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Space Impact Prevention: Russia Calls for United Meteor Defense System

Space Impact Prevention: Russia Calls for United Meteor Defense System | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The world should unite to establish a defense system against space objects that threaten Earth, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin says.

Rogozin, speaking Saturday at a ceremony marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in the Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk, told members of his Rodina Party the effort should be undertaken under the umbrella of the United Nations, RIA Novosti reported.

 

The Russian leader said the threat from asteroids, meteorites, comets and other stray space objects should serve to "unite humanity in the face of a common enemy." "This system should become global and universal in its technical and political sense and is a matter of agreement in the framework of the United Nations," Rogozin said.

 

The call came as Russia is recovering from a Feb. 15 meteorite strike near Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains region that created a massive shock, blowing out windows, damaging thousands of buildings and injuring 1,200 people, mainly from flying glass.

 

More than 50 people were hospitalized and damage from the shock wave has been estimated at $33 million. Creating an effective protection against stray space objects is a task that no country, including the United States, would be able to be able to cope with alone, Rogozin said, asserting that no one system of aerospace defense on the planet could handle the threat.

 

The problem with current anti-missile systems and other aerospace defense technologies is that they're designed to track incoming objects launched from the ground, rather than those coming from space, Rogozin said.

 

To protect against such "cosmic enemies," he said, the world would need a system able to recognize the risk in advance. "The great space powers, including Russia, could make in-kind contributions with the technology and programs that have already been established," he said.

 

"We need to find such technical decisions, which we don't have now, such capabilities which could change the flight path of a dangerous space object at a long distance from the Earth or destroy it."

 

However, Rogozin added, if such a worldwide anti-asteroid system were to be established, some countries could use it as a pretext to deploy nuclear weapons in space, Interfax reported.

 

"An undesirable effect of this might be that, under the guise of countering asteroids, some countries, which I prefer not to name, might use this as a pretext for deploying nuclear weapons in outer space," he said.

 

Alexander Bagrov, a senior researcher at the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Voice of Russia such a worldwide defense system against space objects can be created.

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WIRED: First 3-D Printed Car Is as Strong as Steel, Half the Weight, and Nearing Production

WIRED: First 3-D Printed Car Is as Strong as Steel, Half the Weight, and Nearing Production | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The future of urban runabouts will be ultra lightweight, electrically powered and 3D-printed... if Jim Kor has his way.

 

Picture an assembly line not that isn’t made up of robotic arms spewing sparks to weld heavy steel, but a warehouse of plastic-spraying printers producing light, cheap and highly efficient automobiles.

 

If Jim Kor’s dream is realized, that’s exactly how the next generation of urban runabouts will be produced. His creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating a cottage industry of small-batch automakers intent on challenging the status quo.

 

Urbee’s approach to maximum miles per gallon starts with lightweight construction – something that 3-D printing is particularly well suited for. The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile. As the Urbee shows, making a car with this technology has a slew of beneficial side effects.

 

Jim Kor is the engineering brains behind the Urbee. He’s designed tractors, buses, even commercial swimming pools. Between teaching classes, he heads Kor Ecologic, the firm responsible for the 3-D printed creation.

“We thought long and hard about doing a second one,” he says of the Urbee. “It’s been the right move.”

 

Kor and his team built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle at RedEye, an on-demand 3-D printing facility. The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The printer sprays molten polymer to build the chassis layer by microscopic layer until it arrives at the complete object. The machines are so automated that the building process they perform is known as “lights out” construction, meaning Kor uploads the design for a bumper, walk away, shut off the lights and leaves. A few hundred hours later, he’s got a bumper. The whole car – which is about 10 feet long – takes about 2,500 hours.

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Can we make objects that 'make themselves'?

Can we make objects that 'make themselves'? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A 4D printing process is demoed at TED which could herald an age of self-assembled objects say experts.

 

Many are only just getting their heads around the idea of 3D printing but scientists at MIT are already working on an upgrade: 4D printing. At the TED conference in Los Angeles, architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed how the process allows objects to self-assemble. It could be used to install objects in hard-to-reach places such as underground water pipes, he suggested. It might also herald an age of self-assembling furniture, said experts.

 

TED fellow Mr Tibbits, from the MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) self-assembly lab, explained what the extra dimension involved. "We're proposing that the fourth dimension is time and that over time static objects will transform and adapt."

 

The process uses a specialised 3D printer made by Stratasys that can create multi-layered materials. It combines a strand of standard plastic with a layer made from a "smart" material that can absorb water. The water acts as an energy source for the material to expand once it is printed.

 

"The rigid material becomes a structure and the other layer is the force that can start bending and twisting it," said Mr Tibbits. "Essentially the printing is nothing new, it is about what happens after," he added. Such a process could in future be used to build furniture, bikes, cars and even buildings, he thinks.

 

For the time being he is seeking a manufacturing partner to explore the innovation. "We are looking for applications and products that wouldn't be possible without these materials," he added. "Imagine water pipes that can expand to cope with different capacities or flows and save digging up the street."

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'Rain Man'-like Autistic Brains Mapped with Network Analysis

'Rain Man'-like Autistic Brains Mapped with Network Analysis | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A group of researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley have mapped the three-dimensional global connections within the brains of seven adults who have genetic malformations that leave them without the corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain.


These "structural connectome" maps, which combine hospital MRIs with the mathematical tool known as network analysis. They reveal new details about the condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum, which is one of the top genetic causes of autism. The condition was part of the mysterious brain physiology of Laurence Kim Peek, the remarkable savant portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the 1987 movie “Rain Man.”

 

In the 1987 movie “Rain Man,” Dustin Hoffman, right, played the remarkable savant Laurence Kim Peek, who in real life had the condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum.

 

 

While some people born with agenesis of the corpus callosum are of normal intelligence and do not have any obvious signs of neurologic disease, approximately 40 percent of people with the condition are at high risk for autism. Given this, the work is a step toward finding better ways to image the brains of people with the condition, said Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at UCSF who was the co-senior author of the research.

