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US report: How to cut U.S. gasoline use in half by 2030

US report: How to cut U.S. gasoline use in half by 2030 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A new report from the National Academy of Sciences shows how it can be done, but no single technology or policy will get us there.

 

Those are audacious goals. But if the United States ever plans to deal seriously with climate change, the transportation sector will have to change drastically. And the National Academy of Sciences report concludes that no one single policy or technology will do the trick.

 

Case in point: In the past few years, the Obama administration has enacted a series of ambitious corporate average fuel economy  standards that will require new cars to get around 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. (That will translate into about 35.4 miles per gallon on the road.) That sounds impressive, but the NAS study concludes that current standards aren’t enough to hit even that 2030 goal for oil use.

 

In fact, the report argues, it’s tough to find any single technology that can cut oil use in half by 2030 on its own. Making conventional cars more efficient won’t do it. A major push on electric vehicles won’t do it. The only things likely to work are a massive switch over to natural-gas vehicles (which would, in turn, make it much harder to hit the greenhouse-gas goals) or a combination of efficiency, electric vehicles, and advanced biofuels.

 

What the NAS is doing here is estimating the impact of each technology “if it is pursued vigorously.” And it found that each technology, on its own, has some promising upsides and some limitations. Better efficiency, for instance: The report found that there’s enormous potential to make conventional gasoline vehicles more efficient, from engine and drivetrain improvements to lighter vehicles. Over the past few  years, automakers have started adopting many of these tactics, such as gasoline direct injection. The NAS report estimates that conventional cars could realistically average 74 miles per gallon in 2050 and hybrids 94 mpg.

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New haptic shoes can avoid stumbles, from spacewalks to sidewalks

New haptic shoes can avoid stumbles, from spacewalks to sidewalks | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MIT engineers find a new haptic interface could enable obstacle avoidance both for astronauts engaged in extravehicular activity and for the visually impaired.

 

Video of astronauts tripping over moon rocks can make for entertaining Internet viewing, but falls in space can jeopardize astronauts’ missions and even their lives. Getting to one’s feet in a bulky, pressurized spacesuit can consume time and precious oxygen reserves, and falls increase the risk that the suit will be punctured.

 

Most falls happen because spacesuits limit astronauts’ ability to both see and feel the terrain around them, so researchers from MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts are developing a new space boot with built-in sensors and tiny “haptic” motors, whose vibrations can guide the wearer around or over obstacles.

 

Recently, at the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, the researchers presented the results of a preliminary study designed to determine what types of stimuli, administered to what parts of the foot, could provide the best navigation cues. On the basis of that study, they’re planning further trials using a prototype of the boot.

 

The work could also have applications in the design of navigation systems for the visually impaired. The development of such systems has been hampered by a lack of efficient and reliable means of communicating spatial information to users.

 

“A lot of students in my lab are looking at this question of how you map wearable-sensor information to a visual display, or a tactile display, or an auditory display, in a way that can be understood by a nonexpert in sensor technologies,” says Leia Stirling, an assistant professor of AeroAstro and an associate faculty member at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, whose group led the work.

 

“This initial pilot study allowed Alison Gibson, a graduate student in AeroAstro and first author on the paper, to learn about how she could create a language for that mapping.” Gibson and Stirling are joined on the paper by Andrea Webb, a psychophysiologist at Draper.

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Facebook’s internet-beaming drone intended to bring connectivity to billions of people

Facebook’s internet-beaming drone intended to bring connectivity to billions of people | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Facebook Connectivity Lab announced today the first full-scale test flight of Aquila — a solar-powered unmanned airplane/drone designed to bring affordable internet access to some of the 1.6 billion people living in remote locations with no access to mobile broadband networks.

 

When complete, Aquila will be able to circle a region up to 60 miles in diameter, beaming internet connectivity down from an altitude of more than 60,000 feet to people within a 60-mile communications diameter for up to 90 days at a time. It will be part of a future fleet of drones.

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Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time

Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The juvenile Issus - a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe - has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing ‘teeth’ that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronize the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump.

The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the “first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure”.

 

Through a combination of anatomical analysis and high-speed video capture of normal Issus movements, scientists from the University of Cambridge have been able to reveal these functioning natural gears for the first time. The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Science.   

