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Edge the Brain

Scientists Discover how Best to Excite Brain Cells

July 13th 2011

Science - glowing neuron

Oh, the challenges of being a neuron, responsible for essential things like muscle contraction, gland secretion and sensitivity to touch, sound and light, yet constantly bombarded with signals from here, there and everywhere.

How on earth are busy nerve cells supposed to pick out and respond to relevant signals amidst all that information overload?

Somehow neurons do manage to accomplish the daunting task, and they do it with more finesse than anyone ever realized, new research by University of Michigan mathematician Daniel Forger and coauthors demonstrates. Their findings—which not only add to basic knowledge about how neurons work, but also suggest ways of better designing the brain implants used to treat diseases such as Parkinson's disease—were published July 7 in the online, open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Forger and coauthors David Paydarfar at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and John Clay at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke studied neuronal excitation using mathematical models and experiments with that most famous of neuroscience study subjects, the squid giant axon—a long arm of a nerve cell that controls part of the water jet propulsion system in squid. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Thunderbolt Interconnect: Two Channels of Data Transfer Offers a Lot of Noise but no Spark

July 12th 2011

Computer Topics - Hand on Mouse

The newly released Thunderbolt interconnect provides two channels of bi-directional data transfer at 10-Gbps rates, which admittedly is way beyond an order of magnitude more than what the USB 2.0 protocol offers. In the future, that will be bolstered even further, as the interconnect will incorporate optical (hence its original name of "LightPeak") as well as copper cabling. However, this is still likely to be some way off.

The huge jump in bandwidth Thunderbolt represents means that, in principal, it should prove to be a very attractive prospect. Despite this, there are serious technical and economic drawbacks that need to be reflected on. All this added performance does not come cheap, and so its ability to swell a bill of materials might actually overshadow its ability to transfer data. Read more ..

Privacy on Edge

Bluetooth v4.0 Profiles Will Promote Proximity Sensing, Security Features

July 11th 2011

Technology - bluetooth connecting devices

Two new profiles within the latest revision of the Bluetooth specification are expected to enable a new era in proximity sensing and security, according to Nordic Semiconductor. The Bluetooth v4.0 profiles, developed within the Bluetooth SIG PUID (Personal User Interface Device) working group will enable the standards-based functionality.

The Bluetooth low energy Find Me profile targets smartphone applications and will allow users to pair small but commonly misplaced everyday objects with smartphones in order to locate them. One early example will be Bluetooth low energy key fobs that users will be able to use to find a misplaced phone or key fob. Read more ..

Privacy on Edge

U.S. Lawmakers Frustrated by Lack of Answers about Google Street View Wi-spying

July 11th 2011

Technology - g street view car varberg sweden
Google street view car in Varberg, Sweden

Perhaps you’ve seen them trundling past your house—those ruby-red Google Street View compact cars, with a tripod camera mounted on the roof. They have cruised through almost every major town in the developed world, photographing each house and posting the pictures on Google Maps.

But one year ago, following the German government’s demand for more information, Google representatives were forced to admit that the cars were gathering more than harmless pictures; they were systematically gathering data on anyone using a nearby, unsecured Wi-Fi network. If you were within range and surfing the Web without a password, Google took a little electronic snapshot of whatever you were doing. Read more ..

Digital Edge

'Smart' TVs Coming Sooner As India Phases out Analog

July 7th 2011

Computer Topics - smart tv

Internet services are becoming critical to the future of television as TV manufacturers in 2011 aim to ship more than a quarter of all flat panel TVs with some form of Internet connectivity. According to market research firm DisplaySearch, this number is forecast to grow to 138M units in 2015, accounting for 47 percent of all flat panel TVs shipped.

"The adoption of connected TV is not just taking place in developed regions," said Paul Gray, DisplaySearch Director of TV Electronics Research, in a statement. "Emerging markets often have good broadband services, and there is a thirst from consumers to get the best content available." Read more ..

