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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".........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

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.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

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.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

December 20, 2006, 4:42 AM CT

Impulsiveness Linked To Brain's Reward Center

Impulsiveness Linked To Brain's Reward Center
If you are acting lately very impulsively now you can blame on your brain. A new imaging study shows that our brains react with varying sensitivity to reward and suggests that people most susceptible to impulse&mdashthose who need to buy it, eat it, or have it, nowshow the greatest activity in a reward center of the brain. The study appears in the December 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience

In their study of 45 subjects, Ahmad Hariri, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and collaborators at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of Chicago showed that activity in the ventral striatum, a core component of the brain's reward circuitry, correlated with individuals' impulsiveness.

"These data are exciting because they begin to unravel individual differences in brain organization underlying differences in complex psychological constructs, such as 'impulsivity,' which may contribute to the propensity to addiction," says Terry E. Robinson, PhD, of the University of Michigan biopsychology program.

The Hariri team tested the subjects on two computer-based tasks. First, participants indicated their preferences in a series of immediate-versus-delayed, hypothetical monetary rewards. They chose between receiving an amount from 10 cents to $105 that day and receiving $100 at one of seven points up to five years in the future. "Switch points"the value at which they were equally likely to choose getting money today as getting $100 at a future point in timewere calculated for each person.........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 18, 2006, 9:20 PM CT

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution The Top 10 Myths about Evolution by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan
Credit: Prometheus Books, 200
Though the United States is the world leader in science and technology, a number of of its citizens display a shocking ignorance regarding basic scientific facts. Recent surveys have revealed that only about half of Americans realize that humans have never lived side by side with dinosaurs, and about the same number reject the idea that humans developed from earlier species of animals. This lack of knowledge in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution springs from many negative influences in contemporary society: poor secondary education in some regions of the country, misinformation in the mass media, and deliberate obfuscation by supporters of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

In The Top 10 Myths About Evolution, educators Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan clearly dispel the ten most common myths about evolution that continue to mislead average Americans. Using a refreshing, jargon-free style, they set the record straight on claims that evolution is "just a theory," that Darwinian explanations of life undercut morality, that Intelligent Design is a legitimate alternative to conventional science, that humans come from chimpanzees, and six other popular but erroneous notions.

Smith and Sullivan's reader-friendly, solidly researched text will serve as an important tool, both for teachers and laypersons seeking accurate information about evolution.........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 18, 2006, 9:15 PM CT

Biological Clock For Smell In Mice

Biological Clock For Smell In Mice Photo by David Kilper / WUSTL Photo
Biologists at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered a large biological clock in the smelling center of mice brains and have revealed that the sense of smell for mice is stronger at night, peaking in evening hours and waning during day light hours.

A team led by Erik Herzog, Ph.D., Washington University associate professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, discovered the clock in the olfactory bulb, the brain center that aids the mouse in detecting odors.

The olfaction biological clock is hundreds of times larger than the known biological clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), located at the base of the brain right on top of where the optic nerves cross each other. Cells in both the SCN and the olfactory bulb keep 24-hour time and are normally highly sychronized to each other and environmental cycles of day-night.

"It's been a question for some time whether the SCN functions as the only biological clock," said Herzog. "One wouldn't think that the ability to smell would cycle, but that's what we show.

" I think now that the SCN is like the atomic clock, important for keeping central time, and then there are all of these peripheral clocks - for timing tasks like sleep-wake, vigilance, digestion, olfaction, hearing, touch and vision, though not all yet found. It may be that the peripheral clocks are like individual wristwatches that we must periodically reset".........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 18, 2006, 9:02 PM CT

Stars Can Be Strange

Stars Can Be Strange Astronomers are debating whether the matter in these stars is composed of free quarks or crystals of sub-nuclear particles, rather than neutrons.
According to the "Strange Matter Hypothesis," which gained popularity in the paranormal 1980's, nuclear matter, too, can be strange. The hypothesis suggests that small conglomerations of quarks, the infinitesimally tiny particles that attract by a strong nuclear force to form neutrons and protons in atoms, are the true ground state of matter. The theory has captivated particle physicists worldwide, including one of Washington University's own.

Mark Alford, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis assistant professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, and collaborators from MIT and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have used mathematical modeling to discover some properties of theoretical "strange stars," composed entirely of quark matter. Alford and his colleagues have found that under the right conditions the surface of a strange star could fragment into blobs of quark material called "strangelets," forming a rigid halo that contradicts traditional strange star models. This means that collapsed stars' nuclear leftovers, like the famously resplendent Crab Nebula, could be stranger than physicists think.

