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Miniature Quadruped Robot Is Blazingly Fast And Travels At Over 30 Body Lengths Per Second

Miniature Quadruped Robot Is Blazingly Fast And Travels At Over 30 Body Lengths Per Second | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This robot, which still doesn't have a name, is very compact (which measures just 6.5 x 5.5 x 1 centimeter), and according to its creators it is quite possibly "the fastest legged robot of its size." Whether or not this really is a legged robot (or a quadruped) is perhaps debatable: these are wheel-legs, more commonly known as whegs. They're wheels in that there's rotary motion going on, but they're also legs in that there are discrete points of contact with the ground. To some extend, whegs offer the best of both worlds: they can be directly driven with conventional motors and allow for high speed and efficiency, while simultaneously providing traction over rough terrain and obstacles. Plus, you can easily swap them out, and by making them out of springy materials, you can give your robot some compliance. 

 

What makes the robot wicked fast is the fact that it's got four independent drive motors, each one of which has a power to weight ratio that's absolutely bananas. Only 6 millimeters in size each, the motors output 1.5 watts of power at 40,000 RPM, driving the individual whegs through 16:1 planetary gearheads. They're not cheap (hundreds of dollars each), but they make for one crazy little robot. And of course, independently driven whegs make the robot smaller, lighter, simpler to steer, and generally more efficient overall.

 

The current generation of this robot isn't capable of taking advantage of all of the power that the motors offer: even at top speed, it's only using about 0.60 watt, less than half of what the motors can output, since increasing wheel speed causes the robot to bounce along the ground, decreasing its actual speed. But, there's a lot of potential for swapping in some new whegs up to 35 mm in length (about twice as long as those currently on the robot), "which might produce even faster running speeds and the ability to navigate very large obstacles or challenging terrain, with a robot that still fits in your hand."

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Self-powered nanoparticles instantly deliver healing drugs to bones

Self-powered nanoparticles instantly deliver healing drugs to bones | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A novel method for finding and delivering healing drugs to newly formed microcracks in bones has been invented by a team of chemists and bioengineers at Penn State University and Boston University. This research-microscope image shows the increasing density at the bone-crack site during a 40-minute test of particles carrying the bone-healing medication.

 

The method involves the targeted delivery of the drugs, directly to the cracks, on the backs of tiny self-powered nanoparticles. The energy that revs the motors of the nanoparticles and sends them rushing toward the crack comes from a surprising source — the crack itself.

 

“When a crack occurs in a bone, it disrupts the minerals in the bone, which leach out as charged particles — as ions — that create an electric field, which pulls the negatively charged nanoparticles toward the crack,” said Penn State Professor of Chemistry Ayusman Sen, a co-leader of the research team.

 

“Our experiments have shown that a biocompatible particle can quickly and naturally deliver an osteoporosis drug directly to a newly cracked bone.”

 

Sen said that the formation of this kind of an electric field is a well-known phenomenon, but other scientists previously had not used it as both a power source and a homing beacon to actively deliver bone-healing medications to the sites most at risk for fracture or active deterioration. “It is a novel way to detect cracks and deliver medicines to them,” said team co-leader and Boston University Professor Mark Grinstaff.

 

The method is more energetic and more targeted than current methods, in which medications ride passively on the circulating bloodstream, where they may or may not arrive at microcracks in a high-enough dosage to initiate healing.

 

The new method holds the promise of treating — as soon as they form — the microcracks that lead to broken bones in patients with osteoporosis and other medical conditions.

 

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A new easier way to control genes should enable more complex synthetic biology circuits

A new easier way to control genes should enable more complex synthetic biology circuits | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The new method is based on a system of viral proteins that have been exploited recently to edit the genomes of bacterial and human cells. The original system, called CRISPR, consists of two components: a protein that binds to and slices DNA, and a short strand of RNA that guides the protein to the right location on the genome. 

“The CRISPR system is quite powerful in that it can be targeted to different DNA binding regions based on simple recoding of these guide RNAs,” Lu says. “By simply reprogramming the RNA sequence you can direct this protein to any location you want on the genome or on a synthetic circuit.”

Lead author of author of a paper describing the new approach in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology is Fahim Farzadfard, an MIT graduate student in biology. Samuel Perli, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, is also an author. 

In previous studies, CRISPR has been used to snip out pieces of a gene to disable it or replace it with a new gene. Lu and his colleagues decided to use the CRISPR system for a different purpose: controlling gene transcription, the process by which a sequence of DNA is copied into messenger RNA (mRNA), which carries out the gene’s instructions.

Transcription is tightly regulated by proteins called transcription factors. These proteins bind to specific DNA sequences in the gene’s promoter region and either recruit or block the enzymes needed to copy that gene into mRNA.

For this study, the researchers adapted the CRISPR system to act as a transcription factor. First, they modified the usual CRISPR protein, known as Cas9, so that it could no longer snip DNA after binding to it. They also added to the protein a segment that activates or represses gene expression by modulating the cell’s transcriptional machinery.

To get Cas9 to the right place, the researchers also delivered to the target cells a gene for an RNA guide that corresponds to a DNA sequence on the promoter of the gene they want to activate.

The researchers showed that once the RNA guide and the Cas9 protein join together inside the target cell, they accurately target the correct gene and turn on transcription. To their surprise, they found that the same Cas9 complex could also be used to block gene transcription if targeted to a different part of the gene.

“This is nice in that it allows you do to positive and negative regulation with the same protein, but with different guide RNAs targeted to different positions in the promoter,” Lu says.

The new system should be much easier to use than two other recently developed transcription-control systems based on DNA-binding proteins known as zinc fingers and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), Lu says. Although they are effective, designing and assembling the proteins is time-consuming and expensive. 

