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Archives for: 2007

Scientists find high-fat diet disrupts body clock


Our body’s 24-hour internal clock, or circadian clock, regulates the time we go to sleep, wake up and become hungry as well as the daily rhythms of many metabolic functions. The clock – an ancient molecular machine found in organisms large and small, simple and complex – properly aligns one’s physiology with one’s environment. Now, for the first time, a Northwestern University and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare (ENH) study has shown that overeating alters the core mechanism of the body clock, throwing off the timing of internal signals, including appetite control, critical for good health. Animals on a high-fat diet gained weight and suddenly exhibited a disruption in their circadian clocks, eating extra calories during the time they should have been asleep or at rest. The study, which will be published in the Nov. 7 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, also shows that changes in metabolic state associated with obesity and diabetes not only affects the circadian rhythms of behavior but also of physiology. Probing beyond the behavioral level, the researchers observed actual changes in genes that encode the clock in the brain and in peripheral tissues (such as fat), resulting in diminished expression of those genes.

Permalink11/08/07, 02:30:20 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1080 views, Brain Send feedback

Research links diet to cognitive decline and dementia


Research has shown convincing evidence that dietary patterns practiced during adulthood are important contributors to age-related cognitive decline and dementia risk. An article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences highlights information on the benefits of diets high in fruit, vegetables, cereals and fish and low in saturated fats in reducing dementia risk. Adults with diabetes are especially sensitive to the foods they eat with respect to cognitive function. Specifically, an adult with diabetes will experience a decline in memory function after a meal, especially if simple carbohydrate foods are consumed. While the precise physiological mechanisms underlying these dietary influences are not completely understood, the modulation of brain insulin levels likely contributes.

Permalink11/08/07, 02:27:55 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 2035 views, Studies Send feedback

Junk Food used for Safer Construction


Catastrophic bridge collapses in Minnesota, China and elsewhere have killed at least 58 people this year, and concrete weakened by water is partly to blame. A new study points to a waterproofing solution that lies close at hand—or, er, mouth: sodium acetate, the ingredient that gives salt-and-vinegar chips their delicious zing. Water seeps through concrete’s pores, cracking its exterior and damaging the steel beams within. Sodium acetate seals these pores from the inside, says researcher Awni Al-Otoom of the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan. When brushed onto concrete as part of a watery solution, the salty substance sinks in and forms crystals, partially plugging the pores. The crystals create an even better barrier when wet, since moisture—a drop of rain, say—makes them swell to fill openings more snugly.

Permalink11/08/07, 02:25:57 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1873 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Couple's SUV hit by falling cow


A Michigan couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary and, more importantly being alive, after the minivan they were in was struck by a falling object … a 600-pound cow. Charles and Linda Everson were driving back to their hotel in Manson, Wash., where they were visiting, when the year-old cow fell 200 feet off a cliff and onto the hood of their vehicle. They missed being killed by a matter of inches, authorities said.

Permalink11/08/07, 02:22:54 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1935 views, Over The Top Send feedback

'Polar rain' may be creating a new kind of aurora


A previously undiscovered type of aurora could be brightening the skies over the poles. That’s the conclusion from satellite images of the poles showing the new phenomenon above Antarctic in 2004. The conventional aurora borealis in the Arctic and aurora australis in the Antarctic are typically seen as curtains of brightly coloured light descending through the atmosphere near the poles. The light is generated when electrons from the solar wind become trapped and accelerated by the Earth’s magnetic field to energies in excess of 1 kiloelectronvolt.

Permalink11/08/07, 02:20:57 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1475 views, Space Send feedback

MIT works toward 'smart' optical microchips


A new theory developed at MIT could lead to “smart” optical microchips that adapt to different wavelengths of light, potentially advancing telecommunications, spectroscopy and remote sensing. Drawn by the promise of superior system performance, researchers have been exploring the concept of microchips that manipulate light instead of electricity. In their new theory, the MIT team has shown how such chips could feature tiny machines with moving parts powered and controlled by the very light they manipulate, giving rise to fundamentally new functionality. “There are thousands of complex functions we could make happen by tinkering with this idea,” said Peter Rakich, an MIT postdoctoral associate who invented the theoretical concept along with postdoc Milos Popovic. The work was described in the cover story of the November issue of Nature Photonics. For example, such chips could one day be used to remotely adjust the amount of bandwidth available in an optical network, or to automatically process signals flowing through fiber-optic networks, without using any electrical power, Rakich said.

Permalink11/06/07, 12:09:46 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1020 views, Technology Send feedback

Magnetic 'signatures' could foil art forgers


Forgers take heed, a simple way to detect fake bank notes using their inks’ unique “magnetic signature” can also be used to authenticate oil paintings, according to the scientists who invented the technique. Some of the inks used to print bank notes around the world are made of ferrofluids, which are magnetic. These generate weak magnetic fields that can be measured using instruments such as superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs). A SQUID can be simply scanned across the note to record a “map” of its magnetic flux. Previously, Paulo Costa Ribeiro of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and colleagues made magnetic maps of Brazilian bank notes and found that each note has a unique signature that remains stable over time.

Permalink11/06/07, 12:07:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1719 views, Technology Send feedback

Genetic breakthrough could give dandruff the brush-off


They have cracked the genetic code of humans, cats, dogs and chimps. Now, scientists reveal today they have solved the secrets of dandruff. A team of researchers has decoded the complete DNA of a natural fungus to blame for most cases of the flaky skin condition. The findings could lead to more effective shampoos, lotions and medicines for a problem affecting more than half the population. Dr Thomas Dawson, who led the five-year study, said: “We have been able to see how the fungus interacts with the skin, and that opens up all sorts of new targets for medication.” Almost all cases are linked to Malassezia globosa, a yeast that lives on human skin. The fungus feeds off natural oils in the skin and releases a toxic by-product that can irritate the scalp, causing itchiness and clumps of dead skin that are noticeable on hair and clothes.

Permalink11/06/07, 12:05:51 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1455 views, Genes Send feedback

Breastfeeding babies offers them long-term heart-health benefits


Breastfed babies are less likely to have certain cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in adulthood than their bottle-fed counterparts, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2007. “Having been breastfed in infancy is associated with a lower average body mass index (BMI) and a higher average HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol) level in adulthood, even after accounting for personal and maternal demographic and CVD risk factors that could influence the results,” said Nisha I. Parikh, M.D., M.P.H., author of the study and a cardiovascular fellow at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass. A lower BMI and high HDL both protect against CVD. The study, which used data from two generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study, showed that middle-aged adults who were breastfed as infants were 55 percent more likely to have high HDL cholesterol than to have low HDL cholesterol. Low HDL was defined as levels of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because high levels help protect against heart disease and stroke.

Permalink11/05/07, 11:27:15 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1054 views, Science Send feedback

Rapid communication networks less likely to shape individual's behavior


Our increasingly interconnected world has made it easier for information and disease to spread. However a new study from Harvard University and Cornell University shows that fewer “degrees of separation” can make social networks too weak to disseminate behavioral change. The finding that “small world” networks are limited in their power to shape individual behavior could have implications for health care policy and the treatment of epidemics. Published in the November American Journal of Sociology, the study was led by Damon Centola, a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow with the Institute for Quantitative Social Science in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with Michael Macy of Cornell. The work was done while Centola was a doctoral candidate at Cornell. “Our research shows that the difference between contagions that spread through simple contact, such as diseases and information, and the spread of behavior, which requires multiple contacts, has important consequences,” says Centola. “We find that while making the world smaller increases the speed at which diseases and information can spread, it can actually slow down, and even prevent, the spread of health behaviors.”

Permalink11/05/07, 11:26:19 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1028 views, Science Send feedback

Breaking a sweat helps control weight gain over 20 years


Don’t slack off on exercise if you want to avoid packing on the pounds as you age. A consistently high level of physical activity from young adulthood into middle age increases the odds of maintaining a stable weight and lessens the amount of weight gained over time, according to a new analysis from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. People who reported at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity a day such as jogging, bicycling or swimming were more than twice as likely to maintain a stable Body Mass Index (BMI) over 20 years. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. But even highly active people who gained weight, gained 14 pounds less over 20 years than those with consistently low activity. Although activity is often recommended as a way to prevent weight gain, this is one of the first studies to examine the relationship between activity and weight by looking at patterns of exercise over a long period of time.

Permalink11/05/07, 11:24:41 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1102 views, Studies Send feedback

New Brain Cells Listen Before They Talk


Newly created neurons in adults rely on signals from distant brain regions to regulate their maturation and survival before they can communicate with existing neighboring cells–a finding that has important implications for the use of adult neural stem cells to replace brain cells lost by trauma or neurodegeneration, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience. In fact, certain important synaptic connections–the circuitry that allows the brain cells to talk to each other–do not appear until 21 days after the birth of the new cells, according to Charles Greer, professor of neurosurgery and neurobiology, and senior author of the study, In the meantime, other areas of the brain provide information to the new cells, preventing them from disturbing ongoing functions until the cells are mature.

Permalink11/05/07, 11:03:21 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1357 views, Brain Send feedback

20 Things You Didn't Know About Living In Space


Missing something? The vents on the space shuttle and International Space Station serve as the lost and found, sucking up anything that’s floating about unsecured. The shuttle commode requires that astronauts align themselves precisely in the dead center of the seat. A mock-up of the shuttle toilet, complete with built-in camera, is used to train them how to position themselves, and more…

Permalink11/05/07, 11:01:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 2460 views, Space Send feedback

Time change means more pedestrians killed in traffic


After clocks are turned back this weekend, pedestrians walking during the evening rush hour are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars than before the time change, two U.S. scientists calculate. Ending daylight saving time translates into about 37 more U.S. pedestrian deaths around 6 p.m. in November compared to October, the researchers report. Their study of risk to pedestrians is preliminary but confirms previous findings of higher deaths after clocks are set back in fall. It’s not the darkness itself, but the adjustment to earlier night time that’s the killer, said professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard, both of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Permalink11/05/07, 10:57:35 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 2104 views, Studies Send feedback

A Fuel Cell That Can Extract Electricity From Human Waste


On a two-year trip to Mars, according to one estimate, a crew of six humans will generate more than six tons of solid organic waste–much of it feces. So what do you do with all that? Right now, astronaut waste gets shipped back to Earth. But for long-term exploration, you’d want to recycle it, because it holds resources that astronauts will need. It will provide pure drinking water. It will provide fertilizer. And, with the help of a recently discovered microbe, it will also provide electricity. Like many bacteria, this one, a member of the Geobacteraceae family, feeds on, and can decompose, organic material. Geobacter microbes were first discovered in the muck of the Potomac River in 1987; they like to live in places where there’s no oxygen and plenty of iron. They also have the unexpected ability to move electrons into metal.

Permalink11/01/07, 02:06:56 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 532 views, Energy Send feedback

Weather Forecast Umbrella


This umbrella has been injected with some wonderful technology in the handle. A built-in wireless receiver gets a daily weather forecast from Accuweather.com, and blue LEDs will flash to let you know if the forecast is rain or snow. The LEDs located at the bottom of the handle will flash in proportion to the chance of precipitation for your area; if there is a 100% chance, it will flash quickly, and if a 10% chance, it will flash slowly.

Permalink10/31/07, 11:56:45 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 493 views, Over The Top Send feedback

MIT's 'electronic nose' could detect hazards


A tiny “electronic nose” that MIT researchers have engineered with a novel inkjet printing method could be used to detect hazards including carbon monoxide, harmful industrial solvents and explosives. Led by MIT professor Harry Tuller, the researchers have devised a way to print thin sensor films onto a microchip, a process that could eventually allow for mass production of highly sensitive gas detectors. “Mass production would be an enormous breakthrough for this kind of gas sensing technology,” said Tuller, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The prototype sensor consists of thin layers of hollow spheres made of the ceramic material barium carbonate, which can detect a range of gases. Using a specialized inkjet print head, tiny droplets of barium carbonate or other gas-sensitive materials can be rapidly deposited onto a surface, in any pattern the researchers design. The miniature, low-cost detector could be used in a variety of settings, from an industrial workplace to an air-conditioning system to a car’s exhaust system, according to Tuller.

Permalink10/31/07, 11:54:20 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 373 views, Sensors Send feedback

Bacterial DNA could store 1,000 copies of War and Peace on the head of a pin


High-definition movie files can decimate the free space on your computer, but scientists are working to turn bacteria into a hard drive with nearly infinite capacity. This past spring, a group led by scientists at Keio University’s Institute for Advanced Biosciences at the Shonan Fujisawa campus near Tokyo announced that they had inscribed the phrase “E=MC² 1905!” onto bacterial DNA as a tribute to Albert Einstein. More than just parchment for simple messages, bacteria have the potential for massive data storage. In fact, a single bacterium could store more than 400 copies of this article. The scientists demonstrated the technology by converting the tribute phrase into binary code and then into a specific sequence of DNA nucleotides, which they spliced into the bacteria’s genome. To keep the data intact, the researchers used Bacillus subtilis, a species that has very slow mutation rates and resists most viruses. They also inserted their message into several spots of the genome as backups within the backup. The potential uses for this type of organic hard drive go far beyond data storage. Project adviser Yoshiaki Ohashi says that pharmaceutical companies could “stamp” their drugs to thwart counterfeiters, or spies could carry bacteria encoded with confidential information in tiny vials.

Permalink10/31/07, 11:47:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 541 views, Storage Send feedback

Virtual Sex Toys Lead to Real-Life Lawsuit


The case is Eros vs. Simon. Eros is a virtual sex shop, and is one of six plaintiffs in the case. Thomas Simon is accused of using a hack to “clone” products from the plaintiffs, including virtual sex toys. Despite the fact that this is, quite honestly, an online game, the players (or inhabitants if you will) pay real money for clothes and other items and services, including prostitutes. Because of this, the case does have some actual merit. And in fact, since companies such as IBM, Dell, Circuit City and even Reuters have opened stores and bureaus in Second Life, some prefer to call it a “platform” and not a game. It gets still stranger though, as Simon says the evidence gathered against him was obtained by Eros “breaking into” his virtual house which, in real-life, without a search warrant, would be inadmissible.

Permalink10/31/07, 11:43:56 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 502 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Repelling Bullets with Nanotubes


Australian engineers have found a way to use the elasticity of carbon nanotubes to not only stop bullets penetrating material but actually rebound their force. Their anti-ballistic carbon nanotubes are very different from the current materials used to design bullet-proof jackets, such as Kevlar, Twaron or Dyneema fibers. Current jackets can stop bullets, but the users can still be severely wounded by the strength of the impacts. On the contrary, these future nanotechnology-based jackets not only stop the bullets, but they repel them, thus avoiding ‘blunt force trauma.’

Permalink10/31/07, 11:35:54 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 622 views, Nano Send feedback

Ants Aware of their Own Mortality


Ants not only work hard and are prepared to lay down their lives for their fellow ants, they also take bigger risks for the good of the colony as they get older – and they can even assess how much time they have left in life. Dawid Moron and his colleagues at Jagiellonian University in Poland have carried out a set of laboratory experiments showing that ants have the ability to gauge the end of their lifespan and to use their assessment of imminent mortality to take bigger risks with their ageing lives. It is well established that worker ants tend to take greater risks as they get older. Scientists have shown that this behavioural trait benefits the colony because certain risky activities, such as foraging far from the nest, are best done by ants coming to the end of their useful lives – it doesn’t pay to put young workers in high-risk jobs. As a result, younger ants tend to do housekeeping chores around the nest, which is inherently safer than travelling further afield. One remaining question, however, was whether ants had some internal mechanism that told them how old they were and how much time they had left before dying. Dr Moron believed that it might be possible to manipulate an ant’s lifespan artificially, and to observe changes to its risk-taking behaviour as a result. His study, published in the latest issue of the journal Animal Behaviour.

Permalink10/31/07, 10:40:36 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 443 views, Science Send feedback

Some Fruit Flies Can Drink Others Under The Table


Scientists at North Carolina State University have a few more genetic clues behind why some flies are more sensitive to alcohol than others. And the results might lead to more knowledge about alcoholism in humans. After genetically modifying fruit flies to be either extremely sensitive or extremely resistant to alcohol – lightweights or lushes – the NC State scientists found that a number of fruit fly genes undergo changes when sensitivity to alcohol changes. A number of these genes, the researchers report, are similar to genes found in humans, suggesting that they may be good targets to study human predisposal to alcoholism. The research is published in the November edition of Genome Biology.

Permalink10/31/07, 10:31:04 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 438 views, Science Send feedback

Sight, sound processed together and earlier than previously thought


The area of the brain that processes sounds entering the ears also appears to process stimulus entering the eyes, providing a novel explanation for why many viewers believe that ventriloquists have thrown their voices to the mouths of their dummies. More generally, these findings from Duke University Medical Center offer new insights into how the brain takes in and assembles a multitude of stimuli from the outside world. By studying monkeys, the researchers found that auditory and visual information is processed together before the combined signals make it to the brain’s cortex, the analytical portion of the brain that assembles the stimuli from all the senses into coherent thoughts. “The prevailing wisdom among brain scientists has been that each of the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste – is governed by its own corresponding region of the brain,” said Jennifer Groh, Ph.D., a neurobiologist in Duke’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. “The view has been that each of these areas processes the information separately and sends that information to the cortex, which puts it all together at the end. “Now, we are beginning to appreciate that it’s not that simple,” Groh continued. “Our results show that there are interactions between the sensory pathways that occur very early in the process, which implies that the integration of the different senses may be a more primitive process and one not requiring high-level brain functioning.” The results of Groh’s experiments were published early online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Permalink10/29/07, 11:10:29 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 443 views, Brain Send feedback

Microbes Plus Sugars Equals Hydrogen Fuel?


Bacterium that can eat sugar or sludge; must be team player or electrochemically active; ability to survive without oxygen, a plus. Thus might read the bacterial “job description” posted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Washington University (WU) scientists, who are collaborating on ways to make microbial fuel cells more efficient and practical. According to Mike Cotta, who leads the ARS Fermentation Biotechnology Research Unit, Peoria, Ill., the project with WU arose from a mutual interest in developing sustainable methods of producing energy that could diminish U.S. reliance on crude oil. Cotta’s team specializes in using bacteria, yeasts or other microorganisms inside bioreactors to do work, such as ferment grain sugars into fuel ethanol. At WU in St. Louis, Mo., assistant professor Lars Angenent is investigating fuel cell systems that use mixtures of bacteria to treat organic wastewater and catalyze the release of electrons and protons, which then can be used to produce electricity or hydrogen fuel.

Permalink10/29/07, 01:28:38 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 408 views, Fuel Send feedback

Laurence Peter

“The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance.”

Permalink10/28/07, 11:17:56 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 395 views, Quotes Send feedback

MIT gel changes color on demand


MIT researchers have created a new structured gel that can rapidly change color in response to a variety of stimuli, including temperature, pressure, salt concentration and humidity. Among other applications, the structured gel could be used as a fast and inexpensive chemical sensor, said Edwin Thomas, MIT’s Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. One place where such an environmental sensor could be useful is a food processing plant, where the sensor could indicate whether food that must remain dry has been overly exposed to humidity. Thomas is senior author of a paper on the work to be published in the Oct. 21 online edition of Nature Materials. Structured gels are those that feature an internal pattern such as layers. A critical component of the structured gel developed at MIT is a material that expands or contracts when exposed to certain stimuli. Those changes in the thickness of the gel cause it to change color, through the entire range of the visible spectrum of light. Objects that reflect different colors depending on which way you look at them already exist, but once those objects are manufactured, their properties can’t change. The MIT team set out to create a material that would change color in response to external stimuli.

Permalink10/28/07, 11:02:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 466 views, Chemistry Send feedback

'Smart' lamp offers true mood lighting


Genuine mood lighting just took a step closer. A shape-shifting lampshade can monitor brightness and movement in a room and then gently adjust the amount and quality of light it emits. Brainchild of London-based designer Assa Ashuach, the AI Light consists of a light bulb surrounded by a flexible nylon “skeleton” that forms two lobes. Thin rods running through the centre of each lobe are controlled by built-in motors. They can rotate and bend to shape the skeleton in different ways. More light shines through areas where the skeleton is spread out, while squashed regions emit less. So different combinations of rod position create a range of light quality.

Permalink10/28/07, 10:59:01 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 400 views, Technology Send feedback

'Tractor beam' makes light work of particles


Microscopic particles can be steered through the tiny channels of a microfluidic chip using light, US researchers have shown. They modified standard piece of lab equipment to direct particle traffic using light, and say the trick could prove vital for rapid chemical and biological analysis with handheld devices. Microfluidic chips contain microscopic tubes that can be used to ferry cells and particles around for chemical or biological experimentation. Controlling fluids and particles at small scales is difficult, however. The US team, led by David Erickson and Michal Lipson at Cornell University, Ithaca, US used light to control these unruly particles. They constructed a microfluidic chip with “waveguides” built into the walls of each fluid channel. The waveguides were designed to act like leaky pipes: as laser light passes through, it does not bounce perfectly off the inside walls, and a weak electromagnetic field – called the evanescent field – leaks out. Mystery ‘cushion’Particles that flow across a waveguide’s path are captured by its electromagnetic field and pulled along in the same direction as the light inside the waveguide. The approach can even steer particles around a bend.

Permalink10/28/07, 10:57:09 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 430 views, Nano Send feedback

High-tech textiles pave the way for glowing garments


Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed high-tech battery-powered textile yarns that can be used to make clothing glow in the dark. Current high visibility products – such as those used by emergency services, cyclists and highway maintenance workers – depend on external light sources to make them visible. They can be ineffective in low light situations and require a light source from something like vehicle headlights to make them visible. The latest development, made from electroluminescent (EL) yarns, allows the wearer to be permanently visible and therefore improves personal safety. EL yarn is a novel technology, which emits light when powered by a battery. Its development has been based on thin film electroluminescent technology. The yarn consists of an inner conductive core yarn, coated with electroluminescent ink – which means it emits light when an electric current is passed through it – and a protective transparent encapsulation, with an outer conductive yarn wrapped around it. When the EL yarn is powered with an inverter the resultant electrical field between the inner and outer conductor causes the electroluminescent coating to emit light. The emission of light occurs between the contact points between the outer yarn and the inner yarn.

Permalink10/28/07, 09:14:17 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 388 views, Batteries Send feedback

World's Smallest Radio


A university professor of physics has made a radio out of a single carbon nanotube that’s about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. It runs on batteries and you need headphones to use it, but it tunes in stations on the FM dial. Radio has gone nano. Electrical engineers at the University of California, Irvine, have built a radio receiver that uses a carbon nanotube as a key component. Peter J. Burke and Chris Rutherglen employed the nanotube as a demodulator—a device that translates radio waves into sound. The UC Irvine team grew nanotubes on high-resistivity silicon and then grafted palladium electrodes onto the wafer using optical lithography. For the demodulator, the researchers selected devices in which a lone nanotube bridges the gap between electrodes. They then incorporated the nanotube demodulator into an AM radio receiver. Using an iPod and an AM signal generator as their broadcasting system, Burke and Rutherglen showed they could wirelessly transmit music to the nanotube receiver system while maintaining high audio quality.

Permalink10/28/07, 09:11:35 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 458 views, Nano Send feedback

Creating power out of thin air


Syrdec, a Princeton, N.J.-based company is working on a material that, when combined with another substance, will generate electricity with ambient room heat, Andrew Surany, the company’s president, told CNET News.com this week. Conceivably, one could take that material and fashion it into a passive fuel cell that can create power by just sitting in an ordinary room heated to about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to self-charging electronic devices. “It derives heat from the environment” and converts it to electricity, Surany said. “I’m talking about embedding cells into doors or the panels on a car. In a laptop, I am talking about embedding cells into the case.”

Permalink10/28/07, 09:09:29 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 473 views, Energy Send feedback

Source of ‘optimism’ found in the brain


Two regions of the brain linked to optimism have been discovered by researchers. The identification of the sites that signal positive thinking could shed light on the causes of depression, they say. The US team says that the act of imagining a positive future event – such as winning an award or receiving a large sum of cash – activates two brain areas known as the amygdala and the rostral anterior cingulated cortex (rACC). The finding lends weight to earlier studies that suggested these brain regions malfunction in depression and hint at new ways of diagnosing the disorder.

Permalink10/28/07, 09:06:25 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 524 views, Brain Send feedback

Company selling fake doctor notes


Feeling like playing hooky, but nervous about getting caught? The Excused Absence Network has your back. For about $25, students and employees can buy excuse notes that appear to come from doctors or hospitals. Other options include a fake jury summons or an authentic-looking funeral service program complete with comforting poems and a list of pallbearers. Some question whether the products are legal or ethical - or even work - but the company’s owners say they’re just helping people do something they would have done anyway. “Millions of Americans work dead-end jobs, and sometimes they just need a day off,” said John Liddell, co-founder of the Internet-based company Vision Matters, which sells the notes as part of its Excused Absence Network.

Permalink10/28/07, 07:12:02 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 474 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Virus-Built Electronics


Angela Belcher leans in to watch as a machine presses down slowly on the plunger of a syringe, injecting a billion harmless viruses into a clear liquid. Instead of diffusing into the solution as they escape the needle, the viruses cling together, forming a wispy white fiber that’s several centimeters long and about as strong as a strand of nylon. A gradu­ate student, Chung-Yi Chiang, fishes it out with a pair of tweezers. Then he holds it up to an ultra­violet light, and the fiber begins to glow bright red. In producing this novel fiber, the researchers have demonstrated a completely new way of making nanomaterials, one that uses viruses as microscopic building blocks. Belcher, a professor of materials science and biological engineering at MIT, says the approach has two main advantages. First, in high concentrations the viruses tend to organize themselves, lining up side by side to form an orderly pattern. Second, the viruses can be genetically engineered to bind to and organize inorganic materials such as those used in battery electrodes, transistors, and solar cells. The programmed viruses coat themselves with the materials and then, by aligning with other viruses, assemble into crystalline structures useful for making high-­performance devices.

Permalink10/17/07, 03:27:43 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 509 views, Nano Send feedback

Water-Powered Cell Phone


Normally when the topic of pollution, consumption, and alternative fuels comes up, most people are talking about automobiles. We’ll talk about the Toyota Prius, perhaps, and the Chevy Volt. Not today. Not in Korea. In an effort to go green, Samsung Electro-Mechanics is working on a micro-fuel cell and hydrogen generator for mobile devices like cell phones. The kicker is that it runs completely on water. The generator has already been developed, it seems, and as they iron out the kinks and improve the system, they hope to launch a mobile phone powered by water some time in 2010.

Permalink10/17/07, 03:22:05 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 433 views, Batteries Send feedback

Genetically modified plants vacuum up toxins


Scientists have figured out a way to trick plants into doing the dirty work of environmental cleanup, US and British researchers reported on Monday. Researchers at the University of Washington have genetically altered poplar trees to pull toxins out of contaminated ground water, offering a cost-effective way of cleaning up environmental pollutants. A group of British researchers, meanwhile, has developed genetically altered plants that can clean residues of military explosives from the environment. “Our work is in the beginning stages, but it holds great promise,” said Sharon Doty, an assistant professor of forest resources at the University of Washington, whose study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Permalink10/17/07, 03:20:05 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 461 views, Genes Send feedback

Gordon R. Dickson

“Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.”

Permalink10/17/07, 01:39:14 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 366 views, Quotes Send feedback

Nanotechnology Coated Condoms


The agreement, under which a commercial licence will be negotiated, sets out a codevelopment program for condoms with a VivaGel® coating. Undisclosed fees are payable to Starpharma under the co-development agreement, which also provides for the commencement of regulatory and market development activities by the two parties. SSL is the world’s largest manufacturer of condoms with approximately 30% share of the global market for branded condom sales, selling into over 100 countries around the world. Global condom retail sales in 2005 were approximately $3.2 billion, with the top four companies representing as much as 70% of the market. “We are delighted to be working with SSL, whom we believe will be an excellent codevelopment partner for VivaGel® as a condom coating,” said Starpharma’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Jackie Fairley. “In addition to SSL’s unparalleled global commercial position and the strength of the Durex® brand, Starpharma also values the organisation’s innovative approach, and its social-marketing program.

Permalink10/16/07, 09:01:34 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 431 views, Nano Send feedback

Ants have a sense of their own mortality


Worker ants accurately gauge their life expectancy, regardless of their actual age, and take on riskier tasks as they feel their days ebbing away. In social insects such as ants, bees and wasps, workers change tasks depending on their age. Older workers do the relatively risky foraging outside the nest, while younger ones engage in safer maintenance tasks within it. By extending the workers’ average life span, this fine-tuning helps to maximise the fitness of the colony. However, no one knew whether the division of labour in ants was activated by age-related physiological changes or through some other mechanism.

