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Edge of Climate Change

Scientists Detect Early Warning of Ecosystem Collapse in Wisconsin

May 2nd 2011

Environment Topics - Peter and Paul lake Wisconsin

Researchers eavesdropping on complex signals emanating from a remote Wisconsin lake have detected what they say is an unmistakable warning — a death knell — of the impending collapse of the lake's aquatic ecosystem. The finding was made by a team of researchers led by Stephen Carpenter, a limnologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the first experimental evidence that radical change in an ecosystem can be detected in advance, possibly in time to prevent ecological catastrophe.

"For a long time, ecologists thought these changes couldn't be predicted," says Carpenter, a UW-Madison professor of zoology and one of the world's foremost ecologists. "But we've now shown that they can be foreseen. The early warning is clear. It is a strong signal." Read more ..

The Race for Pressure Energy

Piezoelectric MEMS boosts vibration harvester

April 29th 2011

Science - Piezo electric device 2

Electrical engineers from the University of Michigan claim to have invented a technique for micro-machining piezoelectric MEMS that generate 10-times more energy than conventional energy harvesters. The research team said a penny-sized piezoelectric MEMS could generate enough electricity to power medical implants in the body and wireless sensors on motor vehicles.

The energy harvester market for wireless sensor networks is expected to $450 million by 2015, according to Erkan Aktakka, one of the system's developers, working in the lab of professor Erkan Aktakka, principle scientist on the project. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

International Study Shows that Arctic Coastlines are Changing due to Climate Change

April 27th 2011

Environment Topics - Nunavut Arctic satellite image - NASA

The coastline in Arctic regions reacts to climate change with increased erosion and retreats by half a metre per year on average. This means substantial changes for Arctic ecosystems near the coast and the population living there. A consortium of more than thirty scientists from ten countries, including researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association and from the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht, comes to this conclusion in two studies published in Estuaries and Coasts and online on www.arcticcoasts.org. They jointly investigated over 100,000 kilometres and thus a fourth of all Arctic coasts and their results have now been published for the first time. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Sheet of Chlorine Gas One Atom Thick to Revolutionize OLED Device Efficiency

April 27th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

Chlorine is an abundant and readily available halogen gas commonly associated with the sanitation of swimming pools and drinking water. Could a one-atom thick sheet of this element revolutionize the next generation of flat-panel displays and lighting technology?

In the case of Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) devices, it most certainly can. Primary researchers Michael G. Helander (PhD Candidate and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar), Zhibin Wang (PhD Candidate), and led by Professor Zheng-Hong Lu of the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto, have found a simple method of using chlorine to drastically reduce traditional OLED device complexity and dramatically improve its efficiency all at the same time. Read more ..

Edge of the Universe

Search for Dark Matter is Now Closer to Detecting Elusive Particle

April 25th 2011

Science - Dark Matter image

Dark matter, the mysterious substance that may account for nearly 25 percent of the universe, has so far evaded direct observation. But researchers from UCLA, Columbia University and other institutions participating in the international XENON collaboration say they are now closer than ever before.

Their new results, announced today at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, where the XENON experiment is housed deep beneath a mountain 70 miles west of Rome, represent the highest-sensitivity search for dark matter yet, with background noise 100 times lower than competing efforts.

Dark matter is widely thought to be a kind of massive elementary particle that interacts weakly with ordinary matter. Physicists refer to these particles as WIMPS, for weakly interacting massive particles. The XENON researchers used a dark-matter detector known as XENON100 — an instrumented vat filled with over 100 pounds of liquid xenon — as a target for these WIMPs, which are thought to be streaming constantly through the solar system and the Earth. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Integrated Chips to Fuel Smartphone Growth

April 25th 2011

Technology - IC Layout

Silicon integration will be the key differentiator in smartphones which could grow to 600 million units in 2014, driven by expansion in low-cost handsets, according to a presentation at the inaugural Linley Tech Mobile Conference. "The next 300 million smartphones will come from feature phone replacements," said Linley Gwennap, principal of The Linley Group (Mountain View, CA), organizer of the event. "The pressure for smartphone designers will be in reducing systems cost to meet this growing demand for lower cost smartphones and silicon integration is a key," Gwennap said. Read more ..

