July 31, 2012

Being paranoid about office politics can make you a target: UBC research




Being paranoid about office politics can make you a target: UBC research

People who worry about workplace rejection or sabotage can end up bringing it upon themselves, according to University of British Columbia research.

The UBC Sauder School of Business study reveals that paranoia about negative gossip or being snubbed leads people to seek out information to confirm their fears, ultimately annoying colleague and increasing the likelihood they will be rejected or subverted.

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Micro-Copier for Genome Analysis




Micro-Copier for Genome Analysis

New method holds promise to advance personalised medicine

The scientists Jochen Hoffmann, Dr. Guenther Roth, and Prof. Dr. Roland Zengerle from the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) at the University of Freiburg can copy simultaneously 100.000 different DNA sequences in a so called picowell array that has the size of a one cent coin.

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Later Stone Age got earlier start in South Africa than thought, says CU researcher




Later Stone Age got earlier start in South Africa than thought, says CU researcher

The Later Stone Age emerged in South Africa more than 20,000 years earlier than previously believed -- about the same time humans were migrating from Africa to the European continent, says a new international study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Permaculture Lifestyle / Permaculture Education




Permaculture Lifestyle / Permaculture Education

Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.

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NOAA Ship Fairweather conducting hydrographic reconnaissance in the Arctic




NOAA Ship Fairweather conducting hydrographic reconnaissance in the Arctic

Mission to update measurements dating to the 18th century

NOAA Ship Fairweather begins a 30-day survey mission in the Arctic this week, scheduled to check a sparsely measured 1,500-nautical mile coastal corridor from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, north through the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border.

July 30, 2012
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The first robot that mimics the water striders’ jumping abilities




The first robot that mimics the water striders’ jumping abilities

The first bio-inspired microrobot capable of not just walking on water like the water strider – but continuously jumping up and down like a real water strider – now is a reality. Scientists reported development of the agile microrobot, which could use its jumping ability to avoid obstacles on reconnaissance or other missions, in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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The total number of amphibian species reached 7,000 today




The total number of amphibian species reached 7,000 today

The total number of amphibian species reached 7,000 today. The 7000th known amphibian is a new glassfrog from Peru, Centrolene sabini (Catenazzi et al 2012), which was discovered at high elevations in Manu National Park, Peru. Glassfrogs have increased from 65 in 1985 to 152 known today, illustrating the paradoxical phenomenon of amphibian discovery during a time of great concern for amphibians. In June 2012, IUCN reported 41% of amphibian species at risk of extinction. Yet, the number of known amphibian species has increased dramatically, from 4,013 in 1985 to 7,000. Enjoy AmphibiaWeb's new song in celebration of the 7000th species!

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AmphibiaWeb is an online system that provides access to information on amphibian declines, conservation, natural history, and taxonomy.

UZH researcher measures the electrical charge of nano particles




A giant step in a miniature world: UZH researcher measures the electrical charge of nano particles

Nano particles are a millionth of a millimeter in size, making them invisible to the human eye. Unless, that is, they are under the microscope of Prof. Madhavi Krishnan, a biophysicist at the University of Zurich. Prof. Krishnan has developed a new method that measures not only the size of the particles but also their electrostatic charge. Up until now it has not been possible to determine the charge of the particles directly.

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Stem cell therapy could offer new hope for defects and injuries to head, mouth




Researchers insert a stem cell-soaked sponge into the injury site to stimulate bone growth. The new bone, can then support dental implants which look identical to real teeth.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—In the first human study of its kind, researchers found that using stem cells to re-grow craniofacial tissues—mainly bone—proved quicker, more effective and less invasive than traditional bone regeneration treatments.

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Better product design through a simple square chart




Better product design through a simple square chart

How Design Structure Matrix analysis has helped heavyweight companies improve their products, production lines and organizations.

Suppose you were asked to streamline the process of real estate development. Or to better organize the offices of an international manufacturer. Or to explain how the parts of a digital printer interact. The complexities of all these tasks would likely seem daunting.

