Fizzy Titan! Saturn Moon's Mysterious 'Magic Islands' May Be Nitrogen Bubbles - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 6:11am
The strangely shifting island-like feature in one of the Saturn moon Titan's hydrocarbon seas may actually be a raft of fizzing nitrogen bubbles, a new study suggests.
Categories: Science

SpaceX Rocket Launches EchoStar 23 Communications Satellite Into Orbit - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 6:10am
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Thursday (March 16) to deliver the heavyweight EchoStar 23 communications satellite into a high-altitude orbit, a mission near the limit of the booster’s capability.
Categories: Science

Boeing's Starliner Capsule Lands 'Gently' in Successful Parachute Test - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 5:54am
A commercial spacecraft scheduled to ferry humans to the International Space Station underwent a successful parachute test in New Mexico last month, according to NASA.
Categories: Science

Transcranial alternating current stimulation used to boost working memory

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 5:23am

The fMRI scans show that stimulation “in beat” increases brain activity in the regions involved in task performance. On the other hand, stimulation “out of beat” showed activity in regions usually associated with resting. (credit: Ines Violante)

In a study published Tuesday Mar. 14 in the open-access journal eLife, researchers at Imperial College London found that applying transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS) through the scalp helped to synchronize brain waves in different areas of the brain, enabling subjects to perform better on tasks involving short-term working memory.

The hope is that the approach could one day be used to bypass damaged areas of the brain and relay signals in people with traumatic brain injury, stroke, or epilepsy.

“What we observed is that people performed better when the two waves had the same rhythm and at the same time,” said Ines Ribeiro Violante, PhD, a neuroscientist in the Department of Medicine at Imperial, who led the research. The current gave a performance boost to the memory processes used when people try to remember names at a party, telephone numbers, or even a short grocery list.

Keeping the beat

Violante and team targeted two brain regions — the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule — which are known to be involved in working memory.

Ten volunteers were asked to carry out a set of memory tasks of increasing difficulty while receiving theta frequency stimulation to the two brain regions at slightly different times (unsynchronised), at the same time (synchronous), or only a quick burst (sham) to give the impression of receiving full treatment.

In the working memory experiments, participants looked at a screen on which numbers flashed up and had to remember if a number was the same as the previous, or in the case of the harder trial, if the current number matched that of two-numbers previous.

Results showed that when the brain regions were stimulated in sync, reaction times on the memory tasks improved, especially on the harder of the tasks requiring volunteers to hold two strings of numbers in their minds.

“The classic behavior is to do slower on the harder cognitive task, but people performed faster with synchronized stimulation and as fast as on the simpler task,” said Violante.

Previous studies have shown that brain stimulation with electromagnetic waves or electrical current can have an effect on brain activity, the field has remained controversial due to a lack of reproducibility. But using functional MRI to image the brain enabled the team to show changes in activity occurring during stimulation.

“The results show that when the stimulation was in sync, there was an increase in activity in those regions involved in the task. When it was out of sync the opposite effect was seen,” Violante explained.

Clinical use

“The next step is to see if the brain stimulation works in patients with brain injury, in combination with brain imaging, where patients have lesions which impair long range communication in their brains,” said Violante. “The hope is that it could eventually be used for these patients, or even those who have suffered a stroke or who have epilepsy.

The researchers also plan to combine brain stimulation with cognitive training to see if it restores lost skills.

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Abstract of Externally induced frontoparietal synchronization modulates network dynamics and enhances working memory performance

Cognitive functions such as working memory (WM) are emergent properties of large-scale network interactions. Synchronisation of oscillatory activity might contribute to WM by enabling the coordination of long-range processes. However, causal evidence for the way oscillatory activity shapes network dynamics and behavior in humans is limited. Here we applied transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to exogenously modulate oscillatory activity in a right frontoparietal network that supports WM. Externally induced synchronization improved performance when cognitive demands were high. Simultaneously collected fMRI data reveals tACS effects dependent on the relative phase of the stimulation and the internal cognitive processing state. Specifically, synchronous tACS during the verbal WM task increased parietal activity, which correlated with behavioral performance. Furthermore, functional connectivity results indicate that the relative phase of frontoparietal stimulation influences information flow within the WM network. Overall, our findings demonstrate a link between behavioral performance in a demanding WM task and large-scale brain synchronization.