 

Understanding how brain connectivity varies from person to person may help researchers identify imaging biomarkers for autism to help diagnose it and manage care for individuals. Currently autism is diagnosed and assessed based on cognitive tests, such as those involving stacking blocks and looking at pictures on flip cards.

 

While the new work falls short of a quantitative measure doctors could use instead of cognitive testing, it does offer a proof-of-principle that this novel technique may shed light on neurodevelopment disorders.

 

“Because you are looking at the whole brain at the network level, you can do new types of analysis to find what’s abnormal,” Mukherjee said.

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The Interspecies Internet: Reiss, Gabriel, Gershenfeld and Cerf in Discussion at TED2013

The Interspecies Internet: Reiss, Gabriel, Gershenfeld and Cerf in Discussion at TED2013 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The internet connects people all over the world. But could the internet also connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species? In a bold talk in Session 10 of TED2013, four incredible thinkers come together to launch the idea of the interspecies internet. Each takes four minutes to talk, then passes the metaphorical baton, building the narrative in parts.

 

The talk begins with Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist who studies intelligence in animals. She shows us a video of an adorable dolphin twirling in the water. But the dolphin isn’t spinning playfully for the camera — the dolphin is watching itself in a two-way mirror.

 

“A dolphin has self-awareness,” says Reiss. “We used to think this was a uniquely human quality, but dolphins aren’t the only non-human animals to show self-recognition in a mirror. Great apes, our closest relatives, also show this ability.” Ditto for elephants and even magpies.

 

Reiss shares her work with dolphins — she’s been teaching them to communicate through an underwater keyboard of symbols that correspond to whistles and playful activities. Through this keyboard, the dolphins learned to perform activities on demand, and also to express their desire for them.

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Symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones deeper than thought: Clownfish actually help anemones breathe

Symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones deeper than thought: Clownfish actually help anemones breathe | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

IT IS one of the best-known relationships in nature: the anemone provides a tentacle-guarded home and the clownfish drives off predators that would chew its protector. Recent research has, however, shown there is much more going on. A study in 2009 revealed that waste excreted by clownfish provides vital nutrients to anemones. Now researchers have found clownfish can boost their hosts’ oxygen supplies at night too.

 

Clownfish and anemones live on coral reefs where oxygen levels in the water often plunge at night as photosynthesis shuts down. Some fish species are known to wave their fins over their coral homes to help keep the coral oxygenated. Joseph Szczebak of Auburn University, in Alabama, and his colleagues wondered if clownfish might do something similar for anemones.

In this section

 

It seems that they do. In a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology, Mr Szczebak and his colleagues report that they studied the oxygen consumption of clownfish and anemones in the laboratory, using special tanks which can measure oxygen levels in the water as it is pumped in and out of the tanks. Readings were taken for 20-minute periods during the night and day with just a fish in a tank, just an anemone or both in a tank together.

Infra-red cameras quickly hinted that something was going on. The fish became active at night when they had an anemone to hang out with. They would twirl around it, push its tentacles up and down, and whip their tails about. It was like a sort of dance. The combined level of oxygen consumption when the fish and anemone were together was significantly higher than when they were kept apart. Mr Szczebak speculates that the antics of clownfish allow more water to flow over the anemone, thus increasing the amount of oxygen the anemone can collect. A very nice symbiosis.

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Discovery Suggests Cosmic Start for Amino Acids and DNA Ingredients on Icy Grains Predating Solar System

Discovery Suggests Cosmic Start for Amino Acids and DNA Ingredients on Icy Grains Predating Solar System | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists used the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a giant cloud of gas some 25,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. The chemicals they found in that cloud include a molecule thought to be a precursor to a key component of DNA and another that may have a role in the formation of the amino acid alanine.

 

One of the newly-discovered molecules, called cyanomethanimine, is one step in the process that chemists believe produces adenine, one of the four nucleobases that form the "rungs" in the ladder-like structure of DNA. The other molecule, called ethanamine, is thought to play a role in forming alanine, one of the twenty amino acids in the genetic code.

 

"Finding these molecules in an interstellar gas cloud means that important building blocks for DNA and amino acids can 'seed' newly-formed planets with the chemical precursors for life," said Anthony Remijan, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). In each case, the newly-discovered interstellar molecules are intermediate stages in multi-step chemical processes leading to the final biological molecule. Details of the processes remain unclear, but the discoveries give new insight on where these processes occur.

 

Previously, scientists thought such processes took place in the very tenuous gas between the stars. The new discoveries, however, suggest that the chemical formation sequences for these molecules occurred not in gas, but on the surfaces of ice grains in interstellar space. "We need to do further experiments to better understand how these reactions work, but it could be that some of the first key steps toward biological chemicals occurred on tiny ice grains," Remijan said.

 

The discoveries were made possible by new technology that speeds the process of identifying the "fingerprints" of cosmic chemicals. Each molecule has a specific set of rotational states that it can assume. When it changes from one state to another, a specific amount of energy is either emitted or absorbed, often as radio waves at specific frequencies that can be observed with the GBT.

 

New laboratory techniques have allowed astrochemists to measure the characteristic patterns of such radio frequencies for specific molecules. Armed with that information, they then can match that pattern with the data received by the telescope. Laboratories at the University of Virginia and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics measured radio emission from cyanomethanimine and ethanamine, and the frequency patterns from those molecules then were matched to publicly-available data produced by a survey done with the GBT from 2008 to 2011.

 

A team of undergraduate students participating in a special summer research program for minority students at the University of Virginia (U.Va.) conducted some of the experiments leading to the discovery of cyanomethanimine. The students worked under U.Va. professors Brooks Pate and Ed Murphy, and Remijan. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, brought students from four universities for summer research experiences. They worked in Pate's astrochemistry laboratory, as well as with the GBT data.

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Is This a Baby Picture of a Giant Proto Planet?

Is This a Baby Picture of a Giant Proto Planet? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Acquired by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the infrared image above (right) shows a portion of the disk of gas and dust around the star HD100546, located 335 light-years away in the constellation Musca. By physically blocking out the light from the star itself by means of an opaque screen — seen along the left side of the image — the light from the protoplanetary disk around HD 100546 can be seen, revealing a large bright clump that’s thought to be a planet in the process of formation.

