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An information-processing approach to the origin of life

New perspective would allow for living systems instantiated in different chemical substrates --- including potentially non-organic substrates
December 17, 2012

Is life based on software and information? (Plants in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda; credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A novel approach to the question of life’s origin, proposed by two Arizona State University scientists — Paul Davies, an ASU Regents’ Professor and director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Sara Walker, a NASA post-doctoral fellow at the Beyond Center — in an open-access Journal of the Royal Society Interface paper, attempts to dramatically redefine the problem.

The authors shift… read more

IBM reveals five innovations that will change our lives within five years

The era of cognitive systems: when computers will, in their own way, see, smell, touch, taste and hear
December 18, 2012

IBM announced today the seventh annual “IBM 5 in 5” — a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years, based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s R&D labs. This one is focused on cognitive systems.

Touch

In the next five years, industries… read more

A powerful microscale actuator for microrobotics and drug delivery

Can deliver a force 1000 times greater than human muscle of the same weight
December 18, 2012

transforms from a metal into an insulator at a critical temperature near room temperature

A powerful new microscale actuator that can flex like a miniature beckoning finger has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley.

It is based on a material that expands and contracts dramatically in response to a small (15 degrees C) temperature variation. It is smaller than the width of a human hair and… read more

Tissue engineering at MIT: where it’s going

Modeling human disease, testing potential new drugs are hot research areas at MIT
December 18, 2012

Researchers at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania successfully grew blood vessels within liver tissue grown in the lab. The red circle is a cross-section of the vessel, and endothelial cells (red) sprout from the surface of the tube.<br />
Image courtesy of the researchers/Nature Materials

Tissue engineering research at MIT is now largely focused on creating tissue that can be used in the lab to model human disease and test potential new drugs.

MIT professor Sangeeta Bhatia recently developed the first stem-cell-derived liver tissue model that can be infected with the hepatitis C virus. She has also designed thin slices of human liver tissue that can be implanted in mice, enabling rapid… read more

Studying ethical questions as the brain’s black box Is unlocked

Excerpt from The New York Times
December 18, 2012

MRI Head

S. Matthew Liao, director of the bioethics program at New York University, has a singular title: neuroethicist.

Some researchers claim to be near to using fMRIs to read thoughts. Is this really happening?

The technology, though still crude, appears to be getting closer. For instance, there’s one research group that asks subjects to watch movies. When they

read more

Is the US health care system a target for cyberterrorism?

December 19, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Cyber threats are on the rise, and U.S. health care organizations must be better prepared to deal with them, according to an open-access article in Telemedicine and e-Health.

The health care system in the U.S. is a $2.5 trillion industry and depends heavily on communication and the transfer of information via the Internet. This puts it at ever-increasing risk of a cyberterrorism attack, which could… read more

Earlier cancer diagnosis by detecting biomarkers in urine

Nanoparticles amplify tumor signals, making them much easier to detect
December 19, 2012

These nanoparticles created by MIT engineers can act as synthetic biomarkers for disease. The particles (brown) are coated with peptides (blue) that are cleaved by enzymes (green) found at the disease site. The peptides then accumulate in the urine, where they can be detected using mass spectrometry.<br />
Image: Justin H. Lo

Specific proteins secreted by cancer cells circulating in the bloodstream could help diagnose cancer earlier, but the quantity of these biomarkers is so low that detecting them has proven difficult.

Now MIT researchers, led by Sangeeta Bhatia, have developed nanoparticles that interact with cancer proteins to produce thousands of biomarkers that can be easily detected in the patient’s urine.

This biomarker amplification system could also be… read more

A display that makes interactive 3D seem mind-bogglingly real

The Z Space display could be revolutionary for designers and animators, but might also inspire innovation in computer gaming and augmented reality
December 19, 2012

z-space1

The “Z Space” display, developed by Californian company Infinite Z, tracks a user’s eye and hand movements and adjusts the 3-D image that he or she sees in real-time, MIT Technology Review reports.

The resulting effect is stunning. Unlike the 3-D video seen in a movie theater or on a 3-D TV, you can move your head around an object — to look it from… read more

Energy-efficient computer memory using magnetic materials

MeRAM is up to "1,000 times more energy-efficient than current technologies"
December 19, 2012

MeRAM_bit

By using electric voltage instead of a flowing electric current, researchers from UCLA‘s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have made major improvements to an ultra-fast, high-capacity class of computer memory known as magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM).

The UCLA team’s improved memory, which they call MeRAM for magnetoelectric random access memory, has great potential to be used in future memory… read more

Power sources for flexible, stretchable electronics

December 19, 2012

This image shows a fully stretchable supercapacitor composed of carbon nanotube macrofilms, a polyurethane membrane separator and organic electrolytes (credit: Xin Li et al./University of Delaware)

Stretchable electronics are the future of mobile electronics, leading giants such as IBM, Sony and Nokia to incorporate the technology into their products, says University of Delaware  mechanical engineering professor Bingqing Wei.

Potential stretchable applications include biomedical, wearable, portable and sensory devices, such as cyber skin for robotic devices and implantable electronics.

But rechargeable and stretchable energy storage devices, also known as supercapacitors, are urgently needed to complement… read more

Another Earth just 12 light-years away?

December 19, 2012

alpha_centauri_planet_eso

Astronomers have discovered what may be five planets orbiting Tau Ceti, the closest single star beyond our solar system whose temperature and luminosity nearly match the sun’s, Science Now reports.

If the planets are in fact there, one of them is about the right distance from the star to sport mild temperatures, oceans of liquid water, and even life, and slight changes in Tau Ceti’s… read more

First map of how the brain organizes everything we see

December 20, 2012

Semantic_space_small

How do we make sense of the thousands of images that flood our retinas each day? Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the brain is wired to organize all the categories of objects and actions that we see, and they have created the first interactive map of how the brain organizes these groupings.

Continuous semantic space

The result… read more

A new ‘network-extracted ontology’ model of the cell

Turning vast amounts of genomic data into meaningful information about the cell is the great challenge of bioinformatics, with major implications for human biology and medicine
December 20, 2012

cell_model-small

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and colleagues have proposed a new “network-extracted ontology” (NeXO) method that creates a computational model of the cell from large networks of gene and protein interactions, discovering how genes and proteins connect to form higher-level cellular machinery.

“Our method creates [an] ontology, or a specification of all the major players in the cell and… read more

Liquid metal creates wires that stretch 8 times their original length

December 20, 2012

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created conductive wires that can be stretched up to eight times their original length while still functioning.

The wires can be used for everything from headphones to phone chargers, and have potential uses in electronic textiles.

To make the wires, researchers start with a thin tube made of an extremely elastic polymer and then fill the tube… read more

Mayo Clinic study unmasks regulator of healthy life span

Promising target for aging disorders and cancer
December 20, 2012

A new series of studies in mouse models by Mayo Clinic researchers uncovered that the aging process is characterized by high rates of whole-chromosome losses and gains in various organs, including heart, muscle, kidney and eye, and demonstrate that reducing these rates slows age-related tissue deterioration and promotes a healthier life span.

“We’ve known for some time that reduced levels of BubR1 are a hallmark of aging… read more

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