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mEosFP-Based Green-to-Red Photoconvertible Subcellular Probes based on GFP variants

mEosFP-Based Green-to-Red Photoconvertible Subcellular Probes based on GFP variants | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (FPs) are recent additions to the biologists’ toolbox for understanding the living cell. Like green fluorescent protein (GFP), monomeric EosFP is bright green in color but is efficiently photoconverted into a red fluorescent form using a mild violet-blue excitation. Here, we report mEosFP-based probes that localize to the cytosol, plasma membrane invaginations, endosomes, prevacuolar vesicles, vacuoles, the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi bodies, mitochondria, peroxisomes, and the two major cytoskeletal elements, filamentous actin and cortical microtubules.


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Bdelloids Surviving on Borrowed DNA

Bdelloids Surviving on Borrowed DNA | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The bdelloids are a "genetic mosaic. They take pieces of DNA from all over the place," says study author Alan Tunnacliffe, a molecular biologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "Bdelloids biochemistry is a mosaic in the same way. It's a real mishmash of activities."

 

For creatures of such superhero-like abilities, microscopic bdelloids—which are distantly related to flatworms—are happy in humble surroundings. The roughly 400 species of bdelloids live in fresh and brackish water, including puddles, sewage-treatment tanks, and drops of moisture adhering to soil. They have a handy ability to survive the sudden disappearance of their aquatic homes; the desiccation-survival record is 9 years. What's even stranger, from an evolutionary biologist's point of view, is the bdelloid's long-term asexuality. For perhaps 80 million years, all bdelloids have been female only, contentedly reproducing without males -- and defying biologists' ideas about the centrality of sex. Sexual reproduction, the thinking goes, introduces genetic variation and so allows a species to adapt to a changing environment and to genetic degradation. It's commonly thought that animals that forgo sex eventually go extinct, but the bdelloid provides a glaring exception to the rule. Legendary biologist John Maynard Smith was so flummoxed by the bdelloids that he called them an "evolutionary scandal."

 

In 2008, a separate group of researchers found that bdelloids contain some foreign DNA in a small region of their genomes. Tunnacliffe and his colleagues decided to find out the extent of that foreign genetic material. So they turned to the bdelloid Adineta ricciae, which was discovered in a small Australian billabong, or lake. When the scientists sequenced the bdelloid DNA that provides the blueprints for active genes, they found that roughly 10% of that DNA had been borrowed from other creatures. All told, the bdelloid had adopted DNA from more than 500 different species. By comparing the foreign sequences to genetic databases, the researchers learned that many of the sequences are responsible for directing the production of enzymes found in simple organisms but unknown in complex animals. Two genes, for example, give rise to bacterial enzymes that help break down the toxic chemical benzyl cyanide. Two more genes, this time from parasitic protozoa, direct the manufacture of a compound that can ward off cellular damage. Nearly 40% of the animal's enzymatic activity includes a foreign component, Tunnacliffe says. The proportion of the bdelloid's active genes that it got from other sources "is a really surprising big deal," says evolutionary biologist David Mark Welch of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. "If this is all true, they are bringing in DNA all the time."

 

The analysis of foreign gene products is especially interesting because it provides a clue to the bdelloid's endurance in the face of bad conditions, says biologist Bernard Angers of the University of Montreal in Canada who has studied atypical reproduction and genetic diversity. Tunnacliffe says it's not clear how the bdelloids come by the foreign DNA, but it may supply them with enough fresh genetic material to overcome the disadvantages of asexuality. And the bdelloids' genetic hodgepodge makes an appealingly strange group of animals even stranger.

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NASA: Martian Atmosphere Free Of Methane Gas

NASA: Martian Atmosphere Free Of Methane Gas | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Methane has been difficult to detect from Earth and the gas seems to exist on Mars only in traces, if at all. The Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) in SAM provides the first search conducted within the Martian atmosphere for this molecule. The initial SAM measurements place an upper limit of just a few parts methane per billion parts of Martian atmosphere, by volume, with enough uncertainty that the amount could be zero.

