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Mind Over Matter

In a jaw-dropping feat of engineering, electronics turn a person's thoughts into commands for a robot. Using a brain-computer interface technology pioneered by University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor Bin He, several young people have learned to use their thoughts to steer a flying robot around a gym, making it turn, rise, dip, and even sail through a ring.


The technology may someday allow people robbed of speech and mobility by neurodegenerative diseases to regain function by controlling artificial limbs, wheelchairs, or other devices. And it's completely noninvasive: Brain waves (EEG) are picked up by the electrodes of an EEG cap on the scalp, not a chip implanted in the brain.


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Songbirds have the brain power to learn to sing human melodies accurately

Songbirds have the brain power to learn to sing human melodies accurately | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Bullfinches learn from human teachers to sing melodies accurately, according to a new study by the late Nicolai Jürgen and researchers from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany. Their analysis of human melody singing in bullfinches gives insights into the songbirds' brain processes. The work is published online in Springer's journal Animal Cognition.

Music performance is considered to be one of the most complex and demanding cognitive challenges that the human mind can undertake. Melody singing requires precise timing of several organized actions as well as accurate control of different pitches and durations of consecutive notes.

The songs of free-living bullfinches are soft and contain syllables that are similar to the whistled notes of human melodies. Teaching birds to imitate human melodies was a popular hobby in the 18th and 19th centuries and the bullfinch was the favorite species.

 

Using historical data recorded for 15 bullfinches, hand-raised by Jürgen Nicolai between 1967-1975, the researchers studied whether the bullfinches memorized and recalled the note sequence of the melodies in smaller subunits, as humans do, (in chunks or 'modules') or in their entirety, as a linear chain, which is much simpler. The researchers also analyzed the accuracy of the bullfinch's choices and how a bird continues to sing after the human partner pauses. They focused on whether the bird chooses the right note sequence at the right time – so-called alternate singing.

 

When birds sing solo, they do not retrieve the learned melody as a coherent unit, but as modules, containing much smaller sub-sequences of 4-12 notes. The researchers investigated the cognitive processes that allow the bullfinch to continue singing the correct melody part when its human partner stops. They found evidence that as soon as the human starts whistling again, the birds can match the note sequence they hear to the memorized tune in their brain. They anticipate singing the consecutive part of the learned melody and are able to vocalize it at the right time when the human partner stops whistling.

 

The authors conclude: "Bullfinches can cope with the complex and demanding cognitive challenges of perceiving a human melody in its rhythmic and melodic complexities and learn to sing it accurately."

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MIT Creates ‘Plug-and-Play’ CO2 Scrubber for Existing Power Plants

MIT Creates ‘Plug-and-Play’ CO2 Scrubber for Existing Power Plants | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

MIT researchers have invented a “plug-and-play” carbon dioxide scrubbing system that they say could be added relatively easily to any existing power plant, and uses less power than existing systems.

 

Most existing systems rely on complex plumbing to divert the steam used to drive the turbines that generate power in these plants. Such systems are not practical as retrofits to existing plants, MIT says. By contrast, the MIT system requires no steam connection and can operate at lower temperatures than other scrubbing technology.

 

The new electrochemical CO2 scrubber system is described in a paper published online in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, written by doctoral student Michael Stern, chemical engineering professor T. Alan Hatton and two others.

 

The system is a variation on a well-studied technology that uses chemical compounds called amines, which bind with CO2 in the plant’s emission stream and then release the gas when heated in a separate chamber. But the conventional process requires that almost half of the power plant’s low-pressure steam be diverted to provide the heat needed to force the amines to release the gas. That massive diversion would require such extensive changes to existing power plants that it is not considered economically feasible as a retrofit.

 

In the new system, an electrochemical process replaces the steam-based separation of amines and CO2. This system only requires electricity, so it can easily be added to an existing plant, researchers say.

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Amazing Science: Technology Postings

Amazing Science: Technology Postings | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Technology (from Greek "techne", meaning "art, skill, cunning of hand" and "logia", meaning "study") is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.

