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Speed of Universe's Expansion Measured Better Than Ever

Speed of Universe's Expansion Measured Better Than Ever | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The most precise measurement ever made of the speed of the universe's expansion is in, thanks to NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and it's a doozy. Space itself is pulling apart at the seams, expanding at a rate of 74.3 plus or minus 2.1 kilometers (46.2 plus or minus 1.3 miles) per second per megaparsec (a megaparsec is roughly 3 million light-years).

 

American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble first discovered that our universe isn't static in the 1920s. In fact, Hubble found, space has been expanding since it began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Then, in the 1990s, astronomers shocked the world again with the revelation that this expansion is speeding up (this discovery won its finders the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics).

 

Ever since Hubble's initial discovery, scientists have been trying to refine their measurement of the universe's expansion rate, called the Hubble Constant. It's a hard measurement to make. The new value reduces the uncertainty in the Hubble Constant to just 3 percent, and improves the precision of the measurement by a factor of 3 compared to a previous estimate from the Hubble Space Telescope.

 

"Just over a decade ago, using the words 'precision' and 'cosmology' in the same sentence was not possible, and the size and age of the universe was not known to better than a factor of two," Wendy Freedman of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "Now we are talking about accuracies of a few percent. It is quite extraordinary."

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New camera detects chemicals based on characteristic spectral fingerprints from chemical substances

New camera detects chemicals based on characteristic spectral fingerprints from chemical substances | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Imagine if you could just breathe on a little device and it would tell you whether you had asthma or lung cancer. If only you could point a camera to a fish to find out if it’s tainted. Or how about photographing the smoke from a chimney or an exhaust pipe and immediately be able to identify which pollutants are being emitted?

 

All this could become possible thanks to an invention by three scientists from the Department of Photonics Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

 

They have invented an extremely sensitive and compact camera accessory, which can capture radiation in the mid-infrared region, and can be used to identify a wide range of chemicals from a distance.

 

The device operates by detecting the characteristic spectral fingerprints emitted by chemical substances. Gas molecules vibrate in very specific ways. When they do, they absorb or emit an infrared light corresponding to the vibrational mode of the individual molecule. Measuring this light makes it possible to identify the type of gas. The camera can not only measure the radiation from the molecules, it can also reveal when the molecules absorb the radiation.

 

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Researchers collaborate on inexpensive DNA sequencing method

Researchers collaborate on inexpensive DNA sequencing method | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Rapid, accurate genetic sequencing soon may be within reach of every doctor's office if recent research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science can be commercialized effectively. The team has demonstrated a potentially low-cost, reliable way to obtain the complete DNA sequences of any individual using a sort of molecular ticker-tape reader, potentially enabling easy detection of disease markers in a patient's DNA ("PEG-labeled nucleotides and nanopore detection for single molecule DNA sequencing by synthesis").

 

Genia Technologies is collaborating with scientists at Columbia University and Harvard University to develop a commercial single-molecule sequencer. The company has licensed a nanopore sequencing-by-synthesis technology developed by researchers at Columbia and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which it plans to integrate with its nanopore chip platform, and is using polymerase fusion proteins developed at Harvard.

Genia plans to ship its first nanopore sequencing device to beta customers by the end of next year, and to bring a commercial product to market in 2014.


While sequencing the genome of an animal species for the first time is so common that it hardly makes news anymore, it is less well known that sequencing any single individual's DNA is an expensive affair, costing many thousands of dollars using today's technology. An individual's genome carries markers that can provide advance warning of the risk of disease, but you need a fast, reliable and economical way of sequencing each patient's genes to take full advantage of them. Equally important is the need to continually sequence an individual's DNA over his or her lifetime, because the genetic code can be modified by many factors.

 

Nanopores and their interaction with polymer molecules have been a longtime research focus of NIST scientist John Kasianowicz. His group collaborated with a team led by Jingyue Ju, director of Columbia's Center for Genome Technology and Biomolecular Engineering, which came up with the idea for tagging DNA building blocks for single molecule sequencing by nanopore detection. The ability to discriminate between the polymer tags was demonstrated by Kasianowicz, his NIST colleague Joseph Robertson, and others. Columbia University has applied for patents for the commercialization of the technology.


