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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes nation-wide public WiFi network for everyone

Tech, telecom giants take sides as FCC proposes nation-wide public WiFi network for everyone | Amazing Science |

The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.


The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.


The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.


The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.


If approved by the FCC, the free networks would still take several years to set up. And, with no one actively managing them, con­nections could easily become jammed in major cities. But public WiFi could allow many consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. The frugal-minded could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.

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Ant parasite turns host ant into ripe red berry, biologists discover

Ant parasite turns host ant into ripe red berry, biologists discover | Amazing Science |

A newly discovered parasite so dramatically transforms its host, an ant, that the ant comes to resemble a juicy red berry, ripe for picking, according to a report accepted for publication in The American Naturalist. This is the first example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite, the co-authors say.


Presumably, the dramatic change in appearance and behavior tricks birds into eating infected ants - parasites and all - so that the bird can spread the parasite in its feces. The fruit-eating birds' droppings, which are mostly seeds and insect parts, are gathered by other ants who then feed and unwittingly infect their young.


This bizarre lifecycle of a parasitic nematode, or roundworm, plays out in the high canopy of tropical forests ranging from Central America to the lowland Amazon, according to Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.


"It's just crazy that something as dumb as a nematode can manipulate its host's exterior morphology and behavior in ways sufficient to convince a clever bird to facilitate transmission of the nematode," Dudley said.

Giuliano Cipollari's curator insight, February 16, 2013 9:32 AM

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

A real-life ‘holodeck’ in 10 years? Less far-fetched than many people think

A real-life ‘holodeck’ in 10 years? Less far-fetched than many people think | Amazing Science |

Tim Huckaby can’t sit still. During his hour-long presentation on the future of user interfaces at the recent 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), he leapt from demo to demo, his enthusiasm contagious, and his constant movement making it difficult for anyone in the audience with a camera to capture him in stasis.


Huckaby has good reason to be excited. The way this software expert sees it, we’re on the verge of a science-fiction-like future where doctors manipulate molecules in three-dimensional (3-D) space, augmented music players tune into your thoughts, and retailers deliver coupons in real time based on the focus of your gaze across store shelves.


Huckaby is founder and chairman of California-based InterKnowlogy, as well as the current chief executive officer of Actus Interactive Software. Both companies focus on user interface (UI) development, and Huckaby’s belief in the coming rapid evolution of the UI field is based on decades of work in emerging technology.


During his recent talk in Las Vegas, Huckaby was tasked with predicting what the interfaces we use to interact with computers and communications technologies will look like in five years. He didn’t stick to that time frame, but instead offered multiple examples of where UIs are headed, and how the evolution will unfold.


His predictions for what’s possible within the next 10 years are mind-blowing: a functioning “holodeck” (ala the sci-fi classic Star Trek) into which holographic images are displayed; a legitimate neural-based interface offering a direct pathway between the brain and external devices; and virtual objects that extend into practically every facet of life and that behave much as they would in the natural world.

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Desert soil microbes could help halt desertification and boost agriculture in arid regions

Desert soil microbes could help halt desertification and boost agriculture in arid regions | Amazing Science |

Scientists from the United Arab Emirates [UAE] have isolated local salt- and drought-tolerant strains of Rhizobia, soil bacteria that fix nitrogen when they become established inside the root nodules of legumes.


Rhizobia bacteria establish a mutually beneficial relationship with their host plant in which they exchange nitrogen they fix for nutrients plants produce through photosynthesis, and could be integral to improving the quality and nitrogen content of soil.


The study was carried out by scientists from the Dubai-based International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in collaboration with the Dubai branch of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science.


"The project was conceived when I noticed, at a research farm in Dubai, some leguminous crops forming nodules to fix atmospheric nitrogen," lead author Nanduri Rao, a researcher at ICBA, tells SciDev.Net.


Rao's team began isolating several naturally moccurring Rhizobia strains from the root nodules of three leguminous plants: sesbania (Sesbania sesban), lablab (Lablab purpureus) and pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan). Rao explains that the team has also been studying the Rhizobiastrains'tolerance to environmental stresses such as high temperature, salinity, acidity and heavy metal concentrations in laboratory tests.


"The strains, native to the United Arab Emirates desert, were found to have a high tolerance to such stresses," Rao says, adding that a full length journal article based on this additional research is currently being prepared.


Daniele Daffonchio, professor of microbiology at the University of Milan, Italy, tells SciDev.Net that the identification of microbes capable of surviving in stressful conditions has important implications for agriculture in arid regions.