The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box.   

 

Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to man-made gears such as bike gears – essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.

The gear teeth on the opposing hind-legs lock together like those in a car gear-box, ensuring almost complete synchronicity in leg movement - the legs always move within 30 ‘microseconds’ of each other, with one microsecond equal to a millionth of a second.

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New lithium-oxygen battery greatly improves energy efficiency, longevity

New lithium-oxygen battery greatly improves energy efficiency, longevity | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Lithium-air batteries are considered highly promising technologies for electric cars and portable electronic devices because of their potential for delivering a high energy output in proportion to their weight. But such batteries have some pretty serious drawbacks: They waste much of the injected energy as heat and degrade relatively quickly. They also require expensive extra components to pump oxygen gas in and out, in an open-cell configuration that is very different from conventional sealed batteries.

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Climate models are accurately predicting ocean and global warming

Climate models are accurately predicting ocean and global warming | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
For those of us who are concerned about global warming, two of the most critical questions we ask are, “how fast is the Earth warming?” and “how much will it warm in the future?”.

The first question can be answered in a number of ways. For instance, we can actually measure the rate of energy increase in the Earth’s system (primarily through measuring changing ocean temperatures). Alternatively, we can measure changes in the net inflow of heat at the top of the atmosphere using satellites. We can also measure the rate of sea-level rise to get an estimate of the warming rate.

Since much of sea-level rise is caused by thermal expansion of water, knowledge of the water-level rise allows us to deduce the warming rate. We can also use climate models (which are sophisticated computer calculations of the Earth’s climate) or our knowledge from Earth’s past (paleoclimatology).

Many studies use combinations of these study methods to attain estimates and typically the estimates are that the planet is warming at a rate of perhaps 0.5 to 1 Watt per square meter of Earth’s surface area. However, there is some discrepancy among the actual numbers.

So assuming we know how much heat is being accumulated by the Earth, how can we predict what the future climate will be? The main tool for this is climate models (although there are other independent ways we can study the future). With climate models, we can play “what-if scenarios” and input either current conditions or hypothetical conditions and watch the Earth’s climate evolve within the simulation.

 

Two incorrect but nevertheless consistent denial arguments are that the Earth isn’t warming and that climate models are inaccurate. A new study, published by Kevin Trenberth, Lijing Cheng, and others (I was also an author) answers these questions.

 

The study was just published in the journal Ocean Sciences; a draft of it is available here. In this study, we did a few new things. First, we presented a new estimate of ocean heating throughout its full depth (most studies only consider the top portion of the ocean). Second, we used a new technique to learn about ocean temperature changes in areas where there are very few measurements. Finally, we used a large group of computer models to predict warming rates, and we found excellent agreement between the predictions and the measurements.

 

According to the measurements, the Earth has gained 0.46 Watts per square meter between 1970 and 2005. Since, 1992 the rate is higher (0.75 Watts per square meter) and therefore shows an acceleration of the warming. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of 5,400,000,000,000 (or 5,400 billion) 60-watt light bulbs running continuously day and night. In my view, these numbers are the most accurate measurements of the rate at which the Earth is warming.

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Scientists cut “Gordian knot” in the human genome

Scientists cut “Gordian knot” in the human genome | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Females have two X chromosomes in each of their cells. Fully unfolded, each copy is two inches long. One of these two X chromosomes is inactive – its genes are turned off. This copy folds into a structure called the Barr body, a mysterious configuration that was discovered in 1949. Recently, scientists have shown that the Barr body contains massive superloops bringing DNA sequences at opposite ends of the chromosome together inside the nucleus of a cell.

 

Now, a team of scientists at Baylor College of Medicine, Florida State University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has determined which part of the DNA code is responsible for these superloops and has shown that it is possible to use this information to change the structure of the Barr body as a whole. The report, which sheds light on female development in mammals, appears today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “X inactivation is fundamentally important for female development,” said Dr. Miriam Huntley, co-first author on the study. “Without it, females would generate too much of every gene product of the X chromosome.”

 

Huntley recently received her Ph.D. at Harvard University, where she worked with co-senior author Dr. Erez Lieberman Aiden, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics, a McNair scholar and director of the Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor. In earlier work, Huntley and her colleagues in the Aiden lab created the first genome-wide map of loops – positions where the genome folds back on itself in the nucleus of a cell and points that lie far apart along the contour of a chromosome come together in 3-D.

