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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Google's Quantum Computing Playground lets you run a simulated quantum computer

Google's Quantum Computing Playground lets you run a simulated quantum computer | Amazing Science |

Google engineers have developed a simulated quantum computer called Quantum Computing Playground that allows you to write, run, and debug software using quantum algorithms.

Quantum Computing Playground runs in a Chrome browser with a simple interactive interface. A scripting language called QScript includes debugging and 3D quantum-state visualization features.

You can efficiently simulate quantum registers up to 22 qubits and run Grover’s and Shor’s algorithms. There’s also a variety of quantum gates built into the scripting language itself.

Quantum-state visualization in Quantum Computing Playground. A set of qubits (“quantum register”) can be visualized typically as a 2D or 3D graph, on which points or bars represent superpositions of qubits, while their color or bar height represent amplitude and phase of a given superposition.

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Future of flight? Precise brain-controlled flight airplanes

Future of flight? Precise brain-controlled flight airplanes | Amazing Science |

Pilots of the future could fly a plane by just thinking commands, say scientists at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics at Technische Universität München (TUM) and Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) involved in the EU-funded Brainflight project.

The system uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect brain waves. An algorithm developed by scientists from Team PhyPA (Physiological Parameters for Adaptation) at TU Berlin deciphers electrical potentials and converts them into control commands.

“A long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people,” explains aerospace engineer Tim Fricke, who heads the project at TUM. “With brain control, flying could become easier.

This would reduce the work load of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit.”

Seven subjects took part in flight simulator tests. They had varying levels of flight experience, including one person without any cockpit experience.

The accuracy with which the test subjects stayed on course by merely thinking commands would have sufficed, in part, to fulfill the requirements of a flying license test, the scientists say.

“One of the subjects was able to follow eight out of ten target headings with a deviation of only 10 degrees,” reports Fricke. Several of the subjects also managed the landing approach under poor visibility. One test pilot even landed within only few meters of the centerline.

The TU München scientists are now focusing on how the requirements for the control system and flight dynamics need to be altered to accommodate the new control method.

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New Laser Sensing Technology for Self-driving Cars, Smartphones and 3-D Video Games

New Laser Sensing Technology for Self-driving Cars, Smartphones and 3-D Video Games | Amazing Science |

A new twist on 3-D imaging technology could one day enable your self-driving car to spot a child in the street half a block away, let you answer your Smartphone from across the room with a wave of your hand, or play “virtual tennis” on your driveway.
The new system, developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet, 10 times farther than what could be done with comparable current low-power laser systems. With further development, the technology could be used to make smaller, cheaper 3-D imaging systems that offer exceptional range for potential use in self-driving cars,  smartphones and interactive video games like Microsoft’s Kinect, all without the need for big, bulky boxes of electronics or optics.
“While meter-level operating distance is adequate for many traditional metrology instruments, the sweet spot for emerging consumer and robotics applications is around 10 meters” or just over 30 feet, says UC Berkeley’s Behnam Behroozpour, who will present the team’s work at CLEO: 2014, being held June 8-13 in San Jose, California, USA. “This range covers the size of typical living spaces while avoiding excessive power dissipation and possible eye safety concerns.”
The new system relies on LIDAR (“light radar”), a 3-D imaging technology that uses light to provide feedback about the world around it. LIDAR systems of this type emit laser light that hits an object, and then can tell how far away that object is by measuring changes in the light frequency that is reflected back. It can be used to help self-driving cars avoid obstacles halfway down the street, or to help video games tell when you are jumping, pumping your fists or swinging a “racket” at an imaginary tennis ball across an imaginary court.
In contrast, current lasers used in high-resolution LIDAR imaging can be large, power-hungry and expensive. Gaming systems require big, bulky boxes of equipment, and you have to stand within a few feet of the system for them to work properly, Behroozpour says. Bulkiness is also a problem for driverless cars such as Google’s, which must carry a large 3-D camera on its roof.
The researchers sought to shrink the size and power consumption of the LIDAR systems without compromising their performance in terms of distance.
In their new system, the team used a type of LIDAR called frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) LIDAR, which they felt would ensure their imager had good resolution with lower power consumption, Behroozpour says. This type of system emits “frequency-chirped” laser light (that is, whose frequency is either increasing or decreasing) on an object and then measures changes in the light frequency that is reflected back.

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Siemens provides 150 wind turbines for largest ever offshore project

Siemens provides 150 wind turbines for largest ever offshore project | Amazing Science |

The Gemini consortium has signed all construction, operations and financing contracts yesterday with a total construction budget of nearly EUR 3 billion. With more than 20 parties involved 70 percent of this budget will be provided on the basis of project financing – making Gemini the largest-ever project financed offshore wind farm. For the Gemini project Siemens will deliver 150 wind turbines with a capacity of 4 megawatts (MW) and a rotor diameter of 130 meters each.

The wind power plant is to be located in the North Sea, 85 km above the coast of Groningen. With an installed capacity of 600 MW in total Gemini will yield 2.6 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year. The wind power plant will supply clean energy for one and a half million people after being fully commissioned. The amount of energy is equivalent to a reduction in the emission of CO2 by 1,25 million tons per year.

For Siemens this is the first order for an offshore wind power plant in Dutch waters. The innovative service concept banks on the ongoing presence of a service vessel and the steady ground readiness of a helicopter.

Siemens' 15-year service and maintenance agreement for the Gemini project is the largest service order ever for Siemens Energy Service. It will introduce a highly advanced logistics concept for offshore sites. For the first time, a helicopter will be available for a project at all times and a specially designed, purpose-built service operation vessel (SOV) will be based at the wind farm. To ensure increased turbine availability, maintenance work can be carried out at almost all times irrespective of the weather conditions or wave height.