Permalink10/16/07, 08:59:42 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 446 views, Nature Send feedback

Chemistry turns killer gas into potential cure


Despite its deadly reputation, the gas carbon monoxide (CO) could actually save lives and boost health in future as a result of leading-edge UK research. Chemists at the University of Sheffield have discovered an innovative way of using targeted small doses of CO which could benefit patients who have undergone heart surgery or organ transplants and people suffering from high blood pressure. Although the gas is lethal in large doses, small amounts can reduce inflammation, widen blood vessels, increase blood flow, prevent unwanted blood clotting – and even suppress the activity of cells and macrophages* which attack transplanted organs. The researchers have developed innovative water-soluble molecules which, when swallowed or injected, safely release small amounts of CO inside the human body. Research carried out in the last decade had already highlighted possible advantages, as CO is produced in the body as part of its own natural defensive systems. However, the problem has been finding a safe way of delivering the right dose of CO to the patient. Conventional CO inhalation can run the risk of patients or medical staff being accidentally exposed to high doses. Now for the first time, thanks to chemistry, an answer appears to have been found.

Permalink10/16/07, 08:57:57 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 429 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Getting light to bend backwards


While developing new lenses for next-generation sensors, researchers have crafted a layered material that causes light to refract, or bend, in a manner nature never intended. Refraction always bends light one way, as one can see in the illusion of a “bent” drinking straw when observed through the side of a glass. A new metamaterial crafted from alternating layers of semiconductors (indium-gallium-arsenic and aluminum-indium-arsenic) acts as a single lens that refracts light in the opposite direction. Refraction is the reason that lenses have to be curved, a trait that limits image resolution. With the new metamaterial, flat lenses are possible, theoretically allowing microscopes to capture images of objects as small as a strand of DNA. The current metamaterial lens works with infrared light, but the researchers hope the technology will expand to other wavelengths in the future.

Permalink10/16/07, 08:56:59 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 417 views, Sensors Send feedback

Blood helps us think


MIT scientists propose that blood may help us think, in addition to its well-known role as the conveyor of fuel and oxygen to brain cells. “We hypothesize that blood actively modulates how neurons process information,” Christopher Moore, a principal investigator in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, explained in an invited review in the October issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology. “Many lines of evidence suggest that blood does something more interesting than just delivering supplies. If it does modulate how neurons relay signals, that changes how we think the brain works.” According to Moore’s Hemo-Neural Hypothesis, blood is not just a physiological support system but actually helps control brain activity. Specifically, localized changes in blood flow affect the activity of nearby neurons, changing how they transmit signals to each other and hence regulating information flow throughout the brain. Ongoing studies in Moore’s laboratory support this view, showing that blood flow does modulate individual neurons. Moore’s theory has implications for understanding brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

Permalink10/16/07, 08:28:23 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 440 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Doppler radar detects speeding hearts


The Army has turned to a Honolulu company for Doppler radar and advanced algorithm technology to be able to detect and monitor multiple subjects based on their heart rate, even through walls. This means that soldiers will be able to detect someone hiding in a room before the door is kicked in, the company claims, and medics will be able to remotely perform triage and diagnoses or monitor casualties right through their flack jackets. It may also have homeland security and interrogation applications by allowing personnel to screen and identify individuals who may merit the third degree based on a guilty heart rate. Kai Sensors’ proprietary radar technology called LifeReader accurately detects and monitors heart and respiration activity wirelessly, remotely and with no contact with the subjects by using microwave, Doppler radar and digital signal processing, according to the company. LifeReader is the product of four years of research at the University of Hawaii’s electrical engineering department.

Permalink10/16/07, 08:25:31 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 381 views, Technology Send feedback

Data Access Without Booting


You’ve got a file on your laptop that you need to access — but you don’t want to wait for your laptop to boot up to get at it. New technology from the company Silicon Storage Technology will make the contents of a hard drive accessible via a computer’s USB port even when the computer is powered down. ‘FlashMate combines hardware, firmware and software in a system application subsystem that manages a notebook computer’s hard drive. It is based on SST’s expertise in NAND flash controllers and memory subsystem design with Insyde Software’s expertise in PC BIOS, system software and power management. FlashMate can work in conjunction with features such as Windows Vista ReadyDrive and serve as nonvolatile cache for the hard disk drive, thus enabling a standard hard disk drive to function as a hybrid drive.’

Permalink10/12/07, 05:41:45 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 387 views, Technology, Storage Send feedback

US faces US$100 billion fine for web gaming ban


A Brussels think-tank has accused the US government of reneging on commitments made to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over internet gaming. Panellists at a trade forum levelled harsh criticism at the US, focusing on a burgeoning trade clash between the US and Europe over internet gaming. The forum believes that the US could be liable for up to US$100 billion in trade concessions to European industries after placing illegal discriminatory trade restrictions on European gaming operators. The disputed concessions arise from Antigua’s victory earlier this year when the WTO ruled that the US violated its treaty obligations by excluding online Antiguan gaming operators, while allowing domestic operators to offer various forms of online gaming. Instead of complying with the ruling, the Bush administration withdrew the sizeable gambling industry from its free trade commitments. As a result, all 151 WTO members are considering seeking compensation for the withdrawal equal to the size of the entire US land-based and online gaming market, estimated at nearly US$100 billion.

Permalink10/12/07, 05:40:15 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 395 views, Over The Top Send feedback

The mechanics of Death


Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grâce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, people ultimately die because their neurons are deprived of oxygen, leading to cessation of electrical activity in the brain - the modern definition of biological death. If the flow of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain is stopped, through whatever mechanism, people tend to have about 10 seconds before losing consciousness. They may take many more minutes to die, though, with the exact mode of death affecting the subtleties of the final experience. If you can take the grisly details, read on for a brief guide to the many and varied ways death can suddenly strike.

Permalink10/12/07, 05:15:47 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 488 views, Science Send feedback

Silicon ink will dramatically cut cost of solar power


Innovalight creates nanoparticles of silicon that it uses to make ink “and we can end up with something that looks not very different from what a solar cell looks like today, except we got there substantially faster and cheaper, and we use less material,” he said. The goal is to achieve “double digit” efficiency, higher than current levels for other thin-film-based solar cells, although Burke wouldn’t reveal a specific number. The industry standard is 14 or 15 percent, although some companies talk about reaching 20 percent efficiency. Efficiency measures the percentage of absorbed light converted to electricity.

Permalink10/12/07, 05:13:36 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 406 views, Technology, Solar Send feedback

6-year-old girl is facing a $300 fine


A 6-year-old Park Slope girl is facing a $300 fine from the city for doing what city kids have been doing for decades: drawing a pretty picture with common sidewalk chalk. Obviously not all of Natalie Shea’s 10th Street neighbors thought her blue chalk splotch was her best work — a neighbor called 311 to report the “graffiti,” and the Department of Sanitation quickly sent a standard letter to Natalie’s mom, Jen Pepperman. Can somebody stop these bureaucrats before they Kafka again? “PLEASE REMOVE THE GRAFFITI FROM YOUR PROPERTY,” the Sanitation Department warning letter read. “FAILURE TO COMPLY … MAY RESULT IN ENFORCEMENT ACTION AGAINST YOU.” Since when is a kid’s chalk drawing “graffiti”? Since the City Council passed local law 111 in 2005, which defined “graffiti” as “any letter, word, name, number, symbol, slogan, message, drawing, picture, writing … that is drawn, painted, chiseled, scratched, or etched on a commercial building or residential building.” In other words, Natalie Shea is not an artistic little girl, but a graffiti scofflaw?

Permalink10/12/07, 04:41:45 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 488 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Programmed to love chocolate


For the first time, scientists have linked the all-too-human preference for a food — chocolate — to a specific, chemical signature that may be programmed into the metabolic system and is detectable by laboratory tests. The study by Swiss and British scientists breaks new ground in a rapidly emerging field that may eventually classify individuals on the basis of their metabolic type, or metabotype, which can ultimately be used to design healthier diets that are customized to an individual’s needs. Sunil Kochhar and colleagues studied 11 volunteers who classified themselves as ‘chocolate desiring’ and 11 volunteers who were ‘chocolate indifferent.’ In a controlled clinical study, each subject — all men — ate chocolate or placebo over a five day period while their blood and urine samples were analyzed. The ‘chocolate lovers’ had a hallmark metabolic profile that involved low levels of LDL-cholesterol (so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol) and marginally elevated levels of albumin, a beneficial protein, the scientists say. The chocolate lovers expressed this profile even when they ate no chocolate, the researchers note. The activity of the gut microbes in the chocolate lovers was also distinctively different from the other subjects, they add. “Our study shows that food preferences, including chocolate, might be programmed or imprinted into our metabolic system in such a way that the body becomes attuned to a particular diet,” says Kochhar, a scientist with Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland.

Permalink10/12/07, 04:39:00 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 433 views, Studies Send feedback

Fantastic plastic could cut CO2 emissions and purify water


A new membrane that mimics pores found in plants has applications in water, energy and climate change mitigation. Announced today in the international journal Science, the new plastic membrane allows carbon dioxide and other small molecules to move through its hourglass-shaped pores while preventing the movement of larger molecules like methane. Separating carbon dioxide from methane is important in natural gas processing and gas recovery from landfill. The new material was developed as part of an international collaboration involving researchers from Hanyang University in Korea, the University of Texas and CSIRO, through its Water for a Healthy Country Flagship. “This plastic will help solve problems of small molecule separation, whether related to clean coal technology, separating greenhouse gases, increasing the energy efficiency of water purification, or producing and delivering energy from hydrogen,” Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering said. “The ability of the new plastic to separate small molecules surpasses the limits of any conventional plastics. “It can separate carbon dioxide from natural gas a few hundred times faster than current plastic membranes and its performance is four times better in terms of purity of the separated gas.”

Permalink10/12/07, 04:34:04 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 481 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Method to measure nanolight is created


U.S. scientists have overcome a problem involved in optical technology by creating a way to predict the behavior of light emitted on the nanoscale. Nanolight behaves much differently as its wavelength is interrupted, producing unstable waves called evanescent waves. The direction of those unpredictable waves can’t be calculated, so researchers must design nanotechnologies to work with the tiny, yet potentially useful, waves of light. Georgia Institute of Technology scientists have discovered a way to predict the behavior of light waves during nanoscale radiation heat transfer, thus opening the door to the design of a spectrum of new nanodevices and nanotechnologies, including solar thermal energy technologies. This discovery gives us the fundamental information to determine things like how far apart plates should be and what size they should be when designing a technology that uses nanoscale radiation heat transfer, said Professor Zhuomin Zhang, a lead researcher on the project. “Understanding the behavior of light at this scale is the key to designing technologies to take advantage of the unique capabilities of this phenomenon.

Permalink10/11/07, 11:18:25 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 454 views, Measure Send feedback

Scientists predict the future of the past tense


Verbs evolve and homogenize at a rate inversely proportional to their prevalence in the English language, according to a formula developed by Harvard University mathematicians who’ve invoked evolutionary principles to study our language over the past 1,200 years, from “Beowulf” to “Canterbury Tales” to “Harry Potter.” Writing this week in the journal Nature, Erez Lieberman, Jean-Baptiste Michel, and colleagues in Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, led by Martin A. Nowak, conceive of linguistic development as an essentially evolutionary scheme: Just as genes and organisms undergo natural selection, words – specifically, irregular verbs that do not take an “-ed” ending in the past tense – are subject to powerful pressure to “regularize” as the language develops. “Mathematical analysis of this linguistic evolution reveals that irregular verb conjugations behave in an extremely regular way – one that can yield predictions and insights into the future stages of a verb’s evolutionary trajectory,” says Lieberman, a graduate student in applied mathematics in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and an affiliate of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. “We measured something no one really thought could be measured, and got a striking and beautiful result.” “We’re really on the front lines of developing the mathematical tools to study evolutionary dynamics,” says Michel, a graduate student in systems biology at Harvard Medical School and an affiliate of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. “Before, language was considered too messy and difficult a system for mathematical study, but now we’re able to successfully quantify an aspect of how language changes and develops.” Lieberman, Michel, and colleagues built upon previous study of seven competing rules for verb conjugation in Old English, six of which have gradually faded from use over time. They found that the one surviving rule, which adds an “-ed” suffix to simple past and past participle forms, contributes to the evolutionary decay of irregular English verbs according to a specific mathematical function: It regularizes them at a rate that is inversely proportional to the square root of their usage frequency.

Permalink10/11/07, 10:36:38 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 504 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Tooth loss, dementia may be linked


Tooth loss may predict the development of dementia late in life, according to research published in the October issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). Numerous past studies have shown that patients with dementia are more likely than patients without the condition to have poor oral health. Few researchers, however, have examined the relationship from the opposite direction, to determine whether poor oral health actually may contribute to the development of dementia. To that end, researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Dentistry, Lexington, studied data from 144 participants in the Nun Study, a study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease among Catholic sisters of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The researchers used dental records and results of annual cognitive examinations to study participants from the order’s Milwaukee province who were 75 to 98 years old. “Of the participants who did not have dementia at the first examination, those with few teeth (zero to nine) had an increased risk of developing dementia during the study compared with those who had 10 or more teeth,” the authors write.

Permalink10/11/07, 10:32:33 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 489 views, Studies Send feedback

Spontaneous brain activity causes 'unforced errors'


The reason why even professional basketball and soccer players sometimes miss an easy shot may be partly explained by spontaneous fluctuations of electrical activity within the brain, a study suggests. An experiment conducted by researchers at Washington University, in Missouri, US, found that fluctuations in brain activity caused volunteers to subconsciously exert slightly less physical force when pressing a button on cue. Crucially, this activity is independent of any external stimulus and does not appear related to attention or anticipation. The scientists involved say it is the first direct evidence that internal instabilities – so-called “spontaneous brain activity” – may play an important role in the variability of human behaviour. From the mid-1990s onwards, brain-scanning techniques have revealed variable brain activity that appears unrelated to external stimuli and occurs even when a person is asleep or anaesthetized.

Permalink10/11/07, 09:38:05 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 439 views, Studies Send feedback

Salesman donates kidney to man he met during sales call


When Jamie Howard knocked on Paul Sucher’s door six months ago, he was trying to sell him a new vacuum cleaner. He ended up giving him one of his kidneys. The chance encounter with Howard, a travelling salesman for the Kirby Co., led to transplant surgery in August. Now, the colour is returning to Sucher’s cheeks and he is recovering. Sucher, 35, suffered kidney failure three years ago because of high blood pressure, forcing him to undergo dialysis. When Howard came by on a sales call, he learned that Sucher couldn’t afford a new vacuum cleaner because of the illness. He also learned Sucher had O-positive blood - the same as his.

Permalink10/09/07, 12:53:58 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 422 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Currency launched to cover the cosmos


Scientists have come up with a new currency to be used by inter-planetary travellers. The Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination, or Quid, is made from a polymer used in non-stick pans and is designed to withstand the stresses of space travel. Bearing a striking resemblance to the Drogna - the currency used in The Adventure Game - the Quid has no chemicals or sharp edges that could pose a potential problem to space goers should the “coins” accidentally float free in zero gravity. It was designed for foreign exchange company Travelex by scientists from the National Space Centre and the University of Leicester. They predict that regular trips into space will be considerably more commonplace within the next five years and that holiday facilities on the Moon are a possibility within the next 50 years. The issue of currency has long featured in science fiction, from the all-encompassing “credit” to the Altarian Dollar, the Triganic Pu, or even where money doesn’t exist at all as is the case in Star Trek. Professor George Fraser from the University of Leicester told BBC News: “With an inflatable space hotel from Bigelow Aerospace under development in the US, and Virgin Galactic developing SpaceShipTwo, there will be better access to space than there has been. “In the fullness of time we will have to adopt a universal currency if we are going to carry out serious commerce in space. It’s an interesting initiative.”

Permalink10/09/07, 12:52:56 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 374 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Can nurture save you from your own genes?


Among biology’s more riveting inquiries is the investigation of gene-environment interactions – the demonstration that a person’s genes constantly react to experience in a way that changes behavior, which in turn shapes environment, which in turn alters gene expression and so on. As David Olds described a few weeks ago, this new subdiscipline is yielding startling insights about how nature and nurture mix to help determine one’s health and character. This week reviewer Charles Glatt reviews a study that takes this investigation a level deeper, examining how two different gene variants show their power – or not – depending on whether a child is abused, nurtured, or both. As Glatt describes, this study, despite its grim subject, suggests promising things about the power of nurture to magnify nature’s gifts or lift its burdens.

Permalink10/09/07, 12:41:22 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 465 views, Genes Send feedback

Sterile Areas Have Plenty of Robust Bacteria


Researchers have found a surprising diversity of hardy bacteria in a seemingly unlikely place — the so-called sterile clean rooms where NASA assembles its spacecraft and prepares them for launching. Samples of air and surfaces in the clean rooms at three National Aeronautics and Space Administration centers revealed surprising numbers and types of robust bacteria that appear to resist normal sterilization procedures, according to a newly published study. The findings are significant, the researchers report, because they can help reduce the chances of stowaway microbes contaminating planets and other bodies visited by the spacecraft and confounding efforts to discover new life elsewhere. “These findings will advance the search for life on Mars and other worlds both by sparking improved cleaning and sterilization methods and by preventing false-positive results in future experiments to detect extraterrestrial life,” said the leader of the study, Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a microbiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Permalink10/09/07, 12:39:14 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 370 views, Space Send feedback

Mathematicians help unlock secrets of the immune system


A group of scientists, led by mathematicians, has taken on the challenge of building a common model of immune responses. Their work will radically improve our understanding of the human immune system by allowing all the scientific disciplines working on it to have a common reference point and language. The mathematicians, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will investigate how the different cellular components of the immune system work together and devise a theoretical and computational model that can be used by immunologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and engineers. The model promises to help a multi-disciplinary research community work together to bring about medical advances for patients. The project, the Immunology Imaging and Modelling (I2M) Network, is highlighted in the quarterly research highlights magazine of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) this week. The immune system is one of the most fascinating and complex systems in the human body and scientists still do not fully understand how it works. Immunology has traditionally been a qualitative science, describing the cellular and molecular components of the immune system and their functions. However, to advance our understanding of how the body fights disease there is a pressing need to better understand how the components work together as a whole and provide this information in a quantitative format which can be accessed by the entire scientific community.

Permalink10/09/07, 12:37:10 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 357 views, Science Send feedback

Laser Joining Of Solar Cells


A single solar cell produces a relatively low output – it’s a case of strength in numbers. Tiny strips of metal are used to link cells together. If the laser soldering temperature is too high, the solder joint may fracture. A new system provides automatic temperature regulation. Teamwork is what matters – even in the case of solar cells: To obtain sufficient power to operate a pocket calculator, parking ticket dispenser or photovoltaic module, sunlight has to be captured simultaneously by an array of cells. They are connected in series using tiny strips of metal known as stringers. Each stringer has to be positioned in precisely the right spot, then its solder coating is melted using a hot electrode. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have developed a non-contact soldering system in which the temperature is constantly monitored.

Permalink10/08/07, 11:26:12 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 441 views, Solar Send feedback

Banked blood loses ability to deliver oxygen to tissues


Almost immediately after it is donated, human blood begins to lose a key gas that opens up blood vessels to facilitate the transfer of oxygen from red blood cells to oxygen-starved tissues. Thus, millions of patients are apparently receiving transfusions with blood that is impaired in its ability to deliver oxygen, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers, who reported the results of their studies in two separate papers appearing early on-line in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They also found that adding this gas back to stored blood before transfusion appears to restore red blood cells’ ability to transfer oxygen to tissues. These studies go a long way toward answering a major problem which many physicians are beginning to appreciate – blood transfusions with banked human blood may do more harm than good for a majority of patients, according to the researchers. Over the past five years, many studies, including some performed at Duke, have demonstrated that patients who receive blood transfusions have higher incidences of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and even death. While it is known that the banked blood is not the same as blood in the body, the reasons behind blood’s association with worse outcomes have not been well-understood. The key to the current findings is that nitric oxide in red blood cells is crucial to the delivery of oxygen to tissues. Nitric oxide keeps the blood vessels open. The new studies demonstrated that nitric oxide in red blood cells begins breaking down almost immediately after red blood cells leave the body.

Permalink10/08/07, 10:53:28 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 428 views, Science Send feedback

Discovery Could Help Explain Why Cancer Cells Never Stop Dividing


Inside the cell nucleus, all our genetic information is located on twisted, double stranded molecules of DNA which are packaged into chromosomes. At the end of these chromosomes are telomeres, zones of repeated chains of DNA that are often compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosomes from fraying, and thus genetic information from getting scrambled when cells divide. The telomere is like a cellular clock, because every time a cell divides, the telomere shortens. After a cell has grown and divided a few dozen times, the telomeres turn on an alarm system that prevents further division. If this clock doesn’t function right, cells either end up with damaged chromosomes or they become “immortal” and continue dividing endlessly – either way it’s bad news and leads to cancer or disease. Understanding how telomeres function, and how this function can potentially be manipulated, is thus extremely important. The DNA in the chromosome acts like a sort of instruction manual for the cell. Genetic information is transcribed into segments of RNA that then go out into the cell and carry out a variety of tasks such as making proteins, catalyzing chemical reactions, or fulfilling structural roles. It was thought that telomeres were “silent” – that their DNA was not transcribed into strands of RNA. The researchers have turned this theory on its head by discovering telomeric RNA and showing that this RNA is transcribed from DNA on the telomere.

Permalink10/08/07, 10:51:48 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 407 views, Genes Send feedback

Viagra could help beat jet lag


Good news for your Viagra-using hamster—on his next trip to Europe, he’ll bounce back from jet lag faster than his unmedicated friends. The researchers who revealed that bizarre fact earned one of ten Ig Nobel prizes awarded on Thursday for quirky, funny and sometimes legitimate scientific achievements, from the mathematics of wrinkled sheets to the US military’s efforts to make a ‘gay bomb’. The recipients of the annual award handed out by the annals of Improbable research magazine were honoured at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater. A team at Quilmes National University in Buenos Aires, Argentina, came up with the jet lag study which found that hamsters given the anti-impotence drug needed 50% less time to recover from a six-hour time zone change. Of course, they didn’t fly rodents to Paris. They just turned the lights off and on at different times. Odd as it may be, that research might have implications for millions of humans.

Permalink10/07/07, 12:53:50 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 400 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Smart sheets let gadgets talk through their feet


You arrive home from work, drop your mobile phone, MP3 player and camera on the kitchen table and pour yourself a well-earned drink. Immediately, the music on your MP3 player begins blaring from your hi-fi, photos start downloading to your PC and texts and emails start flashing up on your TV screen. What’s going on? The phone, MP3 player and camera are sending information to the table, which passes it to the walls, which in turn route it to the hi-fi, television and PC. Takao Someya, Tsuyoshi Sekitani and colleagues at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed a flexible, plastic electronic sheet that can be embedded in tables, walls and floors. Plastic transistors and copper wires that snake through the sheets allow gadgets placed on them to form spontaneous connections and swap data.

Permalink10/07/07, 12:50:48 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 383 views, Nano Send feedback

Human behavior linked to spontaneous brain activity


A paper that recently appeared in the journal Neuron sets up an interesting dichotomy in describing how to view the function of the brain. One option it presents is that the brain is an input-output device: give it a stimulus, and it will process it and respond. The alternative view is that the brain is simply doing its own thing, and stimuli act to modulate its activity, rather than direct it. Since the first perspective is an easier one to approach experimentally, it has received most of the attention, but the paper presents evidence that the alternative view shouldn’t be ignored. The experiments in the paper are built around two observations. The first is that just about every measure of brain function detects spontaneous, organized activity even when the owner of the brain doesn’t appear to be doing anything—in fact, this kind of activity has been detected when people are under anesthesia. The second key observation is that, even on the simplest tests, the same individual will perform differently when the test is repeated. The authors simply asked if these two were linked: is human action influenced by spontaneous brain activity?

Permalink10/07/07, 12:44:13 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 451 views, Science Send feedback

Elbert Hubbard

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

Permalink10/07/07, 12:01:00 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 401 views, Quotes Send feedback

Purpose of appendix believed found


Some scientists think they have figured out the real job of the troublesome and seemingly useless appendix: It produces and protects good germs for your gut. That’s the theory from surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, published online in a scientific journal this week. For generations the appendix has been dismissed as superfluous. Doctors figured it had no function. Surgeons removed them routinely. People live fine without them. And when infected the appendix can turn deadly. It gets inflamed quickly and some people die if it isn’t removed in time. Two years ago, 321,000 Americans were hospitalized with appendicitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most are good and help digest food. But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix’s job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

Permalink10/06/07, 11:24:53 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 466 views, Science Send feedback

Nanofabrication method paves way for new optical devices


An innovative and inexpensive way of making nanomaterials on a large scale has resulted in novel forms of advanced materials that pave the way for exceptional and unexpected optical properties. The new fabrication technique, known as soft lithography, offers many significant advantages over existing techniques, including the ability to scale-up the manufacturing process to produce devices in large quantities. The research, led by Northwestern University chemist Teri Odom, appears as the cover story in the September 2007 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The optical nanomaterials in this research are called ‘plasmonic metamaterials’ because their unique physical properties originate from shape and structure rather than material composition only. Two examples of metamaterials in the natural world are peacock feathers and butterfly wings. Their brightly colored patterns are due to structural variations at the hundreds of nanometers level, which cause them to absorb or reflect light. Through the development of a new nanomanufacturing technique, Odom and her colleagues have succeeded in making gold films with virtually infinite arrays of circular perforations as small as 100 nanometers in diameter – 500 to 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. On a magnified scale, these perforated gold films look like Swiss cheese except the perforations are well-ordered and can spread over macroscale distances. The researchers’ ability to make these optical metamaterials inexpensively and on large wafers or sheets is what sets this work apart from other techniques.

Permalink10/06/07, 11:20:10 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 346 views, Nano Send feedback

The Stripper's Secret To Maximizing Income


Unlike their sisters in the animal kingdom, human females don’t openly advertise their ovulation. But even without a human version of the baboon’s bright pink behind, signs of fertility sneak out, according to several studies. Subconsciously, women dress more provocatively and men find them prettier when it’s prime time for conception. And a report from the University of New Mexico demonstrates that the cyclic signs have economic consequences. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller and colleagues tapped the talent at local gentlemen’s clubs and counted tips made on lap dances. Dancers made about $70 an hour during their peak period of fertility, versus about $35 while menstruating and $50 in between. Miller links the wage fluctuations to changes in body odor, waist-to-hip ratio, and facial features. Despite operating at the upper limits of flirtatiousness already, he says there may also be subtle shifts in their behavior—"how they talk and move when enticing a customer to buy a dance, and how they perform the dance itself.” Women on the pill averaged $37 (and had no performance peak) versus $53 for women off-pill. The contraceptive produces hormonal cues indicating early pregnancy, not an enticing target for a would-be suitor. Birth control could lead to many thousands of dollars lost every year.

Permalink10/05/07, 10:49:40 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 564 views, Studies Send feedback

Turning Water Into Fuel


Using sunlight to liberate hydrogen from water is an appealing way to generate a clean-burning fuel from a renewable energy source. As a result, scientists have examined a variety of materials over the years in search of a suitable catalyst to accelerate the water-splitting reaction. Several candidates show some level of promise, yet each material suffers from shortcomings that would limit its applications. For example, some catalysts absorb solar radiation inefficiently, exhibit low activity, or are unstable or costly. Now, a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institutes for Bioinorganic Chemistry and for Coal Research, in Germany, report that titanium disilicide (TiSi2)—an abundant and inexpensive semiconductor not known previously to be a water-splitting catalyst—separates water into hydrogen and oxygen when reactors containing the powdered catalyst are illuminated with simulated sunlight.

Permalink10/05/07, 10:01:57 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 440 views, Energy Send feedback

New plastic is strong as steel, transparent


By mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular structure found in seashells, University of Michigan researchers created a composite plastic that’s as strong as steel but lighter and transparent. It’s made of layers of clay nanosheets and a water-soluble polymer that shares chemistry with white glue. Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov almost dubbed it “plastic steel,” but the new material isn’t quite stretchy enough to earn that name. Nevertheless, he says its further development could lead to lighter, stronger armor for soldiers or police and their vehicles. It could also be used in microelectromechanical devices, microfluidics, biomedical sensors and valves and unmanned aircraft. Kotov and other U-M faculty members are authors of a paper on this composite material, “Ultrastrong and Stiff Layered Polymer Nanocomposites,” published in the Oct. 5 edition of Science. The scientists solved a problem that has confounded engineers and scientists for decades: Individual nano-size building blocks such as nanotubes, nanosheets and nanorods are ultrastrong. But larger materials made out of bonded nano-size building blocks were comparatively weak. Until now.

