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Google introduces new Google Maps feature that allows users to see inside businesses

Google introduces new Google Maps feature that allows users to see inside businesses | Amazing Science |
A new feature inside Google Maps lets users peek inside businesses before visiting them, thanks to panoramic photos shared by the businesses with Google.


"These interior business photos on Google Maps give you the feeling of being there, and the comfort of knowing what to expect when you arrive," the company said in a blog post. To see the panoramic photos, first zoom in toward street level -- if you're more than four levels up from the street, it won't work. Click and drag the orange figure known as Pegman over the section of the map you're looking at. Once you do, you'll see orange dots indicating businesses that have submitted panoramas to Google. The company says "thousands" of businesses have submitted photos so far.

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20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

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Arturo Pereira's curator insight, August 12, 2017 9:01 AM
The democratization of knowledge!
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Artificial intelligence identifies 6,000 new craters on the Moon

Artificial intelligence identifies 6,000 new craters on the Moon | Amazing Science |
The advanced method could streamline the formerly manual technique.


Despite vast developments in technology over the last few decades, our method for counting craters on the Moon hasn’t advanced much, with the human eye still being heavily relied on for identification. In an effort to eliminate the monotony of tracking lunar cavities and basins manually, a group of researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough came up with an innovative technique that resulted in the discovery of 6,000 new craters.


“Basically, we need to manually look at an image, locate and count the craters, and then calculate how large they are based off the size of the image. Here we’ve developed a technique from artificial intelligence that can automate this entire process that saves significant time and effort,” said Mohamad Ali-Dib, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto’s Centre for Planetary Sciences and co-developer of the technology, in a news release.


The method utilizes a convolutional neural network, the same machine learning algorithm used for computer vision and self-driving cars. The research team used data from elevation maps, collected by orbiting satellites, to train the algorithm on an area that covers two-thirds of the Moon’s surface. They then tested the technology on the remaining third, an area it hadn’t yet seen.


The algorithm was able to map the unseen terrain with incredible accuracy and great detail. It identified twice as many craters as manual methods, with about 6,000 new lunar craters being discovered. “Tens of thousands of unidentified small craters are on the Moon, and it’s unrealistic for humans to efficiently characterize them all by eye,” said Ari Silburt, a former University of Toronto Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics grad student, who helped create the AI algorithm. “There’s real potential for machines to help identify these small craters and reveal undiscovered clues about the formation of our solar system.”


Because the Moon doesn’t have flowing water, plate tectonics, or an atmosphere, its surface undergoes very little erosion. With its ancient craters remaining relatively intact, researchers are able to study factors like size, age, and impact to gain insight into our solar system’s evolution and the material distribution that occurred early on.

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Mumps outbreaks linked to waning vaccine protection, study says

Mumps outbreaks linked to waning vaccine protection, study says | Amazing Science |

The recent resurgence of mumps outbreaks may be due to waning protection bestowed by the mumps portion of the MMR vaccine. A booster shot at age 18 could thwart future outbreaks.


Mumps, which is typically spread through saliva and mucus, causes fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite and the characteristic puffy cheeks and jaw from swollen salivary glands. In 1977, theUS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to recommend two doses of the MMR vaccine for children.
For the new study, Lewnard and Yonatan Grad, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at TH Chan, examined data from six separate mumps vaccine effectiveness studies conducted in the United States and Europe. Their goal was to understand the underlying reasons for a series of mumps outbreaks on college campuses since 2006.
CDC recommends booster shot of MMR vaccine during mumps outbreaks. These outbreaks are troubling for two reasons, Lewnard and Grad wrote. First, up to 10% of mumps infections in teenagers or adults may cause severe complications, including deafness, meningitis and involvement of the testes or ovaries. Children who get sick with the mumps typically do not experience such severe symptoms. Second, most recent mumps outbreaks have occurred among people who had received the recommended two vaccine doses. The researchers wondered, is the vaccine less effective against emerging and circulating strains of the mumps virus? Or does the protection provided by the vaccine wane over time?
The new study showed the vaccine to be effective in providing "broad protection against all different strains of the mumps virus," Lewnard said. However, this protection did not last forever.
"We estimated that protection lasts on average 27 years," he said. "We estimate that about 25% of people will lose protection and be at risk for mumps in about eight years and that 50% will be at risk in about 19 years, and 75% of people will be at risk within 38 years. So the timing at which people lose protection can definitely vary individually."
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Powerful new imaging method reveals in detail how particles move in solution

Powerful new imaging method reveals in detail how particles move in solution | Amazing Science |

New research published in Nature Methods will dramatically improve how scientists "see inside" molecular structures in solution, allowing for much more precise ways to image data in various fields, from astronomy to drug discovery.


The new method will allow for the visualization of many more biological molecules, providing critical information about what is inside molecules to scientists who currently can only access their outer shape or envelope. Such information could be a major boost to studies of viruses, for example.


"With existing techniques, you can only see the outline of the virus," said author Thomas D. Grant, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Structural Biology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and the Department of Materials, Design and Innovation in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute. "This new method allows us to see inside the virus molecule to understand how the genetic information is arranged, potentially giving new insight into how the virus injects this genetic information into its host."


Grant is the sole author of the paper, a rarity among papers published in this journal. He is a scientist with BioXFEL (Biology with X-ray Free Electron Lasers), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center composed of eight U.S. research universities that is headquartered at UB. Its mission is to address fundamental questions in biology at the molecular level using cutting-edge techniques, including X-ray laser science.


Grant's method has solved the phase problem for a particular molecular determination technique called solution scattering. The phase problem is where critical information about the phase of a molecule is lost during the experimental process of making a physical measurement.


He explained that most molecular structures today are solved using X-ray crystallography, where the structures scatter intense X-rays in patterns consisting of hundreds of thousands of unique pieces of information, which are used to ultimately reveal the structure at high-resolution.


"The problem is that more than 75 percent of molecular structures do not readily form the ordered crystals that diffract well," explained Grant. "That means many molecules are difficult to visualize in three dimensions."


In addition, he said, biological molecules can exhibit dynamic motions that have an impact on how they function but those motions are missing when structures crystallize, resulting in the loss of important biological information. One way around this obstacle is to use a technique called solution scattering in which X-rays scatter off of molecules floating in solution instead of arranged in a crystal.


