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Mon, 05 Dec 2016
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Science & Technology


It took thousands of years, but we finally have a digital sundial

Digital sun dial
From around 1500 BCE, right up to the 14th century, many of our ancestors figured out the time using a sundial - you know, those triangular devices that cast a shadow on a dial below, revealing what hour it was.

They might not be as accurate as the clocks we have today, but sundials still work based on the simple premise of the Sun's predictable shift in position as our planet spins. And now a French engineer has finally brought the device into the digital age, creating a 3D-printed sundial that displays the time in '80s-style digital-style numbers.

Okay, so it's not technically digital. But a Earth spins on its axis and the position of the Sun shifts in our sky, the beams of light travel through an intricate network of tiny holes printed onto the sundial, to display a digital-style time readout on the moving shadow.

You can see the sundial in action below:


Russian teen desperate to help a schoolmate invents LED 'mouse-sandal' for people who have no hands

© Galina Sokolova
Mouse-sandal equipped with LED ribbon allows people to work on computer by using only feet
A high-school student in the remote Russian town of Kushva has invented a computer mouse for people who have no hands. The hands-free device is a sandal with control board from a normal mouse inside, and a LED ribbon outside to help spot it in the dark.

The mouse-sandal is said to be easy to use. Sergey Halyavin, the young inventor, first tested it himself, and only two weeks later, he could easily play computer games, Oblgazeta.ru reported.

"The idea of a device that would help work on the computer with one's feet came to me in 2015," the teen told ura.ru.

Sergey said he was desperate to help a schoolmate, who is suffering from a musculoskeletal condition and is unable to work on the computer, using a normal mouse.

© Galina Sokolova
Sergey Halyavin, a Russian high school student, invented the mouse-sandal to help his schoolmate suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder


Amazon will provide CIA with cloud computing

The intelligence community is about to get the equivalent of an adrenaline shot to the chest. This summer, a $600 million computing cloud developed by Amazon Web Services for the Central Intelligence Agency over the past year will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community. If the technology plays out as officials envision, it will usher in a new era of cooperation and coordination, allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily and avoid the kind of intelligence gaps that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

For the first time, agencies within the IC (intelligence community) will be able to order a variety of on-demand computing and analytic services from the CIA and National Security Agency. What's more, they'll only pay for what they use.

The vision was first outlined in the IC Information Technology Enterprise plan championed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and IC Chief Information Officer Al Tarasiuk almost three years ago. Cloud computing is one of the core components of the strategy to help the IC discover, access and share critical information in an era of seemingly infinite data.


Researchers develop pesticide biosensor

© REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang
When does too much of something become a bad thing? That's the question Dr. Jonathan Claussen, assistant professor at Iowa State University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and his team of researchers aim to help farmers answer when it comes to pesticide use.

Claussen and his team created a flexible, low cost and disposable biosensor that can detect pesticides in soil. This biosensor is made of graphene, a strong and stable nanoparticle, and provides instantaneous feedback, as opposed to the time and money it would otherwise take to send a sample to a lab and await results.

The growing interest in biodetection from consumers and the food industry itself has reached a global audience. Detecting genetically modified organisms and pesticides in very low concentrations with smart phones will one day be a reality.

USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supported the project with an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant as part of the Nanotechnology Program.

The biosensor is made by first printing graphene ink onto paper. A laser then traces over the ink to improve its electrical conductivity by welding together flakes of the graphene ink, making a nanostructured surface that is three dimensional.

Microscope 1

Counter-intuitive prostate cancer treatment shows great promise, doctors still 'figuring out how this works'

© Alexandra Beier / Reuters
An experimental prostate cancer therapy could revolutionize treatment. By "shocking" tumors with large amounts of testosterone and then depriving it of the same hormone, doctors from Johns Hopkins University halted the progression of the disease.

A man with advanced prostate cancer decided to try an unconventional method, and he's probably glad he did. Doctors from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore "shocked" his tumors with large amounts of testosterone, and he has been cancer free since.

The study was led by Professor Sam Denmeade, who told the Telegraph: "We are still in the early stages of figuring out how this works and how to incorporate it into the treatment paradigm for prostate cancer."

However, if the results from the test hold up through future testing, it could completely change how prostate cancer is treated. Traditionally, prostate cancer is treated by depriving the cancer of testosterone, because it was thought that the male hormones stimulate and fuel cancer cells, EurekaAlert! reported.


Neuroscience as a tool of war

© Saturday Evening Post/Harris A. Ewing
A discipline neither good nor evil.
What could once only be imagined in science fiction is now increasingly coming to fruition: Drones can be flown by human brains' thoughts. Pharmaceuticals can help soldiers forget traumatic experiences or produce feelings of trust to encourage confession in interrogation. DARPA-funded research is working on everything from implanting brain chips to "neural dust" in an effort to alleviate the effects of traumatic experience in war. Invisible microwave beams produced by military contractors and tested on U.S. prisoners can produce the sensation of burning at a distance.