 

If it is indeed a baby planet, it’s a big one — as large as, or perhaps even larger than, Jupiter. A candidate protoplanet found in a disc of gas and dust around young star HD100546 (ESO).

 

This does raise an interesting question for astronomers because if itis a Jupiter-sized planet, it’s awfully far from its star… at least according to many current models of planetary formation. About 68 times as far from HD100546 as we are from the sun, if this planet were in our solar system it’d be located deep in the Kuiper Belt, twice as far as Pluto. That’s not where one would typically expect to find gas giants, so it’s been hypothesized that this protoplanet might have migrated outwards after initially forming closer to the star… perhaps “kicked out” by gravitational interaction with an even more massive planet.

 

 

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NASA: Fascinating Pattern of the Vela Pulsar obtained by Fermi's LAT

NASA: Fascinating Pattern of the Vela Pulsar obtained by Fermi's LAT | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Vela pulsar traces out a loopy, hypnotic pattern reminiscent of art produced by a children's toy in this video created with data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

 

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing the highest-energy form of light -- gamma rays -- from sources across the universe. These range from supermassive black holes billions of light-years away to intriguing objects in our own galaxy, such as X-ray binaries, supernova remnants and pulsars.

 

The Vela pulsar outlines a fascinating pattern in this movie showing 51 months of position and exposure data from Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT). The pattern reflects numerous motions of the spacecraft, including its orbit around Earth, the precession of its orbital plane, the manner in which the LAT nods north and south on alternate orbits, and more. The movie renders Vela's position in a fisheye perspective, where the middle of the pattern corresponds to the central and most sensitive portion of the LAT's field of view. The edge of the pattern is 90 degrees away from the center and well beyond what scientists regard as the effective limit of the LAT's vision. Better knowledge of how the LAT's sensitivity changes across its field of view helps Fermi scientists better understand both the instrument and the data it returns.

 

Pulsars are neutron stars, the crushed cores of massive suns that destroyed themselves when they ran out of fuel, collapsed and exploded. The blast simultaneously shattered the star and compressed its core into a body as small as a city yet more massive than the sun. The result is an object of incredible density, where a spoonful of matter weighs as much as a mountain on Earth. Equally incredible is a pulsar's rapid spin, with typical rotation periods ranging from once every few seconds up to hundreds of times a second. Fermi sees gamma rays from more than a hundred pulsars scattered across the sky. 

One pulsar shines especially bright for Fermi. Called Vela, it spins 11 times a second and is the brightest persistent source of gamma rays the LAT sees. Although gamma-ray bursts and flares from distant black holes occasionally outshine the pulsar, they don't have Vela's staying power. Because pulsars emit beams of energy, scientists often compare them to lighthouses, a connection that in a broader sense works especially well for Vela, which is both a brilliant beacon and a familiar landmark in the gamma-ray sky.

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For the first time ever, astrophysicists have reliably measured the spinning speed of a supermassive black hole

For the first time ever, astrophysicists have reliably measured the spinning speed of a supermassive black hole | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of scientists led by Harvard astronomer Guido Risaliti recounts its findings in the latest issue of Nature. The researchers accomplished the feat by measuring electromagnetic radiation emanating from the center of spiral galaxy NGC 1365. There — not unlike the center of our own Milky Way — a spherical region of spacetime more than 2 million miles in diameter whirls violently, its gravity so strong it actually schleps surrounding space along with it. Any matter that trespasses beyond the black hole's event horizon spirals inward and collects in what's known as an accretion disc, where it is subjected to so much friction it emits X-rays.

 

Thanks to a joint effort by the ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's recently launched NuSTAR (both X-ray observatories, positioned in Earth orbit), Risaliti and his colleagues were able to locate the inner boundary of the accretion disc. Sometimes known as the Innermost Stable Circular Orbit, the position of this accretion disc "edge" depends on the speed of the black hole's overall rotation. The astronomers used this relationship to calculate the spin rate of the black hole's surface, which they estimate is is traveling at nearly the speed of light — about 84% as fast, to be exact.


In a statement, Risaliti says that it is "the first time anyone has accurately measured the spin of a supermassive black hole," but insists that even more important is what his team's findings can tell us about this black hole's past, and the developmental history of its surrounding galaxy.

 

The spin of a black hole is thought to be affected by the way it pulls in matter. It stands to reason, for example, that a black hole that subsumes gas and stars at random is more likely to fetter its angular momentum than add to it. According to Risaliti and his team, that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 1365 is spinning at speeds approaching the cosmic speed limit would suggest it acquired mass through ordered accretion, as opposed to multiple random events.

 

For more details, visit SPACE.com, where Mike Wall has a great overview of the role that NASA's NuSTAR (launched in July of last year) has played in resolving a longstanding debate over the implications of X-ray emission patterns emanating from black holes.

 

"It's the first time that we can really say that black holes are spinning," said study co-author Fiona Harrison in an interview with Wall. "The promise that this holds for being able to understand how black holes grow is, I think, the major implication."

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Space-based solar farms would solve mankind's energy needs overnight, but there are huge technical hurdles

Space-based solar farms would solve mankind's energy needs overnight, but there are huge technical hurdles | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

“Ex-Nasa scientist seeks visionary billionaire to help change the world.  High risk venture. Return not guaranteed. GSOH a plus.”

 

John Mankins, the scientist in question, has not yet reached the point of placing a classified ad, but it could soon be an option. The 25-year veteran of the US space agency is the man behind a project called SPS-Alpha, which aims to loft tens of thousands of lightweight, inflatable modules into space. Once there, they will be assembled into a huge bell-shaped structure that will use mirrors to concentrate energy from the sun onto solar panels. The collected energy would then be beamed down to ground stations on Earth using microwaves, providing unlimited, clean energy and overnight reducing our reliance on polluting fossil fuels. The snag? It is unproven technology and he estimates it will take at least $15 B - $20 B to get his project off the ground.

