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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Microsoft's Robotic Touch-Back Screen Lets You Feel Structures

Microsoft's Robotic Touch-Back Screen Lets You Feel Structures | Amazing Science |

Touch screens are nothing new, but this prototype from Microsoft uses a robot-mounted display to do something surprising: touch back.

Early this year at TechFest, Microsoft Research showed off a number of coolnew user interaction applications. One of them is a prototype of a haptic feedback touch screen called TouchMover. The company is preparing an announcement with more details about the technology, but here's a sneak peak.


The robotic system behind the curtain pushes back with a pressure that reflects the physical properties of virtual objects on the screen. A granite block in a 3D playground is harder to move than a wooden block, while plastic beach balls are light and, as you move your finger around it, you can feel its "roundness." I got a chance to try it, and it's a little freaky to use, but remarkable.


Researchers uploaded a full set of MRI brain scans and demoed how doctors might scroll through them and annotate specific slides. And with some additional programming, the researchers could also make the TouchMover provide haptic feedback based on the material properties and texture of the skull bone and pulpy brain tissue, making the screen feel like palpating an actual brain.

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3 Billion Year Old Plankton Microfossils Found in Australia

3 Billion Year Old Plankton Microfossils Found in Australia | Amazing Science |

Scientists have recently found oddly spindle-shaped microfossils in 3 billion year old rock in Australia.“It is surprising to have large, potentially complex fossils that far back,” said study lead author Prof Christopher House from Penn State University.


The microfossils are reported to be planktonic autotrophs who were approximately twenty to sixty microns in length– and freely floated through out the ocean producing energy, according to the study published in the journal Geology. The researchers looked at surrounding rocks (Farrel Quartzite) to determine the age of the fossils, and came up with their stable carbon isotope ratios.


The ratio of Carbon 13 (The component used to determine the age of life by measuring the half-lives of isotopes) was indicative of life. Life forms throughout life gather up more carbon 12 to incorporate into themselves which creates a certain signature of biological processes. Researchers looked at surrounding rock to determine if it was a fluke, and indeed the surrounding area was different from the microfossils.


“The spindles appear to be the same as those found in rocks from the Strelly Pool Formation in Western Australia and the Onverwacht Group in South Africa and Swaziland that are both 3.4 billion years old,” said co-author Dr Dorothy Oehler from Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate, NASA – Johnson Space Center.

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Tokyo, Geneva, Chicago: The Next-Generation Particle Accelerator is Ready for Construction

Tokyo, Geneva, Chicago: The Next-Generation Particle Accelerator is Ready for Construction | Amazing Science |

Organized by the Global Design Effort (GDE), a team of scientists from around the world, the International Linear Collider (ILC) is an international endeavour that brings together more than 1,000 scientists and engineers from more than 100 universities and laboratories in over two dozen countries. Consisting of two linear accelerators that face each other, the ILC will accelerate and collide electrons and their anti-particles, positrons. Superconducting accelerator cavities operating at temperatures near absolute zero give the particles more and more energy until they collide in the detectors at the centre of the 31-kilometer machine. At the height of operation, bunches of electrons and positrons will collide roughly 7,000 times per second at a total collision energy of 500 GeV, creating a surge of new particles that are tracked and registered in the ILC’s detectors. Each bunch will contain 20 billion electrons or positrons concentrated into an area much smaller than that of a human hair. This means a very high rate of collisions. This high “luminosity”, when combined with the very precise interaction of two point-like colliding particles that annihilate each other, will allow the ILC to deliver a wealth of data to scientists that will allow the properties of particles, such as the Higgs boson, recently discovered at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, to be measured precisely. It could also shed light on new areas of physics such as dark matter.


The Linear Collider Collaboration is an organisation that brings the two most advanced linear collider designs, the Compact Linear Collider Study (CLIC) and the International Liner Collider (ILC), together under one roof. Headed by former LHC Project Manager Lyn Evans, it strives to coordinate the research and development work that is being done for accelerators and detectors around the world and to take the linear collider project to the next step: a decision that it will be built, and where.

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Optical Transistor: Scientists have succeeded in using a single photon to switch off a beam of light

Optical Transistor: Scientists have succeeded in using a single photon to switch off a beam of light | Amazing Science |
Photons emerge as competitors to electrons in computer circuits.


Transistors, the tiny switches that flip on and off inside computer chips, have long been the domain of electricity. But scientists are beginning to develop chip components that run on light. Last week, in a remarkable achievement, a team led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge reported building a transistor that is switched by a single photon.


Conventionally, photons are used only to deliver information, racing along fibre-optic cables with unparalleled speed. The first commercial silicon chip to include optical elements, announced last December, did little to challenge the status quo. The on-board beams of light in the device, developed at IBM’s research centre in Yorktown Heights, New York, merely shuttle data between computer chips.


Now, Wenlan Chen of MIT and her colleagues have taught light some new tricks, using a cloud of chilled caesium atoms suspended between two mirrors. Their transistor is set to ‘on’ by default, allowing a beam of light to sail through the transparent caesium cloud unmolested. But sending in a single ‘gate’ photon turns the switch off, thanks to an effect called electromagnetically induced transparency. The injected photon excites the caesium atoms, rendering them reflective to light trying to cross the cloud. One photon can thus block the passage of about 400 other photons, says Chen, who presented the result on 7 June at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in Quebec City, Canada.


The ability to turn a strong signal on and off using a weak one fulfils a key requirement of an optical transistor. “Nothing even came close before,” says physicist Ataç İmamoğlu of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich, who called the experiment “a true breakthrough”. In theory, the hundreds of photons, controlled by the triggering photon, could fan out and switch off hundreds of other transistors in an optical circuit.


In this case, the beam of light to be switched on and off enters and exits along a channel, etched in the silicon, that sits next to a parallel channel. In between the two rails is an etched ring. When a weaker light beam courses through the second optical line, the ring heats up and swells, interfering with the main beam and switching off the transistor. This switch can flip on and off up to 10 billion times per second.


