Amazing Science
743.8K views | +76 today
Amazing Science
Amazing science facts - 3D_printing • aging • AI • anthropology • art • astronomy • bigdata • bioinformatics • biology • biotech • chemistry • computers • cosmology • education • environment • evolution • future • genetics • genomics • geosciences • green_energy • history • language • map • material_science • math • med • medicine • microscopy • nanotech • neuroscience • paleontology • photography • photonics • physics • postings • robotics • science • technology • video
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

A novel form of artificial graphene: Two-Dimensional Semiconductors with a Honeycomb Nanogeometry

A novel form of artificial graphene: Two-Dimensional Semiconductors with a Honeycomb Nanogeometry | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new breed of ultra thin super-material has the potential to cause a technological revolution. “Artificial graphene” should lead to faster, smaller and lighter electronic and optical devices of all kinds, including higher performance photovoltaic cells, lasers or LED lighting.


For the first time, scientists are able to produce and have analysed artificial graphene from traditional semiconductor materials. Such is the scientific importance of this breakthrough these findings were published recently in one of the world’s leading physics journals, Physical Review X. A researcher from the University of Luxembourg played an important role in this highly innovative work.


Graphene (derived from graphite) is a one atom thick honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms. This strong, flexible, conducting and transparent material has huge scientific and technological potential. Only discovered in 2004, there is a major global push to understand its potential uses. Artificial graphene has the same honeycomb structure, but in this case, instead of carbon atoms, nanometer-thick semiconductor crystals are used. Changing the size, shape and chemical nature of the nano-crystals, makes it possible to tailor the material to each specific task.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Theory on origin of animals challenged: Animals need only extremely little oxygen

Theory on origin of animals challenged: Animals need only extremely little oxygen | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
One of science's strongest dogmas is that complex life on Earth could only evolve when oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose to close to modern levels. But now studies of a small sea sponge fished out of a Danish Fjord shows that complex life does not need high levels of oxygen in order to live and grow.


The origin of complex life is one of science's greatest mysteries. How could the first small primitive cells evolve into the diversity of advanced life forms that exists on Earth today? The explanation in all textbooks is: Oxygen. Complex life evolved because the atmospheric levels of oxygen began to rise app. 630 – 635 million years ago.


However new studies of a common sea sponge from Kerteminde Fjord in Denmark shows that this explanation needs to be reconsidered. The sponge studies show that animals can live and grow even with very limited oxygen supplies.


The living animals that most closely resemble the first animals on Earth are sea sponges. The species Halichondria panicea lives only a few meters from the University of Southern Denmark’s Marine Biological Research Centre in Kerteminde, and it was here that Daniel Mills fished out individuals for his research.


"When we placed the sponges in our lab, they continued to breathe and grow even when the oxygen levels reached 0.5 per cent of present day atmospheric levels", says Daniel Mills.

This is lower than the oxygen levels we thought were necessary for animal life.


The big question now is: If low oxygen levels did not prevent animals from evolving – then what did? Why did life consist of only primitive single-celled bacteria and amoebae for billions of years before everything suddenly exploded and complex life arose?


"There must have been other ecological and evolutionary mechanisms at play. Maybe life remained microbial for so long because it took a while to develop the biological machinery required to construct an animal. Perhaps the ancient Earth lacked animals because complex, many-celled bodies are simply hard to evolve", says Daniel Mills.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

A synchronized global sweep of the internal genes of modern avian influenza virus

A synchronized global sweep of the internal genes of modern avian influenza virus | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A new study reconstructing the evolutionary tree of flu viruses challenges conventional wisdom and solves some of the mysteries surrounding flu outbreaks of historical significance.


Zoonotic infectious diseases such as influenza continue to pose a grave threat to human health1. However, the factors that mediate the emergence of RNA viruses such as influenzaA virus (IAV) are still incompletely understood23. Phylogenetic inference is crucial to reconstructing the origins and tracing the flow of IAV within and between hosts345678. A group of scientists now show that explicitly allowing IAV host lineages to have independent rates of molecular evolution is necessary for reliable phylogenetic inference of IAV and that methods that do not do so, including ‘relaxed’ molecular clock models9, can be positively misleading. A phylogenomic analysis using a host-specific local clock model recovers extremely consistent evolutionary histories across all genomic segments and demonstrates that the equine H7N7 lineage is a sister clade to strains from birds—as well as those from humans, swine and the equine H3N8 lineage—sharing an ancestor with them in the mid to late 1800s. Moreover, major western and eastern hemisphere avian influenza lineages inferred for each gene coalesce in the late 1800s. On the basis of these phylogenies and the synchrony of these key nodes, which in turn suggests that the internal genes of avian influenza virus (AIV) underwent a global selective sweep beginning in the late 1800s, a process that continued throughout the twentieth century and up to the present. The resulting western hemispheric AIV lineage subsequently contributed most of the genomic segments to the 1918 pandemic virus and, independently, the 1963 equine H3N8 panzootic lineage. This approach provides a clear resolution of evolutionary patterns and processes in IAV, including the flow of viral genes and genomes within and between host lineages.


The new research is likely to change how scientists and health experts look at the history of influenza virus, how it has changed genetically over time and how it has jumped between different host species. The findings may have implications ranging from the assessment of health risks for populations to developing vaccines.


"We now have a really clear family tree of theses viruses in all those hosts – including birds, humans, horses, pigs – and once you have that, it changes the picture of how this virus evolved," said Michael Worobey, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, who co-led the study with Andrew Rambaut, a professor at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh. "The approach we developed works much better at resolving the true evolution and history than anything that has previously been used."


Worobey explained that "if you don't account for the fact that the virus evolves at a different rates in each host species, you can get nonsense – nonsensical results about when and from where pandemic viruses emerged."

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Arctic ice thaw significantly worsens global warming risk

Arctic ice thaw significantly worsens global warming risk | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Arctic thaw significantly worsens global warming risk. Melting Arctic sea ice means the ocean is absorbing more energy from the sun, and it's now clear the effect is twice as big as thought – adding significantly to heating from greenhouse gases.


Arctic temperatures have risen 2 °C since the 1970s, leading to a 40 per cent dip in the minimum summer ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean. Open water soaks up more sunlight than ice, so as the ice retreats the ocean absorbs more energy, warming it and causing even more melting.