“There’s a lot of flexibility with CRISPR, and it really comes from the fact that you don’t have to spend any more time doing protein engineering. You can just change the nucleic acid sequence of the RNAs,” Lu says.

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WIRED: Unknown fence and spire-like structures growing in the Peruvian Amazon

WIRED: Unknown fence and spire-like structures growing in the Peruvian Amazon | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Something in the Peruvian Amazon is making weird, intricate structures that resemble white picket fences surrounding an Isengard-like spire.

No one has any idea who the mysterious craftsbug (fungus? spider?) is, or what the structure is even used for, excepting the fence part, which almost makes sense. Nobody, not even the scientists. We asked.

 

The first of the fence-and-spire structures, spotted June 7. Troy Alexander, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, spotted the first of these structures on June 7. The little, seemingly woven fence was parked on the underside of a blue tarp near the Tambopata Research Center, in southeastern Peru. He later spotted three more of the bizarre enclosures on tree trunks in the jungle.

 

“All of them were on the small island used to view the parrot clay lick at Tambopata Research Center,” Alexander said. He described the fences as small – about 2 centimeters across — and posted a second photo of the structure on the subreddit whatsthisbug last week, hoping someone could explain the origin of the fortified mini-Maypoles. No one could.

 

We noticed the weirdness last Thursday, when Phil Torres, a biologist who also works at Tambopata, posted a link on Twitter. In the intervening days, we’ve tried to find out what on Earth could have made these tiny towers.

But it turns out that even scientists who study such things haven’t a clue.

“I have no idea what made it, or even what it is,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

 

“I’ve seen the photo, but have no idea what animal might be responsible,” echoed Norm Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History.

 

“I don’t know what it is,” said arachnologist Linda Rayor, of Cornell University. “My guess is something like a lacewing, but I don’t really know.”

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Massive storm churned up water from Saturn's depths, Cassini finds

Massive storm churned up water from Saturn's depths, Cassini finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

From across the vast expanse of our solar system, gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus appear serene. Their gaseous surfaces are unscarred by the meteor impacts that have gouged their rocky brethren in the inner solar system and the deep hues of browns, reds and blues misleadingly suggest a sense of calm.

 

In 2010 and 2011, Saturn once again gave us a demonstration of how far from the truth this portrayal is -- a giant storm 15,000 kilometres in width and 300,000 kilometres long churned up the northern hemisphere.

 

Nasa's space probe Cassini had an unprecedented front row seat on the action, and detected for the first time the presence of water ice in Saturn's atmosphere, according to a paper published in the September issue of Icarus.

 

Saturn's atmosphere is believed to consist of a series of layers of different types of gas, with the pressure and temperature increasing as you move closer to the core. However, direct measurements of the various layers is difficult, as the planet is obscured by the uppermost layer, a hazy gas of unknown composition.

 

When the giant storm of 2010/11 came along and churned everything up, scientists had an opportunity to peer beneath, through a gap in the haze. These storms occur once every 30 years, which is the same time it takes Saturn to orbit the Sun, and have been observed before. 2010 was the first time we were able to observe these giant storms from orbit.

 

Using near-infrared measurements from Cassini, which has orbited Saturn since 2004, the team was able to use spectral analysis -- matching missing wavelengths of light in data with corresponding elements -- to identify the different composite materials in the storm.

 

What they found demonstrated the power of those once-in-a-generation storms. The storm, with vertical winds of 500 kilometres an hour, reached hundreds of kilometres down into Saturn's hot lower atmosphere, scooping up water vapour and throwing it high into the cold upper atmosphere, where it froze and was detected as water ice.

 

In the swirling mix, Cassini also detected ammonia ice and a third constituent, possibly ammonia hydrosulphide. "We think this huge thunderstorm is driving these cloud particles upward, sort of like a volcano bringing up material from the depths and making it visible from outside the atmosphere," said Lawrence Sromovsky of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study.

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The Arecibo message sent into space 1974

The Arecibo message sent into space 1974 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Arecibo message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope on 16 November 1974. It was aimed at the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close collection of stars that was available in the sky at the time and place of the ceremony. The message consisted of 1679 binary digits, approximately 210 bytes, transmitted at a frequency of 2380 MHz and modulated by shifting the frequency by 10 Hz, with a power of 1000 kW. The "ones" and "zeros" were transmitted by frequency shifting at the rate of 10 bits per second. The total broadcast was less than three minutes.

 

The cardinality of 1679 was chosen because it is a semiprime (the product of two prime numbers), to be arranged rectangularly as 73 rows by 23 columns. The alternative arrangement, 23 rows by 73 columns, produces jumbled nonsense. The message forms the image, when translated into graphics characters and spaces.

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Language and tool-making skills evolved at same time

Language and tool-making skills evolved at same time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Research by the University of Liverpool has found that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools, supporting the theory that they evolved at the same time.

 

Researchers from the University tested the brain activity of 10 expert stone tool makers (flint knappers) as they undertook a stone tool-making task and a standard language test.


They measured the brain blood flow activity of the participants as they performed both tasks using functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD), commonly used in clinical settings to test patients’ language functions after brain damage or before surgery.

 

The researchers found that brain patterns for both tasks correlated, suggesting that they both use the same area of the brain.  Language and stone tool-making are considered to be unique features of humankind that evolved over millions of years.

 

Darwin was the first to suggest  that tool-use and language may have co-evolved, because they both depend on complex planning and the coordination of actions but until now there has been little evidence to support this.

 

Dr Georg Meyer, from the University Department of Experimental Psychology, said:  “This is the first study of the brain to compare complex stone tool-making directly with language.

