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Complex mixture of many odors creates "white" smell that can mask strong odors

Complex mixture of many odors creates "white" smell that can mask strong odors | Amazing Science |
Neither pleasant nor foul-smelling, and in no way overwhelming: this is how researchers sum up the smell they are calling “olfactory white”.


The smell was uncovered during experiments that mixed aroma molecules from across the scent spectrum. Even if two mixtures had no components in common, they tended towards having a similar scent as more aromas were added. By the time they contained about 30 components, most mixtures smelled alike, and could mask other distinctive smells. The researchers say that the resulting smell, which is unlikely to occur naturally, has parallels with both white light and 'white noise'. These are produced by combining the wavelengths of the visible spectrum and different sound frequencies, respectively.

Given that our noses contain hundreds of different odour receptors, the phenomenon is counterintuitive.


Noam Sobel, an neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his team selected 86 single-molecule odorants, representative of the known scent spectrum, and diluted each to the same perceived intensity. They assembled 191 pairs of non-overlapping aroma mixtures, each containing up to 43 of the molecules spaced out over the olfactory spectrum, and asked 56 volunteers to rate the similarity of a selection of the pairs. The results showed that the more components each of the two mixtures contained, the more alike they smelled. Volunteers consistently began to find the mixtures similar at 20 or more components, and by 30 components the mixtures were “highly similar” — a trend that implies there is an end point of perceptual convergence, olfactory white.


The phenomenon was confirmed by a further experiment with a different series of four newly generated 40-component mixtures labelled 'laurax'. Participants were familiarized with one of them. When smelling odorant mixtures they had not smelled before, volunteers were more likely to identify the scent as laurax if a mixture contained 20 or more components. Participants applied the laurax label to novel 40-component mixtures 58% of the time, and a follow-up study confirmed that most could still identify — and so remember — the laurax smell six months later.

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A Curated Selection of Data Visualization Charts and Infographics: The Information Is Beautiful Awards

A Curated Selection of Data Visualization Charts and Infographics: The Information Is Beautiful Awards | Amazing Science |

Robin Good: David McCandlees, the author of the book Information is Beautiful celebrates great data visualization and information design work through the Information is Beautiful Awards.

Together with a jury of experts like Brian Eno, Paola Antonelli, Maria Popova, Simon Rogers and Aziz Kami, he has curated a unique selection of 300 designs and a short list of finalists in the following categories:


» Data visualization– A singular visualisation of data or information.» Infographic – Using multiple data visualisations in service to a theme or story


» Interactive visualization – Any viz where you can dynamically filter or explore the data.


» Data journalism – A combination of text and visualizations in a journalistic format.


» Motion infographic – Moving and animated visualizations along a theme or story.


» Tool or website – Online tools & apps to aid datavizzing.


The selection itself is worth a tour of the site and of this initiative.




Longlist selection:


Shortlist selection:



Via Robin Good
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Optical Illusions Show How We See - We See What The Brain Wants Us To See

Optical Illusions Show How We See - We See What The Brain Wants Us To See | Amazing Science |
A blue sky is a contradiction: the sky at night is devoid of colour, so why during the day does the world seem to be shrouded in a blanket of blue?


Imagine... as you wake later than usual rolling over towards the window, you notice that it's a gorgeous day outside. Warm, yellow sunlight shines in through glass illuminating floating "dust angles." On the other side of the glass, past the oak tree with yellowing leaves, you see a brilliant blue sky. For the first time it occurs to you that a blue sky is a contradiction: the sky at night is devoid of color, so why during the day does the world seem to be shrouded in a blanket of blue? Years previously as a child full of questions you asked your parents, but the answer they offered seemed somehow inadequate at the time... less than magical. And so the question remains... as it does the most of us.


The answer is this: The sky isn't actually colored at all (not blue or yellow or red or green). Rather, it's your mind that's colored. The world around us is physics devoid of meaning, whereas our perception of the world is meaning devoid of physics. In terms of physics, the light in the sky is heavily biased towards smaller wavelengths (around 450 nanometers). This is because the air itself scatters smaller wavelengths of light more than it does larger ones. Which means the air in the sky is like a filter, letting primarily medium to long wavelengths through more easily than short wavelengths. Hence why the sky is composed primarily of shorter wavelengths (and so appears bluish), whereas the light from sun is composed primarily of longer wavelengths (and so appears more reddish). While the differential scattering of sunlight by the air explains the non-uniform distribution of wavelengths across the sky, it doesn't explain why shorter wavelengths are seen as blue and the longer ones as red.


