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A new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body could offer a lower power and more secure way to communicate information between wearable electronic devices than Bluetooth, according to electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego.
While this work is still a proof-of-concept demonstration, researchers envision developing it into an ultra low power wireless system that can easily transmit information around the human body. An application of this technology would be a wireless sensor network for full-body health monitoring.
“In the future, people are going to be wearing more electronics, such as smart watches, fitness trackers and health monitors. All of these devices will need to communicate information with each other. Currently, these devices transmit information using Bluetooth radios, which use a lot of power to communicate. We’re trying to find new ways to communicate information around the human body that use much less power,” said Patrick Mercier, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego who led the study. Mercier also serves as the co-director of the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors.
Bluetooth technology uses high-frequency electromagnetic radiation to transmit data; at those frequencies, radio signals do not easily pass through the human body, so they require a power boost to help overcome this signal obstruction, or “path loss.”
Lower power consumption
In this study, electrical engineers demonstrated a technique called “magnetic field human body communication,” which uses the body as a vehicle to deliver magnetic energy between electronic devices. An advantage of this system is that magnetic fields are able to pass freely through biological tissues, so signals are communicated with much lower path losses and potentially, much lower power consumption.
In their experiments, researchers demonstrated that the magnetic communication link works well on the body, but they did not test the technique’s power consumption. Researchers showed that the path losses associated with magnetic field human body communication are upwards of 10 million times lower than those associated with Bluetooth radios.
“This technique, to our knowledge, achieves the lowest path losses out of any wireless human body communication system that’s been demonstrated so far. This technique will allow us to build much lower power wearable devices,” said Mercier.
Lower power consumption also leads to longer battery life. “A problem with wearable devices like smart watches is that they have short operating times because they are limited to using small batteries. With this magnetic field human body communication system, we hope to significantly reduce power consumption as well as how frequently users need to recharge their devices,” said Jiwoong Park, a Ph.D student in Mercier’s Energy-Efficient Microsystems Lab at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and first author of the study.
The researchers also pointed out that this technique does not pose any serious health risks. Since this technique is intended for applications in ultra low power communication systems, the transmitting power of the magnetic signals sent through the body is expected to be many times lower than that of MRI scanners and wireless implant devices.
Another potential advantage of magnetic field human body communication is that it could offer more security than Bluetooth networks. Because Bluetooth radio communicates data over the air, anyone standing within 30 feet can potentially eavesdrop on that communication link. On the other hand, magnetic field human body communication employs the human body as a communication medium, making the communication link less vulnerable to eavesdropping. With this technique, researchers demonstrated that magnetic communication is strong on the body but dramatically decreases off the body. To put this in the context of a personal full-body wireless communication network, information would neither be radiated off the body nor be transmitted from one person to another.
“Increased privacy is desirable when you’re using your wearable devices to transmit information about your health,” said Park.
A proof-of-concept prototype
The researchers built a prototype to demonstrate the magnetic field human body communication technique. The prototype consists of copper wires insulated with PVC tubes. On one end, the copper wires are hooked up to an external analyzer and on the other end, the wires are wrapped in coils around three areas of the body: the head, arms and legs. These coils serve as sources for magnetic fields and are able to send magnetic signals from one part of the body to another using the body as a guide. With this prototype, researchers were able to demonstrate and measure low path loss communication from arm to arm, from arm to head, and from arm to leg.
Researchers noted that a limitation of this technique is that magnetic fields require circular geometries in order to propagate through the human body. Devices like smart watches, headbands and belts will all work well using magnetic field human body communication, but not a small patch that is stuck on the chest and used to measure heart rate, for example. As long as the wearable application can wrap around a part of the body, it should work just fine with this technique, researchers explained.
The engineers presented their findings Aug. 26 at the 37th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in Milan, Italy.
If you sleep six hours a night or less a night, you are 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold (five hours or less, 4.5 times more likely) compared to those who sleep more than seven hours in a night.
That’s the finding of a study by Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and researchers from UC San Francisco and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Published in the journal Sleep, the researchers used objective sleep measures. For the study, 164 adults underwent two months of health screenings, interviews and questionnaires to establish baselines for factors like stress, temperament, and alcohol and cigarette use. The researchers also tracked their sleep patterns for seven days using a watch-like sensor that measured the duration and quality of sleep throughout the night.
Then, the participants were sequestered in a hotel, administered the cold virus via nasal drops and monitored for a week, collecting daily mucus samples to see if the virus had taken hold.
“Sleep goes beyond all the other factors that were measured,” Prather said. “It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn’t matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day and was an overwhelmingly strong predictor for susceptibility to the cold virus.”
Aric Prather, assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF and lead author of the study, said the study shows the risks of chronic sleep loss better than typical experiments in which researchers artificially deprive subjects of sleep, because it is based on subjects’ normal sleep behavior. “This could be a typical week for someone during cold season,” he said.
Sleep should be treated as a crucial pillar of public health, along with diet and exercise, the researchers said.