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Parents Can Increase Children’s Activity by Increasing Their Own




Parents Can Increase Children’s Activity by Increasing Their Own

Parents concerned about their children’s slothful ways can do something about it, according to research at National Jewish Health. They can increase their own activity. In the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Kristen Holm, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at National Jewish Health, and her colleagues report that, when parents increase their daily activity, as measured by a pedometer, their children increase theirs as well.

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Offshore use of vertical-axis wind turbines gets closer look




Offshore use of vertical-axis wind turbines gets closer look

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories’ wind energy researchers are re-evaluating vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) to help solve some of the problems of generating energy from offshore breezes.

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July 30, 2012

Hope for Beating Egg Allergy




Hope for Beating Egg Allergy

Giving small daily doses of egg powder to children with egg allergy could pave the way to letting them eat the food safely, a new study finds. This would make life easier on kids whose only current option is to stay away from all foods that contain eggs.

July 30, 2012
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A better judge of character with nasal spray?




A better judge of character with nasal spray?

Ingesting the hormone oxytocin via nasal spray improves the ability to read people’s facial expressions. These findings hold great promise for treatment of mental health disorders and drug addiction.

Published:  30.07.2012
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See Who Rules China’s B2C E-Commerce Market as It Nears $100 Billion in Value




See Who Rules China’s B2C E-Commerce Market as It Nears $100 Billion in Value

New statistics for China’s B2C e-commerce sector in 2012 Q2 show that the market leader, Tmall, has extended its lead even further in this two-horse race. Second-place 360Buy has also grown slightly in terms of market share.

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Casio Releases New Android POS Terminal For The Retail And Hospitality Industry




Casio Releases New Android POS Terminal For The Retail And Hospitality Industry

Casio today announced the release of its new POS product, the VX-100. The VX-100 will be exhibited in Casio's booth (#420) during the RetailNOW at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas July 29 – August 1, 2012.

The VX-100 is the first Android based product to be introduced specifically for the POS industry. The VX-100 is equipped with a 10.4" adjustable color touch screen, an attached high speed thermal printer, Ethernet port, serial ports and a built-in swivel 2X20 customer display.

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The End of Chinese Manufacturing and Rebirth of U.S. Industry




The End of Chinese Manufacturing and Rebirth of U.S. Industry

There is great concern about China’s real-estate and infrastructure bubbles.  But these are just short-term challenges that China may be able to spend its way out of. The real threat to China’s economy is bigger and longer term: its manufacturing bubble.

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When rules change, brain falters




When rules change, brain falters

Published: July 30, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. — For the human brain, learning a new task when rules change can be a surprisingly difficult process marred by repeated mistakes, according to a new study by Michigan State University psychology researchers.

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KURATA'S, UNBELIEVABLE KR01 GIANT KURATAS BATTLE MECH WITH GATLING GUNS




UNBELIEVABLE KR01 GIANT KURATAS BATTLE MECH WITH GATLING GUNS

Let the futuristic robot wars begin! Weighing in at over 4 tons, this 13 foot tall, iphone controlled mechwarrior robot exoskeleton wields twin gatling guns and is ready to destroy everything on planet Earth with a smile... literally.

The million dollar human piloted robot was unveiled by Suidobashi Heavy Industry at the Wonder Festival in Tokyo, Japan.

Currently, the gatling guns fire airsoft style BB rounds at 6000 rounds per minute all when the pilot "smiles".

see the pics plus videos:

July 29, 2012

ALYDRO – a new energy technology using cheap aluminium as a clean recyclable fuel




ALYDRO - latest eco-friendly fuel for cars: aluminium and water

Alydro is a new technology developed by Alchemy Research for producing clean energy from a reaction of aluminum and water at elevated temperatures.
Alydro generates energy in the form of hydrogen and heat. The only by-product is fully recyclable aluminum-oxide.
Alydro is competitive with gasoline on energy density and affordability. It is superior to gasoline on sustainability, environmental characteristics and safety.