 

Mankins initially had research funding from an advanced concepts arm at Nasa, but that money dried up in September 2012; hence his continuing search for a benefactor. “I can't think of a better solution than to find somebody who is very wealthy, very visionary and willing to make this happen,” he says.

 

But not everyone shares Mankins' optimism. Space-based solar power (SBSP) is a topic that divides the scientific world into extremes. On one side are people like Mankins who believe it is the only solution to our ever increasing energy demands, whilst on the other is a sizeable chunk of the scientific community who believe any money put into solar power should remain firmly on the ground.

 

SBSP has its roots in the 1941 short story Reason, by Isaac Asimov, which depicts a space station – run by robots – collecting energy from the sun to distribute to Earth and other planets. No further thought was given to the idea until the late 1960s, when aerospace engineer Peter Glaser began to investigate its potential. In the following decades, various concepts were put forward but none took off. At the same timeNasa and the US Department of Energy also became involved, funding bits and pieces of research and commissioning reports into its feasibility. Most of these concluded that SBSP was too “high risk” and too costly.

 

But in recent years, SBSP has once again begun to attract attention with projects emerging in the US, Russia, China, India and Japan, amongst others. All are driven by increasing energy demands, soaring oil and gas prices, a desire to find clean alternatives to fossil fuels and by a burgeoning commercial space industry that promises to lower the cost of entry into space and spur on a host of new industries.

 

“SBSP is the ultimate energy source for the world and eventually it's going to replace nearly everything else,” says Ralph Nansen of US-based advocacy group Solar High, with some of the characteristic hyperbole that defines both sides of the SBSP debate. “I don't think there's any doubt that within the next century we will be getting the majority of our power from space. It's just a question of when.”

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Researchers calculate human eye transmits information to the brain at the rate of an ethernet

Researchers calculate human eye transmits information to the brain at the rate of an ethernet | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine estimate that the human retina can transmit visual input at about the same rate as an Ethernet connection, one of the most common local area network systems used today. They present their findings in the July issue of Current Biology. This line of scientific questioning points to ways in which neural systems compare to artificial ones, and can ultimately inform the design of artificial visual systems. Two broad classes of ganglion cell types in the guinea pig retina: brisk cells, which are larger and transmit electrical impulses faster, and sluggish, which are smaller and slower


Much research on the basic science of vision asks what types of information the brain receives; this study instead asked how much. Using an intact retina from a guinea pig, the researchers recorded spikes of electrical impulses from ganglion cells using a miniature multi-electrode array. The investigators calculate that the human retina can transmit data at roughly 10 million bits per second. By comparison, an Ethernet can transmit information between computers at speeds of 10 to 100 million bits per second.

 

The retina is actually a piece of the brain that has grown into the eye and processes neural signals when it detects light. Ganglion cells carry information from the retina to the higher brain centers; other nerve cells within the retina perform the first stages of analysis of the visual world. The axons of the retinal ganglion cells, with the support of other types of cells, form the optic nerve and carry these signals to the brain.

 

Investigators have known for decades that there are 10 to 15 ganglion cell types in the retina that are adapted for picking up different movements and then work together to send a full picture to the brain. The study estimated the amount of information that is carried to the brain by seven of these ganglion cell types.

 

The guinea pig retina was placed in a dish and then presented with movies containing four types of biological motion, for example a salamander swimming in a tank to represent an object-motion stimulus. After recording electrical spikes on an array of electrodes, the researchers classified each cell into one of two broad classes: “brisk” or “sluggish,” so named because of their speed.

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Alcohol Intoxicated Mice Sober Up Fast After Nanoparticle Injection

Alcohol Intoxicated Mice Sober Up Fast After Nanoparticle Injection | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers in California packed up complementary enzymes in a nano-capsule, producing what basically amounts to a tiny enzyme pill. The capsule coating, made of a superthin polymer, keeps the enzymes together and protects them from breaking down in the body.

 

Led by Yunfeng Lu, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at UCLA, researchers injected mice with three enzymes related to the breakdown of sugars, and after this worked, they tried it with two enzymes related to the breakdown of alcohol, alcohol oxidase (AOx) and catalase. They wanted to test the enzymes as both an intoxication preventive and a treatment.

 

When mice were fed a diet of alcohol and the nano-capsule at the same time, their blood alcohol concentrations were greatly reduced within 30-minute increments, compared to mice that were fed just alcohol or alcohol plus one of the enzymes. The team also tested it on drunk mice, and found the treatment greatly lowered yet another enzyme, alanine transaminase, which is a biomarker for liver damage.

 

“Nanocomplexes containing alcohol oxidase and catalase could reduce blood alcohol levels in intoxicated mice, offering an alternative antidote and [preventive treatment] for alcohol intoxication. Three enzymes are combined with a DNA scaffold along with their enzymatic inhibitors, leading to a triple-compound architecture. A thin polymer is grown around the enzymes, encapsulating them in a sort of nano-pill. Enzymes working in close proximity ensures they can clean up after each other's toxic byproducts.

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Infrared Digital Holography Allows Firefighters to See Through Flames, Image Moving People

Infrared Digital Holography Allows Firefighters to See Through Flames, Image Moving People | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Firefighters put their lives on the line in some of the most dangerous conditions on Earth. One of their greatest challenges, however, is seeing through thick veils of smoke and walls of flame to find people in need of rescue. A team of Italian researchers has developed a new imaging technique that uses infrared (IR) digital holography to peer through chaotic conflagrations and capture potentially lifesaving and otherwise hidden details. The team describes its breakthrough results and their applications in a paper published today in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.
 
Firefighters can see through smoke using current IR camera technology. However, such instruments are blinded by the intense infrared radiation emitted by flames, which overwhelm the sensitive detectors and limit their use in the field. By employing a specialized lens-free technique, the researchers have created a system that is able to cope with the flood of radiation from an environment filled with flames as well as smoke.
 
“IR cameras cannot ‘see’ objects or humans behind flames because of the need for a zoom lens that concentrates the rays on the sensor to form the image,” says Pietro Ferraro of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) Istituto Nazionale di Ottica in Italy. By eliminating the need for the zoom lens, the new technique avoids this drawback.
 
