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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Region of brain identified that is responsible for nicotine withdrawal symptoms

Region of brain identified that is responsible for nicotine withdrawal symptoms | Amazing Science |

Headaches, anxiety, irritability—these and other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can significantly deter smokers from being able to kick the habit. Now, in what may be a significant step toward alleviating those symptoms, UMass Medical School neuroscientist Andrew R. Tapper, PhD, and colleagues have identified the region of the brain in which they originate.

“We were surprised to find that one population of neurons within a single brain region could actually control physical nicotine withdrawal behaviors,” said Dr. Tapper, associate professor of psychiatry and interim director of the Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute at UMMS.


The Tapper lab discovered that physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms are triggered by activation of GABAergic neurons (neurons that secrete GABA, the brain’s predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter), in the interpeduncular nucleus, an area deep in the midbrain that has recently been shown to be involved in nicotine intake. Their study was published in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Current Biology.


“Most of the work in the field has been focused on the immediate effects of nicotine, the addictive component in tobacco smoke, on reward circuits in the brain,” Tapper explained. “But much less is known regarding what happens when you take nicotine away from someone who has been smoking for a long time that causes all these terrible withdrawal symptoms. Our main goal was to understand what brain regions are activated—or deactivated—to cause nicotine withdrawal symptoms.


They did this through a series of experiments performed in mouse models with sophisticated neurochemistry and brain imaging methods, including recently developed optogenetics techniques in which specific neurons can be activated by light.


Most surprising was their discovery that nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be activated or deactivated independent of nicotine addiction. “When we activated the GABAergic neurons in the interpeduncular nucleus, mice suffered withdrawal symptoms even if they had no previous nicotine exposure,” Tapper noted.


These findings are promising because existing treatments intended to help people quit smoking are not always effective. “There are very few treatments to help people quit smoking,” Tapper said. “If you can dampen the activity of this brain region chemically during nicotine withdrawal then you would hopefully be able to help someone quit smoking because you could reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms that they are experiencing.”

Zayd El-Ali's curator insight, December 12, 2013 10:15 PM

One population of neurons in a section of the brain controls the symptoms of withdrawal. If this, based on the article, is true. Then a drug could be used to contain this area of the brain with these specific neurons in order to prevent the effects the withdrawal.  I included this article because the Importance of this new research can lead other scientist to build on the foundation provided, and even get one step closer for a cure to the effects of withdrawal. 

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Biologists find a crab with three eyes, two rostra, and a dorsal antenna-like structure

Biologists find a crab with three eyes, two rostra, and a dorsal antenna-like structure | Amazing Science |

First described by zoologist Charles Chilton in 1882, Amarinus lacustris is an omnivorous, freshwater spider crab found in rivers of south-eastern Australia, New Zealand and nearby islands. The species grows up to 1 cm wide and has an H-shaped groove on its back.


The malformed specimen was found in Hoteo River, a river that feeds into Kaipara Harbour, north of Manukau and Waitemata Harbours, near Auckland, New Zealand. It has three compound eyes and a third antenna-like structure on the back of its carapace.


“In New Zealand, Amarinus lacustris is the only freshwater crab and is common in a number of streams and rivers of the Auckland and Waikato Regions, and all specimens collected thus far have been normal,” Dr Stephen Moore from the University of Auckland with co-authors wrote in the paper published in the journal Arthropod Structure & Development.


They described the three-eyed mutant: “the lateral two eyes are situated in the outer angles which are formed between the lateral sides of the two rostra and the carapace margin, i.e. in the expected position. The third eye lies at the same horizontal level in the middle between the two lateral eyes, underneath the anterior opening of the notch between the two rostra. The median eye is slightly larger than the lateral ones and it has an oval shape with its large axis horizontally oriented.”

Malibu Divers's curator insight, November 17, 2013 10:58 AM

Checkout this 3-eyed crab

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Quantum 'world record' smashed: Quantum memory state held stable at RT for 39 min

Quantum 'world record' smashed: Quantum memory state held stable at RT for 39 min | Amazing Science |

A fragile quantum memory state has been held stable at room temperature for a "world record" 39 minutes - overcoming a key barrier to ultrafast computers.


"Qubits" of information encoded in a silicon system persisted for almost 100 times longer than ever before. Quantum systems are notoriously fickle to measure and manipulate, but if harnessed could transform computing. The new benchmark was set by an international team led by Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University, Canada.


"39 minutes may not seem very long. But these lifetimes are many times longer than previous experiments”. "This opens the possibility of truly long-term storage of quantum information at room temperature," said Prof Thewalt, whose achievement is detailed in the journal Science.

In conventional computers, "bits" of data are stored as a string of 1s and 0s.

Via Szabolcs Kósa
luiy's curator insight, November 16, 2013 12:48 PM

"Qubits" of information encoded in a silicon system persisted for almost 100 times longer than ever before.


Quantum systems are notoriously fickle to measure and manipulate, but if harnessed could transform computing.


The new benchmark was set by an international team led by Mike Thewalt of Simon Fraser University, Canada.

Continue reading the main story“Start Quote

"39 minutes may not seem very long. But these lifetimes are many times longer than previous experiments”

Stephanie SimmonsOxford University

"This opens the possibility of truly long-term storage of quantum information at room temperature," said Prof Thewalt, whose achievement is detailed in the journal Science.