Kasianowicz estimates that the technique could identify a DNA building block with extremely high accuracy at an error rate of less than one in 500 million, and the necessary equipment would be within the reach of any medical provider. "The heart of the sequencer would be an operational amplifier that would cost much less than $1,000 for a one-time purchase," he says, "and the cost of materials and software should be trivial."

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How Self-Sustaining Space Habitats Could Save Humanity from Extinction

How Self-Sustaining Space Habitats Could Save Humanity from Extinction | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

This planet can't protect us forever. Sooner or later, there'll be a catastrophe that renders this world uninhabitable for humans. And when that day comes, we'll need to know already how to live in space.

 

Physicist Stephen Hawking suggests that our ongoing efforts to colonize space could ultimately save humanity from extinction. As it stands, Earth is our only biosphere — all our eggs are currently in one basket. If something were to happen to either our planet or our civilization, it would be vital to know that we could sustain a colony somewhere else.

 

And the threats are real. The possibility of an asteroid impact, nuclear war, a nanotechnological disaster, or severe environmental degradation make the need for off-planet habitation extremely urgent. And given our ambitious future prospects, including the potential for ongoing population growth, we may very well have no choice but to leave the cradle.

 

Back in 2000, NASA completed a $200 million study called the "Roadmap to Settlement" in which they described the potential for a moon-based colony in which habitats could be constructed several feet beneath the lunar surface (or covered within an existing crater) to protect colonists from high-energy cosmic radiation. They also outlined the construction of an onsite nuclear power plant, solar panel arrays, and a number of methods for extracting carbon, silicon, aluminium and other materials from the surface. As NASA's roadmap suggests, a colony on the Moon could help us prepare for a mission to Mars. It would probably be wise to set up, test, and train a self-sustaining colony a little closer to home before we take that massive leap to Mars.

 

And indeed, Mars holds considerably more potential than the Moon. It features a solar day of 24 hours and 39 minutes, and a surface area 28.4% less than Earth's. The Red Planet also has an axial tilt of 25 degrees (compared to the Earth's 29%) resulting in similar seasonal shifts (though they're twice as long given that Mars's year is 1.88 Earth years). And most importantly, Mars has an existing atmosphere, significant mineral diversity (such as ore and nickel-iron), and water. Actually, it has a lot of water. Recent analysis shows that Mars could have as much water underground as Earth.

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Imagining Web 3.0: The Internet - With 100 Billion Clicks Per Day The Greatest Machine Humanity Ever Built

Imagining Web 3.0: The Internet - With 100 Billion Clicks Per Day The Greatest Machine Humanity Ever Built | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The internet at its current growth rate and development stands to be the greatest machine ever built in the history of humanity. This machine also happens to be the most reliable machine human beings have ever constructed. It has never crashed before and has always run uninterrupted. Consider the usage of the internet too.

 

There are over 100 billion clicks per day online, there are approximately five trillion links between all internet pages in the world and over two million emails are sent per second from all around the planet. The internet also accounts for five percent of all electricity used on the planet to keep it running continuously.

 

An approximation of the internet in terms of size and complexity resembles the way a human brain would function. The internet however is continuing to grow in size and complexity every two years. At the rate at which the internet is evolving, it is projected that by the year 2040, the internet will be able to store more knowledge and information and be able to operate at a higher level of cognisance than the whole of humanity combined.

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First Tidal Power in the U.S. Starts Flowing into the Grid

First Tidal Power in the U.S. Starts Flowing into the Grid | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An offshore turbine is finally spinning in the United States! It's not the kind you're imagining, but this is a milestone nonetheless: The Ocean Renewable Power Company announced that its TidGen tidal turbines have started providing power to a utility grid owned by Bangor Hydro Electric Company. This marks the first time that any offshore power generation facility has fed electricity back to a utility grid in the United States.


ORPC completed installation of one of its tidal power devices earlier this summer in Cobscook Bay, part of the bigger Bay of Fundy, off the Maine coast. The TidGen has a peak power output of 180 kilowatts, enough to power around 25 to 30 homes. The company plans on installing another two turbines in the same location in the fall of 2013, possibly scaling up after that to 5 megawatts of power. That would be enough to power around 1200 homes.