To measure the effect, Ian Eisenman of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and colleagues turned to data from NASA's CERES satellite. They found that the Arctic Ocean's albedo – the fraction of sunlight it reflects back into space – dropped from 52 per cent in 1979 to 48 per cent in 2011. That may not seem like much, but it means a big rise in energy absorbed – equal to 25 per cent of that trapped by the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the same period.

"That is big – unexpectedly big," says Eisenman. "Arctic sea ice retreat has been an important player in the global warming that we've observed during recent decades."


"It reaffirms that albedo feedback is a powerful amplifier of climate change, maybe even more so than is simulated by the current crop of climate models," says Mark Flanner of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


The extra energy absorbed goes into the ocean, particularly on the side of the Arctic near Alaska and Siberia, which is losing the most ice. "I don't know where it's going from there," says Eisenman. "I think this is an important piece in the climate change story, but there are lots of other pieces we need."


The future of Arctic sea ice itself is also uncertain. Arctic summers will probably be ice-free later this century, but nobody knows how soon. "Right now we have very little ability to predict Arctic ice two months or 30 years out," says Eisenman.


Reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1318201111

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Leaf Shape Evolution Through Duplication, Regulatory Domain Diversification and Loss of a Homeobox Gene

Leaf Shape Evolution Through Duplication, Regulatory Domain Diversification and Loss of a Homeobox Gene | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Spinach looks nothing like parsley, and basil bears no resemblance to thyme. Each plant has a typical leaf shape that can differ even within the same family. The information about what shape leaves will be is stored in the DNA. According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, the hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) has a particular gene to thank for its dissected leaves. This homeobox gene inhibits cell proliferation and growth between leaflets, allowing them to separate from each other. The thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana does not have this gene. Therefore, its leaves are not dissected, but simple and entire.


Miltos Tsiantis and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne discovered the new gene when comparing two plants from the Brassicaceae family: Cardamine hirsuta has dissected leaves that form leaflets and Arabidopsis thaliana has simple leaves. The researchers identified the RCO (REDUCED COMPLEXITY) gene, which makes leaves of the hairy bittercress more complex. Arabidopsis lacks this gene and, accordingly, lacks leaflets. RCO is only active in growing leaves. RCO ensures that cell proliferation and growth is prevented in areas of the leaf margin between sites of leaflet formation. “The leaves of Arabidopsis are simple and entire because growth is not inhibited by the RCO gene,” explains Tsiantis. “If we had not compared the two plants we would never have discovered this difference, as it is impossible to find a gene where none exists,” he adds.


The scientists first identified the RCO gene through a mutation in the hairy bittercress. In the absence of functional RCO the hairy bittercress can no longer produces leaflets. The RCO gene belongs to a cluster of three genes, which arose during evolution through the duplication of a single gene. In the thale cress, the original triple cluster now consists of a single gene. When the scientists return the RCO gene to the thale cress in the laboratory, evolution is partially reversed. “The simple oval leaves of Arabidopsis now develop deep lobes” says Tsiantis, “The fact that the leaf shape becomes complex again through the transfer of the RCO gene alone, shows that most of the apparatus for the formation of leaflets must still be present in the thale cress and was not lost with the RCO gene.”


The research team also examined theRCO sequence in greater detail and found it is a  Homeobox gene. These genes function like genetic switches in that they activate or deactivate other genes. The scientists also demonstrated that RCO function is restricted to leaf shape; it does not decide whether leaves actually form. The loss of theRCO gene does not give rise to any other visible changes in the hairy bittercress. Therefore, its effect is limited to the inhibition of growth on the leaf margin. RCO does not work with the plant hormone auxin here. This specificity makes RCO a more likely driver of leaf shape evolution than any other genes identified to date. Tsiantis and his colleagues aim to decode its exact functionality in the months to come.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Superbright fast X-rays image single layer of proteins, providing details of almost 25 percent of known proteins

Superbright fast X-rays image single layer of proteins, providing details of almost 25 percent of known proteins | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In biology, a protein's shape is key to understanding how it causes disease or toxicity. Researchers who use X-rays to take snapshots of proteins need a billion copies of the same protein stacked and packed into a neat crystal. Now, scientists using exceptionally bright and fast X-rays can take a picture that rivals conventional methods with a sheet of proteins just one protein molecule thick.


Using a type of laser known as XFEL, the technique opens the door to learning the structural details of almost 25 percent of known proteins, many of which have been overlooked due to their inability to stack properly. The team of researchers led by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories report their results with this unique form of X-ray diffraction in the March issue of the International Union of Crystallography Journal.


"In this paper, we're proving it's possible to use an XFEL to study individual monolayers of protein," said PNNL microscopist James Evans. "Just being able to see any diffraction is brand new."


Evans co-led the team of two dozen scientists with LLNL physicist Matthias Frank. The bright, fast X-rays were produced at the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., the newest of DOE's major X-ray light source facilities at the national laboratories. LCLS, currently the world's most powerful X-ray laser, is an X-ray free-electron laser. It produces beams millions of times brighter than earlier X-ray light sources.


Coming in at around 8 angstrom resolution (which can make out items a thousand times smaller than the width of a hair), the proteins appear slightly blurry but match the expected view based on previous research. Evans said this level of clarity would allow researchers, in some cases, to see how proteins change their shape as they interact with other proteins or molecules in their environment.


To get a clearer view of protein monolayers using XFEL, the team will need to improve the resolution to 1 to 3 angstroms, as well as take images of the proteins at different angles, efforts that are currently underway.


Researchers have been using X-ray crystallography for more than 60 years to determine the shape and form of proteins that form the widgets and gears of a living organism's cells. The conventional method requires, however, that proteins stack into a large crystal, similar to how oranges stack in a crate. The structure of more than 80,000 proteins have been determined this way, leading to breakthroughs in understanding of diseases, pathogens, and how organisms grow and develop.


But many proteins found in nature do not stack easily. Some jut from the fatty membranes that cover cells, detecting and interacting with other cells and objects, such as viruses or bacteria, in the surrounding area. These proteins are not used to having others of their kind stack on top. These so-called membrane proteins make up about 25 percent of all proteins but only 2 percent of proteins that researchers have determined structures for.


