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A brain-inspired chip lets drones learn during flight

A brain-inspired chip lets drones learn during flight | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

There isn’t much space between your ears, but what’s in there can do many things that a computer of the same size never could. Your brain is also vastly more energy efficient at interpreting the world visually or understanding speech than any computer system.


That’s why academic and corporate labs have been experimenting with “neuromorphic” chips modeled on features seen in brains. These chips have networks of “neurons” that communicate in spikes of electricity (see “Thinking in Silicon”). They can be significantly more energy-efficient than conventional chips, and some can even automatically reprogram themselves to learn new skills.


Now a neuromorphic chip has been untethered from the lab bench, and tested in a tiny drone aircraft that weighs less than 100 grams. In the experiment, the prototype chip, with 576 silicon neurons, took in data from the aircraft’s optical, ultrasound, and infrared sensors as it flew between three different rooms.


The first time the drone was flown into each room, the unique pattern of incoming sensor data from the walls, furniture, and other objects caused a pattern of electrical activity in the neurons that the chip had never experienced before. That triggered it to report that it was in a new space, and also caused the ways its neurons connected to one another to change, in a crude mimic of learning in a real brain. Those changes meant that next time the craft entered the same room, it recognized it and signaled as such.


The chip involved is far from ready for practical deployment, but the test offers empirical support for the ideas that have motivated research into neuromorphic chips, says Narayan Srinivasa, who leads HRL’s Center for Neural and Emergent Systems. “This shows it is possible to do learning literally on the fly, while under very strict size, weight, and power constraints,” he says.

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Google[x] Reveals Nano Pill To Seek Out Cancerous Cells

Google[x] Reveals Nano Pill To Seek Out Cancerous Cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Detecting cancer could be as easy as popping a pill in the near future. Google’s head of life sciences, Andrew Conrad, took to the stage at the Wall Street Journal Digital conference to reveal that the tech giant’s secretive Google[x] lab has been working on a wearable device that couples with nanotechnology to detect disease within the body.


“We’re passionate about switching from reactive to proactive and we’re trying to provide the tools that make that feasible,” explained Conrad. This is a third project in a series of health initiatives for Google[x]. The team has already developed a smart contact lens that detects glucose levels for diabetics and utensils that help manage hand tremors in Parkinson’s patients.


The plan is to test whether tiny particles coated “magnetized” with antibodies can catch disease in its nascent stages. The tiny particles are essentially programmed to spread throughout the body via pill and then latch on to the abnormal cells. The wearable device then “calls” the nanoparticles back to ask them what’s going on with the body and to find out if the person who swallowed the pill has cancer or other diseases.


“Think of it as sort of like a mini self-driving car,” Conrad simplified with a clear reference to Google[x]‘s vehicular project. “We can make it park where we want it to.” Conrad went on with the car theme, saying the body is more important than a car and comparing our present healthcare system as something that basically only tries to change our oil after we’ve broken down. “We wouldn’t do that with a car,” he added.

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Humans have innate grasp of probability that does not depend on formal education

Humans have innate grasp of probability that does not depend on formal education | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

People overrate the chances of dying in a plane crash and guess incorrectly at the odds that a coin toss will yield 'heads' after a string of several 'tails'. Yet humans have an innate sense of chance, a study of indigenous Maya people suggests. Adults in Guatemala who have never learned a formal number system or a written language did as well as formally educated adults and children at estimating the probability of chance events1, the researchers found.


Children are born with a sense of number, and the roots of our mathematical abilities seem to exist in monkeys, chickens and even salamanders. But evidence has suggested that the ability to assess the chances of a future event is not as innate. In a 1972 study, Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, and the late psychologist Amos Tversky found that educated adults incorrectly judged the sequence of coin tosses 'heads-heads-heads-tails-tails-tails' as less probable than 'heads-tails-heads-tails-tails-heads'2. Any such sequence has the same exact probability, 1/64, of occurring.


Other researchers have pointed to the fact that the mathematics of probability were not worked out until the seventeenth century to argue that probabilistic reasoning is not innate and relies on formal education.


More recent research has pointed to a primitive sense of probability. In a study published in December 2013 and titled “Apes are intuitive statisticians”, researchers found that chimpanzees, gorillas and other great apes made decisions on the basis of the chances of receiving a preferred treat such as a banana over a less-coveted carrot3.


Vittorio Girotto, a cognitive scientist at the University IUAV of Venice, Italy, and his colleagues have found in past work that young children have some grasp of probability, albeit with limits4.

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Method for symmetry-breaking in feedback-driven self-assembly of optical metamaterials

Method for symmetry-breaking in feedback-driven self-assembly of optical metamaterials | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

If you can uniformly break the symmetry of nanorod pairs in a colloidal solution, you're a step ahead of the game toward achieving new and exciting metamaterial properties. But traditional thermodynamic -driven colloidal assembly of these metamaterials, which are materials defined by their non-naturally-occurring properties, often result in structures with high degree of symmetries in the bulk material. In this case, the energy requirement does not allow the structure to break its symmetry.


In a study led by Xiang Zhang, director of Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, he and his research group at the University of California (UC) Berkeley achieved symmetry-breaking in a bulk metamaterial solution for the first time. Zhang and his group demonstrated self-assembled optical metamaterials with tailored broken-symmetries and hence unique electromagnetic responses that can be achieved via their new method. The results have been published in Nature Nanotechnology. The paper is titled "Feedback-driven self-assembly of symmetry-breaking optical metamaterials in solution."