The TidGen device, installed in water depths of 15 to 30 meters, takes advantage of water flowing in and out of the bay as the tides change. The Bay of Fundy as a whole is an enormous tidal power resource; ORPC says that 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the bay every day, with tidal ranges as high as 15 meters. And tidal power has one advantage over, say, offshore wind energy, in that it is remarkably consistent and predictable. Ocean technologies in general are on the rise of late, such as the progress toward wave power in Oregon. Combined, wave and tidal power have fairly massive potential, up to as much as 15 percent of the U.S. electricity demand according to reports from the Department of Energy. Last year, a Georgia Tech group created a tidal power mapping tool that was validated by the DOE to aid in specific site development and localized resource assessment.

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Nanoparticle Sensor Detects Toxic Cations Like Mercury at Levels a Million Times Below Current Technology

Nanoparticle Sensor Detects Toxic Cations Like Mercury at Levels a Million Times Below Current Technology | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Cheap, sensitive, accurate nanoparticle sensor could alter mercury and cadmium toxin testing.

 

An international team of researchers has developed a nanoparticle that is the most sensitive sensor yet for detecting the known toxin mercury in our water—an interesting and ironic use of nanotechnology, given that a number of other researchers are hard at work determining whether other nanoparticles might be hazardous to our health or the environment. Researchers at Northwestern University in collaboration with colleagues at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed a sensor system based around a nanoparticle that can detect minute levels of mercury and other heavy metals in water and fish.


The research ("Ultrasensitive detection of toxic cations through changes in the tunnelling current across films of striped nanoparticles"), which was published in the journal Nature Materials, has produced a sensor capable of detecting heavy metals in much smaller concentrations than today's state-of-the-art methods.

 

“The system currently being used to test for mercury and its very toxic derivative, methyl mercury, is a time-intensive process that costs millions of dollars and can only detect quantities at already toxic levels,” says Bartosz Grzybowski, lead author of the study, in the university press release covering the research. “Ours can detect very small amounts, over a million times smaller than the state-of-the-art current methods. This is important because if you drink polluted water with low levels of mercury every day, it could add up and possibly lead to diseases later on. With this system consumers would one day have the ability to test their home tap water for toxic metals.”

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What A Solar Eclipse Looks Like From Space

What A Solar Eclipse Looks Like From Space | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Ever wondered what the Earth looks like from space during a solar eclipse? Well, "these amazing images" show that the view from space is quite spectacular - the second photograph was taken on August 11, 1999 during a solar eclipse. The moon casts its shadow somewhere over Europe.

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Could be a break-through: 'Li-Fi' uses a light bulb for wireless web

Could be a break-through: 'Li-Fi' uses a light bulb for wireless web | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

German inventor Harald Haas has developed patented technology which uses light beams to transmit information at extremely high speed. Adding a microchip to a normal LED light bulb makes it blink at phenomenal speed sending binary code data. Haas hopes his "Li-Fi" networks will assist increasingly crowded Wi-Fi radio networks.

 

"The visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than the radio frequency spectrum," he explains. Less congestion means greater bandwidth and Haas says transmission rates using "Li-Fi" could be as high as one gigabit a second -- meaning that downloads of high-definition films could take less time than sending a text. For Haas, the beauty of his technology is that -- unlike radio wave signals that are generated from large energy-intensive cell masts -- VLC requires almost no new infrastructure. "We use what is already there," he says. "The visible light spectrum is unused, it's not regulated, and we can communicate at very high speeds."

 

"Of course one problem is that light can't pass through objects, so if the receiver is inadvertently blocked in any way, then the signal will immediately cut out," Thomas Kamalakis, a lecturer at the Department of Informatics and Telematics at the Harokopio University of Athens says. "The other question is how will my mobile phone communicate back with the light source?"

 

Both are valid issues, Haas says, but he has a simple workaround. "If the light signal is blocked, or when you need to use your device to send information -- you can seamlessly switch back over to radio waves." VLC is not in competition with WiFi, he says, it is a complimentary technology that should eventually help free up much needed space within the radio wave spectrum.

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Age-Related Decline Of The Immune System Stopped By Stanford Researchers

Age-Related Decline Of The Immune System Stopped By Stanford Researchers | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The human immune system weakens with the passing of time, thus making us more susceptible to cancer and infectious diseases. This aging also affects the ability of our organism to take advantage of vaccination. A new study conducted by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that if a certain protein is blocked, the response of the cells to vaccines and other atingens like cancer or microbial antigens can be restored. The levels of this particular protein increase with age.


