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Self-Administration of Flu Vaccine with a Patch May be Feasible, Study Suggests

Self-Administration of Flu Vaccine with a Patch May be Feasible, Study Suggests | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The annual ritual of visiting a doctor’s office or health clinic to receive a flu shot may soon be outdated, thanks to the findings of a new study published in the journal Vaccine.


While therapeutic drugs are routinely self-administered by patients, there is little precedent for self-vaccination. Convenient self-vaccination may expand vaccination coverage and reduce administration costs. Microneedle patches are in development for many vaccines, but no reports exist on usability or acceptability. Researchers hypothesized that naïve patients could apply patches and that self-administered patches would improve stated intent to receive an influenza vaccine. They conducted a randomized, repeated measures study with 91 venue-recruited adults. To simulate vaccination, subjects received placebo microneedle patches given three times by self-administration and once by the investigator, as well as an intramuscular injection of saline. Seventy participants inserted patches with thumb pressure alone and the remainder used snap-based devices that closed shut at a certain force. Usability was assessed by skin staining and acceptability was measured with an adaptive-choice analysis. The best usability was seen with the snap device, with users inserting a median value of 93–96% of microneedles over three repetitions. When a self-administered microneedle patch was offered, intent to vaccinate increased from 44% to 65% (CI: 55–74%). The majority of those intending vaccination would prefer to self-vaccinate: 64% (CI: 51–75%). There were no serious adverse events associated with use of microneedle patches. The findings from this initial study indicate that microneedle patches for self-vaccination against influenza are usable and may lead to improved vaccination coverage.

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Gynandromorphs: Half Male, Half Female Animals

Gynandromorphs: Half Male, Half Female Animals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

As they often do after a rainstorm, butterflies had gathered around puddles on Pigeon Mountain in northwest Georgia. Nets in hand, James Adams and his friend Irving Finkelstein watched the insects lapping up salts and proteins dissolved in the muddy water, their folded wings yawning apart now and then. There were silvery-blue Celastrinas and Skippers the color of cinnamon and ash. Largest of all were the Tiger Swallowtails—pastel lemon males with black dagger-like stripes and midnight-dark females with a dusting of evening cerulean.

 

Suddenly a very odd creature flitted past Adams and Finkelstein—a swallowtail unlike any they had ever seen. Its left half was yellow; its right, black. It was as though someone had sliced up two different insects and seamlessly sewn them back together. Finkelstein yelped and took a swipe at the bizarre beauty, missing by quite a bit. Suppressing his excitement, lest it misguide his hand, Adams chased the butterfly a few steps, swung, and netted it. He could see immediately that he had caught a gynandromorph—an animal that was half-male and half-female.

 

Butterfly collectors love gynandromorphs for their rarity as much as their peculiarity. They are unpredictable hiccups in nature’s symphony of symmetry. The creatures tantalize scientists, too, because they offer a unique opportunity: the chance to study typically male and female genes and anatomy in the same body.

 

For hundreds of years, naturalists have been documenting gynandromorphs among insects, spiders, lobsters, and birds. More recently, researchers—aided by increasingly sophisticated laboratory tools—have overturned reigning theories of sexual development by studying such hybrids. As has proven true time and again throughout the history of science, the creatures that seem strangest—those that are too odd, too asymmetrical to fit neatly into our presupposed categories—teach us the most about how all living things work. It turns out, for example, that the standard explanation of how a bird becomes male or female is wrong. Scientists came to this realization not by investigating scores of typical birds, but rather by examining a few gynandromorphs. It all started with an odd zebra finch.

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A new AI algorithm summarizes text amazingly well

A new AI algorithm summarizes text amazingly well | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Training software to accurately sum up information in documents could have great impact in many fields, such as medicine, law, and scientific research.

 

Who has time to read every article they see shared on Twitter or Facebook, or every document that’s relevant to their job? As information overload grows ever worse, computers may become our only hope for handling a growing deluge of documents. And it may become routine to rely on a machine to analyze and paraphrase articles, research papers, and other text for you.

 

An algorithm developed by researchers at Salesforce shows how computers may eventually take on the job of summarizing documents. It uses several machine-learning tricks to produce surprisingly coherent and accurate snippets of text from longer pieces. And while it isn’t yet as good as a person, it hints at how condensing text could eventually become automated.

 

The algorithm produced, for instance, the following summary of a recent New York Times article about Facebook trying to combat fake news ahead of the U.K.’s upcoming election:

  • Social network published a series of advertisements in newspapers in Britain on Monday.
  • It has removed tens of thousands of fake accounts in Britain.
  • It also said it would hire 3,000 more moderators, almost doubling the number of people worldwide who scan for inappropriate or offensive content.

 

The Salesforce algorithm is dramatically better than anything developed previously, according to a common software tool for measuring the accuracy of text summaries. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large improvement in any [natural-language-processing] task,” says Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce. Socher is a prominent name in machine learning and natural-language processing, and his startup, MetaMind, was acquired by Salesforce in 2016.

 

The software is still a long way from matching a human’s ability to capture the essence of document text, and other summaries it produces are sloppier and less coherent. Indeed, summarizing text perfectly would require genuine intelligence, including commonsense knowledge and a mastery of language.

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Nanofibers feel forces and hear sounds made by individual cells

Nanofibers feel forces and hear sounds made by individual cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a miniature device that's sensitive enough to feel the forces generated by swimming bacteria and hear the beating of heart muscle cells. The device is a nano-sized optical fiber that's about 100 times thinner than a human hair. It can detect forces down to 160 femtonewtons—about ten trillion times smaller than a newton—when placed in a solution containing live Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are swimming bacteria found in the gut. In cultures of beating heart muscle cells from mice, the nano fiber can detect sounds down to -30 decibels—a level that's one thousand times below the limit of the human ear. "This work could open up new doors to track small interactions and changes that couldn't be tracked before," said nanoengineering professor Donald Sirbuly at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, who led the study.

