Temperature and ecology: Rival Chilean barnacles keep competition cool

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:39pm
A lot of research shows that temperature can strongly influence species interactions and sometimes shape the appearance and functioning of biological communities. That's why a newly published finding that changes in temperature did not alter the competitive balance of power between two rival species of Chilean barnacles is an ecological surprise.
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Developmental gene influences sperm formation, fruit fly model demonstrates

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:38pm
The basic regulatory mechanisms of stem cell differentiation have been under investigation using the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly as a model organism. Researchers were able to show how a special developmental gene from the Hox family influences germline stem cells. These cells are responsible for sperm formation. The scientists found that impairment of Hox gene function resulted in prematurely aged sperms.
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Drawing the map of West African Internet

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:38pm
Internet has nowadays become a booster of development. This knowledge sharing space allows people to communicate with ease anywhere and anytime, and it considerably reduces the prices of services while opening new horizons for progress: e-government, e-education, telemedicine, e-commerce, research, e-companies, remote assistance, e-tourism, etc. Its adoption and rapid expansion lower the rate of poverty in some developing countries, hence considered to be emergent.
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Jupiter will be at its highest point in the sky for many years to come

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:38pm
In just over a week, Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will be at its highest point in the sky for many years to come. Near their closest to Earth, Jupiter and its moons will appear obvious in the sky, offering fantastic opportunities to view the giant planet through a telescope.
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Early warning system for epidemics: Risk map correlates environmental, health data

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:38pm
The environment has an impact on our health. Preventing epidemics relies on activating the right counter-measures, and scientists are now trying to find out how better use of forecasting can help. The EU’s EO2HEAVEN project developed a risk map for correlating environmental and health data in order to identify where a disease may break out next.
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Some employers find excuses to fire pregnant employees

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:37pm
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it illegal in the United States for a woman to be fired just because she is pregnant. But that doesn’t stop it from happening, according to new research by two sociologists. What employers do to get around the law is vilify pregnant women as poor performers and tardy employees while also pointing to seemingly fair attendance policies and financial costs, their research shows. Pregnancy discrimination only compounds other gender-based employment inequalities women face in the workplace in areas such as hiring, wages and harassment, the authors argue.
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Physical therapy intervention reduces injury in custodial workers

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:37pm
An intervention to help minimize workplace injury for custodial workers, and decrease the costs associated, has been developed by a doctoral student. Repetitive motion injuries are a growing problem in the US, resulting in an average of 23 days away from work – three times the number of days from other injuries. Shoulder injuries are the most common repetitive motion injury reported and the second most frequent injury experienced by janitors and custodial workers. The program, which includes employers, occupational health, physical therapy, and the employee, are expected to make an impact and save costs while reducing personal injury.
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Significant increase in overdoses involving heroin in Kentucky, research finds

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:37pm
Emergency department overdose visits involving heroin climbed 197 percent, and heroin-related deaths climbed 207 percent in Kentucky in 2012, while benzodiazepines were associated with the highest number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations, according to new analysis. The spike in drug abuse and overdoses involving heroin is not unique to Kentucky. According to American data, the number of heroin users increased by up to 80 percent from 2007 to 2012. Many experts suspect a connection between increased heroin use and decreasing non-medical prescription opiate abuse.
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Heart in Darkness | Space Wallpaper

Space.com - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:20pm
This fascinating Chandra X-Ray Observatory space wallpaper of the young star cluster NGC 346 highlights a heart-shaped cloud of 8 million-degree Celsius gas in the central region.
Categories: Science

Making Sure Our Lab Equipment Isn't Tricking Us

Slashdot - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:20pm
An anonymous reader writes "In a newly published paper, MIT researchers propose an experiment that may close the last major loophole of Bell's inequality. The test is to see whether, as far-fetched as it sounds, a particle detector's settings conspire with events in the shared past to determine which properties of a particle to measure — a scenario that implies that a physicist running the experiment does not have complete free will in choosing each detector's setting. MIT’s David Kaiser says, 'It sounds creepy, but people realized that's a logical possibility that hasn't been closed yet. Before we make the leap to say the equations of quantum theory tell us the world is inescapably crazy and bizarre, have we closed every conceivable logical loophole, even if they may not seem plausible in the world we know today?' The test involves quasars, telescopes, and lots of deep, deep space. It was published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters (pre-print available at the arXiv)."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Space History Photo: Dr. Robert Goddard

