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Science News Reports

Neutrino trident production may offer powerful probe of new physics
(Phys.org) —The standard model (SM) of particle physics has four types of force carrier particles: photons, W and Z bosons, and gluons. But recently there has been renewed interest in the question of whether there might
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Machine learning algorithm makes impossible screening of advanced materials possible
(Phys.org) —A fundamental part of climate change response is expected to involve the discovery of advanced materials capable of cost-effectively capturing CO2 from burning fossil fuels. One particular class of
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How did evolution optimize circadian clocks? 15 September 2014, 21.20 Science
How did evolution optimize circadian clocks?
(Phys.org) —From cyanobacteria to humans, many terrestrial species have acquired circadian rhythms that adapt to sunlight in order to increase survival rates. Studies have shown that the circadian clocks in some
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Try Kegel Exercises for Urinary Incontinence, New Guidelines Say
Credit: Woman's abdomen photo via Shutterstock Kegel exercises, bladder training and, in some cases, weight loss are effective ways to treat urinary incontinence in women, and should be tried before the use of drug
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Is Wearable Tech Changing Behavior? 15 September 2014, 21.20 Science
Is Wearable Tech Changing Behavior?
You lookin’ at me? Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. Are you being
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Are You a Supertaster? 15 September 2014, 21.20 Science
Are You a Supertaster?
If some foods weird out your taste buds, read on to see if you fall in the ‘supertaster’ quarter of the population. Credit: parkydoodles/Flickr (cropped), CC BY-NC-SA This article was originally published at The
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Watch Live! Colossal Squid Undergoes Autopsy 15 September 2014, 21.20 Science
Watch Live! Colossal Squid Undergoes Autopsy
Tonight in New Zealand one of just two intact colossal squid, housed at the New Zealand Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, is undergoing a live autopsy. The giant sea beast was recently caught in the Ross Sea. Scientists, including
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Southwest's Earthquake Spike Linked to Injection Wells
A drilling rig used for fracking. A dramatic increase in earthquakes in a small region of New Mexico and Colorado was triggered by the underground disposal of wastewater, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological
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'Global Selfie' Project Will Beam Earthling Message to Space
An illustration of the New Horizons spacecraft as it approaches Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI) WAIMEA, Hawaii
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Armored Trucks, Unborn Birds Go Airborne, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week
Me And Comet 67-P, J-Chillin’ The Rosetta spacecraft beamed this to Earth on Sunday: an over-the-shoulder selfie with its intended. Visible are the comet toward which Rosetta has travelled for more than a decade, the edge
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Like Sassy Teenagers, Atoms Talk Back 15 September 2014, 21.18 Science
Like Sassy Teenagers, Atoms Talk Back
If you talk to an artificial atom, it turns out the atom will say something back to you. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hear it. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have communicated with an
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Top Dogs: Movies May Determine Which Pups Are Most Popular
Did watching 101 Dalmatians instill you with a burning desire to fill your home with dozens of monochrome puppies? A new study suggests that may often be the case. The research suggests that all those great canine
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Is A Simulated Brain Conscious? 15 September 2014, 21.18 Science
Is A Simulated Brain Conscious?
Imagine standing in an open field with a bucket of water balloons and a couple of friends. You've decided to play a game called "Mind." Each of you has your own set of rules. Maybe Molly will throw a water balloon at Bob
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Using 'Doom' To Design A Room 15 September 2014, 21.18 Science
Using 'Doom' To Design A Room
Remember that early ‘90s horror-themed video game, Doom, where you roamed around a Martian landscape, killing everything in sight? Well, now the game isn’t just for shooting demons and zombie Marines anymore. A
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Want Your Crops To Survive Extreme Heat and Drought? Add Fungus
The global population continues to grow, and climate change is already tangibly reducing food harvests. Can agriculture adapt to be both more productive and more resilient? One answer to that question may be "add fungus.”
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New analysis rescues quantum wave-particle duality 15 September 2014, 21.18 Science
New analysis rescues quantum wave-particle duality
A basic principle of quantum mechanics has been reaffirmed. Stop the presses. (Or start the tweeting.) In 2012, experimenters in Germany had supposedly shown that you could observe both wave and particle properties of light in
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Mass EKG screening for athletes inadvisable, panel says
FROM THE HEART  The lines of an electrocardiogram like this one might help signal a danger of sudden cardiac death. But the test’s use in screening has been debated for more than a decade. T.K. Rajab et al/J. Cardiothorac.
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Evidence for new Higgs-related particle fades away 15 September 2014, 21.18 Science
Evidence for new Higgs-related particle fades away
Previous data hinted that the Higgs boson might decay into something new to physics 12:42pm, September 15, 2014 DASHED HOPES  The ATLAS detector, seen here during construction of the Large Hadron Collider in 2007,
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Why the Apple Watch Doesn't Mean 'Death' for Fitness Trackers
Fitness trackers Credit: Bahar Gholipour for Live Science The Apple Watch enters fitness-tracker territory by offering ways to monitor your heart rate and daily exercise, but the device doesn't necessarily mean the end
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Fitness Tracking Wearables Compared (Infographic) 10 September 2014, 18.52 Science
Fitness Tracking Wearables Compared (Infographic)
By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist   |   September 10, 2014 03:09pm ET Embed: Paste the code below into your site. <br /> Source:<a
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US Military's New Laser Gun Zaps Drones 10 September 2014, 18.52 Science
US Military's New Laser Gun Zaps Drones
Boeing's High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD). Credit: Boeing The U.S. military is now one step closer to having a laser gun that can shoot down enemy drones in the blink of an eye. Boeing recently announced
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'Fat Shaming' May Actually Lead to Weight Gain 10 September 2014, 18.52 Science
'Fat Shaming' May Actually Lead to Weight Gain
Credit: © Hartphotography | Dreamstime.com Harassing obese people, a practice known as "fat shaming," does not encourage them to lose weight and can actually result in weight gain, a new study from the United Kingdom
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Did 'Deadly' Spider Eggs Really Hitch a Ride on Imported Bananas?
A species of Brazilian wandering spider belonging to the genus Phoneutria. Credit: Richard Vetter/UC Riverside It's enough to make you do a double take the next time you unpack your groceries! A recent British news
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Earth's Protective Ozone Layer Shows Signs of Recovery
The minimum concentration of ozone in the Southern Hemisphere from 1979 to 2013. Each point represents the day with the lowest concentration that year. Credit: M. Radcliff | NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Following a
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Who Owns Asteroid Rights? 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
Who Owns Asteroid Rights?
Congress is back in session and getting right down to work on pressing science and technology issues like education funding, Net neutrality and ... oh wait. Actually, the House is holding a hearing on Wednesday to discuss a
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New Robotic Hands Let Deep-Sea Divers Grasp And Prod 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
New Robotic Hands Let Deep-Sea Divers Grasp And Prod
A new remote-controlled robotic hand will allow deep-sea divers to handle and feel objects underwater almost as easily as they can in air. This could transform deep-water operations, from marine biology to pipeline
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Wind Turbines Learn From Warplanes To Not Block Radar
Wind turbines stand on horizons like strange colossuses. Their distinctive shape and great size make them hard to miss -- even by radar systems. The giants can obstruct signals, giving countries the uncomfortable choice of
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'Primordial Soup' Computer Model Tracks The Beginning Of Life At The Atomic Level
In the early 1950s, a chemist named Stanley Miller mixed up a bunch of gases including methane, ammonia and hydrogen. That's kind of stuff that had been on Earth before life began. Miller zapped those gases with electricity,
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Quantum Mechanics Saves Grandfathers From Time Travelers
Mention time travel at a nerd party, and other guests will immediately respond with a grim conundrum: What happens if a time traveler goes back in time and kills one of his ancestors? This is the “Grandfather
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Lost: Huge Chunk Of Europa's Icy Crust 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
Lost: Huge Chunk Of Europa's Icy Crust
Europa, long one of the Solar System's most fascinating worlds, might be subject to forces very similar to those that form the surface of Earth: plate tectonics. One of the four largest moons of Jupiter, Europa is covered by
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Celebrating 10 years of Open Street Map 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
Celebrating 10 years of Open Street Map
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VERIFI advances combustion engine research 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
VERIFI advances combustion engine research
According to US Department of Energy estimates, by 2040 around 90% of new cars sold will still employ combustion engines. Read about VERIFI (Virtual Engine Research Institute and Fuels Initiative), the first environment to
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Grid computing aids study into post-traumatic stress among Afghanistan war veterans
The latest European Grid Infrastructure case study describes how researchers in The Netherlands have used the e-BioInfra Gateway to analyze brain scans from NATO soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. The team discovered that
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Using HPC to explore competitive balance 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
Using HPC to explore competitive balance
The financial services and medical insurance industries in the US account for 6-8% (more than a trillion dollars) of the gross domestic product annually, according to the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.
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Clinical trial reanalyses may alter who should get treated
Fresh looks at previously published clinical trial data can change recommendations about which patients to treat. In fact, in a new study, roughly one-third of reanalyses drew conclusions opposing the original ones. Clinical
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Fossils push back origins of modern mammals 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
Fossils push back origins of modern mammals
TREE HUGGER  A newly identified mouse-sized mammal species, Xianshou songae, lived in Jurassic forests and has helped scientists redefine the mammalian family tree.  Modern mammals’ ancestors may have emerged millions of
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The (almost non-existent) science of potty training 10 September 2014, 18.51 Science
The (almost non-existent) science of potty training
The science of potty training is woefully thin, leaving parents to figure out how to ditch the diapers on their own. This morning, as I watched my toddler slurp milk out of her cereal bowl, I was struck by how much parental
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NASA Scientists Study The Sun By Listening To It 06 September 2014, 20.30 Science
NASA Scientists Study The Sun By Listening To It
What’s the fastest way to understand space? According to NASA, it’s listening to the music of the spheres displayed as actual music. A program that converts astronomical data into sound is letting researchers blaze
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Colorful Earthquakes, Enormous Superclusters, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week
Our celestial home just got a whole lot bigger -- on the astronomical map, at least. This week, a team of astronomers re-charted the supercluster of galaxies that includes the Milky Way, finding it to be 100 times bigger in
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The Week In Numbers: Radioactive Boar, Homemade Theremins, And The 200 MPG Motorcycle
7000: Number of Chinese, Russian, Kyrgyzstani, and Kazakh troops deployed for Peace Mission 2014. 7: Hours an average toddler spends in front of a television every day. 17: Phony cell towers Cryptophone customers
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Plastic Microparticles Found In Beers 06 September 2014, 20.30 Science
Plastic Microparticles Found In Beers
Beer lovers: there may be more to your brew than dazzling citrus overtones or a subtle chocolatey aroma. The authors of a new study went to a local supermarket in Germany and picked up 24 brands of beer, including the 10 most
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Remembering The Great War: The Outbreak 06 September 2014, 20.30 Science
Remembering The Great War: The Outbreak
This year marks the centennial of the start of the First World War. To honor it, Popular Science is combing through our archives to bring you the best of our original war coverage--from the emergence of tanks, airplanes,
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Throwback Thursday: An Adventure Down Under, And Scientists Ponder What Makes A Duck A Duck
In this edition of Throwback Thursday we travel 100 years into the past. In those days, Popular Science was called “The Popular Science Monthly.” It had no distinct sections. All the articles were written by scientists,
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Keeping Florida's groundwater safe from rising sea levels
As sea levels rise, the current measures for keeping seawater out of Florida's groundwater supply will likely fail. Before researchers can devise new approaches to preventing seawater intrusion, they must first better
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New cloud computing testbeds to spur innovation 06 September 2014, 20.29 Science
New cloud computing testbeds to spur innovation
While most of the original concepts for cloud computing originated within the academic research community, industry has driven much of the design and architecture as cloud use has grown. Read about a new, $20 million cloud
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A flood of data set for Amsterdam 06 September 2014, 20.29 Science
A flood of data set for Amsterdam
The Research Data Alliance (RDA) is set to hold its Fourth Plenary Meeting in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, later this month. Hilary Hanahoe, the future coordinator of RDA Europe, tells iSGTW about the important work the
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Unlocking online treasure troves of data 06 September 2014, 20.29 Science
Unlocking online treasure troves of data
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Non-volatile memory improves energy efficiency by two orders of magnitude
(Phys.org) —By using voltage-generated stress to switch between two magnetic states, researchers have designed a new non-volatile memory with extremely high energy efficiency—about two orders of magnitude higher than
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Step lightly: All-optical transistor triggered by single photon promises advances in quantum applications
(Phys.org) —Optical transistors and switches are fundamental in both classical and quantum optical information processing. A key objective in optics research is determining and developing the structural and performance
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Physicists propose superabsorption of light beyond the limits of classical physics
(Phys.org) —In a well-known quantum effect called superradiance, atoms can emit light at an enhanced rate compared to what is possible in classical situations. This high emission rate arises from the way that the atoms
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Scientists fabricate defect-free graphene, set record reversible capacity for Co3O4 anode in Li-ion batteries
(Phys.org) —Graphene has already been demonstrated to be useful in Li-ion batteries, despite the fact that the graphene used often contains defects. Large-scale fabrication of graphene that is chemically pure,
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Color hologram uses plasmonic nanoparticles to store large amounts of information
(Phys.org) —In the 4th century, the Romans built a special glass cup, called the Lycurgus cup, that changes colors depending on which way the light is shining through it. The glass is made of finely ground silver and
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As Patients Create Art, They Recover 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
As Patients Create Art, They Recover
Dr. Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and associate director of the Motion Analysis and Recovery Laboratory at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center,
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The Two Wildfires Everyone Should Be Talking About (Op-Ed)
Blacklining operations during an Arizona wildfire. Credit: ERIk Patel, CC BY-SA Wally Covington is the director of the Ecological Restoration Institute, a Regents' professor of forest ecology at Northern Arizona
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Hangovers Are About Half Genetic 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Hangovers Are About Half Genetic
Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com Some people get hangovers after a night of drinking, while others don't, and the reason may be in their genes, a new study of twins in Australia suggests. Researchers looked for
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Decades-Old Fetus Caused Woman's Side Pain 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Decades-Old Fetus Caused Woman's Side Pain
Doctors have removed the skeletal remains of an unborn child from its mother 36 years after the baby's conception, according to news reports. The operation happened last week, and the case may mark the longest time a fetus
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Lower Back Pain: Causes, Relief and Treatment 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Lower Back Pain: Causes, Relief and Treatment
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer   |   August 22, 2014 08:06pm ET Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints, and can be caused by everything from strained muscles to bulging discs. Credit: Steven Frame |
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Dandruff Fungus Found In Deep Sea Vents, Lobster Guts, And Other Random Places
What do human scalps, deep sea vents, and Antarctic soil have in common? As it turns out, all of these places are home to one weird group of fungi. A study published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens found that fungi of
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Bill Nye Fights Back 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Bill Nye Fights Back
Photographs by F. Scott Schafer Let’s say that I am, through my actions, doomed, and that I will go to hell,” Bill Nye said. He was prepping for a Super Bowl party and making pizza dough from a recipe given to him by his
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The Week In Numbers: Crunchy Crickets, Food Poison Twitter Bots, And A Whole Lotta Ice
6: the number of weeks it takes to raise your own edible crickets. The cost: $22. 121.5: the calories in one serving size of crickets, which is 100 grams or roughly 22 crickets.  1,300: average thickness, in feet,
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Superwhite Beetles, Spongy Brain Models And Other Amazing Images Of This Week
Unfathomably Pasty Beetles Imagine the color white. Make it whiter. These beetles are even whiter than that. Natives of Southeast Asia, the Cyphochilusbeetles camouflage to the white of the fungus commonly found in their
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How Droughts Are Drying Up Your Breakfast 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
How Droughts Are Drying Up Your Breakfast
Some parts of your complete breakfast are about to get pricier. Or, at the very least, they’re about to get pricier than they already are. With droughts raging in agricultural powerhouses like California and Brazil, the
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Supercomputers reveal mouth bacteria can change its diet
According to new research published in the journal mBio, mouth bacteria drastically change how they act when you're diseased. Scientists say these surprising findings may lead to better ways to prevent or even reverse gum
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Attacking Ebola with nanoparticles 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Attacking Ebola with nanoparticles
There is no known vaccine, treatment, or cure for Ebola, which is contracted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal. That doesn’t mean there’s no hope, however. In fact, Thomas
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Shaping the future of data sharing with EUON 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Shaping the future of data sharing with EUON
The newly launched European Ontology Network (EUON) will be holding its first ever workshop on 25 September 2014 as part of the EUDAT 3rd Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. iSGTW speaks to EUON co-chairs James Malone
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‘NOVA’ takes science’s side in vaccine debate
STAYING HEALTHY  This infant in Australia might have avoided whooping cough if vaccination rates in the surrounding population had been higher. Courtesy of Genepool Productions In some quarters, vaccines have become victims
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Sometimes value lies deep below the surface 22 August 2014, 19.28 Science
Sometimes value lies deep below the surface
People tend to notice jellyfish only when they are a bother (stinging beachgoers or showing up in massive blooms) or a beauty (tamed in an aquarium case). Surprisingly little has been known about their wild lives, as Susan
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Nearby galaxy harbours rarest type of black hole 19 August 2014, 00.28 Science
Nearby galaxy harbours rarest type of black hole
Astronomers in the US have used the flickering of X-rays to pin down the mass of a black hole in the nearby galaxy M82, finding the black hole to be about 400 times as massive as the Sun. This means it is of the rarest,
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Earth News Reports