 

"Methane is clearly not an abundant gas at the Gale Crater site, if it is there at all. At this point in the mission we're just excited to be searching for it," said SAM TLS lead Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "While we determine upper limits on low values, atmospheric variability in the Martian atmosphere could yet hold surprises for us."

 

In Curiosity's first three months on Mars, SAM has analyzed atmosphere samples with two laboratory methods. One is a mass spectrometer investigating the full range of atmospheric gases. The other, TLS, has focused on carbon dioxide and methane. During its two-year prime mission, the rover also will use an instrument called a gas chromatograph that separates and identifies gases. The instrument also will analyze samples of soil and rock, as well as more atmosphere samples.

 

"With these first atmospheric measurements we already can see the power of having a complex chemical laboratory like SAM on the surface of Mars," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Both atmospheric and solid sample analyses are crucial for understanding Mars' habitability."

 

SAM is set to analyze its first solid sample in the coming weeks, beginning the search for organic compounds in the rocks and soils of Gale Crater. Analyzing water-bearing minerals and searching for and analyzing carbonates are high priorities for upcoming SAM solid sample analyses.

 

Researchers are using Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. JPL manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The SAM Instrument was developed at Goddard with instrument contributions from Goddard, JPL and the University of Paris in France.

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The Brain Bank - Optogenetics explained

The Brain Bank - Optogenetics explained | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

If the system underlying the ‘mind’ is a network of neurons constantly firing and wiring, then surely ‘mind control’ could be achieved by controlling the activity of neurons? Imagine being able to switch groups of neurons on and off instantaneously as simply as flipping a light switch. In fact, why not use light itself to control neurons; to control minds? How would you turn neurons deep in the dark depths of your brain into light-responders?……….Welcome to optogenetics (‘opto’ comes from ‘optos’, Greek for ‘visible’).

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New injectable gels toughen up after entering the body

New injectable gels toughen up after entering the body | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Gels that can be injected into the body, carrying drugs or cells that regenerate damaged tissue, hold promise for treating many types of disease, including cancer. However, these injectable gels don’t always maintain their solid structure once inside the body.

 

MIT chemical engineers have now designed an injectable gel that responds to the body’s high temperature by forming a reinforcing network that makes the gel much more durable, allowing it to function over a longer period of time. However, a drawback of these materials is that after they are injected into the body, they are still vulnerable to mechanical stresses. If such stresses make them undergo the transition to a liquid-like state again, they can fall apart.

 

The MIT team answered that question by creating a reinforcing network within their gels that is activated only when the gel is heated to body temperature (37 degrees Celsius). Shear thinning gels can be made with many different materials (including polymers such as polyethylene glycol, or PEG), but Olsen’s lab is focusing on protein hydrogels, which are appealing because they can be designed relatively easily to promote biological functions such as cellular adhesion and cell migration.

 

The protein hydrogels in this study consist of loosely packed proteins held together by links between protein segments known as coiled coils, which form when two or three helical proteins coil into a ropelike structure. The MIT researchers designed their hydrogel to include a second reinforcing network, which takes shape when polymers attached to the ends of each protein bind together. At lower temperatures, these polymers are soluble in water, so they float freely in the gel. However, when heated to body temperature, they become insoluble and separate out of the watery solution. This allows them to join together and form a sturdy grid within the gel, making it much more durable.

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World’s First 3D Printing Photo Booth to Open in Japan

World’s First 3D Printing Photo Booth to Open in Japan | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
3D printers – it’s a word that offers glimpses into the future that seems so far, and yet is so close. The technology, which allows you to replicate 3D objects the same way you make a photo copy, has been around for a couple years now, but, for the most part, has been far too expensive and inaccessible to the public.

