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How Bats Can Help Scientists Design Better Robots

How Bats Can Help Scientists Design Better Robots | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Bats are great at hunting down prey via echolocation, in which their ultrasonic chirps bounce off anything in the air. Specialized ear designs and other features detect the returning sounds, helping the bats determine the location of a moving target. But what about when the target is still?

 

Bats have been observed seeking out and catching inert insects hiding amid clutter, and finally scientists think they’ve figured out how the animals do it. The flapping motion of a bat moves the air sufficiently to ruffle the wings of their insect prey, and this trifling perturbation can be detected. Understanding the way bats do this could help improve biomimetic sensors, according to Roman Kuc, professor of electrical engineering at Yale University, and his colleague/son Victor Kuc.

 

The father-son team filmed a common big-eared bat, Micronycteris microtis, with a high-speed camera. The bat hovered over a completely still dragonfly sitting on a leaf, and was able to detect it and pick it up. Watching the playback in slow motion, the Kucs noticed the dragonfly’s wings move ever so slightly in the air current caused by the flapping bat. The dragonfly wings moved in sync with the bat wings. The Kucs then made a model of the induced wing movements and how they affected the returning echoes, according to Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

 

To do it, they took a real dragonfly, plastic leaves and a robotic sonar system to generate sound pulses. They used an airbrush to puff air at the dragonfly, simulating the beating bat wings. The resulting echo waveforms gave it away: The leaf didn’t really ruffle, but the dragonfly wings did. The Kucs say that bats can figure out the difference, and use it to detect the location of prey that is otherwise silent and totally still.

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The Impacts of Megacities on Air Pollution and World Climate

The Impacts of Megacities on Air Pollution and World Climate | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

As of 2008, for the first time, the majority of the world’s population is living in urban areas, many in megacities (with populations over 10 million). Megacities are not only the center of growing economies, but are also large sources of air pollutants and climate-forcing agents. Under this initiative an assessment has been written that for the first time summarizes the current knowledge around atmospheric chemistry in megacities in Africa, Asia, South America, North America, and Europe. The assessment also summarizes past and current research projects on this topic such as MEGAPOLI, CityZen, ICARTT, CalNex, MILAGRO, CareBeijing, PRIDE-PRD, and IMPACT. Finally the report will identify knowledge gaps on atmospheric chemistry in megacities. IGAC plans to provide updates to this assessment every 4 to 5 years.

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The eyes and brain have it: Seeing ultraviolet and exploring more colors

The eyes and brain have it: Seeing ultraviolet and exploring more colors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

One of the enduring commonalities across most human societies is the belief that our eyes are a window into the immutable truth of the universe. Eyewitnesses are accorded special status in trials, despite repeated studies demonstrating how fallible such on-the-scene reports can be. The idea that sight conveys reality is enshrined in everything from dusty myths and sacred texts to modern-day cop shows. As a result, it’s equal parts unsettling and interesting when we get a glimpse of how fluid our shared capability of vision can be.

 

Former Air Force Officer and engineer Alek Komar has spent a considerable amount of time detailing how his color vision changed following major cataract surgery. Cataracts are known to have a detrimental effect on color perception, but in Komar’s case, he didn’t just regain his old acuity: The Crystalens implant he received has given him the ability to see into the ultraviolet spectrum. While friends and family were initially skeptical of such claims, Komar secured the help of an HP engineer with access to a Monochromator; a device capable of projecting light in 10nm wavelength increments. Test results confirmed his perception. Anecdotal evidence indicates that he’s not the only Crystalens patient to see ultraviolet wavelengths following the procedure.

 

Cases like Alek Komar demonstrate that humans can perceive ultraviolet light and are evidence of both the brain’s plasticity and the fantastic complexity of color processing. Ultraviolet rays are normally blocked by the eye’s lens; they aren’t ignored by the retina or somehow filtered out by the brain.