Philippe Normand, professor of microbial ecology at the University of Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France, tells SciDev.Net that the UAE project "has great potential for improving plant productivity under extreme environments," and is "an interesting approach for deserts".

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Dogs Understand Human Perspective, Study Suggests

Dogs Understand Human Perspective, Study Suggests | Amazing Science |

A recent study reveals that dogs are much likely to steal food in the dark when humans cannot notice them, indicating they understand a human's perspective.


The study, conducted by Dr. Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology, claims that when humans forbid the dog from eating the food, he is four times more likely to steal the food that he was forbidden to eat in the dark. This behavior in dogs reveals that they can change their actions based on what humans think and feel. They take into account what humans can see and what they cannot.


"That's incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective," Dr. Kaminski said in a press statement.


This study, funded by the Max Planck Society, is the first that describes how dogs distinguish between different levels of light when they are making strategies to steal food. According to Dr. Kaminski, humans attribute a few qualities and emotions to other living things. It is we who think that the dogs are clever or sensitive, not the dogs themselves.


A series of experiments were conducted in different light conditions. In each test, the humans forbade the dog from eating the food. On conducting these tests, she noticed that the dog ate more food in the dark and that too quickly, as compared to when the room was lit.


The study had 42 female and 42 male domestic dogs who were 1-year-old or more. She made sure she selected those dogs that were comfortable without their owner, even if it was a dark room. The report states that the tests were complex and involved many variables to rule out that dogs were basing their decisions on simple associative rules, for example, that dark means food. It is not known how well dogs can see in the dark, but the study shows that they can differentiate between light and dark.


The researcher concludes saying, "The results of these tests suggest that dogs are deciding it's safer to steal the food when the room is dark because they understand something of the human's perspective." Further studies have to be conducted in order to discover the mechanism that controls the dog's behavior. Previous studies have indicated that dogs consider human's eyes as an important signal in deciding how to behave. For those people who are attentive toward dogs, the animal responds more willingly.

Greg Wurn's comment, February 14, 2013 3:33 PM
I lived on a property with tall open forest all around for 20 years, my dogs used to regurlary chase after other animals that came near the camp, they would tear off into what appeared to me to be pitch dark, not once in 20 years did any of my dogs injure themselves on fallen branches etc, I suspect that they can see very well in the dark !
Vasileios Basios's comment, February 18, 2013 8:16 AM
... but not vice versa .. we can safely pressume ;-)
KathyTarochione's curator insight, March 4, 2013 4:35 PM

Charlie could have told you this.  He knows it's true.  Hey, just ask Charlie.

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Synthetic oscillating gel acts alive and rebuilds itself through chemical communication, similar to bacteria

Synthetic oscillating gel acts alive and rebuilds itself through chemical communication, similar to bacteria | Amazing Science |

Synthetic self-moving gels can “act alive” and mimic primitive biological communication, University of Pittsburghresearchers have found. The synthetic system can reconfigure itself through a combination of chemical communication and interaction with light.


“This is the closest system to the ultimate self- recombining material, which can be divided into separated parts and the parts move autonomously to assemble into a structure resembling the original, uncut sample,” the researchers say.


“We also show that the gels’ coordinated motion can be controlled by light, allowing us to achieve selective self-aggregation and control over the shape of the gel aggregates.”


Anna Balazs, principal investigator of the study and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, has long studied the properties of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gel, a material first fabricated in the late 1990s and shown to pulsate in the absence of any external stimuli.


In a previous study, the Pitt team noticed that long pieces of gel attached to a surface by one end “bent” toward one another, almost as if they were trying to communicate by sending signals. This hint that “chatter” might be taking place led the team to detach the fixed ends of the gels and allow them to move freely.

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Unique 4D microscope captures motion of DNA structures in space and time

Unique 4D microscope captures motion of DNA structures in space and time | Amazing Science |

Every great structure, from the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, depends on specific mechanical properties to remain strong and reliable. Rigidity—a material's stiffness—is of particular importance for maintaining the robust functionality of everything from colossal edifices to the tiniest of nanoscale structures. In biological nanostructures, like DNA networks, it has been difficult to measure this stiffness, which is essential to their properties and functions. But scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have recently developed techniques for visualizing the behavior of biological nanostructures in both space and time, allowing them to directly measure stiffness and map its variation throughout the network.

Via Sakis Koukouvis
National Microscope Exchange's comment, November 18, 2014 12:45 AM
Good One carry on
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Tracking human history: Algorithm learns how to revive lost languages

Tracking human history: Algorithm learns how to revive lost languages | Amazing Science |

An automated system that reconstructs ancient languages could help recover the sound of words not spoken for thousands of years.