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kevin ware's comment, August 14, 2013 8:23 AM
ya great technology.......................
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Color of cutlery can influence food taste: Brain makes judgements on food even before it enters the mouth

Color of cutlery can influence food taste: Brain makes judgements on food even before it enters the mouth | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Our perception of how food tastes is influenced by cutlery, research suggests. Size, weight, shape and color all have an effect on flavor, says a University of Oxford team.

 

Cheese tastes saltier when eaten from a knife rather than a fork; while white spoons make yoghurt taste better, experiments show. The study in the journal "Flavour" suggests the brain makes judgements on food even before it goes in the mouth.

 

More than 100 students took part in three experiments looking at the influence of weight, colour and shape of cutlery on taste. The researchers found that when the weight of the cutlery conformed to expectations, this had an impact on how the food tastes. For example, food tasted sweeter on the small spoons that are traditionally used to serve desserts.

 

Color contrast was also an important factor - white yoghurt eaten from a white spoon was rated sweeter than white yoghurt tasted on a black spoon. Similarly, when testers were offered cheese on a knife, spoon, fork or toothpick, they found that the cheese from a knife tasted saltiest.

"How we experience food is a multisensory experience involving taste, feel of the food in our mouths, aroma, and the feasting of our eyes," said Prof Charles Spence and Dr Vanessa Harrar. The new research into how the brain influences food perceptions could help dieters or improve gastronomic experiences at restaurants, said Prof. Spence.

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New study suggests that Voynich text is not a hoax

New study suggests that Voynich text is not a hoax | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Theoretical physicist Marcelo Montemurro and colleague Damián H. Zanette have published a paper in the journal PLOS ONE claiming that the Voynich text is likely not a hoax as some have suggested. The two researchers along with others at the University of Manchester in the U.K. analyzed a digital copy of the text and say that computer assisted analyses of the "book" suggest it does harbor meaning, though what that might be is still a mystery.

The Voynich text is a book made up of 104 folios—each page has graphemes (arrays of characters) and drawings on it. It first came to light in 1912 when Wilfrid Voynich claimed to have found it in an Italian Monastery. The graphemes suggest words made up of characters that do not appear in any other known language. Since the time of its discovery, various researchers have sought to determine if the text is written in an unknown language, or if it is instead a book created by someone as a hoax. Adding to the mystery of the text are the drawings of plants on most of the pages—none of them are known to exist in nature. Carbon dating of the text suggests it was created sometime in the 1400s—but that that doesn't offer proof that the writing on the parchment was done during that period, leaving some to suggest it was Voynich himself who created the characters and drawings. To date, no one has been able to prove whether the text has meaning or if it is simply pages of gibberish. To learn more, Montemurro and his team turned to advanced computer analysis.

 

To analyze the text, researchers assign modern language letters to characters; this allows for the application of algorithms. In this case, the team looked at global patterns of "words" that appear throughout the text. This process represents a novel way to view the semantics. One type of pattern distribution known as "entropy" allows researchers to compare documents to one another using a computer. The method offers a single number that describes the complexity of the text. The Voynich text received a score of 805, compared to 728 for text samples written in English and 580 for those written in Chinese. A comparison of the Voynich score to yeast DNA samples (25) and a program written in Fortran (285) suggests the Voynich text is more complicated than simple gibberish.

 

The team notes that the text also conforms to Zipf's law—it states that words in real languages are inversely proportional their rank in a frequency table. Taken together, the researchers conclude that the Vonynich text mostly likely contains real information and thus, is not a hoax.