And the output beam can fan out and drive two other transistors, meeting one of the established requirements for an optical transistor set out in 2010 by David Miller, a physicist at Stanford University in California. Other cri­teria include matching the frequency of the exiting signal to the input frequency and keeping the output clean, with no degradation that could cause errors. “Making an optical transistor that really satisfies the necessary criteria is very hard,” says Miller.


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Quantum teleportation done between distant large objects

Quantum teleportation done between distant large objects | Amazing Science |
Spin state transferred between atomic gases


The macroscopic quantum spin state of caesium atoms held in a vessel has been teleported to a second vessel 50 cm away – according physicists in Denmark, Spain and the UK, who have performed the feat. Although this distance is far smaller than the 143 km record for the quantum teleportation of relatively simple states, the experiment achieves a different type of teleportation that had previously been achieved only across microscopic distances. The technique can teleport complex quantum states and could therefore have a range of technological applications – including quantum computing, long-distance quantum communication and remote sensing.


Quantum teleportation was first proposed in 1993 by Charles Bennett, of the IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center in New York, and colleagues. It allows one person (Alice) to send information about an unknown quantum state to another person (Bob) by exchanging purely classical information. It utilizes the quantum entanglement between two particles; one with Alice and one with Bob. Alice interacts the unknown quantum state with her half of the entangled state, measures the combined quantum state and sends the result through a classical channel to Bob. The act of measurement alters the state of Bob's half of the entangled pair and this, combined with the result of Alice's measurement, allows Bob to reconstruct the unknown quantum state.


This deterministic continuous-variable teleportation was proposed and realized in the lab by Eugene Polzik and colleagues at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, together with researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona and the University of Nottingham. Their experimental set-up involves two room-temperature samples of caesium-133 gas held in glass containers and separated by about 50 cm. The aim of the experiment is to use light to teleport the collective quantum spin state of 10E12atoms from one container to the other. The team extended the life of the state by coating the insides of the containers with a special material that does not absorb angular momentum from the atoms.


Precise control over the spin states of the system was done using constant and oscillating magnetic fields. They also collaborated with theorists Christine Muschik at the ICFO and Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, near Munich, to develop a new model of the interaction between the atoms and the light. Using these advances, they teleported multiple collective spin states between the two canisters and looked at the variance in their measurements. When they compared this with the theoretical minimum variance that could be achieved by sending the spin state information in a purely classical manner, they found that the variance from their process was lower. "We have achieved the first deterministic, atomic-to-atomic teleportation over a macroscopic distance," says Polzik.


Hugues de Riedmatten, a quantum-optics expert at the ICFO – who was not involved with the experiment – says that the research is "very significant", describing the results as "convincing". He cautions, however, that it is "a proof of principle", saying "I think it's a first step. If you would like to use it for doing useful things in quantum-information science, for example, you would need to transport much more complicated quantum states. It remains to be seen whether this will be possible or not."

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New Kind of Dark Matter Could Form 'Dark Atoms'

New Kind of Dark Matter Could Form 'Dark Atoms' | Amazing Science |

Most of the matter in the universe may be made out of particles that possess an unusual, donut-shaped electromagnetic field called an anapole. This proposal, which endows dark matter particles with a rare form of electromagnetism, has been strengthened by a detailed analysis performed by a pair of theoretical physicists at Vanderbilt University: Professor Robert Scherrer and post-doctoral fellow Chiu Man Ho. An article about the research was published online last month by the journal Physics Letters B.


“There are a great many different theories about the nature of dark matter. What I like about this theory is its simplicity, uniqueness and the fact that it can be tested,” said Scherrer.


e existence of dark matter via its gravitational effects on the movements of stars and galaxies. Most researchers think dark matter is composed of a new type of particle, one that interacts very weakly at best with all the known forces of the universe save gravity. As such, dark matter can almost never be seen or touched, and rarely even collides with itself. This might not hold true for all forms of dark matter, though. Now, some researchers suggest a new kind of dark matter could exist, representing about one-fifth of all dark matter in the universe, making it potentially as plentiful as conventional matter.

These new dark matter particles would essentially consist of heavy "dark protons" and light "dark electrons." They would interact with each other far more than other dark matter particles to form "dark atoms" that use "dark photons" to interact through a sort of "dark electromagnetism," much as regular protons and electrons interact through photons in conventional electromagnetism to build the atoms making up the stuff of everyday life. If dark atoms are possible, they could react with each other for dark chemistry, much as regular atoms interact chemically.

Vloasis's curator insight, June 11, 2013 3:50 PM

"But boss, they already can't see us," said tertiary atom C.


"Shaddup and put the face paint on," replied primary atom A. "More and more of those fancy-ass scientists aren't just seeing us, they're fucking with us, stickin' us in chambers and makin' us run into each other because they want to gawk at the wreckage."


And it was true, modern-day atoms were feeling positively hunted. They felt they needed a plan to slip back into the peaceful shadows...



BLC3's curator insight, June 12, 2013 6:12 AM

A theory that claims that there might be a new kind of dark matter.

“There are a great many different theories about the nature of dark matter. What I like about this theory is its simplicity, uniqueness and the fact that it can be tested,” said the investigator.

Camila Gomez Duclos's curator insight, November 25, 2013 1:11 PM

   Researchers say that the dark matter that makes up most of the universe could be part of the invisible and intangible counterparts.

   Dark matter is nonluminous material that is postulated to exist in space and that could take any of several forms including weakly interacting particles or high-energy randomly moving particles.

   Most scientists think that dark matter is made up of a new particle, one particle that interacts weakly with all the known forces in the universe.

   This theory might not hold true for every form of dark matter. Some researchers are saying that there is a new kind of matter that could exist, representing about one-fifth of all dark matter of the universe.