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Researchers use light to coax stem cells to repair teeth

Researchers use light to coax stem cells to repair teeth | Amazing Science |

A Harvard-led team is the first to demonstrate the ability to use low-power light to trigger stem cells inside the body to regenerate tissue, an advance they reported in Science Translational Medicine.  The research, led by David J. Mooney, Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), lays the foundation for a host of clinical applications in restorative dentistry and regenerative medicine more broadly, such as wound healing, bone regeneration, and more.

The team used a low-power laser to trigger human dental stem cells to form dentin, the hard tissue that is similar to bone and makes up the bulk of teeth. What’s more, they outlined the precise molecular mechanism involved, and demonstrated its prowess using multiple laboratory and animal models. 

A number of biologically active molecules, such as regulatory proteins called growth factors, can trigger stem cells to differentiate into different cell types. Current regeneration efforts require scientists to isolate stem cells from the body, manipulate them in a laboratory, and return them to the body—efforts that face a host of regulatory and technical hurdles to their clinical translation. But Mooney’s approach is different and, he hopes, easier to get into the hands of practicing clinicians.

“Our treatment modality does not introduce anything new to the body, and lasers are routinely used in medicine and dentistry, so the barriers to clinical translation are low,” said Mooney, who is also a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. “It would be a substantial advance in the field if we can regenerate teeth rather than replace them.” 

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Molecular crowding: Simple nucleic acid and protein folding may be sped up by 400,000 percent inside cells

Molecular crowding: Simple nucleic acid and protein folding may be sped up by 400,000 percent inside cells | Amazing Science |

Crowding has notoriously negative effects at large size scales, blamed for everything from human disease and depression to community resource shortages. But relatively little is known about the influence of crowding at the cellular level. A new JILA study shows that a crowded environment has dramatic effects on individual biomolecules.

In the first data on the underlying dynamics (or kinetics)of crowded single biomolecules , reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,* JILA researchers found that crowding leads to a 35-fold increase in the folding rate of RNA (ribonucleic acid), while the unfolding rate remains relatively stable.

RNA is a long chain-like molecule that contains genetic information, makes proteins and catalyzes biological reactions. It must fold into the correct 3D shape to function properly. The new results show that while RNA usually spends most of its time unfolded, in a crowded situation it folds much more often, although it remains folded for the usual period of time during each round.

"Cells are 25 to 35 percent filled with 'stuff'—proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, etc.—and the effect of crowding on simple reactions like folding of nucleic acids and proteins is not well understood," JILA/NIST Fellow David Nesbitt says. "Almost all detailed kinetic data comes from in vitro studies, that is, not in a living cell.

"But our work at the single-molecule level suggests that the rates and equilibrium constants (where folding and unfolding rates are equal) for simple nucleic acid folding processes may be shifted by up to 400,000 percent or more from what one might expect from such uncrowded solution studies."

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Researchers develop a three-step process for building fractal nanostructures

Researchers develop a three-step process for building fractal nanostructures | Amazing Science |

Julia Greer together with her group has developed a three-step process for building such complex structures very precisely. They first use a direct laser writing method called two-photon lithography to "write" a three-dimensional pattern in a polymer, allowing a laser beam to crosslink and harden the polymer wherever it is focused. At the end of the patterning step, the parts of the polymer that were exposed to the laser remain intact while the rest is dissolved away, revealing a three-dimensional scaffold. Next, the scientists coat the polymer scaffold with a continuous, very thin layer of a material—it can be a ceramic, metal, metallic glass, semiconductor, "just about anything," Greer says. In this case, they used alumina, or aluminum oxide, which is a brittle ceramic, to coat the scaffold. In the final step they etch out the polymer from within the structure, leaving a hollow architecture.

Taking advantage of some of the size effects that many materials display at the nanoscale, these nanotrusses can have unusual, desirable qualities. For example, intrinsically brittle materials, like ceramics, including the alumina shown, can be made deformable so that they can be crushed and still rebound to their original state without global failure.

"Having full control over the architecture gives us the ability to tune material properties to what was previously unattainable with conventional monolithic materials or with foams," says Greer. "For example, we can decouple strength from density and make materials that are both strong (and tough) as well as extremely lightweight. These structures can contain nearly 99 percent air yet can also be as strong as steel. Designing them into fractals allows us to incorporate hierarchical design into material architecture, which promises to have further beneficial properties."

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Seeing sound: visual cortex processes auditory information too

Seeing sound: visual cortex processes auditory information too | Amazing Science |

Ten healthy subjects wearing blindfolds were given solely auditory stimulation in the absence of visual stimulation. In a separate session, retinotopic mapping.

University of Glasgow scientists studying brain process involved in sight have discovered that the visual cortex also uses information gleaned from the ears when viewing the world.

They suggest this auditory input enables the visual system to predict incoming information and could confer a survival advantage.

“Sounds create visual imagery, mental images, and automatic projections,” said Professor Lars Muckli, of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, who led the research. “For example, if you are in a street and you hear the sound of an approaching motorbike, you expect to see a motorbike coming around the corner.”

The study, published in the journal Current Biology (open access), involved conducting five different experiments using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the activity in the early visual cortex in 10 volunteer subjects.

In one experiment they asked the blindfolded volunteers to listen to three different sounds: birdsong, traffic noise and a talking crowd. Using a special algorithm that can identify unique patterns in brain activity, the researchers were able to discriminate between the different sounds being processed in early visual cortex activity.

A second experiment revealed that even imagined images, in the absence of both sight and sound, evoked activity in the early visual cortex.

