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Optogenetics illuminates pathways of motivation and depression through brain

November 20, 2012

optogenetic fluorescence

Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, and postdoctoral scholar Melissa Warden, PhD, have isolated the neurons that carry the split-second decisions to act, from the higher brain to the brain stem. In doing so, they have provided insight into the causes of severe brain disorders such as depression.

In organisms… read more

How to optimize light sources for vision

November 20, 2012

Fluorescent lamps (credit: Wikipedia)

Vision researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute have made a groundbreaking discovery into the optimization of light sources to human vision. By tuning lighting devices to work more efficiently with the human brain, the researchers believe billions of dollars in energy costs could be saved.

The research, conducted by Stephen Macknik, PhD, of Barrow’s Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology, and Susana Martinez-Conde, PhD, of Barrow’s Laboratory of… read more

FRINGE series repeat premieres on Science Channel @ 8pm

November 20, 2012

singularityfringe

A 3D light switch for the brain

New device for delivering light to individual neurons could one day help treat Parkinson's disease, epilepsy; aid understanding of consciousness, how memories form
November 21, 2012

Optical image of the 3-D array with individual light ports illuminated. The array looks like a series of fine-toothed combs laid next to each other with their teeth pointing in the same direction. (Credit: A.N. Zorzos et al./Optics Letters)

A new fiber-optic device created by MIT biologists and engineers is the first tool that can deliver 1000 precise points of light to a 3D section of living brain tissue matter smaller than a sugar cube.

This is a step forward for a technique called optogenetics, which uses gene treatments to turn individual brain cells on and off with light.

Scientists can use this new 3D… read more

The highest-resolution immersive visualization facility ever built

November 21, 2012

RealityDeck

Stony Brook University (SBU) recently unveiled its new Reality Deck, with 1.5 billion pixels total on 416 super-high-resolution screens in a four-walled surround-view theater — the highest-resolution  immersive display ever built — and driven by a 220 TFLOPs graphic supercomputer.

Its purpose and primary design principle is to enable scientists, engineers, and physicians to tackle current problems that require the visualization of vast amounts of… read more

Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

November 21, 2012

The solar steam device developed at Rice University has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent, far surpassing that of photovoltaic solar panels. It may first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses silicon dioxide/gold nanoshells and N115 carbon nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new “solar steam” method from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water.

The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have… read more

New augmented-reality glasses due out in 2013

November 21, 2012

Vuzix Smart Glasses M100 (credit: Vuzix Corporation)

Google Glass now has a competitor: Vuzix Corporation’s Vuzix Smart Glasses M100 — designed for on-the-go data access from your smartphone and the Internet.

It will have a WQVGA color 16×9 screen, look like a 4” cellphone screen at 14” and will work on either eye, and will be available commercially for $500 in mid-2013, Vuzix CEO Paul J. Travers told KurzweilAI.

Like Google Glass, the Vuzix M100 contains a virtual… read more

Is college credit for massive open online courses coming?

November 21, 2012

Some of the 19 Coursera courses on AI and robotics (credit: Coursera)

The American Council on Education (ACE) has announced a wide-ranging research and evaluation effort that will examine the academic potential of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The ACE College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) will evaluate for potential college credit select courses offered by Coursera, a leading provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

“MOOCs are an intriguing, innovative new approach that holds much promiseread more

Three radical new energy technologies

November 21, 2012

florida_nasa

Three innovative new energy technologies are explored in the current issue of Technology and Innovation — Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors:

  • Tidal currents and ocean waves that can be recovered using ocean thermal conversion technology.
  • Infrared thermal radiation (more than half of the power provided by the Sun).
  • A new nanophosphor-based electroluminesence lighting device that caters to the exact wavelengths of light required for photosynthesis

read more

Neurons made from stem cells drive brain activity after transplantation

November 21, 2012

Stem-cell derived neurons (credit:

Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have found a way to stimulate stem cell-derived neurons to direct cognitive function after transplantation to an existing neural network by using optogenetic stimulation — getting us a step closer to using these cells to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Researchers and patients look forward to the day when stem cells might be used to replace… read more

Nanoscale probes light up when they detect specific diseases

November 22, 2012

Nanostructures called BRIGHTs seek out biomarkers on cells and then beam brightly to reveal their locations. In the tiny gap between the gold skin and the gold core of the cleaved BRIGHT (visible to the upper left), there is an electromagnetic hot spot that lights up the reporter molecules trapped there. (Credit: Naveen Gandra/Washington University in St. Louis)

Washington University researchers have developed nanoscale probes that bind to biomarkers of disease and, when hit by an infrared laser, light up to reveal their location.

The probes, called BRIGHTs (Bi-layered Raman-Intense Gold nanostructures with Hidden Tags), comprise 20 nm. diameter gold nanoparticles covered with molecules called Raman reporters, which are in turn covered by a thin shell of gold that spontaneously forms a dodecahedron (a… read more

Nanotech device mimics dog’s nose to detect explosives

Inspired by the biology of canine scent receptors, UC Santa Barbara scientists develop a chip capable of quickly identifying trace amounts of vapor molecules
November 22, 2012

Concept illustration of the microscale free-surface microfluidic channel as it concentrates vapor molecules that bind to nanoparticles inside a chamber. A laser beam detects the nanoparticles, which amplify a spectral signature of the detected molecules. (Credit: Brian D. Piorek et al./UC Santa Barbara)

UCSB researchers have designed a detector that uses microfluidic nanotechnology to mimic the biological mechanism behind canine scent receptors.

These portable, accurate, and highly sensitive devices that sniff out vapors from explosives and other substances could become as commonplace as smoke detectors in public places, thanks to researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara, led by professors Carl Meinhart of mechanical engineering and Martin Moskovits of chemistry.… read more

‘Nanospinning’ fibers for ultrafine bioscaffolds, filters, capacitors, fuel cells

Nanofibers have a dizzying range of possible applications, but they’ve been prohibitively expensive to make. MIT researchers hope to change that.
November 22, 2012

nanofibers

A new system for spinning nanofibers that should offer significant productivity increases while drastically reducing power consumption has been designed by MIT research scientists.

Nanofibers — strands of material only a couple hundred nanometers in diameter — have a huge range of possible applications: scaffolds for bioengineered organs, ultrafine air and water filters, and lightweight Kevlar body armor, to name just a few. But so far, the… read more

Building biomimetic synthetic membrane channels out of DNA

November 22, 2012

Schematic illustration of the<br />
channel formed by 54 double-helical DNA domains packed on a honeycomb<br />
lattice. Cylinders indicate double-helical DNA domains. Red denotes transmembrane<br />
stem; orange strands with orange ellipsoids indicate cholesterol-modified<br />
oligonucleotides that hybridize to single-stranded DNA adaptor strands.

Physicists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) and the University of Michigan have constructed synthetic membrane channels using DNA molecules as programmable building materials for custom-designed, self-assembling, nanoscale structures.

Synthetic membrane channels could be used as molecular sensors, antimicrobial agents, and drivers of novel nanodevices.

To wall off the insides of cells from the outside world, organisms in all three domains of life use the… read more

A Japan-developed robot for disaster response

November 23, 2012

toshiba_robot

Toshiba has developed a remote-controlled tetrapod inspection robot with camera and dosimeter, designed to investigate risky areas, such as Fukushima nuclear power plants.

The multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a movement algorithm that enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces (like Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog), avoid obstacles, and climb stairs to get access into areas can’t be reached by wheeled robots (such as some iRobot… read more

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