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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:21 pm

Well damn. I'm fat, diabetic, and usually get 5 hours or less of sleep... :-(

Poor Sleep May Lead To Too Much Stored Fat And Disease
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that inadequate shut-eye has a harmful response on fat cells, reducing their ability to respond to insulin by about 30 percent. Over the long-term, this decreased response could set the stage for Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and weight gain.

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:35 am

Will Zefram Cochrane be there?

Planet Found in Nearest Star System to Earth

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012.

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the southern skies and is the nearest stellar system to our Solar System — only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star — a system consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close to each other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more distant and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri [1]. Since the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about planets orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes for life beyond the Solar System, but searches of increasing precision had revealed nothing. Until now.

“Our observations extended over more than four years using the HARPS instrument and have revealed a tiny, but real, signal from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B every 3.2 days,” says Xavier Dumusque (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland and Centro de Astrofisica da Universidade do Porto, Portugal), lead author of the paper. “It’s an extraordinary discovery and it has pushed our technique to the limit!”

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Re: Science News

Postby CountD » Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:10 am


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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:57 am

CountD wrote:More Shiny Objects Found on Mars!!!

http://news.yahoo.com/nasas-curiosity-r ... -tech.html


curiouser and curiouser! :shock:

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Re: Science News

Postby CountD » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:48 pm

sdsichero wrote:
curiouser and curiouser! :shock:


Pherb! :-D

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:14 pm

Well, frac...

Lorca earthquake 'caused by groundwater extraction'

Scientists studying the fault beneath the Spanish city of Lorca say that groundwater removal may be implicated in a deadly 2011 earthquake there.

Detailed surface maps from satellite studies allowed them to infer which parts of the ground moved where.

They report in Nature Geoscience that those shifts correlate with locations where water has been drained for years.

The study highlights how human activity such as drainage or borehole drilling can have far-reaching seismic effects.

Pablo Gonzalez of the University of Western Ontario and colleagues used satellite radar data to trace the ground movements of the Lorca event back to their source, finding that the earthquake resulted from slippage on a comparatively shallow fault that borders a large water basin south of the city.

That the slippage happened at a depth of just 3km explains why the fairly mild Magnitude 5.1 quake caused so much damage in the area.

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Re: Science News

Postby David Bird » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:21 pm

sdsichero wrote:Not news but neat...

Mammatus Clouds Over Saskatchewan

Image


That is neat.

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:28 pm

David Bird wrote:
That is neat.


Haven't seen you in this thread for a while, how ya doing?

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:32 pm

Sun unleashes intense X-class flare; active sunspot region rotating towards Earth

The sun belted out the most powerful type of solar flare Monday night, known as an X-class flare (the weaker flare classes are M-class, medium-sized, and C-class, small-sized). It was the latest in a flurry of 4 flares hurled out by the sun since the weekend.

Fortunately, the X-class flare was not directed at Earth. But space weather forecasters caution the very active sunspot region - known as AR1598 - responsible for these flares is slowly rotating towards Earth in the coming days.

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:35 pm

NASA’s Curiosity rover discovers methane on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity is causing a stir in the scientific community after the Mars rover found methane on the planet. Using its on board Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, the rover was able to determine that the biotic gas methane is present on Mars.

Although methane can be produced by geologic mechanisms, it is most often associated with living organisms. This has caught the attention of many scientists who think finding methane on Mars might mean there is life on the planet. This life may not necessarily mean extraterrestrial beings, more realistically, tiny microbes, similar to bacteria on Earth, may be giving off the gas.

The main function of the SAM instrument is to analyze gases present in samples internalized by the rover. The equipment for SAM takes up over half of Curiosity’s 1-ton weight, but that’s nothing to the entire lab all of the machinery would take up on Earth.

Gases can reach the SAM instrument, which was created by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by being drawn in straight from the atmosphere or extracted from soil samples. SAM’s main goal is to find samples that hold the element carbon in them, such as methane. Since carbon is one of the building blocks of organic life, finding it on Mars would indicate some sort of life may exist on the planet.

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:55 pm

This sounds like a plot for a sci-fi movie...

Hyperfast Stars Point to Black Hole Slingshot

Astronomers are now following stars on the inner edge of the disk that plunge toward the black hole in comet-like elliptical orbits.

But new insights into the core-fireworks come from the most unlikely place: by looking far outside the plane of our galaxy.

In 1940, a young blue star was found among the ancient stars inhabiting the vast halo of our Milky Way. It is barreling through the halo at speeds several times faster than the staid halo population. Astronomers first hypothesized that a runaway star was in a binary system and ejected though some sort of gravitational interaction with a third star entering the system, or perhaps propelled by a supernova explosion. In 1988 the gravitational slingshot effect from the galaxy's central black hole was hypothesized as the propulsion source.