In conventional computers, "bits" of data are stored as a string of 1s and 0s.


But in a quantum system, "qubits" are stored in a so-called "superposition state" in which they can be both 1s and 0 at the same time - enabling them to perform multiple calculations simultaneously.

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Wyss Institute at Harvard: "Watermark Ink" device (W-INK) wins R&D 100 Award

Wyss Institute at Harvard: "Watermark Ink" device (W-INK) wins R&D 100 Award | Amazing Science |

A device that can instantly identify unknown liquids based on their surface tension has been selected to receive the 2013 R&D 100 Award—known as “the Oscar of Innovation”—from R&D Magazine.


Invented in 2011 by a team of materials scientists and applied physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, the “Watermark Ink” (W-INK) device offers a cheap, fast, and portable way to perform quality control tests and detect liquid contaminants.


W-INK fits in the palm of a hand and requires no power source. It exploits the chemical and optical properties of precisely nanostructured materials to distinguish liquids by their surface tension.


Winners of the R&D 100 Awards are selected by an independent judging panel and by the editors of R&D Magazine, which covers cutting-edge technologies and innovations for research scientists, engineers, and technical experts around the world.

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Incredible Technology: How Future Space Missions May Hunt for Alien Planets

Incredible Technology: How Future Space Missions May Hunt for Alien Planets | Amazing Science |

NASA's Kepler space telescope revolutionized the study of alien worlds after launching in 2009, and a number of other missions now stand poised to carry the burgeoning field into the future.


Over the next decade, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) aim to launch a handful of spacecraft that should discover thousands of additionalexoplanets and characterize some of the most promising — the most apparently Earthlike — new finds in detail.


These future missions are all following in the footsteps of Kepler, whose observations have revealed that the Milky Way galaxy is jam-packed with alien planets. The instrument has spotted more than 3,500 planet candidates to date.


Kepler's original planet-hunting activities came to an end this past May when the second of its four orientation-maintaining reaction wheels failed, robbing the spacecraft of its ultra-precise pointing ability. But the instrument may continue its planet search in a modified and limited fashion, as part of a possible future mission dubbed K2.


NASA is expected to make a final decision about K2, and Kepler's ultimate fate, around the middle of next year. By then, the first member of the exoplanet new wave will already be aloft — Europe's Gaia mission.


Gaia will head to a gravitationally stable spot about 900,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth called the sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2. Over the next five years, the spacecraft will repeatedly measure the position, movement and brightness changes of more than 1 billion Milky Way stars — about 1 percent of the galaxy's total.


"This huge stellar census will provide the data needed to tackle an enormous range of important problems related to the origin, structure and evolutionary history of our galaxy," ESA officials write in a description of the Gaia mission.

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Harvard scientists invent the synaptic transistor that learns while it computes

Harvard scientists invent the synaptic transistor that learns while it computes | Amazing Science |

It doesn't take a Watson to realize that even the world's best supercomputers are staggeringly inefficient and energy-intensive machines.


Our brains have upwards of 86 billion neurons, connected by synapses that not only complete myriad logic circuits; they continuously adapt to stimuli, strengthening some connections while weakening others. We call that process learning, and it enables the kind of rapid, highly efficient computational processes that put Siri and Blue Gene to shame.


Materials scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have now created a new type of transistor that mimics the behavior of a synapse. The novel device simultaneously modulates the flow of information in a circuit and physically adapts to changing signals.


Exploiting unusual properties in modern materials, the synaptic transistor could mark the beginning of a new kind of artificial intelligence: one embedded not in smart algorithms but in the very architecture of a computer.


“There’s extraordinary interest in building energy-efficient electronics these days,” says principal investigator Shriram Ramanathan, associate professor of materials science at Harvard SEAS.


“Historically, people have been focused on speed, but with speed comes the penalty of power dissipation. With electronics becoming more and more powerful and ubiquitous, you could have a huge impact by cutting down the amount of energy they consume.”

The human mind, for all its phenomenal computing power, runs on roughly 20 Watts of energy (less than a household light bulb), so it offers a natural model for engineers.


“The transistor we’ve demonstrated is really an analog to the synapse in our brains,” says co-lead author Jian Shi, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS. “Each time a neuron initiates an action and another neuron reacts, the synapse between them increases the strength of its connection. And the faster the neurons spike each time, the stronger the synaptic connection. Essentially, it memorizes the action between the neurons.”

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New Invisibility Cloak Completely Conceals Objects

New Invisibility Cloak Completely Conceals Objects | Amazing Science |

Science may have just given us one of the greatest gifts foretold by science fiction: invisibility cloaking. The experimental device is thin and flexible and can be applied to objects of very different sizes. The announcement comes from Dr. George Eleftheriades from the University of Toronto’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

This is not the first attempt for a cloaking device; it has been a highly researched area for years. This past spring, Michigan Technological University announced a cloaking system that used a dielectric coating to reflect and distort electromagnetic radiation waves used to find objects. This new cloaking system, however, uses an ultra-thin layer of antennae which emits a signal to completely cancel out any reflection from radar, instead of merely distorting it.

