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Sep 05

Electronics Play By a New Set of Rules at the Molecular Scale.

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Reported by Aviva Hope Rutkin, in Brookhaven National Laboratory News, 02 Sep. 2012.

Atomic scale visualization of the single molecule junctions formed with two equivalent pathways (left) and one pathway (right), including the bonding to the tips of two gold electrodes and a schematic of the external electrical circuit.

In a paper published in Nature Nanontechnology on September 2, 2012, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia University’s departments of Chemistry and of Applied Physics explore the laws that govern electronic conductance in molecular scale circuits.

“Everyone who has worked with basic electronic circuits knows that there are some simple rules of the road, like Ohm’s Law,” explains collaborator Mark Hybertsen, a physicist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN). Hybertsen provided the theory to model the observed circuit behavior with the CFN’s computational tools. “For several years we have been asking fundamental questions to probe how those rules might be different if the electronic circuit is shrunk down to the scale of a single molecule.” Continue reading »

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Sep 04

Silicon chip enables mass-manufacture of quantum technologies.

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Reported by University of Bristol, Press Releases, 03 Sep. 2012.

Example of a silicon quantum chip next to a 20 pence coin.

An international research collaboration led by scientists from the University of Bristol, UK, has developed a new approach to quantum computing that could lead to the mass-manufacture of new quantum technologies.

Scientists from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Quantum Photonics have developed a silicon chip that will pave the way to the mass-manufacture of miniature quantum chips. The announcement was made at the launch of the 2012 British Science Festival [4 to 9 September].

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Sep 03

A Whisker-Inspired Approach to Tactile Sensing.

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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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Sep 02

Computer viruses could take a lesson from showy peacocks.

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Reported by Layne Camero, Media Communications Office, in Michingan State University News, 29 Aug. 2012.

MSU researchers explore what would happen if computer viruses had to find mates in order to reproduce. Photo illustration by G.L. Kohuth

Computer viruses are constantly replicating throughout computer networks and wreaking havoc. But what if they had to find mates in order to reproduce?

In the current issue of Evolution, Michigan State University researchers created the digital equivalent of spring break to see how mate attraction played out through computer programs, said Chris Chandler, MSU postdoctoral researcher at MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

“This is actually a big question that still generates a lot of debate,” said Chandler, who co-authored the study with Ian Dworkin, assistant professor of zoology, and Charles Ofria, associate professor of computer science and engineering. “People have some good ideas, but they can be hard to test really well in nature, so we decided to take a different approach.” Continue reading »

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Sep 01

Earthquake Hazards Map Study Finds Deadly Flaws.

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Reported by Timothy Wall, University of Missuri News Bureau, 31 Aug. 2012.

Three of the largest and deadliest earthquakes in recent history occurred where earthquake hazard maps didn’t predict massive quakes. A University of Missouri scientist and his colleagues recently studied the reasons for the maps’ failure to forecast these quakes. They also explored ways to improve the maps. Developing better hazard maps and alerting people to their limitations could potentially save lives and money in areas such as the New Madrid, Missouri fault zone.

“Forecasting earthquakes involves many uncertainties, so we should inform the public of these uncertainties,” said Mian Liu, of MU’s department of geological sciences. “The public is accustomed to the uncertainties of weather forecasting, but foreseeing where and when earthquakes may strike is far more difficult. Too much reliance on earthquake hazard maps can have serious consequences. Continue reading »

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Aug 31

Scanning Your Home With Kinect Could Improve 3-D Robot Vision

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Reported by Dave Moshe,in Wired Science, 28 Aug. 2012.

Seeking a way to crowdsource better computer vision, roboticists have launched a website that allows users to record pieces of their environments in 3-D with a Kinect camera.

Called Kinect@Home, the open source and browser-based effort remains in its infancy. Users have uploaded only a few dozen models of their living room couches, kitchen countertops and themselves. Continue reading »

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Jun 30

Speech Algorithm Could Detect Early Parkinson’s Symptoms.

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Reported by Liat Clark, Wired UK, in Wired Science, June 27 2012.

UK mathematician has made a public appeal for people to phone a dedicated number so data can be gathered to hone a tool that can diagnose Parkinson’s disease by analyzing voice patterns.

Max Little, a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the announcement during the opening of the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, 25 June. While studying at Oxford University, Little developed an algorithm that identifies the unique characteristics present in the voice of a Parkinson’s Disease sufferer. He setup the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative in order to improve upon the machine learning system — the algorithm is built to adapt when new information is introduced and, by widening the pool (it’s hoped, with 10,000 phone calls form the public), it should become a more accurate diagnosis tool, able to identify specific symptoms amid numerous variants of speech. Continue reading »

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May 27

Rewritable digital data storage in live cells via engineered control of recombination directionality.

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By Jerome Bonnet, Pakpoom Subsoontorn, and Drew Endy in PNAS, May 21, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202344109.

The use of synthetic biological systems in research, healthcare, and manufacturing often requires autonomous history-dependent behavior and therefore some form of engineered biological memory. For example, the study or reprogramming of aging, cancer, or development would benefit from genetically encoded counters capable of recording up to several hundred cell division or differentiation events. Although genetic material itself provides a natural data storage medium, tools that allow researchers to reliably and reversibly write information to DNA in vivo are lacking. Here, we demonstrate a rewriteable recombinase addressable data (RAD) module that reliably stores digital information within a chromosome.

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May 26

Support for Greece.

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Reproduced by Lecturer Site, and originally reported by Harald Zur Hausen, in Science, 25 May, pp. 978-979, [DOI:10.1126/science.336.6084.978], 2012.

The Greek Society and its institutions are going through very difficult times, emanating from several years of severe economic crisis. The gross national product of Greece decreased by almost 7% last year alone, and the unemployment rate exceeded 20%….

Meanwhile, fiscal cutbacks threaten the survival of Greece’s best centers of creative potential. A recent commentary in Physics Today (1) points out that funds are potentially available and can be used to remedy some of the above problems. Such funds, named structural funds, derive from “value-added” (sales) taxes throughout the European Union (EU) and are to be used to support the development of the poorer member-areas of the Union. Greece is entitled, annually, to a fraction of these European structural funds. For several years, Greece has used a sizable fraction of these funds to cover its research and technology budget. The disbursement of these funds requires actions from both sides, the EU and Greece. In the past 2 years, for various reasons, these actions did not come to fruition, resulting in the current crisis of Greek initiatives in education, research, and technology. This is halting the prospects of weathering the current crisis. Now is the time for European leaders to secure the survival and future development of Greece’s most competitive scientifi c and technological institutions by reinitiating these measures.

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May 10

Computer Scientists Show What Makes Movie Lines Memorable.

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Reported by ScienceDaily, May 8 2012.

Whether it’s a line from a movie, an advertising slogan or a politician’s catchphrase, some statements take hold in people’s minds better than others. But why?

Cornell researchers who applied computer analysis to a database of movie scripts think they may have found the secret of what makes a line memorable.

The study suggests that memorable lines use familiar sentence structure but incorporate distinctive words or phrases, and they make general statements that could apply elsewhere. The latter may explain why lines such as, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” or “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” (accompanied by a hand gesture) have become standing jokes. You can use them in a different context and apply the line to your own situation.

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