The Next Edge

Microalgae Could be Texas’s Next Big Cash Crop

July 7th 2011

Science - Fernandez and TAMU microalgae bioreactor
Dr. Carlos Fernandez, TAMU Corpus Christi (credit: Rod Santa Ana)

Just as corn and peanuts stunned the world decades ago with their then-newly discovered multi-beneficial uses and applications, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi think microalgae holds even more promise.

“It's a huge, untapped source of fuel, food, feed, pharmaceuticals and even pollution-busters,” said Dr. Carlos Fernandez, a crop physiologist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi who is studying the physiological responses of microalgae to the environment. There are an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 species of microalgae, microscopic algae that thrive in freshwater and marine systems—but of all those species, only 35,000 species have been described. Read more ..

Digital Edge

Tiny new Antenna may Lead to a New Generation of Wireless Consumer Electronics and Wireless Devices

July 6th 2011

Science - Antenna

Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan have found a way to mass-produce antennas so small that they approach the fundamental minimum size limit for their bandwidth, or data rate, of operation.

This could lead to new generations of wireless consumer electronics and mobile devices that are either smaller or can perform more functions. The antenna is typically the largest wireless component in mobile devices. Shrinking it could leave more room for other gadgets and features, said Anthony Grbic, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Grbic and Stephen Forrest, a professor in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Physics, led the development of the hemisphere-shaped antennas, which can be manufactured with innovative imprint processing techniques that are rapid and low cost. The finished product is 1.8 times the fundamental antenna size limit established in 1948 by L.J. Chu. The dimensions of this limit vary based on an antenna's bandwidth. Read more ..

Digital Edge

Silicon Roundabout Tech Calls for IP Reform to Identify Changes needed in UK copyright law

July 6th 2011

Computer Topics - computer board

The Silicon Roundabout Tech community has issued an open letter to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and key members of the Cabinet, calling for the urgent and fulsome adoption of IP reforms recommended by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his report commissioned by the Prime Minister, which was intended to identify changes needed to Britain’s copyright law framework. In the report, Professor Hargreaves states “Laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth.”

The companies within the Silicon Roundabout Tech community believe that the recommendations laid out in the report would help correct that imbalance, with the open letter highlighting that the recommendations received strong support at the recent e-G8 meeting held in Paris, where they were cited as best practice for copyright law in the digital age. Read more ..

IP vs Innovation

Tech Community Calls for IP Reform in UK

July 5th 2011

Computer Topics - Russian computer user

The Silicon Roundabout Tech community has issued an open letter to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and key members of the Cabinet, calling for the urgent adoption of IP reforms recommended by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his report commissioned by the Prime Minister, which was intended to identify changes needed to Britain’s copyright law framework.

In the report, Professor Hargreaves states “Laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth.” Read more ..

The Nanotech Edge

Nanotubes not Toxic, Researchers Say

July 5th 2011

Science - cell and nanotubes
Cell and purified nanotubes

Nanotubes may not be intrinsically toxic, as previously reported elsewhere. Rather, contaminants mixed in during their manufacture should be held responsible for their adverse health effects, according to a University of Texas study funded by Semiconductor Research Corp (SRC).

"Carboxylated single-walled carbon nanotubes indeed reduce the ability of mammalian cells to grow in culture, but by using simple filtration methods we were able to remove the contaminants introduced during manufacturing," said University of Texas professor Rockford Draper. "The resulting purified nanotubes were shown to have no ill effect on mammalian cells grown in culture." Read more ..

Edge of Neuroscience

False Memories--How Easy Are They?

July 5th 2011

Social Topics - Praying to a purple sky

How easy is it to falsify memory? New research from the Weizmann Institute of Science shows that a bit of social pressure may be all that is needed. The study, which appears in the July 1, 2011 issue of Science, reveals a unique pattern of brain activity when false memories are formed—one that hints at a surprising connection between our social selves and memory.