Like living things, languages evolve. Words mutate, sounds shift, and new tongues arise from old. Charting this landscape is usually done through manual research. But now a computer has been taught to reconstruct lost languages using the sounds uttered by those who speak their modern successors.


Alexandre Bouchard-Côté at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues have developed a machine-learning algorithm that uses rules about how the sounds of words can vary to infer the most likely phonetic changes behind a language's divergence.


For example, in a recent change known as the Canadian Shift, many Canadians now say "aboot" instead of "about". "It happens in all words with a similar sound," says Bouchard-Côté. The team applied the technique to thousands of word pairings used across 637 Austronesian languages – the family that includes Fijian, Hawaiian and Tongan.


The system was able to suggest how ancestor languages might have sounded and also identify which sounds were most likely to change. When the team compared the results with work done by human specialists, they found that over 85 per cent of suggestions were within a single character of the actual words.


For example, the modern word for "wind" in Fijiian is cagi . Using this and the same word in other modern Austronesian languages, the automatic system reconstructed the ancestor word beliu and the human experts reconstructed bali.


Reconstructing ancient languages can reveal details of our ancient history. Looking at when the word for "wheel" diverges in the family tree of European languages helps us date the human settlement of different parts of the continent, for instance.


The technique could improve machine translation of phonetically similar languages, such as Portuguese and French.


Endangered languages could also be preserved if they are phonetically related to more widely spoken tongues, says Bouchard-Côté. He is now working on an online version of the tool for linguists to use.

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An amazing invisible truth about Wikipedia hiding inside Wikipedia's GeoTag Information

An amazing invisible truth about Wikipedia hiding inside Wikipedia's GeoTag Information | Amazing Science |

A large number of Wikipedia articles are geocoded. This means that when an article pertains to a location, its latitude and longitude are linked to the article. As you can imagine, this can be useful to generate insightful and eye-catching infographics.


A while ago, a team at Oxford built this magnificent tool to illustrate the language boundaries in Wikipedia articles. This led me to wonder if it would be possible to extract the different topics in Wikipedia.


This is exactly what I managed to do in the past few days. I downloaded all of Wikipedia, extracted 300 different topics using a powerful clustering algorithm, projected all the geocoded articles on a map and highlighted the different clusters (or topics) in red. The results were much more interesting than I thought. For example, the map on the left shows all the articles related to mountains, peaks, summits, etc. in red on a blue base map.  The highlighted articles from this topic match the main mountain ranges exactly.

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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Spy-camera robot penguins infiltrate bird colonies

A BBC documentary team unleashed 50 spycams into penguin colonies, including cameras that served as eyes for robotic penguins, to capture stunning close-up footage of the unusual birds.


“Penguins: Spy in the Huddle” documents nearly a year hanging out with penguins through the surrogate eyes of 50 different spycams. Some of the spycams were disguised as chunks of snow or small boulders, but the most adorable cameras were those in the guise of robotic penguins.


All these robot spy cameras helped the documentary crew get right into the midst of the penguin colonies without disturbing them or altering their normal behavior. The team was able to capture stunning footage, including that of an Emperor penguin laying an egg, a moment they say was filmed for the very first time.


More about this programme: Penguins as they have never been seen before - fifty spy cameras capture unique footage.

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Imaging fish larvae in 3D could aid rapid drug development

Imaging fish larvae in 3D could aid rapid drug development | Amazing Science |

Automated 3‑D analysis of zebrafish larvae, often used as a window on embryonic growth, could aid in the development of new drugs.


Zebrafish larvae — tiny, transparent and fast-growing vertebrates — are widely used to study development and disease. However, visually examining the larvae for variations caused by drugs or genetic mutations is an imprecise, painstaking and time-consuming process.


Engineers at MIT have now built an automated system that can rapidly produce 3D, micron-resolution images of thousands of zebrafish larvae and precisely analyze their physical traits. The system, to be described in the Feb. 12 edition of Nature Communications, offers a comprehensive view of how potential drugs affect vertebrates, says Mehmet Fatih Yanik, senior author of the paper.


“Complex processes involving organs cannot be accurately recapitulated in cell culture today. Existing 3-D tissue models are still far too simple to model live animals,” says Yanik, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biological engineering. “In whole animals, the biology is far more complicated.”


Lead authors of the paper are MIT graduate student Carlos Pardo-Martin and Amin Allalou, a visiting student at MIT. Other authors are MIT senior research scientist Peter Eimon, MIT intern Jaime Medina, and Carolina Wahlby of the Broad Institute.

