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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

New NCI 3D Camera chip for smartphone provides superfine 3D resolution for 3D printing objects

New NCI 3D Camera chip for smartphone provides superfine 3D resolution for 3D printing objects | Amazing Science |
Imagine you need to have an almost exact copy of an object. Now imagine that you can just pull your smartphone out of your pocket, take a snapshot with its integrated 3-D imager, send it to your 3-D printer, and within minutes you have reproduced a replica accurate to within microns of the original object. This feat may soon be possible because of a new tiny high-resolution 3-D imager.

Any time you want to make an exact copy of an object with a 3-D printer, the first step is to produce a high-resolution scan of the object with a 3-D camera that measures its height, width, and depth. Such 3-D imaging has been around for decades, but the most sensitive systems generally are too large and expensive to be used in consumer applications.

A cheap, compact yet highly accurate new device known as a nanophotonic coherent imager (NCI) promises to change that. Using an inexpensive silicon chip less than a millimeter square in size, the NCI provides the highest depth-measurement accuracy of any such nanophotonic 3-D imaging device.

The work, done in the laboratory of Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, is described in the February 2015 issue of Optics Express.

In a regular camera, each pixel represents the intensity of the light received from a specific point in the image, which could be near or far from the camera -- meaning that the pixels provide no information about the relative distance of the object from the camera. In contrast, each pixel in an image created by the Caltech team's NCI provides both the distance and intensity information. "Each pixel on the chip is an independent interferometer -- an instrument that uses the interference of light waves to make precise measurements -- which detects the phase and frequency of the signal in addition to the intensity," says Hajimiri.

The new chip utilizes an established detection and ranging technology called LIDAR, in which a target object is illuminated with scanning laser beams. The light that reflects off of the object is then analyzed based on the wavelength of the laser light used, and the LIDAR can gather information about the object's size and its distance from the laser to create an image of its surroundings. "By having an array of tiny LIDARs on our coherent imager, we can simultaneously image different parts of an object or a scene without the need for any mechanical movements within the imager," Hajimiri says.

Such high-resolution images and information provided by the NCI are made possible because of an optical concept known as coherence. If two light waves are coherent, the waves have the same frequency, and the peaks and troughs of light waves are exactly aligned with one another. In the NCI, the object is illuminated with this coherent light. The light that is reflected off of the object is then picked up by on-chip detectors, called grating couplers, that serve as "pixels," as the light detected from each coupler represents one pixel on the 3-D image. On the NCI chip, the phase, frequency, and intensity of the reflected light from different points on the object is detected and used to determine the exact distance of the target point.

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Novel BLAST Method Delivers Large Particles Into Cells at High Speed

Novel BLAST Method Delivers Large Particles Into Cells at High Speed | Amazing Science |

A newly developed device can deliver nanoparticles, enzymes, antibodies, bacteria and other “large-sized” cargo into mammalian cells at speeds up to 100,000 cells per minute.

A new device developed by UCLA engineers and doctors eventually help scientists study the development of disease, enable them to capture improved images of the inside of cells and lead to other improvements in medical and biological research.

The researchers created a highly efficient automated tool that delivers nanoparticles, enzymes, antibodies, bacteria and other “large-sized” cargo into mammalian cells at the rate of 100,000 cells per minute — significantly faster than current technology, which works at about one cell per minute.

The research, published online in Nature Methods on April 6, was led by Eric Pei-Yu Chiou, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and of bioengineering at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Collaborators included students, staff and faculty members from the engineering school and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Currently, the only way to deliver so-called large cargo, particles up to 1 micrometer in size, into cells is by using micropipettes, syringe-like tools common in laboratories, which is much slower than the new method. Other approaches for injecting materials into cells — such as using viruses as delivery vehicles or chemical methods — are only useful for small molecules, which are typically several nanometers in length.

The new device, called a biophotonic laser-assisted surgery tool, or BLAST, is a silicon chip with an array of micrometer-wide holes, each surrounded by an asymmetric, semicircular coating of titanium. Underneath the holes is a well of liquid that includes the particles to be delivered.

Researchers use a laser pulse to heat the titanium coating, which instantly boils the water layer adjacent to parts of the cell. That creates a bubble that explodes near the cell membrane, resulting in a large fissure — a reaction that takes only about one millionth of a second. The fissure allows the particle-filled liquid underneath the cells to be jammed into them before the membrane reseals. A laser can scan the entire silicon chip in about 10 seconds.

Chiou said the key to the technique’s success is the instantaneous and precise incision of the cell membrane. “The faster you cut, the fewer perturbations you have on the cell membrane,” said Chiou, who is also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute.

Inserting large cargo into cells could lead to scientific research that was previously not possible. For example, the ability to deliver mitochondria, could alter cells’ metabolism and help researchers study diseases caused by mutant mitochondrial DNA.

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High-resolution biosensor can report conditions from deep in the body

High-resolution biosensor can report conditions from deep in the body | Amazing Science |

A new microscopic shape-shifting probe capable of sensitive, high-resolution remote biological sensing has been developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If eventually put into widespread use, the design could have a major impact on research in medicine, chemistry, biology, and engineering and ultimately used in clinical diagnostics, according to the researchers. To date, most efforts to image highly localized biochemical conditions such as abnormal pH* and ion concentration — critical markers for many disorders — rely on various types of nanosensors that are probed using light at optical frequencies. But the light doesn’t reach far into the body, so the sensitivity and resolution of the resulting optical signals decrease rapidly with increasing depth into the body. That has limited most applications to more optically accessible regions.

Fluorescent and plasmonic labels and sensors have revolutionized molecular biology, helping visualize cellular and biomolecular processes. Increasingly, such probes are now being designed to respond to wavelengths in the near-infrared region, where reduced tissue autofluorescence and photon attenuation enable subsurface in vivo sensing. But even in the near-infrared region, optical resolution and sensitivity decrease rapidly with increasing depth. A team of scientists now presents a sensor design that obviates the need for optical addressability by operating in the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) radio-frequency spectrum, where signal attenuation and distortion by tissue and biological media are negligible, where background interferences vanish, and where sensors can be spatially located using standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment.