"Solution scattering allows the molecules to move dynamically in their natural states, enabling the visualization of large-scale conformational dynamics important for biological function," said Grant. "However, as the molecules tumble in solution, they scatter the X-rays in many different orientations, losing most of the information, typically yielding only 10 to 20 unique pieces of data." Until now, such little information only yielded low-resolution outlines of the particle shape.

The Science & Education team's curator insight, March 21, 5:08 PM
In the past atoms were always 'theoretical'. The massive improvement in imaging are now direct images of molecules in motion.

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Smart robot smashes Rubik’s Cube solving record with an amazing 0.38-second solve

Smart robot smashes Rubik’s Cube solving record with an amazing 0.38-second solve | Amazing Science |

Hardware hackers Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik's cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637. "We noticed that all of the fast Rubik's Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors," Di Carlo wrote in a blog post.


A custom-built motor controller allows a single turn of the Rubik's Cube to be completed in around 10 milliseconds. With a a typical Rubik's Cube solution taking 19 to 23 turns, that should allow a cube to be solved in around 0.25 seconds—but the pair say the current iteration of the machine makes a move every 15 milliseconds instead.


"The machine can definitely go even faster, but the tuning process is really time consuming since debugging needs to be done with the high-speed camera, and mistakes often break the cube or blow up FETs," Katz wrote on his blog. "For the time being, Jared and I have both lost interest in playing the tuning game, but we might come back to it eventually and shave off another 100 ms or so." While a human player would be inclined to loosen the cube up to make it easier to turn, Katz says they found the opposite approach works better for robot solving.


"When the cube is loose (like it would be if a person were trying to solve it fast), the outer faces just cam outwards when you try to turn the center faces quickly," Katz wrote. "It took tightening the cube way past what intuitively felt appropriate in order to stop the cam-cording action from happening."


To detect the current state of the cube, Katz and Di Carlo acquired a pair of Playstation 3 Eye webcams for $7 each. They positioned them at opposite corners of the cube, allowing each camera to observe three faces. The cameras had trouble distinguishing red and orange faces, so they painted the orange faces black to make them stand out better.


"The software identifies all the colors, builds a description of the cube, and passes it to the min2phase solver," Di Carlo wrote. The solution is then sent out via a serial cable to the six motors, one for each face of the cube. The whole process—from capturing the image to sending the instructions to the motors—takes around 45 milliseconds.


There's even more detail on the project on Katz and Di Carlo's blog posts.

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Novel quantum effect observed in a carbon nanotube film could lead to the development of unique lasers

Novel quantum effect observed in a carbon nanotube film could lead to the development of unique lasers | Amazing Science |

A novel quantum effect observed in a carbon nanotube film could lead to the development of unique lasers and other optoelectronic devices, according to scientists at Rice University and Tokyo Metropolitan University.


The Rice-Tokyo team reported an advance in the ability to manipulate light at the quantum scale by using single-walled carbon nanotubes as plasmonic quantum confinement fields.


The phenomenon found in the Rice lab of physicist Junichiro Kono could be key to developing optoelectronic devices like nanoscale, near-infrared lasers that emit continuous beams at wavelengths too short to be produced by current technology.


The new research is detailed in Nature Communications. The project came together in the wake of the Kono group's discovery of a way to achieve very tight alignment of carbon nanotubes in wafer-sized films. These films allowed for experiments that were far too difficult to carry out on single or tangled aggregates of nanotubes and caught the attention of Tokyo Metropolitan physicist Kazuhiro Yanagi, who studies condensed matter physics in nano materials.


"He brought the gating technique (which controls the density of electrons in the nanotube film), and we provided the alignment technique," Kono said. "For the first time we were able to make a large-area film of aligned nanotubes with a gate that allows us to inject and take out a large density of free electrons."


"The gating technique is very interesting, but the nanotubes were randomly oriented in the films I had used," Yanagi said. "That situation was very frustrating because I could not get precise knowledge of the one-dimensional characteristics of nanotubes in such films, which is most important. The films that can only be provided by the Kono group are amazing because they allowed us to tackle this subject."


Their combined technologies let them pump electrons into nanotubes that are little more than a nanometer wide and then excite them with polarized light. The width of the nanotubes trapped the electrons in quantum wells, in which the energy of atoms and subatomic particles is "confined" to certain states, or subbands. Light then prompted them to oscillate very quickly between the walls. With enough electrons, Kono said, they began to act as plasmons.


"Plasmons are collective charge oscillations in a confined structure," he said. "If you have a plate, a film, a ribbon, a particle or a sphere and you perturb the system (usually with a light beam), these free carriers move collectively with a characteristic frequency." The effect is determined by the number of electrons and the size and shape of the object.

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Canadian Nanotechnology Firm Finds Water in the Driest of Air

Canadian Nanotechnology Firm Finds Water in the Driest of Air | Amazing Science |

A Canadian startup could have a new breakthrough in pulling moisture from the driest of places. For years, researchers around the world have been looking for new technology and methods of making drinkable water out of the atmosphere.


The company Awn Nanotech, based out of Montreal, have been leveraging the latest in nanotechnology to make that water harvesting a reality. Awn Nanotech, most recently, released new information about their progress at the American Physical Society’s March meeting — the world’s largest gathering of physicists.


Founder Richard Boudreault made the presentation, who is both a physicist and an entrepreneur with a sizeable number of other tech-based startup companies under his belt. He said the company got its inspiration after hearing about the water crises in southern California and South Africa. While most others were looking to solve the problem by desalination techniques and new technologies, he wanted to look to the sky instead.


He also wondered if he could create a more cost-efficient alternative to the other expensive options on the market. By tapping into nanotechnology, he could pull the particles toward each other and use the natural tension found in the surface as a force of energy to power the nanotechnology itself.


“It’s extremely simple technology, so it’s extremely durable,” Boudreault said at the press conference. Boudreault partnered with college students throughout Canada to develop a specific textile. The fine mesh of carbon nanotubes would be both hydrophilic (attracts water to the surface) on one side and hydrophobic (repels water away from the surface) on the other. Water particles hit the mesh and get pushed through the film from one side to the other. This ultimately forms droplets.


“Because of the surface tension, (the water) finds its way through,” Boudreault explained. The water then gets consolidated into storage tanks as clean water where it can await consumption. While there’s no need for power with the system, the Awn Nanotech team realized they could significantly speed up the water harvesting process by adding a simple fan. The team quickly added a small fan of a size that cools a computer. To make sure the fan also kept energy usage low, the fan itself runs on a small solar panel.