Aerofex Develops a Working Hover Bike That’s Straight Out of Return of the Jedi!
Share on TumblrEmail How many of you watched Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and wished you had a speeder bike like the ones Luke and Leia race through the forests of Endor? Well, you may not have to wait much
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Local Motors 3D-Prints Incredible Full-Scale Car in Just 44 Hours!
Share on TumblrEmail Arizona-based Local Motors has succeeded in creating the world’s first 3D-printed car at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago. Called the Strati, the
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Stella McCartney, Livia Firth Launch Inaugural “Green Carpet Collection”
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU: Italian Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Praises Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge London Fashion Week Stella McCartney, Livia Firth Launch Inaugural “Green Carpet Collection” by Jasmin Malik Chua ,
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Chris Gelinas: Quality Clothes Can’t Be “Refreshed Every 15 Seconds”
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU: Dame Vivienne Westwood Pledges £1 Million to Tackle Climate Change Chris Gelinas: Quality Clothes Can’t Be “Refreshed Every 15 Seconds” by Jasmin Malik Chua , 09/15/14   filed under: Green
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This “Jetpack” Could Help You Run a Mile in 4 Minutes 15 September 2014, 21.20 Eco Fashions
This “Jetpack” Could Help You Run a Mile in 4 Minutes
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU: Solar-Powered Soldiers to Revolutionize Australian Combat Wearable Technology This “Jetpack” Could Help You Run a Mile in 4 Minutes by Bridgette Meinhold , 09/15/14   filed under: Wearable
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3 professional tools to create your own typeface 15 September 2014, 21.20 Green Architecture
3 professional tools to create your own typeface
As a graphic designer, creating and publishing fonts has always been something I wanted to do. While I was studying, I would often take a day to make a handwritten font, but I never found the time and courage to create a really
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8 themes to create a directory site with WordPress 15 September 2014, 21.20 Green Architecture
8 themes to create a directory site with WordPress
WordPress themes have made the designers’ work easier and simpler. They do not have to start from the scratch for building a website. The directory websites has also been a very important part in online business and wordpress
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12 great design freebies for your resources library 15 September 2014, 21.20 Green Architecture
12 great design freebies for your resources library
Design freebies are a blessing sent to us by the Internet and kind designers who are willing to share some of their work for free. Like other templates and downloadable items, these files allow you to save plenty of time
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7 jQuery plugins for better typography on screen 15 September 2014, 21.20 Green Architecture
7 jQuery plugins for better typography on screen
jQuery with a motto of write less, do more has made the life of programmers and developers much easier and time efficient with its several plugins. Web typography has never been an easy job unless we were introduced to the wide
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Are Swiss watchmakers really f*cked? 15 September 2014, 21.20 Green Architecture
Are Swiss watchmakers really f*cked?
So the iWatch is here, or Watch, as they call it. Honestly I’ve been a bit disappointed as I was expecting a real game-changer. Jony Ive was quoted saying that “Swiss watchmakers were f*cked”, so I did think
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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
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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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Neutrino trident production may offer powerful probe of new physics PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —The standard model (SM) of particle physics has four types of force carrier particles: photons, W and Z bosons, and gluons. But recently there has been renewed interest in the question of whether there might exist a new force, which, if confirmed, would result in an extension of the SM. Theoretically, the new force would be carried by a new gauge boson called Z' or the "dark photon" because this "dark force" would be difficult to detect, as it would affect only neutrinos and unstable leptons.