Doctor Jorg Goronzy, a professor of rheumatology and the lead author of the paper says that this discovery is very important for long-term therapies. He added that in the near future the possibility of countering the effects of aging on our immune system might be achievable through pharmacology.


The research team discovered a protein, named DUSP6 (Dual specificity phosphatase 6), that impedes the capacity of an entire class of immune cells, thus preventing them from interacting with foreign bodies or substances. These substances include pathogens and vaccines. Another finding was that of a possible compound that is able to restore the responsiveness of the immune cells back to normal, once the DUSP6 protein is inhibited.


Dr Goronzy says that the human immune system decades with aging, starting from around the age of 40. Goronzy added that even though almost 90% of adults below the age of 40 respond to vaccines, the rate of responsiveness drops to almost 40% after the age of 60. An example of poor responsiveness in older patients is that of influenza deaths, most of which are registered in patients older than 65.

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Great coral reef catastrophe - half of the Great Barrier Reef has already disappeared

Great coral reef catastrophe - half of the Great Barrier Reef has already disappeared | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A long-term investigation of the reef by scientists at Townsville's Australian Institute of Marine Science found coral had been wiped out by intense tropical cyclones, a native species of starfish and coral bleaching. Half the Great Barrier Reef's coral has disappeared in the past 27 years and less than a quarter could be left within a decade unless action is taken, a landmark study has found.

 

Researchers warned that while the World Heritage listed reef was a dynamic system — with coral cover rising and falling over time — if the mass die-off continued less than 25 per cent would exist in 2022.

"The big concern going forward is that if nothing else changes than within 20 years the reef could be in a perilous state," said institute senior scientist Peter Doherty.

 

At 214 reef sites surveyed, the coral cover halved from 28 to 13.8 per cent between 1985 and 2012. Two-thirds of the loss occurred since 1998. Only three of the 214 reef sites exhibited no impact.

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Videos of machine learning, artificial intelligence and playful machines

Videos of machine learning, artificial intelligence and playful machines | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
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Biologists find that hu Schlafen 11 inhibits strongly replication of HIV virus inside infected cells

Biologists find that hu Schlafen 11 inhibits strongly replication of HIV virus inside infected cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Biologists at UC San Diego found that a gene called Human Schlafen 11 produces a protein that inhibits the replication of HIV in infected human cells by blocking the ability of the host cell to synthesize viral proteins.

 

Some people with HIV develop AIDS rapidly and others can be HIV positive for decades and never really develop any symptoms of the disease," said Michael David, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research team. "It's still unclear why that is, but one possibility is that the genetic variations in this protein, like in many other viral restriction factors, account for the differences in the susceptibility to the virus.

 

Because Human Schlafen 11 specifically blocks synthesis of HIV proteins, the researchers are conducting further studies to see if variations in the Human Schlafen 11 gene can be correlated with disease progression in HIV infected individuals. If that turns out to be the case, the discovery could one day lead to the development of a diagnostic test for HIV infected individuals that would inform them of their likelihood of developing AIDS or, better yet, the development of a therapeutic drug that would prevent HIV infected individuals from ever developing AIDS.

 

"If it's possible for the human cell to inhibit the synthesis of viral programs without affecting the synthesis of cellular proteins, it's possible that at some point a drug can do that, too," said David. "But our discovery is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more work to be done. Whether this will have diagnostic or therapeutic value remains to be seen."

 

Human Schlafen 11 is member of a family of six genes in humans and nine genes in mice that are induced in mammalian cells in response to various kinds of infection, specifically infections that result in the release of anti-viral proteins called interferons. The first Schlafen gene was discovered in mice at UC San Diego in 1998 by Steve Hedrick, a professor of biology.

 

Genes of the Schlafen family, first discovered in mouse, are expressed in hematopoietic cells and are involved in immune processes. Previous results showed that they are candidate genes for two major phenomena: meiotic drive and embryonic lethality (DDK syndrome). However, these genes remain poorly understood, mostly due to the limitations imposed by their similarity, close location and the potential functional redundancy of the gene family members.

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New frontiers in drug discovery

New frontiers in drug discovery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Despite the success of small molecule and biologic drugs such as monoclonal antibodies, there remain many areas of unmet medical need, and thus the need for innovative approaches to drug discovery and drug delivery.