Permalink10/05/07, 09:59:39 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 441 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Charges dropped in sherry enema death


Negligent homicide charges have been dropped against a former Lake Jackson woman who had been accused of killing her husband with a sherry enema that led to alcohol poisoning. Court records show the charge against Tammy Jean Warner, 45, of Texas City, was dismissed Aug. 31 because of insufficient evidence, the Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition Wednesday. Michael Warner, 58, died May 21, 2004. An autopsy showed he had been given an enema with enough sherry to have a blood alcohol level of 0.47 percent, almost six times the legal limit of .08 percent in Texas.

Permalink10/04/07, 12:53:05 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 423 views, Dumb Choices Send feedback

Commuters to be Scanned With Infrared Cameras


Washington, D.C. area commuters are going to be “scanned like groceries at the supermarket” in order to catch single-occupant vehicles who are illegally using carpool lanes. The article, from the Washington Post, says that infrared cameras capable of detecting human skin will be installed, rather than the visible-spectrum cameras in use today. So much for using dummies in the front seat.

Permalink10/04/07, 12:52:10 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 388 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Stem cells 'can spread cancer'


Stem cells normally associated with potential cures and treatments can also promote the spread of cancer, scientists have shown. A study found that stem cells taken from bone marrow can drive breast cancer cells to invade other parts of the body. The good news is that the process is reversible, and understanding it may open the door to ways of reducing the metastasis, or spread, of cancer. Stem cells are immature cells not yet assigned a function that can develop into different kinds of tissue. Scientists hope in future they will be used to treat a host of diseases ranging from Parkinson’s to heart failure and type 1 diabetes. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a type of stem cell from the bone marrow that can generate connective tissue, bone, fat, cartilage and muscle. The new research showed that when MSCs are mixed with human breast tumour cells they dramatically increase the potential of the cancer cells to metastasise.

Permalink10/03/07, 11:18:26 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 332 views, Science Send feedback

Next generation of paints, cosmetics and holograms


A plant-like micro-organism mostly found in oceans could make the manufacture of products, from iridescent cosmetics, paints and fabrics to credit card holograms, cheaper and ‘greener’. The tiny single-celled ‘diatom’, which first evolved hundreds of millions of years ago, has a hard silica shell which is iridescent – in other words, the shell displays vivid colours that change depending on the angle at which it is observed. This effect is caused by a complex network of tiny holes in the shell which interfere with light waves. UK scientists have now found an extremely effective way of growing diatoms in controlled laboratory conditions, with potential for scale-up to industrial level. This would enable diatom shells to be mass-produced, harvested and mixed into paints, cosmetics and clothing to create stunning colour-changing effects, or embedded into polymers to produce difficult-to-forge holograms. Manufacturing consumer products with these properties currently requires energy-intensive, high-temperature, high-pressure industrial processes that create tiny artificial reflectors. But farming diatom shells, which essentially harnesses a natural growth process, could provide an alternative that takes place at normal room temperature and pressure, dramatically reducing energy needs and so cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The process is also extremely rapid – in the right conditions, one diatom can give rise to 100 million descendants in a month.

Permalink10/03/07, 11:01:23 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 343 views, Nature Send feedback

Physicists tackle knotty puzzle


“Knot formation is important in many fields,” said Douglas Smith, an assistant professor of physics who was the senior author on the paper. “For example, knots often form in DNA, which is a long string-like molecule. Cells have enzymes that undo the knots by cutting the DNA strands so that they can pass through each other. Certain anti-cancer drugs stop tumor cells from dividing by blocking the unknotting of DNA.” Dorian Raymer, a research assistant working with Smith, initiated the study because he was interested in knot theory—the branch of mathematics that uses formulae to distinguish unique knots. “Very little experimental work had been done to apply knot theory to the analysis and classification of real, physical knots,” said Smith. “For mathematicians, the problem is very abstract. They imagine the types of knots that can form and then classify them. In our experiments, we produced thousands of different knots, used mathematical knot theory to analyze them, and then developed a simple physics model to explain our findings.” The experimental set up consisted of a plastic box that was spun by a computer-controlled motor. A piece of string was dropped into the box and tumbled around like clothes in a dryer. Knots formed very quickly, within 10 seconds. The researchers repeated the experiment more than 3,000 times varying the length and stiffness of string, box size and speed of rotation. They classified the resulting knots. “It is virtually impossible to distinguish different knots just by looking at them,” said Raymer. “So I developed a computer program to do it. The computer program counts each crossing of the string. It notes whether the crossing is under or over, and whether the string follows a path to the left or to the right. The result is a bunch of numbers that can be translated into a mathematical fingerprint for a knot.

Permalink10/03/07, 10:55:51 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 375 views, Physics Send feedback

Nanotube forests grown on silicon chips for future computers


Engineers have shown how to grow forests of tiny cylinders called carbon nanotubes onto the surfaces of computer chips to enhance the flow of heat at a critical point where the chips connect to cooling devices called heat sinks. The carpetlike growth of nanotubes has been shown to outperform conventional “thermal interface materials.” Like those materials, the nanotube layer does not require elaborate clean-room environments, representing a possible low-cost manufacturing approach to keep future chips from overheating and reduce the size of cooling systems, said Placidus B. Amama, a postdoctoral research associate at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue’s [profile] Discovery Park. Researchers are trying to develop new types of thermal interface materials that conduct heat more efficiently than conventional materials, improving overall performance and helping to meet cooling needs of future chips that will produce more heat than current microprocessors. The materials, which are sandwiched between silicon chips and the metal heat sinks, fill gaps and irregularities between the chip and metal surfaces to enhance heat flow between the two.

Permalink10/03/07, 10:34:08 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 352 views, Nano Send feedback

B.F. Skinner

“Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”

Permalink10/03/07, 10:21:45 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 426 views, Quotes Send feedback

Stopping atoms


With atoms and molecules in a gas moving at thousands of kilometres per hour, physicists have long sought a way to slow them down to a few kilometres per hour to trap them. A paper, published today in the Institute of Physics’ New Journal of Physics, demonstrates how a group of physicists from The University of Texas at Austin, US, have found a way to slow down, stop and explore a much wider range of atoms than ever before. Inspired by the coilgun that was developed by the University’s Center for Electromechanics, the group has developed an “atomic coilgun” that slows and gradually stops atoms with a sequence of pulsed magnetic fields. Dr. Mark Raizen and his colleagues in Texas ultimately plan on using the gun to trap atomic hydrogen, which he said has been the Rosetta Stone of physics for many years and is the simplest and most abundant atom in the periodic table.

Permalink10/03/07, 09:59:56 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 330 views, Science Send feedback

Supreme Court denies Alabama women mechanically induced orgasms


“An adult-store owner had asked the justices to throw out the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the privacy of the bedroom. But the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, leaving intact a lower court ruling that upheld the law.
Sherri Williams, owner of Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur, said she was disappointed, but plans to sue again on First Amendment free speech grounds. “My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up,” she said. Alabama’s anti-obscenity law, enacted in 1998, bans the distribution of “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value.”

Permalink10/03/07, 09:57:31 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 491 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Eggshells Could Help Power Hydrogen Cars


Eggs give many of us the fuel we need to start the day, but leftover eggshells of the future could provide fuel to start hydrogen cars. The fragile leftovers can be ground up and used to filter out carbon dioxide, a pesky by-product of hydrogen production, engineers said. “The key to making pure hydrogen is separating out the carbon dioxide,” said L.S. Fan, a chemical and biomolecular engineer at Ohio State University. Calcium carbonate—the main component in eggshells and antacid tablets—serves as the active ingredient in Fan and his team’s process when heated up. The material soaks up acidic carbon dioxide gas during hydrogen-producing reactions, making them more efficient. In fact, it’s now the most effective carbon dioxide absorber ever tested, Fan said.

Permalink10/01/07, 10:26:05 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 393 views, Energy Send feedback

Dilaton could affect abundance of dark matter particles


The amount of dark matter left over from the early universe may be less than previously believed. Research published in the open access journal PMC Physics A shows that the “relic abundance” of stable dark matter particles such as the neutralino may be reduced as compared to standard cosmology theories due to the effects of the “dilaton"‘, a particle with zero spin in the gravitational sector of strings. Results were obtained by studying a special “off-shell” time-dependent term (due to the dilaton) in the Boltzmann equation that describes the evolution of hot matter density as the Universe cooled down. “The formalism that this work used was developed in partial collaboration with John Ellis of CERN and Vasiliki Mitsou of IFIC, Valencia, and is a version of ‘non-critical string theory’", said Mavromatos. All the matter and radiation in the universe is thought to have been created by the Big Bang. The radiation stopped interacting with the matter some 400,000 years later – when the universe had cooled down enough for electrons and protons to form hydrogen atoms. The density of dark matter particles such as the neutralino (a dark matter candidate favoured by many of the current “supersymmetric” approaches to particle physics) was therefore “frozen” at this time – the so-called relic abundance.

Permalink10/01/07, 10:08:37 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 361 views, Space Send feedback

New Tech Lets You Draw in the Air


Three-dimensional drawing programs offer precision, but still require input in two dimensions. Now scientists have developed a software program that trades the keyboard and mouse for virtual reality goggles with feedback to illustrate objects in mid-air. The program, Drawing on Air, is meant to give scientists a better way to model complex ideas, and could eventually allow doctors to visualize a surgical procedure before they ever cut into a patient. It could also give artists an intuitive, simple way for moving from traditional freehand methods to computers. “It’s got ‘drawing’ in the title, but it’s very three-dimensional, so in many ways it’s more sculptural than it is drawing-based,” said Daniel Keefe, post-doctoral research associate in computer science at Brown University in Providence, RI.

Permalink10/01/07, 10:06:07 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 370 views, Technology Send feedback

Quit smoking with help from your phone


Struggling with the new public smoking ban or simply fed up with being addicted to the evil weed? QuitmateME is a Java application which records each cigarette the user smokes and then calculates a quitting regime for them to follow. The smoker is then encouraged to beat targets set by the software to gradually reduce their daily intake. For instance a 20-a-day smoker could easily reduce their intake to 10 a day in just 10 days. Monthly, Daily, Hourly and AM/PM reports are provided help understand smoking patterns and motivate users to cut down on their smoking levels.

Permalink10/01/07, 12:11:50 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 383 views, Technology Send feedback

Cell Phones Double As Electronic Wallets


More than 5.5 million Filipinos now use their cell phones as virtual wallets, making the Philippines a leader among developing nations in providing financial transactions over mobile networks. Mobile banking services, which are also catching on in Kenya and South Africa, enable people who don’t have bank accounts to transfer money easily, quickly and safely. It’s spreading in the developing world because mobile phones are much more common than bank accounts. The system is particularly useful for the 8 million Filipinos – 10 percent of the country’s citizens – who work overseas and send money home.

Permalink10/01/07, 12:09:59 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 360 views, Technology Send feedback

Woman gives birth to own grandchildren


A 51-year-old surrogate mother for her daughter has given birth to her own twin grandchildren in northeastern Brazil, the delivery hospital said. Rosinete Palmeira Serrao, a government health worker, gave birth to twin boys by Caesarean section on Thursday at the Santa Joana Hospital in the city of Recife, the hospital said in a statement on its Web site.

Permalink10/01/07, 12:08:05 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 397 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Airport Uses Random Numbers To Catch Terrorists


Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is using randomization software to determine the location and timing of security checkpoints and patrols. The theory is that random security will make it impossible for terrorists to predict the actions of security forces. The ARMOR software, written by computer scientists at the University of Southern California, was initially developed to solve a problem in game theory. Doctoral student Praveen Paruchuri wrote algorithms on how an agent should react to an opponent who has perfect information about the agent’s choices.

Permalink10/01/07, 12:06:52 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1193 views, Technology Send feedback

Cell Phone Memory Doubled Through Software Alone


Cell phones are increasingly sophisticated – sporting such features as cameras, music players, games, video clips, Internet access and, lest we forget, the capability to phone someone – but these features come at a price: memory. Now computer engineers at Northwestern University and NEC Laboratories America, Inc. are the first to do what many thought impossible – they have developed technology that doubles the usable memory on cell phones and other embedded systems without any changes to hardware or applications. The improvement was made in the operating system software alone. This innovation, the result of two years of close collaboration between researchers at Northwestern and NEC Labs, is featured in millions of new smartphones, the NEC-manufactured FOMA N904i, which first hit shelves in Japan this summer. “All the things you do with a cell phone or personal digital assistant require memory,” said Robert P. Dick, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science in Northwestern’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “The technology we’ve developed automatically takes data and reduces it to less than half its original size without losing any information while the embedded system is running. It is like putting twice as much memory in the phone without increasing its cost or power consumption.”

Permalink09/30/07, 01:49:10 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 503 views, Storage Send feedback

Ozone shuts down early immune response in lungs and body


As policy makers debate what levels of ozone in the air are safe for humans to breathe, studies in mice are revealing that the inhaled pollutant impairs the body’s first line of defense, making it more susceptible to subsequent foreign invaders, such as bacteria. While it has long been known that exposure to ozone, a major component of urban air pollution, is associated with increased cardiovascular and pulmonary hospitalizations and deaths, the actual mechanisms involved remain unclear. New studies by Duke University Medical Center pulmonary researchers on the effects of ozone on the innate immune system, the body’s “tripwire” for foreign invaders, may provide part of the answer. The Duke-led team found that ozone exposure in mice at levels approximating unhealthy levels for humans appears to enhance lung injury in response to bacterial toxins, but more importantly, it also appears to enhance programmed cell death in critical innate immune system cells that gobble up foreign invaders, keeping the airways clear. “Small amounts of inhaled foreign material can be relatively harmless, since they stimulate an appropriate innate immune response that protects the lungs,” said John Hollingsworth, M.D., pulmonologist and lead author of study whose results appear Oct. 1 in the Journal of Immunology. “However, it appears that ozone causes the innate immune system to overreact, killing key immune system cells, and possibly making the lung more susceptible to subsequent invaders, such as bacteria.”

Permalink09/30/07, 01:45:27 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 389 views, Studies Send feedback

Potent new “nanofabrics” repel germs and pollution to keep you healthy


What if you could avoid the flu and other viruses simply by getting dressed? That’s the idea behind two garments that are part of the “Glitterati” clothing line designed by Olivia Ong, a senior design major at Cornell University. It’s not the casually stylish appearance of the dress and jacket that has attracted attention from clothing manufacturers, tech blogs and even military research labs, but rather something that can’t be seen: a sprinkling of nanoparticles intended to protect the wearers of these garments from invisible threats to their health. The upper part of the dress is made from cotton coated with silver nanoparticles that deactivate bacteria and viruses. The jacket’s hood, sleeves and pockets contain palladium nanoparticles that act like tiny catalytic converters to break down harmful components of air pollution. The dress and jacket are known as “functional clothing”—garments that do more than just make you look cool—and they are growing in popularity. Already on the market are shirts with bug repellent, antimicrobial underwear and stain-resistant trousers. But Ong’s creations are among the first to qualify as genuine nanotextiles, fabrics in which the active particles are evenly distributed and less than 100 nanometers in diameter, or about one thousandth the thickness of cotton fibers.

Permalink09/28/07, 10:17:22 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 448 views, Nano Send feedback

MIT Entrance Examination, 1869-70


The MIT libraries has a web page up of an old entrance exam as required for freshman to enter the institute. subjects include english, geometry, algebra, and arithmetic.

Permalink09/28/07, 10:07:49 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 531 views, Education Send feedback

Woman forgotten in CT scanner


A cancer patient says she was left alone in a CT scanner for hours after a technician apparently forget about her. When she finally crawled out of the device she found herself locked inside the closed clinic. Elvira Tellez, 67, of Tucson said she called her son in a panic, and he told her to call 911. Pima County sheriff’s deputies arriving at the oncology office had guided her in unlocking the office door to let them in, said Deputy Dawn Hanke, a department spokeswoman. The deputies contacted the office manager, who was not aware of the situation. Tellez was taken to a hospital as a precaution, then released early the next day.

Permalink09/28/07, 10:01:47 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 468 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Artificial brain falls for optical illusions


A computer program that emulates the human brain falls for the same optical illusions humans do. It suggests the illusions are a by-product of the way babies learn to filter their complex surroundings. Researchers say this means future robots must be susceptible to the same tricks as humans are in order to see as well as us. For some time, scientists have believed one class of optical illusions result from the way the brain tries to disentangle the colour of an object and the way it is lit. An object may appear brighter or darker, either because of the shade of its colour, or because it is in bright light or shadows. The brain learns how to tackle this through trial and error when we are babies, the theory goes. Mostly it gets it right, but occasionally a scene contradicts our previous experiences. The brain gets it wrong and we perceive an object lighter or darker than it really is – creating an illusion.

Permalink09/28/07, 10:00:09 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 470 views, Ad/Marketing Send feedback

Heart disease, colon cancer linked in study


Patients showing signs of heart disease are at nearly double the risk of also having colon cancer, perhaps because unhealthy habits and inflammation are at the root of both, researchers said on Tuesday. The association between heart disease, the single leading cause of death in industrialized countries, and the second most common type of cancer was confirmed in a study of more than 600 patients evaluated at the University of Hong Kong. Previous studies have noted the increased likelihood of heart disease and colon cancer in the same patients, the study said. The two illnesses share several risk factors: smoking, high-fat diet, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sedentary lifestyle. “Both colorectal (tumors) and (coronary artery disease) probably develop through the mechanism of chronic inflammation,” study author Dr. Annie On On Chan of the University of Hong Kong wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Permalink09/28/07, 09:53:07 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 472 views, Studies Send feedback

Internet Uses 9.4% of Electricity In the US


Equipment powering the internet accounts for 9.4% of electricity demand in the U.S., and 5.3% of global demand, according to research by David Sarokin at online pay-for-answers service Uclue. Worldwide, that’s 868 billion kilowatt-hours per year. The total includes the energy used by desktop computers and monitors (which makes up two-thirds of the total), plus other energy sinks including modems, routers, data processing equipment and cooling equipment.

Permalink09/28/07, 03:13:03 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 530 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Radio burst from space mystifies astronomers


Astronomers who stumbled upon a powerful burst of radio waves said on Thursday they had never seen anything like it before, and it could offer a new way to search for colliding stars or dying black holes. They were searching for pulsars – a type of rotating compacted neutron star that sends out rhythmic pulses of radiation – when they spotted the giant radio signal. It was extremely brief but very strong, and appears to have come from about 3 billion light-years away – a light-year being the distance light travels in a year, or about 6 trillion miles.

Permalink09/28/07, 03:11:12 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 500 views, Space Send feedback

Cockroaches are morons in the morning, geniuses in the evening


Dramatic daily variations in the cockroach’s learning ability were discovered by a new study performed by Vanderbilt University biologists and published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This is the first example of an insect whose ability to learn is controlled by its biological clock,” says Terry L. Page, the professor of biological sciences who directed the project. The few studies that have been done with mammals suggest their ability to learn also varies with the time of day. For example, a recent experiment with humans found that people’s ability to acquire new information is reduced when their biological clocks are disrupted, particularly at certain times of day. Similarly, several learning and memory studies with rodents have found that these processes are modulated by their circadian clocks. One study in rats associated jet lag with retrograde amnesia. In the current study, the researchers taught individual cockroaches to associate peppermint – a scent that they normally find slightly distasteful – with sugar water, causing them to favor it over vanilla, a scent they find universally appealing. The researchers trained individual cockroaches at different times in the 24-hour day/night cycle and then tested them to see how long they remembered the association. They found that the individuals trained during the evening retained the memory for several days. Those trained at night also had good retention. During the morning, however, when the cockroaches are least active, they were totally incapable of forming a new memory, although they could recall memories learned at other times.

Permalink09/28/07, 03:06:13 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 514 views, Studies Send feedback

Ocean pumps could counter global warming


James Lovelock, the British planetary scientist and originator of the Gaia hypothesis, has endorsed a cure for the “pathology” of global warming, but has admitted that it could make matters worse. The idea is to tether millions of vertical pipes across the oceans to pump nutrient-rich deep water to the surface. These waters would fertilise the growth of algae, which in turn fix carbon dioxide. The pipes, reaching to depths of 200 metres, would have flap valves at the bottom operated by the energy of waves, which would push deep water up the pipe. The concept, put forward with Chris Rapley of the Science Museum in London, is based on a proposal by Philip Kithil of the Santa Fe-based corporation Atmocean. Kithil suggested at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union last year that 100 million 10-metre diameter pumps across the oceans could capture one-quarter of human-made CO2 emissions.

Permalink09/27/07, 11:20:31 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 400 views, Technology Send feedback

New use for stem cells found in war on terrorism


For more than a decade, Steve Stice has dedicated his research using embryonic stem cells to improving the lives of people with degenerative diseases and debilitating injuries. His most recent discovery, which produces billions of neural cells from a few stem cells, could now aid in national security. “It’s like a canary-in-a-coal-mine scenario,” said Stice, a University of Georgia animal science professor and Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholar in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. In collaboration with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Stice hopes to use his recently developed neural cell kits to detect chemical threats. “They have a device that looks like a small tool box that contains neural cells and can detect changes in their electrical activity,” Stice said. “When these cells’ activity is altered, you know there’s something present that shouldn’t be and they don’t like it.”

Permalink09/27/07, 11:18:12 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 393 views, Methods Send feedback

Alcohol amount, not type, triggers breast cancer


One of the largest individual studies of the effects of alcohol on the risk of breast cancer shows that it makes no difference whether a woman drinks wine, beer or spirits (liquor). It is the alcohol itself (ethyl alcohol) and the quantity consumed that increases breast cancer risk. In fact, the increased breast cancer risk from drinking three or more alcoholic drinks a day is similar to the increased breast cancer risk from smoking a packet of cigarettes or more a day, according to Kaiser Permanente researchers Yan Li, MD, PhD and Arthur Klatsky, MD.

Permalink09/27/07, 11:12:25 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 480 views, Studies Send feedback

Splitting Water with Sunlight


Hydrogen is one of the most important fuels of the future, and the sun will be one of our most important sources of energy. Why not combine the two to produce hydrogen directly from solar energy without any detours involving electrical current? Why not use a process similar to the photosynthesis used by plants to convert sunlight directly into chemical energy? Researchers from the German Max Planck Institute have now developed a catalyst that may do just that. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, titanium disilicide splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. And the semiconductor doesn’t just act as a photocatalyst, it also stores the gases produced, which allows an elegant separation of hydrogen and oxygen. “The generation of hydrogen and oxygen from water by means of semiconductors is an important contribution to the use of solar energy,” explains Martin Demuth. “Semiconductors suitable for use as photocatalysts have been difficult to obtain, have unfavorable light-absorption characteristics, or decompose during the reaction.”

Permalink09/26/07, 04:56:42 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 473 views, Energy Send feedback

Lawyer mistakenly arrested for impersonsating a lawyer


A man arrested at the Ottawa courthouse for impersonating a lawyer was released from custody without charge after police confirmed he was in fact a lawyer. Lee Mullowney spent about three hours in police custody last Thursday after he attended as an observer at a bail hearing for a man he had represented once before. Police spokesman Const. Alain Boucher said yesterday the file in the case indicated an allegation had been made that Mullowney had told a Crown lawyer on an earlier occasion he was acting for the same accused man and had improperly received disclosure.

Permalink09/26/07, 04:54:56 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 563 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Bertrand Russell

“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.”

Permalink09/26/07, 12:01:14 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 494 views, Quotes Send feedback

Too much sleep as dangerous as too little


Sleeping too much, just like sleeping too little, could be linked to a person’s risk of an early death, a new British study indicates. Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Warwick Medical School studied 10,308 British civil servants in two different time periods: between 1985 and 1988, and between 1992 and 1993. With seven hours seen as the optimal amount of sleep for the average adult, the study subjects who cut the duration of their sleep from seven hours to five hours a night had a 1.7-fold increased risk of death from all causes within the ensuing 11-17 years, according to the research, presented Monday to the British Sleep Society. They also had twice the increased risk of death from a cardiovascular problem. More surprisingly, scientists found those individuals who increased the number of hours they slept per night from seven to eight hours or more were more than twice as likely to die within 11-17 years as those who kept sleeping for seven. They were more likely to die from non-cardiovascular diseases.

Permalink09/26/07, 11:42:35 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 417 views, Studies Send feedback

Clever plants chat over their own network


Many herbal plants such as strawberry, clover, reed and ground elder naturally form networks. Individual plants remain connected with each other for a certain period of time by means of runners. These connections enable the plants to share information with each other via internal channels. They are therefore very similar to computer networks. But what do plants want to chat to each other about? Recently Stuefer and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate that clover plants warn each other via the network links if enemies are nearby. If one of the plants is attacked by caterpillars, the other members of the network are warned via an internal signal. Once warned, the intact plants strengthen their chemical and mechanical resistance so that they are less attractive for advancing caterpillars. Thanks to this early warning system, the plants can stay one step ahead of their attackers. Experimental research has revealed that this significantly limits the damage to the plants.

Permalink09/26/07, 10:51:32 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 434 views, Nature Send feedback

Filming nanotubes inside living animals


A team of researchers at Rice University has filmed carbon nanotubes inside living animals. They’ve used a custom-built microscope and a technique called near-infrared fluorescent imaging to detect DNA-sized nanotubes inside living fruit flies. But more importantly, they’ve compared a group of fruit fly larvae fed with a yeast paste that contained carbon nanotubes with a control group fed normally. And they found no significant differences between the two groups. Does this mean that nanoparticles are innocuous, especially for humans? Only time will tell.

Permalink09/26/07, 10:40:05 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 458 views, Nano Send feedback

Bacteria Return Deadlier From Space


Strains of salmonella bacteria flown as part of a space shuttle experiment last year grew more virulent in orbit, providing researchers with new insights about how to prevent and cure infectious diseases. There was no chance the shuttle crew that flew with the super bug would get sick, though Salmonella typhimurium typically is to blame for food poisoning on Earth. The bacteria was contained in a special chamber throughout the 12-day flight of shuttle Atlantis in September 2006. Post-flight analysis suggest that changes in fluid flows around the bacteria caused by microgravity affected how the Salmonella’s genes made proteins, making it more deadly than identical strains grown simultaneously in ground-based units at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Permalink09/24/07, 09:44:23 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 512 views, Space Send feedback

Increased odds of male second child


A slightly greater number of males than females are born worldwide every year. In recent decades, although there are still more baby boys born than girls, there has been an apparent decline in the ratio of male to female newborns in several industrialized countries, including Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Japan and the United States. That has led researchers to ask: Are there any factors that can influence the probability of giving birth to a baby boy or girl? A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, found that mothers who experienced an increase in weight from the beginning of the first pregnancy to the beginning of the second pregnancy may be slightly more likely to give birth to a baby boy during their second pregnancy. The study appears online September 24, 2007 in the journal Fertility & Sterility. “The results are provocative because few biological factors are known in humans to influence the chances of either conceiving or carrying to term a baby boy or girl. Our study suggests that maternal nutritional factors might play a role,” said Eduardo Villamor, assistant professor of international nutrition at HSPH and lead author of the study.

Permalink09/24/07, 09:42:49 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 506 views, Studies Send feedback

What We Learned About Americans This Week


The following was revealed on the POWER OF 10 episode broadcast on Sunday, September 23:
– 36% of Americans said if they saw a group of Arab men board a plane, they would not get on the flight
– 79% of American men said if they had to kill the cow themselves, they would still eat hamburgers
– 47% of Americans have gone skinny dipping
– 15% of Americans pay someone to regularly clean their house
– 64% of Americans said even if they were in a financial bind, they would not move back in with their parents
– 62% of Americans said if their friend’s newborn baby was ugly, they would tell them their baby was beautiful anyway
– 77% of American men said they would not want to be President Bush’s son-in-law
– 17% of Americans would trade in their current car for the Batmobile
– 95% of American men said they usually hold doors open for women
– 19% of Americans talk in baby talk to their significant other
– 37% of Americans have picked up a hitchhiker
– 63% of Americans said the purpose of sex is recreation, instead of procreation
– 41% of Americans did not go on a honeymoon right after they got married
– 37% of Americans have collected unemployment insurance
– 11% of Americans think it is important for the United States to stay in Iraq and finish the job they started

Permalink09/24/07, 09:56:33 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 477 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Chemical clue sheds light on winter depression


The brains of people with seasonal depression may be too efficient at bundling away a key chemical, a new study suggests. The finding in people with (SAD) backs the prevailing theory about the biochemical causes of depression, and could give clues into new ways to treat the condition. The prevailing theory of depression is that affected people do not have enough of certain neurotransmitters called monoamines – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – in the spaces between neurons. Most modern antidepressants work by blocking the absorption of these neurotransmitters back into the cell. However, there is little agreement on why levels are inadequate in the first place. It could be that depressed people produce lower volumes of the neurotransmitters, or they could break them down too rapidly. Or it could be that the neurotransmitters are removed from the junction between neurons, called the synaptic cleft, too quickly. Matthaeus Willeit and Harald Sitte at the University of Vienna in Austria and their colleagues now have evidence for the last of these – that serotonin is being removed too efficiently.