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Eau de Manipulation: Malaria Infected Mosquitoes Express Enhanced Attraction to Human Odor

Eau de Manipulation: Malaria Infected Mosquitoes Express Enhanced Attraction to Human Odor | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Responsible for the most dangerous kind of malaria and at least half of malaria cases worldwide, Plasmodium falciprum is estimated to kill somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people every year. In recent years, the parasite has developed resistance to many of our best treatments, leaving doctors without options in the over one hundred countries where malaria is endemic. While scientists continue to research new means of treatment from vaccines to drugs, nations struggling with malaria have shifted focus to prevention. Recently, this means scientists have become particularly interested in mosquito behavior to develop better, cost-effective control mechanisms. But a new study in PLoS ONE today suggests we know less than we might have thought, and that the parasite may be influencing its host mosquitos in ways we never even imagined.

 

“So far, most studies of Anopheles gambiae mosquito behavior have been conducted with uninfected mosquitoes,” write the authors, “but our data demonstrate that such results may not be representative of infected mosquitoes.” Previous studies found that Plasmodium-infected mosquitosprobe skin more, bite more often and ingest larger meals than uninfected ones, but the scientific team comprised of scientists from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States wondered whether infected mosquitos behave differently before they land.

 

Many parasites with multiple hosts are known to alter one hosts’ behavior to increase transmission to the next. Toxoplasma gondii, for example, suppresses rats’ fear of cats by altering how they respond to feline smells. The research team wondered if Plasmodium could control mosquitos along the same lines, so they tested how uninfected and infected mosquitos reacted to the scent of human skin. Their results were staggeringly significant. Infected Anopheles mosquitos landed on the human-scented surface more than three times as often as non-infected mosquitos. “These results suggest that malaria-infectious females are more attracted to human odors than uninfected mosquitoes,” write the authors. “This is the first indication of a change in [mosquito] behavior in response to human odor, caused by infection with P. falciparum.”

 

The authors hope this research spurs further study into the ways in whichPlasmodium alters mosquito senses. New types of attractant smells, for example, could lead to breakthroughs in trapping technology and provide powerful allies in the struggle against malaria.

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Machine Learning and Big Data Are Changing the Face of Biological Sciences

Until recently, the wet lab has been a crucial component of every biologist. Today's advances in the production of massive amounts of data and the creation of machine-learning algorithms for processing that data are changing the face of biological science—making it possible to do real science without a wet lab. David Heckerman shares several examples of how this transformation in the area of genomics is changing the pace of scientific breakthroughs.


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davidgibson's curator insight, May 28, 2013 11:05 PM

This 36 min video is well worth the time spent - to get an idea (hopefully a transferrable one) about Big Data and the frontiers of science. In this case both "wet lab" (test tubes microscopes) and "dry lab" (computer modeling with machine learning) and needed and so is content as well as computational literacy.

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Researchers Try to Explain How Perfectly Round Pearls Form

Researchers Try to Explain How Perfectly Round Pearls Form | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Pearls develop as nacre and other liquids accumulate around grains of sand or other foreign objects inside certain oysters and other shellfish.

“But how do pearls grow into such perfect spheres?”

 

Dr Julyan Cartwright from the CSIC – Universidad de Granada in Spain and colleagues point out that the most flawless and highly prized pearls have perhaps the most perfectly spherical, or ball-like, shape among all the objects in nature that are visible without a microscope. “The answer may be relatively simple — with developing pearls having a saw-toothed, or ratchet-like, surface,” Dr Cartwright and his colleagues said.


That texture generates forces that make the pearl turn inside the oyster’s tissues in response to movements in the environment.

 

“The result is a spherical build-up of nacre and other textures. Rotating pearls are a perhaps unique example of a natural ratchet,” the scientists concluded.


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Swiss Rocket Plane May Launch People on Private Science Trips

Swiss Rocket Plane May Launch People on Private Science Trips | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

PARIS — A startup Swiss spaceflight company is planning to upgrade its proposed private satellite launch system into a manned suborbital space shuttle for science missions, the company announced Monday (June 17).

 

The company Swiss Space Systems (S3) has no immediate plans to enter the space tourism market, but does see a market for low-cost microgravity research flights that may be more attractive to researchers than launching experiments on satellites or to the International Space Station, the company's founder and CEO Pascal Jaussi said.

