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Fermi paradox resolved: near-universal early extinction?

The aliens are silent because they’re dead
January 22, 2016

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The famous Fermi paradox raises the question: why haven’t we detected signs of alien life, despite high estimates of probability, such as observations of planets in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star by the Kepler telescope and calculations of hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy that might support life.

Now astrobiologists from Australian National University (ANU) Researchread more

Researchers pinpoint ‘limbo’ noisy place where cancer cells may emerge

January 21, 2016

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In a study involving the fruit fly equivalent of an oncogene implicated in many human leukemias, Northwestern University researchers have gained insight into how developing cells normally switch to a restricted, or specialized, state and how that process might go wrong in cancer.

The fruit fly’s eye is an intricate pattern of many different specialized cells, such as light-sensing neurons and cone cells. Because flies share with humans many… read more

How to rewire the brain with artificial axons to replace damaged pathways

Research promises to one day restore functionality for patients with damaged axons resulting from brain injury or disease
January 21, 2016

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Penn State scientists have grown improved artificial transplantable artificial axons (brain pathways) in the lab. The new “micro-tissue engineered neural networks” (micro-TENNS) replace broken axon pathways when implanted in the brains of rats.

(Neurons are connected by long fibrous projections known as axons. When these connections are damaged, they have very limited capacity to regenerate — unlike many other cells in the body — thus permanently disrupting the body’s… read more

Memory capacity of brain is 10 times more than previously thought

The brain’s memory capacity is in the petabyte range, as much as the entire Web, data from the Salk Institute show; may lead to more energy-efficient computers
January 20, 2016

Salk scientists computationally reconstructed brain tissue in the hippocampus to study the sizes of connections (synapses). The larger the synapse, the more likely the neuron will send a signal to a neighboring neuron. The team found that there are actually 26 discrete sizes that can change over a span of a few minutes, meaning that the brain has a far great capacity at storing information than previously thought. Pictured here is a synapse between an axon (green) and dendrite (yellow). (credit: Salk Institute)

Salk researchers and collaborators have achieved critical insight into the size of neural connections, putting the memory capacity of the brain far higher than common estimates. The new work also answers a longstanding question as to how the brain is so energy efficient, and could help engineers build computers that are incredibly powerful but also conserve energy.

“This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience,” says … read more

How to modify a 3-D printer to print high-performance products

January 20, 2016

Ultrasonic waves form tiny glass fibres into a pattern of lines. Each of the fibres is smaller than the thickness of a human hair.  Collectively they create a reinforcing microstructure that gives the component increased strength. (credit: Image courtesy of Tom Llewellyn-Jones, Bruce Drinkwater and Richard Trask © 2016)

University of Bristol engineers have developed a new type of 3-D printing that can print strong composite materials.

The new method is based on a modification of an off-the-shelf 3D printer: mounting a switchable, focused laser module and an ultrasonic alignment apparatus.

The method uses ultrasonic waves to position and align millions of microscopic glass fibers to form reinforcement fibers into a framework that gives the material strength.… read more

Open-source GPU could push computing power to the next level

January 20, 2016

Maxwell, Nvidia’s most powerful GPU architecture (credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia | Mythbusters Demo GPU versus CPU

Binghamton University researchers have developed Nyami, a synthesizable graphics processor unit (GPU) architectural model for general-purpose and graphics-specific workloads, and have run a series of experiments on it to see how different hardware and software configurations would affect the circuit’s performance.

Binghamton University computer science assistant professor Timothy Miller said the results will… read more

NIST simulates fast, accurate DNA sequencing through graphene nanopore

January 19, 2016

NIST concept for DNA sequencing through a graphene nanopore (credit: Smolyanitsky/NIST)

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have simulated a new concept for rapid, accurate gene sequencing by pulling a DNA molecule through a tiny chemically activated hole in graphene—an ultrathin sheet of carbon atoms—and detecting changes in electrical current.

