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Fri, 26 Aug 2016
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Bug

Israeli university creates mind-controlled nanobots from DNA that could release drugs inside your brain

© Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Getty Images
A man has used thought alone to control nanorobots inside a living creature for the first time. The technology released a drug inside cockroaches in response to the man's brain activity - a technique that may be useful for treating brain disorders such as schizophrenia and ADHD.

Getting drugs to where they need to be exactly when you want them is a challenge. Most drugs diffuse through the blood stream over time - and you're stuck with the side effects until the drug wears off.

Now, a team at the Interdisciplinary Center, in Herzliya, and Bar Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, both in Israel, have developed a system that allows precise control over when a drug is active in the body.

The group has built nanorobots out of DNA, forming shell-like shapes that drugs can be tethered to. The bots also have a gate, which has a lock made from iron oxide nanoparticles. The lock opens when heated using electromagnetic energy, exposing the drug to the environment. Because the drug remains tethered to the DNA parcel, a body's exposure to the drug can be controlled by closing and opening the gate.

Mind medicine

To get the DNA bots to respond to a person's thoughts, the team trained a computer algorithm to distinguish between a person's brain activity when resting and when doing mental arithmetic.

The team then attached a fluorescent drug to the bots and injected them into a cockroach that sat inside an electromagnetic coil. A person wearing an EEG cap that measures brain activity was then instructed either to do mental calculations, or rest. The cap was connected to the electromagnetic coil, switching it on when the man was calculating and off when he was resting. By examining when fluorescence appeared inside different cockroaches, the team confirmed that this worked.

Health

New treatment: Coma patient 'regains full consciousness' following novel ultrasound procedure

A device developed at UCLA may have been responsible for a barely-conscious patient recovering from a coma and becoming fully able to comprehend language just three days after being the first subject of a novel brain treatment, a new study has found.

The device, which is the size of a coffee cup saucer, focuses acoustic energy on a specific region of the brain, stimulating it. For the new study, it was aimed at the thalamus of a 25-year-old man recovering from a coma. The procedure took 10 minutes, during which the patient received ten 30-second stimulating impulses.

The Thalamus is a structure located between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain that acts as a relay for information. It processes signals from all senses, apart from smell, to other regions of the brain. In people suffering from reduced mental function after a coma, the thalamus typically performs worse than in healthy individuals. However, stimulating it with electrodes requires risky surgery, while medications can only target it indirectly.

Bomb

The US Air Force reveals radical plan to 'bomb the atmosphere' to improve radio reception


The US Air Force has granted contracts to three research teams, with hopes that CubeSats could carry massive amounts of ionized gas to the ionosphere to create radio-reflecting plasma. An artist's impression of a CubeSat is pictured above

A fleet of tiny satellites could one day be used to detonate plasma bombs in Earth's upper atmosphere to improve the range of radio communications.

The US Air Force has granted contracts to three research teams to develop the technology needed to do this, with hopes that CubeSats could carry massive amounts of ionized gas to the ionosphere to create radio-reflecting plasma.

The ionosphere begins roughly 40 miles above the surface and becomes denser with charged particles at night, allowing signals to travel much farther.

Ground-based radio signals are limited by the curvature of Earth's surface, and those travelling more than about 44 miles are typically stopped if they aren't given a boost, according to New Scientist.

Info

Previously unknown tectonic plate discovered in the Philippine Sea

© Journal of Geophysical Research
Present-day Philippine Sea and East Asian tectonic setting.
A previously unknown tectonic plate — one that has been swallowed up by the Earth — has been discovered in the Philippine Sea, according to a recent study.

Using images constructed from earthquake data, geoscientists have developed a method for resurrecting a "slab graveyard" of tectonic plate segments buried deep within the Earth, unfolding the deformed rock into what it may have looked like up to 52 million years ago. This helped the researchers identify the previously unknown East Asian Sea Plate, where an ancient sea once existed in the region shortly after dinosaurs went extinct.

The Philippine Sea lies at the juncture of several major tectonic plates. The Pacific, Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates frame several smaller plates, including the Philippine Sea Plate, which researchers say has been migrating northwest since its formation roughly 55 million years ago.

In the process, the Philippine Sea Plate collided with the northern edge of the East Asian Sea Plate, driving it into the Earth's mantle. The southern area of the East Asian Sea Plate was eventually subducted by, or forced beneath, other neighboring plates, the researchers said.

Geologists attempting to reconstruct the past were once limited to visible evidence of slow-moving changes, such as mountains, volcanoes or the echoes of ancient waterways. But with new imaging technologies, scientists can now glean information from hundreds of miles within the Earth's interior to map distant history.

Eye 1

New type of eye movement synchronized with blinking discovered

© Alessandra Celauro/Flickr
We probably do it every day, but scientists have only just discovered a distinct new way in which we move our eyes.

The team from the University of Tübingen in Germany assessed the eye movements of 11 subjects using tiny wires attached to the cornea and with infrared video tracking. In results published in eLife, they discovered a new type of eye movement that is synchronised with blinking.