Additionally, the invisibility cloak can be used to deceive detection devices by sending signals to make the hidden object seem bigger, smaller, or even in a completely different location. This is achieved by an active looping system from the antennae that are in tune with the device trying to locate it. This is done manually for now, but future versions may be able to automatically register the incoming frequency and adjust in order to cancel it.

Work on this project began around seven years ago, but early prototypes required thick coatings of metamaterials, which was not practical for large objects. The current cloaking system can easily be scaled to hide objects of any size. This has obvious implications for military stealth operations and surveillance, but it could also be used to improve communication signals by effectively “hiding” any obstacles that interfere with signal strength. 

This cloaking system currently  just works with radio waves, but the research team says that this technology could be further developed to create the same results with with terahertz radiation (the region between infrared and microwave radiation) and could even work with light waves.

Considering we weren’t even supposed to know about invisibility cloaking until 2152 when humans first make contact with the Romulans, this is an amazing technological advance.

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NASA Brings Earth Science Big Data to the Cloud with AWS

NASA Brings Earth Science Big Data to the Cloud with AWS | Amazing Science |

In a significant coupling of scientific research and big data, NASA and Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) are making a large collection of NASA climate and Earth science satellite data available to research and educational users through the AWS cloud. The system enhances research and educational opportunities for the U.S. geoscience community by promoting community-driven research, innovation and collaboration.

Via Thomas Faltin
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GSI: The Creation of New Ultra-Heavy Elements

GSI: The Creation of New Ultra-Heavy Elements | Amazing Science |

In experiments at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung accelerator facility scientists discovered a total of six new elements.


Chemical elements are produced in stars and in stellar explosions. Ultimately, these elements are the building blocks of all materials that surround us — including every atom of our bodies. However, the universe is also home to a large number of other atoms that do not occur on the Earth.


One of the key tasks of the researchers at GSI is to attempt to create previously unknown elements in the laboratory. For the creation of a new element, scientists use two elements existing on Earth of which the atomic nuclei added together have as many protons as the new element. They try to fuse the nuclei of the two elements together in order to create a new atomic nucleus much larger and heavier than the two original nuclei. For this purpose, scientists accelerate charged atoms – so-called ions – of the one element by means of a 120 m long linear accelerator to extremely high velocities of roughly 30,000 kilometers per second. Subsequently, the accelerated ions are “fired” at a very thin foil of the other element. In a very rare cases, e. g. once a week, the two elements fuse to form a new element.


By means of a very sensitive detector, the new element is being identified. Thereby it is decisive that the new element is not stable. It decays into another, lighter element already after splits of a second. During the decay process, it emits a characteristic alpha particle. This process is repeated several times. The detector can precisely measure these emitted alpha particles and thus clearly identify the new element.


In these experiments scientists at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum discovered the chemical elements with atomic numbers 107 to 112. The highest currently discovered element is 118. It is not clear whether any element can exist beyond that number.

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World's largest disease database will use artificial intelligence to find new cancer treatments

World's largest disease database will use artificial intelligence to find new cancer treatments | Amazing Science |
A new cancer database containing 1.7 billion experimental results will utilise artificial intelligence similar to the technology used to predict the weather to discover the cancer treatments of the future.


The system, called CanSAR, is the biggest disease database of its kind anywhere in the world and condenses more data than would be generated by 1 million years of use of the Hubble space telescope.

It is launched today (Monday, 11 November, 2013) and has been developed by researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, using funding from Cancer Research UK.


The new CanSAR database is more than double the size of a previous version and has been designed to cope with a huge expansion of data on cancer brought about by advances in DNA sequencing and other technologies.


The resource is being made freely available by The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Cancer Research UK, and will help researchers worldwide make use of vast quantities of data, including data from patients, clinical trials and genetic, biochemical and pharmacological research.


Although the prototype of CanSAR was on a much smaller scale, it attracted 26,000 unique users in more than 70 countries around the world, and earlier this year was used to identify 46 potentially 'druggable' cancer proteins that had previously been overlooked*.


Peer-reviewed scientific paper (NAR) about CanSAR:

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HAR regions: Fast-mutating DNA sequences shape the evolution of uniquely human traits

HAR regions: Fast-mutating DNA sequences shape the evolution of uniquely human traits | Amazing Science |
What does it mean to be human? According to scientists the key lies, ultimately, in the billions of lines of genetic code that comprise the human genome. The problem, however, has been deciphering that code.


"Advances in DNA sequencing and supercomputing have given us the power to understand evolution at a level of detail that just a few years ago would have been impossible," said Dr. Pollard, who is also a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF's) Institute for Human Genetics. "In this study, we found stretches of DNA that evolved much more quickly than others. We believe that these fast-evolving stretches were crucial to our human ancestors becoming distinct from our closest primate relatives."


These stretches are called human accelerated regions, or HARs, so-called because they mutate at a relatively fast rate. In addition, the majority of HARs don't appear to encode specific genes. The research team hypothesized that HARs instead acted as "enhancers," controlling when and for how long certain genes were switched on during embryonic development.


Through experiments in embryonic animal models, combined with powerful computational genomics analyses, the research team identified more than 2,600 HARs. Then, they created a program called EnhancerFinder to whittle down that list to just the HARs were likely to be enhancers.


