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December 27, 2006, 4:59 AM CT

Super-stable Glass May Aid Drug Delivery

Super-stable Glass May Aid Drug Delivery A type of glass created by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Look at your window - not out it, but at it. Though the window glass looks clear, if you could peer inside the pane you would see a surprising molecular mess, with tiny particles jumbled together any which way.

Now, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a new glass-making technique that eliminates some of that mess. With the new technology, described in a study in the Dec. 8 issue of Science, they created a novel glass that is stronger and more stable than glass made in traditional ways. Though not suitable to replace everyday products like window panes or eyeglasses, this new glass may allow pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to explore previously unusable drug compounds.

When considered at the molecular level, most solid materials can be described as either crystals or glasses, explains lead author Mark Ediger, a UW-Madison chemistry professor. The difference lies in the degree of internal organization of their constituent molecules.

"A crystal is like toy soldiers all lined up marching together," Ediger says. "A glass is a teenager's room, with stuff packed in everywhere."

Just as levels of messiness can range from cluttered to chaotic, levels of molecular disorder can vary between different types of glass. Glasses composed of more organized molecules are more stable and durable, while glasses with haphazard molecular assemblies are less stable and may degrade over time.........

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December 26, 2006, 6:31 PM CT

Developing Invisibility

Developing Invisibility
The theorists who first created the mathematics that describe the behavior of the recently announced "invisibility cloak" have revealed a new analysis that may extend the current cloak's powers, enabling it to hide even actively radiating objects like a flashlight or cell phone.

Allan Greenleaf, professor of mathematics at the University of Rochester, working with colleagues around the globe, has announced a mathematical theory that predicts some strange goings on inside the cloak-and that what happens inside is crucial to the cloak's effectiveness.

In October, David R. Smith, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University, led a team that used a circular cloaking device to successfully bend microwaves around a copper disk as if the disk were invisible. In 2003, however, Greenleaf and colleagues had already developed the mathematics of invisibility.

"We were working on improving the mathematics behind tumor detection," says Greenleaf. "In the final section to one paper, we spelled out a worst-case scenario where a tumor could be undetectable. We then wrote a couple of additional articles describing when this could happen. At the time, we didn't think further about it because it seemed extremely unlikely that any tumor would be covered with the necessary material to be hidden that way".........

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December 23, 2006, 10:51 AM CT

invisible Electronics

invisible Electronics
Imagine a car windshield that displays a map to your destination, military goggles with targets and instructions displayed right before a soldier's eyes or a billboard that doubles as a window.

Only in science fiction you say? Northwestern University scientists report that by combining organic and inorganic materials they have produced transparent, high-performance transistors that can be assembled inexpensively on both glass and plastics.

The results of this breakthrough, which brings such futuristic high-quality displays closer to reality, were reported in the November 2006 issue of the journal Nature Materials.

Scientists have long worked on developing new types of displays powered by electronics without visible wires. But, until now, no one was able to develop materials for transistors that could be "invisible" while still maintaining a high level of performance.

"Our development provides new strategies for creating transparent electronics," said Tobin J. Marks, the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor in Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and professor of materials science and engineering, who led the research. "You can imagine a variety of applications for new electronics that haven't been possible previously -- imagine displays of text or images that would seem to be floating in space".........

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December 22, 2006, 5:23 AM CT

Chicago-indiana Massive Data Flow Computer Network

Chicago-indiana Massive Data Flow Computer Network Blue glow of stacks of computer servers that are part of the MidWest Tier-2 Center
Credit: Photo by Dan Dry
Massive quantities of data will soon begin flowing from the largest scientific instrument ever built into an international network of computer centers, including one operated jointly by the University of Chicago and Indiana University. The first phase of the Chicago-Indiana center, formally known as the MidWest Tier 2 Center, is now up and running, crunching test data in preparation for the real thing.

