Science casts light on sex in the orchard

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:22pm
Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes -- individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists have discovered how sex is determined in a species of persimmon, potentially opening up new possibilities in plant breeding.
Categories: Science

Genetic factors behind surviving or dying from Ebola shown in mouse study

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:22pm
A newly developed mouse model suggests that genetic factors are behind the mild-to-deadly range of responses to the Ebola virus. The frequency of different manifestations of the disease across the lines of these mice are similar in variety and proportion to the spectrum of clinical disease observed in the 2014 West African outbreak. The new mouse model might be useful in testing candidate therapeutics and vaccines for Ebola, and in finding genetic markers for susceptibility and resistance to the disease.
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Emerging disease could wipe out American, European salamanders

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:22pm
A fungal disease from Asia wiped out salamanders in parts of Europe and will likely reach the US through the international wildlife trade in Asian newts sold as pets, say US experts. Scientists report the fungus arose in Asia 30 million years ago and is lethal to many European and American newt species. It has not yet been found in North American wild amphibians.
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What running robots can learn from turkeys

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:20pm

Model of motion in turkeys (Credit: OSU)

With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers from from Oregon State University, the Royal Veterinary College and other institutions have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds — running birds.

These are some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals, including humans, the researchers found in a study published Wednesday (Oct. 29) in the Journal of Experimental Biology, with an impressive ability to run while minimizing energy cost, avoiding falls or injury, and maintaining speed and direction.

What running birds can teach robots

MIT’s Cheetah robot is the world’s fastest robot, but is it the most efficient and agile? (Credit: MIT)

“Birds appear to be the best of bipedal terrestrial runners, with a speed and agility that may trace back 230 million years to their dinosaur ancestors,” said Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor and robotics expert in the OSU College of Engineering.

In the wild, an injury could lead to predation and death; and in like fashion, when food resources are limited, economy of motion is essential.

Surprisingly, a wide variety of ground-running bird species with very different body sizes use essentially the same strategy to accomplish these sometimes conflicting tasks. To hop over obstacles on uneven ground, they use a motion that’s about 70 percent a “vaulting” movement as they approach the obstacle, and 30 percent a more-crouched posture while on top of the obstacle.

In collaboration with Monica Daley at the Royal Veterinary College in London, the researchers studied five species of birds and developed a computer model in OSU’s Dynamic Robotics Laboratory that closely matches that behavior.

The researchers began the study with a hypothesis that body stability would be a priority, since it might help avoid falls and leg injuries. But that’s not what they found. Instead, running birds have a different definition of stability — they allow their upper bodies to bounce around some, just so long as they don’t fall.

Large animals like are limited by the strength of their legs because peak loads increase with body mass, and they run with somewhat straighter legs to compensate. But the basic approach large birds use to run is similar to much smaller birds, and remains highly efficient.

Modern robots, by contrast, are usually built with an emphasis on total stability, which often includes maintaining a steady gait. This can be energy-intensive and sometimes limits their mobility.

What robots could learn from running birds, the scientists said, is that it’s okay to deviate from normal steady motions, because it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to fall or break something. Robotic control approaches “must embrace a more relaxed notion of stability, optimizing dynamics based on key task-level priorities without encoding an explicit preference for a steady gait,” the researchers said in their conclusion.

Collaborators on the research were from the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom. The work was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom and the Human Frontier Science Program.