 

In the process, they demonstrated that the Barr body – the inactive X chromosome that is present in females – contains superloops, structures that have no analog in men. “The typical loop in a male genome spans about 200,000 letters of the DNA code. If fully stretched out, it would be about three thousandths of an inch long. But the loops in the Barr body can span as many as 77 million DNA letters – an inch of DNA,” said Huntley. “We call these giant structures superloops.”

 

Independently, the laboratory of Dr. Brian Chadwick at Florida State University had been studying X inactivation with a different set of techniques. “We had found that the human inactive X was organized into at least two different types of silent DNA that alternated along the chromosome. At one of the intersections was a strange DNA element called DXZ4, where a single sequence repeated, over and over again, for hundreds of thousands of letters,” said Chadwick, co-senior author of the new study. “I've always been fascinated with what the purpose of this repeat was. Other large repeats in our genome perform structural roles, such as the centromeres and telomeres. I was convinced that the role of DXZ4 was just waiting to be discovered.”


Via Integrated DNA Technologies
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Will Organs-in-a-Dish Ever Replace Animal Models? | The Scientist Magazine®

Will Organs-in-a-Dish Ever Replace Animal Models? | The Scientist Magazine® | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Increasingly sophisticated tissue organoids can model many aspects of disease, but animal studies retain a fundamental role in research, scientists say.

 

From mini brains to mini kidneys, an increasing number of organ models can now be grown in vitro. Some of these “organoids” can even perform certain functions of the human body in both health and disease, reducing the need for animal models. But organoid-based models still can’t fully recapitulate complex aspects of physiology that can only be studied in whole organisms.

 

“I believe that organoid models will replace a lot of current animal experimentation,” Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, Netherlands, one of the field’s pioneers, wrote in an email to The Scientist. However, “a living organism is more than the sum of its parts,” he added. “There will always be the need for confirmation of any finding . . . in vivo.”

 

Organoids are three-dimensional miniature organs grown in vitro from adult or embryonic stem cells under chemical and physical conditions that mimic the human body. Clevers and colleagues grew the first mini guts in 2009; since then, researchers have succeeded in growing mini brains, kidneys, livers, pancreases, and prostate glands (see “Orchestrating Organoids,” The Scientist, September 1, 2015).

 

One area where organoids are well suited to reduce the use of animal models is toxicology, Clevers and others have noted.

Many drugs prove successful in mouse models only to fail in human trials. Organoids, on the other hand, can be grown from human stem cells. “The fact that [the cells are] human is really important,” James Wells, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center whose lab develops stomach organoids, told The Scientist. “There can be very different responses to drugs in a mouse and a human.”

 

Another advantage of organoids is that they can be used for personalized medicine.

 

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Understanding the Universe: Quanta, Symmetry, and Topology (speaker: Frank Wilczek, MIT)

Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology http://web.mit.edu/physics/people/faculty/wilczek_frank.htm
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Why Tomorrow Won't Look Like Today: Things that Advance at Rapid Speed

Just when it seems that technology can't amaze us further, here comes a new batch of next-gen, gee-whiz projects en route to reality. Our panel of big thinkers opens a window on tomorrow. Have you heard of asteroid mining? Eric Anderson's company plans to probe space rocks for water and platinum group metals. Or how about John Kelly's vaunted IBM research team, tooling up its Watson technology (of "Jeopardy!" fame) to help sequence DNA and speed cancer treatment? Or Eric David's Organovo scientists developing printing capabilities to create living tissue--and even human organs--on demand? From the vastness of the cosmos to the microscopic foundations of life, this panel of visionaries points us to the marvels of the future.

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Biotech Firms Battle Over Who Owns Genetic Data

Biotech Firms Battle Over Who Owns Genetic Data | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Cancer-screening firm Ambry Genetics is giving away anonymized data on 10,000 breast and ovarian cancer patients to researchers.

