The Education Edge
|Faiza Elmasry||December 14th 2013|
Instead of looking at pictures in textbooks or working with simulations on computers, high school students across Maryland have a chance to experiment with professional scientists while using the latest lab equipment.
The teens conduct these experiments, not in their classroom, but in a bus outfitted as a mobile laboratory,
The traveling Bio Lab recently visited Patapsco High School and Center for Arts in Baltimore, which delighted of their teacher.
“Today, the chemistry students were able to do an acid based hydration, which means they neutralize an acid with a base," Leah Warble said. "Normally they would do it through simulations on the computer. The BioLab is allowing them to do it in real life, actual time and actually apply it to something we use in real life, which is biodiesel.” Instructor Angel Mangus, who is in charge of the 13-meter Maryland BioLab, says the converted bus has the equipment students need to explore a wide variety of sciences. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Melissa Osgood||December 13th 2013|
With a new smartphone device, you can now take an accurate iPhone camera selfie that could save your life – it reads your cholesterol level in about a minute.
Forget those clumsy, complicated, home cholesterol-testing devices. Cornell engineers have created the Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or "smartCARD," which employs your smartphone's camera to read your cholesterol level.
"Smartphones have the potential to address health issues by eliminating the need for specialized equipment," said David Erickson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author on a new peer-reviewed study. Thanks to advanced, sophisticated camera technology, Erickson and his colleagues have created a smartphone accessory that optically detects biomarkers in a drop of blood, sweat or saliva. The new application then discerns the results using color analysis. Read more ..
Edge of Space
|Tom Oswald||December 12th 2013|
Until now, scientists were pretty sure they knew how the surface of a neutron star – a super dense star that forms when a large star explodes and its core collapses – can heat itself up. However, research by a team of scientists led by a Michigan State University physicist has researchers rethinking that.
Scientists had long thought that nuclear reactions within the crust, the thick, solid, outermost layer of the star, contributed to the heating of the star’s surface. Writing in the journal Nature, Hendrik Schatz and colleagues report results from theoretical calculations that identify previously unknown layers where nuclear reactions within the crust cause rapid neutrino cooling. Neutrinos are elementary particles created through radioactive decay that pass quickly through matter. Read more ..
The Natural World
|Sandra Leander||December 11th 2013|
To protect themselves, some animals rapidly change color when their environments change, but chameleons change colors in unusual ways when they interact with other chameleons. Arizona State University researchers have discovered that these color changes don't happen "out-of-the-blue" — instead, they convey different types of information during important social interactions.
For example, when male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and much more intense. Males that display brighter stripes when they are aggressive are more likely to approach their opponent, and those that achieve brighter head colors are more likely to win fights. Also, how quickly their heads change color is an important predictor of which chameleon will win a skirmish. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jessica Berman||December 11th 2013|
Even as scientists work to develop new medications, many rarely prescribed, or even forgotten, drugs are making a comeback, being used to treat illnesses they weren't originally designed for.
“It is a very easy way to explore whether something that is therapeutically beneficial in one area and for one type of patient might be useful for another type of patient," said Aris Persidis, president and co-founder of biotechnology company Biovista. "And the difference in our thinking is, 'To date, this is done by accident. Wouldn't it be great if this could be done systematically?”
Developing a brand new drug can take 10 years or more, and costs in excess of $1 billion, according Persidis, which is why Biovista is studying new uses for safe compounds that have been supplanted by newer or better formulations and are no longer prescribed. The concept is called drug repurposing. Read more ..