 


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Researchers discover way to allow 80 percent of sound to pass through walls

Researchers discover way to allow 80 percent of sound to pass through walls | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of researchers in Korea has discovered a way to allow sound to pass through walls almost as if they were not there at all. As the group describes in their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the technique involves drilling very small holes in a wall and then tightly covering them with a thin sheet of plastic.

In this new effort, the researchers sought to extend prior research done by Thomas Ebbesen and colleagues in 1998 where it was discovered that holes, made in a metal sheet that were smaller than the wavelength of light shone on it, allowed more light to pass through than expected—a property that has come to be known as extraordinary optical transmission. Subsequent research found the principle did not apply to sound waves due to rigid parts of the barrier reflecting back most of the applied sound. The researchers on this new team suspected that altering certain aspects of the barrier might allow for the property to hold for sound after all.

They began by drilling several holes (10 millimeters in diameter) in a 5-millimeter -thick piece of metal. Next, they placed a speaker on one side of the "wall" and a microphone on the other. With just the holes, they found the wall blocked sound almost as effectively as if there were no holes drilled in it. Next, they covered one side of the wall with a thin tensioned membrane (plastic wrap). After playing the sound again, the researchers discovered that the addition of the membrane allowed much more sound to pass through the wall—on average 80 percent more—almost as if the wall weren't there at all.

 

The membrane, the team explains, allows for "zero resistance" as the sound encounters the holes. At the resonance frequency of the membrane (1200 hertz), air moved in the holes as if it had no mass at all. That in turn allowed sound waves to move through very quickly. The sound in the holes was actually concentrated as it passed through, suggesting that the technique might be used as a way to magnify small signals. One application of this discovery could be walls that serve as security barriers.

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Chris Upton + helpers's comment, June 24, 2013 1:57 PM
"80% more" than almost nothing, isn't much - perhaps it's mis-written
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By combining self-assembling DNA molecules with simple dye molecules, 3D DNA antenna harvests solar energy

By combining self-assembling DNA molecules with simple dye molecules, 3D DNA antenna harvests solar energy | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at Chalmers have found an effective solution for collecting sunlight for artificial photosynthesis. By combining self-assembling DNA molecules with simple dye molecules, the researchers have created a system that resembles nature's own antenna system.

 

Artificial photosynthesis is one of the hot trends in energy research. A large number of the worlds' energy problems could be resolved if it were possible to recreate the ability plants have to transform solar energy into fuel. The Earth receives enough solar energy every hour to satisfy our energy needs for an entire year.

 

A research team at Chalmers University of Technology has made a nanotechnological breakthrough in the first step required for artificial photosynthesis. The team has demonstrated that it is possible to use self-assembling DNA molecules as scaffolding to create artificial systems that collect light. The results were recently published in the esteemed scientific Journal of the American Chemical Society. Scaffolding in plants and algae consists of a large number of proteins that organise chlorophyll molecules to ensure effective light collection. The system is complicated and would basically be impossible to construct artificially.

 

"It's all over if a bond breaks," says Jonas Hannestad, PhD of physical chemistry. "If DNA is used instead to organise the light-collecting molecules, the same precision is not achieved but a dynamic self-constructing system arises." With a system that builds itself, the researchers have begun to approach nature's method. If any of the light-collecting molecules break, it will be replaced with another one a second later. In this sense, it is a self-repairing system as opposed to if molecules had been put there by researchers with synthetic organic chemistry. The sun's light is moved to a reaction centre in plants and algae so they can synthesise sugars and other energy-rich molecules. "We can move energy to a reaction center, but we have not resolved how the reactions themselves are to take place there," says Bo Albinsson, professor of physical chemistry and head of the research team.

 

"This is actually the most difficult part of artificial photosynthesis. We have demonstrated that an antenna can easily be built. We have recreated that part of the miracle."