"Much of the complexity and beauty of our physical world depends on only four forces," Wolfgang Altmannshofer, a researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, told Phys.org. "It stands to reason that any additional new discovered will bring with it interesting and unexpected phenomena, although it might take some time to fully appreciate and understand its implications."

Now in a new study published in Physical Review Letters, Altmannshofer and his coauthors from the Perimeter Institute have shown that the parameter space where a new dark force would exist is significantly restricted by a rare process called neutrino trident production, which has only been experimentally observed twice.

In neutrino trident production, a pair of muons is produced from the scattering of a muon neutrino off a heavy atomic nucleus. If the new Z' boson exists, it would increase the rate of neutrino trident production by inducing additional particle interactions that would constructively interfere with the expected SM contribution.

The new force could also solve a long-standing discrepancy in the muon g-2 experiment compared to the SM prediction. By coupling to muons, the new force might solve this problem.

However, the two existing experimental results of neutrino trident production (performed by the CHARM-II collaboration and the CCFR collaboration) are both in good agreement with SM predictions, which places strong constraints on any possible contributions from a new force.

In the new paper, the physicists have analyzed the two experimental results and extended the support for ruling out a dark force, at least over a large portion of the parameter space relevant to solving the muon g-2 discrepancy (when the mass of the Z' boson is greater than about 400 MeV). The results not only constrain the dark force, but more generally any new force that couples to both muons and muon neutrinos.

"We showed that neutrino trident production is the most sensitive probe of a certain type of new force," Altmannshofer said. "Particle physics is driven by the desire to discover new building blocks of nature, and ultimately the principles that organize these building blocks. Our findings establish a new direction where new forces can be searched for, and highlight the planned neutrino facility at Fermilab (the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment [LBNE]) as a potentially powerful experiment where such forces can be searched for in the future."

Overall, the current results suggest that LBNE would have very favorable prospects for searching for the Z' boson in the relevant, though restricted, regions of parameter space.

Explore further: Rare neutrino scattering events shine light on the nature of matter

More information: Wolfgang Altmannshofer, et al. "Neutrino Trident Production: A Powerful Probe of New Physics with Neutrino Beams." PRL 113, 091801 (2014). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.091801

© 2014 Phys.org



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Machine learning algorithm makes impossible screening of advanced materials possible PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —A fundamental part of climate change response is expected to involve the discovery of advanced materials capable of cost-effectively capturing CO2 from burning fossil fuels. One particular class of materials, called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), have tremendous potential to revolutionize CO2 capture technologies. For example, MOFs have record-breaking high surface areas, so that one gram of solid can have two football fields of internal surface area to adsorb and later release CO2.

MOFs are formed from the building blocks made of metal ions and organic linkers. Because of the many types of that can be combined in different ways, there are literally billions of hypothetical MOF structures. Despite the fact that advanced computational simulations can accurately calculate the CO2 adsorption capacity of hypothetical MOFs, wading through all possible structures using compute-intensive simulations in order to identify the best candidate materials would take far too much time to make exhaustive screening practical.

To overcome this computing limitation, researchers at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario, have used tools to develop models that can rapidly identify the best performing MOFs for CO2 capture in a fraction of the time it would take to screen the entire database. By pre-screening for the top MOFs, the model greatly reduces the number of MOFs that require more intensive screening, and could decrease the overall computing time by an order of magnitude. The study is published in a recent issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

"The greatest significance of the work is that we have developed a way to enable huge libraries of candidate materials to be screened in a practical amount of time," Tom Woo, Professor at the University of Ottawa, told Phys.org. "This may eventually lead to the development of new materials that will make scrubbing CO2 from burning coal a practical and cost effective endeavor."

In the study, the researchers generated a database of 320,000 MOFs by combining various and organic linkers. Then they randomly selected 10% of the database to form the calibration set to train the new computer model using machine learning algorithms. Using the structure of the material, the model learned to classify MOFs as "high-performing" if the predicted CO2 uptake capacity exceeded a predetermined threshold value, or as "low-performing" if it did not. The machine learning models could classify a MOF in a fraction of a second whereas the compute intensive simulations used to predict the CO2 uptake could take hours to complete.

After the training process, the researchers tested the model on the remaining 290,000 MOFs of the database. All of these MOFs had previously been evaluated for CO2 uptake capacity by the compute-intensive simulations, allowing for a detailed analysis of the model's accuracy. The model was able to recover 945 of the top 1000 high performing MOFs while only flagging 10% of the database for more compute intensive screening.

Translating these recovery rates to a more concrete example, the researchers looked at the case of a database of 1.5 million MOFs generated from a relatively small set of components. Using the model to prescreen the database would flag just 150,000 structures while recovering about 95% of the actual high-performing candidates. This would reduce number of compute intensive simulations performed from 1.5 million to 150,000, thereby making a screening of the library feasible.

The approach could be applied more generally to large libraries of MOF structures for other applications, as long as data is available to calibrate the machine learning models.

"We are developing other machine learning models to screen for other gas separations important for clean energy applications, and we are using the models to screen the massive databases of materials we have created," Woo said.

Explore further: Free pores for molecule transport

More information: Michael Fernandez, et al. "Rapid and Accurate Machine Learning Recognition of High Performing Metal Organic Frameworks for CO2 Capture." The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. DOI: 10.1021/jz501331m

© 2014 Phys.org



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How did evolution optimize circadian clocks? PDF Print E-mail

(Phys.org) —From cyanobacteria to humans, many terrestrial species have acquired circadian rhythms that adapt to sunlight in order to increase survival rates. Studies have shown that the circadian clocks in some organisms have certain characteristics, such as multiple light input pathways, different gene expression patterns by different light pulses, and the presence of "dead zones" when the clock seems to become insensitive to light stimuli.

Now in a new study published in Physical Review Letters, Yoshihiko Hasegawa at The University of Tokyo and Masanori Arita at the National Institute of Genetics in Shizuoka and the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Kanagawa, all in Japan, have discovered new insight into these characteristics.

The scientists show that each of the above-mentioned experimental observations can be explained by a model that is based on the optimization of two trade-off properties: the "regularity" to keep time precisely, and the "entrainability" or flexibility to adjust the internal time to synchronize with daylight.

Simultaneously maximizing both properties is very difficult because high regularity means less flexibility to adjust, while high entrainability means more vulnerability to noise and thus less regularity.

"One key goal in chronobiology is to identify the primary selective pressure which demands the existing circadian oscillatory system," Hasegawa told Phys.org. "Our theory strongly indicates that entrainability and regularity are the primary selective pressures through evolution of the clock."

To optimize these two properties, the scientists derived a solution using optimal phase-response curves, which show how perturbations to the circadian rhythm can either delay or advance the cycle. Building on their previous research on phase-response curves, the researchers accounted for multiple light input pathways, in accordance with real circadian clocks.

The model provides several insights into circadian clocks at the molecular level. For instance, the model shows that role sharing between two input pathways yields a synchronization advantage, and agrees with experimental evidence for the advance and delay roles of two different input pathways.

The model also shows that long and short light pulses affect the expression of two different genes differently, also in agreement with experimentally observed . The scientists explain that, given that periodicity is widespread in genes, understanding circadian rhythms could have far-reaching consequences.

"Recent experimental studies suggested that expressions of more than half of genes in organs exhibit periodic patterns," Hasegawa said. "Therefore, the clock orchestrates most of our physiological activities, and hence unveiling biological mechanisms requires an understanding of circadian clocks."

In addition, the model shows that optimal circadian rhythms have , and even explains why human circadian rhythms appear not to have a dead zone. The reason is that the observed phase-response curve differs from the intrinsic one, which does in fact have a dead zone.