The experiment, conducted by Prof. Yadin Dudai and research student Micah Edelson of the Institute’s Department of Neurobiology, along with Prof. Raymond Dolan and Dr. Tali Sharot of University College London, took place in four stages. In the first, volunteers watched a documentary film in small groups. Three days later, they returned to the lab individually to take a memory test, answering questions about the film. They were also asked how confident they were in their answers. Read more ..

Edge on Medicine

Floppy, Fickle Nature of RNA Yields Useful Drugs

July 1st 2011

Science - RNA polymerase

By accounting for the floppy, fickle nature of RNA, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Irvine have developed a new way to search for drugs that target this important molecule. Their work appears in the June 26 issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

Once thought to be a passive carrier of genetic information, RNA now is understood to perform a number of other vital roles in the cell, and its malfunction can lead to disease. The versatile molecule also is essential to retroviruses such as HIV, which have no DNA and instead rely on RNA to both transport and execute genetic instructions for everything the virus needs to invade and hijack its host. As more and more links to disease are discovered, the quest for drugs that target RNA is intensifying. Read more ..

Edge on Aging

Nanoparticles May Help Inhibit Alzheimer's Disease and other Neurodegenerative Disorders

June 29th 2011

Social Topics - Baby Boomer

Nanoparticles of the right dimensions and shape may be the key in combating the plaque that destroys neurons and leads to symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease, a new report shows.

University of Michigan chemical engineering professor Nicholas Kotov says the nanotechnology means can attract and capture the longer fibrils that are known to form plaque related to neurodegenerative disorders.

"Both amyloid peptides and nanoparticles exhibit a strong ability to self-assemble into fibrils," Kotov said. "We were open to any possible effect of nanoparticles on the amyloid fibrillation. We were very pleased to see amazing inhibitory effect on amyloids fibrillation which opens the door for new approaches to the development of drugs to prevent Alzheimer's disease." By introducing tetrahedral nanoparticle that were comparable in size with growing fibrils, he discovered that the dangerous plaque readily bonded to them, and their geometry was strongly distorted. Such drastic change in shape results in complete inhibition of their further fibrillation. Read more ..

The Race for Electric Aircraft

Hybrid-Electric Airplane on Display at Paris Airshow

June 24th 2011

Transportation Topics - Boeing Diamond Aircraft's HK36 Super Dimona

Hybrid-electric drives are no longer a matter of cars only: At the Le Bourget air show, small plane manufacturer Diamond Aircraft shows what it claims to be the world's first airplane with a serial hybrid electric drive system. There are however significant differences to automotive drives.

The plane, a motor glider based on Diamond Aircraft's HK36 Super Dimona, features a serial hybrid drive - similar to an electric vehicle with range extender. The propeller is driven by a 70 kW electric motor made by Siemens.

The electric energy required to drive this motor is generated by a generator which in turn is driven by a small 30 kW Wankel combustion engine from Austro Engine. An electronic converter, also provided by Siemens, supplies the electric motor with power from the battery and the generator. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Improved Vitamin A may Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss

June 23rd 2011

Science - Macular degeneration

Slowing down the aggregation or “clumping” of vitamin A in the eye may help prevent vision loss caused by macular degeneration, research from Columbia University Medical Center has found.

Rather than changing the way the eye processes vitamin A, a team of researchers led by Ilyas Washington, a professor in the department of ophthalmology at Columbia’s Harkness Eye Institute, decided to focus on changing the structure of vitamin A itself. In turn, Dr. Washington and his lab have taken a novel step toward treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a top cause of untreatable blindness – and Stargardt’s disease, the most common cause of juvenile macular degeneration. Read more ..

Edge on Health

Heightened Immunity to Colds May Cause Asthma Flare-ups

June 22nd 2011

Health/Medicine - Childhood asthma

People often talk about “boosting” their immunity to prevent and fight colds. Nutritional supplements, cold remedies and fortified foods claim to ward off colds by augmenting the immune system.

A new University of Michigan study shows this strategy might actually be flawed. The results may hold important implications for individuals with asthma, who often experience life-threatening flare-ups due to infections with cold viruses.