Marissa's curator insight, December 5, 2013 8:19 PM

I believe this is helpful in many ways. In the science world, we need as many things we can discover. The more we know, the more we can work with. There are so many new opportunities now because we can look into the complications of traits in animals. Also, zebra fish can be used as an aid of developing new drugs and medicines.

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24 new genes linked to nearsighted vision

24 new genes linked to nearsighted vision | Amazing Science |

Nearsightedness—also known as myopia—is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide, affecting 30 percent of Western populations and up to 80 percent of Asian people. At present, there is no cure.


During visual development in childhood and adolescence the eye grows in length, but in people with myopia the eye grows too long. Light entering the eye is then focused in front of the retina rather than on it, resulting in a blurred image.


The refractive error can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. But the eye remains longer and the retina is thinner, and could lead to retinal detachment, glaucoma, or macular degeneration, especially with higher degrees of myopia. Myopia is highly heritable, although up to now, little was known about the genetic background.


To find the genes responsible, researchers from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States analyzed genetic and refractive error data of over 45,000 people from 32 different studies, and found 24 new genes for this trait, and confirmed two previously reported genes.


Interestingly, the genes did not show significant differences between the European and Asian groups, despite the higher prevalence among Asian people. The new genes include those which function in brain and eye tissue signaling, the structure of the eye, and eye development. The genes lead to a high risk of myopia and carriers of the high-risk genes had a tenfold increased risk.


It was already known that environmental factors, such as reading, lack of outdoor exposure, and a higher level of education can increase the risk of myopia. The condition is more common in people living in urban areas.

An unfavorable combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors appears to be particularly risky for development of myopia. How these environmental factors affect the newly identified genes and cause myopia remains intriguing, and will be further investigated.

TXChildrenInNature's curator insight, July 21, 2013 2:34 PM

Children who spend too much time indoors, with fixed lighting, and too much screen time can actually be damaging thier eyes.  

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MIT engineers design new synthetic biology circuits that combine memory and logic

MIT engineers design new synthetic biology circuits that combine memory and logic | Amazing Science |

MIT engineers have created genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results, which are encoded in the cell’s DNA and passed on for dozens of generations.

The circuits could be used as long-term environmental sensors, efficient controls for biomanufacturing, or to program stem cells to differentiate into other cell types.

“Almost all of the previous work in synthetic biology that we’re aware of has either focused on logic components or on memory modules that just encode memory. We think complex computation will involve combining both logic and memory, and that’s why we built this particular framework to do so,” says Timothy Lu, an MIT assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biological engineering.


Synthetic biologists use interchangeable genetic parts to design circuits that perform a specific function, such as detecting a chemical in the environment. In that type of circuit, the target chemical would generate a specific response, such as production of green fluorescent protein (GFP).  

Circuits can also be designed for any type of Boolean logic function, such as AND gates and OR gates. Using those kinds of gates, circuits can detect multiple inputs. In most of the previously engineered cellular logic circuits, the end product is generated only as long as the original stimuli are present: Once they disappear, the circuit shuts off until another stimulus comes along.

Lu and his colleagues set out to design a circuit that would be irreversibly altered by the original stimulus, creating a permanent memory of the event. To do this, they drew on memory circuits that Lu and colleagues designed in 2009. Those circuits depend on enzymes known as recombinases, which can cut out stretches of DNA, flip them, or insert them. Sequential activation of those enzymes allows the circuits to count events happening inside a cell.

Lu designed the new circuits so that the memory function is built into the logic gate itself. With a typical cellular AND gate, the two necessary inputs activate proteins that together turn on expression of an output gene. However, in the new circuits, the inputs stably alter regions of DNA that control GFP production. These regions, known as promoters, recruit the cellular proteins responsible for transcribing the GFP gene into messenger RNA, which then directs protein assembly.

For example, in one circuit described in the paper, two DNA sequences called terminators are interposed between the promoter and the output gene (GFP, in this case). Each of these terminators inhibits the transcription of the output gene and can be flipped by a different recombinase enzyme, making the terminator inactive.

Each of the circuit’s two inputs turns on production of one of the recombinase enzymes needed to flip a terminator. In the absence of either input, GFP production is blocked. If both are present, both terminators are flipped, resulting in their inactivation and subsequent production of GFP.

Once the DNA terminator sequences are flipped, they can’t return to their original state — the memory of the logic gate activation is permanently stored in the DNA sequence. The sequence also gets passed on for at least 90 generations. Scientists wanting to read the cell’s history can either measure its GFP output, which will stay on continuously, or if the cell has died, they can retrieve the memory by sequencing its DNA.