“It became clear to us that we had in our hands a technology that could be exploited by emergency responders and firefighters at a fire scene to see through smoke without being blinded by flames, a limitation of existing technology,” Ferraro says. “Perhaps most importantly, we demonstrated for the first time that a holographic recording of a live person can be achieved even while the body is moving.”
 
Holography is a means of producing a 3-D image of an object. To create a hologram, such as those typically seen on credit cards, a laser beam is split into two (an object beam and a reference beam). The object beam is shone onto the object being imaged. When the reflected object beam and the reference beam are recombined, they create an interference pattern that encodes the 3-D image.
 
In the researchers’ new imaging system, a beam of infrared laser light is widely dispersed throughout a room. Unlike visible light, which cannot penetrate thick smoke and flames, the IR rays pass through largely unhindered. The IR light does, however, reflect off of any objects or people in the room, and the information carried by this reflected light is recorded by a holographic imager. It is then decoded to reveal the objects beyond the smoke and flames. The result is a live, 3-D movie of the room and its contents.

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Flying hawk moth inspires robotics

Flying hawk moth inspires robotics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The hawk moth's wings are a blur of mottled grey motion as it hovers tethered to a steel rod in large white plastic orb. Outside the orb in the darkened room where I stand, a projector casts moving patterns of dimmed light onto the sphere's surface, illuminating the moth's field of vision with oscillating stripes.

 

Tonya Muller, a DPhil student in Oxford University's Department of Zoology, sits at the computer controlling the experiment. At regular intervals, she directs the computer to alter the direction, amplitude and frequency of the light stripes.

 

These changing light patterns create altered visual environments for the moth inside, which aim to simulate real-world visual disruptions the moth might experience when exposed to wind gusts. As the patterns change, the moth makes rapid adjustments to its flight behaviour to maintain constant stability.

Though imperceptible to the human eye, the moth's responses to the visual stimuli are detected by a force sensor attached to the end of the steel rod and relayed to Tonya's computer. These recordings are helping Tonya to understand the moth's remarkable visual-motor system, and identify the mechanisms of visual feedback in insect flight control.

 

'Understanding vision-based flight control in insects has far reaching uses in the fields of sensor development, signal processing, and robotics,' says Tonya, whose background is in mechanical engineering. Vision is important for information gathering in insects and up to 50% of an insect's brain can be composed of visual neurons. In fact, despite their small brain size, insects can solve extremely sophisticated orientation problems both rapidly and reliably. Yet their eyes are far less sophisticated than our own.

 

'Insects receive visual information through a relatively noisy, low-resolution sensor. But with this sensor they are able to processes information at sufficient speeds to react and respond to unexpected disturbances,' Tonya tells me.'This is extremely interesting from an engineering perspective because developing technologies that use simpler and fewer electrical sensors and perform equally well can reduce manufacturing costs and computational power.'

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The next generation of vertical take-off flight

The next generation of vertical take-off flight | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The DARPA Tactical Technology Office is soliciting proposals on the design, development and demonstration of a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) experimental aircraft (X-Plane) with exceptional performance in vertical and cruise flight, and operational capability through transition from vertical to forward flight

 

Higher speeds, increased efficiency, elegant designs are the focus of DARPA’s new VTOL X-Plane. The versatility of helicopters and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft make them ideal for a host of military operations.


Helicopters are slower — leaving them more vulnerable to damage from enemy weapons. Special operations that rely on lightning-quick strikes and medical units that transport patients to care facilities need enhanced speed to shorten mission times, increase mission range, reduce the number of refueling events and, most important, reduce exposure to the adversary.

 

However, “for the past 50 years, we have seen jets go higher and faster while VTOL aircraft speeds have flat-lined and designs have become increasingly complex,” saidAshish Bagai, DARPA program manager.

 

“To overcome this problem, DARPA has launched the VTOL X-Plane program to challenge industry and innovative engineers to concurrently push the envelope in four areas: speed, hover efficiency, cruise efficiency and useful load capacity.”

 

“We have not made this easy,” he continued. “Strapping rockets onto the back of a helicopter is not the type of approach we’re looking for. The engineering community is familiar with the numerous attempts in the past that have not worked. This time, rather than tweaking past designs, we are looking for true cross-pollinations of designs and technologies from the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds. The elegant confluence of these engineering design paradigms is where this program should find some interesting results.”

 
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UCSF: Secrets of Human Speech Uncovered

UCSF: Secrets of Human Speech Uncovered | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A team of researchers at UC San Francisco has uncovered the neurological basis of speech motor control, the complex coordinated activity of tiny brain regions that controls our lips, jaw, tongue and larynx as we speak.

 

The work has potential implications for developing computer-brain interfaces for artificial speech communication and for the treatment of speech disorders. It also sheds light on an ability that is unique to humans among living creatures but poorly understood.

 

“Speaking is so fundamental to who we are as humans – nearly all of us learn to speak,” said senior author Edward Chang, MD, a neurosurgeon at the UCSF Epilepsy Center and a faculty member in the UCSF Center for Integrative Neuroscience. “But it’s probably the most complex motor activity we do.”

 

The complexity comes from the fact that spoken words require the coordinated efforts of numerous “articulators” in the vocal tract – the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx – but scientists have not understood how the movements of these distinct articulators are precisely coordinated in the brain.

 

To understand how speech articulation works, Chang and his colleagues recorded electrical activity directly from the brains of three people undergoing brain surgery at UCSF, and used this information to determine the spatial organization of the “speech sensorimotor cortex,” which controls the lips, tongue, jaw, larynx as a person speaks. This gave them a map of which parts of the brain control which parts of the vocal tract.

 

They then applied a sophisticated new method called “state-space” analysis to observe the complex spatial and temporal patterns of neural activity in the speech sensorimotor cortex that play out as someone speaks. This revealed a surprising sophistication in how the brain's speech sensorimotor cortex works.

 

They found that this cortical area has a hierarchical and cyclical structure that exerts a split-second, symphony-like control over the tongue, jaw, larynx and lips.