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Researchers suggest magicians' mirror tricks could be used as large scale cloaking devices

Researchers suggest magicians' mirror tricks could be used as large scale cloaking devices | Amazing Science |

John Howell, a Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, and his teenage son, have uploaded a paper to the preprint server arXiv in which they suggest that some common magicians' tricks could be used to create large cloaking devices. They describe three types of simple cloaking devices: one made of Plexiglass and water, another of inexpensive lenses, and a third constructed using ordinary mirrors.

Cloaking devices have become an item of interest to both the general public and physicists. The Harry Potter movies showed what a cloaking device might look like, while breakthroughs in metamaterials have allowed for the creation of real cloaking materials. Unfortunately, the real materials only work for certain wavelengths of optical frequencies and for very small sample sizes. Another, less high-tech approach is to use mirrors to make objects "disappear" as magicians have been doing for years. That's what Howell and his son have done.


Cloaking devices all work under the same principles—they bend light in such a way as to cause an object to be hidden from view. A simple example would be a small island in a river. Water is split at one end of the island, moves past on either side, and is then reconnected at the other end. If the water were replaced with light, the island would appear to be invisible from the point of view of an observer (in two dimensions, of course).


Howell and his son aren't suggesting they've invented anything new; rather, by building and demonstrating some simple cloaking devices, they are showing that such devices might be useful for real world applications, such as hiding satellites. They fully acknowledge a major limitation of their devices, namely that they only work when viewed from a specific angle. But that's not the point. The real point is that age-old technology could be updated for use in practical modern applications. If a mirror-based cloaking device were put into space to hide a satellite, for example, it could be computer controlled to keep it at the proper angle as it circled the globe. Even simpler would be "hiding" satellites that hover in a geosynchronous orbit.


Such cloaking devices, they note, would work across the entire visible spectrum and could be made in virtually any size and, perhaps best of all, could be made inexpensively using materials that are already well understood.

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Scientists size up universe's most lightweight dwarf galaxy

Scientists size up universe's most lightweight dwarf galaxy | Amazing Science |

The least massive galaxy in the known universe has been measured by UC Irvine scientists, clocking in at just 1,000 or so stars with a bit of dark matter holding them together.


The findings, made with the W. M. Keck Observatory and published today in The Astrophysical Journal, offer tantalizing clues about how iron, carbon and other elements key to human life originally formed. But the size and weight of Segue 2, as the star body is called, are its most extraordinary aspects. Finding a galaxy as tiny as Segue 2 is like discovering an elephant smaller than a mouse," said UC Irvine cosmologist James Bullock, co-author of the paper. Astronomers have been searching for years for this type of dwarf galaxy, long predicted to be swarming around the Milky Way. 

This image shows a standard prediction for the dark matter distribution within about 1 million light years of the Milky Way galaxy, which is expected to be swarming with thousands of small dark matter clumps called `halos'. The scale of this image is such that the disk of the Milky Way would reside within the white region at the center. Until now, there was no observational evidence that dark matter actually clumps this way, raising concerns that our understanding of the cosmos was flawed in a fundamental way. Observations of the ultra-faint galaxy Segue 2 (zoomed image) have revealed that it must reside within such a tiny dark matter halo, providing possibly the first observational evidence that dark matter is as clumpy as long predicted. Credit: Garrison-Kimmel, Bullock (UCI).

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How Do Organs Know When They Have Reached the Right Size?

How Do Organs Know When They Have Reached the Right Size? | Amazing Science |

Development is, literally, the journey of a life time, and it is a trip still as mysterious as it is remarkable. Despite new methods to probe how an animal or plant forms from a single cell, biologists have much to learn about the unimaginably complex process. To identify some of the field’s persistent riddles, Senior Editors Beverly Purnell and Stella Hurtley and the news staff of Science have consulted with developmental biologists on our Board of Reviewing Editors and elsewhere. The mysteries offered here are a humbling reminder that our knowledge of development remains to a great extent embryonic.


Developmental biologists have found dozens of proteins and genes that play a role in the growth of plants and animals, such as imaginal discs and Hippo and morphogenetic proteins, but not what determines organ size.


A variety of experiments have shown that both the size of imaginal discs and the organs they form are very tightly controlled. When researchers transplant the wing imaginal disc from an early fly larva to a later one or vice versa, the wing still reaches normal size despite having different growing times. If researchers kill a portion of the imaginal disc cells with radiation or other techniques, the insect can boost cell division and still form a normal-size adult. If a fly receives just a fragment of a disc as a transplant, the animal won’t move to the next stage of development until the disc has reached the correct size—pausing overall development to allow the disc to catch up. The transplanted disc “will know what size it should be,” says developmental biologist Savraj Grewal of the University of Calgary in Canada.


Many researchers suspect that a developing organ somehow senses the mechanical forces on its growing and dividing cells. One theory is that relative crowding and stretching of cells helps determine whether a cell continues to divide or stops.


The size of an organ depends not only on how many cells it has, but also how big those cells are. Some developing organs—plant leaves, for example, and fruit fly wings—can compensate when fewer cells are available by making the individual cells larger. How a leaf knows when to expand its cells is also unclear, says Hirokazu Tsukaya, a developmental biologist at the University of Tokyo who was among the first to characterize the phenomenon in leaves. He and his team have evidence that some sort of cell-to-cell communication drives the process. Here, too, the evidence suggests that a plant doesn’t count cells but can somehow assess the overall size of a leaf, says plant biologist Beth Krizek of the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “But the mechanism of how that works is another mystery.”


The size of tissues, and ultimately an overall organism, also clearly depends on signals from the environment, which researchers call extrinsic factors. Those size control systems are connected to, but different from, the intrinsic systems that help ensure an organism is correctly proportioned. In plants, growth can be especially sensitive to such outside factors, Krizek notes, because they can’t move. Plants growing in shade, for example, concentrate on stem growth—to reach the sun—instead of leaf development. In animals, the amount of nutrition available can strongly influence the final size of some organs. One dramatic instance is the horn on a rhinoceros beetle. The horn is a sexually selected trait; males with bigger horns get access to more females. Recent studies have shown that the size of the horn is particularly sensitive to insulin signaling, which is related to the beetle’s nutrition. That, in turn, signals the animal’s overall fitness (Science, 27 July 2012, p. 408).