In recent years, more of these so-called hypervelocity stars have been found zooming far away from our galaxy. In a survey of the northern sky five especially bright short-lived hypervelocity stars have been identified. They are all under 200 million years old.

But if these wayward stars were ejected from the disk of our galaxy they would be randomly distributed on the sky. Instead they are found far above the galaxy’s northern pole and clustered in a patch about 1/8th the area of the northern sky.

A supermassive black hole "launcher" is the simplest explanation because the concentration suggests that the hypervelocity stars follow an escape trajectory, perhaps perpendicular to the plane of stars encircling the black hole. If this is true, then a survey of the southern sky for high velocity stars should uncover a mirror-image concentration on the sky.

Researchers propose that every 10,000 years our supermassive black hole knocks a hypervelocity star out of the ballpark. An idea is that one star in a binary system near the black hole loses momentum and falls toward the black hole. This momentum is transferred to the binary companion that is then accelerated to escape velocity from our galaxy. The single giant black hole propulsion theory is supported by observations that show the stars seem spaced sequentially, like a series of fired cannonballs.

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Re: Science News

Postby ~Alima~ » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:02 pm

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/346135/description/Beginnings_of_Bionic
By Meghan Rosen


This stamp-on circuit and other new electronic devices are designed to conform to human tissue.
J. Rogers/Univ. of Illinois

Michael McAlpine’s shiny circuit doesn’t look like something you would stick in your mouth. It’s dashed with gold, has a coiled antenna and is glued to a stiff rectangle. But the antenna flexes, and the rectangle is actually silk, its stiffness melting away under water. And if you paste the device on your tooth, it could keep you healthy.

The electronic gizmo is designed to detect dangerous bacteria and send out warning signals, alerting its bearer to microbes slipping past the lips. Recently, McAlpine, of Princeton University, and his colleagues spotted a single E. coli bacterium skittering across the surface of the gadget’s sensor. The sensor also picked out ulcer-causing H. pylori amid the molecular medley of human saliva, the team reported earlier this year in Nature Communications.

At about the size of a standard postage stamp, the dental device is still too big to fit comfortably in a human mouth. “We had to use a cow tooth,” McAlpine says, describing test experiments. But his team plans to shrink the gadget so it can nestle against human enamel. McAlpine is convinced that one day, perhaps five to 10 years from now, everyone will wear some sort of electronic device. “It’s not just teeth,” he says. “People are going to be bionic.”

McAlpine belongs to a growing pack of tech-savvy scientists figuring out how to merge the rigid, brittle materials of conventional electronics with the soft, curving surfaces of human tissues. Their goal: To create products that have the high performance of silicon wafers — the crystalline material used in computer chips — while still moving with the body. Beyond detecting bacteria to nip potential illnesses before they begin, such devices could comfortably monitor a person’s vital signs and deliver therapeutic treatments.

Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cinematic cyborg, which forced flesh and blood to fuse with a machine base, today’s researchers focus on tailoring electronics to fit the human form. One group, led by materials scientist John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has created flat electronic “temporary tattoos” that stick to skin. This summer, the researchers invented an electronic finger sleeve that detects movement and touch. Now, a similar technology can hug the heart like cling wrap. Such a device could sense erratic beats and zap a spastic organ back into rhythm. Other inventions, implanted into the brain, might send out microshocks to jolt away an epileptic seizure.

In the last two years, another team, led by Zhenan Bao of Stanford University, has been working toward making stretchy, artificial skins from rubber and carbon nanotubes. The skins will feel like the real thing to the touch — and they will have a sense of touch too, electronically detecting changes in strain and pressure from a stretch or a pinch.
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TOOTHY CIRCUIT
When transferred to a tooth, a graphene-based sensor printed on biodegradable silk could help fight disease. Such a device can detect the presence of bacterial intruders in the mouth and communicate its findings via wireless readout.
M.S. Mannoor et al/Nature Communications 2012

In the short term, flexible, stretchable electronics could help make medical devices smarter, by integrating sensors into sutures, surgical gloves or balloon catheters that feel their way through the passageways of a heart. Incorporating electronics onto (and into) human bodies for everyday use may follow close behind.

“We went from a computer that fit in a room, to a computer that goes on your desk, to a computer that can go in your pocket,” McAlpine says. Joining computers to the body, he says, is “the next logical step.”

Rogers is one of the scientists pushing the field forward. And last year, he put some skin in the game.

Stuck on skin

Silicon wafers are lousy for making skin electronics. “In terms of mechanics,” Rogers says, “they’re basically like a plate of glass.” When the body twists and bends, they break.