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Sharks are color-blind and see the world as 50 shades of grey

Sharks are color-blind and see the world as 50 shades of grey | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Sharks are color blind, a new molecular study by Australian scientists has confirmed, filling a gap in our knowledge about the evolution of color vision. Previous studies looked at opsins, which are light-sensitive proteins found in the photoreceptor cells of the retina. Rod opsins are used in low light and produce a black and white image, while cone opsins are used in bright light, and often to see colors. Two or more different types of cone opsins are needed for color vision. While some ray species - close relatives of sharks - have multiple cone opsins as well as rods, studies in various shark species suggested they had only a single cone visual pigment.

 

To check whether this really was the case, Dr Susan Theiss, from the University of Queensland, and colleagues isolated the visual opsin genes from two wobbegong shark species: the spotted wobbegong Orectolobus maculatus and the ornate wobbegong O. ornatus. Their findings confirm that wobbegongs possess only one cone opsin, meaning they see the world in shades of grey.

 

It is known that the earliest vertebrates already had color vision, but it has been lost by some groups over the course of evolution. Today most fish have color vision, however, it has been lost in many large aquatic predators including sharks, whales, seals and dolphins. Sharks rely on different senses depending on distance, with vision being important when they are closing in on prey, navigating, avoiding predators and finding mates.

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Dyson sphere hunt using Kepler data - Looking for Kardashev Type II civilizations

Dyson sphere hunt using Kepler data - Looking for Kardashev Type II civilizations | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Freeman Dyson hypothesized the vast structures over fifty years ago that could ring or completely enclose their parent star. Such structures, the work of a Kardashev Type II civilization — one capable of drawing on the entire energy output of its star — would power the most power-hungry society and offer up reserves of energy that would support its continuing expansion into the cosmos, if it so chose.

 

Marcy’s plan is to look at a thousand Kepler systems for telltale evidence of such structures by examining changes in light levels around the parent star. Interestingly, the grant of $200,000 goes beyond the Dyson sphere search to look into possible laser traffic among extraterrestrial civilizations. Says Marcy: "Technological civilizations may communicate with their space probes located throughout the galaxy by using laser beams, either in visible light or infrared light. Laser light is detectable from other civilizations because the power is concentrated into a narrow beam and the light is all at one specific color or frequency. The lasers outshine the host star at the color of the laser."

 

The topic of Dyson spheres calls Richard Carrigan to mind. The retired Fermilab physicist has studied data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) to identify objects that radiate waste heat in ways that imply a star completely enclosed by a Dyson sphere. This is unconventional SETI in that it presumes no beacons deliberately announcing themselves to the cosmos, but instead looks for signs of civilization that are the natural consequences of physics.

 

Carrigan has estimated that a star like the Sun, if enclosed with a shell at the radius of the Earth, would re-radiate its energies at approximately 300 Kelvin. Marcy will turn some of the thinking behind what Carrigan calls ‘cosmic archaeology’ toward stellar systems we now know to have planets, thanks to the work of Kepler. Ultimately, Carrigan’s ‘archaeology’ could extend to planetary atmospheres possibly marked by industrial activity, or perhaps forms of large-scale engineering other than Dyson spheres that may be acquired through astronomical surveys and remain waiting in our data to be discovered. All this reminds us once again how the model for SETI is changing.


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Bacterial survival strategies suggest rethinking of cancer cooperativity

Bacterial survival strategies suggest rethinking of cancer cooperativity | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Despite decades of a much improved understanding of cancer biology, we are still baffled by questions regarding the deadliest traits of malignancy: metastatic colonization, dormancy and relapse, and the rapid evolution of multiple drug and immune resistance. New ideas are needed to resolve these critical issues. Relying on finding and demonstrating parallels between collective behavior capabilities of cancer cells and that of bacteria, we suggest communal behaviors of bacteria as a valuable model system for new perspectives and research directions. Understanding the ways in which bacteria thrive in competitive habitats and their cooperative strategies for surviving extreme stress can shed light on cooperativity in tumorigenesis and portray tumors as societies of smart communicating cells. This may translate into progress in fathoming cancer pathogenesis. We outline new experiments to test the cancer cooperativity hypothesis and reason that cancer may be outsmarted through its own ‘social intelligence’.