Permalink09/24/07, 09:51:25 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 389 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Harvard Coop calls cops on students who wrote down textbook ISBNs


The Harvard Coop bookstore had the police remove students who were writing down the ISBNs of textbooks, in defiance of the store’s ridiculous position that ISBNs are “property.” Of course, the store is private property (albeit property owned by a co-op that is supposed to be serving Harvard students) and they’re free to demand that students leave the premises, but busting students whose “crime” is writing down detailed information about which books Harvard students are required to read in order to get their degree is hardly appropriate for a store that nominally serves the students’ interests.

Permalink09/24/07, 09:49:55 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 522 views, Dumb Choices Send feedback

New carbon nanotube technology to reduce large-scale emissions


Dr John Zhu, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering, aims to develop a carbon nanotube (CNT) membrane for gas separation that will work like a sieve to separate high volumes of methane or carbon dioxide from other gases. Dr Zhu said that the CNT technology was exciting because it would trap moving gases up to 100 times faster than other gas separation techniques and could therefore be used by large-scale plants such as power stations. “Conventional membranes such as polymeric and metal membranes, porous silica and carbon molecular sieves all show a trade-off between how well they separate gases and how much gas they can process,” he said. “The CNT membranes can both separate effectively and process large volumes of gas, making them superior to conventional membranes at the large scale required for coal-fired power plants or natural gas processing. “If the technology is successful, it may be able to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced through power generation.

Permalink09/24/07, 09:39:50 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 460 views, Nano Send feedback

UK plans to annex south Atlantic


Britain is preparing territorial claims on tens of thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean floor around the Falklands, Ascension Island and Rockall in the hope of annexing potentially lucrative gas, mineral and oil fields, the Guardian has learned. The UK claims, to be lodged at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, exploit a novel legal approach that is transforming the international politics of underwater prospecting. Britain is accelerating its process of submitting applications to the UN - which is fraught with diplomatic sensitivities, not least with Argentina - before an international deadline for registering interests.

Permalink09/22/07, 11:45:08 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 559 views, Earth Send feedback

Microwaves to probe supermarket food


Microwaves used for zapping instant meals can also be used to determine the fat and salt content of supermarket food, according to research carried out at two Manchester universities. One of the research team, PhD student Sing Kwei Ng, has scooped a top industry prize for his work to determine the amount of fat in beef. The study began after researchers realised that as microwaves heat different types of food at different rates, they must also be sensitive to food content such as water, salt and fat. The aim of the project is to develop a new fast and non-invasive method of predicting the fat content in meat products. This type of constant real-time monitoring during the production process could help reduce waste, maximise yield, reduce laboratory testing and save energy.

Permalink09/22/07, 11:44:02 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 489 views, Methods Send feedback

Brain system serves as 'remote control' for fat metabolism


A system in the brain already known to regulate food intake also serves as a direct “remote control” for the way fat is stored and metabolized in the body, say University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers. What is known as the melanocortin system, the researchers say, controls fat metabolism and the way it accumulates in the body completely independently of food intake. The finding, the researchers report, could lead to the development of new and urgently needed medications to treat the growing, worldwide obesity epidemic. The melanocortin system was previously identified as a “control loop” in the central nervous system (CNS) that receives hormonal signals from the gut—like those given off by “hunger” and “satiety” hormones such as ghrelin and leptin—and responds to these sensations of hunger or fullness by causing the body to either ingest or burn calories. Tschöp and colleagues say that beyond responding to signals of hunger or satiety, the melanocortin system also controls whether extra energy (glucose) will be converted to fat and whether it will be stored or metabolized. “Understanding how specific CNS circuits directly control fat storage and metabolism is essential in order to achieve a breakthrough in this important area of research,” the authors write.

Permalink09/22/07, 11:37:34 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 357 views, Science Send feedback

The science of collective decision-making


Why do some juries take weeks to reach a verdict, while others take just hours? How do judges pick the perfect beauty queen from a sea of very similar candidates? We have all wondered exactly why we did not win a certain award. Now, new psychological research explains how groups come to a collective decision. Jean-François Bonnefon, a University of Toulouse psychologist, conducted the first empirical investigation of the “doctrinal paradox.” This occurs when judges, say a hiring committee or a jury, must evaluate several factors about a candidate, (e.g. a possible employee or a defendant in a trial) and come to a majority decision. When different opinions arise, the way they conduct the majority vote can be more important than the opinions themselves. For example, a seven-judge committee must decide whether to promote a candidate to a position requiring a young, trilingual person. Each judge estimates whether the candidate is young, and whether she is trilingual. In the end, 4 out of 7 judges think she is young and 4 out of 7 think that she is trilingual, but only two of the judges think she is both. How should the committee proceed” They can all vote on the profile, and reject the candidate, or they can vote separately on each criterion and promote the candidate. Bonnefon investigated which voting procedure was preferred by judges, and how this preference could change in different contexts.

Permalink09/22/07, 11:35:50 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 579 views, Methods Send feedback

MIT student arrested for wearing circuit fashion


Once, again, Boston has been subjected to a bomb scare concerning an odd circuit board. Star Simpson, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student, was arrested at gunpoint Friday morning at Logan Airport when authorities suspected she had a bomb strapped to her chest. Simpson was wearing a black sweatshirt that had a circuit board with wires, green LED lights and a 9-volt battery attached to it. When an airport employee asked about her shirt, Simpson walked away without answering so the employee called the authorities, the Boston Globe has reported. The back of Simpson’s sweatshirt said “socket to me…Course VI,” a reference to MIT’s electrical engineering and computer science program.Simpson is a second-year student in the electrical engineering and computer science department of MIT’s School of Engineering, according to the MIT Web site.

Permalink09/22/07, 11:29:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 458 views, Dumb Choices Send feedback

'Smart roofs' can keep you cool and save energy


Engineers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed a system which can be installed in your roof and attic to soak up the sun’s heat during the day and then release it back into the sky at night - keeping houses cooler. “This could reduce the cooling bill for houses by up to 8 per cent,” says Bill Miller, a member of a team testing roof and attic energy-saving systems at Oak Ridge. “We’re able to intercept 90 per cent of the heat energy that would otherwise penetrate into the living space through the attic floor,” he says.

Permalink09/19/07, 01:04:29 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 445 views, Energy Send feedback

Research overturns accepted notion of neutron's electrical properties


For two generations of physicists, it has been a standard belief that the neutron, an electrically neutral elementary particle and a primary component of an atom, actually carries a positive charge at its center and an offsetting negative charge at its outer edge. The notion was first put forth in 1947 by Enrico Fermi, a Nobel laureate noted for his role in developing the first nuclear reactor. But new research by a University of Washington physicist shows the neutron’s charge is not quite as simple as Fermi believed. Using precise data recently gathered at three different laboratories and some new theoretical tools, Gerald A. Miller, a UW physics professor, has found that the neutron has a negative charge both in its inner core and its outer edge, with a positive charge sandwiched in between to make the particle electrically neutral. “Nobody realized this was the case,” Miller said. “It is significant because it is a clear fact of nature that we didn’t know before. Now we know it.” The discovery changes scientific understanding of how neutrons interact with negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. Specifically, it has implications for understanding the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity).

Permalink09/18/07, 10:19:26 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 367 views, Science, Chemistry Send feedback

Man robbed of his eyebrows in bizarre attack


A 25-year-old man had his eyebrows shaved off on Monday after he was bundled into a car in a bizarre attack in Hong Kong. The victim was waiting to meet a friend on a street corner at 1.30am when a black car pulled up and three men jumped out and grabbed him in Hong Kong’s Shek Kip Mei district, police said. They bundled him into the back of the car, beat him unconscious and when he woke up on a hillside hours later, he found his eyebrows had been shaved off while he was out cold, police said.

Permalink09/18/07, 10:17:46 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 428 views, Over The Top Send feedback

New nanoparticle vaccine is more effective but less expensive


Good news for public health: Bioengineering researchers from the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed and patented a nanoparticle that can deliver vaccines more effectively, with fewer side effects, and at a fraction of the cost of current vaccine technologies. Described in an article appearing online September 16 in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the vaccine delivery platform is a deceptively simple combination of nanotechnology and chemistry that represents a huge advantage over current vaccine methods. This technology may make it possible to vaccinate against diseases like hepatitis and malaria with a single injection. And at an estimated cost of only a dollar a dose, this technology represents a real breakthrough for vaccine efforts in the developing world. A vaccination is an injection of a non-virulent form of a pathogen or molecule from a pathogen (known as an antigen), to which the immune system responds, destroying and then developing a “memory” for the pathogen. Later, when a virulent form of the pathogen comes along, this memory kicks in and the intruder is quickly eradicated. Most vaccines protect against viruses or bacteria, but vaccine techniques are also being explored as a way to kill cancer cells.

Permalink09/18/07, 10:02:38 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 379 views, Medical Send feedback

Electricity from bacteria, grape jelly in Ohio


Hubbard, Ohio-based NanoLogix, which specializes in industrial microbes, said today that it has coaxed microorganisms to create hydrogen, which in turn was used to generate electricity. The hydrogen powered a 5.5-kilowatt generator. The generator powered multiple strings of 100-watt bulbs. Hydrogen doesn’t power generators directly. Hydrogen is fed into a fuel cell, which strips away electrons that get ultimately fed into an electrical appliance. The hydrogen is harvested from sugars in wastewater, according to the company. The company gets it from a Welch’s jelly plant nearby in Erie, Pa. The process was devised in part by Harry Diz, department chair and professor of environmental engineering at Gannon University and the developer of the NanoLogix bioreactor. The company did not provide specifics on how much sugar and wastewater is needed, what conditions are required to metabolize the sugar, what species of microbes were used, or whether Nutella would have the same effect. Still, an interesting achievement.

Permalink09/18/07, 10:01:00 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 376 views, Energy Send feedback

Thomas Huxley

“Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.”

Permalink09/18/07, 09:58:26 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 486 views, Quotes Send feedback

Cell phone users suffering from 'ringxiety'


A new survey has found that about two thirds of the people suffer from the phenomenon of “ringxiety” - hearing the mobile phone ring or feeling it vibrate when it is not actually ringing. The study, conducted by David Laramie of the Wright Institute in Los Angeles, found that the more frequent a person used phone, the more often, he or she reported hearing a phantom ring. Out of all the participants, aged 18-26 years, 67 percent had higher monthly charges and so used more minutes, sent more text messages, and showed higher levels of impulsivity. The study also revealed that some people relied on their mobile phones in order to regulate their moods and maintain social connectedness.

Permalink09/17/07, 12:05:48 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 433 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Terry Pratchett

“I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.”

Permalink09/17/07, 11:58:09 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 425 views, Quotes Send feedback

Gold Sphere Delivers Drug Directly To Cancer Cells


Rice University chemists have discovered a way to load dozens of molecules of the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel onto tiny gold spheres. The result is a tiny ball, many times smaller than a living cell that literally bristles with the drug. Paclitaxel, which is sold under the brand name Taxol®, prevents cancer cells from dividing by jamming their inner works. “Paclitaxel is one of the most effective anti-cancer drugs, and many researchers are exploring how to deliver much more of the drug directly to cancer cells,” said lead researcher Eugene Zubarev, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator and assistant professor of chemistry at Rice. “We looked for an approach that would clear the major hurdles people have encountered – solubility, drug efficacy, bioavailability and uniform dispersion – and our initial results look very promising.” The research is available online and will appear in the Sept. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Permalink09/16/07, 02:29:24 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 440 views, Chemistry Send feedback

New Poll on Understanding of First Amendment


The First Amendment Center has just published the results of its annual survey of American knowledge and attitudes concerning the first amendment; the results were quite mixed. First, the matter of knowledge. Of the five specific rights guaranteed by the first amendment, only freedom of speech could be identified by more than 20% of respondents. 64% could name freedom of speech. 16% could identify freedom of the press, 19% could identify freedom of religion, 16% could identify the right to assemble and only 3% could identify the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. I find that appalling. The survey asked many questions about people’s attitudes toward the first amendment and constitutional rights in general. Unfortunately, I think those questions are too abstract to mean all that much. They asked people to rank various rights as essential, important, not important or don’t know. 94% agreed that the right to assemble, protest and petition the government was either essential or important, while only 5% said it was not important.

Permalink09/16/07, 02:17:46 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 425 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Eric Hoffer

“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”

Permalink09/16/07, 12:17:40 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 445 views, Quotes Send feedback

Nanolayers could hold key to invisibility cloak


Invisibility cloaks that work at optical wavelengths are a step closer to reality thanks to a different take on the problem. In previous attempts fiendishly small structures had to be precisely positioned in the cloaking material. However, super-thin layers of much simpler stuff should do the trick. Invisibility cloaks burst into the public consciousness last year, when a transatlantic team unveiled both the theory and a working device. Engineering constraints only allowed them to construct a cloak that could hide a very small object at microwave wavelengths, as confirmed by a microwave detector, and they warned that to achieve the same feat at optical wavelengths would require an extremely difficult leap in miniaturisation.

Permalink09/15/07, 12:02:18 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 426 views, Nano Send feedback

RIAA Loses in Precedent-setting Case


A judge in Southern California made no friends in the RIAA when she handed down a precedent-setting verdict that cleared the defendof all charges in the case Interscope v. Rodriguez. Since the early days of P2P file-sharing the RIAA has made a questionable name for itself as a legal bulldog, issuing thousands of lawsuits against individuals each year. Typically the RIAA accused these individuals of downloading and/ord distributing copyrighted works. These statements often were followed by little evidence and sometimes came against people that had no apparent access to a computer.

Permalink09/15/07, 11:53:02 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 496 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Sheet of carbon atoms acts like a billiard table


A game of billiards may never get smaller than this. Physicists at UC Riverside have demonstrated that graphene – a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal rings – can act as an atomic-scale billiard table, with electric charges acting as billiard balls. The finding underscores graphene’s potential for serving as an excellent electronic material, such as silicon, that can be used to develop new kinds of transistors based on quantum physics. Because they encounter no obstacles, the electrons in graphene roam freely across the sheet of carbon, conducting electric charge with extremely low resistance. The research team, led by Chun Ning (Jeanie) Lau, found that the electrons in graphene are reflected back by the only obstacle they meet: graphene’s boundaries. “These electrons meet no other obstacles and behave like quantum billiard balls,” said Lau, an assistant professor who joined UCR’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2004. “They display properties that resemble both particles and waves.” Lau observed that when the electrons are reflected from one of the boundaries of graphene, the original and reflected components of the electron can interfere with each other, the way outgoing ripples in a pond might interfere with ripples reflected back from the banks.

Permalink09/14/07, 09:28:43 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 394 views, Nano Send feedback

Cheap Ocean Energy Converter


The duck diver is designed for use in fairly shallow water, and consists of yellow plastic tubing connected in a square shape with a hollow center. The plastic square is attached by a rod to the sea floor, with a lever that allows the device to adjust its height between low and high tides. The ability to endure different water levels, Olson explains, has been a challenge for many ocean energy converters in the past. This flexibility, coupled with the device’s robustness, also enables the duck diver to withstand large waves by submerging itself vertically under the water–hence its name. And, like a duck or other floating object, the device moves toward a wave as it approaches, and then is pushed back by the wave as it passes. The device captures the horizontal push and vertical lift of the waves, as the waves pass by again and again. This energy can then be transferred to a generator and converted to electricity. Olson demonstrates a single device supplying enough energy to power 100 1.6-volt LEDs, in relatively calm water. Better yet, each device costs just $65 to make, is designed to survive for 10 years without maintenance, and can be constructed by someone with “general mechanical knowledge.”

Permalink09/14/07, 08:41:10 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 450 views, Energy Send feedback

Writing and Storing Electronic Memory Improved


New research led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory physicist Matthias Bode provides a more thorough understanding of new mechanisms, which makes it possible to switch a magnetic nanoparticle without any magnetic field and may enable computers to more accurately write and store information. Bode and four colleagues at the University of Hamburg used a special scanning tunneling microscope equipped with a magnetic probe tip to force a spin current through a small magnetic structure. The researchers were able to show that the structure’s magnetization direction is not affected by a small current, but can be influenced if the spin current is sufficiently high.

Permalink09/14/07, 08:37:22 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 439 views, Nano Send feedback

On This Day: September 14


1814: Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner.

1901: President McKinley died of gunshot wounds inflicted by an assassin. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him.

1940: Congress passed the Selective Service Act, providing for the first peacetime draft in U.S. history.

1959: The Soviet space probe Luna 2 became the first man-made object to reach the Moon when it crashed onto the lunar surface.

1982: Princess Grace of Monaco died from injuries sustained in a car crash the previous day.

1994: Acting commissioner Bud Selig announced the cancellation of the 1994 baseball season on the 34th day of a strike by players.

Permalink09/14/07, 08:34:24 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 466 views, On This Day Send feedback

Two girls for every boy


Twice as many girls as boys are being born in some Arctic villages because of high levels of man-made chemicals in the blood of pregnant women, according to scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Amap). The scientists, who say the findings could explain the recent excess of girl babies across much of the northern hemisphere, are widening their investigation across the most acutely affected communities in Russia, Greenland and Canada to try to discover the size of the imbalance in Inuit communities of the far north. In the communities of Greenland and eastern Russia monitored so far, the ratio was found to be two girls to one boy. In one village in Greenland only girls have been born. The scientists measured the man-made chemicals in women’s blood that mimic human hormones and concluded that they were capable of triggering changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestation. The chemicals are carried in the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the foetus, switching hormones to create girl children. Lars-Otto Reierson, executive secretary for Amap, said: “We knew that the levels of man-made chemicals were accumulating in the food chain, and that seals, whales and particularly polar bears were getting a dose a million times higher than that existing in plankton, and that this could be toxic to humans who ate these higher animals. What was shocking was that they were also able to change the sex of children before birth.”

Permalink09/14/07, 08:11:18 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 482 views, Nature Send feedback

Nonstick chewing gum to become a reality


Easy-to-remove chewing gum is to become a reality, thanks to a major technological break-through. The announcement will be made this week at the BA Festival of Science in York. Revolymer, a spin out company from the University of Bristol, has completed development of its new Clean Gum that can be easily removed from shoes, clothes, pavements and hair. Preliminary results also indicate that the gum will degrade naturally in water. The company has completed initial street trials on pavements in local high streets as part of a collaborative agreement with local councils. In the two trials, leading commercial gums remained stuck to the pavements three out of four times. In all tests the Revolymer gum was removed within 24 hours by natural events. Professor Terence Cosgrove, of the University of Bristol and Chief Scientific Officer of Revolymer said: “The advantage of our Clean Gum is that it has a great taste, it is easy to remove and has the potential to be environmentally degradable.” “The basis of our technology is to add an amphiphilic polymer to a modified chewing gum formulation which alters the interfacial properties of the discarded gum cuds, making them less adhesive to most common surfaces.”

Permalink09/14/07, 08:08:29 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 386 views, Chemistry Send feedback

A Drug Delivery System Based on printer technology


A Singapore-developed microneedle process used in Hewlett-Packard’s inkjet cartridges could soon be used in skin patches to administer drugs. The locally-developed microneedle technology is used in Hewlett-Packard’s patented process for its inkjet cartridges, could soon be used in transdermal patches to deliver time-controlled release of drugs to patients. HP announced Tuesday that it will license its microneedle technology to Crospon, an Ireland-based medical device maker, to develop and manufacture drug-laden skin patches for the healthcare market. In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, Crospon CEO John O’Dea said that the skin patch is akin to “a very small infusion pump". Still at the prototype stage, the patch will likely be 25 mm square in size and 3 mm thick. It will incorporate an array of microneedles that are between 75 and 100 microns, which will penetrate the top dry layer of the skin, also known as the stratum corneum.

Permalink09/14/07, 08:04:09 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 534 views, Medical, Methods Send feedback

‘Radio Wave Cooling’ Offers New Twist on Laser Cooling


Visible and ultraviolet laser light has been used for years to cool trapped atoms—and more recently larger objects—by reducing the extent of their thermal motion. Now, applying a different form of radiation for a similar purpose, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used radio waves to dampen the motion of a miniature mechanical oscillator containing more than a quadrillion atoms, a cooling technique that may open a new window into the quantum world using smaller and simpler equipment. Described in a forthcoming issue of Physical Review Letters,* this demonstration of radio-frequency (RF) cooling of a relatively large object may offer a new tool for exploring the elusive boundary where the familiar rules of the everyday, macroscale world give way to the bizarre quantum behavior seen in the smallest particles of matter and light. There may be technology applications as well: the RF circuit could be made small enough to be incorporated on a chip with tiny oscillators, a focus of intensive research for use in sensors to detect, for example, molecular forces.

Permalink09/14/07, 08:01:35 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 424 views, Technology, Science Send feedback

Russian 'sex day' to boost births


The governor of Ulyanovsk region in Russia is offering prizes to couples who have babies in exactly nine months - on Russia’s national day on 12 June. Sergei Morozov wants couples to take the day off work to have sex. If a baby is born on national day, they will receive cars, TVs or other prizes. Mr Morozov has declared Wednesday “family contact day” as part of efforts to fight Russia’s demographic crisis. The population has sharply declined since the Soviet Union collapsed.

Permalink09/13/07, 11:32:13 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 455 views, Over The Top Send feedback

The molecular signature of loneliness


People who experience chronically high levels of loneliness show gene-expression patterns that differ markedly from those of people who don’t feel lonely, according to a new molecular analysis in the online open access journal Genome Biology. The findings suggest that feelings of social isolation are linked to alterations in immune system activity, which result in increased inflammatory signalling within the body. This is the first study to show an alteration in genome-wide transcriptional activity linked to a social epidemiological risk factor. It provides a molecular framework for understanding why social factors are linked to an increased risk of diseases where inflammation is thought to be a factor, such as heart disease, infection and cancer. It is already known that a person’s social environment can affect their health, with those who are socially isolated suffering from higher all-cause mortality, and higher rates of cancer, infection and heart disease. Researchers are trying to determine whether these adverse health consequences result from of reduced social resources (e.g., physical or economic assistance) or from the biological impact of social isolation on the function of the human body.

Permalink09/13/07, 11:30:37 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 402 views, Genes Send feedback

Woman drove stolen car to courthouse


A woman in South Carolina who went to court to pay a traffic ticket drove there in a stolen car and ended up behind bars. Chief Deputy Joe Bradham says police received a tip that Amber Helton was going to be in a stolen car when she paid the ticket. They arrested her as she opened the door of the 2001 Dodge Intrepid on Tuesday morning.

Permalink09/13/07, 11:29:29 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 534 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Kilogram is losing weight


A kilogram just isn’t what it used to be. A 118-year-old cylinder that has been the international prototype for the metric mass, and kept tightly under lock and key outside Paris, is mysteriously losing its weight - if ever so slightly. Physicist Richard Davis of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sevres, southwest of Paris, says the reference kilo appears to have lost 50 micrograms compared with the average of dozens of copies. “The mystery is that they were all made of the same material, and many were made at the same time and kept under the same conditions, and yet the masses among them are slowly drifting apart,” he said. “We don’t really have a good hypothesis for it,” Davis said in a phone interview Wednesday. But only the one in Sevres really counts. It is kept in a triple-locked safe at a chateau and only rarely sees the light of day - mostly for comparison with other cylinders shipped in periodically from around the world. “It’s not clear whether the original has become lighter, or the national prototypes have become heavier,” said Michael Borys, a senior researcher with Germany’s national measures institute in Braunschweig. “But by definition, only the original represents exactly a kilogram.”

Permalink09/12/07, 10:18:38 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 382 views, Measure Send feedback

What We Learned About Americans This Week


The following was revealed on the POWER OF 10 episode broadcast on Tuesday, September 11
– 20% of Americans think their parents should not have gotten married
– 88% of Americans said they had sex on their wedding night
– 82% of Americans judge a book by its cover
– 21% of Americans said they double-dip when eating chips and dip at a party
– 30% of American men would not marry a woman who already had children with someone else
– 83% of married American women would keep their original engagement ring for sentimental reasons, instead of upgrading to a bigger diamond
– 28% of Americans have participated in a political rally at least once in their lives
– 18% of American women said they would get plastic surgery if their partner asked them to
– 53% of Americans said they would swim in a pool with someone who they knew was HIV-positive
– 12% of American women wear a thong on a regular basis
– 46% of American women said if they were being mugged, they would fight back
– 17% of Americans have visited an adult web site in the last six months
– 62% of Americans said they have found someone they considered their “soul mate”
– 66% of Americans think Idaho senator Larry Craig was lying when he said he wasn’t gay
– 28% of American women have caught the bride’s bouquet at a wedding
– 25% of Americans have left work for some “afternoon delight”
– 65% of Americans think America will have an African-American president by 2025
– 16% of American women said they have participated in a strip poker game
– 9% of Americans said at some point in their lives, they’ve wondered whether they were adopted
– 44% of Americans consider cheerleading to be a sport
– 23% of Americans have successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver
– 41% of Americans would trust their mother to set them up on a blind date

Permalink09/12/07, 12:48:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 430 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Bee sting burst breast implant


A Taiwanese woman’s breast implant was reportedly burst by a bee sting. The 31-year-old woman was wearing a low-cut dress while riding her motorcycle when her right breast was stung by a bee. “My right breast disappeared in only two days,” said the woman, who received the implant three years ago, according to Southern China City News. Surgeon Zeng Dingchang says the saline implant is supposed to resist pressure of up to 200 kg, and said it was “very strange” for one to deflate because of a bee sting. “She is very skinny, and the implant made the skin of her breast even thinner, and therefore easy to penetrate,” he said.

Permalink09/12/07, 12:44:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 513 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Burglar phones sex lines while victim sleeps


Whetu Barrett had no hang-ups when it came to his burglaries, spending two hours chatting on 0900 sex lines - as his 85-year-old victim slept soundly in a nearby room. When the victim woke in the morning she realised she had been robbed - but the real shock came weeks later when she received her phone bill, including a $138 charge for the burglar’s eight calls to adult chat lines. The following month he was doing it again, burgling another house and this time racking up a $115 bill during an hour of steamy chat sessions.

Permalink09/12/07, 12:21:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 418 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Pine bark extract reduces ADHD symptoms in children


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a prevailing issue in the United States, with millions of children getting diagnosed every year. A new study reveals that Pycnogenol, (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, reduces ADHD in children. The study shows Pycnogenol balances stress hormones, which lowers adrenaline and dopamine, resulting in a decrease of ADHD. The findings, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Nutritional Neuroscience is a spin-off of a 2006 study found in the journal of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry that revealed Pycnogenol helped reduce hyperactivity and improve attention, concentration and motor-visual coordination in children with ADHD. The current study measures urine samples and blood samples of the children, which were not accounted for in the results of the original study. “Pycnogenol’s ability to naturally treat symptoms of ADHD is what makes this extract exceptionally pleasing to parents who may be uneasy about medicating their children with stimulant medications,"said Dr. Peter Rohdewald of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Germany’s University of Munster and one of the authors of the study.

Permalink09/12/07, 12:05:36 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 418 views, Chemistry Send feedback

Alfred Korzybski

“There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.”

Permalink09/12/07, 11:30:04 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 431 views, Quotes Send feedback

Salt water as clean fuel?


A researcher tried to desalinate seawater with a generator he developed to treat cancer, and it caused a flash in the test tube. Within days, he had the salt water in the test tube burning like a candle, as long as it was exposed to radio frequencies. His discovery has spawned scientific interest in using the world’s most abundant substance as clean fuel, among other uses. Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, held a demonstration last week at the university’s Materials Research Laboratory in State College, to confirm what he’d witnessed weeks before in an Erie lab. Dr. Roy said the salt water isn’t burning per se, despite appearances. The radio frequency actually weakens bonds holding together the constituents of salt water – sodium chloride, hydrogen and oxygen – and releases the hydrogen, which, once ignited, burns continuously when exposed to the RF energy field. Mr. Kanzius said an independent source measured the flame’s temperature, which exceeds 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, reflecting an enormous energy output. As such, Dr. Roy, a founding member of the Materials Research Laboratory and expert in water structure, said Mr. Kanzius’ discovery represents “the most remarkable in water science in 100 years.”