The study, using a novel mouse model, shows that, in the airways, the immune response to the common cold is actually maladaptive. Mice that were engineered to have a reduced innate immune response to the common cold actually showed less - not more - airway inflammation and bronchoconstriction (airway spasm) following infection. Read more ..

Edge on the Environment

Mississippi Flooding Brings Record 'Dead Zone' to Gulf of Mexico

June 22nd 2011

Environment Topics - Dead Zone Gulf of Mexico
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center graphic

Extreme flooding of the Mississippi River this spring is expected to result in the largest Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" on record, according to a University of Michigan aquatic ecologist and his colleagues.

The 2011 forecast, released today by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), calls for a Gulf dead zone of between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles, an area roughly the size of New Hampshire.

The most likely 2011 scenario, according to U-Michigan's Donald Scavia, is a Gulf dead zone of at least 8,500 square miles, surpassing the current record of 8,400 square miles, set in 2002. The average over the past five years is about 6,000 square miles. Read more ..

Edge of Outer Space

X-Ray Telescope Discovers New Voracious Black Holes in Early Universe

June 21st 2011

Science - baby black hole

Using the deepest X-ray image ever taken, a University of Michigan astronomer and her colleagues have found the first direct evidence that massive black holes were common in the early universe. This discovery from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that very young black holes grew more aggressively than previously thought, in tandem with the growth of their host galaxies.

By pointing Chandra at a patch of sky for over six weeks, astronomers obtained what is known as the Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS). When combined with very deep optical and infrared images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the new Chandra data allowed astronomers to search for black holes in 200 distant galaxies, from when the universe was between about 800 million and 950 million years old. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Non-Invasive Brain Implant may Translate Thought into Movement

June 21st 2011

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

A brain implant developed at the University of Michigan uses the body's skin like a conductor to wirelessly transmit the brain's neural signals to control a computer, and may eventually be used to reactivate paralyzed limbs.

The implant is called the BioBolt, and unlike other neural interface technologies that establish a connection from the brain to an external device such as a computer, it's minimally invasive and low power, said principal investigator Euisik Yoon, a professor in the U-M College of Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Currently, the skull must remain open while neural implants are in the head, which makes using them in a patient's daily life unrealistic, said Kensall Wise, the William Gould Dow Distinguished University professor emeritus in engineering. Read more ..

Urban Edge

Cockroach Allergens Explain Why Childhood Asthma is Prevalent in Urban Neighborhoods

June 16th 2011

Animals - Cucarachas

Children living on New York City blocks where asthma is common have higher levels of exposure to cockroach allergens and are more likely to be sensitized to it. In New York City, the prevalence of asthma among children entering school varies by neighborhood anywhere from 3 percent to 19 percent, and children growing up within walking distance of each other can have 2-3 fold differences in risk for having asthma.

In the first comprehensive effort to understand what drives these localized differences, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health compared the household presence of cockroach, mouse, cat, dust mite and other allergens in neighborhoods with a high prevalence of asthma to that in low-prevalence neighborhoods. They found that cockroach, mouse and cat allergens were significantly higher in homes located in neighborhoods where asthma is more common and that children in these higher-exposure homes were more likely to be sensitized to cockroach antigens. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

New Sodium-Manganese Oxide Rechargeable Batteries Can take the Heat off the Grid

June 15th 2011

Science - sodium maganese battery

By adding the right amount of heat, researchers have developed a method that improves the electrical capacity and recharging lifetime of sodium ion rechargeable batteries, which could be a cheaper alternative for large-scale uses such as storing energy on the electrical grid.

To connect solar and wind energy sources to the electrical grid, grid managers require batteries that can store large amounts of energy created at the source. Lithium ion rechargeable batteries -- common in consumer electronics and electric vehicles -- perform well, but are too expensive for widespread use on the grid because many batteries will be needed, and they will likely need to be large. Sodium is the next best choice, but the sodium-sulfur batteries currently in use run at temperatures above 300 degrees Celsius, or three times the temperature of boiling water, making them less energy efficient and safe than batteries that run at ambient temperatures. Read more ..