 

“These properties may reflect cortical strategies to greatly simplify the complex coordination of articulators in fluent speech,” said Kristofer Bouchard, PhD. In the same way that a symphony relies upon all the players to coordinate their plucks, beats or blows to make music, speaking demands well-timed action of several various brain regions within the speech sensorimotor cortex.

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US teen Taylor Wilson designs compact nuclear reactor that burns nuclear waste

US teen Taylor Wilson designs compact nuclear reactor that burns nuclear waste | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Taylor Ramon Wilson, born May 7, 1994, is an American nuclear scientist who was noted in 2008 for being the youngest person in the world (at age 14) to build a working nuclear fusion reactor. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Energy offered federal funding to Wilson concerning research Wilson has conducted in building inexpensive Cherenkov radiation detectors. Wilson has declined on an interim basis due to pending patent issues, though several other men who share his name have accidentally given interviews in his stead. In May 2011, Wilson entered his radiation detector in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair against a field of 1,500 competitors and won a $50,000 award. The project was entitled “Countering Nuclear Terrorism: Novel Active and Passive Techniques for Detecting Nuclear Threats” and won the First Place Award in the Physics and Astronomy Category, Best of Category Award, and the Intel Young Scientist Award. Wilson stated he hopes to test and rapidly field the devices to U.S. ports for counterterrorism purposes.

 

Now Wilson has designed a compact nuclear reactor that could one day burn waste from old atomic weapons to power anything from homes and factories to space colonies. "It's about bringing something old, fission, into the 21st Century," Wilson said. "I think this has huge potential to change the world."

He has designed a small reactor capable of generating 50-100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power as many as 100,000 homes.

 

The reactor can be made assembly-line style and powered by molten radioactive material from nuclear weapons, Wilson said. The relatively small, modular reactor can be shipped sealed with enough fuel to last for 30 years.

"You can plop them down anywhere in the world and they work, buried under the ground for security reasons," he said, while detailing his design at TED.

 

"In the Cold War we built up this huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and we don't need them anymore," Wilson said. "It would be great if we could eat them up, and this reactor loves this stuff."

 

His reactors are designed to spin turbines using gas instead of steam, meaning they operate at temperatures lower than those of typical nuclear reactors and don't spew anything if there is a breach. The fuel is in the form of molten salt, and the reactors don't need to be pressurized, according to the teenager.


"In the event of an accident, you can just drain the core into a tank under the reactor with neutron absorbers and the reaction stops," Wilson said.

"There is no inclination for the fission products to leave this reactor," he said. "In an accident, the reactor may be toast, which is sorry for the power company, but there is no problem."

 

Wilson, who graduated grade school in May, said he is putting off university to focus on a company he created to make Modular Fission Reactors.

He sees his competition as nations, particularly China, and the roadblocks ahead as political instead of technical. Wilson planned to have a prototype ready in two years and a product to market in five years.


"Not only does it combat climate change, it can bring power to the developing world," Wilson said with teenage optimism. "Imagine having a compact reactor in a rocket designed by those planning to habitat other planets. Not only would you have power for propulsion, but power once you get there."

 
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Peter Phillips's curator insight, March 3, 2013 4:44 AM

Child genius...

 

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Brain Plasticity: Can Ectopic Eyes See Outside of the Head?

Brain Plasticity: Can Ectopic Eyes See Outside of the Head? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Recently, we have witnessed remarkable, fictional-sounding advancements in science and medicine. Using embryos from the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), scientists at Tufts’ Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology were able to transplant eye primordia—cells that will eventually grow into an eye—from one tadpole’s head to another’s posterior, flank, or tail. They didn't connect nerve endings or “wiring” or anything like that. They just cut out the cells from the head, slice open the side or the tail, and jam them in.

 

As the eyes grow, they send out nerve fibesr, or axons. We know this because the “tissue donor” tadpoles were labeled with tdTomato, a red fluorescent protein. This allowed the researchers to watch innervation, or nerve growth, as it happened. Of those eye primordia that sent out axons, nearly half hardwired directly into the spine, while the other half built connections to the nearby stomach. None of the tadpoles grew tdTomato-marked pathways to the brain, however.

 

Before they could test the ectopic eyes for functionality, the native ones had to be severed and removed. Otherwise, how would the scientists know which of the tadpole’s three eyes was truly seeing? Finally, it was time to put the aberrant eyes to the test. Using an underwater arena rigged with blue and red LEDs and electric shock, scientists ran through an exhaustive array of controls and variables. Interestingly, the tadpoles with no eyes at all could still react to LED changes, revealing that they may have other ways of sensing light. However, they proved woefully inadequate at avoiding electro shocks, showing whatever information they were getting was ultimately flawed or unusable. On the other end of the spectrum were the control tadpoles with normal eyes that quickly learned to avoid the shocks through the scientists’ regimen of aversive conditioning. Amazingly, a statistically significant portion of the transplanted one eye tadpoles could not only detect LED changes, but they showed learning behavior when confronted with electric shock. Though eyes have been placed on or near rat brains in previous studies with success, this result marked the first time a vertebrate eye has been able to send visual information to the brain without a direct connection—and from as far away as the other end of the organism.

 

Obviously, many questions remain. For instance, how does the brain know information coming up the spine from the tail is visual? It should have no idea what that aberrant eye is blinking about—and yet it seems to take the information in stride. The paper suggests perhaps different types of data are somehow marked, not altogether different from the way we demarcate files and commands in a computer.

 

Ahead lies everything from better computer brain interfaces to bioengineered organ systems. If we can understand the limits of the brain’s plasticity, we might be able to one day create cybernetic devices that don’t just do what we program, but discover on their own what is required.

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NATURE: First Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information

NATURE: First Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A brain-to-brain interface (BTBI) enabled a real-time transfer of behaviorally meaningful sensorimotor information between the brains of two rats. In this BTBI, an “encoder” rat performed sensorimotor tasks that required it to select from two choices of tactile or visual stimuli. While the encoder rat performed the task, samples of its cortical activity were transmitted to matching cortical areas of a “decoder” rat using intracortical microstimulation (ICMS). The decoder rat learned to make similar behavioral selections, guided solely by the information provided by the encoder rat's brain. These results demonstrated that a complex system was formed by coupling the animals' brains, suggesting that BTBIs can enable dyads or networks of animal's brains to exchange, process, and store information and, hence, serve as the basis for studies of novel types of social interaction and for biological computing devices.


