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INTEL introduces wearable devices and projects at CES

INTEL introduces wearable devices and projects at CES | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Intel is introducing at CES several new products and projects focused on wearables:


  • Jarvis, a headset that can automatically integrate with a personal assistant app like Siri on a phone without touching it.
  • A smartwatch with “geo-fencing” to monitor the person who’s wearing it. For example: in case of an emergency and a person steps out of the geo-fence, the watch can send out an alert.
  • Wearable reference devices to accelerate wearable-device innovation, including smart earbuds that provide biometric and fitness capabilities, and a smart wireless charging bowl.
  • Collaborations with Barneys New York, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Opening Ceremony to explore and bring to market new smart wearable technologies, and to increase dialogue and cooperation between the fashion and technology industries.


Intel also introduced Intel Edison, a new Intel Quark technology-based computer housed in an SD card form factor with built-in wireless capabilities and support for multiple operating systems. Intel says it will “enable rapid innovation and product development by a range of inventors, entrepreneurs and consumer product designers when available this summer.”


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What a chromosome really looks like: New imaging technology for visualization

A new method for visualising chromosomes is painting a truer picture of their shape, which is rarely like the X-shaped blob of DNA most of us are familiar with. 

Scientists at the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute, working with the University of Cambridge and the Weizmann Institute, have produced beautiful 3D models that more accurately show their complex shape and the way DNA within them folds up. 

The X-shape, often used to describe chromosomes, is only a snapshot of their complexity. See the press release here: http://bit.ly/H68JeH

Please share and embed this video with credit to BBSRC. See more BBSRC videos here: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/videos/

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Google Ventures' Investment in 200+ High Tech Companies in 2013

Google Ventures' Investment in 200+ High Tech Companies in 2013 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

GV provides seed, venture, and growth-stage funding to the best companies. In 2013 they invested in more than 200+ companies, including Uber, Nest, and RetailMeNot and many others. Here is a summary of the companies that got chosen.

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Toshiba invents quantum cryptography network that even the NSA can’t hack

Toshiba invents quantum cryptography network that even the NSA can’t hack | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
If you've got communications that absolutely cannot be intercepted—whether you're a NSA whistleblower, the president of Mexico, or Coca-Cola—quantum cryptography is the way to go.


new research paper from scientists at Toshiba brings quantum cryptography a baby-step closer to the masses. The paper, published today in Nature, explains how to expand a point-to-point quantum network with only two users into a “quantum access network” with up to 64 users.


“This kind of communication cannot be defeated by future advances in computing power, nor new mathematical algorithms, nor fancy new engineering,” said co-author Andrew Shields, head of the Quantum Information Group of Toshiba Research Europe. “As long as the laws of physics hold true, it will ensure that your communications are fully secured.”


A quantum network uses specially polarized photons to encode an encryption key—a very long series of numbers and letters that can unlock a digital file. The photons are then sent down a fiber optic cable until they reach their destination, a photon detector, which counts them, and delivers the key to the intended recipient. If the photons are interfered with, the individual packets of information are forever altered and the recipient can see the telltale signs of tampering.


The Toshiba team focused its efforts on improving the photon detector, and created a system that counts up to 1 billion photons per second, which makes it feasible to add more people to the network. “Our breakthrough is we’ve developed an architecture that is point-to-multipoint. This greatly increase the number of potential users in the network, and reduces costs,” Shields said.


Current quantum cryptography systems from companies like ID Quantique start at around $50,000, and only connect two parties at a time. “If up to 64 people can share a single photon detector than you can spread out those costs,” Shields said.


The next step toward mainstreaming quantum crypto is increasing the distance that photons can travel before they degrade—currently the record is 200 km (124 miles) using a dedicated fiber optic cable. But researchers are working on ways to transmit quantum bits on so-called “noisy” fiber that carries other information, which means that the day may not be far away when your Gmail may have a quantum key.


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Scientists Discover How Brains Keep Themselves Clean Of Waste

Scientists Discover How Brains Keep Themselves Clean Of Waste | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Every organ produces waste, and the brain is no exception. But unlike the rest of our body, it doesn’t have a lymphatic system, a network of vessels that filter out junk. Now, a new study of mouse brains suggests how ours handle waste: by rapidly pumping fluid along the outside of blood vessels, literally flushing waste away. The finding, reported in Science Translational Medicine, could hint at how diseases like Alzheimer’s develop and might be treated.


“If you look at a body-wide map of the lymphatic system, you see a great big void in the brain,” said neuroscientist Jeffrey Iliff of the University of Rochester Medical Center. He and his colleagues found that puzzling, given how active the brain is and how sensitive it is to waste buildup.


Scientists long suspected that the brain’s refuse ended up in the cerebrospinal fluid, which cushions the brain inside the skull. In the 1980s, some researchers proposed that the fluid might be pumped into the brain to wash it, then pumped out again. Other researchers weren’t convinced.


Thanks to new imaging techniques that made it possible to peer inside the brain of a living mouse, Iliff’s team saw the process in action. Cerebrospinal fluid flowed along the outside of blood vessels, carried through a network of pipe-like protein structures. The fluid picked up waste that accumulated between cells, then drained out through major veins.