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Unusual Number of Grizzly and Hybrid Bears Spotted in High Arctic




Unusual Number of Grizzly and Hybrid Bears Spotted in High Arctic

Two Canadian biologists have reported sighting a handful of grizzly bears and hybrid grizzly/polar bears at unusually high latitudes in the Arctic, indicating that the interbreeding of the two bear species is becoming more common as the climate warms and grizzlies venture farther north. The sightings of three grizzly bears and two hybrid bears, made in late April and May, represent an unprecedented cluster of these animals at such high latitudes. The biologists even took DNA samples from a grizzly bear at 74 degrees North latitude.

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The Beetle / An icon returns




The Bugs start to fly: New range of Beetle models now on sale

Entomologists in the UK are set for an exciting day, and not just because the ants are flying.  There’s another kind of flying bug about: the Volkswagen Beetle with either a 2.0-litre 140 PS TDI turbodiesel engine, or a 2.0-litre 200 PS TSI turbocharged petrol engine.

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AN AIRBAG FOR SEAT BELTS




Mercedes-Benz Beltbag Adds Additional Safety for Rear Passengers

THE BELTBAG DEPLOYS WHEN CRASH SENSORS DETECT A SEVERE FRONTAL IMPACT, THE AIRBAG CONTROL UNIT WILL TRIGGER DEPLOYMENT

Due out later this year, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz S-Class has received non-stop speculation over what chanes will be made.

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Swumanoid swimming android robot from Tokyo Tech will help athletes swim faster




(July 29, 2012)  Swumanoid, developed by the Nakashima Group at Tokyo Institute of Technology, is a humanoid robot that replicates the motion of a swimmer. In the future, this robot is expected to help researchers analyze how people can swim faster, and develop speed enhancing swimming apparel.


July 28, 2012

GM Developing Wireless Pedestrian Detection Technology



*  Wi-Fi Direct connectivity in vehicles could help increase driver awareness

*  Efforts build on GM’s Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure technology

(July 28, 2016)  General Motors researchers are developing a promising driver assistance feature potentially capable of detecting pedestrians and bicyclists on congested streets or in poor visibility conditions before the driver notices them.

The feature relies on Wi-Fi Direct, the peer-to-peer wireless standard that allows devices like some smartphones to communicate directly with each other rather than through a shared access point like a cell phone tower.

GM researchers have determined Wi-Fi Direct can be integrated with other sensor-based object detection and driver alert systems already available on production vehicles to help detect pedestrians and bicyclists carrying smartphones equipped with Wi-Fi Direct.

The automaker also is looking to develop a complementary app for Wi-Fi Direct-capable smartphones that can be downloaded by frequent road users such as “bike messenger” or “construction worker” that will help Wi-Fi Direct-equipped vehicles identify them.



The seat of meta-consciousness in the brain




(July 27, 2012)  Studies of lucid dreamers visualise which centres of the brain become active when we become aware of ourselves

Which areas of the brain help us to perceive our world in a self-reflective manner is difficult to measure. During wakefulness, we are always conscious of ourselves. In sleep, however, we are not. But there are people, known as lucid dreamers, who can become aware of dreaming during sleep. Studies employing magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) have now been able to demonstrate that a specific cortical network consisting of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus is activated when this lucid consciousness is attained. All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. This research into lucid dreaming gives the authors of the latest study insight into the neural basis of human consciousness.

The human capacity of self-perception, self-reflection and consciousness development are among the unsolved mysteries of neuroscience. Despite modern imaging techniques, it is still impossible to fully visualise what goes on in the brain when people move to consciousness from an unconscious state. The problem lies in the fact that it is difficult to watch our brain during this transitional change. Although this process is the same, every time a person awakens from sleep, the basic activity of our brain is usually greatly reduced during deep sleep. This makes it impossible to clearly delineate the specific brain activity underlying the regained self-perception and consciousness during the transition to wakefulness from the global changes in brain activity that takes place at the same time.


