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Science News Reports

Could a liquid brain implant make us more intelligent? 30 July 2014, 07.58 Administrator Science
Could a liquid brain implant make us more intelligent?
'Wet' hard drives may one day store enormous quantities of data in just a tablespoon of fluid Technique involves storing data in tiny particles suspended in water Scientists used ‘colloidal clusters’ - particles
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A case for computational mechanics in medicine
Classically, computational mechanics has been applied to industries like energy, materials, transportation, and defense. According to researchers at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at The University
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iSGTW is back on 13 August 28 July 2014, 20.03 Science
iSGTW is back on 13 August
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MicroBooNE detector to see neutrinos this year
“The scientific potential of MicroBooNE is really exciting,” says Bonnie Fleming, co-spokesperson for the MicroBooNE experiment and Horace D. Taft Professor of Physics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut,
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Creating a pan-European data infrastructure 28 July 2014, 20.03 Science
Creating a pan-European data infrastructure
The Third EUDAT Conference will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 24-25 September. iSGTW talks to Per Oster about the event and the progress EUDAT is making in realizing its vision of a collaborative data
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Of catalysts and chirality: Highly-selective growth of structure-specific single-walled carbon nanotubes
(Phys.org) —Carbon – the chemical basis of all known life and an element known as far back as the 8th century BC – exists in a range of forms, or allotropes, with remarkably diverse properties. (Diamond, for
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Test of equivalence principle searches for effects of spin-gravity coupling
(Phys.org) —Einstein's equivalence principle states that an object in gravitational free fall is physically equivalent to an object that is accelerating with the same amount of force in the absence of gravity. This
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Particle, meet wave: Optical qubit technique squeezes photons to bridge discrete and continuous quantum regimes
(Phys.org) —While quantum states are typically referred to as particles or waves, this is not actually the case. Rather, quantum states have complementary discrete particlelike and continuous wavelike properties that
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Study suggests cloud computing can make business more green
A case study published in The International Journal of Business Process Integration and Management demonstrates that the adoption of integrated cloud-computing solutions can lead to significant cost savings for businesses, as
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Planning for an electron-ion collider at Brookhaven
By adding an electron ring and other accelerator components to its existing Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, New York, US, would create a high-energy electron-ion collider (EIC) to
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Tackling complexity and scale at eResearch NZ 2014
eResearch NZ 2014 was recently held at Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand. This was the fifth year of the conference, which once again brought together a wide range of researchers and high-performance computing
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Which happened first: Did sounds form words, or words form sentences?
The origins of language is, in some ways, more complicated to study than the origins of other biological traits because language does not fossilize or leave behind physical traces the way that bones and tissues do.
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Venus-flytrap-like gripper could capture individual cells in the human body
(Phys.org) —No two biological cells are exactly the same. Even a small biopsied tumor sample contains cells with large variations in their proliferation rate, potential for metastasis, drug responsiveness, etc. However,
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Main result of Facebook emotion study: less trust in Facebook
A new study that manipulated emotional messages on Facebook gets a big thumbs-down from Facebook users, and may also amplify a public distrust of behavioral research that has been fed by decades of deceptive laboratory
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Dead-ant wall protects young spider wasps 06 July 2014, 22.30 Science
Dead-ant wall protects young spider wasps
A newly discovered species of wasp (D) leaves its eggs in cavities (A) protected by dead ants (B and C). Merten Ehmig (A, B), Michael Staab (C, D)  When members of one family of wasps, Pompilidae, are adults, they feast on
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MRI scans reveal how the brain tells the body to pee
 Your daily roundup of research news Ashley Yeager Brain scans of men taken before, during and after they urinate show that the insula, thalamus, brainstem and prefrontal cortex (red) are associated with
Read More 30 Hits 0 Ratings
Dramatic retraction adds to questions about stem cell research
 SEEING DOUBLE  Scientists now doubt their own earlier claims about an easy method to make stem cells. Among the errors identified in their papers were two pictures of a single embryo created from STAP cells (green)
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Enzyme separates healthy and unhealthy obesity
 Your daily roundup of research news Ashley Yeager Science Ticker EMail Print Facebook Reddit Google+ Guest post by Tina Hesman Saey Obesity is usually a gateway condition to other diseases, such as diabetes.
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Rare planet circles just one of a pair of stars
 THREE’S A CROWD  A frozen, rocky planet orbits one of a pair of faint red stars (center and right), roughly 3,300 light-years away, as seen in an artist’s illustration.  EMail Print Facebook Reddit
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Photo Timeline: How the Earth Formed 29 June 2014, 15.19 Science
Photo Timeline: How the Earth Formed
Earth has been plagued by mass extinctions since the Cambrian Period, but the biggest in the fossil record was in the Permian Period 252 million years…Read More » ago. More than 90 percent of life died in just 60,000 years,
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Natural Medicine is Great, but Chemists Can Make It Even Better (Op-Ed)
Take one plant, tweak it a little… Credit: Cifor, CC BY-NC-ND This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed &
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Catching Hyenas on Camera (Op-Ed) 29 June 2014, 15.19 Science
Catching Hyenas on Camera (Op-Ed)
If the brown hyena took a selfie. Credit: Louisa Richmond This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. I spent
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Animal Sex: How Koalas Do It 29 June 2014, 15.19 Science
Animal Sex: How Koalas Do It
Koalas may seem like lazy marsupials, spending up to 22 hours a day snoozing, but when it comes to mating these lethargic animals can become vicious. Credit: covenant/Shutterstock.com With a diet based on eucalyptus
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New to Google Earth: Ancient Flying Reptiles 29 June 2014, 15.19 Science
New to Google Earth: Ancient Flying Reptiles
The pterosaur Thalassodromeus sethi would have soared the skies above what is now Brazil some 110 million years ago, dwarfing other creatures with its 14-foot-long (4.3 meters) wingspan. Credit: ©AMNH 2014 Want to find
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Westerners sleep more than people from Eastern nations
EARLY RISERS  Sleep schedules vary from country to country, with social demands like work and study providing the primary incentives to stay up (sleep times shown above in darker blue). J.C. Lo et al/Frontiers in Neurology
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Animal sex lives exposed in 'Nature's Nether Regions'
Nature’s Nether Regions Menno Schilthuizen Viking, $28.95 If you want to enjoy eating lightly cooked calamari, skip down two paragraphs. And avoid page 20 of evolutionary biologist Schilthuizen’s charming and potentially
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To ID birds, try facial recognition 29 June 2014, 15.18 Science
To ID birds, try facial recognition
SAY CHEESE  The Birdsnap program maps birds’ bodies to identify species, such as a bohemian waxwing shown, in photos taken from different angles. themadbirdlady/flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Birding just got easier. No need to
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Magnetic bubbles could shield astronauts from radiation
 SHIELDS UP  A small magnet in a laboratory deflects a jet of particles by forming a thin electric skin. The same principle could be applied to create deflector shields that protect spacecraft from solar
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‘Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field’ is a biography of brilliance
Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon Prometheus Books, $25.95 On April 3, 1846, Charles Wheatstone was about to present the Friday evening lecture at
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Relaxation and repulsion helps viruses pack DNA
The molecular motor that folds and packs DNA into a virus is at its most efficient when the DNA shows some self-repulsion. That is the surprising finding of researchers based in the US – it was previously thought that such
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Physicists seek to cut helium costs 27 June 2014, 16.44 Science
Physicists seek to cut helium costs
The American Physical Society (APS) has kick-started a pilot programme that is designed to provide helium at affordable prices for US academic researchers who need only small amounts of the element. The APS plan will involve
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Diamond defect images magnetic domain walls 27 June 2014, 16.44 Science
Diamond defect images magnetic domain walls
Researchers in France have discovered a new way to image magnetic domain walls on the nanoscale in ultrathin ferromagnetic films – something that has been difficult to do until now. Using a point-like defect in diamond
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Couple emerges from trio of supermassive black holes
A trio of closely orbiting supermassive black holes has been spotted in a galaxy nearly 4.2 billion light-years away. The discovery was made by an international team of astronomers, which points out that such triple systems
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Dwarf planet could illuminate the dark sector 27 June 2014, 16.44 Science
Dwarf planet could illuminate the dark sector
A dwarf-planet candidate called UX25 and its tiny satellite could provide the first evidence of a new cosmological model that includes antigravity, say Alberto Vecchiato and Mario Gai of the Astrophysical Observatory of Turin