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Human Genome Shrinks To Only 19,000 genes, Less Than The C. elegans Worm

Human Genome Shrinks To Only 19,000 genes, Less Than The C. elegans Worm | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Genes are the fundamental units of inheritance in living organisms. Together, they hold all the information necessary to reproduce a given organism and to pass on genetic traits to its offspring.

 

Biologists have long debated what constitutes a gene in molecular terms but one useful definition is a region of DNA that carries that code necessary to make a molecular chain called a polypeptide. These chains link together to form proteins and so are the bricks and mortar out of which all organism are constructed.

 

Given this crucial role, it is no surprise that an ongoing goal in biology is to work out the total number of protein-coding genes necessary to construct a given organism. Biologists think the yeast genome contains about 5300 coding genes and a nematode worm genome contains about 20,470.

 


Via Mariaschnee, Christian Allié
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Christian Allié's curator insight, January 6, 2014 4:32 AM

"""""""""" Better beeing "Humble" """"""""""""""""

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Triple star system might reveal secrets of gravity

Triple star system might reveal secrets of gravity | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Astronomers have discovered a unique triple star system which could reveal the true nature of gravity. They found a pulsar with two white dwarfs all packed in a space smaller than Earth's orbit of the Sun.


The trio's unusually close orbits allow precise measurements of gravity and could resolve difficulties with Einstein's theories. The results appear in Nature journal and will be presented at the 223rd American Astronomical Society meeting.


"This triple system gives us a natural cosmic laboratory far better than anything found before for learning exactly how such three-body systems work and potentially for detecting problems with general relativity that physicists expect to see under extreme conditions," said Scott Ransom of the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, VA.


"This is a fascinating system in many ways, including what must have been a completely crazy formation history, and we have much work to do to fully understand it."


Pulsars emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves that rapidly sweep through space as the stars spin on their axes. They are formed after a supernova collapses a burnt-out star to a dense, highly magnetised ball of neutrons. Using the Green Bank Telescope, the astronomers discovered a pulsar 4,200 light-years from Earth, spinning nearly 366 times per second.

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New therapeutic target (BRD4) for an incurable, rare type of soft-tissue cancer identified

New therapeutic target (BRD4) for an incurable, rare type of soft-tissue cancer identified | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A deadly, rare type of soft-tissue cancer may be completely eradicated simply by inhibiting a key protein involved in its growth, researchers report: Inhibiting the action of a protein called BRD4 caused cancer cells to die in a mouse model of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs). MPNSTs are highly aggressive sarcomas that form around nerves.


“This recent study identifies a potential new therapeutic target to combat MPNST, an incurable type of cancer that is typically fatal,” said Dr. Lu Le, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study. “The findings also provide important insight into what causes these tumors to develop.”


These tumors can develop sporadically, but about half of cases are in patients with genea tic disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) that affects 1 in 3,500 people. About 10 percent of NF1 patients will develop MPNST, which usually evolves from a benign but often large and disfiguring tumor called a plexiform neurofibroma.


Up to now, the preferred treatment for MPNST has been surgical removal, but that oftentimes is difficult or impossible due to the tumor’s location around nerves. Radiation and chemotherapy are other options, but their effectiveness is limited. The five-year survival rate for MPNST patients is about 50 percent.


“These treatments suppressed tumor growth and caused the cancer cells to undergo apoptosis, or cell death. This is why BRD4 inhibition is exquisitely effective against MPNSTs and may represent a paradigm shift in therapy for these patients,” Dr. Le said.


The same class of drug used in the experiments is currently being evaluated in phase 1 and 2 trials for treatment of leukemia and a subtype of lung cancer. Meanwhile, UT Southwestern is working with a pharmaceutical company to develop a similar BRD4-inhibiting drug to launch a clinical trial for MPNST patients.


New drugs are desperately needed to treat MPNST and provide hope to NF1 patients at highest risk for this cancer, said Dr. Le, who also serves as Co-director of UT Southwestern’s Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Clinic. The clinic offers neurofibromatosis patients access to the latest clinical trials and treatments. Co-directed by Dr. Laura Klesse, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, the clinic is part of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and serves patients with all three types of hereditary neurofibromatosis, including the dominant NF1 type and rarer NF2 and Schwannomatosis forms.

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Ford Demonstrates First Solar-Powered Hybrid Car With Sun-Tracking Technology

Ford Demonstrates First Solar-Powered Hybrid Car With Sun-Tracking Technology | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ford's new concept for solar-powered hybrid car can run for 21 electric-only miles on a day's worth of sunlight. That possibility comes courtesy of sun-tracking software that works in combination with a concentrator lens to focus the sunlight falling on the car's rooftop solar panels.


The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car—a modified C-MAX plug-in hybrid—won't achieve the dream of driving forever on sunshine just yet. But Ford's clever use of a concentrating lens does provide an inkling of new hope for solar power to someday become viable in hybrid or all-electric vehicles. Until now, solar power's energy density problem has limited its use in commercial vehicles to not much beyond a symbolic rooftop solar panel that runs a cooling fan for Toyota's Prius hybrid car.


Ford envisions its concept car parking beneath a tall carport with a roof made of a Fresnel lens—a lens originally developed for lighthouses that acts similar to a magnifying glass. The car company enlisted the help of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers to come up with the carport's sunlight-concentrating design.


