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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

RNA origami: Chemists produce first high-resolution RNA 'nano square'

RNA origami: Chemists produce first high-resolution RNA 'nano square' | Amazing Science |
Chemists have produced the first high resolution structure of a nano-scale square made from ribonucleic acid, or RNA.


The structure was published in a paper in this week's early online edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team of chemists headed by Thomas Hermann, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD.

The scientists said the ability to carry structural information encoded in the sequence of the constituent building blocks is a characteristic trait of RNA, a key component of the genetic code. The nano square self-assembles from four corner units directed by the sequence that was programmed into the RNA used for preparing the corners.


Hermann said the RNA square has potential applications as a self-assembling nano platform for the programmed combination of molecular entities that are linked to the corner units.

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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

MIT Invents A Shapeshifting Display You Can Reach Through And Touch

MIT Invents A Shapeshifting Display You Can Reach Through And Touch | Amazing Science |
The Tangible Media Group at MIT's Media Lab has unveiled a futuristic display made of atoms not pixels.


We live in an age of touch-screen interfaces, but what will the UIs of the future look like? Will they continue to be made up of ghostly pixels, or will they be made of atoms that you can reach out and touch?


At the MIT Media Lab, the Tangible Media Group believes the future of computing is tactile. Unveiled today, the inFORM is MIT's new scrying pool for imagining the interfaces of tomorrow. Almost like a table of living clay, the inFORM is a surface that three-dimensionally changes shape, allowing users to not only interact with digital content in meatspace, but even hold hands with a person hundreds of miles away. And that's only the beginning.


Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, the technology behind the inFORM isn't that hard to understand. It's basically a fancy Pinscreen, one of those executive desk toys that allows you to create a rough 3-D model of an object by pressing it into a bed of flattened pins. With inFORM, each of those "pins" is connected to a motor controlled by a nearby laptop, which can not only move the pins to render digital content physically, but can also register real-life objects interacting with its surface thanks to the sensors of a hacked Microsoft Kinect.


To put it in the simplest terms, the inFORM is a self-aware computer monitor that doesn't just display light, but shape as well. Remotely, two people Skyping could physically interact by playing catch, for example, or manipulating an object together, or even slapping high five from across the planet. Another use is to physically manipulate purely digital objects. A 3-D model, for example, can be brought to life with the inFORM, and then manipulated with your hands to adjust, tweak, or even radically transform the digital blueprint.

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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

The Secrets of a Bug's Flight

The Secrets of a Bug's Flight | Amazing Science |
Researchers have identified some of the physics that may explain how insects can so quickly recover from a midflight stall -- unlike conventional fixed wing aircraft, where stalls often lead to crash landings.


The analysis, in which the researchers studied the flow around a rotating model wing, improves the understanding of how insects fly and informs the design of small flying robots built for intelligence gathering, surveillance, search-and-rescue, and other purposes.

An insect such as a fruit fly hovers in the air by flapping its wings -- a complex motion akin to the freestyle stroke in swimming. The wing rotates in a single plane, and by varying the angle between the plane and its body, the insect can fly forward from a hovering position.


To simulate the basics of this action, Matthew Bross and colleagues at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, studied how water flows around a rotating model wing consisting of a rectangular piece of acrylic that is twice as long as it is wide. The rotation axis is off to the side of the wing and parallel to its width, so that it rotates like half of an airplane propeller. To simulate forward motion -- a scenario in which the insect is accelerating or climbing -- the researchers pumped water in the direction perpendicular to the plane of rotation.


"We were able to identify the development of flow structure over an insect-scaled wing over a range of forward flight velocities," Bross explained. The researchers made detailed three-dimensional computer visualizations of the flow around the wing, finding that a leading-edge vortex -- a feature crucial for providing lift -- almost immediately appears once the wing starts to rotate after a stalled state.


The article, "Flow structure on a rotating wing: effect of steady incident flow," by Matthew Bross, Cem Alper Ozen and Donald Rockwell appears in the journal Physics of Fluids. See:

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No such thing as ‘right-brained’ or ‘left-brained,’ new research finds

No such thing as ‘right-brained’ or ‘left-brained,’ new research finds | Amazing Science |
Individual differences don’t favor one brain hemisphere or the other.


The terms "left-brained" and "right-brained" have come to refer to personality types in popular culture, with an assumption that people who use the right side of their brains more are more creative, thoughtful and subjective, while those who tap the left side more are more logical, detail-oriented and analytical.


But there's no evidence for this, suggest findings from a two-year study led by University of Utah neuroscientists who conducted analyses of brain imaging (PLOS One, Aug. 14, 2013).


The researchers analyzed resting brain scans of 1,011 people ages 7 to 29, measuring their functional lateralization — the specific mental processes taking place in each side of the brain. Turns out, individual differences don't favor one hemisphere or the other, says lead author Jeff Anderson, MD, PhD.


"It's absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain," Anderson says. "Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don't tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network."

Belinda Suvaal's curator insight, November 12, 2013 1:18 PM

klinkt absoluut logisch, vond het altijd al een overtrokken issue en riep altijd maar: ik ben het allebei, afhankelijk van wat nodig is.

Dat is dus heel normaal!

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Decade-long experience of retroviral-modified chimeric antigen receptor T cells for treating cancer

Decade-long experience of retroviral-modified chimeric antigen receptor T cells for treating cancer | Amazing Science |

One child surviving ‘incurable’ cancer is an amazing event, but there is a lot more work to be done to find out how best to use this new technology. At the moment it’s still highly experimental and expensive. It’s only being trialled in a very small number of patients, primarily to make sure it is safe, and so far we’ve seen that it doesn’t work for everyone.