|Kim Fulton-Bennet||December 10th 2013|
About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs. At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, MBARI researchers presented evidence that remnants from this devastating impact are exposed along the Campeche Escarpment—an immense underwater cliff in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
The ancient meteorite impact created a huge crater, over 160 kilometers across. Unfortunately for geologists, this crater is almost invisible today, buried under hundreds of meters of debris and almost a kilometer of marine sediments. Although fallout from the impact has been found in rocks around the world, surprisingly little research has been done on the rocks close to the impact site, in part because they are so deeply buried. All existing samples of impact deposits close to the crater have come from deep boreholes drilled on the Yucatán Peninsula. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Sarina Gleason||December 9th 2013|
Michigan State University researchers have uncovered a genetic deficiency in males that can trigger the development of one of the most common types of liver cancer and forms of diabetes. The research, published in the online issue of Cancer Cell, found that when the NCOA5 gene, present in both men and women, was altered in male mice to a deficient level, a spontaneous reaction occurred producing cells that can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer found to be two-to-four times more prevalent in men than women.
Findings also showed that prior to cancer development there were occurrences of glucose intolerance, a prediabetic condition that is believed to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans. Conversely, the study showed female mice did not develop these diseases. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Kevin Mayhood||December 9th 2013|
Case Western Reserve University
Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and University of Kansas Medical Center have restored behavior—in this case, the ability to reach through a narrow opening and grasp food—using a neural prosthesis in a rat model of brain injury.
Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a device that rapidly and substantially improves function after brain injury in humans. There is no such commercial treatment for the 1.5 million Americans, including soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or the nearly 800,000 stroke victims who suffer weakness or paralysis in the United States, annually.
The prosthesis, called a brain-machine-brain interface, is a closed-loop microelectronic system. It records signals from one part of the brain, processes them in real time, and then bridges the injury by stimulating a second part of the brain that had lost connectivity. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Barbara McMakin||December 8th 2013|
NIH/ National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
There is more than meets the eye following even a mild traumatic brain injury. While the brain may appear to be intact, new findings reported in Nature suggest that the brain's protective coverings may feel the brunt of the impact.
Using a newly developed mouse trauma model, senior author Dorian McGavern watched specific cells mount an immune response to the injury and try to prevent more widespread damage. Notably, additional findings suggest a similar immune response may occur in patients with mild head injury.
In this study, researchers also discovered that certain molecules, when applied directly to the mouse skull, can bypass the brain's protective barriers and enter the brain. The findings suggested that, in the mouse trauma model, one of those molecules may reduce effects of brain injury.
Although concussions are common, not much is known about the effects of this type of damage. As part of this study, Lawrence Latour examined individuals who had recently suffered a concussion but whose initial scans did not reveal any physical damage to brain tissue. After administering a commonly used dye during MRI scans, Latour and his colleagues saw it leaking into the meninges, the outer covers of the brain, in 49 percent of 142 patients with concussion. Read more ..
|Jade Boyd||December 6th 2013|
Scientists from Rice University and the University of Bremen's Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) in Germany have combined cutting-edge experimental techniques and computer simulations to find a new way of predicting how water dissolves crystalline structures like those found in natural stone and cement.
In a new study featured in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, the team found their method was more efficient at predicting the dissolution rates of crystalline structures in water than previous methods. The research could have wide-ranging impacts in diverse areas, including water quality and planning, environmental sustainability, corrosion resistance and cement construction.
"We need to gain a better understanding of dissolution mechanisms to better predict the fate of certain materials, both in nature and in man-made systems," said lead investigator Andreas Lüttge, a professor of mineralogy at MARUM and professor emeritus and research professor in Earth science at Rice. His team specializes in studying the thin boundary layer that forms between minerals and fluids. Read more ..
|David Kelly||December 5th 2013|
Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins.
The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.
"There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. "But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space."
The findings are based on excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in northwest Italy where both Neanderthals and, later, early humans lived for thousands of years. This study focused on the Neanderthal levels while future research will examine the more recent modern human levels at the site. The goal is to compare how the two groups organized their space. Read more ..
|Lynn Yarris ||December 3rd 2013|
Listen up nickel-titanium and all you other shape-memory alloys, there’s a new kid on the block that just claimed the championship for elasticity and is primed to take over the shape memory apps market at the nanoscale. A research team at Berkeley Lab has discovered a way to introduce a recoverable strain into bismuth ferrite of up to 14-percent on the nanoscale, larger than any shape-memory effect observed in a metal. This discovery opens the door to applications in a wide range of fields, including medical, energy and electronics.
