antibiotic to the usual treatment regimen for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can reduce acute exacerbations –sudden onsets of worsened cough, wheeze, and labored breathing – and improve quality of life, reports a new clinical trial funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Michigan Health System and Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System, under the direction of lung specialists Fernando Martinez, M.D., M.S., and Jeffrey Curtis, M.D., were one of 10 centers involved in the large-scale clinical trial. Martinez and his colleagues in U-M’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine provided key preliminary data supporting antibiotic treatment and were involved in the trial’s design.

Findings appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Exacerbations account for a significant part of COPD’s health burden,” said Susan Shurin, M.D., acting director of the NHLBI. “These promising results with azithromycin may help us reduce that burden and improve the lives of patients at risk of these acute attacks.” Read more ..

Animal Edge

Hyenas’ Ability to Count Helps them Decide to Fight or Flee

August 28th 2011

Animals - Sarah Benson-Amram
Sarah Benson-Amram

Being able to count helps spotted hyenas decide to fight or flee, according to research at Michigan State University. When animals fight, the larger group tends to win.

In the current issue of Animal Behaviour, Sarah Benson-Amram, an MSU graduate student studying zoology, showed that hyenas listen to the sound of intruders’ voices to determine who has the advantage.

“They’re more cautious when they’re outnumbered and take more risks when they have the numerical advantage,” said Benson-Amram, who conducted the study through MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “Hyenas appear to be as capable as chimpanzees or lions at assessing their advantage.”

The finding supports the concept that living in complex social groups, as hyenas, lions and chimpanzees do, is one of the keys to the evolution of big brains, Benson-Amram added.

Even though spotted hyenas live in clans of up to 90 individuals, they spend much of the day in much smaller, more vulnerable groups. When researchers played recordings of potential intruders, the hyenas’ reaction depended on how many voices they heard compared to how many fellow pack members surrounded them. Groups of three or more hyenas were far more likely to approach the source of sound than pairs or individuals. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

White Space Frequencies Offer Tremendous Potential for Wireless Communications

August 28th 2011

Computer Topics - Motorola droid

Cambridge Consultants has released a report discussing the foremost business opportunities in wireless technologies enabled by White Space frequencies, predicting the development of the first White Space consumer devices in the next five years. The report entitled: ‘White Space radio: High Street Hit or Left In the Lab?’ is the culmination of a White Space workshop hosted by Cambridge Consultants, and brings together experts from across the wireless and broadcast industries including representatives from Nokia, Samsung, BBC, BSkyB, Neul and CSR to discuss White Space technology.

Consensus from the report views the use of White Space radio as an inevitability, addressing a critical need for redressing methods of spectrum usage and opening up new possibilities for wireless devices. Read more ..

Edge on Anthropology

Caveman Sex and Ancient Inter-Breeding Yielded Immunilogical Benefits for Future Generations

August 27th 2011

Science - Neanderthal

For a few years now, scientists have known that humans and their evolutionary cousins had some casual flings, but now it appears that these liaisons led to a more meaningful relationship.

Sex with Neanderthals and another close relative — the recently discovered Denisovans — has endowed some human gene pools with beneficial versions of immune system genes, report researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in an article published online in Science Express.

Although modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans share a common ancestor in Africa, the groups split into separate, distinct populations approximately 400,000 years ago. The Neanderthal lineage migrated northwestward into West Asia and Europe, and the Denisovan lineage moved northeastward into East Asia. The ancestors of modern man stayed in Africa until 65,000 years or so ago, when they expanded into Eurasia and then encountered the other human-like groups. In some cases, the rendezvous were amorous in nature.

Last year, a partial genome sequence of Neanderthals, who died out approximately 30,000 years ago, revealed that these trysts left as much as 4 percent Neanderthal DNA in the genetic blueprint of some present-day humans. Last December, the genome of another human cousin, the extinct Denisovans, made clear that up to 6 percent of some people's genomes are Denisovan in origin. Read more ..

