The Ring Nebula is one of the most famous celestial objects because of its delicate beauty. That shimmering oval of rainbow colors has popped up everywhere from dorm-room posters to book jackets to album covers to just about every TV backdrop in the history of sci-fi. But it is more than mere eye candy. The Ring is also fascinating for what it tells us about our future.
Middleweight stars like the sun expand and cool in their old age, briefly turning into red giants. After the red giant stage, the outer layers puff off, leaving behind a white dwarf: a dense, super-hot stellar cinder. Those puffed-out layers glow brightly before they disperse. That is exactly what we are seeing in this brand-new Hubble image of the Ring Nebula, along with the video interpretation of that image–a snapshot of what will happen to the sun as it runs out of nuclear fuel in about 5 billion years. The Hubble data also add a completely new twist to what astronomers know about the Ring. For the first time, researchers can get an accurate, three-dimensional understanding of the structure of the nebula.
Put that information together with other images taken using different filters and imaging techniques, and scientists have an incredibly detailed picture of how a sunlike star dies.
For comparison, I’ve collected a greatest-hits gallery of recent images of the Ring Nebula taken by other telescopes and satellites, each created using different techniques. You will notice that there is quite a bit of variation here: Most of these pictures little resemble the space-lollipop that has become an astronomy pop-culture staple. That is because the complexity of the nebula itself. It contains many types of atoms in many different states of ionization, each emitting in its own characteristic way. By choosing to zero in on a particular wavelength (or range of wavelengths) of radiation, astronomers can highlight specific elements, temperatures, and densities of the Ring Nebula.
Look at the Ring Nebula with your own eye through a good-size telescope (you’ll need at least 8″ of aperture under dark skies) and you will walk away with yet another impression. Because of the selective sensitivity of the human retina, the Ring Nebula will appear as a faint, diaphanous greenish-gray oval. That is a useful reminder that the colors of space are highly subjective. Each type of image is truthful in its own way, but none of them have a unique claim on representing what the Ring “really” looks like.
Click on each thumbnail for an explanation of how it was created and what it shows; then watch the video for the full story about the dying gasps of a sunlike star. And be glad that all this action is all unfolding far away. Before the sun produces a beautiful nebula of its own, it will have either baked the Earth to a crisp or swallowed and digested our planet entirely.
Time is real, the laws of physics can change and our universe could be involved in a cosmic natural selection process in which new universes are born from black holes, renowned physicist and author Lee Smolin said.
His views are contrary to the widely-accepted model of the universe in which time is an illusion and the laws of physics are fixed, as held by Einstein and many contemporary physicists as well as some ancient philosophers, Prof. Smolin said. Acknowledging that his statements were provocative, he explained how he had come to change his mind about the nature of reality and had moved away from the idea that the assumptions that apply to observations in a laboratory can be extrapolated to the whole universe.
The debate had sometimes taken a metaphysical turn, he said, in which the idea that time is not real had led some to conclude that everything that humans value – such as free will, imagination and agency – is also an illusion. "Is it any wonder that so many people don't buy science? This is what is at stake," he said.
From deadly nightshade to eye surgery and truth drugs; from poison gas to pesticides and cancer therapy; from explosives to treatments for heart disease; from natural toxins to new starting points for drug discovery. The unexpected relationship between chemical weapons and medicines will be explored, interspersed with curious parallels drawn from the speaker's 20 years of being a chemist.
Sir David Baulcombe is one of the world's top scientists whose work identified small RNAs, and he's a nice person as well. He will be a Keynote Speaker at the upcoming UK Plant Sciences Federation meeting in Dundee, Scotland, April 2013, which is sure to be a stimulating meeting http://www.plantsci2013.org.uk/programme/
Scientists have built and tested robotic ants, which they say behave just like a real ant colony.
The robots do not resemble their insect counterparts; they are tiny cubes equipped with two watch motors to power the wheels that enable them to move. But their collective behaviour is remarkably ant-like.