Using this design strategy, the researchers can create all two-input logic gates and implement sequential logic systems. “It’s really easy to swap things in and out,” says Lu, who is also a member of MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center. “If you start off with a standard parts library, you can use a one-step reaction to assemble any kind of function that you want.”

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Tasting Data - The Tongueduino - A Hackable, High-bandwidth Sensory Augmentation System

Can you imagine feeling Earth's magnetic field on the tip of your tongue? Strangely, this is now possible, using a device that converts the tongue into a "display" for output from environmental sensors.


The tongue is known to have an extremely dense sensing resolution, as well as an extraordinary degree of neuroplasticity, the ability to adapt to and internalize new input. Research has shown that electro-tactile tongue displays paired with cameras can be used as vision prosthetics for the blind or visually impaired; users quickly learn to read and navigate through natural environments, and many describe the signals as an innate sense. However, existing displays are expensive and difficult to adapt. Tongueduino is an inexpensive, vinyl-cut tongue display designed to interface with many types of sensors besides cameras. Connected to a magnetometer, for example, the system provides a user with an internal sense of direction, like a migratory bird. Piezo whiskers allow a user to sense orientation, wind, and the lightest touch. Through tongueduino, we hope to bring electro-tactile sensory substitution beyond the discourse of vision replacement, towards open-ended sensory augmentation that anyone can access.


Gershon Dublon of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology devised a small pad containing electrodes in a 5 × 5 grid. Users put the pad, which Gershon calls Tongueduino, on their tongue. When hooked up to an electronic sensor, the pad converts signals from the sensor into small pulses of electric current across the grid, which the tongue "reads" as a pattern of tingles.


Dublon says the brain quickly adapts to new stimuli on the tongue and integrates them into our senses. For example, if Tongueduino is attached to a sensor that detects Earth's magnetic field, users can learn to use their tongue as a compass. "You might not have to train much," he says. "You could just put this on and start to perceive."


Dublon has been testing Tongueduino on himself for the past year using a range of environmental sensors. He will now try the device out on 12 volunteers.


Blair MacIntyre at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta says a wireless version of Tongueduino could prove useful in augmented reality applications that deliver information to users inconspicuously, without interfering with their vision or hearing. "There's a need for forms of awareness that aren't socially intrusive," he says. Even Google's much-publicised Project Glass will involve wearing a headset, he points out.

Carlos Eduardo Santin Dominguez's curator insight, October 14, 2013 4:56 PM

Lo cual nos llevaria a considerar que somos por naturaleza potenciales cyborgs.

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Russian meteor largest in century: The explosion was more powerful than a nuclear blast

Russian meteor largest in century: The explosion was more powerful than a nuclear blast | Amazing Science |

A meteor that exploded over Russia this morning was the largest recorded object to strike the Earth in more than a century, scientists say. The explosion rivaled a nuclear blast, but the space rock was still too small for existing advance-warning networks to spot. Infrasound data collected by a network designed to watch for nuclear weapons testing suggests that today's blast released hundreds of kilotons of energy. That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago and the largest rock crashing on the planet since a meteor broke up over Siberia's Tunguska river in 1908.

"It was a very, very powerful event," says Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, who has studied data from two infrasound stations near the impact site. Her calculations show that the meteoroid was approximately 15 meters across when it entered the atmosphere, and put its mass at around 40 tons. "That would make it the biggest object recorded to hit the Earth since Tunguska," she says.


The meteor appeared at around 09:25 a.m. local time over the region of Chelyabinsk, near the southern Ural Mountains. The fireball blinded drivers and a subsequent explosion blew out windows and damaged hundreds of buildings. So far, more than 700 people are reported to have been injured, mainly from broken glass, according to a statement from the Russian Emergency Ministry.

Mercor's curator insight, February 16, 2013 9:30 AM

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Mini Drones: British Army Deploys Tiny Helicopters

Mini Drones: British Army Deploys Tiny Helicopters | Amazing Science |
A tiny 4ins remote-control helicopter is being used for surveillance on the front line to detect enemy threats to British troops.


British troops are using a nano drone just 10cm long and weighing 16 grams on the front line in Afghanistan to provide vital information on the ground.

They are the first to use the state-of-the-art handheld tiny surveillance helicopters, which relay reliable full motion video and still images back to the devices' handlers in the battlefield.


The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle is the size of a child's toy, measuring just 10cm (4 ins) by 2.5cm (1 inch), and is equipped with a tiny camera.


Soldiers use the mini drone to peer around corners or over walls to identify any hidden threats and the images are relayed to a small screen on a handheld terminal.