“Our bismuth ferrite not only displayed the champion shape-memory value, it was also far more stable when reduced to nanometer size than shape-memory alloys,” says Jinxing Zhang, a post-doc for this study under Ramamoorthy Ramesh of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and now a faculty member at Beijing Normal University. “Also because our bismuth ferrite can be activated with only an electrical field rather the thermal fields needed to activate shape-memory alloys, the response time is much faster.” Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
In the arms race between bacteria and modern medicine, bacteria have gained an edge. In recent decades, bacterial resistance to antibiotics has developed faster than the production of new antibiotics, making bacterial infections increasingly difficult to treat. Scientists worry that a particularly virulent and deadly "superbug" could one day join the ranks of existing untreatable bacteria, causing a public health catastrophe comparable with the Black Death.
Now research led by Dr. Udi Qimron of Tel Aviv University's Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine has discovered a protein that kills bacteria. The isolation of this protein, produced by a virus that attacks bacteria, is a major step toward developing a substitute for conventional antibiotics. "To stay ahead of bacterial resistance, we have to keep developing new antibiotics," said Dr. Qimron. "What we found is a small protein that could serve as a powerful antibiotic in the future." Read more ..
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said privacy protections need to be in place before Amazon starts delivering packages with drones.
Markey noted that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering expanding the commercial use of drones, but said privacy worries must be met first.
“Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public," he said in a statement. "Convenience should never trump constitutional protections," Markey continued. “Before our skies teem with commercial drones, clear rules must be set that protect the privacy and safety of the public." The FAA is scheduled to issue a ruling on the impact of increasing the use of commercial drones on the U.S. airline industry by 2015. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Karin Eskenazi||December 1st 2013|
Columbia University Medical Center
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in transforming human stem cells into functional lung and airway cells. The advance has significant potential for modeling lung disease, screening drugs, studying human lung development, and, ultimately, generating lung tissue for transplantation. The study was published today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
"Researchers have had relative success in turning human stem cells into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, and nerve cells, raising all sorts of possibilities for regenerative medicine," said study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck, MD, PhD. "Now, we are finally able to make lung and airway cells. This is important because lung transplants have a particularly poor prognosis. Although any clinical application is still many years away, we can begin thinking about making autologous lung transplants—that is, transplants that use a patient's own skin cells to generate functional lung tissue."
The research builds on Dr. Snoeck's 2011 discovery of a set of chemical factors that can turn human embryonic stem (ES) cells or human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into anterior foregut endoderm—precursors of lung and airway cells. (Human iPS cells closely resemble human ES cells but are generated from skin cells, by coaxing them into taking a developmental step backwards. Human iPS cells can then be stimulated to differentiate into specialized cells—offering researchers an alternative to human ES cells.) Read more ..
|Kurtis Hiatt||November 30th 2013|
A team of American and Israeli researchers has unearthed what could be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The group made the discovery at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site in Israel, the ruins of a northern Canaanite city that dates back to approximately 1700 B.C.
The excavations at the vast palace of the rulers of the city are co-directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University (GW), and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, with Andrew Koh of Brandeis University as associate director. As researchers excavated at the site, they uncovered a three-foot-long jug, later christened "Bessie."
"We dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie's friends started appearing—five, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room," said Dr. Cline, chair of GW's Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Michael Bishop||November 30th 2013|
Sea coral could soon be used more extensively in bone grafting procedures thanks to new research that has refined the material's properties and made it more compatible with natural bone.
By partially converting calcium carbonate―found in the exoskeleton of sea coral―into coralline hydroxyapatite (CHA), the refined material, called coralline hydroxyapatite/calcium carbonate (CHACC), has been shown to 'considerably improve' the outcome of bone grafts in 16 patients.