 

But now, what’s being called the world’s first 3D printing photo booth is set to open for a limited time at the exhibition space EYE OF GYRE in Harajuku. From November 24 to January 14, 2013, people with reservations can go and have their portraits taken. Except, instead of a photograph, you’ll receive miniature replicas of yourselves.

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Super-sensory hearing? Newly identified hearing organ in bushcrickets' ears may inspire acoustic sensors

Super-sensory hearing? Newly identified hearing organ in bushcrickets' ears may inspire acoustic sensors | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The discovery of a previously unidentified hearing organ in the South American bushcrickets' ear could pave the way for technological advancements in bio-inspired acoustic sensors research, including medical imaging and hearing aid development.

 

Researchers from the University of Bristol and University of Lincoln discovered the missing piece of the jigsaw in the understanding of the process of energy transformation in the 'unconventional' ears of the bushcrickets (or katydids).


Bushcrickets have four tympana (or ear drums) -- two on each foreleg; but until now it has been unknown how the various organs connect in order for the insect to hear. As the tympana (a membrane which vibrates in reaction to sound) does not directly connect with the mechanoreceptors (sensory receptors), it was a mystery how sound was transmitted from air to the mechano-sensory cells.


Sponsored by the Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP), the research was developed in the lab of Professor Daniel Robert, a Royal Society Fellow at the University of Bristol. Dr Fernando Montealegre-Z, who is now at the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, discovered a newly identified organ while carrying out research into how the bushcricket tubing system in the ear transports sound. The research focussed on the bushcricket Copiphora gorgonensis, a neotropical species from the National Park Gorgona in Colombia, an island in the Pacific. Results suggest that the bushcricket ear operates in a manner analogous to that of mammals. Dr. Montealegre-Z said: "We discovered a novel structure that constitutes the key element in hearing in these insects, which had not been considered in previous work. The organ is a fluid-filled vesicle, which we have named the 'Auditory Vesicle'. This hearing organ mediates the process of conversion of acoustic energy (sound waves) to mechanical, hydraulic and electrochemical energy. The integration laser Doppler vibrometry and micro-CT scanning allowed us to identify the auditory vesicle and to conclude that the process relies on a tympanal lever system analogous to the mammalian ossicles. This serves to transmit air-borne vibrations to the fluid (the auditory vesicle), and also on the mechanoreceptors. Therefore the bushcricket ear performs the crucial stage of air to liquid impedance conversion and amplification just as in a mammal's ear."

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Google inaugurates its super-high-speed Internet service

Google inaugurates its super-high-speed Internet service | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

After years in the making, Google announced today that it has started connecting people in Kansas City, Kan., to its ultra high-speed fiber-to-the-home Internet service. Acting as guinea pigs of sorts, these locals will be the first people in the world who get to test out Google's new service and decide whether it lives up to the hype.

 

When Google first announced its nationwide Google Fiber project in 2010, around 1,100 U.S. towns and cities applied to get in on the deal. When Kansas City won out, Google Access General Manager Kevin Lo said, "new high-speed infrastructure will ultimately be carrying Kansas Citians' data at speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today."


Now, as the service officially kicks off, Google is making sure that its customers know what to expect. The company's representatives are going door-to-door letting people know their service is on the way and how the installation will work.

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Twisted Landscapes of Google Earth’s Universal Texture Mapping Software

Twisted Landscapes of Google Earth’s Universal Texture Mapping Software | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Postcards from Google Earth is a series of screenshots artist Clement Valla took from Google Earth. These uncanny landscapes document technical anomalies in the software, which uses a technology called texture mapping. Like patterned wrapping paper covering a plain white box, a texture map is a flat image applied to a 3D model, thereby adding detail, color and surface texture. In the case of Google Earth, flat images taken by satellite are pasted on a 3D model of the globe. This massive collage of satellite images from various sources is stitched together (favoring daylight images with no clouds) to create the illusion of continuity.