The Chicago-Indiana system is one of five Tier-2 (regional) centers in the United States that will receive data from one of four massive detectors at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. When the new instrument begins operating late next year, beams of protons will collide 40 million times a second. When each of those proton beams reaches full intensity, each collision will produce approximately 23 interactions between protons that will create various types of subatomic particles.

"Understanding what's interesting and useful to record from those interactions is quite a challenge, because there is far more information than one is able to record for leisurely analysis," said James Pilcher, a Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago.

Frederick Luehring, a Senior Research Scientist at Indiana University, adds, "Even once the data is recorded, it will take years of careful sifting and sorting, which will require massive amounts of computing power to extract the final scientific results".........

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December 20, 2006, 7:19 PM CT

Snake-like Robot Could Assist Surgeons

Snake-like Robot Could Assist Surgeons The snake-like robot designed by Johns Hopkins engineers
Credit: Will Kirk/JH
Drawing on advances in robotics and computer technology, Johns Hopkins University researchers are designing new high-tech medical tools to equip the operating room of the future. These systems and instruments could someday help doctors treat patients more safely and effectively and allow them to perform surgical tasks that are nearly impossible today.

The tools include a snakelike robot that could enable surgeons, operating in the narrow throat region, to make incisions and tie sutures with greater dexterity and precision. Another robot, the steady-hand, may curb a surgeon's natural tremor and allow the doctor to inject drugs into tiny blood vessels in the eye, dissolving clots that can damage vision.

These and other projects are being built by teams in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology, based at Johns Hopkins. Launched in 1998 with funding from the NSF, the center aims to transform and improve the way many medical procedures are performed.

Working closely with physicians from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the center's engineers and computer scientists are building robotic assistants intended to enhance a surgeon's skills. They are devising detailed visual displays to guide a doctor before and during a difficult medical procedure and planning digital workstations that would give the doctor instant access to an enormous amount of medical information about the patient.........

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December 20, 2006, 5:03 AM CT

Volvo's New System to Avoid Rear-End Collisions

Volvo's New System to Avoid Rear-End Collisions
It was very recently that Volvo established a Safety center in China owing to the large number of accidental deaths which impressed me a lot as Volvo was really concerned about saving lives more than anything and this time around Volvo has devised another system which ensures that those day to day puny rear-end clashes are nullified.

Dubbed the City Safety system and rightly so , this technology enables the driver to avoid those collisions which happen in the daily urban driving routine by applying the brakes automatically in case the car senses a potential collision. Volvo has plans to launch this system in the market within the next two years.

Ingrid Skogsmo, director of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre said and I quote:

The system offers benefits to all involved. For the occupants of the car in front, the risk of whiplash injuries is avoided or reduced. What is more, the system can help reduce or sometimes even eliminate the cost of repairs to both vehicles.

This is a much required system keeping in view the urban traffic as a survey reveals that 75% of the collisions happen at speeds upto 30km/hr and this system has been to formulated to act at speeds upto 30 km/hr. If the relative speed difference between the two cars is, less than 15km/hr the system can help avoiding the collision completely. Between 15 to 30 km/hr, the system focuses more on maximum speed reduction before the impact, which gives the driver an opportunity to maneuver.........

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December 13, 2006, 6:42 PM CT

When You Grow Up In Bad Neighborhood

When You Grow Up In Bad Neighborhood
There's good news for children growing up in bad neighborhoods in a comprehensive study led by nationally renowned University of Colorado at Boulder sociology Professor Delbert Elliott.

The 8-year effort analyzing the successful development of children in different kinds of neighborhoods in Denver and Chicago found that children growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods were doing much better than expected. The rate of successful development for children from the best neighborhoods was 63 percent while the success rate for children living in high-poverty, disadvantaged neighborhoods was 52 percent.

"There's an 11-point difference between our worst neighborhoods and our best neighborhoods," said Elliott, director of the CU-Boulder Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. "That's very surprising".

"The idea that living in high-poverty, disorganized, disadvantaged neighborhoods is kind of a death sentence for kids is clearly not the case," he said. "We're getting kids coming out of those neighborhoods that are doing quite well".