In this clip, lead researcher Dr Simon Garnier from the New Jersey Institute of Technology explains how the robots were designed to mimic the way in which an ant colony navigates.
Just like ants, he explains, the robots "work together" to find their way from A to B - each one leaving a light trail that others follow.
Viruses are biological pirates, invading cells and hijacking their machinery to reproduce and infect again. Research at Harvard Medical School is shedding new light on the battle line where viral and cell membranes meet, and the key role of a protein grappling hook with which the influenza virus commandeers its prize—your cells.
An influenza virus is a collection of eight RNA strands enclosed in a lipid-bilayer membrane. When the virus encounters a cell—in your lung, for example—that cell may engulf the virus inside an internal membrane called an endosome. To escape that bubble, the virus fuses its membrane with the endosome's, opening a window into the cell's interior. Once free, the viral RNA is copied, and the hijacked cell begins to manufacture copies of the virus. To fuse the two membranes, the virus carries a protein called hemagglutinin (the "H" in H1N1). Triggered by the acidic environment of an endosome, that protein will extend from the viral membrane and attach, like a grappling hook, to the endosome's membrane. When enough hooks are set, they draw the membranes together until they fuse The flu virus carries about 300 to 400 of these hooks, and virologists had known that several are needed to fuse the membranes.
In their latest study, reported last month in the new journal eLife, the HMS team show why. Using a microscope developed by first author Tijana Ivanovic, a research fellow in the HMS Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, the team looked closely at changes in the protein throughout its assault on the endosome. They observed that three or four hemagluttinin hooks must attach in close proximity to fuse the membranes. Without the help of neighbors, an individual hook is too weak to pull the membranes together. Instead, they observed, the protein remains stretched between the two membranes, like a bridge. And that's an intriguing target, said Stephen Harrison, the study's senior author and the Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Professor of Basic Biomedical Science in the department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at HMS. "That bridge can hang out there for as long as a minute," Harrison said. "That makes it an interesting target for an inhibitor, in principle, at least, because it's there for long enough to be targetable." The study also appears to settle a question about the nature of the hemagglutinin protein, and viral fusion: Are multiple hooks needed because they interact directly with each other to fuse the membranes, or because that's the number required to pull the somewhat elastic membranes together by brute force? The researchers' answer: brute force. "That observation helps us distinguish between classes of models for a stage of the fusion process," Harrison said. "That notion is probably fundamental to all viral fusion proteins—or for that matter to most cellular membrane fusion events facilitated by proteins."
Baile Zhang, an assistant professor of physics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has used the light-bending qualities of calcite - a cheap and abundant mineral that is a form of calcium carbonate - to create the first macroscopic invisibility cloak. Zhang originally came up with the technology in 2010. This short video clip is similar to what he recently demonstrated on stage at TED2013. He is placing a piece of calcite over a rolled-up Post-it note submerged in oil, making the pink tube appear to disappear. This research has applications in imaging, communication, and defense.
Dr. Hearn give an overview of his program - Optimization and Discrete Mathematics at the AFOSR (Air Force) Spring Review 2012.
• Discusses the cutting edge of optimization • 25% of all scientific programming is spent on linear programming problems • metamaterial design • Describes the value of the travelling salesman problem and how they can take two local optima and make the move the next local optima using non-quantum systems • Cracking or making a dent on travelling salesman problems means progress on all NP-complete problems. • Band gap optimization • photonic materials and crystalline structures • circuit design • improve drugs and manufacturing
Free biology talks by the world's leading scientists. Our mission is to produce a library of outstanding science lectures. We will add 15-20 seminars per year in a wide-range of biology topics. Access, through web streaming or download, is completely free-of-charge. Also check out our iBioMagazine channel, where you can watch ~10 minute talks about the human-side of science.