In the case of the child whose cancer came back after treatment, the researchers found that her cancer cells had somehow stopped carrying the T cells’ target molecule. So it’s likely that other targets will need to be identified, to make the treatment more effective for more patients in the future.


On a positive note, there’s no reason why this type of treatment should be restricted to cancers affecting the immune system (namely leukaemia and lymphoma), although they’re much more accessible to the killer T cells. Researchers elsewhere are investigating how to target a range of different types of cancer with this approach.


There are several similar therapies being tested in the lab and in clinical trials around the world, including in the UK. And Cancer Research UK scientists are finding out whether harmless genetically-engineered viruses could be used as therapeutic vaccines, training the immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells.


It’s still early days for these exciting new approaches and there are many hurdles to jump, but we’re looking forward to the day when they can be used to treat patients on a wider scale.

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Ambri's liquid metal battery: Prototype deployment set for 2014

Ambri's liquid metal battery: Prototype deployment set for 2014 | Amazing Science |

November is a milestone month for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spinoff company Ambri, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Marlborough, Massachusetts, on November 7 marked its new production facility. Ambri is targeting its liquid metal battery technology for use in the electricity grid. The company believes they have an electricity storage solution that will change the way electric grids are operated worldwide. Ambri's liquid metal battery technology breaks away from other storage options; each cell consists of three self-separating liquid layers, two metals and a salt, that float on top of each other based on density differences and immiscibility, said Ambri. The system operates at elevated temperature maintained by self-heating during charging and discharging.


Cells are stacked into refrigerator-sized modules, placed into a 40-foot shipping container rated at 500 kW and 2 MWh storage capacity. For more energy, more systems can be deployed together side by side. The new production facility brings the team closer to their ultimate goals. "Here, we will demonstrate that Ambri's Liquid Metal Batteries can be produced at comparatively low capital cost, and make large-scale energy storage a practical reality," said Phil Giudice, CEO of Ambri.

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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from 3D Printing and Fabbing!

Gelatin Bio-Ink to Print Biological Organs and Tissues

Gelatin Bio-Ink to Print Biological Organs and Tissues | Amazing Science |
German researchers have developed a new gelatin bio-ink that can be used by 3D printing technology to produce various types of tissue and organs.


Scientists have long been working to improve methods and procedures for artificially producing tissue. In the current work, researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB) in Stuttgart, Germany, developed a suitable bio-ink for 3D printing that consist of gelatin-based components from natural tissue matrix and living cells. Gelatin is a well-known biological material derived from collagen that serves as the main constituent of native tissue.


The IGB researchers were able to chemically modify the gelling behavior of the gelatin to adapt the biological molecules for printing. This allowed the bio-ink to remain fluid during printing, instead of gelling like unmodified gelatin. Once the bio-inks are irradiated with UV light, they crosslink and cure to form hydrogels – polymers containing a large amount of water (just like native tissue), but which are stable in aqueous environments and when heated to 98.6 degree Fahrenheit – the average temperature of the human body.


The chemical modification of these biological molecules can be controlled so that the resulting gels have differing strengths and swelling characteristics, allowing researchers to imitate various properties of natural tissue – from solid cartilage to soft adipose tissue.


The IGB research facility also prints synthetic raw materials that can serve as substitutes for the extracellular matrix, such as systems that cure to a hydrogel devoid of by-products, which can immediately be populated with genuine cells.


“We are concentrating at the moment on the ‘natural’ variant. That way we remain very close to the original material. Even if the potential for synthetic hydrogels is big, we still need to learn a fair amount about the interactions between the artificial substances and cells or natural tissue. Our biomolecule-based variants provide the cells with a natural environment instead, and therefore can promote the self-organizing behavior of the printed cells to form a functional tissue model,” said Dr. Kirsten Borchers in describing the approach at IGB.

Via Kalani Kirk Hausman
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How Quantum Mechanics Can Be Derived From A Revolutionary New Theory Of Information

How Quantum Mechanics Can Be Derived From A Revolutionary New Theory Of Information | Amazing Science |
One of the great puzzles of quantum mechanics is that nobody quite understands what it means for reality to be quantum in nature.


Information and computation form the bedrock of the reality, say physicists who have used this idea to derive quantum mechanics.

Indeed, many physicists entirely disagree over the correct interpretation. The result is a frustratingly woolly insight into the nature of the Universe.


That’s quite unlike other fundamental theories. General relativity, for example, produces remarkable insights into the nature of spacetime. And Noether’s theorem—that every symmetry in the universe produces a conservation law—is one of the most satisfying and beautiful in science. Quantum mechanics, by contrast, is the poor relation.


The problem is that quantum mechanics has to be derived from abstract mathematical ideas that have little or no meaning in the real world. One common derivation, for example, uses the entirely abstract ideas of Hilbert spaces and the operators that act on them. So it’s hardly surprising that the theory is hard to interpret.


Today, that changes thanks to the work of Lluís Masanes at the University of Bristol in the UK and a few buddies who for the first time derive quantum mechanics from ideas that have a clear basis in reality. Their derivation is based on the revolutionary idea that information and computation form the bedrock of reality.


In the new work, Masanes and co put forward four postulates about the Universe. If we accept these, they say, quantum mechanics naturally follows. What’s more, their formulation solves an important question about reality—why the universe relies on quantum mechanics and not one of the numerous similar theories that physicists have recently discovered.