The problem of size control is still a fundamental one for developmental biologists, says Peter Lawrence of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Together with shape, size “is the material that evolution largely works on.” But the field is still mostly in the dark. Despite hundreds of papers on what happens when the Hippo signaling pathway is interrupted, Lawrence notes, what scientists really need to understand is what it does when it is working properly. “That is not something we know.”


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MRI detects early damage caused by chemotherapy

MRI detects early damage caused by chemotherapy | Amazing Science |

Detecting early damage to a child's heart following chemotherapy is possible using MRI scans, says a study from Canada.


Even when children's heart function appeared to be normal, a new MRI method of mapping the heart was able to identify damage, University of Alberta researchers said.


A UK cardiologist said the impact of anthracycline treatment on children's hearts was only now being understood. Early detection was crucial, he said.


While chemotherapy treatment with anthracyclines is known to be effective against many types of cancer, it can lead to irreversible changes to the heart muscle which may not become apparent until several years after treatment.


Writing in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, the researchers said they performed MRI scans on children and young adults aged seven to 19 who were in remission following this type of treatment.

Using an emerging MRI method called T1 mapping, they said they were able to identify the early effects on patients' hearts.

This happened even in children whose heart function appeared normal by ultrasound.


Dr Edythe Tham and Dr Richard Thompson, who led the study, said: "In childhood cancer survivors, MRI changes were related to anthracycline dose given to the children. "These changes are also mirrored by thinning of the heart wall and a reduction in the exercise capacity."


Dr Chris Plummer, consultant cardiologist at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said the side effects of chemotherapy were well-known.

"Chemotherapy with anthracyclines is a very effective treatment for cancer but it can be quite toxic to the heart. "We've known that for a long time but the number of children affected is only becoming appreciated now.

"We have to look for ways to protect the heart and intervene earlier when damage occurs.


"Waiting for visible heart damage to appear is too long to wait."

But Dr Plummer said carrying out an MRI scan of a child's heart was not an easy thing to do. "Scanning the heart is more difficult than other organs because it is constantly in motion. But with modern scanners the images are fantastic. "It's the best way of looking at the structure and function of the heart - and it's entirely safe. "It is an excellent way of precisely monitoring heart function in children."

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DNA SEQ Alliance - Using a quantum computer to identify most potent drug candidates

DNA SEQ Alliance - Using a quantum computer to identify most potent drug candidates | Amazing Science |

DNA SEQ Inc. is both a free-standing, independent and privately held enterprise as well as the centerpiece of a cluster of strategic relationships with other independent organizations which it calls the DNA-SEQ Alliance. Co-founded by noted crystallographer Janusz M. Sowadski, DNA SEQ is headquartered in La Jolla, California. DNA SEQ’s business model for its stand-alone company is two-fold: first, via its website, DNA SEQ will promote the use of its collaborative process to provide for cancer patients and their oncologists an alternative data-driven view of the nature of their disease and possible protein kinase inhibitor molecules for the oncologist to consider prescribing in the course of his or her treatment of the patient. Second, the Company will focus on drug discovery of anti-relapse drugs to fight the recurrence of cancer once initial first-in-line drugs begin to fail, which is a demonstrated and expected phenomenon.


DNA SEQ Inc. has taken the crucial and missing steps to make Next Generation diagnostics and treatments a reality sooner rather than later by creating a solid inter-disciplinary and cross-organization collaborative alliance with best-in-class researchers, equipped with cutting edge tools. DNA SEQ will have clients deliver a tissue sample from the pathology laboratory of the hospital where their cancerous tumors were removed directly to the Baylor College of Medicine for the best tissue sample preparation to ready the sample for genomic sequencing. DNA SEQ will then have the option of using Baylor for genomic sequencing and follow-on annotation and analytics, or it can turn to its alternative source of supply,Illumina for Next Generation Sequencing, and on to its joint venture partner Diagnomics for annotation and analytics of the data obtained from Next Generation Sequencing. This most advanced genome annotation and analysis platform will allow DNA SEQ to identify rapidly and very accurately the differences between healthy cells and cancerous cells across the entire functional human genome. Next DNA SEQ will internally construct crystallographic models of the mutated cancer cells and use the models to identify corresponding kinase inhibiting molecules from the more than 120,000 kinase inhibitors currently in existence.


At the same time, DNA SEQ will rely on its collaboration with founding shareholder D-Wave Systems Inc. which offers the world’s first Quantum Computing platform to speed up the process of identifying effective protein kinase inhibitor molecules, including FDA-approved drugs and molecules in clinical trials, to cause the “inhibition” or cessation of the rapid division of cells caused by cancerous mutations. Moreover, DNA SEQ will harness D-Wave’s Quantum Computing power to target FDA-approved drugs, and kinase inhibitor in clinical trials, to fight the relapse of cancer once initial first-in-line drugs begin to fail.

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Tech Visionary Elon Musk Talks About Electric Cars, Spaceships, Mars Colonization and Hyperloops at D11

Tech Visionary Elon Musk Talks About Electric Cars, Spaceships, Mars Colonization and Hyperloops at D11 | Amazing Science |
"Mars is a fixer-upper of a planet, but we could make it work," says Tesla and SpaceX head Elon Musk.


Elon Musk dreams big. It’s hard not to get taken along for the ride — whether it’s a soon-to-launch cross-country Supercharger network that allows Tesla drivers to cross from Los Angeles to New York, an in-the-works reusable rocket that will help pioneer the colonization of Mars, or a hypothetical replacement for high-speed rail called the Hyperloop.