“This research enhances our basic understanding of how interconnected different regions of the brain are,” Muckli said. “The early visual cortex hasn’t previously been known to process auditory information, and while there is some anatomical evidence of interconnectedness in monkeys, our study is the first to clearly show a relationship in humans.

“This might provide insights into mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or autism and help us understand how sensory perceptions differ in these individuals.”

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A first glimpse at room temperature superconductivity

A first glimpse at room temperature superconductivity | Amazing Science |

Scientists of the Max Plank Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter at the Hamburg Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) have turned a normal insulator partially into a superconductor at room temperature, using a flash of infrared light. The superconducting state survived only for a couple of picoseconds (trillionths of a second), but the findings may aid the quest for higher temperature superconductors, as the team of scientists including Wanzheng Hu, Daniele Nicoletti, Cassi Hunt and Stefan Kaiser lead by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter at CFEL reports in the scientific journal Nature Materials.

Superconductors are materials that carry electric currents without any resistance. Even good normal conductors like electrical lines lose roughly six per cent of the power they transmit due to resistive losses, so developing a zero resistance material has immediate practical benefit. Various metals are natural superconductors, but only at very low temperatures around minus 270 degrees Celsius. In 1986 it was discovered that certain ceramic compounds become superconducting at somewhat higher temperatures. But even these so-called high-temperature superconductors have to be cooled to below minus 135 degrees Celsius, rendering practical applications difficult.

In their new work, the researchers focussed on a double-layered cuprate, a group of copper oxide based materials with various known high-temperature superconductors. The investigated yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) has the chemical formula YBa2Cu3O6.5 and becomes a superconductor below -223 degrees Celsius.

The exact workings of high-temperature superconductors are still a mystery. Generally, superconductivity occurs, because electrons in the crystal lattice team up in so-called Cooper pairs which allows them to travel without resistance through certain materials. Below a characteristic temperature, all the Cooper pairs move together like a herd and can quantum mechanically tunnel through thin insulating layers.

YBa2Cu3O6.5 has a double layered structure, with pairs of CuO2 planes. In the superconducting state, the Cooper pairs can tunnel effortless from one of these bilayers to another, the bilayers are coupled. In the normal state, the Cooper pairs seem to be still there, but confined to their own bilayer, and coupling occurs only within each bilayer.

As the researchers found, a flash of infrared light can clear the way for the Cooper pairs to tunnel from one CuO2 bilayer to another, this effect can be measured for a tiny fraction even at room temperature, and so giving the first hint that superconductivity at room temperature is possible. The infrared light lets certain oxygen atoms between the bilayers (the apical oxygen atoms) vibrate around their equilibrium position. "For cuprates, the distance of the apical oxygen to the CuO2 plane is believed to play an important role for how high the superconducting temperature can be," explains Hu. "Therefore, by modulating the apical oxygen position, we hope we can control the superconducting properties."

Superduperconductor's curator insight, October 27, 2014 7:43 AM

Superconductors at room temperature, wow!

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Targeted genome editing by lentiviral protein transduction of zinc-finger and TAL-effector nucleases

Targeted genome editing by lentiviral protein transduction of zinc-finger and TAL-effector nucleases | Amazing Science |

The capacity of designed nucleases, like ZFNs and TALENs, to generate DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) at desired positions in the genome has created optimism for therapeutic translation of locus-directed genome engineering. ZFNs and TALENs are chimeric nucleases composed of a custom-designed DNA binding domain fused to the DNA-cleavage domain from the FokI endonuclease that upon dimer formation cleaves the DNA. ZFN- and TALEN-induced DSBs trigger genome editing through cellular repair mechanisms involving either error-prone non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homologous recombination (HR) with an available DNA donor template. Designer nucleases have broad applications in biological experimentation (Urnov et al., 2010;Bogdanove and Voytas, 2011) and have been successfully utilized for the production of gene knockout model animals (Doyon et al., 2008Geurts et al., 2009Tesson et al., 2011) and in emerging gene therapies (Perez et al., 2008Li et al., 20112013Sun et al., 2012).

The safety of designer nucleases is of major concern in relation to their use in treatment of human diseases. Thus far, ZFNs and TALENs have been administered to cells by transfection or electroporation of nucleic acids, DNA or RNA, encoding a pair of nuclease proteins (Urnov et al., 2005Miller et al., 2011Carlson et al., 2012) or by exploiting viral gene vehicles such as integrase-deficient lentiviral vectors (IDLVs) (Lombardo et al., 2007), adeno-associated virus-derived vectors (AAV vectors) (Ellis et al., 2013), or adenoviral vectors (Holkers et al., 2013). Successful administration of ZFN- or TALEN-encoding genes leads to high intracellular levels of nucleases and furthermore imposes a risk of random insertion in the genome, resulting potentially in prolonged nuclease expression and accumulating events of off-target cleavage. Ideally, ZFNs and TALENs are provided in a ‘hit-and-run’ fashion allowing short-term and dose-controllable nuclease activity without losing the effectiveness of creating locus-directed DSBs. Towards this goal, ZFNs have been fused to destabilizing domains regulated by small molecules to attenuate ZFN toxicity (Pruett-Miller et al., 2009).

Moreover, by exploiting the cell-penetrating capability of ZFNs, targeted gene disruption has recently been achieved by direct cellular delivery of purified ZFN proteins (Gaj et al., 2012). Although such approach may require multiple treatments due to the reduced cellular uptake of proteins (Mellert et al., 2012), recent findings suggest that ZFN uptake may be further improved by ligand-mediated endocytosis (Chen et al., 2013). However, for gene correction by homology-directed repair such strategies would need to be combined with other means of delivering the donor template.