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Spiral-shaped 'light fan' adds new twist to laser-driven plasma accelerators
(Phys.org) —For the past few decades, physicists have been studying the phenomenon of "twisted light," which is light that is twisted like a corkscrew along its axis of travel. Due to the twisting, the light waves at
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Proof of life: Reevaluating oldest known Archean trace fossil for indications of early biology
(Phys.org) —In the hunt for early life, geobiologists seek evidence of ancient microbes in the form of trace fossils – geological records of biological activity – embedded in lavas beneath the ocean floor.
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From barrels to biology: Scientists develop cost-competitive bioderived polymers for a post-petroleum future
(Phys.org) —The advantages of sustainable, biodegradable, carbon-neutral and bioderived renewable polymers – that is, synthetic polymers based on biomolecules produced by living organisms – are reflected in the
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Could Ebola Spread to the United States? 27 June 2014, 16.43 Science
Could Ebola Spread to the United States?
The Ebola virus Credit: CDC/ Frederick Murphy The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is now the largest in history, but how likely is it to spread to the United States or other countries around the world? It's
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Car Airbag Leaves Canvas Imprint on Girl's Eyes
Under a blue light, fluorescein staining of the eye reveals an imprint of the nylon mesh pattern of the airbag cover on the corneal surface of the right eye. Credit: The New England Journal of Medicine ©2014. A teen
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Big Earthquakes Double in 2014, But They're Not Linked
Earthquakes larger than magnitude-7 since 2000. Credit: USGS If you think there have been more earthquakes than usual this year, you're right. A new study finds there were more than twice as many big earthquakes in the
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Lose Weight and Boost Nutrition with This Common Grain
Credit: Lilyana Vynogradova | Shutterstock How often do you eat rice? It could be time to add some more of this grain to your diet.   People who eat white or brown rice daily are more likely to have adequate levels of
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Why Eating Fruits and Veggies Won't Make You Thin
Credit: monticello/Shutterstock.com Eating more fruits and vegetables is a generally a good idea, but this alone isn't likely to help you lose weight, a new review of studies suggests. Researchers analyzed previous
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Hot Koalas, Disco Clams And Other Amazing Images From This Week
When it's hot out, your body loses more water. That may not be a big deal if you have a bottle of water handy, but it's a pretty big deal to a koala, whose body is covered in thick fur. To stay cool in hot weather, koalas press
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Ask Anything: Would Cannibalism Make You Fat? 27 June 2014, 16.43 Science
Ask Anything: Would Cannibalism Make You Fat?
Taken as a whole, a cooked cadaver would yield about 81,500 calories’ worth of food, says James Cole, a lecturer on human origins at the University of Brighton in England. But that’s only if you wolfed down every part
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Genetically Altered Bacteria Prevent Mice From Getting Fat
By feeding mice a genetically modified version of E. coli, a bacterium that naturally lives in human and mice guts, scientists were able to prevent the animals from gaining as much weight as mice not given the treatment.
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Is Global Warming Creating Penguin Winners And Losers?
Planetary temperatures warmed up naturally thousands of years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Some Antarctic penguin populations flourished under the changes. 11,000 years later, however, some Adélie and chinstrap
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The World's Smallest Elephant Shrew Discovered
In a remote area of northwest Namibia, scientists found a rust-colored shrew, which hides amongst the area's reddish volcanic rocks. Further analysis found that it was a new species, and the smallest of a group of animals
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Satellite Images Show Massive Reduction In US Air Pollution
Good news--there is much less nitrogen dioxide in the air over the United States than there was a decade ago, as can be seen in this remarkable animated satellite image. The images were produced by data collected by the Ozone
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The ultramodern scientist: 2013 Google Science Fair grand prize winner
Eric Chen, a 17-year-old senior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California, US, recently won not one, but three major science competitions. His project combined supercomputer modeling with experimental research to speed
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Open access in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania — making research more relevant to the world
Open access is a powerful solution to the barriers that researchers in developing and transition countries face. ‘The Open access: knowledge sharing and sustainable scholarly communication in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
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Researchers piece together how virus causes human cancers
Although most individuals are exposed to cancer-causing types of HPV — that could potentially lead to cancer of the head and neck, uterine cervix, or the anogenital region — the majority never develop
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International Supercomputing Conference '14 27 June 2014, 16.43 Science
International Supercomputing Conference '14
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NASA unveils space suit fit for Mars 27 June 2014, 16.43 Science
NASA unveils space suit fit for Mars
 SUIT UP  NASA’s newly revealed Z-2 space suit is the second mock-up of a suit that NASA hopes will eventually protect explorers walking on Mars or drilling into an asteroid. EMail Print Facebook Reddit
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Star-eating star spotted 27 June 2014, 16.43 Science
Star-eating star spotted
SNACK TIME  Thorne-Żytkow Objects probably start out as binary stars, shown in this illustration. A supergiant eventually engulfs its neutron star companion (right). A star in a neighboring galaxy might have swallowed
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A new view of dinosaurs, a clearer view of lunar origins
Dinosaurs have undergone any number of scientific makeovers in the last few decades. When I was young, they were depicted as lumbering, over-sized lizards, “cold-blooded” and drab. That simplistic image was eventually
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Online causes may attract more clicks than commitments
The Save Darfur Cause on Facebook had all the makings of a slam dunk cyber success. More than a million people joined the social media site’s digital movement a few years ago to save the people of Sudan’s Darfur region
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Ant lions hunt despite sealed lips 27 June 2014, 16.43 Science
Ant lions hunt despite sealed lips
WAITING ON LUNCH  Ant lion species that hunt in sand traps have evolved extreme eating habits that prevent grit from infiltrating their food. Larah McElry/Flicker (CC BY-NC 2.0) View the video Ant lions are ferocious
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Qubits team up to detect errors 21 June 2014, 19.00 Science
Qubits team up to detect errors
For the tiny units of quantum information known as qubits, teamwork pays off. So say researchers based in Austria and Spain, who have stitched together a record seven qubits in a way that enables detection of errors in any of
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Shutdown of nuclear-waste site threatens neutrino lab
An explosion and a series of radioactive leaks have forced the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which is located in a salt mine near Carlsbad, New Mexico, US. The incident has put a temporary halt to the
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Germany set to pull out of €2bn radio telescope
The head of the €2bn Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is confident that the project will go ahead, despite Germany saying that it will pull out of the project in 12 months' time. In a press conference held in Sicily today,
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Is D-Wave's quantum computer actually a quantum computer?
A team of quantum-computing experts in the US and Switzerland has published a paper in Science that casts doubt over the ability of the D-Wave Two quantum processor to perform certain computational tasks. The paper, which
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Electrons' magnetic interactions isolated at long last
A measurement of the extremely weak magnetic interaction between two single electrons has been carried out by an international team of physicists. Using experimental techniques first developed for quantum-information and
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Entangled clocks could provide accurate world time standard
Plans for a global network of atomic clocks that are synchronized using quantum entanglement have been unveiled by physicists in the US. The resulting universal time standard would be more accurate than is currently possible
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New test may provide 'smoking gun' for modified gravity
(Phys.org) —Since 1916, general relativity has provided a description of gravity that can explain many observations, including objects in free fall, gravitational lensing by massive objects, and black holes. Despite the
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Mongolian Death Worm: Elusive Legend of the Gobi Desert
By Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor   |   June 21, 2014 12:13am ET An artist's conception of the Mongolian Death Worm. Credit: KUCO/Shutterstock.com It sounds like a fantastic, lethal creature that might
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After Sandy, New York Plans to Rebuild by Blue-Green Design (Op-Ed)
A new look for Lower Manhattan. Credit: RBD Press This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. When
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Picasso's Ghost: Mysterious Man Found Hidden in Famous Painting
Infrared of Pablo Picasso’s The Blue Room (1901). Credit: The Phillips Collection, copyright 2008. WASHINGTON — Pablo Picasso's famous painting of a bathing woman in a blue room carries a secret: High-tech scans have
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Night Sky Photos: International Earth & Sky Photo Contest Winners
Taken from Norway's Lofoten Islands on March 15, 2014, this photo, entitled "Reflected Aurora" by Alex Conu, took home second place in the "Against the…Read More » Lights" category. Here, the aurora swirls above a
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Earth News Reports