Can Creativity be Automated?



(July 28, 2012)  Computer algorithms have started to write news stories, compose music, and pick hits.

In 2004, New Zealander Ben Novak was just a guy with a couple of guitars and distant dreams of becoming a pop star. A year later one of Novak's songs, Turn Your Car Around, had invaded Europe's radio stations, becoming a top-10 hit. 

Novak had to beat long odds to get discovered. The process record labels use to find new talent—A&R, for "artists and repertoire"—is fickle and hard to explain; it rarely admits unknowns like him. So Novak got into the music business through a back door that had been opened not by a human, but by an algorithm tasked with finding hit songs.

It’s widely accepted that creativity can’t be copied by machines. Reinforcing these assumptions are hundreds of books and studies that have attempted to explain creativity as the product of mysterious processes within the right side of the human brain. Creativity, the thinking has been, proves just how different people are from CPUs. 

But now we’re learning that for some creative work, that simply isn’t true. Complex algorithms are moving into creative fields—even those as nebulous as music A&R—and proving that in some of these pursuits, humans can be displaced.


July 27, 2012

WACOM Cintiq 24HD touch



Cintiq 24HD touch

Immerse yourself in the creative experience. Zoom, pan, rotate and navigate with intuitive multi-touch control while enjoying the natural feel of Wacom's professional pen technology.


GE Scientists Successfully Test World-Class Traction Motor For Hybrid and Electric Vehicles



*  GE prototype delivers higher power density, acceleration, and energy efficiency in a smaller frame at a lower cost
*  Motor extends the range of electric vehicles and reduces fuel consumption on hybrids
*  Motor has almost twice the temperature tolerance of conventional hybrid-electric motors and does not require a separate cooling system

(July 27, 2012)  Engineers at GE Global Research are advancing motor technology that could have a substantial impact on hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) of the future.

GE recently tested a prototype Interior Permanent Magnet traction motor, developed as part of a $5.6MM U.S. Dept. of Energy (DoE) project, that could help extend the range EVs and hybrids can travel before recharging or needing gasoline. Traction motors are the key part of the propulsion system that converts electrical energy into motion to drive hybrid and electric vehicles. Not only is the GE-designed motor less costly to make, lab testing revealed that it is more powerful and more efficient than what is on the market today. Combined, the additional power output and efficiency will help extend the range of EVs and delay the point at which hybrids switch to gasoline.

GE’s prototype traction motor operates at a peak power level of 55kW and exceeds state-of-the-art motors in the same class in several key areas:

read entire press release >>

NIST Measurement Advance Could Speed Innovation in Solar Devices




(July 27, 2012) A new versatile measurement system devised by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) accurately and quickly measures the electric power output of solar energy devices, capabilities useful to researchers and manufacturers working to develop and make next-generation solar energy cells.

Innovative devices that convert sunlight to electric power more efficiently and cost effectively than the current generation of solar cell technology are the objects of a global pursuit—means to reducing fossil-fuel consumption and to securing pole position in the competition for fast-growing international markets for clean energy sources.

As reported in the journal Applied Optics,* the NIST team has combined 32 LEDs—each generating light from different segments of the solar spectrum—and other off-the-shelf equipment with their custom-made technologies to build a system that measures the wavelength-dependent quantum efficiency of solar devices over a relatively large area.

Anticipated advantages over current approaches—most of which use incandescent lamps or xenon arc and other types of discharge lamps—are greater speed and ease of operation, more uniform illumination, and a service life that is about 10 times longer.

The new NIST system for measuring spectral response easily accommodates two unique but complementary methods for determining how much electric current a solar, or photovoltaic (PV), device generates when hit by a standard amount of sunlight. Both methods are straightforward, and they use the same hardware setup.

read entire press release >>

MTSU Plug-in Hybrid Retrofit Kit



(July 27, 2012)  Students push Perry’s gas-saving project to next level

Powered by at least nine MTSU students’ work since 2008, Dr. Charles Perry continues driving toward success in the development of the plug-in hybrid retrofit kit for any car.