In the future, the model could lead to further insight into at both the molecular and behavioral levels.

"We are planning to use our theory to identify unknown light-sensitive molecules in the clock," Hasegawa said.

Explore further: Researchers obtain key insights into how the internal body clock is tuned

More information: Yoshihiko Hasegawa and Masanori Arita. "Optimal Implementations for Reliable Circadian Clocks." Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.108101

© 2014 Phys.org



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Try Kegel Exercises for Urinary Incontinence, New Guidelines Say PDF Print E-mail

woman, abdomen, stomach
Credit: Woman's abdomen photo via Shutterstock

Kegel exercises, bladder training and, in some cases, weight loss are effective ways to treat urinary incontinence in women, and should be tried before the use of drug treatments, according to new recommendations.

Urinary incontinence, or the involuntary release of urine, is a common problem that occurs in 44 to 57 percent of women ages 40 to 60, and 75 percent of women ages 75 and older, according to the guidelines, released by the American College of Physicians (ACP). The condition can cause embarrassment and emotional distress, and many women do not report their symptoms to their doctor, the ACP says.

The new guidelines review the benefits and risks of treatments for two types of urinary incontinence (UI): stress UI, or loss of urine that happens when laughing, coughing or sneezing; and urgency UI, or loss of urine after a sudden urge to urinate. [7 Embarrassing Health Problems]

For stress UI, the ACP recommends Kegel exercises, which are exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, or muscles that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. These are the muscles you would use to stop urination midstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Studies suggest that Kegel exercises are five times more effective as no treatment in improving UI symptoms in women with stress UI, the guidelines say. The ACP does not recommend drug treatments for women with stress UI, because these treatments have generally not been effective in treating the condition.

For women with urgency UI, the guidelines recommend bladder training, or attempting to urinate on a set schedule. Drug treatments are recommended for urgency UI only if bladder training does not work to improve symptoms, the ACP says. That's because drug treatments can cause side effects — including dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, headache, insomnia and dizziness — which can make it difficult for patients to keep taking the medication.

"Physicians should utilize nondrug treatments as much as possible for urinary incontinence," Dr. David Fleming, president of the ACP, said in a statement. "Although various drugs can improve UI and provide complete continence, adverse effects often lead many patients to stop taking their medication."

For women who have a combination of stress UI and urgency UI, the guidelines recommend Kegel exercises along with bladder training. For women who are obese, the ACP also recommends weight loss and exercise. The guidelines do not address surgical treatments, which may be an option in cases in which conservative treatments have not been effective.

"Urinary incontinence is a common problem for women that is often underreported and underdiagnosed," Fleming said. Because many women with UI don't tell their doctor about their symptoms, "physicians should take an active approach and ask specific questions," to see if their patients have UI symptoms that are bothering them.

The recommendations are published today (Sept. 15) in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Some researchers have suggested the Kegel exercises can also help with achieving orgasm, but the evidence for this claim is mixed; some studies show the exercises by themselves don't help improve women's sexual function.

Follow Rachael Rettner @Rachael Rettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Is Wearable Tech Changing Behavior? PDF Print E-mail

google glasses, wearable technology
You lookin’ at me?
Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Are you being recorded? Thanks to the ubiquity of CCTV and camera phones, the answer is more than ever before likely to be “Yes”. Add to this the growth of wearable technology such as Google Glass and people are increasingly exposed to devices that can monitor and record them, whether they realise it or not.

The privacy implications are obvious, but also interesting to psychologists such as myself, are how such invasions of privacy – real or perceived – change the way people behave in everyday life.

My colleagues and I have been examining the ways people change their behaviour when they are being recorded. In a typical psychology experiment, participants are aware that they are being watched, and a range of equipment monitors their responses, from computers and cameras to eye-trackers and electrodes. Do people in this scenario behave the same way as they’d behave, unwatched, in everyday life? While this may be true for some people and some behaviour, it is not in all cases. Thankfully, with some ingenuity, we can investigate whether being monitored changes how people behave. This should be a crucial topic for psychologists.

Research using eye-tracking devices, led by Eleni Nasioupolous and Alan Kingstone from the University of British Columbia, Evan Risko at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and myself, provides a good example. In several situations participants were left alone in a room with a calendar featuring a scantily-clad female, behind which lay a hidden spy camera. When people were free of any recording device, they usually looked at the calendar. However, when they wore an eye-tracking device, which records the wearer’s field of view and their eye movements within it (just like Google Glass) they stopped behaving naturally and avoided looking at the saucy image.

In other words they were aware that what they were looking at was being watched and changed their behaviour accordingly. This reinforces our natural assumption that we can’t take for granted that people will behave normally when they know they’re being watched, both in lab experiments and when using wearable technology out in the world.

Those aware that what they are looking at is being monitored seem to act in a more socially acceptable manner, something that is consistent with a range of behavioural research. The presence of others leads us to act in a way that converges with social norms. Security cameras – even a picture of someone’s eyes – can have the same effect by implying that someone is watching.

In our recent paper published in the British Journal of Psychology we varied the amount of time that people had to get used to wearing the eye-tracker. Surprisingly, we found that even after only 10 minutes of wearing the equipment, users essentially forgot about being monitored and started acting normally again. Soon enough the socially acceptable behaviour associated with being watched dissipated and they again spent time, for example, looking at the calendar.

But while the implied social presence of another watching the participant’s behaviour wore off surprisingly quickly, when they were reminded that they were wearing the eye-tracker they once more reverted to a socially acceptable pattern of behaviour and averted their eyes.

So what does this mean for privacy in the age of Google Glass and other wearable smart devices? We shouldn’t assume that people will be sufficiently self-aware to regulate what they’re doing while using wearable technology. Our research shows that users can easily forget that they are recording (or being recorded) and even with the best intentions could violate the privacy of others.

This is good news for those of us who seek to measure and understand natural behaviour, and particularly for using eye-trackers to achieve this. However it could be bad news for those who champion the use of wearable computing in everyday life. With even short periods of use, people may stop being aware of their own actions and in doing so end up recording things they would rather not be seen – look away now if you value your privacy.

Tom Foulsham receives funding from The British Academy.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

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Are You a Supertaster? PDF Print E-mail

taste, senses, tastebuds, supertaster
If some foods weird out your taste buds, read on to see if you fall in the ‘supertaster’ quarter of the population.
Credit: parkydoodles/Flickr (cropped), CC BY-NC-SA

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

There are natural variations between humans in our senses. We need different prescriptions to correct our eyesight. Some people say that vinyl sounds better than CDs or MP3s and will pay big money for audio equipment, while others can’t tell the difference.

So what about taste and smell? Many of us have heard of supertasters, but why – and how – do they exist? And how can you tell if you’re one too?

Strictly speaking, the word “taste” refers to the five primary tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

There is some evidence for other primary tastes, with fat most likely to be the next to be recognised. Others include calcium and metallic, although the latter is often due to various disorders or conditions.

It’s the bitter taste that started all of this supertaster stuff. In 1931, American chemist Arthur Fox accidentally released a cloud of phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) powder into his laboratory. Some of this cloud went into Fox’s mouth, and that of one of his colleagues. His colleague complained that it tasted intensely bitter, while Fox tasted nothing.

They tasted it again, with the same result. Fox went on to get others to taste PTC. He found that some found it intensely bitter, some mildly bitter, and others could not taste anything.

taste, senses, tastebuds, supertaster

Credit: dogtooth77/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

These differences in perception are partly due to the nature of the receptors in your mouth, which differ depending on your genes. The gene that codes for the PTC receptor exists in two common forms (and a few rare forms), which result in bitterness proteins with slightly different shapes. This, in turn, has an effect on how sensitive you are to bitterness – but that’s not the end of the story.

The term ‘supertaster’ is born

These days, chemosensory scientists use 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP or PTU) instead of PTC. PTC is a little bit toxic, so beware of taste and smell scientists such as Fox approaching you and asking you to “taste this”.

In 1991, American psychologist Linda Bartoshuk conducted experiments using PROP. She coined the term “supertasters” for people who found PROP intensely bitter, and the term stuck.

During these experiments, Bartoshuk noticed that these supertasters had a more dense covering of structures that contain taste buds (known as fungiform papillae) on their tongue. She concluded that the number of receptors is important, too. You can actually use this information to test if you are a supertaster.

Counting tastebuds, taste, supertaster

By using food dye, count the number of taste buds in an area the size of a hole punch to see if you’re a supertaster.
Credit: Jeff Potter/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Fewer than 15 tastebuds in an area the size of a hole punch indicates a “non-taster”, between 15 and 35 means you fall in the average range, while if you have more than 35 tastebuds in that area, you’re a supertaster.

About one in four of us is a supertaster, one in four is a non-taster (such as Fox) and the rest of us are “medium” or “average” tasters. The proportions vary a little by culture and there is some variation within each group.

Supertasting is not restricted to bitterness. Supertasters often report that sweet or sour tastes are more intense. Salt appears to be a bit of a different beast – it seems that supertasters actually consume more salt, possibly because it masks bitterness.

taste, senses, tastebuds, supertaster, gas mask

Credit: TheGiantVermin/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

You may already have an inkling if you are a supertaster based on the foods that you like. If you find coffee too bitter for your tastes, you may be a supertaster.

You may be thinner because you have a healthier diet. This is because you avoid sugar and fat (although this all depends on what you consider a healthy diet to be – there seems to be a new story every week).

But being a supertaster might also put you off healthy bitter foods, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or asparagus.

While bitterness is important for some foods (such as chocolate), we generally reject bitter foods because poisonous things are usually bitter. At least one study suggests that supertasters do indeed eat fewer bitter vegetables.