"We developed an innovative self-assembly route which could surpass the conventional thermodynamic limit in chemical synthetic systems" explains Sui Yang, lead author of the Nature Nanotechnology paper and member of Zhang's research group. "Specifically, we use the material's own property as a self-correction feedback mechanism to self-determine the final structure."


This led the group to produce nanostructures that have historically been considered impossible to assemble. The widely used method of metamaterial synthesis is top-down fabrication such as electron beam or focus ion beam lithography that often results in strongly anisotropic and small-scale metamaterials.


"People build metamaterials using top-down methods that include light exposure and electron beam exposure, which are inefficient and costly," says Xingjie Ni, another lead author on the paper. "If we want to use metamaterials, we need to develop a way to build them cheaply and efficiently."

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The archaeology of space: In search for immortality of human civilization

The archaeology of space: In search for immortality of human civilization | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

LAGEOS - There is even a probe with such a purpose, its plaque meant not for extraterrestrials, but for the (equally alien) future inhabitants of Earth. The Laser Geodynamic Satellite, or LAGEOS, was launched in 1976 to facilitate the measurement of continental drift with a second LAGEOS set loose from the shuttle Columbia in 1992. The probe itself is a magnificent object, strikingly different from run-of-the-mill satellites, a ball of solid brass more than half a meter in diameter, weighing roughly 450 kg and dotted with reflectors like a large disco ball. LAGEOS carries no electronics or other instrumentation; ground stations aim lasers at its reflective surface, measuring the distance to detect tiny perturbations in the Earth’s crust. The probe’s great mass helps it achieve a supremely stable orbit without onboard propulsion; it will be 8.4 million years before its orbit decays, at which time it will come crashing through whatever atmosphere remains in the wake of the Anthropocene. The LAGEOS plaque, also conceived by Sagan, features maps of the Earth’s continents before and after the mission as well as at time of launch, spanning 16 million years of projected continental drift — permitting future Earthlings, human or nonhuman, to look at the disposition of the continents upon which they live and check our work.


Memory of Mankind project - Has an estimated lifespan of 100,000 years. They are storing information on inscribed stone tablets and storing them in a salt mine in Austria.


Rosetta Project - It's goal is to preserve around 13,000 pages of information in each of 1,500 languages on a disk made of nickel. The disk can be read with a microscope and is contained within a 4 inch spherical container. One of these disks is on the Rosetta spacecraft that was launched in March of 2004; although it's mission ends in 2015.


KEO space time capsule - Has experienced several delays and has not been launched yet. Estimated to launch in 2015. It's purpose is to reenter the Earth's atmosphere in 50,000 years. It will apparently carry around 24 billion pages of messages on a DVD with symbolic instructions for how to build a reader. It will also contain a drop of human blood and samples of air, sea water and earth encased in diamond.

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Does the Arrow of Time Self-Emerge in a Gravitational System?

Does the Arrow of Time Self-Emerge in a Gravitational System? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Study of masses interacting via gravity challenges the idea that special initial conditions are needed to give time a direction.


The fundamental laws of physics, we believe, do not depend on the direction of time. Why, then, is the future so different from the past? The origin of this “arrow of time” has puzzled physicists and philosophers for more than a century, and it remains one of the fundamental conceptual problems of modern physics [1]. Although a preferred direction of time can occur in models of physical systems, this typically happens only if one inserts very special initial conditions.


Julian Barbour at the University of Oxford and his colleagues [2] have now shown this tinkering isn’t necessary to produce an arrow of time in a system of masses interacting via Newtonian gravity. They demonstrate that the evolution of this surprisingly simple system almost always contains a unique moment of lowest “complexity,” a point they identify as a “past” from which two distinct (and more complex) “futures” emerge.


The work of Barbour and his colleagues is the latest in a long history of attempts to explain the arrow of time. One possibility, of course, is that we don’t know the right laws of physics—perhaps the correct fundamental laws do determine a preferred direction of time [3]. Alternatively, if the laws of nature do not pick out a preferred “future,” perhaps boundary conditions do. For example, most cosmological models assume, explicitly or implicitly, that the big bang was a moment of exceptionally low entropy.


Indeed, most physicists accept the view that the direction of time is the same as the direction of increasing entropy. But this is, at best, an incomplete picture, failing to explain why there should have been a rare condition of low entropy in the past. More than a century ago, Boltzmann suggested that our visible Universe might merely be a temporary, low-entropy statistical fluctuation, affecting a small portion of a much larger equilibrium system [4]. In that case, the direction of time would simply be the one that takes us back towards equilibrium. But most contemporary physicists find this explanation unsatisfying: a random fluctuation containing “us” would have been far more likely to produce a single galaxy, a planet, or just a “brain” rather than a whole universe [56]. Moreover, according to the “Loschmidt irreversibility paradox,” if one posits such a moment of low entropy, entropy should increase both to the future and to the past, giving two separate arrows of time [7].

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Man vs. Machine: Will Computers Soon Become More Intelligent Than Us?

Man vs. Machine: Will Computers Soon Become More Intelligent Than Us? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Computers might soon become more intelligent than us. Some of the best brains in Silicon Valley are now trying to work out what happens next.


Nate Soares, a former Google engineer, is weighing up the chances of success for the project he is working on. He puts them at only about 5 per cent. But the odds he is calculating aren’t for some new smartphone app. Instead, Soares is talking about something much more arresting: whether programmers like him will be able to save mankind from extinction at the hands of its own most powerful creation.