Perry, who holds the Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence, and a five-member team saw gas mileage increase anywhere from 50 to 100 percent on a 1994 Honda station wagon retrofitted with laboratory prototype plug-in hybrid capability.

Perry is now talking with several potential investors — companies with vehicle fleets — to solicit funds to build and demonstrate a manufacturing version of the plug-in hybrid technology.

The research Honda has been fitted with electric motors in each rear wheel and a large lithium-ion battery, which is mounted in the rear of the vehicle. As lithium-battery technology improves, Perry said, the battery size can be reduced in production models.

Switching on power to the two rear wheels’ electric motors made a huge difference by reducing the power required from the internal-combustion engine, he added.

“The whole point was to demonstrate the feasibility of adding the electrical motor to the rear wheel of the car without changing the brakes, bearings, suspension — anything mechanical,” Perry said.

read entire press release >>



Lower vitamin D could increase risk of dying, especially for frail, older adults



(July 27, 2012)  A new study concludes that among older adults – especially those who are frail – low levels of vitamin D can mean a much greater risk of death.

The randomized, nationally representative study found that older adults with low vitamin D levels had a 30 percent greater risk of death than people who had higher levels.

Overall, people who were frail had more than double the risk of death than those who were not frail. Frail adults with low levels of vitamin D tripled their risk of death over people who were not frail and who had higher levels of vitamin D.

“What this really means is that it is important to assess vitamin D levels in older adults, and especially among people who are frail,” said lead author Ellen Smit of Oregon State University.

Smit said past studies have separately associated frailty and low vitamin D with a greater mortality risk, but this is the first to look at the combined effect. This study, published online in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined more than 4,300 adults older than 60 using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

read entire press release >> 



Entropy can lead to order, paving the route to nanostructures




(July 26, 2012)   Researchers trying to herd tiny particles into useful ordered formations have found an unlikely ally: entropy, a tendency generally described as "disorder."

Computer simulations by University of Michigan scientists and engineers show that the property can nudge particles to form organized structures. By analyzing the shapes of the particles beforehand, they can even predict what kinds of structures will form.

The findings, published in this week's edition of Science, help lay the ground rules for making designer materials with wild capabilities such as shape-shifting skins to camouflage a vehicle or optimize its aerodynamics.

Physicist and chemical engineering professor Sharon Glotzer proposes that such materials could be designed by working backward from the desired properties to generate a blueprint. That design can then be realized with nanoparticles—particles a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair that can combine in ways that would be impossible through ordinary chemistry alone.

One of the major challenges is persuading the nanoparticles to create the intended structures, but recent studies by Glotzer's group and others showed that some simple particle shapes do so spontaneously as the particles are crowded together. The team wondered if other particle shapes could do the same.

read entire press release >>

Photovoltaics from Any Semiconductor



Berkeley Lab Technology Could Open Door to More Widespread Solar Energy Devices

(July 27, 2012)  A technology that would enable low-cost, high efficiency solar cells to be made from virtually any semiconductor material has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley. This technology opens the door to the use of plentiful, relatively inexpensive semiconductors, such as the promising metal oxides, sulfides and phosphides, that have been considered unsuitable for solar cells because it is so difficult to taylor their properties by chemical means.

“It’s time we put bad materials to good use,” says physicist Alex Zettl, who led this research along with colleague Feng Wang. “Our technology allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, non-toxic semiconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field.”

Zettl, who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Physics Department where he directs the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems (COINS), is the corresponding author of a paper describing this work in the journal Nano Letters. The paper is titled “Screening-Engineered Field-Effect Solar Cells.” Co-authoring it were William Regan, Steven Byrnes, Will Gannett, Onur Ergen, Oscar Vazquez-Mena and Feng Wang.

read entire press release >>

Summer Storms to Create New Ozone Holes as Earth Warms?