Edge on Global Warming

Melting Glaciers and Ice Caps on Canadian Islands Play Greater Role in Sea Level Rise

April 25th 2011

Environment Topics - Devon Island Nunavut pic by Alex Gardner

Melting glaciers and ice caps on Canadian Arctic islands play a much greater role in sea level rise than scientists previously thought, according to a new study led by a University of Michigan researcher.

The 550,000-square-mile Canadian Arctic Archipelago contains some 30,000 islands. Between 2004 and 2009, the region lost the equivalent of three-quarters of the water in Lake Erie, the study found. Warmer-than-usual temperatures in those years caused a rapid increase in the melting of glacier ice and snow, said Alex Gardner, a research fellow in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences who led the project. The study is published online in Nature on April 20.

"This is a region that we previously didn't think was contributing much to sea level rise," Gardner said. "Now we realize that outside of Antarctica and Greenland, it was the largest contributor for the years 2007 through 2009. This area is highly sensitive and if temperatures continue to increase, we will see much more melting." Read more ..

Edge on Computing

New Trade Group to Promote Computer Vision App for Future Smartphones and Tablets

April 25th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

A handful of vendors is organizing a new trade group to promote computer vision as a killer app for tomorrow's smartphones and tablets. The Embedded Vision Alliance will formally debut in May.

"We believe embedded vision will have a huge impact in mobile devices in the next few years," said Jeff Bier, an organizer of the group and principal of DSP consulting firm Berkeley Design Technology Inc. "It will proliferate in home audio/visual systems and consumers will come to expect it," he said in a talk at the Linley Tech Mobile Conference. Read more ..

Edge of the Universe

Astronomers Poke Holes in Century-old Astronomical Theory on Gravity Darkening

April 20th 2011

Science - Dark Matter image

The hottest stars in the universe spin so fast that they get a bit squished at their poles and dimmer around their middle. The 90-year-old theory that predicts the extent of this "gravity darkening" phenomenon has major flaws, according to a new study led by University of Michigan astronomers.

The von Zeipel law, named for its creator, Swedish astronomer Edvard Hugo von Zeipel, has been used for the better part of a century to predict the difference in surface gravity, brightness and temperature between a rapidly rotating star's poles and its equator. Using a technique called interferometry the researchers essentially zoomed in to take close-up pictures and measurements of the winter star Regulus. It's the brightest star in the constellation Leonis and if it were spinning just a few percent faster, it would fly apart. The astronomers found that the actual difference in temperature between its equator and poles is much less than the old theory predicts. "Our model fitting of interferometry data shows that while the law correctly describes the trend of surface temperature variation, it deviates quantitively," said Xiao Che, a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Astronomy. Read more ..

Edge on Medicine

Nanofiber Spheres Injected for Wounds and Tissue Healing

April 20th 2011

Science - Nanosphere

For the first time, scientists have made star-shaped, biodegradable polymers that can self-assemble into hollow, nanofiber spheres, and when the spheres are injected with cells into wounds, these spheres biodegrade, but the cells live on to form new tissue.

Developing this nanofiber sphere as a cell carrier that simulates the natural growing environment of the cell is a very significant advance in tissue repair, says Peter Ma, professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and lead author of a paper about the research scheduled for advanced online publication in Nature Materials. Co-authors are Xiaohua Liu and Xiaobing Jin.

Repairing tissue is very difficult and success is extremely limited by a shortage of donor tissue, says Ma, who also has an appointment at the U-M College of Engineering. The procedure gives hope to people with certain types of cartilage injuries for which there aren't good treatments now. It also provides a better alternative to ACI, which is a clinical method of treating cartilage injuries where the patient's own cells are directly injected into the patient's body. The quality of the tissue repair by the ACI technique isn't good because the cells are injected loosely and are not supported by a carrier that simulates the natural environment for the cells, Ma says. Read more ..

The Roadway's Edge

Europe Makes Advances in Automated Driving for Automobiles

April 20th 2011

Automotive - Automated driving Mercedes Benz

The HAVEit project is intended to make vehicles safer, more environmentally-friendly and fuel efficient by enhancing their level of automation. After more than three years of research work on intelligent driver assistance systems, seven vehicles demonstrating results will be presented in Borås, Sweden.