What all these techniques and technologies have in common is that they're recent neuroscientific breakthroughs propelled by military research within a broader context of rapid neuroscientific development, driven by massive government-funded projects in both America and the European Union. Even while much about the brain remains mysterious, this research has contributed to the rapid and startling development of neuroscientific technology.

And while we might marvel at these developments, it is also undeniably true that this state of affairs raises significant ethical questions. What is the proper role - if any - of neuroscience in national defense or war efforts? My research addresses these questions in the broader context of looking at how international relations, and specifically warfare, are shaped by scientific and medical expertise and technology.


5,000 years of battery life: Nuclear waste-formed radioactive diamonds provide long-lasting energy

© Martin Poole / Global Look Press
Scientists have discovered a way to convert nuclear waste into radioactive black diamond batteries which last more than 5,000 years.

Researchers at the University of Bristol have found a means of creating a battery capable of generating clean electricity for five millennia.

Scientists found that by heating graphite blocks - used to house uranium rods in nuclear reactors - much of the radioactive carbon is given off as a gas.

This can then be gathered and turned into radioactive diamonds using a high-temperature chemical reaction, in which carbon atoms are left on the surface in small, dark-colored diamond crystals.


Doctors in UK will seek permission to create baby with three people's DNA, replacing mother's faulty mitochondria

© Ben Birchall/PA
MRT aims to overcome the problem by replacing the mother’s defective mitochondria with those from a healthy donor. Photograph
Specialists poised to offer mitochondrial replacement therapy if government's fertility regulator approves the treatment

Doctors will seek permission this month to create Britain's first baby from the DNA of three people if the government's fertility regulator approves the treatment for carefully chosen patients.

Specialists in Newcastle are ready to offer mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) to women who are in danger of passing on devastating and often fatal genetic disorders to their children. The conditions affect about one in 10,000 births.

A scientific review commissioned by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) concluded on Wednesday that the therapy should be approved for "cautious clinical use" when children are at risk of inheriting specific genetic diseases.

The HFEA will now consider the findings and invite clinics to apply for licences if it endorses the recommendations at a meeting on 15 December. Last year, parliament changed the law to allow MRT, but scientists continued with further experiments to assess the treatment's safety.

Fireball 2

Fireball alert! Eight NEO asteroids will approach Earth in December

There are currently eight known NEO Asteroids discovered that will pass within approximately 10LD or less (LD stands for "Lunar Distance"), in the month of December 2016. I expect that 10-35 NEOs or more, 10LD or less, will be discovered before month end.

Expect some spectacular bolides, fireballs, and meteors this month and especially large ones 3-5 days before and following the passing of the less than 10LD NEOs and fifteen small mountain-sized NEO asteroids, diameters ranging from 400m-2.0km, that will safely pass this month.
Be ready for some bolide, fireball, and meteor activity Cameras Ready!


Study: Tornado outbreaks are increasing - but scientists don't understand why

© John Allen/Central Michigan University
A tornado near Elk Mountain, west of Laramie Wyoming on the 15th of June, 2015. The tornado passed over mostly rural areas of the county, lasting over 20 minutes.
Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms kill people and damage property every year. Estimated U.S. insured losses due to severe thunderstorms in the first half of 2016 were $8.5 billion. The largest U.S. impacts of tornadoes result from tornado outbreaks, sequences of tornadoes that occur in close succession. Last spring a research team led by Michael Tippett, associate professor of applied physics and applied mathematics at Columbia Engineering, published a study showing that the average number of tornadoes during outbreaks—large-scale weather events that can last one to three days and span huge regions—has risen since 1954. But they were not sure why.

In a new paper, published December 1 in Science via First Release, the researchers looked at increasing trends in the severity of tornado outbreaks where they measured severity by the number of tornadoes per outbreak. They found that these trends are increasing fastest for the most extreme outbreaks. While they saw changes in meteorological quantities that are consistent with these upward trends, the meteorological trends were not the ones expected under climate change.

"This study raises new questions about what climate change will do to severe thunderstorms and what is responsible for recent trends," says Tippett, who is also a member of the Data Science Institute and the Columbia Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. "The fact that we don't see the presently understood meteorological signature of global warming in changing outbreak statistics leaves two possibilities: either the recent increases are not due to a warming climate, or a warming climate has implications for tornado activity that we don't understand. This is an unexpected finding."

Comment: The climate scientists have not considered the importance of atmospheric dust loading and the winning Electric Universe model in their research. Such information and much more, are explained in the book Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection by Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.
The accumulation of cometary dust in the Earth's atmosphere plays an important role in the increase of tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes and their associated rainfalls, snowfalls and lightning. To understand this mechanism we must first take into account the electric nature of hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones, which are actually manifestations of the same electric phenomenon at different scales or levels of power.
Increasing cometary and volcanic dust loading of the atmosphere (one indicator is the intensification of noctilucent clouds we are witnessing) is accentuating electric charge build-up, whereby we can expect to observe more extreme weather and planetary upheaval as well as awesome light shows and other related mysterious phenomena.