There have been some other attempts around the world to scale up water harvesting technology. In April 2017, a team from MIT partnered with University of California at Berkeley to harvest fog. They turned their attention to already very moist air and created a much cheaper alternative to other fog-harvesting methods using metal-organic frameworks.


However, unlike the small frameworks developed by the MIT researchers, Boudreault said that they’ve quickly scaled up their technology. In fact, the Awn Nanotech team has already created a larger alternative to their smaller scale that can capture 1,000 liters in one day. They’re currently selling their regular-scale water capture systems for $1,000 each, but the company intends on partnering with agricultural companies and farms for the more extensive systems.

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Seven Successfully Cloned Mammals

Seven Successfully Cloned Mammals | Amazing Science |

Chinese scientists startled the world January 28, 2018, by announcing they had successfully cloned a monkey, sparking controversy about the possibility of human cloning not being far away. Let’s take a look at some other successfully cloned mammals.


The first cloning experiments started in 1950 and by 1962 scientists had managed to grow an adult cloned frog. This feat won biologist John Gurdon a Nobel Prize. The problem with cloning is that not every egg starts dividing its cells and growing larger and not every embryo that grows survives. This makes cloning a lengthy and costly process.


But how much progress have we made into cloning humans? In 2013, a group of scientists led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov managed to implant the core of a skin cell into an egg in the US. The embryo started dividing and developed for several days, after which the experiment was interrupted for stem cell extraction. This experiment involved no surrogate mother, so, strictly speaking it's not cloning.



The first mammal to get cloned was an albino mouse. The operation was performed by a team of Soviet scientists led by Levon Chailahyan and reported in the journal "Biofizika" in 1987. The biologists managed to merge an embryo cell with a cleansed egg, which resulted in three cloned little mice.



For a long time, cloning was a strictly academic issue. The wide public became attracted to the topic in 1997, after Ian Wilmut cloned a sheep, producing the world-famous Dolly the Sheep. Dolly procreated successfully, but lived for only six years —due to health problems, she had to be euthanized. The scientists speculate Dolly suffered from accelerated aging.



The first cat clone was born after 87 unsuccessful attempts in December 2001 at Texas A&M University. The female cat was named, of course, Copy Cat, or CC for short. Curiously, CC was cloned from a three-colored calico, but was born a white and brown tabby. Scientists explain that in cats, the color of fur depends not only on gene set, but also on which genes "switch on" during embryo development. Thus, scientists say, it's no wonder that CC had a different set of genes that "switched on" and determined her paint than her genetic donor did. Unlike Dolly, CC has recently celebrated her 15th birthday, debunking a widespread concern that cloned animals have poor health.



In May 2003, at Idaho University, a mule clone was born. It was carried by a horse mare, but the clone's donor was an award-winning mule. At age three, he won third place in a race against mules born naturally. The same year, a cloned horse named Prometea was born; scientists only succeeded following 327 failed attempts.



The first dog clone was an Afghan Hound pup who was born in 2005 at Seoul National University in South Korea. Snuppy, as the clone was named, was the only survivor of 1,095 embryos implanted in 123 dogs. The experiment was carried out by Hwang Woo-suk, who gained notoriety after he falsified stem cells experiments, but later examination proved that Snuppy is really a clone. The scientists used a skin cell from a donor's ear, and this technology is still being used to this day.



In 2009, a cloned camel named Injaz ("achievement") was born in a camel reproduction center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She was a genetic copy of a camel that had died in 2005. Injaz grew up healthy and fertile and gave birth to a daughter in 2015.



Which brings us to our primate clones. In January 2018, a group of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai announced that two clones of java macaques had been born. Named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, the two monkey girls are reportedly perfectly healthy.

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“Off-The-Shelf” Third Party T Cells for CAR-T Therapy Under Investigation

“Off-The-Shelf” Third Party T Cells for CAR-T Therapy Under Investigation | Amazing Science |

Gene editing techniques now are paving the way for an “off-the-shelf” CAR T-cell strategy for treatment of relapsed and refractory T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) and non-Hodgkin T-cell lymphoma (T-NHL) without a requirement for autologous T cells. Researchers are now reporting in the journal Leukemia that they have used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to engineer human T cells that can attack human T-cell cancers.


The researchers engineered the T cells so any donor’s T cells could be used. A matched donor with similar immunity is not required and neither are the patient’s own T cells. “We were able to efficiently (> 90%) delete both copies of CD7 and the T-cell receptor alpha subunit (TRAC) and insert a unique CAR to CD7 in human T cells, which maintains normal killing function of these genetically manipulated human T cells in vitro and in vivo. We were able to show that these genetically modified CAR T cells kill both CD7+ human T-ALL cells and T-NHL in vitro and in vivo in immunodeficient mice,” said senior author John F. DiPersio, MD, PhD, who is a professor of medicine in oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.


Dr. DiPersio’s team first generated a novel CAR T-cell strategy targeting CD7, allowing for the targeting and killing of all cells with CD7 on the surface. To prevent T-cell fratricide, the researchers used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to remove CD7 from healthy T cells. In addition, they used CRISPR gene editing to simultaneously eliminate the therapeutic T cells’ ability to see healthy tissues as foreign. “Our multiplex gene editing of CD7 and TRAC renders these T cells immune to fratricide and from causing graft versus host disease (GvHD).  Thus, this represents the first “off-the-shelf” third party CAR T allowing for targeting of both T-ALL, T-NHL, and natural killer (NK) malignancies (also CD7+) without risk of fratricide or GvHD.” Dr. DiPersio told Cancer Network.


The researchers demonstrated that this approach is effective in mice with T-ALL taken from patients. Mice treated with the gene-edited T cells targeted to CD7 survived 65 days, compared with 31 days in a comparison group that received engineered T cells targeting a different protein. The researchers found no evidence of GvHD in the mice. In addition, the study revealed that the therapeutic T cells remained in the blood for at least 6 weeks after the initial injection, suggesting it could ramp up again to kill cancerous T cells if they return.


“The development of CAR T to T-cell and NK-cell malignancies has now been accomplished through the use of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and lentiviral gene transduction technologies. This provides the first pathway for overcoming major obstacles of targeting T-cell and NK-cell malignancies using cellular therapy,” said Dr. DiPersio, who is also the deputy director of Siteman Cancer Center. The researchers now hope to translate these findings into the clinic specifically for the treatment of children and adults with relapsed and refractory T-cell hematologic malignancies.  The first clinical trial is set to begin in the next 12 to 18 months.