The central squares on the upper and lower surfaces of this cube appear very different in color: Brown on the top and bright orange on the bottom. Scroll to the very end of the linked article to reveal their 'true' physical similarity.

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World Bank Warns 4˚C Climate Change Could Devastate Global Economy

World Bank Warns 4˚C Climate Change Could Devastate Global Economy | Amazing Science |

A four degree Celsius could decimate agriculture, cause global health problems and would result in a very different world economy.


The World Bank warned Sunday that if climate change isn't stopped or slowed down, the global economy will suffer greatly. The report, titled "Turn Down the Heat," envisions a world that is warmer by an average of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). According to Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, the report is meant to "shock the world into action." A global temperature increase like one estimated by the World Bank would lead to "the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production, potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions," water scarcity, and more natural disasters.


The organization chose to analyze a four-degree increase because that's the worst-case scenario envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—and it could be a reality as early as 2060. Though the report makes no specific financial estimates, it says a warming world would wreak havoc on farming, overload countries' health systems, and would disproportionately affect the poor. It would push up food prices, make 35 percent of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa unsuitable for agriculture, and would extend the ranges of certain diseases.


Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's vice president for the sustainable development network, says the organization commissioned the report to help governments and businesses understand the urgency of the problem as countries deal with a global recession.


Many countries should be looking into infrastructure upgrades that use clean energy, developing nations should consider encouraging urban growth with sea level rise in mind, and considering the long-term health of their economies instead of focusing on quick fixes. "The short term political cycles sometimes fit uneasily with long-term decision making," Kyte says. "We hope this paper makes it more difficult for policy makers to ignore the science. The science is unequivocal.";_ylt=A2KJ3CTjdapQYEwA37zQtDMD

Elijah Startin's curator insight, July 15, 10:40 PM

This topic states that studies show that the Earth is becoming 4 degrees celsius warmer. And by 2060 climate change will become a reality.

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Development of cancers akin to the evolution of a new species - just faster

Development of cancers akin to the evolution of a new species - just faster | Amazing Science |

Cancer patients may view their tumors as parasites taking over their bodies, but this is more than a metaphor for Peter Duesberg, a molecular and cell biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.


Cancerous tumors are parasitic organisms, he said. Each one is a new species that, like most parasites, depends on its host for food, but otherwise operates independently and often to the detriment of its host. Duesberg and colleagues describe their theory that carcinogenesis -- the generation of cancer -- is just another form of speciation, the evolution of new species.


A molecular biologists has long believed that cancer results from chromosome disruption rather than a handful of gene mutations, which is the dominant theory today. That idea has led him to propose that cancers have actually evolved new chromosomal karyotypes that qualify them as autonomous species, akin to parasites and much different from their human hosts.

"Cancer is comparable to a bacterial level of complexity, but still autonomous, that is, it doesn't depend on other cells for survival; it doesn't follow orders like other cells in the body, and it can grow where, when and how it likes," said Duesberg. "That's what species are all about."

This novel view of cancer could yield new insights into the growth and metastasis of cancer, Duesberg said, and perhaps new approaches to therapy or new drug targets. In addition, because the disrupted chromosomes of newly evolved cancers are visible in a microscope, it may be possible to detect cancers earlier, much as today's Pap smear relies on changes in the shapes of cervical cells as an indication of chromosomal problems that could lead to cervical cancer. The idea that cancer formation is akin to the evolution of a new species is not new, with various biologists hinting at it in the late 20th century. Evolutionary biologist Julian S. Huxley wrote in 1956 that "Once the neoplastic process has crossed the threshold of autonomy, the resultant tumor can be logically regarded as a new biologic species …."

Last year, Dr. Mark Vincent of the London Regional Cancer Program and University of Western Ontario argued in the journal Evolution that carcinogenesis and the clonal evolution of cancer cells are speciation events in the strict Darwinian sense. The evolution of cancer "seems to be different from the evolution of a grasshopper, for instance, in part because the cancer genome is not a stable genome like that of other species. The challenging question is, what has it become?" Vincent said in an interview. "Duesberg's argument from karyotype is different from my argument from the definition of a species, but it is consistent."


