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Hidden portals in Earth’s magnetic field

July 3, 2012

Portals form where the magnetic fields of the Sun and Earth join (credit: NASA)

NASA-funded researcher at the University of Iowa has found “portals” where the magnetic field of Earth connects to the magnetic field of the Sun, creating an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun’s atmosphere 93 million miles away.

“We call them X-points or electron diffusion regions,” explains plasma physicist Jack Scudder of the University of Iowa. Observations by NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft and Europe’s Cluster… read more

An experimental spaceplane with ‘aircraft-like’ operations in orbit

September 19, 2013


The current generation of satellite launch vehicles is expensive to operate, often costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight. Moreover, U.S. launch vehicles fly only a few times each year and normally require scheduling years in advance, making it extremely difficult to deploy satellites without lengthy pre-planning. Quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for U.S. Defense Department operations.

Imagine a fully reusable unmanned vehicle… read more

Will plug-in electric cars crash the electric grid?

February 25, 2014


The growing number of plug-in electric cars — more than 96,000 bought in 2013 — may put a lot of new strain on the nation’s aging electrical distribution systems, like transformers and underground cables, especially at times of peak demand, according to University of Vermont (UVM) scientists.

So they have created a novel solution, which they report on in the forthcoming March issue of IEEE Transactions onread more

Not only the fittest survive

March 28, 2011

Researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Bath in the UK have called into question Darwin’s principle that only the fittest survive, says Professor Robert Beardmore and colleagues.

Together with a group from San Diego State University, the researchers tested Darwin’s principle by constructing very simple environments in the lab to see what happens after hundreds of generations of bacterial evolution,… read more

Social media: five predictions for 2013

December 28, 2012


What does 2013 hold in store for the world of social media? CNET predicts:

1. MySpace relaunches; no one cares (no-brainer)

2. Twitter-Instagram photo rivalry continues to develop

3. Tout (video-sharing service) breaks out

4. Bigger bucks for Twitter (ads possible)

5. Facebook buys RockMelt? (its own browser)

A major step toward an Alzheimer’s treatment and vaccine

January 17, 2013

PET scan of the brain of a person with AD showing a loss of function in the temporal lobe (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A way to stimulate the brain’s natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered by researchers at Université Laval, CHU de Québec and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): a molecule known as MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A) that stimulates the activity of the brain’s immune cells.

The breakthrough opens the door to developing a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and a vaccine to prevent the… read more

3D-printing synthetic tissues

April 9, 2013

Schematic of printing in aqueous solution. Aqueous droplets are ejected into a<br />
drop of oil suspended in bulk aqueous solution.

A custom-built programmable 3D printer can create materials with some the properties of living tissues, Oxford University scientists have demonstrated.

The new type of material consists of tens of thousands of picoliter connected water droplets encapsulated within lipid films, which can perform some of the functions of the cells inside our bodies.

These printed “droplet networks” might be interfaced with tissues, used as tissue… read more

I’ll put millions of people on Mars, says Elon Musk

December 27, 2011


(Registration required) SpaceX founder Elon Mush says that he can put a human on Mars in 10 to 20 years’ time for $5 billion — or even $2 billion, thanks to the fully reusable rockets he’s determined to build.

Musk wants to put 10,000 people on Mars. “Ultimately … millions.”

He says a reusable version of SpaceX’s newest launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy, scheduled for testing in early… read more

Microsoft tech to control computers with a flex of a finger

July 31, 2012


In the future, Microsoft apparently believes, people may simply twitch their fingers or arms to control a computer, game console or mobile device, ReadWriteWeb reports.

Microsoft applied for a patent on electromyography (EMG) controlled computing on Thursday, suggesting that a future smart wristwatch or armband might simply detect a user’s muscle movements and interpret them as gestures or commands.

The “Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller” could also… read more

NASA rover returns voice and telephoto views from Mars

August 28, 2012

Layers at the Base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual science destination. This image is a portion of a larger image taken by Curiosity's 100-millimeter Mast Camera on Aug. 23, 2012. Scientists enhanced the color to show the Martian scene under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain. The pointy mound in the center of the image, looming above the rover-sized rock, is about 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and 300 feet (100 meters) high. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Mars Curiosity has debuted the first recorded human voice that has traveled from Earth to another planet and back.

“The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new… read more

Brainless slime mold uses external spatial ‘memory’ to navigate complex environments

Slime mold smarter than some robots
October 9, 2012

Photograph of P. polycephalum plasmodium showing (A) extending pseudopod, (B) search front, (C) tubule network, and (D) extracellular slime<br />
deposited where the cell has previously explored. The food disk containing the inoculation of plasmodial culture is depicted at (E).

They only have a single cell — no brain, but slime molds “remember” where they’ve been.

How? The brainless slime mold Physarum polycephalum constructs a form of spatial “memory” by avoiding areas it has previously explored, researchers at University of Sydney and Université Toulouse III have discovered.

“As it moves, the plasmodium leaves behind a thick mat of nonliving, translucent, extracellular slime,” the scientists said in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 8.… read more

Primitive consciousness emerges first as you awaken from anesthesia

April 6, 2012

This image shows one returning from oblivion -- imaging the neural core of consciousness. Positron emission tomography (PET) findings show that the emergence of consciousness after anesthesia is associated with activation of deep, phylogenetically old brain structures rather than the neocortex. Left: Sagittal (top) and axial (bottom) sections show activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (i), thalamus (ii) and the brainstem (iii) locus coeruleus/parabrachial area overlaid on magnetic resonance image (MRI) slices. Right: Cortical renderings show no evident activations (credit: Turku PET Center)

The emergence of consciousness after general anesthesia has been imaged and found to be associated with activations of deep, primitive brain structures, rather than the evolutionary younger neocortex, scientists from UC Irvine and the University of Turku have found.

“We expected to see the outer bits of brain, the cerebral cortex (often thought to be the seat of higher human consciousness), would turn back on when consciousness was restored… read more

Laboratory-grown vaginas implanted in patients

April 14, 2014


A research team led by Anthony Atala, M.D., director of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has reported in The Lancet the first human recipients of laboratory-grown vaginal organs, which were engineered with their own cells.

“This pilot study is the first to demonstrate that vaginal organs can be constructed in the lab and used successfully in humans,” said Atala. “This may represent a… read more

Combining magnetic sensing and imaging systems may improve brain diagnosis and imaging

July 27, 2012

The innovative MEG-MRI device combines the whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. MEG measures the electrical function and MRI visualizes the structure of the brain.

The first system for mapping the human brain that combines whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology has been developed by a research team headed by Aalto University in Finland.

Merging these two technologies will produce unprecedented accuracy in locating and imaging brain electrical activity non-invasively, and should improve cancer diagnosis and the accuracy of brain mapping of patients, says professor Risto Ilmoniem.

Backgroundread more

Giant laser creates an artificial star to clear the sky

February 27, 2013


Death Star’s superlaser? No, a new, improved laser that acts as an artificial star, as a reference to monitor atmospheric turbulence for the Very Large Telescope in Chile, compensating for the atmosphere’s distortions and creating much sharper images, reports New Scientist.

The laser shoots 90 kilometers into the atmosphere, where it interacts with the 10-kilometer-thick layer of sodium atoms left around our planet by meteoroid… read more

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