 

The Brooklyn-based Valla writes: "These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They reveal a new model of representation: not through indexical photographs but through automated data collection from a myriad of different sources constantly updated and endlessly combined to create a seamless illusion; Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them."

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Aji Black Stone's comment, November 16, 2012 11:06 AM
that's a major mistake...
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These bots were made for walking: Cells power biological machines

These bots were made for walking: Cells power biological machines | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

They’re soft, biocompatible, about 7 millimeters long – and, incredibly, able to walk by themselves. Miniature “bio-bots” developed at the University of Illinois are making tracks in synthetic biology. Designing non-electronic biological machines has been a riddle that scientists at the interface of biology and engineering have struggled to solve. The walking bio-bots demonstrate the Illinois team’s ability to forward-engineer functional machines using only hydrogel, heart cells and a 3-D printer. With an altered design, the bio-bots could be customized for specific applications in medicine, energy or the environment.

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Mind-controlled robot avatars inch towards reality

Mind-controlled robot avatars inch towards reality | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The software necessary for mind-controlled robot avatars is being developed by an international team of researchers in Japan.

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Data Wall: IBM Think Exhibit

Data Wall: IBM Think Exhibit | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Located on Jaffe Drive at Lincoln Center in New York, the THINK exhibit combined three unique experiences to engage visitors in a conversation about how we can improve the way we live and work. 

 

The IBM data wall was the introduction to the Think Exhibit at the Lincoln Center. This exhibit celebrated its centennial year, and 100 years of human progress.

The wall aimed to educate the public about five areas of interest to the New York community. These included air quality, water waste, potential solar energy, fraud detection, and traffic sensing.

 

Visit the portfolio link to view detail images of the Data Wall, as well as concept sketches and explanations for the design for the solar and traffic sections.


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Aji Black Stone's comment, November 16, 2012 11:11 AM
wow
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Fracking and Shale Oil Won’t Lead to U.S. Energy Independence

Fracking and Shale Oil Won’t Lead to U.S. Energy Independence | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The United States could see a surge in oil production that could make it the world’s leading oil producer within a decade, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency. But that lead will likely be temporary, and it still won’t allow the United States to stop importing oil. Barring technological breakthroughs in oil production and major reductions in consumption, the United States will need to rely on oil from outside its borders for the foreseeable future.

 

This week’s IEA report predicts that a relatively new technology for extracting oil from shale rock could make the United States the world’s leading oil producer within a decade, beating the current leader, Saudi Arabia. The idea that the U.S. could overtake Saudi Arabia, even temporarily, is a stunning development after years of seemingly inexorable declines in domestic oil production. U.S. production had fallen from 10 million barrels a day in the 1980s to 6.9 barrels per day in 2008, even as consumption increased from 15.7 million barrels per day in 1985 to 19.5 million barrels per day in 2008. The IEA estimates that production could reach 11.1 million barrels per day by 2020, almost entirely because of increases in the production of shale oil, which is extracted using the same horizontal drilling and fracking techniques that have flooded the U.S. with cheap natural gas.

 

As of the end of 2011, production had already increased to 8.1 million barrels per day, almost entirely because of shale oil. Production from two major shale resources in the U.S.—the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana and the Eagle Ford shale in Texas, now total about 900,000 barrels per day. In comparison, Saudi Arabia is expected to produce 10.6 million barrels per day in 2020.The shale oil resource, however, is limited. The IEA expects production to start gradually declining by the mid-2020s, at which time Saudi Arabia will reclaim the top spot.

 

Shale oil is creating a surge in U.S. oil production in part because it’s easy to find, says David Houseknecht, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey. The oil is spread over large areas, compared to the relatively small pockets of more conventional oil deposits in the United States. So whereas wildcatters drilling for conventional oil might come up empty two-thirds of the time or more, over 95 percent of shale oil wells strike oil.