Abstract of Don’t break a leg: running birds from quail to ostrich prioritise leg safety and economy on uneven terrain

Cursorial ground birds are paragons of bipedal running that span a 500-fold mass range from quail to ostrich. Here we investigate the task-level control priorities of cursorial birds by analysing how they negotiate single-step obstacles that create a conflict between body stability (attenuating deviations in body motion) and consistent leg force–length dynamics (for economy and leg safety). We also test the hypothesis that control priorities shift between body stability and leg safety with increasing body size, reflecting use of active control to overcome size-related challenges. Weight-support demands lead to a shift towards straighter legs and stiffer steady gait with increasing body size, but it remains unknown whether non-steady locomotor priorities diverge with size. We found that all measured species used a consistent obstacle negotiation strategy, involving unsteady body dynamics to minimise fluctuations in leg posture and loading across multiple steps, not directly prioritising body stability. Peak leg forces remained remarkably consistent across obstacle terrain, within 0.35 body weights of level running for obstacle heights from 0.1 to 0.5 times leg length. All species used similar stance leg actuation patterns, involving asymmetric force–length trajectories and posture-dependent actuation to add or remove energy depending on landing conditions. We present a simple stance leg model that explains key features of avian bipedal locomotion, and suggests economy as a key priority on both level and uneven terrain. We suggest that running ground birds target the closely coupled priorities of economy and leg safety as the direct imperatives of control, with adequate stability achieved through appropriately tuned intrinsic dynamics.

Categories: Science

Magma pancakes beneath Indonesia's Lake Toba: Subsurface sources of mega-eruptions

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:20pm
The tremendous amounts of lava that are emitted during super-eruptions accumulate over millions of years prior to the event in the Earth's crust. These reservoirs consist of magma that intrudes into the crust in the form of numerous horizontally oriented sheets resting on top of each other like a pile of pancakes.
Categories: Science

High-intensity sound waves may aid regenerative medicine

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:19pm
Researchers have developed a way to use sound to create cellular scaffolding for tissue engineering, a unique approach that could help overcome one of regenerative medicine’s significant obstacles.
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A Mixed Review For CBS's "All Access" Online Video Streaming

Slashdot - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:18pm
lpress writes I tested CBS All Access video streaming. It has technical problems, which will be resolved, but I will still pass because they show commercials in addition to a $5.99 per month fee. Eventually, we will all cut the cord and have a choice of viewing modes — on-demand versus scheduled and with and without commercials — but don't expect your monthly bill to drop as long as our ISPs are monopolies or oligopolies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Fiat Is Selling Ferrari. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Wired News - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:12pm

Brand aficionados (including us) are concerned about what could happen to a publicly traded Ferrari.

The post Fiat Is Selling Ferrari. What’s the Worst That Could Happen? appeared first on WIRED.








Categories: Science

Watson to help find new sources of oil

Kurzweil AI - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 6:05pm

IBM’s Cognitive Environments Lab researchers are developing software agents called “cogs” to help energy company Repsol make better decisions on acquiring new oil fields (credit: Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Scientists at IBM and Repsol SA, Spain largest energy company, announced today (Oct. 30) the world’s first research collaboration using cognitive technologies like IBM’s Watson to jointly develop and apply new tools to make it cheaper and easier to find new oil fields.

An engineer will typically have to manually read through an enormous set of journal papers and baseline reports with models of reservoir, well, facilities, production, export, and seismic imaging data.

IBM says its cognitive technologies could help by analyzing hundreds of thousands of papers, prioritize data, and link that data to the specific decision at hand. It will introduce “new real-time factors to be considered, such as current news events around economic instability, political unrest, and natural disasters.”

Dealing with big-data complexity

The oil and gas industry boasts some of the most advanced geological, geophysical and chemical science in the world. But the challenge is to integrate critical geopolitical, economic, and other global news into decisions. And that will require a whole new approach to computing that can speed access to business insights, enhance strategic decision-making, and drive productivity, IBM says.

This goes beyond the capabilities of Watson. But scientists at IBM’s Cognitive Environments Laboratory (CEL), collaborating with Repsol, plan to develop and apply new prototype cognitive tools for real-world use cases in the oil and gas industry. They will experiment with a combination of traditional and new interfaces based upon spoken dialog, gesture, robotics and advanced visualization and navigation techniques.

The objective is build conceptual and geological models, highlight the impact of the potential risks and uncertainty, visualize trade-offs, and explore what-if scenarios to ensure the best decision is made, IBM says.