In his seminal study on information transfer between biological organisms, Ralph Hartley wrote that “in any given communication the sender mentally selects a particular symbol and by some bodily motion, as his vocal mechanism, causes the receiver to be directed to that particular symbol”.

 

Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) have emerged as a new paradigm that allows brain-derived information to control artificial actuators and communicate the subject's motor intention to the outside world without the interference of the subject's body. For the past decade and a half, numerous studies have shown how brain-derived motor signals can be utilized to control the movements of a variety of mechanical, electronic and even virtual external devices. Recently, intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) has been added to the classical BMI paradigm to allow artificial sensory feedback signals, generated by these brain-controlled actuators, to be delivered back to the subject's brain simultaneously with the extraction of cortical motor commands.

 

In the present study, a research group took the BMI approach to a new direction altogether and tested whether it could be employed to establish a new artificial communication channel between animals; one capable of transmitting behaviorally relevant sensorimotor information in real-time between two brains that, for all purposes, would from now on act together towards the fulfillment of a particular behavioral task. Previously, the same team reported that specific motor and sensory parameters can be extracted from populations of cortical neurons using linear or nonlinear decoders in real-time. Here, the scientists tested the hypothesis that a similar decoding performed by a “recipient brain” was sufficient to guide behavioral responses in sensorimotor tasks, therefore constituting a Brain-to-Brain Interface (BTBI). To test this hypothesis, they conducted three experiments in which different patterns of cortical sensorimotor signals, coding a particular behavioral response, were recorded in one rat (heretofore named the “encoder” rat) and then transmitted directly to the brain of another animal (i.e. the “decoder” rat), via intra-cortical microstimulation (ICMS). All BTBI experiments described below were conducted in awake, behaving rats chronically implanted with cortical microelectrode arrays capable of both neuronal ensemble recordings and intracortical microstimulation. The scientists demonstrated that pairs of rats could cooperate through a BTBI to achieve a common behavioral goal.


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Study Finds Genetic Risk Factors Shared by 5 Psychiatric Disorders

Study Finds Genetic Risk Factors Shared by 5 Psychiatric Disorders | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The psychiatric illnesses seem very different — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet they share several genetic glitches that can nudge the brain along a path to mental illness, researchers report. Which disease, if any, develops is thought to depend on other genetic or environmental factors.

 

Their study analysed genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data for the five disorders in 33 332 cases and 27 888 controls of European ancestory. To characterise allelic effects on each disorder, they applied a multinomial logistic regression procedure with model selection to identify the best-fitting model of relations between genotype and phenotype. The research team examined cross-disorder effects of genome-wide significant loci previously identified for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and used polygenic risk-score analysis to examine such effects from a broader set of common variants. They undertook pathway analyses to establish the biological associations underlying genetic overlap for the five disorders and used enrichment analysis of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) data to assess whether SNPs with cross-disorder association were enriched for regulatory SNPs in post-mortem brain-tissue samples.Findings: SNPs at four loci surpassed the cutoff for genome-wide significance (p<5×10−8) in the primary analysis, Regions on chromosomes 3p21 and 10q24, and SNPs within two L-type voltage-gated calcium channel subunits, CACNA1C and CACNB2. Model selection analysis supported effects of these loci for several disorders. Loci previously associated with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia had variable diagnostic specificity. Polygenic risk scores showed cross-disorder associations, notably between adult-onset disorders. Pathway analysis supported a role for calcium channel signalling genes for all five disorders. Finally, SNPs with evidence of cross-disorder association were enriched for brain eQTL markers.The new study does not mean that the genetics of psychiatric disorders are simple. Researchers say there seem to be hundreds of genes involved and the gene variations discovered in the new study confer only a small risk of psychiatric disease.

 

Steven McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., said it was significant that the researchers had found common genetic factors that pointed to a specific signaling system. “It is very important that these were not just random hits on the dartboard of the genome,” said Dr. McCarroll, who was not involved in the new study.

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Hubble has spotted an ancient fully-formed galaxy that shouldn't exist

Hubble has spotted an ancient fully-formed galaxy that shouldn't exist | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The galaxy BX442 is so large, so fully-formed, that astronomers say it shouldn't exist at all. It's called a "grand-design" spiral galaxy, and unlike most galaxies of its kind, this one is very old. According to a new study conducted by researchers using NASA's Hubble Telescope, it dates back roughly 10.7-billion years — and that makes it the most ancient spiral galaxy we've ever discovered.

 

"The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding," said University of Toronto's David Law, lead author of the study. "Current wisdom holds that such ‘grand-design' spiral galaxies simply didn't exist at such an early time in the history of the universe."

 

The hallmark of a grand design galaxy is its well-formed spiral arms, but getting into this conformation takes time. When astronomers look at most galaxies as they appeared billions and billions of years ago, they look clumpy and irregular. A 10.7-billion-year-old entity, BX442 came into existence a mere 3-billion years after the Big Bang. That's not a lot of time on a cosmic time scale, and yet BX442 looks surprisingly put together. So much so, in fact, that astronomers didn't believe it at first, chalking their unusual observation up to the accidental alignment of two separate galaxies. But further investigations, conducted at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, revealed BX442 to be the real thing.

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A way of predicting whether a given glass will be brittle or ductile—a property typically associated with metals

A way of predicting whether a given glass will be brittle or ductile—a property typically associated with metals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Glass doesn't have to be brittle. Scientists propose a way of predicting whether a given glass will be brittle or ductile—a property typically associated with metals like steel or aluminum—and assert that any glass could have either quality.

 

A Yale University team and collaborators propose a way of predicting whether a given glass will be brittle or ductile—a desirable property typically associated with metals like steel or aluminum—and assert that any glass could have either quality.