Pop culture heroes drawn as ukiyo-e characters 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
Pop culture heroes drawn as ukiyo-e characters
Japanese artist Takao Nagawa took on the ukiyo-e classic style by mixing it with modern pop culture heroes like Super Mario or Darth Vader, among others. He drew the heroes in the Samurai poses, changing their facial
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Living sculptures by Mike Campau 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
Living sculptures by Mike Campau
Strange abstract structures are given life by simply adding clothing to it. It’s interesting to see how a few pieces of clothing make some weird forms come to life. This series was created by combining studio photography
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Cute or scary? Anatomical illustrations of famous cartoon characters
Parts of me want to find these illustrations extremely cute, while another part of my brain finds these bones popping out a bit disguting. Anyway, these drawings are a great take on some famous cartoon characters. It was
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Funny street art on train tracks 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
Funny street art on train tracks
Portuguese street artist Artur Bordalo decided to get a new playground for his art: train tracks. He uses the tracks as a grid and integrates it into bigger-than-life artworks. You can check out more of his great art on his
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Visual identity for FYI Network 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
Visual identity for FYI Network
The TV channel FYI Network recently commissionned Sasha Vinogradova to design their visual identity. The graphic designer played with the 3 letters of the brand’s name and dressed it in 3D. Prints for new shows focus on
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Spectacular illustrated posters by Ken Taylor 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
Spectacular illustrated posters by Ken Taylor
Based in Melbourne, Ken Taylor is an illustrator and designer who made himself a name in the music industry. His work that got my attention is the illustrated posters for movies. I really wish some movies would have so cool
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4 ways to extract images from PDF files 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
4 ways to extract images from PDF files
When you get a PDF file and need to get the images included in it, here is how to extract images from PDF easily. We’ll look at several ways to do it, with paid or free software. Extract images from PDF online If your
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10 free paint Photoshop textures packs 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
10 free paint Photoshop textures packs
A texture is the basic fundament which a designer must know in order to build a reliable basement for the attractive design work. The core task with the texture is to find the most appropriate way to combine colors and visual
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Upgrade your gaming empire: 10 best games WordPress themes 28 July 2014, 20.03 Green Architecture
Upgrade your gaming empire: 10 best games WordPress themes
Games create a second reality. They can turn a common office worker into a daemon-slayer or car races. They can make you a hero of a story worth reading, or let you communicate in the environment that never existed on Earth.
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TRMTAB Weaves Leather Waste Into Upcycled Laptop, Tablet Sleeves
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU: PACT Unveils Fair-Trade-Certified, Organic-Cotton Clothing Line Retrend Alert TRMTAB Weaves Leather Waste Into Upcycled Laptop, Tablet Sleeves by Lori Zimmer , 07/28/14   filed under: Eco-Friendly
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Future News Reports

Obama's War Against US Energy Independence:  Give Away Oil Rich Alaskan Islands to Russia!
  By Joe Miller The Obama administration, despite the nation’s economic woes, effectively killed the job-producing Keystone Pipeline last month. The Arab Spring is turning the oil production of Libya and other Arab
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OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials 08 April 2012, 02.33 Administrator Energy
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials
OSBIT Power's MaXccess system completes successful offshore trials Visit http://www.osbitpower.com for further information OSBIT Power (OP), Siemens Wind Power and Statoil have successfully completed offshore
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North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost 12 January 2012, 02.01 Administrator Energy
North America's EV charging infrastructure to get a boost
        North America’s EV charging infrastructure may soon see significant improvements, thanks to a recent agreement between Eaton Corporation and Coulomb Technologies. Under the deal, Eaton’s Level II and
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Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source? 28 May 2011, 01.34 Administrator Energy
Could The Gravitomagnetic Field Be The Ultimate Energy Source?
      Have scientists already unknowingly discovered the source for all atomic energy reactions, and could the discovery of the gravitomagnetic field be the ultimate energy source?  What if our understandings on how
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Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation 25 September 2011, 16.27 Administrator Energy
Physicists urge caution over apparent speed of light violation
Physicists wary of junking light speed limit yet Physicist Antonio Ereditato poses before presenting the result of an experiment, which found a subatomic particle, the neutrino, seemed to move faster than the speed of
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STEORN ORBO  FREE ENERGY:  What's Next a Self Charging Unit for your Electric Car?
Steorn's Free Energy Orbo -- From Permanent Magnets to Solid State Systems   My associate, Hank Mills composed this for PESN, Saturday, February 12, 2011 6:17 Steorn is a small company based in Dublin, Ireland. For
Read More 4912 Hits 1 Rating
Cold Fusion, Releases Energy from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field 16 January 2011, 09.17 Administrator Energy
Cold Fusion, Releases Energy  from Hydrogen's Gravitomagnetic Field
Cold Fusion "In Bologna we did it" By Ilaria VENTURI, La Republica News, Bolona, Italy For the first time in Italy, in front of experts, the process was carried out using nickel and hydrogen. It 's the way to achieve
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Abu Dhabi Media Zone to generate renewable energy through its façade
Eco Factor: Sustainable development to generate renewable solar energy. Bernard Tschumi Architects have re-imagined their master plan for the new Abu Dhabi Media Zone, by incorporating several environmentally-friendly
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Could a liquid brain implant make us more intelligent? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 07:58   

'Wet' hard drives may one day store enormous quantities of data in just a tablespoon of fluid

  • Technique involves storing data in tiny particles suspended in water
  • Scientists used ‘colloidal clusters’ - particles that change states in liquid
  • Change of state encodes data in the same way as 1s and 0s on hard drive
  • Known as ‘wet computing,’ technology could someday be implanted in the human brain allowing humans to make rapid calculations

By Ellie Zolfagharifard

Human brain implants that act as an internal ‘Google search’ have come a step closer to reality after researchers found a way of storing data in liquid.

Scientists in the U.S. claim to have discovered a technique to lock away photos, videos and other documents in tiny particles suspended in water.

The technology, known as ‘wet computing,’ could someday be used in the brain allowing humans to make rapid calculations or recall more information.

Human brain implants that act as an internal ‘Google search’ have come a step closer to reality after researchers found a way of storing data in liquid.Scientists in the U.S. claim to have discovered a technique to lock away photos, videos and other documents in tiny particles suspended in water

Scientists at the University of Michigan were able to store the information in something known as ‘colloidal clusters’, tiny particles that move states when placed in liquid.

The change of state in these particles can be used to encode the same 1s and 0s stored on solid hard drive technology today, the researchers claim.

It is thought that just a spoonful of liquid containing these nanoparticles could store up to a terabyte's worth of data – enough to store 2,000 hours of audio.

'We wanted to demonstrate that it would be possible to store information in a new way that's different to traditional silicon chips by using nanoparticles,' Sharon Glotzer, a chemical engineer told Anthony Cuthbertson at IBTimes UK.


It is thought that just a spoonful of liquid containing these nanoparticles could store up to a terabytes worth of data – enough to store 2,000 hours of audio


Professor Glotzer described the nanoparticles as attached to a type of Rubik's cube that twists around a central core.

