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The Secrets of a Bug's Flight

The Secrets of a Bug's Flight | Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have identified some of the physics that may explain how insects can so quickly recover from a midflight stall -- unlike conventional fixed wing aircraft, where stalls often lead to crash landings.

 

The analysis, in which the researchers studied the flow around a rotating model wing, improves the understanding of how insects fly and informs the design of small flying robots built for intelligence gathering, surveillance, search-and-rescue, and other purposes.

 

An insect such as a fruit fly hovers in the air by flapping its wings -- a complex motion akin to the freestyle stroke in swimming. The wing rotates in a single plane, and by varying the angle between the plane and its body, the insect can fly forward from a hovering position.

 

To simulate the basics of this action, Matthew Bross and colleagues at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, studied how water flows around a rotating model wing consisting of a rectangular piece of acrylic that is twice as long as it is wide. The rotation axis is off to the side of the wing and parallel to its width, so that it rotates like half of an airplane propeller. To simulate forward motion -- a scenario in which the insect is accelerating or climbing -- the researchers pumped water in the direction perpendicular to the plane of rotation.

 

"We were able to identify the development of flow structure over an insect-scaled wing over a range of forward flight velocities," Bross explained. The researchers made detailed three-dimensional computer visualizations of the flow around the wing, finding that a leading-edge vortex -- a feature crucial for providing lift -- almost immediately appears once the wing starts to rotate after a stalled state.

 

The article, "Flow structure on a rotating wing: effect of steady incident flow," by Matthew Bross, Cem Alper Ozen and Donald Rockwell appears in the journal Physics of Fluids. See: http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4816632


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Spitzer and ALMA Reveal the Bubbly Birth of a Star

Spitzer and ALMA Reveal the Bubbly Birth of a Star | Science | Scoop.it
Supersonic jets burst out of a young star's cocoon in a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

 

Combined observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed the throes of stellar birth, as never before, in the well-studied object known as HH 46/47.

 

Herbig-Haro (HH) objects form when jets shot out by newborn stars collide with surrounding material, producing small, bright, nebulous regions. To our eyes, the dynamics within many HH objects are obscured by enveloping gas and dust. But the infrared and submillimeter wavelengths of light seen by Spitzer and ALMA, respectively, pierce the dark cosmic cloud around HH 46/47 to let us in on the action.

 

The Spitzer observations show twin supersonic jets emanating from the central star that blast away surrounding gas and set it alight into two bubbly lobes. HH 46/47 happens to sit on the edge of its enveloping cloud in such a way that the jets pass through two differing cosmic environments. The rightward jet, heading into the cloud, is plowing through a "wall" of material, while the leftward jet's path out of the cloud is relatively unobstructed, passing through less material. This orientation serves scientists well by offering a handy compare-and-contrast setup for how the outflows from a developing star interact with their surroundings.

 

"Young stars like our sun need to remove some of the gas collapsing in on them to become stable, and HH 46/47 is an excellent laboratory for studying this outflow process," said Alberto Noriega-Crespo, a scientist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "Thanks to Spitzer, the HH 46/47 outflow is considered one of the best examples of a jet being present with an expanding bubble-like structure."

 

Noriega-Crespo led the team that began studying HH 46/47 with Spitzer nearly 10 years ago when the telescope first began observing the heavens. Now, using a new image processing technique developed in the past few years, he and his colleagues have been able to render HH 46/47 in higher resolution.

 

Meanwhile, the fresh views of HH 46/47 by ALMA have revealed that the gas in the lobes is expanding faster than previously thought. This faster expansion has an influence on the overall amount of turbulence in the gaseous cloud that originally spawned the star. In turn, the extra turbulence could have an impact on whether and how other stars might form in this gaseous, dusty, and thus fertile, ground for star-making.

 


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MIT Invents A Shapeshifting Display You Can Reach Through And Touch

MIT Invents A Shapeshifting Display You Can Reach Through And Touch | Science | Scoop.it
The Tangible Media Group at MIT's Media Lab has unveiled a futuristic display made of atoms not pixels.

 

We live in an age of touch-screen interfaces, but what will the UIs of the future look like? Will they continue to be made up of ghostly pixels, or will they be made of atoms that you can reach out and touch?