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Transhuman Week: exploring the frontiers of human enhancement

Transhuman Week: exploring the frontiers of human enhancement | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Wired.co.uk seeks to navigate the thorny ethical, medical and social issues associated with using technology to enhance the human body and mind through a series of features, galleries and guest posts.

 

http://www.wired.co.uk/topics/transhuman-week


Via Szabolcs Kósa, Yvan Marechal
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How far backwards in time is it possible to see?

How far backwards in time is it possible to see? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

"The furthest back in time that we are currently actively seeing is

 

13,7 _ 0,15 billion years -- 379,000 years

 

The 13.7 billion years is the currently measured time to the Big Bang and 379,000 years is the number of years after the Big Bang when the universe cooled off enough to become transparent. The (mostly visible light) photons from the hot plasma that filled the universe at that time have been traveling since then and have now been red-shifted down into the microwave range. This is the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation that has been very accurately measured by the WMAP satellite.

 

We will not be able to see back further in time (to before 379,000 years after the Big Bang) with photons since the universe was opaque to photons before that time.

 

However, if we are ever able to use neutrino telescopes to measure very low energy neutrinos (which is probably impossible), then we would be able to see back to a few minutes after the Big Bang. Finally, it is also theoretically possible to see back to roughly seconds after the Big Bang if we could measure the possible gravitational waves that could have been generated at the end of the inflationary period of the Big Bang at that time."

 

See also:

 

If there was a mirror a million light years away and I looked at via telescope, how far back would I see in the past?


http://www.quora.com/If-there-was-a-mirror-a-million-light-years-away-and-I-looked-at-via-telescope-how-far-back-would-I-see-in-the-past


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Slime molds have a spacial memory without a brain

Slime molds have a spacial memory without a brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It's long been known that some insects, such as ants, navigate by leaving pheromone trails behind them, challenging the assumption that navigation requires learning or a sophisticated spatial awareness. But this is the first time it's been demonstrated that even an organism without a nervous system can navigate a complex environment with the help of externalised memory.

 

The process used by the slime molds, say the researchers, is similar to the way robots can navigate without a programmed map or the ability to build one. Instead, they respond only to feedback from their immediate environment to navigate obstacles and avoid becoming trapped.

 

The team of scientists based its test on one commonly used in robotics, requiring the slime mold to navigate its way out of a U-shaped barrier. As the slime mould (Physarum polycephalum) moves, it leaves behind a thick mat of non-living, translucent, extracellular slime. When foraging, the slime mold avoids areas that it has already 'slimed' and explored.

 

"We have shown for the first time that a single-celled organism with no brain uses an external spatial memory to navigate through a complex environment," says Christopher Reid from the University's School of Biological Sciences.

 

"We then upped the ante for the slime molds by challenging them with the U-shaped trap problem to test their navigational ability in a more complex situation than foraging. We found that, as we had predicted, its success was greatly dependent on being able to apply its external spatial memory to navigate its way out of the trap." It might be argued that slime molds have enough to deal with in life without being forced to navigate mazes. They form the exclusive diet of three types of beetle, for example: Agathidium bushi, A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi.

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Should we first terraform Mars or Venus?

Should we first terraform Mars or Venus? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

As a future terraforming species, we take it for granted that Mars will be our first megaproject. But while transforming the Red Planet into something more hospitable for life seems the most logical — if not easiest — first step towards colonizing the solar system, it may actually make more sense to tackle our sister planet first. Because some scientists warn of a runaway greenhouse effect here on Earth, it may be prudent for us to terraform Venus first — a planet that has already undergone a carbon dioxide-induced apocalypse. And by doing so, we may learn how to prevent or reverse a similar catastrophe here on Earth.

 

Scientists are quite certain that Venus went through a runaway greenhouse effect when it was young and when it still had oceans. In those early days, and as the sun got brighter, Venus's oceans began to boil and evaporate into the atmosphere, where it eventually leaked out into space. Today, and as a consequence, Venus has an absolutely massive amount of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, the result of poor carbon recycling (which is facilitated by the presence of liquid water).

