While GIFs are typically a freewheeling, self-created (or at least self-discovered) form of expression online, Hulu’s GIF engine is the exact opposite.
The ongoing three-day interactive livestream strongly suggests that a new Deus Ex game is in our future.
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Angry Nerd thinks the success or failure of Netflix's new Daredevil show depends on how well the series portrays its supporting characters.
The plan is impressive in both its scale and its scope, and there's plenty American cities can learn from it.
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As groundbreaking as it was for four seasons, the show's own influence has made constant evolution unnecessary. And that's actually better for the show.
The post Louie‘s Back, and It’s Almost a Regular Sitcom Now appeared first on WIRED.
The first batch of routers lacked basic password protection, and had a bug that would allow any Wi-Fi intruders to completely hijack the device, snooping on or recording all of a user's traffic.
The post Anonabox Recalls 350 ‘Privacy’ Routers for Security Flaws appeared first on WIRED.
For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, suggesting once again that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe.
This discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), reveals that the protoplanetary disk surrounding the million-year-old star MWC 480 is brimming with methyl cyanide (CH3CN), a complex carbon-based molecule, and and its simpler cousin hydrogen cyanide (HCN).
The molecules were found in the cold outer reaches of the star’s newly formed disk, in a region that astronomers believe is analogous to our own Kuiper Belt — the realm of icy planetesimals and comets beyond Neptune.
Comets retain a pristine record of the early chemistry of our solar system from the period of planet formation. As the planets evolved, it’s believed that comets and asteroids from the outer solar system seeded the young Earth with water and organic molecules, helping set the stage for life to eventually emerge.
“Studies of comets and asteroids show that the solar nebula that spawned our Sun and planets was rich in water and complex organic compounds,” noted Karin Öberg, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and lead author on a paper published in the journal Nature.
“We now have evidence that this same chemistry exists elsewhere in the universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own.” This is particularly intriguing, Öberg notes, since the molecules found in MWC 480 are also found in similar concentrations in our own solar system’s comets.
The star MWC 480, which is about twice the mass of the Sun, is located approximately 455 light-years away in the Taurus star-forming region. Its surrounding disk is in the very early stages of development, having recently coalesced out of a cold, dark nebula of dust and gas. Studies with ALMA and other telescopes have yet to detect any obvious signs of planet formation in it, though higher-resolution observations may reveal structures similar to HL Tau, which is of a similar age.
Astronomers have known that cold, dark interstellar clouds are very efficient factories of complex organic molecules — including a group of molecules known as cyanides. Cyanides, and most especially methyl cyanide, are important because they contain carbon-nitrogen bonds, which are essential for the formation of amino acids, the foundation of proteins.
Complex organic molecules found to survive in newly forming solar systems
It has been unclear, however, if these same complex organic molecules commonly form and survive in the energetic environment of a newly forming solar system, where shocks and radiation can easily break chemical bonds. With ALMA’s remarkable sensitivity, the astronomers now know that these molecules not only survive, but thrive.
Importantly, the molecules ALMA detected are much more abundant than would be found in interstellar clouds. According to the researchers, there’s enough methyl cyanide around MWC 480 to fill all of Earth’s oceans. This tells astronomers that protoplanetary disks are very efficient at forming complex organic molecules and that they are able to form them on a relatively fast timescale.
This rapid formation is essential to outpace the forces that would otherwise break the molecules apart. Also, these molecules were detected in a relatively serene part of the disk, roughly 4.5 to 15 billion kilometers from the central star. Though incredibly distant by our solar system’s standards, in MWC 480’s scaled-up dimensions, this would be squarely in the comet-forming zone.
As this solar system continues to evolve, astronomers speculate, it’s likely that the organic molecules safely locked away in comets and other icy bodies will be ferried to environments that would be more nurturing for life.
“From the study of exoplanets, we know our solar system isn’t unique in having rocky planets and an abundance of water,” concluded Öberg. “Now we know we’re not unique in organic chemistry. Once more, we have learned that we’re not special. From a life in the universe point of view, this is great news.”
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international partnership of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile, is the largest astronomical project in existence. ALMA is a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.
Abstract of The cometary composition of a protoplanetary disk as revealed by complex cyanides
Observations of comets and asteroids show that the Solar Nebula that spawned our planetary system was rich in water and organic molecules. Bombardment brought these organics to the young Earth’s surface, seeding its early chemistry. Unlike asteroids, comets preserve a nearly pristine record of the Solar Nebula composition. The presence of cyanides in comets, including 0.01% of methyl cyanide (CH3CN) with respect to water, is of special interest because of the importance of C-N bonds for abiotic amino acid synthesis. Comet-like compositions of simple and complex volatiles are found in protostars, and can be readily explained by a combination of gas-phase chemistry to form e.g. HCN and an active ice-phase chemistry on grain surfaces that advances complexity. Simple volatiles, including water and HCN, have been detected previously in Solar Nebula analogues – protoplanetary disks around young stars – indicating that they survive disk formation or are reformed in situ. It has been hitherto unclear whether the same holds for more complex organic molecules outside of the Solar Nebula, since recent observations show a dramatic change in the chemistry at the boundary between nascent envelopes and young disks due to accretion shocks. Here we report the detection of CH3CN (and HCN and HC3N) in the protoplanetary disk around the young star MWC 480. We find abundance ratios of these N-bearing organics in the gas-phase similar to comets, which suggests an even higher relative abundance of complex cyanides in the disk ice. This implies that complex organics accompany simpler volatiles in protoplanetary disks, and that the rich organic chemistry of the Solar Nebula was not unique.