A 12-particle memory cluster connected to a central sphere can have almost eight million unique states.

This is equivalent to 2.86 bytes of data or enough to encode three characters of text.

If scientists could count all of those different patterns and understand how to go from one state to another, then it would be possible to encode information, Professor Glotzer explained.

The team created a cluster involving four particles on a central sphere. By heating the liquid up, the spheres grew and the particles rearranged themselves in expected ways.

For liquid storage to become a practical reality, the team needs to find a way to lock the clusters into the correct shapes across larger volumes of liquid.

As well as boosting brain power, a more immediate use of the technology could be to create biocompatible sensors that could, for instance, monitor glucose levels in people with diabetes.

However, the technology is still a long way off being developed for humans. The researchers claim that its initial use is likely to be in 'soft robotics'.

A research paper, named Digital Colloids: Reconfigurable Clusters as High Information Density Elements, was recently published in the journal Soft Matter.



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A case for computational mechanics in medicine PDF Print E-mail

Classically, computational mechanics has been applied to industries like energy, materials, transportation, and defense.

According to researchers at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, US, however, some of the most important advancements in computational mechanics are taking place on a much smaller scale, within a familiar setting: the human body.

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Science  |  
 
iSGTW is back on 13 August PDF Print E-mail

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  Section:  Articles - File Under:  Science  |  
 
MicroBooNE detector to see neutrinos this year PDF Print E-mail

“The scientific potential of MicroBooNE is really exciting,” says Bonnie Fleming, co-spokesperson for the MicroBooNE experiment and Horace D. Taft Professor of Physics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, US. “After a long time spent designing and building the detector, we are thrilled to start taking data later this year.”

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Creating a pan-European data infrastructure PDF Print E-mail

The Third EUDAT Conference will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 24-25 September. iSGTW talks to Per Oster about the event and the progress EUDAT is making in realizing its vision of a collaborative data infrastructure. Oster is director of research infrastructures at Finland’s IT Center for Science (CSC), which is the organization coordinating the EUDAT project.

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Of catalysts and chirality: Highly-selective growth of structure-specific single-walled carbon nanotubes PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —Carbon – the chemical basis of all known life and an element known as far back as the 8th century BC – exists in a range of forms, or allotropes, with remarkably diverse properties. (Diamond, for example, is transparent and extremely hard tetrahedral lattice that conducts electricity poorly but is an excellent thermal conductor. Graphite, on the other hand – a moderate electrical conductor – is a soft, black, flaky solid formed from sheets of flat hexagonal lattices known as graphene.) Among carbon's allotropes, carbon nanotubes are cylindrical graphene-based nanostructures with properties central to many fields of materials science and technology. In particular, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are carbon nanotubes whose properties change with their chirality – that is, the arrangements of the carbon atoms, which is based on tube diameter and wrapping angle as specified by what is known as their (n,m) value. These variants behave either as electrical conductors or semiconductors with different bandgaps (the energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist), making them extremely desirable for nanoelectronics applications. While this characteristic depends on the SWVTs all being in chiral form or the other, it has historically been very difficult to selectively grow one form alone, with the highest selectivity of 55% being achieved using carefully-chosen particles as catalysts in the chemical vapor deposition synthesis growth process. Recently, however, scientists at Peking University, Beijing have used tungsten-based bimetallic alloy nanocrystals as catalysts to directly produce single-chirality (that is, either left- or right-handed) SWNTs at a greater than 92% purity. By so doing, the researchers say, their results set the stage for complete control over SWNT chirality growth, and thereby further SWNT application development.

Prof. Yan Li discussed the paper she and her co-authors published in Nature with Phys.org. "The properties of SWNTs are totally determined by their , or chirality – and in many applications, it's required that materials present uniform properties," Li tells Phys.org. As an example, she says that when using SWNTs to build field effect transistors (FETs), it's always hoped that all SWNTs have the identical structure, thereby exhibiting the same performance. "However," Li adds, "chirality-controlled growth has been a great challenge in the field for twenty years – but we've developed a new strategy to realize the goal."

Li notes that there are two factors important for reducing the alloying temperature: tungsten and cobalt atoms being already well-mixed in the precursor, and the particles being of nanoscale dimensions. Accordingly, their strategy is based on a new family of catalysts – tungsten-based alloy nanocatalysts – for growth. "These catalysts maintain their crystallized structure under the very high temperatures needed for carbon nanotube growth, and also exhibit a very unique structure that serves as a carbon nanotube template." The tungsten-based alloy forms at extremely high temperature – normally well above 2000°C –necessitating special facilities, since it is extremely difficult to perform this procedure using standard laboratory equipment – and in addition, Li points out, it is difficult to control the size, structure and morphology of the resultant alloy under such conditions. "We used a precursor molecular cluster† to obtain tungsten-cobalt (W–Co) alloy nanoparticle nanocatalysts at the moderate temperature of ~1000°C," Li says, "which made SWNT production much easier."

The key to solving this two decade-old chirality-controlled SWNT growth challenge was, stated simply, a new idea. "Though extensive effort has been made exploring chirality-selective SWNT growth, no efficient approach had been developed. This is partially due to our not having sufficient insight into the SWNT growth mechanism," she explains. "Indeed, it's quite difficult to collect enough information in situ during the nanotube growth process – but it's this very information that can help us to understand the mechanism. Fueled by my more than ten years' experience in SWNT growth, I had a novel idea about using catalysts to guide the structure of SWNTs."

While researchers have been vigorously investigating the use of catalysts to template SWNTs structure – as evidenced by the many papers published in this area – success has proven elusive. "We succeeded," Li adds, "because we have two significantly different ideas – namely, we recognized that catalysts with high melting points are necessary for using the catalyst as structural template; we found the right recipe to obtain catalysts with high melting points; we realized that the unique structure of the catalyst is essential to achieving high selectivity and specificity. Moreover, as inorganic chemists we've long known about molecular clusters, their characteristics and how to prepare them – so the idea using molecular clusters as the precursor for W-Co alloy nanoparticles came naturally to us, resulting in our designing the new pathway for preparing W-Co alloy nanoparticles."

In their paper, the scientists say that since using high-melting-point alloy nanocrystals with optimized structures as catalysts has demonstrably allowed production of single-chirality nanotubes at an abundance of >92%, they expect that their results will pave the way for total chirality control in SWNT growth, thereby promoting the development of SWNT applications. "Based-on our understanding about the SWNT growth mechanism and the experimental data we already have," Li says, "we're confident that our strategy of growing SWNTs with desired structure and chirality using catalysts with designed structure and high stability can become a standard approach." Moreover, tungsten, cobalt, iron, and nickel are abundant, inexpensive metals, and their carbon source is ethanol, so production costs can be low – an obvious advantage for future commercialization.

Scheme showing identical (12,6) nanotubes grown from W-Co alloy nanocatalysts. Credit: Yan Li

One of the most exciting potential applications is in electronics. Li points out that the 2009 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) selected carbon-based nanoelectronics – Including carbon nanotubes and graphene – as promising technologies targeting commercial demonstration in the next 10-15 year horizon, and so to receive additional resources and detailed road mapping. "For the large-scale application of SWNTs in nanoelectronics," Li points out, "SWNTs with identical structure are desired. Our method of growing SWNTs with identical structure is therefore a very important part of the development of carbon nanotube-based electronics."

Citing another example, Li notes that Prof. Lianmao Peng and his team have shown1 that SWNTs can be used to achieve efficient photovoltage multiplication in SWNT-based solar cells. She notes that structure-identical SWNTs can also be used in such devices, so if the nanotubes are used, solar cells with accurately adjusted photovoltage can be obtained. "There are definitely much more potential applications," Li adds. Now we have SWNT samples with identical structure, we can explore more interesting properties and possible applications that we could never before imagine."