 

Who owns our genetic heritage? It's a contentious question in the multi-billion-dollar genetics industry. Scientists now know not only all three billion-plus letters of the human genome, but many of the key genes that cause hereditary ailments including cancers, autism, Down syndrome, and Parkinson's. That's expensive knowledge, and some firms and institutions that footed the bill for research don't want to just give it away. "Companies are going to do as much as they can to collect as much genetic data as possible," says Sabah Oney, a biotech entrepreneur most recently with prenatal DNA testing firm Ariosa Diagnostics. "Whoever owns the most data is going to be the king."

 

Others say that companies should compete on services they offer, not the data they have collected. A vocal advocate on this side is genetic-testing company Ambry Genetics. It just opened up access to anonymized genetic sequencing and other medical data for 10,000 patients suffering from breast or ovarian cancers. The company promises to keep adding to the database in the future and also expand to data on other cancers on its site, AmbryShare.

 

"We're not here to aggregate data and try to sell it," says Charlie Dunlop, the founder and CEO of Ambry, which just opened a big new lab in Aliso Viejo, south of Los Angeles. Ambry's growth was helped by a lawsuit it won to bust patents by rival Myriad Genetics. So Dunlop has a big interest in the open-access side. Still, the genetic data that Ambry is opening up could be a big contribution to cancer treatments and cures, and set an example for other companies.

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Short-wavelength spin waves generated directly for the first time

Short-wavelength spin waves generated directly for the first time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

With the rapid advance of miniaturization, data processing using electric currents faces tough challenges, some of which are insurmountable.

 

Smaller, faster, more energy-efficient - this is the mantra for the further development of computers and mobile telephones which is currently progressing at a breathtaking pace. However, Dr. Sebastian Wintz of the HZDR Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research knows only too well, how difficult it already is to achieve any further degree of miniaturization. "One major problem with current technologies," he said, "is the heat which is generated when data are transmitted with the aid of electric currents. We need a new concept." The physicist is working with international colleagues on so-called spin waves (magnons) which are set to replace moving charges in the future as information carriers. The scientists have now succeeded for the first time in generating spin waves of such short wavelengths that they have potential for future applications in data processing.

 

The spin denotes a property which lends the particles a magnetic moment. They then act like tiny magnets which run parallel to each other in ferromagnetic materials. If one of the spins then changes direction, this has a knock-on effect on its neighbors. A chain reaction gives rise to a spin wave.

 

The processing of information is presently based on electric currents. The charged particles speed through a network of wires which are squeezed closer and closer together, driven by the desire for ever more compact chips. On their way, the electrons collide with atoms, causing them to rock to and fro in the crystal lattice thereby generating heat. If the wires are too close together, this heat can no longer be dissipated and the system breaks down. "The great advantage of spin waves is that the electrons themselves don't move," explained Wintz, "therefore precious little heat is produced by the flow of data."

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Chinese team to pioneer first human CRISPR trial

Chinese team to pioneer first human CRISPR trial | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The CRISPR gene editing technique has been in the news a lot of late as scientists creep ever closer to using it as a means to treat diseases or to change the very nature of biological beings. China has been a leader in promoting such research on human beings—they were the first to use the technique to on human embryos.

 

The new effort is seen as far less controversial—a team in the U.S. is planning a similar study as soon as they can get regulators to greenlight their project. The Chinese team plans to retrieve T cells from patients that have incurable lung cancer and then edit the genes in those cells. More specifically, they will be looking to disable a gene that encodes for a protein called PD-1—prior research has shown that it acts as a brake on an immune response to help prevent attacks on healthy cells. Once the cells have been edited and inspected very carefully to make sure there were no editing errors they will be allowed to multiply and then all of the cells will be injected back into the same patient's bloodstream. It is hoped that the edited cells will cause the immune system to mount a more aggressive attack on tumor cells, killing them and curing the patient.

 

The researchers acknowledge that they do not know for sure how the body will respond, whether it will cause a more aggressive attack on the tumor cells or kick off other problems related to an overzealous immune response.

 

The clinical trial is set to start next month, 30 candidates have been chosen, but only one will get the edited cellsinitially—a three dose regimen. That patient will be monitored very closely for both positive and negative responses—the overall goal is to see if the procedure is safe, but the researchers are hoping, of course, to see some sign of tumor reduction.

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First Scientific Proof That Wild Animals Really Can Communicate With Humans

First Scientific Proof That Wild Animals Really Can Communicate With Humans | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A long-known relationship between African men who harvest honey and a bird called a honeyguide allows both species to get the delectable treat.