Repsol is making an initial investment of $15 million to $20 million to develop two applications targeted for next year, Repsol’s director for exploration and production technology Santiago Quesada explained to Bloomberg Business Week. “One app will be used for oil exploration and the other to help determine the most attractive oil and gas assets to buy.”


IBM | Repsol and IBM Transform the Oil Industry

Categories: Science

Target Planets, Constellations and Leonid Meteors - Nov. 2014 Skywatching Video

Space.com - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:53pm
Find out where to find Mars, Jupiter and Mercury this month. Pisces and Aries constellations along with the Triangulum galaxy are great targets as well. Lastly, Earth travels through Comet Tempel-Tuttle's dust trail.
Categories: Science

Tim Cook: "I'm Proud To Be Gay"

Slashdot - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:37pm
An anonymous reader writes Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly come out as gay. While he never hid his sexuality from friends, family, and close co-workers, Cook decided it was time to make it publicly known in the hopes that the information will help others who don't feel comfortable to do so. He said, "I don't consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I've benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy." Cook added that while the U.S. has made progress in recent years toward marriage equality, there is still work to be done. "[T]here are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

What do American babies eat? A lot depends on Mom's socioeconomic background

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:35pm
Dietary patterns of babies vary according to the racial, ethnic and educational backgrounds of their mothers, pediatrics researchers have found. For example, babies whose diet included more breastfeeding and solid foods that adhere to infant guidelines from international and pediatric organizations were associated with higher household income -- generally above $60,000 per year -- and mothers with higher educational levels ranging from some college to post-graduate education.
Categories: Science

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:35pm
Lab-grown tissues could one day provide new treatments for injuries and damage to the joints, including articular cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly. Biomedical engineers are exploring ways to toughen up engineered cartilage and keep natural tissues strong outside the body.
Categories: Science

Young adults ages 18 to 26 should be viewed as separate subpopulation in policy, research

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:35pm
Young adults ages 18-26 should be viewed as a separate subpopulation in policy and research, because they are in a critical period of development when successes or failures could strongly affect the trajectories of their lives, says a new report.
Categories: Science

Campaign to reduce firearm suicide wins support among firearm retailers in New Hampshire

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:35pm
Nearly half of firearm retailers in New Hampshire displayed materials from a firearm suicide prevention campaign generated by a coalition of gun owners and public health professionals.
Categories: Science

Toddlers copy their peers to fit in, but apes don't

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:33pm
From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human children, but isn't evidenced by apes like chimpanzees and orangutans.
Categories: Science

Planet discovered that won't stick to a schedule

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:33pm
For their latest discovery, astronomers have found a low-mass, low-density planet with a punctuality problem. The new planet, called PH3c, is located 2,300 light years from Earth and has an atmosphere loaded with hydrogen and helium. Its inconsistency kept it from being picked up by automated computer algorithms that search stellar light curves and identify regular dips caused by objects passing in front of stars.
Categories: Science

Could daylight savings time be a risk to diabetics?

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:33pm
Many will turn back the hands of time as part of the twice-annual ritual of daylight savings time. That means remembering to change the alarm clock next to the bed, which means an extra hour of sleep before getting up in the morning. But for some diabetics who use insulin pumps, researchers suggest that remembering to change the time on this device should be the priority.
Categories: Science

Sadness lasts longer than other emotions

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:31pm
Why is it that you can feel sad up to 240 times longer than you do feeling ashamed, surprised, irritated or even bored? It's because sadness often goes hand in hand with events of greater impact such as death or accidents. You need more time to mull over and cope with what happened to fully comprehend it, say researchers. This is the first work to provide clear evidence to explain why some emotions last a longer time than others.
Categories: Science

Saving lonely species is important for environment

Science Daily - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 5:30pm
Endemic eucalyptus in Tasmania has been the focus of recent study. Researchers discovered that these rare species have developed unique characteristics to survive, and that these characteristics may also impact the survival of its neighbors in the ecosystem.
Categories: Science