The movement they discovered helps to reset the eye after it twists when viewing a rotating object. It is like avoiding tiny rotations of a camera to stabilise the image we perceive. We don't notice the eye resetting in this way because it happens automatically when we blink.

"We were really surprised to discover this new type of eye movement and it was not what we had anticipated from the experiment," says lead author Mohammad Khazali.

Nuke

DHS: Wearable Intelligent Nuclear Detection (WIND) devices in the making

© www.nextgov.com
DHS: Beyond flagging this play.
The Homeland Security Department is trying to ramp up wearable devices that can detect nuclear radiation. DHS has made a handful of awards for well-developed prototypes, of wearable products from companies including Leidos and Physical Sciences, Inc., according to a recent FBO posting.

Last year, DHS made a broad agency announcement soliciting proposals for so-called Wearable Intelligent Nuclear Detection, or WIND, technology. Employees would wear the products to ensure nuclear devices weren't secretly being transported in areas like marine vessels, metro systems, or other public areas, according to DHS.

DHS was specifically searching for "advanced technology demonstrations," which are for "mature prototype capable of providing reliable performance measurements in a challenging and realistic, albeit simulated, operational environment," the BAA said. Awards were for roughly $4 million to $5 million.

DHS' Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, whose mission is to protect the U.S. from nuclear devices, was specifically searching for a modular wearable system that could sense, localize and identify nuclear particles, including gamma rays and neutrons.

Comment: It probably beats the dying canary.


Music

Zoologists document birds communicating with humans for first time in Mozambique

© Claire Spottiswoode
Zoologists have documented an incredible relationship between wild birds in Mozambique and the local Yao people, who team up together to hunt for honey.

Using a series of special hails and chirps the humans and birds are able to communicate - honeyguide birds lead the way to hidden beehives, where the Yao people share the spoils with their avian friends.

It's a beautiful mutualistic relationship that's been known for more than 500 years - but now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the UK and South Africa have shown that the honeyguide birds and humans are actually communicating both ways in order to get the most benefit out of their collaboration.

While it's not uncommon for us to be able to communicate with pet birds and other domesticated animals, it's incredibly rare for humans to be able to 'speak' to wild animals - and even rarer for them to be able to speak back voluntarily.

Even more impressive, no one's ever trained these birds. They're choosing to collaborate with the humans on their own.

Pills

Drug that "melts away" cancer cells approved by FDA for use in US

A tablet developed in Melbourne that "melts away" cancer cells has been approved for use in the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that venetoclax was approved for prescription outside of human trials for patients with chronic lymphotic leukemia (CLL).

Venetoclax, which overwhelms the BCL-2 protein that is vital to cancer cell survival, was developed in Melbourne in the 1980s after researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) discovered the importance of BCL-2.

WEHI's head of clinical translation, Professor Andrew Roberts, said that 80 of 116 participants in a human trial of the drug in Melbourne have displayed a positive response.

Comment: It is worth those suffering from cancer to try and beat the disease by changing to a ketogenic diet instead of investing in costly prescription medication which can cause terrible side effects. Many sufferers of cancer have reported drastic changes after changing to a keto lifestyle:


Hearts

Study suggests humans didn't evolve for lifelong monogamy - back-up plans, trial and error instead

© Getty
"But Gene! My genes made me do it, I swear!"
Women are predisposed by their genetics to have affairs as "back-up plans'" if their relationships fail, according to a research paper.

Scientists at the University of Texas say they are challenging the assumption that humans have evolved to have monogamous relationships.

The team's research has put forward the "mate-switching-hypothesis" which says humans have evolved to keep testing their relationships and looking for better long-term options.

The senior author of the research, Dr David Buss, told the Sunday Times: "Lifelong monogamy does not characterise the primary mating patterns of humans.

"Breaking up with one partner and mating with another may more accurately characterise the common, perhaps the primary, mating strategy of humans."

Comment: Original headline: "Women are 'genetically programmed to have affairs'". Who writes these things? If this statement were true, all women would have affairs. They all don't, obviously. As usual, mainstream science gives us some interesting data, but leaves out all the actual humanity. 'Evolved for' doesn't imply that it we should behave in certain ways, nor does it mean we cannot do otherwise. After all, we also 'evolved for' the ability to choose our own behavior based on considerations other than what our gonads tell us to do.


Bulb

Revolution in computing: Russian physicists create non-linear optical antenna to process data at previously unattainable speed

© Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
A team of Russian physicists has found a way to tune silicon nanoparticles so they can process optical data at previously unattainable speed, paving the way for the creation of "ultracompact and ultrafast" processing devices.

The findings of the experiment-based survey conducted by scientists from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and ITMO University were published in the ACS Photonics journal in late July.

The scientists have performed a series of experiments, studying the response of nanoparticles, made of conventional silicone, to the intense and short laser pulse. They found that if affected by the laser the plasma inside the particles displays an ultrafast reaction.

The silicon particle, thereby, acts as an nonlinear antenna at the speed of about 250 Gb/s processing optical data at the speed far exceeding the one that could be achieved by the means of conventional silicon electronics.