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Evidence that photosynthesis efficiency is based on quantum mechanics

January 17, 2014

leaves

Light-gathering macromolecules in plant cells transfer energy by taking advantage of molecular vibrations whose physical descriptions have no equivalents in classical physics, according to the first unambiguous theoretical evidence of quantum effects in photosynthesis, published in the journal Nature Communications (open access).

The majority of light-gathering macromolecules are composed of chromophores (responsible for the color of molecules) attached to proteins, which carry out the first step of photosynthesis, capturing… read more

Directly imaging and analyzing planets around other stars: first light

Early images are almost a factor of 10 better than the previous generation of instruments
January 16, 2014

gemini_planet_imager_first_image

After nearly a decade of development, construction and testing, the world’s most advanced instrument for directly imaging and analyzing planets orbiting around other stars is pointing skyward and collecting light from distant worlds.

“Even these early first-light images are almost a factor of 10 better than the previous generation of instruments. In one minute, we were seeing planets that used to take us an hour to detect,” says Bruce… read more

Discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness

January 16, 2014

Structure of a microtubule. The ring shape depicts a microtubule in cross-section, showing the 13 protofilaments surrounding a hollow center. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in  Elsevier’s Physics of Life Reviews (open access) claims that consciousness derives from deeper-level, finer-scale activities inside brain neurons.

The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level… read more

Life on other planets could be far more widespread

Some of it could be underground
January 16, 2014

snowball_planet

Earth-sized planets can support life at least ten times farther away from stars than previously thought, according to researchers at the University of Aberdeen and the University of St Andrews.

A new paper published in Planetary and Space Science claims cold rocky planets previously considered uninhabitable may actually be able to support life beneath the surface.

The team challenges the traditional “habitable zone” or “Goldilocks zone”… read more

NSA’s top secret technology can tap/infect computers even when not connected to the Internet

January 15, 2014

COTTONMOUTH

The NSA has used secret technology to input and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden, computer experts, and American officials, The New York Times revealed Tuesday.

The technology uses radio signals generated in tiny circuit boards and inside USB cables inserted surreptitiously into the computers by a spy, manufacturer, or unwitting user,… read more

A low-cost sonification system to assist the blind

January 15, 2014

sonification_prototype

An improved assistive technology system for the blind that uses sonification (visualization using sounds) has been developed by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) researchers, with the goal of replacing costly, bulky current systems.

How it works

Called Assistive Technology for Autonomous Displacement (ATAD), the system includes a stereo vision processor measures the difference of images captured by two cameras that are placed slightly apart (for… read more

World’s first $1,000 genome enables ‘factory’ scale sequencing for population and disease studies

January 15, 2014

The HiSeq X™ Ten, composed of 10 HiSeq X Systems (credit: Illumina)

 

Illumina, Inc. announced Tuesday that its new HiSeq X Ten Sequencing System has broken the “sound barrier” of human genomics by enabling the $1,000 genome.

“This platform includes dramatic technology breakthroughs that enable researchers to undertake studies of unprecedented scale by providing the throughput to sequence tens of thousands of human whole genomes in a single year in a single… read more

Ultrasound directed to the human brain can boost spatial resolution

Whales, bats, and even praying mantises also use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system
January 14, 2014

Tyler Figure

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have found that ultrasound directed to a specific region of the brain can boost performance in sensory discrimination. The study provides the first demonstration that low-intensity, transcranial-focused ultrasound (tFUS) can modulate human brain activity to enhance perception.

“Ultrasound has great potential for bringing unprecedented resolution to the growing trend of mapping the human brain’s connectivity,” said William “Jamie” Tyler, an assistant… read more

A gripper using soft robotics

January 14, 2014

versaball

A robot gripper invented by researchers at the University of Chicago and Cornell University is now available commercially from Empire Robotics as VERSABALL for industrial automation, scheduled to ship later in January.

Company officials believe the technology might also be useful for prosthetic devices that can assist with work tasks, for in-home assistive devices, and in mobile military robots.

How it works

Robotic grippers that… read more

Wafer-scale, flexible thin-film electronics

Can even wrap around a human hair
January 14, 2014

ultrathin_electronic_membrane

Researchers at ETH Zurich are developing thin-film transistors, sensors, and other electronic components that are thin and flexible enough to be wrapped around a wide range of surfaces without damaging the electronics.

The aim is to weave these types of components into textiles or apply them to the skin to make “smart,” unobtrusive, comfortable sensors  that can monitor various functions of the body, aka “temporary tattoo” biosensors.… read more

Extending future electric-car battery life, range

January 12, 2014

A hybrid anode made of graphite and lithium could quadruple the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries (credit: Huang et al, Nature Communications)

A hybrid anode developed at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) could quadruple the life of the lithium-sulfur batteries proposed for use in electric vehicles.

“Lithium-sulfur batteries could one day help us take electric cars on longer drives and store renewable wind energy more cheaply, but some technical challenges have to be overcome first,” said PNNL Laboratory Fellow Jun Liu. “PNNL’s new anode… read more

Organic flow battery promises breakthrough for renewable energy

Harvard technology could economically store energy for use when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
January 12, 2014

flow-battery_650

A team of Harvard scientists and engineers has demonstrated a new type of battery that could fundamentally transform the way electricity is stored on the grid, making power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable.

The new “flow” battery design relies on the electrochemistry of naturally abundant, inexpensive, small organic (carbon-based) molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that… read more

A theoretical metamaterial that acts as an analog computer

Computational metamaterials could almost instantly perform certain complex mathematical operations
January 12, 2014

Edge detection - featured

Metamaterials can be designed to do “photonic calculus” as a light wave goes through them, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, The University of Texas at Austin and University of Sannio in Italy have discovered.

A light wave, when described in terms of space and time, has a profile in space that can be thought of as a curve on a… read more

IBM forms new Watson group for cloud-delivered cognitive innovations, with $1 billion investment

January 12, 2014

IBM Watson Group Unveils Cloud-Delivered Watson Services

IBM has announced it will establish the IBM Watson Group, a new business unit dedicated to the development and commercialization of cloud-delivered cognitive innovations.

Headquartered in NYC’s “Silicon Alley,” the move signifies a strategic shift by IBM to accelerate into the marketplace a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover answers and insights to complex questions from massive amounts of… read more

Crowdsourcing forecasts on science and technology events and innovations

George Mason University's just-launched SciCast is largest and most advanced science and technology prediction market in the world
January 10, 2014

SciCast forecast

George Mason University launched today, Jan. 10, the largest and most advanced science and technology prediction market in the world: SciCast.

The federally funded research project aims to improve the accuracy of science and technology forecasts. George Mason research assistant professor Charles Twardy is the principal investigator of the project.

SciCast crowdsources forecasts on science and technology events and innovations from aerospace to zoology.

For… read more

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