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August 9, 2006, 7:20 AM CT

New Rocket Technology From Purdue

New Rocket Technology From Purdue
Purdue University engineers are conducting research to help NASA develop rockets faster and less expensively for future missions to Mars and the moon.

The NASA-funded research at Purdue focuses on liquid-fueled rockets. Specifically, the work deals with understanding how fuel and a component called the oxidizer interact inside the rocket engine's fuel injectors to cause unstable combustion. The instability results in extreme bursts of heat and pressure fluctuations that could lead to accidents and hardware damage.

Purdue engineers involved in the research earned a best paper award in July from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

"Combustion instability is a complex phenomenon that has hindered rocket development since the beginning of the Space Age," said Nicholas Nugent, a doctoral student in Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "We have to learn more about instability before future engines can be developed and used for space flight. Predicting combustion instability is one of the most difficult aspects of developing a rocket engine."

The paper's findings demonstrate that an experiment can be specifically designed to study instabilities occurring spontaneously, as they do in real engines.

"There haven't been a number of, if any, experiments in the past that have been able to achieve an instability without actually forcing it by introducing artificial influences not ordinarily seen in the operation of a rocket engine," said doctoral student James Sisco.........

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August 9, 2006, 7:16 AM CT

Landscapes and human behavior

Landscapes and human behavior
On Arizona State University's (ASU) Polytechnic campus, graduate student families in the cluster of six houses abutting lush lawns and ornamental bushes spend time together talking while their kids play outside. Meanwhile, the families in a nearby cluster of six homes barely know each other. But that may be in part because their homes sit on native Sonoran desert, not nearly as conducive to recreation as the lush microclimate scientists created in the first neighborhood. Social researchers and biophysical ecologists are finding that environmental surroundings may play a significant role in human social interaction, serving either as a social lubricant as in the first case, or as a barrier.

David Casagrande (Western Illinois University) and Scott Yabiku (ASU) and his colleagues are part of the Central Arizona-Phoenix long term ecological research project. In 2004 and early 2005, the scientists installed residential landscapes at 24 of about 152 virtually identical housing units in the "North Desert Village" of ASU's campus. The researchers selected five "mini neighborhoods" (groups of six houses) and altered four of them, leaving the fifth as a control with no landscaping. The four landscaping styles were:
  • mesic: shade trees and turf grass, dependent upon flood irrigation for their high water demands

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 10:00 PM CT

Social Stresses Overlooked

Social Stresses Overlooked
When thinking about the well-being of elderly adults, most people focus on medical care, but mental health care is a growing, pressing concern for elderly adults and their families. "At least one in five elderly adults suffer from a mental disorder and experts in geriatric mental health anticipate an 'unprecedented explosion' of elderly adults with disabling mental disorder," says Enola K. Proctor, Ph.D., a mental health care expert and professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis.

"While elderly adults may receive adequate medical and psychiatric care, they rarely receive the care necessary to deal with the general 'problems with living,' or social stresses. These psychosocial problems, such as isolation and family stress, may exacerbate psychiatric problems, depression in particular, and contribute to functional decline".

Just as the quality of medical care has become a major national concern, the quality of mental health care has become a primary focus of the Institute of Medicine and other national policy groups. In a new study reported in the current issue of The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research (Vol. 33), Proctor and his colleagues examined the quality of follow-up care for 186 patients discharged from the geropsychiatric unit of a large urban hospital after therapy for depression.........

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August 8, 2006, 9:55 PM CT

Teamwork: Where The Weak Help The Strong

Teamwork: Where The Weak Help The Strong
Group work is the name of the game in many companies. The thinking is that workers will learn more and help each other when they are put into groups composed of people with a variety of expertise. But does this always happen? Some recent research suggests that it may not. at least not always.

"In order to understand how things happen in groups, you need to be aware of the group's hierarchy of status and influence," said Stuart Bunderson, associate professor of organizational behavior at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis. "Those hierarchies can actually get in the way of some really important group goals like member-to-member helping and knowledge exchange".

