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Ferroelectric-graphene-based structure could lead to faster, smaller chips

June 24, 2013

Schematics of a ferroelectric-graphene-ferroelectric nanostructure. Different domains of ferroelectrics can define densely packed waveguide patterns on graphene. Terahertz plasmons at ultrashort wavelength can flow on these waveguides. (Credit: Qing Hu)

MIT researchers have proposed a new system that combines ferroelectric materials — the kind often used for data storage — with graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon known for its exceptional electronic and mechanical properties.

The resulting hybrid technology could eventually lead to computer and data-storage chips that pack more components in a given area and are faster and less power-hungry.

The new system… read more

Measuring the human pulse from tiny head movements to help diagnose cardiac disease

Could possibly be incorporated in a tricorder
June 24, 2013

Using direction and magnitude of movement of feature points for pulse signal extraction

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a new algorithm that can accurately measure the heart rates of people depicted in ordinary digital video by analyzing imperceptibly small head movements that accompany the rush of blood caused by the heart’s contractions.

In tests, the algorithm gave pulse measurements that were consistently within a few beats per minute… read more

A battery made of wood: long-lasting, efficient, environmentally friendly

June 23, 2013


University of Maryland researchers have developed and tested a battery with anodes made of tin-coated wood that are a thousand times thinner than a piece of paper.

Using sodium instead of lithium (which is used in many rechargeable batteries) makes the battery environmentally benign. Also, while sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium, its low cost and use of commonly available materials would make… read more

Fear of thinking war machines may push US to exascale

June 23, 2013


China’s retaking of the global supercomputing crown was discussed at a congressional forum this week on cognitive computing, Computerworld reports.

Unlike China and Europe, the U.S. has yet to adopt and fund an exascale development program.

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), who talked about China’s new 33.89-petaflop system, Tianhe-2, is finalizing a bill “that will push our nation toward exascale” — the American… read more

The Red Queen was right: life must continually evolve to avoid extinction

June 22, 2013


A University of California, Berkeley study has found that a lack of new emerging species contributes to extinction over a period of millions of years.

The researchers studied 19 groups of mammals that either are extinct or in decline from a past peak in diversity, as in the case of horses, elephants, rhinos and others.

The “Red Queen” hypothesis

The study was conducted… read more

Funding for ALS patient Aaron Winborn’s cryopreservation meets goal

June 22, 2013


The Society For Venturism has received the remaining $28,000 funding needed for cryopreservation of ALS patient Aaron Winborn at Cryonics Institute, according to Shannon Vyff, a director of the society (see “ALS patient hopes to be cryopreserved“).

In addition to funding from individuals, the Life Extension Foundation (LEF) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is donating $10,000 toward Winborn’s cryopreservation… read more

BigBrain: an ultra-high-resolution 3D roadmap of the human brain

June 21, 2013

BigBrain (credit: Montreal Neurological Institute and Forschungszentrum Jülich)

A landmark three-dimensional (3-D) digital reconstruction of a complete human brain, called the BigBrain, shows for the first time the brain anatomy in microscopic detail — at a spatial resolution of 20 microns, smaller than the size of one fine strand of hair — exceeding that of existing reference brains presently in the public domain.

The new tool is made freely available to the broader scientific community to advance… read more

What do memories look like?

Glowing neurons reveal memory formation in vivo
June 21, 2013

A living neuron in culture: Green dots indicate excitatory synapses and red dots indicate inhibitory synapses. (Photo/Don Arnold)

A USC research team has engineered microscopic probes that light up synapses in a living neuron in real time by attaching fluorescent markers onto synaptic proteins, without affecting the neuron’s ability to function.

The fluorescent markers allow scientists to see live excitatory and inhibitory synapses for the first time, and how they change as new memories are formed.

The synapses appear as bright spots along dendrites… read more

How neural stem cells create new and varied neurons

June 21, 2013


A new study examining the brains of fruit flies reveals a novel stem cell mechanism that may help explain how neurons form in humans.

“The question we confronted was ‘How does a single kind of stem cell, like a neural stem cell, make all different kinds of neurons?,’” said Chris Doe, a biology professor.

Researchers have known for some time that stem cells are capable of producing… read more

Reversing the loss of brain connections in Alzheimer’s disease

June 21, 2013

Photomicrograph of nerve cell during an electrical recording (left), fluorescently labeled nerve cell (right) (credit:

The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham.

The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that destroys the connections between neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.

The decade-long study, led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Del… read more

Biologists identify chemical behind cancer resistance in naked mole rats

May work in people
June 21, 2013

Naked mole rats are subterranean rodents that have never been known to get cancer. (Photo by Brandon Vick/University of Rochester.)

Researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered the chemical that makes “naked mole rats” cancer-proof.

The findings could eventually lead to new cancer treatments in people, said study authors Andrei Seluanov and Vera Gorbunova.

Naked mole rats are small, hairless, subterranean rodents that have never been known to get cancer, despite having a 30-year lifespan.

The research group led by Seluanov and Gorbunova discovered… read more

Combining materials to make nanoscale 2D electronic components

June 21, 2013

Schematics and experimental images produced by Oak Ridge National Laboratory show defects at the 60-degree grain boundaries in two-dimensional samples of molybdenum disulfide. The defects are 5- and 7-atom dislocation cores; the numbers refer to locations where the atomic arrangements veer from regular six-atom hexagons. Their presence indicates a one-dimensional conductive “wire” that runs along the boundary. In the illustration, the molybdenum atoms are cyan and the sulfur atoms are orange and yellow. (Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Scientists at Rice University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have advanced on the goal of achieving two-dimensional electronics with a method to control the growth of uniform atomic layers of molybdenum disulfide (MDS).

MDS, a semiconductor, is one of three materials needed to make functioning 2D electronic components. The hope is that MDS could be joined with graphene, which has no band gap, and… read more

New step towards silicon-based quantum computer

June 21, 2013


Researchers at the University of New South Wales have proposed a new way to distinguish between quantum bits that are placed only a few nanometers apart in a silicon chip, taking them a step closer to the construction of a large-scale quantum computer.

Quantum bits, or qubits, are the basic building blocks of quantum computers — ultra-powerful devices that will offer enormous advantages for solving… read more

Identifying emotions based on brain activity and machine-learning techniques

Could this be used for "precrime" detection, as in Minority Report?
June 21, 2013

The image shows the average positions of brain regions used to identify emotional states (credit:

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have identified which emotion a person is experiencing based on brain activity.

The study, published in the June 19 issue of PLOS ONE (open access), combines functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and machine learning to measure brain signals to accurately read emotions in individuals.

Led by researchers in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the findings illustrate how… read more

In historic victory for community radio, FCC puts 1,000 low-power FM frequencies up for grabs

June 20, 2013

free radio

In a major victory for the community radio movement after a 15-year campaign, the Federal Communications Commission has announced it will soon begin accepting applications for hundreds of new low-power FM radio stations in October, according to Democracy Now.

“This means nonprofits, labor unions and community groups have a one-time-only chance this year to own a bit of the broadcast airwaves. It is being heralded as ‘the… read more

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