 

When humans speak up, the little African birds called honeyguides listen—and can understand, a new study confirms for the first time. Honeyguides in northern Mozambique realize that when a man makes a special trilling sound, he wants to find a bees’ nest—and its delectable honey.

 

Birds that hear this trill often lead human hunters to a nest, receiving a reward of honeycomb.

 

Communication between domesticated species and people is well known, but “the fascinating point in the case of the honeyguide is that it describes such a relationship between a wild animal and humans,” says behavioral biologist Claudia Wascher of Anglia Ruskin University in Great Britain, who was not involved with the new research.

 

“This has not been described scientifically before.”

 

Though the science may be new, the relationship isn't: Honeyguides and people have been cooperating in Africa for thousands if not millions of years.

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New movie screen allows for glasses-free 3-D at a larger scale

New movie screen allows for glasses-free 3-D at a larger scale | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have demonstrated a display that lets audiences watch 3-D films in a theater without extra eyewear. Dubbed “Cinema 3D,” the MIT / Weizmann Institute of Science prototype uses lenses and mirrors to enable viewers to watch a 3-D movie from any seat.

 

“Existing approaches to glasses-free 3-D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical,” says MIT professor Wojciech Matusik, one of the co-authors on a related paper whose first author is Weizmann PhD Netalee Efrat. “This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3-D on a large scale.”

 

While the researchers caution that the system isn’t currently market-ready, they are optimistic that future versions could push the technology to a place where theaters would be able to offer glasses-free alternatives for 3-D movies.

 

Among the paper’s co-authors are MIT research technician Mike Foshey; former CSAIL postdoc Piotr Didyk; and two Weizmann researchers that include Efrat and professor Anat Levin. Efrat will present the paper at this week’s SIGGRAPH computer-graphics conference in Anaheim, California.

 

Glasses-free 3-D already exists, but not in a way that scales to movie theaters. Traditional methods for TV sets use a series of slits in front of the screen (a “parallax barrier”) that allows each eye to see a different set of pixels, creating a simulated sense of depth.

 

But because parallax barriers have to be at a consistent distance from the viewer, this approach isn’t practical for larger spaces like theaters that have viewers at different angles and distances.

 

Other methods, including one from the MIT Media Lab, involve developing completely new physical projectors that cover the entire angular range of the audience. However, this often comes at a cost of lower image-resolution.


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Neuroimaging data reveal four distinct stages when solving math problems

Neuroimaging data reveal four distinct stages when solving math problems | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Using neuroimaging data, Carnegie Mellon University researchers have identified four distinct stages of math problem solving, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

 

“How students were solving these kinds of problems was a total mystery to us until we applied these techniques,” says psychological scientist John Anderson, lead researcher on the study. “Now, when students are sitting there thinking hard, we can tell what they are thinking each second.”

 

Insights from this work may eventually be applied to the design of more effective classroom instruction, says Anderson.

 

Anderson combined two analytical approaches — multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) and hidden semi-Markov models (HSMM) — to shed light on the different stages of thinking. MVPA has typically been used to identify momentary patterns of activation; adding HSMM, Anderson hypothesized, would yield information about how these patterns play out over time.

 

The researchers applied this combined approach to neuroimaging data collected from participants as they solved specific types of math problems. To gauge whether the stages that were identified mapped on to actual stages of thinking, the researchers manipulated different features of the math problems; some problems required more effort in coming up with an appropriate solution plan and others required more effort in executing the solution.

 

The aim was to test whether these manipulations had the specific effects one would expect on the durations of the different stages.

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Spiders spin unique phononic material

Spiders spin unique phononic material | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
New discoveries about spider silk could inspire novel materials to manipulate sound and heat in the same way semiconducting circuits manipulate electrons, according to scientists at Rice University, in Europe and in Singapore.

 

A paper in Nature Materials today looks at the microscopic structure of spider silk and reveals unique characteristics in the way it transmits phonons, quasiparticles of sound.

 

The research shows for the first time that spider silk has a phonon band gap. That means it can block phonon waves in certain frequencies in the same way an electronic band gap - the basic property of semiconducting materials - allows some electrons to pass and stops others.

 

The researchers wrote that their observation is the first discovery of a "hypersonic phononic band gap in a biological material."