"EnhancerFinder is a machine-learning algorithm that takes in basic genetic information -- a HAR sequence, known evolutionary patterns, other functional genomics data -- and returns a prediction of that HAR's function," explained Tony Capra, PhD, the study's lead author. "Using this approach, we predicted that nearly eight hundred HARs act as enhancers at a specific point during embryonic development. Confirming this prediction for several dozen HARs, our next goal was to see whether any of these HARs enhanced patterns of gene activation that were uniquely human."


Additional analyses revealed five such HARs, which were active in both human and chimpanzee genomes, but which activated genes in different embryonic regions. For example, the human versions of HARs 2xHAR.164 and 2xHAR.170 are active in a region of the brain between the midbrain and hindbrain, while the chimp versions are not. This so-called "gain of function" of these two HARs in human embryos may point to differences in the development of key brain regions such as the cerebellum, which is known to regulate not only motor control but may also regulate higher cognitive functions, such as language, fear and pleasure.


"These results, while preliminary, offer an unprecedented glimpse into how very recent changes to the human genome have modified the genetic programs that control embryonic development to potentially yield different results," said Dr. Capra. "We anticipate that if we were to look at the activity of HARs that are enhancers during later developmental stages, we would see even more differences between humans and chimpanzees."


"It's been 10 years since the Human Genome Project was declared 'complete,' but the amount of genomic knowledge we've gleaned since then -- in large part due to advances in bioinformatics and supercomputing -- have catapulted us far beyond what we thought we knew," added Dr. Pollard. "I'm confident that as we continue to dive deep into important regions such as HARs, we'll come ever closer to answering the question: what makes us human?'"

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Quantum Hall effect created using rings of light

Quantum Hall effect created using rings of light | Amazing Science |
Lattice of waveguides provides topological protection


A version of the quantum Hall effect (QHE) involving light rather than electrons has been created by physicists in the US. The team believes the demonstration could boost understanding of the QHE and perhaps lead to the development of better photonic circuits that use light to process information.


In recent years, physicists have sought mathematically analogous topological edge states that are easier to work with. Systems based on photons rather than electrons have drawn particular interest. However, light is not affected by a magnetic field and therefore researchers need to find another way of bending the photons. The idea of photonic topological states was first proposed in 2008 and first observed in 2009. However, these experiments still required high magnetic fields.


Then in 2011 Mohammad Hafezi and Jacob Taylor at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) of the University of Maryland and researchers at Harvard University proposed a true photonic topological system that would need no magnetic field. This would allow them, in principle, to be miniaturized for use in microelectronics.


This goal has been realized by Hafezi and colleagues and also by anindependent group at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. The latter group used an array of coupled helical waveguides to make a photonic lattice with topologically protected edge states that could not be scattered by imperfections.


Hafezi, Taylor and colleagues at JQI took a different approach based on a lattice of ring-shaped silicon waveguides placed just nanometres apart, which allow photons to tunnel between them. To create robust topological edge states, the researchers needed something that would have the same effect on photons that a magnetic field has on electrons.


This role is played by the phase change acquired by a photon as it travels around a ring-shaped silicon waveguide. "When an electron goes around a magnetic flux it acquires a phase called the Aharanov–Bohm phase," explains Hafezi. "If I have another particle – even if it's not charged – that goes around a closed loop and acquires a phase, it looks as though that particle is feeling some magnetic field."


To confirm the existence of edge states, the researchers injected photons in one corner of the lattice and found that they propagated around the sides to a collection point at the corner. To check the robustness of these states, they removed a ring and watched as the photons made a neat detour around the defect before continuing along the edge – just like a QHE edge state.


Beyond studying the QHE, the researchers believe their work could allow the precise manipulation of photons in circuits, something that is necessary to make optical analogues of electronic components. "There is no specific proposal," says Hafezi, "but now, with these skills, we have more control on the routing of photons within an array. So we hope that this will give us more knobs to tune and potentially to do logical computation with photons."

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Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies

Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies | Amazing Science |
A leaked draft of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that climate change could reduce output and send prices higher in a period when global food demand is expected to soar.


In a departure from an earlier assessment, the scientists concluded that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effects on crops in some places, but that globally they will make it harder for crops to thrive — perhaps reducing production over all by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, compared with what it would be without climate change.


And, the scientists say, they are already seeing the harmful effects in some regions. The warnings come in a leaked draft of a report under development by a United Nations panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The document is not final and could change before it is released in March.

The report also finds other sweeping impacts from climate change already occurring across the planet, and warns that these are likely to intensify as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise. The scientists describe a natural world in turmoil as plants and animals colonize new areas to escape rising temperatures, and warn that many could become extinct.

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Newest Hack: IBM makes Watson available to the average programmer via API

Newest Hack: IBM makes Watson available to the average programmer via API | Amazing Science |
IBM has upped the ante in the API game by making its Watson question-answering system available as a service. That’s right, Watson could soon power your smartphone app.


IBM didn’t have to flaunt its debatable cloud dominance over Amazon Web Services on the sides of public buses if it wanted to upstage the cloud kingpin at its user conference this week — Big Blue could have just led with the news that its famous, Jeopardy!-champ-destroying Watson system is now available as a cloud service.


That’s right: Developers who want to incorporate Watson’s ability to understand natural language and provide answers need only have their applications make a REST API call to IBM’s new Watson Developers Cloud. “It doesn’t require that you understand anything about machine learning other than the need to provide training data,” Rob High, IBM’s CTO for Watson, said in a recent interview about the new platform.