The car's software would track the sun's path across the sky on any given day of the year and direct the car to move beneath the carport so that it continually receives the full impact of concentrated sunlight, according to Technology Review. That novel concept eliminates the need for an expensive tracking system that would change the angle of the carport's lens to keep sunlight focused on an immobile car's rooftop solar panels. The concept car also has a traditional charging port so that it can plug into the power grid if needed.


Such concentrated sunlight could reach 8 times the amount of sunshine that would typically fall on the C-MAX Solar Energi's rooftop. A day's worth of charging in the sun—about 8 kilowatts over four hours—would go into the lithium-ion battery that provides the 21 electric-only miles in the car's total range of 620 miles. Ford estimates suggest the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept would have the same total range on a full charge as compared to the conventional C-MAX Energi.

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DNA nanorobot from Wyss could potentially seek out cancer cells and cause them to self-destruct

More information: http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrelease/75/


We've seen various experimental approaches that aim to increase the efficacy of chemotherapy while also reducing its damaging side effects by specifically targeting cancer cells. The latest encouraging development comes from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering where researchers have created a barrel-like robotic device made from DNA that could carry molecular instructions into specific cells and tell them to self-destruct. Because the DNA-based device could be programmed to target a variety of cells, it could be used to treat a range of diseases in addition to providing hope in the fight against cancer.


The team based their programmable nanotherapeutic approach on the body's own immune system in which white blood cells circulate in the blood ready to attack an infection where it has developed. Just like white blood cells that are able to hone in on specific cells in distress and bind to them, the researchers created a DNA barrel that can recognize and seek out combinations of cell-surface proteins, including disease markers.


By folding strands of DNA in what is known as the "DNA origami" method, the researchers create a three-dimensional open barrel shape whose two halves are connected by a hinge. The container is held shut by special DNA latches that reconfigure when they find their specific target - cancer cells, for example - causing the two halves to swing open and expose the container's payload. These payloads can be of various types, including molecules with encoded instructions that can interact with surface signaling receptors.


Shawn Douglas, Ph.D., and Ido Bachelet, Ph.D., used the DNA barrel to deliver instructions encoded in antibody fragments to two different types of cancer cells - leukemia and lymphoma. Since leukemia and lymphoma speak different languages the messages were written in different antibody combinations. But the message was the same - activate the cell's so called "suicide gene," which will cause a cell to kill itself through apoptosis.

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Mini-pancreas grown from stem cells has implications for future insulin delivery

Mini-pancreas grown from stem cells has implications for future insulin delivery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

With diabetes at epidemic levels in the U.S., and worldwide rates growing ever higher, new and improved insulin delivery methods are constantly in vogue. Devices like the artificial pancreas, insulin pills, inhaled treatments--all of these have some iteration with clinical results to show. And researchers are now in the very early stages of creating a true miniature pancreas from stem cells.


Scientists at the Danish Stem Cell Centre have shown that they can "grow" mouse pancreatic cells into expanded, branched structures in a 3D culture. In the long term, this could have implications for building a human pancreas, which, although currently envisioned as a drug-testing tool, could also lead to insulin-producing mini-organs built from stem cells, according to a report from the University of Copenhagen.


In work published in the journal Development, the team studied first and foremost how these cells proliferate on their own. The scientists noted in particular the development potential of pancreas cells, demonstrating that cells in a cluster have a community effect that allows them to expand more efficiently than individual cells. Down the road, this information could lead to a more fully developed method of creating beta cells, which produce the insulin-releasing characteristic of a healthy pancreas, according to the abstract.


Via Jacob Blumenthal, Carlos Garcia Pando
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Jacob Blumenthal's curator insight, October 16, 2013 2:02 AM

In a paper, published in Development journal, researchers from the  Danish Stem Cell Centre have shown that they can culture mouse pancreatic cells into expanded, branched structures in a 3D culture.

By manipulating the medium composition they  generated either hollow spheres, which are mainly composed of pancreatic progenitors, or complex organoids that spontaneously undergo pancreatic morphogenesis and differentiation.

Manipulation and improvement of  culture and expansion techniques 

 could lead to a more efficient and  developed method of creating insulin-releasing beta cells, which will eventually be used for cell therapy of diabetes.

http://dev.biologists.org/content/140/21/4452.full

 

To learn about pancreatic development:

http://discovery.lifemapsc.com/in-vivo-development/pancreas

 

To learn about stem cells differentiation protocols:

http://discovery.lifemapsc.com/stem-cell-differentiation/protocols

 

 

Carlos Garcia Pando's curator insight, October 16, 2013 2:04 PM

Another wonder result from tissue engineering!

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Gecko feet will let robots do space walks and crawl around an orbiting spacecraft

Gecko feet will let robots do space walks and crawl around an orbiting spacecraft | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It may look like a circuit board stuck to the ceiling – but this is actually a climbing robot. Stranger still, it is in a vacuum, testing its ability to use dry but sticky gecko-like feet to crawl around an orbiting spacecraft.