 

At the MIT Media Lab, the Tangible Media Group believes the future of computing is tactile. Unveiled today, the inFORM is MIT's new scrying pool for imagining the interfaces of tomorrow. Almost like a table of living clay, the inFORM is a surface that three-dimensionally changes shape, allowing users to not only interact with digital content in meatspace, but even hold hands with a person hundreds of miles away. And that's only the beginning.

 

Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer and overseen by Professor Hiroshi Ishii, the technology behind the inFORM isn't that hard to understand. It's basically a fancy Pinscreen, one of those executive desk toys that allows you to create a rough 3-D model of an object by pressing it into a bed of flattened pins. With inFORM, each of those "pins" is connected to a motor controlled by a nearby laptop, which can not only move the pins to render digital content physically, but can also register real-life objects interacting with its surface thanks to the sensors of a hacked Microsoft Kinect.

 

To put it in the simplest terms, the inFORM is a self-aware computer monitor that doesn't just display light, but shape as well. Remotely, two people Skyping could physically interact by playing catch, for example, or manipulating an object together, or even slapping high five from across the planet. Another use is to physically manipulate purely digital objects. A 3-D model, for example, can be brought to life with the inFORM, and then manipulated with your hands to adjust, tweak, or even radically transform the digital blueprint.


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First remote virtual surgery performed via Google Glass

First remote virtual surgery performed via Google Glass | Science | Scoop.it

A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) surgical team has performed one of the first surgeries using a telepresence augmented reality technology from VIPAAR in conjunction with Google Glass.

 

The combination of the two technologies could be an important step toward the development of useful, practical telemedicine.

VIPAAR (Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality) is commercializing a UAB-developed technology that provides real-time, two-way, interactive video conferencing.

 

UAB orthopedic surgeon Brent Ponce, M.D., performed a shoulder replacement surgery Sept. 12 at UAB Highlands Hospital in Birmingham. Watching and interacting with Ponce via the VIPAAR technology was Phani Dantuluri, M.D., from his office in Atlanta.

 

The VIPAAR technology allowed Dantuluri to see exactly what Ponce saw in the operating room and introduce his hands or instruments into the virtual surgical field.

 

At the same time, Ponce saw Dantuluri’s hands and instruments in his Google Glass display, along with his own field of view, as a merged-reality environment.

 

The two surgeons were able to discuss the case in a truly interactive fashion since Dantuluri could watch Ponce perform the surgery and simultaneously introduce his hands or instruments into Ponce’s view as if they were standing next to each other during the case.

 

“It’s real-time, real-life, right there, as opposed to a Skype or video conference call, which allows for dialogue back and forth but is not really interactive,” said Ponce.

 

UAB physicians say this kind of technology could greatly enhance patient care by allowing a veteran surgeon to remotely provide valuable expertise to less experienced surgeons.


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Marc Kneepkens's curator insight, November 14, 2013 5:50 PM

A great example of how Google Glass technology will bring new concepts to many industries.

Femina Gowtham's curator insight, February 6, 2015 6:27 AM

http://www.ojasortho.com/

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Science and Its Skeptics

Science and Its Skeptics | Science | Scoop.it
At the same time, it is facile to dismiss science itself. The most careful scientists, and the best science journalists, realize that all science is provisional. There will always be things that we haven’t figured out yet, and even some that we get wrong. But science is not just about conclusions, which are occasionally incorrect. It’s about a methodology for investigation, which includes, at its core, a relentless drive towards questioning that which came before. You can both love science and question it.

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Frog science

Frog science | Science | Scoop.it

Professor Jennifer Dever and her student Hai Ngyuen continue the 300-year-old science of frog identification. (There are more than 6,000 species.) Their research is helping to prove the rarity of certain frogs in South East Asia, with the goal of getting them listed as an endangered species, granting them legal protection against deforestation.


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A single-atom light switch

A single-atom light switch | Science | Scoop.it

With just a single atom, light can be switched between two fiber optic cables at the Vienna University of Technology. Such a switch enables quantum phenomena to be used for information and communication technology.

 

Fiber optic cables are turned in to a quantum lab: scientists are trying to build optical switches at the smallest possible scale in order to manipulate light. At the Vienna University of Technology, this can now be done using a single atom. Conventional glass fibre cables, which are used for internet data transfer, can be interconnected by tiny quantum systems.