He was the evening speaker at D11 2013, where he said a mainstream Tesla is three to four years out, shook off electric car naysayers, announced the new nationwide Supercharger network, explained why he’s so excited about Mars, shared his views on immigration and how they diverged from and tried to convince other smart folks to join him in doing big-picture stuff.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton's curator insight, June 8, 2013 1:53 PM

Sharing great ideas.

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New method of mass-producing highest-quality oligonucleotides enzymatically

New method of mass-producing highest-quality oligonucleotides enzymatically | Amazing Science |

A new method of manufacturing short, single-stranded DNA molecules can solve many of the problems associated with current production methods.

The new method can be of value to development of drugs consisting of DNA fragments and to DNA nanotechnology research.


The novel technique for manufacturing short, single-stranded DNA molecules — or oligonucleotides — has been developed by researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Harvard University.


Such DNA fragments constitute a basic tool for researchers and play a key part in many fields of science. Many of the recent advances in genetic and molecular biological research and development, such as the ability to quickly scan an organism’s genome, would not have been possible without oligonucleotides.


The new method is versatile and able to solve problems that currently restrict the production of DNA fragments.


“We’ve used enzymatic production methods to create a system that not only improves the quality of the manufactured oligonucleotides but that also makes it possible to scale up production using bacteria in order to produce large amounts of DNA copies cheaply,” says co-developer Björn Högberg at the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center, part of the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.


The process of bioproduction, whereby bacteria are used to copy DNA sequences, enables the manufacture of large amounts of DNA copies at a low cost. Unlike current methods of synthesising oligonucleotides, where the number of errors increases with the length of the sequence, this new method according to the developers also works well for long oligonucleotides of several hundred nitrogenous bases.


The DNA molecules are first formed as a long string of single-stranded DNA in which the sequence of interest is repeated several times. The long strand forms tiny regions called hairpins, where the strand folds back on itself. These hairpins can then be cut up by enzymes, which serve as a molecular-biological pair of scissors that cuts the DNA at selected sites. Several different oligonucleotides can thus be produced at the same time in a perfectly balanced combination, which is important if they are to be crystallised or used therapeutically.


“Oligonucleotide-based drugs are already available, and it’s very possible that our method could be used to produce purer and cheaper versions of these drugs,” says Dr Björn Högberg.

CineversityTV's curator insight, June 7, 2013 12:26 PM

even science has its fools who open Pandora's box even further.

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Lifespan-Extending Drug Given Late in Life Reverses Age-Related Heart Disease in Mice

Lifespan-Extending Drug Given Late in Life Reverses Age-Related Heart Disease in Mice | Amazing Science |

Elderly mice suffering from age-related heart disease saw a significant improvement in cardiac function after being treated with the FDA-approved drug rapamycin for just three months. The research, led by a team of scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, shows how rapamycin impacts mammalian tissues, providing functional insights and possible benefits for a drug that has been shown to extend the lifespan of mice as much as 14 percent. There are implications for human health in the research appearing online in Aging Cell: heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming nearly 600,000 lives per year.


Rapamycin is an immunosuppressant drug which can be used to help prevent organ rejection after transplantation. It is also included in treatment regimens for some cancers. In this study, rapamycin was added to the diets of mice that were 24 months old – the human equivalent of 70 to 75 years of age. Similar to humans,  the aged mice exhibited enlarged hearts, a general thickening of the heart wall and a reduced efficiency in the hearts ability to pump blood.


The mice were examined with ultrasound echocardiography before and after the three-month treatment period - using metrics closely paralleling those used in humans. Buck Institute faculty Simon Melov, PhD, the senior author of the study, said age-related cardiac dysfunction was either slowed or reversed in the treated mice. “When we measured the efficiency of how the heart pumps blood, the treated mice showed a remarkable improvement from where they started. In contrast, the untreated mice saw a general decline in pumping efficiency at the end of the same three month period,” he said. “This study provides the first evidence that age-related heart dysfunction can be improved even in late life via appropriate drug treatment,” added Melov, who said the treated mice saw a reduction in heart size, reduced stress signaling in heart tissues and a reduction in inflammation.


Buck researchers, utilizing genome analysis tools, uncovered suites of related genes which rapamycin modulates in the heart. “Rapamycin affected the expression of genes involved in calcium regulation, mitochondrial metabolism, hypertrophy and inflammation,” said Melov. “We also carried out behavioral assessments which showed the treated mice spent more time on running wheels than the mice who aged without intervention.”


“Little has been known about the functional ramifications of rapamycin in mammalian tissues,” said Buck Institute President and CEO Brian Kennedy, PhD, a co-author of the paper. “These findings are significant because we have no interest in simply extending lifespan without an accompanying improvement in the health and quality of life.” He added, “It is particularly encouraging that, in this case, an already-approved drug that extends lifespan also improved function late in life.”

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Amazing Science: Robotics Postings

Amazing Science: Robotics Postings | Amazing Science |

Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Today, robotics is a rapidly growing field, as technological advances continue, research, design, and building new robots, and any of today's robots are inspired by nature. 

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Physicists show self-correcting quantum computers are theoretically possible

Physicists show self-correcting quantum computers are theoretically possible | Amazing Science |

Using exotic components such as color codes, new phases of quantum matter, and extra dimensions, a team of physicists has shown that it's theoretically possible to construct a quantum computer that has the ability to correct itself whenever an error occurs.

"The greatest significance of our work is showing that self-correcting quantum computing at a finite temperature is not impossible as a matter of principle," physicist Héctor Bombin told Bombin was at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while performing the study and is currently at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. "In fact, the original motivation came from claims to the contrary by other authors. We provide explicit constructions that can be checked directly, without numerical simulations."



Error correction in quantum computers cannot be performed the same way as in classical computers, where information is stored multiple times for redundancy. Since copying quantum information is impossible due to the no-cloning theorem, physicists must find other ways to protect quantum information against errors.