The idea is that one day astronauts won't have to risk their lives in daring spacewalks to fix things on a craft's exterior, like they did recently on the International Space Station to repair a cooling system. Instead, they will command swarms of hull-crawling automatons to do the job.


The gecko robot, called Abigaille III, is the work of Michael Henrey and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. To test Abigaille's space flight credentials, Henrey took it to the European Space Agency's labs in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where it was put through its paces at the extreme temperatures and zero-pressure conditions of space.


Henrey's trick is to use foot pads based on a dry polymer adhesive covered in mushroom-like structures with a large surface area. A dry adhesive was chosen because wet ones would collect dust and release fumes that might damage spacecraft instruments.


Meanwhile, back on Earth, gravity means that climbing robots need to lift several times their own weight if they are to be any use. Abigaille's feet wouldn't get it very far if it had to carry a load, but robots with electrically heated sticky footpads are showing their mettle in these sorts of applications.

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Mixed reality — where the virtual and real world collides

Mixed reality — where the virtual and real world collides | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Virtual reality is so 2013 – a new, immersive blending of physical and virtual worlds suggests we could one day live our lives in mixed reality

Via Ben van Lier
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MIT: Making silicon devices responsive to infrared light

MIT: Making silicon devices responsive to infrared light | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Laser doping method could enable new infrared imaging systems.


Researchers have tried a variety of methods to develop detectors that are responsive to a broad range of infrared light — which could form imaging arrays for security systems, or solar cells that harness a broader range of sunlight’s energy — but these methods have all faced limitations. Now, a new system developed by researchers at five institutions, including MIT, could eliminate many of those limitations.

The new approach is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications by MIT graduate student Jonathan Mailoa, associate professor of mechanical engineering Tonio Buonassisi, and 11 others.

Silicon, which forms the basis of most semiconductor and solar-cell technology, normally lets most infrared light pass right through. This is because the material’s bandgap — a fundamental electronic property — requires an energy level greater than that carried by photons of infrared light. “Silicon usually has very little interaction with infrared light,” Buonassisi says.

Various treatments of silicon can mitigate this behavior, usually by creating a waveguide with structural defects or doping it with certain other elements. The problem is that most such methods have significant negative effects on silicon’s electrical performance; only work at very low temperatures; or only make silicon responsive to a very narrow band of infrared wavelengths.


The new system works at room temperature and provides a broad infrared response, Buonassisi says. It incorporates atoms of gold into the surface of silicon’s crystal structure in a way that maintains the material’s original structure. Additionally, it has the advantage of using silicon, a common semiconductor that is relatively low-cost, easy to process, and abundant.

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Earth-sized planets can support life at least ten times further away from stars than previously thought

Earth-sized planets can support life at least ten times further away from stars than previously thought | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new paper published in Planetary and Space Science claims cold rocky planets previously considered uninhabitable may actually be able to support life beneath the surface.


The team, which included academics from the University of St Andrews, challenge the traditional 'habitable zone' – i.e. the area of space around a star, or sun, which can support life – by taking into consideration life living deep below the ground.


The traditional habitable zone is also known as the Goldilocks zone," explains PhD student Sean McMahon. "A planet needs to be not too close to its sun but also not too far away for liquid water to persist, rather than boiling or freezing, on the surface.


"But that theory fails to take into account life that can exist beneath a planet's surface. As you get deeper below a planet's surface, the temperature increases, and once you get down to a temperature where liquid water can exist – life can exist there too."


The team created a computer model that estimates the temperature below the surface of a planet of a given size, at a given distance from its star.

"The deepest known life on Earth is 5.3 km below the surface, but there may well be life even 10 km deep in places on Earth that haven't yet been drilled.


"Using our computer model we discovered that the habitable zone for an Earth-like planet orbiting a sun-like star is about three times bigger if we include the top five kilometres below the planet surface.


"The model shows that liquid water, and as such life, could survive 5km below the Earth's surface even if the Earth was three times further away from the sun than it is just now.


"If we go deeper, and consider the top 10 km below the Earth's surface, then the habitable zone for an Earth-like planet is 14 times wider."

The current habitable zone for our solar system extends out as far as Mars, but this re-drawn habitable zone would see the zone extend out further than Jupiter and Saturn. The findings also suggest that many of the so-called "rogue" planets drifting around in complete darkness could actually be habitable.


"Rocky planets a few times larger than the Earth could support liquid water at about 5 km below the surface even in interstellar space (i.e. very far away from a star), even if they have no atmosphere because the larger the planet, the more heat they generate internally.


"It has been suggested that the planet Gliese 581 d, which is 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra, may be too cold for liquid water at the surface. However, our model suggests that it is very likely to be able to support liquid water less than 2 km below the surface, assuming it is Earth-like."


"The surfaces of rocky planets and moons that we know of are nothing like Earth. They're typically cold and barren with no atmosphere or a very thin or even corrosive atmosphere. Going below the surface protects you from a whole host of unpleasant conditions on the surface. So the subsurface habitable zone may turn out to be very important. Earth might even be unusual in having life on the surface."