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Scientists Find Over 500 Genes Linked To Intelligence

Scientists Find Over 500 Genes Linked To Intelligence | Amazing Science |
A new piece of research has identified over 500 genes that appear to be linked to sharp intelligence.


How much a person’s intelligence is governed by nature or nurture has been debated throughout the ages. A new piece of research has thrown some interesting evidence into the mix, identifying over 500 genes that appear to be linked to sharp intelligence.


The research is the largest study looking at how genes and intelligence are linked to date. Using the heaps of data gathered by the UK Biobank, scientists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton, and Harvard University compared DNA variants in over 248,000 people from across the world.


As they explain in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry, they managed to find 538 genes that play a role in intellectual ability, along with 187 regions in the human genome that are linked to cognitive skills.


In theory, this means that scientists could get an insight into your IQ just by analyzing your spit in a pot. As part of this new study, the researchers tested out this idea and managed to predict differences in intelligence of a group of individuals using their DNA alone. 


“Our study identified a large number of genes linked to intelligence," Dr David Hill, from the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, said in a statement. "Importantly, we were also able to identify some of the biological processes that genetic variation appears to influence to produce such differences in intelligence, and we were also able to predict intelligence in another group using only their DNA.” 


That said, the impact of genetics or environment on a person’s intelligence remains as hazy as ever. Their study was only able to predict 7 percent of the intelligence differences between those people, which is not totally definitive. “We know that environments and genes both contribute to the differences we observe in people’s intelligence," Professor Ian Deary, Principal Investigator, added.


"This study adds to what we know about which genes influence intelligence, and suggests that health and intelligence are related in part because some of the same genes influence them.”


So, don’t be too disheartened by the suggestion that some aspects of intelligence could be programmed into your DNA. Just as other scientific studies have suggested, it appears that the brilliance of your brain is also influenced by a cocktail of external influences, from your upbringing and life experiences, to even your health.

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Blockchain Moves Beyond Bitcoin and is Here to Stay

Blockchain Moves Beyond Bitcoin and is Here to Stay | Amazing Science |

Touted as the next big tech disrupter in the world of business, blockchain technology could make transactions, from finance to food chain logistics, faster and more secure.


The first blockchain was invented in 2008 specifically to support the bitcoin cryptocurrency. Today, bitcoin owners can use the cryptocoin to purchase everything from plane tickets to electronics. While it may be a better alternative to fiat currency in many ways, the applications extend far beyond shopping.


Businesses are using blockchain in ways that benefit both their bottom line and their customers. Hyperledger, an open-source collaborative effort the Linux Foundation created to advance blockchain technologies, can streamline financial transactions and even track the food supply chain.


In 2017, Intel demonstrated how Hyperledger’s Sawtooth blockchain platform could be combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the seafood supply chain from ocean to table.


“Previously, the information available to any one company in the supply chain was fairly narrow,” said Reed. For example, a restaurant owner might know the date fish was ordered, when it’s due to arrive and the price paid, but they may have a difficult time tracking the fish en route from sea to table.


To improve the process, IoT sensors were affixed to the harvested fish to gauge its shipping location, temperature during transport, movement and more. Using Hyperledger Sawtooth, anyone along the supply chain has the ability to keep better track of the fish. “Blockchain implementation allowed us to know for certain when the fisherman caught the fish, when they stored it, its temperature at any time, when it was inspected and exactly when it arrived at a restaurant,” said Reed.


Eventually, restaurants and grocers could use a similar blockchain implementation to track meat and produce. Using traditional supply chain protocols, contaminated food is very difficult to track. However, with blockchain a grocery store could know within minutes instead of days exactly which products to pull from shelves, potentially stopping contaminated food from ever reaching shelves in the first place.


Consumers can be privy to a product’s entire history on a blockchain, perhaps through a simple scan of a QR code on a package, said Reed. The consumer would know more about what they were eating, and the price they paid would be more likely to accurately reflect the quality of the product.

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Non-invasive artificial larynx capable of generating a high-quality voice

Non-invasive artificial larynx capable of generating a high-quality voice | Amazing Science |

In a move that could give a voice to the 300,000 people around the world who have had their larynx removed due to cancer, scientists at the MARCS Institute at Western Sydney University have tested a non-invasive artificial larynx and found it capable of generating a high-quality voice. Unlike existing prosthetics that rely on input from the nerves or muscles of the larynx, the Pneumatic Artificial Larynx (PAL) device uses the patient's respiratory system and doesn't need to be surgically implanted.


"The existing standard of care requires the surgical application of prosthetic devices into the open wound in the neck, known as the 'stoma', which is left after a laryngectomy so that a patient can breathe," says Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Farzaneh Ahmadi. "The surgery is invasive; infections and complications are common; and the resulting voice is often hoarse and whispery."


In a pre-clinical trial, researchers working on The Bionic Voice research project developed an electronic adaption of a PAL device called the Pneumatic Bionic Voice (PBV), which uses the patient's breath to create a humming sound that is then converted to speech with movement of the lips and tongue. The study found that a device exclusively driven by respiration could in fact aid in recreating the function of the larynx without any nerve input and produce a quality of voice better than the existing gold standard. The device tested features a tube that goes from the stoma to the mouth and is cumbersome, as can be seen in the above image.


However, the team has plans to develop a functional PBV prosthesis in the form of a "control unit" that can be applied over the stoma, and a "voice source" unit that sits on the roof of the mouth. Dr Ahmadi claims this device would be the first non-invasive, non-surgical, electronic voice prosthesis in the world and would be capable of producing more human-sounding speech than current devices.

Via Ray and Terry's
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Wireless patch poised to streamline emergency rooms

Wireless patch poised to streamline emergency rooms | Amazing Science |

In order to have their vital signs continuously monitored, patients in emergency rooms have to be hooked up to a variety of sensors – this makes it awkward for them to move around, among other things. Soon, however, all those machines could be replaced by one small electronic patch that adheres to their chest.


The device was developed by Swiss startup Smartcardia, a company that was spun off from the EPFL research institute.

Applied to a patient's chest under their clothes, the patch uses integrated sensors to monitor stats such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, cardiac rhythm and cardiac electrical activity – it reportedly does so just as accurately as traditional cable-based sensors.