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By reactivating a dormant gene, Lin28a, researchers could regrow hair, cartilage, bone and soft tissues

By reactivating a dormant gene, Lin28a, researchers could regrow hair, cartilage, bone and soft tissues | Amazing Science |
Young animals are known to repair their tissues effortlessly, but can this capacity be recaptured in adults? A new study from researchers at the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children's Hospital suggests that it can.


By reactivating a dormant gene called Lin28a, which is active in embryonic stem cells, researchers were able to regrow hair and repair cartilage, bone, skin and other soft tissues in a mouse model.

The study also found that Lin28a promotes tissue repair in part by enhancing metabolism in mitochondria—the energy-producing engines in cells—suggesting that a mundane cellular "housekeeping" function could open new avenues for developing regenerative treatments. Findings were published online by the journal Cell on November 7, 2013.


Lin28, first discovered in worms, functions in all complex organisms. It is abundant in embryonic stem cells, expressed strongly during early embryo formation and has been used to reprogram skin cells into stem cells. It acts by binding to RNA and regulating how genes are translated into proteins.

To better understand how Lin28a promotes tissue repair, the researchers systematically looked at what specific RNAs it binds to. They initially had their sights on a tiny RNA called Let-7, which is known to promote cell maturation and aging.


"We were confident that Let-7 would be the mechanism," says Shyh-Chang. "But there was something else involved." Specifically, the researchers found that Lin28a also enhances the production of metabolic enzymes in mitochondria, the structures that produce energy for the cell. By revving up a cell's bioenergetics, they found, Lin28a helps generate the energy needed to stimulate and grow new tissues.

"We already know that accumulated defects in mitochondrial metabolism can lead to aging in many cells and tissues," says Shyh-Chang. "We are showing the converse—that enhancement of mitochondrial metabolism can boost tissue repair and regeneration, recapturing the remarkable repair capacity of juvenile animals."


Further experiments showed that bypassing Lin28a and directly activating mitochondrial metabolism with a small-molecule compound also had the effect of enhancing wound healing. This suggests the possibility of inducing regeneration and promoting tissue repair with drugs.


"Since Lin28 itself is difficult to introduce into cells, the fact that we were able to activate mitochondrial metabolism pharmacologically gives us hope," Shyh-Chang says.


Lin28A didn't universally induce regeneration in all tissues. Heart tissue showed little effect, and while the researchers were able to enhance the regrowth of finger tips in newborn mice, they could not in adults.


"Lin28a could be a key factor in constituting a healing cocktail," says Shyh-Chang, "but there are other embryonic factors that remain to be found."

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Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Longevity science!

How nanotechnology can advance regenerative medicine

How nanotechnology can advance regenerative medicine | Amazing Science |

Nanotechnology may provide new strategies for regenerative medicine, including better tools to improve or restore damaged tissues, according to a review paper that summarizes the current state of knowledge on nanotechnology with application to stem cell biology.


Researchers have found that the adhesion, growth, and differentiation of stem cells are likely controlled by their surrounding microenvironment, which contains both chemical and physical cues. These cues include the “nanotopography” of the complex extracellular matrix or architecture that forms a network for human tissues.


In their review paper published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials (open access), Yang-Kao Wang and colleagues describe studies showing how this nanotopography (which includes nanosized pores, grooves, ridges, etc.) plays important roles in the behavior and fate of stem cells.


The authors also discuss the application of nanoparticles to stem cell isolation, tracking and imaging; how to translate nanotechnology from two to three dimensions; and the potential limitations of using nanomaterials in stem cell biology.


The paper concludes that “understanding [the] interactions of nanomaterials with stem cells may provide knowledge applicable to [the development of improved] cell-scaffold combinations in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.”


Via Ray and Terry's
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Microenvironmental Regulation of Tumor Progression and Metastasis

Microenvironmental Regulation of Tumor Progression and Metastasis | Amazing Science |

"Cancers develop in complex tissue environments, which they depend on for sustained growth, invasion and metastasis. Unlike tumor cells, stromal cell types within the tumor microenvironment (TME) are genetically stable and thus represent an attractive therapeutic target with reduced risk of resistance and tumor recurrence. However, specifically disrupting the pro-tumorigenic TME is a challenging undertaking, as the TME has diverse capacities to induce both beneficial and adverse consequences for tumorigenesis. Furthermore, many studies have shown that the microenvironment is capable of normalizing tumor cells, suggesting that re-education of stromal cells, rather than targeted ablation per se, may be an effective strategy for treating cancer. Here we discuss the paradoxical roles of the TME during specific stages of cancer progression and metastasis, as well as recent therapeutic attempts to re-educate stromal cells within the TME to have anti-tumorigenic effects."


Bidirectional communication between cells and their microenvironment is critical for both normal tissue homeostasis and tumor growth. In particular, interactions between tumor cells and the associated stroma represent a powerful relationship that influences disease initiation and progression and patient prognosis. The link between chronic inflammation and tumorigenesis was first proposed by Rudolf Virchow in 1863 after the observation that infiltrating leukocytes are a hallmark of tumors. Since then, a plethora of studies have contributed to the characterization of the TME, further complicating the already challenging task of understanding and treating cancer. Whereas cancer was previously viewed as a heterogeneous disease involving aberrant mutations in tumor cells, it is now evident that tumors are also diverse by nature of their microenvironmental composition and their stromal cell proportions or activation states. In response to evolving environmental conditions and oncogenic signals from growing tumors, the TME continually changes over the course of cancer progression, underscoring the need to consider the influences of the TME on metastasis as a dynamic process and understand how tumor cells drive the construction of their own niche.