 

Ductility refers to a material's plasticity, or its ability to change shape without breaking. "Most of us think of glasses as brittle, but our finding shows that any glass can be made ductile or brittle," said Jan Schroers, a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale, who led the research with Golden Kumar, a professor at Texas Tech University. "We identified a special temperature that tells you whether you form a ductile or brittle glass." The key to forming a ductile glass, they said, is cooling it fast. Exactly how fast depends on the nature of the specific glass. Focusing on a new group of glasses known as bulk metallic glasses (BMGs)—metal alloys, or blends, that can be extremely pliable yet also as strong as steel—researchers studied the effect of a so-called critical fictive temperature (CFT) on the glasses' mechanical properties at room temperature. When forming from liquid, there is a temperature at which glass becomes too viscous for reconfiguration and freezes. This temperature is called the glass transition temperature. Based on experiments with three representative bulk metallic glasses, the researchers said there is also, for each distinct alloy, a critical temperature that determines the brittleness or plasticity of the glass. This is the CFT.

 

Researchers said it's possible to categorize glasses in two groups—those that will be brittle because in liquid form their CFT is above the glass transition temperature, and those that will be ductile, because in liquid form their CFT is below the glass transition temperature. They previously thought a liquid's chemical composition alone would determine whether a glass would be brittle or ductile. "That's not the case," Schroers said. "We can make any glass theoretically ductile or brittle. And it is the critical fictive temperature which determines how experimentally difficult it is to make a ductile glass. That is the major contribution of this work." The finding applies theoretically to all glasses, not metallic glasses only, he said. "A glass can have completely different properties depending on the rate at which you cool it," Schroers said. "If you cool it fast, it is very ductile, and if you cool it slow it's very brittle. We anticipate that our finding will contribute to the design of ductile glasses, and in general contribute to a deeper understanding of glass formation."

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MIT: Chemists find help from fungi in identifying cancer fighting drugs

MIT: Chemists find help from fungi in identifying cancer fighting drugs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Study of several dozen compounds based on a fungal chemical shows potent anti-tumor activity.

 

Inspired by a chemical that fungi secrete to defend their territory, MIT chemists have synthesized and tested several dozen compounds that may hold promise as potential cancer drugs.

A few years ago, MIT researchers led by associate professor of chemistry Mohammad Movassaghi became the first to chemically synthesize 11,11’-dideoxyverticillin, a highly complex fungal compound that has shown anti-cancer activity in previous studies. This and related compounds naturally occur in such small amounts that it has been difficult to do a comprehensive study of the relationship between the compound’s structure and its activity — research that could aid drug development, Movassaghi says.

“There’s a lot of data out there, very exciting data, but one thing we were interested in doing is taking a large panel of these compounds, and for the first time, evaluating them in a uniform manner,” Movassaghi says.

In the new study, recently published online in the journal Chemical Science, Movassaghi and colleagues at MIT and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) designed and tested 60 compounds for their ability to kill human cancer cells. 

“What was particularly exciting to us was to see, across various cancer cell lines, that some of them are quite potent,” Movassaghi says. Larry Overman, a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Irvine, says the new study is an impressive advance. “Movassaghi and coworkers reveal for the first time a number of relationships between the chemical structure of molecules in the ETP series and their in-vitro anti-cancer activity,” says Overman, who was not part of the research team. “Knowledge of this type will be essential for the future development of ETP-type molecules into attractive clinical candidates and potential novel anti-cancer drugs.”

Now that they have some initial data, the researchers can use their findings to design additional compounds that might be even more effective. “We can go in with far greater precision and test the hypotheses we’re developing in terms of what portions of the molecules are most significant at retaining or enhancing biological activity,” Movassaghi says.

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Scientists Develop Completely Stretchable Batteries And Electronics

Scientists Develop Completely Stretchable Batteries And Electronics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Northwestern University’s Yonggang Huang and the University of Illinois’ John A. Rogers are the first to demonstrate a stretchable lithium-ion battery -- a flexible device capable of powering their innovative stretchable electronics.

 

No longer needing to be connected by a cord to an electrical outlet, the stretchable electronic devices now could be used anywhere, including inside the human body. The implantable electronics could monitor anything from brain waves to heart activity, succeeding where flat, rigid batteries would fail.

 

Huang and Rogers have demonstrated a battery that continues to work -- powering a commercial light-emitting diode (LED) -- even when stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow. The battery can work for eight to nine hours before it needs recharging, which can be done wirelessly.

The new battery enables true integration of electronics and power into a small, stretchable package.

 

Huang and Rogers have been working together for the last six years on stretchable electronics, and designing a cordless power supply has been a major challenge. Now they have solved the problem with their clever “space filling technique,” which delivers a small, high-powered battery.

 

For their stretchable electronic circuits, the two developed “pop-up” technology that allows circuits to bend, stretch and twist. They created an array of tiny circuit elements connected by metal wire “pop-up bridges.” When the array is stretched, the wires -- not the rigid circuits -- pop up.

This approach works for circuits but not for a stretchable battery. A lot of space is needed in between components for the “pop-up” interconnect to work. Circuits can be spaced out enough in an array, but battery components must be packed tightly to produce a powerful but small battery. There is not enough space between battery components for the “pop-up” technology to work.

 

Huang’s design solution is to use metal wire interconnects that are long, wavy lines, filling the small space between battery components. The power travels through the interconnects.

 

The unique mechanism is a “spring within a spring”: The line connecting the components is a large “S” shape and within that “S” are many smaller “S’s.” When the battery is stretched, the large “S” first stretches out and disappears, leaving a line of small squiggles. The stretching continues, with the small squiggles disappearing as the interconnect between electrodes becomes taut.

 

“We call this ordered unraveling,” Huang said. “And this is how we can produce a battery that stretches up to 300 percent of its original size.”

The stretching process is reversible, and the battery can be recharged wirelessly. The battery’s design allows for the integration of stretchable, inductive coils to enable charging through an external source but without the need for a physical connection.

 

Huang, Rogers and their teams found the battery capable of 20 cycles of recharging with little loss in capacity. The system they report in the paper consists of a square array of 100 electrode disks, electrically connected in parallel.

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