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Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified four susceptibility loci for epithelial ovarian cancer

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified four susceptibility loci for epithelial ovarian cancer | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Evidence from twin and family studies suggests an inherited genetic component to epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) risk. Rare, high-penetrance alleles of genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for about 40% of excess familial risk, and GWAS have recently identified common risk alleles at 9p22, 8q24, 2q31 and 19p13, with two additional loci at 3q25 and 17q21 that approached genome-wide significance. However these alleles only explain 4% of excess familial risk, and more risk loci probably exist.

 

A study group therefore recently pooled the data from two GWAS to inform the selection of SNPs for a large-scale replication. The North American study comprised 4 independent case-control studies that included 1,952 cases and 2,052 controls. The second study was a 2-phase multicenter GWAS that included 1,817 cases and 2,354 controls in the first phase and 4,162 cases and 4,810 controls in the second phase.

 

The researchers carried out a fixed-effects meta-analysis from the two GWAS for ~2.5 million genotyped or imputed SNPs. They selected 24,551 SNPs associated with the risk of either all-histology (11,647 SNPs) or serous (12,904 SNPs) ovarian cancer on the basis of ranked P values. They designed assays for 23,239 SNPs and included them on a custom Illumina Infinium iSelect array (iCOGS) comprising 211,155 SNPs designed by the Collaborative Oncological Gene-environment Study (COGS) to evaluate genetic variants for association with risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. They then genotyped these SNPs in cases and controls from 43 individual studies from the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC) that were grouped into 34 case-control strata. These included most of the samples genotyped in the initial GWAS. An integrated molecular analysis of genes and regulatory regions at these loci provided evidence for functional mechanisms underlying susceptibility and implicated CHMP4C in the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer.  

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Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, June 27, 2013 1:23 AM

is that a new method, Vova)?

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More data storage? Here's how to fit 1,000 terabytes on a DVD

More data storage? Here's how to fit 1,000 terabytes on a DVD | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
We live in a world where digital information is exploding. Some 90% of the world's data was generated in the past two years. The obvious question is: how can we store it all?

 

In Nature Communications today, we, along with Richard Evans from CSIRO, show how we developed a new technique to enable the data capacity of a single DVD to increase from 4.7 gigabytes up to one petabyte (1,000 terabytes). This is equivalent of 10.6 years of compressed high-definition video or 50,000 full high-definition movies. So how did we manage to achieve such a huge boost in data storage? First, we need to understand how data is stored on optical discs such as CDs and DVDs.

 

Although optical discs are used to carry software, films, games, and private data, and have great advantages over other recording media in terms of cost, longevity and reliability, their low data storage capacity is their major limiting factor. The operation of optical data storage is rather simple. When you burn a CD, for example, the information is transformed to strings of binary digits (0s and 1s, also called bits). Each bit is then laser "burned" into the disc, using a single beam of light, in the form of dots.

 

The storage capacity of optical discs is mainly limited by the physical dimensions of the dots. But as there's a limit to the size of the disc as well as the size of the dots, many current methods of data storage, such as DVDs and Blu-ray discs, continue to have low level storage density.


In 1873, German physicist Ernst Abbe published a law that limits the width of light beams. On the basis of this law, the diameter of a spot of light, obtained by focusing a light beam through a lens, cannot be smaller than half its wavelength – around 500 nanometres (500 billionths of a metre) for visible light. And while this law plays a huge role in modern optical microscopy, it also sets up a barrier for any efforts from researchers to produce extremely small dots – in the nanometer region – to use as binary bits. 

 

The researchers explain: "In our study, we showed how to break this fundamental limit by using a two-light-beam method, with different colours, for recording onto discs instead of the conventional single-light-beam method. Both beams must abide by Abbe's law, so they cannot produce smaller dots individually. But we gave the two beams different functions:

 

• The first beam (red, in the figure right) has a round shape, and is used to activate the recording. We called it the writing beam

• The second beam – the purple donut-shape – plays an anti-recording function, inhibiting the function of the writing beam

 

The two beams were then overlapped. As the second beam cancelled out the first in its donut ring, the recording process was tightly confined to the centre of the writing beam."