Professor Arno Rauschenbeutel and his team at the Vienna University of Technology capture light in so-called "bottle resonators". At the surface of these bulgy glass objects, light runs in circles. If such a resonator is brought into the vicinity of a glass fibre which is carrying light, the two systems couple and light can cross over from the glass fibre into the bottle resonator.

 

"When the circumference of the resonator matches the wavelength of the light, we can make one hundred percent of the light from the glass fiber go into the bottle resonator – and from there it can move on into a second glass fiber", explains Arno Rauschenbeutel.


This system, consisting of the incoming fiber, the resonator and the outgoing fiber, is extremely sensitive: "When we take a single Rubidium atom and bring it into contact with the resonator, the behaviour of the system can change dramatically", says Rauschenbeutel. If the light is in resonance with the atom, it is even possible to keep all the light in the original glass fiber, and none of it transfers to the bottle resonator and the outgoing glass fiber. The atom thus acts as a switch which redirects light one or the other fiber.

 

In the next step, the scientists plan to make use of the fact that the Rubidium atom can occupy different quantum states, only one of which interacts with the resonator. If the atom occupies the non-interacting quantum state, the light behaves as if the atom was not there. Thus, depending on the quantum state of the atom, light is sent into either of the two glass fibers. This opens up the possibility to exploit some of the most remarkable properties of quantum mechanics: "In quantum physics, objects can occupy different states at the same time", says Arno Rauschenbeutel. The atom can be prepared in such a way that it occupies both switch states at once. As a consequence, the states "light" and "no light" are simultaneously present in  each of the two glass fiber cables.


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RNA origami: Chemists produce first high-resolution RNA 'nano square'

RNA origami: Chemists produce first high-resolution RNA 'nano square' | Science | Scoop.it
Chemists have produced the first high resolution structure of a nano-scale square made from ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

 

The structure was published in a paper in this week's early online edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team of chemists headed by Thomas Hermann, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD.

 

The scientists said the ability to carry structural information encoded in the sequence of the constituent building blocks is a characteristic trait of RNA, a key component of the genetic code. The nano square self-assembles from four corner units directed by the sequence that was programmed into the RNA used for preparing the corners.

 

Hermann said the RNA square has potential applications as a self-assembling nano platform for the programmed combination of molecular entities that are linked to the corner units.


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Astronomers reveal contents of mysterious black hole jets

Astronomers reveal contents of mysterious black hole jets | Science | Scoop.it
An international team of astronomers has answered a long-standing question about the enigmatic jets emitted by black holes. Jets are narrow beams of matter spat out at high speed from near a central object, like a black hole.

 

Jets are narrow beams of matter spat out at high speed from near a central object, like a black hole. "Although they have been observed for decades, we're still not sure what they are made of, or what powers them," ESO astronomer Dr María Díaz Trigo, lead author of the study, said.

 

The team studied the radio waves and X-rays emitted by a small black hole a few times the mass of the Sun. The black hole in question was known to be active, but the team's radio observations did not show any jets, and the X-ray spectrum didn't reveal anything unusual.

 

However, a few weeks later, the team took another look and this time saw radio emissions corresponding to the sudden appearance of these jets, and even more interestingly, lines had appeared in the X-ray spectrum -- the tell-tale signature of ordinary atoms -- around the black hole.

 

"Intriguingly, we found the lines were not where they should be, but rather were shifted significantly," Dr James Miller Jones from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), who led the radio observations, said.

 

The same effect occurs when a siren from a vehicle changes pitch as it moves towards or away from us, as the sound wave is shortened or lengthened by the movement.

 

"It led us to conclude the particles were being accelerated to fast speeds in the jets, one directed towards Earth, and the other one in the opposite direction," team member Dr Simone Migliari from the University of Barcelona said.

 

Dr Miller-Jones said this is the first strong evidence of such particles in jets from a typical small black hole. "We've known for a long time that jets contain electrons, but haven't got an overall negative charge, so there must be something positively charged in them too," Dr Miller Jones said.


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Astronomers answer key question: How common are habitable planets?

Astronomers answer key question: How common are habitable planets? | Science | Scoop.it
UC Berkeley and University of Hawaii astronomers analyzed all four years of Kepler data in search of Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars, and then rigorously tested how many planets they may have missed.