The object of concern – both for him and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (Miri), whose offices these are – is artificial intelligence (AI). Super-smart machines with malicious intent are a staple of science fiction, from the soft-spoken Hal 9000 to the scarily violent Skynet. But the AI that people like Soares believe is coming mankind’s way, very probably before the end of this century, would be much worse.


Besides Soares, there are probably only four computer scientists in the world currently working on how to programme the super-smart machines of the not-too-distant future to make sure AI remains “friendly”, says Luke Muehlhauser, Miri’s director. It isn’t unusual to hear people express big thoughts about the future in Silicon Valley these days – though most of the technology visions are much more benign. It sometimes sounds as if every entrepreneur, however trivial the start-up, has taken a leaf from Google’s mission statement and is out to “make the world a better place”.


Warnings have lately grown louder. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, writing earlier this year, said that AI would be “the biggest event in human history”. But he added: “Unfortunately, it might also be the last.”


Elon Musk – whose successes with electric cars (through Tesla Motors) and private space flight (SpaceX) have elevated him to almost superhero status in Silicon Valley – has also spoken up. Several weeks ago, he advised his nearly 1.2 million Twitter followers to read Superintelligence, a book about the dangers of AI, which has made him think the technology is “potentially more dangerous than nukes”. Mankind, as Musk sees it, might be like a computer program whose usefulness ends once it has started up a more complex piece of software. “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence,” he tweeted. “Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.”

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Circulating Tumor Cells Allow Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Circulating Tumor Cells Allow Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a risk factor for lung cancer. Migration of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) into the blood stream is an early event that occurs during carcinogenesis. A group of scientists aimed to examine the presence of CTCs in complement to CT-scan in COPD patients without clinically detectable lung cancer as a first step to identify a new marker for early lung cancer diagnosis. The presence of CTCs was examined by an ISET filtration-enrichment technique, for 245 subjects without cancer, including 168 (68.6%) COPD patients, and 77 subjects without COPD (31.4%), including 42 control smokers and 35 non-smoking healthy individuals.


CTCs were identified by cyto-morphological analysis and characterized by studying their expression of epithelial and mesenchymal markers. COPD patients were monitored annually by low-dose spiral CT. CTCs were detected in 3% of COPD patients (5 out of 168 patients). The annual surveillance of the CTC-positive COPD patients by CT-scan screening detected lung nodules 1 to 4 years after CTC detection, leading to prompt surgical resection and histopathological diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer. Follow-up of the 5 patients by CT-scan and ISET 12 month after surgery showed no tumor recurrence. CTCs detected in COPD patients had a heterogeneous expression of epithelial and mesenchymal markers, which was similar to the corresponding lung tumor phenotype. No CTCs were detected in control smoking and non-smoking healthy individuals. CTCs can be detected in patients with COPD without clinically detectable lung cancer. Monitoring “sentinel” CTC-positive COPD patients may allow early diagnosis of lung cancer.

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To avoid dangerous climate change, fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100, IPCC study finds

To avoid dangerous climate change, fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100, IPCC study finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world's electricity can - and must - be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050. If not, the world faces "severe, pervasive and irreversible" damage.


The UN said inaction would cost "much more" than taking the necessary action. The IPCC's Synthesis Report was published on Sunday in Copenhagen, after a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials.


It is intended to inform politicians engaged in attempts to deliver a new global treaty on climate by the end of 2015. The report says that reducing emissions is crucial if global warming is to be limited to 2C - a target acknowledged in 2009 as the threshold of dangerous climate change.


The report suggests renewables will have to grow from their current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050. In the longer term, the report states that fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be "phased out almost entirely by 2100". 


The Synthesis Report summarises three previous reports from the IPCC, which outlined the causesthe impacts and the potential solutions to climate change.


It re-states many familiar positions:

  • Warming is "unequivocal" and the human influence on climate is clear
  • The period from 1983 to 2012, it says, was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1,400 years
  • Warming impacts are already being seen around the globe, in the acidification of the oceans, the melting of arctic ice and poorer crop yields in many parts
  • Without concerted action on carbon, temperatures will increase over the coming decades and could be almost 5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century
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New device from Johns-Hopkins yields close-up look at metastasizing cancer cells

New device from Johns-Hopkins yields close-up look at metastasizing cancer cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Engineers at Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) have invented a lab device to give cancer researchers an unprecedented microscopic look at metastasis (spread of tumor cells, causing more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths), with the goal of eventually stopping the spread, described in their paper in the journal Cancer Report.


“There’s still so much we don’t know about exactly how tumor cells migrate through the body, partly because, even using our best imaging technology, we haven’t been able to see precisely how these individual cells move into blood vessels,” said Andrew D. Wong, a Department of Materials Science and Engineering doctoral student and lead author of the journal article. “Our new tool gives us a clearer, close-up look at this process.”


The device replicated these processes in a small transparent chip that incorporates an artificial blood vessel and surrounding tissue material. A nutrient-rich solution flows through the artificial vessel, mimicking the properties of blood.


With this novel lab platform, Wong said, the team was able to record a video of the movement of individual cancer cells as they crawled through a three-dimensional collagen matrix. This material resembles the human tissue that surrounds tumors when cancer cells break away and try to relocate elsewhere in the body.


Wong also created a video (above) of single cancer cells prying and pushing their way through the wall of an artificial vessel lined with human endothelial cells, the same kind that line human blood vessels.