 

Some applications, he envisions, include detecting the presence and activity of a single bacterium; monitoring bonds forming and breaking; sensing changes in a cell's mechanical behavior that might signal it becoming cancerous or being attacked by a virus; or a mini stethoscope to monitor cellular acoustics in vivo.

The work is published in Nature Photonics on May 15.

 

The optical fiber developed by Sirbuly and colleagues is at least 10 times more sensitive than the atomic force microscope (AFM), an instrument that can measure infinitesimally small forces generated by interacting molecules. And while AFMs are bulky devices, this optical fiber is only several hundred nanometers in diameter. "It's a mini AFM with the sensitivity of an optical tweezer," Sirbuly said.

 

The device is made from an extremely thin fiber of tin dioxide, coated with a thin layer of a polymer, called polyethylene glycol, and studded with gold nanoparticles. To use the device, researchers dip the nano optical fiber into a solution of cells, send a beam of light down the fiber and analyze the light signals it sends out. These signals, based on their intensity, indicate how much force or sound the fiber is picking up from the surrounding cells. "We're not just able to pick up these small forces and sounds, we can quantify them using this device. This is a new tool for high resolution nanomechanical probing," Sirbuly said.

 

Here's how the device works: as light travels down the optical fiber, it interacts strongly with the gold nanoparticles, which then scatter the light as signals that can be seen with a conventional microscope. These light signals show up at a particular intensity. But that intensity changes when the fiber is placed in a solution containing live cells. Forces and sound waves from the cells hit the gold nanoparticles, pushing them into the polymer layer that separates them from the fiber's surface. Pushing the nanoparticles closer to the fiber allows them to interact more strongly with the light coming down the fiber, thus increasing the intensity of the light signals. Researchers calibrated the device so they could match the signal intensities to different levels of force or sound.

 

The key to making this work is the fiber's polymer layer. It acts like a spring mattress that's sensitive enough to be compressed to different thicknesses by the faint forces and sound waves produced by the cells. And Sirbuly says the polymer layer can be tuned—if researchers want to measure larger forces, they can use a stiffer polymer coating; for increased sensitivity, they can use a softer polymer like a hydrogel.

 

Moving forward, researchers plan to use the nano fibers to measure bio-activity and the mechanical behavior of single cells. Future works also includes improving the fibers' "listening" capabilities to create ultra-sensitive biological stethoscopes, and tuning their acoustic response to develop new imaging techniques.


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New 3-D printing method creates shape-shifting objects

New 3-D printing method creates shape-shifting objects | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and two other institutions has developed a new 3-D printing method to create objects that can permanently transform into a range of different shapes in response to heat.

 

The team, which included researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, created the objects by printing layers of shape memory polymers with each layer designed to respond differently when exposed to heat.

 

"This new approach significantly simplifies and increases the potential of 4-D printing by incorporating the mechanical programming post-processing step directly into the 3-D printing process," said Jerry Qi, a professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. "This allows high-resolution 3-D printed components to be designed by computer simulation, 3-D printed, and then directly and rapidly transformed into new permanent configurations by simply heating."

 

The research was reported April 12, 2017 in the journal Science Advances, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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3D direction-dependent force measurement at the subatomic scale

3D direction-dependent force measurement at the subatomic scale | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is an extremely sensitive technique that allows us to image materials and/or characterize their physical properties on the atomic scale by sensing the force above material surfaces using a precisely controlled tip. However, conventional AFM only provides the surface normal component of the force (the Z direction) and ignores the components parallel to the surface (the X and Y directions).

 

To fully characterize materials used in nanoscale devices, it is necessary to obtain information about parameters with directionality, such as electronic, magnetic, and elastic properties, in more than just the Z direction. That is, it is desirable to measure these parameters in the X and Y directions parallel to the surface of a material as well. Measuring the distribution of such material parameters on the atomic scale will increase our understanding of chemical composition and reactions, surface morphology, molecular manipulation, and nanomachine operation.

 

A research group at Osaka University has recently developed an AFM-based approach called "bimodal AFM" to obtain information about material surfaces in the X, Y, and Z directions (that is, in three dimensions) on the subatomic scale. The researchers measured the total force between an AFM tip and material surface in the X, Y, and Z directions using a germanium (Ge) surface as a substrate. Their collaborative partner, the Institute of Physics of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, contributed computer simulations of the tip-surface interactions. The bimodal AFM approach was recently reported in Nature Physics.

 

"A clean Ge(001) surface has alternately aligned anisotropic dimers, which are rotated by 90° across the step, meaning they show a two-domain structure," explains first author Yoshitaka Naitoh. "We probed the force fields from each domain in the vertical direction by oscillating the AFM tip at the flexural resonance frequency and in the parallel direction by oscillating it at the torsional one."

 

The team first expressed the force components as vectors, providing the vector distribution above the surface at the subatomic scale. The computer simulation supported the experimental results and shed light on the nature of chemical tip termination and morphology and, in particular, helped to clarify the outstanding questions regarding the tip-surface distances in the experiment.

 

"We measured the magnitude and direction of the force between the AFM tip and Ge surface on a subatomic scale in three dimensions," says Naitoh. "Such measurements will aid understanding of the structure and chemical reactions of functionalized surfaces."

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New dinosaur fossil so well-preserved it looks like a statue

New dinosaur fossil so well-preserved it looks like a statue | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Before being assembled into something recognizable at a museum, most dinosaur fossils look to the casual observer like nothing more than common rocks. No one, however, would confuse the over 110 million-year-old nodosaur fossil for a stone.

 

The fossil, being unveiled today in Canada’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, is so well preserved it looks like a statue.

Even more surprising might be its accidental discovery, as unveiled in the June issue of National Geographic magazine.