Categories: Science

First nanoengineered retinal implant could help the blind regain functional vision

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 4:26am

Activated by incident light, photosensitive silicon nanowires 1 micrometer in diameter stimulate residual undamaged retinal cells to induce visual sensations. (credit (image adapted): Sohmyung Ha et al./ J. Neural Eng)

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego and La Jolla-based startup Nanovision Biosciences Inc. have developed the first nanoengineered retinal prosthesis — a step closer to restoring the ability of neurons in the retina to respond to light.

The technology could help tens of millions of people worldwide suffering from neurodegenerative diseases that affect eyesight, including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and loss of vision due to diabetes.

Despite advances in the development of retinal prostheses over the past two decades, the performance of devices currently on the market to help the blind regain functional vision is still severely limited — well under the acuity threshold of 20/200 that defines legal blindness.

The new prosthesis relies on two new technologies: implanted arrays of photosensitive nanowires and a wireless power/data system.

Implanted arrays of silicon nanowires

The new prosthesis uses arrays of nanowires that simultaneously sense light and electrically stimulate the retina. The nanowires provide higher resolution than anything achieved by other devices — closer to the dense spacing of photoreceptors in the human retina, according to the researchers.*

Comparison of retina and electrode geometries between an existing retinal prosthesis and new nanoengineered prosthesis design. (left) Planar platinum electrodes (gray) of the FDA-approved Argus II retinal prosthesis (a 60-element array with 200 micrometer electrode diameter). (center) Retinal photoreceptor cells: rods (yellow) and cones (green). (right) Fabricated silicon nanowires (1 micrometer in diameter) at the same spatial magnification as photoreceptor cells. (credit: Science Photo Library and Sohmyung Ha et al./ J. Neural Eng.)

Existing retinal prostheses require a vision sensor (such as a camera) outside of the eye to capture a visual scene and then transform it into signals to sequentially stimulate retinal neurons (in a matrix). Instead, the silicon nanowires mimic the retina’s light-sensing cones and rods to directly stimulate retinal cells. The nanowires are bundled into a grid of electrodes, directly activated by light.

This direct, local translation of incident light into electrical stimulation makes for a much simpler — and scalable — architecture for a prosthesis, according to the researchers.

Wireless power and telemetry system

For the new device, power is delivered wirelessly, from outside the body to the implant, through an inductive powering telemetry system. Data to the nanowires is sent over the same wireless link at record speed and energy efficiency. The telemetry system is capable of transmitting both power and data over a single pair of inductive coils, one emitting from outside the body, and another on the receiving side in the eye.**

Three of the researchers have co-founded La Jolla-based Nanovision Biosciences, a partner in this study, to further develop and translate the technology into clinical use, with the goal of restoring functional vision in patients with severe retinal degeneration. Animal tests with the device are in progress, with clinical trials following.***

The research was described in a recent issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering. It was funded by Nanovision Biosciences, Qualcomm Inc., and the Institute of Engineering in Medicine and the Clinical and Translational Research Institute at UC San Diego.

* For visual acuity of 20/20,  an electrode pixel size of 5 μm (micrometers) is required; 20/200 visual acuity requires 50 μm. The minimum number of electrodes required for pattern recognition or reading text is estimated to be about 600. The new nanoengineered silicon nanowire electrodes are 1 μm in diameter, and for the experiment, 2500 silicon nanowires were used.

** The device is highly energy efficient because it minimizes energy losses in wireless power and data transmission and in the stimulation process, recycling electrostatic energy circulating within the inductive resonant tank, and between capacitance on the electrodes and the resonant tank. Up to 90 percent of the energy transmitted is actually delivered and used for stimulation, which means less RF wireless power emitting radiation in the transmission, and less heating of the surrounding tissue from dissipated power.