The radio-frequency-addressable sensor assemblies presented here comprise pairs of magnetic disks spaced by swellable hydrogel material; they reversibly reconfigure in rapid response to chosen stimuli, to give geometry-dependent, dynamic NMR spectral signatures. The sensors can be made from biocompatible materials, are themselves detectable down to low concentrations, and offer potential responsive NMR spectral shifts that are close to a million times greater than those of traditional magnetic resonance spectroscopies. Inherent adaptability should allow such shape-changing systems to measure numerous different environmental and physiological indicators, thus providing broadly generalizable, MRI-compatible, radio-frequency analogues to optically based probes for use in basic chemical, biological, medical and engineering research.

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Geomagnetic compass hooked to the brain allows blind rats to ‘see’ with a new type of sense

Geomagnetic compass hooked to the brain allows blind rats to ‘see’ with a new type of sense | Amazing Science |

By attaching a microstimulator and geomagnetic compass to the brains of blind rats, researchers found that the animals can spontaneously learn to use new information about their location to navigate through a maze, and nearly as well as normally sighted rats. The researchers say the findings suggest that a similar kind of neuroprosthesis might also help blind people walk freely through the world.

Most notably, perhaps, the findings, reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on Thursday April 2, show the incredible flexibility and latent ability of the mammalian brain, says Yuji Ikegaya of the University of Tokyo.

“We demonstrated that the mammalian brain is flexible even in adulthood — enough to adaptively incorporate a novel, never-experienced, non-inherent modality into the pre-existing information sources.” In other words, he says, the brains of the animals they studied were ready and willing to “fill in the ‘world’ drawn by the five senses” with a new sensory input.

What Ikegaya and his colleague Hiroaki Norimoto set out to do was to not to restore vision per se, but the blind rats’ allocentric sense — the sense that allows animals and people to recognize the position of their body within the environment. What would happen, the researchers asked, if the animals could “see” a geomagnetic signal? Could that signal fill in for the animals’ lost sight? Would the animals know what to do with the information?

The head-mountable geomagnetic sensor device the researchers devised allowed them to connect a digital compass (the kind you’d find in any smart phone) to two tungsten microelectrodes for stimulating the visual cortex of the brain.

The very lightweight device also allowed the researchers to turn the brain stimulation up or down and included a rechargeable battery. Once attached, the sensor automatically detected the animal’s head direction and generated electrical stimulation pulses indicating which direction they were facing — north or south, for instance.

The “blind” rats were then trained to seek food pellets in a T-shaped or a more complicated maze. Within tens of trials, the researchers report, the animals learned to use the geomagnetic information to solve the mazes.

In fact, their performance levels and navigation strategies were similar to those of normally sighted rats. The animals’ allocentric sense was restored. “We were surprised that rats can comprehend a new sense that had never been experienced or ‘explained by anybody’ and can learn to use it in behavioral tasks within only two to three days,” Ikegaya says.

Naif Almalki's curator insight, April 7, 2015 8:22 AM

في مقولة فلسفية تقول يزداد الادراك كلما زادت حواسنا. هذا البحث دليل عليها 

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Researchers develop molecular DNA backbone of super-slim, bendable digital displays

Researchers develop molecular DNA backbone of super-slim, bendable digital displays | Amazing Science |

From smart phones and tablets to computer monitors and interactive TV screens, electronic displays are everywhere. As the demand for instant, constant communication grows, so too does the urgency for more convenient portable devices -- especially devices, like computer displays, that can be easily rolled up and put away, rather than requiring a flat surface for storage and transportation.

A new Tel Aviv University study, published recently in Nature Nanotechnology ("Light-emitting self-assembled peptide nucleic acids exhibit both stacking interactions and Watson–Crick base pairing"), suggests that a novel DNA-peptide structure can be used to produce thin, transparent, and flexible screens. The research, conducted by Prof. Ehud Gazit and doctoral student Or Berger of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology at TAU's Faculty of Life Sciences, in collaboration with Dr. Yuval Ebenstein and Prof. Fernando Patolsky of the School of Chemistry at TAU's Faculty of Exact Sciences, harnesses bionanotechnology to emit a full range of colors in one pliable pixel layer -- as opposed to the several rigid layers that constitute today's screens."

Our material is light, organic, and environmentally friendly," said Prof. Gazit. "It is flexible, and a single layer emits the same range of light that requires several layers today. By using only one layer, you can minimize production costs dramatically, which will lead to lower prices for consumers as well."

For the purpose of the study, a part of Berger's Ph.D. thesis, the researchers tested different combinations of peptides: short protein fragments, embedded with DNA elements which facilitate the self-assembly of a unique molecular architecture.

Peptides and DNA are two of the most basic building blocks of life. Each cell of every life form is composed of such building blocks. In the field of bionanotechnology, scientists utilize these building blocks to develop novel technologies with properties not available for inorganic materials such as plastic and metal."

Our lab has been working on peptide nanotechnology for over a decade, but DNA nanotechnology is a distinct and fascinating field as well. When I started my doctoral studies, I wanted to try and converge the two approaches," said Berger. "In this study, we focused on PNA - peptide nucleic acid, a synthetic hybrid molecule of peptides and DNA. We designed and synthesized different PNA sequences, and tried to build nano-metric architectures with them."

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Plant virus can help you boil water 3x faster

Plant virus can help you boil water 3x faster | Amazing Science |

Scientists have found a way to boil water faster. The technology works by coating a heating element with a virus found on tobacco plants. The coating dramatically reduces the size and number of bubbles that form around the element as it gets warmer. Air pockets caused by bubbles temporarily insulate heating elements from the surrounding water, slowing down the transfer of heat. A coating made from the tobacco virus tripled the efficiency of boiling water, scientists said, which could save vast quantities of energy in industrial power plants or large-scale electronic cooling systems.