Edge on Health

Handheld Gene-Z Device shows Promise for Detecting Cancer in Underdeveloped Countries

August 27th 2011

Science - Gene Z device demo
Syed Hashsham demonstrates Gene-Z

An engineering researcher and a global health expert from Michigan State University are working on bringing a low-cost, hand-held device to nations with limited resources to help physicians detect and diagnose cancer.

Syed Hashsham, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MSU, is developing the Gene-Z device, which is operated using an iPod Touch or Android-based tablet and performs genetic analysis on microRNAs and other genetic markers. MicroRNAs are single-stranded molecules that regulate genes; changes in certain microRNAs have been linked to cancer and other health-related issues.

He is working with Reza Nassiri, director of MSU's Institute of International Health and an assistant dean in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, on the medical capabilities for the device and establishing connections with physicians worldwide.

Cancer is emerging as a leading cause of death in underdeveloped and developing countries where resources for cancer screening are almost non-existent, Nassiri said. Read more ..

The Oceanic Edge

Twisted Whales' Tale of Asymmetrical Skulls and Directional Hearing

August 26th 2011

Science - whale skull

Skewed skulls may have helped early whales discriminate the direction of sounds in water and are not solely, as previously thought, a later adaptation related to echo-location. University of Michigan researchers report the finding in a paper being published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Asymmetric skulls are a well-known characteristic of the modern whale group known as odontocetes (toothed whales). These whales also have highly modified nasal structures with which they produce high-frequency sounds for echolocation -- a sort of biological sonar used to navigate and find food. The other modern whale group, mysticetes (baleen whales), has symmetrical skulls and does not echolocate.

These observations led scientists to believe that archaeocetes -- the extinct, ancient whales that gave rise to all modern whales -- had symmetrical skulls, and that asymmetry later developed in toothed whales in concert with echolocation. But a new analysis of archaeocete skulls by U-Michigan postdoctoral fellow Julia Fahlke and coauthors shows that asymmetry evolved much earlier, as part of a suite of traits linked to directional hearing in water. Read more ..

The Nano Edge

Delicate Nanoscale Biological Balancing Act has Applications for Nanotechnology

August 26th 2011

Science - superclusters of nano thingys

A delicate balance of atomic forces can be exploited to make nanoparticle superclusters that are uniform in size—an attribute that's important for many nanotech applications but hard to accomplish, University of Michigan researchers say. The same type of forces are at work bringing the building blocks of viruses together, and the inorganic supercluster structures in this research are in many ways similar to viruses.

U-Michigan chemical engineering professors Nicholas Kotov and Sharon Glotzer led the research. The findings are newly published online in Nature Nanotechnology.

In another instance of forces behaving in unexpected ways at the nanoscale, they discovered that if you start with small nanoscale building blocks that are varied enough in size, the electrostatic repulsion force and van der Waals attraction force will balance each other and limit the growth of the clusters. This equilibrium enables the formation of clusters that are uniform in size. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Breakthrough Discovery of Human Immune Response to the Flu

August 26th 2011

Social Topics - Big sneeze

Why do some folks who take every precaution still get the flu, while others never even get the sniffles?

It comes down to a person's immune system response to the flu virus, says Alfred Hero, professor at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. In one of the first known studies of its kind, Hero and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, used genomics to begin to unravel what in our complex genomic data accounts for why some get sick while others don't. The study findings will appear in PLoS Genetics. Read more ..

Digital Edge

U.S. could see $53 billion in 4G Network Investments in Five Years

August 23rd 2011

Computer Topics - 4G gizmo

A new Deloitte report states that wireless telecommunications companies in the United States could invest $25 to $53 billion in fourth generation cellular wireless networks (4G) between 2012 and 2016, triggering $73 to $151 billion in gross domestic product growth and creating 371,000 to 771,000 jobs. Additional growth could occur as high-tech companies create new mobile broadband products and services, further changing the way people live, work and learn.