 

This new technique produces an effective focal spot of nine nanometers – or one ten thousandth the diameter of a human hair.

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Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus: Deadly piglet virus spreads to nearly 200 U.S. farm sites

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus: Deadly piglet virus spreads to nearly 200 U.S. farm sites | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A swine virus deadly to young pigs, and never before seen in North America, has spiked to 199 sites in 13 states - nearly double the number of farms and other locations from earlier this month.

 

Iowa, the largest U.S. hog producer, has the most sites testing positive for Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus: 102 sites, as of June 10. The state raises on average 30 million hogs each year, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

PEDV, most often fatal to very young pigs, causes diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. It also sickens older hogs, though their survival rate tends to be high. The total number of pig deaths from the outbreak since the first cases were confirmed May 17 is not known.

Researchers at veterinarian diagnostic labs, who are testing samples as part of a broad investigation into the outbreak, have seen a substantial increase in positive cases since early June, when data on the PEDV outbreak showed it at some 103 sites nationwide.

The data was compiled and released last week by Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, Kansas State University and South Dakota State University.

The virus does not pose a health risk to humans or other animals and the meat from PEDV-infected pigs is safe for people to eat, according to federal officials and livestock economists.

But the virus, which is spreading rapidly across the United States, is proving harder to control than previously believed. In addition to Iowa, Oklahoma has 38 positive sites, Minnesota has 19 and Indiana has 10, according to the data.

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Alien star is crowded by super-Earths within habitable zone

Alien star is crowded by super-Earths within habitable zone | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists say a relatively nearby star, Gliese 667, 22 light-years away, has three so-called super-Earths orbiting in a zone where their rocky surfaces could perhaps sustain liquid water. It means this relatively nearby star, Gliese 667C, now has three so-called super-Earths orbiting in its "habitable zone".

 

This is the region where temperatures ought to allow for the possibility of liquid water, although no-one can say for sure what conditions are really like on these planets. Astronomers can see it on the sky in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion).

 

Previous studies of Gliese 667C had established there were very likely three planets around it, with its habitable zone occupied by one super-Earth - an object slightly bigger than our home world, but probably still with a rocky surface.

 

Now, a team of astronomers led by Guillem Anglada-Escude of the University of Göttingen, Germany, and Mikko Tuomi, of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, has re-examined the system and raised the star's complement of planets.

 

The researchers used a suite of telescopes including the 3.6m telescope at the Silla Observatory in Chile. This incorporates the high-precisionHarps instrument. Harps employs an indirect method of detection that infers the existence of orbiting planets from the way their gravity makes a parent star appear to twitch in its motion across the sky. The planets' presence needs to be disentangled from this complex signal but the Harps instrument is recognised as having tremendous success in identifying smaller worlds.

 

Gliese 667C is a low-luminosity "M-dwarf" star just over one-third the mass of our Sun.

 

The Harps instrument has had great success at identifying super-Earths

This means its habitable zone can be much closer in before temperatures make liquid water impossible. The team is now confident that three rocky worlds occupy this region at Gilese 667C.

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Physicists succeed in creating a tabletop antimatter 'gun'

Physicists succeed in creating a tabletop antimatter 'gun' | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

An international team of physicists working at the University of Michigan has succeeded in building a tabletop antimatter "gun" capable of spewing short bursts of positrons. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team describes how they created the gun, what it's capable of doing, and to what use it may be put.

Positrons are anti-particles, the opposite twin of electrons. Besides being created in physics labs, they are also found in jets emitted by black holes and pulsars. To date, the creation of positrons for study has involved very big and expensive machines. One of those is the particle accelerator at CERN. Another is a device built by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that created positrons by firing a hugely powerful laser at a tiny disc made of gold. Other recent work by researchers at the University of Texas has involved building a desktop sized accelerator. This new effort builds on that work—this team has built a device not more than a meter long that is capable of generating short bursts of both electrons and positrons, very similar they report, to what is emitted by black holes and pulsars.