Sergeant Christopher Petherbridge, of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan, said: "Black Hornet is definitely adding value, especially considering the light weight nature of it.


"We used it to look for insurgent firing points and check out exposed areas of the ground before crossing, which is a real asset. It is very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground."


The nano helicopter has been developed by Prox Dynamics AS of Norway as part of a £20m contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications Ltd (MCL), Surrey.

Mercor's curator insight, February 16, 2013 9:33 AM

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Chimpanzees can far outperform humans in some mental tasks, including rapidly memorising and recalling numbers

Chimpanzees can far outperform humans in some mental tasks, including rapidly memorising and recalling numbers | Amazing Science |

Chimpanzees can far outperform humans in some mental tasks, including rapidly memorising and recalling numbers, Japanese scientists have shown.

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, of Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, showed remarkable videos of chimpanzees displaying mental dexterity that would be way beyond most people.


The star performer among the institute’s 14 chimpanzees, a 12-year-old male called Ayumu, has learnt all the numerals from 1 to 19. Several other Kyoto chimpanzees have learnt 1 to 9.


When the numbers flash up in random places across a computer screen and in random order, and disappear after less than a second, the apes can point immediately to the exact locations where the numerals had been, in the correct numerical order.


Prof Matsuzawa said a few exceptional people, such as those with savant syndrome, might be capable of such memory feats but they are far beyond the average human brain. “One person in several thousand may be able to do this,” he said. “All the chimps I have tested can do it.”


Prof Matsuzawa, who combines the study of wild chimpanzees in west Africa with research using the captive colony in Kyoto, said such a good working memory – the ability to take in an accurate, detailed image of a complex scene or pattern – was an important survival tool in the wild.



For example, the apes can quickly assess and remember the distribution of edible fruit in a forest canopy. Or, when two rival bands of chimpanzees encounter one another, they can assess the strength of the rival group and decide whether to fight or flee.

mdashf's curator insight, March 4, 2013 9:00 AM

big head big brain it seems 

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NASA may have witnessed the birth of a black hole for the first time ever

NASA may have witnessed the birth of a black hole for the first time ever | Amazing Science |

Black holes are created when a supernova explosion destroys a massive star. Scientists have discovered dozens of black holes, but all of them are already formed. So, when scientists recently saw different distorted remains of a supernova, they knew it something special.


What the scientists believe they observed was the infant phases of a black hole, or the youngest black hole ever recorded in the Milky Way galaxy.

Caught on film by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the "remnant," or W49B, is seen as a vibrant swirl of blues, greens, yellows, and pinks. As seen from Earth, it is about 1,000-years-old and is located roughly 26,000 light years away. A typical black hole, like SS433, is thought to be between 17,000- and 21,000-years-old, as seen from Earth.


"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy," Laura Lopez, who led a study on the remnant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. "It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't."

mdashf's curator insight, March 4, 2013 9:01 AM

right when it was borne 

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Virtual quantum particles can have real physical effects: A vacuum can yield flashes of light

Virtual quantum particles can have real physical effects: A vacuum can yield flashes of light | Amazing Science |

A vacuum might seem like empty space, but scientists have discovered a new way to seemingly get something from that nothingness, such as light. And the finding could ultimately help scientists build incredibly powerful quantum computers or shed light on the earliest moments in the universe's history.


Quantum physics explains that there are limits to how precisely one can know the properties of the most basic units of matter—for instance, one can never absolutely know a particle's position and momentum at the same time. One bizarre consequence of this uncertainty is that a vacuum is never completely empty, but instead buzzes with so-called “virtual particles” that constantly wink into and out of existence.


These virtual particles often appear in pairs that near-instantaneously cancel themselves out. Still, before they vanish, they can have very real effects on their surroundings. For instance, photons—packets of light—can pop in and out of a vacuum. When two mirrors are placed facing each other in a vacuum, more virtual photons can exist around the outside of the mirrors than between them, generating a seemingly mysterious force that pushes the mirrors together.


This phenomenon, predicted in 1948 by the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir and known as the Casimir effect, was first seen with mirrors held still . Researchers also predicted a dynamical Casimir effect that can result when mirrors are moved, or objects otherwise undergo change. Now quantum physicist Pasi Lähteenmäki at Aalto University in Finland and his colleagues reveal that by varying the speed at which light can travel, they can make light appear from nothing.