How the spider uses this property remains to be understood, but there are clear implications for materials, according to materials scientist and Rice Engineering Dean Edwin Thomas, who co-authored the paper. He suggested that the crystalline microstructure of spider silk might be replicated in other polymers. That could enable tunable, dynamic metamaterials like phonon waveguides and novel sound or thermal insulation, since heat propagates through solids via phonons.

 

"Phonons are mechanical waves," Thomas said, "and if a material has regions of different elastic modulus and density, then the waves sense that and do what waves do: They scatter. The details of the scattering depend on the arrangement and mechanical couplings of the different regions within the material that they're scattering from."

 

Spiders are adept at sending and reading vibrations in a web, using them to locate defects and to know when "food" comes calling. Accordingly, the silk has the ability to transmit a wide range of sounds that scientists think the spider can interpret in various ways. But the researchers found silk also has the ability to dampen some sound.

 

"Spider silk has a lot of different, interesting microstructures, and our group found we could control the position of the band gap by changing the strain in the silk fiber," Thomas said. "There's a range of frequencies that are not allowed to propagate. If you broadcast sound at a particular frequency, it won't go into the material."

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Great hammerhead sharks swim on their side to reduce transport costs

Great hammerhead sharks swim on their side to reduce transport costs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Animals exhibit various physiological and behavioural strategies for minimizing travel costs. Fins of aquatic animals play key roles in efficient travel and, for sharks, the functions of dorsal and pectoral fins are considered well divided: the former assists propulsion and generates lateral hydrodynamic forces during turns and the latter generates vertical forces that offset sharks’ negative buoyancy.

 

A group of scientists now show that great hammerhead sharks drastically reconfigure the function of these structures, using an exaggerated dorsal fin to generate lift by swimming rolled on their side. Tagged wild sharks spend up to 90% of time swimming at roll angles between 50° and 75°, and hydrodynamic modeling shows that doing so reduces drag—and in turn, the cost of transport—by around 10% compared with traditional upright swimming. Employment of such a strongly selected feature for such a unique purpose raises interesting questions about evolutionary pathways to hydrodynamic adaptations, and our perception of form and function.

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Unusual new zoantharian species is the first described solitary species in over 100 years

Unusual new zoantharian species is the first described solitary species in over 100 years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A very unusual new species of zoantharian surprised Drs Takuma Fujii and James Davis Reimer, affiliated with Kagoshima University and University of the Ryukyus.

The scientists stumbled upon a solitary individual polyp while conducting SCUBA surveys around the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. They noticed that the creatures were buried almost completely in the soft sediment of the seafloor. It was only their oral disks and tentacles that were protruding above the surface.

Generally, most known zoantharians are colonial (hence their common name of 'colonial anemones'), and many dwell in shallow waters of subtropical and tropical regions, where their large colonies can be found on coral reefs.

 

However, these newly discovered polyps were not only leading solitary lives. They were also found to lack zooxanthellae, single-celled organisms that coexist in symbiosis with certain marine invertebrates, also typical for the majority of zoantharians.

 

The discovery of this unusual new species is reported in the open access journal ZooKeys.

 

Solitary zoantharian species, such as this one, are known from scant few reports, and only three species are described, all reported more than 100 years ago from the Indo-Pacific region. Overall, very little is known about the hereby studied genus Sphenopus.


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Stacking Dolls in Space: Concentric Bubbles Seen Around Star Cluster

Stacking Dolls in Space: Concentric Bubbles Seen Around Star Cluster | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A young star cluster surrounded by three concentric bubbles was recently found near the M33 galaxy, revealing a cosmic splendor that could be compared to Russian matryoshka nesting dolls.

 

The concentric bubbles, which comprise what researchers call a triple-bubble, are actually three supernova remnants, shells of gas and dust that form following the explosion of a star. This is the first known case of three supernova remnants nesting one inside the other, said the researchers from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), who made the discovery. The above illustration shows what a cross section of the three rings might look like if scientists could get a closer look.

 

The shells provide a unique opportunity to study the remains of these stellar explosions, as well as the the interstellar medium, which is the gas and dust that lies between stars, John Beckman, co-author of the new study, said in a news release. Beckman is an astrophysicist with the Spanish National Resource Council and IAC. "We can measure how much matter there is in a shell, approximately a couple of hundred times the mass of the sun in each of the shells," he said.