Alford and his colleagues recently published their findings in Physical Review D 73, 114016 (2006). The standard account of the dramatic death of a heavy star is that, after exploding in a supernova that rivals a whole galaxy in brightness, what is left is a "neutron star," a profoundly dense remnant, made mostly of neutrons, with a mass one and a half times that of our sun, crammed into an area with the radius of Saint Louis.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

December 18, 2006, 5:16 AM CT

Weak Sun Produces Record Solar Outburst

Weak Sun Produces Record Solar Outburst Dale Gary, Solar Physicist
Credit: New Jersey Institute of Technolog
A solar outburst, which can play havoc with global positioning systems and cell phone reception, bombarded Earth, Dec. 6, 2006, with a record amount of radio noise, said solar physicist Dale Gary. Gary, who confirmed the news today, is a professor and chair of the department of physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). "Reports of significant events worldwide are still coming in as late as yesterday afternoon," said Gary. Due to a computer software failure, initial research reports in the U.S. downplayed the outbursts.

"The odd thing about this outburst was that the Sun is supposed to be at the minimum phase of its 11-year cycle," said Gary. "Nevertheless, the disruption lasted more than an hour, produced a record amount of radio noise, and caused massive disruptions of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers world wide".

Since 1997, Gary has directed Owens Valley Solar Array (OVSA), one of the world's leading research facilities to study the sun's impact upon earth. Using special instruments, Gary and researchers at NJIT's Center for Solar-Terrestial Research study solar outbursts. The National Science Foundation and NASA support the work.

A complex sunspot on the Sun was responsible for the outburst, which occurred Dec. 6, 2006 at 3:45 p.m. EST, said Gary. Before the outburst, the radio output of the Sun in the GPS broadcasting band was 54 on the scale of solar flux units. During the outburst, associated with a large solar flare, the radio noise reached around 1 million solar flux units, according OVSA instruments.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

December 15, 2006, 5:01 AM CT

Stem Cells Help to Renew Themselves

Stem Cells Help to Renew Themselves
Stem cells are not fixed as to their potential development (pluripotent). Thus, stem cells from embryos may one day be able to help to manage or cure many different diseases. Initially, however, scientists want to keep large numbers of pluripotent cells in the laboratory which then differentiate into specialised cells. This is the only way they will acquire a sufficient quantity of specialised cells which might be used for therapeutic purposes.

The small SC1 molecule makes this possible. It was discovered by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in M√ľnster, their colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and researchers at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego. The molecule prevents the cell from specialising and loosing its pluripotence. "Thanks to this molecule, we will be able to reproduce clean stem cells relatively easily and cheaply. We have used it to keep the stem cells from mice in an undifferentiated state for a very long time," said Jeong Tae Do, one of the Max Planck researchers involved. "This represents significant progress in stem cell research".

Up to now, it has been very laborious keeping stem cells in the laboratory so that they remain pluripotent on division. For example, the researchers had to culture them on food cells sourced from a different animal and in calf serum and add a whole range of expensive substances. Human stem cells would therefore not be suitable for medical applications because they would be contaminated with animal products.........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 15, 2006, 4:56 AM CT

Making Dark Matter Visible

Making Dark Matter Visible The processes in the Universe after the Big Bang.
As light travels to us from distant objects its path is bent slightly by the gravitational effects of the things it passes. This effect was first observed in 1919 for the light of distant stars passing close to the surface of the Sun, proving Einstein's theory of gravity to be a better description of reality than Newton's. The bending causes a detectable distortion of the images of distant galaxies analogous to the distortion of a distant scene viewed through a poor window-pane or reflected in a rippled lake. The strength of the distortion can be used to measure the strength of the gravity of the foreground objects and hence their mass. If distortion measurements are available for a sufficiently large number of distant galaxies, these can be combined to make a map of the entire foreground mass.

This technique has already produced precise measurements of the typical mass associated with foreground galaxies, as well as mass maps for a number of individual galaxy clusters. It nevertheless suffers from some fundamental limitations. Even a big telescope in space can only see a limited number of background galaxies, a maximum of about 100,000 in each patch of sky the size of the Full Moon. Measurements of about 200 galaxies must be averaged together to detect the gravitational distortion signal, so the smallest area for which the mass can be imaged is about 0.2% that of the Full Moon. The resulting images are unacceptably blurred and are too grainy for many purposes. For example, only the very largest lumps of matter (the biggest clusters of galaxies) can be spotted in such maps with any confidence. A second problem is that many of the distant galaxies whose distortion is measured lie in front of many of the mass lumps which one would like to map, and so are unaffected by their gravity. To make a sharp image of the mass in a given direction requires more distant sources and requires many more of them. MPA scientists Ben Metcalf and Simon White have shown that radio emission coming to us from the epoch before the galaxies had formed can provide such sources.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

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