Boundary Between Electronics and Biology Is Blurring: First Proof of Ferroelectricity in Simplest Amino Acid

9:07:28 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"(ScienceDaily Apr. 19, 2012) - The boundary between electronics and biology is blurring with the first detection by researchers at Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory of ferroelectric properties in an amino acid called glycine.

A multi-institutional research team led by Andrei Kholkin of the University of Aveiro, Portugal, used a combination of experiments and modeling to identify and explain the presence of ferroelectricity, a property where materials switch their polarization when an electric field is applied, in the simplest known amino acid -- glycine.

"The discovery of ferroelectricity opens new pathways to novel classes of bioelectronic logic and memory devices, where polarization switching is used to record and retrieve information in the form of ferroelectric domains," said coauthor and senior scientist at ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) Sergei Kalinin.

Although certain biological molecules like glycine are known to be piezoelectric, a phenomenon in which materials respond to pressure by producing electricity, ferroelectricity is relatively rare in the realm of biology. Thus, scientists are still unclear about the potential applications of ferroelectric biomaterials..."

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DARPA Releases Cause of Hypersonic Glider Anomaly

9:02:58 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"(AP April 21, 2012) An unmanned hypersonic glider likely aborted its 13,000 mph flight over the Pacific Ocean last summer because unexpectedly large sections of its skin peeled off, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said Friday.

The Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., atop a rocket and released on Aug. 11, 2011, was part of research aimed at developing super-fast global strike capability for the Department of Defense.

The vehicle demonstrated stable aerodynamically controlled flight at speeds up to 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20, for three minutes before a series of upsets caused its autonomous flight safety system to bring it down in the ocean, DARPA said in a statement.

A gradual wearing away of the vehicle's skin was expected because of extremely high temperatures, but an independent engineering review board concluded that the most probable cause was "unexpected aeroshell degradation, creating multiple upsets of increasing severity that ultimately activated the Flight Safety System," the statement said..."

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'Supermoon' Alert: Biggest Full Moon of 2012 Occurs This Week

8:52:32 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"(www.space.com, 30 April 2012) Skywatchers take note: The biggest full moon of the year is due to arrive this weekend.The moon will officially become full Saturday (May 5) at 11:35 p.m. EDT. And because this month's full moon coincides with the moon's perigee — its closest approach to Earth — it will also be the year's biggest.The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon, nicknamed a supermoon.And not only does the moon's perigee coincide with full moon this month, but this perigee will be the nearest to Earth of any this year, as the distance of the moon's close approach varies by about 3 percent, according to meteorologist Joe Rao, SPACE.com's skywatching columnist. This happens because the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular..."

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Are We The Teachable Species?

7:00:01 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

“(blogs.discovermagazine.com 2011.11.22.) We know that our species is unique, but it can be surprisingly hard to pinpoint what exactly makes us so. The fact that we have DNA is not much of a mark of distinction. Several million other species have it too. Hair sets us apart from plants and mushrooms and reptiles, but several thousand other mammals are hairy, too. Walking upright is certainly unusual, but it doesn’t sever us from the animal kingdom. Birds can walk on two legs, after all, and their dinosaur ancestors were walking bipedally 200 million years ago. Our own bipedalism–like much of the rest of our biology–has deep roots. Chimpanzees, whose ancestors diverged from our own some seven million years ago, can walk upright, at least for short distances.

If looking for human uniqueness on the outside is difficult, is it any easier to look on the inside–in particular, at our mental lives? There’s no doubt that our minds allow us to do things that even our great ape relatives cannot. For one thing, we can represent the world symbolically in our heads, and we can use words to communicate that symbolic thought to one another. Yet we can sometimes find surprising links between our own mental lives and those of other animals. We’re very good at making and using tools, but that doesn’t mean other animals can’t do so as well. Thinking about the future may seem like a quintessentially human activity, but there’s some evidence that some bird species can travel forward in time, too.

Yet even as scientists find more links between our own faculties and those of other animals, some continue to stand out. And their rugged distinctiveness makes them all the more interesting. One of the most distinctive of all is, to me at least, the most surprising: teaching.