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Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamins and Mineral Supplements

Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamins and Mineral Supplements | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Three articles in this issue address the role of vitamin and mineral supplements for preventing the occurrence or progression of chronic diseases. First, Fortmann and colleagues (1) systematically reviewed trial evidence to update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on the efficacy of vitamin supplements for primary prevention in community-dwelling adults with no nutritional deficiencies. After reviewing 3 trials of multivitamin supplements and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins that randomly assigned more than 400 000 participants, the authors concluded that there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.


Second, Grodstein and coworkers (2) evaluated the efficacy of a daily multivitamin to prevent cognitive decline among 5947 men aged 65 years or older participating in the Physicians’ Health Study II. After 12 years of follow-up, there were no differences between the multivitamin and placebo groups in overall cognitive performance or verbal memory. Adherence to the intervention was high, and the large sample size resulted in precise estimates showing that use of a multivitamin supplement in a well-nourished elderly population did not prevent cognitive decline. Grodstein and coworkers’ findings are compatible with a recent review (3) of 12 fair- to good-quality trials that evaluated dietary supplements, including multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamins E and C, and omega-3 fatty acids, in persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia. None of the supplements improved cognitive function.


Third, Lamas and associates (4) assessed the potential benefits of a high-dose, 28-component multivitamin supplement in 1708 men and women with a previous myocardial infarction participating in TACT (Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy). After a median follow-up of 4.6 years, there was no significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events with multivitamins compared with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.75 to 1.07]). The trial was limited by high rates of nonadherence and dropouts.


Other reviews and guidelines that have appraised the role of vitamin and mineral supplements in primary or secondary prevention of chronic disease have consistently found null results or possible harms (56). Evidence involving tens of thousands of people randomly assigned in many clinical trials shows that β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality (67) and that other antioxidants (6), folic acid and B vitamins (8), and multivitamin supplements (15) have no clear benefit.


Despite sobering evidence of no benefit or possible harm, use of multivitamin supplements increased among U.S. adults from 30% between 1988 to 1994 to 39% between 2003 to 2006, while overall use of dietary supplements increased from 42% to 53% (9). Longitudinal and secular trends show a steady increase in multivitamin supplement use and a decline in use of some individual supplements, such as β-carotene and vitamin E. The decline in use of β-carotene and vitamin E supplements followed reports of adverse outcomes in lung cancer and all-cause mortality, respectively. In contrast, sales of multivitamins and other supplements have not been affected by major studies with null results, and the U.S. supplement industry continues to grow, reaching $28 billion in annual sales in 2010. Similar trends have been observed in the United Kingdom and in other European countries.

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Rebecca Renck's curator insight, November 26, 2015 8:30 AM

Is the real issue not needing the supplements or is it the fact that the supplements are not effective due to the inability of our bodies to breakdown and "use" the synthetic compounds? Natural supplements found in their original form from nature are not only needed in our nutritionally deficient diets but have been proven effective in treating disease.  If the nutrition is in a form the body recognizes, it is well worth the time and money.

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Supernova's super dust factory imaged with ALMA for the first time

Supernova's super dust factory imaged with ALMA for the first time | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Galaxies can be remarkably dusty places and supernovas are thought to be a primary source of that dust, especially in the early Universe. Direct evidence of a supernova's dust-making capabilities, however, has been slim and cannot account for the copious amount of dust detected in young, distant galaxies.


Striking new observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope capture, for the first time, the remains of a recent supernova brimming with freshly formed dust. If enough of this dust makes the perilous transition into interstellar space, it could explain how many galaxies acquired their dusty, dusky appearance.


"We have found a remarkably large dust mass concentrated in the central part of the ejecta from a relatively young and nearby supernova," said Remy Indebetouw, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the University of Virginia, both in Charlottesville. "This is the first time we've been able to really image where the dust has formed, which is important in understanding the evolution of galaxies."


The results are being reported at the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). They also are accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.


An international team of astronomers used ALMA to observe the glowing remains of supernova 1987A, which is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way approximately 168,000 light-years from Earth. Light from this supernova arrived at Earth in 1987, inspiring its name. This makes 1987A the closest observed supernova explosion since Johannes Kepler's observation of a supernova inside the Milky Way in 1604.


Astronomers predicted that as the gas cooled after the explosion, large amounts of molecules and dust would form as atoms of oxygen, carbon, and silicon bonded together in the cold central regions of the remnant. However, earlier observations of 1987A with infrared telescopes, made within the first 500 days after the explosion, detected only a small amount hot dust.


With ALMA's unprecedented resolution and sensitivity, the research team was able to image the far more abundant cold dust, which glows brightly in millimeter and submillimeter light. The astronomers estimate that the remnant now contains about 25 percent the mass of our Sun in newly formed dust. They also found that significant amounts of carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide have formed.

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WIRED: 11 Body Parts Biometric Systems Can Use to Track Your Every Move

WIRED: 11 Body Parts Biometric Systems Can Use to Track Your Every Move | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Cell phones that can identify you by how you walk. Fingerprint scanners that work from 25 feet away. Radars that pick up your heartbeat from behind concrete walls. Algorithms that can tell identical twins apart. Eyebrows and earlobes that give you away. A new generation of technologies is emerging that can identify you by your physiology. And unlike the old crop of biometric systems, you don't need to be right up close to the scanner in order to be identified. If they work as advertised, they may be able to identify you without you ever knowing you've been spotted.