Permalink09/11/07, 10:59:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 441 views, Fuel Send feedback

Recycling fuel out of water


Here’s a novel business plan. Prairie Village, Kansas-based Nowa Technology has come up with a wastewater treatment plant that sucks out materials from wastewater and some of these removed products can be consumed as a diesel additive. It depends on what’s in your wastewater, but Nowa CEO Richard Nelson says you find the fuel there quite a bit. You can mix it 50-50 with diesel and get about the same amount of energy as pure diesel, according to Nelson. This is different than what Israel’s BioPetrol is trying to accomplish. That company is applying the coal-to-petrol process on human sewage. The unit costs $7 million and pays for itself in a few years, he added. Water remains one of the growth areas in clean tech, but it doesn’t nearly get as much focus as biofuels and solar power. One of the fears about the water market is that the main customers are slow-moving municipalities.

Permalink09/11/07, 10:56:01 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 431 views, Fuel Send feedback

Bras Don't Support Bouncing Breasts, Study Finds


Whether women are said to be flat-chested or big-busted, ordinary bras fall short when it comes to supporting bouncing breasts, a new study claims. And during exercise, women’s breasts bounce more than previously estimated, moving a vertical distance of up to around eight inches (21 centimeters) compared with a past maximum measurement of six inches (16 centimeters). The bouncing, in some cases with breasts weighing 20 pounds or more, can prove painful and damaging to the limited natural support system. While brassieres have evolved throughout history from body-binding corsets to cleavage-enhancing “miracle” bras, only recently have researchers injected a dose of science into the design of undergarments that go beyond conferring a more “perky” look, the researcher says.

Permalink09/11/07, 06:37:18 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 544 views, Studies Send feedback

Saying No to Yourself: The Neural Mechanisms of Self-Control


Why is it important to know what brain systems underlie self control? Many neuropsychiatric disorders, from substance dependence to personality disorders to attention deficit disorder, involve impairments of self control. Basic research such as this study may eventually lead to a better understanding of the systems responsible for these disorders, as well as for differences in people’s ability to control our less constructive impulses, such as the urge to say or do something ugly. As Brass and Haggard put it in their introduction, “[The] decision whether to act often has critical consequences. For example, there is a clear distinction between intending to hit someone and actually hitting them.” The research also touches on the age-old problem of free will. If physical processes in the brain cause our actions, then how can there be free will? How can we be held responsible for our behavior? Can’t we just all plead “my brain made me do it"? Brass and Haggard’s results do not solve this puzzle, but they do reveal some important new features of the puzzle. Their results illuminate a very important aspect of the brain’s control of behavior – the ability to hold off doing something after you’ve developed the intention to do it , which one might call “free won’t” as opposed to free will. From the broader perspective of reconciling our identity as free moral agents with our identity as physical brains, this discovery of an area apparently associated with “free won’t” makes the “brain” side of the equation a little more interesting and nuanced. Our brains don’t just “make us do it"; they also have specialized systems for stopping us from doing it.

Permalink09/11/07, 06:34:57 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 293 views, Science Send feedback

Sugar more addictive than Cocaine


Researchers recently determined that refined sugar is actually more addictive than cocaine. In a recent study rats were given a choice between sugar water and cocaine, and 94% them chose sugar. Even the rats that had previously been addicted to cocaine switched to the sugar once it was a choice. Findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and addicted individuals. We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastants. In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.

Permalink09/11/07, 12:46:02 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 426 views, Studies Send feedback

Saliva may have fuelled human domination of the planet


Starchy foods has fuelled human evolution on this planet to a large extent, a new study by researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, has revealed. In their study in Nature Genetics, Dr Nathaniel Dominy and his colleagues found that compared to primates, humans are genetically more adept at breaking down calorie-rich starches, crucial for feeding the larger brains of humans. Previously, experts had speculated that meat in the diet was the probable answer. Dr Dominy refuted this argument on the ground that meat occupied a small fraction of the human diet even when looked at it in the hunter-gatherer perspective. “Even when you look at modern human hunter-gatherers, meat is a relatively small fraction of their diet. To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Dr Dominy.

Permalink09/11/07, 12:42:46 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 341 views, Science Send feedback

Health food supplement may curb addiction of pathological gamblers


University of Minnesota researchers have discovered that a common amino acid, available as a health food supplement, may help curb pathological gamblers’ addiction. In a recent eight-week trial, 27 people were given increasing doses of the amino acid, N-acetyl cysteine, which has an impact on the chemical glutamate – often associated with reward in the brain. At the end of the trial, 60 percent of the participants reported fewer urges to gamble. Similar studies using N-acetyl cysteine have shown its ability to curb drug addictions in animals, and a current University of Minnesota study conducted by Grant is investigating whether the drug could help methamphetamine users quit.

Permalink09/11/07, 12:37:06 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 408 views, Studies Send feedback

Fake sunroof for car


“Do you want your car to have the look of a real sunroof? You can install it in 5 minutes!! Extremely fashion and new aparent sun roof, made of a sticker that will give any car the image of a real sunroof.”

Permalink09/10/07, 09:27:15 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 500 views, Cool Stuff Send feedback

Turned Off iPhone Gets $4800 Bill from AT&T


Jay Levy says he has been stung by Apple’s iPhone pact with AT&T after he took an Iphone on a Mediterranean cruise. They didn’t use their phones, but when they got back they had a 54-page monthly bill of nearly $4,800 from AT&T Wireless. The problem was that their three Iphones were racking up a bill for data charges using foreign phone charges. The Iphone regularly updates e-mail, even while it’s off, so that all the messages will be available when the user turns it on.

Permalink09/10/07, 09:25:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 450 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Reading Method Discovered


Previously, researchers thought that, when reading, both eyes focused on the same letter of a word. But a UK team has found this is not always the case. In fact, almost 50% of the time, each of our eyes locks on to different letters simultaneously. At the BA Festival of Science in York, the researchers also revealed that our brain can fuse two separate images to obtain a clear view of a page. Sophisticated eye-tracking equipment allowed the team to pinpoint which letter a volunteer’s eyes focused on, when reading 14-point font from one metre away. Rather than the eyes moving smoothly over text, they make small jerky movements, focusing on a particular word for an instant and then moving along the sentence. Periods when the eyes are still are called fixations.

Permalink09/10/07, 09:23:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 396 views, Methods Send feedback

New Wonder Weed to Fuel Cars?


Jatropha, an ugly, fast-growing and poisonous weed that has been used as a remedy for constipation, may someday power your car. The plant, resilient to pests and resistant to drought, produces seeds with up to 40 per cent oil content that when crushed can be burned in a diesel car while the residue can be processed into biomass for power plants. Although jatropha has been used for decades by farmers in Africa as a living fence because its smell and taste repel grazing animals, the New York Times reports that jatropha may replace biofuels like ethanol that require large amounts of water, fertilizer, and energy, making their environmental benefits limited. Jatropha requires no pesticides, little water other than rain and no fertilizer beyond the nutrient-rich seed cake left after oil is pressed from its nuts. Poor farmers living close to the equator are planting jatropha on millions of acres spurred on by big oil companies like British Petroleum that are investing in jatropha cultivation.

Permalink09/10/07, 09:22:04 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 468 views, Agriculture Send feedback

'Smart homes' could track your electrical noise


Your computer could one day track your movements around the house by monitoring the electrical noise made by household appliances as you switch them on and off. Such a system could be cheaper and simpler to operate than the suite of sensors that researchers currently envisage for “smart homes". Scientists and visionaries have long imagined smart homes that could cater to our every whim. But their ideas all rely on cameras, microphones or other sensors in every room to track the locations of the occupants. The new method relies on a device plugged into a single standard wall socket that monitors noise in the electrical supply caused by electrical devices being switched on and off. A computer monitoring the device can then infer that a person must be in that location.

Permalink09/10/07, 09:11:53 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 502 views, Energy Send feedback

Frequent mobile phone users have lower brain activity


Dutch scientists have found that frequent use of mobile phones leads to slower brain activity but that their capability to focus on specific issues increases, it was reported on Monday. The study on the long-term effects of mobile phone usage was published in the September edition of International Journal of Neuroscience. The study was conducted by the Radboud University of Nijmegen and Brainclinics Diagnostic, a group of independent Dutch scientists doing individual brain research and applied scientific functional brain research. The phenomenon of decreased brain activity among mobile phone users resembles the process that occurs in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients, the researchers say.

Permalink09/10/07, 11:07:29 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 404 views, Studies Send feedback

Scientists Turn Glue On And Off


The glue is made up of polyelectrolytes, which are polymers that are electrically charged and can change their shape in response to their environment. A polyelectrolyte can either stretch out, when at one pH level, or roll into a ball at another pH. The researchers, led by Dr Mark Geoghegan in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield, showed that if oppositely charged polyelectrolytes are brought together in water they stick tightly. This was widely known, but until now the strength of this bond and the fact that the process can be reversed and repeated was a mystery. The study showed that the adhesion was nearly as strong as epoxy glue. Not only that, but when the water was made acidic, the two materials came apart. The separation of the two could also be reversed by immersing them again in water. The work is expected to have applications in nanotechnology where changes in pH levels can be used to control the not as yet invented nanoscale machines of the future. It is also thought it could aid in drug delivery.

Permalink09/10/07, 11:05:40 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 343 views, Science Send feedback

Novel Mechanism That Balances The Sizes Of Functional Areas In The Brain


In the cerebral cortex, the brain’s powerful central processing unit responsible for higher functions, specialized subdivisions known as areas are laid out like a map, but little is known about the genetic forces that shape the geography of our brains. In this week’s advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience, an international collaboration between researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine in Italy reports the discovery of a novel function for a factor that negotiates the borders between areas and balances their sizes and positions relative to each other. The factor, COUP-TF1, ensures that the frontal areas don’t claim too much cortical real estate. Without COUP-TF1 keeping the frontal areas in check, they undergo massive expansion squeezing and pushing neighboring sensory areas literally to the back of the brain. The findings show how the cortex is properly parceled into “frontal” areas that control higher functions related to emotions and the movements of our bodies versus areas that interpret our sensory environment and allow us to see, hear and feel. Because primary areas in humans differ by two-fold or more in the normal population, these findings may explain these size differences, which appear to account, at least in part, for differences between individuals in behavior and skills.

Permalink09/10/07, 11:03:30 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 393 views, Genes Send feedback

New Lightning Sensors Warn of Hurricanes' Power


A NASA-supported study has introduced a new way to detect lightning outbreaks inside a hurricane from thousands of miles away, giving forecasters new insight into just how powerful an oncoming storm will be. As a result, researchers can now investigate with greater accuracy how the rate of lightning strikes produced within a hurricane’s eyewall is tied to the changing strength of the hurricane. A hurricane’s eyewall is the inner heat-driven region of the storm that surrounds the eye, where the most intense rainfall and most powerful winds occur. By monitoring the intensity of lightning near a hurricane’s eye, scientists will be able to improve their forecasts of when a storm will unleash its harshest conditions.

Permalink09/10/07, 11:00:48 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 469 views, Sensors Send feedback

Ray Bradbury

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

Permalink09/10/07, 10:19:42 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 474 views, Quotes Send feedback

Judge rejects case against carpenter, saying he has right to work nude


A carpenter caught hammering nails and sawing wood in the nude has been found by a judge to be not guilty of indecent exposure. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger ruled Thursday that although Percy Honniball of Oakland was naked, he was not acting lewdly or seeking sexual gratification. Honniball, 51, was arrested last year after he was spotted building cabinets naked at a home where he had been hired to work. The carpenter has said he likes to work in the nude because it is more comfortable and it helps him keep his clothes clean.

Permalink09/09/07, 10:41:33 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 452 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Face-scan can spot genetic illnesses


Scientists have developed a computerised face-recognition system that can diagnose autism and other genetically inherited diseases from telltale differences in facial features. The shape of the face and the size and position of the eyes, the ears, the nose and the lips can point to a wide range of genetic illnesses - from rare disorders of the heart and brain to more common conditions such as autism. The differences in the features of normal and abnormal children are often so subtle even very experienced medical specialists can often only diagnose them with expensive and time-consuming DNA tests. But now researchers at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children have developed a computer programme that can analyse and interpret the tiniest variations in face shape and features.

Permalink09/09/07, 10:40:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 465 views, Medical Send feedback

Gene clue to athletic endurance


If you were a pre-historic human, would you prefer to able to sprint very fast for short distances? Or to jog comfortably for miles? That’s one of the questions thrown up by the so-called “gene for speed,” known as ACTN3. One of the most intriguing genes discovered, ACTN3 encodes a protein that governs metabolism in “fast twitch” muscle fibers, which generate force at high speed. Around 18 per cent of the world’s population has a truncated variant of the gene which blocks this protein. The stubby variant, called R577X, is common among successful endurance athletes, previous research has found. On the other hand, elite sprinters, who need explosive speed, are likelier to have the reverse, a functioning variant of ACTN3.

Permalink09/09/07, 05:48:44 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 408 views, Genes Send feedback

Personalized DNA perfume


Could DNA be the next nano when it comes to marketing? Maybe so, after seeing this ridiculous site, My DNA Fragrance! Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. For just $99 you can purchase a standard DNA swab kit, swab your cheek, and get your DNA code, send it to a lab and in no time you will receive 4 oz. of personalized, “biologically seductive” cologne or perfume only costs from $59 to $99 a bottle. There are few details about how the process actually works on the Web site, however, except to say the product is delivered in a “clinically approved 4 oz. aluminum bottle.”

Permalink09/09/07, 05:36:57 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 429 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Political affiliation could be all in the brain


A brain scan might one day predict your voting patterns. That is the implication of a study that found different brain activity among liberals and conservatives asked to carry out a simple button-pushing test. The study implies that our political diversity may be the result of neurological differences. Researchers have long known that conservatives and liberals score differently in psychological profiling tests. Now they are beginning to gather evidence about why this might be. David Amodio of New York University, US, and his colleagues recruited 43 subjects for their test. Brain recordings taken using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology showed that liberals had twice as much activity in a deep region called the anterior cingulate cortex. This area of the brain is thought to act as a mental brake by helping the mind recognize “no-go” situations where it must refrain from the usual course of action. The new findings are “interesting and provocative” because they could perhaps help enable researchers to predict a person’s voting behaviour based on brain scans, says Jordan Grafman, chief of the cognitive neuroscience section at National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, US.

Permalink09/09/07, 05:29:45 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 436 views, Studies Send feedback

On This Day; September 9


1776: The Second Continental Congress changed the name of the nation to the United States of America, from the United Colonies.

1850: California became the 31st state.

1893: President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Esther Cleveland, became the first president’s child to be born in the White House.

1926: The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was created by the Radio Corporation of America.

1948: The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) was created.

1956: Elvis Presley appeared on television for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Permalink09/09/07, 09:02:57 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 518 views, On This Day Send feedback

The Scent Factor in the Biological Attraction in Humans


Sexual attractiveness is much more than a look. Even if 80 % of the information we receive about our partner is visual, there is more. Researches have shown that women who look more attractive also smell better. At least at certain periods of the month, while symmetrical men, found very attractive by women, do smell better. Evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill of the University of New Mexico put female subjects to rate their impressions of the scents of male pitarms. The scent of a symmetrical man was more attractive, especially if the woman was during the menstruation. Of course, this was subconscious. Women did not report smelling anything sometimes, yet they were attracted to that shirt or scent. Research discovered that women choose the scent of men with closer genes to theirs than of genetically dissimilar men. This could be linked to pheromones, molecules signaling the reproductive quality of the individual.

Permalink09/09/07, 09:00:01 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 612 views, Studies Send feedback

Sept. 8: Paris attacked by Joan of Arc


On this day in 1429, French heroine Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who believed she was acting under divine guidance, attempted to oust the duke of Burgundy and take Paris for the newly crowned King Charles VII.

1974: Richard M. Nixon, who had resigned the U.S. presidency on August 8, 1974, was pardoned by his successor, Gerald R. Ford.
1945: At the end of World War II, the first U.S. troops entered the Korean peninsula south of the 38th parallel to receive the Japanese surrender; north of the parallel, Japanese troops surrendered to Soviet forces.
1781: American troops commanded by General Nathanael Greene defeated British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Stewart in the Battle of Eutaw Springs during the American Revolution.
1664: As part of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the duke of York (later James II) took the city of New Amsterdam, whose name was changed to New York.

Permalink09/08/07, 12:49:49 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 355 views, On This Day Send feedback

How Right Digits Affect Perception of Discounts


The amount of the discount may be less important than the numerical value of the farthest right digit, explains a new study from the Journal of Consumer Research. Researchers show that “right-digit effect” influences consumer perception of sale prices. When the right digits are small, people perceive the discount to be larger than when the right digits are large. In other words, an item on sale for $211 from the original price of $222 is thought to be a better deal than an item on sale for $188 from an original price of $199, even though both discounts are $11. In addition, the researchers find that when consumers view regular and sale prices with identical left digits, they perceive larger price discounts when the right digits are “small” – less than 5 – than when they are “large,” or, greater than 5.

Permalink09/08/07, 12:45:51 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 395 views, Methods Send feedback

Cradle-to-Grave Atlas of Identity


Britain is becoming increasingly segregated across all age groups by wealth, health, education and other factors, according to a pioneering atlas based on people rather than geography. The cradle-to-grave “atlas of identity", to be published on Monday, provides a visual representation of the stark social contrasts now dividing different areas of Britain, and even adjoining neighbourhoods. It shows how the area in which an individual lives can be a strong predictor of their identity not only in terms of class but also health, family structure and likely lifespan. It can even reveal the likelihood that a person is divorced - divorcees are clearly clustered along the south coast, possibly because property there is cheaper and the population is older - and when they are likely to have their first child. Women in the affluent south-east are generally much more likely to be older when they give birth. The atlas is also groundbreaking in its breakdown of the population by age, according to researchers behind the project, at Sheffield University. They say mapping based on the “seven ages of man” reveals “ever more clearly that where you live can limit or assist your life chances from cradle to grave".

Permalink09/08/07, 12:41:54 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 459 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Space Laser to Transmit Solar Power to Earth


The device works by capturing solar energy on metal alloy plates. These plates then transfer their energy to a laser, amplifying it many times. The laser is then beamed down to earth where it is captured and converted to electricity. I’m not sure how this last step is accomplished, but possibly through a traditional boiler. The process, according the scientists, can be up to 40% efficient, which makes it comparable with the most efficient solar panels of today. The problems will arise with launch costs, weather interfering with the laser, and international outcry at the supposedly peaceful deathray.

Permalink09/07/07, 04:50:05 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 481 views, Energy Send feedback

Scientists Discover Radiation Absorbing Mineral


Russian scientists in the Khibinsky Mountains in the Arctic Circle have made an important scientific discovery. They’ve found a new mineral which absorbs radiation. It does not yet have an official name and is known only as number 27-4. It can absorb radioactivity from liquid nuclear waste. “It can extract radioactive substances from any water-based solution and so has a very important practical significance,” said Yakov Pakhomovsky, the head of the Kolsky Research Institute. After coming into contact with the mineral, radioactive water becomes completely safe. Had this mineral been available to physicists after the Chernobyl or Three Mile Island disasters, the consequences might have been very different, as both accidents resulted in contamination from radioactive water.

Permalink09/07/07, 04:05:29 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 472 views, Earth Send feedback

Fashion Police of the Friendly Skies


Kyla Ebbert, 23, was recently escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight by a male customer service supervisor for wearing the outfit shown in this photograph. The college student and Hooters waitress was later permitted to return to the plane and take her flight, but only after she put up a fuss and adjusted her outfit: “I asked him what part of my outfit was offensive,” she said. “The shirt? The skirt? And he said, ‘The whole thing.’” “Keith” asked her to go home, change and take a later flight. She refused, citing her appointment. The plane was ready to leave, so Keith relented. He had her pull up her tank top a bit, pull down her skirt a bit, and return to her seat.

Permalink09/07/07, 03:57:45 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 478 views, Dumb Choices Send feedback

A Balanced Memory Network


In a study publishing in PLoS Computational Biology on September 7, 2007, they show that for realistic networks of spiking neurons, the number of memories is not proportional to the number of neurons, it’s proportional to the number of connections per neurons – at most about 10,000. Moreover, they provided evidence that the constant of proportionality is small, not more than a few percent, and they eliminated one of theorists’ favorite tricks – reducing the number of neurons involved in any one memory – for increasing that constant. Thus, if networks use the algorithm proposed by Hopfield, they can store at most about 500 memories, no matter how many neurons they contain. So we’re not exactly back to square one, but we’re not much farther than square two: we no longer know how the brain holds so many memories.

Permalink09/07/07, 11:12:56 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 345 views, Science Send feedback

Skyscraper Farming


We abuse our food. Or so says Columbia University professor Dr. Dickson Despommier. “We treat our plants poorly,” Despommier observes. “I go inside when it’s cold. Why don’t we do this with our crops?” What began as a class project to lower the heat bubble that forms every summer above Manhattan by planting green rooftops, turned into a quest to feed the world safely and sustainably. But as nice as green roofs were, they were completely inadequate. “You can only feed two per cent of New York City on the most energetic crop we can raise, which is rice,” Despommier says, noting that rice has its own problems, namely that it produces methane, a greenhouse gas. “Just as a flippant remark I said, ‘Why don’t we move the whole thing inside?’” This simple observation spurred the microbiologist and his students at the School of Public Health to take farming indoors and start the Vertical Farm Project as a way to make food production practical for urban centres. Vertical farms are like condominiums for food. Completely automated, they are a closed loop ecosystem which recycles air, water, and sewage while eliminating food–borne diseases, such as E. coli or Salmonella.

Permalink09/07/07, 11:01:15 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 455 views, Agriculture Send feedback

Evolution May Favor Schizophrenics


Schizophrenia, the psychotic disorder marked by hallucinations, multiple personalities and cognitive disorganization, affects roughly 1 percent of the U.S. population. Many of those afflicted, however, also have reduced reproductive fitness, which means they are less likely to pass a genetic profile associated with the condition onto their offspring. “It’s sort of a genetic paradox,” explains Steve Dorus, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Bath in England. “Why is this disease found at such a high prevalence?” New research reveals that genes related to the debilitating disorder may also provide developmental advantages.

Permalink09/06/07, 10:37:35 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 358 views, Science Send feedback

Fraternity Stripper Poles


College fraternities, long known as bastions of grace and decorum, are these days featuring yet one more accoutrement of scholastic refinement - the stripper pole. The most important campus development since the keg, the stripper pole shines like a luminous totem festooning the halls of the American academy. It’s erected for a single, glorious purpose: To get drunken chicks to do slutty stuff. As students convene on college campuses, many will be partying on and around sturdy items such as the portable Lil’ Mynx dance poles, manufactured with love in Fresno, Calif. Easy to install - and easy to take down when parents and alumni show up - the poles are au courant. “Not in Philly, maybe,” Mynx publicist Jenn Hoffman says, doubtless inspiring relief among local deans. “But in a lot of schools like Arizona State University and New York University. A very good percentage of frat houses now have them.” Retailing for $259 to $600, poles are available in school colors, as well as in tasteful pink and hard-core stainless steel.

Permalink09/06/07, 10:32:09 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 369 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Improved e-jet printing provides higher resolution


By combining electrically induced fluid flow with nanoscale nozzles, researchers at the University of Illinois have established new benchmarks for precision control and resolution in jet-printing processes. “We have invented methods for an electrohydrodynamic jet (e-jet) printing process that can produce patterns and functional devices that establish new resolution benchmarks for liquid printing, significantly exceeding those of established ink-jet technologies,” said John Rogers, a Founder Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in the journal Nature Materials, and posted on its Web site. This type of e-jet printing could be used for large-area circuits, displays, photovoltaic modules and related devices, as well as other wide-ranging application possibilities in security, biotechnology and photonics, Rogers said. The success of this effort relied critically on an interdisciplinary team of materials scientists, chemists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and physicists within the university’s Center for Nanoscale Chemical Electrical Mechanical Manufacturing Systems, a nanoscale science and engineering center funded by the National Science Foundation.

Permalink09/06/07, 10:04:25 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 507 views, Nano Send feedback

What We Learned About Americans This Week


The following was revealed on the POWER OF 10 episode broadcast on Wednesday, September 5
– 22% of American men think they look good in a Speedo bathing suit
– 31% of American men have worn their hair in a ponytail
– 7% of Americans said they have been abducted by aliens
– 31% of Americans said they’ve broken up with the same romantic partner more than once
– 29% of Americans do not consider driving over the speed limit to be breaking the law
– 74% of Americans think if Barry Bonds has actually used steroids, he should publicly admit it
– 79% of Americans said that as an adult, they’ve told their father that they love him
– 21% of Americans think obese people should pay more taxes, as they cost the government more in health costs
– 19% of Americans think the world would be a better place if America ruled all of it
– 50% of Americans make their bed every morning
– 23% of Americans have cried after receiving a haircut they didn’t like
– 47% of Americans have walked out of a movie before it ended because it was too awful to watch
– 17% of Americans think the number seven is luckier than any other number
– 23% of Americans have become engaged to someone who they did not ultimately marry
– 79% of Americans think Osama Bin Laden is still alive
– 81% of American parents said if their child asked them when they lost their virginity, they would tell the truth
– 9% of Americans believe Elvis Presley is still alive
– 38% of Americans have flown first-class
– 33% of Americans have fired someone from a job

Permalink09/06/07, 09:40:50 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 465 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Jules Renard

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”

Permalink09/06/07, 09:30:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 399 views, Quotes Send feedback

Thinking of words could guide your wheelchair


A motorised wheelchair that moves when the operator thinks of particular words has been demonstrated by a US company. The wheelchair works by intercepting signals sent from their brain to their voice box, even when no sound is actually produced. The company behind the chair, Ambient, is developing the technology with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, in the US. The wheelchair could help people with spinal injuries, or neurological problems like cerebral palsy or motor neurone disease, operate computers and other equipment despite serious problems with muscle control. The system will work providing a person can still control their larynx, or “voice box", which may be the case even if the lack the muscle coordination necessary to produce coherent speech.

Permalink09/06/07, 09:27:54 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 402 views, Technology Send feedback

GPS phone guides by playing 'hotter, colder' game


Ever feel your phone could be more communicative? A prototype developed by German and Swedish researchers uses pulses of heat on your skin to get the message across, and to direct you using GPS. They connected a phone to a Peltier device strapped to the user’s elbow that can both heat up and cool down. The tester was set loose in an unfamiliar city, and had to use the device and the GPS-capable phone to find her way to a particular location. The Peltier device used five different temperature levels to signal whether she was headed in the right direction. Hottest meant she was going the right way. The colder levels signalled how much she was deviating from the correct direction.

Permalink09/06/07, 09:16:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 431 views, GPS Send feedback

New CPR promises better results by compressing abdomen, not Chest


A biomedical engineer at Purdue University has developed a new method to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation that promises to be more effective than standard CPR because it increases nourishing blood flow through the heart by 25 percent over the current method. A new technique is desperately needed because conventional CPR has a success rate of 5 percent to 10 percent, depending on how fast rescuers are able to respond and how well the procedure is performed. For every one minute of delay, the resuscitation rate decreases by 10 percent. “In other words, at 10 minutes, the resuscitation is absolutely ineffective,” said Leslie Geddes, Showalter Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. “Any medical procedure that had that low a success rate would be abandoned right away. But the alternative is not very good, either: Don’t do CPR and the person is going to die.”

Permalink09/05/07, 10:32:08 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 365 views, Methods Send feedback

Money at your fingerprints


Shops in Germany have begun installing new check-out systems that allow customers to pay via their fingerprints. Supermarkets, hardware stores and pubs across the country say the system, which scans customers’ fingerprints and deducts the bill from their bank accounts, has been a massive success. To use the scanning machines, which cost 2,000 euros each and are supplied by German firm IT Werke, customers must have their fingerprints taken and leave their addresses and banking details with the shop.

Permalink09/05/07, 06:30:47 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 468 views, Technology Send feedback

Skin oil worsens air quality in airplanes


Airline passengers and crews who gripe about poor cabin air quality could have a new culprit to blame: the oils on their skin, hair and clothing. A study in the current issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology suggests interactions between body oils and ozone found in airplane cabins could lead to the formation of chemical byproducts that might worsen nasal irritation, headaches, dry eyes and lips, and other common air traveler complaints. In simulated flights lasting four hours, American and Danish researchers placed two groups of 16 volunteers in a mockup of an airline cabin and then exposed them to varying levels of ozone and air flow, including levels typically experienced in real flights. Consistently, ozone in the cabin increased production of identifiable chemical byproducts including nonanal and decanal, a pair of aldehyde compounds associated with headaches, nasal irritation and with other symptoms of “sick building” syndrome. More than half of the byproducts were the result of reactions with skin, hair and clothing, according to Charles Weschler, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, who is with University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. These oxidative byproducts are produced when ozone reacts with squalene, oleic acid and other compounds in natural skin oils, he said.

