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First human implant of world’s smallest, minimally invasive cardiac pacemaker

December 30, 2013

Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS), world's smallest heart pacemaker (credit: Medronic)

Medtronic, Inc. has announced the first-in-human implant of the world’s smallest pacemaker: the Micra Transcatheter Pacing System (TPS).

The device was implanted in a patient in Linz, Austria as part of the Medtronic global pivotal clinical trial. The Micra TPS is an investigational device worldwide.

At one-tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker, and comparable in size to a large vitamin, the Micra TPS is delivered… read more

RIKEN to develop exascale supercomputer by 2020

December 30, 2013


RIKEN has announced plans to develop a new exascale supercomputer, meaning it will compute at least one quintillion (a million trillion) floating point operations per second — 30 times faster than the current fastest supercomputer, China’s Tianhe-2.

The new supercomputer is scheduled to begin working in 2020.

Funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, it is expected to “keep Japan… read more

The best neuroscience images of 2013

December 27, 2013

Brainbow - featured

The brain bank science blog (by a group of Manchester, UK-based scientists) has posted 12 images from 2013 that are as much fantastic works of art as neuroscience. Shown here: “Brainbow,” a transgenic system designed to label different types of brain cells in a festive panoply of colors.


Reflected hidden faces in photographs revealed in pupil

What do your Instagram and Facebook photos reveal?
December 27, 2013

corneal reflections - featured

The pupil* of the eye in a photograph of a face can be mined for hidden information, such as reflected faces of the photographer and bystanders, according to research led by Dr. Rob Jenkins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York and published in PLOS ONE (open access).

The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage… read more

New data-compression method reduces big-data bottleneck

Outperforms and enhances JPEG, handles both analog and digital signals
December 26, 2013


A new “warping” data compression method that outperforms existing techniques has been developed byUCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science researchers, based on the graphic art technique of anamorphism.

The JALALI-LAB group, led by Bahram Jalali, holder of the Northrop Grumman Opto-Electronic Chair in Electrical Engineering, discovered that it is possible to achieve data compression by stretching and warping the data using a… read more

Graphene + magnetic field creates exotic new quantum electronic states

Could make graphene suitable for quantum computing for high-priority computational tasks
December 26, 2013


MIT research has found additional potential for graphene that could make it suitable for exotic uses such as quantum computing.

Under an extremely powerful magnetic field and at extremely low temperature, the researchers found, graphene can effectively filter electrons according to the direction of their spin, something that cannot be done by any conventional electronic system.

The trick:

  • Turn on a powerful magnetic field

read more

Liquid crystal ‘flowers’ that can be used as lenses

December 24, 2013

bright field liquid crystal flower

A team of material scientists, chemical engineers and physicists from the University of Pennsylvania has made another advance in their effort to use liquid crystals as a medium for assembling structures.

In their earlier studies, the team produced patterns of “defects,” useful disruptions in the repeating patterns found in liquid crystals, in nanoscale grids and rings. The new study adds a more complex pattern out of an even simpler… read more

DNA motor ‘walks’ along nanotube, transports nanoparticle cargo

December 24, 2013

Molecular model of a nanoparticle-functionalized, DNAzyme-based motor on an RNA-decorated nanotube track. The DNAzyme motor consists of a catalytic core (green) and recognition arms (red). Cadmium sulfide nanocrystals (yellow) and carbon nanotubes (black) are used as a model system for the cargo and a one-dimensional track.

Researchers have created a new type of molecular motor made of DNA and demonstrated its potential by using it to transport a nanoparticle along the length of a carbon nanotube.

The design was inspired by natural biological motors that have evolved to perform specific tasks critical to the function of cells, said Jong Hyun Choi, a Purdue University assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Controllableread more

The brain’s visual data-compression algorithm

December 24, 2013


Researchers have assumed that visual information in the brain was transmitted almost in its entirety from its entry point, the primary visual cortex (V1).

“We intuitively assume that our visual system generates a continuous stream of images, just like a video camera,” said Dr. Dirk Jancke from the Institute for Neural Computation at Ruhr University.

“However, we have now demonstrated that the visual cortex suppresses… read more

How we process numbers is revealed in our brain structure

December 24, 2013


How to you visualize numbers? Spatially, or in some other way?

For a long time, scientists thought that everyone processed numbers predominantly in a spatial way (low to high numbers visualized as left to right).

More recently, several studies have shown associations between numbers and non-spatial representations of magnitude, such as physical size,  grip opening, object graspability, tactile sensation, force (against a button, for example), and luminosity.… read more

Morphing micro-muscular motor is 1,000 times more powerful than a same-size human muscle

December 23, 2013


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have made a micro-sized robotic torsional muscle/motor that is 1,000 times more powerful than a human muscle of the same size and can catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its length within 60 milliseconds.

The muscle is made from vanadium dioxide, which has an extraordinary ability to change size, shape and physical identity.… read more

Cubli — a cube that can walk

December 23, 2013


The Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, a research institute at ETH Zurich university, has developed Cubli*: a 15 × 15 × 15 cm cube that can jump up and balance on its corner.

Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up.
Once the Cubli is balancing on its… read more

The future of cryonics debate between physicist Michio Kaku and Alcor CEO Max More

December 22, 2013


In response to a question, “What are the practical applications of cryogenics today, and what potential improvements can we expect 20 to 30 years down the line?” Michio Kaku, PhD, replied with a critique.

Max More, PhD, CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, offered this response, noting that cryonics is “affordable by regular people. Ice does not form inside cells… read more

DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials winner: Schaft from Japan

December 21, 2013

Future Google delivery guy? (credit: SHAFT, Inc.)

It was a “Woodstock for robots,” said Boston Dynamics’ Marc Raibert, as sixteen teams from around the world came together at Florida’s Homestead Miami Speedway, December 20–21, 2013 to participate in eight demanding tasks in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge Trials.

And the winner was Schaft from Japan, owned by Google. Atlas-Ian from Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition placed second;… read more

Method for mass production of graphene-based field-effect transistors (FETs) developed

December 20, 2013


Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) researchers in Korea have announced a method for mass production of graphene-based field-effect transistors (FETs).

The design creates boron/nitrogen co-doped graphene nanoplatelets (BCN-graphene) via a simple solvothermal reaction of BBr3/CCl4/N2 in the presence of potassium.

Various methods of making graphene-based FETs have been exploited, including doping graphene, tailoring graphene like a nanoribbon, and using boron nitride… read more

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