The Nano Edge

New Technique for Producing Low-Cost Nanodevices for Solar Power and Drug Delivery

June 14th 2011

Science - Titanium nanotubes
Microscopic image of imprinted titanium tubes - Weiss Lab.

A simple technique for stamping patterns invisible to the human eye onto a special class of nanomaterials provides a new, cost-effective way to produce novel devices in areas ranging from drug delivery to solar cells. The technique was developed by Vanderbilt University engineers and described in the cover article of the May issue of the journal Nano Letters. The new method works with materials that are riddled with tiny voids that give them unique optical, electrical, chemical and mechanical properties. Imagine a stiff, sponge-like material filled with holes that are too small to see without a special microscope.

For a number of years, scientists have been investigating the use of these materials – called porous nanomaterials – for a wide range of applications including drug delivery, chemical and biological sensors, solar cells and battery electrodes. There are nanoporous forms of gold, silicon, alumina, and titanium oxide, among others. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Fuel

Chips for Solar, Wind Applications See 25% Surge in 2011

June 9th 2011

Energy Topics - MOSFETs

The market for semiconductors for solar and wind energy-generation systems will grow 26.5 percent in 2011, after expanding 25.4 percent in 2010 to reach revenues of $1.4 billion.

The chips are “riding on the coattails of huge increases in alternative energy installs in 2010,” said Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network. “Renewable, alternative energy technologies continue to grab the attention of private industries and world governments”

For example, the global market for photovoltaic inverters more than doubled in 2010, driven by major European markets. The top 10 suppliers of inverter systems and subsystems were European, according to the report.

The report looks at a range of alternative energy systems including geothermal, nuclear, fuel cells and other energy storage systems. Read more ..

Medical Edge

Tuberculosis Drug Resistance Research Reveals Super-drug Inactivator

June 8th 2011

Health/Medicine - tuberculosis

Researchers at the University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute and College of Pharmacy have uncovered how tuberculosis builds drug resistance.

The discovery could provide scientists with a new direction to try to combat drug-resistant tuberculosis and to head off the continued spread of this deadly infectious disease.

Tuberculosis claims about 2 million lives worldwide each year. With the global spread of the pathogenic bacterium that currently infects one-third of the world's population, there are also strains that are resistant to most types of antibiotics that are used to treat this infection.

These strains cause so-called multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. The limited number of drugs that are used to treat these resilient infections are our last line of defense, and some bacteria have already evolved resistance even to these antibiotics. The family of aminoglycoside antibiotics is among these drugs. Read more ..

Edge on Environment

Freshwater Snail Survives Mass Extinction

June 8th 2011

Animals - Ancient snail

Think "mass extinction" and you probably envision dinosaurs dropping dead in the long-ago past or exotic tropical creatures being wiped out when their rainforest habitats are decimated. But a major mass extinction took place right here in North America in the first half of the 20th century, when 47 species of mollusk disappeared after the watershed in which they lived was dammed.

Now, a population of one of those species—a freshwater limpet last seen more than 60 years ago and presumed extinct—has been found in a tributary of the heavily dammed Coosa River in Alabama's Mobile River Basin.


Edge on Research

Weizmann Institute Scientists set new Record for Measuring Vibrations of a Single Atom

June 5th 2011

Science - Weizman Ins atom measurement

Weizmann Institute scientists set a new record for measuring magnetic vibrations using the spin of a single atom: 100 times more accurate than the previous record. The lab, though it may seem quiet and insulated, can be as full of background noise as a crowded train station when we’re trying to catch the announcements. Our brains can filter out the noise and focus on the message up to a certain point, but turning up the volume on the loudspeakers – improving the signal-to-noise ratio – helps as well.