The results of the small clinical study, showed that bone healing was observed in each of the patients after four months and that the CHACC had fully biodegraded after two years. CHA derived from sea coral has been used for many years as a successful bone graft material; however, its use has been limited to specific bones because it does not fully biodegrade. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Barbara Ferreira||November 28th 2013|
European Geosiences Union
Drivers on a rainy day regulate the speed of their windshield wipers according to rain intensity: faster in heavy rain and slower in light rain. This simple observation has inspired researchers from the University of Hanover in Germany to come up with 'RainCars', an initiative that aims to use GPS-equipped moving cars as devices to measure rainfall. The most recent results of the project are now published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Rainfall can be very variable across different parts of a region such as Northern Germany. Conventional rain gauges are accurate, but are often distributed too sparsely to capture much of this variation. Having good information about precipitation is important for flood prediction and prevention, for example. Read more ..
The Ocean's Edge
|John Chapin||November 26th 2013|
Large fish traps in the Persian Gulf could be catching up to six times more fish than what’s being officially reported, according to the first investigation of fish catches based on images recorded from space. Using satellite imagery from Google Earth, researchers at the University of British Columbia estimated that there were 1,900 fishing weirs along the coast of the Persian Gulf during 2005. These weirs may have caught as much as 31,000 tonnes of fish that year. The official number reported by the seven countries in the region to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization was only 5,260 tonnes.
Fishing weirs are semi-permanent fence-like traps that take advantage of tidal differences to catch a wide variety of marine species. Used in Southeast Asia, Africa and parts of North America, some weirs can be more than 100 metres long. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Julien Happich||November 21st 2013|
Visteon has developed a new cockpit concept that uses multiple cameras in the vehicle to keep a constant eye on both the driver and the road ahead.
Designed with input from consumers, the new cockpit concept uses cameras to automatically enlarge certain driver controls, thus limiting the time needed to operate them and helping prevent potential collisions. The concept also recognizes the driver to adjust settings while helping prevent theft.
"Auto manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to reduce driver distraction while enhancing user experiences, and this new cockpit concept addresses both issues," said Anthony Ciatti, electronics innovator. "This solution offers advantages related to user-interface, anti-theft and safety to keep the driver focused on road and potential obstacles ahead." Read more ..
The Race for BioFuels
|Debra Levey Larson||November 21st 2013|
Although invasive Asian carp have been successfully harvested and served on a dinner plate, harvesting invasive plants to convert into ethanol isn't as easy. According to a recent study at the University of Illinois, harvesting invasive plants for use as biofuels may sound like a great idea, but the reality poses numerous obstacles and is too expensive to consider, at least with the current ethanol pathways.
"When the topic of potential invasion by non-native biofuel crops has been raised at conferences I've attended, the ecologists in the room have suggested we use biomass from existing invaders instead," said Lauren Quinn, an invasive plant ecologist in U of Illinois's Energy Biosciences Institute. "They worry about the potential deployment of tens of thousands of acres of known invaders like Arundo donax for ethanol production. They'd say, 'we have all of these invasive plants. Let's just harvest them instead of planting new ones!' But when I analyzed the idea from a broader perspective, it just didn't add up." Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Byron Spice||November 20th 2013|
Carnegie Melon University
A computer program called the Never Ending Image Learner (NEIL) is running 24 hours a day at Carnegie Mellon University, searching the Web for images, doing its best to understand them on its own and, as it builds a growing visual database, gathering common sense on a massive scale.
NEIL leverages recent advances in computer vision that enable computer programs to identify and label objects in images, to characterize scenes and to recognize attributes, such as colors, lighting and materials, all with a minimum of human supervision. In turn, the data it generates will further enhance the ability of computers to understand the visual world.