 

Just how much shale oil can be produced—and how fast—depends heavily on two factors: the price of oil, and how easy it is to overcome possible local objections to oil fracking, says Richard Sears, a former executive at Royal Dutch Shell and a visiting scientist at MIT. Oil shale costs significantly more to produce than oil in Saudi Arabia and many other parts of the world, so for oil companies to go after this resource, oil prices need to stay relatively high. It’s hard to put a firm number on it, but Sears estimates that $50 to $60 a barrel would be enough, compared to the $85 per barrel price of oil now. Houseknecht puts the cost of production at closer to $70 a barrel. Although costs for producing conventional oil in the Middle East also vary, they typically don’t change more than $10 per barrel.

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James Krall's curator insight, October 7, 2013 12:42 AM

I really think the U.S. should stop importing so much oil from the middle-east because you never know when they could possibly cut us off due to political differences or something. At least if we were to produce some and import some they'd make the price at the pump go lower for us. Which would boost the economy. But I think that if we are to become a leading producer of oil in the world, I think we should make ourselfs independant in ways of producing energy for ourselves. I think it would just lead to less problems and make it easier for everybody. 

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Fluorescent fusion protein knockout mediated by anti-GFP nanobody is relying on the ubiquitin pathway

Fluorescent fusion protein knockout mediated by anti-GFP nanobody is relying on the ubiquitin pathway | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The use of genetic mutations to study protein functions in vivo is a central paradigm of modern biology. Recent advances in reverse genetics such as RNA interference and morpholinos are widely used to further apply this paradigm. Nevertheless, such systems act upstream of the proteic level, and protein depletion depends on the turnover rate of the existing target proteins. Here we present deGradFP, a genetically encoded method for direct and fast depletion of target green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusions in any eukaryotic genetic system. This method is universal because it relies on an evolutionarily highly conserved eukaryotic function, the ubiquitin pathway. It is traceable, because the GFP tag can be used to monitor the protein knockout. In many cases, it is a ready-to-use solution, as GFP protein-trap stock collections are being generated in Drosophila melanogaster and in Danio rerio.


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aamoros2's curator insight, June 24, 2014 12:39 PM

Proteínas fluorescentes.

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Teaching robots new tricks by demonstration without programming

Teaching robots new tricks by demonstration without programming | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Maya Cakmak, Georgia Tech, spent the summer at Willow Garage developing software that allows users to program the robot through demonstration.

 

Like computers, robots only do what we program them to do. And that's a big problem if we're ever going to realize the dream of practical robot helpers for the masses. Wouldn't it be great if anyone could teach a robot to perform a task, like they would a child? Well, that's precisely what Maya Cakmak has been working on at Willow Garage.

 

Cakmak, a researcher from Georgia Tech, spent the summer creating a user-friendly system that teaches the PR2 robot simple tasks. The kicker is that it doesn't require any traditional programming skills whatsoever – it works by physically guiding the robot's arms while giving it verbal commands.

 

After inviting regular people to give it a try, she found that with few instructions they were able to teach the PR2 how to retrieve medicine from a cabinet and fold a t-shirt. Such tasks may be easy for us, but for a robot they are very difficult. That's why most scientists don't take the threat of a robopocalypse very seriously just yet – they know how difficult it is to get a robot to do anything even remotely useful.

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New Google Chrome app lets you travel the galaxy and back

New Google Chrome app lets you travel the galaxy and back | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

While Google has provided several Chrome browser apps to show off what it’s capable of, its latest app could be the best yet. The company released a 100,000 Stars app today that allows you to look at all of the neighboring stars as seen from our own solar system. The app uses Chrome’s WebGL, CSS3D, and Web Audio to bring you an experience that’s similar to viewing the fictitious star chart navigation systems found in the spaceships of awesome sci-fi movies.


Each star is labeled by name, and clicking a name will pull up additional information about the star. Dismissing the text about the star will reveal a digital representation of what scientists believe the star looks like.


