Science & Technology
Scientists find high-precision atomic clocks useful to monitor volcanoes, improve prediction of eruptions
Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:00 UTC
Atomic clocks measure time with unbelievable accuracy. The best atomic clocks are so precise that they would lose less than one second over a period of 10 billion years. However, they are generally only used in laboratories. Science and industry have yet to take full advantage of their unprecedented ability to measure time. An international team including Dr. Ruxandra Bondarescu, Andreas Schärer and Prof. Philippe Jetzer from the Institute of Physics from the University of Zurich discusses potential applications for atomic clocks.
Their analysis shows that the slow down of time predicted by general relativity can be measured by local clocks and used to monitor volcanoes. General relativity states that clocks positioned at different distances from a massive body like the Earth have different tick rates. The closer a clock is to a massive object, the slower it ticks. In a similar manner, subterranean objects influence the tick rate of local clocks that are located above the Earth's surface. New lava filling a magma chamber beneath a volcano makes a clock located above that volcano tick more slowly than a clock that is located further away. Volcanoes are currently monitored using GPS receivers. The resulting data often has to be integrated over a period of several years before an estimate of the volume of new magma can be made. A network of local, highly precise atomic clocks may provide the same information within a few hours. This would make it possible to monitor processes inside volcanoes more closely and to make better predictions for future volcanic eruptions.
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 02:43 UTC
Han, 58, spent millions of dollars in federal grants to fund years of work on his research, which was considered groundbreaking at the time. Other researchers at Iowa State scrutinized and called into question his apparently miraculous findings related to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Han eventually admitted to mixing human antibodies into rabbit blood to make his vaccine appear more effective in test animals, forcing him to resign his university position in 2013
Comment: Unfortunately, this type of fraudulent research may be all too common. Dr. Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of the Lancet recently published a statement declaring that much of published research is in fact unreliable at best, if not completely false.
"The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."
- Corruption of science: Breakthrough research that turns out to be fraudulent
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- Research Integrity? What a Joke! A New Code of Conduct for Researchers
- Psychopaths in Academia: Report finds massive research fraud at Dutch universities
- Netherlands: Tilburg Professor Faked Data in at Least 30 Academic Publications
- Scientific Fraud Prevalent Among Science-Based Medicines
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 22:20 UTC
While mobile phones and other devices are increasingly essential in our lives and often the main place we store all our information and manage our daily schedules, Kaspesky lab has published a study attempting to uncover how modern technologies affect human memory skills.
Kaspersky lab surveyed 6,000 users aged 16 and older in eight European countries. The results showed that 49 percent of UK respondents do not remember their parents' telephone numbers, 57 percent haven't memorized the number for their place of work, 71 percent of parents can't dial their children off the top of their head, and 87 percent don't know the number of their children's schools by heart. On the other hand, 47 percent can recite the phone numbers they had when they were between age 10 and 15, likely before devices had such large memories.
Wed, 01 Jul 2015 00:00 UTC
This new concept, described in a study led by researchers in the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and at the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, The Rockefeller University, was published today in the journal Neuron.
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:15 UTC
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:15 UTC
From E.T to the X-Files, aliens from outer space have captured our imagination for decades.Yet a new book from a leading evolutionary biologist argues that if they exist and we ever encountered them, they would look very similar to us.
Professor Simon Conway Morris said extra-terrestrials that resemble human beings should have evolved on at least some of the many Earth-like planets that have been discovered by astronomers.
In his new book published on 2 July, The Runes of Evolution, the University of Cambridge academic builds on the principle of convergent evolution - that different species will independently evolve similar features, with the comparison of the camera eye of an octopus and a human eye a favourite example - and argues it will not just took place on Earth.
"An area of biology which is becoming popular, perhaps too popular, that the possibility evolution is becoming much more predictable than people thought," he told The Independent. "The book is really trying to persuade the world that evolutionary convergence is completely ubiquitous. Wherever you look you see it.
"The theme is to try and drive the reader, gently of course, into the possibility that the things which we regard as most important, ie cognitive sophistication, large brains, intelligence, tool making, are also convergent. Therefore, in principle, other Earth-like planets should very much end up with the same sort of arrangement."
Professor Conway Morris, a Fellow at St John's College, said it follows that plant and animal life on other planets able to support life would also look similar to Earth's.
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 00:00 UTC
The rings appear as circles around Circinus X-1, a double star system in the plane of our galaxy containing a neutron star, the dense remnant of a massive star pulverized in a supernova explosion. The neutron star is in orbit with another massive star, and is shrouded by thick clouds of interstellar gas and dust. Circinus X-1 is also the source of a surprisingly powerful jet of high-energy particles.
"It's really hard to get accurate distance measurements in astronomy and we only have a handful of methods," said Sebastian Heinz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who led the study. "But just as bats use sonar to triangulate their location, we can use the X-rays from Circinus X-1 to figure out exactly where it is."
The light echo shows that Circinus X-1 is located about 30,700 light years from Earth, and settles the difference in results published in prior studies. The detection and characterization of the rings required the unique capabilities of Chandra -- the ability to detect fine details combined with sensitivity to faint signals.