Biometrics had a boom after 9/11. Gobs of government money poured into face and iris recognition systems; the Pentagon alone spent nearly $3 billion in five years, and the Defense Department was only one of many federal agencies funneling cash in the technologies. Civil libertarians feared the worst as face-spotters were turned on crowds of citizens in the hopes of  catching a single crook.


But while the technologies proved helpful in verifying identities at entry points from Iraq to international airports, the hype -- or panic -- surrounding biometrics never quite panned out. Even after all that investment, scanners still aren't particularly good at finding a particular face in the crowd, for example; variable lighting conditions and angles (not to mention hats) continue to confound the systems.


Eventually, the biometrics market -- and the government enthusiasm for it -- cooled off. The technological development has not. Corporate and academic labs are continuing to find new ways to ID people with more accuracy, and from further away. Here are 11 projects.

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Yasmina @Zetes's curator insight, January 23, 2014 9:03 AM

Eventually, the biometrics market -- and the government enthusiasm for it -- cooled off. The technological development has not. Corporate and academic labs are continuing to find new ways to ID people with more accuracy, and from further away. Here are 11 projects.

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Origin of birds as modified dinosaurs

Origin of birds as modified dinosaurs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Geneticist Arkhat Abzhanov on Archosaurs, paedomorphosis, and the evolution of birds


One of the biggest challenges in evolutionary biology is trying to understand the origin of true novelties. Some of these novelties, innovations in evolution, are also called key innovations because they allow a group of organisms to take over a whole ecological niche and expand well beyond their ancestors.


Birds are one of the most successful groups of animals on our planet. There are over ten thousand species, dozens of families and orders of birds, and they can be found almost anywhere on this planet.


To understand the evolution of birds, we need to look at the history of the entire lineage of Archosauria which began back in the Triassic era. About 250 million years ago, reptiles separated into two major groups. One group (called Squamata) stayed small eating mainly small prey such as insects. These are the ancestors of modern day lizards and snakes . The other group was large and consumed large prey. This group is called Archosauria and they tended to dominate the ecological systems in which they lived and occupied for hundreds of millions of years. Their close relatives today are crocodiles and birds. The Archosaurs also gave rise to Pterosaurs, the flying reptiles, which were highly successful during their time but died out.


Paedomorphosis is a phenomenon of evolution where a change in timing of developments can cause interesting morphological changes. Paedomorphosis can be seen when descendant adults resemble the juveniles of their own ancestors. There are actually two different ways to become paedomorphic. One of them is called neoteny. One famous example is salamanders like the axolotl. Even though the axolotl looks like a larva, it is actually a sexual mature adult salamander. That’s neoteny when your somatic development is retarded relative to your sexual development. You develop very slowly and at the time you are mature you still look like a larva.


The other way to become paedomorphic is called progenesis and that’s basically what all the birds are doing today. In progenesis your body is developing normally but you become sexual mature much-much faster. In modern-day songbirds it takes just a few weeks for them to become sexual mature. It takes only about two weeks for a robin to look like an adult, so, by the time it is ready to fly just off the nest it looks very similar to its adult parents.

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Novel Genetic Patterns May Make Us Rethink Biology and Individuality - The Almagest

Novel Genetic Patterns May Make Us Rethink Biology and Individuality - The Almagest | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Professor of Genetics Scott Williams, PhD, of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (iQBS) at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has made two novel discoveries: first, a person can have several DNA mutations in parts of their body, with their original DNA in the rest—resulting in several different genotypes in one individual—and second, some of the same genetic mutations occur in unrelated people. We think of each person’s DNA as unique, so if an individual can have more than one genotype, this may alter our very concept of what it means to be a human, and impact how we think about using forensic or criminal DNA analysis, paternity testing, prenatal testing, or genetic screening for breast cancer risk, for example. Williams’ surprising results indicate that genetic mutations do not always happen purely at random, as scientists have previously thought. His work, done in collaboration with Professor of Genetics Jason Moore, PhD, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University, was published in PLOS Genetics journal.[1]


Genetic mutations can occur in the cells that are passed on from parent to child and may cause birth defects. Other genetic mutations occur after an egg is fertilized, throughout childhood or adult life, after people are exposed to sunlight, radiation, carcinogenic chemicals, viruses, or other items that can damage DNA. These later or “somatic” mutations do not affect sperm or egg cells, so they are not inherited from parents or passed down to children. Somatic mutations can cause cancer or other diseases, but do not always do so. However, if the mutated cell continues to divide, the person can develop tissue, or a part thereof, with a different DNA sequence from the rest of his or her body.


“We are in reality diverse beings in that a single person is genetically not a single entity—to be philosophical in ways I do not yet understand—what does it mean to be a person if we are variable within?” says Williams, the study’s senior author, and founding Director of the Center for Integrative Biomedical Sciences in iQBS. “What makes you a person? Is it your memory? Your genes?” He continues, “We have always thought, ‘your genome is your genome.’ The data suggest that it is not completely true.”


