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The Race for Alt Fuel

Power Supply Design Impregnated Into Textiles

November 4th 2011

Technology - power supply fabric

Scientists in the US have taken the first steps towards designing a flexible and lightweight fabric that can act as a power supply for smart garments. Electronic textiles, or 'smart' textiles, are fabrics that have built-in functions such as sensing, data storage and communication. But as with all electronics, they require a power source. Conventional batteries are too bulky to wear, so a power source that can be combined and integrated into the garment is highly desirable.

Previous attempts to make wearable energy storage devices involved the use of nonwoven materials not usually used in clothes and expensive active materials like carbon nanotubes and nanowires. Yury Gogotsi and colleagues at Drexel University, Philadelphia, have taken every day fabrics like woven cotton and polyester materials and impregnated them with porous carbon powders, taking advantage of the natural porous nature of these materials. Using common techniques like screen printing, ink-jet printing and dip-coating, textile electrodes can be made on a large scale without the expense of new processes. Read more ..

Edge of Outer Space

Life-Giving Water Found in a Distant Solar System

November 1st 2011

Science - Water ring in space
TW Hydrae system

For the first time, astronomers have detected around a burgeoning solar system a sprawling cloud of water vapor that's cold enough to form comets, which could eventually deliver oceans to dry planets.

Water is an essential ingredient for life. Scientists have found thousands of Earth-oceans' worth of it within the planet-forming disk surrounding the star TW Hydrae. TW Hydrae is 176 light years away in the constellation Hydra and is the closest solar-system-to-be. The researchers used the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared (HIFI) on the orbiting Hershel Space Observatory to detect the chemical signature of water.

"This tells us that the key materials that life needs are present in a system before planets are born," said Bergin, a HIFI co-investigator. "We expected this to be the case, but now we know it is because have directly detected it. We can see it." Read more ..

The Sporting Edge

Olympics Don't Accurately Detect Female Sprinters' False Starts

October 31st 2011

Sports Topics - female sprinter

Olympic timing procedures don't accurately detect false starts by female sprinters, according to a new analysis by University of Michigan researchers.

Under the current rules, a woman can purposely anticipate the gun by up to 20 milliseconds, or one-fiftieth of a second, without getting called for a false start, the researchers say.

"This is unfair to the other women in the race because a medal can be won or lost in 20 milliseconds," said James Ashton-Miller, the Albert Schultz Collegiate Research Professor in the College of Engineering, the Institute of Gerontology and the School of Kinesiology.

The findings, published in PLoS One (Public Library of Science), have implications beyond competitive sports. They provide insights into the fastest whole-body reaction times humans are capable of, and they could possibly inform automobile brake engineering, the researchers say.

Olympic officials use the same criteria to disqualify both male and female sprinters for jumping the gun. A "false start" occurs if an athlete applies an estimated 25 kilogram force to the starting blocks within a tenth of a second (100 milliseconds) of the gun. Why 100 milliseconds? That was thought to be the fastest possible human reaction time. It's a threshold largely based on a 1990 study of eight Finnish sprinters, none of whom were Olympians and none of whom were women. Read more ..

The Race for Smart Grid

Smart Grid research collaboration aims to develop a Renewable Ireland

October 31st 2011

Science - superconducting fibers

Leading European energy and ICT companies, R&D centers and universities, including ESB, Intune Networks and the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) are teaming up as part of a €5million for EU Collaboration to develop innovative “smart grid” energy solutions and services for homes, buildings, industry and the transport infrastructure.

The project aims to identify the requirements of a “smart grid” ICT system. Smart grids provide a balance between the supply of energy generated and demand. They can integrate advanced information and communication technology (ICT) into the energy distribution network so that electricity delivery is remotely controlled and automatically optimized. Read more ..

The Ancient Edge

New Archaeological Evidence of Early Hunters Dates Earliest Americans to 12,000 BCE

October 29th 2011

Science - Mastodon bones

A new and astonishing chapter has been added to North American prehistory in regards to the first hunters and their hunt for the now extinct giant mammoth-like creatures – the mastodons. Professor Eske Willerslev’s team from the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, has in collaboration with Michael Waters’ team at the Center for the Study of the First Americans, University of Texas A&M, shown that the hunt for large mammals occurred at least 1,000 years before previously assumed.