By entering the bloodstream through this process, called “intravasion,” cancer cells are able to hitch a ride to other parts of the body and begin to form deadly new tumors.


The breast cancer cells, inserted individually and in clusters in the tissue near the vessel, are labeled with fluorescent tags, enabling their behavior to be seen, tracked and recorded via a microscopic viewing system.

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Fossilized Nuclei and Chromosomes Reveal 180 Million Years of Genomic Stasis in Royal Ferns

Fossilized Nuclei and Chromosomes Reveal 180 Million Years of Genomic Stasis in Royal Ferns | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

It defies belief, but a 180 million year old fern fossil unearthed in Sweden is so exquisitely preserved that it is possible to see its cells dividing. So pristine is the fossil, reported scientists from the Swedish Museum of Natural History in the journal Science in March, that it is possible for them to estimate its genome size from the size of its cell nuclei — and that it has remained substantially unchanged from its living descendants since the early Jurassic.


The ferns were swallowed by a volcanic mudflow called a lahar, in which gas and rocky debris from an eruption mix with water and sediment. After entombment, hot salty water percolated into the coarse sediments around the ferns and acted as a preservative brine that immortalized the hapless plants. Their misfortune was our luck: 180 million years later, we can see details of their macro and micro anatomy so well that we can see how uncannily similar they are to their living descendants, royal and cinnamon ferns. They could be sisters!


Fossils from the family this fern belongs to had already been found from 220 million year-old rocks that were recognizable as the living species Osmunda claytonia — the interrupted fern — and other fossils from the Mesozoic have been found that are virtually indistinguishable from other genera and species in the fern’s family, the Osmundaceae (the royal ferns). But microscopic preservation of this quality has rarely been seen in any fossils before.

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Global groundwater crisis may get worse as the world warms

Global groundwater crisis may get worse as the world warms | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The world is facing an increasingly dire groundwater depletion crisis, according to a NASA researcher. From India to Texas, people are rapidly depleting their valuable stores of groundwater — leading to the possibility that aquifers may be emptied within decades, a NASA researcher has warned.


In a recent commentary in the journal Nature Climate Change, Jay Famiglietti, who has helped lead the use of a NASA satellite system to detect groundwater changes around the world, warned of dramatic consequences to come if changes are not made to the way that societies manage water supplies. “Our overuse of groundwater puts our overall water security at far greater risk than we thought,” Famiglietti says.


Unlike surface water, which is replenished through precipitation, groundwater can take centuries to recharge. Yet humans are depleting groundwater at rates that far exceed the pace at which this water can be replenished.


Think of it this way: groundwater is analogous to a pension, a long-term investment that takes many years to pay off. If you withdraw more than you put in, you'll go bankrupt in the long run. Dams and reservoirs, meanwhile, are more like a checking account.


"Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned," Famiglietti, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, wrote.


Famiglietti has used NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite system, which is capable of detecting the most subtle changes in Earth's gravitational field to spot land elevation changes, and thus water depletion, to publish a number of studies on groundwater in recent years. During the summer, for example, he contributed to a study that revealed that water users throughout the Colorado River Basin are tapping into groundwater supplies to make up for the lack of adequate supplies of surface water.


The study found that more than 75% of the water loss in the Colorado River Basin since 2004 came from groundwater. GRACE showed that between December 2004 and November 2013, the Colorado River basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater, which is double the total volume of the country’s largest reservoir — Lake Mead in Arizona. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet — was from groundwater.

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Katelyn Sesny's curator insight, October 31, 2014 11:41 AM

A lengthy but interesting article. The issue of the "Global Groundwater Crisis" might become a very huge problem in the near future. - UNIT 1

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Data smashing: Uncovering lurking order in underlying data

Data smashing: Uncovering lurking order in underlying data | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

From recognizing speech to identifying unusual stars, new discoveries often begin with comparison of data streams to find connections and spot outliers. But simply feeding raw data into a data-analysis algorithm is unlikely to produce meaningful results, say the authors of a new Cornell study. That’s because most data comparison algorithms today have one major weakness: somewhere, they rely on a human expert to specify what aspects of the data are relevant for comparison, and what aspects aren’t.


But these experts can’t keep up with the growing amounts and complexities of big data. So the Cornell computing researchers have come up with a new principle they call “data smashing” for estimating the similarities between streams of arbitrary data without human intervention, and even without access to the data sources.


Data smashing is based on a new way to compare data streams. The process involves two steps.


  1. The data streams are algorithmically “smashed” to “annihilate” the information in each other.
  2. The process measures what information remains after the collision. The more information remains, the less likely the streams originated in the same source.


Data-smashing principles could open the door to understanding increasingly complex observations, especially when experts don’t know what to look for, according to the researchers. The researchers— Hod Lipson, associate professor of mechanical engineering and of computing and information science, and Ishanu Chattopadhyay, a former postdoctoral associate with Lipson now at the University of Chicago — demonstrated this idea with data from real-world problems, including detection of anomalous cardiac activity from heart recordings and classification of astronomical objects from raw photometry.


In all cases and without access to original domain knowledge, the researchers demonstrated that the performance of these general algorithms was on par with the accuracy of specialized algorithms and heuristics tweaked by experts to work.


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Air pollution halves India's grain yield

Air pollution halves India's grain yield | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Air pollution seems to have a direct and negative impact on grain production in India, a US study warned on Monday, with recent increases in smog decreasing projected yields by half.