Via Cancer Commons, Gilbert C FAURE
Cancer Commons's curator insight, November 8, 2013 1:50 PM

Quail DF, Joyce JA. Nature Medicine. Nov 7, 2013.

Cancer Commons's curator insight, November 8, 2013 1:51 PM

Quail DF, Joyce JA. Nature Medicine. Nov 7, 2013.

Cancer Commons's curator insight, November 8, 2013 1:51 PM

Quail DF, Joyce JA. Nature Medicine. Nov 7, 2013.

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Surprise: Lunar Craters Are Bigger on the Near Side

Surprise: Lunar Craters Are Bigger on the Near Side | Amazing Science |

The near side of the moon hosts larger impact basins than the satellite's far side, and the explanation lies in key differences between the two hemispheres, a new study suggests.


Scientists have long understood that craters form at an even rate on the surfaces of both sides of the moon, but new work reports that ancient asteroid impacts on the near side of the moon produced larger basins than those on the far side.


The surprising difference hinges upon the composition of the crust on the two sides of the moon. The near side, which always faces Earth, was warm during the early formation of the moon and subjected to volcanic activity. This might have created an ideal environment for big craters to form, scientists said.

"When we look at the maps of both hemispheres, we realize there are more big basins on the near side than on the far side," said Katarina Miljkovic of the Institute de Physique du Globe de Paris, lead author of the new moon study published in the Nov. 8 issue of the journal Science. "There are eight of them on the near side that are bigger than 300 kilometers [186 miles]… and only one on the far side."

Using data gathered by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft, Miljkovic and her colleagues ran computer simulations to model the effects of long-ago impacts on the moon's crust. They found that an impact on the near, hotter side of the moon would form a crater about two times larger than craters formed by a similarly sized asteroid on the cold, far side of the moon.

The near side's hot crust didn't fall back into itself when struck like the cold, stiff crust of the far side. Instead, the malleable surface of the near side was able to expand, creating larger basins and displacing more of the crust, even if the impactor was not necessarily huge, Miljkovic found.


The new work could have implications for scientists' understanding of the solar system's early days, researchers said. Scientists have long thought that huge numbers of comets and asteroids impacted Earth, the moon and other bodies in the inner solar system from about 3.8 billion to 4.1 billion years ago. In light of this new work, however, ideas about that period, known as the "late heavy bombardment," might need to be altered, Miljkovic said.

The mass of space rocks hurling toward Earth and the moon during the late heavy bombardment period may be overestimated, Miljkovic said. "These big basins on the near side appear larger than they should," Miljkovic told "If we only rely on the near side basins to give us information about the late heavy bombardment for impact flux, then it is possible that it is likely overestimated."

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New Hope for a Drug that Might Work for a Variety of Cancers

New Hope for a Drug that Might Work for a Variety of Cancers | Amazing Science |

The most frequently mutated gene across all types of cancers is a gene called p53. Unfortunately it has been difficult to directly target this gene with drugs. Now a multi-institutional research team, led by Dr. Lewis Cantley and investigators at Weill Cornell Medical College, has identified a family of enzymes they say is crucial for the growth of cancers that have genetic aberrations in p53. Targeting these enzymes with novel agents might prevent the growth of p53 mutant cancers, thereby benefiting a broad spectrum of cancer patients, including those with breast, ovarian, lung, colorectal and brain tumors.

In the Nov. 7, 2013 issue of Cell, investigators pinpoint two cellular enzymes — Type 2 phosphatidylinositol-5-phosphate 4-kinases α and β (Type 2 PIP kinases) — as essential for cancer growth when cells have lost p53, the powerful tumor-suppressor gene long dubbed the "guardian of the genome." More than half of all cancers lose this gene, allowing these cancers to grow at will.


The researchers discovered that the Type 2 PIP kinases are not critical for the growth of normal cells but become essential for cell growth when p53 is lost due to mutations or deletions. The scientists showed, in animal and lab studies of human cancer cells, that targeting these molecules effectively shuts down the growth of p53 mutant cancers.


Although the studies were conducted in human breast cancer cells, the researchers believe Type 2 PIP kinase inhibitors could block the growth of cancers with a mutated or missing p53 gene.


"The fact that one can delete the Type 2 PIP kinases in normal human cells or in mice with essentially no effect on cell survival suggests that inhibitors of these enzymes should have little toxicity," says Dr. Cantley, the study's senior author and director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.


Dr. Cantley is already leading an effort to develop drugs to shut down these kinases. "Well-designed Type 2 PIP kinase inhibitors may turn the tide on p53 mutant cancer," he says.


Dr. Cantley is known for his discovery of the PI 3-kinase oncogene, and pioneering work in teasing apart how the gene contributes to cancer. PI 3-kinases (PI3K) have been linked to a wide variety of cellular functions, including cell growth and proliferation, and most cancers activate PI3K by one or more mechanisms. Dr. Cantley's discovery led to promising avenues for the development of personalized cancer therapies.


Activity of PI3K is in some cases linked to Type 2 PIP kinases, so in this study, Dr. Cantley sought to understand the function of these enzymes. Because the researchers knew that a subset of breast cancers over-express these molecules, investigators looked at their role in HER2-positive breast cancers, which typically are more aggressive tumors.