 

“Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks.  This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-use and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain.”

 

Dr Natalie Uomini from the University’s Department of Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, said: “Nobody has been able to measure brain activity in real time while making a stone tool. This is a first for both archaeology and psychology.”


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NASA Downloads the Future: Creating a high performance space-based laser communications system

LLCD will be NASA's first-step in creating a high performance space-based laser communications system. The LLCD mission consists of space-based and ground-based components. The Lunar Laser Space Terminal (LLST) is an optical communications test payload to fly aboard the LADEE Spacecraft and it will demonstrate laser communications from lunar orbit.The ground segment consists of three ground terminals that will perform high-rate communication with the LLST aboard LADEE. The primary ground terminal, the Lunar Laser Ground Terminal (LLGT) is located in White Sands, NM and was developed by MIT/Lincoln Laboratory and NASA. The ground segment also includes two secondary terminals located at NASA/JPL's Table Mountain Facility in California and the European Space Agency's El Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Spain. The main goal of LLCD is proving fundamental concepts of laser communications and transferring data at a rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps), which is about five times the current state-of-the-art from lunar distances. Engineers expect future space missions to benefit greatly from the use of laser communications technology.

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Mechanophore, new plastic that becomes stronger when stressed

Mechanophore, new plastic that becomes stronger when stressed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Many smartphone owners know the sorrow of dropping a phone and finding the fall cracked or chipped the casing. A new type of plastic developed at Duke University could change all that. This material actually gets stronger when it is stressed.

 

Plastics are amazingly versatile materials, and their usage in all manner of objects is only increasing. Virtually everything you own is at least partially composed of plastic, and that’s usually a very good thing. Plastic is light, inexpensive, and can be molded in any shape. However, it’s not always the strongest material. Many smartphone owners know the sorrow of dropping a phone and finding the fall cracked or chipped the casing. A new type of plastic developed at Duke University could change all that. This material actually gets stronger when it is stressed.


The carefully designed molecular structure of the material is what gives it this unusual property. Like all plastics, this one has a backbone composed mostly of carbon. However, the carbon atoms are arranged in a series of triangles extending down in long chains with two bromine atoms at one point. The researchers found that the unique structure of this compound could turn “destructive” energy into “constructive” energy. But how?


When the polymer chains are tugged or experience shock, they tear on one side. Other plastic polymers would not be so uniformly damaged, leading to structural failure. However, this is only the beginning of the transformation. The shearing force breaks the triangle into a longer chain, which also frees up bonding sites at the bromine locations for a second molecule to come in.

 

The researchers included a molecule called a carboxylate in this plastic to utilize those bonding sites. This cross-links multiple chains and increases the material’s strength at the site of damage. Because this material reacts to mechanical force instead of light, heat, or chemical exposure, it is called a mechanophore.


The Duke team conducted a variety of tests to ensure this new mechanophore was actually making new bonds consistently. On the large scale, the material was fed through an extruder, which forces plastic into a mold. The mechanophore went from being pliable to stiff as the mechanical force initiated structural changes. When measured on the microscopic scale through a technique called nanoindentation, scientists found that the hardness increased by 200 times after the extrusion process. It even works when the plastic is dissolved in a solution. Disturbing the molecules causes it to cross-link and become a plastic gel that forms a layer on the side of the container.

 

This isn’t just a cool science experiment, though. A versatile mechanophore like this could revolutionize a number of areas. For example, implantable medical devices like artificial heart valves could be made more durable and less likely to fail. Prosthetic limbs could also be constructed with stress-absorbing mechanophores in crucial areas. Perhaps one day you’ll even have to “season” a new phone by knocking it around a little bit.


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Measuring Pressure With The Help Of Static Electricity: A triboelectric active sensor

Measuring Pressure With The Help Of Static Electricity: A triboelectric active sensor | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

On a dry winter day, shuffling across a carpeted floor often can end in a painful shock thanks to static electricity. A team of scientists would like to exploit the phenomenon behind that annoying zap to build useful devices. By harnessing the electron exchange created when certain materials rub together, the researchers developed a simple and inexpensive pressure sensor that doesn’t need an external power source (ACS Nano 2013, DOI: 10.1021/nn4037514).

 

The devices someday could be incorporated into artificial skin to sense contact or used in computer touch screens.

 

Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology has worked for years to develop devices based on the triboelectric effect—the phenomenon behind static electricity. The effect happens when one material, like a person’s socks, rubs against another, like a carpet. The rubbing transfers electrons from one material to the other, making one positively charged and the other negatively charged. Wang and his group have built devices in which a polymer layer rubs against a metal layer to charge batteries and to detect chemicals.

 

He thought similar devices also could detect applied pressure. When the two oppositely charged layers in the devices move apart, a voltage develops between them that depends on the distance between the layers. So Wang envisioned a sensor that measures pressure based on changes in voltage caused by the two layers moving toward and away from each other.

 

To build the sensor, Wang and his colleagues first etched a mold out of a silicon wafer and coated it with polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to create a uniform grid of pyramids, each 10 by 10 μm at the base. The researchers then peeled the polymer grid off the mold and deposited a gold electrode on the back. Next, the researchers dipped an aluminum film into a solution containing silver nanowires and nanoparticles. The nanomaterials on the film increase the surface area of the metal layer, which provides more contact between it and the PDMS pyramids. More contact between the layers leads to greater electron transfer. Finally, the researchers bonded the gold and aluminum electrodes together so that each layer arched away from the other with a gap between the two. A person can press on the 2-cm-wide oval device and push the layers together.