 

A major question is whether planets suitable for biochemistry are common or rare in the universe. Small rocky planets with liquid water enjoy key ingredients for biology. Astronomers now used the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kepler telescope to survey 42,000 Sun-like stars for periodic dimmings that occur when a planet crosses in front of its host star. They found 603 planets, 10 of which are Earth size and orbit in the habitable zone, where conditions permit surface liquid water. They measured the detectability of these planets by injecting synthetic planet-caused dimmings into Kepler brightness measurements. They find that 22% of Sun-like stars harbor Earth-size planets orbiting in their habitable zones. The nearest such planet may be within 12 light-years.

 

"It's been nearly 20 years since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet around a normal star. Since then we have learned that most stars have planets of some size and that Earth-size planets are relatively common in close-in orbits that are too hot for life," said Andrew Howard, a former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow who is now on the faculty of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. "With this result we've come home, in a sense, by showing that planets like our Earth are relatively common throughout the Milky Way galaxy."


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How Do We Decide? Inside the "Frinky" Science of the Mind

How Do We Decide? Inside the "Frinky" Science of the Mind | Science | Scoop.it

Recent research has shown that when we’re stuck or even paralyzed by a decision, we need more than rational analysis. We need to vividly envision ourselves in a future scenario, get in touch with the emotions this generates and assess how those feelings influence our level of commitment to that particular choice. We can’t always make the right decision, but we can make every decision right.


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The Learning Factor's curator insight, November 12, 2013 2:48 AM

We’ve all made “emotional” decisions that we later came to regret. But current neuroscience research makes clear that emotions are an important input into decision-making by ruling out the options most likely to lead to a negative outcome and focusing our attention on the options likely to lead to a positive outcome.

Bettina Ascaino's curator insight, November 12, 2013 7:29 PM
Vicki Kossoff @ The Learning Factor's insight:

"We’ve all made “emotional” decisions that we later came to regret. But current neuroscience research makes clear that emotions are an important input into decision-making by ruling out the options most likely to lead to a negative outcome and focusing our attention on the options likely to lead to a positive outcome."

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Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline - PDF Free Download - Fox eBook

Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline - PDF Free Download - Fox eBook | Science | Scoop.it
Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline PDF Download, Reviews, Read Online, ISBN: 1449358659, By Cathy O'Neil, Rachel Schutt

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Fox eBook's curator insight, November 10, 2013 8:06 PM
Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: What Is Data Science?
Chapter 2. Statistical Inference, Exploratory Data Analysis, and the Data Science Process
Chapter 3. Algorithms
Chapter 4. Spam Filters, Naive Bayes, and Wrangling
Chapter 5. Logistic Regression
Chapter 6. Time Stamps and Financial Modeling
Chapter 7. Extracting Meaning from Data
Chapter 8. Recommendation Engines: Building a User-Facing Data Product at Scale
Chapter 9. Data Visualization and Fraud Detection
Chapter 10. Social Networks and Data Journalism
Chapter 11. Causality
Chapter 12. Epidemiology
Chapter 13. Lessons Learned from Data Competitions: Data Leakage and Model Evaluation
Chapter 14. Data Engineering: MapReduce, Pregel, and Hadoop
Chapter 15. The Students Speak
Chapter 16. Next-Generation Data Scientists, Hubris, and Ethics

Carmen McKell's curator insight, November 15, 2013 8:50 PM

Free download!

Memo Fari's curator insight, May 24, 2014 2:32 PM

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Evolving multicellular algae in the lab: Researchers discover why it is better to go alone during reproduction

Evolving multicellular algae in the lab: Researchers discover why it is better to go alone during reproduction | Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how and why multicellular organisms evolved the almost universal trait of using single cells, such as eggs and sperm, to reproduce. Now researchers led by University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences postdoctoral fellow William Ratcliff and associate professor Michael Travisano have set a big piece of that puzzle into place by applying experimental evolution to transform a single-celled algae into a multicellular one that reproduces by dispersing single cells.

 

"Until now, biologists have assumed that this single-cell bottleneck evolved well after multicellularity, as a mechanism to reduce conflicts of interest among the cells making up the organism," says Ratcliff. "Instead, we found that it arose at the same time as multicellularity. This has big implications for how multicellular complexity might arise in nature, because it shows that this key trait, which opens the door to evolving greater multicellular complexity, can evolve rapidly."