In the past, it was always thought that each person contains only one DNA sequence (genetic constitution). Only recently, with the computational power of advanced genetic analysis tools that examine all the genes in one individual, have scientists been able to systematically look for this somatic variation. “This study is an example of the type of biomedical research project that is made possible by bringing together interdisciplinary teams of scientists with expertise in the biological, computational and statistical sciences.” says Jason Moore, Director of the iQBS, who is also Associate Director for Bioinformatics at the Cancer Center, Third Century Professor, and Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Geisel.


Having multiple genotypes from mutations within one’s own body is somewhat analogous to chimerism, a condition in which one person has cells inside his or her body that originated from another person (i.e., following an organ or blood donation; or sometimes a mother and child—or twins—exchange DNA during pregnancy. Also, occasionally a person finds out that, prior to birth, he or she had a twin who did not survive, whose genetic material is still contained within their own body).[2] Chimerism has resulted in some famous DNA cases: one in which a mother had genetic testing that “proved” that she was unrelated to two of her three biological sons.[3]


As suggested by Maria Schnee (newphoenix.info)


1 Williams, Scott, et al., Recurrent tissue-specific mtDNA mutations are common in humans. http://www.plosgenetics.org/doi/pgen.1003929.


2 Strain L, Dean JC, Hamilton MP, Bonthron D. A true hermaphrodite chimera resulting from embryo amalgamation after in vitro fertilization. N Engl J Med 1998;(338):166-9/


3 Norton AT and Zehner O. Project MUSE: Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Inspiration. http://www.academia.edu.

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Interactive Scientific Visualizations On The Web — D3

Interactive Scientific Visualizations On The Web — D3 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

When D3 came out in 2011, it became clear pretty quickly that it was going to be a powerful tool for creating data visualizations. But it’s certainly not the first — or only — tool. Why did it succeed when so many other libraries have failed?


First of all, it works on the web. Data visualizations are only good if people see them, and there’s no better place to see them than on the internet, in your browser. Protovis was the first library to make any real headway in this direction, despite other libraries and services that tried. Manyeyes is cool, but it lacks graphic flexibility and the resulting visualizations can’t just live anywhere seamlessly.

Prefuse and Flare (both predecessors to D3) are nice, but neither one runs in a browser without a plugin. Quadrigram (previously Impure) has the same plugin problem.

 
Another reason it has worked so well is because of its flexibility. Since it works seamlessly with existing web technologies, and can manipulate any part of the document object model, it is as flexible as the client side web technology stack (HTML, CSS, SVG).


This gives it huge advantages over other tools because it can look like anything you want, and it isn’t limited to small regions of a webpage like Processing.jsPaper.jsRaphael.js, or other canvas or SVG-only based libraries. It also takes advantage of built in functionality that the browser has, simplifying the developer’s job, especially for mouse interaction.

 
All of these features have been timed perfectly to coincide with the rise of new browsers and a push towards documents created using open standards rather than relatively walled-in plugins. The death of Internet Explorer as the top browser plays no small role in this, and the rendering and javascript engines in other browsers have made huge strides with their newfound attention. Some of this momentum has carried over to D3 as a way to take advantage of the new features and technology buzz.

 
But snazzy new technologies that work seamlessly aren’t the only reason that D3 has become successful.


Great documentationexamplescommunity, and the accessibility of Mike Bostock have all played major roles in its rise to prominence. Without these components, D3 would likely have taken much longer to catch on.

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Micro Electron Diffraction Could Revolutionize Structural Biology Studies

Micro Electron Diffraction Could Revolutionize Structural Biology Studies | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

For structural biologists, the first step in determining a protein's precise molecular structure is often the hardest: coaxing the protein to grow into the orderly, three-dimensional crystals that are the starting material for most structural studies. For particularly difficult cases, it can take years to generate usable crystals – and sometimes the protein never crystallizes despite intense effort. Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists have developed a new method that generates a high-resolution protein structure from crystals one-million times smaller than those needed for X-ray crystallography, the most common method for determining protein structure.


The new technique, called MicroED (micro electron diffraction), has the potential to accelerate structural biologists' efforts and to expand the repertoire of proteins whose high-resolution structures can be solved. “Biochemically, it is always easier to generate smaller crystals,” says structural biologist Tamir Gonen, who developed the technique with colleagues in his lab at HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus. “There are many proteins where you either don't get crystals or you get crystals that are very, very small. They might be good enough for microED.”


Gonen and colleagues describe MicroED in a report published November 19, 2013, in the open access journal eLife. Using Gonen’s new technique, scientists can use electrons from an electron microscope to determine the structure of protein microcrystals. This approach, known as electron crystallography, had previously been limited to studies of proteins that could be grown into very thin, two-dimensional crystals. “People have put 3D crystals in electron microscopes before, but no one was able to solve their structures,” Gonen says.

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Is time travel allowed by the laws of physics?

Is time travel allowed by the laws of physics? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Albert Einstein's relativistic laws of physics tell us that passing of time is "relative". If you and I move differently or are at different locations in a gravitational field, then the rate of flow of time that you experience (the rate that governs the ticking of any very good clock you carry with you and that governs the aging of your body) is different from the rate of time flow that I experience.


