Science & Technology


Technology Uses Live Cells To Detect Food-borne Pathogens, Toxins

Researchers have developed a new technology that can simultaneously screen thousands of samples of food or water for several dangerous food-borne pathogens in one to two hours.

food born toxins
©Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell
Purdue researcher Pratik Banerjee, at left, measures fluid as he and professor of food science Arun Bhunia work in the lab. Their technology uses common lab materials to quickly screen food and water samples for several food-borne pathogens and toxins.

Avalanches On Mars Photographed By NASA Spacecraft

A NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars has taken the first ever image of active avalanches near the Red Planet's north pole. The image shows tan clouds billowing away from the foot of a towering slope, where ice and dust have just cascaded down.

©NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Image of one of at least four Martian avalanches, or debris falls, captured in action. It was taken on February 19, 2008, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

HIV Breakthrough: Protein That Fights Immunodeficiency Identified

A Canada-U.S. research team has solved a major genetic mystery: How a protein in some people's DNA guards them against killer immune diseases such as HIV. In an advance online edition of Nature Medicine, the scientists explain how the protein, FOX03a, shields against viral attacks and how the discovery will help in the development of a HIV vaccine.

HIV Virus
©Produced by Richard Feldmann; NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Computer model of AIDS virus (HIV).

140-year-old math problem solved by researcher

A problem which has defeated mathematicians for almost 140 years has been solved by a researcher at Imperial College London.

Professor Darren Crowdy, Chair in Applied Mathematics, has made the breakthrough in an area of mathematics known as conformal mapping, a key theoretical tool used by mathematicians, engineers and scientists to translate information from a complicated shape to a simpler circular shape so that it is easier to analyse.

This theoretical tool has a long history and has uses in a large number of fields including modelling airflow patterns over intricate wing shapes in aeronautics. It is also currently being used in neuroscience to visualise the complicated structure of the grey matter in the human brain.

A formula, now known as the Schwarz-Christoffel formula, was developed by two mathematicians in the mid-19th century to enable them to carry out this kind of mapping. However, for 140 years there has been a deficiency in this formula: it only worked for shapes that did not contain any holes or irregularities.

Innovative archaeological survey reveals unknown aspects of China's past

Imagine future archaeologists trying to understand Illinois, California or New York based on a few excavations in each of those states. They might excavate small areas in city centers, since those sites would probably be the first ruins they would come across. Meanwhile, the archaeologists they might fail to notice or study farms, suburbs, shopping malls, canals and airports.

©Photo by Anne Underhill, courtesy of The Field Museum
Scientists walk through tea fields in southeastern Shandong as part of an innovative settlement pattern regional survey that uncovered important new evidence about how this region of China developed. This photograph was taken in 2006, and the team has completed 13 years of survey to date, making it one of the longest running collaborations of any kind between Chinese and American scientists. On the right, Linda Nicholas, Adjunct Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum, carries a map on which she marks the distribution of the prehistoric and Early Bronze Age sherds found during the survey.

The Hope

Comment: We have decided to re-run this article published April of last year. For some curious reason, searching for it on google gives no returns even when specific phrases from the text are used in quotes for the search. We suspect that this particular piece is being suppressed stringently for some reason and hope that as many of you as possible will share it around, cross-post it, link to it, and otherwise make the information contained herein widely available in spite of google.

©Signs of the Times

My last contribution to the Blogosphere must have been pretty scary. Geeze! You shoulda seen my mail! People going bananas and writing "what to do? what to do!?"

Well, this one's not going to be any better. But let me say in advance that today's particular collection of items will lead us to a certain point of hope which I wish to elucidate at the end.
Cloud Lightning

Solar Activity Diminishes; Researchers Predict Another Ice Age

Global Cooling comes back in a big way

Dr. Kenneth Tapping is worried about the sun. Solar activity comes in regular cycles, but the latest one is refusing to start. Sunspots have all but vanished, and activity is suspiciously quiet. The last time this happened was 400 years ago -- and it signaled a solar event known as a "Maunder Minimum," along with the start of what we now call the "Little Ice Age."

Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada's National Research Council, says it may be happening again. Overseeing a giant radio telescope he calls a "stethoscope for the sun," Tapping says, if the pattern doesn't change quickly, the earth is in for some very chilly weather.

Can Robots Commit War Crimes?

Researchers debate where the fault divides between the operator and the machine

NASA Baffled by Unexplained Force Acting on Space

Mysteriously, five spacecraft that flew past the Earth have each displayed unexpected anomalies in their motions.
Better Earth

The New Cartographers -- What does it mean to map everything all the time?

It's flu season, and you're feeling woozy. Have you caught that thing that's going around?

To find out, head over to Who is Sick?, a Google map-based tool that lets users report their symptoms. Plug in your zip code to find nodes of contagion near you.

Or maybe you're depressed. Misery loves company. Check the local emotional temperature at We Feel Fine to see data-mined sentiments from blogs, organized geographically.

Maps are everywhere these days. The ubiquity of global positioning systems (GPS) and mobile directional devices, interactive mapping tools and social networks is feeding a mapping boom. Amateur geographers are assigning coordinates to everything they can get their hands on - and many things they can't. "Locative artists" are attaching virtual installations to specific locales, generating imaginary landscapes brought vividly to life in William Gibson's latest novel, Spook Country. Indeed, proponents of "augmented reality" suggest that soon our current reality will be one of many "layers" of information available to us as we stroll down the street.

Like other technological innovations, this trend gives with one hand and takes with the other.

For some, mapping has become a vibrant new language - a way to interpret the world, find like-minded folks and make fresh, sometimes radical, perspectives visible. For others, maps portend threats to privacy and freedom of movement. Just see Privacy International's Map of Surveillance Societies Around the World, which classifies the United States as an "endemic surveillance society."