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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.” [...]

First message sent to Gliese 526, 17.6 light-years away

June 18, 2013

Jamesburg_Earth_Station

At 9 PM EDT Monday, June 17 at a press event in New York, the Lone Signal team announced the transmission of the first interstellar beam (message).

It was transmitted from the giant ex-NASA Jamesburg dish in Carmel, California to the Gliese 526 solar system, 17.6 light-years away.

Simultaneously, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, as he started his welcome talk to… read more

Drug laws are ‘worst case of scientific censorship in modern times’

June 17, 2013

brain_psilocybin

Outlawing psychoactive drugs amounts to the worst case of scientific censorship in modern times, leading scientists have argued.

UN conventions on drugs in the 1960s and 1970s have not only compounded the harms of drugs but also produced the worst censorship of research for over 300 years. This has set back research in key areas such as consciousness by decades and effectively stopped the investigation of promising… read more

DNA-carbon nanotube vapor sensor identifies scent of melanoma

June 17, 2013

Melanoma

According to new research from the Monell Center and collaborating institutions, odors from human skin cells can be used to identify melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The researchers also demonstrated that a nanotechnology-based sensor could reliably differentiate melanoma cells from normal skin cells.

The findings suggest that non-invasive odor analysis may be a valuable technique in the detection and early diagnosis of… read more

Nature can’t be patented: Supreme Court

June 17, 2013

800px-SCOTUSbuilding_1st_Street_SE

In a unanimous ruling on Thursday, Supreme Court justices held that human DNA isolated from a chromosome cannot be patented because it is a product of nature, The New York Times reports.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said “there would be considerable danger” in granting patents on natural phenomena because that approach would “inhibit future innovation” and “would be at odds with the very point… read more

Good vibes

Communicate information via the skin could help both drivers and the blind
June 17, 2013

vibrotactile_displays

Imagine a device using tactile vibrations for GPS-provided turn directions.

Such a device could free drivers from having to look at maps, and could also serve as a tactile guide for the visually and hearing impaired.

Lynette Jones, a senior research scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, designs wearable tactile displays. Through her work, she’s observed that the skin is a… read more

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