“Even slight improvements to technologies that are used so widely can be quite impactful,” said Matthew McCarthy, an engineer at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. Controlling the formation of bubbles would also help guard against a scenario called “critical heat flux” that is undesirable – sometimes disastrous – in industrial boilers. This happens when so many bubbles are forming that they merge into a blanket surrounding the element, meaning that it can no longer transfer heat to the water.

“What happens then is the dry surface gets hotter and hotter, like a pan on the stove without water in it,” said McCarthy. “This failure can lead to the simple destruction of electronic components, or in power plant cooling applications, the catastrophic meltdown of a nuclear reactor.” To counteract this effect, scientists have been attempting to develop surfaces that repel bubbles and keep the boiling surface wet. McCarthy’s team has identified tobacco mosaic virus, which is roughly pencil-shaped, as the perfect structure for wicking moisture downwards towards a surface.

The team has developed a genetically modified strain of the virus, with “molecular hooks” allowing it to adhere to nearly any surface. The researchers grow tobacco plants in the lab and infect them with the modified tobacco mosaic virus. “When the plants are really sick, we put them in the blender and you get a sort of green soup,” said McCarthy.

After several rounds of centrifuging and chemical separation, which takes two days, the scientists are left with a perfectly clear solution of concentrated virus. When poured over a surface, the virus self-assembles into a layer of nano-tendrils, each pointing upward like a blade of grass.

Naif Almalki's curator insight, March 30, 2015 5:00 AM

فيروس يساعد على تسريع غليان الماء ويحفظ الطاقة !

JIIP's curator insight, April 12, 2015 7:58 PM


Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Something Smells Fishy? New Device Sniffs Out Seafood Fraud

Something Smells Fishy? New Device Sniffs Out Seafood Fraud | Amazing Science |

Handheld instrument does real-time nucleic acid testing to check if you're getting the fish you paid for.

Appreciate a well-cooked tuna steak or salmon wrapped in a sushi roll? There’s a good chance the fish sitting on your plate or in your grocery store’s seafood case is not what its label says it is, according to the ocean conservancy group Oceana. So you could be paying a premium for red snapper that’s really just plain old tilapia.

University of South Florida scientists have now made a handheld device that could help fight such seafood fraud. The instrument genetically verifies whether fish being called grouper is really grouper or less expensive, potentially harmful substitutes like catfish or mackerel. A quarter of grouper in the United States is mislabeled, according to Oceana, making it the fourth most commonly mislabeled fish in the country. Snapper was the most commonly mislabeled.

The Oceana study found that 33 percent of the 1200-plus seafood samples taken nationwide were mislabeled. This seafood fraud costs fishermen, the U.S. seafood industry, and consumers $20–25 billion annually, it calculates. In addition, fraud allows illegally caught fish to slip into the legal seafood trade and prevents consumers from making ecologically-friendly choices.

Today’s DNA barcoding methods for seafood identification analyze a sample’s DNA. While the price of gene sequencing has dropped in recent years, it still takes days and expensive lab equipment for accurate genetic identitification. The new device, on the other hand, purifies and amplifies a seafood sample’s RNA, or ribonucleic acid. The assay is simpler and works within 90 minutes. USF marine science professor John Paul and his colleagues have developed such assays to identify several microorganisms, and have now applied the technology to seafood identification. 

The researchers described the technology and its application in the journal Food Control. They are now developing assays for other commercially relevant species, and they’re also commercializing it through Tampa-based spinoff PureMolecular LLC. That company plans to start selling the machines for US $2000 by this summer, Reuters reports.

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Could a 3D printer just make your next organ?

Could a 3D printer just make your next organ? | Amazing Science |

With 3D printers everywhere, making everything from Yoda statues to bionic body parts, this company is using 3D printing to make new body tissue. BioBots, a team from the University of Pennsylvania, does just that. They’ve developed a $5,000 3D printer that actually prints functional living tissue. The company just snagged the Most Innovative Company at SXSW’s Accelerator Awards.

And while most of the living tissue BioBots is creating these days is for drug research — to make it less expensive and take animals out of the mix — one day, it could print new organs for transplants. “If we could somehow reveal the failures before testing drugs on people, we would be able to identify false positives much earlier in the drug development process,” CEO and co-founder Danny Cabrera told Forbes. “The problem is in animal testing – mice are not humans, and tests on animals often fail to mimic human diseases or predict how the human body responds to new drugs.

“The Holy Grail is to develop fully functioning replacement organs out of a patient’s own cells, eliminating the organ waiting list, but in the meantime we’ll settle for getting more drugs approved by the FDA at a significantly lower cost on an accelerated time scale, improving the quality of life for millions of people around the world.”

Gary Yuen's curator insight, March 26, 2015 6:18 PM

For now, printing fully-functional organs to be transplanted is still in development, only using mice as test subjects. But it's a start, in the future, a machine may be able to produce the organ you need without you having to wait in line for an organ donor.

Patrick Bolter's curator insight, March 27, 2015 3:31 AM

With 3D printers becoming more and more advanced, it is becoming feasible to create specialised ones that will be capable of printing things like body tissue. I believe this will become a big area in technology in the coming decade.

Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from from Flow Cytometry to Cytomics!

Application of fluorescent protein imaging in cancer

Application of fluorescent protein imaging in cancer | Amazing Science |

Multicolored fluorescent proteins have allowed the color-coding of cancer cells growing in vivo and enabled the distinction of host from tumor with single-cell resolution. Non-invasive imaging with fluorescent proteins enabled the dynamics of metastatic cancer to be followed in real time in individual animals. Non-invasive imaging of cancer cells expressing fluorescent proteins has allowed the real-time determination of efficacy of candidate antitumor and antimetastatic agents in mouse models. The use of fluorescent proteins to differentially label cancer cells in the nucleus and cytoplasm can visualize the nuclear–cytoplasmic dynamics of cancer cellsin vivo including: mitosis, apoptosis, cell-cycle position, and differential behavior of nucleus and cytoplasm that occurs during cancer-cell deformation and extravasation. Recent applications of the technology linking fluorescent proteins with cell-cycle-specific proteins such that the cells change color from red to green as they transit from G1 to S phases. With the macro- and micro-imaging technologies described here, essentially any in vivo process can be imaged, giving rise to the new field of in vivo cell biology using fluorescent proteins.