If you’re a college student reading this during a lecture because your professor is boring you out of your mind, you may not consider teaching a very big deal. But when you consider everything that goes into one person teaching another, it’s a remarkable behavior. Consider what it takes for you to teach a child how to tie her laces, or write her name in cursive, or skip a stone. She has to watch you do the action and store a representation of that action in her brain. She also needs to listen to you, to understand why a twist of the fingers or the flick of a wrist is important to the procedure. You, the teacher, have to watch her try it, recognize when she gets it wrong, and explain how to do it right. Just as importantly, you have to help the child understand why learning a particular action matters–so that she won’t cut her foot, so that she could throw a stone across the pond, and so on…”

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Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls - Harp / Harpe Cover (Morrowind Theme, Main Theme)

6:54:24 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012

-- Whoa! Love this one too. Though I still like the violin cover better.

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Skyrim Violin Cover

6:50:03 PM, Tuesday, May 01, 2012
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Don't Scrap Junk Mail -- Research Says It Works

10:43:24 PM, Monday, April 30, 2012

“(Phys.org, April 30, 2012) -- There's no reprieve in sight for Australian letterboxes bombarded with junk mail, with new University of Sydney research showing that junk mail is enormously effective in boosting in-store sales.

Professor Charles Areni and Dr Rohan Miller, of the University's Discipline of Marketing, found that featuring products in mail catalogue advertising significantly increased sales compared to advertising on in-store radio, which plays in stores while customers shop.

"We see the signs 'No Junk Mail' everywhere," says Professor Areni, "so it seems people don't want all that advertising material stuffed into their mailboxes.

"However, while people may say they hate junk mail, somebody out there is having long look at it and planning their purchases around what they see."

Soon to be published in the Journal of Marketing Communications, the research varied the in-store radio advertising and mail circular advertising in 95 variety discount stores, measuring the sales results of products featured in the two advertising media.

"We alternated what products were advertised over the stores, varying products featured in the junk mail versus in-store radio ads," says Professor Areni…”

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The JCMT Celebrates 25 Years on Top of the World

10:37:17 PM, Monday, April 30, 2012

“(phys.org, April 28, 2012) The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is celebrating its 25th birthday this week. It first turned its dish to the heavens this week in 1987, and now, a quarter of a century later, the JCMT continues to lead the world in submillimetre astronomy.

With a diameter of 15m, the JCMT is the largest dish in the world dedicated to observing at submillimetre (sub-mm) wavelengths. Submillimetre light comes from the coldest and most distant material in the universe and has a wavelength 1000 times longer than visible light. Sub-mm emission traces everything from cold dust in the Milky Way, just a few degrees above absolute zero, to distant galaxies whose light has been stretched by the expansion of the universe.

The JCMT was one of the first sub-mm telescopes to be built and it has blazed the trail in this field. One of the reasons for this success is the series of increasingly sensitive instruments, built using state-of-the-art technology, which have been responsible for some key discoveries in astronomy. An early instrument called UKT14 revealed young stars at the very earliest stages of their formation, objects known as Class 0 protostars. This discovery was vital for understanding how stars form from clouds of gas and dust. The world's first sub-mm imaging camera, SCUBA, operated on the JCMT for 8 years and enabled the discovery of a previously unknown population of dusty galaxies, that became known as 'SCUBA galaxies', that fundamentally changed our understanding of galaxy evolution in the early universe. SCUBA also produced the first ever images of cold debris discs around nearby stars, which may indicate the presence of planetary systems. All of these diverse discoveries have led to major scientific advances…”

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Space Shuttle Enterprise Flying into New York

1:26:33 AM, Saturday, April 28, 2012

-- Follow the "See Here" link or click on either of the images to see the rest or download in JPEG format in either full or Facebook sizes.