The researchers, including those from Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and other institutions, discovered that the enzymes are silent in cells that have healthy p53. One critical role of p53 is to "rescue" cells that are producing excess reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are byproducts of cells that are growing too rapidly. The oxidative stress produced by ROS can damage cell structures, so p53 attempts to reduce ROS in affected cells. "If, however, ROS levels exceed the capacity of p53s to rescue it, then p53 takes on a second function, which is to kill the cell," Dr. Cantley says.


"That is why cancers often disable p53. If p53 is mutated or gone, then the cell keeps on growing at a very high rate," he says. "And then ROS begins to damage genes, making the cancer even more aggressive."

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Wearable tech: It’s not a device, it’s a whole new system

Wearable tech: It’s not a device, it’s a whole new system | Amazing Science |
Building hardware for the wearables market is only the first challenge companies need to master. For a truly differentiated experience, they must build out a service.


Wearable computing, or wearables, has recently moved from the realm of science fiction and military technology to being on the cusp of commonplace consumer technology. ABI Research estimates the global market for wearables in health and fitness could reach 170 million devices by 2017. Adding further momentum to the growth of the market is the entry of most of the major platforms into the space, including Google, Microsoft and Apple.


The first several decades of wearable computing failed to produce any notable success stories on the consumer front, but advances in materials sciences, battery power, augmented reality and chip evolution have made the possibilities for wearables grow rapidly.


Google’s recent unveiling of Project Glass has garnered a great deal of attention, but the market is much broader and includes fashion, health and wellness technologies, and technologies for the aging and disabled. As the quantified-self trend gains traction the use of wearables will grow too. This report covers wearables across these verticals as well as provides examples of how applications developed in one area can enable blue-ocean strategies to open up new market opportunities.


Blue-ocean strategies imply not competing with existing market competitors but instead opening up the market space, or blue ocean, to make the competition irrelevant.


Finally, one of the more interesting aspects of wearable computing is the potential impact it could have on the form function of mobiles down the road. Much of the functionality of a smartphone can currently be rendered within a wearable device, and as wearable devices become more common over the next decade mainstream devices such as the cell phone may be rethought.

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A single-atom light switch

A single-atom light switch | Amazing Science |

With just a single atom, light can be switched between two fiber optic cables at the Vienna University of Technology. Such a switch enables quantum phenomena to be used for information and communication technology.


Fiber optic cables are turned in to a quantum lab: scientists are trying to build optical switches at the smallest possible scale in order to manipulate light. At the Vienna University of Technology, this can now be done using a single atom. Conventional glass fibre cables, which are used for internet data transfer, can be interconnected by tiny quantum systems.

Professor Arno Rauschenbeutel and his team at the Vienna University of Technology capture light in so-called "bottle resonators". At the surface of these bulgy glass objects, light runs in circles. If such a resonator is brought into the vicinity of a glass fibre which is carrying light, the two systems couple and light can cross over from the glass fibre into the bottle resonator.


"When the circumference of the resonator matches the wavelength of the light, we can make one hundred percent of the light from the glass fiber go into the bottle resonator – and from there it can move on into a second glass fiber", explains Arno Rauschenbeutel.

This system, consisting of the incoming fiber, the resonator and the outgoing fiber, is extremely sensitive: "When we take a single Rubidium atom and bring it into contact with the resonator, the behaviour of the system can change dramatically", says Rauschenbeutel. If the light is in resonance with the atom, it is even possible to keep all the light in the original glass fiber, and none of it transfers to the bottle resonator and the outgoing glass fiber. The atom thus acts as a switch which redirects light one or the other fiber.


In the next step, the scientists plan to make use of the fact that the Rubidium atom can occupy different quantum states, only one of which interacts with the resonator. If the atom occupies the non-interacting quantum state, the light behaves as if the atom was not there. Thus, depending on the quantum state of the atom, light is sent into either of the two glass fibers. This opens up the possibility to exploit some of the most remarkable properties of quantum mechanics: "In quantum physics, objects can occupy different states at the same time", says Arno Rauschenbeutel. The atom can be prepared in such a way that it occupies both switch states at once. As a consequence, the states "light" and "no light" are simultaneously present in  each of the two glass fiber cables.

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Spitzer and ALMA Reveal the Bubbly Birth of a Star

Spitzer and ALMA Reveal the Bubbly Birth of a Star | Amazing Science |
Supersonic jets burst out of a young star's cocoon in a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).


Combined observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed the throes of stellar birth, as never before, in the well-studied object known as HH 46/47.

Herbig-Haro (HH) objects form when jets shot out by newborn stars collide with surrounding material, producing small, bright, nebulous regions. To our eyes, the dynamics within many HH objects are obscured by enveloping gas and dust. But the infrared and submillimeter wavelengths of light seen by Spitzer and ALMA, respectively, pierce the dark cosmic cloud around HH 46/47 to let us in on the action.


The Spitzer observations show twin supersonic jets emanating from the central star that blast away surrounding gas and set it alight into two bubbly lobes. HH 46/47 happens to sit on the edge of its enveloping cloud in such a way that the jets pass through two differing cosmic environments. The rightward jet, heading into the cloud, is plowing through a "wall" of material, while the leftward jet's path out of the cloud is relatively unobstructed, passing through less material. This orientation serves scientists well by offering a handy compare-and-contrast setup for how the outflows from a developing star interact with their surroundings.


