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A billion-pixel view of Mars from Curiosity Rover

June 20, 2013

nasa_mars_image

A 1.3-billion-pixel image of the surface of Mars, from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail. It stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover’s route.

The full image is available with pan and zoom tools at http://mars.nasa.gov/bp1/.

The… read more

Edward Snowden: NSA whistleblower answers reader questions

June 20, 2013

NSA logo

Edward Snowden took readers’ questions on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of U.S. citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces, The Guardian reports.

[A few  excerpts --- Editor.]

Q: Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this: “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to… read more

NASA announces asteroid grand challenge

June 19, 2013

asteroid

NASA announced Tuesday a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them.

The challenge is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA’s recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it.… read more

Google calls for greater transparency and challenges surveillance gag order

June 19, 2013

Google logo

Google has called on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Tuesday to relax its gag order on tech companies targeted in U.S. security investigations, The Guardian reports.

The legal filing cites the first amendment’s guarantee of free speech and follows on from a letter to attorney general Eric Holder asking for permission to disclose the number of requests Google receives… read more

METI: should we be shouting at the cosmos?

June 19, 2013

Arecibo_message

Science fiction writer and astrophysicist Dr. David Brin is not happy with the Lone Signal announcement of METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) “beams” to the Gliese 526 solar system.

In his Brinstorming Science 2.0 blog, Brin updated his 2006 article on METI (aka active SETI), quoting Carl Sagan, who called it “deeply unwise and immature.”

He also cited Frank Drake, who famously sent the… read more

New fluorescent protein from eel revolutionizes key clinical assay

Saving human lives while preserving an endangered species
June 19, 2013

Fluorescence image of a transverse section of a formalin-fixed eel (credit: RIKEN)

Unagi, the sea-going Japanese freshwater eel, harbors a fluorescent protein that could serve as the basis for a revolutionary new clinical test for bilirubin, a critical indicator of human liver function, hemolysis, and jaundice, according to researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute.

Best known as a culinary delicacy in Japan, the freshwater eel Unagi (Anguilla japonica) and related species have seen a worldwide decrease… read more

Faster, more precise airstrikes within reach

June 19, 2013

(credit:

Air-ground fire coordination—also known as Close Air Support or CAS—is a dangerous and difficult business. Pilots and dismounted ground agents must ensure they hit only the intended target using just voice directions and, if they’re lucky, a common paper map.

It can often take up to an hour to confer, get in position and strike — time in which targets can attack first or move out of reach. To… read more

How to map a room using only a sound

June 19, 2013

Mapping the Lausanne Cathedral (credit: LCAV/EPFL)

An algorithm developed in EPFL’s School of Computer and Communications Sciences makes it possible to measure the dimensions and shapes of a room using just four microphones and a snap of your fingers.

“Our software can build a 3D map of a simple, convex room with a precision of a few millimeters,” explains PhD student Ivan Dokmanić.

Blind people sometimes develop the amazing ability to perceive… read more

A chlorophyll-based phototransistor

June 18, 2013

Chlorophyll_transistor

Shao-Yu Chen at the Institute of Atomic and Molecular Sciences in Taiwan and associates have incorporated chlorophyll into graphene transistors to make light-activated switches, MIT Technology Review reports.

The new phototransistor design consists of two silver electrodes connected by a sheet of graphene. The graphene is then covered by a layer of chlorophyll using a method known as drop casting. .

This layer has a significant influence… read more

Optogenetics for treating obsessive-compulsive disorders

June 18, 2013

optogenetic_stimulation

By applying optogenetics (light stimulation) to specific neurons in the brain, researchers at INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale) have re-established normal behavior in mice with pathological repetitive behavior similar to that observed in human patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Repetitive obsessive-compulsive disorders can become a real handicap to daily life (for example, washing hands up to 30 times a day; or… read more

Automated ‘coach’ could help with social interactions

June 18, 2013

mit_mach_coach

New software developed at MIT can be used to help people practice their interpersonal skills until they feel more comfortable with situations such as a job interview or a first date.

The software, called MACH (My Automated Conversation coacH), uses a computer-generated onscreen face, along with facial, speech, and behavior analysis and synthesis software, to simulate face-to-face conversations. It then provides users with feedback on… read more

Scientists put backpacks on dragonflies to track their brains in flight

June 18, 2013

dragonfly_backpack

Neuroscientist Anthony Leonardo created the tiny dragonfly backpack above to study how circuits of neurons do rapid computations to catch a mosquito in air, Wired reports.

Electrodes inserted into the dragonfly’s body and brain record the electrical activity of neurons, and a custom-made chip amplifies the signals and transmits them wirelessly to a nearby computer.

The researchers came up with a clever solution to… read more

UltraRope could make kilometer-high elevators possible

June 18, 2013

ultrarope

With a new lightweight material known as UltraRope, however, elevators should now be able to travel up to one kilometer (3,281 ft) continuously, Gizmag reports.

Using traditional steel lifting cables, they can’t go farther than 500 meters (1,640 ft) in one vertical run.

UltraRope from Finnish elevator manufacturer Kone, unveiled this Monday in London, is ribbon- or tape-like in form and composed… read more

Looking at the deep history of the Universe

June 18, 2013

Jacinta Delhaize with CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope during one of her data collecting trips (credit: Anita Redfern Photography)

A new technique that will provide a clearer picture of the Universe’s history and future has been developed by researchers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

Described in research published today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, ICRAR PhD Candidate Jacinta Delhaize is studying distant galaxies to determine how much hydrogen they contain — by “stacking” their signals.

Delhaize… read more

Google’s plan to take over the world

June 18, 2013

Google logo

Google isn’t just the backbone of the Internet anymore, writes Steve Kovach at Business Insider.

“It’s rapidly becoming the backbone of your entire life, all thanks to data you’re voluntarily giving up to a private company based on your Web searches, photos, Gmail messages, and more. …

“It’s the most apparent in Google Now, a voice-powered personal assistant that launched on Android phones last year.” [...]

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