 

A number of new technology platforms are promising to provide new ways through some long-standing obstacles. Among these, RNAi and therapeutic vaccines are among the most high profile, and have generated a number of products which have overcome technical challenges and are well on the road to commercialisation.

 

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The strange world of quantum mechanics: Quantum correlations have no causal order

The strange world of quantum mechanics: Quantum correlations have no causal order | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The idea that events obey a definite causal order is deeply rooted in our understanding of the world and at the basis of the very notion of time. But where does causal order come from, and is it a necessary property of nature? What happens when we address these questions from the standpoint of quantum mechanics in a new framework for multipartite correlations that does not assume a pre-defined global causal structure but only the validity of quantum mechanics locally? All known situations that respect causal order, including space-like and time-like separated experiments, are captured by this framework in a unified way. Surprisingly, we find correlations that cannot be understood in terms of a definite causal order. These correlations violate a 'causal inequality' that is satisfied by all space-like and time-like correlations. It also means that in a classical limit causal order always arises, which suggests that space-time may emerge from a more fundamental structure in a quantum-to-classical transition.

 

One of the striking features of quantum mechanics is that it challenges the view that physical properties are well defined before and independent of their measurement. This motivates an operational approach to the theory, where primitive laboratory procedures, such as measurements and preparations, are basic ingredients. Although significant progress has recently been made in this direction, most approaches still retain a notion of space-time as a pre-existing 'stage' in which events take place. Even the most abstract constructions, in which no explicit reference to space-time is made, do assume a definite order of events: if a signal is sent from an event A to an event B in the run of an experiment, no signal can be sent in the opposite direction in that same run. But are space, time and causal order truly fundamental ingredients of nature? Is it possible that, in some circumstances, even causal relations would be 'uncertain', similarly to the way other physical properties of quantum systems are?

 

Does quantum mechanics allows for such a possibility - at least in a framework that describes all correlations that can be observed by two experimenters under the assumption that in their local laboratories physics is described by the standard quantum formalism, but without assuming that the laboratories are embedded in any definite causal structure? These include non-signalling correlations arising from measurements on a bipartite state, as well as signalling ones, which can arise when a system is sent from one laboratory to another through a quantum channel. Surprisingly, in such a system, more general correlations are possible, which are not included in the standard quantum formalism. These correlations are incompatible with any underlying causal structure: they allow performing a task—the violation of a 'causal inequality'—that is impossible if events take place in a causal sequence. This is directly analogous to the famous violation of local realism: quantum systems allow performing a task—the violation of Bell's inequality—that is impossible if the measured quantities have pre-defined local values. The inequality considered here, unlike Bell's, concerns signalling correlations: it is based on a task that involves communication between two parties. Nevertheless, it cannot be violated if this communication takes place in a causal space-time. Previous works about relativistic causality in quantum mechanics focused on non-signalling correlations between space-like separated experiments or on a finite speed of signalling. 

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Human brains follow the same basic molecular 3D pattern despite different individual personalities

Human brains follow the same basic molecular 3D pattern despite different individual personalities | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A 3D map of the entire human brain reveals that our brains are strikingly similar, sharing the same basic molecular blueprint. The map draws on more than 100 million gene expression measurements found in three human brains cut into 900 pieces.

 

Researchers from the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle and Edinburgh University said the project might help understand how genetic disorders cause brain disease.

 

The human brain is the most complex structure in the world, composed of 100 billion cells, but it is still not fully understood.

Prof Ed Lein, from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, one of the authors of the paper, said this atlas could provide vital information in the general understanding of "brain function, development, evolution and disease". The team says that the majority of genes in the human brain are expressed in patterns very similar from one brain to another - showing that despite different individual personalities, our brains are in fact strikingly similar.

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CERN closes in on primeval plasma at birth of cosmos

CERN closes in on primeval plasma at birth of cosmos | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at CERN have smashed together various particles for the first time, moving closer to learning what was in the super-hot plasma wonderland that formed right after the primeval Big Bang, the European physics research center said.