Evans, Frank and their team wanted to push this further. The team worked on a way to create one-sheet-thick crystals of two different proteins — a protein called streptavidin and a membrane protein called bacteriodopsin. The structures of both proteins are well-known to scientists, which gave the team something to compare their results to.


The team shined the super-bright X-rays for a brief moment — about 30 femtoseconds, a few million billionths of a second — on the protein crystals. They created so much data in the process that it took them more than a year to analyze all of it.


The resulting images look like the known structures, validating this method. Next, the researchers will try to capture proteins changing shape as they engage in a chemical reaction. For this, even shorter flashes of X-rays might be needed to see the action clearly.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Optogenetics Makes Mice Resistant to Pain

Optogenetics Makes Mice Resistant to Pain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists turn pain on and off, with a beam of light.


Some of the mice squeaked in agony when researchers aimed a blue light at their paws. Other mice felt nothing at all when zapped with a laser.

In the latest demonstration of optogenetics, a versatile but complex technology for controlling nerve cells, a research team at Stanford University has sketched out how patients afflicted by chronic pain might one day find relief: simply by pressing a bright flashlight to their skin.

“Patients could be given their own ability to create a pain block on demand,” says Michael Kaplitt, a neurosurgeon and chief scientific officer of Circuit Therapeutics, a three-year-old Palo Alto, California, biotechnology startup now working on a pain treatment along with the Stanford scientists.


Optogenetics is a breakthrough technology that is giving scientists precise control over what animals feel, how they behave, and even what they think. It relies on modifying the DNA of neurons so that they send signals—or are blocked from firing—in response to light (see “Brain Control”). The technique was invented nine years ago in the laboratory of Karl Deisseroth, one of Circuit’s cofounders and an author of the new pain study.


So far, the most striking use of optogenetics has been to produce effects directly inside animals’ brains, using light piped in with an implanted fiber-optic cable. In an earlier study, Deisseroth’s group made mice feel fear or become fearless (“An On-Off Switch for Anxiety”).


Circuit, which now has 47 employees, is working to engineer light sources and perfect genetic tools to take advantage of optogenetics. Kaplitt says that in addition to its research on pain, the company hopes to figure out how to treat serious psychiatric disease with implants that carry light into the brain.


But controlling nerves outside the brain could prove easier. The sensitive nerve endings, or nociceptors, that fire off warnings in response to heat or pressure lie only two hair-breadths beneath human skin, and could be controlled by a bright handheld light. “We have engineers thinking about what that kind of device would look like,” says Kaplitt. “Pain is a perception. So the idea is to stop the perception of it.”


In the Stanford group’s latest work, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, they first used gene therapy to install light-sensitive molecules into the nerve endings in the skin of mice. Each animal was then placed into a small plexiglass chamber with a transparent floor.


When the researchers shined blue light through the floor, the mice “flinched,” cried out, or “engaged in prolonged paw licking,” all signs of pain. The team could also block sensation. In those tests, mice that were bathed in yellow light designed to block nerve impulses weren’t greatly bothered by a band pinching their leg. When the researchers pointed hot lasers at their paws, they were slow to react.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Simply become immortal: AI will talk to loved ones when you die and preserve your digital footprint

Simply become immortal: AI will talk to loved ones when you die and preserve your digital footprint | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Eterni.me wants to build an AI from your digital footprint, so you can have virtual chats with loved ones from beyond the grave.


"We don't try to replace humans or give false hopes to people grieving." Romanian design consultant Marius Ursache, cofounder of Eterni.me, needs to clear this up quickly. Because when you're building a fledgling artificial intelligence company that promises to bring back the dead -- or at least, their memories and character, as preserved in their digital footprint -- for virtual chats with loved ones, expect a lot of flack.


The site launched with the look of any other Silicon Valley internet startup, but a definitively new take on an old message. While social media companies want you to share and create the story of you while you're alive, and lifelogging company Memoto promises to capture "meaningful [and shareable] moments", Eterni.me wants to wrap that all up for those you leave behind into a cohesive AI they can chat with.


Three thousand people registered to the service within the first four days of the site going live, despite there being zero product to make use of (a beta version is slated for 2015). So with a year to ponder your own mortality, why the excitement for a technology that is, at this moment, merely a proof of concept? 


The company's motto is "it's like a Skype chat from the past," but it's still very much about crafting how the world sees you -- or remembers you, in this case -- just as you might pause and ponder on hitting Facebook's post button, wondering till the last if your spaghetti dinner photo/comment really gets the right message across. On its more troubling side, the site plays on the fear that you can no longer control your identity after you're gone; that you are in fact a mere mortal. "The moments and emotions in our lifetime define how we are seen by our family and friends. All these slowly fade away after we die -- until one day… we are all forgotten," it says in its opening lines -- scroll down and it provides the answer to all your problems: "Simply Become Immortal". Part of the reason we might identify as being immortal -- at least unconsciously, as Freud describes it -- is because we craft a life we believe will be memorable, or have children we believe our legacy will live on in. Eterni.me's comment shatters that illusion and could be seen as opportunistic on the founders' part. The site also goes on to promise a "virtual YOU" that can "offer information and advice to your family and friends after you pass away", a comfort to anyone worried about leaving behind a spouse or children.


The ultimate stumbling block might be, however, the something that's worse than the fear of being forgotten. Admitting you're going to die one day. It's a tough sell, to persuade someone to confess to the secret of their heroism.

more...
Laura E. Mirian, PhD's curator insight, February 17, 2014 10:47 AM

you can have virtual chats with loved ones from beyond the grave.