The data is wirelessly transmitted to a server, which doctors can access in real time via a smartphone, tablet, or any internet-connected device. Along with its use in hospitals, the patch could also allow patients to be remotely monitored while in their homes, going about their daily activities. This would minimize the number of visits that they would need to pay to the hospital just to get checked, while ensuring that any problems got detected right away.


To that end, Smartcardia is also working on an artificial intelligence system that would allow the patch to spot health problems early. It would do so by detecting slight changes in a patient's vital signs and linking them together, to see if the combination corresponded to existing models of serious conditions.


The Smartcardia patch has already been tested on hundreds of patients at several hospitals, and recently received the European Union's CE marking for medical devices. Large-scale production has begun, and a commercial launch for the Swiss and EU markets should reportedly be taking place quite soon.

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Industrial brewing yeast engineered for the production of primary flavor determinants in hopped beer

Industrial brewing yeast engineered for the production of primary flavor determinants in hopped beer | Amazing Science |

Can you brew a hoppy beer without hops? Beer purists might regard the idea with suspicion, but researchers at UC Berkeley, with some help from UC Davis have shown that you can brew a tasty hoppy beer using gene-edited yeast to replace hop flavors.


According to Charles Denby, a former postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, growing hops uses a lot of water – 50 pints of water to grow enough hops (the crumbly flowers of the hop vine) for a pint of craft beer.


Denby and Rachel Li, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to engineer brewer’s yeast to include genes from mint, basil and hops. Their goal was to create yeast that could make two chemicals, linalool and geraniol, that produce hoppy flavors. They brought their most promising yeast strains to Charles Bamforth, professor of malting and brewing science at UC Davis and an authority on all things beer-related, and asked him to test them out in some brews.


Bryan Donaldson, Innovations Manager at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, Calif. and a former student of Bamforth’s, organized a blind taste testing with Lagunitas employees. The testers found the beer made with engineered yeast to be more hoppy than a beer made by conventional means.


Denby originally came to Berkeley to work with Professor Jay Keasling on biofuels and stumbled into the brewing project through home brewing with other lab members.


The work, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, was supported by the National Science Foundation. Additional coauthors are Van Vu of UC Berkeley, Weiyin Lin, Leanne Jade Chan, Christopher Petzold, Henrik Scheller and Hector Garcia Martin of the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville (part of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and Joseph Williams of UC Davis.

Sandracbl's curator insight, Today, 12:21 PM

Genetic engineering to make #beer without hops?  Enter the market of "organic beer" vs "cerveza artesanal" vs...

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Great Pacific Garbage Patch weighs more than 43,000 cars and is much larger than we thought

Great Pacific Garbage Patch weighs more than 43,000 cars and is much larger than we thought | Amazing Science |
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch weighs 87,000 tons -- 16 times more than previous estimates -- and contains more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, according to a new analysis.


A new analysis, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, reveals the makeup of this massive collection of floating trash in the North Pacific in a way that’s never been done before. The patch weighs 87,000 tons — 16 times more than previous estimates — and contains more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, the study shows. But its findings on the individual pieces of plastic inside the patch might hold the key to cleaning up this human-made mess.


Plastics tend to break down, due to heat and sunlight exposure, into small particles known as microplastics. In the past, scientists estimated the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by hopping on a boat and trawling the trash with fine nets — nets originally designed for catching plankton.


Running these nets through the patch, which extends from California to Hawaii, was not only laborious, it failed to catch big things like bottles and buoys. Scientists tried counting these larger items by eye, but they could only do so for small sections of the patch. By extrapolating, they could develop a sense of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch size, but their final estimates — especially for large pieces of trash — varied dramatically.


Three year ago, The Ocean Cleanup foundation opted for a more direct approach. The Netherlands-based organization hired 18 ships to trawl at different spots across the whole patch. But they used 652 nets capable of catching microplastics or larger trash.

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How Women Experience Addiction Differently Than Men

How Women Experience Addiction Differently Than Men | Amazing Science |

Addiction to substances such as heroin and alcohol affect women differently than men. A 2010 American Journal of Public Health study found that women were more likely to be prescribed opioids than men and to continue them long-term. Another study of chronic pain patients prescribed opioids in the Journal of Pain revealed that women’s increased risk of opioid misuse was related to emotional issues while men misused opioids because of legal and behavioral problems.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers and at higher doses than men; and become dependent more quickly than men. From 1999 to 2010, CDC data revealed that 48,000 women died of prescription-related overdoses. During this timeframe, prescription overdose deaths increased over 400% among women, versus 237% among men. The sobering statistics don’t end with prescriptions. The National Center for Health Statistics reported heroin overdose deaths among women tripled from 2010 through 2013.

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Astronomers Have Detected the Brightest 'Fast Radio Burst' Ever Seen and Still Have No Idea What's Causing Them

Astronomers Have Detected the Brightest 'Fast Radio Burst' Ever Seen and Still Have No Idea What's Causing Them | Amazing Science |

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) have been one of the more puzzling and fascinating areas of astronomical study ever since the first was detected in 2007 (known as the Lorimer Burst). Much like gravitational waves, the study of these short-lived radio pulses (which last only a few milliseconds) is still in its infancy, and only a 33 events have been detected. What’s more, scientists are still not sure what accounts for them. In early March 2018, scientists using the Parkes Radio Telescope detected three FRBs, one of which was the brightest ever observed.


While some believe that they are entirely natural in origin, others have speculated that they could be evidence of extra-terrestrial activity. Regardless of their cause, according to a recent study, three FRBs were detected this month in Australia by the Parkes Observatory radio telescope in remote Australia. Of these three, one happened to be the most powerful FRB recorded to date.


The signals were detected on March 1st, March 9th, and March 11th of 2018, and were designated as FRB 180301, FRB 180309 and FRB 180311. Of these, the one recorded on March 9th (FRB 180309) was the brightest ever recorded, having a signal-to-noise ratio that was four times higher than the previous brightest FRB. This event, known as FRB 170827, was detected on August 27th, 2017, by the UTMOST array in Australia.


All three of these events were detected by the Parkes radio telescope, which is located in New South Wales about 380 kilometers (236 mi) from Sidney. As one of three telescopes that makes up the Australia Telescope National Facility, this telescope has been studying pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars, and conducting large-scale surveys of the sky since 1961. In recent years, it has been dedicated to the detection of FRBs in our Universe.