 

The team tested the sensor by applying known pressures and then measuring the voltage and current between the two electrodes. As they applied more force, the gap between the layers shrunk and the voltage increased. The current depended on “how fast you close the gap,” which allowed the scientists to gauge the speed of the pressure stimulus, Wang says. After calibrating the sensor, they found that the device could detect pressures as low as 2.1 pascals, which is equivalent to the pressure produced by two $1.00 bills stacked on top of each other and lying flat. The device also was robust: It could handle 30,000 presses.

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Forever young: Regenerative capacity in newts is not altered by repeated regeneration and aging

Forever young: Regenerative capacity in newts is not altered by repeated regeneration and aging | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The extent to which adult newts retain regenerative capability remains one of the greatest unanswered questions in the regeneration field. A team of scientists recently reports about a long-term lens regeneration project spanning 16 years that was undertaken to address this question. Over that time, the lens was removed 18 times from the same animals, and by the time of the last tissue collection, specimens were at least 30 years old. Regenerated lens tissues number 18 and number 17, from the last and the second to the last extraction, respectively, were analysed structurally and in terms of gene expression. Both exhibited structural properties identical to lenses from younger animals that had never experienced lens regeneration. Expression of mRNAs encoding key lens structural proteins or transcription factors was very similar to that of controls. Thus, contrary to the belief that regeneration becomes less efficient with time or repetition, repeated regeneration, even at old age, does not alter newt regenerative capacity.

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The 20 biggest questions in science that still remain in 2013

The 20 biggest questions in science that still remain in 2013 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

From the nature of the universe (that's if there is only one) to the purpose of dreams, there are lots of things we still don't know – but we might do soon:

 

1 What is the universe made of?

2 How and where did life begin?

3 Are we alone in the universe?

4 What makes us human?

5 What defines consciousness?

6 Why do we dream?

7 Why is there stuff?

8 Are there other universes?

9 Where do we put all the carbon?

10 How do we get more energy from the sun?

11 What's so weird about prime numbers?

12 How do we beat bacteria?

13 Can computers keep getting faster?

14 Will we ever cure cancer?

15 How will robots advance?

16 What's at the bottom of the ocean?

17 What's at the bottom of a black hole?

18 Can we live forever?

19 How do we solve the population problem?

20 What is time?

 

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Adrian Rojas's comment, September 18, 2013 9:32 PM
What is the universe made of?
2 How and where did life begin?
3 Are we alone in the universe?
4 What makes us human?
5 What defines consciousness?
6 Why do we dream?
7 Why is there stuff?
8 Are there other universes?
9 Where do we put all the carbon?
10 How do we get more energy from the sun?
11 What's so weird about prime numbers?
12 How do we beat bacteria?
13 Can computers keep getting faster?
14 Will we ever cure cancer?
15 How will robots advance?
16 What's at the bottom of the ocean?
17 What's at the bottom of a black hole?
18 Can we live forever?
19 How do we solve the population problem?
20 What is time?
All these questions can be so easily answered because you should be able to answer all of these without hesitating. Like number 1 "what is the universe made of" umm hello seriously it's made of planets,stars, and gravity. I can understand number 2 because this question can be answered on what you believe in like Jesus made us, or we originate from monkeys. But number 8 is another one of those dumb questions "are there other universes" of course there is there's hundreds if billions of universes is just a galaxy.

I like this article because its interesting to know the questions other people have. And it gives a lot of explanations of why people don't know these answers to the questions. I also like the way it doesn't change subject at all like the other article I read and this one is non-fiction. But there I something I don't understand the first paragraph on this article says "questions we don't know the answers to but soon will, but I know most of these answers. So does that mean I'm like smarter or better than most people when it comes to science?
Gerome Tadeja's comment, October 5, 2013 11:51 AM
I thought that this article was interesting because I got to see some of the questions other people had.
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Bigger and healthier: Europeans grew 11cm in a century

Bigger and healthier: Europeans grew 11cm in a century | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The average height of European men grew by a surprising 11 centimeters from the early 1870s to 1980, reflecting significant improvements in health across the region, according to new research published on Monday.

 

Contrary to expectations, the study also found that average height accelerated in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression, when poverty, food rationing and hardship of war might have been expected to limit people's growth.

 

The swift advance may have been due to people deciding to have fewer children in this period, the researchers said, and smaller family size has previously been found to be linked to increasing average height.

 

"Increases in human stature are a key indicator of improvements in the average health of populations," said Timothy Hatton, a professor economics at Britain's University of Essex who led the study.

 

He said the evidence - which shows the average height of a European male growing from 167 cm to 178 cm in a little over a 100 years - suggests an environment of improving health and decreasing disease "is the single most important factor driving the increase in height".

 

The study, published online in the journal Oxford Economic Papers, analyzed data on average men's height at around the age of 21 from the 1870s up to around 1980 in 15 European countries.

 
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Artificial robot muscles can lift loads 80 times their weight

Artificial robot muscles can lift loads 80 times their weight | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

National University of Singapore’s (NUS) engineers have created efficient artificial muscles that could one day carry 80 times their own weight and extend to five times their original length when carrying the load.

 

The team’s invention could lead to life-like robots with superhuman strength and ability and convert and store energy, which could help the robots quickly charge themselves.

 

“Our materials mimic those of the human muscle, responding quickly to electrical impulses, instead of using mechanisms driven by hydraulics,” which create the slow, jerky movements of robots, said Dr Adrian Koh from NUS’ Engineering Science Program and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering.

 

“Now, imagine artificial muscles that are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second, like those of a human. Robots equipped with such muscles would be able to function in a more human-like manner — and outperform humans in strength.”

 

The researchers plan to create robots and robotic limbs that are more human-like in both functions and appearance — and more powerful. In less than five years, they expect to develop a robotic arm about half the size and weight of a human arm that can out-wrestle a person.