But NEIL also makes associations between these things to obtain common sense information that people just seem to know without ever saying — that cars often are found on roads, that buildings tend to be vertical and that ducks look sort of like geese. Based on text references, it might seem that the color associated with sheep is black, but people — and NEIL — nevertheless know that sheep typically are white. Read more ..
The Water's Edge
|Maike Nicolai||November 17th 2013|
Helmholtz-Zentrum Ozeanforschung Kiel
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions do not only affect the climate but also our seas and oceans. One-quarter of all CO2 released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans. Once there, the CO2 is converted to carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. Previous studies showed that marine species and ecosystems can suffer in an acidified environment. Although the reason for the sensitivity was seen in physiological processes, mechanisms remained unclear. Scientists from the universities of Gothenburg (GU) and Kiel (CAU), as well as GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) found that ocean acidification leads to reduced rates of digestion in larvae of the ecologically important green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. The findings are published in the international journal Nature Climate Change. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Jo Bowler||November 16th 2013|
New research suggests that the Amazon rainforest may be more able to cope with dry conditions than previously predicted. Researchers at the University of Exeter and Colorado State University used a computer model to demonstrate that, providing forest conservation measures are in place, the Amazon rainforest may be more able to withstand periods of drought than has been estimated by other climate models.
Many climate models over predict the water stress plants feel during the dry season because they don't take into account the moisture that the forest itself can recycle in times of drought. In this study, published in the Journal of Climate, the researchers removed unrealistic water stress from their model and found that the moisture that is recycled by the forest is sufficient to reduce the intensity of drought conditions. Read more ..
The Edge of Light
|Paul Buckley||November 13th 2013|
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering claim it may be possible to make microvehicles move and other devices change shape without using power source other than a beam of light.
The researchers are investigating polymers that 'snap' when triggered by light and can convert light energy into mechanical work which could eliminate the need for traditional machine components such as switches and power sources.
The research, performed by M. Ravi Shankar. “I like to compare this action to that of a Venus Fly Trap,” said Shankar, whose research focuses on innovative nanomaterials. “The underlying mechanism that allows the Venus Fly Trap to capture prey is slow. But because its internal structure is coupled to use elastic instability, a snapping action occurs, and this delivers the power to shut the trap quickly. A similar mechanism acts in the beak of the Hummingbird to help snap-up insects” Read more ..
The Space Edge
|Adam Phillips||November 11th 2013|
The idea that the orbiting chunks of interplanetary rocks called asteroids could hit the Earth and wipe out cities, or even life itself, is a familiar theme in space-based adventure films. But according to three just-released scientific studies in the journals Nature and Science, the likelihood that dangerous asteroids will enter Earth’s atmosphere may be greater than previously believed.
On February 15 of this year, the world was inundated with dramatic video images of a 19-meter-wide meteor streaking across the sky above Chelyabinsk, Russia at nearly 67,000 kilometers per hour. Well over 1,000 people were injured by the event, mostly from the blinding flash and from broken window glass. Still, according to physicist Paul Wiegert of the University of Western Ontario and an author of a study of the Chelyabinsk meteor just published in the journal “Nature”… Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Jessica Berman||November 9th 2013|
Researchers have developed an interface between a monkey’s brains and a machine that could eventually be used to allow someone with a spinal cord injury to control an artificial arm or leg simply by thinking about it.
Initially, interfaces developed by researchers at Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering in Durham, North Carolina, could control only a single prosthetic limb. Now, the scientists have developed an interface that allows rhesus monkeys to move two arms at the same time, as they watch an avatar - a likeness of themselves - on a computer screen.
Virtual monkey avatar are shown from a 3rd person perspective as the movements of the two arms are decoded in real-time from the brain of a rhesus monkey. In the experiment the virtual arms and 3D target objects appear on the screen from a first-person perspective to the monkey, who receives a juice reward for correctly performed trials.