Research concepts and technologies for reducing drivers' workload, preventing accidents and reducing environmental impact, these are the objectives of the EU funded R&D project HAVEit (“Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport”). HAVEit research focuses on reducing mistakes made by distracted, overloaded or tired drivers when driving in congestions or long-haul trips. The project has developed coherent vehicle concepts, combining cutting-edge integrated information and sensor technology. These vehicles are able to assist the driver through various, situation-dependent, levels of automation by providing indications or carrying out the driving task independently. The driver still remains completely responsible at any point in time, the researchers reassure. The driver however must monitor the system carefully at any time; if desired, he can take over the complete driving task anytime. Read more ..

The Late Great Lakes

Alien Invaders Causing Massive Ecological Changes in the World's Greatest Fresh-Water System

April 18th 2011

Environment Topics - Invasive mollusks

The ongoing spread of non-native mussels in the Great Lakes has caused "massive, ecosystem-wide changes" throughout lakes Michigan and Huron, two of the planet's largest freshwater lakes, according to a new University of Michigan-led study.

The blitzkrieg advance of two closely related species of mussels—the zebra and quagga—is stripping the lakes of their life-supporting algae, resulting in a remarkable ecological transformation and threatening the multibillion-dollar U.S. commercial and recreational Great Lakes fisheries. Read more ..

The Water's Edge

Combating Groundwater Pollutants

April 18th 2011

Environment Topics - outflow pipe

Below the Earth’s surface, water—perhaps our most precious resource—is stored in geological formations called aquifers. “It’s important to know that more than 95 percent of the Earth’s accessible freshwater is in these underground reserves. That’s water we pump from the ground and drink and use for irrigation and for industry,” says hydrologist Prof. Brian Berkowitz, head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy Research at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

However, this valuable water is not sufficiently protected. A wide range of contaminants can seep down into groundwater supplies. “We have problems with chemical spills from factories, pesticides from farmland, gasoline that leaks from underground storage tanks, inadequately treated sewage from failing septic systems—the list goes on and on,” says Prof. Berkowitz. Read more ..

The Genetic Edge

Birds Inherited Sense of Smell from Dinosaurs--and Improved It

April 13th 2011

Science - Bambiraptor
Bambiraptor in a turkey vulture's colors

Pigeons may not instill the same aura of fear as a Tyrannosaurus rex, but they inherited their sense of smell from such prehistoric killers.

Birds are known more for their flying abilities and their senses of vision and balance than for their sense of smell. According to conventional wisdom, the sense of smell declined during the transition from dinosaurs to birds as the senses of vision and balance were improved for flight. But new research published today by scientists at the University of Calgary, the Royal Tyrrell Museum and Ohio University suggests that millions of years ago, the winged critters also boasted a better sense for scents than their dinosaur ancestors. Read more ..

Edge of Climate Change

West Antarctic Warming Triggered by Warmer Sea Surface in Tropical Pacific

April 11th 2011

Energy / Environment - Antarctic Ice flow

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed rapidly for the last half-century or more, and recent studies have shown that an adjacent area, continental West Antarctica, has steadily warmed for at least 30 years, but scientists haven't been sure why.

New University of Washington research shows that rising sea surface temperatures in the area of the Pacific Ocean along the equator and near the International Date Line drive atmospheric circulation that has caused some of the largest shifts in Antarctic climate in recent decades.

The warmer water generates rising air that creates a large wave structure in the atmosphere called a Rossby wave train, which brings warmer temperatures to West Antarctica during winter and spring. Read more ..

Genetic Edge

Bacterial Genome May hold Answers to Mercury Mystery

April 11th 2011

Science - Genetics Picture

A newly sequenced bacterial genome from a team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory could contain clues as to how microorganisms produce a highly toxic form of mercury.

Methylmercury, a potent human neurotoxin, appears in the environment when certain naturally occurring bacteria transform inorganic mercury into its more toxic cousin. Few bacterial species are capable of this conversion, and exactly how the transformation takes place has been a matter of debate for decades.   Read more ..

Edge of Space

“Opportunity” Mars Rover Completes Exploration of Martian Surface at Santa Maria Crater

April 11th 2011

Science - Mars Panorama

NASA’s long lived Opportunity Mars rover has completed a three month long exploration of Santa Maria crater along the trail towards its biggest target ever, Endeavour crater, some 22 kilometers in diameter. Santa Maria has simultaneously offered a series of stunning vistas and a scientific bonanza as a worthy way station in the rovers now seven year long overland expedition across the Martian plains of Meridiani Planum.