 

The secret: polymers that could stretch move than 10 times their original length (a strain displacement of 1,000 per cent), lifting a load of up to 500 times their own weight. Also, as the muscles contract and expand, they are capable of converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. A 10kg electrical generator built from these soft materials would be capable of producing the same amount of energy as a one-ton electrical turbine,” Koh said.

 

This means that the energy generated may lead to a robot being self-powered after less than a minute of charging, he said. “Think of how efficient cranes could get when armed with such muscles,” he added.

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By Altering Two Genes, NIH Scientists Were Able To Create Mice That Live 20% Longer

By Altering Two Genes, NIH Scientists Were Able To Create Mice That Live 20% Longer | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Cell Reports on Aug. 29., 2013, genetically engineered mice to make them produce only 25% of the normal amount of two very similar proteins called mTOR1 and mTOR2. Decreased activity of these genes has been linked to longer lifespan in past studies of yeast, worms, and flies.

 

In the study, the average lifespan for engineered mice was 28 months for males and 31.5 months for females, compared to 22.9 for males and 26.5 for females in normal mice. In humans, that equals to gaining about 16 years of life time.

 

The engineered mice, although smaller than the normal mice, also had better memory and coordination, and had stronger muscles. On the downside, the longer-lived mice had lower bone density and were more susceptible to infection with age, which could because they need the proteins for their immune system to function properly.

 

"The conclusion we'd like to draw is that aging is not regulated in all tissues by the same mechanism," study researcher Toren Finkel said. "Tissues and organs can age independently of each other and independently of the overall organism, too."

 

There are actually two different mTOR proteins that are part of an incredibly complex protein system in mammalian cells. Defects in this system has been linked to cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and other age-related diseases.

 

In humans, mTOR protein levels can be lowered using an immunosuppressant drug called rapamycin, but researchers cannot be certain that these drugs would have the same life-enhancing effects as altering the mTOR genes.

 

"What we need right now is for scientists and the public to wake up to the concept that you can slow aging," the Buck Institute for Aging Research's president Brian Kennedy, who wasn't involved in the new study, told the Wall Street Journal.

 

"If you do, you prevent many of the diseases that we're so scared of and that are associated with aging."

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World first: Woman gets pregnant seven years after her ovaries were removed because of cancer

World first: Woman gets pregnant seven years after her ovaries were removed because of cancer | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Twin girls expected after Australian scientists graft tissue frozen before cancer treatment on to mother's abdominal wall.

 

Australian doctors and scientists have achieved a world first, helping a woman to become pregnant seven years after her ovaries were removed during cancer treatment, by grafting frozen tissue on to her abdominal wall.

Researchers from Melbourne IVF and the Royal Women's hospital have given hope to cancer survivors who develop menopause after treatment, after achieving the world's first pregnancy from the process.

 

Just before surgery removed her second ovary, Brisbane woman Vali, 24, whose surname was not released, asked doctors to preserve some of her ovarian tissue in case it was possible to graft it back in the future.

 

She said it had been "pretty confronting" to have found out at a young age that she might not have been able to have children. "It didn't really hit me until I was ... 24 and I had to make some serious decisions about my healthcare then," she said. "I was really lucky with my doctors. I was able to have this opportunity even though I didn't really know anything about it."

 

She and her partner, Dean, moved to Melbourne so she could undergo the treatment. Associate professor Kate Stern, head of fertility preservation at Melbourne IVF, said: "We checked the tissue again, checked with her surgeon, made sure that everything was OK and spoke with her oncologist, talked with her about the risks."

 

They did a first graft in 2010 and a second two years later. "The tissue was put back in the front wall of her abdomen, so that means it's under the skin and the muscle but not inside the abdomen," Stern said.

 

"We wanted to see if this might help her get pregnant. Then we gave her some very gentle hormone stimulation – not the full-on IVF". The process produced two eggs, which were then fertilised and put back in Vali's uterus. The couple are now expecting twins.

 

"We're having two girls. I'm pretty excited,'' Vali said.

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Live fast, die young: African killifish is fastest-maturing vertebrate which reproduces after just 17 days

Live fast, die young: African killifish is fastest-maturing vertebrate which reproduces after just 17 days | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Tiny fish that live in temporary pools in Africa reach sexual maturity faster than any other animal with a backbone, say scientists.

 

One of the studied species of killifish - Nothobranchius kadleci - started to reproduce at the age of 17 days. Researchers found that some eggs reached hatching stage in 15 days meaning they also have the shortest minimum generation time in vertebrates.


In the wild, these fishes live in extreme conditions of temporary pools that only occur during the rainy season when savannah depressions are filled with water. Dr. Martin Reichard and colleagues from the Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic studied the aging processes of two species of wild-caught fishes from southern Mozambique under laboratory conditions. "It is biologically very relevant for these fish to be able to sexually mature very fast because their habitat may dry out in three to four weeks," Dr. Reichard said. "If they mature very fast, they can produce a new generation."

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Mantis shrimps have the world's best eyes equipped with 16 different types of photo receptors

Mantis shrimps have the world's best eyes equipped with 16 different types of photo receptors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
As humans, we experience an amazing world of colour, but what can other animals see? Some see much more than us, but how they use this vision is largely unknown.

 

We see what we see because our eyes have three photoreceptors, red, green and blue. Our vision is good compared to dogs which have only two photoreceptors (green and blue), but is nothing compared to many birds who have four photoreceptors: ultraviolet (UV) as well as red, green and blue.

The addition of a UV photoreceptor is hard to imagine, but if we consider invertebrate vision it gets even more mind-boggling. Butterflies have five photoreceptors, providing them with UV vision and an enhanced ability to distinguish between two similar colors.