Laura E. Mirian, PhD's curator insight, February 23, 2014 10:34 AM

DON'T KNOW IF I WANT TO LIVE FOREVER IN THIS UNIVERSE-WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Neutrino Experiments Come Closer to Seeing Charge-parity Violation

Neutrino Experiments Come Closer to Seeing Charge-parity Violation | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Charge-parity (CP) violation—evidence that the laws of physics are different for particles and antiparticles—is often invoked as a “must” to explain why we observe more matter than antimatter in the universe. But the CP violation observed in interactions involving quarks is insufficient to explain this asymmetry. As a result, many theorists are looking toward leptons—and, specifically, neutrinos—for additional sources of CP violation. Researchers running the Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) experiment—a particle physics experiment at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC)—have now made an important contribution toward the search for CP violation in neutrinos. Writing in Physical Review Letters, the T2K collaboration reports the strongest evidence to date for the appearance of electron neutrinos from a pure muon neutrino beam [1]. Their measurement allows them to determine a fundamental parameter of the standard model of particle physics, called θ13, which can in turn be used to make an early estimate of CP violation in neutrinos. Although this estimate has a large uncertainty, it will serve as a guide to future, more definitive neutrino experiments that are directly sensitive to CP violation.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

MicroRNA-Target Binding Structures Mimic MicroRNA Duplex Structures in Humans

MicroRNA-Target Binding Structures Mimic MicroRNA Duplex Structures in Humans | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as key gene regulators in diverse biological pathways. These small non-coding RNAs bind to target sequences in mRNAs, typically resulting in repressed gene expression. Traditionally, researchers match a microRNA guide strand to mRNA sequences using sequence comparisons to predict its potential target genes. However, many of the predictions can be false positives due to limitations in sequence comparison alone. In a recently published study, scientists consider the association of two related RNA structures that share a common guide strand: the microRNA duplex and the microRNA-target binding structure. They have analyzed thousands of such structure pairs and found many of them share high structural similarity. From this investigation, they conclude that when predicting microRNA target genes, considering just the microRNA guide strand matches to gene sequences may not be sufficient – The microRNA duplex structure formed by the guide strand and its companion passenger strand must also be considered. They have also developed software to translate RNA binding structure into encoded representations, and we have also created novel automatic comparison methods utilizing such encoded representations to determine RNA structure similarity. The presented software and methods can be utilized in the other RNA secondary structure comparisons as well.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Making predictions about the multiverse

Making predictions about the multiverse | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A recent conference organized by the Fundamental Questions Institute (FQXi) in Puerto Rico about making predictions in cosmology, especially in the eternally inflating multiverse. Many physicists and cosmologists are thinking with some “confidence” that we live in a multiverse, more specifically one of the many universes in which low-energy physical laws take different forms. For example, these universes have different elementary particles with different properties, possibly different spacetime dimensions, and so on. This idea of the multiverse is not simply a result of random imagination by theorists, but is based on several pieces of observational and theoretical evidence.


Observationally, we have learned more and more that we live in a highly special universe—it seems that the “physical laws” of our universe (summarized in the form of standard models of particle physics and cosmology) takes such a special form that if its structure were varied slightly, then there would be no interesting structure in the universe, let alone intelligent life. It is hard to understand this fact unless there are many universes with varying “physical laws,” and we simply happen to emerge in a universe which allows for intelligent life to develop (which seems to require special conditions). With multiple universes, we can understand the “specialness” of our universe precisely as we understand the “specialness” of our planet Earth (e.g. the ideal distance from the sun), which is only one of the many planets out there.


Perhaps more nontrivial is the fact that our current theory of fundamental physics leads to this picture of the multiverse in a very natural way. Imagine that at some point in the history of the universe, space is exponentially expanding. This expansion—called inflation—occurs when space is filled with a “positive vacuum energy”, which happens quite generally. We knew, already in 80′s, that such inflation is generically eternal. During inflation, various non-inflating regions called bubble universes—of which our own universe could be one—may form, much like bubbles in boiling water. Since ambient space expands exponentially, however, these bubbles do not percolate; rather, the process of creating bubble universes lasts forever in an eternally inflating background. Now, recent progress in string theory suggests that low energy theories describing phyics in these bubble universes (such as the elementary particle content and their properties) may differ bubble by bubble. This is precisely the setup needed to understand the “specialness” of our universe because of the selection effect associated with our own existence, as described above.


This particular version of the multiverse—called the eternally inflating multiverse—is very attractive. It is theoretically motivated and has a potential to explain various features seen in our universe. The eternal nature of inflation, however, causes a serious issue of predictivity. Because the process of creating bubble universes occurs infinitely many times, “In an eternally inflating universe, anything that can happen will happen; in fact, it will happen an infinite number of times,” as phrased in an article by Alan Guth.


The picture presented here does not solve all the problems in eternally inflating cosmology. What is the actual quantum state of the multiverse? What is its “initial conditions”? What is time? How does it emerge? The basic idea is that the state of the multiverse (which may be selected uniquely by the normalizability condition) never changes, and yet time appears as an emergent concept locally in branches as physical correlations among objects (along the lines of an old idea by DeWitt). 

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Redlight Special: Optogenetic Toolkit Goes Multicolor

Redlight Special: Optogenetic Toolkit Goes Multicolor | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
New light-sensitive proteins allow scientists to study how multiple sets of neurons interact with each other.


Optogenetics is a technique that allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins. Within the past decade, it has become a very powerful tool for discovering the functions of different types of cells in the brain.

Most of these light-sensitive proteins, known as opsins, respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team led by MIT has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.


Opsins occur naturally in many algae and bacteria, which use the light-sensitive proteins to help them respond to their environment and generate energy.


To achieve optical control of neurons, scientists genetically modify brain cells of mice to express the gene for an opsin, which transports ions across the cell’s membrane to alter its voltage. Depending on the opsin used, shining light on the cell either lowers the voltage and silences neuron firing, or boosts voltage and provokes the cell to generate an electrical impulse. This effect is nearly instantaneous and easily reversible.


Using this approach, researchers can selectively turn a population of cells on or off and observe what happens in the brain. However, until now, they could activate only one population at a time, because the only opsins that responded to red light also responded to blue light, so they couldn’t be paired with other opsins to control two different cell populations.


To seek additional useful opsins, the MIT researchers worked with Gane Ka-Shu Wong, a professor of medicine and biological sciences at the University of Alberta, the paper’s other senior author. Wong’s team  is sequencing the transcriptomes of 1,000 plants, including some algae. (The transcriptome is similar to the genome but includes only the genes that are expressed by a cell, not the entirety of its genetic material.)


Once the team obtained genetic sequences that appeared to code for opsins, Klapoetke tested their light-responsiveness in mammalian brain tissue, working with Martha Constantine-Paton, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and of biology, a member of the McGovern Institute, and an author of the paper. The red-light-sensitive opsin, which the researchers named Chrimson, can mediate neural activity in response to light with a 735-nanometer wavelength.


The researchers also discovered a blue-light-driven opsin that has two highly desirable traits: It operates at high speed, and it is sensitive to very dim light. This opsin, called Chronos, can be stimulated with levels of blue light that are too weak to activate Chrimson.