Neurobiology professor Miguel Nicolelis said the monkeys first learned to control the avatar with a pair of joysticks, but then were trained to stay completely still. “They are trained not to move their arms,” Nicolelis said. “They are trained just to imagine the movements. And we get the signals from both parts of their brains - both hemispheres - to be routed to a computer that’s running a computer algorithm that translates their voluntary will to move into movements of a virtual body.” Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Sam Orez||November 7th 2013|
A Columbia University Medical Center-led research team has clinically validated a new method for predicting time to full-time care, nursing home residence, or death for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The method, which uses data gathered from a single patient visit, is based on a complex model of Alzheimer’s disease progression that the researchers developed by consecutively following two sets of Alzheimer’s patients for 10 years each.
“Predicting Alzheimer’s progression has been a challenge because the disease varies significantly from one person to another—two Alzheimer’s patients may both appear to have mild forms of the disease, yet one may progress rapidly, while the other progresses much more slowly,” said senior author Yaakov Stern, PhD, professor of neuropsychology (in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology and in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain and the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center) at CUMC. “Our method enables clinicians to predict the disease path with great specificity.” Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Phil Taylor||November 6th 2013|
As more businesses find their way into the cloud, few engage in security measures beyond those provided by the associated cloud storage firm, a new report from Georgia Tech notes. Even fewer seek heightened data protection because of concerns that usability and access to remote data would be significantly reduced.
These concerns are among findings made by the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in today's release of the Georgia Tech Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2014. The report was released at the annual Georgia Tech Cyber Security Summit, a gathering of industry and academic leaders who have distinguished themselves in the field of cyber security.
"With recent revelations of data collection by the federal government, we will continue to see a focus on cloud security," said Wenke Lee, director of GTISC. "But encryption in the cloud often impacts data accessibility and processing speed. So we are likely to see increased debate about the tradeoffs between security, functionality and efficiency." Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Jim Erickson||November 5th 2013|
Mammal body size decreased significantly during at least two ancient global warming events. A new finding that suggests a similar outcome is possible in response to human-caused climate change, according to a University of Michigan paleontologist and his colleagues.
Researchers have known for years that mammals such as primates and the groups that include horses and deer became much smaller during a period of warming, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), about 55 million years ago. Now U-M paleontologist Philip Gingerich and his colleagues have found evidence that mammalian "dwarfing" also occurred during a separate, smaller global warming event that occurred about 2 million years after the PETM, around 53 million years ago.
Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Robert Sanders||November 4th 2013|
University of California - Berkeley
NASA's Kepler spacecraft, now crippled and its four-year mission at an end, nevertheless provided enough data to complete its mission objective: to determine how many of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets.
Based on a statistical analysis of all the Kepler observations, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Hawaii, Manoa, astronomers now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life.
"What this means is, when you look up at the thousands of stars in the night sky, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye. That is amazing," said UC Berkeley graduate student Erik Petigura, who led the analysis of the Kepler data.
"It's been nearly 20 years since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet around a normal star. Since then we have learned that most stars have planets of some size and that Earth-size planets are relatively common in close-in orbits that are too hot for life," said Andrew Howard, a former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow who is now on the faculty of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. "With this result we've come home, in a sense, by showing that planets like our Earth are relatively common throughout the Milky Way galaxy." Read more ..
The Edge of the Universe
|Janet Lathrop||November 3rd 2013|
In a major new survey of the early universe conducted from the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, University of Massachusetts Amherst astronomer Mauro Giavalisco and colleagues at several other institutions identify the most distant, thus the earliest galaxy ever detected.
Although other Hubble-based observations have identified many other candidates for galaxies in the early universe, including some that may be even more distant, this galaxy is the farthest and earliest whose distance can be definitively confirmed with follow-up observations from the Keck I telescope, one of the largest on earth.
The surprise finding of a young galaxy from a survey that was not designed to find such bright early galaxies suggests that the infant universe may harbor a larger number of intense star-forming galaxies than astronomers believed possible, say first author Steve Finkelstein of the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, Giavalisco and others writing in a recent issue of Nature. This means theories and predictive models of the distribution of galaxies’ star formation activity may need revision. Read more ..