These are primary cortical neurons cultured on the surface of an array of optoelectronic nanowires. Here a neuron is pulling the nanowires, indicating the the cell is doing well on this material. (credit: UC San Diego)

*** For proof-of-concept, the researchers inserted the wirelessly powered nanowire array beneath a transgenic rat retina with rhodopsin P23H knock-in retinal degeneration. The degenerated retina interfaced in vitro with a microelectrode array for recording extracellular neural action potentials (electrical “spikes” from neural activity).

Abstract of Towards high-resolution retinal prostheses with direct optical addressing and inductive telemetry

Objective. Despite considerable advances in retinal prostheses over the last two decades, the resolution of restored vision has remained severely limited, well below the 20/200 acuity threshold of blindness. Towards drastic improvements in spatial resolution, we present a scalable architecture for retinal prostheses in which each stimulation electrode is directly activated by incident light and powered by a common voltage pulse transferred over a single wireless inductive link. Approach. The hybrid optical addressability and electronic powering scheme provides separate spatial and temporal control over stimulation, and further provides optoelectronic gain for substantially lower light intensity thresholds than other optically addressed retinal prostheses using passive microphotodiode arrays. The architecture permits the use of high-density electrode arrays with ultra-high photosensitive silicon nanowires, obviating the need for excessive wiring and high-throughput data telemetry. Instead, the single inductive link drives the entire array of electrodes through two wires and provides external control over waveform parameters for common voltage stimulation. Main results. A complete system comprising inductive telemetry link, stimulation pulse demodulator, charge-balancing series capacitor, and nanowire-based electrode device is integrated and validated ex vivo on rat retina tissue. Significance. Measurements demonstrate control over retinal neural activity both by light and electrical bias, validating the feasibility of the proposed architecture and its system components as an important first step towards a high-resolution optically addressed retinal prosthesis.

Categories: Science

America May Miss Out On the Next Industrial Revolution

Slashdot - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Robots are inevitably going to automate millions of jobs in the U.S. and around the world, but there's an even more complex scenario on the horizon, said roboticist Matt Rendall. In a talk Tuesday at SXSW, Rendall painted a picture of the future of robotic job displacement that focused less on automation and more on the realistic ways in which the robotics industry will reshape global manufacturing. The takeaway was that America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, may miss out on the world's next radical shift in how goods are produced. That's because the robot makers -- as in, the robots that make the robots -- could play a key role in determining how automation expands across the globe. As the CEO of manufacturing robotics company Otto Motors, Rendall focuses on building fleets of warehouse bots that could eventually replace the many fulfillment workers who are hired by companies like Amazon. "The robots are coming," Rendall said. "After the Great Recession, there was a fundamental change in people's interest in automation. People started feeling the pain of high-cost labor and there's an appetite for automation that we haven't seen before." While Rendall described himself as one of the optimists, who believes automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives, he said there are changes afoot in the global manufacturing scene that could leave American industries in the dust. "China is tracking to be the No. 1 user in robots used in industrial manufacturing," he said, adding that the country is driving "an overwhelming amount" of growth. The difference, he added, is how China is responding to automation, which is by embracing it instead of shying away from it. This is in stark contrast to industrial advances of the previous century, like Ford's assembly line, that helped transform American industries into the most powerful on the planet.

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Categories: Science

Brain Aging Gene Discovered

Slashdot - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 2:05am
New submitter baalcat quotes a report from Neuroscience News: Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have discovered a common genetic variant that greatly impacts normal brain aging, starting at around age 65, and may modify the risk for neurodegenerative diseases. The findings could point toward a novel biomarker for the evaluation of anti-aging interventions and highlight potential new targets for the prevention or treatment of age-associated brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. In the current study, Drs. Abeliovich and Rhinn analyzed genetic data from autopsied human brain samples taken from 1,904 people without neurodegenerative disease. First, the researchers looked at the subjects' transcriptomes (the initial products of gene expression), compiling an average picture of the brain biology of people at a given age. Next, each person's transcriptome was compared to the average transcriptome of people at the same age, looking specifically at about 100 genes whose expression was found to increase or decrease with aging. From this comparison, the researchers derived a measure that they call differential aging: the difference between an individual's apparent (biological) age and his or her true (chronological) age. "This told us whether an individual's frontal cortex looked older or younger than expected," said Dr. Abeliovich. The researchers then searched the genome of each individual, looking for genetic variants that were associated with an increase in differential age. "One variant stood out: TMEM106B," said Dr. Rhinn. "It's very common. About one-third of people have two copies and another third have one copy." "TMEM106B begins to exert its effect once people reach age 65," said Dr. Abeliovich. "Until then, everybody's in the same boat, and then there's some yet-to-be-defined stress that kicks in. If you have two good copies of the gene, you respond well to that stress. If you have two bad copies, your brain ages quickly." The study has been published in the journal Cell Systems.