In a co-authored study, Bunderson found that group status hierarchies that form around perceptions of relative expertise can have some dysfunctional side effects. Specifically, he found that group members felt more committed to and were more likely to help those members who were perceived to have a higher level of expertise - and were therefore higher status. In other words, the less expert members were helping the more expert members instead of the other way around! And this propensity to ingratiate oneself with the more expert members was especially pronounced for members who were themselves perceived to be more expert.........

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August 8, 2006, 9:50 PM CT

Smooth Transition To College

Smooth Transition To College
As fall quickly approaches, so does the time for which a number of parents and students have long been waiting - some would say, dreading - the first day of college.

Your child's departure for college is a monumental step and one that you can start preparing for when your child is just taking his or her first steps, says a Washington University in St. Louis expert on the college experience.

"The journey from cradle to campus is filled with countless little steps - each an opportunity to prepare for letting go," says Karen Levin Coburn, assistant vice chancellor for students and dean for the freshman transition at Washington University.

"One of the keys to a successful transition to college life, both for parents and students, is starting the letting go process early in life," says Coburn, who is co-author of the acclaimed book "Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years." In its fourth edition, "Letting Go" has sold more than 300,000 copies.

Coburn provides the following tips to making the letting go process happen more smoothly for both parent and child:.

Take a deep breath before you act. Give your child a chance to work things out. "Even a crying infant eventually learns to fall asleep without being held. When your homesick freshman calls in tears, listen and give her a chance to work things out," Coburn says.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 9:44 PM CT

Learning From Near-impossible Missions

Learning From Near-impossible Missions Artist's impression of Huygens' descent
Projects for space researchers and astronomers taught LogicaCMG a lot about building mission-critical systems. Customers across the world have benefited from this experience.

"Your mission is almost impossible. If you choose to accept it, you'll have to land a small probe on the surface of Titan, Saturn's giant moon".

"We don't know what it's like there - no one has been before. Your mission is to gather data and get it back to Earth. There's only one chance to get it right".

"Oh, and there's one more thing. The spacecraft that will carry the probe to Saturn will take seven years to get to the launch point. The software to control the probe and its instruments must be tested before it leaves".

Perfect delivery.

LogicaCMG is used to briefs like this. The British company has been writing software for tough space missions ever since the European Space Agency was created.

In 1992 LogicaCMG was selected to develop software to control the Huygens probe's descent onto Titan. It also had to operate the scientific instruments and report their findings to mission control.

The probe would be launched on board the Cassini spacecraft in 1997. The descent would happen seven years later after a journey of 1.2 billion kilometres.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 9:33 PM CT

Electricity Blackouts: A Hot Summer Topic

Electricity Blackouts: A Hot Summer Topic Satellite images show the New York City area about 20 hours before (left) and 7 hours after the blackout of Aug. 13, 2003.
Intense heat and record-breaking energy demand strained New England's electrical grid nearly to its limit on Wednesday, Aug. 2, but the regional system rose to the challenge, says an MIT professor who studies the economics of electricity distribution.

"They did really well in managing the system on a very difficult day," said Paul Joskow, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics and Management.

Electricity demand in New England peaked at a record-high 28,021 megawatts on Aug. 2, according to ISO New England, the company that operates the region's electrical grid.

Unlike California, which endured a two-week heat wave that left many homes in the dark, New England was lucky that the mercury approached 100 degrees for only two days last week.

"If that (heat) had gone on for a week, they would have started having failures of equipment. and there might have been rolling blackouts," said Joskow, who is also director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.

To reduce the strain on the power grid, ISO New England offered payments to businesses willing to lower their electricity usage during the day. The company also bought electricity from Canada and directed excess power from Maine, the only New England state spared the heat crisis, to other states.........

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August 8, 2006, 0:25 AM CT

Hard Thoughts On Soft Inheritance

Hard Thoughts On Soft Inheritance Eric Richards, Ph.D., WUSTL professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, holding an Arabidopsis plant in the greenhouse.
Organisms, including humans, all inherit DNA from generation to generation, what biologists call hard inheritance, because the nucleotide sequence of DNA is constant and only changes by rare random mutation as it is passed down the generations.