And while Google has provided a soundtrack for the app, I felt that the overall experience could be greatly enhanced if you let the ambient warp drive engine hum play in the background while you’re surfing through the universe.

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Microsoft’s plan to bring about the era of gesture control

Microsoft’s plan to bring about the era of gesture control | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

With its Kinect for Windows program, Microsoft wants to make it common to wave your arms at or speak to a computer. “We’re trying to encourage software developers to create a whole new class of app controlled by gesture and voice,” says Peter Zatloukal, head of engineering for the Kinect for Windows program.

 

Zatloukal says the result will be on a par with other big shifts in how we control computers. “We initially used keyboards, then the mouse and GUIs were a big innovation, now touch is a big part of people’s lives,” he says. “The progression will now be to voice and gesture.”

 

Health care, manufacturing, and education are all areas where Zatloukal expects to see Kinect for Windows succeed. Kinect for Windows equipment went on sale in February for $249 and is now available in 32 countries.

 

Jentronix is using it to help people with physical rehabilitation after a stroke. Freak’n Genius, offers gesture-based animation software.

 

Mark Bolas, an associate professor and director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Southern California, and his group are experimenting with using Kinect to track very subtle behaviors — monitoring the rise and fall of a person’s chest to measure breathing rate, for example. Displaying an indication of someone’s breathing rate during a video call allows others to understand a person better, he says, and can show when to start talking without interrupting.


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Staying Online After Death: Archive Your Entire Online Life With This Tool: Recollect

Staying Online After Death: Archive Your Entire Online Life With This Tool: Recollect | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Excerpted from review article on Mashable:

"Recollect solves two problems at once by providing a simple tool to archive your online data and search through it later to re-discover your old posts.

 

The more information we share, the harder it can be to find any particular post later on and the more we have to lose if any of these networks ever disappear.

 

With Recollect, users can archive posts shared on Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Foursquare – along with any comments on those posts from other users — and download a Zip file of all that data at any time. Prices for the service range from $6/month for 5,000 archived photos, one monthly data download and one account per social network, to a premium $24/month account that covers 50,000 archived photos, weekly downloads and up to 5 accounts per website. There is also an option to try out the service for 30 days, which gives users the ability to archive and download all their online data once for free.

 

For the beta release, the team decided to narrow their focus to working with just the four social networks mentioned above and building a set of four key features into the service, including the ability to archive posts, download data, browse through the archive and search for specific keywords.

 

Recollect offers a novel solution to what we might call the re-discovery problem — helping users categorize and unearth their treasure trove of old posts.

 

The team hopes to continue improving on Recollect by building what Martin describes as a more “intelligent archive,” which will offer additional options for browsing and discovering older content.

 

The group also plans to incorporate more social networks into Recollect, including Facebook..."

 

Read full article here: 

http://mashable.com/2012/11/10/recollect/

 

Check out it here: http://recollect.com

 


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World's Fastest Superhuman title awarded to speed violinist

World's Fastest Superhuman title awarded to speed violinist | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Violinist Ben Lee, who can play Flight of the Bumblebee at an average of 15 notes per second, is declared the quickest human on the planet.

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At least one-third of marine species remain undescribed

At least one-third of marine species remain undescribed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

At least one-third of the species that inhabit the world's oceans may remain completely unknown to science. That's despite the fact that more species have been described in the last decade than in any previous one, according to a report published online on November 15 in the Cell Press publication Current Biology that details the first comprehensive register of marine species of the world -- a massive collaborative undertaking by hundreds of experts around the globe.

 

The researchers estimate that the ocean may be home to as many as one million species in all -- likely not more. About 226,000 of those species have so far been described. There are another 65,000 species awaiting description in specimen collections.


"For the first time, we can provide a very detailed overview of species richness, partitioned among all major marine groups. It is the state of the art of what we know -- and perhaps do not know -- about life in the ocean," says Ward Appeltans of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.