"Young stars like our sun need to remove some of the gas collapsing in on them to become stable, and HH 46/47 is an excellent laboratory for studying this outflow process," said Alberto Noriega-Crespo, a scientist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "Thanks to Spitzer, the HH 46/47 outflow is considered one of the best examples of a jet being present with an expanding bubble-like structure."


Noriega-Crespo led the team that began studying HH 46/47 with Spitzer nearly 10 years ago when the telescope first began observing the heavens. Now, using a new image processing technique developed in the past few years, he and his colleagues have been able to render HH 46/47 in higher resolution.


Meanwhile, the fresh views of HH 46/47 by ALMA have revealed that the gas in the lobes is expanding faster than previously thought. This faster expansion has an influence on the overall amount of turbulence in the gaseous cloud that originally spawned the star. In turn, the extra turbulence could have an impact on whether and how other stars might form in this gaseous, dusty, and thus fertile, ground for star-making.

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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

New Trick Produces Whole Wafers of Perfectly Aligned Nanowires

New Trick Produces Whole Wafers of Perfectly Aligned Nanowires | Amazing Science |

Korean researchers use semiconductor manufacturing processes rather than chemical synthesis to build better nanowires faster.


Nanowires don’t quite get the recognition that their high-profile nanomaterial cousins carbon nanotubes and graphene receive. But nanowires are quietly leading toward big improvements in a new generation of photovoltaics, plastic OLEDs (organic light-emitting devices), and a bunch of other applications.


Nanowires have suffered from the same manufacturing issues that other nanomaterials have endured, namely achieving large scale production while maintaining quality. One of the key problems nanowire developers have had to overcome is getting the nanowires to orient themselves in perfectly even arrays.


Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in cooperation with LG Innotek have found a solution to that problem. And that solution moves away from traditional chemical synthesis to toward tricks common to semiconductor manufacturing.


In research published in the journal Nano Letters (“High Throughput Ultralong (20 cm) Nanowire Fabrication Using a Wafer-Scale Nanograting Template”), the Korean team leveraged semiconductor processes  to produce highly-ordered and arrays of long (up to 20 centimeters) nanowires, eliminating the need for post-production arrangement.


The process involves a photo engraving technique on a 20-centimeter diameter silicon wafer. First the researchers created a template on the wafer consisting of an ultrafine 100-nanometer linear grid pattern. Then they used this pattern to lay down the nanowires using a sputtering process. The method produces nanowires in bulk in perfect shapes of 50-nm width and 20 cm maximum length.


“The significance is in resolving the issues in traditional technology, such as low productivity, long manufacturing time, restrictions in material synthesis, and nanowire alignment,” commented Professor Jun-Bo Yoon of KAIST in a press release. “Nanowires have not been widely applied in the industry, but this technology will bring forward the commercialization of high performance semiconductors, optic devices, and biodevices that make use of nanowires.”


Because the process doesn’t require a long synthesis time and results in perfectly aligned nanowires, the industrial partners in the research believe that it’s a technique that should lend itself to commercialization.

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The parasite that manipulates a cricket's brain

The parasite that manipulates a cricket's brain | Amazing Science |
The hairworm is a long, thread-like parasite that sits bundled up inside the body of its host.


It grows so large that it takes up most of the room inside the host’s body, waiting for the right moment to come bursting out. But that is not the scariest thing about the parasite, because it can also survive a deep freeze (at -70°C) and go on to infect its favourite hosts,  some insects and crustaceans.


The adult hairworm (in the phylum Nematomorpha) is aquatic but in many species the worm develops inside land-loving insects. To ensure it does not dry up when it escapes from the innards of its host, it uses its first trick to manipulate the host. When the time has come for it to make an exit, the hairworm is able to tamper with the brain of its host (usually a cricket) and persuade it to seek out water, where the adult worm can escape and reproduce.


But the hairworm has a complex life cycle and the cricket is not the only host that it infects throughout its life. Before it gets into a cricket, this parasite starts out as an egg that hatches into a free-swimming larva, which then needs to infect an aquatic invertebrate, such as a snail or mosquito larva, to reach its next stage of development as a cyst. It then needs to be eaten by its final host - the cricket - where it matures into a long, thin worm, many times longer than the length of its host.

This process of getting into each of those hosts and waiting to encounter the next one may end up being dragged out over the course of an entire year. For hairworms that live in temperate regions of the world, the parasite is faced with a dilemma - there is a good chance that before it is able to end up in a cricket and develop into an adult worm, winter will arrive and everything will start freezing over.


But the hairworm Paragordius varius is not at all bothered by snow, ice and freezing conditions - it simply shrugs it all off and waits it out. In fact, arecent study showed that it can tolerate being frozen at -30°C or even -70°C for weeks. When it thaws out, it is still fully capable of infecting the next host.

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Australia is back on track for its warmest ever year, study says

Australia is back on track for its warmest ever year, study says | Amazing Science |

Australia has its warmest ever calendar year - - temperatures in October were 1.43˚C above the long-term average and more than 100 heat-related records broken in the past 12 months, according to a new report.


The Climate Council study, called Off the Charts, says that the country has just had its warmest ever 12-month period, from 1 November 2012 to 31 October 2013. This is the third month in a row that this 12-month temperature record has been broken.


The report, drawn from Bureau of Meteorology data, states that the past 12 months have been, on average, 0.22˚C warmer than any other equivalent period prior to 2013, making it likely that 2013 will be Australia's warmest ever calendar year.