Abstract of Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold
Short sleep duration and poor sleep continuity have been implicated in the susceptibility to infectious illness. However, prior research has relied on subjective measures of sleep, which are subject to recall bias. The aim of this study was to determine whether sleep, measured behaviorally using wrist actigraphy, predicted cold incidence following experimental viral exposure.
Design, Measurements, and Results:
A total of 164 healthy men and women (age range, 18 to 55 y) volunteered for this study. Wrist actigraphy and sleep diaries assessed sleep duration and sleep continuity over 7 consecutive days. Participants were then quarantined and administered nasal drops containing the rhinovirus, and monitored over 5 days for the development of a clinical cold (defined by infection in the presence of objective signs of illness). Logistic regression analysis revealed that actigraphy- assessed shorter sleep duration was associated with an increased likelihood of development of a clinical cold. Specifically, those sleeping < 5 h (odds ratio [OR] = 4.50, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08–18.69) or sleeping between 5 to 6 h (OR = 4.24, 95% CI, 1.08–16.71) were at greater risk of developing the cold compared to those sleeping > 7 h per night; those sleeping 6.01 to 7 h were at no greater risk (OR = 1.66; 95% CI 0.40–6.95). This association was independent of prechallenge antibody levels, demographics, season of the year, body mass index, psychological variables, and health practices. Sleep fragmentation was unrelated to cold susceptibility. Other sleep variables obtained using diary and actigraphy were not strong predictors of cold susceptibility.
Shorter sleep duration, measured behaviorally using actigraphy prior to viral exposure, was associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold.
The Department of Energy has approved the start of construction for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera — the world’s largest — at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries.
Assembled at the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera will be the eye of LSST.
Starting in 2022, LSST will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a high mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile. It will produce a wide, deep, and fast survey of the night sky, cataloging by far the largest number of stars and galaxies ever observed.
During a 10-year time frame, LSST will detect tens of billions of objects and will create movies of the sky with unprecedented details.
The telescope’s camera — the size of a small car and weighing more than three tons — will capture full-sky images at such high resolution that it would take 1,500 high-definition television screens to display just one of them.
Components of the camera are being built by an international collaboration of universities and labs, including DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Building and testing the camera will take approximately five years.
SLAC is also designing and constructing the NSF-funded database for the telescope’s data management system. LSST will generate a vast public archive of data — approximately 6 million gigabytes per year, or the equivalent of shooting roughly 800,000 images with a regular 8-megapixel digital camera every night, albeit of much higher quality and scientific value. This data will help researchers study the formation of galaxies, track potentially hazardous asteroids, observe exploding stars, and better understand dark matter and dark energy, which together make up 95 percent of the universe but whose natures remain unknown.
The National Research Council’s Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey, Astro2010, ranked the LSST as the top ground-based priority for the field for the current decade. The recent report of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel of the federal High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, setting forth the strategic plan for U.S. particle physics, also recommended completion of the LSST.
Funding for the camera comes from the DOE, while financial support for the telescope and site facilities, the data management system, and the education and public outreach infrastructure of LSST comes primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
A high-efficiency, sustainable process using solar and carbon dioxide to produce methane for natural gas
A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a hybrid system that produces hydrogen and uses it (via microbes) to synthesize carbon dioxide into methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.
“We can expect an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50 percent and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10 percent if our system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer,” says Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study.
“Natural photosynthesis, a solar-to-chemical energy conversion process that combines light, water, and CO2 to make biomass, operates at less than 1% efficiency,” UC Berkeley prof. Chris Chang explained to KurzweilAI. “We have now done a order of magnitude better than nature in this artificial photosynthesis system, albeit in one prototype system where we make methane,” he said. “The advance is that most artificial photosynthesis systems only use light and water, and operate at lower efficiencies to boot. The ability to incorporate CO2 fixation is also a big advance.”
Yang, who also holds appointments with UC Berkeley and the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute (Kavli-ENSI) at Berkeley, is one of three corresponding authors of a paper describing this research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Solar energy, a sustainable source of energy, is used to generate hydrogen from water via the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). The HER is catalyzed by earth-abundant nickel sulfide nanoparticles that operate effectively under biologically compatible conditions.
“Water is the most sustainable starting feedstock for hydrogen,” Chang said. In comparison, “most hydrogen now comes from hydrocarbons, which gives off CO2.”
“We selected methane as an initial target owing to the ease of product separation, the potential for integration into existing infrastructures for the delivery and use of natural gas, and the fact that direct conversion of carbon dioxide to methane with synthetic catalysts has proven to be a formidable challenge,” said Chang.
“Since we still get the majority of our methane from natural gas, a fossil fuel, often from fracking, the ability to generate methane from a renewable hydrogen source (solar) is another important advance.”