Companies shilling expensive cold-press juicers say you're getting extra-healthy, vitamin-enriched juice. But is it true?
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MIT researchers have developed a new, ultrasensitive magnetic-field detector that is 1,000 times more energy-efficient than its predecessors. It could lead to miniaturized, battery-powered devices for medical and materials imaging, contraband detection, and even geological exploration.
Magnetic-field detectors (magnetometers) are already used for all those applications. But existing technologies have drawbacks: Some rely on gas-filled chambers; others work only in narrow frequency bands, limiting their utility.
Synthetic diamonds with nitrogen vacancies (NVs) — defects that are extremely sensitive to magnetic fields — would offer a solution. A diamond chip about one-twentieth the size of a thumbnail could contain trillions of nitrogen vacancies, each capable of performing its own magnetic-field measurement.
The problem has been aggregating all those measurements.
Probing a nitrogen vacancy requires zapping it with laser light, which it absorbs and re-emits. The intensity of the emitted light carries information about the vacancy’s magnetic state.
“In the past, only a small fraction of the pump light was used to excite a small fraction of the NVs,” says Dirk Englund, the Jamieson Career Development Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and one of the designers of the new device. “We make use of almost all the pump light to measure almost all of the NVs.”
The MIT researchers report their new device in the latest issue of Nature Physics.
How to detect magnetic fields with nitrogen vacancies
As reported on KurzweilAI, nitrogen-vacancy defects have important potential applications, including noninvasive real-time magnetic brain-wave studies, temperature measurement of living cells, quantum computing and networks, and data storage.
A pure diamond is a lattice of carbon atoms, which don’t interact with magnetic fields. A nitrogen vacancy is a missing atom in the lattice, adjacent to a nitrogen atom. Electrons in the vacancy do interact with magnetic fields, which is why they’re useful for sensing.
When a photon strikes an electron in a nitrogen vacancy, it kicks it into a higher energy state. When the electron falls back down into its original energy state, it may release its excess energy as another photon. A magnetic field, however, can flip the electron’s magnetic orientation, or spin, increasing the difference between its two energy states. The stronger the field, the more spins it will flip, changing the brightness of the light emitted by the vacancies.
Making accurate measurements with this type of chip requires collecting as many of those photons as possible. In previous experiments, researchers often excited the nitrogen vacancies by directing laser light at the surface of the chip. But only a small fraction of the light is absorbed, say the researchers. Most of it just goes straight through the diamond.
The fix was to add a prism facet to the corner of the diamond and couple the laser into the side. That allowed all of the light inserted into the diamond to be absorbed.
Because of the geometry of the nitrogen vacancies, the re-emitted photons emerge at four distinct angles. A lens at one end of the crystal can collect 20 percent of them and focus them onto a light detector, which is enough to yield a reliable measurement.
“NV centers are very nice to work with,” says Frank Narducci, a physicist at the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command. “You just have this little solid-state sample. You don’t have to do anything to it. You don’t have to put it in a vacuum. You don’t have to cryogenically cool it.
“To get them excited, you can just use a green laser — a laser pointer is good enough. You don’t have to have anything super-fancy in the way of stabilized lasers.
“What’s cool about this is that they’re using the sample itself kind of like a waveguide, to bounce the light around. Their sample is quite small. Because the laser doesn’t have to be anything particularly special, that could be small, too. So you could envision very small magnetometers. And correspondingly, you could make them very cheap.”
“From a Navy perspective,” he adds, “we talk about throwaway magnetometers a lot, where you might be flying over some area of the ocean and you want to make some measurements, so you just throw a handful of these out. If you get a really high-sensitivity magnetometer that’s really cheap, that would be one really good application for it.”