The findings provide a reference point for conservation efforts and estimates of extinction rates, the researchers say. They expect that the vast majority of unknown species -- composed disproportionately of smaller crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and sponges -- will be found this century.


Earlier estimates of ocean diversity had relied on expert polls based on extrapolations from past rates of species descriptions and other measures. Those estimates varied widely, suffering because there was no global catalog of marine species.

 

 

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Biologically Inspired Droplets Move Themselves Continuously without External Force

Biologically Inspired Droplets Move Themselves Continuously without External Force | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The gel droplets mimic the molecular motors inside living cells.

 

Using biological building blocks found inside a living cell, researchers have created a material that moves itself. The researchers first made a gel comprising microtubules — stiff polymer filaments that, in living cells, act as guiding tracks for kinesin, a ‘motor protein’ that is propelled along the microtubule cables by the cellular fuel ATP. “It’s like a tyre,” says Zvonimir Dogic, a physicist at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, who led the study. Adding a small polymer to the mix encouraged the microtubules to form bundles and create a moving network. Water droplets containing this gel move continuously — in an oil emulsion and on flat surfaces — without external force, the researchers found.

 

Each molecule of ATP propels a kinesin molecule 8 nanometers forward along the microtubule track. With thousands of kinesins rumbling along multiple microtubules, a droplet that is 100 micrometers across spontaneously begins rolling when it touches a flat surface. “It’s a startling advance because of the macro-scale movement that it produces,” says Raymond Goldstein, a biological physicist at the University of Cambridge, UK.

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Medical vital-sign monitoring reduced to the size of a postage stamp

Medical vital-sign monitoring reduced to the size of a postage stamp | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Electrical engineers at Oregon State University have developed new technology to monitor medical vital signs, with sophisticated sensors so small and cheap they could fit onto a bandage, be manufactured in high volumes and cost less than a quarter. A patent is being processed for the monitoring system and it’s now ready for clinical trials, researchers say. When commercialized, it could be used as a disposable electronic sensor, with many potential applications due to its powerful performance, small size, and low cost.

 

Heart monitoring is one obvious candidate, since the system could gather data on some components of an EKG, such as pulse rate and atrial fibrillation. Its ability to measure EEG brain signals could find use in nursing care for patients with dementia, and recordings of physical activity could improve weight loss programs. Measurements of perspiration and temperature could provide data on infection or disease onset. And of course, if you can measure pulse rate and skin responses, why not a lie detector?

 

“Current technology allows you to measure these body signals using bulky, power-consuming, costly instruments,” said Patrick Chiang, an associate professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “What we’ve enabled is the integration of these large components onto a single microchip, achieving significant improvements in power consumption,” Chiang said. “We can now make important biomedical measurements more portable, routine, convenient and affordable than ever before.”

 

The much higher cost and larger size of conventional body data monitoring precludes many possible uses, Chiang said. Compared to other technologies, the new system-on-a-chip cuts the size, weight, power consumption and cost by about 10 times. Some of the existing technologies that would compete with this system, such as pedometers currently in use to measure physical activity, cost $100 or more. The new electronics developed at OSU, by comparison, are about the size and thickness of a postage stamp, and could easily just be taped over the heart or at other body locations to measure vital signs.

 

Part of what enables this small size, Chiang said, is that the system doesn’t have a battery. It harvests the sparse radio-frequency energy from a nearby device – in this case, a cell phone. The small smart phone carried by hundreds of millions of people around the world can now provide the energy for important biomedical monitoring at the same time.