Picture: Staining chromosomes with different dyes highlights the orderly nature of the normal human karyotype (left), that is, humans have precisely two copies of each chromosome with no leftovers. A bladder cancer cell (right) has extra copies of some chromosomes, a few missing normal chromsomes, and a lot of hybrid or marker chromosomes, which characterize cancer cells.

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mEosFP-Based Green-to-Red Photoconvertible Subcellular Probes based on GFP variants

mEosFP-Based Green-to-Red Photoconvertible Subcellular Probes based on GFP variants | Amazing Science |

Photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (FPs) are recent additions to the biologists’ toolbox for understanding the living cell. Like green fluorescent protein (GFP), monomeric EosFP is bright green in color but is efficiently photoconverted into a red fluorescent form using a mild violet-blue excitation. Here, we report mEosFP-based probes that localize to the cytosol, plasma membrane invaginations, endosomes, prevacuolar vesicles, vacuoles, the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi bodies, mitochondria, peroxisomes, and the two major cytoskeletal elements, filamentous actin and cortical microtubules.

Via dromius
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Bdelloids Surviving on Borrowed DNA

Bdelloids Surviving on Borrowed DNA | Amazing Science |

The bdelloids are a "genetic mosaic. They take pieces of DNA from all over the place," says study author Alan Tunnacliffe, a molecular biologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "Bdelloids biochemistry is a mosaic in the same way. It's a real mishmash of activities."


For creatures of such superhero-like abilities, microscopic bdelloids—which are distantly related to flatworms—are happy in humble surroundings. The roughly 400 species of bdelloids live in fresh and brackish water, including puddles, sewage-treatment tanks, and drops of moisture adhering to soil. They have a handy ability to survive the sudden disappearance of their aquatic homes; the desiccation-survival record is 9 years. What's even stranger, from an evolutionary biologist's point of view, is the bdelloid's long-term asexuality. For perhaps 80 million years, all bdelloids have been female only, contentedly reproducing without males -- and defying biologists' ideas about the centrality of sex. Sexual reproduction, the thinking goes, introduces genetic variation and so allows a species to adapt to a changing environment and to genetic degradation. It's commonly thought that animals that forgo sex eventually go extinct, but the bdelloid provides a glaring exception to the rule. Legendary biologist John Maynard Smith was so flummoxed by the bdelloids that he called them an "evolutionary scandal."


In 2008, a separate group of researchers found that bdelloids contain some foreign DNA in a small region of their genomes. Tunnacliffe and his colleagues decided to find out the extent of that foreign genetic material. So they turned to the bdelloid Adineta ricciae, which was discovered in a small Australian billabong, or lake. When the scientists sequenced the bdelloid DNA that provides the blueprints for active genes, they found that roughly 10% of that DNA had been borrowed from other creatures. All told, the bdelloid had adopted DNA from more than 500 different species. By comparing the foreign sequences to genetic databases, the researchers learned that many of the sequences are responsible for directing the production of enzymes found in simple organisms but unknown in complex animals. Two genes, for example, give rise to bacterial enzymes that help break down the toxic chemical benzyl cyanide. Two more genes, this time from parasitic protozoa, direct the manufacture of a compound that can ward off cellular damage. Nearly 40% of the animal's enzymatic activity includes a foreign component, Tunnacliffe says. The proportion of the bdelloid's active genes that it got from other sources "is a really surprising big deal," says evolutionary biologist David Mark Welch of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. "If this is all true, they are bringing in DNA all the time."


The analysis of foreign gene products is especially interesting because it provides a clue to the bdelloid's endurance in the face of bad conditions, says biologist Bernard Angers of the University of Montreal in Canada who has studied atypical reproduction and genetic diversity. Tunnacliffe says it's not clear how the bdelloids come by the foreign DNA, but it may supply them with enough fresh genetic material to overcome the disadvantages of asexuality. And the bdelloids' genetic hodgepodge makes an appealingly strange group of animals even stranger.

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NASA: Martian Atmosphere Free Of Methane Gas

NASA: Martian Atmosphere Free Of Methane Gas | Amazing Science |

Methane has been difficult to detect from Earth and the gas seems to exist on Mars only in traces, if at all. The Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) in SAM provides the first search conducted within the Martian atmosphere for this molecule. The initial SAM measurements place an upper limit of just a few parts methane per billion parts of Martian atmosphere, by volume, with enough uncertainty that the amount could be zero.


"Methane is clearly not an abundant gas at the Gale Crater site, if it is there at all. At this point in the mission we're just excited to be searching for it," said SAM TLS lead Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "While we determine upper limits on low values, atmospheric variability in the Martian atmosphere could yet hold surprises for us."