Most optogenetic studies thus far have been done in mice, but Chrimson could be used for optogenetic studies of fruit flies, a commonly used experimental organism. Researchers have had trouble using blue-light-sensitive opsins in fruit flies because the light can get into the flies’ eyes and startle them, interfering with the behavior being studied.

Vivek Jayaraman, a research group leader at Janelia Farms and an author of the paper, was able to show that this startle response does not occur when red light is used to stimulate Chrimson in fruit flies.

Because red light is less damaging to tissue than blue light, Chrimson also holds potential for eventual therapeutic use in humans, Boyden says. Animal studies with other opsins have shown promise in helping to restore vision after the loss of photoreceptor cells in the retina.

The researchers are now trying to modify Chrimson to respond to light in the infrared range. They are also working on making both Chrimson and Chronos faster and more light sensitive.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Why De-Extinction of Birds is a Challenge – The Passenger Pidgeon Case

Why De-Extinction of Birds is a Challenge – The Passenger Pidgeon Case | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Birds are a huge challenge for de-extinction for two big reasons. The first is because less genomic research has been performed on birds than on mammals (but reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and plants are even less understood). We don’t know how precisely how the majority of gene pathways in birds work on the cellular levels and up.


Also, birds have no uterus. The reason that the absence of a uterus is a problem for cloning relates to how cloning is done. When you take the nucleus out of an egg cell you kill that cell, it is completely dead. Even after you put a new nucleus in it, the cell is still dead. You have to bring the cell back to life, just like when you shock someone’s heart into beating again. You run electricity through the newly cloned cell to get it to divide. The problem here is that you have to keep stimulating cell division for many generations, up to several hundred and even a few thousand cells before the embryo will develop on its own without assistance. Therefore you cannot take a single cloned cell and implant it into an ovary, oviduct, uterus or any reproductive organ and get it to grow – you have to grow it in the lab and then implant a partially developed embryo. This is okay in a uterus because the embryo implants and develops in a fixed place. In a bird, the embryo is in constant motion within the female’s body – literally tumbling down the oviduct as the oviduct coats the eggshell around the embryo. To implant a cloned embryo one would have to take out the developing embryo from within a developing hard shelled egg within the female’s body and replace it with the cloned embryo – and hope that the embryo integrates into the yolk of the egg and that all the puncturing doesn’t deform the egg or harm the female. So you can see it’s very very tricky.


Are there ways to introduce an extinct bird’s genetics into an embryo without cloning? You can introduce cells into the embryo, which will integrate and create a chimeric bird – a bird that has a patchwork of tissues made of cells of both the original embryo and the cells that were introduced. This can be done after the egg is laid, avoiding tampering with the mother’s internal organ systems. The problem for de-extinction is that adult stem cells (or induced Pluripotent Stem cells, iPCs) cannot contribute to the germ line, only Embryonic stem cells can contribute to the germ line. We can’t easily use embryonic stem cells to recreate the passenger pigeon genome. After as few as seven days in a lab culture, embryonic stem cells have undergone enough cell division to be adult stem cells, and lose the ability to become germ cells. A process to use embryonic stem cells would require introducing a mutation to a band-tailed pigeon embryonic stem cell in less than a matter of a few days, then put it into an embryo and hatch a chimera. This would then require hundreds to even thousands of generations of chimeric birds until we have a passenger pigeon. It would be far more efficient to introduce the thousands of mutations in cell lines, then create a bird. But by the time all the mutations were added, the cells would be adult stem cells. You could make as many chimeras as you want from these “de-extinct” stem cells, but they would never form a breeding line. This does not mean that stem cells cannot become germ cells under experimental conditions, what this means is that they do not naturally become germ cells when placed inside a developing bird embryo. It may be possible in the future to program iPSCs to become germ cells, but currently this is not possible.


Further reading: The Mammoth Cometh (NY Times)

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Wikipedia-size maths proof too big for humans to check

Wikipedia-size maths proof too big for humans to check | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

If no human can check a proof of a theorem, does it really count as mathematics? That's the intriguing question raised by the latest computer-assisted proof. It is as large as the entire content of Wikipedia, making it unlikely that will ever be checked by a human being.


"It might be that somehow we have hit statements which are essentially non-human mathematics," says Alexei Lisitsa of the University of Liverpool, UK, who came up with the proof together with colleague Boris Konev.


The proof is a significant step towards solving a long-standing puzzle known as the Erdős discrepancy problem. It was proposed in the 1930s by the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, who offered $500 for its solution.


Imagine a random, infinite sequence of numbers containing nothing but +1s and -1s. Erdos was fascinated by the extent to which such sequences contain internal patterns. One way to measure that is to cut the infinite sequence off at a certain point, and then create finite sub-sequences within that part of the sequence, such as considering only every third number or every fourth. Adding up the numbers in a sub-sequence gives a figure called the discrepancy, which acts as a measure of the structure of the sub-sequence and in turn the infinite sequence, as compared with a uniform ideal.


Erdős thought that for any infinite sequence, it would always be possible to find a finite sub-sequence summing to a number larger than any you choose - but couldn't prove it. It is relatively easy to show by hand that any way you arrange 12 pluses and minuses always has a sub-sequence whose sum exceeds 1. That means that anything longer – including any infinite sequence – must also have a discrepancy of 1 or more. But extending this method to showing that higher discrepancies must always exist is tough as the number of possible sub-sequences to test quickly balloons.


Now Konev and Lisitsa have used a computer to move things on. They have shown that an infinite sequence will always have a discrepancy larger than 2. In this case the cut-off was a sequence of length 1161, rather than 12. Establishing this took a computer nearly 6 hours and generated a 13-gigabyte file detailing its working. The pair compare this to the size of Wikipedia, the text of which is a 10-gigabyte download. It is probably the longest proof ever: it dwarfs another famously huge proof, which involves 15,000 pages of calculations.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Scientists use DNA strands to build decomposable nanostructures

Scientists use DNA strands to build decomposable nanostructures | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of researchers in Canada has found a way around the problem of large nanostructures that are used to combat tumors, remaining in the body after they are no longer needed. In their paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team describes a technique they developed where they used DNA strands to tie together small nanostructures creating larger nanostructures, that over time—after a tumor had been reduced—broke down and left the body.