Li also mentions their use of Vienna Ab-initio Simulation Package for self-consistent density functional theory simulations. "Simulation provides insights not readily available through experimental data alone. It can also help theorists understand the mechanism of various processes."

Moving forward, Li says, the scientists are focused on three key steps:

• Designing more catalysts to produce SWNTs with a wider range of chiralities

• Further optimizing the process to improve chirality selectivity, and therefore purity

• Exploring bulk synthesis

Beyond their own field, Li tells Phys.org, there are other areas of research that might benefit from their study. "In alloy metallurgy, our idea of using some special precursor to dramatically reduce the alloying temperature may be adopted because it may remarkably reduce energy consumption – and the lower-process temperature can greatly ease materials and control systems requirements for production apparatus. In addition, using alloy catalysts of unique structure to produce molecules with a predesigned structure can be widely used in chemical synthesis. Finally," Li concludes, "our methods for characterizing SWNT chirality composition can be used in basic carbon nanotube research."

Explore further: Chirality-controlled growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes

More information: Chirality-specific growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes on solid alloy catalysts, Nature 510, 522–524 (26 June 2014), doi:10.1038/nature13434

Related:

† Na15[Na3,{Co(H2O)4}6{WO(H2O)}3(P2W12O48)3]nH2O, denoted as {W39Co6Ox}
1Helicity-dependent single-walled carbon nanotube alignment on graphite for helical angle and handedness recognition, Nature Communications 4:2205 (29 July 2013), doi:10.1038/ncomms3205

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Test of equivalence principle searches for effects of spin-gravity coupling PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —Einstein's equivalence principle states that an object in gravitational free fall is physically equivalent to an object that is accelerating with the same amount of force in the absence of gravity. This principle lies at the heart of general relativity and has been experimentally tested many times. Now in a new paper, scientists have experimentally demonstrated a conceptually new way to test the equivalence principle that could detect the effects of a relatively new concept called spin-gravity coupling.

The study, by M. G. Tarallo, et al., is published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

"Testing the , or the equivalence of inertial mass and gravitational mass, means testing the validity of one of the fundamental principles of general relativity," coauthor Guglielmo Tino, Professor at the University of Florence, INFN, told Phys.org. "In our experiment, we use a quantum sensor to investigate gravitational interaction; this allowed us to search for new effects."

As the researchers explain, there are a variety of ways to test the equivalence principle. These methods include studying the motion of moons and planets, the use of torsion balances, and—more recently—atom interferometry.

In the new study, the researchers have for the first time tested the equivalence principle by comparing the gravitational interaction for a bosonic particle to that of a fermionic particle. For the purpose of the experiment, the important difference between the two particles is that the bosonic particle (a strontium-88 isotope) has no , while the fermionic particle (a strontium-87 isotope) has a half-integer spin.

In order to determine how the differences in spin might affect a particle's gravitational interaction, the researchers performed tests to measure each isotope's acceleration due to gravity. These tests consist of confining atomic wave packets in a vertical laser standing wave, and then using a quantum effect involving delocalization to measure the effects of gravity. The new method improves the measurement precision by more than an order of magnitude over previous methods.

The results of the experiments enabled the researchers to set an upper limit of 10-7 on the boson-to-fermion ratio. The researchers also searched for a dependence of gravity acceleration of strontium-87 isotope on the spin direction, but found no evidence for it.

"There are theoretical models predicting that spin and gravity should couple; that is, depending on its spin a particle should behave in different ways in a gravitational field," Tino said. "We found no evidence for that. Since we compared an atom with spin with one without spin, this is a rather stringent test. Also, in our experiment one atom is a boson and the other is a fermion and, again, we found no difference in their behavior in a ."

The results could have future applications in connection with optical clocks made of strontium, which have already demonstrated impressive stability and accuracy. In the future, it may also be possible to perform an experiment in space using a strontium optical clock and a strontium interferometer to perform stringent tests of and gravity.

"Our result reported in this paper, as well as the one we recently published on the measurement of the gravitational constant with atoms (G. Rosi, et al.), shows the great potential of quantum sensors based on ultracold atoms and atom interferometry to investigate gravity," Tino said. "We want to try new schemes to increase the sensitivity of the atom interferometer; this would allow us to perform still more stringent tests and search for new effects."

Explore further: Scientists find a practical test for string theory

More information: — M. G. Tarallo, et al. "Test of Einstein Equivalence Principle for 0-Spin and Half-Integer-Spin Atoms: Search for Spin-Gravity Coupling Effects." Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.023005
Also at arXiv:1403.1161 [physics.atom-ph]

— G. Rosi, et al. "Precision measurement of the Newtonian gravitational constant using cold atoms." Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13433

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Particle, meet wave: Optical qubit technique squeezes photons to bridge discrete and continuous quantum regimes PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —While quantum states are typically referred to as particles or waves, this is not actually the case. Rather, quantum states have complementary discrete particlelike and continuous wavelike properties that emerge based on the experimental or observational context. In other words, when used to describe quantum states the terms particle and wave are convenient but inaccurate metaphors. This is an important consideration in quantum computing, where photons are used as units of quantum information known as quantum bits, or qubits, which due to quantum superposition (and therefore unlike classical bits) can simultaneously exist in two states. That said, current attempts to devise quantum computers that process photonic qubits universally using particle detectors to count photons and optical circuits to capture quantum wave evolution have been stymied by the fact that ancilla states – fixed qubit states used in reversible quantum computing as input to a gate to give that gate a more specific logic function – consist of many highly-entangled photons, thereby exceeding experimental capabilities. (Entanglement is a uniquely-quantum state in which two or more interacting particles are said to be hypercorrelated – meaning that the state of each individual particle cannot be described independently, and that a change in a property of one particle is instantly reflected in its entangled partner regardless of the distance separating them.)

Recently, however, scientists at The University of Tokyo demonstrated for the first time a two-way conversion between a particlelike single-photon state and a wavelike superposition of coherent states by applying quantum squeezing/unsqueezing as a gate, deriving Gaussian (coherent) operations that are applicable to nonclassical, non-Gaussian quantum states and therefore expanding the hybrid quantum-information processing optical toolbox. (In general, a squeezed coherent state is a in which the uncertainty principle is saturated. Achieved using a number of methods1, squeezed light is a state in which quantum noise is reduced. Specifically, in a squeezed sate the electric field noise paradoxically falls below that of the vacuum state – a phenomenon that has classical counterpart.) Moreover, the researchers say that their so-called squeezing gate will lead to new applications while forming the basis of a new class of optical quantum processors capable of integrating particlelike and wavelike quantum states.

Prof. Akira Furusawa discussed the paper that he and his co-authors published in Physical Review Letters with Phys.org – including the main challenges in successfully applying a quantum optical squeezing operation upon non-Gaussian quantum states, thereby demonstrating a two-way conversion between a particlelike single-photon state and a wavelike superposition of coherent states. "Previous approaches using direct squeezing operations for nonclassical non-Gaussian states were very difficult because such states are very fragile to losses – and direct squeezing operations inevitably have losses," Furusawa tells Phys.org. "In our approach, the squeezing operation is not direct. Instead, we first prepare a squeezed vacuum by using a conventional optical parametric oscillator and then teleport the squeezing operation to fragile nonclassical non-Gaussian states through linear optics, which have almost no losses."

In quantum teleportation2, qubits (specifying, for example, a photon's precise state) are transmitted between quantum-entangled locations via classical communication systems. "In this case, the essential resource is entanglement between the ancillary squeezed vacuum and nonclassical non-Gaussian states, which are created by a beam splitter with no losses," Furusawa notes. "Our successful teleportation of the squeezing operation to a single-photon state and Schrödinger's-cat" – that is, superposition – "state is the first example of deterministic quantum gate teleportation."