 

On March 21, 2011, Shawn Funk was digging in Alberta’s Millennium Mine with a mechanical backhoe, when he hit “something much harder than the surrounding rock.” A closer look revealed something that looked like no rock Funk had ever seen, just “row after row of sandy brown disks, each ringed in gunmetal gray stone.”

 

What he had found was a 2,500-pound dinosaur fossil, which was soon shipped to the museum in Alberta, where technicians scraped extraneous rock from the fossilized bone and experts examined the specimen.

 

“I couldn’t believe my eyes — it was a dinosaur,” Donald Henderson, the curator of dinosaurs at the museum, said. “When we first saw the pictures we were convinced we were going to see another plesiosaur (a more commonly discovered marine reptile).”

 

More specifically, it was the snout-to-hips portion of a nodosaur, a “member of the heavily-armored ankylosaur subgroup,” that roamed during the Cretaceous Period, according to Smithsonian. This group of heavy herbivores, which walked on four legs, likely resembled a cross between a lizard and a lion — but covered in scales.

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Robotic exoskeleton could prevent falls among the elderly

Robotic exoskeleton could prevent falls among the elderly | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The evolution to bipedalism forced humans to develop suitable strategies for dynamically controlling their balance, ensuring stability, and preventing falling. The natural aging process and traumatic events such as lower-limb loss can alter the human ability to control stability significantly increasing the risk of fall and reducing the overall autonomy. Accordingly, there is an urgent need, from both end-users and society, for novel solutions that can counteract the lack of balance, thus preventing falls among older and fragile citizens.
 
In a recent study, the researchers show a novel ecological approach relying on a wearable robotic device (the Active Pelvis Orthosis, APO) aimed at facilitating balance recovery after unexpected slippages. Specifically, if the APO detects signs of balance loss, then it supplies counteracting torques at the hips to assist balance recovery. Experimental tests conducted on eight elderly persons and two transfemoral amputees revealed that stability against falls improved due to the “assisting when needed” behavior of the APO. Interestingly, this approach required a very limited personalization for each subject, and this makes it promising for real-life applications. These findings demonstrate the potential of closed-loop controlled wearable robots to assist elderly and disabled subjects and to improve their quality of life.
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Structural nanocolors: Laser printer makes colors without ink

Man-made structural colors, which originate from resonant interactions between visible light and manufactured nanostructures, are emerging as a solution for ink-free color printing. Scientists now show that non-iridescent structural colors can be conveniently produced by nanostructures made from high-index dielectric materials. Compared to plasmonic analogs, color surfaces with high-index dielectrics, such as germanium (Ge), have a lower reflectance, yielding a superior color contrast. Taking advantage of band-to-band absorption in Ge, we laser-postprocess Ge color metasurfaces with morphology-dependent resonances. Strong on-resonance energy absorption under pulsed laser irradiation locally elevates the lattice temperature (exceeding 1200 K) in an ultrashort time scale (1 ns). This forms the basis for resonant laser printing, where rapid melting allows for surface energy–driven morphology changes with associated modification of color appearance. Laser-printable high-index dielectric color metasurfaces are scalable to a large area and open a new paradigm for printing and decoration with nonfading and vibrant colors.

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Massive galaxy clusters: The final frontier of the Frontier Fields

Massive galaxy clusters: The final frontier of the Frontier Fields | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope has peered across six billion light years of space to resolve extremely faint features of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 that have not been seen before. Imaged here in stunning detail, Abell 370 is part of the Frontier Fields program which uses massive galaxy clusters to study the mysteries of dark matter and the very early Universe.

 

Six billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster), Abell 370 is made up of hundreds of galaxies [1]. Already in the mid-1980s higher-resolution images of the cluster showed that the giant luminous arc in the lower left of the image was not a curious structure within the cluster, but rather an astrophysical phenomenon: the gravitationally lensed image of a galaxy twice as far away as the cluster itself. Hubble helped show that this arc is composed of two distorted images of an ordinary spiral galaxy that just happens to lie behind the cluster.

 

Abell 370's enormous gravitational influence warps the shape of spacetime around it, causing the light of background galaxies to spread out along multiple paths and appear both distorted and magnified. The effect can be seen as a series of streaks and arcs curving around the centre of the image. Massive galaxy clusters can therefore act like natural telescopes, giving astronomers a close-up view of the very distant galaxies behind the cluster – a glimpse of the Universe in its infancy, only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

 

This image of Abell 370 was captured as part of the Frontier Fields program, which used a whopping 630 hours of Hubble observing time, over 560 orbits of the Earth. Six clusters of galaxies were imaged in exquisite detail, including Abell 370 which was the very last one to be finished. An earlier image of this object – using less observation time and therefore not recording such faint detail – was published in 2009.

 

During the cluster observations, Hubble also looked at six "parallel fields", regions near the galaxy clusters which were imaged with the same exposure times as the clusters themselves. Each cluster and parallel field were imaged in infrared light by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), and in visible light by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

 

The Frontier Fields programme produced the deepest observations ever made of galaxy clusters and the magnified galaxies behind them. These observations are helping astronomers understand how stars and galaxies emerged out of the dark ages of the Universe, when space was dark, opaque, and filled with hydrogen.

 

Studying massive galaxy clusters like Abell 370 also helps with measuring the distribution of normal matter and dark matter within such clusters [heic1506]. By studying its lensing properties, astronomers have determined that Abell 370 contains two large, separate clumps of dark matter, contributing to the evidence that this massive galaxy cluster is actually the result of two smaller clusters merging together.

 

Now that the observations for the Frontier Fields program are complete, astronomers can use the full dataset to explore the clusters, their gravitational lensing effects and the magnified galaxies from the early Universe in full detail.