Via Gilbert C FAURE
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Tesla plans self-driving ‘autopilot’ Model S feature via software update this summer

Tesla plans self-driving ‘autopilot’ Model S feature via software update this summer | Amazing Science |

 software update will give Tesla Model S cars the ability to start driving themselves in “autopilot” mode on “major roads” like highways this summer, Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk announced on March 19, 2015. He also said Tesla had been testing its autopilot mode on a route from San Francisco to Seattle, largely unassisted, and that the cars will be able to park themselves in a private garage and be summoned by smart phone.

Taking it a step further, Musk predicted at NVidia’s annual developers conference on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, that humans driving cars will eventually be outlawed. “It’s too dangerous,” he said. “You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine.” But he admitted that “the hardest part of helping cars drive themselves is what happens when vehicles are traveling between 15 and 50 miles per hour.”

Other updates announced today were Automatic Emergency Braking (will engage in the event of an unavoidable collision in order to reduce risk of impact), Blind Spot Warning (alerts you when drivers behind you are dangerously close), Side Collision Warning, and Valet Mode (limits its speed, locking the glove box and trunk and hiding personal information). In addition, the software will update the audio system sound quality, improved radio tuning, and refined active cruise control. Other luxury cars have most of these features, but updates are not possible.

“We really designed the Model S to be a very sophisticated computer on wheels,” Musk said. “With Tesla’s regular over-the-air software updates, Model S actually improves while you sleep, the Tesla blog explains. “When you wake up, added functionality, enhanced performance, and improved user experience make you feel like you are driving a new car.”

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Future of bio-sensors: Ballpoint pens loaded with sensor-laden inks could eliminate finger pricks for diabetics

Future of bio-sensors: Ballpoint pens loaded with sensor-laden inks could eliminate finger pricks for diabetics | Amazing Science |

It means a small sketch on your skin could test your blood-sugar levels. Ballpoint pens loaded with sensor-laden inks could eliminate finger pricks for diabetics, and help them test their blood glucose levels simply by drawing cartoons - or just a few dots - on their skin. The innovative new ink could also be used to test for pollutants in the environment by drawing on leaves or on buildings' surfaces, and could help soldiers search for explosives and chemical weapons, the developers say. 

The team of engineers from the University of California, San Diego, who developed the ink, used it to fill up regular, off-the-shelf ballpoint pens. The aim was to enable a new type of do-it-yourself sensor with rapid diagnostic capabilities for people with diabetes. 

The ink is made from the enzymes glucose oxidase, which responds to sugar in the blood, and tyrosinase, which can help detect common pollutants known as phenols. These compounds are found in cosmetics and can be toxic at high enough concentrations.   

Charles Choi explains for IEEE Spectrum what else was needed to make the inks operate like on-demand sensors: “To make these bio-inks serve as electrodes, they added electrically conductive graphite powder. They also added: chitosan, a clotting agent used in bandages, to help the ink stick to surfaces; xylitol, a sugar substitute, to help stabilize the enzymes during chemical reactions; and biocompatible polyethylene glycol, which is used in several drug delivery applications, to help bind all these ingredients together.” 

The team has described its "enzymatic ink" and do-it-yourself sensor in the journalAdvanced Healthcare Materials.  Using their pens, they were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly onto the wrist of a willing participant. They say this ink drawing could be “easily interfaced with a Bluetooth-enabled” device that can provide the read-out.

The researchers also used the ink to draw on and measure chemicals on leaves, and according to Choi at IEEE Spectrum, “the inks could be modified to react with many other pollutants, such as heavy metals or pesticides”. 

The main purpose of the ink, and probably the most immediate impact, will be to enable multiple-use testing strips for diabetes monitoring. As the authors note in their paper, handheld glucose meters rely on single use sensor strips, and each test is expensive for the user. 

Peter Hughes's curator insight, March 27, 2015 1:47 AM

This technology will undoubtedly be one of the greatest creations of the 21st century. The ability to test ones blood by drawing on their skin with a pen almost seems impossible, and yet scientists are making it a reality. Who knows what this could develop into; it could be used for identification, easy credit payments and so much more.

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Real-time holographic displays one step closer to reality

Real-time holographic displays one step closer to reality | Amazing Science |
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have designed a new type of pixel element and demonstrated its unique switching capability, which could make three-dimensional holographic displays possible.

Real-time dynamic holographic displays, long the realm of science fiction, could be one step closer to reality, after researchers from the University of Cambridge developed a new type of pixel element that enables far greater control over displays at the level of individual pixels. The results are published in the journal Physica Status Solidi.

As opposed to a photograph, a hologram is created when light bounces off a sheet of material with grooves in just the right places to project an image away from the surface. When looking at a hologram from within this artificially-generated light field, the viewer gets the same visual impression as if the object was directly in front of them.

Currently, the development of holographic displays is limited by technology that can allow control of all the properties of light at the level of individual pixels. A hologram encodes a large amount of optical information, and a dynamic representation of a holographic image requires vast amounts of information to be modulated on a display device.

A relatively large area exists in which additional functionality can be added through the patterning of nanostructures (optical antennas) to increase the capacity of pixels in order to make them suitable for holographic displays.

“In a typical liquid crystal on silicon display, the pixels’ electronics, or backplane, provides little optical functionality other than reflecting light,” said Calum Williams, a PhD student at Cambridge’s Department of Engineering and the paper’s lead author. “This means that a large amount of surface area is being underutilised, which could be used to store information.”