More on the the details later, but first the big picture. If IBM actually delivers a workable cloud platform around Watson and developers actually take advantage of it to build new, smart applications.


IBM stands to make money from the Watson Developers Cloud but the primary goal is to create a large community of developers in the world of cognitive computing — “what we believe is the dominant form of computing in the future,” High said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that this is too big and important to hold to our [ourselves],” he noted.


Indeed, IBM has been trying to grow the community and capabilities of cognitive computing, even beyond what Watson can do around understanding language. The company recently launched a university partnership that focuses on numerous aspects of cognitive computing, including the field of deep learning that is driving significant advances in computer vision and other facets of text analysis and natural language processing. And IBM has for years been mapping brains and working on microchips that mimic the brain’s architecture.


The real beauty of these types of systems is not just in the intelligence of the computers, but also in how they affect the thought processes of people using them, High said. He noted an early Watson user who learned pretty quickly after using Watson that he had been asking the wrong questions of his data all along.


“When you get a very rapid response to our questions, we drive our level of concentration much more deeply,” High explained. “And in concentrating more deeply, we think about things we haven’t thought of before.”

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The Red Edge of Purple Bacteria and the Search for Alien Life Signature in Space

The Red Edge of Purple Bacteria and the Search for Alien Life Signature in Space | Amazing Science |

When Earth was ruled by purple bacteria, its bio-signature would still have been recognisable, say astrobiologists who think similar signs might be visible on other planets.


In the 1980s, when NASA built the Galileo probe destined for Jupiter, the plan was to launch it in the cargo bay of the space shuttle complete with a powerful booster rocket that would send it directly on its way to the giant planet. But after the Challenger tragedy in 1986, the safety review that followed concluded that it would not be a good idea to place an unlit rocket inside any future shuttle. And since no other rocket was powerful enough to lift the space probe and its booster, NASA had to find another way of getting Galileo to Jupiter.


The solution was to send Galileo around Venus, back around Earth and back to Venus again before catapulting it on its way towards Jupiter. This new mission profile gave the mission scientists an idea. Galileo, they realized, would be the first spacecraft to fly past Earth on its way to somewhere else. And that gave them a unique opportunity to use Galileo’s powerful suite of instruments to look for signs of life on the home planet.


Astrobiologists have always been keenly interested in finding signs of life on other planets. The new mission would provide a powerful control experiment of their capabilities. In the event, Galileo gathered a great deal of evidence that pointed to something interesting happening on the surface of Earth. The results, said the Galileo team, “are strongly suggestive of life on Earth.”


One of the more interesting features was in the spectrum of light reflected from the surface. The team noted that a pigment on the surface strongly absorbed light in the red part of the spectrum. This has since become known as “the red edge” and astrobiologists think that if life on other planets is anything like that on Earth, then a similar feature ought to be visible in the light reflected from life-bearing exoplanets too.

So what kind of signature might this exovegetation produce? Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Esther Sanromá at the Universidad de La Laguna in Spain and a few pals who have calculated what Earth’s signature would have looked like during the Archaen era 3 billion years ago when the planet was probably ruled by purple bacteria.


At that time, the Sun was only about 80 per cent as bright as it is today and Earth was very different place. The atmosphere was dominated by nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor.


Life had sprung into existence just 800 million years earlier and the first photosynthetic life was a purple bacteria that did not produce oxygen as a by-product—hence the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere.


Since these bacteria absorb light, this ought to have been visible in the spectrum of light reflected from the surface. So what kind of “edge” would this have produced?

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Organic semiconductor transistor made of a single nanoparticle achieves highest mobility yet

Organic semiconductor transistor made of a single nanoparticle achieves highest mobility yet | Amazing Science |

Organic semiconducting devices have many positive attributes, such as their low cost, high flexibility, light weight, and ease of processing. However, one drawback of organic semiconductors is that they generally have a low electron mobility, resulting in a weak current and poor conductivity.


In a new study, scientists from Taiwan have designed and built an organic semiconductor transistor with a mobility that is 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than that of conventional organic semiconductor transistors. The benefits of a high mobility could extend to a wide range of applications, such as organic LED displays, organic solar cells, and organic field-effect transistors.

The biggest reason for low electron mobility in conventional organic semiconductors is electron scattering due to structural defects in the form of grain boundaries. By designing an organic semiconductor transistor containing only a single grain, the scientists could avoid the problem of grain boundary scattering.


In their experiments, the researchers demonstrated that a device containing a single organic nanoparticle (perylene tetracarboxylic dianhydride, PTCDA) embedded in a nanopore and surrounded by electrodes achieves the highest electron mobility value to date by 1 order of magnitude, and is 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than the values reported for conventional organic semiconductor transistors made of polycrystalline films. The new device's mobility values are 0.08 cm2/Vs at room temperature and 0.5 cm2/Vs at a cool 80 K, which are approaching the intrinsic mobility of PTCDA.

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Interactive Live Holography - From Science Fiction to Science Fact

Introducing live medical holography - the world's first 3D holographic display and interface system, initially for medical imaging applications. To learn more visit:

Via Szabolcs Kósa
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Superconducting video camera to capture single photon data from ultraviolet, visible, and IR light

Superconducting video camera to capture single photon data from ultraviolet, visible, and IR light | Amazing Science |

The ARCONS spectophotometer captures single photons to capture wavelength and time data from ultiraviolet, visible, and infrared light in high-speed video.