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Blocked Immigration Ban Proves Trump’s Tweets Will Haunt His Presidency

Wired News - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 1:49am
The ban would have gone into effect Thursday at midnight. But Trump's words got in the way. The post Blocked Immigration Ban Proves Trump's Tweets Will Haunt His Presidency appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

NSA, DOE Say China's Supercomputing Advances Put US At Risk

Slashdot - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 1:25am
dcblogs quotes a report from Computerworld: Advanced computing experts at the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy are warning that China is "extremely likely" to take leadership in supercomputing as early as 2020, unless the U.S. acts quickly to increase spending. China's supercomputing advances are not only putting national security at risk, but also U.S. leadership in high-tech manufacturing. If China succeeds, it may "undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy," according to a report titled U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing by HPC technical experts at the NSA, the DOE, the National Science Foundation and other agencies. The report stems from a workshop held in September that was attended by 60 people, many scientists, 40 of whom work in government, with the balance representing industry and academia. "Meeting participants, especially those from industry, noted that it can be easy for Americans to draw the wrong conclusions about what HPC investments by China mean -- without considering China's motivations," the report states. "These participants stressed that their personal interactions with Chinese researchers and at supercomputing centers showed a mindset where computing is first and foremost a strategic capability for improving the country; for pulling a billion people out of poverty; for supporting companies that are looking to build better products, or bridges, or rail networks; for transitioning away from a role as a low-cost manufacturer for the world; for enabling the economy to move from 'Made in China' to 'Made by China.'"

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Can Trump Uncork Vehicle Emissions? It Won’t Be Easy

Wired News - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 1:01am
Rolling back the fuel economy regulations will take more than a presidential decree. The post Can Trump Uncork Vehicle Emissions? It Won't Be Easy appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Australia To Ban Unvaccinated Children From Preschool

Slashdot - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 12:45am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: No-jab, no play. So says the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has announced that unvaccinated children will be barred from attending preschools and daycare centers. Currently, 93 percent of Australian children receive the standard childhood vaccinations, including those for measles, mumps and rubella, but the government wants to lift this to 95 percent. This is the level required to stop the spread of infectious disease and to protect children who are too young to be immunized or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. Childcare subsidies have been unavailable to the families of unvaccinated children since January 2016, and a version of the new "no jab, no play" policy is already in place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Other states and territories only exclude unvaccinated children from preschools during infectious disease outbreaks. The proposed policy is based on Victoria's model, which is the strictest. It requires all children attending childcare to be fully immunized, unless they have a medical exemption, such as a vaccine allergy.

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GitLab Acquires Software Chat Startup Gitter, Will Open-Source the Code

Slashdot - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 12:05am
According to VentureBeat, "GitLab, a startup that provides open source and premium source code repository software that people use to collaborate on software, is announcing today that it has acquired Gitter, a startup that provides chat rooms that are attached to repositories of code so that collaborators can exchange messages." From the report: GitLab won't bundle it in its community edition or its enterprise edition yet, but it will open-source the Gitter code for others to build on, GitLab cofounder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij told VentureBeat in an interview. What's happening now, though, is that as part of GitLab, Gitter is launching a new feature called Topics, where people will be able to ask and answer questions -- sort of like Stack Overflow. "Although Gitter is best in class with indexing things, it's still sometimes hard to find things," Sijbrandij said. "In this Q&A product, it's a lot easier to structure the Q&A. You're not dealing so much with a chronological timeline where people have different conversations that cross each other. There's a location for every piece of knowledge, and it can grow over time." That technology is already available in beta in Gitter rooms on GitHub, and it will become available on GitLab's Gitter pages over time, Sijbrandij said.