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Studying a galactic cluster 6 billion light years away and how it creates a gravitational lens for a spiral galaxy behind it.
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Alien Knowledge: Our AI Machines Will Soon Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand

Alien Knowledge: Our AI Machines Will Soon Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all.

 

We are increasingly relying on machines that derive conclusions from models that they themselves have created, models that are often beyond human comprehension, models that “think” about the world differently than we do.

 

But this comes with a price. This infusion of alien intelligence is bringing into question the assumptions embedded in our long Western tradition. We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it.

 

There are generic algorithms that can tell you something interesting about a set of data without you having to write any custom code specific to the problem. Instead of writing code, you feed data to the generic algorithm and it builds its own logic based on the data.

 

In addition, you can take machine learning further by creating an artificial neural network that models in software how the human brain processes signals. Nodes in an irregular mesh turn on or off depending on the data coming to them from the nodes connected to them; those connections have different weights, so some are more likely to flip their neighbors than others. Although artificial neural networks date back to the 1950s, they are truly coming into their own only now because of advances in computing power, storage, and mathematics. The results from this increasingly sophisticated branch of computer science can be deep learning that produces outcomes based on so many different variables under so many different conditions being transformed by so many layers of neural networks that humans simply cannot comprehend the model the computer has built for itself.

 

Clearly our computers have surpassed us in their power to discriminate, find patterns, and draw conclusions. That’s one reason we use them. Rather than reducing phenomena to fit a relatively simple model, we can now let our computers make models as big as they need to. But this also seems to mean that what we know depends upon the output of machines the functioning of which we cannot follow, explain, or understand.

 

Since we first started carving notches in sticks, we have used things in the world to help us to know that world. But never before have we relied on things that did not mirror human patterns of reasoning — we knew what each notch represented — and that we could not later check to see how our non-sentient partners in knowing came up with those answers. If knowing has always entailed being able to explain and justify our true beliefs — Plato’s notion, which has persisted for over two thousand years — what are we to make of a new type of knowledge, in which that task of justification is not just difficult or daunting but impossible?

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Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security

Rogue Robots: Testing the Limits of an Industrial Robot’s Security | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The modern world relies heavily on industrial robots. But is the current robotics ecosystem secure enough to withstand a cyber attack?

 

Industrial robots have replaced humans in a lot of large-scale production and manufacturing activities because of their efficiency, accuracy, and safety. These mechanical, programmable devices can now be seen in practically all industrial sectors―making cars, fabricating airplane parts, assembling food products, and even providing critical public services.

 

Soon enough, robots will become a ubiquitous feature of modern factories that we must ask now whether the current ecosystem of industrial robots is secure enough to withstand a cyber attack. This is the question—the Forward-looking Threat Research (FTR) team and their collaborators from the Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI)—had in mind when we started examining the attack surface of today’s industrial robots. More importantly, they wanted to demonstrate whether it is actually possible to compromise them.

 

This attack demonstration, which they precisely documented, was done in a laboratory setting on an actual working industrial robot. Due to the architectural commonalities of most modern industrial robots and the existence of strict standards, the robot chosen for our case study is representative of a large class of industrial robots.

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Scientists Just Found a Completely New Kind of Symbiotic Relationship

Scientists Just Found a Completely New Kind of Symbiotic Relationship | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
In a scientific first, researchers have discovered a bizarre inter-species relationship in which salamanders and algae cozy up together to share cells. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why these two very different organisms have adopted such an intimate arrangement, but the discovery could represent a completely new form of symbiotic relationship.

Cell-within-cell arrangements between species are common in nature, but up until this point it’s only been seen in creatures like coral, clams, and insects. New research published in the science journal eLife describes the first known example of photo-cellular symbiosis involving the cells of a fully grown vertebrate animal, that is, an animal with a spinal column or backbone.

 

As a collaborative research team from the American Museum of Natural History and Gettysburg College revealed, the green alga Oophila amblystomatis makes its home inside of cells located across the body of the spotted salamander Ambystoma maculatum. The salamander doesn’t appear to be negatively affected by its microbial roommates, and in fact the amphibian may even be benefitting from this arrangement. The normally photosynthetic green algae, on the other hand, are completely stressed out, forced rely on an alternative means of energy production.

 

The finding is so strange and so unexpected that the scientists involved in the study aren’t sure why this relationship evolved in the first place, or how each creature might be benefitting. Intracellular “mutualists,” as they’re called, are extremely common in nature, where both parties benefit from the relationship. Examples include single-celled dinoflagellates that accumulate on coral and giant clams and use photosynthesis to provide sustenance to their hosts, and gut bacteria that helps bugs break down plant compounds.

 

Back in the late 19th century, biologists learned that green algae grows in the egg cases of spotted salamanders, providing a win-win situation for both; the embryos produce nitrogen-rich waste for the algae, and in turn, the algae increases the oxygen content found in the fluid around the breathing embryos through photosynthesis. For well over a century, scientists had assumed that this mutually-beneficial arrangement only occurred between the salamander embryo and the algae living outside it.

 

But the green algae is not limited to the egg cases—it’s also located inside cells of a mature salamander’s body. As previous research has shown, the algae enter the eggs, proliferate, and then later invades the tissues and cells of the developing embryos. Aside from the initial egg and algae symbiotic relationship, it wasn’t known if this subsequent arrangement incurred any kind of benefit, or if it was simply a residual or parasitic infection.


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Mining the moon for rocket fuel to get us to Mars

Mining the moon for rocket fuel to get us to Mars | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Forty-five years have passed since humans last set foot on an extraterrestrial body. Now, the moon is back at the center of efforts not only to explore space, but to create a permanent, independent space-faring society.

 

Planning expeditions to Earth's nearest celestial neighbor is no longer just a NASA effort, though the U.S. space agency has plans for a moon-orbiting space station that would serve as a staging ground for Mars missions in the early 2030s. The United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is planning a lunar fueling station for spacecraft, capable of supporting 1,000 people living in space within 30 years.