More storms may trigger ozone depletion in populated areas far from the Poles.

Summer storms may create new holes in our protective ozone layer as Earth heats up—bringing increased solar ultraviolet radiation to densely populated areas, a new study says.


July 26, 2012

New transistor harnessing strong electron correlations enables electrical switching of the state of matter




Switching the state of matter

New transistor harnessing strong electron correlations enables electrical switching of the state of matter

(July 26, 2012)  Sixty years after the transistor began a technological revolution that transformed nearly every aspect of our daily lives, a new transistor brings innovations that may help to do so again. Developed at RIKEN, the device uses the electrostatic accumulation of electrical charge on the surface of a strongly-correlated material to trigger bulk switching of electronic state. Functional at room temperature and triggered by a potential of only 1 V, the switching mechanism provides a novel building block for ultra low power devices, non-volatile memory and optical switches based on a new device concept.

After shrinking for many decades, conventional electronics is approaching quantum scaling limits, motivating the search for alternative technologies to take its place. Among these, strongly-correlated materials, whose electrons interact with each other to produce unusual and often useful properties, have attracted growing attention. One of these properties is triggered in phase transitions: applying a small external voltage can induce a very large change in electric resistance, a mechanism akin to a switch that has many potential applications.

read entire press release >>

Insights into protein folding may lead to better flu vaccine



(July 2, 2012)  A new method for looking at how proteins fold inside mammal cells could one day lead to better flu vaccines, among other practical applications, say Cornell researchers.

The method, described online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences July 16, allows researchers to take snapshots of the cell's protein-making machinery -- called ribosomes -- in various stages of protein production. The scientists then pieced together the snapshots to reconstruct how proteins fold during their synthesis.

Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids called polypeptides, and folding gives each protein its characteristic structure, which determines its function. Though researchers have used synthetic and purified proteins to study protein folding, this study looks at proteins from their inception, providing a truer picture for how partially synthesized polypeptides can fold in cells.

Proteins fold so quickly -- in microseconds -- that it has been a longtime mystery just how polypeptide chains fold to create the protein's structure.

read entire press release >>

A cluster of twenty atoms of gold is visualised for the first time by Birmingham physicists



(July 26,  2012)  Scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed a method to visualise gold on the nanoscale by using a special probe beam to image 20 atoms of gold bound together to make a cluster. The research is published today (26 July 2012) in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Nanoscale.

Physicists have theorised for many years how atoms of gold and other elements would be arranged and ten years ago the structure of a 20-atom tetrahedral pyramid was proposed by scientists in the US. Birmingham physicists can now reveal this atomic arrangement for the first time by imaging the cluster with an electron microscope.

Gold is a noble metal which is unreactive and thus resistant to contamination in our every day experience, but at the smallest, nano scale it becomes highly active chemically and can be used as a catalyst for controlling chemical reactions.

read entire press  release >>

Chemical makes blind mice see



(July 26, 2012)  A team of University of California, Berkeley, scientists in collaboration with researchers at the University of Munich and University of Washington, in Seattle, has discovered a chemical that temporarily restores some vision to blind mice, and is working on an improved compound that may someday allow people with degenerative blindness to see again.

The approach could eventually help those with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that is the most common inherited form of blindness, as well as age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of acquired blindness in the developed world. In both diseases, the light sensitive cells in the retina — the rods and cones — die, leaving the eye without functional photoreceptors.

The chemical, called AAQ, acts by making the remaining, normally “blind” cells in the retina sensitive to light, said lead researcher Richard Kramer, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology. AAQ is a photoswitch that binds to protein ion channels on the surface of retinal cells. When switched on by light, AAQ alters the flow of ions through the channels and activates these neurons much the way rods and cones are activated by light.