But the appeal of silicon is its history. “There’s been a half a century of global research and development to understand how to purify it, dope it, make devices out of it and manufacture with it,” he says.
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This flexible brain sensor can monitor activity more gently and accurately than current technologies.
J. Rogers, D.-H. Kim et al/Nature Materials 2010

A typical computer chip has metal wires that carry a current along a rigid silicon base. Components etched into the base control the flow. Rogers’ team is working with the brittle silicon to make it flexible and stretchable enough to ride atop skin. By creating ultrathin silicon ribbons instead of etching into a silicon block, the researchers have produced parts that bend without breaking. Think of how you can roll up a piece of paper but not a wooden board, Rogers says. The paper’s thinness makes it supple.

In his team’s epidermal electronic devices, squiggles of silicon ribbons snake across rubbery support surfaces. The squiggles join with gold to form the devices’ sensors — for detecting temperature or pressure or strain — and link up in a mesh that puckers and flexes along with the sheet it is mounted to.

One day, a slim skin sticker designed by the team could be used to a track a person’s health (SN: 9/10/11, p. 10). It would even be gentle enough for premature babies. The electronic gadget might also be tapped for nonmedical uses: Secret agents with an electronic sticker hidden under a shirt collar could pick up and send out conversations, an extra-covert way to “wear a wire.”

Already, Reebok is working with Rogers to develop a skin-mounted sports monitor designed to move with the body while tracking an athlete’s health. Reebok’s flexible device straps on instead of stamping on, “but it’s a great first step in that direction,” says Rogers.

While gadget lovers wait for the device to debut sometime later this year, Rogers and collaborators have moved beyond flat electronics into a third dimension. In August they reported inventing an electronic “finger tube” — a molded polymer sheath with built-in sensor disks of silicon and gold. For a snug fit, Rogers’ team used a 3-D scanner to map a finger’s form. He envisions the stretchy tubes will one day top the fingers of smart surgical gloves, to enhance the sense of touch for delicate operations.

Rogers is also teaming up with other researchers to apply the new technology to bigger body parts — such as hearts.


Keep the beat alive

When St. Louis surgeons remove a failing heart from a transplant patient, biomedical engineer Igor Efimov and his colleagues are among the first to know. They take advantage of the heart’s last moments of life to test prototypes of a cardiac technology that might one day have the power to heal.

Efimov and his team have joined with Rogers’ group to develop the device, which slips around the heart and uses a low-energy method to gently calm spastic tremors. Jittery flutters called atrial fibrillations afflict millions of people worldwide and can bump up stroke risk.

A safe, effective atrial defibrillator exists, but it is bulky, with rigid electrodes and wires that eventually wear out, short-circuit or leak. What’s more, “nobody wants to use it because it’s too painful,” Efimov says. The defibrillator uses so much energy to jump-start a heart that patients describe it as a mule kick to the chest. His team’s method is more like a love tap; it’s pain-free.

Inside the “heart sock” are printed sensors that monitor activity across the surface and stimulators that deliver tiny shocks when needed. And because the sock is light and floppy, it could outlast today’s clunky cardiac equipment.

Recently, Efimov and colleagues have begun testing prototypes on donated human hearts. A partnership between Barnes Jewish Hospital and Efimov’s lab at Washington University, both in St. Louis, delivers sick hearts from patients to scientists. When transplant patients get new hearts, researchers get to experiment on the old ones.

By adding some texture to a rubber film (magnification above, on right), researchers can increase its sensitivity to pressure. One day this rubber may be combined with other technologies to create artificial skin.
Both: Benjamin Tee, S. Mannsfeld et al/Nature Materials 2010

“It’s a good deal,” Efimov says. After the heart is pulled from the body and unhooked from its blood supply, the researchers have a short window of time before the heart shuts down. They shuttle it to the lab and conduct their experiments, laying pieces of prototype heart sock material on the organ to measure electrical activity and other properties. In the team’s sensing tests so far, he says, it is “working really wonderfully.”

Efimov has also stimulated rabbit hearts with a more complete version of the sock, and is planning to try it on the hearts of living dogs — the best animal model for human atrial fibrillation, according to Efimov. With so many people worldwide relying on defibrillators and other implanted heart devices, Efimov sees an obvious market.

Though Efimov focuses on cardiac therapy, he has ideas for other uses for the technology. Scientists could use related devices on muscles or bones, he says, or to hook up human brains to the Internet. “There are so many applications,” he says. “It’s just amazing.”

Handle with silk

A Web-browsing brain may sound like science fiction, but researchers have already figured out how to implant flat chips into the human brain to pick up neural signals and turn them into actions (SN: 7/2/11, p. 26).

But forcing flat electronics to lay against the soft, sloping surface of the brain is a delicate and tricky task. The device must physically touch the cortex and be stiff enough that surgeons can pass it through tiny openings in the skull. One of the best current technologies taps into neural activity by jabbing sharp pins into the brain where they contact clumps of brain cells. The pins mount to a rigid silicon chip.