 

As a result, Venus has essentially turned into hell. It features an average temperature of 467°C (872°F) — a temperature that's hot enough to melt lead. And its thick layer of carbon dioxide (CO2) bears down on the planet at a level 90 times greater than what we experience here on Earth. To say that Venus has a lot of CO2 in its atmosphere would be a gross understatement. Over 96% of its atmosphere consists of CO2, which it displays prominently through its thick layer of clouds that float 50-70 km above the surface.

 

If we wish to remove 98% of the mass of the Venusian atmosphere in a reasonable time, say, 100 years, we must haul up a mass 10 quintillion tons, or 300,000 tons per second. Compare that to the flow along the Amazon river...10,000 tons per second. The largest machines built which handle flowing water...handle 400 tons per second. Or look at it from an energy requirement: hauling the mass of gas 100 km high, and then accelerating it by 20 km per second requires about 1025 ergs over a 100-year period. That's all the sunlight falling over the same period on an area of 10,000 square km assuming 100% efficiency...Throw in a factor of 10 for engineering reality, and the air scoopers must have an area of...three times the total area of Venus.

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Jerubaal's curator insight, July 3, 10:11 AM

planetary engineering: Venus has an absolutely massive amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in its atmosphere

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Potential diabetes and obesity therapy based on side effects from hedgehog inhibitors used to fight cancer

Potential diabetes and obesity therapy based on side effects from hedgehog inhibitors used to fight cancer | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Cancer, diabetes, and excess body weight have one thing in common: they alter cellular metabolism. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg and the Medical University of Vienna together with an international research team have jointly resolved a new molecular circuit controlling cellular metabolism. The previously unknown signalling pathway, acting downstream of the hedgehog protein enables muscle cells and brown fat cells to absorb sugars without relying on insulin. Substances that selectively activate the signalling pathway could thus be utilized in the treatment of diabetes and obesity. With their results, the researchers are also able to explain why various new anti-cancer agents have induced mysterious pronounced side effects in the clinics.

 

Hedgehog was initially identified as an important protein for embryonic development across various organisms. Without hedgehog, the physiological partitions of the embryo become indistinct. However, hedgehog also influences replication, migration and specialisation of cells – that is, the processes that also play a role in carcinogenesis. Mutation of genes also occurs concomitantly in various types of cancer, such as pancreatic, gastric or intestinal carcinomas. Above and beyond this, hedgehog inhibits the formation of “bad” white adipose tissue. Brown or “good” fat that serves to control body temperature, however, remains unaffected.

 

Hedgehog is therefore a very promising target for medications that fight cancer, diabetes and excess body weight. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first hedgehog inhibitor, Vismodegib, for treatment of cancer this year. There are presently at least six further agents being tested in clinical studies.

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Taking Over Your Brain... Who’s in Charge Inside Your Head?

Taking Over Your Brain... Who’s in Charge Inside Your Head? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
What can parasitic flukes and zombie bees tell us about love and free will? A lot.

 

"Zombie Bees" are victims of a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis. The fly lays eggs within honeybees, inducing their hosts to make a nocturnal “flight of the living dead,” after which the larval flies emerge, having consumed the bee from the inside out.

 

These events, although bizarre, aren’t all that unusual in the animal world. Many fly and wasp species lay their eggs inside hosts. What is especially interesting, and a bit more unusual, is the way an internal parasite not only feeds on its host, but also frequently alters its behavior, in a way that favors the continued survival and reproduction of the parasite.

 

Not all internal parasites kill their hosts, of course: pretty much every multicellular animal is home to numerous fellow travelers, each of which has its own agenda, which in some cases involves influencing, or taking control of, part or all of the body in which they temporarily reside. And this, in turn, leads to the question: who’s in charge of your own mind? Think of the morgue scene in the movie “Men in Black,” when a human corpse is revealed to be a robot, its skull inhabited by a little green man from outer space. Science fiction, but less bizarre than you might expect, or want to believe.

 

Providing room and board to other life-forms doesn’t only compromise one’s nutritional status (not to mention peace of mind), it often reduces freedom of action, too. The technical phrase is “host manipulation.” Take the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, which causes its mouse host to become obese and sluggish, making it easy pickings for predators, notably foxes, which — not coincidentally — provide an optimal environment for the tapeworm to move into the next phase in its life cycle.