Opportunity made landfall at the western edge of Santa Maria on Dec. 15, 2010 (Sol 2450) after a long and arduous journey of some 19 kilometers since departing from Victoria Crater nearly two and one half years ago in September 2008. Santa Maria is the largest crater that the rover will encounter on the epic trek between Victoria and Endeavour. The science team decided that Santa Maria would be the best location for an intermediate stop as well as permit a focused science investigation because of the detection of attractive deposits of hydrated minerals. The stadium sized and oval shaped crater is some 80 to 90 meters wide (295 feet) and about nine meters in depth. Read more ..

The Geologic Edge

Yellowstone Supervolcano Newly re-Imaged

April 11th 2011

Disaster - Yellowstone Caldera

University of Utah geophysicists have made the first large-scale picture of the electrical conductivity of the gigantic underground plume of hot and partly molten rock that feeds the Yellowstone supervolcano. The image suggests the plume is even bigger than it appears in earlier images made with seismic waves.

"It’s like comparing ultrasound and MRI in the human body; they are different imaging technologies," says geophysics Professor Michael Zhdanov, principal author of the new study and an expert on measuring magnetic and electrical fields on Earth’s surface to find oil, gas, minerals, and geologic structures underground.

"It’s a totally new and different way of imaging and looking at the volcanic roots of Yellowstone," says study co-author Robert B. Smith, professor emeritus and research professor of geophysics and a coordinating scientist of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Read more ..

Edge on Space

White Dwarfs Could be Fertile Ground for Other Earths

April 4th 2011

Science - White dwarf

Planet hunters have found hundreds of planets outside the solar system in the last decade, though it is unclear whether even one might be habitable. But it could be that the best place to look for planets that can support life is around dim, dying stars called white dwarfs.

In a new paper published online in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Eric Agol, a University of Washington associate professor of astronomy, suggests that potentially habitable planets orbiting white dwarfs could be much easier to find – if they exist – than other exoplanets located so far. Read more ..

Geologic Edge

Sugar grain-sized Meteorites Rocked the Climates of early Earth and Mars

April 4th 2011

Science - Micrometeorite

Bombardments of 'micro-meteorites' on Earth and Mars four billion years ago may have caused the planets' climates to cool dramatically, hampering their ability to support life, according to researchers in the United Kingdom. 

Scientists from Imperial College London studied the effects of the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), a period of time in the early Solar System when meteorite showers lasting around 100 million years barraged Earth and Mars. This bombardment discharged sulphur dioxide into the upper atmospheres of both planets and the researchers' analysis suggests that this may have had a catastrophic impact on their environments. Read more ..

Edge on Physics

High Temperature Superconductor Reveals New Phase of Matter

April 4th 2011

Computer Topics - Superconductor

Scientists at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES) have found the strongest evidence yet that a puzzling gap in the electronic structures of some high-temperature superconductors could indicate a new phase of matter. Understanding this "pseudogap" has been a 20-year quest for researchers who are trying to control and improve these breakthrough materials with the ultimate goal of finding superconductors that operate at room temperature.

"Our findings point to management and control of this other phase as the correct path toward optimizing these novel superconductors for energy applications, as well as searching for new superconductors," said Zhi-Xun Shen of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES), a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Shen led the team of researchers that made the discovery. Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency, losing nothing to resistance. Currently used in medical imaging, highly efficient electrical generators and maglev trains, they have the potential to become a truly transformative technology; energy applications would be just one beneficiary. Read more ..

Genetic Edge

Disease-Specific Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Enables Study of Genetic Disorders

April 4th 2011

Eugenics - Human embryonic stemcell cluster
Cluster of human embryonicstem cells

Researchers at the University of Michigan have created the first human embryonic stem cell lines in the state of Michigan that carry the genes responsible for inherited disease. The achievement will enable university scientists to study the onset and progression of genetic disorders and to search for new treatments.

With this accomplishment, the U-M joins a small handful of U.S. universities that are creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines.

“All our efforts are finally starting to bear fruit,” says Gary Smith, co-director of the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies and leader of the cell-line derivation project. “Creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines has been a central goal of the consortium since it was formed two years ago, and now we’ve passed that milestone.” One of the lines carries the genetic defect that causes hemophilia B, a hereditary condition in which the blood does not clot properly. The other carries the gene responsible for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary neurological disorder characterized by a slowly progressive degeneration of the muscles in the foot, lower leg and hand. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Researchers Devise Exceptionally Efficient OLED for Televisions, Cell Phones, and Computers

March 30th 2011

Energy Topics - OLED matrix

University of Michigan engineering researchers have designed an exceptionally efficient fluorescent blue OLED, or organic light emitting diode.