It has been known for decades that retroviruses can tolerate the incorporation of heterologous proteins (Jones et al., 1990Weldon et al., 1990). Lentiviral particles (LPs) have been engineered to carry foreign proteins for the purpose of visualizing the intracellular behavior of the virus during infection (McDonald et al., 2002Jouvenet et al., 2008) and altering the viral integration profile (Bushman, 1994Goulaouic and Chow, 1996Bushman and Miller, 1997), as well as for ferrying antiviral (Okui et al., 2000Ao et al., 2008) and antitumor (Link et al., 2006Miyauchi et al., 2012) protein therapeutics. As the delicate structural composition of HIV-1-derived lentiviral particles is easily disturbed by an inappropriate load of nonviral proteins, leading to suboptimal vector yields and/or reduced transduction capability, various strategies for transducing heterologous protein cargo have been scrutinized. In early strategies, the accessory HIV-1 protein Vpr was adapted as a carrier of fused proteins (Wu et al., 1995). Recently, Vpr fusions have been shown also to ferry Cre recombinase (Michel et al., 2010) and I-SceI meganuclease (Izmiryan et al., 2011) into transduced cells. However, HIV-1 virions incorporate relatively few copies of Vpr (estimated 700 copies Vpr per virion [Swanson and Malim, 2008]), and the therapeutic potential of such approach may be hampered further by the known toxicity of the Vpr protein (Tachiwana et al., 2006).

Alternatively, nonviral proteins may be packaged in LPs as part of the Gag polypeptide, as was previously shown for reporter proteins like GFP (Aoki et al., 2011) and the apoptosis-inducing caspase 3 protein (Miyauchi et al., 2012). During virion maturation, Gag is processed by the viral proteins into shorter proteins constituting the structural—and most abundant—proteins of the virus particle. It is estimated that each virion contains 5000 copies of Gag and 250 copies of GagPol (Swanson and Malim, 2008). A research team recently adapted LPs for the delivery of the piggybac DNA transposase (Cai et al., 2014). The transposase was released from Gag in the virus particles in a protease-dependent manner and found to be able to facilitate efficient DNA transposition in transduced cells. In yet another strategy, heterologous proteins fused to the integrase in the Pol region of the GagPol polypeptide were successfully delivered by protein transduction (Schenkwein et al., 2010).

This present study describes the use of lentivirus-derived particles as carriers of designer nucleases for safe administration of ZFN and TALEN proteins fused to lentiviral Gag precursors. The researchers produce ZFN-loaded lentiviral particles that induce high-efficiency gene disruption with a favorable on-target/off-target ratio in safe genomic harbors like the CCR5 locus. Also, gene disruption and repair is evident in cells treated with particles carrying TALEN proteins. Successful incorporation of nuclease proteins within lentiviral particles allows co-delivery of nucleases and the donor template for homology-directed repair. The obtained findings demonstrate targeted and programmable gene repair in the human genome by delivery of both ‘scissors’ and ‘patch’ in a single combined protein and gene vehicle.

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Mice with MS-like condition walk again after neural stem-cell treatment

Mice with MS-like condition walk again after neural stem-cell treatment | Amazing Science |

When scientists transplanted human neural stem cells into mice with multiple sclerosis (MS), within a remarkably short period of time, 10 to 14 days, the mice had regained motor skills.

Six months later, they showed no signs of slowing down.

Results from the study demonstrate that the mice experience at least a partial reversal of symptoms. Immune attacks are blunted, and the damaged myelin is repaired, explaining their dramatic recovery.

The finding, which uncovers potential new avenues for treating MS, was published May 15, 2014 in the journal Stem Cell Reports (open access).

How they did it: Ronald Coleman (a graduate student of Jeanne Loring, Ph.D., co-senior author and director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute and co-first author on the publication) changed the normal protocol and grew the neural stem cells so they were less crowded on a Petri dish than usual.

That yielded a human neural stem cell type that turned out to be extremely potent. The experiments have since been successfully repeated with cells produced under the same conditions, but by different laboratories.

The human neural stem cells send chemical signals that instruct the mouse’s own cells to repair the damage caused by MS. Experiments by Lane’s team suggest that TGF-beta proteins comprise one type of signal, but there are likely others. This realization has important implications for translating the work to clinical trials in the future.

“Rather than having to engraft stem cells into a patient, which can be challenging from a medical standpoint, we might be able to develop a drug that can be used to deliver the therapy much more easily,” said Tom Lane, Ph.D., a professor of pathology at the University of Utah.

With clinical trials as the long-term goal, the next steps are to assess the durability and safety of the stem cell therapy in mice. “We want to try to move as quickly and carefully as possible,” he said. “I would love to see something that could promote repair and ease the burden that patients with MS have.”

“The aspect I am most interested is to define what is being secreted from the human cells that influence demyelination,” Lane told KurzweilAI in an email interview. “Other studies have shown either effects on neuroinflammation or demyelination; ours is one of a select few to show that stem cells influence both.”

However, it is too soon to say when can we expect this innovation to be available for MS patients, Lane added.

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BioPen – a handheld 3D printer for sugeons

BioPen – a handheld 3D printer for sugeons | Amazing Science |

A handheld ‘bio pen’ developed in the labs of the University of Wollongong (UOW) will allow surgeons to design customised implants on-site and at the time of surgery.

The BioPen, developed by researchers from the UOW-headquarteredAustralian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), will give surgeons greater control over where the materials are deposited while also reducing the time the patient is in surgery by delivering live cells and growth factors directly to the site of injury, accelerating the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage.

The BioPen works similar to 3D printing methods by delivering cell material inside a biopolymer such as alginate, a seaweed extract, protected by a second, outer layer of gel material. The two layers of gel are combined in the pen head as it is extruded onto the bone surface and the surgeon ‘draws’ with the ink to fill in the damaged bone section.