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WIRED Had a Potential Infosecurity Problem. Here’s What We Did About It

Wired News - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 11:24pm
We found out about a potential exposure of some of our internal data ... so we fixed it. The post WIRED Had a Potential Infosecurity Problem. Here's What We Did About It appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

NetBSD 7.1 Released

Slashdot - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 11:20pm
New submitter fisted writes: The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 7.1, the first feature update of the NetBSD 7 release branch. It represents a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons, as well as new features and enhancements. Some highlights of the 7.1 release are: -Support for Raspberry Pi Zero. -Initial DRM/KMS support for NVIDIA graphics cards via nouveau (Disabled by default. Uncomment nouveau and nouveaufb in your kernel config to test). The addition of vioscsi, a driver for the Google Compute Engine disk. -Linux compatibility improvements, allowing, e.g., the use of Adobe Flash Player 24. -wm(4): C2000 KX and 2.5G support; Wake On Lan support; 82575 and newer SERDES based systems now work. -ODROID-C1 Ethernet now works. -Numerous bug fixes and stability improvements. NetBSD is free. All of the code is under non-restrictive licenses, and may be used without paying royalties to anyone. Free support services are available via our mailing lists and website. Commercial support is available from a variety of sources. More extensive information on NetBSD is available from You can download NetBSD 7.1 from one of these mirror sites.

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Inside a Phishing Gang That Targets Victims of iPhone Theft

Slashdot - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 10:40pm
tsu doh nimh writes: Brian Krebs has a readable and ironic story about a phishing-as-a-service product that iPhone thieves can use to phish the Apple iCloud credentials from people who have recently had an iPhone lost or stolen. The phishing service -- which charged as much as $120 for successful phishing attempts targeting iPhone 6s users -- was poorly secured, and a security professional that Krebs worked with managed to guess several passwords for users on the service. From there, the story looks at how this phishing service works, how it tracks victims, and ultimately how one of its core resellers phished his own iCloud account and inadvertently gave his exact location as a result. An excerpt from the report via Krebs On Security: "Victims of iPhone theft can use the Find My iPhone feature to remotely locate, lock or erase their iPhone -- just by visiting Apple's site and entering their iCloud username and password. Likewise, an iPhone thief can use those iCloud credentials to remotely unlock the victim's stolen iPhone, wipe the device, and resell it. As a result, iPhone thieves often subcontract the theft of those credentials to third-party iCloud phishing services. This story is about one of those services..."

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Categories: Science

Pattern of mammal dwarfing during global warming

Science Daily - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 10:26pm
More than 50 million years ago, when the Earth experienced a series of extreme global warming events, early mammals responded by shrinking in size. While this mammalian dwarfism has previously been linked to the largest of these events, new research has found that this evolutionary process can happen in smaller, so-called hyperthermals, indicating an important pattern that could help shape an understanding of underlying effects of current human-caused climate change.
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How to conserve polar bears -- and maintain subsistence harvest -- under climate change

Science Daily - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 10:23pm
A properly-managed subsistence harvest of polar bears can continue under climate change, according to analysis that combines sea-ice forecasts with a polar bear population model.
Categories: Science

Undergoing hip replacement improves five-year quality of life

Science Daily - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 10:23pm
Patients undergoing total hip replacement experience meaningful and lasting improvements in quality of life (QOL) through at least five years after the procedure, reports a new study.
Categories: Science

New eyeless, pale catfish from middle of Amazon named

Science Daily - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 10:23pm
A new species of blind, Amazonian catfish was named for the discoverer's young daughter, who frequently goes on trips to the field with him.
Categories: Science

Groundbreaking process for creating ultra-selective separation membranes

Science Daily - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 10:23pm
Researchers have developed a groundbreaking one-step, crystal growth process for making ultra-thin layers of material with molecular-sized pores. Researchers demonstrated the use of the material, called zeolite nanosheets, by making ultra-selective membranes for chemical separations.
Categories: Science