October saw a continuation of this trend, being 1.43˚C warmer than the average set between 1961 and 1990. The month was notable for widespread bushfires in NSW, which triggered a fierce debate over whether climate change made such blazes more likely, with Tony Abbott finding himself at odds with the United Nation's climate chief.


The Climate Council, which was abolished as a public body by the Coalition government in September before being resurrected through public donations, said the heat in October was felt across the country.


"We've got to put the last 12 months into the context of the last half century," Prof. Will Steffen of the Climate Council told Guardian Australia. "The number of hot days has more than doubled since the 1950s and 1960s and the number of cold days have gone down.


"This longterm warming trend is skewing the temperatures we are seeing. September and October this year are consistent with the fact that while we still have variability, the dice is now loaded towards warmer weather.


"Lots of people sense that our climate is fundamentally shifting. You talk to fishermen who see fish they have not seen in the waters before, you look at the migration patterns of birds and bats we've not seen before, and so on. People ask 'what's going on?' and that's when we look at the data and see what's happened in the past half century."


The Climate Council's report has been timed for the start of United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, which won't have an Australian ministerial presence for the first time since the Kyoto accord was struck in 1997.

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MIT: Eliminating unexplained traffic jams

MIT: Eliminating unexplained traffic jams | Amazing Science |
If integrated into adaptive cruise-control systems, a new algorithm could mitigate the type of freeway backup that seems to occur for no reason.


Everybody’s experienced it: a miserable backup on the freeway, which you think must be caused by an accident or construction, but which at some point thins out for no apparent reason.

Such “traffic flow instabilities” have been a subject of scientific study since the 1930s, but although there are a half-dozen different ways to mathematically model them, little has been done to prevent them.

At this month’s IEEE Conference on Intelligent Transport Systems, Berthold Horn, a professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, presented a new algorithm for alleviating traffic flow instabilities, which he believes could be implemented by a variation of the adaptive cruise-control systems that are an option on many of today’s high-end cars.

A car with adaptive cruise control uses sensors, such as radar or laser rangefinders, to monitor the speed and distance of the car in front of it. That way, the driver doesn’t have to turn the cruise control off when traffic gets backed up: The car will automatically slow when it needs to and return to its programmed speed when possible.

Counterintuitively, a car equipped with Horn’s system would also use sensor information about the distance and velocity of the car behind it. A car that stays roughly halfway between those in front of it and behind it won’t have to slow down as precipitously if the car in front of it brakes; but it will also be less likely to pass on any unavoidable disruptions to the car behind it. Since the system looks in both directions at once, Horn describes it as “bilateral control.”

Traffic flow instabilities arise, Horn explains, because variations in velocity are magnified as they pass through a lane of traffic. “Suppose that you introduce a perturbation by just braking really hard for a moment, then that will propagate upstream and increase in amplitude as it goes away from you,” Horn says. “It’s kind of a chaotic system. It has positive feedback, and some little perturbation can get it going.” 

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Stone Age Chinese People First Tamed Cattle Over 10,000 Years Ago

Stone Age Chinese People First Tamed Cattle Over 10,000 Years Ago | Amazing Science |
A new study provides the first multi-disciplinary evidence that humans in what is now China first domesticated cattle around 8,000 BC.


Until now, scientists believed that humans started domesticating cattle around 10,000 years ago in the Near East, which gave rise to humpless cattle, while 2,000 years later humans began managing humped cattle in Southern Asia.


However, scientists from China and Europe reveal evidence for management of cattle in north-eastern China around 10,000 years ago. This indicates that Neolithic humans may have started domesticating cows in more regions around the world than was previously believed.


A lower jaw of an ancient cattle specimen was discovered during an excavation in north-east China, and was carbon dated to be 10,660 years old.


The jaw displayed a unique pattern of wear on the molars, which is best explained to be the results of long-term human management of the animal.


Ancient DNA from the jaw revealed that the animal did not belong to the same cattle lineages that were domesticated in the Near East and South Asia.


The combination of the age of the jaw, the unique wear and genetic signature suggests that this find represents the earliest evidence for cattle management in north-east China; a time and place not previously considered as potential domestication centre for cattle.

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Pacemaker Okayed in Europe Is One-Tenth the Size of Those Used Now

Pacemaker Okayed in Europe Is One-Tenth the Size of Those Used Now | Amazing Science |

Throughout the history of medicine, many devastating illnesses were first treated with dangerous, sometimes even barbaric, methods that initially seemed almost as bad as the sickness. Over time, those treatments get refined and it becomes hard to believe that people once died of epilepsy, for example, or from what seem now to be minor heart conditions.


Many types of arrythmia, for example, that used to kill patients no longer do. More than 4 million people around the world wear pacemakers. But it’s still a serious matter to have life-saving pacemakers installed and a limitation to live with one.


But in the coming year, it will likely become significantly easier to receive and live with a pacemaker. Developed by Silicon Valley startup Nanostim, a device about the size of a AAA battery, or one-tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker, was recently approved for use in Europe. It is installed through a catheter in the femoral vein in a minimally invasive procedure. Then, for about 10 years it sits inside the ventricle of the heart and delivers its regulatory electrical pulses wirelessly.

“For the past 40 years the therapeutic promise of leadless [or wireless] pacing has been discussed, but until now, no one has been able to overcome the technical challenges,” Dr. Johannes Sperzel of the Kerckhoff Clinic in Bad Nauheim, Germany, said in a news release.