Experimental quantum states for the conversion from particle to wave. The leftmost column shows the input single-photon state, while the other three columns show the output states for a squeezing parameter γ of 0.26, 0.37, and 0.67, from left to right. (a) Quadrature distributions over a period. (b) Wigner functions. (c) Photon number distributions and photon number representation of density matrices. The minimum value of −0.22 for the input Wigner function becomes, respectively, −0.15, −0.12, and −0.06, after the conversion. Credit: Y. Miwa et al., Phys. Rev. Lets., July 2, 2014

Another first the researchers achieved was using universal and reversible low-loss broadband squeezing to access for the first time a complete set of deterministic Gaussian operations applicable to nonclassical, non-Gaussian states. "A complete set of deterministic Gaussian operations consists of displacement, rotation, and squeezing in phase space," Furusawa explains. "Displacement can be realized by using an optical modulator and a beam splitter, and rotation by controlling optical path length. Therefore, both operations are very easy to apply – even to nonclassical non-Gaussian states.

The last piece of the complete set is squeezing, where we succeeded – also for the first time."

Experimental quantum states for the conversion from wave to particle. The left column shows the input coherent-state superposition, while the right column shows the output state for a squeezing parameter γ of −0.26. (a) Quadrature distributions over a period. (b)Wigner functions. (c) Photon number distributions and photon number representation of density matrices. The minimum value of −0.16 for the input Wigner function becomes −0.10 after the conversion. Credit: Y. Miwa et al., Phys. Rev. Lets., July 2, 2014

In short, the scientists' key result – demonstrating the very powerful capability of deterministic quantum gate teleportation – allows non-Gaussian operations that can, in principle, be used to build the elusive universal quantum computer. "We want to hybridize the discrete and continuous quantum protocols to build an efficient and robust quantum computer," Furusawa confirms. "The advantage of using qubit protocols is the robustness coming from the digital processing-like finite dimensionality, while the advantage of continuous-variable protocols is efficiency, because they can allow us to make deterministic operations. (Furusawa points out that it remains an open question if this hybridization has implications for ongoing efforts to integrate quantum mechanics and general relativity, which are described using discrete and continuous mathematics, respectively.)

The paper also describes the notable finding that allows the entire Fock space to be used when processing single photons, thereby possibly helping to construct quantum gates and error correction codes for logical qubits. (The Fock space is a mathematical method for articulating the quantum states of a variable, or a non-specified number of identical particles, from a single particle Hilbert space, which is a generalization of Euclidean space.) "Specifically," says Furusawa, "we're now thinking about constructing quantum gates and error correction codes with the hybrid protocol."

Depiction of eight carbon allotropes. (a) diamond; (b) graphite; (c) lonsdaleite; (d-f) fullerenes: C60 (Buckminsterfullerene), C540, C70; (g) amorphous carbon; (h) single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT). Credit: Wikimedia. Created by Michael Ströck (mstroeck). CC BY-SA 3.0

Furusawa adds that the deterministic Gaussian operations accessed made possible by their broadband squeezer will directly lead to applications in this area. "Firstly," he illustrates, "we can construct a quantum non-demolition (QND) gate – in which a measured observable's uncertainty does not increase as the quantum system evolve – that corresponds to a qubit controlled NOT (CNOT) gate." Quantum CNOT gates can be used to simulate any quantum circuit to an arbitrary degree of accuracy, as well as to create and dismantle entangled, or EPR (after the 1935 paper3 by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen), . "Secondly, since the QND gate is a universal entangling gate, it allows more complicated quantum gate teleportation."

In addition, Furusawa tells Phys.org, their next target is a particlelike/wavelike hybrid CNOT gate based on non-Gaussian teleportation. "We're also thinking about applying this technology to optical communications – especially a quantum mechanically optimal receiver."

Explore further: Entanglement between particle and wave-like states of light resembles Schrodinger's cat experiment

More information: Exploring a New Regime for Processing Optical Qubits: Squeezing and Unsqueezing Single Photons, Physical Review Letters 113, 013601 (Published 2 July 2014), doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.013601

Related:

1Squeezed light, arXiv:1401.4118v1 [quant-ph]
2Quantum Teleportation and Entanglement by Akira Furusawa and Peter van Loock, Wiley-VCH (2011), ISBN-13:978-3527409303 (Hardcopy), ASIN:B00BP7S3X8 (Kindle), ISBN:9783527635306 (Google EBook)
3Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete? Physical Review 47, 777 (15 May 1935), doi:10.1103/PhysRev.47.777

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Study suggests cloud computing can make business more green PDF Print E-mail

A case study published in The International Journal of Business Process Integration and Management demonstrates that the adoption of integrated cloud-computing solutions can lead to significant cost savings for businesses, as well as large reductions in the size of an organization's carbon footprint.

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Planning for an electron-ion collider at Brookhaven PDF Print E-mail

By adding an electron ring and other accelerator components to its existing Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, New York, US, would create a high-energy electron-ion collider (EIC) to help explain what makes matter stick together.

Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) has led nuclear scientists to develop new tools that reveal the interactions of quarks and gluons inside protons and neutrons. For researchers at Brookhaven, these new tools could be further enhanced by the EIC. The EIC would be unique among such facilities worldwide, due to the 5- to 10-billion-electron-volt (GeV) electron ring inside the RHIC tunnel.

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Tackling complexity and scale at eResearch NZ 2014 PDF Print E-mail

eResearch NZ 2014 was recently held at Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand. This was the fifth year of the conference, which once again brought together a wide range of researchers and high-performance computing experts from across the country, as well as from further afield. 

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Designing offshore platforms that are safer and better for the environment PDF Print E-mail

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Which happened first: Did sounds form words, or words form sentences? PDF Print E-mail

The origins of language is, in some ways, more complicated to study than the origins of other biological traits because language does not fossilize or leave behind physical traces the way that bones and tissues do. However, there are other ways to study the origins of language, such as watching children learn to speak, analyzing genetics, and exploring how animals communicate.

A recent review of animal communication in particular has yielded an intriguing discovery: while structured animal call sequences (for example, birdsong) are widespread, it is very rare that meaningless sounds produced by animals form meaningful sequences, as they do in human languages. This observation, combined with supporting evidence from human languages, has led linguists to suggest that (the structure and rules of language, such as sentence structure) may have evolved before phonemes (the meaning-differentiating sounds that do not themselves have meaning).

The researchers, Katie Collier, et al., at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, have published a review paper on this idea that syntax evolved before phonology in a recent issue of the Proceedings of The Royal Society B. In their study, the researchers also hypothesize that syntax is a cognitively simpler process than phonology.

Building blocks of language

Collier, a PhD student at the University of Zurich, explains exactly what phonology and syntax are.

"A simple example for phonology would but the way the phonemes /k/, /a/ and /t/ that have no meaning in themselves and are used in many different words come together to form the word 'cat,'" Collier told Phys.org. "Syntax is the next layer where meaningful words come together into larger meaningful structures, such as 'the cat ate the mouse.' Phonology and syntax describe the way sounds form words and then words form sentences, rather than referring to the sounds and sentences themselves."

At first, the idea that syntax evolved before phonology seems counterintuitive, and it's true that it goes against the traditional linguistic view that phonology is simpler than syntax.

"It may seem counterintuitive, but it is not quite as simple as saying sentences evolved before grunts," Collier explained. "Animal calls or grunts most probably existed before 'sentences.' Most of these calls do not have meaning in the way that human words have meaning. A few have what we call functional reference, where they seem to denote an external object or event, such as a leopard for example. However, these calls cannot be decomposed into smaller sounds. They come as a single unit, unlike our words that are made up of several sounds that are reused in many different words. This is why we argue that there are no known examples of phonology in animal communication. On the other hand, as discussed in our paper, several species seem to combine these referential calls together to obtain new meanings in a similar way to very simple sentences in human language, which is why we argue that they may have a form of rudimentary syntax.