Space.com - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 3:00pm
Dr. Robert Goddard, namesake for the Goddard Space Flight Center, is known as a pioneer in American Rocketry.
Categories: Science

A new micro-robotic technique for 3D-printing tissues

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 2:50pm

Two-dimensional micro-robotic coding of hydrogels for bioprinting (credit: S. Tasoglu et al., Nature Communications)

A new magnetic micro-robotic technique for assembling components of the complex materials used in tissue engineering* and 3D printing of cell materials has been developed by Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Carnegie Mellon University.

Described in Nature Communications, the technique allows for precise construction of individual cell-encapsulating hydrogels (such as cell blocks).

Described in the Jan. 28, 2014, issue of Nature Communicationsthe research was conducted by Savas Tasoglu, PhD, MS, research fellow in the BWH Division of Renal Medicine, and Utkan Demirci, PhD, MS, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Biomedical Engineering, part of the BWH Department of Medicine, in collaboration with Eric Diller, PhD, MS, and Metin Sitti, PhD, MS, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University.

The current process for “bioprinting” cells for tissues or organs (such as a pancreas) is limited because the process can’t be modified  or reversed. For example, misplacement of an ejected droplet or clogging can cause bioprinting to fail, the researchers say in the paper.

“Moreover, simultaneous coding of rigid and soft micro-components into 3D functional materials has presented a significant challenge,” the researchers said in the paper.

Micro-robotic construction of hydrogels

Motion of untethered magnetic micro-robot and coding of building units, for example, soft hydrogels or rigid micro-components. Scale bar, 1 mm. (Credit: S. Tasoglu et al./Nature Communications)

The researchers demonstrated that micro-robotic construction of cell-encapsulating hydrogels (used for used as scaffolds or supports for cells) can be performed without affecting cell vitality and proliferation.  The micro-robot, which is remotely controlled by magnetic fields, can move one hydrogel at a time to build structures. This is critical in tissue engineering, as human tissue architecture is complex, with different types of cells at various levels and locations.

They spatiotemporally coded a heterogeneous group of objects including rigid copper bars, polystyrene beads, silicon chiplets, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) blocks, and cell-encapsulating hydrogels in a fluid environment suitable for cell growth and culture.

Combining soft and rigid materials

This approach offers high precision in 2D and 3D, as well as the capability to code a combination of soft and rigid materials together, according to the researchers. The coding resolution is tens of microns and can be adjusted with the size of the micro-robot and the resolution of real-time imaging.

Numerous micro-robots can also be used together in creating a design that can be used by a bioprinter to generate tissue and other complex materials in the laboratory environment.

“Our work will revolutionize three-dimensional precise assembly of complex and heterogeneous tissue-engineering building blocks and serve to improve complexity and understanding of tissue engineering systems,” said Metin Sitti, professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Robotics Institute and head of CMU’s NanoRobotics Lab.

Broad applications in medicine, microscale manufacturing

“The coding and manipulation methodology developed here can find broad applications in areas such as diagnostics, regenerative medicine, microphysiological system engineering, pharmaceutical research, biological research, and microscale manufacturing,” Demirci explained to KurzweilAI in an email interview.

“The microrobot can scan among cells, manipulate them, remove targets or change their orientation at a scale what we could not control before. It can be thought of as a microscale tweezer that can pick and move cells and cellular aggregates in a 3-D fashion.

“Few of the previous [tissue-engineering] methods have shown the manipulation of building blocks (e.g., cell-encapsulating hydrogels) with a high precision at tens of microns, and none of them has yet presented the coding of a group of soft and rigid materials together with reconfigurability. There is no existing method to really manipulate cells or cell aggregates one by one with control over time and position. It can place a single cell encapsulating cell or a cell aggregate relative to another complex structure and place it precisely.