Almost every imaging device on the planet (or in orbit, for that matter) sees the world in black and white: incoming photons hit the sensor, knock electrons loose, and generate a current. If the incoming photon’s energy is anywhere in the detector’s sensitivity range, the result is the same: the pixel is white.


To see color, imagers (including the human eye) integrate multiple black-and-white images made with defined parts of the spectrum. They either split the sensor field, using overlapping arrays of sensors with different filters to simultaneously make separate images—from red, green, and blue, for example—or they split the spectrum to project successive single-wavelength images on a single sensor field.


The Array Camera for Optical to Near IR Spectrophotometry (ARCONS) approaches the problem from a different angle, simultaneously capturing time and energy (and so wavelength) information from a single photon.


"What we have made is essentially a hyperspectral video camera with no intrinsic noise," says Ben Mazin, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Mazin—with UCSB colleagues and collaborators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Oxford University, and Fermilab—is developing the ARCONS device for astronomical observation.  "On a pixel-per-pixel basis, it's a quantum leap from semiconductor detectors; it's as big a leap going from film to semiconductors as it is going from semiconductors to these superconductors. This allows all kinds of really interesting instruments based on this technology."


The heart of ARCONS is a 60-nanometer-thick layer of titanium nitride (TiN) carried on a silicon base. Depending on the ratio of nitrogen to titanium, the layer becomes superconducting at about 1 Kelvin. (As the proportion of nitrogen decreases, the superconducting transition temperature and band-gap energies get lower; consequently, the imager's sensitivity to incoming photons increases. At its tiniest, the band gap of the superconducting TiN is about three orders of magnitude smaller than in a typical semiconductor.)


The TiN layer is etched into a 44 x 46 pixel array, and each pixel gets its own individually tuned microwave resonator and a microlens. The ensemble is enclosed in a lens-topped Dewar jar cooled to 0.1 K. When a photon strikes the sensor surface, is sends a ripple through the superconductor, breaking up the paired electrons—the Cooper pairs—that carry superconducting currents. The more energetic the photon, the more Cooper pairs are divided. Disrupting these pairs alters the impedance of the pixel. This electrical change, in turn, shifts the amplitude and phase of the pixel’s resonance in proportion to the number of Cooper-pair disruptions.


The researchers use a microwave frequency comb to interrogate and read out all 2024 pixels over a single microwave channel. Each pixel can be read about 2500 times per second, accurately seeing colors that range from the ultraviolet (100 nm) through the visible spectrum and into the infrared (longer than 5000 nm). CCD sensors, by contrast, typically detect light from 300 to 1000 nm—and only in a black and white.


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The Most Extreme Weather Patterns On Different Planets In the Solar System

The Most Extreme Weather Patterns On Different Planets In the Solar System | Amazing Science |

Our Solar System is home to some fairly extreme weather. The weather on Earth is far nicer than on any other planet in our solar system. Sure, you might have to carry an umbrella sometimes and the bottoms of your pants get all wet, and the wind kicks around pollen which can cause pesky allergies. But then you don't have to worry about sulfuric acid falling out of the sky, which is nice, and many other instant-death weather patterns.

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Strange Nanophotonic Materials Bend and Trap Light to Make Iridenscent Colors

Strange Nanophotonic Materials Bend and Trap Light to Make Iridenscent Colors | Amazing Science |

Normally, the colors we perceive are determined by the wavelengths of light reflected by objects in the world around us. But not all surfaces reflect light the same way. Picture an iridescent butterfly, for example. It might look drab from one direction, but explode into bright yellows or purples from another. That's because of microscopic structures that alter the way light bounces off the butterfly's wings.


At the NanoPhotonics Centre at the University of Cambridge, scientists are tinkering with tiny structures like the ones in butterfly wings to create crazy new materials that manipulate light and change color in strange ways.


“A lot of this stuff is not completely mainstream,” said Jeremy Baumberg, who directs the center. “People think it’s a bit weird.”


During a recent visit to Cambridge, I sat down with Baumberg to talk about some of the projects he and his colleagues -- engineers, physicists, chemists, materials scientists, and biologists -- are working on. This gallery shows off a few highlights.


The secrets behind these multicolored materials lie in the tiny nanostructures they’re made from: spheres, helices, tangled gyroids, lattices, super-thin membranes, and stacks. “The nice thing about all these materials is they’re a very visual example of nanotechnology,” Baumberg said. “The features and the color all come from structure.”

Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc
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A scientific first: Photons detected without changing their quantum state

A scientific first: Photons detected without changing their quantum state | Amazing Science |

One of the cornerstones of quantum theory is the principle that you cannot measure any property of an object without affecting the object itself. Physicists, however, have now devised a way to detect single photons of visible light without changing any of the information that they carry. Others had done the same with microwave photons, but this is the first time that it has been done in the part of the spectrum that could matter for a future 'quantum Internet'.

The conventional way to detect a single particle of light is to catch it with a sensor, absorbing its energy but destroying the particle in the process. In recent years, physicists have developed ways to extract only part of the information carried by a quantum particle such as a photon, thus affecting its quantum state without completely destroying it — a set of methods known as weak measurement.