Williams and his colleagues have achieved a much greater level of control over holograms through plasmonics: the study of how light interacts with metals on the nanoscale, which allows the researchers to go beyond the capability of conventional optical technologies.

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New ultrasound therapy targets brain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease

New ultrasound therapy targets brain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease | Amazing Science |

From imaging babies to blasting apart kidney stones, ultrasound has proved to be a versatile tool for physicians. Now, several research teams aim to unleash the technology on some of the most feared brain diseases.

The blood-brain barrier, a tightly packed layer of cells that lines the brain's blood vessels, protects it from infections, toxins, and other threats but makes the organ frustratingly hard to treat. A strategy that combines ultrasound with microscopic blood-borne bubbles can briefly open the barrier, in theory giving drugs or the immune system access to the brain. In the clinic and the lab, that promise is being evaluated.

This month, in one of the first clinical tests, Todd Mainprize, a neurosurgeon at the University of Toronto in Canada, hopes to use ultrasound to deliver a dose of chemotherapy to a malignant brain tumor. And in some of the most dramatic evidence of the technique's potential, a research team reports this week in Science Translational Medicine that they used it to rid mice of abnormal brain clumps similar to those in Alzheimer's disease, restoring lost memory and cognitive functions. If such findings can be translated from mice to humans, “it will revolutionize the way we treat brain disease,” says biophysicist Kullervo Hynynen of the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, who originated the ultrasound method.

Some scientists stress that rodent findings can be hard to translate to humans and caution that there are safety concerns about zapping the brain with even the low-intensity ultrasound used in the new study, which is similar to that used in diagnostic scans. Opening up the blood-brain barrier just enough to get a beneficial effect without scorching tissue, triggering an excessive immune reaction, or causing hemorrhage is the “crux,” says Brian Bacskai, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who studies Alzheimer's disease and used to work with Hynynen.

Safely and temporarily opening the blood-brain barrier is a long-sought goal in medicine. About a decade ago, Hynynen began exploring a strategy combining ultrasound and microbubbles. The premise is that ultrasound causes such bubbles to expand and contract, jostling the cells forming the blood-brain barrier and making it slightly leaky.

That could help cancer physicians such as Mainprize deliver chemotherapy drugs into the brain. Hynynen also hypothesized that the brief leakage would rev up the brain's inflammatory response against β amyloid—the toxic protein that clumps outside neurons in Alzheimer's and may be responsible for killing them. Disposing of such debris is normally the role of the microglia, a type of brain cell. But previous studies have shown that when β amyloid forms clumps in the brain, it “seems to overwhelm microglia,” Bacskai says. Exposing the cells to anti bodies that leak in when the blood-brain barrier is breached could spur them to “wake up and do their jobs,” he says. Some antibodies in blood may also bind directly to the β-amyloid protein and flag the clumps for destruction.

Hynynen and others have recently tested the ultrasound strategy in a mouse model of Alzheimer's. In December 2014, for example, he and colleagues reported in Radiology that the method reduces amyloid plaques in a strain of mice engineered to develop the deposits, leading to improvements in cognition and spatial learning. Microglia consumed more β amyloid after the treatment, suggesting the cells do play a role in the effect, says neuroscientist Isabelle Aubert, who collaborates with Hynynen at Sunnybrook.

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Inkjet-printed liquid metal could lead to new wearable tech and soft robotics

Inkjet-printed liquid metal could lead to new wearable tech and soft robotics | Amazing Science |

Purdue University researchers have developed a potential manufacturing method called “mechanically sintered gallium-indium nanoparticles” that can inkjet-print flexible, stretchable conductors onto anything — including elastic materials and fabrics — and can mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for “soft robots” and flexible electronics.

The method uses ultrasound to break up liquid metal into nanoparticles in ethanol solvent to make ink that is compatible with inkjet printing. Elastic technologies could make possible a new class of pliable robots and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.

“Liquid metal in its native form is not inkjet-able,” said Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue. “So what we do is create gallium-indium liquid metal nanoparticles that are small enough to pass through an inkjet nozzle.

“Sonicating [using ultrasound] liquid metal in a carrier solvent, such as ethanol, both creates the nanoparticles and disperses them in the solvent. Then we can print the ink onto any substrate. The ethanol evaporates away so we are just left with liquid metal nanoparticles on a surface.”

After printing, the nanoparticles must be rejoined by applying light pressure, which renders the material conductive. This step is necessary because the liquid-metal nanoparticles are initially coated with oxidized gallium, which acts as a skin that prevents electrical conductivity.

“But it’s a fragile skin, so when you apply pressure it breaks the skin and everything coalesces into one uniform film,” Kramer said. “We can do this either by stamping or by dragging something across the surface, such as the sharp edge of a silicon tip.”

The approach makes it possible to select which portions to activate depending on particular designs, suggesting that a blank film might be manufactured for a multitude of potential applications. “We selectively activate what electronics we want to turn on by applying pressure to just those areas,” said Kramer. The process could make it possible to rapidly mass-produce large quantities of the film.

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MIT scientists develop magnetic field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than predecessors

MIT scientists develop magnetic field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than predecessors | Amazing Science |

MIT researchers have developed a new, ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than its predecessors. It could lead to miniaturized, battery-powered devices for medical and materials imaging, contraband detection, and even geological exploration.

Magnetic-field detectors, or magnetometers, are already used for all those applications. But existing technologies have drawbacks: Some rely on gas-filled chambers; others work only in narrow frequency bands, limiting their utility.

Synthetic diamonds with nitrogen vacancies (NVs) — defects that are extremely sensitive to magnetic fields — have long held promise as the basis for efficient, portable magnetometers. A diamond chip about one-twentieth the size of a thumbnail could contain trillions of nitrogen vacancies, each capable of performing its own magnetic-field measurement.