Octopuses do not have color vision but they can detect polarized light. The closest humans come to seeing polarized light is by wearing polarized sunglasses.

But this is not the end of the story. Mantis shrimp vision puts everything else to shame. These marine crustaceans may be well-known for their record breaking punch (the same acceleration as a .22 calibre bullet), but they also hold the world record for the most complex visual system. They have 16 photoreceptors and can see UV, visible and polarized light and probably much more. In fact, they are the only animals known to detect circularly polarized light, which is when the wave component of light rotates in a circular motion. They also can perceive depth with one eye and move each eye independently. It's impossible to imagine what mantis shrimp see and incredible to think about.

Mantis shrimp have compound eyes that are made up of tens of thousands of ommatidia (elements containing a cluster of photoreceptor cells, support cells and pigment cells) much like flies. In the species with spectacular vision, Gonodactylids and Lysiosquillids, the middle of the eye has six rows of modified ommatidia called the mid-band. This is where the magic happens.

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Non's curator insight, November 21, 2013 10:05 PM

Imagining a color you can't Imagine is hard

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Mystery Alignment of Dying Stars Puzzles Scientists

Mystery Alignment of Dying Stars Puzzles Scientists | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Dying stars that are among the most beautiful objects in the universe line up across the night sky, and astronomers aren't sure why. These "cosmic butterflies" — actually a certain type of planetary nebula — all have their own formation histories, and they don't interact with each other. But something is apparently making them dance in step, scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) have discovered.

 

"This really is a surprising find and, if it holds true, a very important one,"study lead author Bryan Rees, of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. "Many of these ghostly butterflies appear to have their long axes aligned along the plane of our galaxy. By using images from both Hubble and the NTT we could get a really good view of these objects, so we could study them in great detail."

 

In the final stages of their lives, stars like our own sun puff their outer layers into space, creating strange and striking objects known as planetary nebulas. (No planets are necessarily involved. The term was coined by famed astronomer Sir William Herschel to describe celestial bodies that appeared to have circular, planet-like shapes when viewed through early telescopes.)

Rees and co-author Albert Zijlstra, also of the University of Manchester, studied 130 planetary nebulae in the central bulge of the Milky Way galaxy.

They found most of these objects to be scattered more or less randomly across the sky, but one type — the bipolar nebulae, which have distinctive butterfly or hourglass shapes that are thought to result when jets blast material away from a dying star perpendicular to its orbit — showed a surprising alignment.

 

"The alignment we're seeing for these bipolar nebulae indicates something bizarre about star systems within the central bulge,"Rees said. "For them to line up in the way we see, the star systems that formed these nebulae would have to be rotating perpendicular to the interstellar clouds from which they formed, which is very strange."

 

Faraway bipolar nebulae display this predilection much more than nearby cosmic butterflies do, the researchers said. They suspect that the orderly behavior may have been caused by strong magnetic fields present when the galaxy's central bulge was forming.

 

But little is known about the characteristics of the Milky Way's magnetic fields in the distant past, so the planetary nebula alignment remains mysterious for now. "We can learn a lot from studying

 these objects,"Zijlstra said in a statemnt. "If they really behave in this unexpected way, it has consequences for not just the past of individual stars, but for the past of our whole galaxy."

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Chéri Vausé's curator insight, September 19, 2013 2:11 PM

My character Avi, in the Garden of Souls, is shown the origins of the universe. God has created a beautiful universe, filled with wonders. This is just a glimpse into it.

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Blue Light Observations Indicate Water-Rich Atmosphere of a Super-Earth Exoplanet

Blue Light Observations Indicate Water-Rich Atmosphere of a Super-Earth Exoplanet | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A Japanese research team of astronomers and planetary scientists has used Subaru Telescope's two optical cameras, Suprime-Cam and the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS), with a blue transmission filter to observe planetary transits of super-Earth GJ 1214 b. The team investigated whether this planet has an atmosphere rich in water or hydrogen. The Subaru observations show that the sky of this planet does not show a strong Rayleigh scattering feature, which a cloudless hydrogen-dominated atmosphere would predict. When combined with the findings of previous observations in other colors, this new observational result implies that GJ 1214 b is likely to have a water-rich atmosphere.


Super-Earths are emerging as a new type of exoplanet (i.e., a planet orbiting a star outside of our Solar System) with a mass and radius larger than the Earth's but less than those of ice giants in our Solar System, such as Uranus or Neptune. Whether super-Earths are more like a "large Earth" or a "small Uranus" is unknown, since scientists have yet to determine their detailed properties. The current Japanese research team of astronomers and planetary scientists focused their efforts on investigating the atmospheric features of one super-Earth, GJ 1214 b, which is located 40 light years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, northwest of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This planet is one of the well-known super-Earths discovered by Charbonneau et. al. (2009) in the MEarth Project, which focuses on finding habitable planets around nearby small stars. The current team's research examined features of light scattering of GJ 1214 b's transit around its star.

 

Current theory posits that a planet develops in a disk of dense gas surrounding a newly formed star (i.e., a protoplanetary disk). The element hydrogen is a major component of a protoplanetary disk, and water ice is abundant in an outer region beyond a so-called "snow line." Findings about where super-Earths have formed and how they have migrated to their current orbits point to the prediction that hydrogen or water vapor is a major atmospheric component of a super-Earth. If scientists can determine the major atmospheric component of a super-Earth, they can then infer the planet's birthplace and formation history.