The speed of light in a vacuum is constant, according to Einstein's theory of relativity, but its speed passing through any given material depends on a property of that substance known as its index of refraction. By varying a material's index of refraction, researchers can influence the speed at which both real and virtual photons travel within it. Lähteenmäki says one can think of this system as being much like a mirror, and if its thickness changes fast enough, virtual photons reflecting off it can receive enough energy from the bounce to turn into real photons. "Imagine you stay in a very dark room and suddenly the index of refraction of light [of the room] changes," Lähteenmäki says. "The room will start to glow."


The researchers began with an array of 250 superconducting quantum-interference devices, or SQUIDs—circuits that are extraordinarily sensitive to magnetic fields. They inserted the array inside a refrigerator. By carefully exerting magnetic fields on this array, they could vary the speed at which microwave photons traveled through it by a few percent. The researchers then cooled this array to 50 thousandths of a degree Celsius above absolute zero. Because this environment is supercold, it should not emit any radiation, essentially behaving as a vacuum. "We were simply studying these circuits for the purpose of developing an amplifier, which we did," says researcher Sorin Paraoanu, a theoretical physicist at Aalto University. "But then we asked ourselves—what if there is no signal to amplify? What happens if the vacuum is the signal?"


The investigators caution that such experiments do not constitute a magical way to get more energy out of a system than what is input. For instance, it takes energy to change a material's index of refraction.

Instead, such research could help scientists learn more about the mysteries of quantum entanglement, which lies at the heart of quantum computers—advanced machines that could in principle run more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the universe. The entangled microwave photons the experimental array generated "can be used for a form of quantum computation known as 'continuous variable' quantum information processing,” Girvin says. “This is a direction which is just beginning to open up.” Wilson adds that these systems “might be used to simulate some interesting scenarios. For instance, there are predictions that during cosmic inflation in the early universe, the boundaries of the universe were expanding nearly at light-speed or faster than the speed of light. We might predict there'd be some dynamical Casimir radiation produced then, and we can try and do tabletop simulations of this."

So the static Casimir effect involves mirrors held still; the dynamical Casimir effect can for instance involve mirrors that move.


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A small robot is being steered by a male silk moth to track down the sex pheromone from a female

The reconstruction of mechanisms behind odor-tracking behaviors of animals is expected to enable the development of biomimetic robots capable of adaptive behavior and effectively locating odor sources.

A small, two-wheeled robot has been driven by a male silkmoth to track down the sex pheromone usually given off by a female. 

The robot, created by researchers from the University of Tokyo, has been used to characterise the silkmoth's tracking behaviors and it is hoped that these can be applied to other autonomous robots so they can track down smells, and subsequent sources, of environmental spills and leaks when fitted with highly sensitive sensors.

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First test of a seismic invisibility cloak using a metamaterial that strongly reflects seismic waves

First test of a seismic invisibility cloak using a metamaterial that strongly reflects seismic waves | Amazing Science |

The secret of invisibility cloaks lies in engineering a material on a scale smaller than the wavelength of the waves it needs to manipulate.  The appropriate sub-wavelength structures can then be arranged in a way that steers waves.


A group from the Institut Fresnel in Marseille and the ground improvement specialist company, Menard, both in France, recently reported that they have built and tested a seismic invisibility cloak in an alluvial basin in southern France. That’s the first time such a device has been constructed. The French team created its so-called metamaterial by drilling three lines of  empty boreholes 5 metres deep in a basin of silted clay up to 200 metres deep. They then monitored the area with acoustic sensors.


The experiment consisted of creating waves with a frequency of 50 Hertz and a horizontal displacement of 14 mm from a source on one side of the array. They then measured the way the waves propagated across it.

The French team say its metamaterial strongly reflected the seismic waves, which barely penetrated beyond the second line of boreholes.

The metamaterial is designed to work at the specific wavelength used in the test andseismic waves cannot be guaranteed to have this same wavelength. But by matching the array to the resonant frequency of a building, the thinking is that it could still provide some protection.

There are important caveats, however. One problem with this kind of array is that the reflected waves could end up doing more damage to buildings nearby. That’s why some groups are looking at metamaterials that absorb energy rather than steer or reflect it. 

Nevertheless, there are bound to be installations that could benefit from this kind of protection. And since creating these arrays looks relatively simple, it looks to be only a matter of time before we will see them in action for real. 

More info: Seismic Metamaterial: How to Shake Friends and Influence Waves?

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President Obama: 3D printing has ‘potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything’

President Obama: 3D printing has ‘potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything’ | Amazing Science |

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama noted that “Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three.


“Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.


“There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.


There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.”