The problem has been aggregating all those measurements. Probing a nitrogen vacancy requires zapping it with laser light, which it absorbs and re-emits. The intensity of the emitted light carries information about the vacancy’s magnetic state.

“In the past, only a small fraction of the pump light was used to excite a small fraction of the NVs,” says Dirk Englund, the Jamieson Career Development Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and one of the designers of the new device. “We make use of almost all the pump light to measure almost all of the NVs.”

The MIT researchers report their new device in the latest issue of Nature Physics.

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This yarn conducts electricity and can be used for smart fabrics and bionic implants

This yarn conducts electricity and can be used for smart fabrics and bionic implants | Amazing Science |

Right now, wearable fitness trackers and bionic devices like electronic skin look cool, but they’re a bit clunky. One reason is that rigid wires tend to lose their conductivity after being bent, limiting the range of flexibility for wearables. Now, researchers report the creation of an ultrathin, fabric circuit that keeps high conductivity even while bending and stretching as much as yoga pants. The fiber’s core mimics spandex, consisting of an elastic synthetic thread—polyurethane—twinned by two cotton yarns.

These stretchy strings were then dipped in silver nanoparticles to instill conductivity and then liquid silicone to encase everything. This silver nanoyarn could stretch as much as spandex—500% of its original length—and retain a high conductivity (688 siemens per centimeter), the team reports online this month in ACS Nano. That’s 34 times the conductivity and five times the flexibility seen with prior attempts at nanowires made from grapheneThe fibers kept high conductivity after being bent 1000 times or wrapped around fingers. The team used their yarn to link light-emitting diodes within foldable plastic (shown above), meaning the fibers might serve as flexible wiring in new-age curved TVs, stretchable digital screens, or electronic clothing. The team tested the biocompatibility of these nanowires by surgically embedding them in the skin of mice for 8 weeks. No inflammation surfaced, suggesting that this silver yarn could be used to wire bionic implants in the future.

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This remarkable new exoskeleton slips on like a boot and makes your walking more efficient

This remarkable new exoskeleton slips on like a boot and makes your walking more efficient | Amazing Science |

The latest exoskeleton technology doesn't need an outside power source to boost your strength. It harnesses the power of your own muscles to put a spring in your step instead. And soon baby boomers could be using it to keep hiking and jogging just a few years longer.

The new devices, described Wednesday in Nature, are still just in the prototype phase. But the researchers who created the inexpensive, easy-to-wear exoskeletons believe they could be ubiquitous in another decade. They're quite unlike the hulking, "Iron Man"-like suits that others have created to help people walk more easily. These little braces don't require any outside power, and they make walking 7 percent more efficient with nothing but a well-placed spring system. They can't support someone who can't stand on her own like a bulkier, motor-aided suit might. But for people who can walk but have difficulty doing so, the boot-like new apparatus could help create a more balanced, comfortable gait.

Just under 10 percent less energy per step doesn't sound like much -- it's the equivalent of removing a 10-pound backpack. According to study co-author Gregory Sawicki, a biomedical engineer and locomotion physiologist in the joint NC State/University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Department of Biomedical Engineering, people using the braces don't really notice the difference -- until it's gone.

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'Google Maps' for the body: A biomedical revolution down to a single cell

'Google Maps' for the body: A biomedical revolution down to a single cell | Amazing Science |
Scientists are using previously top-secret technology to zoom through the human body down to the level of a single cell. Scientists are also using cutting-edge microtome and MRI technology to examine how movement and weight bearing affects the movement of molecules within joints, exploring the relationship between blood, bone, lymphatics and muscle.

UNSW biomedical engineer Melissa Knothe Tate is using previously top-secret semiconductor technology to zoom through organs of the human body, down to the level of a single cell.

A world-first UNSW collaboration that uses previously top-secret technology to zoom through the human body down to the level of a single cell could be a game-changer for medicine, an international research conference in the United States has been told.

The imaging technology, developed by high-tech German optical and industrial measurement manufacturer Zeiss, was originally developed to scan silicon wafers for defects.

UNSW Professor Melissa Knothe Tate, the Paul Trainor Chair of Biomedical Engineering, is leading the project, which is using semiconductor technology to explore osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Using Google algorithms, Professor Knothe Tate -- an engineer and expert in cell biology and regenerative medicine -- is able to zoom in and out from the scale of the whole joint down to the cellular level "just as you would with Google Maps," reducing to "a matter of weeks analyses that once took 25 years to complete."

Her team is also using cutting-edge microtome and MRI technology to examine how movement and weight bearing affects the movement of molecules within joints, exploring the relationship between blood, bone, lymphatics and muscle. "For the first time we have the ability to go from the whole body down to how the cells are getting their nutrition and how this is all connected," said Professor Knothe Tate. "This could open the door to as yet unknown new therapies and preventions."

Professor Knothe Tate is the first to use the system in humans. She has forged a pioneering partnership with the US-based Cleveland Clinic, Brown and Stanford Universities, as well as Zeiss and Google to help crunch terabytes of data gathered from human hip studies. Similar research is underway at Harvard University and Heidelberg in Germany to map neural pathways and connections in the brains of mice.

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales.

CineversityTV's curator insight, March 30, 2015 8:53 PM

What happens with the metadata? In the public domain? Or in the greed hands of the elite.

Courtney Jones's curator insight, April 2, 2015 4:49 AM

,New advances in biomedical technology

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What is 5G and when can I get it?

What is 5G and when can I get it? | Amazing Science |

Imagine being able to download a full-length 8GB HD movie to your phone in six seconds (versus seven minutes over 4G or more than an hour on 3G) and video chats so immersive that it will feel like you can reach out and touch the other person right through the screen.

That’s the vision for the 5G concept — the next generation of wireless networks — presented at the Mobile World Congress show last week, according to re/code.