Analyzing 30 years of data, scientists developed a statistical model suggesting that air pollution caused wheat yields in densely populated states to be 50% lower than what they could have been in 2010.Up to 90% of the decrease in potential food production seems to be linked to smog, a mix of black carbon and other pollutants, the study said. Changes linked to global warming and precipitation levels accounted for the other 10%.


"The numbers are staggering," Jennifer Burney, an author of the study and scientist at the University of California told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


"We hope our study puts the potential benefits on cleaning up the air on the table," she said, noting that agriculture is often not considered when governments debate the economic costs of air pollution and new legislation aimed at combating it.


The research paper 'Recent climate and air pollution impacts on Indian agriculture', published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, analysed what could have been the wheat production if there was less pollution.

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Deep Sequencing Identifies Noncanonical Editing of Ebola and Marburg Virus RNAs in Infected Cells

Deep Sequencing Identifies Noncanonical Editing of Ebola and Marburg Virus RNAs in Infected Cells | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Deep sequencing of RNAs produced by Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) or the Angola strain of Marburgvirus (MARV-Ang) identified novel viral and cellular mechanisms that diversify the coding and noncoding sequences of viral mRNAs and genomic RNAs. A team of scientists now identified previously undescribed sites within the EBOV and MARV-Ang mRNAs where apparent co-transcriptional editing has resulted in the addition of non-template-encoded residues within the EBOV glycoprotein (GP) mRNA, the MARV-Ang nucleoprotein (NP) mRNA, and the MARV-Ang polymerase (L) mRNA, such that novel viral translation products could be produced. Further, they found that the well-characterized EBOV GP mRNA editing site is modified at a high frequency during viral genome RNA replication. Additionally, editing hot spots representing sites of apparent adenosine deaminase activity were found in the MARV-Ang NP 3′-untranslated region. These studies identify novel filovirus-host interactions and reveal production of a greater diversity of filoviral gene products than was previously appreciated.


This study identifies novel mechanisms that alter the protein coding capacities of Ebola and Marburg virus mRNAs. Therefore, filovirus gene expression is more complex and diverse than previously recognized. These observations suggest new directions in understanding the regulation of filovirus gene expression.

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String field theory could be the foundation of quantum mechanics

String field theory could be the foundation of quantum mechanics | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Two USC researchers have proposed a link between string field theory and quantum mechanics that could open the door to using string field theory—or a broader version of it, called M-theory—as the basis of all physics.


"This could solve the mystery of where quantum mechanics comes from," said Itzhak Bars, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences professor and lead author of the paper. Bars collaborated with Dmitry Rychkov, his Ph.D. student at USC. The paper was published online on Oct. 27 by the journal Physics Letters.


Rather than use quantum mechanics to validate string field theory, the researchers worked backwards and used string field theory to try to validate quantum mechanics.


In their paper, which reformulated string field theory in a clearer language, Bars and Rychov showed that a set of fundamental quantum mechanical principles known as "commutation rules'' may be derived from the geometry of strings joining and splitting.


"Our argument can be presented in bare bones in a hugely simplified mathematical structure," Bars said. "The essential ingredient is the assumption that all matter is made up of strings and that the only possible interaction is joining/splitting as specified in their version of string field theory."


Physicists have long sought to unite quantum mechanics and general relativity, and to explain why both work in their respective domains. First proposed in the 1970s, string theory resolved inconsistencies of quantum gravity and suggested that the fundamental unit of matter was a tiny string, not a point, and that the only possible interactions of matter are strings either joining or splitting. Four decades later, physicists are still trying to hash out the rules of string theory, which seem to demand some interesting starting conditions to work, like extra dimensions, which may explain why quarks and leptons have electric charge, color and "flavor" that distinguish them from one another.


At present, no single set of rules can be used to explain all of the physical interactions that occur in the observable universe.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-11-field-theory-foundation-quantum-mechanics.html#jCp

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Step towards photon-based scalable quantum logics: Entanglement of initially uncorrelated incident photons

Step towards photon-based scalable quantum logics: Entanglement of initially uncorrelated incident photons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Realizing a strong interaction between individual photons is an important objective of research in quantum science and technology. It requires an optical medium in which light experiences a phase shift that depends nonlinearly on the photon number. Once the additional two-photon phase shift reaches π, such an ultra-strong nonlinearity could enable the implementation of high-fidelity quantum logic operations. However, the nonlinear response of standard optical media is orders of magnitude too weak. A team of scientists now demonstrate a fiber-based nonlinearity that realizes an additional two-photon phase shift close to the ideal value of π. They employed a whispering-gallery-mode resonator, interfaced by an optical nanofiber, where the presence of a single rubidium atom in the resonator mode results in a strongly nonlinear response. They were able to show that this results in entanglement of initially uncorrelated incident photons. This demonstration of a fiber-integrated, ultra-strong nonlinearity is a decisive step towards photon-based scalable quantum logics.

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Will ultrasound-on-a-chip make medical imaging so cheap that anyone can do it?

Will ultrasound-on-a-chip make medical imaging so cheap that anyone can do it? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A scanner the size of an iPhone that you could hold up to a person’s chest and see a vivid, moving, 3-D image of what’s inside is being developed by entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg.


Rothberg says he has raised $100 million to create a medical imaging device that’s nearly “as cheap as a stethoscope” and will “make doctors 100 times as effective.” The technology, which according to patent documents relies on a new kind of ultrasound chip, could eventually lead to new ways to destroy cancer cells with heat, or deliver information to brain cells.