"I suppose a very simple way of looking at it would be to say that some animal species have 'words' that they can combine into 'sentences,' but their 'words' are simpler, less flexible than ours, made out of one block, rather than several reusable ones."

Monkey syntax

In their paper, the researchers reviewed a wide range of evidence that seems to support the origins of syntax before phonology. In the primate world, two species of monkeys—Campbell monkeys and putty-nosed monkeys—demonstrate this idea in slightly different ways. Both species have two main predators, leopards and crowned eagles, and both species give specific calls when they detect these predators. Campbell monkeys call "krak" at a leopard sighting and "hok" for an eagle sighting. For putty-nosed monkeys, the calls are "pyow" for leopard and "hack" for eagle.

While it's interesting that these monkeys seem to have specific "words" for different things, what's more interesting to linguists is that the monkeys modify these words to mean something different yet related. For example, the Campbell monkeys add the suffix "-oo" to both "words." The "krak-oo" call is given to any general disturbance, while the "hok-oo" call is given to any disturbance in the canopy. The researchers explain that the "-oo" suffix is analogous to the suffix "-like," changing the meaning of the call from "leopard" to "leopard-like (disturbance)." Due to how it combines two meaningful sounds to create a new meaning, this structure is an example of a rudimentary syntax.

The way that putty-nosed monkeys alter their calls is more complicated. Whereas "pyow" means "leopard" and "hack" means "eagle," a sequence of two or three "pyows" followed by up to four "hacks" means "let's go," causing the group to move. There are a few different explanations for how this sequence may have originated. One possibility is that the sequence may be an idiom, where the original sequence may have meant "leopard and eagle," later becoming "danger all over," followed by "danger all over, therefore let's go," and finally just "let's go." A second possibility is that "pyow" and "hack" may have more abstract meanings, such as "move-on-ground" and "move-in-air," and their meanings change depending on the context of the situation. Although neither explanation demonstrates with certainty that the putty-nosed monkeys structure their calls with a syntax, the sequences leave that possibility open.

Emerging human language

Further evidence in support of the idea that syntax evolved before phonology in comes from analyzing a variety of human languages themselves, including sign languages. As far as linguists know, all human languages have syntax, but not all have phonology. The Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) used by a small society in the Negev region of Israel is an emerging language that has been around for less than 75 years. Interestingly, it does not have phonology. For the ABSL, this means that a single object can be represented by a variety of hand shapes. However, the ABSL still has syntax and grammatical regularity, as demonstrated by the existence of rules for combining signs. Perhaps the presence of syntax but not phonology suggests that syntax originates first in the evolution of a young language, and perhaps also that it is simpler than phonology.

When looking at this hypothesis more closely, many aspects of it make sense. From a cognitive perspective, syntax may be simpler to process than phonology because it is easier to remember a few general rules than many phonemes. Having syntax allows speakers to express many concepts with only a few . As language develops further, and still more concepts need to be communicated, phonology emerges to provide a larger vocabulary. The evolution of phonology may also be strongly influenced by cultural, rather than biological, evolutionary processes. The researchers hope to further develop these ideas in the future.

"To support our hypothesis that syntax evolved before phonology, a lot of work can still be done," Collier said. "Many systems are still very little understood or described and the more we learn about them, the more we can adjust and refine our hypothesis. From the linguistic side of things, studying more emerging languages (mainly sign languages) would show if there is a pattern for syntax to develop before phonology in human languages."

Explore further: Aphasia and bilingualism: Using one language to relearn another

More information: Katie Collier, et al. "Language evolution: syntax before phonology?" Proceedings of The Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0263

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Venus-flytrap-like gripper could capture individual cells in the human body PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —No two biological cells are exactly the same. Even a small biopsied tumor sample contains cells with large variations in their proliferation rate, potential for metastasis, drug responsiveness, etc. However, because of the large size of the tools used to analyze the cells, data collected from tissue samples is often averaged over a multitude of cells. As such, it may not accurately represent the behavior of individual cells of interest. Since analyzing individual cells is very important for designing effective treatments, researchers are working on ways to capture single cells, and lots of them at once.

In a new study published in Nano Letters, researchers from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and the US Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, have designed and fabricated tiny self-folding grippers that can capture individual under in vitro and potentially in vivo environments. The grippers can be mass produced, with perhaps 100 million on a 12-inch wafer, and potentially directed to a specific part of the body to capture specific types of cells. Somewhat like the way in which a Venus flytrap captures its prey, the self-folding grippers enclose their arms around , though without killing them. In experiments, the researchers demonstrated that the grippers can capture mouse fibroblast cells in vitro, as well as .

"We believe this is an important step towards a goal of capturing and analyzing single cells within the same device in a high-throughput manner under both in vitro and in vivo conditions," David H. Gracias, Professor at The Johns Hopkins University, told Phys.org.

This gripper is not the first device that can capture individual cells. Currently, a wide range of techniques such as optical and microfluidic traps, flow cytometry (in which a laser is used to suspend cells in a stream of fluid), microwells and even miniature robotic devices are available for in vitro single-cell analysis. However, these techniques face problems such as losing their grip on cells or requiring wires and tethers that restrict mobility, limiting their use.

(a--e) Optical and (f, g) SEM images of single cell grippers. Credit: Malachowski, et al. ©2014 American Chemical Society

The self-folding gripper developed in the new study overcomes these problems because it has the ability to grip cells using only energy from the release of stress in its own materials, without the need for wires, tethers, or batteries. The gripping mechanism occurs because the gripper's "hinges" are made of a pre-stressed SiO/SiO2 bilayer. The hinges are connected to a rigid body and arms made of only SiO. When exposed to a saline solution, the underlying sacrificial layer releases the arms and causes them to curl upward and close around a cell. As biocompatible and bioresorbable materials, thin films of both SiO and SiO2 dissolve in biological fluids over time.

The researchers showed that, using photolithography, the grippers could be fabricated in sizes ranging from 10 to 70 µm from tip to tip when open, which is an appropriate size range to grasp a variety of . Grippers could be made to fold at angles ranging from 90° to 115° by controlling the bilayer film thickness. Because the grippers have slit openings at the intersection of the arms, nutrients, waste, and other biochemicals can easily flow to and from the cells. Experiments confirmed that the grippers did not kill the cells, although some cells did conform to the shape of the grippers. Because the grippers are optically transparent, they are ideal for imaging the entrapped cells using optical microscopes. Although the timing of the grippers closing cannot currently be controlled, the researchers explain that in the future it may be possible to enable them to respond to and close around specific chemicals.

"Right now the grippers close spontaneously on release from the substrate, so the capture is statistical," Gracias said. "Elsewhere we have shown with larger grippers that a polymer trigger can be added to make such tools responsive to temperature and even enzymes such as proteases. So the single cell grippers could also be potentially made responsive to single cells when coated with the appropriate recognition elements."

Optical images of red blood cells trapped in 35-micrometer grippers. Credit: Malachowski, et al. ©2014 American Chemical Society

Because the grippers are so small, they have the potential to be used in many parts of the body. For example, they could pass through narrow conduits within the circulatory, central nervous, and urogenital systems. For these in vivo uses, the grippers could be guided by ferromagnetic elements, and patterned biomarkers on them could be used to target specific diseased cells. For in vitro uses, guiding could also be achieved by doping the grippers with magnetic elements such as nickel, and using magnetic fields to move the . Overall, the tiny tools have the potential to forge large improvements in many areas of medicine, which the researchers plan to continue to work on.

"On the in vitro side we are trying to develop a high-throughput assay for capture and analysis of single cells using optical and electrical modalities on a chip," Gracias said. "On the in vivo side, we would like to explore the possibility for biopsy and cell-specific capture in hard-to-reach places in vivo."

Explore further: Innovative soft robotics technology spawns new products

More information: Kate Malachowski, et al. "Self-Folding Single Cell Grippers." Nano Letters. DOI: 10.1021/nl500136a

© 2014 Phys.org



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Main result of Facebook emotion study: less trust in Facebook PDF Print E-mail

A new study that manipulated emotional messages on Facebook gets a big thumbs-down from Facebook users, and may also amplify a public distrust of behavioral research that has been fed by decades of deceptive laboratory studies.