In Curiosity's first three months on Mars, SAM has analyzed atmosphere samples with two laboratory methods. One is a mass spectrometer investigating the full range of atmospheric gases. The other, TLS, has focused on carbon dioxide and methane. During its two-year prime mission, the rover also will use an instrument called a gas chromatograph that separates and identifies gases. The instrument also will analyze samples of soil and rock, as well as more atmosphere samples.


"With these first atmospheric measurements we already can see the power of having a complex chemical laboratory like SAM on the surface of Mars," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Both atmospheric and solid sample analyses are crucial for understanding Mars' habitability."


SAM is set to analyze its first solid sample in the coming weeks, beginning the search for organic compounds in the rocks and soils of Gale Crater. Analyzing water-bearing minerals and searching for and analyzing carbonates are high priorities for upcoming SAM solid sample analyses.


Researchers are using Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. JPL manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The SAM Instrument was developed at Goddard with instrument contributions from Goddard, JPL and the University of Paris in France.

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The Brain Bank - Optogenetics explained

The Brain Bank - Optogenetics explained | Amazing Science |

If the system underlying the ‘mind’ is a network of neurons constantly firing and wiring, then surely ‘mind control’ could be achieved by controlling the activity of neurons? Imagine being able to switch groups of neurons on and off instantaneously as simply as flipping a light switch. In fact, why not use light itself to control neurons; to control minds? How would you turn neurons deep in the dark depths of your brain into light-responders?……….Welcome to optogenetics (‘opto’ comes from ‘optos’, Greek for ‘visible’).

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New injectable gels toughen up after entering the body

New injectable gels toughen up after entering the body | Amazing Science |

Gels that can be injected into the body, carrying drugs or cells that regenerate damaged tissue, hold promise for treating many types of disease, including cancer. However, these injectable gels don’t always maintain their solid structure once inside the body.


MIT chemical engineers have now designed an injectable gel that responds to the body’s high temperature by forming a reinforcing network that makes the gel much more durable, allowing it to function over a longer period of time. However, a drawback of these materials is that after they are injected into the body, they are still vulnerable to mechanical stresses. If such stresses make them undergo the transition to a liquid-like state again, they can fall apart.


The MIT team answered that question by creating a reinforcing network within their gels that is activated only when the gel is heated to body temperature (37 degrees Celsius). Shear thinning gels can be made with many different materials (including polymers such as polyethylene glycol, or PEG), but Olsen’s lab is focusing on protein hydrogels, which are appealing because they can be designed relatively easily to promote biological functions such as cellular adhesion and cell migration.


The protein hydrogels in this study consist of loosely packed proteins held together by links between protein segments known as coiled coils, which form when two or three helical proteins coil into a ropelike structure. The MIT researchers designed their hydrogel to include a second reinforcing network, which takes shape when polymers attached to the ends of each protein bind together. At lower temperatures, these polymers are soluble in water, so they float freely in the gel. However, when heated to body temperature, they become insoluble and separate out of the watery solution. This allows them to join together and form a sturdy grid within the gel, making it much more durable.

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World’s First 3D Printing Photo Booth to Open in Japan

World’s First 3D Printing Photo Booth to Open in Japan | Amazing Science |
3D printers – it’s a word that offers glimpses into the future that seems so far, and yet is so close. The technology, which allows you to replicate 3D objects the same way you make a photo copy, has been around for a couple years now, but, for the most part, has been far too expensive and inaccessible to the public.


But now, what’s being called the world’s first 3D printing photo booth is set to open for a limited time at the exhibition space EYE OF GYRE in Harajuku. From November 24 to January 14, 2013, people with reservations can go and have their portraits taken. Except, instead of a photograph, you’ll receive miniature replicas of yourselves.

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Super-sensory hearing? Newly identified hearing organ in bushcrickets' ears may inspire acoustic sensors

Super-sensory hearing? Newly identified hearing organ in bushcrickets' ears may inspire acoustic sensors | Amazing Science |

The discovery of a previously unidentified hearing organ in the South American bushcrickets' ear could pave the way for technological advancements in bio-inspired acoustic sensors research, including medical imaging and hearing aid development.


Researchers from the University of Bristol and University of Lincoln discovered the missing piece of the jigsaw in the understanding of the process of energy transformation in the 'unconventional' ears of the bushcrickets (or katydids).