Over the past several years, researchers have discovered that nanostructures, built from nanoparticles can be used to deliver drugs directly to a tumor, killing it. This is preferential to chemotherapy because it harms only tumor cells, rather than healthy cells throughout the body. The down side is that the nanostructures are made of materials that are considered toxic if they build up in the body and worse, are a little too big for the body to break down and get rid of. Thus, the nanostructures remain after they are no longer needed. To get around this problem, the researchers took a very unique approach, they used DNA strands to tie small nanostructures together, creating a large enough structure to transport tumor killing drugs. But because they are tied together with DNA, they become untied as the body breaks down the DNA strands. Once loosed, the nanostructures revert back to groups of smaller structures which the body can process and get rid of.


The concept was tested in mice, and results thus far indicate that the process worked as planned—the team was able to actually see the nanostructures as they appeared in the mouse urine, proving that the mice's systems were able to remove the smaller sized nanostructures from the tumor site and pass them through to the renal system.


The researchers report that their technique at this time shows promise, but of course, more work will have to be done to prove that the technique is safe, and that the nanostructures can hold together long enough to do their job. They believe their work will lead to new types of cancer killing agents, but they won't be ready for use in humans for at least five to ten years.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Steering by peeking: Physicists control quantum particles by looking at them

Steering by peeking: Physicists control quantum particles by looking at them | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists from the FOM Foundation and Delft University of Technology have manipulated a quantum particle, merely by looking at it in a smart way. By adjusting the strength of their measurement according to earlier measurement outcomes, they managed to steer the particle towards a desired state.


In earlier work the group showed that it is possible to measure the orientation of a single spin, in analogy to fully opening Schrödinger's box. To partially open the box, the scientists used a trick. Instead of directly measuring the nucleus, they first coupled the state of the nucleus to a nearby electron. They then determined the state of the electron.

By varying the strength of the coupling between the nucleus and the electron, the scientists could carefully tune the measurement strength. A weaker measurement reveals less information, but also has less back-action. An analysis of the nuclear spin after such a weak measurement showed that the nuclear spin remained in a (slightly altered) superposition of two states. In this way, the scientists verified that the change of the state (induced by the back-action) precisely matched the amount of information that was gained by the measurement.

The scientists realised that it is possible to steer the nuclear spin by applying sequential measurements with varying measurement strength. Since the outcome of a measurement is not known in advance, the researchers implemented a feedback loop in the experiment. They chose the strength of the second measurement depending on the outcome of the first measurement. In this way the scientists could steer the nucleus towards a desired superposition state by only looking at it.


This result provides new insight in the role of measurements in quantum mechanics. Furthermore the combination of measurements and feedback, as demonstrated here, form an essential building block for the future quantum computer. Finally, these techniques can increase the sensitivity of magnetic field sensors.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Elephants Console Each Other

Elephants Console Each Other | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Elephants, both African and Asian, have long been considered empathetic animals. They help baby elephants stuck in mud holes, use their trunks to lift other elephants that are injured or dying, and even reportedly reassure distressed individual elephants with a gentle touch of their trunk. But it’s one thing to witness something that looks like consolation, and another to prove that this is what elephants are doing. Now, scientists have shown that African elephants do indeed get distressed when they see others in trouble, and they reach out to console them—just as we do when we see someone suffering. Elephants, thus, join a short list of other animals, including great apes, canines, and some birds, that scientists have shown to reassure others.


The study “is the first to investigate responses to distress by Asian elephants,” which “is inherently difficult to assess because one has to wait for opportunities to arise spontaneously,” says Shermin de Silva, an behavioral ecologist at the Uda Walawe Elephant Research Project in Sri Lanka. It would not be ethical to intentionally create stressful situations for the animals as a test, she notes—which is why, until now, researchers have had to rely on well-documented, but anecdotal observations of wild and captive elephants to back up claims that they reassure each other.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

How NASA is Planning to 3D Print Trees in Space

How NASA is Planning to 3D Print Trees in Space | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Stanford University researchers have been working long hours honing a three-dimensional printing process to make biomaterials like wood and enamel out of mere clumps of cells. Pundits say such 3D bioprinting has vast potential, and could one day be widely used to transform specially engineered cells into structural beams, food, and human tissue. Rothschild and Gentry don’t only see these laboratory-created materials helping only doctors and Mars voyagers. They also envision their specific research – into so-called “synthetic biomaterials” – changing the way products like good-old-fashioned wooden two-by-fours are made and used by consumers.


Here’s their plan: Rothschild, an evolutionary biologist who works for NASA and teaches astrobiology at Stanford, and Gentry, her doctoral advisee who is trained in biology and mechanical engineering, are working with $100,000 they received last fall from the space agency’s Innovative Advanced Concept Program. They say they’re on track to prove their concept  by October: a three-dimensional printing process that yields arrays of cells that can excrete non-living structural biomaterials like wood, mineral parts of bone and tooth enamel. They’re building a massive database of cells already in nature, refining the process of engineering select cells to make and then excrete (or otherwise deliver) the desired materials, and tweaking hardware that three-dimensionally prints modified cells into arrays that yield the non-living end products.


“Cells produce an enormous array of products on the Earth, everything from wool to silk to rubber to cellulose, you name it, not to mention meat and plant products and the things that we eat,” Rothschild said. “Many of these things are excreted (from cells). So you’re not going to take a cow or a sheep or a probably not a silk worm or a tree to Mars. But you might want to have a very fine veneer of either silk or wood. So instead of taking the whole organism and trying to make something, why couldn’t you do this all in a very precise way – which actually may be a better way to do it on Earth as well – so that you’re printing an array of cells that then can secrete or produce these products?”


Rothschild and Gentry’s setup is different from using basic 3D printers that deliver final products. Instead, the NASA-funded researchers are using 3D printing as an enabling technology of sorts. Their setup involves putting cells in a gelling solution with some sort of chemical signaling and support into a piezoelectric print head that spits out cells that form a gel-based 3D pattern.


Andrew Hessel, a biotechnology analyst who is a distinguished researcher with San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk Inc., said the emerging field of 3D bioprinting is a “pretty wide open space” with different researchers “all dancing on multiple fronts at once.” And the research is not without controversy. Information-technology research firm Gartner, Inc. recently predicted 3D printing of living tissue and organs will soon spur a major ethical debate.