 

In an article published today in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers described how they produced the multi-celled strain by repeatedly selecting and culturing algae that settled quickly to the bottom of a liquid-filled test tube. After 73 rounds, they discovered that the algae in one of the tubes had gone multicellular.

 

Observing the new form, Ratcliff and Travisano discovered that it reproduced by actively breaking up, shedding motile single cells that go on to grow into new multicellular clusters. They developed a mathematical model that explained the reproductive benefit of this single-celled strategy over hypothetical alternatives in which the cluster would produce larger propagules. The model predicted that reproduction from single cells would be more successful in the long run. Even though single cells are less likely to survive than larger propagules, this disadvantage is more than made up for by their sheer number.

 

In collaboration with Matthew Herron and Frank Rosenzweig at the University of Montana, the researchers are now working to find the genetic basis for multicellularity and experimentally evolve even greater multicellular complexity.

 

"Understanding the origins of biological complexity is one of the biggest challenges in science," Travisano said. "In this experiment we’ve reordered one of the first steps in the origin of multicellularity, showing that two key evolutionary steps can occur far faster than previously anticipated.  Looking forward, we hope to directly investigate the origins of developmental complexity, or how juveniles become adults, using the multicellular organisms that we evolved in the lab."

 

Several years ago, Travisano and Ratcliff made international news when they evolved multicellularity in yeast. This work takes those findings further by initiating multicellularity in an organism that has never had a multicellular ancestor and provides a new hypothesis for the evolutionary origins of the single-cell bottleneck in multicellular life cycles.


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Ancona and the Cardeto Park | Seeking Science along the Adriatic Coast - Part 6

Ancona and the Cardeto Park | Seeking Science along the Adriatic Coast - Part 6 | Science | Scoop.it

I had part of a day to spend in Ancona, an Italian port city on the Adriatic Sea. Ancona does not appear in many guide books, perhaps because the authors think it has little touristic interest. Yet, right across the street from my hotel, I discovered an entrance to Parco del Cardeto, the largest urban reserve park in Ancona, officially opened in 2005. This 35-hectare park consists of the beach and cliffs along the Adriatic coast from Ancona’s port and old town section towards the south.

As you wander through the park, strategically-placed signage gives you hints about the human and natural history of the area. The cliffs consist of Miocene marl, 17 million year old sea shells mixed with clay and volcanic ash. And just like in our Rocky Mountains, the layering of the sediments exposes rock of varying permeability, causing plants to grow differentially.

The prevalence of wild thistle in the park has been a source of controversy. Silybum marianum grows wild and is a major food source for the goldfinch. As the thistles are replaced with short landscaped grasses, the abundance of the finch decreases, leading to a debate in how best to keep the park natural yet enjoyable. As a side note to this, the milk of this wild thistle was used in mediaeval times to deal with problems of the liver and urine retention. Amazingly, now the milk is of some pharmacological interest in the production of medications related to control of hypertension.

There is a great deal more of interest in this park. It was obvious to me that people have been accessing this beach long before it was a protected park. Caves dug over the centuries by fishermen are in still in use today. The plankton at the base of the marine food system leads to an abundance of harvest from the sea. I only had a couple of hours to explore this area, and would like to return.


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HAR regions: Fast-mutating DNA sequences shape the evolution of uniquely human traits

HAR regions: Fast-mutating DNA sequences shape the evolution of uniquely human traits | Science | Scoop.it
What does it mean to be human? According to scientists the key lies, ultimately, in the billions of lines of genetic code that comprise the human genome. The problem, however, has been deciphering that code.

 

"Advances in DNA sequencing and supercomputing have given us the power to understand evolution at a level of detail that just a few years ago would have been impossible," said Dr. Pollard, who is also a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF's) Institute for Human Genetics. "In this study, we found stretches of DNA that evolved much more quickly than others. We believe that these fast-evolving stretches were crucial to our human ancestors becoming distinct from our closest primate relatives."

 

These stretches are called human accelerated regions, or HARs, so-called because they mutate at a relatively fast rate. In addition, the majority of HARs don't appear to encode specific genes. The research team hypothesized that HARs instead acted as "enhancers," controlling when and for how long certain genes were switched on during embryonic development.