Bushcrickets have four tympana (or ear drums) -- two on each foreleg; but until now it has been unknown how the various organs connect in order for the insect to hear. As the tympana (a membrane which vibrates in reaction to sound) does not directly connect with the mechanoreceptors (sensory receptors), it was a mystery how sound was transmitted from air to the mechano-sensory cells.

Sponsored by the Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP), the research was developed in the lab of Professor Daniel Robert, a Royal Society Fellow at the University of Bristol. Dr Fernando Montealegre-Z, who is now at the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, discovered a newly identified organ while carrying out research into how the bushcricket tubing system in the ear transports sound. The research focussed on the bushcricket Copiphora gorgonensis, a neotropical species from the National Park Gorgona in Colombia, an island in the Pacific. Results suggest that the bushcricket ear operates in a manner analogous to that of mammals. Dr. Montealegre-Z said: "We discovered a novel structure that constitutes the key element in hearing in these insects, which had not been considered in previous work. The organ is a fluid-filled vesicle, which we have named the 'Auditory Vesicle'. This hearing organ mediates the process of conversion of acoustic energy (sound waves) to mechanical, hydraulic and electrochemical energy. The integration laser Doppler vibrometry and micro-CT scanning allowed us to identify the auditory vesicle and to conclude that the process relies on a tympanal lever system analogous to the mammalian ossicles. This serves to transmit air-borne vibrations to the fluid (the auditory vesicle), and also on the mechanoreceptors. Therefore the bushcricket ear performs the crucial stage of air to liquid impedance conversion and amplification just as in a mammal's ear."

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Google inaugurates its super-high-speed Internet service

Google inaugurates its super-high-speed Internet service | Amazing Science |

After years in the making, Google announced today that it has started connecting people in Kansas City, Kan., to its ultra high-speed fiber-to-the-home Internet service. Acting as guinea pigs of sorts, these locals will be the first people in the world who get to test out Google's new service and decide whether it lives up to the hype.


When Google first announced its nationwide Google Fiber project in 2010, around 1,100 U.S. towns and cities applied to get in on the deal. When Kansas City won out, Google Access General Manager Kevin Lo said, "new high-speed infrastructure will ultimately be carrying Kansas Citians' data at speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today."

Now, as the service officially kicks off, Google is making sure that its customers know what to expect. The company's representatives are going door-to-door letting people know their service is on the way and how the installation will work.

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mRNA-Sequencing of Single Prostate Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells

mRNA-Sequencing of Single Prostate Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells | Amazing Science |

Circulating tumor cells (CTC) mediate metastatic spread of many solid tumors and enumeration of CTCs is currently used as a prognostic indicator of survival in metastatic prostate cancer patients. Some evidence suggests that it is possible to derive additional information about tumors from expression analysis of CTCs, but the technical difficulty of isolating and analyzing individual CTCs has limited progress in this area. To assess the ability of a new generation of MagSweeper to isolate intact CTCs for downstream analysis, we performed mRNA-Seq on single CTCs isolated from the blood of patients with metastatic prostate cancer and on single prostate cancer cell line LNCaP cells spiked into the blood of healthy donors. We found that the MagSweeper effectively isolated CTCs with a capture efficiency that matched the CellSearch platform. However, unlike CellSearch, the MagSweeper facilitates isolation of individual live CTCs without contaminating leukocytes. Importantly, mRNA-Seq analysis showed that the MagSweeper isolation process did not have a discernible impact on the transcriptional profile of single LNCaPs isolated from spiked human blood, suggesting that any perturbations caused by the MagSweeper process on the transcriptional signature of isolated cells are modest. Although the RNA from patient CTCs showed signs of significant degradation, consistent with reports of short half-lives and apoptosis amongst CTCs, transcriptional signatures of prostate tissue and of cancer were readily detectable with single CTC mRNA-Seq. These results demonstrate that the MagSweeper provides access to intact CTCs and that these CTCs can potentially supply clinically relevant information.

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New mark for oldest, furthest galaxy - just 420 million years after the Big Bang

New mark for oldest, furthest galaxy - just 420 million years after the Big Bang | Amazing Science |

Astronomers have caught a glimpse of a galaxy that sets a new record for the furthest, and thus oldest, yet discovered - 13.3 billion light years from Earth. The star cluster was observed in its infancy - as it looked when the universe was just three per cent of its present age, according to NASA and the European Space Agency.