This personal character of time allows one person to travel forward in time much faster than another, a phenomenon embodied in the so-called twins paradox. One twin (call him Methuselah) stays at home on Earth, the other (Florence) travels out into the Universe at high speed and then returns. When they meet at the end of the trip, Florence will have aged far less than Methuselah; for example, Florence may have aged 30 years and Methuselah 4,500 years. The twin that ages least is the one who undergoes huge accelerations, to get up to high speed, slow down, reverse direction, then accelerate back and slow to a halt on Earth. The twin who leads the sedate life ages the most.


A massive black hole is another vehicle for rapid forward time travel: If Methuselah remains in orbit high above the event horizon of a massive black hole (say, one whose gravitational pull is that of a billion suns) and Florence travels down to near the event horizon and hovers just above it for, say, 30 years and then returns, Methuselah can have aged thousands or millions of years. This is because time flows much more slowly near a black hole's event horizon (where the acceleration of gravity is huge) than far above it (where one can live sedately). These time travel phenomena have been tested in the laboratory. Muons — short-lived elementary particles — travelling around and around in a storage ring at 0.9994 of the speed of light, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York, have been seen to age 29 times more slowly than muons at rest in the laboratory. And atomic clocks on the surface of the Earth have been seen to run more slowly than atomic clocks high above the Earth's surface — more slowly by about 4 parts in 10 billion.


Physicists have been working hard since the late 1980s to understand whether the laws of physics allow backward time travel. We do not have a definitive answer yet, but the likely answer has been summarised by Stephen Hawking, in his Chronology Protection Conjecture (see [1]): The laws of physics always conspire to prevent anything from travelling backward in time, thereby keeping the Universe safe for historians.


Two mechanisms might protect chronology: (1) Exotic material that is required for manufacturing of any time machine might be forbidden to exist — by the laws of physics. (2) Time machines might always self-destruct, explosively, when one tries to activate them. These mechanisms (1) and (2) are descriptive translations of mathematical results that we physicists have derived using the laws of physics expressed in their own natural language: mathematics. The sentences (1) and (2) capture the essence of our calculations, but crucial details are lost in translation. For anyone who wishes to struggle to understand those details, good places to start are a recent beautiful but highly technical review article by John Friedman (see [2]), and a much less technical but older and slightly outdated article by Matt Visser (see [3]).


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Human-Specific Genes: How a Gene Duplication Helped our Brains Become ‘Human’

Human-Specific Genes: How a Gene Duplication Helped our Brains Become ‘Human’ | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

What genetic changes account for the vast behavioral differences between humans and other primates? Researchers so far have catalogued only a few, but now it seems that they can add a big one to the list. A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has shown that an extra copy of a brain-development gene, which appeared in our ancestors’ genomes about 2.4 million years ago, allowed maturing neurons to migrate farther and develop more connections.


Surprisingly, the added copy doesn’t augment the function of the original gene, SRGAP2, which makes neurons sprout connections to neighboring cells. Instead it interferes with that original function, effectively giving neurons more time to wire themselves into a bigger brain.


“This appears to be a major example of a genomic innovation that contributed to human evolution,” said Franck Polleux, a professor at The Scripps Research Institute. “The finding that a duplicated gene can interact with the original copy also suggests a new way to think about how evolution occurs and might give us clues to human-specific developmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.”


Polleux is the senior author of the new report, which was published online ahead of print on May 3, 2012 by the journal Cell. The same issue features a related paper on SRGAP2’s recent evolution by the laboratory of Evan E. Eichler at the University of Washington, Seattle.


Polleux specializes in the study of human brain development, and, several years ago, his lab began researching the function of the newly-discovered SRGAP2. He and his colleagues found that in mice, the gene’s protein product plays a key role during brain development: It deforms the membranes of young neurons outward, forcing the growth of root-like appendages called filopodia. As young neurons sprout these filopodia, they migrate more slowly through the expanding brain; eventually they reach their final position where they form connections. Most excitatory connections  made on pyramidal neurons in the cortex are formed on spines, which are microscopic protrusions from the dendrite playing a critical role in integrating synaptic signals from other neurons.


Shortly after beginning the project, Polleux learned from other labs’ work that SRGAP2 was among the few genes (approximately 30) that had been duplicated in the human genome less than six million years ago after separation from other apes. “These evolutionarily recent gene duplications are so nearly identical to the original genes that they aren’t detectable by traditional genome sequencing methods,” said Polleux. “Only in the last five years have scientists developed methods to reliably map these hominid-specific duplications.”


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Giant floods on Mars eons ago likely carved the U-shaped canyons

Giant floods on Mars eons ago likely carved the U-shaped canyons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

South-central Idaho and the surface of Mars have an interesting geological feature in common: amphitheater-headed canyons.

These U-shaped canyons with tall vertical headwalls are found near the Snake River in Idaho, as well as on the surface of Mars, according to photographs taken by satellites.


Various explanations for how these canyons formed have been offered—some for Mars, some for Idaho, some for both—researchers now offer the plausible account that enormous floods created all these canyons.


“A very popular interpretation for the amphitheater-headed canyons on Mars is that groundwater seeps out of cracks at the base of the canyon headwalls and that no water ever went over the top,” Lamb says. Judging from the evidence in Idaho, however, it seems more likely that on Mars, as on Earth, amphitheater-headed canyons were created by enormous flood events, suggesting that Mars was once a very watery planet.


Via YEC Geo
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