The Medical Edge
|Layne Cameron||November 2nd 2013|
The painful, potentially deadly stings of bark scorpions are nothing more than a slight nuisance to grasshopper mice, which voraciously kill and consume their prey with ease. When stung, the mice briefly lick their paws and move in again for the kill. The grasshopper mice are essentially numb to the pain, scientists have found, because the scorpion toxin acts as an analgesic rather than a pain stimulant.
The scientists published their research in Science magazine.
Ashlee Rowe, lead author of the paper, previously discovered that grasshopper mice, which are native to the southwestern United States, are generally resistant to the bark scorpion toxin, which can kill other animals. It is still unknown why the toxin is not lethal to the mice. “This venom kills other mammals of similar size,” said Rowe, Michigan State University assistant professor of neuroscience and zoology. “The grasshopper mouse has developed the evolutionary equivalent of martial arts to use the scorpions’ greatest strength against them.” Read more ..
The Edge of Tracking
|Suzanne Presto||November 1st 2013|
A tracking technology NASA uses to monitor spacecraft could soon be used to find people trapped under debris on Earth. Rescuers at the Virginia Task Force 1 training facility in Lorton, Virginia, are testing the state-of-the-art radar tool.
FINDER, short for Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response, is a portable radar device that can detect even unconscious people buried beneath 10 meters of rubble by registering their slightest movements. It is an example of a U.S. space agency innovation benefiting people here on Earth.
"FINDER works by sending a low-power microwave signal, and it illuminates the rubble pile, and some of the microwaves go in and reflect off the victim inside and come back out," said Jim Lux of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "So FINDER sees both the reflection from the rubble, which does not move, and a very tiny reflection from the victim, which does move, because when you breathe and when your heart beats, your skin moves a little bit and we can see that." The device is small, easy to carry and easy to use. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Sue McGreevey||October 31st 2013|
Massachusetts General Hospital
Putting patients with severe head injuries or persistent seizures into a medically induced coma currently requires that a nurse or other health professional constantly monitor the patient's brain activity and manually adjust drug infusion to maintain a deep state of anesthesia. Now a computer-controlled system developed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators promises to automate the process, making it more precise and efficient and opening the door to more advanced control of anesthesia. The team, including colleagues from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reports successfully testing their approach in animals in the open access journal PLOS Computational Biology.
"People have been interested for years in finding a way to control anesthesia automatically," says Emery Brown, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, senior author of the report. "To use an analogy that compares giving anesthesia to flying a plane, the way it's been done is like flying a direct course for hours or even days without using an autopilot. This is really something that we should have a computer doing." Read more ..
The Edge of Robotics
|Lionel Pousaz||October 30th 2013|
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Gimball bumps into and ricochets off of obstacles, rather than avoiding them. This 34 centimeter in diameter spherical flying robot buzzes around the most unpredictable, chaotic environments, without the need for fragile detection sensors. This resiliency to injury, inspired by insects, is what sets it apart from other flying robots. Gimball is protected by a spherical, elastic cage which enables it to absorb and rebound from shocks. It keeps its balance using a gyroscopic stabilization system. When tested in the forests above Lausanne, Switzerland, it performed brilliantly, careening from tree trunk to tree trunk but staying on course. It will be presented in public at the IREX conference in Tokyo, Japan from November 5-9, 2013.
Powered by twin propellers and steered by fins, Gimball can stay on course despite its numerous collisions. This feat was a formidable challenge for EPFL PhD student Adrien Briod. "The idea was for the robot's body to stay balanced after a collision, so that it can keep to its trajectory," he explains. "Its predecessors, which weren't stabilized, tended to take off in random directions after impact." With colleague Przemyslaw Mariusz Kornatowski, Briod developed the gyroscopic stabilization system consisting of a double carbon-fiber ring that keeps the robot oriented vertically, while the cage absorbs shocks as it rotates. Read more ..
