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Nov 12

Commented by Joe Hanson in YouTube!

The controversial history, present and future of the Nobel Prizes. Continue reading »

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Nov 10

Reported by Ivan Oransky, in RetractionWatch, 7 November 2011.

We’ve always like to highlight cases in which scientists do the right thing and retract problematic papers themselves, rather than being forced to by editors and publishers. Apparently, according to a new paper by economists and management scholars, scientists reward that sort of behavior, too.

The study by Benjamin Jones of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the National Bureau of Economic Research and colleagues, “The Retraction Penalty: Evidence from the Web of Science,” was published yesterday in Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing Group title.

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Oct 15

Reported by Martin Wikelski and Daniel Piechowski, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft,  October 15, 2013.

Using animal behaviour data to better inform mathematical models of animal movements.

Many animals are adapting to human encroachment of their natural habitats. Carnivores in particular require territories of sufficient size and so are often forced to move between numerous small habitat patches. To date, scientists often use mathematical models to predict these important routes, but fishers fitted with GPS sensors are now showing that their calculations may be missing the mark if they ignore animal behaviour.

Corridors are spaces that receive too little attention and yet are vitally important. How else would we get from the bedroom to the bath or from the couch to the kitchen? Without the  hallway in between, we would starve on the sofa, unable to reach our food. In the wild the areas that connect animals’ living spaces are known as corridors. It is vital for the conservation of many species that animals can move freely and safely from their hunting grounds to their mating areas, for example. If a new road is built through the middle of an important corridor, it may put an entire population at risk. Continue reading »

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Oct 12

Reported by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office, 7 October 2013.

A neglected statistical tool could help robots better understand the objects in the world around them.

A statistical construct called the Bingham distribution enables a new algorithm to identify an object's orientation using far fewer data points (red and purple circles) than previous algorithms required. Images courtesy of the researchers.

Object recognition is one of the most widely studied problems in computer vision. But a robot that manipulates objects in the world needs to do more than just recognize them; it also needs to understand their orientation. Is that mug right-side up or upside-down? And which direction is its handle facing?

To improve robots’ ability to gauge object orientation, Jared Glover, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is exploiting a statistical construct called the Bingham distribution. In a paper they’re presenting in November at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Glover and MIT alumna Sanja Popovic ’12, MEng ’13, who is now at Google, describes a new robot-vision algorithm, based on the Bingham distribution, that is 15 percent better than its best competitor at identifying familiar objects in cluttered scenes. Continue reading »

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Oct 08

Reported by Adam Mann, in Wired Science, 8th October 2013.

Data from the CMS experiment, one of the main Higgs-searching experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. Image: CERN

More than a year ago, scientists found the Higgs boson. This morning, two physicists who 50 years ago theorized the existence of this particle, which is responsible for conferring mass to all other known particles in the universe, got the Nobel, the highest prize in science.

For all the excitement the award has already generated, finding the Higgs — arguably the most important discovery in more than a generation — has left physicists without a clear roadmap of where to go next. While popular articles often describe how the Higgs might help theorists investigating the weird worlds of string theory, multiple universes, or supersymmetry, the truth is that evidence for these ideas is scant to nonexistent. Continue reading »

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Oct 03

Reported by Stefanie Barz, University of Vienna News, 30 September 2013.

A quantum computer can solve tasks not tractable with conventional supercomputers. The question of how one can, nevertheless, verify the reliability of a quantum computer was recently answered in an experiment at the University of Vienna. The conclusions are published in the reputed scientific journal Nature Physics.

The image is an illustration of the fundamental question: can quantum computations be verified by entities that are inherently unable to compute the results themselves? (Copyright: EQUINOX GRAPHICS)

The harnessing of quantum phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, holds great promise for constructing future supercomputers. One huge advantage of such quantum computers is that they are capable of performing a variety of tasks much quicker than their conventional counterparts. The use of quantum computers for these purposes raises a significant challenge: how can one verify the results provided by such a computer?
It is only recently that theoretical developments have provided methods to test a quantum computer without having an additional quantum computer at hand. The international research team around Philip Walther at the University of Vienna have now demonstrated a new protocol, where the quantum computational results can be verified without using additional quantum computer resources. Continue reading »

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Sep 26

Reported by Tom Abate, in Stanford News, 26 September 2013.

Unprecedented feat points toward a new generation of energy-efficient electronics!

This wafer contains tiny computers using carbon nanotubes, a material that could lead to smaller, more energy-efficient processors (by Norbert von der Groeben).

A team of Stanford engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes, a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those made from silicon chips.

This unprecedented feat culminates years of efforts by scientists around the world to harness this promising but quirky material.

The achievement is reported today in an article on the cover of the  journal Nature written by Max Shulaker and other doctoral students in electrical engineering. The research was led by Stanford professors Subhasish Mitra and H.-S. Philip Wong. Continue reading »

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Sep 22

Reported by Tom Abate in Stanford News Report, 16 September 2013.

An interdisciplinary team has created a “microbial battery” driven by naturally occurring bacteria that have evolved to produce electricity as they digest organic material.

The tubular growth depicted here is a type of microbe that can produce electricity. Its wire-like tendrils are attached to a carbon filament. This image is taken with a scanning electron microscope. More than 100 of these 'exoelectrogenic microbes' could fit side by side in a human hair. Credit: Xing Xie, Stanford Engineering.

Engineers at Stanford have devised a new way to generate electricity from sewage, using naturally occurring “wired microbes” as mini power plants, producing electricity as they digest plant and animal waste.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, co-authors Yi Cui, a materials scientist, Craig Criddle, an environmental engineer, and Xing Xie, an interdisciplinary researcher, call their invention a microbial battery.

They hope it will be used in places such as sewage treatment plants, or to break down organic pollutants in the “dead zones” of lakes and coastal waters where fertilizer runoff and other organic waste can deplete oxygen levels and suffocate marine life. Continue reading »

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Sep 21

Back in business… Enjoy!

Theoretical physicists John Preskill and Spiros Michalakis describe how things are different in the Quantum World and how that can lead to powerful Quantum Computers.

Credit: Jorge Cham, creator of Piled Higher and Deeper, in partnership with the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter; John Preskill and Spiros Michalakis

Quantum Computers Animated has been posted to the NSF multimedia resource web page. Watch it or read Jorge Cham’s comments about the animation on Quantum Frontiers, the IQIM blog.

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Sep 03

Reported by Cordis EU TEchnology Marketplace, 30 Aug. 2012.

© Biotact project

Inspired by the twitching whiskers of common rats and Etruscan shrews, EU-funded researchers have developed rodent-like robots and an innovative tactile sensor system that could be used to help find people in burning buildings, make vacuum cleaners more efficient and eventually improve keyhole surgery.

Sensor systems that replicate the sense of touch have been the focus of increasing research in recent years, largely for robotics applications. But the focus has normally been on developing sensors that in some way or another replicate the way humans touch and sense the world: with our skin and particularly our fingertips. Continue reading »
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