Rothberg has a knack for marrying semiconductor technology to problems in biology. He started and sold two DNA-sequencing companies, 454 and Ion Torrent Systems (see “The $2 Million Genome” and “A Semiconductor DNA Sequencer”), for more than $500 million. The profits have allowed Rothberg, who showed up for an interview wearing worn chinos and a tattered sailor’s belt, to ply the ocean on a 130-foot yacht named Gene Machineand to indulge high-concept hobbies like sequencing the DNA of mathematical geniuses.


The imaging system is being developed by Butterfly Network, a three-year old company that is the furthest advanced of several ventures that Rothberg says will be coming out of 4Combinator, an incubator he has created to start and finance companies that combine medical sensors with a branch of artificial-intelligence science called deep learning.


Rothberg won’t say exactly how Butterfly’s device will work, or what it will look like. “The details will come out when we are on stage selling it. That’s in the next 18 months,” he says. But Rothberg guarantees it will be small, cost a few hundred dollars, connect to a phone, and be able to do things like diagnose breast cancer or visualize a fetus.


Butterfly’s patent applications describe its aim as building compact, versatile new ultrasound scanners that can create 3-D images in real time. Hold it up to a person’s chest, and you would look through “what appears to be a window” into the body, according to the documents.

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OncoDNA's curator insight, November 3, 2014 4:53 PM

A scanner the size of an iPhone that you could hold up to a person’s chest and see a vivid, moving, 3-D image of what’s inside is being developed by entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg.

Rothberg says he has raised $100 million to create a medical imaging device that’s nearly “as cheap as a stethoscope” and will “make doctors 100 times as effective.” The technology, which according to patent documents relies on a new kind of ultrasound chip, could eventually lead to new ways to destroy cancer cells with heat, or deliver information to brain cells.

Rothberg has a knack for marrying semiconductor technology to problems in biology. He started and sold two DNA-sequencing companies, 454 and Ion Torrent Systems (see “The $2 Million Genome” and “A Semiconductor DNA Sequencer”), for more than $500 million. The profits have allowed Rothberg, who showed up for an interview wearing worn chinos and a tattered sailor’s belt, to ply the ocean on a 130-foot yacht named Gene Machineand to indulge high-concept hobbies like sequencing the DNA of mathematical geniuses.

The imaging system is being developed by Butterfly Network, a three-year old company that is the furthest advanced of several ventures that Rothberg says will be coming out of 4Combinator, an incubator he has created to start and finance companies that combine medical sensors with a branch of artificial-intelligence science called deep learning.

Rothberg won’t say exactly how Butterfly’s device will work, or what it will look like. “The details will come out when we are on stage selling it. That’s in the next 18 months,” he says. But Rothberg guarantees it will be small, cost a few hundred dollars, connect to a phone, and be able to do things like diagnose breast cancer or visualize a fetus.

Butterfly’s patent applications describe its aim as building compact, versatile new ultrasound scanners that can create 3-D images in real time. Hold it up to a person’s chest, and you would look through “what appears to be a window” into the body, according to the documents.

Concept drawings filed with the patent office by Butterfly Network show ideas for a small, 3-D ultrasound imaging device.

With the $100 million supplied by Rothberg and investors, which include Stanford University and Germany’s Aeris Capital, Butterfly appears to be placing the largest bet yet by any company on an emerging technology in which ultrasound emitters are etched directly onto a semiconductor wafer, alongside circuits and processors. The devices are known as “capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers,” or CMUTs.


[...]

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Scientists find a way to passively amplify repetitive waveforms without using external energy and without adding noise

Scientists find a way to passively amplify repetitive waveforms without using external energy and without adding noise | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Amplification of signal intensity is essential for initiating physical processes, diagnostics, sensing, communications and measurement. During traditional amplification, the signal is amplified by multiplying the signal carriers through an active gain process, requiring the use of an external power source. In addition, the signal is degraded by noise and distortions that typically accompany active gain processes. A team of scientists and engineers now show noiseless intensity amplification of repetitive optical pulse waveforms with gain from 2 to ~20 without using active gain. The proposed method uses a dispersion-induced temporal self-imaging (Talbot) effect to redistribute and coherently accumulate energy of the original repetitive waveforms into fewer replica waveforms. In addition, the team shows how a passive amplifier like that performs a real-time average of the wave-train to reduce its original noise fluctuation, as well as enhances the extinction ratio of pulses to stand above the noise floor. This novel technique is applicable to repetitive waveforms in any spectral region or wave system.

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Festo BionicOpter: Robot Flies Like A Real Dragonfly

Festo BionicOpter: Robot Flies Like A Real Dragonfly | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

With the BionicOpter, Festo has technically mastered the highly complex flight characteristics of the dragonfly. Just like its model in nature, this ultralight flying object can fly in all directions, hover in mid-air and glide without beating its wings.

 

Thirteen degrees of freedom for unique flight manoeuvres: In addition to control of the shared flapping frequency and twisting of the individual wings, each of the four wings also features an amplitude controller. The tilt of the wings determines the direction of thrust. Amplitude control allows the intensity of the thrust to be regulated. When combined, the remote-controlled dragonfly can assume almost any position in space.

 

This unique way of flying is made possible by the lightweight construction and the integration of functions: components such as sensors, actuators and mechanical components as well as open- and closed-loop control systems are installed in a very tight space and adapted to one another.