The Digial Edge
|Jason Socrates Bardi||October 29th 2013|
American Institute of Physics
Thermal infrared (IR) energy is emitted from all things that have a temperature greater than absolute zero. Human eyes, primarily sensitive to shorter wavelength visible light, are unable to detect or differentiate between the longer-wavelength thermal IR "signatures" given off both by living beings and inanimate objects. While mechanical detection of IR radiation has been possible since Samuel Pierpont Langley invented the bolometer in 1880, devices that also can recognize and identify an IR source after detection have been more challenging to develop.
In a recent paper in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, researchers at two Chinese universities describe a novel instrument that successfully does both tasks with extremely high sensitivity by splitting the IR radiation given off by an object into a long-wave portion for detection and a mid-wave portion that can be spectrally analyzed for accurate identification.
Conventional remote sensing systems share a single sensor for both imaging and spectral data processing. The new instrument designed by the Chinese researchers has separate sensors for each task and uses a dichoric beamsplitter to divide the IR signal from an object into two components, a long-wave IR (LWIR) beam and a mid-wave IR (MWIR) beam. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Dewayne Washington||October 28th 2013|
In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) made history, transmitting data from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622 Megabits-per-second (Mbps). That download rate is more than six times faster than previous state-of-the-art radio systems flown to the moon.
“It was amazing how quickly we were able to acquire the first signals, especially from such a distance,” said Don Cornwell, LLCD manager. “I attribute this success to the great work accomplished over the years by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) and their partnership with NASA.”
On Oct. 18, 2013, the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) made history, transmitting data from lunar orbit to Earth at a record-breaking rate.
LLCD is being flown aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer satellite known as LADEE, currently orbiting the moon. LADEE is a 100-day robotic mission designed, built, tested and operated by a team from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Its primary science mission is to investigate the tenuous and exotic atmosphere that exists around the moon.
LADEE, with LLCD onboard, reached lunar orbit 30 days after launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., on Sept. 6. During the trip, the LADEE team provided an opportunity for LLCD to make post-flight calibrations of its pointing knowledge. “Being able to make those calibrations allowed us to lock onto our signal almost instantaneously when we turned on the laser at the moon,” said Cornwell. “A critical part of laser communication is being able to point the narrow laser beam at a very small target over a great distance.” Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Clare Ryan||October 27th 2013|
University College London
A common blue pigment used in the £5 note could have an important role to play in the development of a quantum computer, according to a paper published today in the journal Nature.
The pigment, copper phthalocyanine (CuPc), which is similar to the light harvesting section of the chlorophyll molecule, is a low-cost organic semiconductor that is found in many household products. Crucially, it can be processed into a thin film that can be readily used for device fabrication, a significant advantage over similar materials that have been studied previously.
Now, researchers from the London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL and the University of British Columbia have shown that the electrons in CuPc can remain in 'superposition' – an intrinsically quantum effect where the electron exists in two states at once - for surprisingly long times, showing this simple dye molecule has potential as a medium for quantum technologies. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Margaret Coulombe||October 26th 2013|
Arizona State University
Did you know that crystals form the basis for the penetrating icy blue glare of car headlights and could be fundamental to the future in solar energy technology?
Crystals are at the heart of diodes. Not the kind you might find in quartz, formed naturally, but manufactured to form alloys, such as indium gallium nitride or InGaN. This alloy forms the light emitting region of LEDs, for illumination in the visible range, and of laser diodes (LDs) in the blue-UV range.
Research into making better crystals, with high crystalline quality, light emission efficiency and luminosity, is also at the heart of studies being done at Arizona State University in the Department of Physics.
In an article recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the ASU group, in collaboration with a scientific team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has just revealed the fundamental aspect of a new approach to growing InGaN crystals for diodes, which promises to move photovoltaic solar cell technology toward record-breaking efficiencies. Read more ..
See Earlier Stories 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38