 

Sometimes the process is truly strange. For example, a kind of fluke known as Dicrocoelium dentriticum does time inside a snail, then an ant, followed by a sheep. Ensconced within an ant, some of the resourceful worms migrate to their host’s brain, where they manage to rewire its neurons, essentially hijacking its body. The manipulated ant, in response to Dicrocoelium’s demands, then climbs to the top of a blade of grass and waits patiently and conspicuously until it is consumed by a grazing sheep. Once in its desired happy breeding ground, the worm releases its eggs, which depart with a healthy helping of sheep poop, only to be consumed once more by snails, which eventually excrete the immature worms for another generation of unlucky ants to consume.

 

It may be distressing to those committed to “autonomy,” but such manipulators have inherited the earth. Including us. Take coughing, or sneezing. It may be beneficial for an infected person to cough up or sneeze out some of her tiny organismic invaders, although it isn’t so healthful for others nearby. But what if coughing and sneezing aren’t merely symptoms but also, even primarily, a manipulation of us, the “host,” by influenza viruses? Shades of zombie bees, fattened mice and grass-blade-besotted ants.

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Walter Tschinkel's Aluminum Casts of Ant Colonies Reveals Insect Architecture

Walter Tschinkel's Aluminum Casts of Ant Colonies Reveals Insect Architecture | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Retiree Walter R. Tschinkel is an entomologist and former professor of Biological Science at Florida State University. He recognizes ants as "some of nature's grand architects" and, curious to understand their self-created habitats, devised a clever (if cruel) way to do it: By pouring molten aluminum down into the hole.

 

Unsurprisingly, the ants die in the process. But after the aluminum cools and Tschinkel has completed a meticulous excavation, he unearths these wondrous, chandelier-esque shapes revealing the alien architectures of the colony.


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Scientists generate 281-gigapixel cell map using electron microscope

Scientists generate 281-gigapixel cell map using electron microscope | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Electron microscopes can produce incredibly detailed and even 3D views of sub-cellular structures, but often at the cost of losing the bigger picture. Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands, however, have leveraged a technique called virtual nanoscopy that enables researchers to observe the whole of a cell and its intricate details in a single image. With the method, the team stitches together nanometer resolution photographs of what's gone under the scope to create a map with adjustable zoom a la Google Maps. Their study created a 281-gigapixel image (packed with 16 million pixels per inch) of a 1.5-millimeter-long zebrafish embryo.


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How many killer asteroids are out there?

How many killer asteroids are out there? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Results from a NASA survey released in 2012 suggest there are roughly 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids in our solar system. The results reveal new information about their total numbers, origins and the possible dangers they may pose. Potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are a subset of the larger group of near-Earth asteroids. The PHAs have the closest orbits to Earth’s, coming within five million miles (about eight million kilometers), and they are big enough to survive passing through Earth’s atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale.

 

The new results come from the asteroid-hunting portion of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission, called NEOWISE. The project sampled 107 PHAs to make predictions about the entire population as a whole. Findings indicate there are roughly 4,700 PHAs, plus or minus 1,500, with diameters larger than 330 feet (about 100 meters). So far, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of these objects have been found.

 

The new analysis also suggests that about twice as many PHAs as previously thought are likely to reside in “lower-inclination” orbits, which are more aligned with the plane of Earth’s orbit. In addition, these lower-inclination objects appear to be somewhat brighter and smaller than the other near-Earth asteroids that spend more time far away from Earth. A possible explanation is that many of the PHAs may have originated from a collision between two asteroids in the main belt lying between Mars and Jupiter. A larger body with a low-inclination orbit may have broken up in the main belt, causing some of the fragments to drift into orbits closer to Earth and eventually become PHAs. Asteroids with lower-inclination orbits would be more likely to encounter Earth and would be easier to reach. The results therefore suggest more near-Earth objects might be available for future robotic or human missions.

 

The WISE spacecraft scanned the sky twice in infrared light before entering hibernation mode in early 2011. It catalogued hundreds of millions of objects, including super-luminous galaxies, stellar nurseries and closer-to-home asteroids. The NEOWISE project snapped images of about 600 near-Earth asteroids, about 135 of which were new discoveries.