“This is similar to the way local anesthetics work: they embed themselves in ion channels and stick around for a long time, so that you stay numb for a long time,” Kramer said. “Our molecule is different in that it’s light sensitive, so you can turn it on and off and turn on or off neural activity.”

read entire press release >>

Leopoldina issues a critical statement on the use of bioenergy



(July 26,  2012)  In a statement on the chances and limits of using bioenergy, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has come to the conclusion that in quantitative terms, bioenergy plays a minor role in the transition to renewable, sustainable energy sources in Germany at the present time and probably in the future. Bioenergy requires more surface area, is associated with higher greenhouse gas emissions and is more harmful to the environment than other renewable sources such as photovoltaic, solar thermal energy and wind energy. In addition, energy crops potentially compete with food crops. The report recommends finding strategies for saving energy and increasing energy efficiency.

The Leopoldina’s statement “Bioenergy – Chances and Limits” was compiled by a working group of more than 20 expert scientists established in 2010. The report provides recommendations for using bioenergy, defined as energy obtained from burning of non-fossil plant biomass or biofuels derived primarily from biomass.

The statement also outlines under which conditions the utilization of bioenergy is appropriate and what kind of technologies are currently available or are being developed to convert biomass into biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel. In addition, it introduces various scientific approaches aimed at producing hydrogen from water in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

read entire press release >>


64,000 sq km of Colombian rainforest mapped in stunning detail using lasers, satellites


 Forest carbon map of the study area in Colombia. Courtesy of Asner et al 2012

Colombian president welcomes country’s first high resolution carbon map

(July 26, 2012)  Scientists have created high-resolution carbon maps for 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles) of forest across roughly 40 percent of the Colombian Amazon, greatly boosting the ability of the South American nation to measure emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, reports the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, which led the effort.

The research, which is described in the journal Biogeosciences, used a combination of satellite data and advanced airplane-based sensors to assess the carbon content of the remote region, which is about four times the size of Switzerland. On-the-ground field studies in the area are difficult due to lack of navigable rivers and security concerns.

The study area has been designated as a REDD+ pilot project area by the Colombian Institute for Hydrological, Meteorological, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM). REDD+ is a program that aims to compensate developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; worldwide such emissions accounted for 10-13 percent of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2005. For its part, Colombia hopes to capitalize on REDD+ as a means to finance conservation of its extensive forests, which generate important services for the country.



Single-photon transmitter could enable new quantum devices




Long-sought goal for quantum devices — the ability to transmit single photons while blocking multiple photons — is finally achieved.

(July 25, 2012)  In theory, quantum computers should be able to perform certain kinds of complex calculations much faster than conventional computers, and quantum-based communication could be invulnerable to eavesdropping. But producing quantum components for real-world devices has proved to be fraught with daunting challenges.

Now, a team of researchers at MIT and Harvard University has achieved a crucial long-term goal of such efforts: the ability to convert a laser beam into a stream of single photons, or particles of light, in a controlled way. The successful demonstration of this achievement is detailed in a paper published this week in the journal Nature by MIT doctoral student Thibault Peyronel and colleagues.

Senior author Vladan Vuletić, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics at MIT, says the achievement “could enable new quantum devices” such as quantum gates, where a single photon switches the direction of travel or polarization of another photon. This goal has been very hard to attain, Vuletić explains, because photons ordinarily interact, at best, only very weakly with one another.

Encouraging such interactions requires atoms that interact strongly with photons — as well as with other atoms that, in turn, can affect other photons. For example, a single photon traveling through a cloud of such atoms might pass through easily, but change the state of the atoms so that a second photon is blocked when it tries to pass through. That means that if two photons try to pass through at once, only one will succeed, while the other is absorbed.

read entire press release >>

July 25, 2012

Campaign cuts Norway's palm oil consumption 64%



(July 25, 2012)  A campaign run by environmental activists has helped lead to a 64 percent reduction in palm oil use by eight major food companies in Norway, reports Rainforest Foundation Norway, which led the effort.