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Math: Animated Factorization Diagrams

Math: Animated Factorization Diagrams | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Animated Factorization Diagrams


Via Sakis Koukouvis
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NATURE: New Photo Snapshots Reveal Einstein’s Unusual Brain

NATURE: New Photo Snapshots Reveal Einstein’s Unusual Brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Albert Einstein is considered to be one of the most intelligent people that ever lived, so researchers are naturally curious about what made his brain tick. Photographs taken shortly after his death, but never before analysed in detail, have now revealed that Einstein’s brain had several unusual features, providing tantalizing clues about the neural basis of his extraordinary mental abilities. While doing Einstein's autopsy, the pathologist Thomas Harvey removed the physicist's brain and preserved it in formalin. He then took dozens of black and white photographs of it before it was cut up into 240 blocks. He then took tissue samples from each block, mounted them onto microscope slides and distributed the slides to some of the world’s best neuropathologists. The autopsy revealed that Einstein’s brain was smaller than average and subsequent analyses showed all the changes that normally occur with ageing. Nothing more was analysed, however. Harvey stored the brain fragments in a formalin-filled jar in a cider box kept under a beer cooler in his office. Decades later, several researchers asked Harvey for some samples, and noticed some unusual features when analysing them. A study done in 1985 showed that two parts of his brain contained an unusually large number of non-neuronal cells called glia for every neuron. And one published more than a decade later showed that the parietal lobe lacks a furrow and a structure called the operculum. The missing furrow may have enhanced the connections in this region, which is thought to be involved in visuo-spatial functions and mathematical skills such as arithmetic.

 

Now, anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee and her colleagues have obtained 12 of Harvey’s original photographs from the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, analyzed them and compared the patterns of convoluted ridges and furrows with those of 85 brains described in other studies. Many of the photographs were taken from unusual angles, and show structures that were not visible in photographs that have been analysed previously. The most striking observation, says Falk, was “the complexity and pattern of convolutions on certain parts of Einstein's cerebral cortex”, especially in the prefrontal cortex, and also parietal lobes and visual cortex. The prefrontal cortex is important for the kind of abstract thinking that Einstein would have needed for his famous thought experiments on the nature of space and time, such as imagining riding alongside a beam of light. The unusually complex pattern of convolutions there probably gave the region and unusually large surface area, which may have contributed to his remarkable abilities.

 

Falk and her colleagues also noticed an unusual feature in the right somatosensory cortex, which receives sensory information from the body. In this part of Einstein’s brain, the region corresponding to the left hand is expanded, and the researchers suggest that this may have contributed to his accomplished violin playing. According to Sandra Witelson, a behavioural neuroscientist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who discovered that the parietal operculum is missing from Einstein’s brain, the study’s biggest contribution may be in encouraging further studies. “It makes clear the location and accessibility of photographs and slides of Einstein's brain,” she says. “This may serve as an incentive for other investigations of Einstein's brain, and ultimately of any consequences of its anatomical variations.”

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Super Material Can Stop Speeding Bullet

Super Material Can Stop Speeding Bullet | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers at a Rice University lab are researching technology that that could potentially stop a 9-millimeter bullet and seal the entryway behind it - an advance that may have huge implications for ballistic protection for soldiers, as well as other uses.

 

During tests, the researchers were able to shoot tiny glass beads at the material, which effectively stopped bullets in their paths. The group, which included scientist Thomas, Rice research scientist Jae-Hwang Lee and a team from MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, was looking for ways to make materials "more impervious to deformation or failure." The result would be better, stronger, lighter armor for soldiers and police, and protection for sensitive materials subject to small, fast moving objects, such as aircraft and satellites.


The researchers were looking at a complex polyurethane material that they saw was able to stop a 9 mm slug and seal its entryway. When penetrated by a tiny projectile at a high velocity, the material melted into a liquid that stopped the fast-moving object and actually sealed the hole it made. "There's no macroscopic damage; the material hasn't failed; it hasn't cracked," Thomas said.


During their research, they found an excellent model material called a polystyrene-polydimethylsiloxane diblock-copolymer. Using two different methods, the team was eventually able to cross-section the structure to determine the depth of the bullets, and according to their study, the layers showed the ability to deform without breaking.

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