Abstract of Broadband magnetometry and temperature sensing with a light-trapping diamond waveguide
Solid-state quantum sensors are attracting wide interest because of their sensitivity at room temperature. In particular, the spin properties of individual nitrogen–vacancy (NV) colour centres in diamond make them outstanding nanoscale sensors of magnetic fields, electric fields and temperature under ambient conditions. Recent work on NV ensemble-based magnetometers, inertial sensors, and clocks has employed unentangled colour centres to realize significant improvements in sensitivity. However, to achieve this potential sensitivity enhancement in practice, new techniques are required to excite efficiently and to collect the optical signal from large NV ensembles. Here, we introduce a light-trapping diamond waveguide geometry with an excitation efficiency and signal collection that enables in excess of 5% conversion efficiency of pump photons into optically detected magnetic resonance (ODMR) fluorescence—an improvement over previous single-pass geometries of more than three orders of magnitude. This marked enhancement of the ODMR signal enables precision broadband measurements of magnetic field and temperature in the low-frequency range, otherwise inaccessible by dynamical decoupling techniques.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies scientists and collaborators have discovered that physical and mental activities rely on a single metabolic protein called estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERRγ) that controls the flow of blood and nutrients throughout the body.
The new study could point to potential treatments in regenerative and developmental medicine as well as ways to address defects in learning and memory.
“This is all about getting energy where it’s needed to ‘the power plants’ in the body,” says Ronald Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and senior author of the new paper, published April 7 in the journal Cell Metabolism.
“The heart and muscles need a surge of energy to carry out exercise and neurons need a surge of energy to form new memories.” Energy for both muscles and brains, the scientists discovered, is controlled by the ERRγ protein.
Evans’ research group has previously studied the role of ERRγ in the heart and skeletal muscles. In 2011, they discovered that promoting ERRγ activity in the muscle of sedentary mice increased blood supply to their muscles and doubled their running capacity. ERRγ, they went on to show, turns on a whole host of muscle genes that convert fat to energy.
ERRy burns fat, but curiously, it’s also active in the hippocampus
Previously, ERRγ was known as a master metabolic switch that regulates a network of genes that in turn drives the body to burn fat. Although studies had also shown that ERRγ was active in the brain, researchers didn’t understand why — the brain burns sugar, not fat, and ERRγ was previously shown to only turn on fat-burning pathways. The researchers decided to look more closely at what the protein was doing in brain cells.
By first looking at isolated neurons, Evans’ group showed that ERRγ activates dozens of metabolic genes in the cells. Neurons that lacked ERRγ didn’t produce as much ATP — a cellular energy molecule — as those that had high levels of the protein. It turned out that the genes controlled by ERRγ in brain cells are those involved in burning sugar, not fat, for energy.
“We assumed that ERRγ did the same thing throughout the body,” says Evans. “But we learned that it’s adaptable to different metabolic roles in different organs.” ERRγ, they now believe, turns on fat-burning pathways in muscles and sugar-burning pathways in the brain.
Evans and his collaborators noticed that ERRγ in live mice was most active in the hippocampus — an area of the brain that can yield new brain cells, is involved in learning and memory and is known to require lots of energy. They wondered whether ERRγ had a direct role in learning and memory. By studying mice without ERRγ in their brain cells, they found a link.
Mice without the protein had normal vision, movement and balance, but were slower at learning how to swim through a water maze—and worse at remembering the maze on subsequent trials—compared to mice with normal levels of ERRγ.
The metabolic variable in learning and memory
“What we found is that mice that lack ERRγ are basically very slow learners,” says Liming Pei, lead and co-corresponding author of the paper. Varying levels of ERRγ could also be at the root of differences between how humans learn, he hypothesizes. “Everyone can learn, but some people learn and memorize more efficiently than others, and we now think there’s a metabolic difference to it.”
A better understanding of the metabolism of neurons could help point the way to improved treatments for learning and attention disorders. And possibly, revving up levels of ERRγ could even enhance learning, just as it enhances muscle function.
“What we’ve shown is that memories are really built on a metabolic scaffold,” says Evans. “And we think that if you want to understand learning and memory, you need to understand this metabolic scaffold.”
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, the University of Sydney, and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne were also involved in the work, which was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Ellison Medical Foundation and Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Penn Medicine Neuroscience Center.
Abstract of Dependence of Hippocampal Function on ERRγ-Regulated Mitochondrial Metabolism
Neurons utilize mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) to generate energy essential for survival, function, and behavioral output. Unlike most cells that burn both fat and sugar, neurons only burn sugar. Despite its importance, how neurons meet the increased energy demands of complex behaviors such as learning and memory is poorly understood. Here we show that the estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERRγ) orchestrates the expression of a distinct neural gene network promoting mitochondrial oxidative metabolism that reflects the extraordinary neuronal dependence on glucose. ERRγ−/− neurons exhibit decreased metabolic capacity. Impairment of long-term potentiation (LTP) in ERRγ−/− hippocampal slices can be fully rescued by the mitochondrial OxPhos substrate pyruvate, functionally linking the ERRγ knockout metabolic phenotype and memory formation. Consistent with this notion, mice lacking neuronal ERRγ in cerebral cortex and hippocampus exhibit defects in spatial learning and memory. These findings implicate neuronal ERRγ in the metabolic adaptations required for memory formation.