Psychologists secretly toyed with Facebook users’ emotions in 2012, published their findings last month and got scorched by a social media firestorm they never saw coming.

What goes around comes around.

The researchers wanted to see if emotions spread through online social networks. Apparently, negative emotions spread really fast on the Internet. Congratulations, guys, you’re on to something.

Public anger has appropriately focused on scientists’ ethical breach in covertly trying to manipulate people’s moods. A team led by social psychologist and Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer altered the emotional content of postings in daily news feeds — the primary forums for seeing what one’s Facebook friends have posted — during one week for 0.04 percent of users. That’s 698,003 individuals.

When friends’ positive posts were surreptitiously weeded out of news feeds to varying extents, people wrote slightly fewer positive posts and more negative posts. The reverse occurred when friends’ negative posts were unknowingly removed. In both groups, people produced an average of one fewer emotional word, per thousand words, over the following week. This effect was statistically small but could have big consequences across the many interpersonal connections in a massive social web, Kramer’s team concluded in the June 17 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By creating an account, Facebook users endorse an online statement that gives the site permission to use their personal information for research. To the researchers, that constituted informed consent for the study.  

There’s much to be disturbed by here. No one knows how many people read the online statement or, if they did, understood its implications. The definition of informed consent for members of online communities has barely been addressed by ethicists and scientists.

Academic panels that assess the ethics of research on people, called institutional review boards, offer no easy answers for digital investigators. IRBs have yet to develop guidelines for obtaining informed consent in online studies. And it’s not clear whether university IRBs can regulate collaborations between university scientists and commercial enterprises. Even the journal that published the new study agrees that it is “a matter of concern that the collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out.”

An unannounced change to the digital code controlling what gets posted on Facebook users’ news feeds may be an “implicit violation” of the site’s contract with users who expect something else entirely, says psychologist Ralph Hertwig of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Some users may view news feeds as random collections of recent posts. Others might regard news feeds as the “best” new posts. That would be worth studying.

Hertwig has long criticized social psychologists’ penchant for deceiving college students and others in the name of science (SN Online: 10/22/10). The most infamous such experiment occurred more than 50 years ago, when volunteers administered what they thought were real electrical shocks to an unseen person who wasn’t really shocked but could be heard screaming in mock agony. A 2010 study had participants complete a fake questionnaire. Experimenters falsely told volunteers they had expressed a preference for counterfeit products and then gave them expensive sunglasses labeled as counterfeits. The researchers’ aim was to show that people who wear knock-off items feel phony and become more likely to cheat.  

Students who are tricked in lab experiments and debriefed afterward — as required by the American Psychological Association — frequently lose their trust in researchers and spread the word to other potential research subjects about psychologists’ devious ways, Hertwig argues. Psychologists end up not knowing whether they’re manipulating study participants or getting played by them.

Trust in researchers gets tainted on a much larger scale by well-intentioned ruses pulled on massive online communities, Hertwig says. Fallout from the new Facebook study may cause users to drop their accounts, monitor the content of their posts, refuse to participate in future studies involving no trickery and otherwise make life difficult for investigators. Kramer’s paper doesn’t address this issue.  

Concerns that the researchers actually altered Facebook users’ emotions are misplaced, Hertwig adds. The statistical effect of their manipulation on the number of positive and negative words in posts is “ridiculously small.” And there is no evidence that what they did changed social networks or altered anyone’s emotional state — at least until people realized that they had been hoodwinked.

At a time when psychologists are admirably trying to improve their statistical and research practices, the new Facebook study hammers home the need to think carefully about how deceptive investigations can corrode public trust in science.

Follow me on Twitter: @Bruce_Bower

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Dead-ant wall protects young spider wasps PDF Print E-mail

A newly discovered species of wasp (D) leaves its eggs in cavities (A) protected by dead ants (B and C).

Merten Ehmig (A, B), Michael Staab (C, D) 

When members of one family of wasps, Pompilidae, are adults, they feast on floral nectar. But they’re known as “spider wasps” because they get their start in life by growing on the body of a paralyzed spider.

Within that family, wasps in the genus Deuteragenia construct special nests for those spider-feeding youngsters, with several chambers separated by thin walls of plant material, resin or soil.

The final, outermost chamber is usually empty — except for nests constructed by one species recently discovered in southeast China. These wasps, nicknamed “bone-house wasps,” fill that last chamber with deceased ants, Michael Staab of the University of Freiburg in Germany and colleagues report July 2 in PLOS ONE. They are the only species known to use whole-body ants for constructing a nest.

Staab and colleagues collected 829 nests of cavity-nesting wasps as part of a survey in southeast China. The nests belonged to 18 different species of wasps, but 73 of the nests were slightly different — they had a final chamber filled with ants. And when the scientists reared the young from those nests, they realized they had found a species never before described. They named it Deuteragenia ossarium because the wall of dead ants reminded them of an ossuary, where humans are buried.

The ant walls contained an average of five and up to 13 ants. The wasps weren’t too picky when it came to the species of ants chosen for construction, though: The researchers found nine different ant species — and as many as four different species in one cell — among the 26 chambers they examined. The most common species was Pachycondyla astuta, an abundant, large ant with a powerful sting.

It’s likely that the wall of dead ants helps to deter potential predators, the researchers say. (Most of us would probably be deterred by a wall of dead things, after all.) But that’s not necessarily because of the sight of such a monstrosity. Instead, the volatile compounds emanating from the ants may provide some sort of chemical defense or camouflage for the nests.

The choice of P. astuta may be particularly wise because the wasps wouldn’t need many of the large ants to fill a chamber and because they are common. “Potential predators may have had contact with the species before and therefore avoid the species-specific scent,” Staab and colleagues write.

Considering both the dead ants and the spiders, that’s quite a body count for a species that feasts only on flowers when full grown.

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MRI scans reveal how the brain tells the body to pee PDF Print E-mail



Your daily roundup of
research news
Ashley Yeager

Brain scans of men taken before, during and after they urinate show that the insula, thalamus, brainstem and prefrontal cortex (red) are associated with successfully initiating the bodily function.

BodyParts3D/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.1 JP)

Guest post by Laura Sanders

An adventurous brain scanning study reveals how the brain can turn a bladder shy. The results, published June 26 in Cerebral Cortex, may ultimately point to treatments for people with lower urinary tract dysfunction.

While lying inside an MRI tube, 22 men attempted to urinate into an external catheter. Fifteen men rose to the challenge, while 7 were unable to go. Brain regions associated with successful urination initiation included the insula, thalamus, brainstem and prefrontal cortex. Activity in these regions peaked just before the participant began urinating and then fell as urination began, researchers found. 

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Dramatic retraction adds to questions about stem cell research PDF Print E-mail



SEEING DOUBLE  Scientists now doubt their own earlier claims about an easy method to make stem cells. Among the errors identified in their papers were two pictures of a single embryo created from STAP cells (green) that had been represented as depictions of two different embryos (large image with placenta, inset without placenta). 

H. Obokata et al/Nature 2014

Rising doubts about easy-to-make stem cells have hit a crescendo: The researchers who claimed to have discovered STAP cells have pulled their papers from the journal Nature. The scientists say that mistakes in the work now make them question the existence of such cells. The original publication described making STAP stem cells simply by stressing mature cells with a squeeze or with a brief plunge in acid.

Other scientists worry that the combination of early enthusiasm about the papers quickly followed by revelations of misconduct will mar the reputation of stem cell research.

“We apologize for the mistakes,” the team of STAP cell researchers writes in the July 3 Nature. “These multiple errors impair the credibility of the study as a whole and we are unable to say without doubt whether the [STAP cell] phenomenon is real.”

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