“This technology can be commercially available as a 3-D printer where you can supply various cell types and aggregates and the microrobot will precisely place them in a 3-D configuration. This allows one to be able to create scaffold-free high-cell-density constructs that mimic the native microenvironment and microarchitecture for applications for in vitro testing of drugs. An automated, simpler user interface control of micro-robot can be the first component to be integrated for making it a product for wider use in broad applications.”

* Tissue engineering and 3D printing have become vitally important to the future of medicine for many reasons. The shortage of available organs for transplantation, for example, leaves many patients on lengthy waiting lists for life-saving treatment. Being able to engineer organs using a patient’s own cells can alleviate this shortage and also address issues related to rejection of donated organs. Developing therapies and testing drugs using current preclinical models have limitations in reliability and predictability. Tissue engineering provides a more practical means for researchers to study cell behavior, such as cancer cell resistance to therapy, and test new drugs or combinations of drugs to treat many diseases.

Abstract of Nature Communications paper

Complex functional materials with three-dimensional micro- or nano-scale dynamic compositional features are prevalent in nature. However, the generation of three-dimensional functional materials composed of both soft and rigid microstructures, each programmed by shape and composition, is still an unsolved challenge. Here we describe a method to code complex materials in three-dimensions with tunable structural, morphological and chemical features using an untethered magnetic micro-robot remotely controlled by magnetic fields. This strategy allows the micro-robot to be introduced to arbitrary microfluidic environments for remote two- and three-dimensional manipulation. We demonstrate the coding of soft hydrogels, rigid copper bars, polystyrene beads and silicon chiplets into three-dimensional heterogeneous structures. We also use coded microstructures for bottom-up tissue engineering by generating cell-encapsulating constructs.

Categories: Science

Schneier: Break Up the NSA

Slashdot - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 2:36pm
New submitter BrianPRabbit writes "Bruce Schneier proposes 'breaking up' the NSA. He suggests assigning the targeted hardware/software surveillance of enemy operations to U.S. Cyber Command. Further, the NSA's surveillance of Americans needs to be scaled back and placed under the control of the FBI. Finally, he says, is 'the deliberate sabotaging of security. The primary example we have of this is the NSA's BULLRUN program, which tries to "insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems, IT systems, networks and endpoint communication devices." This is the worst of the NSA's excesses, because it destroys our trust in the Internet, weakens the security all of us rely on and makes us more vulnerable to attackers worldwide. .... [T]he remainder of the NSA needs to be rebalanced so COMSEC (communications security) has priority over SIGINT (signals intelligence). Instead of working to deliberately weaken security for everyone, the NSA should work to improve security for everyone.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

A Robotic Arm Paints Dazzling Sculptures of Light

Wired News - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 2:30pm
Luxo the robot spins and waves its arm to paint 3-D light paintings that look like streaks from a firework.

Categories: Science

S. Korea's Cyberwar Against N. Korea's Nukes

Slashdot - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 1:53pm
An anonymous reader writes "Yonhap News Agency reports that South Korea has announced it is developing offensive cyber-capabilities to target North Korea's nuclear facilities. Yonhap speculates the tools will be similar to the Stuxnet computer virus the U.S. used against Iran's uranium enrichment program. A report in The Diplomat questions this assertion, noting that a Stuxnet-like virus would only temporarily disrupt Pyongyang's ability to build more nuclear weapons, while doing nothing to address its existing ones. Instead, The Diplomat suggests Seoul is interested in developing cyber-capabilities that temporarily disable North Korea's ability to launch nuclear missiles, which would be complement Seoul's efforts to develop precision-guided missiles to preemptively destroy Pyongyang's nuclear and missile facilities."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

From Bird Flu to Big Farms: The Rise of China's Agriculture

Wired News - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 1:30pm
As a novel strain of avian influenza rapidly spreads through China, scientists consider the dangers posed by the country's large animal farms and agricultural practices.
Categories: Science

How to catch a derelict satellite

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 1:27pm

Netting a derelict satellite (artist’s impression) (credit: ESA)

A future ESA mission called e.DeOrbit plans to capture derelict satellites adrift in orbit, part of ESA’s Clean Space initiative — an effort to control space debris to reduce the environmental impact of the space industry on Earth and space alike.