 

Through experiments in embryonic animal models, combined with powerful computational genomics analyses, the research team identified more than 2,600 HARs. Then, they created a program called EnhancerFinder to whittle down that list to just the HARs were likely to be enhancers.

 

"EnhancerFinder is a machine-learning algorithm that takes in basic genetic information -- a HAR sequence, known evolutionary patterns, other functional genomics data -- and returns a prediction of that HAR's function," explained Tony Capra, PhD, the study's lead author. "Using this approach, we predicted that nearly eight hundred HARs act as enhancers at a specific point during embryonic development. Confirming this prediction for several dozen HARs, our next goal was to see whether any of these HARs enhanced patterns of gene activation that were uniquely human."

 

Additional analyses revealed five such HARs, which were active in both human and chimpanzee genomes, but which activated genes in different embryonic regions. For example, the human versions of HARs 2xHAR.164 and 2xHAR.170 are active in a region of the brain between the midbrain and hindbrain, while the chimp versions are not. This so-called "gain of function" of these two HARs in human embryos may point to differences in the development of key brain regions such as the cerebellum, which is known to regulate not only motor control but may also regulate higher cognitive functions, such as language, fear and pleasure.

 

"These results, while preliminary, offer an unprecedented glimpse into how very recent changes to the human genome have modified the genetic programs that control embryonic development to potentially yield different results," said Dr. Capra. "We anticipate that if we were to look at the activity of HARs that are enhancers during later developmental stages, we would see even more differences between humans and chimpanzees."

 

"It's been 10 years since the Human Genome Project was declared 'complete,' but the amount of genomic knowledge we've gleaned since then -- in large part due to advances in bioinformatics and supercomputing -- have catapulted us far beyond what we thought we knew," added Dr. Pollard. "I'm confident that as we continue to dive deep into important regions such as HARs, we'll come ever closer to answering the question: what makes us human?'"


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A Bright Idea: Science and Independence | National Collective

A Bright Idea: Science and Independence | National Collective | Science | Scoop.it

The reason I wanted National Collective to get involved with engaging the sciences and academia is because I believe a mathematical sum describing an element of the universe is no less beautiful and no less imaginative than any painting, sculpture or poem. Scots luminary James Clerk Maxwell created a formula, described as “one of the most beautiful in history”,  describing how electrical and magnetic fields interact to produce light, and “beautiful” is absolutely the correct word to use in its description. To be able to quantify and express a fundamental piece of the universe using mathematics is a wondrous thing. It was because of this idea I was so keen to garner an unlikely union between the academic and the creative. Scotland not only has a proud cultural identity, but a long list of incredible contributions to academia.


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Why You Aren't as Creative as You'd Like to Think - Wired Science

Why You Aren't as Creative as You'd Like to Think - Wired Science | Science | Scoop.it

You’re a smart person: a believer in science, an acolyte of technology, a 21st century citizen. So answer this: Could you, and you alone, make something as simple as a pencil?

Mark Pagel doesn’t think so. In a presentation at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin, the evolutionary biologist offered this very thought experiment – pencil manufacturing, after all, involves graphite mining and refining, wood harvesting and processing, machining, rubber harvesting, and many other intricate processes.

His conclusion: “In our everyday lives, we’re asked to make decisions about things about which we have very little understanding and very little knowledge.” From writing utensils to mortgages and cars or frozen chicken, we’re largely disconnected from the processes that generate the things we use. “If we’re honest with ourselves,” Pagel continued, “most of us are just glorified karaoke singers in most aspects of our lives, using things that other people have made and we don’t really understand.”

 


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Charles Tiayon's curator insight, November 13, 2013 4:59 PM

You’re a smart person: a believer in science, an acolyte of technology, a 21st century citizen. So answer this: Could you, and you alone, make something as simple as a pencil?

Mark Pagel doesn’t think so. In a presentation at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin, the evolutionary biologist offered this very thought experiment – pencil manufacturing, after all, involves graphite mining and refining, wood harvesting and processing, machining, rubber harvesting, and many other intricate processes.

His conclusion: “In our everyday lives, we’re asked to make decisions about things about which we have very little understanding and very little knowledge.” From writing utensils to mortgages and cars or frozen chicken, we’re largely disconnected from the processes that generate the things we use. “If we’re honest with ourselves,” Pagel continued, “most of us are just glorified karaoke singers in most aspects of our lives, using things that other people have made and we don’t really understand.”