But applications such as quantum networks, which promise to transport data with unbreakable encryption, require delicate quantum states to be transmitted without any disturbance. Quantum networks encode information in quantum bits, or qubits, which can occupy multiple states simultaneously as if they were living separate histories in parallel universes at the same time. Thus, unlike the information-carrying bits in conventional computers, qubits can be in a superposition of both '0' and '1' at the same time. But any disturbance will force the qubit to pick one of the two states, destroying the richer information.

To do this, Ritter and his colleagues set up an optical cavity consisting of two mirrors facing each other just half a millimetre apart, which can confine between them photons of specific 'resonant' energies. Inside, the team trapped a single atom in a superposition of two states, one of which was resonant with the cavity. An atom in this resonant state prevents photons of the same energy from entering the cavity.

When the team fired a photon at the cavity, the atom’s dual personality caused two things to happen at once. In one of the 'parallel universes' of its superposition, the one in which the atom was resonant with the cavity, the photon did not enter: it just bounced back from the outside of one of the mirrors. In the other parallel universe, the photon entered the cavity, bounced between the two mirrors, and then exited again the same way it came in. The overall quantum state of the photon was not affected, but the state of the atom was: The phase between the coupled and the uncoupled state was shifted by 180 degrees. By reading this shift, the researchers could detect the passage of the photon, explains Ritter.


Serge Haroche, a physicist at the Collège de France in Paris, pioneered a similar technique in the 1990s as part of research for which he went on to win a Nobel prize in 2012. However, he and his collaborators were able to achieve the feat only with photons in the microwave range, which are not suitable for quantum communications.

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Richard Feynman: The Eye of a Bee

Richard Feynman: The Eye of a Bee | Amazing Science |

The human eye is not the only kind of eye. In vertebrates, almost all eyes are essentially like the human eye. However, in lower animals there are many other kinds of eyes: eye spots, various eye cups, and other less sensitive things, which we have no time to discuss. But there is one other highly developed eye among the invertebrates, the compound eye of insects. Most insects having large compound eyes also have various additional simpler eyes as well. A bee is an insect whose vision has been studied in detail. It is easy to study the properties of the vision of bees because they are attracted to honey, and we can make experiments in which we identify the honey by putting it on blue paper or red paper, and see which one they come to. By this method some very interesting things have been discovered about the vision of the bee.


In the first place, in trying to measure how acutely bees could see the color difference between two pieces of “white” paper, some researchers found they were not very good, and others found they were fantastically good. Even if the two pieces of white paper were almost exactly the same, the bees could still tell the difference. The experimenters used zinc white for one piece of paper and lead white for the other, and although these look exactly the same to us, the bee could easily distinguish them, because they reflect a different amount in the ultraviolet. In this way it was discovered that the bee’s eye is sensitive over a wider range of the spectrum than is our own.


Our eye works from 7000 angstroms to 4000 angstroms, from red to violet, but the bee’s can see down to 3000 angstroms into the ultraviolet! This makes for a number of different interesting effects. In the first place, bees can distinguish between many flowers which to us look alike. Of course, we must realize that the colors of flowers are not designed for oureyes, but for the bee; they are signals to attract the bees to a specific flower. We all know that there are many “white” flowers.


Apparently white is not very interesting to the bees, because it turns out that all of the white flowers have different proportions of reflection in the ultraviolet; they do not reflect one hundred percent of the ultraviolet as would a true white. All the light is not coming back, the ultraviolet is missing, and that is a color, just as, for us, if the blue is missing, it comes out yellow. So, all the flowers are colored for the bees. However, we also know that red cannot be seen by bees. Thus we might expect that all red flowers should look black to the bee. Not so! A careful study of red flowers shows, first, that even with our own eye we can see that a great majority of red flowers have a bluish tinge because they are mainly reflecting an additional amount in the blue, which is the part that the bee sees. Furthermore, experiments also show that flowers vary in their reflection of the ultraviolet over different parts of the petals, and so on. So if we could see the flowers as bees see them they would be even more beautiful and varied!


It has been shown, however, that there are a few red flowers which do not reflect in the blue or in the ultraviolet, and would, therefore, appear black to the bee! This was of quite some concern to the people who worry about this matter, because black does not seem like an interesting color, since it is hard to tell from a dirty old shadow. It actually turned out that these flowers were not visited by bees, these are the flowers that are visited by hummingbirds, and hummingbirds can see the red!


Another interesting aspect of the vision of the bee is that bees can apparently tell the direction of the sun by looking at a patch of blue sky, without seeing the sun itself. We cannot easily do this. If we look out the window at the sky and see that it is blue, in which direction is the sun? The bee can tell, because the bee is quite sensitive to the polarization of light, and the scattered light of the sky is polarized. There is still some debate about how this sensitivity operates. Whether it is because the reflections of the light are different in different circumstances, or the bee’s eye is directly sensitive, is not yet known.


It is also said that the bee can notice flicker up to 200 oscillations per second, while we see it only up to 20. The motions of bees in the hives are very quick; the feet move and the wings vibrate, but it is very hard for us to see these motions with our eye. However, if we could see more rapidly we would be able to see the motion. It is probably very important to the bee that its eye has such a rapid response.