Risks of space junk

Distribution of debris: all human-made space objects result from the near-5000 launches since the start of the space age. About 65% of the catalogued objects, however, originate from break-ups in orbit – more than 240 explosions – as well as fewer than 10 known collisions. Scientists estimate the total number of space debris objects in orbit to be around 29 000 for sizes larger than 10 cm, 670 000 larger than 1 cm, and more than 170 million larger than 1 mm. (Click twice for full-size image) (Credit: ESA)

Decades of launches have left Earth surrounded by a halo of space junk: more than 17 000 trackable objects larger than a coffee cup, which threaten working missions with catastrophic collision. Even a 1 cm nut could hit with the force of a hand grenade.

Such uncontrolled multi-ton items are not only collision risks but also time bombs: they risk exploding due to leftover fuel or partially charged batteries heated up by orbital sunlight. The resulting debris clouds would make these vital orbits much more hazardous and expensive to use, and follow-on collisions may eventually trigger a chain reaction of breakups.

The only way to control the debris population across key low orbits is to remove large items such as derelict satellites and launcher upper stages.

Targeting key orbits

Space debris removal mission: simulations of orbital debris show that actively removing large items of debris, such as entire derelict satellites, should help stabilise its population and prevent a collision-based cascade effect. ESA has performed a system study for an Active Debris Removal mission called e.Deorbit. (Credit: ESA)

e.DeOrbit is designed to target debris items in well-trafficked polar orbits, between 800 km to 1000 km altitude. At around 1600 kg, e.DeOrbit will be launched on ESA’s Vega rocket.

The first technical challenge the mission will face is to capture a massive, drifting object left in an uncertain state, which may well be tumbling rapidly. Sophisticated imaging sensors and advanced autonomous control will be essential, first to assess its condition and then approach it.

Making rendezvous and then steady stationkeeping with the target is hard enough but then comes the really difficult part: how to secure it safely ahead of steering the combined satellite and salvage craft down for a controlled burn-up in the atmosphere?

Several capture mechanisms are being studied in parallel to minimize mission risk. Throw-nets have the advantage of scalability — a large enough net can capture anything, no matter its size and attitude. Tentacles, a clamping mechanism that builds on current berthing and docking mechanisms, could allow the capture of launch adapter rings of various different satellites.

Harpoons work no matter the target’s attitude and shape, and do not require close operations. Robotic arms are another option: results from the DLR German space agency’s forthcoming DEOS orbital servicing mission will be studied with interest.

Strong drivers for the platform design are not only the large amount of propellant required, but also the possible rapid tumbling of the target – only so much spin can be absorbed without the catcher craft itself going out of control.

Apart from deorbit options based on flexible and rigid connections, techniques are being considered for raising targets to higher orbits, including tethers and  electric propulsion.

A symposium on May 6 in the Netherlands will cover studies and technology developments related to e.DeOrbit, with ESA and space industry representatives presenting their research and outlining their plans. For further information, or to register, go here.

Categories: Science

Fishing Line As Artificial "Muscle"

Slashdot - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 1:05pm
brindafella writes "Researchers have made what they describe as an 'almost embarrassing' discovery, that twisted nylon fishing line can form a 'powerful, large-stroke, high-stress artificial muscle' capable of lifting as much as 100 times more weight than human muscles. They twisted the fishing line, then heated it to 'set' the shape-memory. The scientists are from the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at the University of Wollongong, and the University of Texas. The findings are published in Science magazine."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Immune cells regulate blood stem cells, research shows

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 12:38pm
During an infection, the blood stem cells must complete two tasks: they must first recognize that more blood cells have to be produced and, secondly, they must recognize what kind are required. Immune cells control the blood stem cells in the bone marrow and therefore also the body's own defenses, new research shows. The findings could lead the way to new forms of therapy, such as for bone marrow diseases like leukemia.
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Optimizing custody is child's play for physicists

Science Daily - Fri, 21/02/2014 - 12:38pm
Ensuring that parents in recomposed families see their children regularly is a complex network problem, according to a new study. The lead researcher set out to resolve one of his real-life problems: finding a suitable weekend for both partners in his recomposed family to see all their children at the same time. He then joined forces with a mathematician and a complex systems expert. The answer they came up with is that such an agreement is not possible, in general.
Categories: Science