Permalink09/05/07, 06:29:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 360 views, Science Send feedback

Physicists establish quantum communication


Scientists used light to establish what’s called “entanglement” between two atoms, which were trapped a meter apart in separate enclosures (think of entangling like controlling the outcome of one coin flip with the outcome of a separate coin flip). David Moehring, the lead author of the paper who did this research as a U-M graduate student, says the most important feature of this experiment is the distance between the two atoms. In this experiment, the researchers used two atoms to function as qubits, or quantum bits, storing a piece of information in their electron configuration. They then excited each atom, inducing electrons to fall into a lower energy state and emit one photon, or one particle of light, in the process. The atoms, which were actually ions of the rare-earth element ytterbium, are capable of emitting two different types of photon of different wavelengths. The type of photon released by each atom indicates the particular state of the atom. Because of this, each photon was entangled with its atom. By manipulating the photons emitted from each of the two atoms and guiding them to interact along a fiber optic thread, the researchers were able to detect the resulting photon clicks and entangle the atoms.

Permalink09/05/07, 06:28:27 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 309 views, Science Send feedback

Edible films to kill E. coli on tap


Scientists at New Jersey’s Rutgers University and in other labs are developing edible films and powders that kill E.coli and Salmonella. The films could line bags of fresh spinach to kill E. coli, while a powder might be sprinkled on packages of chicken to stop salmonella, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The films are basically a thin edible wrap that can be infused with molecules from cloves, thyme or other foods that can keep unhealthy bacteria from growing, the newspaper said.

Permalink09/05/07, 10:29:03 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 359 views, Science Send feedback

Direct Brain-to-Game Interface Worries Scientists


Your brain might be your next videogame controller. That might sound pretty awesome, but the prospect of brain-controlled virtual joysticks has some scientists worried that games might end up controlling our brains. Several makers of brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs – devices that facilitate operating a computer by thought alone – claim the technology is poised to jump from the medical sector into the consumer gaming world in 2008. Companies including Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky say they’ve released BCI-based software-development kits. Gaming companies may release BCI games next year, but many scientists worry that users brains’ might be subject to negative effects. For example, the devices sometimes force users to slow down their brain waves. Afterward, users have reported trouble focusing their attention.

Permalink09/05/07, 10:27:39 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 420 views, Technology Send feedback

Merrick Furst

“The biggest difference between time and space is that you can’t reuse time.”

Permalink09/05/07, 08:38:24 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 387 views, Quotes Send feedback

On This Day: September 5


2001: Evidence provided for black hole theory
At a scientific conference in Washington, D.C., this day in 2001, scientists described an observation of energy flares that provided strong evidence of the theorized black hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy.

1975: Lynette (“Squeaky”) Fromme attempted to assassinate U.S. President Gerald R. Ford.

1972: Palestinian terrorists attacked the Olympic Village in Munich, West Germany, during the Summer Olympic Games, taking hostage and eventually killing 11 members of the Israeli team.

1836: Sam Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas.

Permalink09/05/07, 08:25:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 390 views, On This Day Send feedback

A Biological Clock for Men


“Everybody was familiar with the concept of women’s biological clock, but when we introduced ‘male’ to the equation, the reaction was ‘What are you talking about? Men can have children at any age,’” recalls urologist Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and author of The Male Biological Clock. “It became a social issue. Men do not like to be told they have a problem.” Nonetheless, a virtual tidal wave of recent research has made it irrefutable: Not only does male fertility decrease decade by decade, especially after age 35, but aging sperm can be a significant and sometimes the only cause of severe health and developmental problems in offspring, including autism, schizophrenia, and cancer. The older the father, the higher the risk. But what’s truly noteworthy is not that infertility increases with age—to some degree, we’ve known that all along—but rather that older men who can still conceive may have such damaged sperm that they put their offspring at risk for many types of disorders and disabilities.

Permalink09/05/07, 12:48:38 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 372 views, Science Send feedback

Russian mayor bans "I can't"


The mayor of a Siberian oil town has ordered his bureaucrats to stop using expressions such as “I don’t know” and “I can’t.” Or look for another job. Alexander Kuzmin, 33, who is mayor of Megion, has banned these and 25 other phrases as a way to make his administration more efficient, his spokeswoman said Tuesday. “It’s a suggestion to the staff that they should think before saying something,” Oksana Shestakova said by telephone. “To say ‘I don’t know’ is the same as admitting your helplessness.” To reinforce the ban, a framed list of the banned expressions has been hanging on the wall next to Kuzmin’s office for the past two weeks, Shestakova said. Some of the other prohibited phrases are “What can we do?” “It’s not my job,” “It’s impossible,” “I’m having lunch,” “There is no money,” and “I was away/sick/on vacation.”

Permalink09/05/07, 12:46:42 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 422 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Marcel Marceau

“Never get a mime talking. He won’t stop.”

Permalink09/04/07, 10:59:29 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 393 views, Quotes Send feedback

Scientists detect cancer by scanning veins


U.S. scientists have developed a technology that can detect cancer by using a laser to scan veins, eliminating the need to draw blood. Purdue University chemical and biomedical engineering scientists collaborated with cancer and biotechnology experts from the Mayo Clinic to develop the laser technology. In addition to being less invasive, the new detection method evaluates a much larger volume of blood than what can be drawn from a patient for analysis, said Purdue Professor Philip Low. “In the initial stages of cancer, there are very few circulating tumor cells – cells that indicate the spread of cancer and initiate secondary tumor formation,” Low said. “By increasing the volume of blood analyzed, we improve the sensitivity of the test and allow for earlier diagnosis.

Permalink09/04/07, 08:30:48 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 602 views, Medical Send feedback

New technique producing small things in large quantities


Although relatively new to the market, liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions may soon be obsolete, thanks to a new technique created by University of Houston professors. Vincent Donnelly, Demetre Economou and Paul Ruchhoeft, all of the Cullen College of Engineering, have developed a technique that allows nanotech devices to be mass-produced, which could move the television industry away from the LCD display to the superior field emission display (FED). FEDs use a large array of carbon nanotubes – the most efficient emitters known – to create a higher resolution picture than an LCD. The nanotech fabrication technique that can mass produce an ordered array of carbon nanotubes and make FEDs happen promises to remove some of the largest practical barriers to mass-producing nanotech devices, Economou said. Dubbed nanopantography, the method uses standard photolithography to selectively remove parts of a thin film and etching to create arrays of ion-focusing micro-lenses – small round holes through a metal structure – on a substrate, such as a silicon wafer. “These lenses act as focusing elements,” Donnelly said. “They focus the beamlets to fabricate a hole 100 times smaller than the lens size.”

Permalink09/04/07, 06:25:00 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 443 views, Nano Send feedback

Laser blasts viruses in blood


A father-son research team working from separate laboratory benches across the country has discovered a new use for lasers - zapping viruses out of blood. The technique, which holds promise for disinfecting blood for transfusions, uses a low-power laser beam with a pulse lasting just fractions of a second. Johns Hopkins University student Shaw-Wei David Tsen says it was during a stroll in the park with his father that the idea was born. Tsen, an immunology researcher in the laboratory of T.C. Wu at Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center, sought a new method to rid isolated blood of dangerous pathogens, including the viruses HIV and hepatitis C. He says current techniques using UV irradiation and radioisotopes can leave a trail of mutated or damaged blood components. Using ultrasonic vibrations to destroy viruses was one possibility, but his father, Kong-Thon Tsen, a laser expert at Arizona State University, had a better idea: Lasers, unlike ultrasound, can penetrate energy-absorbing water surrounding the viruses and directly vibrate the pathogen itself.

Permalink09/04/07, 06:23:43 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 495 views, Medical Send feedback

Pee-powered battery unveiled


The trouble with batteries is that there never seems to be a power socket in sight when you want to charge them up. Thankfully, one manufacturer has developed a battery that should be slightly easier to recharge, thanks to its ability to run off a variety of liquids, including water and urine. Dubbed NoPoPo, the battery has been developed by the Japanese company Aqua Power System and comes in standard AA and AAA formats. Although, larger capacities for use as auxiliary power supplies have been rumoured.

Permalink09/04/07, 12:52:23 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 493 views, Batteries Send feedback

Nicotine in breast milk disrupts infants' sleep patterns


A study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center reports that nicotine in the breast milk of lactating mothers who smoke cigarettes disrupts their infants’ sleep patterns. “Infants spent less time sleeping overall and woke up from naps sooner when their mothers smoked prior to breastfeeding,” says lead author Julie A. Mennella, PhD, a psychobiologist at Monell. The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, raise new questions regarding whether nicotine exposure through breast milk affects infant development. While many women quit or cut down on smoking while pregnant, they often relapse following the birth of the baby. Mennella comments, “Because nicotine is not contraindicated during lactation, mothers may believe that smoking while breastfeeding will not harm their child as long as the child is not exposed to passive smoke. However, there has been very little research on either short- or long-term effects of nicotine delivered through breast milk.”

Permalink09/04/07, 08:22:14 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 304 views, Science Send feedback

Humans' DNA not quite so similar


People are less alike than scientists had thought when it comes to the billions of building blocks that make up each individual’s DNA, according to a new analysis. “Instead of 99.9 percent identical, maybe we’re only 99 percent (alike),” said J. Craig Venter, an author of the study – and the person whose DNA was analyzed for it. Several previous studies have argued for lowering the 99.9 percent estimate. Venter says this new analysis “proves the point.” The new work, in the latest issue of PLoS Biology, marks the first time a scientific journal has presented the entire DNA makeup, or human genome, of an individual. However, James D. Watson – co-discoverer of DNA’s molecular structure – received his own personal DNA map from scientists a few months ago. And the genomes for both him and Venter are already posted on scientific Web sites.

Permalink09/04/07, 08:20:16 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 361 views, Genes Send feedback

Sept. 4, 1888: Photography Leaps Into the Late 19th Century


1888: George Eastman receives a patent for the first roll-film camera and registers the name “Kodak.” By 1880 Eastman had devised his own dry-plate formula and went into the photographic business full time. As he ran a young company struggling to survive, Eastman began looking for new exposure methods that would render glass plates obsolete and bring photography to the masses. The first result was a light-sensitive, gelatin-coated paper that could be rolled onto a holder. Paper proved problematic, however, so Eastman kept experimenting until he hit on the solution: cellulose. It produced a cleaner image than paper and was easily spooled onto a film roller, making it compact. It proved to be the birth of modern camera film. By 1888, he was ready to patent the first camera using that film.

Permalink09/04/07, 08:16:21 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 414 views, On This Day Send feedback

Solomon Short

“The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.”

Permalink09/04/07, 08:07:42 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 436 views, Quotes Send feedback

9/4/1781: Los Angeles founded


On this day in 1781, Spanish settlers laid claim to what became Los Angeles, now the second most populous U.S. city and the home to Hollywood, whose name is synonymous with the American motion-picture industry.

Permalink09/04/07, 07:55:45 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 421 views, On This Day Send feedback

Pop stars more than twice as likely to die an early death


Rock and pop stars are more than twice as likely as the rest of the population to die an early death, and within a few years of becoming famous, reveals research published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The findings are based on more than 1050 North American and European musicians and singers who shot to fame between 1956 and 1999. All the musicians featured in the All Time Top 1000 albums, selected in 2000, and covering rock, punk, rap, R&B, electronica and new age genres. How long the pop stars survived once they had achieved chart success and become famous was compared with the expected longevity of the general population, matched for age, sex, ethnicity and nationality, up to the end of 2005. In all, 100 stars died between 1956 and 2005. The average age of death was 42 for North American stars and 35 for European stars. Long term drug or alcohol problems accounted for more than one in four of the deaths. When compared with the rest of the population in the UK and the US, rock and pop stars were around twice as likely to die early and even more likely to do so within five years of becoming famous. Some 25 years after achieving fame, European pop stars returned to the same levels of life expectancy as the rest of the population. But North American stars continued to experience higher death rates.

Permalink09/03/07, 10:26:49 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 373 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

LCD with Embedded Optical Sensors


Sharp developed its proprietary System LCD technology to successfully embed an optical sensor used in devices like scanners in each pixel of the LCD panel. This technology eliminates the need for films, resulting in a thinner, beautifully clear screen display compared to conventional touch screens. In addition, tactile recognition based on simultaneously touching multiple points on the screen is now possible, a feature previously difficult to implement. For example, users can easily tap the screen with two fingers to enlarge or reduce a displayed map. Also, the scanner function can be used to scan in a business card placed on top of the screen, and further improvements to this function are expected to enable fingerprint authentication in the future.

Permalink09/03/07, 10:24:53 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 458 views, Cool Stuff Send feedback

Solar Bottle Uses Sun to Purify Water


In developing countries, microorganisms are responsible for 2.5 million deaths per year. Case studies around the globe have shown that the purifying drinking water through UV radiation can significantly decrease the incidence of fatal dehydration from water-born diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and dysentery. The Solar Bottle design builds off of the SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection) process. Developed by the Department of Water and Sanitation at the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Research, SODIS works with the sun to allow UV-A radiation and increased temperature to destroy pathogenic microorganisms in drinking water.

Permalink09/03/07, 10:23:07 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 493 views, Cool Stuff Send feedback

Sleep Anchors Memory


You’ll never again take sleep for granted once you talk to Matthew P. Walker, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School’s sleep and neuroimaging lab. “Sleep plays an important role in processing memories,” he declares. Say you’re taking piano lessons and you learn how to play a scale. The next day, you’ll find that “sleep has enhanced the information that you learned, so you’re 20-40% better in performing those motor skills than you were the day before,” Walker says. “Your brain has continued to learn in the absence of any further practice, which is quite magical.” The window of time for that improvement is limited, however. If you’re a college student and you pull an all-nighter after the piano lesson, you lose out on the memory enhancement permanently, even if you sleep the next night, Walker says. “It’s not practice that makes perfect,” he says, “but it’s practice with a night of sleep that seems to make perfect. If you don’t snooze, you lose.” Sleep apparently rearranges memory within the brain. “We presume that it’s organized into a more efficient storage location,” Walker says. “That means you can recollect that information the next day much better than the day before.” Sleep has this effect only on procedural memories, that is, memories associated with a physical procedure such as playing a piano or riding a bike. These memories are normally used without conscious effort for motor skills that can’t readily be described in words.

Permalink09/03/07, 06:06:52 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 316 views, Science Send feedback

Psychiatrists are the least religious of all physicians


A nationwide survey of the religious beliefs and practices of American physicians has found that the least religious of all medical specialties is psychiatry. Among psychiatrists who have a religion, more than twice as many are Jewish and far fewer are Protestant or Catholic, the two most common religions among physicians overall. The study, published in the September 2007 issue of Psychiatric Services, also found that religious physicians, especially Protestants, are less likely to refer patients to psychiatrists, and more likely to send them to members of the clergy or to a religious counselor. “Something about psychiatry, perhaps its historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud, seems to dissuade religious medical students from choosing to specialize in this field,” said study author Farr Curlin, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “It also seems to discourage religious physicians from referring their patients to psychiatrists.” “Previous surveys have documented the unusual religious profile of psychiatry,” he said, “but this is the first study to suggest that that profile leads many physicians to look away from psychiatrists for help in responding to patients’ psychological and spiritual suffering.”

Permalink09/03/07, 10:03:58 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 362 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Venezuela to ban silly names


Venezuelan officials are trying to ban parents from choosing names like Superman for their children. Officials warn attempts to use inappropriate names might be turned down by the civil registry if they “expose them to ridicule, are extravagant or difficult to pronounce". The National Electoral Council has laid out the proposal in a draft Bill circulated to city offices in Caracas. When opponents of President Hugo Chavez last year sought to question the accuracy of the voter rolls, they noted that even Superman was listed. But electoral officials confirmed there are in fact two Venezuelans by that name registered to vote. The new bill proposes to create a list of traditional names that could be offered to parents “as a reference” to provide options when they are registering their child’s birth. It says the list would have “no fewer than 100 names” and would grow over time.

Permalink09/03/07, 09:56:56 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 405 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Truman Capote

“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”

Permalink09/03/07, 09:42:48 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 394 views, Quotes Send feedback

Magnetic refrigerator that needs no electricity


A group of researchers at the Technical University of Denmark’s project laboratory in Risø have discovered a cooling method that uses magnetic materials instead of electricity, reported daily free newspaper Nyhedsavisen. The invention will allow for refrigerators to replace existing electric refrigerators in homes and businesses with a fully environmentally friendly power source. Although the first prototype will not be ready until 2010, the project’s researchers say the appliance’s cooling cycle efficiency will be 60 percent greater than that of conventional refrigerators. The new method uses opposing magnetic fields to increase the temperature of the materials employed. The heat energy is transported through a non-volatile fluid, such as water, and then thermodynamically reversed to a cold temperature. The scientists have already been able to cool a 20° C room to 11°C using the new technology. ‘It probably isn’t realistic to believe that magnetic cooling technology will be immediately available for consumer use, especially as refrigerator manufacturers have brought prices down so much in the past few years,’ said Christian Bahl, one of DTU’s project researchers. But Bahl said another of the magnetic refrigerator’s advantages is that it is silent.

Permalink09/03/07, 12:14:03 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 368 views, Technology Send feedback

Tiny gene variation influences height


Scientists overnight announced they had uncovered the first gene that helps explain common differences in height among humans. Just a single change in the gene’s DNA code determines whether people will be taller or shorter by up to one centimetre, they said, adding that hundreds of other genes are also likely to play a role in height. Genetic heritage has long been known as the driver of height - everyone knows that a child whose parents are both tall is also likely to grow up tall, too. Unlike obesity, where genes and environmental factors (nutrition and exercise, for example) play a joint role, around 90 per cent of the determinants for height are genetic.

Permalink09/02/07, 10:12:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 370 views, Genes Send feedback

Run Your House on a Prius


When Hurricane Frances ripped through Gainesville, Fla., in 2004, Christopher Swinney, an anesthesiologist, was without electricity for a week. A few weeks ago, Dr. Swinney lost power again, but this time he was ready. He plugged his Toyota Prius into the backup uninterruptible power supply unit in his house and soon the refrigerator was humming and the lights were back on. “It was running everything in the house except the central air-conditioning,” Dr. Swinney said. Without the Prius, the batteries in the U.P.S. unit would have run out of power in about an hour. The battery pack in the car kept the U.P.S. online and was itself recharged by the gasoline engine, which cycled on and off as needed. The U.P.S. has an inverter, which converts the direct current electricity from the batteries to household alternating current and regulates the voltage. As long as it has fuel, the Prius can produce at least three kilowatts of continuous power, which is adequate to maintain a home’s basic functions. This form of vehicle-to-grid technology, often called V2G, has attracted hobbyists, university researchers and companies like Pacific Gas & Electric and Google. Although there is some skepticism among experts about the feasibility of V2G, the big players see a future in which fleets of hybrid cars, recharged at night when demand is lower, can relieve the grid and help avert serious blackouts.

Permalink09/02/07, 03:26:31 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 510 views, Batteries Send feedback

'Push Up Bra' Breast Implants


In the not-too-distant-future, you’ll be able to have your sagging breasts lifted on your lunch hour! Well, just about…. An Israeli company, MIM (Minimally Invasive Mastopexy) has developed a two-hole breast lift procedure to insert what amounts to a permanent push-up bra under your breasts. How clever and how considerate! The new technique, called the “Cup&Up” involves the insertion of a silicone implant through two small incisions and its attachment to the ribs and connective tissue with a few small screws and some surgical thread. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Permalink09/02/07, 02:24:55 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 483 views, Medical Send feedback

Science uncovers da Vinci's painting technique


Using a scientific device to analyse da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder painting, researchers at the University of Florence said they were able to pinpoint virtually every stroke made by the famous Italian artist on the oil masterpiece. Researcher Cecilia Frosinini said the device showed that da Vinci avoided mixing colours on a painter’s palette like his contemporaries did. Instead, he applied thin layers of paint directly onto the canvas in different colours, one on top of the other, to create a rich texture. “That Leonardo used the ‘velature’ technique is already known, he himself wrote that in a treaty, but for the first time we have managed to reconstruct his work step by step, like as if watching him while he painted,” she said. “We have been able to understand what type of painting materials he used, how many layers of colours were applied and in what thickness and sequence.”

Permalink09/02/07, 09:02:12 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 299 views, Science Send feedback

Chocolate PMS Bars


Yes, someone is really marketing this: chocolate bars designed to relieve the symptoms of PMS, officially dubbed “PMS Support Bars.” The instructions suggest consuming three bars a day for up to five days, citing these benefits: “Satisfies chocolate cravings while easing the symptoms of mild to moderate PMS. This formula relieves menstrual pain, bloating and irritability and helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.” How does it work? Lots of herbal remedies, apparently, here more detailed information on what makes the bars “work": “premium rice crisp chocolate bar that is fused with natural botanicals to help relieve both the physical and the emotional symptoms of PMS. White willow bark is often referred to as “herbal aspirin”, and it can help to ease menstrual cramps by reducing levels of hormone-like compounds that cause pain and inflammation in the body. LactiumTM is an innovative and patented milk protein. It has “soothing” properties that have been clinically proven to reduce moderate levels of stress and anxiety, and helps to promote a feeling of calmness and relaxation in the body. In addition, artichoke leaf acts as a diuretic to ease bloating while chasteberry also helps to reduce irritability, depression and bloating.”

Permalink09/02/07, 08:59:29 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 375 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Gene Roddenberry

“The funny thing is that everything is science fiction at one time or another.”

Permalink09/02/07, 08:53:48 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 445 views, Quotes Send feedback

Avocados Prove Fruitful In Fighting Oral Cancer


For the first time, researchers at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered that certain compounds in avocados have the ability to find and destroy oral cancer cells, even before they do any damage. “It’s significant in that the compounds that we’re interested in will only target the pre-cancerous cells and potentially the cancerous cells and not affect the normal cells,” says Steven D’Ambrosio, PhD at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the avocados do it, but they think it has something to do with phytonutrients and their ability to help regulate the signals that your body sends to certain cells. “Signals that tell cells to grow, live or die. And we’re looking at the potential targets of these phytonutrients from the avocados,” says D’Ambrosio.

Permalink09/01/07, 11:05:42 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 702 views, Medical Send feedback

Input Your Password with Eye Movements


Researchers at Stanford have created a new secure input system that watches your eyes scan a visual keyboard to determine what text to input into secure fields, such as a password field or an ATM PIN. The benefits of such an approach come chiefly from defeating two common ways of snagging PINs and passwords: keylogging and good old-fashioned over-the-shoulder snooping, also known as “shoulder surfing.” The researchers suggest that ATMs are a natural fit for such technology. Just think of all those moments when you’re using an ATM to withdraw or deposit money, while simultaneously attempting to shield your PIN number from the goon behind you who doesn’t have the good sense to look away or admire the cars in the parking lot while you get to business. The gaze-tracking system functions by shining an invisible infrared beam on a user’s face. The beam produces a tiny reflection in the eyes that stays put, no matter where a person looks (provided they do not move their head too much). By tracking the stable position of this reflection and the relative position of a person’s pupils, the system is able to calculate which keys or buttons a user wishes to input, and interpret the information accordingly.

Permalink09/01/07, 12:17:18 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 382 views, Technology Send feedback

Researchers find genetic link between body clocks and blood pressure


A region of DNA involved in the body’s inbuilt 24 hour cycle (the circadian rhythm) is also involved in controlling blood pressure, report scientists from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (WTCHG) at the University of Oxford. The results indicate that altered circadian regulation of biological functions increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The research, funded mainly by the Wellcome Trust, used genetic studies in rat models and humans to demonstrate a link between changes in a gene involved with the body’s ‘clock’ and risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The results of the study are published online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Permalink09/01/07, 12:12:09 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 402 views, Genes Send feedback

Traffic problem finds cell phone solution


The burgeoning population of road vehicles in Bangalore is widely seen as a sign of the change in its economic landscape. In the literal sense, though, the landscape has posed a string of issues for governance, the traffic police on the ground and the common man. But, as most analysts have stated in recent times, the lack of a single view among governing bodies is a critical factor that has compounded traffic management. Given this backdrop, the Bangalore Traffic Information System is a fresh project that is expected to provide a far more accurate definition of the traffic problem. It could go some way toward developing a common view of the issue before arriving at micro and holistic solutions. Little wonder that M.N. Reddi, additional commissioner of police-traffic in Bangalore City, is excited about the latest public-private initiative. Reddi researched similar projects that provide live information via text messages about traffic-congested zones, speeds of vehicles in certain areas and directions from one point in the city to another. As a city synonymous with India’s IT industry, the technology application seemed almost inevitable in Bangalore, says Reddi.

Permalink08/31/07, 08:01:42 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 395 views, Technology Send feedback

Yale scientists use nanotechnology to fight E. coli


“The nanotubes are microscopic carbon cylinders, thousands of times smaller than a human hair that can be easily taken up by human cells,” said Elimelech. “We wanted to find out more about where and how they are toxic.” This “nanoscience version of a David-and-Goliath story” was hailed in an ACS preview of the work as the first direct evidence that “carbon nanotubes have powerful antimicrobial activity, a discovery that could help fight the growing problem of antibiotic resistant infections.” Using the simple E. coli as test cells, the researchers incubated cultures of the bacteria in the presence of the nanotubes for up to an hour. The microbes were killed outright – but only when there was direct contact with aggregates of the SWCNTs that touched the bacteria. Elimelech speculates that the long, thin nanotubes puncture the cells and cause cellular damage.

Permalink08/31/07, 08:00:30 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 438 views, Nano Send feedback

IRS says Government agencies are Tax Deadbeats


Federal offices owe some $45 million in delinquent withholding taxes and the Internal Revenue Service needs to do more to ensure that the government lives up to its taxpaying obligations, according a report issued today. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, who oversees IRS operations, also found that as of January this year delinquent state and local government accounts totaled $254 million. “It is outrageous that government entities are failing to pay their employment taxes,” Inspector General George J. Russell said in a statement. “It is especially troubling that federal organizations are a part of this problem. The IRS must develop comprehensive procedures to remedy this inexcusable situation.” Government offices, like any private employer, must meet employment tax deposit and reporting requirements. Some 86,000 federal, state and local entities file and pay employment taxes for some 23 million employees, 20 percent of the U.S. work force. These offices pay wages of more than $760 billion and employment taxes of more than $200 billion annually.

Permalink08/31/07, 04:37:17 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 441 views, Government Send feedback

Bioengineers Devise Nanoscale System To Measure Cellular Forces


University of Pennsylvania researchers have designed a nanoscale system to observe and measure how individual cells react to external forces. By combining microfabricated cantilevers and magnetic nanowire technology to create independent, nanoscale sensors, the study showed that cells respond to outside forces and demonstrated a dynamic biological relationship between cells and their environment. The study also revealed that cells sense force at a single adhesion point that leads not to a local response but to a remote response from the cell’s internal forces, akin to tickling the cell’s elbow and watching the knee kick. “The cell senses the force that we apply and adjusts its own internal forces to compensate,” Chris Chen, an associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Penn, said. “This suggests that either the cell’s cytoskeleton dictates the reaction or the cell organizes a biochemical response. In either instance, cells are adapting at the microscale.”

Permalink08/31/07, 04:35:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 350 views, Nano Send feedback

DNA used as a template for nanolithography


DNA is one of the most popular building blocks of nanotechnology and is commonly used to construct ordered nanoscale structures with controlled architectures. For the most part, DNA is looked upon as a promising building block for fabricating microelectronic circuits from the bottom up. Now a team of researchers at Young propose the marriage of DNA self-assembly with standard microfabrication and lithography tools to form features such as nanochannels, nanowires, and nanoscale trenches. This discovery may open up new avenues for nanofabrication at dimensions not accessible by conventional optical lithography. Adam Woolley and Héctor Becerril have developed a method to use DNA molecules as templates to define patterns on substrates. The researchers deposit metal films over DNA molecules aligned on a substrate. The DNA molecules essentially act as nanostencils to define sub-10-nm-sized patterns on the substrate. The researchers call this process “DNA shadow nanolithography” because the metal film is deposited at an angle and the shadow cast by the DNA molecules defines the dimensions of the features on the substrate.