The NIST simulation study suggests the method could identify about 66 million bases per second with 90 percent accuracy and no false positives.… read more

Tiny electronic implants monitor brain injury, then melt away

Eliminate the need for additional surgery to remove monitors and reduce risk of infection and hemorrhage
January 19, 2016

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Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new class of small, thin electronic sensors that can monitor temperature and pressure within the skull — crucial health parameters after a brain injury or surgery* — then melt away when they are no longer needed, eliminating the need for additional surgery to remove the monitors and reducing… read more

A self-assembling molecular nanoswitch

A possible future molecular memory device
January 18, 2016

Calculated adsorption geometry of porphine adsorbed at copper bridge site (credit: Moritz  Müller et al./J. Chem. Phys.)

Technical University of Munich (TUM) researchers have simulated a self-assembling molecular nanoswitch in a supercomputer study.

As with other current research in bottom-up self-assembly nanoscale techniques, the goal is to further miniaturize electronic devices, overcoming the physical limits of currently used top-down procedures such as photolithography.

The new TUM research focuses on porphine (C20H14N4, the simplest form of porphyrin* organic molecules), interacting on… read more

‘Bubble pen’ can precisely write patterns with nanoparticles as small as 1 nanometer

Allows for more easily building tiny machines, biomedical sensors, optical computers, solar panels, and other devices --- no complex clean room required; portable version planned
January 15, 2016

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Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have created “bubble-pen lithography” — a  device and technique to quickly, gently, and precisely use microbubbles to “write” using gold, silicon and other nanoparticles between 1 and 100 nanometers in size as “ink” on a surface.

The new technology is aimed at allowing researchers to more easily build tiny machines, biomedical sensors, optical… read more

Microbots individually controlled using magnetic fields

Possible uses include additive manufacturing, cell sorting, cell manipulation, and cancer cell detection
January 15, 2016

This image shows how two microbots can be independently controlled when operating within a group. (Purdue University image/David Cappelleri)

Purdue University researchers have developed a method to use magnetic fields to independently control individual microrobots operating within groups.

The design allows for each microbot to work independently while operating in groups, similar to how ants work.  Until now, it was generally only possible to control groups of microbots to move generally in unison, said David Cappelleri, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue.… read more

Why doesn’t my phone understand me yet?

January 13, 2016

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Because machines can’t develop a shared understanding of the people, place and situation — often including a long social history, the key to human communication) — say University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow Arjen Stolk and his Dutch colleagues.

In other words, machines don’t consider the context of a conversation the way people do.

The word “bank,” for example, would be interpreted one way if… read more

UCSD spinoffs create lab-quality portable 64-channel BCI headset

Dry electrodes and Bluetooth take the EEG lab to the street, with NSF, DARPA, and Army funding
January 13, 2016

Bioengineers and cognitive scientists have developed the first portable, 64-channel wearable brain activity monitoring system that's comparable to state-of-the-art equipment found in research laboratories. The system also includes a sophisticated software suite for data interpretation and analysis. (credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego)

The first dry-electrode, portable 64-channel wearable brain-computer interface (BCI) has been developed by bioengineers and cognitive scientists associated with UCSD Jacobs School.

The system is comparable to state-of-the-art equipment found in research laboratories, but with portability, allowing for tracking brain states throughout the day and augmenting the brain’s capabilities, the researchers say. Current BCI devices require gel-based electrodes or fewer than 64 channels.

The… read more

Could this common painkiller become a future cancer-killer?

January 12, 2016

(credit: iStock)

Diclofenac, a common painkiller, has significant anti-cancer properties, researchers from the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project have found.

ReDO, an international collaboration between the Belgium-based Anticancer Fund and the U.S.- based GlobalCures, has published their investigation into diclofenac in the open-access journal ecancermedicalscience.

Diclofenac is a well-known non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) widely used to treat pain in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, fever, acute… read more

Self-adaptive material heals itself, stays tough

May be a useful biocompatible material for tissue engineering or a lightweight, defect-tolerant structural component
January 12, 2016

Rice University postdoctoral researcher Pei Dong holds a sample of SAC, a new form of self-adapting composite. The material has the ability to heal itself and to regain its original shape after extraordinary compression. (credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

A flexible adaptive material invented at Rice University combines self-healing and reversible self-stiffening properties.

The material, called SAC (for self-adaptive composite), consists of sticky, micron-scale rubber balls that form a solid matrix. The researchers made SAC by mixing two polymers and a solvent that evaporates when heated, leaving a porous mass of gooey spheres. When cracked, the matrix quickly heals, over and over. And like a sponge, it… read more

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