Fast Facts for Circinus X-1:
Credit - X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/S.Heinz et al; Optical: DSS
Release Date - June 23, 2015
Scale - Image is 34 arcmin across (about 300 light years)
Category - Neutron Stars/X-ray BinariesCoordinates (J2000) - RA 15h 20m 41.00s | Dec -51° 10' 00
Constellation - Circinus Observation Date - 9 pointings between Apr 2005 and Apr 2011
Observation Time - 50 hours (2 days 2 hours).
Obs. ID - 15801, 16578
Instrument - ACISReferences - Heinz, S. et al, 2015, ApJ accepted, arXiv:1506.06142Color Code - X-ray (Red, Green, Blue); Optical (Gold)
ABC Science, Australia
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:30 UTC
ABC Science, Australia
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:30 UTC
That's the sound of a caterpillar chewing on a leaf. But the real surprise is what happens next: the plant reacts to the noise by churning out chemicals that repel predators.
The discovery was made in 2014, by researchers Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft from the University of Missouri.
It's been known for a while that sounds can affect the way plants germinate, and the expression of some of their genes, says Appel. "But just why plants were sensitive to airborne sound was a mystery".
Self-preservation is as good an evolutionary strategy as you get, so the pair set out to test whether plants were able to respond to the miniscule vibrations caused by having their leaves chewed.
These 'double-muscled' pigs are made by disrupting, or editing, a single gene — a change that is much less dramatic than those made in conventional genetic modification, in which genes from one species are transplanted into another. As a result, their creators
Jin-Soo Kim, a molecular biologist at Seoul National University who is leading the work, argues that his gene edits merely speed up a process that could, at least in principle, occur through a more natural route. "We could do this through breeding," he says, "but then it would take decades."
Comment: "This little piggie went to market, this little piggie went to gene-editing..." Well, there goes the bacon. There have been reports that double-muscled cattle have serious welfare problems with parturition (birthing), calf mortality, joint stiffness, cardiac problems, etc. Mixing these poor manipulated creatures with normal stock may become the meat-version of the Monsanto nightmare. A typical genetic change takes a long time to spread through a population, but a gene drive allows a mutation, made by CRISPR on one chromosome, to copy itself to its partner in EVERY generation, so that nearly all offspring will inherit the change, speeding through a population exponentially faster than normal.
When will we consider the ramifications before we consider the profit? Whether it is using an enzyme to create gene change, or a cheap thrill like CRISPR, so far, there are no regulations nor guidelines, not in the USA nor around the world. In fact, it has been noted that "there is a mentality that as long as it works, we don't have to understand how or why it works." The tracking, the missteps...? the glitches...? Pandora's box. What, we worry?
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:58 UTC
Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:58 UTC
The limb, developed by Professor Hubert Egger of the FH Upper Austria (University of Applied Sciences), allows wearers to tell which surface they are walking on and dramatically improves amputee's balance and coordination.
The development could wipe out the phenomenon of phantom pain, where amputees can experience severe discomfort as the brain receives no neural feedback from their missing limb.
A two-stage process was used to fit the limb to its first user, Austrian amputee Wolfgang Rangger, who lost his right leg to a blood clot and has been testing the limb for the past six months.
AFP reported that surgeons first rewired working nerve endings from Rangger's stump to healthy thigh tissue close to the surface of the skin. These nerves were then connected via stimulators in the prosthesis shaft to a foot which was equipped with six sensors.
The tragedy occurred at a plant belonging to German automaker Volkswagen (VW) in Baunatal, on Monday.
A 21 year old man, who is not an employee of the plant, was assembling the robot for a new motor production line, according to the Local.de. His Meissen-based company had built the machine for the automaker.
He was the only person in the proximity of the machine. Other workers were standing in the outer area. The robot grabbed the man and threw him against a metal slab. He suffered a severe blow to the chest area and died in hospital.
VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said that human error is to blame for the incident, according to the Associated Press. He said that the machine is programed to grab auto parts and manipulate them. It operates in a restricted area of the plant.
The factory at Baunatal, 100 kilometers north of Frankfurt, is the second largest for the Volkswagen brand. It doesn't make vehicles, but assembles components for other plants.
boingboing, July 1st
A Volkswagen rep told the paper that the robot "was not one of the new generation of lightweight collaborative robots that work side-by-side with workers on the production line and forgo safety cages," and had no known technical defect.
Comment: New technology was developed just for these types of accidents in Germany in 2007:
Robots that know when they've hit you:
The arm also uses its torque sensors for more sophisticated responses. The direction of an unexpected movement allows it to differentiate a co-worker's guiding hand from an unintended collision, preventing it from stopping unnecessarily. Meanwhile the magnitude of the movement allows it to tell the difference between a big hit and a soft collision. It responds to the latter with a gentle nudge that signals "get out of my way" to its human co-worker. A commercial version of the arm will be launched next year by robot manufacturer Kuka of Augsburg, Germany.
A commercial version of the arm will be launched next year - 2008- by robot manufacturer Kuka of Augsburg, Germany.