Francis X Carmody's curator insight, June 8, 2013 11:02 AM

What a shock!  Today I actually AGREED with President Obama! :-)

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Nanomanipulation of individual atoms: 3D optical manipulation of a single electron spin in solution

Nanomanipulation of individual atoms: 3D optical manipulation of a single electron spin in solution | Amazing Science |

Researchers in the group led by ICFO Prof. Romain Quidant, in collaboration with Prof. Frank Koppens at ICFO, CSIC and Macquarie University in Australia, have developed a new technique, similar to the MRI but with a much higher resolution and sensitivity, which has the ability to scan individual cells. The paper published in Nature Nanotech, and highlighted by Nature, explains how this was accomplished using artificial atoms, diamond nanoparticles doped with nitrogen impurity, to probe very weak magnetic fields such as those generated in some biological molecules.

Individual atoms are structures that are highly sensitive to their environment, with a great ability to detect nearby electromagnetic fields. The challenge these atoms present is that they are so small and volatile that in order to be manipulated, they must be cooled to temperatures near the absolute zero. This complex process requires an environment that is so restrictive that it makes individual atoms unviable for potential medical applications. Artificial atoms used by Quidant and his team are formed by a nitrogen impurity captured within a small diamond crystal. "This impurity has the same sensitivity as an individual atom but is very stable at room temperature due to its encapsulation. This diamond shell allows us to both move and rotate the nitrogen impurity. In addition, because such control is achieved in solution, our technique is compatible with measurements on a living cell" argues Dr. Quidant.

To trap and manipulate these artificial atoms, researchers use laser light. The laser works like tweezers, leading the atoms above the surface of the object to study and extract information from its tiny magnetic fields.

The emergence of this new technique could strongly benefit the field of medical imaging, providing a new class of information that could contribute to early detection of diseases, and thus a higher probability for successful treatment. 

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Protein ‘filmed’ while unfolding at atomic resolution

Protein ‘filmed’ while unfolding at atomic resolution | Amazing Science |

When proteins get “out of shape”, the consequences can be fatal. They lose their function and in some cases form insoluble, toxic clumps that damage other cells and can cause severe diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Göttingen – in collaboration with Polish colleagues – have now “filmed” how a protein gradually unfolds for the first time. By combining low temperatures and NMR spectroscopy, the scientists visualized seven intermediate forms of the CylR2 protein while cooling it down from 25°C to - 16°C. Their results show that the most instable intermediate form plays a key role in protein folding. The scientists’ findings may contribute to a better understanding of how proteins adopt their structure and misfold during illness.

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Birds' UV Vision has arisen independently more than 14 times during evolution

Birds' UV Vision has arisen independently more than 14 times during evolution | Amazing Science |

Birds depend on their color vision for selecting mates, hunting or foraging for food, and spotting predators. Until recently, ultraviolet vision was thought to have arisen as a one-time development in birds. But a new DNA analysis of 40 bird species shows the shift between violet (shorter wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum) and ultraviolet vision has occurred at least 14 times.


"Birds see color in a different way from humans," study co-author Anders Ödeen, an animal ecologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, told LiveScience. Human eyes have three different color receptors, or cones, that are sensitive to light of different wavelengths and mix together to reveal all the colors we see. Birds, by contrast, have four cones, so "they see potentially more colors than humans do," Ödeen said.


Birds themselves are split into two groups based on the color of light (wavelength) that their cones detect most acutely. Scientists define them as violet-sensitive or ultraviolet-sensitive, and the two groups don't overlap, according to Ödeen. Birds of each group would see the same objects as different hues.


The study researchers sequenced the DNA from the 40 species of birds, from the cockatiel to the whitebearded manakin. They extracted DNA from the bases of feather quills, blood, muscle or other tissue. From that DNA, the scientists reconstructed the proteins that make up the light-sensitive pigments in the birds' eyes. Differences in the DNA revealed which birds were sensitive to violet light versus ultraviolet.


"That change is very simple, apparently," Ödeen said. "It just takes a single mutation" in the DNA sequence. While that change may seem insignificant, it can be compared to the difference humans see between red and green. Why the bird lineages switched their color sensitivity — essentially species of a certain branch on the family tree evolved to have the reverse type of vision — is still something of a mystery. The ability to attract mates while still evading predators could be one reason. Ultraviolet light might also provide higher contrast that makes finding food easier. Other factors are environmental — open spaces have more UV light than do forests, for example. Ultimately, the color sensitivity may be a result of other changes that affect the amount of ultraviolet light the birds' eyes receive.

Giuliano Cipollari's curator insight, February 16, 2013 9:37 AM

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mdashf's curator insight, March 4, 2013 9:08 AM

the suckers are real dreamers and visionaries