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Planet Nine from outer space

Right now, a giant invisible planet with a mass 10 times greater than Earth is tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system beyond Neptune — or so claim Caltech astronomers. Finally: a planet to replace Pluto?
January 22, 2016

Planet 9 ft

Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system that the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine.

It has a mass about ten times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this… read more

Detecting heartbeats remotely with millimeter-wave radar

May replace electrocardiograph devices, allowing for freedom of movement and use by patients
January 22, 2016

Japanese researchers have come up with a way to measure heartbeats remotely, in real time, and under controlled conditions with as much accuracy as electrocardiographs. The technology utilizes spread-spectrum radar to catch signals from the body and an algorithm that distinguishes heartbeats from other signals. (credit: Kyoto University)

A radar system that measures heartbeats remotely in real time and with as much accuracy as electrocardiographs has been developed by researchers at the Kyoto University Center of Innovation and Panasonic Corporation,

The results were published in an open-access paper in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

The researchers say this new approach will allow for developing long-term monitoring and “casual… read more

Fermi paradox resolved: near-universal early extinction?

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


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

fly's eye ft

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

Information flows through a subset of high-traffic ‘hub neurons’ in cortical regions of the brain

In many cortical regions, 70 percent of the brain's information passes through only a fifth of the neurons, which are more essential to brain function --- and also more vulnerable to disruption
January 21, 2016


A new study, reported in an open-access paper in the journal Neuroscience, shows that 70 percent of all information within cortical regions in the brain passes through only 20 percent of these regions’ neurons.

“The discovery of this small but information-rich subset of neurons within cortical regions suggests this sub-network might play a vital role in communication, learning and memory,” said Sunny Nigam, a Ph.D. candidate in the … 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

axon extensions ft

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

rat implantation model ft

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

bubble pen ft

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

context lacking ft

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

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