 
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Marine worm produces dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of light released into seawater

Marine worm produces dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of light released into seawater | Science | Scoop.it

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and their colleagues are unraveling the mechanisms behind a little-known marine worm that produces a dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of blue light released into seawater.

 

Found around the world in muddy environments, from shallow bays to deeper canyons, the light produced by the Chaetopterus marine worm—commonly known as the "parchment tube worm" due to the opaque, cocoon-like cylinders where it makes its home—is secreted as a slimy bioluminescent mucus.

 

The mucus, which the worms are able to secrete out of any part of their body, hasn't been studied by scientists in more than 50 years. But two recent studies have helped reignite the quest to decode the inner workings of the worm's bioluminescence.

 

In one study, published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, Scripps Associate Research Scientist Dimitri Deheyn and his colleagues at Georgetown University describe details of Chaetopterus's light production as never before. Through data derived from experiments conducted inside Scripps Oceanography's Experimental Aquarium, the researchers characterized specific features of the worm's light, tracing back its generation to a specific "photoprotein" tied to bioluminescence.

"The fact that the light is produced as a long glow without direct oxygen consumption is attractive for a range of future biotechnological applications," added Deheyn, whose current work focuses on identifying the specific protein(s) involved in the light production.

 

The present study, however, focused on the general biochemistry and optical properties of the light production. "We have shown that the mucus produces a long-lasting glow of blue light, which is unique for this environment where bioluminescence is usually produced as short-lived flashes of light in the green spectrum, especially for benthic (seafloor) species," said Deheyn, who added that green travels farthest and is therefore the easiest to detect in shallow coastal environments.

 

As for the light's ecological function, the researchers speculate that the luminous mucus may serve as a trap to attract prey, a deterrent to ward off certain unwelcome guests into the worm's living areas (the glowing mucus could stick to an intruder, making it more visible to its own predators), or possibly serve as a substance to build the worms' flaky, tube-shaped homes.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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ITER, the multibillion-euro international nuclear-fusion experiment with goal to generate power by 2028

ITER, the multibillion-euro international nuclear-fusion experiment with goal to generate power by 2028 | Science | Scoop.it

Delays in the installation of key parts of ITER, a multibillion-euro international nuclear-fusion experiment, are forcing scientists to change ITER’s research programme to focus exclusively on the key goal of generating power by 2028. As a result, much research considered non-essential to the target, including some basic physics and studies of plasmas aimed at better understanding industrial-scale fusion, will be postponed. A 21-strong expert panel of international plasma scientists and ITER staff, convened to reassess the project’s research plan in the light of the construction delays. The plans were discussed at a meeting of ITER’s Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC). The meeting is the start of a year-long review by ITER to try to keep the experiment on track to generate 500 MW of power from an input of 50 MW by 2028, and so hit its target of attaining the so-called Q ≥ 10,where power output is ten times input or more.

 

ITER, which will be the world’s largest tokamak thermonuclear reactor (see ‘A fusion of ideas’), is being built in St-Paul-lez-Durance in southern France by the European Union, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States at a cost of €15 billion (US$20.3 billion). Q ≥ 10 is seen as its raison d’être, and achieving it would be likely to revitalize public and political interest in fusion. Crucial to that is getting to the point, scheduled for 2027, when the first nuclear fuel would be injected into the reactor. The fuel will be a plasma of two heavy hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium (DT).

 

The original 2010 research plan foresaw the entire reactor being built by 2020, when ITER was also scheduled to produce its first plasma, using hydrogen as a test fuel. But cost-cutting and cash-flow problems in member states mean that while the reactor is likely to be operating by then, the delivery of some parts is being deferred until several years later. These include some diagnostics devices for analysing the physics of plasmas at the very large scales of ITER, and elements of the heating system that will eventually take the plasmas to 150,000,000 °C.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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odysseas spyroglou's curator insight, November 5, 2013 10:28 AM

Will such a project recharge our energy sources ?

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Science May Cure Alzheimer’s By Blasting It With Lasers

Science May Cure Alzheimer’s By Blasting It With Lasers | Science | Scoop.it
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If there is one thing scientists love to do with chronic diseases, it is blast them with lasers. In fact, we’re pretty sure any planning meeting at major medical facilities has the agenda item “Lasers: Using Them Enough?

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