 

Supernova Explosion Seen in Nearby Galaxy (Video)


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The Genetic Components of Rare Diseases

The Genetic Components of Rare Diseases | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In fall 2015, the conclusion of the 1000 Genomes Project revealed 88 million variants in the human genome. What most of them mean for human health is unclear. Of the known associations between a genetic variant and disease, many are still tenuous at best. How can scientists determine which genes or genetic variants are truly detrimental?

 

Patients with rare diseases are often caught in the crosshairs of this uncertainty. By the time they have their genome, or portions of it, sequenced, they’ve endured countless physician visits and tests. Sequencing provides some hope for an answer, but the process of uncovering causal variants on which to build a treatment plan is still one of painstaking detective work with many false leads. Even variants that are known to be harmful show no effects in some individuals who harbor them, says Adrian Liston, a translational immunologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium who works on disease gene discovery.

 

Exome sequencing, which covers the 1 percent to 2 percent of the genome that codes for protein, typically turns up some 30,000 genetic variants, which need to be carefully assessed. Advances in bioinformatics tools have allowed researchers to rapidly whittle numerous variants or genes down to a manageable list. From there, other web-based platforms are helping investigators build a case for causation. These steps are important, Liston says, because testing a gene candidate in animal models or cell lines consumes a vast amount of resources.

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Odd Dance of Mini Alien Exoplanet System is a Clockwork Wonder

Odd Dance of Mini Alien Exoplanet System is a Clockwork Wonder | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The compact star system maintains its intricate balance through orbital resonance.

 

When NASA's Kepler space telescope first detected the "mini-solar system" of Kepler-80 in 2012, astronomers were astonished by how crowded it was. There are five worlds all orbiting their star well within the distance Mercury orbits the sun.

 

The discovery of Kepler-80 -- and other compact star systems like it known as Systems with Tightly-spaced Inner Planets, or "STIPs" -- challenges our understanding of how planets form, even adding an extra perspective to how Earth may have evolved.

 

Now astronomers have taken a long, hard look at Kepler-80, which is located around 1,100 light-years away, and are beginning to understand what makes it tick.

 

One of the biggest questions challenging our understanding of this system is how could all the exoplanets maintain their apparently stable orbits in such a small region? Wouldn't their motions have been thrown into dynamical chaos long ago?

 

Each exoplanet has an orbital period (or "year") of just one, three, four, seven and nine days. Whipping around the star at such high speed and close proximity should pose a problem; their gravities should interfere with one another.

 

And in new research to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, they do affect one another, but not in the negative sense. Researchers were able to precisely measure the orbital periods of all the planets and detected very slight gravitational tugs as they passed one another. The technique is known as transit timing variations and it has been used by Kepler before to detect the gravitational tug of worlds that remained undetected.

These precise measurements led the researchers to discover that all five worlds are in a tight, synchronized dance that maintains the stability of the whole star system.

 

"The outer four planets return to almost exactly the same configuration every 27 days," said Darin Ragozzine, of Florida Institute of Technology, in a statement.

 

This surprising synchronicity is known as orbital resonance. As Kepler-80 formed, the tight orbits of the planets it contained evolved into a clockwork-like balance, ensuring their orbits remained stable.

 

The four outer exoplanets are thought to be of between four to six times the mass of Earth and the two outermost worlds have diameters that are twice as large as the inner worlds. It is therefore thought the two outer worlds are gas giants.

 

After carrying out computer simulations of the evolution of Kepler-80, the researchers think all the worlds formed in much wider orbits, eventually migrating closer to the star. Over time, their orbits started to synchronize and settled into this uniquely compact state.

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Dr. Stephen Kingsmore Sets Guinness World Records Title for Fastest Genetic Diagnosis

Dr. Stephen Kingsmore Sets Guinness World Records Title for Fastest Genetic Diagnosis | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Stephen Kingsmore, M.D., D.Sc., president and CEO of Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine at Rady Children's Hospital – San Diego, is the official title holder of the Guinness World Records® designation for fastest genetic diagnosis, which he accomplished by successfully diagnosing critically ill newborns in just 26 hours, as published in the journal Genome Medicine.