As Bombin and his coauthors explain in their paper, quantum computers can be classified into three categories based on their protection against errors.

The first type is bare quantum computers, which do not have any type of error correction. These quantum computers have already been realized with ion traps and optical lattices.


The second type is externally protected quantum computers, which can be acted upon externally in order to repair errors. Although this type has not been successfully implemented yet, theoretical studies indicate that there are no fundamental obstacles to reach them when quantum technologies are fully developed.

The third type is internally protected (or self-correcting) quantum computers, which is the most demanding type because they can correct themselves whenever an error occurs. The standard classical computers that we use today are self-correcting, which is one of the properties that makes them so successful. But developing a self-correcting quantum computer is much more difficult. Illustrating just how difficult it is, the physicists say that the task will amount to finding a new quantum state of matter.


"External correction requires complex architectures involving enormous numbers of physical qubits to operate effectively on just a few logical qubits," he said. "If we had at hand suitable quantum phases of matter to use as quantum registers, architectures would dramatically simplify. In fact, the usual problem with conventional experimental approaches to quantum computing is scalability. In the case of self-correcting quantum computers, the problem is to find a suitable phase, but scalability should be much more straightforward."


Very recently, several other papers have been published that also address the possibility of self-correcting quantum computers. While some of these proposals are similar to the one here, the physicists note that these proposals do not work at a fixed temperature, while the one presented here does. Although each proposal has its own advantages, operating at a fixed temperature makes their model the most demanding and realistic scenario, although much more work is needed to build such a computer.

Among the challenges that the researchers face is lowering the dimensionality of their model.


"A major goal is to explore theoretically quantum phases of matter in two and three spatial dimensions with the goal of finding candidates for self-correcting quantum memories," Bombin said. "The self-correcting property is related to the confinement of excitations, and this may serve as a guide for research."

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Computer memory can be read with a flash of light 10,000 times faster at about a fifth of energy consumption

Computer memory can be read with a flash of light 10,000 times faster at about a fifth of energy consumption | Amazing Science |

Modern computer-memory technologies come with a trade-off. There is speedy but short-term storage for on-the-fly processing — random-access memory, or RAM — and slow but enduring memory for data and programs that need to be stored long term, typically on a hard disk or flash drive.

In conventional computer memory, information is stored in cells that hold different amounts of electric charge, each representing a binary '1' or '0'. Bismuth ferrite, by contrast, can represent those binary digits, or bits, as one of two polarization states, and can switch between these states when a voltage is applied — a property called ferroelectricity. Ferroelectric RAM based on other materials is already on the market. It is speedy, but the technology has not found widespread use. One problem is that the electrical signal used to read out a bit erases it, so the data must be rewritten every time. This leads to reliability problems over time.

Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a materials scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Junling Wang, a specialist in oxide materials at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, realized that they could take advantage of another property of bismuth ferrite to read these memory arrays in a nondestructive way. In 2009, researchers at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, demonstrated that the material has a photovoltaic response to visible light — meaning that when it is hit by light, a voltage is created. The size of the voltage depends on which polarization state the material is in, and can be read out using electrodes or transistors. Crucially, shining light on the material doesn’t change its polarization, and so does not erase the data stored in it.

To test whether photovoltaic ferroelectric memory really worked, Ramesh and Wang grew films of bismuth ferrite on top of a metal oxide, then etched it into four strips. On top of that they laid four metal strips at right angles to the first set. The 16 squares where the crossbars met each acted as memory cells, and the metal and metal oxide acted as electrodes. The team used the electrodes to polarize the cells, then shone light onto the whole array and found that it produced two types of voltage readings — one negative (0) and one positive (1).


It takes less than 10 nanoseconds to write to and read the cells, and recording the data requires about 3 volts. The leading nonvolatile RAM technology, flash, takes about 10,000 times longer to read and write, and needs 15 volts to record.

Victor Zhirnov, a materials specialist at the Semiconductor Research Corporation in Durham, North Carolina, says that the technology will need to be made much smaller before it is competitive. Commercial flash memory is built using equipment that can pattern features as small as 22 nanometres, whereas the strips in the photovoltaic ferroelectric memory device are a hefty 10 micrometres wide. “Smaller size results in more memory per cubic centimetre, and thus lower cost per bit,” says Zhirnov.


Ramesh says that there is no fundamental reason that the memory cells in his device could not be made as small as those in other memory arrays, although it will pose some practical challenges.


There is also the matter of designing a system to light up the cells one at a time. Illuminating the whole array all the time, as in these first experiments, is probably not practical, says Ramesh. So engineers may have to design optical parts to funnel light to each cell individually when it needs to be read.

Dean Jones's curator insight, September 9, 2013 9:19 AM

This both benifits the enviroment as well as speed in your computer. With the use of the elctric charges to transfer data at a insanse speed.

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New Human Cornea Layer Discovered

New Human Cornea Layer Discovered | Amazing Science |
Scientists at The University of Nottingham have discovered a previously undetected layer in the cornea, the clear window at the front of the human eye. The breakthrough, announced in a study published in the academic journal Ophthalmology, could help surgeons to dramatically improve outcomes for patients undergoing corneal grafts and transplants. The new layer has been dubbed the Dua’s Layer after the academic Professor Harminder Dua, who made the discovery. “This is a major discovery that will mean that ophthalmology textbooks will literally need to be re-written. Having identified this new and distinct layer deep in the tissue of the cornea, we can now exploit its presence to make operations much safer and simpler for patients," says Dua, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. “From a clinical perspective, there are many diseases that affect the back of the cornea which clinicians across the world are already beginning to relate to the presence, absence or tear in this layer.” The human cornea is the clear protective lens on the front of the eye through which light enters the eye. Scientists previously believed the cornea to be comprised of five layers, from front to back, the corneal epithelium, Bowman’s layer, the corneal stroma, Descemet’s membrane and the corneal endothelium. The new layer that has been discovered is located at the back of the cornea between the corneal stroma and Descemet’s membrane. Although it is just 15 microns thick— the entire cornea is around 550 microns thick or 0.5mm— it is incredibly tough and is strong enough to be able to withstand one and a half to two bars of pressure. The scientists proved the existence of the layer by simulating human corneal transplants and grafts on eyes donated for research purposes to eye banks located in Bristol and Manchester. During this surgery, tiny bubbles of air were injected into the cornea to gently separate the different layers. The scientists then subjected the separated layers to electron microscopy, allowing them to study them at many thousand times their actual size.
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Rock samples suggest meteor caused Siberian Tunguska blast, biggest Earth impact in recorded history