"We see the newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, as it was 420 million years after the Big Bang" that created the Universe 13.7 billion years ago, a statement says. "Its light has travelled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth."


The astronomers, grouped under the joint American-European CLASH project, use the orbiting Hubble and Spitzer telescopes as well as employing massive galaxy clusters as cosmic magnifiers to find distant galaxies. The process, known as gravitational lensing, allows astronomers to see galaxies that emit light with a brightness weaker than that of a candle on the Moon, thus undetectable directly by telescopes on Earth.


The newly discovered cluster is so small, less than 600 light years across, that scientists believe it may still be in the first stages of galaxy formation. As a point of reference, our own Milky Way is 150,000 light years across.


"The estimated mass of this baby galaxy is roughly equal to 100 million or a billion suns, or 0.1 to 1.0 per cent of our Milky Way's stars," the statement says. In September, the CLASH scientists said they had spotted the Universe's oldest and furthest galaxy, using the same technique - the previous record-holding 13.2 billion light years away. With gravitational lensing, theorised by Albert Einstein himself, astronomers use younger galaxies that lie closer to Earth to magnify older ones lurking in the distance by bending the light they emit.

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Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology | Amazing Science |

Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new “solar steam” method from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water.


Details of the solar steam method were published online today in ACS Nano. The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15 percent. However, the inventors of solar steam said they expect the first uses of the new technology will not be for electricity generation but rather for sanitation and water purification in developing countries. “This is about a lot more than electricity,” said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the project. “With this technology, we are beginning to think about solar thermal power in a completely different way.”


The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. Halas said the solar steam’s overall energy efficiency can probably be increased as the technology is refined.

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For the first time ever, DNA sequencers traced an MRSA infection back to its source in real time and eradicated it

For the first time ever, DNA sequencers traced an MRSA infection back to its source in real time and eradicated it | Amazing Science |
Whole-genome analysis helps identify source of MRSA outbreak on infant ward.


A superbug outbreak that plagued a special-care neonatal unit in Cambridge, UK, for several months last year was brought to an end by insights gained from genome sequencing. The case, reported today in Lancet Infectious Disease, marks the first time that scientists have sequenced pathogen genomes to actively control an ongoing outbreak.


Sharon Peacock, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, and her team became involved in the outbreak after three infants at nearby Rosie Hospital’s 24-cot special-care baby unit tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) within a couple days of each other.


Bacteria isolated from the three infants were resistant to a nearly identical spectrum of antibiotics, pointing to a common source, says Peacock. The unit was scrubbed clean, and officials hoped that the outbreak was over. Out of scientific curiosity, though, Peacock's team went on to investigate whether the three cases were linked to a string of MRSA infections at Rosie over the previous six months. Lab tests suggested that at least 8 other children had been infected by MRSA strains with similar antibiotic-resistance profiles in that time. But weeks would go by without an infection, suggesting that the bacteria were not simply spreading from baby to baby in the unit.

Joining the dots. In the hope of connecting the dots, Peacock’s team began sequencing the genomes of MRSA strains from the unit, as well as similar strains collected from adult patients at other hospitals and doctor’s sugeries. They suspected that adult carriers explained the long gaps between infections in the baby unit.


But the latest outbreak wasn’t over. Days after the unit was sterilized, another baby there tested positive for MRSA. Genome sequencing confirmed that the strain matched the other suspected cases. Confronted with an ongoing outbreak, Peacock and the hospital epidemiologists cast their net wider, searching for the outbreak strain among the 154 workers on the baby unit. One tested positive for a matching MRSA strain, despite showing no symptoms.“We thought it was likely that this individual had been involved in bridging the gaps,” Peacock says. “We could take that individual out of circulation and effectively stop the outbreak from continuing.”


Further surveillance turned up additional infections among adults in the community, including parents who had contracted MRSA from their babies. Fourteen patients in total — six infants and eight adults — developed serious infections requiring treatment. The final case, a father who had acquired MRSA from his spouse, occurred a year after the outbreak began. No one died.


Genome sequencing provided clarity that could never have been obtained otherwise, says Julian Parkhill, a microbiologist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, and a co-author on the Lancet paper. Genome sequencing can reveal the series of small mutations that occur over the course of an outbreak, allowing epidemiologists to create an evolutionary tree and trace the outbreak back to close to its suspected source. The infected employee had probably picked up their MRSA from an infant on the ward, the evolutionary analysis suggests.