This new study concludes that the first-known hunters in North America can now be dated back at least 14,000 years. The results are published today in the internationally renowned scientific journal Science.

“I am sure that especially the Native Americans are pleased with the results of the study. It is further proof that humans have been present in North America for longer than previously believed. The “Clovis First” theory, which many scientists swore to just a few years back, has finally been buried with the conclusions of this study,” says Professor Willerslev, director of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen. Read more ..

Africa on Edge

'Balanced' Approach Needed to Solve Food Insecurity in Central Africa

October 29th 2011

Africa Topics - African subsistence farming

The polarized debate over the use of organic and inorganic practices to boost farm yields is slowing action and widespread farmer adoption of approaches that could radically transform Africa's food security situation, according to a group of leading international scientists meeting in Kigali this week.

"The ideological divide over approaches to farm production are a distraction from the actions needed to address food security now and ensure it in the future," said Nteranya Sanginga, director general designate of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). "Persistently high food prices and low farm yields are weakening Central Africa's food security and putting the region's fragile stability and economic growth at risk."

"Climate change, rapid population growth, and intense land pressure are major challenges for the region. It's time to focus on practical, evidence-based solutions that will forever end the cycle of hunger, poverty and civil conflict," he added. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Nokia Tries Again with New Windows Phones

October 28th 2011

Technology - Nokia 710 & 800
Nokia 710 and 800

On October 26, at Nokia World in London, the Finnish phone maker unveiled its first two Windows Phone powered devices, the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 710, running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.

The higher end Lumia 800 with its 3.7 inch AMOLED display, 1.4 GHz processor, 8 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera and 16 GB of embedded memory is targeted to compete with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’s Galaxy S II, while the Lumia 710, with a 5 megapixel camera and 8GB of embedded memory, is aimed more at the mid-tier segment. Both phones boast a 1450 mAh battery.

“This is a slim and sleek, well designed phone, featuring a best in class camera and it has some strong key selling points,” said IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo of the Lumia 800, though he admitted the phone may have trouble competing in a market where Android and iOS still dominate. The Lumia 710, he said, was more of a dark horse in that it had surprised the mid-tier segment with a device it wasn’t expecting until the second quarter of 2012. “This is the most affordable 1.4 GHz processor device, a mid price-tier handset with high-end specs,” he said. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Health Information Technology: Keep it Simple

October 28th 2011

Health/Medicine - Docs and Tech
credit: Emma Schwartz/iWatch News

Making electronic record-keeping systems easier for health providers to use can help prevent dangerous or even fatal mistakes, says the draft of a project by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The draft, titled “Technical Evaluation, Testing and Validation of the Usability of Electronic Health Records,” is available for informal public comment until Nov. 10, 2011. It provides guidance from NIST, a technical research agency within the Department of Commence, for testing electronic health record-keeping systems to make sure they are understandable for health care practitioners. The draft was released in September. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Nanoconfined Organic Solar Cell Material Enhances Conductivity

October 27th 2011

Technology - Solar Cells

The advance doesn’t improve overall solar-cell efficiency, however, because the nano-confined light-absorbing material doesn’t cover as much area as in the thin-film format. But the research suggests that such nanoscale restructuring, described in the cover article of the October 17, 2011, issue of Applied Physics Letters and in the September 13, 2011, issue of ACS Nano, might eventually achieve that goal, and make polymer-based solar cells - potentially manufactured as inexpensively as plastics - more competitive in the marketplace.

“Judged by their physical properties, organic semiconductors should be more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than they are,” said Charles Black, group leader for electronic materials at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN). “One of the goals of our research is to understand why - and to devise new solar cell architectures to improve them.” Read more ..

The Green Edge

Greener Heating for Hotels and Hospitals

October 24th 2011

Israel Topics - Phoebus Energy

An Israeli hybrid water-heating system shaves thousands of dollars a year off heating costs at big facilities, and vastly improves efficiency.

Heat pumps, more common in moderate climates than extreme ones, have been around for about 60 years. They create a greener heating system and work by using a small amount of electricity to pull heat from one place to another.