The first pacemaker was the size of an ice hockey puck and had to be installed in the abdomen. Currently, most are about the size of a watch and are installed in a “surgical pocket” under the skin near the collarbone. The padded wires, or leads, that feed down to the heart to stimulate it cause many patients discomfort.


After the approval came through, Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical acquired Nanostim for $123.5 million. The company, which made the first pacemaker in 1958, had funded Nanostim’s work, and the Nanostim pacemaker uses a St. Jude Medical electrode.


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Carbon Nanotube Sensors For Long-Term Subdermal Glucose Biosensing

Carbon Nanotube Sensors For Long-Term Subdermal Glucose Biosensing | Amazing Science |

Carbon nanotubes are nano-scale, cylindrical structures composed of carbon chains, with unique properties that make them particularly attractive for use in the construction of various nanotechnologies. Nanoscale sensors and devices have shown to be increasingly relevant in the medical world, as they seem to address many of the prominent issues that modern medicine is not yet able to confront, or address cost-effectively.

Researchers at MIT are taking advantage of the unique properties of carbon nanotubes, namely natural fluorescence in a spectral region that has little interference from biological media, to construct biosensors that monitor the presence of nitric oxide, an important signaling molecule whose levels fluctuate in cancer cells. The sensor consists of a nanotube segment, wrapped in a particular DNA sequence, which binds to the target molecules, altering the fluorescent luminosity. The technology is currently being adapted for use in diabetic patients, by altering the sensor to bind to glucose. Theoretically, the technology could be adapted to any number of biomolecules by altering the DNA sequence used in the sensor.


What makes this technology more appealing, however, is the prospect of long term monitoring when localized subdermally. The nanosensor can be injected directly into the bloodstream for short-term use, or placed under the skin of a patient for uninterrupted monitoring for over a year, according to the research. This is accomplished by embedding the sensor in a biocompatible gel that can protect the technology for up to 400 days; the researchers believe it could potentially last longer.


Furthermore, when injected into the bloodstream, the nanosensor was observed to pass through the heart and lungs without causing damage or clumping, an important factor for venous sensing technology.

Hopefully, the development of this technology will be successful, as it could be extremely helpful in monitoring the progression of diabetes, cancer, or virtually any other illness that can be gauged through the presence of biomarkers.

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Scientists discover that ants, like humans, can change their priorities

Scientists discover that ants, like humans, can change their priorities | Amazing Science |
All animals have to make decisions every day. Where will they live and what will they eat? How will they protect themselves?


For the first time, Arizona State University researchers have discovered that at least in ants, animals can change their decision-making strategies based on experience. They can also use that experience to weigh different options.

Co-authors Taka Sasaki and Stephen Pratt, both with ASU’s School of Life Sciences, have studied insect collectives, such as ants, for years. Sasaki, a postdoctoral research associate, specializes in adapting psychological theories and experiments that are designed for humans to ants, hoping to understand how the collective decision-making process arises out of individually ignorant ants.


“The interesting thing is we can make decisions and ants can make decisions – but ants do it collectively,” said Sasaki. “So how different are we from ant colonies?”


To answer this question, Sasaki and Pratt gave a number ofTemnothorax rugatulus ant colonies a series of choices between two nests with differing qualities. In one treatment, the entrances of the nests had varied sizes, and in the other, the exposure to light was manipulated. Since these ants prefer both a smaller entrance size and a lower level of light exposure, they had to prioritize.


“It’s kind of like a humans and buying a house,” said Pratt, an associate professor with the school. “There’s so many options to consider – the size, the number of rooms, the neighborhood, the price, if there’s a pool. The list goes on and on. And for the ants it’s similar, since they live in cavities that can be dark or light, big or small. With all of these things, just like with a human house, it’s very unlikely to find a home that has everything you want.”

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Trapped air in Antarctic ice sheet may be up to 1.5 million years old

Trapped air in Antarctic ice sheet may be up to 1.5 million years old | Amazing Science |

Tiny bubbles of air buried deep in the ice of Eastern Antarctica may contain bits of the Earth's atmosphere as it was 1.5 million years ago, according to a new report. 


"Ice is a great medium for trapping air," said Ed Brook of Oregon State University, one of several authors of a paper in the journal Climate of the Past that describes where this ancient ice might be. "It traps it without altering it very much."


Most of us think of ice forming when liquid water freezes, but the ice in the North and South poles formed from thousands of years of snowfall that never melted. Over time, the weight of the newer snow compacts the individual snowflakes beneath it, causing them to grow together until they eventually form ice.


As the snow gets pushed together, the air between the individual snowflakes form long channels. Eventually those channels close off to form air bubbles, Brook explained.

"When you don't have any melting, you get this great preservation," he said. But ancient ice, and the ancient air trapped within it, will be difficult to find. Even in the coldest places on our planet, most of it has melted, if not from the heat of the sun, than from geothermal heat that arises from within the Earth. And although we think of ice as fairly solid, the ice at the bottom of the polar ice sheets does in fact move, very slowly, out toward the oceans. And this movement can mix up the ice and the air.

So far, the oldest ice ever collected goes back 800,000 years. Scientists think that the even older ice may be about 2 miles beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. 


While finding the oldest air and ice is kind of cool all on its own, the scientists are hoping that ice more than a million years old can help them solve a scientific mystery.


Over the last 800,000 years, the Earth has gone through cycles of ice ages and warm periods that repeat about every 100,000 years. But studies of ocean sediments have revealed that more than 900,000 years ago, the Earth cycled through ice ages and warm periods every 40,000 years. 

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