Abstract of Hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion
Natural photosynthesis harnesses solar energy to convert CO2 and water to value-added chemical products for sustaining life. We present a hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion in which sustainable electrical and/or solar input drives production of hydrogen from water splitting using biocompatible inorganic catalysts. The hydrogen is then used by living cells as a source of reducing equivalents for conversion of CO2 to the value-added chemical product methane. Using platinum or an earth-abundant substitute, α-NiS, as biocompatible hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) electrocatalysts and Methanosarcina barkeri as a biocatalyst for CO2 fixation, we demonstrate robust and efficient electrochemical CO2 to CH4 conversion at up to 86% overall Faradaic efficiency for ≥7 d. Introduction of indium phosphide photocathodes and titanium dioxide photoanodes affords a fully solar-driven system for methane generation from water and CO2, establishing that compatible inorganic and biological components can synergistically couple light-harvesting and catalytic functions for solar-to-chemical conversion.
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People over age 50 are scoring better on cognitive tests than people of the same age did in the past — a trend that could be linked to higher education rates and increased use of technology in our daily lives, according to a new study published in an open-access paper in the journal PLOS ONE. But the study also showed that average physical health of the older population has declined.
The study, by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, relied on representative survey data from Germany that measured cognitive processing speed, physical fitness, and mental health in 2006 and again in 2012.
It found that cognitive test scores increased significantly within the six-year period (for men and women and at all ages from 50 to 90 years), while physical functioning and mental health declined, especially for low-educated men aged 50–64. The survey data was representative of the non-institutionalized German population, mentally and physically able to participate in the tests.
Cognition normally begins to decline with age, and is one key characteristic that demographers use to understand how different population groups age more successfully than others, according to IIASA population experts.
Previous studies have found elderly people to be in increasingly good health — “younger” in many ways than previous generations at the same chronological age — with physical and cognitive measures all showing improvement over time. The new study is the first to show divergent trends over time between cognitive and physical function.
“We think that these divergent results can be explained by changing lifestyles,” says IIASA World Population Program researcher Nadia Steiber, author of the PLOS ONE study. “Life has become cognitively more demanding, with increasing use of communication and information technology also by older people, and people working longer in intellectually demanding jobs. At the same time, we are seeing a decline in physical activity and rising levels of obesity.”
A second study from IIASA population researchers, published last week in the journal Intelligence found similar results, suggesting that older people have also become smarter in England.
“On average, test scores of people aged 50+ today correspond to test scores from people 4–8 years younger and tested 6 years earlier,” says Valeria Bordone, a researcher at IIASA and the affiliated Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.
The studies both provide confirmation of the “Flynn effect” — a trend in rising performance in standard IQ tests from generation to generation. The studies show that changes in education levels in the population can explain part, but not all of the effect.
“We show for the first time that although compositional changes of the older population in terms of education partly explain the Flynn effect, the increasing use of modern technology such as computers and mobile phones in the first decade of the 2000s also contributes considerably to its explanation,” says Bordone.
The researchers note that while the findings apply to Germany and England, future research may provide evidence on other countries.
IIASA | Rethinking population aging
Abstract of Population Aging at Cross-Roads: Diverging Secular Trends in Average Cognitive Functioning and Physical Health in the Older Population of Germany
This paper uses individual-level data from the German Socio-Economic Panel to model trends in population health in terms of cognition, physical fitness, and mental health between 2006 and 2012. The focus is on the population aged 50–90. We use a repeated population-based cross-sectional design. As outcome measures, we use SF-12 measures of physical and mental health and the Symbol-Digit Test (SDT) that captures cognitive processing speed. In line with previous research we find a highly significant Flynn effect on cognition; i.e., SDT scores are higher among those who were tested more recently (at the same age). This result holds for men and women, all age groups, and across all levels of education. While we observe a secular improvement in terms of cognitive functioning, at the same time, average physical and mental health has declined. The decline in average physical health is shown to be stronger for men than for women and found to be strongest for low-educated, young-old men aged 50–64: the decline over the 6-year interval in average physical health is estimated to amount to about 0.37 SD, whereas average fluid cognition improved by about 0.29 SD. This pattern of results at the population-level (trends in average population health) stands in interesting contrast to the positive association of physical health and cognitive functioning at the individual-level. The findings underscore the multi-dimensionality of health and the aging process.
Abstract of Smarter every day: The deceleration of population ageing in terms of cognition
Cognitive decline correlates with age-associated health risks and has been shown to be a good predictor of future morbidity and mortality. Cognitive functioning can therefore be considered an important measure of differential aging across cohorts and population groups. Here, we investigate if and why individuals aged 50+ born into more recent cohorts perform better in terms of cognition than their counterparts of the same age born into earlier cohorts (Flynn effect). Based on two waves of English and German survey data, we show that cognitive test scores of participants aged 50+ in the later wave are higher compared with those of participants aged 50+ in the earlier wave. The mean scores in the later wave correspond to the mean scores in the earlier wave obtained by participants who were on average 4–8 years younger. The use of a repeat cross-sectional design overcomes potential bias from retest effects. We show for the first time that although compositional changes of the older population in terms of education partly explain the Flynn effect, the increasing use of modern technology (i.e., computers and mobile phones) in the first decade of the 2000s also contributes to its explanation.
NASA will stream the launch live starting at 11:45 PM east coast time.
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TL;DR: Stupid people are stupid.
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