Here’s what it will offer:

  • Significantly faster data speeds: 10Gbps, compared to one gigabit per second (max) with 4G.
  • Ultra-low latency (time to send a packet): one millisecond vs. 50 with 4G — particularly important for industrial applications and driverless cars.
  • A more “connected world”: The Internet of Things (wearables, smart home appliances, connected cars) will need a network that can accommodate billions of connected devices. Part of the goal behind 5G is to provide that capacity, and also to be able to assign bandwidth depending on the needs of the application and user.

“Ulrich Dropmann, head of industry environment networks at Nokia, gave a scenario where you might be cruising in your driverless car when, unbeknownst to you, a crash has just occurred up the road,” says re/code. “With 5G, sensors placed along the road would be able to instantly relay that information back to your car (this is where having low latency is important), so it could brake earlier and avoid another accident.”

So when might it be here? “The most optimistic targets would see the first commercial network up and running by 2020, but even that may be too optimistic. As with LTE, it will take years for the network to become widespread.”

Mike Steele's curator insight, March 27, 2015 11:39 PM

If only 5G speeds were coming in 2015!  I suppose we can wait a few more years.

LEONARDO WILD's curator insight, March 28, 2015 10:29 AM

All of this wonderful and awesome; we've come far in the past few decades in areas such as "communication" ... but it still hasn't improved our ability to communicate with each other at a human level, with empathy and respect and tolerance. 

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New fire-fighting solution uses sound waves to put out fire

New fire-fighting solution uses sound waves to put out fire | Amazing Science |

Seth Robertson and Viet Tran, engineering students of George Mason University, have a new explanation of how to put out a fire and they build their very own practical peace of fire-fighting technology.

Their new fire-fighting solution works with sound waves by pushing low frequency sound waves “30 to 60 hertz range” to the flames you can separate the oxygen from the fuel. The fire has a triangle of needs: Heat, Fuel and Oxygen. And simply by taking any of these needs away, you can put out the fire. What wave sound does to this triangle is to bring air (Oxygen) back and forth which keeps the air away from fire but in molecule levels. The fire will act like a cat going after a laser pointer light and that is all it takes to cut off the oxygen from the fire.

But the inventors have even more dreams for their new flagship, Washington post reports: “Robertson and Tran envision their technology being used to put out fires in homes — and in the wild. If properly scaled, sound-wave extinguishers would eliminate the need to douse forests in chemicals or waste untold gallons of water”. But that’s still a long way away.

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Landmark study proves that magnets can control heat and sound

Landmark study proves that magnets can control heat and sound | Amazing Science |
Researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered how to control heat with a magnetic field.

In the March 23 issue of the journal Nature Materials, they describe how a magnetic field roughly the size of a medical MRI reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12 percent. The study is the first ever to prove that acoustic phonons—the elemental particles that transmit both heat and sound—have magnetic properties.

"This adds a new dimension to our understanding of acoustic waves," said Joseph Heremans, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology and professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State. "We've shown that we can steer heat magnetically. With a strong enough magnetic field, we should be able to steer sound waves, too."

People might be surprised enough to learn that heat and sound have anything to do with each other, much less that either can be controlled by magnets, Heremans acknowledged. But both are expressions of the same form of energy, quantum mechanically speaking. So any force that controls one should control the other.

"Essentially, heat is the vibration of atoms," he explained. "Heat is conducted through materials by vibrations. The hotter a material is, the faster the atoms vibrate. Sound is the vibration of atoms, too," he continued. "It's through vibrations that I talk to you, because my vocal chords compress the air and create vibrations that travel to you, and you pick them up in your ears as sound."

The name "phonon" sounds a lot like "photon." That's because researchers consider them to be cousins: Photons are particles of light, and phonons are particles of heat and sound. But researchers have studied photons intensely for a hundred years—ever since Einstein discovered the photoelectric effect. Phonons haven't received as much attention, and so not as much is known about them beyond their properties of heat and sound.

The implication: In materials such as glass, stone, plastic—materials that are not conventionally magnetic—heat can be controlled magnetically, if you have a powerful enough magnet. The effect would go unnoticed in metals, which transmit so much heat via electrons that any heat carried by phonons is negligible by comparison. There won't be any practical applications of this discovery any time soon, howerver: 7-tesla magnets like the one used in the study don't exist outside of hospitals and laboratories, and the semiconductor had to be chilled to -450 degrees Fahrenheit (-268 degrees Celsius)—very close to absolute zero—to make the atoms in the material slow down enough for the phonons' movements to be detectible.

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Xelflex smart fabric gives athletes intelligent feedback during performance

Xelflex smart fabric gives athletes intelligent feedback during performance | Amazing Science |

Technology developers from the UK have designed a new wearable technology where the garment itself becomes an active motion sensor. Xelflex uses bend-sensitive fiber-optic that are stitched inside the clothing to provide intelligent feedback for athletes without encumbering them with bulking electronics.

The makers say that until now smart fabrics have had multiple electronic sensors, making them bulky and sensitive to moisture. Xelflex's fiber-optic thread is robust enough for use in sportswear, with only a small, credit card-sized, electronics pack being the only other component.

Xelflex inventor Martin Brock said making a wearable technology that was comfortable was a key factor: "Xelflex is a breakthrough sensing technology based on optical fibers; where the optical fiber is actually integrated into the garment. And really it behaves like any other thread in that garment, there's no compromise between having a sensor that gives you feedback on your motion or your performance; and having some clothing that is comfortable and wearable and elegant as part of the everyday activities."

The technology built on the developers' extensive experience in industrial fiber-optic sensors and low-cost impulse radar. Brock explained that Xelflex measures the scattering of light in the optic fibers where bending the fiber results in increased scattering and reflection, which can then be measured.

"As I flex my joint there, it changes how much that optical fiber is bent. And as that bending changes the properties of the light in the optical fiber change so that more light is scattered back towards the source. And we pick up on that extra scattering and that allows us to measure how much that joint is bent," said Brock.