Separating out the signal from the noise – increasing one while reducing the other – is so basic that much of scientific research could not take place without it. One common method, developed by the physicist Robert Dicke at Princeton University in New Jersey, is based on a principle similar to the one that enables radio broadcasts to pass through the noisy atmosphere. Read more ..

The Race for Power

Smart Grid Could Cost $476 Billion

June 5th 2011

Energy Topics - transformer farm

Costs and benefits of building a smart electric grid have more than doubled as the vision of a digital, networked power utility has expanded, according to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Sensor networks are on the rise as one of the big and under-served opportunities in the diverse terrain of the smart grid.

The EPRI report estimated the cost of upgrading the U.S. grid could range from $338 to $476 billion, up from $165 billion in a 2004 forecast. Benefit estimates have also skyrocketed to a range of $1.2 to $2 trillion, up from $660 billion estimated in 2004.

EPRI's previous estimates did not include enabling plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, renewable energy sources, grid-scale energy storage, distributed generation and demand response applications that let consumers adjust energy use based on changing energy prices. Benefits of a smart grid include reduced carbon emissions, energy savings and reduced blackouts that cost $10 billion per event. Read more ..

Edge on Cancer

Clues to Rapid Division Among Cancerous Cells

June 5th 2011

Science - Cancer

Temptations to exceed the speed limit are always plentiful, but only reckless drivers give in to such impulses. Likewise, numerous growth factors always abound in our bodies, but only cancerous cells are quickly “tempted” by these chemicals to divide again and again. Healthy cells, in contrast, divide only after being exposed to growth factors for eight continuous hours. What happens during these eight hours in a healthy cell that resists the call to divide? And even more important, what fails to work properly in the cancerous cell during these same hours? Why do cancerous cells give in so easily to the influence of growth factors, dividing so readily? Read more ..

Edge on Climate Change

Attack of the Urban Tornadoes

June 4th 2011

Science - jet streams

AccuWeather.com reports not only is this the year of the tornadoes, but it also seems to be the year of the urban tornadoes. Chance, a shift in the jet stream and expanding population centers are the main reasons for the number of tornadoes striking towns and cities this year. The list of towns and cities being hit by tornadoes this year continues to grow along with the number of tornadoes.

According to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, as of 9:00 a.m. CST, June 2, 2011, there have been 1,425 reports of tornadoes thus far this year. This is already above the 3-year average of 1,376 and of course, this year is far from over. Read more ..

Edge on Computing

Cloud Computing Rapidly Maturing as Users Multiply

June 4th 2011

Computer Topics - cloud computing

AMD has announced the results of a global research study on adoption, attitudes and approaches to cloud computing, surveying IT decision makers in public and private sector organisations across the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The findings reveal both global and regional trends in cloud computing adoption and usage, highlighting the importance of both infrastructure and workloads in considering a cloud computing model.

The findings conclude that cloud computing is maturing rapidly, with 70 percent of respondents indicating they are either using or currently investigating cloud computing for remotely hosted applications or to store data. Read more ..

Edge on Research

Scientists Reveal an Immune System Release Valve that Keeps Inflammation in Check

June 4th 2011

Science - White blood cells

The molecular machines that defend our body against infection apparently operate on the same principle as a steam engine. Weizmann Institute scientists have discovered a mechanism that controls inflammation similarly to a steam-engine valve: Just when the inflammatory mechanism that protects cells against viruses reaches its peak of activity, the molecular “steam-release valve” interferes, restoring this mechanism to its resting state, ready for re-activation. This finding might shed new light on such inflammatory disorders as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease, and point the way to developing effective therapies.

How does the cellular “steam-release valve” work? The scientists have discovered that its crucial component is the enzyme called caspase-8. When the cell is invaded by a virus, caspase-8 joins a large molecular complex that forms in order to send out an inflammatory signal. However, this same signal, once triggered, makes sure that the inflammatory response will eventually be shut down. The mechanism can be likened to the peak of the steam cycle when the valve opens, releasing steam and restoring the engine to its initial position. In the case of the cell, the inflammatory signal prompts caspase-8 to destroy a protein called RIP1 – a crucial signal amplifier – after RIP1 has reached a state in which it can produce maximal amplification. The inflammatory cycle is thus completed: The signaling mechanism, precisely after reaching its peak activity level, returns to its neutral state, ready to enter yet another inflammatory cycle in case the cell is still under viral attack. Read more ..