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Jupiter's Moons, 66 currently

Jupiter's Moons, 66 currently | Amazing Science |

Advances in technology have lead to the discovery of new planets outside of our Solar System, and now even new moons in our own backyard. Two of them – the smallest ever discovered – were found orbiting Jupiter. That brings the number of Jovian moons to a whopping 66. The moons – each about 1 km in size – are very distant from Jupiter. It takes the tiny satellites 580 and 726 days to orbit the gas giant. The discovery could lead us one step closer to understanding the formation and evolution of our solar system. At least that’s the hope of Scott Sheppard, who works at the the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington, D.C. It was Sheppard who, with the help of the massive Magellan telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, initially observed the moons. “The new satellites are part of the outer retrograde swarm of objects around Jupiter. It is likely there are about 100 satellites of this size around Jupiter,” Sheppard said, explaining that Magellan has made it easier to detect objects further away from Earth. “Up until the last decade, the technology wasn’t there to discover these things because they are very small and very faint.”

SSMS Science's curator insight, October 1, 2013 12:54 AM

This article tells about how we found two moons orbiting Jupiter. We found these moons last September. These moons are the smallest moons ever discovered. Now there are 66 Jovian moons! These two moons are very small and far away from Jupiter. Right now, people are calling them S/2011 J1 and S/2011 J2. These names aren't expected to be permanent. People are trying to name them, but the names must be related to Jupier or Zeus, a Greek god. 

This article also tries to explain our past. It tells how the moons might be made out of the same materials that the planet was made out of. It also says that if we understand where a satellite came from, we can understand the formation and evolution of our solar system. This isn't true because God spoke everything into existence during Creation. This is all the proof we need about the beginning of our universe. CB

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Fluorescent fusion protein knockout mediated by anti-GFP nanobody is relying on the ubiquitin pathway

Fluorescent fusion protein knockout mediated by anti-GFP nanobody is relying on the ubiquitin pathway | Amazing Science |

The use of genetic mutations to study protein functions in vivo is a central paradigm of modern biology. Recent advances in reverse genetics such as RNA interference and morpholinos are widely used to further apply this paradigm. Nevertheless, such systems act upstream of the proteic level, and protein depletion depends on the turnover rate of the existing target proteins. Here we present deGradFP, a genetically encoded method for direct and fast depletion of target green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusions in any eukaryotic genetic system. This method is universal because it relies on an evolutionarily highly conserved eukaryotic function, the ubiquitin pathway. It is traceable, because the GFP tag can be used to monitor the protein knockout. In many cases, it is a ready-to-use solution, as GFP protein-trap stock collections are being generated in Drosophila melanogaster and in Danio rerio.

Via dromius
aamoros2's curator insight, June 24, 12:39 PM

Proteínas fluorescentes.

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Teaching robots new tricks by demonstration without programming

Teaching robots new tricks by demonstration without programming | Amazing Science |

Maya Cakmak, Georgia Tech, spent the summer at Willow Garage developing software that allows users to program the robot through demonstration.


Like computers, robots only do what we program them to do. And that's a big problem if we're ever going to realize the dream of practical robot helpers for the masses. Wouldn't it be great if anyone could teach a robot to perform a task, like they would a child? Well, that's precisely what Maya Cakmak has been working on at Willow Garage.


Cakmak, a researcher from Georgia Tech, spent the summer creating a user-friendly system that teaches the PR2 robot simple tasks. The kicker is that it doesn't require any traditional programming skills whatsoever – it works by physically guiding the robot's arms while giving it verbal commands.


After inviting regular people to give it a try, she found that with few instructions they were able to teach the PR2 how to retrieve medicine from a cabinet and fold a t-shirt. Such tasks may be easy for us, but for a robot they are very difficult. That's why most scientists don't take the threat of a robopocalypse very seriously just yet – they know how difficult it is to get a robot to do anything even remotely useful.

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New Google Chrome app lets you travel the galaxy and back

New Google Chrome app lets you travel the galaxy and back | Amazing Science |

While Google has provided several Chrome browser apps to show off what it’s capable of, its latest app could be the best yet. The company released a 100,000 Stars app today that allows you to look at all of the neighboring stars as seen from our own solar system. The app uses Chrome’s WebGL, CSS3D, and Web Audio to bring you an experience that’s similar to viewing the fictitious star chart navigation systems found in the spaceships of awesome sci-fi movies.