 

Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Robert Bigelow all have companies aiming to deliver people or goods to the moon. Several teams competing for a share of Google's US$30 million cash prize are planning to launch rovers to the moon. Groups of students from around the world recently participated in the 2017 Caltech Space Challenge, proposing designs of what a lunar launch and supply station for deep space missions might look like, and how it would work.

 

Right now all space missions are based on, and launched from, Earth. But Earth's gravitational pull is strong. To get into orbit, a rocket has to be traveling 11 kilometers a second – 25,000 miles per hour!

 

Any rocket leaving Earth has to carry all the fuel it will ever use to get to its destination and, if needed, back again. That fuel is heavy – and getting it moving at such high speeds takes a lot of energy. If we could refuel in orbit, that launch energy could lift more people or cargo or scientific equipment into orbit. Then the spacecraft could refuel in space, where Earth's gravity is less powerful.

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Massive Lava Waves Detected on Jupiter’s Moon Io

Massive Lava Waves Detected on Jupiter’s Moon Io | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Io is the closest thing we have to hell in our Solar System, a Jovian moon that features hundreds of active volcanoes and expansive lakes filled with lava. New observations suggests that the largest of these lakes, Loki Patera, produces enormous waves that repeatedly flow around the molten surface.

 

Jupiter's moon Io has the biggest active volcano in the Solar System. Inside the volcano, a warm floor surrounds a cool central island. Previous observations have indicated that volcanic resurfacing occurs every one to three years, but telescope observations have insufficient resolution to see how this progresses, and spacecraft observations have not been able to see the entire floor at once. Katherine De Kleer et al. used an occultation of Io by another of Jupiter's moons (Europa) to map the entire floor at a spatial resolution of 2 kilometers, using interferometric telescope observations. They find that the resurfacing happens in two waves, with different starting times and velocities, which then converge around the central island. They interpret the differences between the waves as evidence of either a non-uniformity in the lava or variations in the bulk density of the crust across the volcano.

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Scientists discover dolphins speech complexity is almost as high as in humans

Scientists discover dolphins speech complexity is almost as high as in humans | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Dolphins are capable of “highly developed spoken language” which closely resembles human communication, scientists have suggested.  While it has long been acknowledged dolphins are of high intelligence and can communicate within a larger pack, their ability to converse with each other individually has been less understood.

 

But researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, Feodosia, Crimea, believe the pulses, clicks and whistles – of up to five “words” – made by dolphins are listened to fully by another before a response is made. 

 
 

“Essentially, this exchange resembles a conversation between two people,” wrote lead researcher Dr Vyacheslav Ryabov in the study,published in the journal Mathematics and Physics. Dr Ryabov said each pulse produced by a dolphin “is different from another” in its time span and the frequencies it emits. 

 

“In this regard, we can assume that each pulse represents a phoneme or a word of the dolphin’s spoken language,” Dr Ryabov wrote. However: “The dolphin’s speech unfortunately lies beyond the time and frequency characteristics of the human hearing, and is thus unavailable to humans.”


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Physicists find a way to control charged molecules -- with quantum logic

Physicists find a way to control charged molecules -- with quantum logic | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physicists have solved the seemingly intractable puzzle of how to control the quantum properties of individual charged molecules, or molecular ions. The solution is to use the same kind of "quantum logic" that drives an experimental NIST atomic clock. The new technique achieves an elusive goal, controlling molecules as effectively as laser cooling and other techniques can control atoms. Quantum control of atoms has revolutionized atomic physics, leading to applications such as atomic clocks. But laser cooling and control of molecules is extremely challenging because they are much more complex than atoms.

 

The NIST technique still uses a laser, but only to gently probe the molecule; its quantum state is detected indirectly. This type of control of molecular ions -- several atoms bound together and carrying an electrical charge -- could lead to more sophisticated architectures for quantum information processing, amplify signals in basic physics research such as measuring the "roundness" of the electron's shape, and boost control of chemical reactions.

 

The research is described in the May 11, 2017 issue of Nature and was performed in the NIST Boulder group that demonstrated the first laser cooling of atomic ions in 1978. "We developed methods that are applicable to many types of molecules," NIST physicist James Chinwen Chou said. "Whatever trick you can play with atomic ions is now within reach with molecular ions. Now the molecule will 'listen' to you -- asking, in effect, 'What do you want me to do?'"

 

"This is comparable to when scientists could first laser cool and trap atoms, opening the floodgates to applications in precision metrology and information processing. It's our dream to achieve all these things with molecules," Chou added. Compared to atoms, molecules are more difficult to control because they have more complex structures involving many electronic energy levels, vibrations and rotations. Molecules can consist of many different numbers and combinations of atoms and be as large as DNA strands more than a meter long.

 

The NIST method finds the quantum state (electronic, vibrational, and rotational) of the molecular ion by transferring the information to a second ion, in this case an atomic ion, which can be laser cooled and controlled with previously known techniques. Borrowing ideas from NIST's quantum logic clock, the researchers attempt to manipulate the molecular ion and, if successful, set off a synchronized motion in the pair of ions. The manipulation is chosen such that it can only trigger the motion if the molecule is in a certain state. The "yes" or "no" answer is signaled by the atomic ion. The technique is very gentle, indicating the molecule's quantum states without destroying them.