Though easy to handle, today’s approaches irritate the tissue and can trigger long-term inflammation. Low-profile devices that instead sink into the brain’s crevices and work with its micromovements — bulges, contractions and pulses — could be less traumatic and longer lasting. If scientists can figure out how to work with them.

“You can’t really hold or manipulate the device very well because it’s so thin and flexible and sloppy that it’s not even self-supporting,” Rogers says. “So how do you move it around?”

One answer is silk. As with McAlpine’s tooth sensor, thin films of silk may help scientists get a grip on flexible electronics. Because the films are stiff when dry, researchers can add a layer of mesh circuits and easily maneuver the films through holes in the skull and onto the brain. Doused with fluid, the film dissolves and the circuit snuggles against the brain’s folds. Since the silk doesn’t bother the body, film remnants can flush safely into the skull cavity (SN: 11/3/12, p. 15).

“It eventually degrades, and the body has a very low immune response to it,” says biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto. To make the films, Omenetto and his team at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., process silk into its basic protein ingredients. First, they chop up silkworm cocoons, and then they boil the bits in a salt solution to break down the fibers. “It’s like making pasta,” Omenetto says. At the end of the entire process, what’s left is a mixture of water and fibroin — a versatile silk protein that scientists can form into almost anything, including thin sheets.

In 2010, Rogers, Omenetto and colleagues tested a silk-coupled electronic device on a feline brain. They placed the silk-backed mesh circuit onto the visual cortex of an anesthetized cat and monitored brain activity. Compared to thicker devices, the mesh molded more closely to the brain and recorded stronger signals. In people, such flexible devices may one day control prosthetic arms, map brain activity or quell seizures in epileptic patients.


Instead of trying to make traditional electronic materials flexible, Stanford’s Bao and colleagues are turning the goal around: They’re trying to make flexible materials electronic. By layering thin textured films with carbon nanotubes, Bao and her colleagues are figuring out how to make touch-sensitive artificial skin — no rigid parts required.

Today’s ultrasensitive strain sensors are built with a thin layer of silicon film. Pressing on the film changes the amount of current zipping through it, allowing the pressure to be measured. The gadgets are very sensitive, Bao says, but also very fragile. For the applications she is interested in, fragile doesn’t work: “A lot of wear and tear will easily damage those kinds of devices.”

In 2010, Bao’s team made a sensing system that works a little differently by sandwiching a layer of microstructured rubber between two charge-holding metal grids. When pressure is applied to the grids, the amount of charge changes. The pattern of holes carved into the rubber bumped up its sensitivity: Even a butterfly-light touch compressed the cutouts, Bao and colleagues reported in Nature Materials.

Of course, metal tends to crack when bent. So last year, the researchers figured out how to give the sandwich’s bread layers a little stretch.

They replaced the metal grids with carbon nanotubes, thin carbon wires that can handle extreme bending and still conduct a current. In this version, the sandwich’s middle was a flat rubber film that wasn’t so sensitive, but combining the technologies and spotting the resulting sandwiches onto another material could yield sensitive, stretchable artificial skin.

Such skin may one day patch areas of real flesh damaged by burns, for example. “Twenty years from now,” Bao says, “I can definitely see some flexible sensor sheet that looks just like human skin and can be grafted onto wounds and function like real skin.”

In many ways, Bao’s artificial skin behaves like the real thing. But it has one big hurdle to clear: It still uses wires to send its messages to a computer. If the skin ever made its way into a prosthetic, it would need to relay signals wirelessly to the wearer’s brain. “Ultimately we want the sensors to be talking directly to the neurons,” Bao says.

She imagines a future in which a person’s electronic skin and other implanted devices link up. A world where a fly lands on the artificial skin of a person’s arm, which speaks to an electronic device in the brain, which tells the person to shoo the bug away with a flick of a supersensitive finger.

Today, researchers are buzzing along building bits of electronics that can be integrated into the body. Someday soon, they may cobble the pieces together and get them to converse in a truly bionic being.

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Re: Science News

Postby sdsichero » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:38 pm

NASA & ESA successfully test ‘interplanetary Internet’ connection

In what could be a scene from a science-fiction film, NASA and the European Space Agency have tested an “interplanetary Internet” connection by having an astronaut on the International Space Station control a small robot on Earth.

Space-focused missions and experiments have gotten hot once again in the wake of the Curiosity Mars rover, SpaceX’s private spaceflights, and Felix Baumgartner’s epic free-fall from space to Earth. Adding to the list, the U.K. government just announced it would increased its funding to the ESA by about $95 million.

With all this excitement around space, NASA has been hard at work recharging the American imagination. Its latest mission showed off a new communications protocol, one that could be used to transmit data between planets and spaceships. The protocol is called Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) and it allows for the many disconnections and errors that are likely to occur when a signal travels long distances through space.

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