Fortunately for asparagus farmers, scientists have developedbitter blockers”. So, kids of the world, you may not be able to use the supertaster excuse for avoiding your vegetables. Parents – thank me later. Kids – my sincere apologies.

Are there supersmellers?

We have five (or so) primary tastes, but there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a primary smell. Instead, our olfactory system can discriminate between thousands of different smells due to loads of different receptors, all coded for by specific genes.

Different people have different genes. Given the number of different types of receptors involved, the chances of having dinner with someone with the same set of receptors as you are quite low.

taste, senses, tastebuds, supertaster

Shiraz and pepper both contain rotundone.
Credit: Roland Tanglao/Flickr, CC BY

Just like Fox and co’s different experiences of PTC, our experiences of smell (and therefore our perceptions of flavour) vary.

Rotundone is the main chemical responsible for the smell of pepper (called a character impact odorant). It’s pretty strong and yet about 25% of the population can’t detect it at all, while still being able to detect other smells.

Rotundone is an interesting case because it’s also present in many wines made from the grape Shiraz (or Syrah). These wines are often noted for their spicy or peppery characteristics. So when wine experts describe a Shiraz as peppery, they’re not making it up – it contains the same chemical as pepper.

So are some people more sensitive to smell? Sure, just as some are more sensitive to taste, to light (such as Bono, who claims to have sensitive eyes) and to other stimuli.

Our senses of taste and smell are essentially little chemistry labs that conduct loads of experiments to determine which chemicals are present in food, drinks and air. But not all chemistry labs are created equal – some of us have equipment that others don’t have and can therefore detect different chemicals. And for some of us, our equipment is more sensitive.

So next time you’re having an argument with someone over dinner about whether the meal is any good, keep in mind that their experience is probably very different to yours.

Alex Russell does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

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Watch Live! Colossal Squid Undergoes Autopsy PDF Print E-mail

Tonight in New Zealand one of just two intact colossal squid, housed at the New Zealand Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, is undergoing a live autopsy. The giant sea beast was recently caught in the Ross Sea.

Scientists, including Aaron Boyd Evans, a post-graduate researcher at Auckland University of Technology, will be involved in the autopsy.

Before beginning the autopsy, scientists had to defrost the beast, and just to deliver the colossal squid from the freezer to a tank of cold water, several scientists, a forklift and a hose were needed.

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Southwest's Earthquake Spike Linked to Injection Wells PDF Print E-mail

fracking
A drilling rig used for fracking.

A dramatic increase in earthquakes in a small region of New Mexico and Colorado was triggered by the underground disposal of wastewater, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

There was a 40-fold increase in earthquakes in the area since 2001, compared to over the last three decades, the researchers found. The series of quakes includes Colorado's largest shaker since 1967 — the magnitude-5.3 earthquake that struck Trinidad, Colorado, on Aug. 22, 2011 — which cracked walls and toppled chimneys.

"It's been a pretty remarkable increase in earthquakes," said lead study author Justin Rubinstein, a USGS geophysicist in Menlo Park, California. [The 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History]

Just a handful of high-volume injection wells are responsible for the earthquakes in the region, known as the Raton Basin, according to the study published today (Sept. 15) in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. There is no evidence linking the earthquakes to hydraulic fracturing, Rubinstein said. "I'm not aware of any fracking that's occurring in the area," he told Live Science.

The research adds to growing scientific evidence that high-volume wastewater injection wells cause earthquakes in certain settings. Oklahoma was outpacing California in earthquakes earlier this year — a spike that several previous studies attributed to injection wells. But most of the 680,000 disposal wells in the United States aren't rattling their neighbors.

Many scientists and regulators think monitoring injection wells with seismometers could help quell the strongest shaking, by turning down the volume before big quakes strike. States such as Oklahoma are considering rules to lower pumping volumes when earthquakes start up near wells.

Rubenstein said the injection rates for Raton Basin wells were higher than those at Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal, where geologists first proved in 1967 that pumping fluids underground could trigger earthquakes. One Raton Basin well was forcing more than 480,000 barrels of water (about 57.2 million liters) into the ground per day.

The Raton Basin is a series of contorted rock and coal layers in the Rocky Mountain foothills. Energy companies drilling for methane in the region will sometimes hydraulically fracture, or frack, the rock to help gas and water flow more easily toward wells. Mostly, operators simply pump water out of the coal to force natural gas toward the surface.

The excess groundwater is then pushed back underground via deep disposal wells. The amount of water injected into the basin tripled between 1999 and 2004, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

As was documented in Oklahoma, earthquake rates in New Mexico and Colorado got a boost when oil and gas companies turned up the tap on their injection wells. The frequency of earthquakes increased shortly after a jump in the number of barrels per day.

The first earthquake swarm hit near Trinidad, Colorado, from August to September 2001. The remote region was rattled by 11 magnitude-3 earthquakes and two magnitude-4 earthquakes in a month. The researchers pinned the blame on a single high-volume injection well.

Another seismic spike started 10 years later, between August and September 2011. The swarm culminated in the region's largest earthquake in decades, the magnitude-5.3 Trinidad earthquake. Two adjacent injection wells were blamed for this quake cluster, according to the study.

Small earthquakes continued to strike the region occasionally after each quake cluster died down. Since 2001, there have been 16 earthquakes larger than magnitude-3.8 in the Raton Basin, compared to only one in the previous 30 years, the researchers said. All of these quakes occurred within 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) of wastewater injection wells.

"The earthquakes are centered right on these injection wells," Rubinstein said.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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'Global Selfie' Project Will Beam Earthling Message to Space PDF Print E-mail

New Horizons Spacecraft
An illustration of the New Horizons spacecraft as it approaches Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

WAIMEA, Hawaii — A new project aims to send a special message from Earth — a type of global "selfie" — into space, by uploading it to a spacecraft traveling through the cosmos on its way to Pluto.

Led by Hawaii-based artist Jon Lomberg, the so-called One Earth project aims to beam pictures, sounds and other data representing the planet's inhabitants to NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.

"Why not make a crowdsourced self-portrait of Earth?" Lomberg told a crowd Friday (Sept. 12) here at HawaiiCon, a science, sci-fi and fantasy conventionon the Big Island of Hawaii. Sci-fi celebrities from popular TV series and local astronomy experts mingled with convention attendees at the three-day event. [Destination Pluto: NASA's New Horizons Mission in Pictures]

Famed astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake first had the idea of sending a message from Earth to space in the form of a plaque on NASA's Pioneer spacecraft. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were launched in 1972 and 1973, respectively, and were the first probes to explore the area around Jupiter and Saturn.

"The idea that we might not be alone in the universe was important to Carl," Lomberg said.

Lomberg worked with Sagan and Drake to put together the Golden Records for NASA's twin Voyager probes, which launched in 1977 and are still streaking through space. In fact, scientists reported last year that the Voyager 1 spacecraft may have exited the solar system into interstellar space. The gramophone records flying aboard both probes are etched with drawings, photos and diagrams of human biochemistry and other features that would tell would-be aliens about humans and life on Earth.

NASA's latest voyaging probe, the New Horizons spacecraft, will fly by Pluto in 2015, on its way out of the solar system. But unlike Voyager and Pioneer, the New Horizons probe is not carrying any information about Earth and its inhabitants.

Lomberg dreamed up the idea of beaming a message to the spacecraft that could be carried out into the galaxy. But instead of the message being generated by only a few scientists and artists, Lomberg wanted this one to reflect people from around the world.

But to convince NASA to accept this idea, Lomberg and his collaborators had to get people to sign a petition. He collected responses from around the world, with more than 140 countries represented in the online petition. Interestingly, about 10 percent of the first 10,000 signatures came from Pacific islands. "There must be something that resonates with the [voyaging] culture of [the] Pacific," Lomberg said.

NASA accepted the proposal and has agreed to set aside 100MB for the crowdsourced content on the New Horizons probe, after the spacecraft finishes capturing images of Pluto. So now that the project has been approved, where do you start?

Lomberg envisions having people from around the world, including kids, submit photos and other forms of media online. But he also wants to include contributions from people who don't have access to the Internet, such as tribes in the Kalahari Desert in Africa.

Submissions could span a range of subjects, from humans to other animals to objects within the solar system. But Lomberg and his team also want to include images that reveal the dark side of Earth, such as pictures of famine or the atomic bomb. To deny humanity's problems would create a dishonest picture of Earth, Lomberg said.

"We don't know how long [the message] will last," and most likely, it will never be found, Lomberg said. But besides E.T., the message has another audience: the people of Earth, he said.

Editor's Note: This story was generated during a trip paid for by the Hawaii Tourism Bureau.

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Armored Trucks, Unborn Birds Go Airborne, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week PDF Print E-mail

Me And Comet 67-P, J-Chillin’

The Rosetta spacecraft beamed this to Earth on Sunday: an over-the-shoulder selfie with its intended. Visible are the comet toward which Rosetta has travelled for more than a decade, the edge of the craft, and one of its ~46-foot solar panels. The mission team is now reviewing possible landing sites on the comet’s surface.

European Space Agency/OSIRIS Team

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Like Sassy Teenagers, Atoms Talk Back PDF Print E-mail

If you talk to an artificial atom, it turns out the atom will say something back to you. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hear it.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have communicated with an artificial atom in a lab. When they fed their atom extremely high frequency sound energy, the atom regurgitated the energy back to them in the form of sound waves. The researchers were then able to record these auditory rumblings with high-tech audio equipment, as the sounds were too high to be heard by human ears.