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Zebrabow: A multispectral cell labeling system for cell tracing and lineage analysis in zebrafish

Zebrabow: A multispectral cell labeling system for cell tracing and lineage analysis in zebrafish | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Advances in imaging and cell-labeling techniques have greatly enhanced our understanding of developmental and neurobiological processes. Among vertebrates, zebrafish is uniquely suited for in vivo imaging owing to its small size and optical translucency. However, distinguishing and following cells over extended time periods remains difficult. Previous studies have demonstrated that Cre recombinase-mediated recombination can lead to combinatorial expression of spectrally distinct fluorescent proteins (RFP, YFP and CFP) in neighboring cells, creating a 'Brainbow' of colors. The random combination of fluorescent proteins provides a way to distinguish adjacent cells, visualize cellular interactions and perform lineage analyses. A group of scientists describe Zebrabow (Zebrafish Brainbow) tools for in vivo multicolor imaging in zebrafish.

 

First, they show that the broadly expressed ubi:Zebrabow line provides diverse color profiles that can be optimized by modulating Cre activity. Second, they find that colors are inherited equally among daughter cells and remain stable throughout embryonic and larval stages. Third, they were able to show that UAS:Zebrabow lines can be used in combination with Gal4 to generate broad or tissue-specific expression patterns and facilitate tracing of axonal processes. Fourth, they demonstrate that Zebrabow can be used for long-term lineage analysis. Using the cornea as a model system, this model provides evidence that embryonic corneal epithelial clones are replaced by large, wedge-shaped clones formed by centripetal expansion of cells from the peripheral cornea. The Zebrabow tool set presented here provides a resource for next-generation color-based anatomical and lineage analyses in zebrafish.

 

Zebrabow embryos express random combinations of red, green, and blue fluorescent proteins, revealing a spectrum of unique hues. These same hues can be used to ‘barcode’ individual stem cells to track their birth and contribution to tissues as the embryo grows–all cells of the same hue were produced from one stem cell’s divisions. The Zebrabow system allows for long-term tissue lineage analysis, because the fluorescent proteins will be expressed in each cell throughout the lifespan of the zebrafish.

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Bubble-printed patterning of quantum dots on plasmonic substrates

Bubble-printed patterning of quantum dots on plasmonic substrates | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The use of quantum dots (QDs) in practical applications relies on the ability to precisely pattern QDs on substrates with desired optical properties. Typical direct-write printing techniques such as inkjet and gravure printing are limited in resolution (micron-scale), structural complexity, and require significant post-processing time.In new work, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin use laser-induced bubble printing to pattern CdSe/CdS QDs on plasmonic substrates with submicron resolution (<700nm line width), high throughput (∼10E4 µm/s) and strong QD-substrate adhesion.Not only is the bubble-mediated immobilization at the submicron scale stable, but the submicron-sized bubble's stability can be maintained over a large area.

 

This technique is also compatible with flexible substrates and can be further integrated with smartphone to realize haptic integration. Finally, the emission characteristics of the QDs in terms of the emission wavelength and lifetime can be modified in real-time to achieve site-sensitive emission.The team, led by Yuebing Zheng, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering has been published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces ("High-Resolution Bubble Printing of Quantum Dots").

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The Genomic History Of Europe (100+ authors)

The Genomic History Of Europe (100+ authors) | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Full Paper is here (free)

 

Farming was first introduced to southeastern Europe in the mid-7th millennium BCE - brought by migrants from Anatolia who settled in the region before spreading throughout Europe. However, the dynamics of the interaction between the first farmers and the indigenous hunter-gatherers remain poorly understood because of the near absence of ancient DNA from the region. We report new genome-wide ancient DNA data from 204 individuals-65 Paleolithic and Mesolithic, 93 Neolithic, and 46 Copper, Bronze and Iron Age-who lived in southeastern Europe and surrounding regions between about 12,000 and 500 BCE.

 

A large group of researchers now document that the hunter-gatherer populations of southeastern Europe, the Baltic, and the North Pontic Steppe were distinctive from those of western Europe, with a West-East cline of ancestry. They show that the people who brought farming to Europe were not part of a single population, as early farmers from southern Greece are not descended from the Neolithic population of northwestern Anatolia that was ancestral to all other European farmers. The ancestors of the first farmers of northern and western Europe passed through southeastern Europe with limited admixture with local hunter-gatherers, but they show that some groups that remained in the region mixed extensively with local hunter-gatherers, with relatively sex-balanced admixture compared to the male-biased hunter-gatherer admixture that prevailed later in the North and West. After the spread of farming, southeastern Europe continued to be a nexus between East and West, with intermittent steppe ancestry, including in individuals from the Varna I cemetery and associated with the Cucuteni-Trypillian archaeological complex, up to 2,000 years before the Steppe migration that replaced much of northern Europe's population.

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Precise Gene Editing, One SNP At A Time

Precise Gene Editing, One SNP At A Time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers from the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in South Korea have modified the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system such that single nucleotide replacements can be made without introducing double stranded breaks. Their findings have been published in Nature Biotechnology. Human DNA has approximately three billion nucleotides of four types: Adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). In some cases, the difference of just one nucleotide can bring serious consequences. For example, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Huntington's disease and phenylketonuria are all disorders caused by the mutation of a single nucleotide.

 

Scientists hope to cure these diseases by substituting the incorrect nucleotide with the correct one. However, it is technically challenging to replace a single nucleotide with the popular CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique. Instead, researchers from IBS' Center for Genome Engineering have used a variation of CRISPR-Cas9 to produce mice with a single nucleotide difference. CRISPR-Cas9 works by cutting around the faulty nucleotide in both strands of the DNA and cutting out a small section. In the present study, researchers used a variation of the Cas9 protein (nickase Cas9, nCas9) fused with a protein called cytidine deaminase, or Base Editor, which is able to substitute one nucleotide into another. In this way, no DNA deletion occurs, but a single nucleotide substitution.

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Nvidia makes a self-driving AI that tells you how it works

Nvidia makes a self-driving AI that tells you how it works | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
In a step toward making AI more accountable, Nvidia has developed a neural network for autonomous driving that highlights what it’s focusing on.