Considering how rare and short-lived FRBs are, recording three in the space of one month is quite the achievement. What’s more, the fact that the detections happened in real-time, rather than being discovered in archival data, is also impressive. Shortly after the event, Stefan Oslowski (of the Swinburne University of Technology) tweeted about this rather fortunate discovery (see below). At present, none of the three events are believed to be “repeaters” – aka. Repeating Fast Radio Bursts. So far, only one FRB has been found to be repeating. This was none other than FRB 121102, which was first detected by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico on November 2nd, 2012. In 2015, several more bursts were detected from this some source which had properties that were consistent with the original signal.

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Hubble Measures Universe Expansion, Gets Intriguing Hints of potentially ‘New Physics’

Hubble Measures Universe Expansion, Gets Intriguing Hints of potentially ‘New Physics’ | Amazing Science |
A team of U.S. astronomers has used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to make a new measurement of the Hubble constant, the rate at which the Universe is expanding. The results, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, are forcing the scientists to consider that they may be seeing evidence of something unexpected at work in the Universe.


The team — led by Nobel Laureate Adam Riess, a professor of astronomy and physics at the Johns Hopkins University and a senior member of the science staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute — has been successful in refining the Hubble constant value by streamlining and strengthening the construction of the cosmic distance ladder, which astronomers use to measure accurate distances to galaxies near to and far from Earth. The astronomers have compared those distances with the expansion of space as measured by the stretching of light from receding galaxies. They then have used the apparent outward velocity of galaxies at each distance to calculate the Hubble constant. But the Hubble constant’s value is only as precise as the accuracy of the measurements.


Scientists cannot use a tape measure to gauge the distances between galaxies. Instead, they have selected special classes of stars and supernovae as cosmic yardsticks or milepost markers to precisely measure galactic distances. Among the most reliable for shorter distances are Cepheid variables, pulsating stars that brighten and dim at rates that correspond to their intrinsic brightness. Their distances, therefore, can be inferred by comparing their intrinsic brightness with their apparent brightness as seen from Earth.


The new Hubble result is based on measurements of the parallax (apparent shift of an object’s position due to a change in an observer’s point of view) of eight Cepheids in our Milky Way Galaxy. These stars are about 10 times farther away than any studied previously, residing between 6,000 light-years and 12,000 light-years from Earth, making them more challenging to measure. They pulsate at longer intervals, just like the Cepheids observed by Hubble in distant galaxies containing another reliable yardstick, exploding stars called Type Ia supernovae. This type of supernova flares with uniform brightness and is brilliant enough to be seen from relatively farther away.


Previous Hubble observations studied 10 faster-blinking Cepheids located 300 light-years to 1,600 light-years from Earth. To measure parallax with Hubble, Professor Riess and co-authors had to gauge the apparent tiny wobble of the Cepheids due to Earth’s motion around the Sun. These wobbles are the size of just 1/100 of a single pixel on the telescope’s camera, which is roughly the apparent size of a grain of sand seen 100 miles away.


Therefore, to ensure the accuracy of the measurements, they developed a clever method that was not envisioned when Hubble was launched. They invented a scanning technique in which the telescope measured a star’s position a thousand times a minute every six months for four years. The authors calibrated the true brightness of the eight Cepheids and cross-correlated them with their more distant blinking cousins to tighten the inaccuracies in their distance ladder. They then compared the brightness of the Cepheids and supernovae in those galaxies with better confidence, so they could more accurately measure the stars’ true brightness, and therefore calculate distances to hundreds of supernovae in far-flung galaxies with more precision.


The new value of the Hubble constant reinforces the disparity with the expected value derived from observations of the early Universe’s expansion, 378,000 years after the Big Bang — the violent event that created the Universe roughly 13.8 billion years ago. Those measurements were made by ESA’s Planck satellite, which maps the cosmic microwave background, a relic of the Big Bang. The difference between the two values is about 9%.

The new Hubble measurements help reduce the chance that the discrepancy in the values is a coincidence to 1 in 5,000.


Planck’s result predicted that the Hubble constant value should now be 67 km per second per megaparsec (3.3 million light-years), and could be no higher than 69 km per second per megaparsec. This means that for every 3.3 million light-years farther away a galaxy is from us, it is moving 67 km per second faster. But Professor Riess and colleagues measured a value of 73 km per second per megaparsec, indicating galaxies are moving at a faster rate than implied by observations of the early Universe. The Hubble data are so precise that astronomers cannot dismiss the gap between the two results as errors in any single measurement or method. “Both results have been tested multiple ways, so barring a series of unrelated mistakes. It is increasingly likely that this is not a bug but a feature of the Universe,” Professor Riess said.


The team proposes a few possible explanations for the mismatch, all related to the 95% of the Universe that is shrouded in darkness. One possibility is that dark energy, already known to be accelerating the cosmos, may be shoving galaxies away from each other with even greater — or growing — strength. This means that the acceleration itself might not have a constant value in the Universe but changes over time. Another idea is that the Universe contains a new subatomic particle that travels close to the speed of light.


Such speedy particles are collectively called ‘dark radiation’ and include previously-known particles like neutrinos, which are created in nuclear reactions and radioactive decays. Unlike a normal neutrino, which interacts by a subatomic force, this new particle would be affected only by gravity and is dubbed a ‘sterile neutrino.’ Yet another attractive possibility is that dark matter interacts more strongly with normal matter or radiation than previously assumed.


Any of these scenarios would change the contents of the early Universe, leading to inconsistencies in theoretical models. These inconsistencies would result in an incorrect value for the Hubble constant, inferred from observations of the young cosmos. This value would then be at odds with the number derived from the Hubble observations.

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A new mysterious purple aurora found and named 'Steve'

A new mysterious purple aurora found and named 'Steve' | Amazing Science |

The phenomenon of ‘Steve’ - a glowing arc seen in Alberta, Canada by amateur scientists – has now been named by Nasa the unusual name 'Steve'..