Improving on the old design, the Israeli company Phoebus Energy is giving "brains" to the water heating industry. The Phoebus solution can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on heating costs for big facilities, and improve efficiency by up to 70 percent, they say. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Bionics Innovation Reduces Battery Electrode Filling Times

October 22nd 2011

Energy Topics - Battery

The latest development by engineers of KIT is inspired by nature. To fill the porous electrodes of lithium-ion batteries more rapidly with liquid electrolyte, they use a physico-chemical effect that also provides for transport in trees.

Engineers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have developed a new process that increases the throughput of battery production and reduces investment costs.  The new technology fills porous electrodes of lithium-ion batteries more rapidly with liquid electrolyte by using a physico-chemical effect that also provides for transport in trees.              

The electrodes inside modern batteries are as porous as a sponge. Unlike household sponges, however, pore size is in the micrometer range. As a result, the electrode has a large surface area and provides much space for the chemical processes during electric charge and discharge. This is necessary for developing batteries for electric vehicles that can cover large distances and be recharged rapidly.  Read more ..

The Animal Edge

A Welcome Scoop For Dog Owners

October 22nd 2011

Technology - ashpoopie
The prototype AshPoopie, targeted for retail in 2012.

Coming to pet shops in 2012: An Israeli pooper-scooper that turns droppings into harmless, odorless ash within seconds.

If you have a dog, then you know that no matter how fancy a pooper-scooper you've got, after Rover's walk you are still left with a messy, smelly nuisance that pollutes the environment with sewage and plastic bags.

One Israeli who got fined for failing to pick up the droppings decided to contact Prof. Oded Shoseyov of the Hebrew University, a renowned biotech inventor, for a better solution. And Shoseyov rose to the challenge.

His novel idea is AshPoopie, a pooper-scooper with a critical difference: After it gathers the droppings, it turns them into odorless, sterile ash within seconds. All the dog-walker has to do is push a button to release an activation capsule from the cartridge inside the unit. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Wireless Service Providers Look to the Cloud to Regain Profits

October 22nd 2011

Technology - Cloud computing

Despite booming growth in data revenue, margins for wireless operators have been squeezed as they have been slow to react to the paradigm shift wrought by the explosive rise of broadband usage on smartphones and tablets, forcing the operators to embrace new revenue services and business models—including the cloud—to enhance profits, according to the IHS iSuppli.

“Mobile communications service providers have lagged behind in the race to unlock the value in the mobile communications industry, which is estimated to grow to a trillion dollars during the next two years,” said Jagdish Rebello, Ph.D., senior director and principal analyst for communications and consumer electronics at IHS. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

IHS Spotlights iPhone 4S Component Changes

October 20th 2011

Technology - iPhone4

Apple's latest iPhone - the iPhone 4S - may share many similarities to the iPhone 4, but it also features several notable upgrades, including a major upgrade to the applications processor, the use of a higher-resolution and more advanced camera module and the addition of a new cellular radio that makes the iPhone 4S a true "world phone," according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.

Apple has disclosed that the iPhone 4S features its dual-core A5 processor - the same processor found in iPad 2 - an upgrade from the single-core A4 found in iPhone 4 and other previous products. According to IHS' preliminary analysis based on features announced by Apple, iPhone 4S likely has the same 4-Gb SDRAM memory configuration found in iPad 2.

The use of this low density of memory highlights the efficiency of Apple’s iOS operating system compared to those of competitive smartphones, which use twice as much SDRAM, at 8 Gb IHS said. This lowers the cost of this memory subsystem, leading to greater design economy relative to alternative phones, according to IHS. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Google Rides the Swiss rails for Spectacular StreetView

October 20th 2011

Switzerland railway

Google Street View technology has put imagery of some of the world’s most interesting and significant sites online. So now Google has now captured the beauty and majesty of the Swiss Alps from its winding train tracks and switchbacks.

Cooperating with Rhaetian Railways of Switzerland, a Google Street View team collected images from the Albula-Bernina line in Switzerland that will soon be live on Google Maps. The route winds through the Swiss Alps and is one of most famous in the world, passing through alpine forests from Thusis, Switzerland and past the resort town of St. Moritz, then to its final stop just over the border in Tirano, Italy Read more ..

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 ..

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