Saturday, December 26, 2009

How The Brain Encodes Memories At A Cellular Level

This is a neuron. (Credit: Sourav Banerjee)

From The Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 25, 2009) — Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a major discovery in how the brain encodes memories. The finding, published in the December 24 issue of the journal Neuron, could eventually lead to the development of new drugs to aid memory.

The team of scientists is the first to uncover a central process in encoding memories that occurs at the level of the synapse, where neurons connect with each other.

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Pain Pills Could Ease Hurt Feelings

From Live Science:

Getting the snub from friends can feel like a slap in the face. Now researchers say treating such social pain may be as easy as popping a pain pill. They warn, however, that more research is needed before anyone tries the approach.

The finding builds on research showing that psychological blows not only feel like they hurt us, they actually do. For instance, scientists have found a gene linked with both physical pain and a person's sensitivity to rejection. And some of the same brain regions are linked with both pain types.

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Alcohol Substitute That Avoids Drunkenness And Hangovers In Development

From The Telegraph:

An alcohol substitute that mimics its pleasant buzz without leading to drunkenness and hangovers is being developed by scientists.

The new substance could have the added bonus of being "switched off" instantaneously with a pill, to allow drinkers to drive home or return to work.

The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of well being and relaxation.

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Unveiled: China's 245mph Train Service Is The World's Fastest... And It Was Completed In Just FOUR Years

Travellers board a high-speed train which heads to Guangzhou
in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Boxing Day

From The Daily Mail:

In the week that Britain's high speed rail link closed down because the wrong sort of snow interfered with the engine's electronics, China unveiled the world's fastest train service on one of the coldest days of the year.

Days after thousands of passengers were left stranded when Eurostar services were cancelled, China's new system connects the modern cities of Guangzhou and Wuhan at an average speed of 217mph - and it took just four years to build.

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Security In The Ether

Cloud crowd: Some 4,000 servers hum at IBM’s cloud computing center in San Jose, CA.
Credit: Jason Madara

From Technology Review:

Information technology's next grand challenge will be to secure the cloud--and prove we can trust it.

In 2006, when Amazon introduced the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), it was a watershed event in the quest to transform computing into a ubiquitous utility, like electricity. Suddenly, anyone could scroll through an online menu, whip out a credit card, and hire as much computational horsepower as necessary, paying for it at a fixed rate: initially, 10 cents per hour to use Linux (and, starting in 2008, 12.5 cents per hour to use Windows). Those systems would run on "virtual machines" that could be created and configured in an instant, disappearing just as fast when no longer needed. As their needs grew, clients could simply put more quarters into the meters. Amazon would take care of hassles like maintaining the data center and network. The virtual machines would, of course, run inside real ones: the thousands of humming, blinking servers clustered in Amazon's data centers around the world. The cloud computing service was efficient, cheap, and equally accessible to individuals, companies, research labs, and government agencies.

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2010 Preview: Waiting For ET To Phone

On the lookout for intelligent signals from the stars (Image: Louie Psihoyos/Corbis)

From New Scientist:

West Virginia. It is 6 am on an April morning in 1960 and Frank Drake is freezing cold. He peers up towards the focal point of the radio telescope. He mounts a flimsy ladder to the top and climbs into a space about the size of a garbage can. For the next 45 minutes, he tunes the receiver inside, which feels like starting an old car. He climbs back down and begins to listen.

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Sumatra-Andaman Disaster: 5 Years Later

A combination photo shows (top) a view of the damage near Baiturrahman mosque December 27, 2004, the day after a tsunami hit the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh, and (bottom) an Acehnese man collecting grass for his goat in the same area, December 4, 2009. (Reuters)

From Discovery News:

It's been five years since an 800-mile-long (1,300 km) section of colliding plates in Earth's crust unzipped and unleashed a 9.3 megathrust earthquake from Sumatra to the Andaman Islands. The rupture moved a block of earth as long as California about 30 feet. At least 230,000 people perished from the quake and the tsunamis that followed. We're remembering the disaster, as well as looking at the many lessons and discoveries been gleaned from it -- lessons that should never be forgotten.

Read more ....

Rise In Cyber Crime

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Is Running Bad For Your Knees? Maybe Not.

Image: Tim Tadder / Corbis

From Time Magazine:

Perhaps because it seems intuitively true, the notion persists that running, especially when done long-term and over long distances, is bad for the joints. Indeed it would be hard to think otherwise when, with each foot strike, a runner's knee withstands a force equal to eight times his body weight — for a 150-lb. person, that's about 1,200 lbs. of impact, step after step.

Read more

Troubleshooters That Block Cancer

From The BBC:

Scientists have shown how a family of "limpet-like" proteins play a crucial role in repairing the DNA damage which can lead to cancer.

They hope the finding could pave the way for a new type of drug which could help kill cancer cells, and promote production of healthy replacements.

The proteins seem to have a remarkable ability to zero in on damaged areas.

The breakthrough, uncovered independently by two teams, appears in the journal Nature.

Read more ....

Kindle Is Most Gifted Amazon Item, Ever

Amazon's second-generation Kindle
(Credit: Corinne Schulze/CNET)

From CNET News: on Saturday released its annual post-Christmas statement on holiday sales, and made one thing clear: the Kindle was king, perhaps fueled by continued shifts in plans for shipments of Barnes & Noble's competing Nook e-reader.

"We are grateful to our customers for making Kindle the most gifted item ever in our history," said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

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Calorie Restriction: Scientists Take Important Step Toward 'Fountain Of Youth'

Glucose molecular model. (Credit: iStockphoto/Martin McCarthy)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 26, 2009) — Going back for a second dessert after your holiday meal might not be the best strategy for living a long, cancer-free life say researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. That's because they've shown exactly how restricted calorie diets -- specifically in the form of restricted glucose -- help human cells live longer.

This discovery, published online in The FASEB Journal, could help lead to drugs and treatments that slow human aging and prevent cancer.

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Behind The Scenes: The First Women In Antarctica

Terry Tickhill (light hat) and Eileen McSaveney (red headband) use a hand augur to drill Lake Vanda, Wright Valley, Antarctica during the 1969-1970 field season. Water collected during this effort was used to date the lake. The green tent in the background was of the same type as the field crew used for housing during their work in Wright Valley. Credit: Lois Jones

From Live Science:

In the spring of 1969, Terry Tickhill Terrell was 19 and an undergraduate chemistry major at Ohio State University, bored with her lab work and restless. She had never traveled more than 250 miles from the Barnesville, Ohio farm where she grew up.

One day, after reading an article in the school newspaper about a graduate student who had just returned from Antarctica, Terrell decided that that was where she wanted to go.

Read more ....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Looking Back At The 100 Best Innovations Of 2009

From Popular Science:

If you're like me, the holiday break is all about consuming everyone's year-end recaps--and of course, looking ahead to the year to come. We're taking a short break here on, but we're not going to leave you hanging with nothing--here we've compiled both our year-end Best of What's New list and our look ahead to 2010 in science, all in one place for your holiday enjoyment.

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Trading Shares In Milliseconds

A monitor at Tradeworx’s offices keeps track of the net trading operations during the day. It generally ticks up. Credit: Steve Moors

From Technology Review:

Today's stock market has become a world of automated transactions executed at lightning speed. This high-frequency trading could make the financial system more efficient, but it could also turn small mistakes into catastrophes.

If Manoj Narang is about to bring down the markets, he's certainly relaxed about it. Narang, who wears a goatee and wire-frame glasses, is casually dressed in a brown shirt and dark gray sweatshirt. Sitting on a swivel chair with one leg tucked under the other, he seems positively composed, especially for a man who has just bought and sold 15 million shares with a total value of $600 million. For Narang, however, such volume represents just the start of a normal day. Though it's about noon on a Friday morning, he has barely begun.

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Ouch! We Really CAN Feel The Physical Pain Of Others

In a recent study, a third of subjects claimed to feel real pain in the same
part of the body as the victim they were watching

From The Daily Mail:

For most of us the expression 'feeling someone else's pain' is simply a way of saying we sympathise with their sadness or discomfort.

But there are some who don't just have an emotional reaction to another's agony - they feel genuine physical pain as well, researchers have found.

The finding could explain why some people are more sympathetic to other people's misery.

Read more ....

New Advances In Airport Screening Technology Will Deter Future Terrorist Attacks

T-rays can offer a safer, more effective alternative to current airport screeners
that employ X-rays. Getty Images

New Airport Screeners Could Save Time, Energy -- Discovery News

Holiday travelers: Sick of waiting in long airport security lines? T-rays are here to help.

Using several new advances in T-rays, or terahertz radiation, airport scanners could soon determine if a vial of white powder in a suitcase is common sugar or illegal drugs.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at Rice University, in Europe and elsewhere have independently undertaken research to make it dramatically easier and cheaper to produce, amplify and direct T-rays.

Read more ....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Glitter-Sized Solar Photovoltaics Could Revolutionize the Way Solar Energy Is Collected and Used

Representative thin crystalline-silicon photovoltaic cells -- these are from 14 to 20 micrometers thick and 0.25 to 1 millimeter across. (Credit: Image by Murat Okandan)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 23, 2009) — Sandia National Laboratories scientists have developed tiny glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used.

The tiny cells could turn a person into a walking solar battery charger if they were fastened to flexible substrates molded around unusual shapes, such as clothing.

Read more ....

9 Things We Learned About Us In 2009

From Live Science:

For a species that has been studying itself for thousands of years, you might think humans would have learned everything there is to know about, well, us. But science never ceases to reveal more about the complex human body, mind and culture. Here are 9 of the most fascinating things we learned about ourselves in 2009:

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Why It's Better To Pretend You Don't Know Anything About Computers.

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The Innovative 787 Carries Boeing, And Aviation, Ahead

From Autopia:

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner looks like any other airliner, so it might be hard for anyone but an airplane geek to get so excited about its inaugural flight. But the energy-efficient airliner is a bold step forward for Boeing, and for aviation.

As much as the 787 Dreamliner looks like the jet that carried you on that cramped, uncomfortable flight last month, almost everything about it is new. From the extensive use of composite materials and advanced aerodynamics to its fuel-efficient Rolls Royce engines and all-electric systems, Boeing is betting the 787 will be the plane to usher in a cleaner, greener future for the airline business.

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Surfing A Wave Of Californian Sunshine As America Looks For Renewable Future

The eSolar plant in the Mojave Desert generates enough electricity to power 4,000 homes

From Times Online:

On a dry, scrubby plain on the edge of the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, 24,000 mirrors track the Sun’s progress across a clear, blue sky. The neat ranks of heliostats and the computer algorithm that moves them make the Sierra SunTower plant a focal point for a novel type of power generation and a new wave of energy companies looking to turn the search for renewables into successful businesses.

Solar tower technology uses mirrors to reflect sunlight on to a thermal receiver atop a tower. The reflected sunlight boils water inside the receiver to create superheated steam at 440C (824F), which drives a turbine and generates electricity.

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Congressional UAV Caucus Courts Robot Voters

From Popular Science:

The US Congress has well over 100 caucuses, or groups of common interests. They're like the clubs in a high school that play chess or work on the year book, except they usually focus on a constituency like fiscal conservatives or Americans of Asian descent. Well, thanks to California Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, Congress has a new caucus focused entirely on unmanned aerial vehicles.

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The Year In Biomedicine

From Technology Review:

Advances in antiaging drugs, acoustic brain surgery, flu vaccines--and the secret to IQ.

We may look back on 2009 as the year human genome sequencing finally became routine enough to generate useful medical information ("A Turning Point for Personal Genomes"). The number of sequenced and published genomes shot up from two or three to approximately nine, with another 40 or so genomes sequenced but not yet published. In a few cases, scientists have already found the genetic cause of a disorder by sequencing an affected person's genome.

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Revenge Of The Chilli: Why Pepper Seeds Are Designed To Burn Your Mouth

Professor Sue Hartley (right) supports volunteer Adam after he eats a Naga chilli

From The Daily Telegraph:

Ever wondered why chilli peppers are so mind-blowingly hot? It's all down to their ultra-effective defense system developed in the ongoing war between plants and animals.

When humans bite down on chillis they crush the seeds the plants want to spread with their molar teeth. The peppers extract their revenge by releasing a mouth-burning mix of chemicals called capsinoids.

Read more ....

BlackBerry Struggles With Second Outage In Less Than A Week

BlackBerry Users See The Fail Whale Twice In A Week -- Gadget Lab

The cult of the BlackBerry phone is based on the device’s ability to can bring e-mails to users faster than they can click through them.

But that could become history. BlackBerry users faced a service outage on Tuesday evening–the second time in less than a week–that made e-mail, text messages and web services such as Twitter and Facebook inaccessible.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion restored the service Wednesday morning and blamed it on a glitch in its instant messaging program called the BlackBerry messenger.

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Can We Find A Living Planet By 2020?

From Discovery News:

There was a lot of excitement last week about the discovery of a “waterworld” planet called GJ 1214b, as reported on Discovery News by my colleague Ian O’Neill.

This world belongs to an emerging class of planets dubbed “super-Earths.” It is 6.5 times Earth’s mass and nearly three times our diameter. Its mass, diameter and density suggest the planet is largely a ball of water with and icy/rocky core.

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Review Of The Year 2009: Discoveries

Skeleton key: the 47 million-year-old remains of 'Ida' are the most complete fossil of a primate ever found. The young female specimen was found in Germany. AFP/GETTY IMAGES

From The Independent:

We saw Darwin in a whole new light.

Climate change, stem cells and evolution were the three big science themes of 2009, which happened to be the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his seminal book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. It was the year when Darwin's remarkable insight into the evolution of life on earth was celebrated around the world.

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Brown Dwarf Pair Mystifies Astronomers

Artist's rendition of a brown dwarf and its moon orbiting a triple star system. (Credit: NASA)

From Daily Space:

Science Daily (Dec. 23, 2009) — Two brown dwarf-sized objects orbiting a giant old star show that planets may assemble around stars more quickly and efficiently than anyone thought possible, according to an international team of astronomers.

"We have found two brown dwarf-sized masses around an ordinary star, which is very rare," said Alex Wolszczan, Evan Pugh professor of astronomy and astrophysics, Penn State and lead scientist on the project.

Read more ....

Santa Claus: The Real Man Behind The Myth

It wasn't until 1809 that Santa Clause got fat, and by the late 1800s he was wearing the full red suit with the fur trim and leather boots. Image credit: stockxpert

From Live Science:

Like America itself, the jolly figure we call Santa Claus is a melting pot of cultures, blending elements of folklore with the fantastical.

Santa Claus the man is actually loosely rooted in fact, though he hasn't always looked the way he does today, having evolved from a gift-giving Catholic saint who lived during the third century.

Read more ....

Report: FBI Investigating Citibank Cyberattack

From CNET:

Citigroup denies it, but its Citibank unit was reportedly robbed of tens of millions of dollars, the victim of a cyberattack by members of a Russian criminal gang, says Tuesday's Wall Steet Journal (subscription required).

The attack was discovered this past summer, says the Journal, but investigators for the FBI and National Security Agency believe it could have happened months or a year prior. The two agencies have reportedly shared information with the Department of Homeland Security and Citigroup to defend against the attack. The investigation is supposedly ongoing, with no word on whether or not any of the stolen money has been found.

Read more ....

Robotic Knee Helps Perfectly Healthy Runners Run Even Better

The Cyborg Leg It helps perfectly healthy runners run 30 percent more efficiently.
Tsukuba University

From Popular Science:

Attention cyborg wonks and lazy people: Japanese scientists at Tsukuba University have created a motorized knee that you can attach to your leg to increase your muscle power and running speed. The 11-pound kit's weight is shared by an exoskeleton-like attachment for your leg and a power source that's carried in a small backpack. But here's the best part: the device is not designed with any kind of rehabilitation or handicap-assisting function in mind; it's simply to make it easier for regular folks to run faster!

Read more ....

Dams Linked To More Extreme Weather

Influencing the weather (Image: J.C Dahlig/Bereau of Reclamation)

From New Scientist:

DAM-BUILDERS: be careful when you create a reservoir because bigger storms and flooding could be on the way. That's the warning from an analysis of more than 600 dams, many of which have brought more extreme rainfall.

The idea that large bodies of water might influence rainfall is not new. But until now, no one had studied the effect of large dams and their reservoirs.

Read more ....

Biofuels: Can They Fuel Our Lifestyle Without Taking Food From The Poor?

Green crude from oil processed from algae

From The Guardian:

A consultation by the UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics wants to hear public opinion on the new generation of biofuels.

Just in case you thought it was safe to stop thinking about biofuels, here comes another study – this time into the ethics. Can a new generation of biofuels ensure we don't increase greenhouse gas emissions and take food from the poor to fuel our cars?

Read more ....

New Pipe Organ Sounds Echo Of Age Of Bach

The organ at Christ Church, Episcopal, in Rochester. Stewart Cairns for The New York Times

From The New York Times:

ROCHESTER — The ceremonial pipe organ of the 18th century was the Formula One racer of its time, a masterpiece of human ingenuity so elegant in its outward appearance that a casual observer could only guess at the complexity that lay within.

Each organ was designed to fit its intended space, ranging in size from local churches where townspeople could worship to vast cathedrals fit for royalty. The builders were precision craftsmen celebrated for their skill in hand-making thousands of moving parts and in shaping and tuning metal and wooden pipes to mimic the sounds of each instrument in an orchestra.

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New Crew Reaches International Space Station

A Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-17 space ship, carrying a new crew to the international space station (ISS), lifts off from the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. The Soyuz TMA-17's three astronauts will take the orbiting laboratory's permanent crew to five following the early-hours launch, the first-ever blastoff of a Soyuz rocket on a winter night.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

From ABC News:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A fresh three-member crew arrived at the International Space Station on Tuesday, bolstering the two-man skeleton crew that has been keeping the outpost operational since December 1.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and NASA rookie flier Timothy Creamer coasted into its berthing port at 5:48 p.m. EST (2248 GMT), as the station sailed 220 miles above Rio de Janeiro. The men were launched into space on Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The trio is expected to remain aboard the station until May.

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Pioneering Stem Cell Treatment Restores Sight

From The Telegraph:

A man blinded in one eye by a chemical attack as he intervened to stop a fight has had his sight restored thanks to pioneering new stem cell treatment.

Russell Turnbull, 38, lost most of the vision in his right eye when he had ammonia sprayed into it as he tried to break up a fight on a late night bus journey home.

The attack, which badly burned and scarred his cornea, left him with permanent blurred sight and pain whenever he blinked.

Read more ....

U.S. Sets Up World's Largest Face Transplant Programme For Disfigured War Veterans

U.S. soldiers disfigured in combat will now be able to get face transplants

From The Daily Mail:

The world's biggest face transplant programme is being set up in Boston for veterans left severely deformed after surviving horrific war injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. Department of Defence has given Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the city a $3.4million contract to pay for the first batch of operations.

It is hoped the Boston doctors will carry out face transplants on six to eight patients over the next 18 months - nearly doubling the nine known procedures completed worldwide.

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My Comment: These doctors will have enough work to last them a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Modern Behavior of Early Humans Found Half-Million Years Earlier Than Thought

Stone tools from the Benot Ya'aqov arah.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

From The Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 22, 2009) — Evidence of sophisticated, human behavior has been discovered by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers as early as 750,000 years ago -- some half a million years earlier than has previously been estimated by archaeologists.

The discovery was made in the course of excavations at the prehistoric Gesher Benot Ya'aqov site, located along the Dead Sea rift in the southern Hula Valley of northern Israel, by a team from the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology. Analysis of the spatial distribution of the findings there reveals a pattern of specific areas in which various activities were carried out.

Read more ....

Music Linked To Marijuana Use

From Live Science:

Teens who listen to music that mentions marijuana are significantly more likely to use the drug, a new study finds.

The research was based on surveys with 959 ninth-graders.

"Students who listen to music with the most references to marijuana are almost twice as likely to have used the drug than their peers whose musical tastes favor songs less focused on substance use," said University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researcher Dr. Brian Primack, who led the study.

Read more ....

Platoon-Level 'Cloud' Lets Soldiers Swap Data, Increases 'Network Lethality'

Better Connectivity A unit-level "cloud" will allow soldiers in the field to communicate vertically up the chain of command, as well as with other ground and air units operating nearby for seamless sharing of intel, orders, and other data. U.S. Army

From Popular Science:

There's no question that the U.S. military is operating at a very high technological capacity, but the tactical edge that commanders have back at HQ doesn't always translate to grunts in the field. That gap is closing however, as the Army recently networked two distant infantry units together in a mobile "cloud," allowing them to trade video imagery, voice commands, text messages and other data between between them as they operated, as well as with far-flung command posts.

Read more ....

2010 Preview: Genome Sequencing For All

Illuminating the "dark matter" of the genome
(Image: Roz Woodward/Stone/Getty)

From New Scientist:

Fancy having your genome sequenced? It's becoming affordable, and 2010 will see the launch of a wave of genetic discovery that could turn it into a purchase worth making.

In the coming months, plummeting costs will allow gene hunters to start routinely working with complete human genome sequences. These should start to illuminate the "dark matter" of the genome - the as yet unknown genetic influences on our health that are missed by current scans.

Read more ....

Computers Offer A Faster Way To Cure Humanity's Ills

From The Guardian:

Scientific research and medical breakthroughs increasingly depend on huge computer power.

HOW DO YOU predict whether a given patient is likely to die from a heart attack? Conventional medical wisdom would base a risk assessment on factors such as the person's age, whether they were smokers and/or diabetic plus the results of cardiac ultrasound and various blood tests. It may be that a better predictor is a computer program that analyses the patient's electrocardiogram looking for subtle features within the data provided by the instrument.

Read more ....

Apple's iPhone Is Most Popular Phone In US - Study

From Apple Insider:

With 4 percent of all mobile device subscribers in the U.S., a new study has found that Apple's iPhone was the single most popular handset model in the country in 2009.

The iPhone edged out Research in Motion's BlackBerry 8300 series, which came in second place with 3.7 percent, according to new data released this week by Nielsen. The rankings measured the top 10 mobile phones in use in the U.S. from January to October 2009.

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The E-Book, The E-Reader, And The Future Of Reading

Members of a suburban Boston book group. Mary Knox Merrill / Staff

From The Christian Science Monitor:

As stone tablets gave way the codex, the future of reading is digital – but will the e-reader and the e-book change the nature of how we read?

Jeremy Manore, an 18-year-old from central New Jersey, subscribes to several magazines and reads books constantly – John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald are among his favorite writers. When he came home from his elite Massachusetts boarding school for Thanksgiving, Jeremy brought three books to read, his mother, Sandy Manore, says. But he wasn’t carting heavy volumes in a backpack.

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Thinking Out Loud Helps Solve Problems

From The Telegraph:

Thinking out loud really does help you to solve problems faster, scientists have discovered.

People who talk out loud to think through their maths problems are able to solve them faster and have more chance of getting the right answer, the research has found.

In a finding that flies in the face of the old-fashioned theory of studying in silence, classrooms should be full of the noise of students tackling their problems out loud.

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Scrubby Oak Lauded As Oldest Known Living Organism

Mike Cipra, a desert program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, examines a burned Joshua tree that shows signs of growth earlier this month. Scientists say the effects of global warming could make Joshuas extinct within a century. Kurt Miller / The Press-Enterprise

From The Independent:

It began life during the last ice age, long before man turned to agriculture and built the first cities in the fertile crescent of the Middle East. It was already thousands of years old when the Egyptians built their pyramids and the ancient Britons erected Stonehenge.

The Jurupa Oak tree first sprouted into life when much of the world was still covered in glaciers. It has stood on its windswept hillside in southern California for at least 13,000 years, making it the oldest known living organism, according to a study published today.

Read more ....

Mind-Reading Brain Implant Could Allow Paralysed To Turn Their Thoughts Into Instant Speech

The patient had a stroke in the brain, which stopped neural signals from travelling through the body. The electrode bypassed these channels and sent the thought signals to an FM receiver outside the body to a speech synthesizer via a neural decoder

From The Daily Mail:

A revolutionary new device that reads a person's thoughts and turns them into speech could soon change the lives of paralysed patients around the world.

The Neuralynx System is being developed by a team of scientists led by Professor Frank Guenther at Boston University.

Users will simply have to think of what they want to say and a voice synthesizer will translate the thoughts into speech almost immediately.

Read more ....

Top Science News Stories Of 2009

Predator X: As seen in one of the most popular news stories of 2009, this 45-ton pliosaur crushed its prey with 30-centimetre-long teeth. Credit: Atlantic Productions

From Cosmos:

SYDNEY: From T. rex sized sea monsters to the risk of Africa splitting in two - here are the most read news stories of 2009.

NASA's Cassini probe has uncovered for the first time towering vertical structures in Saturn's seemingly flat rings that are due to the gravitational effects of a small moon.

Volcanic activity may split the African continent in two, creating a new ocean, say experts. This is due to a recent geological crack which has appeared in northeastern Ethiopia.

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Supernova Remnants Reveal How The Star Exploded

Supernovas that come from thermonuclear explosion on white dwarfs (known as Type Ia) produce very symmetric remnants. Another type, created when a very massive star collapses, results in more asymmetrically shaped remnants. (Credit: NASA/CXC/UCSC/L. Lopez et al.)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 21, 2009) — At a very early age, children learn how to classify objects according to their shape. Now, new research suggests studying the shape of the aftermath of supernovas may allow astronomers to do the same.

A new study of images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory on supernova remnants -- the debris from exploded stars -- shows that the symmetry of the remnants, or lack thereof, reveals how the star exploded. This is an important discovery because it shows that the remnants retain information about how the star exploded even though hundreds or thousands of years have passed.

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Surprising Truths About Santa's Reindeer

Reindeer and caribou are two names for the same species called Rangifer tarandus, with reindeer generally referring to the domesticated variety that pull sleds. Credit: Stockxpert.

From Live Science:

Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen were no doubt keeping an eye on the recent climate conference in Copenhagen. Reindeer numbers have dropped nearly 60 percent in the last three decades due to climate change and habitat disturbance caused by humans, a study earlier this year found.

The decline of reindeer is a hot topic to more than just Santa and millions of children around the world.

Read more ....

War Games: Military Use Of Consumer Technology

Courtesy Vcom 3D

From The Economist:

Consumer products and video-gaming technology are boosting the performance and reducing the price of military equipment.

VIDEO games have become increasingly realistic, especially those involving armed combat. America’s armed forces have even used video games as recruitment and training tools. But the desire to play games is not the reason why the United States Air Force recently issued a procurement request for 2,200 Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) video-game consoles. It intends to link them up to build a supercomputer that will run Linux, a free, open-source operating system. It will be used for research, including the development of high-definition imaging systems for radar, and will cost around one-tenth as much as a conventional supercomputer. The air force has already built a smaller computer from a cluster of 336 PS3s.

Read more ....