Hessel said the most-complex 3D bioprinting research is being done with the actual engineering of cells. Companies like Organovo, for example, aren’t actually engineering the cells, and instead are differentiating and laying them in a way that they can mature and grow in to functional tissue.


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Miniaturized hearing aids that will fit into the ear canal

Miniaturized hearing aids that will fit into the ear canal | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Fraunhofer researchers pack a total of 19 hearing-aid components (left) into their new microsystem (right). System-on-chip integrated circuit, high-frequency


The technology is also suitable for implants, pacemakers, and insulin pumps. This all means that the system uses only a fraction of the energy required by conventional devices, keeping cumbersome battery changes to a minimum. “Ideally, patients should not even be feeling of wearing the hearing aid over long periods of time,” says Dr. Dionysios Manessis from Fraunhofer Institute of Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin.


With dimensions of just 4 mm by 4mm by 1 mm, the new microsystem is fifty times smaller than the current models. To achieve this, the project partners first developed especially small components such as innovative miniature antennas, system-on-chip integrated circuitry and high frequency filters, then integrated the 19 discrete components in a single module, using a modular 3D stacking concept that saves extra space.


Hearing aids worn behind the ear are powered by a 180mAh  (milliampere hour) battery, which must be either replaced or recharged approximately every two weeks. The aim is to minimize the system’s energy consumption to around one milliwatt (mW) to extend battery life up to 20 weeks.


The development is part of the EU WiserBAN project. Project partners are also looking to optimize energy management. The WiserBAN project partners are also developing special antenna and wireless protocols that can communicate information such as pulse, blood pressure, or glucose levels straight to a physician’s tablet or smartphone. The resulting WiserBAN wireless system makes obsolete the relay station — an extra device that patients have previously been obliged to wear to extend the communication range.


Another advantage is that the wireless protocols developed within the WiserBAN project are based on the reliable IEEE 802.15.4 and 802.15.6 standards. Conventional devices have ordinarily relied on Bluetooth, where there are often issues with interference with other devices.


It is hoped that the new technology will act as the springboard for more comfortable, more reliable healthcare products in the future — from long-term electrocardiography to insulin pumps. Furthermore, there is the potential to use the microsystem in implants and pacemakers.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Mother's milk customized to sex of the baby

Mother's milk customized to sex of the baby | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Mothers may say they don't care whether they have a son or a daughter, but their breast milk says otherwise.


"Mothers are producing different biological recipes for sons and daughters," says Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard UniversityStudies in humans, monkeys and other mammals have found a variety of differences in both the content and the quantity of milk produced.


One common theme: baby boys often get milk that is richer in fat or protein — and thus energy — while baby girls often get more milk.

There are a lot of theories as to why this happens, says Hinde, who presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting.


Rhesus monkeys, for instance, tend to produce more calcium in the milk they feed to daughters who inherit social status from their mothers.

"It could be adaptive in that it allows mothers to give more milk to daughters which is going to accelerate their develop and allow them to begin reproducing at early ages," says Hinde.


Males don't need to reach sexual maturity as quickly as females because the only limit on how often they reproduce is how many females they can win over. "While the food aspects of milk to some extent are replicated in formula, the immunological factors and medicine of milk are not and the hormonal signals are not," she says.


Getting a better understanding of how milk is personalized for specific infants will also help hospitals find better matches for breast milk donated to help nourish sick and premature infants in neo natal units, she adds.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

IBM sets new speed record for Big Data

IBM sets new speed record for Big Data | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

IBM has announced it has achieved a new data-transmission advancement that will help improve Internet backbone speeds to 200 — 400 gigabits per second (Gb/s) at extremely low power. The speed boost is based on a new lab prototype chip design that can be used to improve transfer of Big Data between clouds and data centers via fiber four times faster than current 100 Gb/s technology. A previous version of the technology has been licensed to Semtech Corp., a leading supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors. Semtech is using that technology to develop advanced communications platforms expected to be announced later this year, ranging from optical and wireline communications to advanced radar systems.


As Big Data and Internet data traffic continue to grow exponentially, future networking standards have to support higher data rates. For example, in 1992, 100 gigabytes of data was transferred per day; today, traffic has grown to two exabytes per day, a 20-million-fold increase. To support the increase in traffic, scientists at IBM Research and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have been developing ultra-fast, energy-efficient, analog-to-digital converter (ADC) technology to enable transmission across long-distance fiber channels.


For example, scientists plan to use ADCs to convert the analog radio signals that originate from the cosmos to digital. It’s part of a collaboration called DOME between ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, DOME-South Africa, and IBM to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), an international project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.


The analog radio data that the SKA collects from deep space is expected to produce multiple petabits (1015 bits) per second — 10 times the current global Internet traffic. IBM says the prototype ADC would be an ideal candidate to transport the signals fast and at very low power — a critical requirement considering the ~3,000 radio telescopes, each transmitting ~160 Gb/s, that will be spread over a square kilometer.


REFERENCES:



more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Our brain has a switch board to guide behavior in response to external stimuli

Our brain has a switch board to guide behavior in response to external stimuli | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

How do our brains combine information from the external world (sensory stimulation) with information on our internal state such as hunger, fear or stress? NERF-scientists demonstrate that the habenula, a specific part in our brain consisting of neural circuits, acts as a gate for sensory information, thus regulating behavior in response to external stimuli. 


The medial habenula in the brain relays information from the sensory areas via the interpeduncular nucleus to the periaqueductal gray matter that regulates animal behavior under stress conditions. Ablation of the dorsal habenula (dHb) in zebrafish, which is equivalent to the mammalian medial habenula, perturbs experience-dependent fear. Therefore, understanding dHb function is important for understanding the neural basis of fear. In zebrafish, the dHb receives inputs from the mitral cells (MCs) of the olfactory bulb (OB), and odors can trigger distinct behaviors (e.g., feeding, courtship, alarm). However, it is unclear how the dHb processes olfactory information and how these computations relate to behavior. In this recent study, researchers demonstrated that the odor responses in the dHb are asymmetric and spatially organized despite the unorganized OB inputs. Moreover, they show that the spontaneous dHb activity is not random but structured into functionally and spatially organized clusters of neurons, which reflects the favored states of the dHb network. These dHb clusters are also preserved during odor stimulation and govern olfactory responses. Finally, they show that functional dHb clusters overlap with genetically defined dHb neurons, which regulate experience-dependent fear. Thus, the working hypothesis is that the dHb is composed of functionally, spatially, and genetically distinct microcircuits that regulate different behavioral programs.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Bonobos, like humans, keep time to music, study shows

Bonobos, like humans, keep time to music, study shows | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Some animals, like humans, can sense and respond to a musical beat, a finding that has implications for understanding how the skill evolved, scientists said. A study of bonobos, closely related to chimpanzees, shows they have an innate ability to match tempo and synchronize a beat with human experimenters. For the study, researchers designed a highly resonate, bonobo-friendly drum able to withstand 500 pounds of jumping pressure, chewing, and other ape-like behaviors.