 

With the remote-controlled dragonfly, Festo demonstrates wireless real-time communication, a continuous exchange of information, as well as the ability to combine different sensor evaluations and identify complex events and critical states.

 

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IT's comment, September 6, 2013 5:04 AM
Real Dragon fly mě přivádí k šílenství
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Mirror image RNA enzymes may hold clues to origin of life

Mirror image RNA enzymes may hold clues to origin of life | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

RNA nucleotides and boxcars, however, is that individual nucleotides can come in either right- or left-handed forms, known as D- and L-nucleotides, respectively. All naturally occurring RNAs today are D-RNAs, but researchers can create L-RNAs in the lab. Normally, a ribozyme containing D-nucleotides won’t touch L-nucleotides, and ribozymes containing L-nucleotides won’t touch D-nucleotides. But if an opposite-handed nucleotide in a would-be complementary strand twists just right, it can fool a ribozyme and get integrated into the growing strand—with drastic consequences.


Thirty years ago, researchers including Gerald Joyce, then a graduate student at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, showed that if a nucleotide with the opposite handedness was incorporated into a growing D- or L-RNA complementary strand, it shut down all further growth. “It acted like poison,” says Joyce, who is now at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.


This discovery raised a conundrum for origin-of-life researchers that they’ve struggled with ever since. Before life got its start, D- and L-nucleotides would likely have been equally abundant in the primordial soup. If so, how would RNA enzymes ever have managed to get the RNA copying process going without it being poisoned?


Now, Joyce and his postdoc Jonathan Sczepanski have found a possible solution. Online this week in Nature, they show that by using a technique called test-tube evolution they were able to generate ribozymes capable of assembling RNA strands of the opposite handedness in the presence of a mixture of D- and L-RNA nucleotides. What’s more, when they started with a D-RNA ribozyme, they found that it preferred to work on an L-RNA template to synthesize an L-RNA complementary strand. Likewise, they prepared L-RNA ribozymes that synthesized D-RNA complementary strands from D-RNA templates. And both the D- and L-RNA ribozymes were able to make mirror image copies of themselves.


The ribozymes work this trick in an unconventional way, Joyce explains. Instead of recognizing where complementary RNA bases (say an A and a U) reach across the template and complementary strand to recognize one another, the enzymes recognize the overall shape of the assembling RNA bases on the complementary strand and link whatever pieces wind up next to each other.


“It’s a very exciting advance towards RNA-catalyzed RNA replication,” says Jack Szostak, an origin-of-life researcher at Harvard University who was not involved with the work. However, Szostak says, it still begs the question of where such D-RNA and L-RNA ribozymes would have come from in the first place.


The answer may be forever lost to history, Joyce says. But the new work does suggest that if these cross-copying ribozymes arose early on, they could have copied both mirror versions of RNA to propel the evolution of more complex RNAs. If one of those later, more complex RNAs—say a D-RNA—proved more capable, it could have encouraged the copying of its own kind, and promoted the single-handedness in nucleotides that we see today.

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Oxygen levels on ancient Earth were key to animal evolution

Oxygen levels on ancient Earth were key to animal evolution | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Atmospheric oxygen levels during the billion years or so prior to the rise of animals were far too low for complex life forms to develop, according to a new study. The findings, reported in the journal Science, imply that the appearance of diverse animal life on Earth about 800 million years ago, was triggered by increases in oxygen levels - and not just genetic innovations in individual organisms.


"No one really doubted that oxygen levels were low, but how low is the real surprise," says one of the study's authors Dr Peter McGoldrick of the University of Tasmania"Our work shows those levels were just 0.1 per cent of present atmospheric levels, which is significant from an evolutionary point of view because biologists believe that complex multicellular life forms require much more oxygen than 0.1 per cent."


This is the first time anyone has been able to quantify the levels of oxygen in the atmosphere during the mid-Proterozoic period between 0.8 and 1.8 billion years ago, he says.


McGoldrick describes this period in Earth's history as the 'boring billion', when life remained largely constant and unchanging between the appearance of complex cells around 2 billion years ago, and the sudden diversification of multicellular animals about 800 million years ago.


Scientists already knew that oxygen began to accumulate in the atmosphere after cyanobacteria began using photosynthesis to produce oxygen over three billion years ago. So they wondered why animal species didn't flourish during the boring billion year stretch leading up to the end of the Proterozoic, when most researchers thought there was plenty of oxygen.


"We knew oxygen levels had gone up over all, but we didn't know if it had gone up to 1, 10 or 40 per cent of present atmospheric levels," says McGoldrick. "This explains why complex animals don't appear in the rock record until maybe 750 to 800 million years ago, there simply wasn't enough oxygen for the metabolic things they need to do."


Oxygen levels in the atmosphere were determined by examining chromium isotope ratios in ironstone samples. This provided information on oxygen levels for the billion or so years leading up to the 'Cambrian explosion' - when most major animal groups appeared on the planet.

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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, November 1, 2014 11:42 AM

Climate play a really important role in the evolution of organisms. Makes you wonder how anthropogenic climate change would drive evolution.

 

@Jeff Morris scooped a similar article here: http://sco.lt/60aEUr

 

More scoops about our blue marble can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/aquascaping-and-nature/?tag=Earth+Science

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New brain decoder algorithm can eavesdrop on your inner voice

New brain decoder algorithm can eavesdrop on your inner voice | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

As you read this, your neurons are firing – that brain activity can now be decoded to reveal the silent words in your head. TALKING to yourself used to be a strictly private pastime. That's no longer the case – researchers have eavesdropped on our internal monologue for the first time. The achievement is a step towards helping people who cannot physically speak communicate with the outside world.