 

The feat was made possible by several time-shrinking technologies, including Edico Genome's genomic data-crunching computer chip, DRAGEN, and one of Illumina's high-throughput sequencing instruments. In addition, other parameters of the sequencing process were optimized.

 

Dr. Kingsmore achieved this Guinness World Records title while serving as executive director of Medical Panomics at Children's Mercy Kansas City; he will implement the enabling technologies at the new Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine. Today's celebration in San Diego, often called "the genomics capital of the world," is being held on National DNA Day, which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project and the discovery of DNA's double helix.

 

"Diagnosing acutely ill babies is a race against the clock, which is why it's so essential for physicians to have access to technology that will provide answers faster and help set the course of treatment," Dr. Kingsmore said. "My work at Children's Mercy Kansas City that led to this recognition would not have been possible without our key technology partners Edico Genome and Illumina, who share a vision for unraveling mysteries of disease and giving hope to families with ill newborns. I look forward to collaborating with both parties to implement this approach at Rady Children's Institute for Genomic Medicine and ultimately neonatal and pediatric intensive care units across the country."

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Teal drone is up for pre-orders, can do 70 mph, stay stable in winds up to 40 mph

Teal drone is up for pre-orders, can do 70 mph, stay stable in winds up to 40 mph | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Teal is self-promoted as the world's fastest production drone. It is fast and can withstand 40mh winds. It is built to run as many apps as you can think of and it has a supercomputer on board.

 

Among the key features: modes for beginners to hardcore racers; control it from a smartphone, tablet or hobby controller; has something called Teal OS as a software platform, opening the way for people to build apps around it; fast processors on board the drone.

 

The drone is powered by NVIDIA TX1. It handles machine learning, autonomous flight, image recognition and more onboard. "This makes Teal a flying supercomputer. You can even plug Teal into a monitor, use it like a normal computer, play games on it...", Teal's inventor explains.

 

Teal has a 13MP wide field of view camera that supports 4K video recording and 3-axis electronic stabilization. Videos and photos can be stored directly on built in 16GB storage or to a microSD card.

 

Speed? How fast is fast? The max horizontal speed is listed as 70 mph. The site FAQ page stated that "Teal can fly over 70 MPH! In test runs, teal has even reached speeds over 85 MPH under certain conditions."

 

Teal is small enough to fit in a standard backpack without disassembly. The diagonal motor to motor measurement is listed as 261mm.

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Scientists program cells to remember and respond to series of stimuli

Scientists program cells to remember and respond to series of stimuli | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Synthetic biology allows researchers to program cells to perform novel functions such as fluorescing in response to a particular chemical or producing drugs in response to disease markers. In a step toward devising much more complex cellular circuits, MIT engineers have now programmed cells to remember and respond to a series of events.

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A way to get electrons to attract each other is using other electrons

A way to get electrons to attract each other is using other electrons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, with assistance from another at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany has found a new way to get electrons to attract one. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes the technique they used and the ways their results might prove useful. Takis Kontos with Ecole Normale Supérieure in France offers a News & Views piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue and in addition to outlining their work offers some history on its development by others in the field.

 

Getting electrons to attract each is a big part of superconductivity, but unfortunately, due to the need for extremely cold temperatures most such materials have not proved to be of practical use. What scientists would really like to find is a material that could be a superconductor at room temperature and one promising avenue of research has been attempting to realize a theory proposed by William Little half a century ago—he suggested it might be possible to get electrons to attract one another by using the repulsion of other electrons. In this new effort, the researchers have attempted to prove this theory correct by using carbon nanotubes placed near one another.

 

Their experiment consisted of coaxing just two electrons into a carbon nanotube and a polarizer in the form of two energy wells in a second carbon nanotube. They then positioned the two nanotubes perpendicular to each other, with one over the top of the over forming a cross, though they were not allowed to touch—one was kept approximately 100 nanometers away from the other. At that distance, the researchers confirmed that the electrons became attracted to one another.

 

In theory, the team notes, it should be possible to create a superconductor using their method—unfortunately, creating an entire crystal, or even a short chain of material in such a way, is likely to be exceedingly difficult. Still, Kontos suggests that it could be used to create a quantum simulator which could be added as yet another tool for researchers in the field.

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