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Astronomers conduct first remote reconnaissance of another solar system

New imaging tools penetrate bright starlight to image planets; could help identify candidate habitable planets for 100YSS expedition
March 14, 2013

Image of the HR8799 planets with starlight optically suppressed and data processing conducted to remove residual starlight. The star is at the center of the blackened circle in the image. The four spots indicated with the letters b through e are the planets. This is a composite image using 30 wavelengths of light and was obtained over a period of 1.25 hours on June 14 and 15, 2012. (Credit:

Researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding light of stars.

Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of this system’s four red exoplanets, which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth.

A detailed description of the… read more

Earth-sized planets in habitable zones are more common than previously thought

March 14, 2013

(Credit: Chester Harman)

The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is greater than previously thought, according to a  new analysis by a Penn State researcher, and some of those planets are likely lurking around nearby stars.

“We now estimate that if we were to look at 10 of the nearest small stars we would find about four potentially habitable planets,” said Ravi Kopparapu, an Evan… read more

The closest star system found in a century

March 14, 2013

This image is an artist's conception of the binary system WISE J104915.57-531906 with the Sun in the background (credit: Janella Williams/Penn State)

A pair of stars in the third-closest star system to the Sun has been discovered by an astronomer —  the closest star system discovered since 1916.

The discovery was made by Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and a researcher in Penn State’s Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds.

The star system,  named “WISE J104915.57-531906″ (discovered in a map by… read more

Untangling life’s origins

The "Big Bang" of protein evolution
March 13, 2013

protein_topologies_optimization

Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions about the origins of life.

Proteins are formed from chains of amino acids and fold into three-dimensional structures that determine their function. According to crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, very little is known about… read more

Expanding beyond 3D printed guns

March 13, 2013

3d-printed-gun

At a panel discussion at SXSW Monday, Defense Distributed (DEFCAD) founder Cody Wilson unveiled that DEFCAD is working on plans to expand its efforts beyond just firearms to any controversial object users feel like uploading, including grenades and patented ones, VentureBeat reports.

Cody:
Can 3D printing be subversive? If it can, it will be because it allows us to make the important things — not trinkets, not lawn gnomes,… read more

Google Glass apps revealed at SXSW

March 13, 2013

abc_nyt_google_glasses_mi_130311_wblog

At the SXSW Interactive Festival, Timothy Jordan, Google’s Senior Developer Advocate, showed off how you navigate Google Glass and how apps like Gmail, the New York Times, and Evernote work on the glasses, ABC News reports.

The glasses have a small screen visible over your right eye. The right arm of the glasses, which contains the computing parts (processor, RAM, etc.), is equipped with a… read more

Protein adaptations in Antarctica may explain strategies for survival on Mars

March 13, 2013

A satellite composite image of Antarctica (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine has revealed key features in proteins needed for life to function on Mars and other extreme environments.

The researchers, funded by NASA, studied organisms that survive in the extreme environment of Antarctica.

They found subtle but significant differences between the core proteins in ordinary organisms and Haloarchaea, organisms that can tolerate severe conditions such as… read more

Google wants to replace all your passwords with a ring

March 13, 2013

YubiKey-NEO-+-finger

As part of research into doing away with typed passwords, Google has built rings that not only adorn a finger but also can be used to log in to a computer or online account, MIT Technology Review reports.

At the RSA security conference in San Francisco last month, Mayank Upadhyay, a principal engineer at Google,  said that using personal hardware to log in would remove the dangers of… read more

Researchers peek at the structure of the viral Internet

March 13, 2013

viral search

At Microsoft Research’s annual technology demo day this week, researchers showed off a tool called Viral Search that attempts to measure virality in its more literal sense. That means not overall traffic over time, but the mechanics by which it passes from person to person over many generations, MIT Technology Review reports.

The software looked at 1.4 billion Tweets over the course of a year… read more

NASA rover finds conditions once suited for ancient life on Mars

March 13, 2013

curiosity_samples

An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.

“A fundamental… read more

Designing interlocking building blocks to create complex tissues

March 13, 2013

The image above illustrates mathematical modeling of the migration of mesenchymal stem cells (encapsulated in cylinders) in response to signals released by endothelial cells (encapsulated in rectangles). The color intensity corresponds to concentration, and the arrows represent directions of cell motion. (Credit: George Eng/U)

Columbia University researchers have developed a new “plug-and-play” method to assemble complex cell microenvironments in a scalable, highly precise way to fabricate tissues with any spatial organization or interest — such as those found in the heart or skeleton or vasculature.

The lock-and-key technique can be used to build cellular assemblies using a variety of shapes that lock into templates like LEGO building blocks, according… read more

A high-resolution endoscope as thin as a human hair

March 13, 2013

Kahn_spot_endoscope_stanford

Engineers at Stanford University have developed a prototype single-fiber endoscope that is as thin as a human hair, with a resolution four times better than previous devices of similar design.

The “micro-endoscope” is a significant step forward in high-resolution, minimally invasive bioimaging, with potential applications in research and clinical practice. Micro-endoscopy could enable new methods in diverse fields ranging from study of the brain to early cancer… read more

Sleep discovery could lead to therapies that improve memory

But a medical study found increased risk of death from taking sleeping pills
March 13, 2013

sleeping

A team of sleep researchers led by UC Riverside psychologist Sara C. Mednick has confirmed the mechanism that enables the brain to consolidate memory and found that a commonly prescribed sleep aid enhances the process.

Those discoveries could lead to new sleep therapies that will improve memory for aging adults and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and schizophrenia.

Earlier research found a correlation between sleep spindles —… read more

Stanford psychologists uncover brain-imaging inaccuracies

March 12, 2013

The researchers found that traditional methods of processing fMRI data may lead scientists to overlook smaller brain structures, thus skewing their results (credit:

Traditional methods of fMRI analysis systematically skew which regions of the brain appear to be activating, potentially invalidating hundreds of papers that use the technique, according to Stanford School of Medicine researchers.

Pictures of brain regions “activating” are by now a familiar accompaniment to any neurological news story (including some in KurzweilAI — see Editor’s note below). With functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, you can see… read more

iPad explores quantum computing

March 12, 2013

dwave_ones_in_the_lab_large

A new section in Lockheed Martin’s LM Tomorrow, a free app for iPad users, explores quantum physics in an interactive, easy-to-understand format. The LM Tomorrow app received the gold-level “W3 Award” in 2012 for creative excellence on the web.

The Quantum Theory section draws on expanding research into the  potential of quantum computing to solve challenges ranging from designing lifesaving new drugs to instantaneously… read more

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