 

The chip maker has also been developing systems that demonstrate how an automaker might apply deep learning to autonomous driving. This includes a car that is controlled entirely by a deep-learning algorithm. Amazingly, the vehicle’s computer isn’t given any rules to follow—it simply matches input from several video cameras to the behavior of a human driver, and figures out for itself how it should drive. The only catch is that the system is so complex that it’s difficult to untangle how it actually works.

 

But Nvidia is working to open this black box. It has developed a way to visually highlight what the system is paying attention to. As explained in a recently published paper, the neural network architecture developed by Nvidia’s researchers is designed so that it can highlight the areas of a video picture that contribute most strongly to the behavior of the car’s deep neural network. Remarkably, the results show that the network is focusing on the edges of roads, lane markings, and parked cars—just the sort of things that a good human driver would want to pay attention to.

“What’s revolutionary about this is that we never directly told the network to care about these things,” Urs Muller, Nvidia’s chief architect for self-driving cars, wrote in a blog post.

 

It isn’t a complete explanation of how the neural network reasons, but it’s a good start. As Muller says: “I can’t explain everything I need the car to do, but I can show it, and now it can show me what it learned.” This sort of approach could become increasingly important as deep learning is applied to just about any problem involving large quantities of data, including critical areas like medicine, finance, and military intelligence.

 

A handful of academic researchers are exploring the issue as well. For example, Jeff Clune at the University of Wyoming and Carlos Guestrinat the University of Washington (and Apple) have found ways of highlighting the parts of images that classification systems are picking up on. And Tommi Jaakola and Regina Barzilay at MIT are developing ways to provide snippets of text that help explain a conclusion drawn from large quantities of written data.

 

The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), which does long-term research for the U.S. military, is funding several similar research efforts through a program it calls Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI). Beyond the technical specifics, though, it’s fascinating to consider how this compares to human intelligence. We do all sorts of things we can’t explain fully, and the explanations we concoct are often only approximations, or “stories” about what’s going on. Given the opacity of today’s increasingly complex machine-learning methods, we may someday be forced to accept such explanations from AI, too.

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High-Speed Space Broadband for Everyone: SpaceX Details their Plans to Launch 1000s of Internet Satellites

High-Speed Space Broadband for Everyone: SpaceX Details their Plans to Launch 1000s of Internet Satellites | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

SpaceX and Tesla-founder Elon Musk has made some rather bold promises over the years. In addition to building a fleet of reusable rockets, an Interplanetary Transport System, colonizing Mars, and revolutionizing transportation, he has also made it clear that he hopes to provide worldwide broadband access by deploying a “constellation” of internet-providing satellites.

 

In November of 2016, SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to operate this constellation of non-geostationary satellites (NGS). And earlier this week, the US Senate Committee on Commerce. Science, and Transportation convened a hearing to explore this proposal for next-generation telecommunications services. The hearing was titled, “Investing in America’s Broadband Infrastructure: Exploring Ways to Reduce Barriers to Deployment”. In the course of things, the committee heard from representatives of government and industry who spoke about the best ways to offer streamlined broadband access (especially in rural areas), the necessary infrastructure, and how to encourage private investment.

 

Of those the committee heard from, Ms. Patricia Cooper – VP of Satellite Government Affairs for SpaceX – was on hand to underscore the company’s vision. As she stated: “SpaceX sees substantial demand for high-speed broad band in the United States and worldwide. As the Committee is aware, millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access. Furthermore, even in urban areas, a majority of Americans lacks more than a single fixed broadband provider from which to choose and may seek additional competitive options for high-speed service.”

 

Cooper also cited recent FCC findings, which indicated that millions of Americans lag behind other developed nations in terms of broadband speed, access, and price competitiveness. Basically, thirty-four million American citizens do not have access to 25 megabits per second (“Mbps”) broadband service while 47% of students in the US lack the connectivity to meet the FCC’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff.

 

This is at at a time when global demand for broadband services and internet connectivity continue to grow at an unprecedented rate. According to a report prepared by Cisco in 2016 – titled “White paper: Cisco VNI Forecast and Methodology, 2015-2020” – global Internet Protocol (IP) traffic surpassed the zettabyte threshold. In other words, over 1,000 billion gigabytes of data were exchanged worldwide in a single year!

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World's largest X-ray laser lights up for the first time

World's largest X-ray laser lights up for the first time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In bright news for the scientific world, the world's biggest X-ray laser has generated its first light in Hamburg, Germany. The 3.4 km (2.1 mi) long European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) produced a pulsing laser light with a wavelength of 0.8 nm at one pulse per second as part of the last major development milestone ahead of its September official opening. When up and running properly, it will generate up to 27,000 pulses per second – a considerable improvement over the previous maximum of 120 per second.

 

A free electron laser operates on the principle of a synchrotron, an atomic accelerator that generates high-intensity electromagnetic radiation by accelerating electrons to relativistic speeds, then directing them through special magnetic structures. Only in this case, the XFEL is a billion times more brilliant than conventional synchrotron light sources and can capture images at atomic resolution.

 

The key component is a 2.1 km (1.3-mi) long superconducting linear accelerator that came online in April. Here electron pulses are accelerated to near the speed of light and to very high energies before entering a photon tunnel containing 210-m (689-ft) of X-ray-generating devices consisting of 17,290 permanent magnets called "undulators" with alternating poles above and below the electron stream. These twist the electrons out of their straight line, and every time they curve they give off energy like an overloaded truck losing its cargo, only this is in the form of extremely short-wavelength X-rays.

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Diabetes breakthrough increases insulin producing cells and could lead to a cure

A potential cure for Type 1 diabetes looms on the horizon in San Antonio, and the novel approach would also allow Type 2 diabetics to stop insulin shots.

 

The discovery, made at UT Health San Antonio, increases the types of pancreatic cells that secrete insulin. UT Health San Antonio researchers have a goal to reach human clinical trials in three years, but to do so they must first test the strategy in large-animal studies, which will cost an estimated $5 million.