What made Einstein Einstein? With access to rare medical slides and photographs of the great scientist’s brain, researchers seek out the biological roots of genius in Einstein’s brain. What might Einstein’s brain have in common with young math whizzes today? How does the anatomy of David Pogue’s brain measure up to one of the greatest brains of all time? And can we discern whether peculiarities in Einstein’s brain are gifts of nature, fruits of nurture, or both?
Models of spontaneous wave function collapse make predictions, which are different from those of standard quantum mechanics. Indeed, these models can be considered as a rival theory, against which the standard theory can be tested, in pretty much the same way in which parametrized post-Newtonian gravitational theories are rival theories of general relativity. The predictions of collapse models almost coincide with those of standard quantum mechanics at the microscopic level, as these models have to account for the microscopic world, as we know it. Departures become significant when the size of the system increases. However, for larger systems environmental influences become more and more difficult to eliminate. This is the reason why it is tricky to test collapse models experimentally, and so far no decisive test has been performed. We will review the main phenomenological properties of collapse models, in particular the so-called amplification mechanics, as well as the main models, which are debated in the literature (GRW, CSL, QMUPL, DP). We will review the lower bounds on the collapse parameter, and more importantly the upper bounds set by available experimental data. This data come both from experimental tests on earth, and from cosmological observations.
"The USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center has taken delivery of a D-Wave One adiabatic quantum computer. In this talk, we will report on our experience assessing the quantum mechanical behavior of the device and benchmarking its performance. We will present experimental results that strongly indicate that quantum annealing is indeed being performed by D-Wave One, and show how the device performs when compared to classical computers on a particular optimization problem. We will also discuss a proposal to experimentally show the presence of entanglement that is being developed in collaboration with D-Wave. We will also report briefly on early work to find applications for the D-Wave One, and other challenges to broad use of this new technology."
"a new conversation on the future of healthcare with 200 expert leaders from the worlds of medicine, science, technology, and business.
....a clear, compelling argument that today there is a new opportunity to bring data into real-time decision-making for doctors, researchers, hospitals, and individuals. This combination has the potential to transform people's lives.
.....spanning the gap between healthcare and technology, connecting pioneering researchers with ambitious entrepreneurs. First and foremost, .... a forum for ideas. Expect new connections, new opportunities, and new insights in how better data is driving us all toward better health."
The study of extrasolar planets has recently entered its heyday with the launch of NASA's Kepler mission. Kepler has found that planetary systems are very common in our galaxy. Along the way, we've been surprised by the diversity of planetary systems, many of which bear little resemblance to our own solar system. Josh Carter presents these most alien of alien worlds, including planets orbiting two suns and a planetary system with two very different planets very close to one another.
There is a fundamental chasm in our understanding of ourselves, the universe, and everything. To solve this, Sir Martin takes us on a mind-boggling journey through multiple universes to post-biological life. On the way we learn of the disturbing possibility that we could be the product of someone elses experiment.
Professor Paul Newman discusses the present and future state of robotics: asking how the state of the discipline measures up to science fiction, and discussing how Robots can learn to navigate our world, with profound consequences for society
Converting algae to biofuel could be a sustainable solution to the need for liquid fuel in the United States, according to U-M researchers. Scientists in the chemical engineering department are working to create an effective method for converting the plant, which can be harvested continuously and grown in any water condition.
Savage's ocean-going organism of choice is the green marine micro-alga of the genus Nannochloropsis. To make their one-minute biocrude, Savage and Julia Faeth, a doctoral student in Savage's lab, filled a steel pipe connector with 1.5 milliliters of wet algae, capped it and plunged it into 1,100-degree Fahrenheit sand. The small volume ensured that the algae was heated through, but with only a minute to warm up, the algae's temperature should have just grazed the 550-degree mark before the team pulled the reactor back out. Previously, Savage and his team heated the algae for times ranging from 10 to 90 minutes. They saw their best results, with about half of the algae converted to biocrude, after treating it for 10 to 40 minutes at 570 degrees.