Permalink08/31/07, 04:33:59 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 375 views, Nano Send feedback

Scientist Call for Earth 'Backup' on Moon


To protect against a nuclear bomb, a plague, a natural disaster, an asteroid collusion or some other doomsday event, scientists are lobbying to have a reserve library of human scientific and cultural achievements built and maintained on the moon. Jim Burke, a retired long-time NASA expert now working at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, warned that a doomsday asteroid or comet could annihilate global civilization and that something should be done to insure against the wholesale loss of human achievement. Burke suggests a project to create a “lunar biological and historical archive,” which would include samples and a record of human scientific and cultural achievements. The idea for what Burke calls a “space-age Noah’s Ark” is one shared by the Alliance to Rescue Civilization (ARC), which also seeks to include backups of Earth’s biological heritage and diversity in a permanently manned lunar facility.

Permalink08/31/07, 04:32:02 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 339 views, Space Send feedback

Scientists Ruminate on Cow Stomach Fluid for Fuel Cells


Fluid from the stomach of cows could help power alternative fuel cells, new research shows. Electricity is generated in the new fuel cells by the breakdown of cellulose, which can be found in waste paper, other wood products and in the corn leaves and stalks that farms generate after a harvest. Using cellulose as an ethanol fuel source has been proposed as an alternative to using corn. Cows come into the picture because the fluid in their rumen (the largest chamber of their stomach) is rich in microbes that break down cellulose. Fuel cells are energy conversion devices like batteries, except they consume a reactant that must be replenished, whereas batteries store electrical energy chemically in a closed system. Various fuels can be used, including hydrogen, hydrocarbons and alcohols. The new fuel cell contains two compartments, one of which is filled with cellulose and rumen fluid. As the microbes break down the cellulose, electrons are created, which flow into the other chamber of the fuel cell, creating an electric current. “Energy is produced as the bacteria break down cellulose, which is one of the most abundant resources on our planet,” said study team leader Hamid Rismani-Yazdi, a graduate student at Ohio State University.

Permalink08/31/07, 11:02:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 473 views, Batteries Send feedback

Student, prof build budget supercomputer


When Tim Brom 07’ set out to build a budget supercomputer with Calvin computer science professor Joel Adams, he didn’t know the product of his efforts might end up in his checked baggage headed for England. Brom, now a graduate student at the University of Kentucky continuing his studies in computer science, worked with Adams to build Microwulf, a machine that is among the smallest and least expensive supercomputers on the planet. “It’s small enough to check on an airplane or fit next to a desk,” said Brom. This may prove useful next summer when Brom and others from his graduate program travel to England to do work that will require “a significant amount of computing power.” And as the price of commercial supercomputers is often prohibitive for many educational institutions, bringing a “personal” supercomputer like Microwulf could be a cost-effective solution for the group of graduate researchers. “So far as we can tell, this is the first supercomputer to have this low price/performance ratio—the first to cost less than $100/Gflop,” said Adams. This is a significant achievement considering that Microwulf is more than twice as fast as Deep Blue, the IBM-created supercomputer that beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, and cost only a fraction of the $5 million spent to build Deep Blue.

Permalink08/31/07, 09:48:16 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 374 views, Technology Send feedback

Man rams police station with stolen bulldozer


A man on a stolen bulldozer rammed the town police station early Friday, heavily damaging the building. Stanley Burt, 34, is charged with criminal mischief, reckless conduct with a deadly weapon and driving and probation violations. No one was inside at the time and no one was hurt. Police say Troy officer Kevin Stone pulled into the station parking lot just before 12:30 a.m. and saw the bulldozer repeatedly smashing into the front of the building.

Permalink08/31/07, 09:46:33 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 332 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Can data be stored on single atoms?


Researchers at IBM will have two papers published in the journal Science this week detailing how it may be possible to use individual atoms, or groups of atoms, to store data or act as a transistor. The work revolves around harnessing magnetic anisotropy, a property of atoms. Something is anisotrophic if it has different values when it faces in different directions. If a substance is anisotrophic and the orientation of the substance can be controlled, then the orientation–the theory goes–of the atom can come to represent the 1s and 0s of digital computing. Potentially, atomic-level storage or switching could result in incredibly tiny computers. With atomic storage, you could fit a 1,000 trillion bits of information in an iPod, according to IBM estimates.

Permalink08/30/07, 08:03:32 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 438 views, Technology Send feedback

Recessions of the 20th Century


Economics is known as an imprecise science and one might need look no further than the business of calling recessions to see that. Unlike the weather, recessions arrive before you know it and depart under the same circumstances. The National Bureau of Economic Research, or NBER, is considered the official arbiter of recessions, but it doesn’t define a recessions by the school book measure of two or more consecutive quarters of economic contraction as measured by GDP. It states that “a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months. This article lists all the recessions in the last 100 years.

Permalink08/30/07, 08:01:58 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 396 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

New Study Shows Americans' Blogging Behavior


According to a recent Synovate/Marketing Daily survey, 8 out of 10 Americans know what a blog is and almost half have visited blogs. The study, conducted online with 1,000 adults in the US using Synovate eNation from July 30 to August 1, shows that blogging has entered the mainstream. “Eight percent of Americans currently have their own blog,” said Tom Mularz, senior vice president at Synovate. “This is surprising given that a few years ago hardly anyone knew what a blog was.” Loyalty to specific blogs is also fairly strong with 46% of blog readers saying that they visit the same blogs regularly versus 54% who instead usually surf for new and different ones. Awareness and usage of blogs, along with people penning their own, strongly correlates to age, with younger people being much more active. Nearly 90% of those aged 25 to 34 know what a blog is, compared to just 65% of those aged 65 and over. Also, more women than men are bloggers, with 20% of American women who have visited blogs having their own versus 14 % of men.

Permalink08/30/07, 07:59:10 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 369 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Hydrogen Generating Technology Closer Than Ever


Researchers at Purdue University have further developed a technology that could represent a pollution-free energy source for a range of potential applications, from golf carts to submarines and cars to emergency portable generators. The technology produces hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium. When water is added to the alloy, the aluminum splits water by attracting oxygen, liberating hydrogen in the process. The Purdue researchers are developing a method to create particles of the alloy that could be placed in a tank to react with water and produce hydrogen on demand. The gallium is a critical component because it hinders the formation of an aluminum oxide skin normally created on aluminum’s surface after bonding with oxygen, a process called oxidation. This skin usually acts as a barrier and prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminum. Reducing the skin’s protective properties allows the reaction to continue until all of the aluminum is used to generate hydrogen, said Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue who invented the process.

Permalink08/30/07, 02:34:03 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 358 views, Energy Send feedback

Prosthetic Arm Powered by Rocket Fuel


An artificial arm that uses rocket propellant to power motorized muscles is being touted by its developers as the closest thing yet to a bionic limb. Weighing in at about 4 pounds and able to move in 21 directions, the Vanderbilt Arm works remarkably similar to a human arm, which weighs about 7 pounds and can move in 26 directions. The idea is to eventually hardwire the prosthetic to a person’s nervous system for thought-controlled motion. “As far as the user is concerned, it would almost be no different than the native limb,” said Michael Goldfarb, professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Permalink08/30/07, 02:32:24 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 318 views, Medical Send feedback

American Consumers Showing Aversion to "Made in China" Label


A recent Gallup Panel survey finds that American consumers are deeply suspicious of Chinese-made goods following a string of recalls of potentially unsafe products made in China, and that Americans could move away from buying Chinese products if they follow through on their stated intentions to adjust their purchasing habits. According to the survey, a solid majority of Americans report paying more attention to which countries produce the products they buy, say they are making an effort to avoid buying products made in China, and express a willingness to pay higher prices for similar goods made in the United States. The Aug. 23-26 survey of 1,001 nationally representative Gallup Panel members finds 72% of Americans saying they are now paying more attention to which country produces the products they buy. Gallup asked this question prior to any explicit mention in the survey of the recent reports of safety problems with Chinese-made products. But, the responses are likely a reflection of such reports, since 45% of respondents later said they were following news about unsafe Chinese products “very closely,” with an additional 40% following it “somewhat closely” – an overall high level of attention.

Permalink08/30/07, 11:35:15 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 363 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Heroin-addict elephant to rejoin herd after rehab


A once drug-addled elephant fed heroin-laced bananas by illegal traders will soon return to the wild after being weaned off his addiction through methadone and round-the-clock care. “Big Brother", a bull elephant that once “lived peacefully” with his herd near the China-Myanmar border in Yunnan province, was caught by traders in 2005, the China Daily said on Thursday. “To control it so that it could lead the herd to where they wanted, the traders kept feeding it bananas laced with drugs,” the paper said. The traders, however, were caught trying to sell Big Brother and his herd after a tip-off to forest police. By that time Big Brother had developed a raging heroin addiction and posed a danger to people if denied its fix, the paper said, citing police.

Permalink08/30/07, 11:22:32 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 319 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Thermal Insulation to Generate Electricity Developed


Industrial Nanotech, Inc., an emerging global leader in nanotechnology, has announced that it is now in the development stage of creating a thermal insulation material that will generate electricity. The company says it is now designing the first prototype material and filing the patents necessary. According to Stuart Burchill, CEO of Industrial Nanotech, Inc.: “The benefit of a thin sheet of thermal insulation that could be used in the walls of commercial buildings and in walls and attics of houses, instead of just helping conserve energy could create energy, is incalculable. The fact that there is almost always, day or night and anywhere in the world, a difference between the temperature inside a building and outside a building gives us an almost constant source of energy generation to tap into.”

Permalink08/30/07, 11:19:16 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 377 views, Energy Send feedback

Daimler Gives World First 'True' Motorcycle


August 30, 1885: Gottlieb Daimler patents what is generally considered to be the first true motorcycle. Daimler, the automotive pioneer usually associated with building the world’s first successful internal combustion engine (and, subsequently, the first automobile), staked his claim of priority in the two-wheeler world a year before developing his famous auto. However, the idea of a motor-driven, two-wheeled vehicle did not originate with Daimler, nor was his the first such contraption to see the road. Sylvester Roper, who spent the U.S. Civil War working in a Union armory, built a primitive “motorcycle” as early as 1867. Roper’s supporters – and he has more than a few – argue that he should be credited with building the world’s first motorcycle. What gives credibility to Daimler’s claim of developing the first “true” motorcycle is the fact that it was gasoline-driven. Roper’s post-Civil War hog, with a tiny two-cylinder engine, was powered by steam.

Permalink08/30/07, 11:16:54 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 378 views, On This Day Send feedback

Peter Ustinov

“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.”

Permalink08/30/07, 11:10:22 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 392 views, Quotes Send feedback

Quantum free will


When two people walk up to a food counter at the same time when there are two main courses left, one person gets a choice and the other has their dinner predetermined - if they choose to take the remaining dish and use their free will to give up their free will to choose dinner that evening. They could have easily used free will to go somewhere else, but that doesn’t change the fact that the decision at that particular counter was predetermined. Whether the predeterminism occurred a millisecond or a week before arrival at that counter is irrelevant, because it doesn’t change the outcome. Our past is determined, and our future has a probability-based predetermination dependent upon each individual’s determined experiential frame of reference.

Permalink08/29/07, 11:46:44 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 397 views, Philosophy Send feedback

Gang activity on the rise in the Military


Recent reports by the FBI and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command show that gang-related activity in the U.S. military is increasing. The FBI report concludes the increase poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security. Some experts point to looser recruiting standards, implemented in recent years as the Army struggles to meet recruiting goals, and the increase in waivers given to recruits with criminal records as a factor behind gang presence in the ranks. Each year since 2003, an increasing number of applicants with records of everything from traffic violations to felony convictions have been allowed to enlist in the Army under “moral waivers.” In fiscal 2006, 7.9 percent of all recruits received moral waivers, compared with 4.6 percent in 2003, according to Recruiting Command.

Permalink08/29/07, 08:22:43 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 343 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Plants to Suck Up Less Water


Global warming may carry a higher risk of flooding than previously thought, according to a study released on Wednesday by the British science journal Nature. It says efforts to calculate flooding risk from climate change do not take into account the effect that carbon dioxide (CO2) — the principal greenhouse gas — has on vegetation. Plants suck water out of the ground and “breathe” out the excess through tiny pores, called stomata, in their leaves. Stomata are highly sensitive to CO2. The higher the level of atmospheric CO2, the more the pores tighten up or open for shorter periods. As a result, less water passes through the plant and into the air in the form of evaporation. And, in turn, this means that more water stays on the land, eventually running off into rivers when the soil becomes saturated.

Permalink08/29/07, 07:15:32 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 306 views, Nature Send feedback

Reinventing the Front Wheel


What happens when you breed a helicopter with a two-wheeler? You get a motorcycle with all-wheel drive. Philadelphia-based Christini has begun to market a drivetrain that can apply power from the engine to the front wheel of motorcycles. A second chain turns the front wheel so that riders can get through sand, snow, mud or uneven terrain more easily. “I love it. It is a total advantage,” said Mike Bergman, a professional motocross racer who’s raced twice on motorcycles equipped with Christini’s drivetrain. “Let’s say you come into a rough corner with deep ruts, it will pull you right around it.” Christini recently released a version of its drivetrain for some Honda dirt bikes and will soon have a unit that works with off-road motorcycles from KLM. Over the next few years, it hopes to move from selling its system as an aftermarket device to something that is integrated into a motorcycle at a much lower cost at the factory.

Permalink08/29/07, 07:12:46 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 384 views, Technology Send feedback

Nanotechnology leads to better bone implants


A team of U.S. researchers has found a new and inexpensive way to create a nanowire coating for titanium surfaces used in bone implants. Their nanowire scaffolds can be used ‘to create more effective surfaces for hip replacement, dental reconstruction and vascular stenting.’ As said the lead researcher, ‘We can control the length, the height, the pore openings and the pore volumes within the nanowire scaffolds’ by varying the time, temperature and alkali concentration in the reaction,’ who added that the process was also extremely sustainable, requiring only that the device be rinsed in reusable water after the heating process. These nanowire scaffolds might also be used in hospitals or in meat-processing plants to kill bacteria.

Permalink08/29/07, 07:10:20 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 308 views, Nano Send feedback

Smoking causes irreversible gene damage


Even years after quitting, former smokers still have an increased risk of lung cancer – and now Canadian scientists believe they know why. It appears that though most smoking damage is repaired over time, the habit appears to permanently alter the activity of key genes. Dr. Stephen Lam, chair of the B.C. Cancer Agency’s lung tumour group, says the findings may explain why 50 per cent of Canadian patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer are former smokers. Researchers from the B.C. Cancer Agency, writing in the journal BMC Genomics, looked at the lung tissue of 24 current, former, and non-smokers. Using a technique called serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE), they identified close to 600 genes that were differentially expressed between current and non-smokers. Only about a fifth of the genes in a cell are switched on at any given time, but environmental factors such as smoking lead to changes in gene activity. Of the 600 genes identified, changes in almost one third of them are irreversible in former smokers, the researchers found. Specifically, some DNA repair genes are irreversibly damaged by smoking. Smoking also switched off genes that help combat lung cancer development.

Permalink08/29/07, 04:13:40 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 419 views, Science Send feedback

Workers Commit Office Taboos


Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get anything done in the office? It may be because your co-workers are preoccupied with something other than work. “Workplace Taboos” is a new CareerBuilder.com survey, conducted by Harris Interactive of more than 5,700 workers. The most common workplace taboos that workers admitted to taking part in include:
– Falling asleep at work (45 percent)
– Kissing a co-worker (39 percent)
– Consuming alcoholic beverages while on the job (21 percent)
– Stealing from the office (22 percent)
– Spreading a rumor about a co-worker (22 percent)
– Snooping after hours (18 percent)
– Lying about an academic background (4 percent)
– Taking credit for someone else’s work (2 percent)
Who is most likely to commit workplace taboos?
Men report that they engage in all of these workplace taboos more than women. For instance, nearly half (49 percent) of men have fallen asleep on the job compared 35 percent of women. When it comes to kissing co-workers, 44 percent of men and 34 percent of women admitted to puckering up.

Permalink08/29/07, 02:34:30 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 418 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Surfers Ride Icy Glacier Waves


Calving Alaskan glaciers have attracted more than the regular tourists and concerned climate scientists this summer — they’ve also brought some pioneering surfers. The surfers’ goal is to ride the swift, icy dwarf tsunamis that are launched by the calving ice in the pursuit of the biggest waves ever ridden. The waves created by the falling walls of ice near what’s known as the Million Dollar Bridge, near Cordova, Alaska, have been seen as tall 30 feet along the river banks. They have been clocked heading downstream as fast as 40 miles per hour and almost standing still relative to shore as they move upstream against the current, said Ryan Casey of Deepwater Films. Casey is developing a documentary about the strange glacial surf.

Permalink08/29/07, 02:32:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 373 views, Earth Send feedback

Redheads set for extinction


PETER Beattie, Nicole Kidman and Michael Voss are. So were William Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus and Queen Elizabeth the First. But the future doesn’t look bright for people with ginger hair. According to genetic scientists redheads are becoming rarer and could be extinct in 100 years. The current National Geographic magazine reports that less than 2 per cent of the world’s population has natural red hair - created by a mutation in northern Europe thousand of years ago. Global intermingling, which broadens the availability of possible partners, has reduced the chances of redheads meeting and so producing little redheads of their own. Although it takes only one red-haired parent to produce ginger babies, two redheads obviously creates a much stronger possibility. Some experts warn redheads could be gone as early 2060, but others say the gene can be dormant in the reproductive system for generations before returning.

Permalink08/29/07, 07:52:23 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 271 views, Science Send feedback

Renewable Energy Consumption Increased 7 Percent in 2006


The use of renewable energy in the United States increased nearly 7% in 2006, according to preliminary statistics released on August 21st by DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The new report finds wind power to be the fastest growing renewable energy technology, growing by 45% in 2006, followed by biofuels, which grew by 27.6%. In 2006, ethanol provided 4% of the volume of finished gasoline produced in the United States while consuming 14% of the nation’s corn crop. Hydropower production also increased by 6.9% in 2006, reaching its highest level since 2003, but it remained below the high-water years of the late 1990s.

Permalink08/29/07, 07:30:36 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 405 views, Energy Send feedback

Elevated Carbon Dioxide Spurs Shrub Growth


Shrubs far outgrew native grasses in Colorado rangeland when exposed to elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to a study published by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators at Colorado State University. The results suggest that rising CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere may be contributing to shifts in plant community dynamics, in which woody vegetation is favored over perennial forage grasses. The study will be published in this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Permalink08/28/07, 11:48:30 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 350 views, Earth Send feedback

How To Speed Up Evolution: Switch Goals


Is heading straight for a goal the quickest way there? If the name of the game is evolution, suggests new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the pace might speed up if the goals themselves change continuously. Nadav Kashtan, Elad Noor and Prof. Uri Alon of the Institute’s Molecular Cell Biology and Physics of Complex Systems Departments create computer simulations that mimic natural evolution, allowing them to investigate processes that, in nature, take place over millions of years. In these simulations, a population of digital genomes evolves over time towards a given goal: to maximize fitness under certain conditions. Evolution takes place under changing environmental conditions, forcing organisms to continually readapt. Intuitively, this would slow things down even further, as successive generations must switch tack again and again in the struggle to survive. But when Kashtan, Noor and Alon created a simulation in which the goals changed repeatedly, they found that its evolution actually speeded up. They even found that the more complex the goal – i.e., the more generations needed reach it under fixed conditions – the faster evolution accelerated in response to changes in that goal. Computerized evolution ran fastest, the scientists found, when the changes followed a pattern they believe may be pervasive in nature.

Permalink08/28/07, 10:06:14 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 288 views, Science Send feedback

Water Spider Spins Its Own "Scuba Tank"


Scientists at the University of Bern, Switzerland, determined that spiders use these scuba tanks, called air bells, as reservoirs, monitoring and replenishing oxygen levels to enable the animals to live underwater. “The water spider’s air bell is in some ways working like an external lung,” said study co-author Michael Taborsky. Found in ponds throughout northern and central Europe, the water spider is the only spider that spends its entire life underwater. Since the small brown arachnids are air breathers, they have adapted the air bell system to gather oxygen from the atmosphere. The air bell serves multiple purposes, said Paul Selden, a professor of invertebrate paleontology at the University of Kansas who was not involved in the study. “[The water spider] uses this air bell as a place to live away from terrestrial predators and as a safe nest in which to keep her eggs and tend the young spiderlings,” Selden said. It is also used as a safe harbor for consuming prey and breeding. Using short hairs on their abdomens and legs, water spiders trap air bubbles from the water’s surface, which they then carry back to specially designed underwater reservoirs spun from silk, the recent study found.

Permalink08/28/07, 08:25:27 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 284 views, Science Send feedback

Cat Relieves Itself in Bank, Alarms Cops


A stray cat relieving itself inside a Marikina City bank drew a police squad after the animal tripped the bank’s burglar alarm late Monday. Members of the Marikina City Police Station were dispatched to the Bank of the Philippine Islands after repeatedly receiving alarm signals around 11 p.m. Monday. With the bank closed and the bank manager’s mobile phone unreachable, the policemen used a ladder to inspect the bank’s roof and saw a small hole, which they thought was a sign of “forced entry.” The policemen became even more suspicious after a peek through the tinted glass doors revealed a collapsed ceiling.

Permalink08/28/07, 02:00:56 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 327 views, Court/Police Send feedback

Bulletproof Backpacks


Like the GPS-enabled school uniforms we wrote about earlier this month, the notion of bulletproof backpacks for students is sure to provoke mixed reaction. Some people will call the invention an overreaction, while others will view it as a wise protective gadget. It’s sad–and sobering–to think that a bulletproof backpack could prove a practical back-to-school purchase, but it’s not so far-fetched an idea in these days of campus violence. MJ Safety Solutions, a Massachusetts company run by three dads, has developed what it says is the first full-size, lightweight ballistic protection backpack that’s affordable and practical for kids. The $175 My Child’s Pack contains a 20-ounce bulletproof panel that the creators say can ward off 97 percent of bullets. The packs can be used to offer upper torso coverage on the back or as a shield for frontal protection of the head and upper body.

Permalink08/28/07, 01:57:21 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 297 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Aug. 28, 1845: Scientific American, the Magazine for the Rest of Us


1845: Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States, makes its debut. Founded by Rufus Porter, a prolific inventor as well as a pretty fair painter and the scion of a wealthy New England family, Scientific American was originally printed as a single-page newsletter with a demonstrated liking for news coming out of the U.S. Patent Office.

Permalink08/28/07, 09:49:42 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 367 views, On This Day Send feedback

Mosquito repellant cell phones a dud


As China enters the mosquito rampaging season of Autumn, many people in Shanghai, in order to avoid bites and sleepless nights, have downloaded a special mobile phone software which claims to be able to make cell phones emit mosquito repellent waves. About 1,000 people in a surveyed website downloaded the free software which later most of them found did not repel mosquitoes, some users also claimed to have suffered from severe headaches the next morning. But there are others who support the mosquito repellent software, saying it works. A reporter from enet.com.cn interviewed an expert, Xu Renquan from the Shanghai Municipal Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctor Xu said that they had made similar experiments, such as affixing mosquito repellent wave equipment to watches and other accessories. But the results are never good or worthwhile pursuing. In addition, mosquitoes in different regions and areas have different features, the same mosquito repellent software would have obvious limitations.

Permalink08/28/07, 09:44:14 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 291 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Wife's handy solution


A Chinese wife has cut her husband’s right hand off because of his internet addiction. Jiang Ming of Chengdu city promised his wife, He Ling, that he would not go on the internet anymore and would spend more time at home to take care of their newborn son. But after a short time he started to sneak into nearby internet cafes again to have video chats with girls. “I was on the internet, and suddenly felt a numbness in my right hand. The arrow on the screen stopped moving,” says Jiang Ming. “Then I found that my right hand was on the mouse pad, and blood was shooting out.” In court, the husband pleaded with the judge to release his wife, since he was to blame for breaking his promise.

Permalink08/28/07, 09:42:43 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 333 views, Court/Police Send feedback

New Alzheimer’s findings: High stress + genetic risk factor = increased memory decline


High stress levels may contribute to memory loss among people at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The e4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene contributes to the risk for memory loss related to Alzheimer’s disease. Similarly, high circulating levels of cortisol, associated with high stress levels, also impairs memory. However, the interactive effects of this risk genotype and chronic stress are not well understood, so a new study being published in the September 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry was designed to explore this relationship. In their study, Peavy and colleagues performed genotyping and measured the chronic stress level in 91 older, healthy subjects (mean age was 78.8 years). Those low on stress or without the APOE-e4 risk factor performed better on memory measures than those with high stress or those positive for APOE-e4, respectively. Those individuals experiencing high stress and who were positive for APOE-e4 showed the greatest memory impairment.

Permalink08/28/07, 09:39:42 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 299 views, Medical Send feedback

Thomas A. Edison

“There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.”

Permalink08/28/07, 09:35:08 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 368 views, Quotes Send feedback

First Speeding Sentence


August 27th. The automobile was only a few years old when drivers began to get into trouble for speeding. The first known speeding ticket was issued to cab driver Jacob German in 1899 in New York City, cited by a policeman on a bicycle for driving at the breakneck speed of 12 miles an hour on Lexington Avenue. His license and registration were not confiscated, because neither were required until two years later. Across the nation, more than 100,000 people a day receive speeding tickets. The average citation costs $150 and often, a hefty increase in insurance rates. Nearly 43,000 people die each year in traffic accidents in the U.S. In more than 13,000 of these cases, speed is a factor in the accident.

Permalink08/27/07, 11:42:58 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 494 views, On This Day Send feedback

New Undersea Cable Will Link Ocean to Internet


Call it a new type of fishing “net": studying the ocean by connecting the seafloor to the Internet. The first step of NEPTUNE, a joint U.S.-Canadian effort to create the world’s first regional cabled ocean observatory, was made last week when the French ship Ile de Sein laid down submarine fiber-optic cables in the Pacific Ocean. Fiber-optic cables can transmit more data at a faster pace than other technologies. The Canadian section of the observatory, supported by the University of Victoria in Canada, will be built off the west coast of Vancouver Island. NEPTUNE Canada will connect hundreds of oceanographic instruments to the Internet by way of a 500-mile (800-kilometer) long fiber-optic cable that encircles the northern Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. The plate, which is named after a Greek explorer, is sliding under the western side of the North American plate. The instruments include underwater microphones that will “eavesdrop on the ocean"; sensors that will monitor nutrient levels; and various video cameras, wave sensors, and seismometers.

Permalink08/27/07, 09:06:29 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 296 views, Technology Send feedback

MUSC Researchers Discover Garlic Kills Brain Cancer Cells


For the first time, organo-sulfur compounds found in garlic have been identified as effective against glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor equivalent to a death sentence within a short period after diagnosis. Researchers studied three pure organo-sulfur compounds (DAS, DADS, and DATS) from garlic and the interaction with human glioblastoma cells. All three compounds demonstrated efficacy in eradicating brain cancer cells, but DATS proved to be the most effective. The study will be published in the September issue of the American Cancer Society’s journal, Cancer. Cancer cells have a high metabolism and require much energy for rapid growth. In this study, garlic compounds produced reactive oxygen species in brain cancer cells, essentially gorging them to death with activation of multiple death cascades.

Permalink08/27/07, 09:04:12 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 338 views, Medical Send feedback

No perfect pitch? Blame your genes


Perfect pitch, the ability to identify the absolute pitch of musical notes, looks to be the product of a small number of genes, according to a new University of California study. Many traits, such as high blood pressure or height, have genetic links but span a broad spectrum with relatively few people having extreme measurements. But with perfect pitch, also called absolute pitch, a person either has it or doesn’t, according to UC researchers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “This striking, bimodal distribution resolves the question of whether absolute pitch ability lies in the tail of a continuous perceptual spectrum or, rather, defines a distinct perceptual trait,” the researchers said. Judging by the fact that most people score either very well or very poorly, though, the researchers suggest that “AP ability could be governed by the influence of only one or a few genes.” Perfect pitch may seem an amazing gift, but as the study authors point out, the visual equivalent isn’t. Humans generally are pretty good at identifying the frequency of light they’re seeing with a color label. Although perfect pitch appears to be a genetic trait, early exposure to music or musical training appears to influence its development in those with the right DNA.