OLEDs are the next generation display technology. They are already used in televisions, cell phones and computers, and they are candidates for a vast array of light sources from advertising billboards to indoor and outdoor illumination. Fluorescent OLEDs are typically less efficient at emitting light per unit area than their phosphorescent counterparts.

That may be changing, according to new findings by professor John Kieffer and graduate student Changgua Zhen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. They released findings in the journal Advanced Functional Materials that shattered previous records. Traditionally, the ceiling for the efficiency of fluorescent OLEDs was believed to be 5 percent. Now, Kieffer and his collaborators have produced fluorescent OLEDs with close to 10 percent efficiency. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Computing has Hit the Power Wall and Inspires New Parallel Programming Frameworks

March 28th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

As Moore's Law runs out of steam and computing goes mobile, technologists are searching for ways to make the leap to new parallel programming frameworks that can leverage low-power multicore architectures. The move has been spurred by growing industry concern that today’s microprocessor computing engines have hit a “power wall”. That in turn has prompted a re-evaluation of the roadmap for high-performance computing, a reassessment that yielded a new study published by the National Research Council on the future of computing performance. The report’s bottom line is summed up in its subtitle: “Game Over or Next Level?” Read more ..

Japan After the Quake

Technology from Israel Can make Tokyo Safe from fallout in 3 Weeks

March 28th 2011

Japan - fukushima reactor smoke
Fukushima Daiichi Reactor seen with rising smoke

The Fukushima Diiachi plant explosion may cause a complete melt down, similar to that which occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.

Following the Chernobyl incident large sections of the Ukraine, where the plant was located, had to be evacuated. And even now, more than 25 years later, some areas still have radiation levels too high for human habitation. Meanwhile the site is in need of a new protective shield.

A similar tragedy occurring in a large area surrounding the damaged Japanese nuclear facilities could cause governmental authorities there to seriously reconsider nuclear energy for making electricity. But Japan simply cannot afford to give up nuclear power: The plants are there for a reason- Japan's energy security demands reliable baseload power that cannot be interrupted by shipping problems. Read more ..

Edge of Computing

Google's Limited Release of Android Honeycomb upsets OEMs

March 28th 2011

Computer Topics - Google tablet HOneycomb

Google is for an unspecified time limiting the release of Honeycomb, the tablet version of Android, a move frustrating many mobile systems makers who want to compete with the Apple iPad. Google's move highlights the difficulties of a broad open source movement like Android to compete with a vertically integrated manufacturer like Apple. "Google refused to give out any information about Honeycomb, and the end result was no one could deviate from the reference design," said a senior engineer with a large mobile systems maker in Taiwan. Read more ..

Edge on Health

Health Researchers Find Specific Proteins Flag Head and Neck Cancers

March 23rd 2011

Health/Medicine - Head/neck cancer cell

The discovery that a certain protein is over-expressed in patients with oral cancer may give new treatment hope to people suffering from the particularly aggressive, localized forms of head and neck cancer.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry found that when they inhibited the expression of that protein, called SIRT3 or Sirtuin-3, in oral cancer cells in a petri dish, the cells did not proliferate and more of them died.

Further, when researchers suppressed the protein in the cancer cells and combined that with radiation or chemotherapy treatment, the prohibitive effect on cancer cells was even greater, said Yvonne Kapila, associate professor of dentistry and lead author of the study.

Mice that were injected with SIRT3-inhibited oral cancer cells had about a 75 percent reduction in tumors compared to the mice injected with regular oral cancer cells, said Kapila, whose research team began looking at the Sirtuin group of proteins because some studies suggest they are key regulators for cell integrity and survival. Read more ..

Japan After the Quake

Researchers Investigate Sediment Slides and Coral Reefs to Study Earthquake Patterns

March 21st 2011

Japan - Japan quake 2011

In the wake of the devastating loss of life in Japan, the urgent question is where the next big earthquake will hit. To answer it, geologist Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham and his doctoral student Gal Hartman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Physics and Planetary Sciences in the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences are examining coral reefs and submarine canyons to detect earthquake fault zones.