A low powered ultra-violet light source is fixed to the device that solidifies the inks during dispensing, providing protection for the embedded cells while they are built up layer-by-layer to construct a 3D scaffold in the wound site.

Once the cells are ‘drawn’ onto the surgery site they will multiply, become differentiated into nerve cells, muscle cells or bone cells and will eventually turn from individual cells into a thriving community of cells in the form of a functioning a tissue, such as nerves, or a muscle.

The device can also be seeded with growth factors or other drugs to assist regrowth and recovery, while the hand-held design allows for precision in theatre and ease of transportation.

The BioPen prototype was designed and built using the 3D printing equipment in the labs at the University of Wollongong and was this week handed over to clinical partners at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, led by Professor Peter Choong, who will work on optimising the cell material for use in clinical trials.

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Video game GPU processors to improve cancer patient treatment

Video game GPU processors to improve cancer patient treatment | Amazing Science |

Medical physicists at UT Southwestern Medical Center are finding new ways to use the speed of video game processors to promote research that is aimed at improving patient care.

In recent years, video game processors, known as graphic processing units, or GPUs, have become massively powerful as game makers support increasingly elaborate video graphics. Medical experts took note of the GPU’s rapid-fire processing. Among the pioneers seeking ways to apply the processing speed of GPUs to medical use is Dr. Steve Jiang, UT Southwestern’s new Director of the Division of Medical Physics and Engineering, and Professor and Vice Chairman of Radiation Oncology.

One practical application is reducing the time required to calculate the radiation dose delivered to a tumor during proton radiotherapy, he said. The faster video processors can reduce the time of the most complex calculation method from 70 hours to just 10 seconds.

“That’s an astonishing improvement in processing speed,” Dr. Jiang said. “We should really thank video gamers. The popularity of video games has resulted in a tool that is very beneficial for scientific computing in medicine. The quicker results mean increased convenience for patients and physicians, and translate in a significant way to better patient care,” he said.

Radiotherapy is often delivered in many treatments that can span weeks, during which time the patient’s anatomy or the tumor itself can change. Dr. Jiang’s highly efficient calculation allows for more accurate treatment plans based on daily calculations that are adapted to changes in the patient’s daily geometry (such as weight, size and shape of the tumor), as well as the healthy tissue around the tumor. With the faster processor, doctors can make calculations before each treatment, instead of re-using older data, and new calculations can make the treatments more exact, sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

“The main idea is to change the way we treat patients,” Dr. Jiang said. “If someone has a cancer, you want to treat the disease immediately and precisely. The current slower calculations require patients to wait for about a week to receive the first radiation treatment after consulting with doctors.”

Although video games may seem to offer little beyond entertainment, the consumer demand was so intense that game developers created better, faster, and cheaper processors for video games than for any other applications.

“Market forces are strong and act much quicker than federal or state research funding mechanisms,” Dr. Jiang said.

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How to make a quantum random-number generator from a mobile phone

How to make a quantum random-number generator from a mobile phone | Amazing Science |

Do you feel nervous when you make a credit-card transaction using your mobile phone? Your worries could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a low-cost device that could bring powerful cryptography to portable devices. That's the aim of Bruno Sanguinetti and colleagues at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, who have created a quantum random-number generator (QRNG) that uses low-cost electronic components including a mobile-phone camera.

Modern cryptographic protocols require the rapid generation of sequences of truly random numbers. These are used to create the "keys" that allow individuals to encrypt and decrypt sensitive information such as passwords and bank details. Coming up with these numbers is a significant technological challenge because computers are completely deterministic and are therefore not capable of creating truly random numbers. Cryptography systems tend to rely on "pseudo random-number" generators that output sequences of numbers that are nearly random. While some of these generators are very good, a cryptography system based on pseudo random numbers is easier to hack than a system that uses random numbers.

Truly random numbers can be generated by making measurements on physical systems that are inherently random – such as the radioactive decay of nuclei or noise in an electronic circuit. However, existing measurement techniques tend to be either very expensive or too slow to be of practical use. Securing your mobile phone, for example, needs a generation rate of about 1 kbit/s.

Now Sanguinetti and colleagues Anthony Martin, Hugo Zbinden and Nicolas Gisin have used an eight-megapixel camera from a Nokia N9 smartphone to create a device that can deliver random numbers at 1.25 Gbit/s. The system exploits the fact that the camera is so sensitive that it can be used to count the number of photons that impinge on each of its individual pixels.

The light is supplied by a conventional LED, in which electrons and holes combine to create photons. This is a quantum mechanical process and therefore the number of photons produced in a fixed period of time is not fixed, but is random. The camera and LED are adjusted so that each pixel detects about 400 photons in a short exposure time. The photon numbers of all the camera pixels are combined in an "extractor" algorithm that outputs a sequence of random numbers. In the Swiss experiment, the camera was used to create a 1.25 Gbit/s stream of random numbers.

One worry about any random-number generator is that the numbers could be influenced in a predictable way by non-quantum (classical) effects in the system. This could lead to a measurement bias, for example, which could favour certain numbers over others. If a potential eavesdropper knows everything about the generator, they could in principle predict the classical component of its output. This would make it easier to crack the system. However, when such biases are factored in, the team reckons that a user would have to generate a mindboggling 10^118 random numbers before they would notice a deviation from a perfectly random sequence.

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A simple, inexpensive supersonic spray method creates high-quality graphene layers

A simple, inexpensive supersonic spray method creates high-quality graphene layers | Amazing Science |

A simple, inexpensive spray method that deposits a graphene film can heal manufacturing defects and produce a high quality graphene layer on a range of substrates, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Korea University — an alternative to the chemical vapor deposition process developed by MIT and the University of Michigan for creating large sheets of graphene, recently reported.