The history behind this discovery is the following: A group of citizen scientists in Alberta, Canada, weren’t sure what the glowing purple (sometimes green) arc in the night sky they had been photographing really was. Nor were the scientists Elizabeth MacDonald, a space physicist at Nasa, and Eric Donovan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary; the group – known as the Alberta Aurora Chasers, who photograph the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights – showed them their pictures in a pub. It wasn’t, Donovan told them, a proton aurora (the northern lights are normally a result of electrons colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere), as they had thought. “They pulled up this beautiful photograph of this thing,” Donovan told the New York Times last year. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t know what that is, but it’s not the proton aurora.’” It needed a name: “Steve” sounded as good as any. It was inspired by a scene in the 2006 animation Over the Hedge, in which the animal characters are confronted with a mysterious row of shrubs.


The phenomenon does now have a backronym of an official name: strong thermal emission velocity enhancement (Steve for short). It can be spotted further south than the northern lights and is thought to be, according to a recently published paper, “an optical manifestation” of another phenomenon, the sub-auroral ion drift. Steve is a visible strip of ionized gas, traveling at 4 miles/s.


Last week, Nasa called on citizen scientists and photographers to help with its research into Steve and report sightings to the Aurorasaurus project. It is, Donovan has said, “a truly new era” of collaboration between amateur scientists and professionals.

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Is It Possible? Will You Soon be Able to Replace Your Glasses And Contacts With Nanoparticle Eyedrops?

Is It Possible? Will You Soon be Able to Replace Your Glasses And Contacts With Nanoparticle Eyedrops? | Amazing Science |

A revolutionary, cutting-edge technology, developed by researchers at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), has the potential to provide a new alternative to eyeglasses, contact lenses, and laser correction for refractive errors.


The technology, known as Nano-Drops, was developed by Dr. David Smadja (Ophthalmologist from Shaare Zedek Medical Center), Prof. Zeev Zalevsky, from Bar-Ilan’s Kofkin Faculty of Engineering, and Prof. Jean-Paul Moshe Lellouche, Head of the Department of Chemistry at Bar-Ilan. A related patent on this new invention was recently filed by Birad – Research & Development Company Ltd., the commercializing company of Bar-Ilan University.


Nano-Drops achieve their optical effect and correction by locally modifying the corneal refractive index. The magnitude and nature of the optical correction is adjusted by an optical pattern that is stamped onto the superficial layer of the corneal epithelium with a laser source. The shape of the optical pattern can be adjusted for correction of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or presbyopia (loss of accommodation ability).


The laser stamping onto the cornea takes a few milliseconds and enables the nanoparticles to enhance and ‘activate’ this optical pattern by locally changing the refractive index and ultimately modifying the trajectory of light passing through the cornea.


The laser stamping source does not relate to the commonly known ‘laser treatment for visual correction’ that ablates corneal tissue. It is rather a small laser device that can connect to a smartphone and stamp the optical pattern onto the corneal epithelium by placing numerous adjacent pulses in a very speedy and painless fashion.  Tiny corneal spots created by the laser allow synthetic and biocompatible nanoparticles to enter and locally modify the optical power of the eye at the desired correction.


In the future this technology may enable patients to have their vision corrected in the comfort of their own home. To accomplish this, they would open an application on their smartphone to measure their vision, connect the laser source device for stamping the optical pattern at the desired correction, and then apply the Nano-Drops to activate the pattern and provide the desired correction.


Upcoming in-vivo experiments in rabbits will allow the researchers to determine how long the effect of the Nano-Drops will last after the initial application. Meanwhile, this promising technology has been shown, through ex-vivo experiments, to efficiently correct nearly 3 diopters of both myopia and presbyopia in pig eyes.

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IBM has created a computer smaller than a grain of salt

IBM has created a computer smaller than a grain of salt | Amazing Science |

If there's one downside to powerful computers, it's that they are way too big. Luckily, that's about to change. At least, if IBM has its way. March 19, 2018 is the first day of IBM Think 2018, the company's flagship conference, where the company will unveil what it claims is the world's smallest computer. They're not kidding: It's literally smaller than a grain of salt. 


But don't let the size fool you: This computer has the computing power of the x86 chip from 1990. Okay, so that's not great compared to what we have today, but cut it some slack — you need a microscope to see it.


The computer will cost less than ten cents to manufacture, and will also pack "several hundred thousand transistors," according to the company. These will allow it to "monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data." 


Don't worry, bitcoin bros: It works with blockchain. Specifically, this computer will be a data source for blockchain applications. It's intended to help track the shipment of goods and detect theft, fraud, and non-compliance. It can also do basic AI tasks, such as sorting the data it's given. 


According to IBM, this is only the beginning. "Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors — such as ink dots or tiny computers smaller than a grain of salt — will be embedded in everyday objects and devices," says IBM head of research Arvind Krishna. If he's correct, we'll see way more of these tiny systems in objects and devices in the years to come.

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China wants to make the chips that will add AI to any gadget

China wants to make the chips that will add AI to any gadget | Amazing Science |
The AI boom offers Chinese chipmakers a chance to catch up after years of lagging behind.


In an office at Tsinghua University in Beijing, a computer chip is crunching data from a nearby camera, looking for faces stored in a database. Seconds later, the same chip, called Thinker, is handling voice commands in Chinese. Thinker is designed to support neural networks. But what’s special is how little energy it uses—just eight AA batteries are enough to power it for a year.


Thinker can dynamically tailor its computing and memory requirements to meet the needs of the software being run. This is important since many real-world AI applications—recognizing objects in images or understanding human speech—require a combination of different kinds of neural networks with different numbers of layers.


In December 2017, a paper describing Thinker’s design was published in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, a top journal in computer hardware design. For the Chinese research community, it was a crowning achievement. The chip is just one example of an important trend sweeping China’s tech sector. The country’s semiconductor industry sees a unique opportunity to establish itself amid the current wave of enthusiasm for hardware optimized for AI. Computer chips are key to the success of AI, so China needs to develop its own hardware industry to become a real force in the technology (see “China’s AI Awakening”).

Via Ben van Lier
Dominick Runyon's curator insight, March 18, 5:26 PM

China has been working to improve its technology industry to enter the race for AI, competing against companies such as Google and Intel. The goal is to develop a chip, named Thinker, which will add AI to any device. However, due to China's industry lacking far behind other countries, such as the U.S., China has been increasing its import of integrated circuits and has recorded a near 13% increase of imports since last year. In December of 2017, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a paper describing their 3 year plan to be able to mass-produce the Thinker chips by the year 2020.