Working with an international team of Israelis, Americans and Jordanians, Prof. Ben-Avraham and his team are developing a new method to determine what areas in a fault zone region are most at risk. Read more ..

The Mind's Edge

Scientists Discover Major Clue in long-term Memory

March 21st 2011

Social Topics - Baby Boomer

You may remember the color of your loved one's eyes for years. But how?

Scientists believe that long-term potentiation (LTP) – the long-lasting increase of signals across a connection between brain cells -- underlies our ability to remember over time and to learn, but how that happens is a central question in neuroscience.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found a cascade of signaling molecules that allows a usually very brief signal to last for tens of minutes, providing the brain framework for stronger connections (synapses) that can summon a memory for a period of months or even years. Read more ..

Edge of Health Research

The Diabetes and Obesity Connection

March 21st 2011

Health/Medicine - Pancreas--Gray's Anatomy

More than 220 million people around the world suffer from diabetes, a chronic condition in which abnormally high levels of glucose (sugar) circulate in the blood. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, develops when the body cannot adequately produce, or improperly uses, insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for many serious health problems, including heart disease, blindness, and kidney damage. Notably, according to the National Institutes of Health, more than 85 percent of those with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

“Most researchers believe that the rising rate of obesity is the driving force behind the epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” says Prof. Michael Walker of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Chemistry. “Our challenge is to understand why obese individuals have a much higher risk of developing diabetes.” Read more ..

Edge of Outer Space

Baby Stars born to 'Napping' Parents

March 14th 2011

Science - Stellar formation-Corona Australis

Astronomers of Cardiff University in the UK believe that a young star’s long "napping" could trigger the formation of a second generation of smaller stars and planets orbiting around it.

It has long been suspected that the build up of material onto young stars is not continuous but happens in episodic events, resulting in short outbursts of energy from these stars.

However, this has been largely ignored in models of star formation.

Now, by developing advanced computer models to simulate the behavior of young stars, Cardiff University Astrophysicists Dr. Dimitris Stamatellos and Professor Anthony Whitworth, along with Dr. David Hubber from the University of Sheffield, have offered a new insight in star formation.

While stars are young they are surrounded by discs of gas and dust, and grow by accreting material from these discs. The discs may break-up to give birth to smaller stars, planets and brown dwarfs - objects larger than planets but not large enough to burn hydrogen like our Sun. Read more ..

Edge on Climate Change

Corn Crop Imperiled Should World Temperatures Rise

March 14th 2011

Food - Iowa corn field
Cornfield in Kenya

A hidden trove of historical crop yield data from Africa shows that corn – long believed to tolerate hot temperatures – is a likely victim of global warming.

Stanford agricultural scientist David Lobell and researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) report that a clear negative effect of warming on maize – or corn – production was evident in experimental crop trial data conducted in Africa by the organization and its partners from 1999 to 2007.

Led by Lobell, the researchers combined data from 20,000 trials in sub-Saharan Africa with weather data recorded at stations scattered across the region. They found that a temperature rise of a single degree Celsius would cause yield losses for 65 percent of the present maize-growing region in Africa – provided the crops received the optimal amount of rainfall. Under drought conditions, the entire maize-growing region would suffer yield losses, with more than 75 percent of areas predicted to decline by at least 20 percent for 1 degree Celsius of warming. Read more ..

Environmental Edge

Study of Effects of BP Oil Spill on Air Pollution in Gulf of Mexico has Far-Reaching Implications

March 14th 2011

Environment Topics - Gulf of Mexico dead zone
Gulf of Mexico

During a special airborne mission to study the air-quality impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill last June, NOAA researchers discovered an important new mechanism by which air pollution particles form. Although predicted four years ago, this discovery now confirms the importance of this pollution mechanism and could change the way urban air quality is understood and predicted.

The NOAA-led team showed that although the lightest compounds in the oil evaporated within hours, it was the heavier compounds, which took longer to evaporate, that contributed most to the formation of air pollution particles downwind. Because those compounds are also emitted by vehicles and other combustion sources, the discovery is important for understanding air quality in general, not only near oil spills. Read more ..

Ancient Edge

If the Fabled Atlantis Was Destroyed by a Tsunami, Has it Finally Yielded its Secrets

March 14th 2011

Archaeology Topics - Atlantis ancient walls
Ancient walls off the coast of Spain

A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.