The Deloitte report, "The Impact of 4G Technology on Commercial Interactions, Economic Growth, and U.S. Competitiveness," investigates the economic dynamics surrounding 4G technology and explains how the U.S. can maintain the global leadership position in mobile broadband innovation it won during the 3G era.

The $25 billion figure assumes a baseline scenario in which U.S. 4G deployment proceeds at a moderate pace and the transition from 3G to 4G extends to the middle of the decade. Under these conditions, U.S. firms are vulnerable to incursions by foreign competitors capitalizing on aggressive efforts in their home markets to deploy 4G networks and develop 4G-based devices and services. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

America's Warriors to Get Boost from Antennae in Clothing

August 23rd 2011

Military - Soldiers In Afghanistan

To make communications devices more reliable, Ohio State University researchers are finding ways to incorporate radio antennas directly into clothing, using plastic film and metallic thread. In the current issue of the journal IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, they report a new antenna design with a range four times larger than that of a conventional antenna worn on the body – one that is used by American soldiers today.

"Our primary goal is to improve communications reliability and the mobility of the soldiers," said Chi-Chih Chen, a research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State. "But the same technology could work for police officers, fire fighters, astronauts – anybody who needs to keep their hands free for important work." Read more ..

The Nano Edge

National Institute of Standards and Technology Researchers Question Carbon Nanotube Reliability

August 23rd 2011

Science - Graphene carbon mesh

National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers have found in recent reliability tests that carbon nanotubes device reliability is a major issue. NIST test results from numerous nanotube interconnects between metal electrodes show that nanotubes can sustain extremely high current densities — tens to hundreds of times larger than that in a typical semiconductor circuit — for several hours but slowly degrade under constant current.

And in about 40 hours the researchers found that the metal electrodes fail when currents rise above a certain threshold.

NIST is developing measurement and test techniques and studying a variety of nanotube structures, zeroing in on what happens at the intersections of nanotubes and metals and between different nanotubes.

"The common link is that we really need to study the interfaces," said Mark Strus, a NIST postdoctoral researcher, in a statement. Read more ..

Ancient Edge

The Role of an Ancient Fungus Remains Mysterious

August 22nd 2011

Science - Pure culture of Archaeorhizomyces finlayi - Timothy James
Culture of A.Finlayi (Credit: Timothy James)

A type of fungus that's been lurking underground for millions of years, previously known to science only through its DNA, has been cultured, photographed, named and assigned a place on the tree of life.

Researchers say it represents an entirely new class of fungi: the Archaeorhizomycetes. Like the discovery of a weird type of aquatic fungus that made headlines a few months ago, this finding offers a glimpse at the rich diversity of microorganisms that share our world but remain hidden from view.

The fungal phenomenon, brought to light by researchers at the University of Michigan, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Imperial College London and Royal Botanic Gardens and the University of Aberdeen, is described in the journal Science.

Although unseen until recently, the fungus was known to be extremely common in soil. Its presence was detected in studies of environmental DNA—genetic material from a living organism that is detected in bulk environmental samples, such as samples of the soil or water in which the organism lives. Read more ..

Edge of Space

Presence of Liquid Brine may Herald Life on Mars

August 22nd 2011

Science - Brine on Mars
Leg of Mars Phoenix Lander exhibiting droplets of liquid brine

How common are droplets of saltwater on Mars? Could microbial life survive and reproduce in them? A new million-dollar NASA project led by the University of Michigan aims to answer those questions. This project begins three years after beads of liquid brine were first photographed on one of the Mars Phoenix lander's legs.

"On Earth, everywhere there's liquid water, there is microbial life," said Nilton Renno, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences who is the principal investigator. Researchers from NASA, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Georgia and the Centro de Astrobiologia in Madrid are also involved. Read more ..

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