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Several Janus kinase (JAK) Pathway Inhibitors in Clinical Trials

Several Janus kinase (JAK) Pathway Inhibitors in Clinical Trials | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Janus kinase (JAK) plays an important role in the formation and development of blood cells, and defects in the gene have been identified in myeloproliferative neoplasms. As a result, JAK inhibitors for the treatment of hematologic malignancies have been an intense research focus, with one drug receiving approval in 2011 and several more in various stages of clinical development. In November, the FDA approved ruxolitinib (Jakafi; Incyte) for the treatment of intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis, in which dysregulation of the JAK1 and JAK2 pathways results in a depletion of healthy bone marrow that burdens the liver and spleen. In the phase III COMFORT-I study, 41.9% of patients receiving ruxolitinib had at least a 35% reduction in spleen size, and 45.9% of patients on the drug reported a reduction in symptoms.

 

Other JAK inhibitors are being assessed in clinical trials. These include:

• Ruxolitinib: Incyte is continuing to develop the drug for several hematologic malignancies. A phase III trial is ongoing in polycythemia vera, a phase II study is under way in essential thrombocythemia vera, and phase I/II evaluations are continuing in advanced leukemias and other hematologic malignancies.

• CYT387 (YM BioSciences): Two ongoing phase II trials are evaluating dosing, safety, and tolerability of the oral JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor as monotherapy for patients with myelofibrosis. Results presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Meeting in 2011 indicated significant durable response in anemia, splenomegaly, and constitutional symptoms, particularly at the 300- mg once-daily dose level.

• SAR302503 (TG101348, Sanofi): A highly selective oral JAK2 inhibitor, SAR302503 is being tested in a phase III clinical trial that is currently enrolling patients with myelofibrosis. In an interim phase I/II analysis presented at ASH 2011, spleen responses were usually seen within the first three cycles, with 54.4% of patients achieving ≥ 50% spleen reduction after six months and 66.7% of patients achieving the same endpoint after 12 months.

• LY2784544 (Eli Lilly): In the results of a phase I trial that were presented at ASH 2011, spleen reduction of at least 35% was observed in 13 of 17 evaluable patients (76%) with myeloproliferative neoplasm subtypes. A questionnaire found that 59% of patients reported symptom improvement ≥ 50%.

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Ken Young's curator insight, June 1, 2013 12:25 AM

This is great to see new drugs being developed for MPNs. I hope that trials happen in Australia to give early access for Australian patients

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Is lightspeed really a limit in our universe?

Is lightspeed really a limit in our universe? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Solving super-luminal Special Relativity without breaking Einstein. We don’t (yet) have any way to test this, but University of Adelaide applied mathematicians are suggesting that an extended version of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity also holds true for velocities beyond lightspeed.

 

The surprising idea: with just two assumptions, an extended version of the mathematics for Einstein's special relativity works just as well above the speed of light as below. “Relativity is about frames of reference,” Professor Hill explains. That is, observers with different velocities see the same event from different frames of reference. “Einstein started working from information where the relative velocity is zero and what we knew about, such as rest mass, kinetic energy and so on. Then he extrapolated what is known in the Newtonian world for velocities lower than c. “Our thinking was -- how do we make use of the essential essence of Einstein’s theory for velocities above c?” What the mathematicians assumed is that for infinite relative velocity, there is a fixed relationship between the velocities of the two observers: where u is the first observer’s velocity, v is the second, the product of the two velocities is always c^2. “What we have is an equivalent theory to Special Relativity that applies for velocities beyond the speed of light. That theory is different from Special Relativity, but it has many of the same characteristics.

 

And readers with an interest in either physics or maths will be delighted with the vital assumptions: there has to be one, and only one, speed of light; and in all cases, a mathematical singularity occurs at the speed of light. “If you believe what we’ve done,” Professor Hill said, “there can only be one speed of light in a universe. This theory and method of solution is absolutely dependent on the assumption that there is only one speed of light in any universe. If there was a second speed of light, our mathematics wouldn’t work. If there is a second singularity -- the one that occurs at the speed of light in Special Relativity -- it wouldn’t work either."