"If you're reading text in a newspaper or a book, you hear a voice in your own head," says Brian Pasley at the University of California, Berkeley. "We're trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice to create a medical prosthesis that can allow someone who is paralysed or locked in to speak."


When you hear someone speak, sound waves activate sensory neurons in your inner ear. These neurons pass information to areas of the brain where different aspects of the sound are extracted and interpreted as words.


In a previous study, Pasley and his colleagues recorded brain activity in people who already had electrodes implanted in their brain to treat epilepsy, while they listened to speech. The team found that certain neurons in the brain's temporal lobe were only active in response to certain aspects of sound, such as a specific frequency. One set of neurons might only react to sound waves that had a frequency of 1000 hertz, for example, while another set only cares about those at 2000 hertz. Armed with this knowledge, the team built an algorithm that could decode the words heard based on neural activity alone

 (PLoS Biology, doi.org/fzv269).

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Genetic factors behind surviving or dying from Ebola shown in mouse study

Genetic factors behind surviving or dying from Ebola shown in mouse study | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A newly developed mouse model suggests that genetic factors are behind the mild-to-deadly range of responses to the Ebola virus. The frequency of different manifestations of the disease across the lines of these mice are similar in variety and proportion to the spectrum of clinical disease observed in the 2014 West African outbreak. The new mouse model might be useful in testing candidate therapeutics and vaccines for Ebola, and in finding genetic markers for susceptibility and resistance to the disease.


Research on Ebola prevention and treatment has been hindered by the lack of a mouse model that replicates the main characteristics of human Ebola hemorrhagic fever. The researchers had originally obtained this genetically diverse group of inbred laboratory mice to study locations on mouse genomes associated with influenza severity.


The research was conducted in a highly secure, state-of-the-art biocontainment safety level 4 laboratory in Hamilton, Mont. The scientists examined mice that they infected with a mouse form of the same species of Ebola virus causing the 2014 West Africa outbreak. The study was done in full compliance with federal, state, and local safety and biosecurity regulations. This type of virus has been used several times before in research studies. Nothing was done to change the virus.


Interestingly, conventional laboratory mice previously infected with this virus died, but did not develop symptoms of Ebola hemorrhagic fever.


In the present study, all the mice lost weight in the first few days after infection. Nineteen percent of the mice were unfazed. They not only survived, but also fully regained their lost weight within two weeks. They had no gross pathological evidence of disease. Their livers looked normal. Eleven percent were partially resistant and less than half of these died. Seventy percent of the mice had a greater than 50 percent mortality. Nineteen percent of this last group had liver inflammation without classic symptoms of Ebola, and thirty-four percent had blood that took too long to clot, a hallmark of fatal Ebola hemorrhagic fever in humans. Those mice also had internal bleeding, swollen spleens and changes in liver color and texture.


The scientists correlated disease outcomes and variations in mortality rates to specific genetic lines of mice.

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See me here, see me there: A quantum world arising from many ordinary ones

See me here, see me there: A quantum world arising from many ordinary ones | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The bizarre behavior of the quantum world — with objects existing in two places simultaneously and light behaving as either waves or particles — could result from interactions between many 'parallel' everyday worlds, a new theory suggests.


“It is a fundamental shift from previous quantum interpretations,” says Howard Wiseman, a theoretical quantum physicist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, who together with his colleagues describes the idea in Physical Review X1.


Theorists have tried to explain quantum behavior through various mathematical frameworks. One of the older interpretations envisages the classical world as stemming from the existence of many simultaneous quantum ones. But that ‘many worlds’ approach, pioneered by the US theorist Hugh Everett III in the 1950s, relies on the worlds branching out independently from one another, and not interacting at all (see 'Many worlds: See me here, see me there').


By contrast, Wiseman’s team envisages many worlds bumping into one another, calling it the 'many interacting worlds' approach. On its own, each world is ruled by classical Newtonian physics. But together, the interacting motion of these worlds gives rise to phenomena that physicists typically ascribe to the quantum world.


The authors work through the mathematics of how that interaction could produce quantum phenomena. For instance, one well-known example of quantum behaviour is when particles are able to tunnel through an energetic barrier that in a classical world they would not be able to overcome on their own. Wiseman says that, in his scenario, as two classical worlds approach an energetic barrier from either side, one of them will increase in speed while the other will bounce back. The leading world will thus pop through the seemingly insurmountable barrier, just as particles do in quantum tunneling.


But much work remains. “By no means have we answered all the questions that such a shift entails,” says Wiseman. Among other things, he and his collaborators have yet to overcome challenges such as explaining how their many-interacting-worlds theory could explain quantum entanglement, a phenomenon in which particles separated by a distance are still linked in terms of their properties.

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Carlos Garcia Pando's comment, October 31, 2014 5:25 AM
I think entanglement is a consequence of two simple universes perfectly matching in one particle. What we see is not two entangled particles but one particle that belongs to two very close universes. Close in a different sense, not spatial proximity as we know it, but close enough to share at least one particle in all its observable attributes but space position.
Kirsty Foster's curator insight, October 31, 2014 9:24 AM

kirsty

Vloasis's curator insight, October 31, 2014 2:56 PM

Much to ponder.