Graphene, a two-dimensional wonder-material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, is strong, transparent, and an excellent conductor of electricity. It has potential in a wide range of applications, such as reinforcing and lending electrical properties to plastics; creating denser and faster integrated circuits; and building better touch screens.

However, there has been no easy way to scale up from microscopic to large-scale applications without introducing defects, says Alexander Yarin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and co-principal investigator on the study.

“Yarin first turned to solving how to deposit graphene flakes to form a consistent layer without any clumps or spaces. He went to Sam S. Yoon, professor of mechanical engineering at Korea University and co-principal investigator on the study.

Yoon had been working with a unique kinetic spray deposition system that exploits the supersonic acceleration of droplets through a Laval nozzle. Although Yoon was working with different materials, Yarin believed his method might be used to deposit graphene flakes into a smooth layer.

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The Hoosier Cavefish, a newly discovered cavefish from the caves of southern Indiana

The Hoosier Cavefish, a newly discovered cavefish from the caves of southern Indiana | Amazing Science |

A new eyeless cavefish is described from Indiana and named after the Indiana Hoosiers. It is the first new cavefish species described from the U.S. in 40 years. Notably, it has an anus right behind its head, and the females brood their young in their gill chamber. The new species was described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The new speciesAmblyopsis hoosieri, is the closest relative of a species (A. spelaea) from the longest cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. These two species are separated by the Ohio River, which also separates the states of Indiana and Kentucky.

The species from south of the Ohio River, A. spelaea, has a knockout mutation in the genetic sequence of rhodopsin, a gene important in vision. The new species, on the other hand, lacks this mutation and maintains a functional rhodopsin gene, despite lacking eyes and vision. The new species shows distinct morphological differences compared to its southern congener. It has a plumper, Bibendum-like body and shorter fins. It also has smaller mechanosensory neuromasts on papillae, which allow them to sense movement in the dark waters of the caves they are found in.

The authors decided to name the new species, A. hoosieri, the Hoosier Cavefish, not only after the Indiana Hoosiers team, but mainly to honor the proximity of the new species to Indiana University and several famed ichthyologists who worked there. "The senior author of the manuscript is a fervent fan of Indiana Hoosier basketball, but the first author is an alumni of the University of Michigan and is not. Also notable is that the middle author of the publication is currently an undergraduate at Louisiana State University." explain the authors.

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Lasers could shrink particle accelerators from kilometers to meters

Lasers could shrink particle accelerators from kilometers to meters | Amazing Science |
It took every inch of the Large Hadron Collider's 17-mile length to accelerate particles to energies high enough to discover the Higgs boson. Now, imagine an accelerator that could do the same thing in, say, the length of a football field. Or less.

That is the promise of laser-plasma accelerators, which use lasers instead of high-power radio-frequency waves to energize electrons in very short distances. Scientists have grappled with building these devices for two decades, and a new theoretical study predicts that this may be easier than previously thought.

The authors are Carlo Benedetti, Carl Schroeder, Eric Esarey, and Wim Leemans, physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center. Their paper, "Plasma wakefields driven by an incoherent combination of laser pulses: A path towards high-average power laser-plasma accelerators," appears in the May Special Issue of Physics of Plasmas.

If their models prove correct, they could help lower the cost of high-energy physics research—the Large Hadron Collider cost $9 billion—as well as many other industrial and medical applications of accelerators.

Laser-plasma accelerators work by blasting a powerful laser beam into a plasma, a cloud of unattached electrons and ions.

"The effect is like the wake of boat speeding down a lake. If the wake was big enough, a surfer could ride it," Leemans, who heads the BELLA Center, explained. "Imagine that the plasma is the lake and the laser is the motorboat. When the laser plows through the plasma, the pressure created by its photons pushes the electrons out of the way. They wind up surfing the wake, or wakefield, created by the laser as it moves down the accelerator," he said.

The fast moving electrons leave the heavy ions behind. As they separate, they create gigantic electric fields, 100 to 1,000 times larger than those in conventional accelerators.

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Wasp uses zinc-tip drill to lay eggs

Wasp uses zinc-tip drill to lay eggs | Amazing Science |

Video footage captured by scientists has revealed the power of a parasitic wasp, which has evolved a zinc-tipped drill to bore into fruit. The wasps penetrate the fruit in order to lay their eggs inside. A team from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore found that wasps' fruit-drilling and egg-laying tool - which is thinner than a human hair - has teeth enriched with zinc. The researchers' study is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The female parasitic fig wasp bores its way through a tough, unripe fig to find the larvae of other pollinating insects already developing inside. Its own offspring will then feed on these larvae as they develop within the safety of the fig.

Taking measurements from this tiny drill bit, Dr. Gundiah, member of the research team, said, revealed the presence of zinc, and that it "was only at these teeth-like structures. "So we think the zinc is there to harden the tips."

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Mars' minerals could be made by microbes eons ago

Mars' minerals could be made by microbes eons ago | Amazing Science |
New Australian research suggests Martian minerals may have formed from biological rather than geological origins.

The findings, reported in the journal Geology, indicate the mineral stevensite, which is found on both Earth and Mars, can be created either in hot, highly alkaline volcanic lakes, or by mineralization in living microbes. Stevensite is a magnesium-silicate mineral, used a Nubian beauty treatment for several centuries.

There's an old lake in Morocco where stevensite deposits were mined and distributed by camel caravans as far east as India," says the study's lead author Dr Robert Burne of the Australian National University (ANU). "It's quite possible that Cleopatra used stevensite as a treatment for her skin and hair."