 

To get from the theory to any practical test is another matter entirely, and Professor Hill freely admits he doesn’t know how that might be achieved. He hopes, however, that a test can be devised. “If you really don’t believe that faster-than-light is possible, then humans will be limited in space travel forever,” he said.

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Vast volcanic 'raft' spotted in the Pacific

Vast volcanic 'raft' spotted in the Pacific | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A vast "raft" of buoyant volcanic rocks covering 10,000 sq miles (26,000 sq km) of the Pacific Ocean was spotted by a New Zealand military aircraft.


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New handheld medical 3D Scanner to aid doctors on the "diagnostic front lines"

New handheld medical 3D Scanner to aid doctors on the "diagnostic front lines" | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In the operating room, surgeons can see inside the human body in real time using advanced imaging techniques, but primary care physicians, the people who are on the front lines of diagnosing illnesses, haven't commonly had access to the same technology – until now. Engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have created a new imaging tool for primary care physicians: a handheld scanner that would enable them to image all the sites they commonly examine, and more, such as bacterial colonies in the middle ear in 3-D, or monitor the thickness and health of patients' retinas. The device relies on optical coherence tomography (OCT), a visualization technology that is similar to ultrasound imaging, but uses light instead of sound to produce the images.

 

The scanners include three basic components: a near-infrared light source and OCT system, a video camera to relay real-time images of surface features and scan locations, and a microelectromechanical (MEMS)-based scanner to direct the light. Near-infrared wavelengths of light penetrate deeper into human tissues than other wavelengths more readily absorbed by the body. By measuring the time it takes the light to bounce back from tissue microstructure, computer algorithms build a picture of the structure of tissue under examination.

 

http://tinyurl.com/9dspbno

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World's Largest 3D Printer Opens To Public in Denmark

World's Largest 3D Printer Opens To Public in Denmark | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
DUS Architects of Amsterdam has launched the world's largest 3D printer, the KamerMaker, which is capable of fabricating room-sized structures from bio-plastic.

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3D Printer DRM Patent To Stop People Downloading a Car

3D Printer DRM Patent To Stop People Downloading a Car | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

DRM systems in the digital media world are nothing new and are utilized extensively in the music, movie and video games industries. Now, after applying four years ago, a company has this week obtained a patent for a DRM system that aims to stop future owners of 3D printers from printing whatever they like. The dream of downloading a new pair of sneakers or even a car might already be in jeopardy, before it’s even begun.


Via Rex Brodie, michel verstrepen, Sakis Koukouvis, Tudor Cosmatu
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New software can map carbon emissions down to individual buildings

New software can map carbon emissions down to individual buildings | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new software system can map greenhouse gas emissions right down to street level, and even rate particular buildings. Arizona State University's Hestia system combines public database data-mining with traffic simulation and building-by-building energy-consumption modeling to produce high-resolution maps of emissions.

 

"Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in reenhouse gas emissions – and you can’t reduce what you can’t measure," says associate professor Kevin Gurney. "With Hestia, we can provide cities with a complete, three-dimensional picture of where, when and how carbon dioxide emissions are occurring." The research team collected data from a wide variety of sources -local air pollution reports, traffic counts and tax assessor parcel information - and then combined it within a modeling system to quantify CO2 emissions at the level of individual buildings.

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WIRED: Spider Silk Could Weave Biodegradable Computer Chips

WIRED: Spider Silk Could Weave Biodegradable Computer Chips | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Spiders and insects use silk to build strong webs and spin cocoons but now scientists have figured out how to use the material for something even more amazing: electronic computer chips.

 

Nolwenn Huby of the Institut de Physique de Rennes were able to transmit laser light down a short strand of the silk on an integrated circuit chip. The silk worked much like glass fiber optic cables, meaning it could carry information for electronic devices, though it had about four orders of magnitude more loss than the glass. Huby said that with a coating and further development, the silk could one day have better transmission capabilities. The achievement could open the door to medical applications, such as silk fibers carrying light to places in the body for internal imaging. Because spider silk is incredibly thin — roughly five microns in diameter or 10 times thinner than a human hair – surgeons could perform diagnostic exams using very small openings in the body.