Edge of Nature

A Rescued Loggerhead Turtle Offers Clues to the Secret of Migration

June 4th 2011

Animals - Loggerhead turtle

A Loggerhead turtle being rehabilitated at Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Australia may help unlock the secret migration habits of marine turtles.

Subject to final medical clearance, a young turtle which has been in care for the past year will be released with a satellite tracker attached to its shell, providing researchers with valuable data about turtle migration habits.

Taronga Wildlife Hospital Manager, Libby Hall, said “Very little is known about the journey of Loggerhead Turtles once they leave Australian shores. They hatch on beaches in Queensland and are at sea for up to 30 years, before returning to the same beach to lay their eggs. Where they go and what they do in those years is pretty much a mystery.” Read more ..

Edge of Space

Astronomers Find 'Dead' Galaxies are not so Dead after All

June 3rd 2011

Science - elliptical galaxy

University of Michigan astronomers examined old galaxies and were surprised to discover that they are still making new stars. The results provide insights into how galaxies evolve with time. U-Michigan research fellow Alyson Ford and astronomy professor Joel Bregman presented their findings at a meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society that was held in London, Ontario.

Using the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope, they saw individual young stars and star clusters in four galaxies that are about 40 million light years away. One light year is about 5.9 trillion miles. "Scientists thought these were dead galaxies that had finished making stars a long time ago," Ford said. "But we've shown that they are still alive and are forming stars at a fairly low level." Read more ..

Edge on NanoTechnology

Scientists use Lasers to Form 3-D Nanoparticle Crystals

June 2nd 2011

Science - Nanoparticle laser

University of Michigan physicists used the electric fields generated by intersecting laser beams to trap and manipulate thousands of microscopic plastic spheres, thereby creating 3-D arrays of optically induced crystals.

The technique could someday be used to analyze the structure of materials of biological interest, including bacteria, viruses and proteins, said U-M physicist Georg Raithel.

Raithel is co-author of a research paper on the topic published  in the journal Physical Review E. The other author is U-Michigan research fellow Betty Slama-Eliau.

The standard method used to characterize biological molecules like proteins involves crystallizing them, then analyzing their structure by bombarding the crystals with X-rays, a technique called X-ray crystallography. But the method cannot be used on many of the proteins of highest interest—such as cell-membrane proteins—because there's no way to crystallize those molecules. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Capacitor Choice is Key to Solar PV Economics

May 31st 2011

Energy Topics - Custom capacitor for PV array
PV array with custom capacitors (credit: Enecsys)

In the continuing effort to develop solar photovoltaic arrays as a viable long-term renewable-energy source, the modules (panels) themselves, and the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells that they comprise, have attracted greatest attention. This is hardly surprising, as they are the visible part of the system, and the one where a great deal of research effort has been directed into continuously improving conversion efficiency.

While efforts continue in many laboratories on thin-film and amorphous-silicon cells, it is the mono-crystalline cell that continues to lead in efficiency, with researchers seeking every possible percentage point beyond the low-20 percent region. That hard-won conversion efficiency can easily be wasted and the very feasibility of solar PV as a reliable energy source challenged, without an effective design in the other—and in many respects more critical—major component of the system: the inverter. PV cells produce DC, but very few applications employ that DC output directly. Most, perhaps 95 percent, provide AC power to conventional electrical installations, and feed that power into the AC grid. Within the renewable-energy sector, it is widely recognized that the critical component in the power chain is the inverter. Read more ..