 

Those studies will precede application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Investigational New Drug (IND) approval, Bruno Doiron, Ph.D., a co-inventor, said. The scientists received a U.S. patent in January, and UT Health San Antonio is spinning out a company to begin commercialization.

The strategy has cured diabetes in mice.

 

“It worked perfectly,” Dr. Doiron, assistant professor of medicine at UT Health, said. “We cured mice for one year without any side effects. That’s never been seen. But it’s a mouse model, so caution is needed. We want to bring this to large animals that are closer to humans in physiology of the endocrine system.”

 

Ralph DeFronzo, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Diabetes at UT Health, is co-inventor on the patent. He described the therapy: “The pancreas has many other cell types besides beta cells, and our approach is to alter these cells so that they start to secrete insulin, but only in response to glucose [sugar],” he said. “This is basically just like beta cells.”

 

Insulin, which lowers blood sugar, is only made by beta cells. In Type 1 diabetes, beta cells are destroyed by the immune system and the person has no insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, beta cells fail and insulin decreases. At the same time in Type 2, the body doesn’t use insulin efficiently. The therapy is accomplished by a technique called gene transfer. A virus is used as a vector, or carrier, to introduce selected genes into the pancreas. These genes become incorporated and cause digestive enzymes and other cell types to make insulin.

 

Gene transfer using a viral vector has been approved nearly 50 times by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to treat various diseases, Dr. DeFronzo said. It is proven in treating rare childhood diseases, and Good Manufacturing Processes ensure safety. Unlike beta cells, which the body rejects in Type 1 diabetes, the other cell populations of the pancreas co-exist with the body’s immune defenses. “If a Type 1 diabetic has been living with these cells for 30, 40 or 50 years, and all we’re getting them to do is secrete insulin, we expect there to be no adverse immune response,” Dr. DeFronzo said.

 

The therapy precisely regulates blood sugar in mice. This could be a major advance over traditional insulin therapy and some diabetes medications that drop blood sugar too low if not closely monitored. “A major problem we have in the field of Type 1 diabetes is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar),” Dr. Doiron said. “The gene transfer we propose is remarkable because the altered cells match the characteristics of beta cells. Insulin is only released in response to glucose.”

 

People don’t have symptoms of diabetes until they have lost at least 80 percent of their beta cells, Dr. Doiron said. “We don’t need to replicate all of the insulin-making function of beta cells,” he said. “Only 20 percent restoration of this capacity is sufficient for a cure of Type 1.”

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Epsilon Eridani bears striking resemblance to our own solar system

Epsilon Eridani bears striking resemblance to our own solar system | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A team of University of Arizona researchers led by Kate Su have used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) flying observatory to take a closer look at a system 10.5 light years away and discovered it has a familiar general structure.

 

Located 10.5 light-years away in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Eridanus, the star Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri for short, is the closest planetary system around a star similar to the early sun. It is a prime location to research how planets form around stars like our sun, and is also the storied location of the Babylon 5 space station in the science fictional television series of the same name.

 

Previous studies indicate that eps Eri has a debris disk, which is the name astronomers give to leftover material still orbiting a star after planetary construction has completed. The debris can take the form of gas and dust, as well as small rocky and icy bodies. Debris disks can be broad, continuous disks or concentrated into belts of debris, similar to our solar system’s asteroid belt and the Kuiper Belt – the region beyond Neptune where hundreds of thousands of icy-rocky objects reside. Furthermore, careful measurements of the motion of eps Eri indicates that a planet with nearly the same mass as Jupiter circles the star at a distance comparable to Jupiter’s distance from the Sun.

 

With the new SOFIA images, Kate Su of the University of Arizona and her research team were able to distinguish between two theoretical models of the location of warm debris, such as dust and gas, in the eps Eri system. These models were based on prior data obtained with NASA’s Spitzer space telescope.

 

One model indicates that warm material is in two narrow rings of debris, which would correspond respectively to the positions of the asteroid belt and the orbit of Uranus in our solar system. Using this model, theorists indicate that the largest planet in a planetary system might normally be associated with an adjacent debris belt.

 

The other model attributes the warm material to dust originating in the outer Kuiper-Belt-like zone and filling in a disk of debris toward the central star. In this model, the warm material is in a broad disk, and is not concentrated into asteroid belt-like rings nor is it associated with any planets in the inner region.

 

Using SOFIA, Su and her team ascertained that the warm material around eps Eri is in fact arranged like the first model suggests; it is in at least one narrow belt rather than in a broad continuous disk.

 

These observations were possible because SOFIA has a larger telescope diameter than Spitzer, 100 inches (2.5 meters) in diameter compared to Spitzer’s 33.5 inches (0.85 meters), which allowed the team onboard SOFIA to discern details that are three times smaller than what could be seen with Spitzer. Additionally, SOFIA’s powerful mid-infrared camera called FORCAST, the Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope, allowed the team to study the strongest infrared emission from the warm material around eps Eri, at wavelengths between 25-40 microns, which are undetectable by ground-based observatories.

 

“The high spatial resolution of SOFIA combined with the unique wavelength coverage and impressive dynamic range of the FORCAST camera allowed us to resolve the warm emission around eps Eri, confirming the model that located the warm material near the Jovian planet’s orbit,” said Su. “Furthermore, a planetary mass object is needed to stop the sheet of dust from the outer zone, similar to Neptune’s role in our solar system. It really is impressive how eps Eri, a much younger version of our solar system, is put together like ours.”

 

This study was published in the Astronomical Journal on April 25, 2017.


Via Allen Taylor, CineversityTV
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Allen Taylor's curator insight, May 4, 12:49 AM
Epsilon Eridani system found to have structure quite similar to the Solar System.