The examination of neighborhoods was one of four integrated studies launched by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Network on Successful Adolescent Development. The portion of the study conducted by Elliott and his colleagues looked at neighborhoods, while three other teams focused on family and school influences on development, and youth development in rural farming areas.........

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December 13, 2006, 5:04 AM CT

Squid-inspired Design For Underwater Vehicles

Squid-inspired Design For Underwater Vehicles Numerical simulations and the computational mesh around RAV
Credit: Image courtesy CU-Boulde
Inspired by the sleek and efficient propulsion of squid, jellyfish and other cephalopods, a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher has designed a new generation of compact vortex generators that could make it easier for researchers to maneuver and dock underwater vehicles at low speeds and with greater precision.

In addition, the technology - seemingly inspired by the plots of two classic sci-fi films - may soon allow doctors to guide tiny capsules with jet thrusters through the human digestive tract, enabling them to diagnose disease and dispense medications.

Kamran Mohseni, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering sciences, will present these and other details at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting Dec. 11-15 in San Francisco. A global network of scientists, the AGU describes its mission as the advancement of terrestrial, atmospheric and space research aimed at benefiting humanity.

"Reliable docking mechanisms are essential for the operation of underwater vehicles, particularly in harsh environments," Mohseni said. "We set out to resolve the trade off that a number of scientists settle for, which is a faster, but less precise, vehicle or a boxier one that is not as fast and more difficult to transport to work locations".........

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December 6, 2006, 8:38 PM CT

Magnetic Devices Could Make Computers More Powerful

Magnetic Devices Could Make Computers More Powerful
Scientists have created novel 'spintronic' devices that could point the way for the next generation of more powerful and permanent data storage chips in computers.

Physicist at the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Leeds have discovered a way to precisely control the pattern of magnetic fields in thin magnetic films, which can be used to store information.

The discovery has important consequences for the IT industry, as current technology memory storage has limited scope for develop further. The density with which information can be stored magnetically in permanent memory - hard drives - is reaching a natural limit related to the size of the magnetic particles used. The much faster silicon-chip based random access memory - RAM - in computers loses the information stored when the power is switched off.

The key advance of the recent research has been in developing ways to use high energy beams of gallium ions to artificially control the direction of the magnetic field in regions of cobalt films just a few atoms thick.

The direction of the field can be used to store information: in this case "up" or "down" correspond to the "1" or "0" that form the basis of binary information storage in computers.

Further, the physicists have demonstrated that the direction of these magnetic areas can be "read" by measuring their electrical resistance. This can be done much faster than the system for reading information on current hard drives. They propose that the magnetic state can be switched from "up" to "down" with a short pulse of electrical current, thereby fulfilling all the requirements for a fast magnetic memory cell.........

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December 5, 2006, 8:23 PM CT

Nanotechnology's Potential Threatened

Nanotechnology's Potential Threatened Dr. Neal F. Lane
"Nanoscale science and engineering promise to be as important as the steam engine, the transistor, and the Internet, and have the potential to revolutionize all other technologies" as per Neal Lane, former science advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton. "But that outcome is not guaranteed".

Dr. Lane made his remarks today at a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The program marked the release of a new article in the December 2006 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, "What drives public acceptance of nanotechnology"".

"A recent poll by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies shows that while public awareness of nanotechnology is increasing, fully 69 percent of Americans have heard little or nothing about nanotechnology," said Lane. "More young people are seeing nanotechnology in advertisements for MP3 players than are learning about nanotechnology in schools".

"In my view, given whats at stake, this situation is unacceptable. I fear that nanotechnology may be heading for a fall. A major environmental, medical or safety problemreal or boguswith a product or application thats labeled nanotechnologywhether it actually is nanotechnology or notcould dampen public confidence and financial investment in nanotechnologys future, and could even lead to unwise regulation. We should not let this happen," stated Dr. Lane.........

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