 

To achieve this feat, the team fired a petawatt laser at a sample of inert helium gas. Doing so caused the creation of a stream of electrons moving at very high speed. Those electrons were directed at a very thin sheet of metal foil which caused them to smash into individual metal atoms. Those collisions resulted in a stream of electron and positron emissions—the two were then separated using magnets.

 

The researchers report that each blast of their gun lasts just 30 femtoseconds, but each firing results in the production of quadrillions of positrons—a density level comparable to those produced at CERN. The researchers suggest their device could be used to mimic the jet streams from black holes and/or pulsars, hopefully offering some answers to questions such as, what sort of proportion of particles are present in such streams, how much energy is in them, and in what ways do the particles in them interact with the environment into which they are spewed.

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Particle accelerator that can fit on a tabletop opens new chapter for science research

Particle accelerator that can fit on a tabletop opens new chapter for science research | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin have built a tabletop particle accelerator that can generate energies and speeds previously reached only by major facilities that are hundreds of meters long and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build."We have accelerated about half a billion electrons to 2 giga electronvolts over a distance of about 1 inch," said Mike Downer, professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences. "Until now that degree of energy and focus has required a conventional accelerator that stretches more than the length of two football fields. It's a downsizing of a factor of approximately 10,000."The results, which were published this week in Nature Communications ("Quasi-monoenergetic laser-plasma acceleration of electrons to 2 GeV"), mark a major milestone in the advance toward the day when multi-gigaelectronvolt (GeV) laser plasma accelerators are standard equipment in research laboratories around the world.

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Females Choose Biological Fitness Over Other Traits In Mating Game

Females Choose Biological Fitness Over Other Traits In Mating Game | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A new study from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis finds that a female's mating decisions are largely based on traits that reflect fitness or those that help males perform well under the local ecological conditions.

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NASA to send DNA of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke into space

NASA to send DNA of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke into space | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Washington: NASA is planning to send DNA of famed British science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke into space - five years after his death.

 

The author of the novel '2001: A Space Odyssey' died in 2008 in Sri Lanka, and now NASA scientists have announced plans to send his DNA into orbit around the Sun in 2014 aboard the Sunjammer, a solar-powered spacecraft which gets its name from the writings of Clarke.

 

Called the Sunjammer Cosmic Archive (SCA), the flying time capsule is a first in the history of space travel, carrying digital files of human DNA including Clarke's aboard the sun-powered space ship


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Vloasis's curator insight, June 24, 2013 12:55 PM

And we can only hope that somewhere, at some point in the future, a monkey will find his DNA, and eat it.

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A Simple and Efficient Method for Assembling TALE Protein Based on Plasmid Library

A Simple and Efficient Method for Assembling TALE Protein Based on Plasmid Library | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

DNA binding domain of the transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs) from Xanthomonas sp. consists of tandem repeats that can be rearranged according to a simple cipher to target new DNA sequences with high DNA-binding specificity. This technology has been successfully applied in varieties of species for genome engineering. However, assembling long TALE tandem repeats remains a big challenge precluding wide use of this technology. Although several new methodologies for efficiently assembling TALE repeats have been recently reported, all of them require either sophisticated facilities or skilled technicians to carry them out. In a recent paper, researchers described a simple and efficient method for generating customized TALE nucleases (TALENs) and TALE transcription factors (TALE-TFs) based on TALE repeat tetramer library. A tetramer library consisting of 256 tetramers covers all possible combinations of 4 base pairs. A set of unique primers was designed for amplification of these tetramers. PCR products were assembled by one step of digestion/ligation reaction. 12 TALE constructs including 4 TALEN pairs targeted to mouse Gt(ROSA)26Sor gene and mouse Mstn gene sequences as well as 4 TALE-TF constructs targeted to mouse Oct4, c-Myc, Klf4 and Sox2 gene promoter sequences were generated by using our method. The construction routines took 3 days and parallel constructions were available. The rate of positive clones during colony PCR verification was 64% on average. Sequencing results suggested that all TALE constructs were performed with high successful rate. This is a rapid and cost-efficient method using the most common enzymes and facilities with a high success rate.