According to Burne, stevensite was detected by NASA's rover missions, which have been associated with spherulites [small spheres of unknown origin]," says Burne.

"But our finding - that stevensite can form around biological organisms - will encourage re-interpretation of these Martian deposits and their possible links to life on that planet," he says.

Burne and colleagues at the ANU and University of Western Australia, recently examined a series of reef structures in the waters of Lake Clifton south of Perth.

"Instead of a boiling volcanic soda lake, Lake Clifton was like a 'Garden of Eden', an idyllic location with crystal clear waters and neutral pH," says Burne.

The researchers found the masses in the lake were formed as mineral deposits. "These deposits accumulated over the past 2000 years into rigid reef structures which we've named microbialites, and which are similar to some of the oldest structures formed by life on Earth," says Burne. "Microbialites are the earliest large-scale evidence of life on Earth."

"They demonstrate how microscopic organisms are able to join together to build enormous structures that sometimes rivalled the size of today's coral reefs."

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Microalgae-based biofuel can help to meet world energy demand, researchers say

Microalgae-based biofuel can help to meet world energy demand, researchers say | Amazing Science |

Microalgae-based biofuel not only has the potential to quench a sizable chunk of the world's energy demands, say Utah State University researchers. It's a potential game-changer.

"That's because microalgae produces much higher yields of fuel-producing biomass than other traditional fuel feedstocks and it doesn't compete with food crops," says USU mechanical engineering graduate student Jeff Moody.

With USU colleagues Chris McGinty and Jason Quinn, Moody published findings from an unprecedented worldwide microalgae productivity assessment in the May 26, 2014 Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team's research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Despite its promise as a biofuel source, the USU investigators questioned whether "pond scum" could be a silver bullet-solution to challenges posed by fossil fuel dependence.

"Our aim wasn't to debunk existing literature, but to produce a more exhaustive, accurate and realistic assessment of the current global yield of microalgae biomass and lipids," Moody says.

With Quinn, assistant professor in USU's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and McGinty, associate director of USU's Remote Sensing/Geographic Information Systems Laboratory in the Department of Wildland Resources, Moody leveraged a large-scale, outdoor microalgae growth model. Using meteorological data from 4,388 global locations, the team determined the current global productivity potential of microalgae.

Algae, he says, yields about 2,500 gallons of biofuel per acre per year. In contrast, soybeans yield approximately 48 gallons; corn about 18 gallons.

"In addition, soybeans and corn require arable land that detracts from food production," Quinn says. "Microalgae can be produced in non-arable areas unsuitable for agriculture."

The researchers estimate untillable land in Brazil, Canada, China and the U.S. could be used to produce enough algal biofuel to supplement more than 30 percent of those countries' fuel consumption.

Tekrighter's curator insight, May 29, 2014 10:30 AM

Here's a way to produce biofuels that does not compete with food production.

Daniel LaLiberte's curator insight, May 29, 2014 8:52 PM

Land that is not used for food can be used to produce algae-based biofuel to meet a large fraction of the world's energy needs.  But another alternative is vertical farming in urban areas, where we can create as much space as we need.  

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, May 30, 2014 2:50 AM

This study highlights the commercial viability of algae biofuels.

The game changing aspect of the technology is that it does not contribute to food insecurity, a global issue aggravated by climate change

However, would we garner enough political will to wrest monopoly from oil and gas companies?

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Carbon dioxide levels throughout northern hemisphere hit 400 ppm for the first time in human history

Carbon dioxide levels throughout northern hemisphere hit 400 ppm for the first time in human history | Amazing Science |

The 400 ppm level in the atmosphere, up 40 percent since wide use of fossil fuels began with the Industrial Revolution, is rapidly spreading southwards. First recorded in 2012 in the Arctic, it has since become the norm for the Arctic spring.

The WMO expects the global annual average carbon dioxide concentration to be above 400 ppm in 2015 or 2016. Rising concentrations of the heat-trapping gas raise risks of more heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.

"Time is running out," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. "This should serve as yet another wake-up call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat-trapping gases."

Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a deal by the end of 2015 to slow climate change as part of efforts to limit the average temperature increase to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Temperatures have already risen about 0.8C (1.4F). In April, the U.N.'s panel of climate experts said that greenhouse gas concentrations, led by carbon dioxide, would have to be kept below 450 ppm to give a good chance of achieving the 2C goal.

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is seasonal, since plants absorb more in the summer months, causing a peak in the spring. The northern hemisphere, with more human-related sources of the gas, has a more pronounced seasonal cycle.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. It is emitted by fossil-fueled vehicles and coal-fired factories and power plants as well as by natural activities such as breathing.

During the last 800,000 years, the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuated between 180 ppm and 280 ppm, and has probably not been above 400 ppm for millions of years, scientists say.

AckerbauHalle's curator insight, May 27, 2014 4:46 PM

haben wir in dem Trubel der letzten Tage fasst vergessen. 

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Researchers transmit broadband data from Earth to Moon at 19.44mbps, 4800 times the previous record

Researchers transmit broadband data from Earth to Moon at 19.44mbps, 4800 times the previous record | Amazing Science |

Aside from air, water and fresh vegetables, what would need to survive on the moon? One thing that would likely of feature high on the list is a decent, reliable wireless internet. And thanks to a group of researches from MIT and Nasa this kind of connectivity could be within the realms of possibility.

Between them, the two organisations have demonstrated for the first time that data communication technology is capable of providing those in space with the same kind of connectivity we enjoy on Earth, and can even facilitate large data transfers and high-definition video streaming.