This absorption/emission interaction is very similar to how atoms interact with light. When a photon of light gets close enough to an atom, sometimes the atom will gobble it up, absorbing the photon into its body. However, atoms aren’t very good at holding this energy for long, so they usually spit it back out in the form of a light particle.

This concept has been extensively studied in the field of quantum optics, but it’s the first time scientists have demonstrated such an interaction between artificial atoms and sound. Their study, published in the journal Science, provides researchers with a better understanding of the laws of quantum physics, which they hope to harness one day for making extremely fast computers.

Of course, these are artificial atoms doing the talking, not the natural ones -- but they get pretty close. Artificial atoms are like tiny electrical circuits that exhibit quantum mechanical properties. Technically, they are a collection of atoms, acting together as one big atom. Researchers like using artificial atoms for research, as they can easily change the atoms’ properties to suit their needs.

For this experiment, the Chalmers researchers placed an artificial atom on a specialized microchip. “What’s unique about this microchip is it’s a crystal that’s able to convert electrical energy to sound energy,” Martin Gustafsson, one of the researchers, tells Popular Science. And vice versa. So when electrical signals were applied to the device, they were converted to sound waves, traveling like ripples on the surface of the chip.

Then, when the waves reached the atom, the atom absorbed the energy and spit it back out, sending sound waves back across the microchip. The frequency of these sound waves was approximately 4.8 gigahertz; in musical terms, that translates to a D28, or 20 octaves above the highest note on a grand piano. To reach that note, you’d have to extend the piano 10 feet to the right.

Although these sound waves are too high for us puny humans, they are actually 100,000 times slower than light waves. Because of this, Gustafsson says working with sound opens up new possibilities for controlling quantum processes. “That means you have some chance to change settings or retune an atom while the sound particle is spreading,” he says. “With light, it’s moving so fast, you don’t have that time, and it’s difficult to keep control.”

Additionally, the artificial atoms are about 20 times larger than the wavelength of the sound used, affording the researchers much more control over the atom’s properties during experiments.

For now, Gustafsson says there are no real-world applications for their work yet, and that their study is more of a “curiosity driven piece of research.” But ultimately, understanding how atoms interact with sound is just one step in the researchers’ larger goal: dominating quantum mechanics -- a branch of physics that involves studying physical phenomena at tiny scales. Some processes of quantum mechanics have already been tapped for making super fast computers, but the field as a whole is still very much a mystery to scientists.

“What we have here is one tool in a toolbox for trying to generally get quantum mechanics to be something that we can control ourselves,” says Gustafsson.

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Top Dogs: Movies May Determine Which Pups Are Most Popular PDF Print E-mail

The Conversation

Did watching 101 Dalmatians instill you with a burning desire to fill your home with dozens of monochrome puppies? A new study suggests that may often be the case. The research suggests that all those great canine characters in films have been a prominent influence on the popularity of a breed among dog owners.

The impact of 29 films released in the United States was examined, each featuring a different dog breed. Classics such as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Fox and the Hound (1981) and Beethoven (1992) were all judged to have influenced people’s choice of dogs. The study traces the popularity of the featured breeds for up to ten years after the film’s release.

The authors used the records of the American Kennel Club, which has been recording the numbers of registration for each dog breed since 1927, and keeps the largest such dog registry in the world. Looking at the effect of films released between 1927 and 2005, the study shows that the number of registrations of a particular breed rose significantly following the release of a film in which the breed had been featured.

Let’s look at an obvious example. The numbers of collies rose from 2331 registered in 1943, the year when Lassie Come Home was released, to 20,006 registered a decade later. The film, which focuses on the relationship between young Joe and his beloved dog Lassie, traces faithful Lassie’s long and difficult journey back to her dear owner after being sold by his family.

The films analysed covered quite a spread of breeds. Other factors you might assume come into play when choosing a dog, such as temperament or health, seemed not to affect the scale of these trends. Alberto Acerbi, one of the authors of the study and Newton Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, said: “It seems to be pure fashion.”

A connection between the number of film views in the first weekend after its release and the rise in the popularity of the dog breed featured was observed. The study shows that earlier films generally created more widespread trends than the more recent films. The authors conjecture that this could be linked to the rise of home video, as well as the increase in the number of films released featuring dogs each year.

The impact of the films is perceivable, gradually, creating long-term rather than short-term trend changes. Out of the 29 examined cases, 14 show that the popularity of a breed reached its peak ten years after its feature in a film, rather than immediately following the film’s release. So apparently films are capable of influencing long-lasting preferences and inclinations in their audiences.

David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, took a look at the research. He said:

This is a nice use of statistics, as they take into account existing trends before the film, but the results are perhaps not so surprising. Just as Toy Story can sell Buzz Lightyear toys, so 101 Dalmatians can make families want spotty dogs.

So maybe it seems obvious that Lassie made a good name for Collies, or that children started to feel very protective over Dalmatians. But such analysis of causes and patterns behind seemingly random trends further demonstrates just how much fictional narratives influence our beliefs and actions.

“The results can be seen as representative of the general great impact of film on trends,” observes Tom van Laer, consumer researcher at ESCP Europe Business School. Indeed, a similar tendency is evident in the way numerous babies have been named after characters from the Marvel films, the Harry Potter series and television shows such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad.

In a recent article, van Laer writes about 76 different studies, which together show that individuals more thoroughly transported into the world of a narrative are more likely to adopt the outlooks and principles of the story.

Many of the films in which dogs play the central part are intended for children. Van Laer said that “under seven or eight years, immersion in fictional narratives is achieved more easily and thoroughly by children". He emphasized that stories are central to children’s development and such immersions in fictional worlds in childhood have deeper and more lasting effects.

But Acerbi warns against taking the results of the paper as proof that our personal choices are to some extent always determined by the media and entertainment we consume:

I do not think social influence is an all-encompassing force. Perhaps choices like dog breeds, or names, are quite ‘neutral’, so their popularity can be influenced by the presence in a movie. But this is less true for other choices with bigger consequences.

Others would disagree. One political scientist recently argued that the values promoted in Harry Potter influenced the politics of its fans. So Homeward Bound may champion the values of friendship and loyalty, and 101 Dalmatians the evils of the fur trade, but be sure to be careful about watching The Ugly Dachshund with your kids unless you want a Great Dane.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Is A Simulated Brain Conscious? PDF Print E-mail

Imagine standing in an open field with a bucket of water balloons and a couple of friends. You've decided to play a game called "Mind." Each of you has your own set of rules. Maybe Molly will throw a water balloon at Bob whenever you throw a water balloon at Molly. Maybe Bob will splash both of you whenever he goes five minutes without getting hit -- or if it gets too warm out or if it's seven o'clock or if he's in a bad mood that day. The details don't matter.

That game would look a lot like the way neurons, the cells that make up your brain and nerves, interact with one another. They sit around inside an ant or a bird or Stephen Hawking and follow a simple set of rules. Sometimes they send electrochemical signals to their neighbors. Sometimes they don't. No single neuron "understands” the whole system.

Now imagine that instead of three of of you in that field there were 86 billion -- about the number of neurons in an average brain. And imagine that instead of playing by rules you made up, you each carried an instruction manual written by the best neuroscientists and computer scientists of the day -- a perfect model of a human brain. No one would need the entire rulebook, just enough to know their job. If the lot of you stood around, laughing and playing by the rules whenever the rulebook told you, given enough time you could model one or two seconds of human thought.

Here's a question though: While you're all out there playing, is that model conscious? Are its feelings, modeled in splashing water, real? What does "real" even mean when it comes to consciousness? What's it like to be a simulation run on water balloons?

These questions may seem absurd at first, but now imagine the game of Mind sped up a million times. Instead of humans standing around in a field, you model the neurons in the most powerful supercomputer ever built. (Similar experiments have already been done, albeit on much smaller scales.) You give the digital brain eyes to look out at the world and ears to hear. An artificial voice box grants Mind the power of speech. Now we're in the twilight between science and science fiction. ("I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.")

Is Mind conscious now?

Now imagine Mind's architects copied the code for Mind straight out of your brain. When the computer stops working, does a version of you die?

These queries provide an ongoing puzzle for scientists and philosophers who think about computers, brains, and minds. And many believe they could one day have real world implications.

Dr. Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at MIT and author of the blog Shtetl-Optimized, is part of a group of scientists and philosophers (and cartoonists) who have made a habit of dealing with these ethical sci-fi questions. While most researchers concern themselves primarily with data, these writers perform thought experiments that often reference space aliens, androids, and the Divine. (Aaronson is also quick to point out the highly speculative nature of this work.)

Many thinkers have broad interpretations of consciousness for humanitarian reasons, Aaronson tells Popular Science. After all, if that giant game of Mind in that field (or C-3PO or Data or Hal) simulates a thought or a feeling, who are we to say that consciousness is less valid than our own?

In 1950 the brilliant British codebreaker and early computer scientist Alan Turing wrote against human-centric theologies in his essay “Computing Machinery and Intelligence:”

Thinking is a function of man's immortal soul [they say.] God has given an immortal soul to every man and woman, but not to any other animal or to machines. Hence no animal or machine can think.

I am unable to accept any part of this … It appears to me that the argument quoted above implies a serious restriction of the omnipotence of the Almighty. It is admitted that there are certain things that He cannot do such as making one equal to two, but should we not believe that He has freedom to confer a soul on an elephant if He sees fit? ... An argument of exactly similar form may be made for the case of machines.

"I think it's like anti-racism," Aaronson says. "[People] don't want to say someone different than themselves who seems intelligent is less deserving just because he’s got a brain of silicon.”