Rock samples suggest meteor caused Siberian Tunguska blast, biggest Earth impact in recorded history | Amazing Science |

A meteor explosion in the atmosphere still seems the most likely cause for the 1908 disaster that flattened a forest in Siberia — and a new analysis of rock fragments appears to support that conclusion. Grains from Siberian peat bog now suggest to be remnants of the biggest Earth impact in recorded history.


They came from outer space. Fragments of rock retrieved from a remote corner of Siberia could help to settle an enduring mystery: the cause of the Tunguska explosion.


On 30 June 1908, a powerful blast ripped open the sky near the Podkamennaya Tunguska river in Russia and flattened more than 2,000 square kilometres of forest. Eyewitnesses described a large object tearing through the atmosphere and exploding before reaching the ground, sending a wave of intense heat racing across the countryside.


At an estimated 3 to 5 megatonnes of TNT equivalent, it was the biggest impact event in recorded history. By comparison, the meteor that struck the Russian region of Chelyabinsk earlier this year 'merely' packed 460 kilotonnes of TNT equivalent.

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Next-generation of highly-interactive digital ebook as a standard learning tool?

Software developer Mike Matas demos the first full-length interactive book for the iPad -- with clever, swipeable video and graphics and some very cool data visualizations to play with. The book is "Our Choice," Al Gore's sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth."

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Reversible Male Contraception With Gold Nanorods

Reversible Male Contraception With Gold Nanorods | Amazing Science |

Gold nanorods injected into mice testes heat up when excited by a near-infrared laser, killing sperm cells and damaging sperm-generating cells. Stained cross-sections of testis tissue show the damage seven days after the treatment (right). As a comparison, tubules in a testis injected with saline solution remains intact, with sperm and sperm-generating cells filling the middle of the tubules (left). An average tubule is 200 µm wide.

Sun, Jun Wang, and their colleagues developed the new method based on the long-known fact that heating testis tissue kills sperm cells. To do the heating, they turned to rod-shaped gold nanoparticles, which absorb infrared light and convert it into heat. Other researchers are developing ways to use these particles to heat up and kill tumor cells.


Sun’s team envisioned heating up testis tissue to different temperatures for certain effects. They hypothesized that with a low heat, the nanorods would kill sperm cells but not sperm-producing cells, thus causing reversible contraception because the treatment would preserve the ability to produce sperm. But with a high heat, the particles would permanently damage sperm-producing cells, shutting down sperm production and leading to sterilization.


Compared to hormonal methods, Sun says, the nanorod technique would have few side effects because it does not disrupt other hormonal pathways in the body. Also, the method would be less invasive than a surgical procedure like vasectomy. While the approach could be developed for humans in the future, Sun says, it could be immediately applied to sterilize domestic animals.


As a test of the method, the researchers studied male mice in six groups. Animals in each group got a single testicular injection of one of three solutions: a saline solution, a 105 µM gold nanorod solution, or a 145 µM gold nanorod solution. The scientists then exposed the animals’ testes to near-infrared laser light at one of two power densities for about 10 minutes.

Using an infrared camera, the team found that the temperature of the mice’s testes hit between 37 and 45 °C, depending on the nanorod concentration and laser power. High concentrations and high powers lead to high temperatures. Normal mice testis tissue hovers around 29 °C.


As a fertility test, the researchers let the mice mate at seven and 60 days after treatment and calculated fertility as the percentage of pregnancies per total number of mated females. After seven days, mice that had experienced testes temperatures of 37 or 40 °C were 10% as fertile as untreated mice. Their fertility recovered to 50% at 60 days. Meanwhile, testes temperatures of 45 °C permanently sterilized the animals; all of their sperm-generating cells had died, and they produced no pups.

Diana L. Blithe, who runs a male contraception research program at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says that to develop the method for people the team would need to ensure that the gold nanoparticles don’t migrate to other organs and that the laser irradiation is precisely targeted on the testes.


The method is appropriate for companion animals, says John K. Amory, a contraception researcher at the University of Washington, Seattle. But men may find it undesirable due to possible testicular pain during and after the injections. He says that long-term studies of the sterilization form of the technique will be important to ensure that the method is, in fact, permanent.

Boise State Scoop's curator insight, October 12, 2014 7:21 PM

Article examines the use of injecting gold nanorods to inactivate sperm-generating cells.

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Stress really may turn your hair grey, new scientific research shows

Stress really may turn your hair grey, new scientific research shows | Amazing Science |

There could be some truth in the anecdotal belief that stress can turn your hair grey. The appearance of grey hairs after periods of stress or skin damage could be the result of depletion of stem cells from the base of the hair follicle, according to a new study in mice.

The study, reported in Nature Medicine , may also point to new methods of treatment for skin pigmentation disorders such as vitiligo or piebaldism.

Hair and skin are both pigmented by melanin, produced by cells called melanocytes,which in turn are produced by melanocyte stem cells that live in a region at the very base of the hair follicle called the bulge.


Dr Mayumo Ito and colleagues from New York Universityfound that when the skin is damaged or irradiated, these melanocyte stem cells help to repair skin damage by leaving the bulge and travelling to the skin to replenish the store of melanocytes in the outer layer of the skin.


However in the process, they leave the bulge without its own supply of melanocyte stem cells.