 

Planetary transits enable scientists to investigate changes in the wavelength in the brightness of the star (i.e., transit depth), which indicate the planet's atmospheric composition. Strong Rayleigh scattering in the optical wavelength is powerful evidence for a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. Rayleigh scattering occurs when light particles scatter in a medium without a change in wavelength. Such scattering strongly depends on wavelength and enhances short wavelengths; it causes greater transit depth in the blue rather than in the red wavelength.

 

The current team used the two optical cameras Suprime-Cam and FOCAS on the Subaru Telescope fitted with a blue transmission filter to search for the Rayleigh scattering feature of GJ 1214 b's atmosphere. This planetary system's very faint host star in blue light poses a challenge for researchers seeking to determine whether or not the planet's atmosphere has strong Rayleigh scattering. The large, powerful light-collecting 8.2 m mirror of the Subaru Telescope allowed the team to achieve the highest-ever sensitivity in the bluest region.


Although the team did not completely discount the possibility of a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, the new observational result combined with findings from previous research in other colors suggests that GJ 1214 b is likely to have a water-rich atmosphere. The team plans to conduct follow-up observations in the near future to reinforce their conclusion.

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NASA's Chandra Observatory Catches Giant Black Hole Rejecting Material

NASA's Chandra Observatory Catches Giant Black Hole Rejecting Material | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have taken a major step in explaining why material around the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is extraordinarily faint in X-rays. This discovery holds important implications for understanding black holes.

 

New Chandra images of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), which is located about 26,000 light-years from Earth, indicate that less than 1 percent of the gas initially within Sgr A*'s gravitational grasp ever reaches the point of no return, also called the event horizon. Instead, much of the gas is ejected before it gets near the event horizon and has a chance to brighten, leading to feeble X-ray emissions.

 

These new findings are the result of one of the longest observation campaigns ever performed with Chandra. The spacecraft collected five weeks' worth of data on Sgr A* in 2012. The researchers used this observation period to capture unusually detailed and sensitive X-ray images and energy signatures of super-heated gas swirling around Sgr A*, whose mass is about 4 million times that of the sun.

 

"We think most large galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, but they are too far away for us to study how matter flows near it," said Q. Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who led of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. "Sgr A* is one of very few black holes close enough for us to actually witness this process."

 

The researchers found that the Chandra data from Sgr A* did not support theoretical models in which the X-rays are emitted from a concentration of smaller stars around the black hole. Instead, the X-ray data show the gas near the black hole likely originates from winds produced by a disk-shaped distribution of young massive stars.

 

"This new Chandra image is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen," said co-author Sera Markoff of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "We're watching Sgr A* capture hot gas ejected by nearby stars, and funnel it in towards its event horizon."

 

To plunge over the event horizon, material captured by a black hole must lose heat and momentum. The ejection of matter allows this to occur.

 

"Most of the gas must be thrown out so that a small amount can reach the black hole", said Feng Yuan of Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China, the study's co-author. "Contrary to what some people think, black holes do not actually devour everything that’s pulled towards them. Sgr A* is apparently finding much of its food hard to swallow."

 

The gas available to Sgr A* is very diffuse and super-hot, so it is hard for the black hole to capture and swallow it. The gluttonous black holes that power quasars and produce huge amounts of radiation have gas reservoirs much cooler and denser than that of Sgr A*.

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Animals carry '320,000 new viruses' that await discovery

Animals carry '320,000 new viruses' that await discovery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

There could be at least 320,000 viruses awaiting discovery that are circulating in animals, a study suggests.  Researchers say that identifying these viral diseases, especially those that can spread to humans, could help to prevent future pandemics.

 

The team estimates that this could cost more than £4bn ($6bn), but says this is a fraction of the cost of dealing with a major pandemic.

 

Prof. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the University of Columbia in the US, said: "What we're really talking about is defining the full range of diversity of viruses within mammals, and our intent is that as we get more information we will be able to understand the principles that underlie determinants of risks."

 

Nearly 70% of viruses that infect humans, such as HIV, Ebola and the new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), originate in wildlife. But until now, the scale of the problem has been difficult to assess. The idea is to develop an early warning system. To investigate, researchers in the US and Bangladesh looked at a species of bat called the flying fox. This animal carries the Nipah virus, which if it spreads to humans can kill.

 

By studying 1,897 samples collected from the bats, scientists were able to assess how many other pathogens the animal carried. They found nearly 60 different types of viruses, most of which had never been seen before. The team then extrapolated this figure to all known mammals, and concluded there were at least 320,000 viruses that have not yet been detected. The researchers said that identifying all of these would be crucial to keeping one step ahead of diseases that could become a threat to human health.

Identifying all novel viruses in animals could take years and costs £4bn ($6bn). 
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Genetic reproductive barriers: Long-held assumption about emergence of new species questioned

Genetic reproductive barriers: Long-held assumption about emergence of new species questioned | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Darwin referred to the origin of species as "that mystery of mysteries," and even today, more than 150 years later, evolutionary biologists cannot fully explain how new animals and plants arise.

 

For decades, nearly all research in the field has been based on the assumption that the main cause of the emergence of new species, a process called speciation, is the formation of barriers to reproduction between populations.

 

Those barriers can be geographic -- such as a new mountain, river or glacier that physically separates two populations of animals or plants -- or they can be genetic differences that prevent incompatible individuals from producing fertile offspring. A textbook example of the latter is the mule; horses and donkeys can mate, but their offspring are sterile.

 

But now a University of Michigan biologist and a colleague are questioning the long-held assumption that genetic reproductive barriers, also known as reproductive isolation, are a driving force behind speciation. 

 

"Most research on the formation of species has assumed that these types of reproductive barriers are a major cause of speciation. But our results provide no support for this, and our study is actually the first direct test of how these barriers affect the rate at which species form," said Daniel Rabosky, assistant professor in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a curator of herpetology at the Museum of Zoology.