According to Aaronson, this train of thought leads to a strange slippery slope when you imagine all the different things it could apply to. Instead, he proposes finding a solution to what he calls the Pretty Hard Problem. "The point," he says, "is to come up with some principled criterion for separating the systems we consider to be conscious from those we do not."

A lot of people might agree that a mind simulated in a computer is conscious, especially if they could speak to it, ask it questions, and develop a relationship with it. It's a vision of the future explored in the Oscar-winning film Her.

Think about the problems you'd encounter in a world where consciousness were reduced to a handy bit of software. A person could encrypt a disk, and then instead of Scarlett Johannsen's voice, all Joaquin Phoenix would hear in his ear would be strings of unintelligible data. Still, somewhere in there, something would be thinking.

Aaronson takes this one step further. If a mind can be written as code, there's no reason to think it couldn't be written out in a notebook. Given enough time, and more paper and ink than there is room in the universe, a person could catalogue every possible stimulus a consciousness could ever encounter, and label each with a reaction. That journal could be seen as a sentient being, frozen in time, just waiting for a reader.

“There’s a lot of metaphysical weirdness that comes up when you describe a physical consciousness as something that can be copied,” he says.

The weirdness gets even weirder when you consider that according to many theorists, not all the possible minds in the universe are biological or mechanical. In fact, under this interpretation the vast majority of minds look nothing like anything you or I will ever encounter. Here's how it works: Quantum physics -- the 20th century branch of science that reveals the hidden, exotic behavior of the particles that make up everything -- states that nothing is absolute. An unobserved electron isn't at any one point in space, really, but spread across the entire universe as a probability distribution; the vast majority of that probability is concentrated in a tight orbit around an atom, but not all of it. This still works as you go up in scale. That empty patch of sky midway between here and Pluto? Probably empty. But maybe, just maybe, it contains that holographic Charizard trading card that you thought slipped out of your binder on the way home from school in second grade.

As eons pass and the stars burn themselves out and the universe gets far emptier than it is today, that quantum randomness becomes very important. It's probable that the silent vacuum of space will be mostly empty. But every once in a while, clumps of matter will come together and dissipate in the infinite randomness. And that means, or so the prediction goes, that every once in a while those clumps will arrange themselves in such a way perfect, precise way that they jolt into thinking, maybe just for a moment, but long enough to ask, "What am I?"

These are the Boltzmann Brains, named after the nineteenth-century physicist Ludwig Boltzmann. These strange late-universe beings will, according to one line of thinking, eventually outnumber every human, otter, alien and android who ever lived or ever will live. In fact, assuming this hypothesis is true, you, dear reader, probably are a Boltzmann Brain yourself. After all, there will only ever be one "real' version of you. But Boltzmann Brains popping into being while hallucinating this moment in your life -- along with your entire memory and experiences -- they will keep going and going, appearing and disappearing forever in the void.

In his talk at IBM, Aaronson pointed to a number of surprising conclusions thinkers have come to in order to resolve this weirdness.

You might say, sure, maybe these questions are puzzling, but what’s the alternative?  Either we have to say that consciousness is a byproduct of any computation of the right complexity, or integration, or recursiveness (or something) happening anywhere in the wavefunction of the universe, or else we’re back to saying that beings like us are conscious, and all these other things aren’t, because God gave the souls to us, so na-na-na.  Or I suppose we could say, like the philosopher John Searle, that we’re conscious, and ... all these other apparitions aren’t, because we alone have 'biological causal powers.'  And what do those causal powers consist of?  Hey, you’re not supposed to ask that!  Just accept that we have them.  Or we could say, like Roger Penrose, that we’re conscious and the other things aren’t because we alone have microtubules that are sensitive to uncomputable effects from quantum gravity. [Aaronson points out elsewhere in the talk that there there is no direct or clear indirect evidence to support this claim.]  But neither of those two options ever struck me as much of an improvement.

Instead, Aaronson proposes a rule to help us understand what bits of matter are conscious and what bits of matter are not.

Conscious objects, he says, are locked into "the arrow of time." This means that a conscious mind cannot be reset to an earlier state, as you can do with a brain on a computer. When a stick burns or stars collide or a human brain thinks, tiny particle-level quantum interactions that cannot be measured or duplicated determine the exact nature of the outcome. Our consciousnesses are meat and chemical juices, inseperable from their particles. Once a choice is made or an experience is had, there's no way to truly rewind the mind to a point before it happened because the quantum state of the earlier brain can not be reproduced.

When a consciousness is hurt, or is happy, or is a bit too drunk, that experience becomes part of it forever. Packing up your mind in an email and sending it to Fiji might seem like a lovely way to travel, but, by Aaronson's reckoning, that replication of you on the other side would be a different consciousness altogether. The real you died with your euthanized body back home.

Additionally Aaronson says you shouldn't be concerned about being a Boltzmann Brain. Not only could a Boltzmann Brain never replicate a real human consciousness, but it could never be conscious in the first place. Once the theoretical apparition is done thinking its thoughts, it disappears unobserved back into the ether -- effectively rewound and therefore meaningless.

This doesn't mean us bio-beings must forever be alone in the universe. A quantum computer, or maybe even a sufficiently complex classical computer could find itself as locked into the arrow of time as we are. Of course, that alone is not enough to call that machine conscious. Aaronson says there are many more traits it must have before you would recognize something of yourself in it. (Turing himself proposed one famous test, though, as Popular Science reported, there is now some debate over its value.)

So, you, Molly, and Bob might in time forget that lovely game with the water balloons in the field, but you can never unlive it. The effects of that day will resonate through the causal history of your consciousness, part of an unbroken chain of joys and sorrows building toward your present. Nothing any of us experience ever really leaves us.

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Using 'Doom' To Design A Room PDF Print E-mail

Remember that early ‘90s horror-themed video game, Doom, where you roamed around a Martian landscape, killing everything in sight? Well, now the game isn’t just for shooting demons and zombie Marines anymore. A construction company called DIRTT (which stands for Doing It Right This Time) is using software based on the old Doom engine to blueprint hospital walls and office spaces. They’re hoping the technology will eradicate the two most expensive words in the construction industry.

“The two words are ‘change order,’” Scott Jenkins, the president of DIRTT, tells Popular Science. Order changes often happen when construction crews run into unexpected problems, or when contractors underestimate the labor and resources they’ll need to get a job done. DIRTT is hoping to forestall these problems with the help of their Doom engine-based software, named ICE. “We’re going to have cost certainty with ICE,” Jenkins says. 

“We’re going to have cost certainty with ICE.”

The Doom engine is a computer program that can render 2-D blueprints into a 3-D space. Because the engine is open-source, DIRTT was able to adapt it for their own needs--for example, ICE “melts” with other design softwares, including AutoCAD. An engineer or an architect can use ICE to mock up a room, and create a live data set for every aspect of a space, including the electrical engineering, millwork, and piping. When those blueprints are taken into the shop, everything is constructed at the same time and put together so that there are no inconsistencies. Instead of working on each component at different times by different people, they're all done at once by the same machine.

DIRTT says that this process greatly reduces inefficiencies and waste, and decreases the time it takes to construct an interior. “Because of ICE, we don’t have separate teams of manufacturers trying to coordinate with ordered engineering,” says Jenkins. “You’d have to build the materials separately and then put them together later. That’s all electronic for us.” 

Once assembled in the shop, the walls are shipped flat by truck to the construction site. When the panels arrive at their destination, they’re popped into pre-cut aluminum frames which will hold the wall panels upright in the finished building. 

In total, manufacturing and shipping happens in under three weeks. According to Jenkins, it took 11 days to build out the new Levi Strauss headquarters -- an operation that normally would have taken upwards of three months. 

But it’s not only the speed at which the walls are built that’s helpful. Jenkins explains that some buildings, such as hospitals, may need to reconfigure their interior panels quickly to make way for another patient with different needs. Not only that, but they need to be sensitive to rapid technology changes as well. “Hospitals are making decisions for what goes into an intensive care unit 10 years in advance,” says Jenkins. Which is why DIRTT also offers modular walls that are flexible and can be interchanged, like toy blocks. “Our clients should be able to repurpose our walls to reflect those changes.” 

Despite the company’s advancements in construction technology, however, it hasn’t been able to design for the residential market just yet. But DIRTT's videogame background is coming into play once again they are now exploring how the Oculus Rift and other virtual reality viewing systems may integrate with the ICE software -- to further simplify the design process and add more flexibility for homes in the future. Says Jenkins: “Imagine, if you slapped on those Oculus glasses, you could view what changes to make as if you were in the room.”

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Want Your Crops To Survive Extreme Heat and Drought? Add Fungus PDF Print E-mail

The global population continues to grow, and climate change is already tangibly reducing food harvests. Can agriculture adapt to be both more productive and more resilient?

One answer to that question may be "add fungus.” Issie Lapowsky reports today for WIRED that a Seattle-based startup named Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies is almost ready to put a fungi-based product on the market that enables rice, corn, and other crops to bear up amazingly well during drought and temperature extremes.

According to Lapowsky, the product, called BioEnsure, is a blend of microscopic fungi that Dr. Rusty Rodriguez and his wife, Dr. Regina Redman, first discovered in the 1990s. They had been trying to figure out how some plants were able to grow in the barren soil and peak 150 degree-Fahrenheit temperatures at the center of Yellowstone National Park. They discovered that fungi had colonized the plants and essentially lent them extra resilience. When the fungi were removed in the lab, the plants failed under the same heat.