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Painting by numbers - how natural pigmentation variation of species is generated

Painting by numbers - how natural pigmentation variation of species is generated | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Individuals of a particular species generally differ from one another by a variety of features, including pigmentation. We are clearly most adept at recognizing members of our own species, although dog and cat owners will be ready to confirm that their pets look unique. Differences within species relate to characteristics such as size and shape but also to color: it is not only humans that show a wide range of skin pigmentation. Nevertheless, the cause of the variation in skin color in animals has remained largely unknown. Recent work in the group of Christian Schlötterer at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna sheds light on the topic.

 

The skin color of humans ranges from pale pinkish-white to very dark brown and relates largely to the amount of melanin produced by specialized cells in the body. The synthesis of melanin is under the influence of a bewildering array of genes, each of which naturally occurs in a variety of different forms or alleles, thus accounting for the wide variety of skin colors found in our species.

 

Color also differs, albeit sometimes more subtly, in many other animals. For example, the color of the abdomen in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster varies considerably. Because flies are much more amenable to genetic study than humans, we know a good deal about pigmentation in Drosophila. At least nine genes are directly involved in the synthesis of pigment, together with a number of others that indirectly affect the pattern of pigmentation. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether changes in these genes account for the variation in the pigmentation of natural populations of flies or whether differences in other genes might somehow be responsible.

 

The issue has been tackled by Héloïse Bastide and Andrea Betancourt at the Institute of Population Genetics of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. The researchers examined 8,000 female flies, split into 5 groups, and chose 100 of the lightest and 100 of the darkest from each group for genetic comparison. Each group of light and dark flies was pooled and its DNA sequenced, resulting in a catalogue of the genetic differences between light and dark flies at over three million positions in the fly genome. Sophisticated statistical methods were used to compare the differences between the two groups, leading to the discovery of 17 sites where variation (SNPs), seemed to be associated with the extent of female abdominal pigmentation.

 

Gratifyingly, the SNPs were found to lie in or close to genes known to be involved in pigment synthesis, in particular the tan and bric-à-brac1 genes. Most of the SNPs were not in the coding sequence of these genes but instead in nearby sequences that had previously been shown to regulate their activity.

 

In other words, the variation in the colour of female flies is not a result of changes to the genes that produce pigments but stems instead from subtle alterations in the regulation of the pigmentation genes. Bastide and Betancourt are naturally excited by their findings. As they say, “Our work has taught us a lot about how pigment production can be controlled and at least some of our conclusions may apply to other species as well. But even more importantly, our experiments show that pooling and sequencing samples can represent an effective and low-cost method to examine the basis of natural variation in populations.”

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Mars had oxygen 4 Billion years ago, and was wet, warm and rusty long before Earth had oxygen

Mars had oxygen 4 Billion years ago, and was wet, warm and rusty long before Earth had oxygen | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Four billion years ago called, and they want their oxygen-rich atmosphere back, finds new research from Oxford University.

 

It all hinges on the differences between rocks that have traveled from Mars to Earth and rocks analyzed byNASA's Spirit Mars rover, a vintage robot that roamed the planet's surface from 2004 to 2010. The surface rocks examined by Spirit show more signs of oxidation than the Martian meteorites.

 

The meteorites are relatively young – between 180 million and 1.4 billion years old – compared to the surface rocks, which are thought to be 3.7 billion years old. The researchers believe that the surface rocks were drawn into the planet's interior through a process known as subduction, and then subsequently blasted back to the surface via volcanic eruptions. The meteorites, by contrast, originated from deeper inside the planet, and were therefore less affected by the atmospheric oxygen.

 

"As oxidation is what gives Mars its distinctive colour it is likely that the 'red planet' was wet, warm and rusty billions of years before Earth's atmosphere became oxygen rich," said Oxford professor and study co-author Bernard Wood, in press release.

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