Permalink08/27/07, 09:02:03 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 322 views, Genes Send feedback

Engineers develop a mind-controlled prosthetic arm dexterous enough to play piano


More than 130 veterans of the Iraq war now face the daunting challenge of learning to live with a missing arm. To make that transition easier, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, has launched a $55-million project that pools the efforts of prosthetics experts nationwide to create a thought-controlled bionic arm that duplicates the functions of a natural limb. If all goes well, by 2009 the agency will petition the Food and Drug Administration to put the arm through clinical trials. This summer the team hit a critical milestone when it finished Proto 2, a thought-controlled mechanical arm—complete with hand and articulated fingers—that can perform 25 joint motions. This dexterity approaches that of a native arm, which can make 30 motions, and trumps the previously most agile bionic arm, the Proto 1, which could bend at the elbow, rotate its wrist and shoulder, and open and close its fingers. A person wearing a Proto 2 could conceivably play the piano. The next steps are to shrink the battery, develop more-efficient motors, and refine the bulky electrodes used to read electrical signals in muscles.

Permalink08/27/07, 03:05:38 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 337 views, Medical Send feedback

Crushed Glass to Be Spread on Beaches


Picture a beautiful beach spanning miles of coastline, gently lapped by aqua-colored water - and sprinkled with glass. Ouch? Think again. It feels just like sand, but with granules that sparkle in the sunlight. Faced with the constant erosion of Florida’s beaches, Broward County officials are exploring using recycled glass - crushed into tiny grains and mixed with regular sand - to help fill gaps. It’s only natural, backers of the idea say, since sand is the main ingredient in glass. “Basically, what we’re doing is taking the material and returning it back to its natural state,” said Phil Bresee, Broward’s recycling manager. The county would become the first in the nation to combine disposal of recycled glass with bolstering beach sand reserves, Bresee said. “You reduce waste stream that goes to our landfills and you generate materials that could be available for our beaches,” said Paden Woodruff of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Permalink08/27/07, 03:03:56 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 319 views, Recycling Send feedback

Labor Day Facts


The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a “Labor Day” on one day or another, and Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward – designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

Permalink08/27/07, 12:14:11 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 341 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

U.S. Obesity Rates Continue to Rise


Loosen the belt buckle another notch America: Obesity rates continued their climb in 31 states last year. No state showed a decline. Mississippi became the first state to crack the 30% barrier for adult residents considered to be obese. West Virginia and Alabama are just slightly behind, according to the Trust for America’s Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention. Colorado continued its reign as the leanest state in the nation with an obesity rate projected at 17.6%. This year’s report, for the first time, looked at obesity rates among children ages 10 to 17. The District of Columbia had the highest percentage – 22.8%. Utah had the lowest percentage of obese youth – 8.5%.

Permalink08/27/07, 12:07:04 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 342 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Workers' Average Commute Round-Trip Is 46 Minutes in a Typical Day


Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey finds that American workers report spending an average of 46 minutes commuting to and from work in a typical day. Workers at higher income levels and those who work at least 40 hours per week tend to have longer commutes than others. The vast majority of workers say their commute is not that stressful, but workers who travel at least an hour each day are much more likely than those who travel less than that to say their commute is stressful.

Permalink08/27/07, 08:35:30 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 343 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Defaults Bigger Threat for U.S. Economy than Terrorism


The risk of massive defaults on subprime mortgages and heavy debts now poses a bigger threat to U.S. economic prosperity than terrorism, a panel of U.S. business economists said on Monday. “The combined threat of subprime loan defaults and excessive indebtedness has supplanted terrorism and the Middle East as the biggest short-term threat to the U.S. economy,” the National Association for Business Economics said. The conclusion was based on a survey of 258 NABE members conducted between July 24 and Aug. 14 and updates one done in March. Only 20% of members said terrorism was now their top concern, compared with 35% in March. “Meanwhile, 18% of those surveyed pointed to the effects of the subprime debacle as their biggest concern, and the related issue of ‘excessive household and/or corporate debt’ was cited by another 14%,” NABE said.

Permalink08/27/07, 07:57:21 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 298 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Carbon Nanotube Sensors to Predict Asthma Attacks


An early warning system to detect and possibly prevent asthma attacks is being developed by investigators from the University of Pittsburgh: Researchers led by Alexander Star, a chemistry professor in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, created a sensor reactive to even minute amounts of nitric oxide, a gas prevalent in the breath of asthmatics, as they describe in the Aug. 22 online edition of the journal “Nanotechnology.” Star also will present his research at the American Chemical Society’s 234th National Meeting slated for Aug. 19-23 in Boston. The sensor consists of a carbon nanotube-a rolled, one-atom thick sheet of graphite 100,000 times smaller than a human hair-coated with a polyethylene imine polymer. Star cased the sensor in a hand-held device that people blow into to determine the nitric oxide content of their breath. The nitric oxide level in the breath of a person with asthma spikes as the airways grow more inflamed. High levels-perhaps two-thirds over normal-may precede an attack by one to three weeks, but possibly earlier depending on the asthma’s severity.

Permalink08/27/07, 07:54:07 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 374 views, Nano Send feedback

Blood, Sweat Could Power New Paper Battery


Blood and sweat could power a battery that looks just like a piece of paper, scientists say. “It’s flexible, it can be shaped or folded, you can poke a hole in it and it still works,” says chemist Robert Linhardt, a member of the research team that developed the new battery, which is made from paper and carbon nanotubes. He works at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. Regular AA batteries, like the ones in your camera, use battery acid to produce a current. But the new paper battery can run on blood or sweat. That means it might ultimately be used to power medical devices like hearing aids or pacemakers. “It could be easily implanted directly under the skin,” unlike metal batteries, which are less flexible, Linhardt says.

Permalink08/27/07, 07:51:56 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 394 views, Batteries Send feedback

Aug. 27, 1859: America Enters the Oil Bidness


1859: Drillers strike oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania. It becomes the first commercially viable oil well in the United States, the prototype for future oil well construction, and marks the birth of the U.S. petroleum industry. That the land around Crawford County held plenty of oil was already well-known. What was lacking was an effective method for extracting the crude and getting it to market. Enter Edwin Drake, who had spent the previous decade locating oil deposits in the area for the Seneca Oil Company. Frustrated by the limitations of existing methods of extraction, as well as problems with water seepage, Drake decided on a departure from the usual trench-digging technology. He turned to the methods used by salt-well drillers, which involved sinking a shaft straight to the source while providing more structural integrity. He also devised the drive pipe, made of segmented cast iron, as a boring tool.

Permalink08/27/07, 07:49:45 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 375 views, On This Day Send feedback

Your Ad Here, on My S.U.V.? And You’ll Pay?


Some companies pay millions to have their logos on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s racecar, but others prefer to pay Brian Katz $500 or more a month for space on his Ford Expedition. Mr. Katz, 32, of Manhattan, is one of the tens of thousands of motorists who have signed up to have their cars and trucks wrapped in advertisements in exchange for a stipend up to $800 a month. These offers are becoming so popular that car owners have been willing to limit where they shop and abide by a code of conduct while they are behind the wheel.

Permalink08/26/07, 10:33:27 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 384 views, Ad/Marketing Send feedback

Wine grape genome decoded, flavour genes found


Scientists in France and Italy have deciphered the complete genetic code for the plant producing wine grapes, according to a study published Sunday. While the findings will do nothing to enhance the mystique of winemaking, they could pave the way for gene-based manipulations to boost flavour and improve resistance against disease. Dozens of researchers analyzing the Pinot Noir varietal of Vitis vinifera, the core species from which virtually all grape wine is made, found twice as many genes contributing to aroma than in other sequenced plants, suggesting that wine flavours could be traced to the genome level. The French-Italian Public Consortium for Grapevine Genome Characterisation, which collectively authored the study, also gained crucial insights into the genetic evolution of plants over the last 200 million of years.

Permalink08/26/07, 10:25:17 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 318 views, Genes Send feedback

Cellphone-Only Homes Hit a Milestone


From September 2006 to April 2007, the percentage of Americans in cellphone-only households for the first time overtook the percentage in landline-only households, according to Mediamark Research, a firm that has been tracking such data since the mid-1980s. The milestone is a natural consequence of two trends: a glacially slow decline since 2000 in the percentage of households with landlines, and a steep rise in the number of households with cellphones. Mediamark said 84.5 percent of households now have landlines, and 86.2 percent have at least one cellphone. The data was collected through in-home surveys at roughly 13,000 homes across the country.

Permalink08/26/07, 10:23:28 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 391 views, Facts/Polls/Trends Send feedback

Silicon nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells


“Integrating a high-quality film of silicon nanoparticles 1 nanometer in size directly onto silicon solar cells improves power performance by 60 percent in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum,” said Munir Nayfeh, a physicist at the University of Illinois and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in Applied Physics Letters. A 10 percent improvement in the visible range of the spectrum can be achieved by using nanoparticles 2.85 nanometers in size, said Nayfeh, who also is a researcher at the university’s Beckman Institute. In conventional solar cells, ultraviolet light is either filtered out or absorbed by the silicon and converted into potentially damaging heat, not electricity. In previous work, however, Nayfeh showed that ultraviolet light could efficiently couple to correctly sized nanoparticles and produce electricity. That work was reported in the August 2004 issue of the journal Photonics Technology Letters.

Permalink08/26/07, 10:19:52 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 350 views, Solar Send feedback

Light Brings Out the Worst in Some Disease-Causing Bacteria


A new study shows that some types of bacteria can sense light, and that exposing one type of disease-causing bacterium–the Brucella bacterium–to light increases its capacity to infect humans and livestock. This study represents the first time that light has been shown to play a role in bacterial virulence (infection). Brucella bacteria “have been very well studied for years, and no one knew they could sense light,” said Trevor Swartz of the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study’s lead author. “And now it seems like it’s a common thing rather than being an anomaly.” The study, which was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted by an international team of scientists, is described in the August 24 issue of Science.

Permalink08/26/07, 01:50:42 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 286 views, Science Send feedback

Genetic GPS for Tracking Boll Weevils


Fortunately, the boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis), which devastated U.S. cotton crops for much of the 20th century, is now found only in parts of the mid-South and South Texas, thanks to eradication efforts. But monitoring weevils to keep track of where they are coming from—and where they’re going—is vital for protecting cotton crops in the United States. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Tom Sappington works in the ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit at Ames, Iowa. He has tracked local weevil movements by marking the insects with enamel paint or fluorescent powders and recapturing them later. Now he uses “microsatellites”—short, repetitive DNA sequences—and population assignment tests to find out where weevils in different populations have come from. These tests help pinpoint the migratory patterns and origins of boll weevils over long distances.

Permalink08/26/07, 01:38:51 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 335 views, GPS Send feedback

Insect genes provide clues to help beat the heat


New findings from insect studies at Queen¡¯s and U of T may help to protect our brains from extremely high fevers that sometimes trigger seizures, particularly in infants and small children. While the seizures themselves are generally harmless, a prolonged fever resulting from infection or heatstroke of over 108¢ªF (42¢ªC) can eventually lead to respiratory distress, cognitive dysfunction, brain damage, or death. The research suggests that manipulation of a single gene or genetic pathway in fruit flies and locusts will rapidly protect the nervous system from failure due to extreme heat stress. ¡°We¡¯ve been studying neuro-protective mechanisms in these model systems for more than a decade, and were amazed by the speed and potency of this treatment,¡± says senior researcher Mel Robertson, head of Biology at Queen¡¯s. The findings are published on-line today in the journal PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science ONE).

Permalink08/26/07, 01:37:05 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 317 views, Genes Send feedback

'Longevity' Genes Protect Very Old People From The Bad Genes' Harmful Effects


People who live to 100 or more are known to have just as many—and sometimes even more—harmful gene variants compared with younger people. Now, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered the secret behind this paradox: favorable “longevity” genes that protect very old people from the bad genes’ harmful effects. The novel method used by the researchers could lead to new drugs to protect against age-related diseases. The Einstein researchers were able to construct a network of gene interactions that contributes to the understanding of longevity. In particular, they found that the favorable variant of the gene CETP acts to buffer the harmful effects of the disease-causing gene Lp(a). If future research finds that a single longevity gene buffers against several disease-causing genes, then drugs that mimic the action of the longevity gene could help protect against cardiovascular disease and other age-related diseases.

Permalink08/25/07, 06:08:15 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 644 views, Genes Send feedback

Los Angeles in an earthquake lull


A California researcher says Los Angeles is in the midst of a 1,000-year seismic lull characterized by relatively small and infrequent earthquakes. The report, published in the September issue of Geology, suggests seismic activity alternates between the Los Angeles basin and the Mojave Desert, which is in a seismically active period. James Dolan, associate professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California, said the Northridge earthquake of 1994 was a drop in the bucket compared to the massive jolts that would strike the basin during a period of high seismic activity. The past 1,000 years has been relatively quiet, Dolan said Friday in a release.

Permalink08/25/07, 06:05:00 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 400 views, Earth Send feedback

Solar Sensors Could Monitor Bridges


Steve Arms started by designing sensors that could be arthroscopically implanted to measure strain on knee ligaments. These days, Arms and his company, MicroStrain Inc., are experimenting with wireless sensing technology that could play a bigger role in assessing the condition of bridges after one in Minneapolis collapsed two weeks ago, killing at least nine people. The wireless, solar-powered sensor system can provide data on strain, seismic activity and vibrations on bridges, eliminating the need to manually replace batteries once the sensors are installed in hard-to-access places. Already in place on the Corinth Canal Bridge in Greece and an Interstate 95 bridge in New London, Conn., the sensors harvest energy from the sun using 6-by-9-inch photovoltaic panels. The panels are linked to rechargeable batteries and power microelectronic modules that record data from inside watertight enclosures. The data is transmitted to computers via wireless connections.

Permalink08/25/07, 08:36:52 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 452 views, Solar Send feedback

DNA Controls Nanoparticles


DNA, the molecule that carries life’s blueprint, is being used to control the size of nanoparticles and the speed at which they form. Learning how to tailor their assembly could lead to the creation of nanoparticles for more efficient energy generation, data storage and drug delivery systems, among other uses. Mathew Maye, a chemist in Brookhaven National Laboratory’s new Center for Functional Nanomaterials, presented the findings yesterday at the 234th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. “We can synthesize nanoparticles with very well-controlled optical, catalytic, and magnetic properties,” Maye said. “They are usually free-flowing in solution, but for use in a functional device, they have to be organized in three dimensions, or on surfaces, in a well-controlled manner. That’s where self-assembly comes into play. We want the particles to do the work themselves.” Using optical measurements, transmission electron microscopy, and x-ray scattering at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source, Maye and his colleagues have shown how to control the self-assembly of gold nanoparticles with the help of various types of DNA.

Permalink08/25/07, 08:33:40 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 298 views, Nano Send feedback

Transform Your Face


The University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, has developed some face-transforming software that allows people to change the age, sex, or ethnicity of the person in an image that you export from your computer. Or, blend features from a number of faces into one amalgam. If all that is too creepy, then just import art or animal images and morph them.

Permalink08/25/07, 12:00:54 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 312 views, Technology Send feedback

Gene-Based Algorithm Allows Individualized Warfarin Dosing


Safer, more predictable warfarin therapy could come from pretreatment genotyping to individualize dosing, investigators reported. Combining data on polymorphisms for two genes with clinical variables resulted in an algorithm that accounted for 79% of the variability in therapeutic dose in orthopedics patients, Brian F. Gage, M.D., of Washington University here, and colleagues reported online and in the Sept. 1 issue of Blood. “Ultimately, with further validation and refinement, this pharmacogenetic model should yield a streamlined approach to refining the dose and improving the safety and efficiency of warfarin initiation,” the authors concluded. Marked variation in individual dosing requirements and a narrow therapeutic index have long complicated the use of warfarin. Doses that are too high or too low increase the risk of potentially serious adverse events, including fatal bleeding.

Permalink08/24/07, 11:37:38 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 342 views, Medical Send feedback

Consumer Innovations to Inform Web Site for Spies


Government agents may soon find valuable information through an online-recommendation system like the one on Amazon.com: Spies who read this report, it might say, also found these reports useful. That is one of several features the Office of the Director of National Intelligence might borrow from mainstream technology as it designs its new Web-based information-sharing system. The DNI is working on a new system intended to “tunnel through” the 16 different intelligence-gathering agencies in hopes of streamlining data sharing, said Michael Wertheimer, DNI’s assistant deputy director for analytic transformation and technology. The system, called A-Space, will only be open to those cleared to use it and is scheduled to go live in December. The DNI said it was taking its cues from social networking sites, Web-based mail, online maps and other commonly used online tools. Next month, it will take its concepts to a conference in Chicago, where universities, tech companies and other government agencies will be invited to scrutinize the project. “This is a revolutionary concept for us,” Wertheimer said. “This is unlike any other technology we’ve created.” This is not the government’s first attempt to imitate consumer technology. Last year, inspired by the popular user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia, the government launched Intellipedia, an internal site aimed at information exchange in the intelligence community.

Permalink08/24/07, 11:34:06 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 333 views, Technology Send feedback

With Software and Soldering, a Non-AT&T iPhone


AT&T is paying millions to be the exclusive United States provider of Apple’s much-hyped and glowingly reviewed gadget, the iPhone. It took 17-year-old George Hotz two months of work to undermine AT&T’s investment. Mr. Hotz, a resident of Glen Rock, N.J., published detailed instructions online this week that he says will let iPhone owners abandon AT&T’s service and use their phones on some competing cellular networks. Mr. Hotz’s method, which requires a soldering gun, a steady hand and a set of obscure software tools, is one of several techniques that have emerged over the last week to break the technological locks confining the iPhone to AT&T’s network. “This was about opening up the device for everyone,” Mr. Hotz said in an interview over his iPhone, which he was using on the network of T-Mobile, a rival to AT&T. Last fall, the Librarian of Congress issued an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ruling that people can legally unlock their cellphones. But the ruling does not specifically apply to people like Mr. Hotz and the iPhoneSimFree group who distribute the unlocking tools.

Permalink08/24/07, 11:31:46 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 295 views, Technology Send feedback

Astronaut faces love rival in court


Former US astronaut Lisa Nowak on Friday came face-to-face in court with the romantic rival she is accused of attacking after allegedly driving half-way across the United States wearing diapers. And in testimony that raised eyebrows in the courtroom, a police officer said Nowak had told him she had used the soiled baby diapers he found in the back of her car to avoid making too many stops on her long drive from Texas to Orlando, Florida. Nowak, whose bizarre saga has earned her nicknames such as “astronutty,’ asked the court to remove the monitoring bracelet she has to wear pending her September 24 trial. But the woman she allegedly attacked and plotted to kidnap testified that she is still scared of her.

Permalink08/24/07, 11:27:50 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 407 views, Court/Police Send feedback

GPS Alarm Shoes for Sex Workers


Where would a good prostitute be without her (or his) signature platform shoes? In trouble, that’s where. The Aphrodite projects has taken steps to protect street-walkers with Platforms. The shoes have a built in audible alarm to scare off attackers, and when the alarm is triggered, the prostitute’s position is transmitted to either the police (in places where prostitution is legal) or to sex worker’s rights groups. The GPS unit uses APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) a system which uses amateur radio frequencies to send data, which, ironically, was first developed at the United States Naval Academy (all the nice girls love a sailor).

Permalink08/24/07, 06:17:35 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 340 views, Over The Top Send feedback

NYPD rejects 'dopey' meatball defense


So much for the meatball defense. A veteran counterterrorism detective’s claims that he flunked a drug test because his wife served him marijuana-spiked meatballs “simply weren’t credible,” and he has been fired by the New York Police Department, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Thursday. With the dismissal, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly rejected an earlier recommendation by an administrative judge that the detective, Anthony Chiofalo, be reinstated. Kelly has final say on firings. An attorney for Chiofalo did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. Chiofalo, a 22-year-veteran assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, was suspended without pay in 2005 after a random drug test found marijuana in his system. The officer denied ever using drugs and demanded a hearing.

Permalink08/24/07, 06:15:38 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 435 views, Court/Police Send feedback

New Cancer Weapon: Nuclear Nanocapsules


Rice University chemists have found a way to package some of nature’s most powerful radioactive particles inside DNA-sized tubes of pure carbon – a method they hope to use to target tiny tumors and even lone leukemia cells. “There are no FDA-approved cancer therapies that employ alpha-particle radiation,” said lead researcher Lon Wilson, professor of chemistry. “Approved therapies that use beta particles are not well-suited for treating cancer at the single-cell level because it takes thousands of beta particles to kill a lone cell. By contrast, cancer cells can be destroyed with just one direct hit from an alpha particle on a cell nucleus.” In the study, Wilson, Rice graduate student Keith Hartman, University of Washington (UW) radiation oncologist Scott Wilbur and UW research scientist Donald Hamlin, developed and tested a process to load astatine atoms inside short sections of carbon nanotubes. Because astatine is the rarest naturally occurring element on Earth – with less than a teaspoon estimated to exist in the Earth’s crust at any given time – the research was conducted using astatine created in a UW cyclotron.

Permalink08/24/07, 06:14:07 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 635 views, Nano Send feedback

Nanotechnology a new energy tool


A consortium of energy companies, working with the University of Texas at Austin, plans to research the use of nanotechnology to help produce oil and natural gas. The proposal came to light Thursday when the Justice Department announced it would not oppose the project on antitrust grounds. Nanotechnology involves the manufacture of materials at the nanometer scale — one one-billionth of a meter. A human hair is about 80,000 nano- meters wide. The joint venture partners, calling themselves the Advanced Energy Consortium, want to develop subsurface nanosensors that could be injected into oil and gas well bores. They believe the tiny nanosensors would migrate from the well hole into the pores of surrounding geological structures, collecting information producers could use to evaluate the potential of a reservoir. The partners are BP America, ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Corp., Shell International E&P, Occidental Oil & Gas Corp., Halliburton Energy Services and Schlumberger Technology Corp., according to the Justice Department. UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology will manage the project. Each member will contribute $1 million a year for the first three years of the project to fund the research, according to information provided to the Justice Department by the consortium and quoted in the department’s response to the consortium’s lawyer. UT will conduct the research and will own any inventions resulting from the work, while the companies will have the right to make and sell any patented technology.

Permalink08/24/07, 06:12:12 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 870 views, Nano Send feedback

Susan Ertz

“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

Permalink08/24/07, 05:53:52 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 375 views, Quotes Send feedback

Olin Miller

“You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”

Permalink08/24/07, 05:52:29 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 374 views, Quotes Send feedback

Paul Valery

“Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.”

Permalink08/24/07, 05:51:47 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 386 views, Quotes Send feedback

Sir Arthur Eddington

“We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.”

Permalink08/24/07, 05:50:59 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 371 views, Quotes Send feedback

Bertrand Russell

“Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so.”

Permalink08/24/07, 05:48:48 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 355 views, Quotes Send feedback

Astronomers Puzzled by Cosmic Black Hole


Astronomers have stumbled upon a tremendous hole in the universe. That’s got them scratching their heads about what’s just not there. The cosmic blank spot has no stray stars, no galaxies, no sucking black holes, not even mysterious dark matter. It is 1 billion light years across of nothing. That’s an expanse of nearly 6 billion trillion miles of emptiness, a University of Minnesota team announced Thursday. Astronomers have known for many years that there are patches in the universe where nobody’s home. In fact, one such place is practically a neighbor, a mere 2 million light years away. But what the Minnesota team discovered, using two different types of astronomical observations, is a void that’s far bigger than scientists ever imagined. “This is 1,000 times the volume of what we sort of expected to see in terms of a typical void,” said Minnesota astronomy professor Lawrence Rudnick, author of the paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal. “It’s not clear that we have the right word yet … This is too much of a surprise.”

Permalink08/24/07, 12:46:58 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 431 views, Space Send feedback

Telecom Firms Helped With Government's Warrantless Wiretaps


The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that telecommunications companies assisted the government’s warrantless surveillance program and were being sued as a result, an admission some legal experts say could complicate the government’s bid to halt numerous lawsuits challenging the program’s legality. “Under the president’s program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us,” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in an interview with the El Paso Times published Wednesday. His statement could help plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits against the telecom companies, which allege that the companies participated in a wiretapping program that violated Americans’ privacy rights, former Justice Department officials said. Warrantless surveillance began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was placed under supervision of a special court in January. An appeals court in San Francisco is weighing the government’s argument that these cases should be thrown out on the grounds that the subject matter is a “state secret” and that its disclosure would jeopardize national security. The government has repeatedly asserted that any relationship between the telecommunications firms and the National Security Agency’s spy program is classified. The firms’ alleged cooperation and other details of the program, government lawyers have argued, are so sensitive that they cannot be disclosed.

Permalink08/24/07, 12:42:28 am, by GEN-ERIC Email , 423 views, Privacy Send feedback

Female tutors best for boys' reading


The reading skills of young male students may improve more when boys are tutored by women, a Canadian study shows, contradicting some school policies to hire male teachers to improve boys’ literacy. Herb Katz, an education professor at the University of Alberta, took 175 boys in the third and fourth grades, identified as struggling readers, and paired them with a research assistant who worked on their reading skills for 30 minutes a week over 10 weeks. On average, the boys paired with female tutors felt better about their reading skills after the 10 weeks than those who were coached by a male research assistant, the study found. Katz said the study, published in the U.S. journal Sex Roles, may prompt educational policy-makers in countries such as Australia and Britain to rethink directives that call for more male teachers to be hired to provide role models for boys whose reading skills lag their peers.

Permalink08/23/07, 07:08:20 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 399 views, Education Send feedback

Judge to Decide on Cop's Sense of Smell


A judge will have to decide again whether a police officer can smell alcohol on a man’s breath from inside of a fast-food drive-through window. The prosecution believes Officer Kenneth Marrow can and did earlier this year. The attorney for 24-year-old Cody Schaaf disagrees and says the officer had no reasonable cause to stop Schaaf on suspicion of drunken driving. The stipulated trial Monday in Lancaster County Court centered on the arrest of Schaaf early in the morning of March 20. Sometime before 3 a.m., Schaaf ordered four cheeseburgers at a McDonald’s south of downtown Lincoln. As Schaaf’s car got to the pickup window, Schaaf was asked by a McDonald’s worker to pull ahead a few feet and wait for his food. The officer took the food to Schaaf’s car and eventually arrested him. Schaaf’s blood later tested out above the legal limit. A police spokeswoman said Wednesday that the officer had stopped at the restaurant because its managers had been reporting problems with drunken customers. Marrow testified during a hearing in July that Schaaf had bloodshot, watery eyes and that his speech was slurred. Marrow said he could smell alcohol coming from the car. But Mark Rappl, Schaaf’s lawyer, challenged Marrow’s account, doubting the officer could have detected the alcohol from inside the restaurant, seven feet from Schaaf.

Permalink08/23/07, 07:06:03 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 368 views, Court/Police Send feedback

AT&T kills the 300-page iPhone bill


AT&T Inc. will start sending iPhone customers thinner bills by default starting with their next billing cycle, the wireless carrier has told subscribers by text message. The change comes a week after blogs and forums lit up with tales of new iPhone owners receiving bills stretching scores, or even hundreds, of pages. Justine Ezarik, a graphic designer and blogger from Pittsburgh, became a temporary YouTube star for the video showing her unwrapping her first bill, a 300-page pile that listed every one of the estimated 30,000 to 35,000 text messages she sends each month.

Permalink08/23/07, 04:42:20 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 3196 views, Over The Top Send feedback

Running a battery on sugar


A number of companies are trying to figure out ways to make cellulosic ethanol by breaking down sugar with microbes and enzymes. Sony has used similar principles to build a battery. In short, the anode of the battery consists of enzymes–a protein that speeds up chemical reactions in living organisms–which digest sugar while the cathode that breaks down oxygen. The two are connected by a membrane. The anodie extracts electrons and hydrogen. The hydrogen migrates through a membrane to the cathode side and makes water with the oxygen. Those loose electrons go to power your MP3 player or phone. Test batteries produced by Sony have managed to produce 50 milliwatts. The company even strung a bunch of them together to power an MP3 player. Sony presented a paper on it at the 234th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition in Boston, one of the premier and longest running scientific conferences in the world.

Permalink08/23/07, 04:38:13 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 301 views, Technology Send feedback

A light bulb powered by radio waves


Most lightbulbs create light with a pair electrodes. Luxim does it with radio waves. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based start-up has come up with a way to get rid of the parts inside of high intensity discharge (HID) lamps that are often the first to fail. As a result, Luxim’s LiFi (light fidelity) lamp provides more lumens per watt and lasts longer than competing products, according to the company. In traditional HID lamps, high voltage pulses pass between two electrodes. The energy creates plasma from the ambient gases trapped inside the bulb and you get light. The electrodes, however, degrade over time. Tungsten splatters off of them and blackens the surface of the bulb.
By contrast, the Luxim bulb doesn’t have electrodes. Instead, a radio frequency amplifier pumps RF waves to an antenna inside a resonant cavity. The interaction between the waves and the crystal cavity convert trapped gases into a plasma.

Permalink08/23/07, 12:23:34 pm, by GEN-ERIC Email , 1350 views, Technology Send feedback