Since 2008 Redman has been tweaking fungi blends to work with wheat, soybeans, rice, and corn crops.

BioEnsure has been proven in real-world conditions, Lapowsky writes:

During the drought that destroyed much of the cropland in the Midwest in 2012, for instance, BioEnsure-treated corn crops generated 85 percent more yield than plants that were not treated. And in temperate climates, BioEnsure has been proven to increase output by 3 to 20 percent. What’s more, says [AST vice president of business development Zachery] Grey, BioEnsure appears to be particularly effective on organic crops, which aren’t treated with chemicals and other additives for protection.

AST has been nominated (along with 16 other contestants) for a Securing Water for Food award by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The young company's next big hurdle may not be extreme weather, reports Lapowsky, but the influence of the agriculture-industrial complex that reaps massive profits from chemicals that BioEnsure could render unnecessary.

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New analysis rescues quantum wave-particle duality PDF Print E-mail

A basic principle of quantum mechanics has been reaffirmed. Stop the presses. (Or start the tweeting.)

In 2012, experimenters in Germany had supposedly shown that you could observe both wave and particle properties of light in one experiment. That result defied the principle of wave-particle duality: waves can sometimes be particles (and particles can sometimes be waves), but never both at the same time. But now a new paper, published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revalidates duality, a pillar in the explanation of quantum mysteries developed by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr in the 1920s.

It’s no surprise, really, for quantum physics to withstand another assault. It would have been shocking if duality had really been overturned. Bohr’s principle requiring the mutual exclusiveness of wave and particle properties in a single experiment had survived many previous challenges. And duality was part of Bohr’s more general principle of complementarity, an idea he developed to address the crises afflicting physics with the rise of quantum mechanics.

When Bohr developed his famous quantum model of the hydrogen atom in 1913, hope was high that the new quantum physics, introduced by Max Planck in 1900, would solve key problems without creating news ones. But Bohr realized otherwise. He knew his atom was a stopgap; atoms more complicated than hydrogen needed an entirely new and more radical recasting of physical theory. And as Bohr and his followers, including Werner Heisenberg,  took on the challenge of the atom, other physicists (notably Einstein) worried more about the quantum aspects of radiation. That’s how the wave-particle conundrum crashed the quantum party.

Einstein caused the most trouble. He argued that light traveled through space in the form of particles (later called photons), despite all the evidence to the contrary. Since the early 1800s, most physicists had believed that light consisted of waves, thanks to a famous experiment by Thomas Young. If you shoot light through a barrier with two slits in it onto a surface behind the barrier, you’ll see alternating bands of light and shadow, Young showed. That’s because the waves passing through the different slits interfere with each other, causing brightening in some spots and darkening in others. Had light been made of particles, no such interference would have occurred.

But a century later, Einstein insisted that only photons could explain the photoelectric effect, in which light hitting a metal causes the metal to eject electrons. Eventually Einstein won the Nobel Prize for that paper, although nobody believed him when he published it in 1905.

By the 1920s, though, Einstein didn’t seem so dumb. Experiments on X-rays (basically high-energy light) showed that they carry momentum just like particles do Shortly thereafter, other experiments began to show that electrons, supposedly particles, display properties of waves.

You’d think something as strange as that — particles posing as waves — would have been a shocking experimental surprise, sending theorists scrambling to explain it. But as so often happens in science, the theorists had already figured it out. In this case, the pioneer theorist was Louis de Broglie. He was intrigued by quantum physics and was also a fan of Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which had established the equivalence of mass and energy.

De Broglie had no problem with Einstein’s idea about particles of light. After all, light is electromagnetic radiation, or energy. If energy is equivalent to mass, then it didn’t seem so strange for light to exhibit the properties of particles. But then de Broglie carried that reasoning one step further. If energy (waves) can behave like mass (particles), then why not the other way around?

De Broglie arrived at this insight by realizing the importance of frequency. Early work by Planck and then Einstein had established the key quantum relationship of energy to frequency — energy is simply equal to frequency multiplied by Planck’s constant. In other words, higher-frequency light (or electromagnetic energy more generally) possesses more energy. X-rays, for example, are a high-energy form of radiation with frequency much higher (meaning wavelength much shorter) than visible light.

So if frequency is connected to energy, and energy and mass are the same thing, then masses also should be related to a frequency, de Broglie reasoned. He declared that there must therefore exist “a certain periodic process, of an as yet not more clearly specified nature, which must be assigned to each isolated portion of energy” — that is, particle. And so, he decided, you could assign “to the uniform movement of each material point . . . the propagation of a certain wave, the phase of which propagates in space with a velocity greater than that of light.”

Whoa – faster than light? That would defy Einstein’s relativity, wouldn’t it? Not in this case, de Broglie pointed out, because these waves did not themselves carry any energy. The superposition of these mysterious waves, though, produced another wave that would travel at precisely the same velocity as the particle. So the “traveling energy” carried by the particle could also be viewed as energy being transported by a wave.

De Broglie worked out his idea in 1923 and published his thesis about it in 1924. In 1926, the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger expanded the wave idea to explain the properties of electrons in atoms, in the version of quantum physics known as wave mechanics.

Schrödinger believed the electrons in atoms were simply waves, their orbits consisting of integral numbers of wavelengths. But even before Schrödinger, Heisenberg had worked out an equivalent mathematical description of electrons in atoms, in which the electrons were clearly particles. And despite the new experiments showing wave properties for electrons, all the older evidence that electrons are particles still stood. Same for light, which was still a wave when you wanted it to be, even if it sometimes showed up as particles.

Faced with these issues, Bohr developed his complementarity principle in 1927. He asserted that some mutually exclusive views of nature could both be true, just not at the same time. His prime example was the wave-particle duality. In any given experiment, light (or an electron) could be one or another, but never both.

Bohr illustrated his point with a famous thought experiment analogous to Young’s double-slit demonstration of the wave nature of light. With only one slit in a barrier, electrons would behave like particles, hitting the detector surface at individual points, with no bands of brightness or darkness indicating interference. But with a second slit, the electrons would interfere, producing interference bands. Simple.

But here’s the quantum catch. Even if you sent individual electrons through the barrier one at a time, the presence of the second slit guaranteed an interference pattern — even though each electron could go through only one of the slits. (By the way, it was just a thought experiment in Bohr’s day, but real experiments later confirmed that Bohr was right.)

Bohr’s explanation relied on the fact that even though an electron passed through only one slit, the presence of the second slit meant you (the experimental observer) did not know which slit the electron passed through. If you knew that, you’d be sure it was a particle, and the interference pattern would not materialize. In other words, you could not know which path the electron took (making it a particle) and also observe interference (making it a wave).

That’s just what the 2012 experiment challenged, in a complicated experiment (using photons instead of electrons) in which it seemed you could detect interference and also get information about the photon’s path. But the new paper, by Eliot Bolduc of the University of Ottawa in Canada, with Robert Boyd of Ottawa and the University of Rochester in New York and other collaborators, reanalyzed the challenge and found a flaw.

In real experiments, the relationship between path knowledge and interference is complicated by the presence of the environment. You wouldn’t want to work out the math at home, but the bottom line is that you can have an experiment offering both high probability of predicting the path and high probability of observing the interference. You can choose to measure the part of the environment with the best information about the path, or the part of the environment with the highest visibility of interference fringes. But to test duality, you have to make sure your measurements are equally sensitive to all the possible states of the system (a requirement called “fair sampling”). Bolduc, Boyd and colleagues demonstrated that the 2012 experiment violated the fair sampling rule.

“We show how biased sampling can cause an apparent violation of the duality principle,” they wrote in PNAS. “According to our analysis, the duality principle in its standard form is safe and sound.”

Follow me on Twitter: @tom_siegfried

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Mass EKG screening for athletes inadvisable, panel says PDF Print E-mail

FROM THE HEART  The lines of an electrocardiogram like this one might help signal a danger of sudden cardiac death. But the test’s use in screening has been debated for more than a decade.

T.K. Rajab et al/J. Cardiothorac. Surg. 2010 (CC BY 2.0) 

Mass screening young athletes for hidden heart defects using electrocardiograms isn’t justified by the evidence, according to a scientific statement released September 15 by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. Universal EKG screening would potentially cost about $2 billion in the first year and risk both false-negative and false-positive results, the authors caution.

The recommendation is the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over whether widespread EKG screening could prevent sudden cardiac death (SN: 4/5/14, p. 22). Some countries already employ universal EKG screening programs for sports participation, and advocates have argued that the practice could identify young athletes in danger before they collapse. One frequently cited estimate suggests that 1 out of every 200,000 high school athletes dies suddenly in the United States each year.

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Evidence for new Higgs-related particle fades away PDF Print E-mail

Previous data hinted that the Higgs boson might decay into something new to physics

12:42pm, September 15, 2014

ATLAS detector at Large Hadron Collider

DASHED HOPES  The ATLAS detector, seen here during construction of the Large Hadron Collider in 2007, weighs about as much as the metallic structure of the Eiffel Tower. A close look at data from the LHC finds no evidence that the Higgs boson decays into a new, unknown particle.

ATLAS Experiment © 2014 CERN

A fresh analysis of data from the particle collider that delivered the Higgs boson has dashed physicists’ sliver of hope that another new particle had emerged from the subatomic shrapnel.

“We’ve learned that there’s no obvious Godzilla particle hiding with the Higgs,” says Tim Tait, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Irvine. “Now we’re going to have to look for more subtle signs of new particles.” Discovering particles beyond the Higgs could help physicists understand mysterious components of the universe such as dark matter, which holds galaxies together yet does not absorb, reflect or emit light.

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