Dr. Stefan Gruenwald's insight:

Many Richard Feynman lectures are now online:

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First remote virtual surgery performed via Google Glass

First remote virtual surgery performed via Google Glass | Amazing Science |

A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) surgical team has performed one of the first surgeries using a telepresence augmented reality technology from VIPAAR in conjunction with Google Glass.


The combination of the two technologies could be an important step toward the development of useful, practical telemedicine.

VIPAAR (Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality) is commercializing a UAB-developed technology that provides real-time, two-way, interactive video conferencing.


UAB orthopedic surgeon Brent Ponce, M.D., performed a shoulder replacement surgery Sept. 12 at UAB Highlands Hospital in Birmingham. Watching and interacting with Ponce via the VIPAAR technology was Phani Dantuluri, M.D., from his office in Atlanta.


The VIPAAR technology allowed Dantuluri to see exactly what Ponce saw in the operating room and introduce his hands or instruments into the virtual surgical field.


At the same time, Ponce saw Dantuluri’s hands and instruments in his Google Glass display, along with his own field of view, as a merged-reality environment.


The two surgeons were able to discuss the case in a truly interactive fashion since Dantuluri could watch Ponce perform the surgery and simultaneously introduce his hands or instruments into Ponce’s view as if they were standing next to each other during the case.


“It’s real-time, real-life, right there, as opposed to a Skype or video conference call, which allows for dialogue back and forth but is not really interactive,” said Ponce.


UAB physicians say this kind of technology could greatly enhance patient care by allowing a veteran surgeon to remotely provide valuable expertise to less experienced surgeons.

Via Ray and Terry's
Marc Kneepkens's curator insight, November 14, 2013 5:50 PM

A great example of how Google Glass technology will bring new concepts to many industries.

Femina Gowtham's curator insight, February 6, 2015 6:27 AM

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Astronomers reveal contents of mysterious black hole jets

Astronomers reveal contents of mysterious black hole jets | Amazing Science |
An international team of astronomers has answered a long-standing question about the enigmatic jets emitted by black holes. Jets are narrow beams of matter spat out at high speed from near a central object, like a black hole.


Jets are narrow beams of matter spat out at high speed from near a central object, like a black hole. "Although they have been observed for decades, we're still not sure what they are made of, or what powers them," ESO astronomer Dr María Díaz Trigo, lead author of the study, said.

The team studied the radio waves and X-rays emitted by a small black hole a few times the mass of the Sun. The black hole in question was known to be active, but the team's radio observations did not show any jets, and the X-ray spectrum didn't reveal anything unusual.


However, a few weeks later, the team took another look and this time saw radio emissions corresponding to the sudden appearance of these jets, and even more interestingly, lines had appeared in the X-ray spectrum -- the tell-tale signature of ordinary atoms -- around the black hole.


"Intriguingly, we found the lines were not where they should be, but rather were shifted significantly," Dr James Miller Jones from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), who led the radio observations, said.


The same effect occurs when a siren from a vehicle changes pitch as it moves towards or away from us, as the sound wave is shortened or lengthened by the movement.


"It led us to conclude the particles were being accelerated to fast speeds in the jets, one directed towards Earth, and the other one in the opposite direction," team member Dr Simone Migliari from the University of Barcelona said.


Dr Miller-Jones said this is the first strong evidence of such particles in jets from a typical small black hole. "We've known for a long time that jets contain electrons, but haven't got an overall negative charge, so there must be something positively charged in them too," Dr Miller Jones said.

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Marine worm produces dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of light released into seawater

Marine worm produces dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of light released into seawater | Amazing Science |

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and their colleagues are unraveling the mechanisms behind a little-known marine worm that produces a dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of blue light released into seawater.


Found around the world in muddy environments, from shallow bays to deeper canyons, the light produced by the Chaetopterus marine worm—commonly known as the "parchment tube worm" due to the opaque, cocoon-like cylinders where it makes its home—is secreted as a slimy bioluminescent mucus.


The mucus, which the worms are able to secrete out of any part of their body, hasn't been studied by scientists in more than 50 years. But two recent studies have helped reignite the quest to decode the inner workings of the worm's bioluminescence.


In one study, published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, Scripps Associate Research Scientist Dimitri Deheyn and his colleagues at Georgetown University describe details of Chaetopterus's light production as never before. Through data derived from experiments conducted inside Scripps Oceanography's Experimental Aquarium, the researchers characterized specific features of the worm's light, tracing back its generation to a specific "photoprotein" tied to bioluminescence.

"The fact that the light is produced as a long glow without direct oxygen consumption is attractive for a range of future biotechnological applications," added Deheyn, whose current work focuses on identifying the specific protein(s) involved in the light production.


The present study, however, focused on the general biochemistry and optical properties of the light production. "We have shown that the mucus produces a long-lasting glow of blue light, which is unique for this environment where bioluminescence is usually produced as short-lived flashes of light in the green spectrum, especially for benthic (seafloor) species," said Deheyn, who added that green travels farthest and is therefore the easiest to detect in shallow coastal environments.


As for the light's ecological function, the researchers speculate that the luminous mucus may serve as a trap to attract prey, a deterrent to ward off certain unwelcome guests into the worm's living areas (the glowing mucus could stick to an intruder, making it more visible to its own predators), or possibly serve as a substance to build the worms' flaky, tube-shaped homes.

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