Thea Tlsty, UCSF Professor of Pathology, explains the biology of cancer; that cancer arises primarily through damage to the genetic program of our cells, how this leads to uncontrolled growth and invasion, how cancer intrudes upon and destroys adjacent or distant tissues, and how the inner workings of the cancer cell function. Series: "UCSF Osher Mini Medical School for the Public" [1/2012]
On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun's lower right limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays – a phenomenon known as coronal rain.
Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.
The footage in this video was collected by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument. SDO collected one frame every 12 seconds, and the movie plays at 30 frames per second, so each second in this video corresponds to six minutes of real time. The video covers 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili explores how the mysteries of quantum theory might be observable at the biological level.
Although many examples can be found in the scientific literature dating back half a century, there is still no widespread acceptance that quantum mechanics -- that baffling yet powerful theory of the subatomic world -- might play an important role in biological processes. Biology is, at its most basic, chemistry, and chemistry is built on the rules of quantum mechanics in the way atoms and molecules behave and fit together.
As Jim explains, biologists have until recently been dismissive of counter-intuitive aspects of the theory and feel it to be unnecessary, preferring their traditional ball-and-stick models of the molecular structures of life. Likewise, physicists have been reluctant to venture into the messy and complex world of the living cell - why should they when they can test their theories far more cleanly in the controlled environment of the physics lab?
But now, experimental techniques in biology have become so sophisticated that the time is ripe for testing ideas familiar to quantum physicists. Can quantum phenomena in the subatomic world impact the biological level and be present in living cells or processes - from the way proteins fold or genes mutate and the way plants harness light in photosynthesis to the way some birds navigate using the Earth's magnetic field? All appear to utilise what Jim terms "the weirdness of the quantum world".
The discourse explores multiple theories of quantum mechanics, from superposition to quantum tunnelling, and reveals why "the most powerful theory in the whole of science" remains incredibly mysterious. Plus, watch out for a fantastic explanation of the famous double slit experiment.
Dr. Martin Kohn, Chief Medical Scientist, Care Delivery Systems, IBM Research
Abstract: We have solid ideas about the flawed state of healthcare, the critical need for change and the future we want. Improving health outcomes while controlling costs and personalizing healthcare are among the objectives. It is clear that enabling the transformation of healthcare will require making better decisions. At the same time we are dealing with huge and expanding volumes of data. We will need tools to help us gather and analyze data to bring relevant information to decision makers so that it easier to obtain evidence-supported choices. Unstructured, text-like content is a large fraction of the data we rely on for decisions. Up until recently we have had limited ability to use unstructured material effectively. IBM's Watson, with its ability to understand the nature of a question being addressed and to read and understand huge volumes of literature, makes such material more approachable. However, making medicine more precise mandates the use of other forms of data, and population observational techniques. Predictive analytics, to identify people that need specific attention, and comparative analytics to elicit evidence from populations that can be applied to individuals, are part of the process. IBM has developed robust resources that provide such information.
Speakers Biography: Dr. Kohn is Chief Medical Scientist for Care Delivery Systems in IBM Research. He is a leader in IBM's support for the transformation of healthcare, including development of personalized care, outcomes-based models and payment reform. His research work includes healthcare population analytics and the role of expert systems in the clinical decision process, including the use of the Watson supercomputer in healthcare. He speaks frequently on the issues on healthcare transformation, the role of information technology, the Patient Centered Medical Home and clinical decision support. Dr. Kohn is a co-author of IBM's white paper "Patient-Centered Medical Home -- What, Why and How." He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Kohn was previously in IBM Healthcare Strategy and Change which helped healthcare systems and clinicians optimize process and make best use of health information technology. He has published multiple articles and book chapters on clinical, technical and management subjects. Dr. Kohn is an emergency physician with over 30 years of hospital-based practice and management experience. He is an alumnus of MIT, Harvard Medical School and NYU, and is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American College of Physician Executives.