“Bonobos are very attuned to sound. They hear above our range of hearing,” said Patricia Gray, a biomusic program director at University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Experimenters beat a drum at a tempo favored by bonobos – roughly 280 beats per minute, or the cadence that humans speak syllables. The apes picked up the beat and synchronized using the bonobo drum, Gray and psychologist Edward Large, with the University of Connecticut, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


“It’s not music, but we’re slowing moving in that direction,” Large said. Related research on a rescued sea lion, which has no innate rhythmic ability, shows that with training, it could bob its head in time with music, said comparative psychologist Peter Cook, who began working with Ronan the sea lion while a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Scientists suspect that the musical and rhythmic abilities of humans evolved to strengthen social bonds, “so, one might think that a common ancestor to humans and the bonobo would have some of these capabilities,” Large said. The addition of sea lions to the list suggests that the ability to sense rhythm may be more widespread.

Gray and Large said they would like to conduct a study on whether bonobos in the wild synchronize with other members of their species when they, for example, beat on hollow trees.


“That’s really coordination. Now, you’re talking about a social interaction,” Large said. “If your brain rhythms are literally able to synchronize to someone else’s brain rhythms, that’s what communication is potentially all about.”


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

Chaohusaurus Fossil Shows Oldest Live Reptile Birth

Chaohusaurus Fossil Shows Oldest Live Reptile Birth | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Recent excavations in south Majiashan, Anhui, China, yielded more than 80 new ichthyosaur skeletons. Among the specimens was a partial skeleton that contained embryos. According to Dr. Chen and colleagues, the fossil belongs to the ichthyosaur Chaohusaurus, which is the oldest of Mesozoic marine reptiles. This viviparous creature lived around 248 million years ago. It had a lizard-like appearance and was one of the smallest ichthyosaurs (up to 1.8 m long).


The new fossil was associated with three embryos and neonates: one inside the mother, another exiting the pelvis-with half the body still inside the mother-and the third outside of the mother. The headfirst birth posture of the second embryo indicates that live births in ichthyosaurs may have taken place on land, instead of in the water, as some studies have previously suggested.


“The study reports the oldest vertebrate fossil to capture the ‘moment’ of live-birth, with a baby emerging from the pelvis of its mother. The 248-million-year old fossil of an ichthyosaur suggests that live-bearing evolved on land and not in the sea,” said Dr Ryosuke Motani from the University of California, Davis, the first author of a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.


The Chaohusaurus fossil may also contain the oldest fossil embryos of Mesozoic marine reptile, about 10 million years older than those indicated on previous records.


more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Scoop.it!

The Ubi Ubiquitous Computer is Here: Talk to Your Wall and Your Wall will Talk Back

The Ubi Ubiquitous Computer is Here: Talk to Your Wall and Your Wall will Talk Back | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Ubi is a WiFi-connected, voice-operated computer that plugs into a power outlet and makes the environment around it Internet enabled. Reminiscent of voice controlled computers depicted in science fiction, early uses of the Ubi include Internet search, messaging, and communications without the use of hands or screens. The Ubi also includes sensors that allow for remote monitoring of the environment around it.

Project Ubi Odyssey will allow early adopters of technology to get access to the Ubi, develop connectivity with home automation and Internet services, and create novel human computer interactions. Those interested can register for the program at www.theubi.com and selected candidates will be invited to participate in the program. The Beta Ubi cost is $299. The program is currently limited to 5,000 participants and to residents of the United States.

The Ubi relies on powerful server technology that processes natural language to infer requests from the user and then pulls data from various Internet sources. Users can easily build voice-driven interactions and connect devices and services through the Ubi Portal. The device is equipped with temperature, humidity, air pressure and ambient light sensors to provide feedback on the environment around it. Also onboard the Ubi are stereo speakers, two microphones, and bright multi-colored LED indicator lights.


Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation CEO Leor Grebler told me the device will also be able to sense devices that are openly connected to the Internet (eventually, the Nest “learning” thermostat and smart smoke/CO2 alarms), “but we’re not controlling devices outright yet. We will add a way to talk to devices/Internet services as well as for them to talk back to the user.”


Here are the impressive specs: Android OS 4.1, 1.6 GHz Dual-Core ARM Cortex-A9 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 802.11 b/n/g Wifi Enabled (WPA and WPA2 encryption), stereo speakers and dual microphones, Bluetooth-capable, ambient light sensor, cloud-based speech recognition (Google/Android libraries), and natural language understanding.


And you can program its user interface on a computer, or verbally on the Ubi, Grebler said. “We’re slowly releasing apps on portal.theubi.com,” he said. “We have the first blossoms of an API that will essentially allow any Internet service, such as email, calendar, Twitter, Facebook, etc. ) to have its own voice and be interactive through the Ubi.”


You can register for the program at www.theubi.com and selected candidates will be invited to participate in the program. The Beta Ubi cost is $299. The program is currently limited to 5,000 participants and to U.S. residents.

more...
Tamika Garay's curator insight, March 25, 2015 11:24 PM

#4 Most Important Technologies in the next 5-10 years

Voice operated computers

 

Voice operated computers and operating systems have captured the imaginations of  sci-fi writers for years and have been included in recent works such as :

 

* Her (Movie, 2013 Director & Writer – Spike Jonze) - a movie about a man who falls in love with his interactive operating system.

 

* Extant (Series – 2014 Halle Berry) – there is a Siri-like talking computer device in every home and space station

 

Using voice commands to operate computers would make it more natural for humans to use by allowing the interface between user and computer become invisible. With the popularity of Siri and Google voice recognition, voice operated computers and operating systems will be important in the next 5-10 years.