A new National Geographic Channel documentary, Finding Atlantis, followed a team of US, Canadian, and Spanish scientists as they employed advanced remote-sensing and other technology paired with underwater archeology and historical sleuthing in an effort to find a lost civilization. Led by University of Hartford professor and archaeologist Richard Freund, the team has been surveying marshlands in Spain to look for proof of the ancient city. If the team can match geological formations to descriptions left by the Greek philosopher Plato and date artifacts back to the time of Atlantis, we may be closer to solving one of the world's greatest mysteries. Read more ..

Edge on the Environment

Over-Fishing of Predator Fish Causes Domination by Smaller Fish

March 7th 2011

Animals - Tuna haul

By 2050, small fish could dominate the oceans because of the rapid decline of larger, predator fish.

In a new report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization finds that one-third of the world’s fisheries are overexploited, depleted or recovering and in urgent need of rebuilding. At a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, University of British Columbia fisheries expert Villy Christensen predicted the eventual preponderance of small fish.

Twenty years ago, Christensen designed a computer tool called Ecopath to study complex marine ecosystems. Now Ecopath has 6,000 users in 155 countries. Read more ..

The Nano Edge

Researchers Introduce First Complete Millimetre-Scale Computing System

February 28th 2011

Science - UM nano-pressure monitor

A prototype implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients is believed to contain the first complete millimeter-scale computing system.

And a compact radio that needs no tuning to find the right frequency could be a key enabler to organizing millimeter-scale systems into wireless sensor networks. These networks could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable.

Both developments at the University of Michigan are significant milestones in the march toward millimeter-scale computing, believed to be the next electronics frontier.

Researchers presented papers at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. The work is being led by three faculty members in the University of Michigan Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw, and assistant professor David Wentzloff. Read more ..

Edge of Life

Canadian Researcher Lists More than 4,000 Components of Blood Chemistry

February 28th 2011

Science - University of Alberta blood research

After three years of exhaustive analysis led by a University of Alberta researcher, the list of known compounds in human blood has exploded from just a handful to more than 4,000.

"Right now a medical doctor analyzing the blood of an ailing patient looks at something like 10 to 20 chemicals," said U of A biochemist David Wishart. "We've identified 4,229 blood chemicals that doctors can potentially look at to diagnose and treat health problems." Read more ..

Edge on Biology

Scientists Reveal Secret of Migrating Sea Turtles

February 28th 2011

Science - Sea turtle brains
Central nervous system of Tritonia diomedea

From the very first moments of life, hatchling loggerhead sea turtles have an arduous task. They must embark on a transoceanic migration, swimming from the Florida coast eastward to the North Atlantic and then gradually migrating over the course of several years before returning again to North American shores. Now, researchers have figured out how the young turtles find their way.

"One of the great mysteries of animal behavior is how migratory animals can navigate in the open ocean, where there are no visual landmarks," said Kenneth Lohmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The most difficult part of open-sea navigation is determining longitude or east-west position. It took human navigators centuries to figure out how to determine longitude on their long-distance voyages," added Nathan Putman, a graduate student in Lohmann's lab and lead author of the study. "This study shows, for the first time, how an animal does this." Read more ..

The Race for Hydrogen

Mimicking Photosynthesis Path to Solar-derived Hydrogen Fuel

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Hydrogen fueling

Inexpensive hydrogen for automotive or jet fuel may be possible by mimicking photosynthesis, according to a Penn State materials chemist, but a number of problems need to be solved first.

"We are focused on the hardest way to make fuel," said Thomas Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics. "We are creating an artificial system that mimics photosynthesis, but it will be practical only when it is as cheap as gasoline or jet fuel." Read more ..

Edge of Life

Research on Fertility Yields Unexpected Rewards

February 21st 2011

Social Topics - Pregnant

When Prof. Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Regulation began studying a protein that plays a role in implanting fertilized ova in the uterus, she had no idea it would lead to a discovery that is now helping couples struggling with infertility to have children.

For many years, Prof. Dekel focused her investigations on the mechanisms responsible for ovum (egg) development and embryo implantation. “But in science,” she says, “you can never decide ‘this is what I’m going to study for the rest of my life.’ You follow a path, and somewhere along the way you say, ‘Wow—there’s something interesting!’” Read more ..

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