The discovery that the stem cells migrate without replicating is a surprise, says Associate Professor Rick Sturm, principle research fellow at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland.


"Normally stem cells only stay where they're supposed to be, in the bulge region, the cells divide and the daughter cells go into the hair follicle to create the hair pigment," says Sturm, who was not involved in the study.


However in the case of a skin injury or UV exposure, as occurred in this mouse experiment, the stem cells appear to migrate out without replicating. "When that happens, if you lose the stem cells from the bulge region, you lose the capacity to make melanin... so they get this small number of hair follicles around the injury which become white," explains Sturm.

The discovery could lead to treatments for conditions such as vitiligo -- depigmentation of the skin -- and to prevent hyperpigmentation, which is too much pigment in the skin. "If we can know more about how melanocytes migrate from hair follicle area to the epidermis, we may get the ability to promote this process for the treatment of hypopigmentation disorders," says Ito.

"Our results suggest that melanocyte migration from the hair follicle to the epidermis may partly contribute to skin pigmentation, thus inhibition of this migration process may be a novel approach to prevent UV induced hyperpigmentation, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation commonly seen after surgery."

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Rover Finds New Evidence That Ancient Mars Was Habitable and Had Neutral-pH Water Flowing at Surface

Rover Finds New Evidence That Ancient Mars Was Habitable and Had Neutral-pH Water Flowing at Surface | Amazing Science |

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has made perhaps the biggest discovery of its nearly 10-year career, finding evidence that life may have been able to get a foothold on the Red Planet long ago.


The Opportunity rover spotted clay minerals in an ancient rock on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater, suggesting that benign, neutral-pH water once flowed through the area, scientists said.


"This is water you could drink," Opportunity principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University told reporters today (June 7), explaining why the rock, dubbed "Esperance," stands out from other water-soaked stones the rover has studied.


The golf cart-size Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed on the Red Planet in January 2004 on three-month missions to search for signs of past water activity. The robotic explorers found plenty of such evidence (much of it indicating extremely acidic water, however), then just kept rolling along.


Spirit stopped communicating with Earth in 2010 and was declared dead a year later, but Opportunity is still going strong. In August 2011, the six-wheeled robot arrived at the rim of the 14-mile-wide Endeavour Crater, which it has been investigating ever since.


Opportunity has seen signs of clays in Endeavour rocks before, but in nowhere near the concentrations observed in Esperance, researchers said. Overall, Esperance provides strong evidence that ancient Mars was habitable.


"The fundamental conditions that we believe to be necessary for life were met here," Squyres said. The neutral-pH water that generated the clays probably flowed through the region during the first billion years of Martian history, he added, stressing that it's nearly impossible to pin down the absolute ages of Red Planet rocks without bringing them back to Earth.


Opportunity's latest discovery fits well with one made recently on the other side of the planet by the rover's bigger, younger cousin Curiosity, which found strong evidence that its landing site could have supported microbial life in the ancient past.

Vloasis's curator insight, June 9, 2013 10:14 PM

Also cool and of note: Opportunity is about to break the record for distance traveled on another world.

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World Science Festival: Self-Aware Robots and Living among Thinking Machines

In recent years, machines have grown increasingly capable of listening, communicating, and learning—transforming the way they collaborate with us, and significantly impacting our economy, health, and daily routines. Who, or what, are these thinking machines? As we teach them to become more sophisticated, how will they complement our lives? What will separate their ways of thinking from ours? And what happens when these machines understand data, concepts, and behaviors too big or impenetrable for humans to grasp? We were joined by IBM's WATSON, the computer Jeopardy! champion, along with leading roboticists and computer scientists, to explore the thinking machines of today and the possibilities to come in the not-too-distant future.

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Fine-tuning emission spectra from quantum dots by photon-correlation Fourier spectroscopy in solution

Fine-tuning emission spectra from quantum dots by photon-correlation Fourier spectroscopy in solution | Amazing Science |

New MIT analysis should enable development of improved color displays and biomedical monitoring systems. The new method — called photon-correlation Fourier spectroscopy in solution — makes it possible to extract single-particle spectral properties from a large group of particles. While it doesn’t tell you the spectral peak width of a specific particle, it does give you the average single-particle spectral width from billions of particles, revealing whether the individual particles produce pure colors or not.

In addition, the particles “are not isolated on a surface, but are in their natural environment, in a solution. With the traditional methods, there’s always a question: How much does the surface affect the results?

The method works by comparing pairs of photons emitted by individual particles. That doesn’t tell you the absolute color of any particular particle, but it does give a representative statistical measure of the whole collection of particles. It does this by illuminating the sample solution with a laser beam and detecting the emitted light at extremely short time scales. So while different particles are not differentiated in space, they can be differentiated in time, as they drift in and out of the narrow laser beam and are turned on by the beam.

By applying this method to the production of quantum dot nanocrystals, the MIT team can determine how well different methods of synthesizing the particles work.

“It was an open question whether the single-dot line widths were variable or not,” Cui says. Now, he and his colleagues can determine this for each variation in the fabrication process, and start to fine-tune the process to produce the most useful output for different applications.

In addition to computer displays, such particles have applications in biomedical research, where they are used as staining agents for different biochemicals. The more precise the colors of the particles are, the greater the number of different colored particles that can be used at once in a sample, each targeted to a different kind of biomolecule.

Using this method, the researchers were able to show that a widely used material for quantum dots, cadmium selenide, does indeed produce very pure colors. But, they found that other materials that could replace cadmium selenide or produce different colors, such as indium phosphide, can also have intrinsically very pure colors. Previously, this was an open question. 

Todd Krauss, a professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester who was not involved in this research, says the MIT team’s “approach is very clever and builds on what this group has done previously.” Measuring the line widths of individual particles is important, he says, in optimizing applications such as television displays and biological markers. He adds, “We should be able to make much better strides now that this technique is published, because of the ability to get single-particle line widths on many particles at once.”

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