Archives for: September 2007
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
“Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.”
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.
“I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.”
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.
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.
“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
“There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“The biggest difference between time and space is that you can’t reuse time.”
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.
“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.
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.”
“Never get a mime talking. He won’t stop.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.”
“The funny thing is that everything is science fiction at one time or another.”
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.
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.
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.