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One Single Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes

One Single Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research. A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Before then, there were no blue eyes. "Originally, we all had brown eyes," said Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

 

The mutation affected the so-called OCA2 gene, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to our hair, eyes and skin. "A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a 'switch,' which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes," Eiberg said. The genetic switch is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 and rather than completely turning off the gene, the switch limits its action, which reduces the production of melanin in the iris. In effect, the turned-down switch diluted brown eyes to blue. If the OCA2 gene had been completely shut down, our hair, eyes and skin would be melanin-less, a condition known as albinism.

 

The mutation is what regulates the OCA2 switch for melanin production. And depending on the amount of melanin in the iris, a person can end up with eye color ranging from brown to green. Brown-eyed individuals have considerable individual variation in the area of their DNA that controls melanin production. But they found that blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes. 

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How many surfaces does a hexaflexagon have? Watch this movie to find out!

How many surfaces does a hexaflexagon have? Watch this movie to find out! | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Remember the first time you saw a Möbius strip (the ring-shaped surface with only one side) and it felt like your world had been turned upside down? The hexaflexagon tends to have a similar effect. Only more so. In this video Vi Hart presents the topologically fascinating hexaflexagon. First discovered in the 1930s by a daydreaming student named Arthur H. Stone, flexagons have attracted the curiosity of great scientists for decades, including Stone's friend and physicist Richard Feynman. Here, Vi Hart introduces the folding, pinching, rotating, multifaceted geometric oddity with her signature brand of rapid-fire wit and exposition. She even shows you how to make your own.

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Artificial pollinators: New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015

Artificial pollinators: New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Every once in a while, there's news which reminds us that we're living in the age of accelerating change and an upcoming singularity. This is one of those times: A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot. Now, while this might sound like some kind of outlandish futurist joke, there are some serious players — and money — involved. Called the "Green Brain Project," it was recently given £1 million (USD $1,614,700) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as well as hardware donations from the NVIDIA corporation. And indeed, the researchers are going to need all the computational power they can get; it may appear that insects have simple minds — but their brains can be extremely complex.

 

Should this project be successful, it would mark an important moment in technological history: The first robot brain ever that can perform complex tasks as proficiently as the animal its trying to emulate.

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Water bear (Tardigrade) -- the world's toughest multicellular animal

Water bear (Tardigrade) -- the world's toughest multicellular animal | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The water bear, or tardigrade, is the world toughest multicellular animal. Measuring less than a millimeter on average, these tiny creatures survive the most hostile conditions. These fascinating creatures can be found about everywhere -- on the bottom of the ocean, under meters of ice, in hot springs, and on the top of the himalaya! Tardigrades really are miniature animals, having tiny legs, claws, eyes, mouth, stomach, and even nerves. They have such precise muscle control that they can even move like higher order animals. They are able to survive the most extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. They can take temperatures close to absolute zero and hotter than boiling water, withstand over 1000 times more radiation than humans, can live over a decade without water, endure six times the water pressure in the deepest ocean trench, and even survived in the vacuum of space, making them the only animals to do so.

 

The key of their remarkable durability is that they are capable of decreasing their metabolism with a factor of 10,000 and decrease their water content to 1% of normal. When conditions get though, they basically die, stopping any process in their miniature bodies for up to 120 years! When conditions get better again, they revive and go on with their lives.

 

Tardigrades got their name from their miniature resemblance with a bear, as is so nicely put by Johann August Ephraim Goeze (1773) who was the first to ever describe them: "Strange is this little animal, because of its exceptional and strange morphology and because it closely resembles a bear en miniature. That is the reason why I decided to call it little water bear."

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The Cosmological Supercomputer - the Bolshoi simulation models the evolution of dark matter

The Cosmological Supercomputer - the Bolshoi simulation models the evolution of dark matter | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

When it comes to reconstructing the past, you might think that astrophysicists have it easy. After all, the sky is awash with evidence. For most of the universe’s history, space has been largely transparent, so much so that light emitted by distant galaxies can travel for billions of years before finally reaching Earth. It might seem that all researchers have to do to find out what the universe looked like, say, 10 billion years ago is to build a telescope sensitive enough to pick up that ancient light.

 

A good 95 percent of the cosmos is made up of two very different kinds of invisible and as-yet-unidentified stuff that is “dark,” meaning that it emits and absorbs no light at all. One of these mysterious components, called dark matter, seems immune to all fundamental forces except gravity and perhaps the weak interaction, which is responsible for some forms of radioactivity. We know dark matter must exist because it helps bind rapidly moving stars to their host galaxies and rapidly moving galaxies to even larger galaxy clusters. The other component is “dark energy,” which seems to be pushing the universe apart at an ever-increasing rate.