To do this it uses four separate telescopes based at a ground terminal in New Mexico to send the uplink signal to the moon. A laser transmitter that can send information as coded pulses of invisible infrared light feeds into each of the telescopes, which results in 40 watts of transmitter power.

Nasa and MIT will present their findings at the CLEO laser technology conference in California on 9 June, but the findings have also been detailed by the Optical Society. The team will explain how their laser-powered communication uplink between the moon and Earth breaks previous record transmission speeds -- achieved by RF signals -- by a factor of 4,800.

The team has transmitted data across the 384,633km distance between Earth and the moon at a rate of 19.44mbps and has also managed to download data at a rate of 622mbps. "Communicating at high data rates from Earth to the moon with laser beams is challenging because of the 400,000-kilometre distance spreading out the light beam," says Mark Stevens of MIT Lincoln Laboratory. "It's doubly difficult going through the atmosphere, because turbulence can bend light-causing rapid fading or dropouts of the signal at the receiver."

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, May 31, 2014 12:02 PM

Research into space colonization, is gaining a lot of attention given the threats of climate change, to food security

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Pill sensors: How digital drugs will transform healthcare (WIRED)

Pill sensors: How digital drugs will transform healthcare (WIRED) | Amazing Science |

Andrew Thompson is CEO and co-founder of Proteus Digital Health, a California-based company building tiny ingestible sensors that can be incorporated into pills to let doctors know when patients take them. This is one of several connected products the company has in the pipeline that should help improve current diagnosis and treatment methods. Andrew was speaking at Wired Health on 29 April, 2014.

What we've created is a new category of therapeutic products. Today you have generic products, branded products and soon we'll have digital products". We're in an early phase of commercial release of these products and that will start to expand fairly dramatically over the next couple of years. We created an FDA De Novo device category for an ingestible sensor and we have permission to make use of that technology either as a co-ingested, co-packaged or encapsulated dose form. We've also created a new pathway for what I'm going to call a digital NDA [new drug approval], which could lead to a new class of therapeutic product. The first of these digital NDAs will start to appear in 2015. Andrew Thomson states, "What we've created is a new category of therapeutic products. Today you have generic products, branded products and soon we'll have digital products. And digital products are going to by far the most valuable and biggest category -- over time."

Video talk:

Proteus Digital Health

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New Element 117 Confirmed

New Element 117 Confirmed | Amazing Science |

Nuclear physicists have invested huge effort in creating superheavy elements, which consist of enough neutrons to provide enhanced stability from nuclear decay. For the past 30 years, experiments have been marching towards this “island of stability” with a new elemental discovery every 2 to 3years. Part of the discovery process includes the confirmation by an independent experimental collaboration—it is only at this point that an element obtains its official status.

An international team using an intense 48Ca beam provided by GSI research facility in Darmstadt, Germany, and a target material of radioactive 249Bk supplied by Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee has produced two atoms of the superheavy element with atomic number Z=117, confirming the initial observation published in 9 April 2010. In the process, a new isotope 266Lr was discovered from the previously unknown alpha-decay branch of 270Db. With a half-life of 1 hour, 270Db is the longest-lived alpha emitter having an atomic number, Z, greater than 102.

The experiment is a tour de force in superheavy element research and required a detailed reconstruction of a seven-step alpha-decay chain followed by the spontaneous fission of the newly discovered 266Lr. The difficulty stems from the large variation in decay lifetimes along the alpha chain. The discovery was made feasible by the use of TASCA, a gas-filled recoil separator specifically designed for a high selectivity of superheavy or transactinide elements.

Elements beyond atomic number 104 are referred to as superheavy elements. The most long-lived ones are expected to be situated on a so-called 'island of stability', where nuclei with extremely long half-lives should be found. Although superheavy elements have not been found in nature, they can be produced by accelerating beams of nuclei and shooting them at the heaviest possible target nuclei. Fusion of two nuclei – a very rare event – occasionally produces a superheavy element. Those currently accessible generally only exist for a short time. Initial reports about the discovery of an element with atomic number 117 were released in 2010 from a Russia-U.S. collaboration working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia.


The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.


Read about the creation of Element 117 here:

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Genome scientist Craig Venter in deal to make humanized pig organs

Genome scientist Craig Venter in deal to make humanized pig organs | Amazing Science |

Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter is teaming up with a unit of United Therapeutics Corp to develop pig lungs that have been genetically altered to be compatible with humans, a feat that, if successful, could address the urgent need for transplant organs for people with end-stage lung disease.

Venter's privately held company Synthetic Genomics Inc on Tuesday said it has entered a multiyear deal with United Therapeutics' Lung Biotechnology Inc to develop the so-called humanized pig organs.

Humans, pigs and most other mammals share about 90 percent of the same genes. What Venter's team will do is to determine which aspects of the pig genome need to be altered to make porcine lungs compatible with humans, avoiding the rejection response that occurs even in human-to-human transplants.

"We're going to start with generating a brand new super-accurate sequence of the pig genome, and then go through in detail and compare it to the human genome," Venter, the founder and chief executive of Synthetic Genomics Inc, stated recently.

"The goal is to go in and edit, and where necessary, rewrite using our synthetic genomic tools, the pig genes that seem to be associated with immune responses," said Venter, who is best known for his role in mapping the human genome over a decade ago and who created synthetic life in 2010.

"We want to get it so there is no acute or chronic rejection," he said.

Venter's team is tasked with editing and rewriting the pig genome and providing the United Therapeutics group with a series of altered cells. United Therapeutics will take those cells and transplant them into pig eggs, generating embryos that develop and are born with humanized lungs.

If all goes well, Venter thinks his team will be able to deliver the cells in a few years. Testing the humanized organs in clinical trials to ensure they are safe in people will take many more years.

Via Ray and Terry's
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