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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

White dwarf star throws light on constant of Nature

July 5, 2013


University of New South Wales (UNSW) physicists are studying a distant star where gravity is more than 30,000 times greater than on Earth to test their controversial theory that α (alpha) — also known as the fine-structure constant — is not a constant.

“If alpha [the fine-structure constant] were bigger than it really is, we should not be able to distinguish matter… 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

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

A billion-pixel view of Mars from Curiosity Rover

June 20, 2013


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

The… read more

MIT and Harvard launch a ‘revolution in education’

May 3, 2012


MIT and Harvard announced on Wednesday an ambitious new partnership called called edX to deliver online education to learners anywhere in the world.

The edX venture will provide a wide variety of interactive courses from both Harvard and MIT — for free — to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. A first set of courses will be announced in early Summer, to start in Fall… read more

Worm mind control

Using precisely-targeted lasers, researchers manipulate neurons in worms' brains and take control of their behavior
September 25, 2012


In the quest to understand how the brain turns sensory input into behavior, scientists have crossed a major threshold.

Using precisely-targeted lasers, Harvard researchers have taken over an animal’s brain, instructing miniature nematode worms Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) to turn in any direction they choose by manipulating neurons in the worms’ “brain.”

They even implanted false sensory information, fooling the animal into thinking food was nearby.… read more

Scientists read dreams

Brain scans during sleep can decode visual content of dreams
October 23, 2012


Scientists have learned how to discover what you are dreaming about while you sleep, Nature News reports.

Researchers led by Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan used functional neuroimaging to scan the brains of three people as they slept, simultaneously recording their brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG).

The researchers woke the participants whenever they detected the pattern… read more

Mammals can ‘choose’ sex of offspring, study finds

July 12, 2013


A new study led by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that mammalian species can “choose” the sex of their offspring to beat the odds and produce extra grandchildren.

In analyzing 90 years of breeding records from the San Diego Zoo, the researchers were able to prove for the first time a fundamental theory of evolutionary biology: that mammals rely on some unknown… read more

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica stops the presses

March 14, 2012


After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print, New York Times Media Decoder reports.

The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighs 129 pounds, priced at $1,395.

It is survived by a $70/year online edition (free trial here).

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