Algorithms turn the results from the sensors into feedback that is useful for wearer; for example, correcting posture and movement, and coaching them on how to improve. Cambridge Consultants' Duncan Smith said Xelflex improves on current 'smart garments' which he says are little more than clothing acting as a support for a conventional electronic sensor, with no synergy between the two and where the electronic component often detracts from the garment. He wants to bridge the gap between technologists and fashion designers.

"Xelflex represents a major step forward in wearable technology because it's truly wearable - the sensor is actually built in to the fabric so you're able to design clothes that have the sensor built into them. This means that fashions designers can design the clothes rather than technologists designing wearable technology that's just a wristband or something like that. And that's a big step forward."

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Imaging break-through: Fusion of microscopy and mass spectrometry produces detailed map of protein distribution

Imaging break-through: Fusion of microscopy and mass spectrometry produces detailed map of protein distribution | Amazing Science |

Vanderbilt University researchers have achieved the first “image fusion” of mass spectrometry and microscopy — a technical tour de force that could, among other things, dramatically improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Microscopy can yield high-resolution images of tissues, but “it really doesn’t give you molecular information,” said Richard Caprioli, Ph.D., senior author of the paper published last week in the journal Nature Methods.

Mass spectrometry provides a very precise accounting of the proteins, lipids and other molecules in a given tissue, but in a spatially coarse or pixelated manner. Combining the best features of both imaging modalities allows scientists to see the molecular make-up of tissues in high resolution.

“That to me is just phenomenal,” said Caprioli, the Stanford Moore Professor of Biochemistry and director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center. Caprioli said the technique could redefine the surgical “margin,” the line between cancer cells and normal cells where the scalpel goes to remove the tumor.

Currently that line is determined by histology — the appearance of cells examined under the microscope. But many cancers recur after surgery. That could be because what appear to be normal cells, when analyzed for their protein content using mass spectrometry, are actually cancer cells in the making. 

Using a mathematical approach called regression analysis, the researchers mapped each pixel of mass spectrometry data onto the corresponding spot on the microscopy image to produce a new, “predicted” image. It’s similar in concept to the line drawn between experimentally determined points in a standard curve, Caprioli said. There are no “real” points between those that were actually measured, yet the line is predicted by the previous experiments.

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Scientists make breakthrough in understanding how to control intense heat bursts in fusion experiments

Scientists make breakthrough in understanding how to control intense heat bursts in fusion experiments | Amazing Science |

Researchers from General Atomics and the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have made a major breakthrough in understanding how potentially damaging heat bursts inside a fusion reactor can be controlled. Scientists performed the experiments on the DIII-D National Fusion Facility, a tokamak operated by General Atomics in San Diego. The findings represent a key step in predicting how to control heat bursts in future fusion facilities including ITER, an international experiment under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy.

The studies build upon previous work pioneered on DIII-D showing that these intense heat bursts - called "ELMs" for short - could be suppressed with tiny magnetic fields. These tiny fields cause the edge of the plasma to smoothly release heat, thereby avoiding the damaging heat bursts. But until now, scientists did not understand how these fields worked. "Many mysteries surrounded how the plasma distorts to suppress these heat bursts," said Carlos Paz-Soldan, a General Atomics scientist and lead author of the first of the two papers that report the seminal findings back-to-back in the same issue of Physical Review Letters this week.

Paz-Soldan and a multi-institutional team of researchers found that tiny magnetic fields applied to the device can create two distinct kinds of response, rather than just one response as previously thought. The new response produces a ripple in the magnetic field near the plasma edge, allowing more heat to leak out at just the right rate to avert the intense heat bursts. Researchers applied the magnetic fields by running electrical current through coils around the plasma. Pickup coils then detected the plasma response, much as the microphone on a guitar picks up string vibrations.

The second result, led by PPPL scientist Raffi Nazikian, who heads the PPPL research team at DIII-D, identified the changes in the plasma that lead to the suppression of the large edge heat bursts or ELMs. The team found clear evidence that the plasma was deforming in just the way needed to allow the heat to slowly leak out. The measured magnetic distortions of the plasma edge indicated that the magnetic field was gently tearing in a narrow layer, a key prediction for how heat bursts can be prevented. "The configuration changes suddenly when the plasma is tapped in a certain way," Nazikian said, "and it is this response that suppresses the ELMs."

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Brain in your pocket: Smartphone replaces thinking, study shows

Brain in your pocket: Smartphone replaces thinking, study shows | Amazing Science |

In the ancient world — circa, say, 2007 — terabytes of information were not available on sleekly designed devices that fit in our pockets. While we now can turn to iPhones and Samsung Galaxys to quickly access facts both essential and trivial — the fastest way to grandmother’s house, how many cups are in a gallon, the name of the actor who played Newman on “Seinfeld” — we once had to keep such tidbits in our heads or, perhaps, in encyclopedia sets.

With the arrival of the smartphone, such dusty tomes are unnecessary. But new research suggests our devices are more than a convenience — they may be changing the way we think. In “The brain in your pocket: Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking,” forthcoming from the journal Computers in Human Behavior, lead authors Nathaniel Barr and Gordon Pennycook of the psychology department at the University of Waterloo in Ontario said those who think more intuitively and less analytically are more likely to rely on technology.

“That people typically forego effortful analytic thinking in lieu of fast and easy intuition suggests that individuals may allow their Smartphones to do their thinking for them,” the authors wrote.

What’s the difference between intuitive and analytical thinking? In the paper, the authors cite this problem: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

The brain-teaser evokes an intuitive response: The ball must cost 10 cents, right? This response, unfortunately, is obviously wrong — 10 cents plus $1.10 equals $1.20, not $1.10. Only through analytic thinking can one arrive at the correct response: The ball costs 5 cents. (Confused? Five cents plus $1.05 equals $1.10.)

It’s just this sort of analytical thinking that avid smartphone users seem to avoid. For the paper, researchers asked subjects how much they used their smartphones, then gave them tests to measure not just their intelligence, but how they processed information.

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