But there also is evidence, especially in plants, that non-genetic factors modifying the DNA can also be inherited. The modifications of the genetic material take the form of small chemical additions to one of the DNA bases and the alternative packaging of the DNA. These so-called epigenetic modifications are known to be important for turning genes on and off during the course of an organism's life, but their importance in controlling inheritance has been debated. Many biologists are skeptical of any form of soft inheritance, where the genetic material is not constant, believing that it is only genetic information - DNA -- that can be passed onto generations.

Now Eric Richards, Ph.D., professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, writing in the recent issue of Nature Reviews Genetics, analyzes recent and past research in epigenetics and the history of evolution and proposes that epigenetics should be considered a form of soft inheritance, citing examples in both the plant and mammalian kingdoms.

In doing so, he evokes the pre-Darwinian evolutionist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829), a name that evolutionary biologists thought long ago left the stage, and Soviet agronomist T.D. Lysenko. Lamarck, and more recent neo-Lamarckian researchers, believed that the environment plays a key role in a species acquiring inherited characteristics that drive variation and evolution. Lamarck, for instance, believed that shore birds acquired their long legs by constantly stretching their legs to lift themselves out of the water and that generations later that kind of environment gave rise to birds with long legs. Neo-Lamarckian views of evolutionary change stress the importance of the environment in altering inheritance.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 0:19 AM CT

New Learning Strategy

New Learning Strategy In the Thoroughman laboratory, volunteers play games on a computer screeen using a robotic arm so that Thoroughman and his colleagues can study how people learn motor skills.
Central to being human is the ability to adapt: We learn from our mistakes. Previous theories of learning have assumed that the size of learning naturally scales with the size of the mistake. But now biomedical engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have shown that people can use alternative strategies: Learning does not necessarily scale proportionally with error.

In so doing, Kurt Thoroughman, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University, and his graduate student, Michael Fine, have discovered a new learning strategy they call categorical adaptation in which steps of learning are sensitive to the direction of error, but do not scale proportionally with the size of the error. Eventually, their findings could have an impact in the rehabilitation of people with neurological ailments such as strokes by making use of different learning environments.

If you make a movement error in one direction, in makes sense that your next movement would correct toward the opposite direction, in exact proportion to the error. An example would be a pitcher correcting to the right, after missing home plate to the left with a pitch.

"We show that learning does not necessarily scale with error," said Thoroughman. "I think we have uncovered a part of human adaptation that certainly doesn't do that. We are not claiming that all previous theories are false in the behaviors that were captured. It's just that we have for the first time found a part of human adaptation that clearly does not scale with the size of the error".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 0:12 AM CT

more effective smoking cessation

more effective smoking cessation
Results of a new imaging study, supported in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, show that the nicotine received in just a few puffs of a cigarette can exert a force powerful enough to drive an individual to continue smoking. Researchers found that the amount of nicotine contained in just one puff of a cigarette can occupy about 30 percent of the brain's most common type of nicotine receptors, while three puffs of a cigarette can occupy about 70 percent of these receptors. When nearly all of the receptors are occupied (as a result of smoking at least 2 and one-half cigarettes), the smoker becomes satiated, or satisfied, for a time. Soon, however, this level of satiation wears off, driving the smoker to continue smoking throughout the day to satisfy cigarette cravings.

"Imaging studies such as this can add immensely to our understanding of addiction and drug abuse," says Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health. "These findings suggest that drug therapies or vaccines for smoking cessation need to be extremely potent to compete with nicotine, which binds so readily to these receptors".

The study is published in the August 2006 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"This study illustrates the powerfully addictive impact of even small amounts of nicotine. Every time a smoker draws a puff from a cigarette, they inhale numerous toxic chemicals that promote the formation of lung cancer, and contribute in a significant way to death and disability worldwide," says NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "Although many smokers endorse a desire to quit, very few are able to do so on their own, and fewer than half are able to quit long-term even with comprehensive treatment. This study helps explain why".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

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