I believe that the concept China is going for will be  huge step forward in our ever-expanding technology industry. It will allow all electronic devices, such as computer and phones, to have AI capabilities similar to Apple's SIRI software and Samsung's Bixby software. However. I also believe that it will only add to the debate about if mankind is becoming more dependent on technology. Integrating AI software into all of our devices will minimize the actions we will have to do to power and work devices and make those devices more independent.

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If you thought spacial entanglement was weird, check out entanglement of 'time'

If you thought spacial entanglement was weird, check out entanglement of 'time' | Amazing Science |

In the summer of 1935, the physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger engaged in a rich, multifaceted and sometimes fretful correspondence about the implications of the new theory of quantum mechanics. The focus of their worry was what Schrödinger later dubbed entanglement: the inability to describe two quantum systems or particles independently, after they have interacted.


Until his death, Einstein remained convinced that entanglement showed how quantum mechanics was incomplete. Schrödinger thought that entanglement was the defining feature of the new physics, but this didn’t mean that he accepted it lightly. ‘I know of course how the hocus pocus works mathematically,’ he wrote to Einstein on 13 July 1935. ‘But I do not like such a theory.’


Schrödinger’s famous cat, suspended between life and death, first appeared in these letters, a byproduct of the struggle to articulate what bothered the pair.


The problem is that entanglement violates how the world ought to work. Information can’t travel faster than the speed of light, for one. But in a 1935 paper, Einstein and his co-authors showed how entanglement leads to what’s now called quantum nonlocality, the eerie link that appears to exist between entangled particles. If two quantum systems meet and then separate, even across a distance of thousands of lightyears, it becomes impossible to measure the features of one system (such as its position, momentum and polarity) without instantly steering the other into a corresponding state. 


Up to today, most experiments have tested entanglement over spatial gaps. The assumption is that the ‘nonlocal’ part of quantum nonlocality refers to the entanglement of properties across space. But what if entanglement also occurs across time? Is there such a thing as temporal nonlocality?


The answer, as it turns out, is "yes". Just when you thought quantum mechanics couldn’t get any weirder, a team of physicists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported in 2013 that they had successfully entangled photons that never coexisted. Previous experiments involving a technique called ‘entanglement swapping’ had already showed quantum correlations across time, by delaying the measurement of one of the coexisting entangled particles; but Eli Megidish and his collaborators were the first to show entanglement between photons whose lifespans did not overlap at all.

Donald Schwartz's curator insight, March 16, 6:50 PM

This may require multiple readings, but imagine I will be rewarded.


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Serious quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?

Serious quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them? | Amazing Science |

Hello, quantum world! Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.


Quantum computers promise to run calculations far beyond the reach of any conventional supercomputer. They might revolutionize the discovery of new materials by making it possible to simulate the behavior of matter down to the atomic level. Or they could upend cryptography and security by cracking otherwise invincible codes. There is even hope they will supercharge artificial intelligence by crunching through data more efficiently. 


Yet only now, after decades of gradual progress, are researchers finally close to building quantum computers powerful enough to do things that conventional computers cannot. It’s a landmark somewhat theatrically dubbed “quantum supremacy.” Google has been leading the charge toward this milestone, while Intel and Microsoft also have significant quantum efforts. And then there are well-funded startups including Rigetti Computing, IonQ, and Quantum Circuits.


“Nature is quantum, goddamn it! So if we want to simulate it, we need a quantum computer.” No other contender can match IBM’s pedigree in this area, though. Starting 50 years ago, the company produced advances in materials science that laid the foundations for the computer revolution. Which is why, last October, I found myself at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center to try to answer these questions: What, if anything, will a quantum computer be good for? And can a practical, reliable one even be built?

Via Ben van Lier
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Hybrid artificial-natural cells bring together the best of both worlds

Hybrid artificial-natural cells bring together the best of both worlds | Amazing Science |

The more we study natural biological cells, the more we learn about how to control them or build artificial versions. These independent avenues of study have huge potential, but also their limitations. Researchers from Imperial College London have worked out a way to borrow the strengths of each, fusing together living and non-living cells to create tiny chemical factories that might one day aid drug delivery.


In past work, scientists have packaged proteins and enzymes inside artificial casings to better treat conditions like cancer or diabetes. Rather than just using some natural parts, the Imperial College study instead wrapped entire biological cells inside artificial ones. "Biological cells can perform extremely complex functions, but can be difficult to control when trying to harness one aspect," says Oscar Ces, lead researcher on the project. "Artificial cells can be programmed more easily but we cannot yet build in much complexity. Our new system bridges the gap between these two approaches by fusing whole biological cells with artificial ones, so that the machinery of both works in concert to produce what we need."


To pair up natural and artificial cells, the team used a microfluidic process to guide liquids very precisely through tiny channels. A liquid solution containing the biological cells was carefully pumped into a tube of oil, which forces the liquid into droplets surrounded by a lipid shell. Then, the droplets containing cells were dripped into a chamber where oil was floating on top of water. Their weight dragged them down into the watery solution, sealing them inside a bilayered bubble that could then be encased in the artificial cell wall.


The end result are hybrid cells, made up of an artificial shell containing a natural cell and enzymes. To test whether the living and non-living halves of the cell worked together, the team designed an experiment where the two parts would come together to produce a fluorescent chemical. Sure enough, a healthy glow indicated that all was in working order.


Via Ray and Terry's
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The Government Has Plans for an Asteroid-Destroying Spacecraft

The Government Has Plans for an Asteroid-Destroying Spacecraft | Amazing Science |

NASA scientists have devised a plan to take care of an asteroid that has a 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth on September 21, 2135. Their solution? Blast it with nukes.


The asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently orbiting the Sun about 54 million miles from Earth. The 1,600-foot-wide, 74-billion-pound space object is probably not going to hit the Earth, but it’s not in the U.S. government’s nature to sit idle when a potential threat — no matter how unlikely  — exists. NASA, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and two Energy Department weapons labs have come together to design spacecraft that could explode Bennu if it gets too close.


According to Buzzfeed Newsthe Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response spacecraft, HAMMER for short, could use one of two tactics to combat an impact. If an asteroid is small enough, HAMMER would use an 8.8-ton “impactor” to smash the object. But, if the asteroid is too big, the spacecraft would instead use an on-board nuclear device to blow it up.


Physicist David Dearborn from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory even suggested to Buzzfeed News that multiple HAMMER craft could throw themselves in front of the asteroid to slow it and change its course.

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