Edge of the Universe

Australian Student Astronomer Finds Universe's Missing Mass

May 29th 2011

Science - Blue sphere in space

An Australian student at Monash University has made a breakthrough in the field of astrophysics, discovering what has until now been described as the Universe’s ‘missing mass.’ Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, working as a member of a team at the Monash School of Physics, conducted a targeted X-ray search for the matter and within just three months found it – or at least some of it.

What makes the discovery all the more noteworthy is the fact that Fraser-McKelvie is not a career researcher, or even studying at a postgraduate level. She is a 22-year-old undergraduate Aerospace Engineering/Science student who pinpointed the missing mass during a summer scholarship, working with two astrophysicists at the School of Physics, Dr. Kevin Pimbblet and Dr. Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway. Read more ..

Edge of Space

Rapid Formation of Mars Explains Small Size in Relation to Earth

May 29th 2011

Science - Mars and Earth comparison
Credit: Christopher Leather

Mars, the Red Planet, developed far more quickly than our blue planet. Mars is planetary embryo that never collided with other embryos to form an Earthlike planet. Mars developed in as little as two to four million years after the birth of the solar system, far more quickly than Earth, according to results of a new study published in this week's issue of the journal Nature. The red planet's rapid formation helps explain why it is so small, say the study's co-authors, Nicolas Dauphas at the University of Chicago and Ali Pourmand at the University of Miami.

Mars probably is not a terrestrial planet like Earth, which grew to its full size over 50 to 100 million years via collisions with other small bodies in the solar system, said Dauphas, a geophysicist. "Earth was made of embryos like Mars, but Mars is a stranded planetary embryo that never collided with other embryos to form an Earthlike planet," Dauphas said. The new work provides evidence for this idea, which was first proposed 20 years ago on the basis of planetary growth simulations. Read more ..

The Race for Light

Global Market for OLEG Lighting Forecast as $4.8 Billion in 2016

May 29th 2011

Computer Topics - OLED panel research

The global market for OLED lighting will be $4.8 billion in 2016, according to market research firm NanoMarkets LLC. Of that Europe will be responsible for $1.5 billion in OLED lighting panel sales and Asia is expected to provide $2.1 billion.

Japan is set to lead the OLED lighting business in Asia. Japanese companies have taken up key positions across the OLED lighting supply chain Sales of OLED lighting in Japan are expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2016.

Although, the addressable market for OLED lighting in China is limited, NanoMarkets expects the Chinese OLED lighting market to reach $420 million by 2016. OLED lighting is expected to be one of the industries to benefit from government support for technology. For South Korea NanoMarkets predicts OLED lighting sales of $230 million by 2016. However, the influence of Samsung and LG, which have both made a commitment to OLED lighting, should not be underestimated on a global basis.

Genetic Edge

Study of Population Genetics reveals shared Ancestries

May 28th 2011

Africa - Out of Africa

More than just a tool for predicting health, modern genetics is upending long-held assumptions about who we are. A new study by Harvard researchers casts new light on the intermingling and migration of European, Middle Eastern and African and populations since ancient times. In a paper titled "The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines and Jews," published in PLoS Genetics, HMS Associate Professor of Genetics David Reich and his colleagues investigated the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry present in various populations in West Eurasia, defined as the geographic area spanning modern Europe and the Middle East. While previous studies have established that such shared ancestry exists, they have not indicated to what degree or how far back the mixing of populations can be traced. Read more ..

Green Futures

More Metal Recycling Can Grow Green Economy

May 28th 2011

Environment Topics - Electronic trash 2

Less than one-third of 60 metals studied have end-of-life recycling rate above 50 percent; 34 are under 1 percent. In addition, smarter product designs, support for developing country waste management schemes, and encouraging households in the developed world not to 'squirrel away' old electronic goods in drawers and closets could help boost recycling of metals world-wide. These are among the conclucions of a report released in Belgium by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  Additionally, recycling rates of metals are in many cases far lower than their potential for re-use. Many of these metals are crucial to clean technologies such as batteries for hybrid cars to the magnets in wind turbines, says the study. Read more ..

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