 

Omenetto envisions future applications where, after a medical procedure, doctors and surgeons place a silk bandage in a patient embedded with electronic functions to monitor for possible infections. The patient can be closed up and then never have to worry about having the monitoring device taken out again because the body will simply absorb the material. Already his team has developed a small implantable radio frequency heater that could sterilize an area against bacteria. With a great deal of further development, e-waste could be a thing of the past. Whenever a new snazzy cellphone comes out, you could simply compost your old model instead of leaving it to languish in a dump, slowly leaching toxic chemicals. But such electronics are still decades away, said Omenetto. Compostable circuits are one thing but engineers would still need to figure out how to make biodegradable batteries, interfaces, and everything else in modern-day electronics, he added.

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Learnable Programming: Designing programming systems for understanding programs

Learnable Programming: Designing programming systems for understanding programs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

How do we get people to understand programming?

 

Khan Academy recently launched an online environment for learning to program. It offers a set of tutorials based on the JavaScript and Processing languages, and features a "live coding" environment, where the program's output updates as the programmer types.

 

Because my work was cited as an inspiration for the Khan system, I felt I should respond with two thoughts about learning: Programming is a way of thinking, not a rote skill. Learning about "for" loops is not learning to program, any more than learning about pencils is learning to draw.

 

People understand what they can see. If a programmer cannot see what a program is doing, she can't understand it. Thus, the goals of a programming system should be:

 

• to support and encourage powerful ways of thinking
• to enable programmers to see and understand the execution of their programs

 

A live-coding Processing environment addresses neither of these goals. JavaScript and Processing are poorly-designed languages that support weak ways of thinking, and ignore decades of learning about learning. And live coding, as a standalone feature, is worthless. Alan Perlis wrote, "To understand a program, you must become both the machine and the program." This view is a mistake, and it is this widespread and virulent mistake that keeps programming a difficult and obscure art. A person is not a machine, and should not be forced to think like one.

 

How do we get people to understand programming? We change programming. We turn it into something that's understandable by people.

 

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Researchers Grow Biological Hard Drive Surface From Bacteria

Researchers Grow Biological Hard Drive Surface From Bacteria | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at Britain’s University of Leeds and Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology use bacteria to organically grow tiny magnets which can store bits of data. Conventionally, hard disks are manufactured by breaking down a big magnet into nanoscale pieces called grains which are deposited on a disc. A few hundred grains form a magnetic region which can store one bit of information. The increasing capacity of storage devices is the result of the miniaturization of components. But this can’t go on indefinitely and hard disk manufacturers are quickly reaching the limits of traditional electronic manufacturing as computer components get smaller. The machines traditionally used to build them are clumsy at such small scales. Nature has provided us with the perfect tool to circumvent this problem’, said Dr Sarah Staniland in a press release.

 

Instead of using the top down approach of breaking down a magnet, the researchers are having nature build tiny magnets from scratch. For this purpose the team used the bacterium Magnetsopirilllum magneticum, a naturally magnetic microorganism. It uses its magnetic property to navigate along the earth’s magnetic lines. The bacterium derives its magnetism from ingesting iron. Once in its system the iron interacts with a protein producing a magnetic mineral called magnetite.

 

Once they understood how the Magnetsopirilllum magneticum worked its magic, the team figured out how to replicate this process outside its body. They coated a surface in gold and added the protein in a chessboard pattern. When the surface is dipped in an iron solution, those squares covered with the protein start producing nanocrystals of magnetite. Each square covered with nanomagnets can store one bit.

 

The research is still at an experimental stage. The squares are 20 micrometers wide, that’s 2000 times larger than magnetic bits in conventional hard drives. But Staniland is confident they can bring the size down. It is not just the problem of the fast approaching miniaturization limits of silicon-based electronics the researchers are hoping to solve. They’re looking to radically change the future of electronics. ‘Our aim is to develop a toolkit of proteins and chemicals which could be used to grow computer components from scratch’, Staniland said.

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