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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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.

Microscope 1

Brave new world: Scientists now able to encode 'memories' in human DNA

© mit.edu
Scientists have managed to record histories in the DNA of human cells, allowing them to recall past "memories." The advancement could prove vital for researchers studying how cells undergo genetic changes that lead to disease.

The advancement was made by biological engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), using the genome-editing system CRISPR. The system consists of a DNA-cutting enzyme called Cas9 and a short RNA strand. The strand guides the enzyme to a specific area of the genome, directing Cas9 where to make its cut.

Although CRISPR is well known for its gene editing capabilities, the MIT team managed to use it for memory storage - the first that can record the duration and intensity of events in human cells. Such memories include events such as inflammation.

To encode the memories, the scientists designed guide strands that recognize the DNA that encodes the very same guide strand. It's a concept they refer to as "self-targeting guide RNA."


Researchers create see-through wood stronger than glass

© University of Maryland Energy Research Center
Wood is a strong and versatile building material, but it rots, gets eaten by bugs, and blocks light.

Plain sheets of glass aren't much better. They shatter easily and let a lot of energy leak into or out of a building.

But engineers have recently figured out how to find the best of both worlds by making see-through wood.

The team, led by materials scientist Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland, developed a patented process to turn wood translucent, make it more durable, and lend it incredible strength.

Cell Phone

New technology could link smartphones to contact lenses, brain implants and credit cards

© Shutterstock
"Eye" phone?
Apps allow you to link your smartphone to anything from your shoes, to your jewelry, to your doorbell — and soon, you may be able to add your contact lenses to that list.

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed an innovative way of communicating that would allow medical aids such as contact lenses and brain implants to send signals to smartphones.

The new tech, called "interscatter communication," works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi signals, the engineers wrote in a paper that will be presented Aug. 22 at the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communication conference in Brazil.

"Instead of generating Wi-Fi signals on your own, our technology creates Wi-Fi by using Bluetooth transmissions from nearby mobile devices such as smartwatches," study co-author Vamsi Talla, a research associate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, said in a statement.

Interscatter communication is based on an existing method of communication called backscatter, which lets devices exchange information by reflecting back existing signals. "Interscatter" works essentially the same way, but the difference is that it allows for inter-technology communication — in other words, it allows Bluetooth signals and Wi-Fi signals to talk to each other.

Comment: See also: