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Weekly Update

Here is your expertly curated update on advances in science and techonology for this week!

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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 16/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/04/bigger-immune-responses-probabilistic.html 

Bigger immune responses, Probabilistic computer vision, Self-powered camera, Quantum bits in silicon, CRISPR controls epigenetics, Laser perovskites, Multi-cameras, Metamaterial energy harvesting, Lots of robots, Accessible cell therapies. 

1. Engineering a Broader Immune Response Against Cancer.
A new discovery allows a much broader immune response to be generated against different types of cancer than was previously possible http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/using-entire-immune-system-halts-tumor-growth-0414. This works by activating both the adaptive and the innate immune systems at the same time by conjugating interleukin 2 molecules to antibodies that target specific cancer cells. In tests tumours disappeared completely in up to 90% of mice and when tumour cells were reintroduced they were quickly destroyed by the immune system. 

2. Computer Vision with Probabilistic Programming.
New probabilistic programming techniques can in many cases produce effective code that accomplishes in 50 lines of code what normally takes many thousands of lines of code http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/better-probabilistic-programming-0413. This is a result of making machine learning applications easier to build - probabilistic programming was developed to quickly utilise machine learning techniques that have worked elsewhere. Example applications include taking 2D pictures of faces and accurately reproducing 3D models of those faces. 

3. A Self-Powered Camera.
A self-powered camera has been developed that, as the name implies, doesn’t require any power to function via a photodiode image sensor that also harvests light energy http://www.cs.columbia.edu/CAVE/projects/self_powered_camera/. This is essentially combining the functions of a solar panel and image sensor into one device that switches operation - capturing energy at one point in time in order to power the device to capture image information the next. Check out the videos - this camera can currently record an image per second. Imagine passive cameras saturating the environment that record events and never need to be recharged or connected to power. 

4. Electrical Control of Quantum Information in Silicon. 
Quantum information has been encoded in silicon using electrical pulses for the first time https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/breakthrough-opens-door-affordable-quantum-computers. This group has been working in the space for a while now and has steadily improved the technology; from the first single atom qubits in silicon to improved control to long qubit lifetimes and now to control via electric fields. Using existing silicon-based chip fabrication methods might just enable manufacturing quantum computers in future. 

5. Using CRISPR to Control Epigenetics.
CRISPR can now be used to directly target and modify epigenetic changes in the genome http://pratt.duke.edu/news/pulling-strings-our-genomic-puppetmasters. To accomplish this the Cas9 enzyme was modified to remove the DNA-cutting region, which was replaced with another enzyme for transferring acetyl groups to DNA. This allows precise targeting and control of specific gene promoters and enhancers to control gene activity; remember each cell contains the same genome, it’s just a matter of which genes are switched on or off that give rise to differences. For the first time promoters and enhancers can be probed and characterised in such an effective way. 

6. Perovskites Now Made into Lasers.
Perovskite compounds are one of the most exciting materials in solar photovoltaics at the moment, and the same properties that make them effective in this application apparently also make them promising for lasers http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/devices/perovskite-leads-to-100percent-efficient-nanowire-lasers. A simple method can make perovskite crystals that function as high-efficiency, ultra-small nanowire lasers. Under testing these lasers demonstrate some of the best performance criteria of any lasing material, including near 100% efficiency in which every photon that the material absorbs is used to produce a photon of laser light. 

7. NextGen Photography with Multi-Camera Modules.
A company called Light is launching new camera modules comprised of multiple lenses and image sensors that all fire simultaneously to produce images that are combined into a higher-resolution, higher-quality final image with adjustable focus http://www.technologyreview.com/news/536816/a-way-to-get-much-higher-resolution-selfies/. The first Light cameras are expected in smartphones by 2016, boasting a resolution of 52-megapixels, and along with other improvements hopefully squeeze the quality of an expensive DSLR camera into smaller, cheaper devices. This is like advanced space telescopes that combine images from multiple devices to produce much clearer images; I think it is a great idea. 

8. Metamaterial Energy Harvesting from Light.
New metamaterial designs have resulted in surfaces that are able to absorb 93% of incident electromagnetic waves they have been tuned to, which is significantly higher than classical antennas http://www.aip.org/publishing/journal-highlights/harvesting-energy-electromagnetic-waves & http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/106/15/10.1063/1.4916232. In this case the light was from the 3 GHz spectrum, but the group hope to extend these capabilities with related designs into the infrared and ultimately visible spectrum. Applications for the current capability includes efficient wireless power transfer for devices and chips. 

9. Lots of Cool New Robots.
We had a whole bunch of new robots this week. First, an innovative robotic kitchen and cooking robot from Moley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnUDhjG95jI. Second, in line with Baxter and others yet another collaborative dual-armed manufacturing robot called YuMi https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=115&v=2KfXY2SvlmQ - lots of competition in this space. Third, a nurse robot able to accurately insert needles into arm veins to inject drugs or take blood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpdTeGPruFA. Four, a taste of things to come for the DARPA robotics trial https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=43&v=L4B5BhDoS9o. Five, solar-powered flying bird-robot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo9lIkY74n0

10. Accessible Cell Therapies.
RepliCel Life Sciences bill themselves as a regenerative medicine company and are developing - and plan to sell - a couple of cell therapies including treatments for (i) chronic tendinosis to improve healing of tendons, and (ii) baldness to encourage and improve hair growth https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/04/the-low-hanging-fruit-of-cell-therapy-development.php. These areas are considered “low-hanging-fruit” and aim to provide / introduce cells into areas of the body that have become deficient in certain cell types, for example, isolating hair follicles as a cell source, massively amplifying these cells to large numbers, and reintroducing them to the patient via injection to the appropriate areas. In animals the approach caused hair to grow in places it normally doesn’t, or made hair thicker in places it does. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/04/bigger-immune-responses-probabilistic.html 
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Celebrating #STEMWomen

The story and accomplishments of Dr. Marie Maynard Daly for your #ScienceSunday  reading pleasure.

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The "S" in STEM: Dr Marie Maynard Daly
Marie Maynard Daly conducted ground-breaking research on the impact of cholesterol and sugars on heart disease, as well as examining the circulatory system and hypertension in advanced age. Towards the end of her career, she examined how proteins are produced and organised in the cell.

Today she is remembered for being the first Black American woman to be awarded a PhD in Chemistry in the United States, in 1947, but her legacy is more profound, both in terms of her scientific achievements, and her work in promoting diversity in STEM.

Dr Daly graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor degree in Chemistry in 1942; she completed her Master's degree in one year; and her PhD in 3 years.

In 1988, Dr Daly also established a scholarship for African American science students at Queens College. The fund honours of her father who was a strong supporter of her education and career, and who was forced by economic circumstances to drop out of Cornell University, where he was studying chemistry.

"Enzymes are complicated and indispensable molecules, whose importance lies within their ability to speed up chemical reactions, and to regulate nearly every biochemical process in the bodies of living organisms. Countless scientists spent years researching those intricate molecules - amongst others, one of the most prominent was Marie Maynard Daly....

Marie Maynard Daly conducted important research projects, which clarified a variety of mechanisms happening in human bodies despite all the problems she had to overcome, whether it was race or gender bias, or her lack of money. Her research and studies, aimed at a wide range of subjects, provided an important base for next generations of scientists."

Quote and image: http://buff.ly/1CL0REw Learn more: http://buff.ly/1AoI17Y #stemwomen #stemheroines #woc
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Good Grief Black & Female and made it to Ph.D. in 1940's America and made a significant contribution to science
SERIOUS RESPECT at so many levels
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Easter Eggs to Dye For!

#HappyEaster #ScienceSunday #SciSunRR  
 
Galactic Easter Eggs Are Cosmically Awesome

Love these ... Some of the coolest I've seen (and simple tutorial).

( Full Story - http://goo.gl/dP4FXc )

#ScienceSunday   #HappyEaster   #EasterEggs   #HowTo  
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Very eggciting !!
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Secrets of Spider Silks

Giant orb spider webs and titanium infused drag line silks make for a great #SpiderSunday

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Fixing a Hole: Better (Spider) Web Design

⎈ From tiny webs like the one "repairing" a hole in a leaf seen in the image, to giant orbs spanning 25 meters across rivers and lakes, the architecture of spider webs can teach us a thing or two about engineering. After all, spiders have been spinning silk for 400 milion years and now number at least 41,000 species spread out over every continent, including Antarctica. Each spider produces many different types of silk covering a range of mechanical properties: from the steely dragline silk in the radial strands to sticky capture silk that forms concentric circles in the web. Yet, only few spider silks have been studied, mostly at random, sometimes simply from the researcher's own backyard! 

Bioprospecting: By combining fields as diverse as natural history, ecology, taxonomy, behavior and biomaterial science, researchers found that the Darwin's Bark Spider (Caerostris darwini), a giant Malagasy riverine orb-weaving spider, produces the toughest silk discovered to date. Outperforming steel and Kevlar, the radial web threads of this spider have unusual elasticity, absorbing more kinetic energy upon prey impact so that they stretch, instead of fracturing. This allows the spiders to occupy a new ecological niche- the flyways above rivers where they can catch unsuspecting insects and even small birds and bats. Don't you agree that scientists should get out of their labs and explore new habitats as well?!

Biomimicry: In nature, tiny amounts of metals penetrate protein structures to change their properties. These "impurities" are found in jaws, claws and cuticles where they impart additional toughness to biological material. Inspired by nature, scientists purposefully introduced zinc, titanium or aluminum into spider dragline silks by using a multiple pulsed vapor-phase infiltration method. The resulting material was tougher and more stable to environmental damage. Now this is the stuff of Spider Man!    

Free Reads: New Opportunities for an Ancient Material (2010) Ometto and Kaplan. Science. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136811/

Bioprospecting Finds the Toughest Biological Material: Extraordinary Silk from a Giant Riverine Orb Spider (2010). Agnarsson et al. PLOS ONE http://goo.gl/CcSMTd

The Beatles-Fixing a Hole: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0I2ZrBuFdQ

Photo Credit: Bertrand Kulik 

#ScienceSunday  
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California Drought

Stanford Climate Scientist +Noah Diffenbaugh takes questions about the water shortage and climate change in California.

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Q&A About Record-Low California Snowpack, Mandatory Water Restrictions

The April 1st snowpack measurements showed that California snowpack is approximately 6% of normal, which is the lowest April 1st snowpack on record. I did a Q&A with the +Stanford University News Service about the importance of the record-low snow, including the role of climate change.

Here is the Q&A:
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/april/calif-drought-qna-040215.html

And the peer-reviewed paper:
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/13/3931.abstract

And Gov. Brown's executive order imposing "first ever statewide mandatory water reductions":
http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18910

The photo is from +Andrew Freedman 's piece at +Mashable  about the mandatory restrictions:
http://mashable.com/2015/04/01/california-snowpack-record-low/

#climatechange   #globalwarming   #CAdrought   #science   #sciencecommunication   #sciencesunday  
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Jetting from a Black Hole

You may not see a black hole but you can see these enormous long arms extending from it. +Jonah Miller explains for #ScienceEveryday.
 
The Long Arms of the Black Hole

Black holes are incredibly messy eaters. As matter falls into a spinning black hole, that matter can be accelerated to incredible velocities and launched out the poles. In the case of the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, these are the most energetic events in the universe since the Big Bang.

The exact mechanism for the creation of these jets is unknown. There are two competing theories, one called the Blandford-Payne mechanism, and one called the Blandford-Znajek mechanism. The details are too fiddly to get into here, but the former has more to do with the in-falling matter and the latter has to do with how magnetic fields interact with the spinning black hole.

The image bellow is of the galaxy Centaurus A and the jets produced by its super-massive black hole, which is fifty five million times the mass of our sun. The white glow and brown disk are the galaxy itself and associated dust cloud respectively. The blue line is the ultrarelativistic jet of material emitted by the black hole. (Actually, it's the X-rays emitted by the fast-moving matter in the jet.)

You can't see the black hole at all. Even on the scale of a galaxy, it's just a dot, smaller than a pixel. But it has a wide wide reach, extending far beyond the galaxy and influencing the growth and evolution of the galaxy profoundly.

(The image is actually the composite of three images. From Wikipedia: This is a composite of images obtained with three instruments, operating at very different wavelengths. The 870-micron submillimetre data, from LABOCA on APEX, are shown in orange. X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in blue. Visible light data from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2 m telescope located at La Silla, Chile, show the background stars and the galaxy’s characteristic dust lane in close to "true colour".)

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centaurus_A

Related Reading

These objects are called _active galactic nulcei. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_galactic_nucleus

Black holes glow for other reasons too. They have so-called accretion disks, which glow incredibly brightly. I wrote about this a while back: http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2013/11/09/accretion-disk/

The bottom line is this: We can see black holes.

#physics #astrophysics #science #blackholes #spaceporn   #scienceeveryday  
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Thanks for the reshare, +ScienceSunday​!
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Chimeras!

Award winning novelist and G+ scientist shares a blog post that she wrote on microchimerism for #ScienceSunday

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For +ScienceSunday this week-end I would like to share an article on chimerism that I wrote for The Scientist. I learned a lot of surprising facts about chimerism, how common it is and how it affects our life and health. I hope you'll enjoy it!

With thanks to +Allison Sekuler , +Buddhini Samarasinghe , +Rajini Rao and +Robby Bowles 

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42476/title/From-Many--One/
Diverse mammals, including humans, have been found to carry distinct genomes in their cells. What does such genetic chimerism mean for health and disease?
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thanks so much for the share +ScienceSunday  !!
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Science Sunday Round Up

From artificial kidneys to testicles, this week's science and technology summary from +Mark Bruce sure is colorful! 

#ScienceSunday   #SciSunRR  
 
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 15/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/04/artificial-kidney-membrane-nanoscale-3d.html

Artificial kidney membrane, tissue engineered gonads, nanotube computing, 3D imaging chip, Nanoscale 3D imaging, Simpler CRISPR, Maintaining youthful stem cells, Tactile manipulators, Acoustic cell isolation, Acoustic metamaterials. 

1. Living Artificial Kidney Membrane.
In a similar vein to recent efforts in microfluidics to develop “organs on a chip” artificial membranes can now be produced that are coated by a living monolayer of kidney cells http://phys.org/news/2015-04-kidney-membrane.html. The primary application the group is pursuing relates to kidney transplants and dialysis treatments by ultimately scaling the device up to achieve clinical relevance. One can imaging rolling layers of membranes with relevant cells into tubes to form an artificial kidney or other organ system - artificial organs and tissue engineering needn’t be limited to conventional biological architectures. I also like the idea of controlled cell membranes in general; they might be programmed to mass produce any biological product of interest. 

2. Tissue Engineering: Artificial Testicles.
In related tissue engineering news we had an interesting article this week about the ongoing development of artificial testicles capable of producing functional sperm http://www.vice.com/read/the-science-of-artificial-testicles. The current (complex) device is designed to mimic the complex inner structure of testicles and the primary applications in mind are for aiding men struggling with infertility for a range of reasons to have children via IVF. The key here is engineering the right environment to naturally stimulate stem cells - convincing them that they are part of a testicle - to divide and differentiate into sperm cells, to take tissue engineering to the point of creating a sperm-making machine. 

3. Carbon Nanotube Computing.
Circuits made of carbon nanotubes take another step closer to fruition with a simple, scalable method to remove metallic carbon nanotubes from arrays and leaving the desired semiconducting nanotubes behind to do work http://phys.org/news/2015-04-purify-arrays-single-walled-carbon-nanotubes.html. Making defined arrays of nanotubes into circuits can already be done but until now making these circuits functional by removing metallic carbon nanotubes has not been possible. In related news carbon nanotube and polymer composites, inherently disordered bulk materials, can nevertheless be trained to produce a desired electronic output (mimicking a particular electronic circuit) as part of a process of materials evolution http://phys.org/news/2015-04-single-walled-carbon-nanotube-composites-great.html; understanding how these structures form might be very useful http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2015/0409-engineers-now-understand-how-complex-carbon-nanostructures-form/.   

4. Chip-Based 3D Imaging for Devices.
A new millimeter-scale silicon chip incorporates a nanophotonic coherent imager - in which each pixel is an independent interferometer able to measure both intensity and distance information - that works as part of a LIDAR system to generate 3D images of objects in realtime http://www.caltech.edu/news/new-camera-chip-provides-superfine-3-d-resolution-46425. These are just begging to be incorporated into smartphones, Kinect / Leap Motion devices, and autonomous vehicles to name a few; remember one of the major expenses on an autonomous vehicle is the LIDAR system - chips like this will slash these costs. I wonder if the chip might be used in a different set-up to emit rather than capture 3D images? 

5. Nanoscale Optical 3D Imaging.
In related 3D imaging news, but this time at the nanoscale, a new imaging technology combining cathodoluminescence and tomography allows the use of visible light to generate nanometer resolution three-dimensional images of nanoscale objects http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/april/nano-3d-imaging-040715.html. The technique takes many 2D images at many angles and uses algorithms to stitch these together to generate and identify the 3D structure of the object. There is a nice embedded video overview of the process. This is a nice new imaging platform that I’d expect to see used in many fundamental research investigations over time; the team quote applications in producing optimised and more efficient LEDs and photovoltaic materials. 

6. Simpler Mini CRISPR.
As if CRISPR couldn’t get any easier. The CRISPR gene editing toolkit has been expanded with a new Cas9 enzyme that is encoded by a gene that is only 75% of the size of the conventional Cas9 gene http://www.nature.com/news/mini-enzyme-moves-gene-editing-closer-to-the-clinic-1.17234. This makes the overall genetic package require to be inserted into cells that much smaller and that much easier / more effective to insert. This is particularly important for gene therapy approaches in which you typically need to package genes into a small virus particle. In proof-of-concept experiments the team used the new technique to successfully transfect the livers of mice and get a test gene into 40% of liver cells in one go - a pretty good result for somatic cell genetic modification. 

7. Maintaining Youthful Stem Cell Activity with Age.
New experiments in mice show that removing just two factors known as TIMP1 and TIMP3 (Tissue Inhibitors of MetalloProteinases) was enough to maintain tissue (breast tissue in this demonstration) in a youthful state in aged mice https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/04/loss-of-timp1-and-timp3-maintains-youthful-stem-cell-activity-in-aging-mice.php. With age tissue loses its ability to develop and repair due to a decline in the stem cell population. Removal of TIMP1 & 3 led to an expansion in the pool of stem cells, the maintenance of consistently high levels, and their remaining functional throughout the life of the mice, and all without an increased predisposition to cancer (which was originally predicted). I wonder when we might see the results of, e.g., RNAi knock-down of TIMP1 & 3 in humans?

8. Sensitive Robot Manipulators.
A couple of interesting advances in robotic hands enabling more sensitive manipulations this week. First, engineering new robotic hands that are much more touch sensitive by using touch sensors interacting with myriad different materials to build a “language” of touch that both a computer and human can understand and interpret http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/robotictouch.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_51, with the hope this results in prosthetics that provide a genuine human touch experience to amputees. Second, the use of shape-memory alloys (wires) as muscle fibers in lightweight robotic and prosthetic hands and limbs http://www.kurzweilai.net/an-artificial-hand-that-can-respond-sensitively-thanks-to-muscles-made-of-shape-memory-wires and leveraging useful properties such as the highest energy density of all known drive mechanisms. 

9. Isolating Circulating Tumour Cells with Sound.
Building on work first demonstrated last year a group has developed an even better (20 times faster) microfluidic cell sorting chip powered by two acoustic transducers that produce a standing wave along the microchannel http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/sound-waves-detect-rare-cancer-cells-0406. It turns out that cancer cells and normal cells respond differently to the sound gradient due differences in compressibility and other factors. In tests 83% of cancer cells were isolated samples with as few as 1 cancer cell per 100,000 and blood samples from real cancer patients were successfully analysed. The order-of-magnitude improvement from last year makes the device clinically relevant. 

10. Acoustic Metamaterials.
On the topic of acoustic technology there were two interesting acoustic metamaterial advances this week http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/new-industrial-bubble-wrap-material-and.html. First, a bubble metascreen comprised of a 4mm thick rubber film with embedded bubbles can dampen sound and especially reflected sonar signals by 10,000 times - 100 times better than thought possible. Second, another acoustic metamaterial dubbed a phononic crystal can, when coated onto an object, cause sound waves hitting that object to flow around its surface without being reflected. 

Archive:_ http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/04/artificial-kidney-membrane-nanoscale-3d.html
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Fire and Ice

+Aida Hazlan explains what happens when a volcano erupts under ice!

#ScienceEveryday   #SciSunRR  
 
Hot Lava Over Cold Ice

❆ The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland highlighted the importance of understanding what happens when volcanoes erupt through ice.

❅ In order to improve our understanding of these spectacular events, we have conducted large-scale experiments by pouring 100-300 kg (~220-660 pounds) of melted rock onto blocks of ice and snow (http://blogs.dickinson.edu/edwardsb/2012/08/29/lava-ice-snow-experiments-at-syracuse/).

❄ The preliminary results of this study are both expected (ice melts!) and somewhat unexpected (lava can travel on top of snow; melted water can bubble up through lava).

☼ Benjamin Edwards and colleagues have also tested the ability of layers of volcanic ash (sand in the experiments) to slow down the melting process.

☀ Results show that if ice or snow is covered by volcanic ash at the start of an eruption, this will significantly slow the rate of melting if lava flows later move over the ash-covered ice.

❃ These experiments show good agreement with observations from volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Sicily, including the ability of lava to find weaknesses in ice and a tunnel underneath ice.

❋ Once the lava has found its way to the base of the ice, it can continue to flow beneath the ice layers by exploiting pre-existing fractures.

References and Further Reading:

1. Article from : http://www.geosociety.org/news/pr/13-40.htm
2.http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/early/2013/06/20/G34305.1.abstract
3. http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/do-it-yourself-lava-flows

GIF Source : http://goo.gl/PSudht

#scienceeveryday   #lava   #ice  
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everything is up grading!
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Sonogram Sunday

+Carissa Braun explains the science of sonograms and follows up with a series of quizzes that tests your ability to identify songbirds. Head over to her page and take the challenge for #SonogramSunday  !

#ScienceSunday   #SciSunRR  
 
Singing the Songs of Birds

The human ear is an amazing, complex organ that allows us to sense an enormous range of intensities and detect locations of sounds, but it has limitations. Humans have evolved to be primarily visual creatures, not auditory. When studying certain phenomena, such as bird songs and other animal songs, data can be better understood when sound becomes images.

Sonograms, such as the images below, are the visual representation of different bird songs. They let us see what we cannot hear - every note, every pitch, every pause. Each mark is referred to as a syllable from which each song can then be classified. A repertoire is a set of songs with minor differences, but with the differences generally in similar locations - the songs sound or look similar, but they are not. Depending on the species of bird, they may have an extremely limited repertoire or they might have an impressively vast one.

When it comes to songbirds, those within the Passeriformes, they can be broken up into two main categories: those that share songs (majority) and those that do not (minority). Some species, such as the well-studied Song Sparrow, are known to share songs which makes it easier for researchers to determine what each song means. Other species, such as Painted Buntings, do not share songs which makes it far harder to determine what each song means. Add in the complexity of some songs, as those of various buntings included below, and you start to understand the value of sonograms. They are an important tool that allows researchers to discern information that their limited ears could not and allow for research otherwise near impossible to achieve.

This is a quick #ScienceSunday  (+ScienceSunday) post, but done with a reason. For the next two weeks, possibly longer, I'll be doing a "guess the bird" posts each Monday and Wednesday (with reveals on Tuesday and Thursday). Of course, we can't make it easy, right? I'll have a sonogram to display, and if all goes well, a slowed down version of the song followed by the normal song (if I'm feeling nice). If you're interested, watch for the first one tomorrow. Good luck!

Sources and Further Reading
Songs of the Painted Bunting
http://goo.gl/iEH2lu (Old G+ Post/Series)
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Weekly Science Round Up

+Mark Bruce delivers his #ScienceSunday  special with the best in last week's science and technology reports- from biomagnetism to brains. Enjoy!

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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 14/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/04/bacterial-batteries-bacterial-digital.html

Bacterial batteries, Magnetic biosensors, Bacterial digital memory, 3D NAND chips, Magnetic BCI compass, DNA-protein lattice, Engineering chlorophylls, Machine vision advances, Brain function imaging, Molecular membrane transport. 

1. Bacterial Magnetic Batteries
Interesting new work on iron metabolising bacteria show that they use microscopic magnetite particles as a type of battery, loading and unloading electrons during the course of metabolism http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150326151654.htm. The cycle was repeated many times with iron-oxidising bacteria removing electrons during the day and iron-reducing bacteria adding electrons during the night to recharge the particles. The group speculate whether such a system might be used for toxic environmental cleanup, and whether other (industrially useful) bacteria might be engineered to do the same. I wonder whether this system can be co-opted as an implantable bio-battery for various devices? 

2. Magnetic Biosensors
On the topic of intersecting biology and magnetism a new biosensor has been developed that comprises a cylinder of hydrogel sandwiched between two small magnets in a device measuring only two micrometers http://www.nist.gov/pml/electromagnetics/20150327_gem_biochemical_sensor.cfm. The hydrogel is chemically altered to be sensitive to the parameter you wish to measure; in this example the hydrogel contracted or expanded depending on the pH. The expansion and contraction alters the distance between the two magnetic disks and this produced a change in the magnetic profile that was able to be determined via NMR or MRI readouts from anywhere - even deep within - the body. Future work will explore a range of functionalised hydrogels that respond to different parameters as well as different magnetic disk materials that produce different magnetic profiles and so might be used simultaneously with other sensors. 

3. Bacterial Digital Memory
This recent synthetic biology development involved engineering bacteria to be able to record data of events by writing and later reading DNA http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cbic.201500061/abstract. Using a DNA recombinase enzyme to power this cellular memory system integrates single stranded DNA into the bacterial genome in response to external signals, which can be read at a later time to determine whether and how often those signals - such as light in this case - were present. The memory storage was reversible and is a significant improvement over previous efforts. What signals might be useful to record inside your own cells for later read-out? 

4. High Density 3D NAND Memory Moves into Production
Intel and Micron announced that they are moving their new 3D NAND memory chip architecture into production this year http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/intel-and-micron-move-3d-nand-into-production. The architecture is based on a 32-layer design that should enable the equivalent of flash storage USB drives with 3.5 terabytes of storage or a standard 2.5 SSD with 10 terabytes of storage. I remember having a 4MB memory stick for on of my first digital cameras. Similar 3D chip efforts from Samsung, Toshiba, and SanDisk suggest that 3D memory chips are a reality and will soon be found in our devices. 

5. Brain Computer Interface Compass
Blind rats, which had a geomagnetic compass and microstimulator plugged into their brains via a brain-computer-interface, were able to incorporate this new location information and navigate a maze nearly as well as normal sighted rats http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-04/cp-wgc032615.php. The research team quoted that: this demonstrated that the mammalian brain is flexible even in adulthood--enough to adaptively incorporate a novel, never-experienced, non-inherent modality into the pre-existing information sources. In related news yet another brain computer interface allowed a man to control a prosthetic hand via thought http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2015/March/0331BionicHand.php

6. DNA Self-Assembled Protein Lattice
Building on work for self-assembling nanoparticle lattices via complementary DNA binding the same group has demonstrated the ability to self-assemble protein lattices made out of one or two different proteins http://phys.org/news/2015-04-dna-protein-lattice.html. In the proof-of-concept study DNA was attached to two well-studied enzymes via click chemistry; with DNA radiating from their surfaces the enzymes maintained their normal structure and active enzymatic sites. When formed into a lattice the enzymes maintained their activity albeit with an expected reaction rate reduction due to the reactivity of the core of the lattice being dependent on molecular diffusion through the lattice. This is a pretty exciting platform for further development of new materials and applications.

7. Synthesising Molecules to Absorb any Solar Wavelength
One of the most thorough studies of chlorophyll molecules aimed at understanding from first principles how these structures absorb particular wavelengths of light has resulted in new capabilities in designing and synthesising new molecules able to absorb any desired visible wavelength http://phys.org/news/2015-04-scientists-molecules-absorb-sunlight-oranges.html. Give the group a compound found in a plant or bacterium and they can predict what wavelength it absorbs; tell the group you need a chlorophyll-like molecule able to absorb a specific wavelength and they can design and synthesise it for you. A next, but more complex step, would be to alter the synthetic enzymes in bacteria or plants to have them produce the modified pigments. 

8. Machine Vision Technology Moves into Ever-More Areas
Machine vision technology is being cast into an ever-wider net of applications and in just this week alone we had another three interesting examples. First, the adaptation of machine vision systems developed for autonomous driving to home security applications able to distinguish between your pet (for example) and an intruder http://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/consumer-electronics/gadgets/autonomous-vehicle-technologies-migrate-to-the-internet-of-things. Second, the adaptation of machine vision systems to identify key anatomical features to assist surgeons in the near term (and robotic surgeons in the long?) http://www.wired.com/2015/03/google-robot-surgery/. Finally, the power of machine vision in studying and classifying galaxies http://www.technologyreview.com/view/536411/how-machine-vision-is-reinventing-the-study-of-galaxies/

9. Rapid Imaging of Brain Function
A new photoacoustic microscopy method is able to detect and record blood flow, blood oxygenation, and oxygen metabolism inside living brains orders of magnitude faster than ever before https://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/rapid-imaging-living-brain.aspx. Spatial resolution also gets a big boost; in the study a mouse brain was mapped blood vessel by blood vessel and the team believe in future the technique will allow analysis of individual cells and complement fMRI. In related brain news a wikipedia of sorts for neurons has been launched http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2015/march/wikipedia-for-neurons.html

10. Molecular Membrane Transport
I like this approach to transporting water molecules across membranes using modular molecules termed “aquafoldamers” that form a regular helix through the membrane and creat a channel through which individual water molecules can flow through http://phys.org/news/2015-04-powered-proton-gradient-world-first-helical.html. This system is driven by a proton gradient that significantly lowers the pressure difference required to move water through the channels. While the team quote next generation water filtration and desalination membranes as applications I’m wondering whether the basic building blocks can be chemically altered to be selective for a range of small molecules and not just water. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/04/bacterial-batteries-bacterial-digital.html
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