Each star is labeled by name, and clicking a name will pull up additional information about the star. Dismissing the text about the star will reveal a digital representation of what scientists believe the star looks like.

And while Google has provided a soundtrack for the app, I felt that the overall experience could be greatly enhanced if you let the ambient warp drive engine hum play in the background while you’re surfing through the universe.

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Microsoft’s plan to bring about the era of gesture control

Microsoft’s plan to bring about the era of gesture control | Amazing Science |

With its Kinect for Windows program, Microsoft wants to make it common to wave your arms at or speak to a computer. “We’re trying to encourage software developers to create a whole new class of app controlled by gesture and voice,” says Peter Zatloukal, head of engineering for the Kinect for Windows program.


Zatloukal says the result will be on a par with other big shifts in how we control computers. “We initially used keyboards, then the mouse and GUIs were a big innovation, now touch is a big part of people’s lives,” he says. “The progression will now be to voice and gesture.”


Health care, manufacturing, and education are all areas where Zatloukal expects to see Kinect for Windows succeed. Kinect for Windows equipment went on sale in February for $249 and is now available in 32 countries.


Jentronix is using it to help people with physical rehabilitation after a stroke. Freak’n Genius, offers gesture-based animation software.


Mark Bolas, an associate professor and director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Southern California, and his group are experimenting with using Kinect to track very subtle behaviors — monitoring the rise and fall of a person’s chest to measure breathing rate, for example. Displaying an indication of someone’s breathing rate during a video call allows others to understand a person better, he says, and can show when to start talking without interrupting.

Via RomanGodzich
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Staying Online After Death: Archive Your Entire Online Life With This Tool: Recollect

Staying Online After Death: Archive Your Entire Online Life With This Tool: Recollect | Amazing Science |

Excerpted from review article on Mashable:

"Recollect solves two problems at once by providing a simple tool to archive your online data and search through it later to re-discover your old posts.


The more information we share, the harder it can be to find any particular post later on and the more we have to lose if any of these networks ever disappear.


With Recollect, users can archive posts shared on Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Foursquare – along with any comments on those posts from other users — and download a Zip file of all that data at any time. Prices for the service range from $6/month for 5,000 archived photos, one monthly data download and one account per social network, to a premium $24/month account that covers 50,000 archived photos, weekly downloads and up to 5 accounts per website. There is also an option to try out the service for 30 days, which gives users the ability to archive and download all their online data once for free.


For the beta release, the team decided to narrow their focus to working with just the four social networks mentioned above and building a set of four key features into the service, including the ability to archive posts, download data, browse through the archive and search for specific keywords.


Recollect offers a novel solution to what we might call the re-discovery problem — helping users categorize and unearth their treasure trove of old posts.


The team hopes to continue improving on Recollect by building what Martin describes as a more “intelligent archive,” which will offer additional options for browsing and discovering older content.


The group also plans to incorporate more social networks into Recollect, including Facebook..."


Read full article here:


Check out it here:


Via Giuseppe Mauriello
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World's Fastest Superhuman title awarded to speed violinist

World's Fastest Superhuman title awarded to speed violinist | Amazing Science |
Violinist Ben Lee, who can play Flight of the Bumblebee at an average of 15 notes per second, is declared the quickest human on the planet.

Via The QI Elves
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At least one-third of marine species remain undescribed

At least one-third of marine species remain undescribed | Amazing Science |

At least one-third of the species that inhabit the world's oceans may remain completely unknown to science. That's despite the fact that more species have been described in the last decade than in any previous one, according to a report published online on November 15 in the Cell Press publication Current Biology that details the first comprehensive register of marine species of the world -- a massive collaborative undertaking by hundreds of experts around the globe.


The researchers estimate that the ocean may be home to as many as one million species in all -- likely not more. About 226,000 of those species have so far been described. There are another 65,000 species awaiting description in specimen collections.

"For the first time, we can provide a very detailed overview of species richness, partitioned among all major marine groups. It is the state of the art of what we know -- and perhaps do not know -- about life in the ocean," says Ward Appeltans of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

The findings provide a reference point for conservation efforts and estimates of extinction rates, the researchers say. They expect that the vast majority of unknown species -- composed disproportionately of smaller crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and sponges -- will be found this century.

Earlier estimates of ocean diversity had relied on expert polls based on extrapolations from past rates of species descriptions and other measures. Those estimates varied widely, suffering because there was no global catalog of marine species.



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