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How to focus light at the nanoscale

New light-focusing device may lead to radical improvements in hard drives, microscopes, and communications
December 11, 2012

(credit: Young-Hee Lee)

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) engineers have created a device that can focus light into a point just a few nanometers (billionths of a meter) across — an achievement they say may lead to next-generation applications in computing, communications, and imaging.

The Caltech device complements IBM’s just-announced “silicon nanophotonics,” which allows for the integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on… read more

The many maps of the brain

December 11, 2012

spatial_maps

Your brain has at least four different senses of location — and perhaps as many as 10 — and each is different, according to new research from the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The brain has a number of “modules” dedicated to self-location, they found. Each module contains its own internal GPS-like mapping system that keeps track… read more

Brain cells made from urine

December 11, 2012

neurons_from_urine

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons, Nature News reports.

The method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms… read more

US needs new deep-space Agency, Apollo astronaut says

December 11, 2012

harrison-schmitt-apollo17-astronaut-moonwalk

The U.S. should create a new agency dedicated to manned exploration of the moon, Mars and other destinations in deep space, says former Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Space.com reports.

Schmitt suggests the new agency be called the National Space Exploration Administration.

The new deep-space agency should “stay young, and develop a management structure that is not so hierarchical — that is actually a… read more

New optical tweezers trap specimens just a few nanometers wide

Could allow for studying individual proteins and unraveling them
December 11, 2012

This illustration shows the new aperture design (left) with two layers of silver separated by another of silicon dioxide. The structure focuses light in a novel way to trap particles smaller than ever before. The focused beams are shown in the illustration on the right. (Credit: Stanford School of Engineering)

A technique known as optical trapping uses beams of light as tweezers to hold and manipulate tiny particles. Stanford researchers have found a new way to trap particles smaller than 10 nanometers — and potentially down to just a few atoms in size — which until now have escaped light’s grasp.

To grasp and move microscopic objects, such as bacteria and the components of living cells, scientists can harness… read more

Eyewire: a citizen science quest to map the connectome

December 12, 2012

J cell (credit: Eyewire)

It’s time to mobilize a global community of citizen neuroscientists to trace the 3D structure of J Cells and understand how retinal connectomes relate to visual perception. — Eyewire

MIT’s Seung Lab has released EyeWire, which will enlist “citizen scientists” to to map the 3D structure of neurons by analyzing nanoscale brain images using web browsers and mobile devices.

“They will trace… read more

Toxic interaction in neurons that leads to dementia and ALS

December 12, 2012

Theoretical model illustrating how misregulation of human SORT1 splicing affects PGRN levels (credit:

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida have uncovered a toxic cellular process by which a protein that maintains the health of neurons becomes deficient and can lead to dementia.

The findings shed new light on the link between culprits implicated in two devastating neurological diseases: Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which afflicts physicist Stephen Hawking.

There… read more

How to directly sequence small genomes without library preparation

Can greatly reduce DNA consumption and the time it takes to generate sequencing data from small genomes
December 12, 2012

genome

For the first time, researchers have sequenced DNA molecules without the need for the standard pre-sequencing workflow known as library preparation.

Using this approach, the researchers generated sequence data using considerably less DNA than is required using standard methods, even down to less than one nanogram of DNA; 500 times less DNA than is needed by standard practices.

Libraries are collections of DNA fragments derived from… read more

Scientists discover mechanism that could reduce obesity

December 12, 2012

Lightmatter_lab_mice

An international team of scientists led by Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center researcher Andrew Larner, M.D., Ph.D., has successfully reversed obesity in mice by manipulating the production of an enzyme known as tyrosine-protein kinase-2 (Tyk2).

In their experiments, the scientists discovered that Tyk2 helps regulate obesity in mice and humans through the differentiation of a type of fat tissue known as brown adipose tissue (BAT).… read more

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds

December 12, 2012

share of power

The National Intelligence Council has issued Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, “intended to stimulate thinking about the rapid and vast geopolitical changes characterizing the world today and possible global trajectories during the next 15-20 years.”

The report sees four megatrends:

Individual empowerment will accelerate substantially during the next 15-20 years owing to poverty reduction and a huge growth of the global middle class, greater educational attainment,… read more

Johnny Depp uploaded to supercomputer in film about the Singularity

December 13, 2012

jd

Johnny Depp will play Will, a scientist whose brain is uploaded into a supercomputer in Transcendence (2014), the movie’s producer told TheWrap.

The plot involves a scientist whose brain is uploaded into a supercomputer with the aim of creating the world’s first self-aware computer. A group of anti-technology terrorists assassinate Will, and his wife Evelyn uploads his brain into a prototype supercomputer.

Will asks… read more

State-of-the-art virtual-reality system is key to medical discovery

For team of neurosurgeons and researchers, CAVE2 could revolutionize stroke prevention and treatment
December 13, 2012

Surgeons from the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences Systems Neurosurgery Department view a simulation of the human brain vasculature and cortical tissue in the CAVE2 Hybrid Reality Environment. This project is a collaboration between the University of Illinois at Chicago's (UIC) Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) and Bioengineering Department's Laboratory for Product and Process Design. EVL OmegaLib software is used to display the 3D model in the CAVE2 System. (Credit: Lance Long for Electronic Visualization Laboratory/University of Illinois at Chicago)

A team of neurosurgeons from the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) recently stepped into CAVE2 — a next-generation, large-scale, 320-degree, immersive, 3-D virtual environment — to solve a vexing problem that presented itself in the arteries of the brain of a real patient.

The method they used could someday benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans who fall… read more

Biologists engineer algae to make complex anti-cancer ‘designer’ drug

December 13, 2012

Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a green alga used widely in biology laboratories, can produce many kinds of “designer proteins” (credit: Nathan Schoepp/University of California - San Diego)

Biologists at UC San Diego have succeeded in genetically engineering algae  to produce what has been a complex and expensive human therapeutic drug used to treat cancer.

Their achievement opens the door for making these and other “designer” proteins in larger quantities and much more cheaply than can now be made from mammalian cells.

“Because we can make the exact same drug in algae,… read more

A 360-degree view of the world

Paranoids alert
December 13, 2012

FlyViz

Have you ever dreamed of having eyes in the back of your head?

Yeah, we haven’t either, but FlyVIZ, designed by French engineers, lets you experience a real-time 360° vision of your surroundings. It combines a panoramic image acquisition system (positioned on top of the your head) with a head-mounted display (HMD) and a laptop for transforming the fly-eye images in real time into something humans can… read more

Should we live to 1,000?

December 13, 2012

Peter_Singer

Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation and the world’s most prominent advocate of anti-aging research, argues that it makes no sense to spend the vast majority of our medical resources on trying to combat the diseases of aging without tackling aging itself, writes ethicist Peter Singer on Project Syndicate.

De Grey believes that even modest progress in this area over the coming decade could… read more

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