 

Rabosky and Daniel Matute of the University of Chicago reasoned that if genetic barriers to reproduction are a leading cause of new species, then groups of organisms that quickly accumulate those genes should also show high rates of species formation.

 

They tested that idea by comparing speciation rates to genetic indicators of reproductive isolation in birds and fruit flies. They chose birds and fruit flies because extensive data sets on interspecies breeding experiments exist for both groups. The researchers used evolutionary tree-based estimates of speciation rates for nine major fruit fly groups and two-thirds of known bird species.

 

Rabosky and Matute created computer models to carry out the comparison, and the results surprised them. "We found no evidence that these things are related. The rate at which genetic reproductive barriers arise does not predict the rate at which new species form in nature," Rabosky said. "If these results are true more generally -- which we would not yet claim but do suspect -- it would imply that our understanding of species formation is extremely incomplete because we've spent so long studying the wrong things, due to this erroneous assumption that the main cause of species formation is the formation of barriers to reproduction.

 

"To be clear, reproductive barriers are still important on some level. All sorts of plants and animals live together in the same place, which couldn't happen without reproductive barriers. But our results question whether genetic reproductive barriers played a major role in how those species formed in the first place."

 

While speciation is often defined as the evolution of reproductive isolation, the new findings suggest that a broader definition may be needed, Rabosky and Matute conclude.

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Frogs that hear with their mouth: X-rays reveal a new hearing mechanism for animals without an ear

Frogs that hear with their mouth: X-rays reveal a new hearing mechanism for animals without an ear | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Gardiner's frogs from the Seychelles islands, one of the smallest frogs in the world, do not possess a middle ear with an eardrum yet can croak themselves, and hear other frogs.

 

The illustration shows how a Gardiner's frog can hear with its mouth: Top left: The skin of the animal reflects 99.9% of an incoming sound wave hiting the body close to the inner ear. Without a middle ear, sound waves cannot be transported to the inner ear. Bottom left: the mouth acts as a resonating cavity for the frequencies of the frogs' song, amplifying the amplitude of the sound in the mouth. The body tissue between the buccal cavity and the inner ear is adapted to transport these sound waves to the inner ear.


The way sound is heard is common to many lineages of animals and appeared during the Triassic age (200-250 million years ago). Although the auditory systems of the four-legged animals have undergone many changes since, they have in common the middle ear with eardrum and ossicles, which emerged independently in the major lineages. On the other hand, some animals notably most frogs, do not possess an outer ear like humans, but a middle ear with an eardrum located directly on the surface of the head.

 

Incoming sound waves make the eardrum vibrate, and the eardrum delivers these vibrations using the ossicles to the inner ear where hair cells translate them into electric signals sent to the brain. Is it possible to detect sound in the brain without a middle ear? The answer is no because 99.9% of a sound wave reaching an animal is reflected at the surface of its skin.

 

"However, we know of frog species that croak like other frogs but do no have tympanic middle ears to listen to each other. This seems to be a contradiction," says Renaud Boistel from the IPHEP of the University of Poitiers and CNRS. "These small animals, Gardiner's frogs, have been living isolated in the rainforest of the Seychelles for 47 to 65 million years, since these islands split away from the main continent. If they can hear, their auditory system must be a survivor of life forms on the ancient supercontinent Gondwana."


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New component in the quantum electronics toolbox: Interface between atoms and superconductors

New component in the quantum electronics toolbox: Interface between atoms and superconductors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The coherence of quantum systems is the foundation upon which hardware for future information technologies is based. Quantum information is carried by units called quantum bits, or qubits. They can be used to secure electronic communications -- and they enable very fast searches of databases. But qubits are also very unstable. Professors József Fortágh, Dieter Kölle and Reinhold Kleiner of Tübingen's Institute of Physics have developed a new electronic component which will help to deal with this problem. The researchers' long-term goal is to process, transfer and store superposition states such as the overlapping of the binary digits zero and one.


Superconducting circuits, which are structured on microchips using standard technology, can process quantum information quickly but cannot store it for very long. By contrast, atoms, nature's smallest electric circuits, can serve as a natural quantum storage unit. "In the future, this combination will allow us to transfer information from superconducting circuits into ensembles of atoms and store it," says Professor József Fortágh.

 

The atoms are trapped in a magnetic field above the surface of the microchip. Because superconductors allow an electric current to flow without resistance, the current does not become weaker in a superconducting ring. Institute of Physics PhD students Helge Hattermann and Daniel Bothner along with postdoctoral researcher Simon Bernon have made use of this to construct a complex superconducting ring-circuit and a particularly stable storage space for atoms. And the researchers can test how long atoms remain in the quantum superposition states within the system -- by using the atoms themselves as a clock.

 

Today's definition of a second is given to us by the caesium atom, with a frequency of approximately nine billion Hertz per second, corresponding to the transition between its two ground states. Rubidium, the atom used for the experiments in Tübingen, is a secondary frequency standard. An atomic clock's precision is based on the constant transition between quantum states. Just like the swinging of the pendulum of a grandfather clock, an atomic clock's oscillations become weaker with time -- when the quantum superpositions decay.

 

The atomic clock integrated into the superconducting chip indicates that the atoms suspended above the chip remain in their quantum superposition states for several seconds. By comparison, solid-state quantum storage retains coherence for only microseconds. "This result paves the way for new quantum electronic components for information processing systems," József Fortágh says. The researchers at the University of Tübingen's CQ Center for Collective Quantum Phenomena are now planning experiments on atoms in superconducting microwave resonators -- which could serve as a shuttle for data between integrated circuits and atoms.


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