To identify these strange dark substances, cosmologists require more than just the evidence collected by telescopes. We need theoretical models of how the universe evolved and a way to test those models. Fortunately, thanks to progress in supercomputing, it’s now possible to simulate the entire evolution of the universe numerically. The results of these computational experiments have already been transformative, and they’re still only in their early days.


Such a simulation, dubbed Bolshoi simulation - the Russian word for “great” or “grand - has recently been completed. Bolshoi was started in a state that matched what the universe was like some 13.7 billion years ago, not long after the big bang, and simulated the evolution of dark matter and dark energy all the way up to the present day. This whole project was done by 14 000 central processing units (CPUs) on the Pleiades machine at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in Moffett Field, Calif., the space agency’s largest and fastest supercomputer.

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Genetically engineered cows make non-allergenic milk

Genetically engineered cows make non-allergenic milk | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

With mothers breastfeeding less, cows' milk is an increasing source of protein for babies, but the different composition of cows' milk can cause an allergic reaction. "In developed countries, 2-3 percent of infants are allergic to cows' milk proteins in the first year of life," the researchers said in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Anower Jabed and colleagues at the New Zealand government-run AgResearch company said their genetically modified cow produced milk with a 96 percent reduction in the protein beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), a component known to cause allergic reactions. They hope the technique, which uses a process called RNA interference that reduces the activity of certain genes without eliminating it completely, can be used to control other traits in livestock. Another gene manipulation technique using a process called homologous recombination could theoretically knock out, rather than suppress, the gene that produces BLG but the researchers said that, so far, this has not worked.

 

Bruce Whitelaw, professor of animal biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, said the New Zealand research "offers a good example of how these technologies can be used to provide alternative strategies to current manufacturing process". "Time will tell how widely applicable RNA interference will be in GM livestock. But this is certainly a milestone study in this field," he said.

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Makayla Lee's curator insight, December 5, 2013 11:36 PM

Within the first year of life, 2-3% of children are allergic to the protein in cows' milk. An AgResearch company in New Zealand genetically modified a cow so that it you produce milk with a 98% decrease of protein beta-lactoglobulin. This specific protein can cause allergic reactions.

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Mission impossible? The $1 billion mission to reach the Earth's mantle

Mission impossible? The $1 billion mission to reach the Earth's mantle | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Humans have reached the moon and are planning to return samples from Mars, but when it comes to exploring the land deep beneath our feet, we have only scratched the surface of our planet. This may be about to change with a $1 billion mission to drill 6 km beneath the seafloor to reach the Earth's mantle -- a 3000 km-thick layer of slowly deforming rock between the crust and the core which makes up the majority of our planet -- and bring back the first ever fresh samples.


It could help answer some of our biggest questions about the origins and evolution of Earth itself, with almost all of the sea floor and continents that make up the Earth´s surface originating from the mantle. Geologists involved in the project are already comparing it to the Apollo Moon missions in terms of the value of the samples it could yield.

 

However, in order to reach those samples, the team of international scientists must first find a way to grind their way through ultra-hard rocks with 10 km-long drill pipes -- a technical challenge that one of the project co-leaders Damon Teagle, from the UK's University of Southampton calls, "the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science."

 

Their task will be all the more difficult for being conducted out in the middle of the ocean. It is here that the Earth´s crust is at its thinnest at around 6 km compared to as much as 60 km on land. The hole they will drill will be just 30cm in width all the way from the ocean floor to inside the mantle -- a monumental engineering feat. "It will be the equivalent of dangling a steel string the width of a human hair in the deep end of a swimming pool and inserting it into a thimble 1/10 mm wide on the bottom, and then drilling a few meters into the foundations," says Teagle.

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Ms. Moon's curator insight, October 17, 2014 12:30 AM

Journey to the center of the Earth!

Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Science&Nature
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Unusual symbiosis found between algae and nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Unusual symbiosis found between algae and nitrogen-fixing bacteria | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have discovered an unusual symbiosis between tiny single-celled algae and highly specialized bacteria in the ocean. The partnership plays an important role in fertilizing the oceans by taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and "fixing" it into a form that other organisms can use.


Via Laran
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