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Breakthrough in hydrogen fuel production could ‘revolutionize alternative energy market’

April 9, 2013

Sources of hydrogen: plants (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A team of Virginia Tech researchers has discovered a way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world, the researchers say.

“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agricultureread more

Miniature chip detects rogue cancer cells

April 9, 2013

A cancer cell (left) can cause havoc if it enters the bloodstream. Researchers use micro-scale instruments (right) to hunt for cancer cells in blood samples. (Credit: (left) Emre Ozkumur, (right) Berkin Cilingiroglu/National<br />
University of Singapore)

Researchers at at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a device that can detect even a single cell of any type of cancer circulating in blood, allowing early treatment of metastasis and new insights into cancer genetics, Science Now reports.

Called the CTC-iChip system (the “i” is for “inertial focusing”), it targets blood cells instead of cancer cells. Sorting by cell size, the first chip skims off small… read more

3D-printing synthetic tissues

April 9, 2013

Schematic of printing in aqueous solution. Aqueous droplets are ejected into a<br />
drop of oil suspended in bulk aqueous solution.

A custom-built programmable 3D printer can create materials with some the properties of living tissues, Oxford University scientists have demonstrated.

The new type of material consists of tens of thousands of picoliter connected water droplets encapsulated within lipid films, which can perform some of the functions of the cells inside our bodies.

These printed “droplet networks” might be interfaced with tissues, used as tissue… read more

The BRAIN Initiative: BAM or BUST?

April 9, 2013

President Barack Obama is introduced by Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, at the BRAIN Initiative event in the East Room of the White House, April 2, 2013 (credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

What is the BRAIN* Project about? What are its goals?

“Well, nobody knows, actually. I certainly don’t know. But it appears that no one else knows either.” So says Scicurious, a PhD in Physiology and currently a postdoc in biomedical research, on her The Scicurious Brain blog on Scientific American.

“Basically, BRAIN is a very fancy initiative, with a fancy name … and so far,… read more

Solar achieves grid parity in India and Italy, others to follow in 2014

April 8, 2013

Solar panels

Analysts at Deutsche Bank have predicted that the global solar PV sector will transition from a subsidized market to a sustainable market within a year, citing the arrival of “grid parity” in a number of key markets, unexpectedly strong demand and rebounding margins, reports Renew Economy.

The Deutsche Bank team said key markets such as India, China and the U.S. are experiencing strong demand and solar… read more

The real Limitless drug

April 8, 2013

Modafinil (Provigil in the United States) was first approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of narcolepsy, but since has become better known as a nootropic, a “smart drug,” especially among entrepreneurs, says New York magazine.

Rumored to be the model for the fictional pills in the movie Limitless, no scientist has conducted a study of its long-term effects on healthy brains yet. At the very… read more

Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars

April 8, 2013

University of Washington researchers and scientists are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs, and health risks.

“Using existing rocket fuels, it’s nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth,” said lead researcher John Slough, a UW research associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

“We are hoping… read more

Dreamcatcher: scientists predict images seen in dreams

April 8, 2013

dream_analysis

Japanese researchers have successfully predicted images seen in sleep based on MRI scans of brain activity.

As reported in Science, they recruited three volunteers to sleep in fMRI machines for 3-hour sessions over the course of 10 days while the researchers monitored each volunteer’s brain activity. They also used EEG to track the brain’s overall electrical activity.

The researchers woke subjects every six or seven minutes, asked them… read more

Non-invasive brain-to-brain interface: links between two brains

Direct communication between the brains of human and rat .... or between humans
April 8, 2013

brainstorm

We reported last month how Duke University researchers remotely linked the brains of two rats. Now researchers from the U.S and South Korea have have taken it a step further: a non-invasive functional link between the brains of different species (human and rat) — a brain-to-brain interface (BBI).

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School set up a system intended to allow a human to… read more

Listening to the Big Bang — in high fidelity audio

April 8, 2013

A decade ago, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.

Now, armed with more sophisticated data from a satellite mission observing the cosmic microwave background — a faint glow in the universe that acts as sort of a fossilized fingerprint of the Big Bang — Cramer has produced new … read more

As workload overwhelms, cars are set to intervene

April 8, 2013

Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued voluntary accessory-design guidelines in an effort to reduce distraction, but given consumers’ hunger for gadgets, managing those distractions to reduce workload may prove a better solution, The New York Times reports.

The overload of inputs, perhaps amplified by foul weather or a demanding toddler, presents a real challenge to the driver — and a danger to all road users. … read more

Can an algorithm write a better news story than a human reporter?

April 8, 2013

narrative-science

Every 30 seconds or so, an algorithm developed by Narrative Science produces a computer-written news story, Wired reports.

The articles run on the websites of respected publishers like Forbes, as well as other Internet media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private).

Niche news services hire Narrative Science to write updates for their subscribers, be they sports fans, small-cap investors, or fast-food… read more

How to store images in a cloud of moving atoms

April 5, 2013

cloud_atoms_memory

Scientists at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland have demonstrated that they can store visual images in a thin vapor of rubidium atoms.

The effort may prove helpful in creating memory for quantum computers.

Their work builds on an approach developed at the Australian National University, where scientists showed that a rubidium… read more

Computers to grade tests and essays at college level: EdX

April 5, 2013

student-laptop-cheering

 

Imagine taking a college exam and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program. Then immediately redoing the test to try to improve your grade.

EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such software. It can grade student essays and short written answers, freeing… read more

NIH explains Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative

April 5, 2013

human_connectome

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has provided further details on the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative announced April 2 by President Obama, aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.

By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how… read more

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