Rainforest Foundation Norway and Green Living launched the palm oil campaign last fall highlight links between palm oil consumption and deforestation in Southeast Asia. It aimed to reduce demand for palm oil in the Scandinavian country, where palm oil consumption was roughly 3 kilogram per year, mostly through processed food products.

The campaign asked major food companies to disclose their palm oil use and whether palm oil was certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative. Following the survey, the environmental groups published a ‘palm oil guide’ where consumers could look up the palm oil content in the products they buy. The effort went beyond traditional labeling which allowed palm oil to be listed generically as ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘vegetable fat’.


Half of tropical forest parks losing biodiversity


Jaguar in Brazil. A new study finds that apex predators, like the jaguar, are some of the
most sensitive to environmental degradation both inside and outside tropical forest parks.
Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

(July 25, 2012)  Governments have set up protected areas, in part, to act as reservoirs for our Earth's stunning biodiversity; no where is this more true than in the world's tropical forests, which contain around half of our planet's species. However a new study in Nature finds that wildlife in many of the world’s rainforest parks remains imperiled by human pressures both inside and outside the reserves, threatening to undercut global conservation efforts. Looking at a representative 60 protected areas across 36 tropical nations, the scientists found that about half the parks suffered an “erosion of biodiversity” over the last 20-30 years.

“These reserves are like arks for biodiversity. But some of the arks are in danger of sinking,” said lead author, William Laurance, from James Cook University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, in a press release. “Even though they are our best hope to sustain tropical forests and their amazing biodiversity in perpetuity.”


Many Protected Areas Face Threats in Sustaining Biodiversity




Many Protected Areas Face Threats in Sustaining Biodiversity, Penn’s Daniel Janzen and Colleagues Report

(July 25, 2012)  Establishing protection over a swath of land seems like a good way to conserve its species and its ecosystems. But in a new study, University of Pennsylvania biologist Daniel Janzen joins more than 200 colleagues to report that protected areas are still vulnerable to damaging encroachment, and many are suffering from biodiversity loss.

“If you put a boundary around a piece of land and install some bored park guards and that’s all you do, the park will eventually die,” said Janzen, DiMaura Professor of Conservation Biology in Penn’s Department of Biology. “It’s death from a thousand cuts.”

The international team of researchers, led by William Laurance of Australia’s James Cook University, conducted 262 interviews of field biologists and environmental scientists who had extensive experience working in tropical forest reserves. In all, the interviews incorporated results from 60 protected areas in 36 countries.

The researchers constructed questions to determine how the biological health of the protected areas had changed over the last two to three decades. Some queries dealt with the status of wildlife in the areas: Had large mammal or amphibian populations increased or decreased over that time period? Others asked about changes in environmental pressures: Were fires more frequent or had automobile traffic expanded?

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Hidden rift valley discovered beneath West Antarctica reveals new insight into accelerating ice loss



(July 25,  2012)  Scientists have discovered a one mile deep rift valley hidden beneath the ice in West Antarctica, which they believe is contributing to ice loss from this part of the continent.

Experts from the University of Aberdeen and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) made the discovery below Ferrigno Ice Stream, a region visited only once previously, over fifty years ago, in 1961, and one that is remote even by Antarctic standards.

Their findings, reported in Nature this week reveal that the ice-filled ancient rift basin is connected to the warming ocean which impacts upon contemporary ice flow and loss.

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is of great scientific interest and societal importance as it is losing ice faster than any other part of Antarctica with some glaciers shrinking by more than one metre per year.

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Satellites see Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Melt



(July 25, 2012)  For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick (3.2-kilometer) center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.

On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet, and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

Researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea level rise.

"The Greenland ice sheet is a vast area with a varied history of change. This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story," said Tom Wagner, NASA's cryosphere program manager in Washington. "Satellite observations are helping us understand how events like these may relate to one another as well as to the broader climate system."

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