-- SPACE SHUTTLE ENTERPRISE Y U NO FLY OVER HUDSON AS PROMISED??? =( In any case here are some of the shots of the Enterprise piggybacking on top of its 747 carrier as it flies over Jersey City twice, 4/27/2012. -_-

Shot with Canon 5D II and my trusty old KOMZ Zenitar Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5 Lens (Pre-war tech, baby! ;D ). I wish I had at least a 200mm. I was pretty “out-gunned” there, but the guy next to me had a Canon's EF 80-200/2.8L, so I got his flickr user-name, JR_in_NYC, if you're interested, he just shared his photos, - JR_in_NYC's photos of Shuttle Enterprise arriving at NYC.

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Morgan Three Wheeler - One Minute of Pure Sound

3:16:38 AM, Friday, April 27, 2012

-- Always loved this thing! Great short clip.

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NASA Wants Your Help in Finding Asteroids

3:11:05 AM, Friday, April 27, 2012

“(phys.org, April 20, 2012) If you are an amateur astronomer who likes a challenge, NASA has a new project and is looking for a little help from their amateur astronomers friends. Called called “Target Asteroids!” the project is part of the upcoming OSIRIS-REx mission to improve basic scientific understanding of Near Earth Objects. NASA is hoping amateur astronomers can help in the mission by discovering new asteroids and studying their characteristics to help better characterize the population of NEOs. NASA says amateur contributions will affect current and future space missions to asteroids.

Amateur astronomers can help determine the position, motion, rotation and changes in the intensity of light asteroids emit. Professional astronomers will use this information to refine theoretical models of asteroids, improving their understanding about asteroids similar to the one OSIRIS-Rex will encounter.

OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer) is scheduled to launch 2016 and will be a sample return mission from an asteroid, 1999 RQ36. When it meets up with the asteroid in 2019, it will map the asteroid’s global properties, measure non-gravitational forces and provide observations that can be compared with data obtained by telescope observations from Earth. In 2023, OSIRIS-REx will return back to Earth at least 2.11 ounces (60 grams) of surface material from the asteroid.

Target Asteroids! data will be useful for comparisons with actual mission data. The project team plans to expand participants in 2014 to students and teachers.

“Although few amateur astronomers have the capability to observe 1999 RQ36 itself, they do have the capability to observe other targets,” said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md…”

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Polar Bears Evolutionarily Five Times Older and Genetically More Distinct: Ancestry Traced Back 600,000 Years

3:07:20 AM, Friday, April 27, 2012

“ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2012) — A study appearing in the current issue of the journal Science reveals that polar bears evolved as early as some 600,000 years ago. An international team led by researchers from the German Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) shows the largest arctic carnivore to be five times older than previously recognized. The new findings on the evolutionary history of polar bears are the result of an analysis of information from the nuclear genome of polar and brown bears, and shed new light on conservation issues regarding this endangered arctic specialist.

Polar bears are uniquely specialized for life in the arctic. This fact is undisputed, and supported by a range of morphological, physiological and behavioural evidence. However, conducting research on the evolutionary history of polar bears is difficult. The arctic giant spends most of its life on sea ice, and typically also dies there. Its remains sink to the sea floor, where they get ground up by glaciers, or remain undiscovered. Fossil remains of polar bears are therefore scarce. Because the genetic information contained in each organism carries a lot of information about the past, researchers can study the history of the species by looking at the genes of today's polar bears.

Analysis of the genetic information in the cell nucleus

Recent studies had suggested that the ancestor of polar bears was a brown bear that lived some 150,000 years ago, in the late Pleistocene. That research was based on DNA from the mitochondria - organelles often called the 'powerhouses of the cell'. Researchers from the German Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), together with scientists from Spain, Sweden and the USA, now took an in-depth look at the genetic information contained in the cell nucleus. Frank Hailer, BiK-F, lead author of the study explains: "Instead of the traditional approach of looking at mitochondrial DNA we studied many pieces of nuclear DNA that are each independently inherited. We characterized those pieces, or genetic markers, in multiple polar and brown bear individuals."

Polar bears had much more time for adaptation and speciation than previously assumed

This genetic survey was well worth the effort - the information obtained from nuclear DNA indicates that polar bears actually evolved in the mid Pleistocene, some 600,000 years ago. This provides much more time for the polar bear ancestors to colonize and adapt to the harsh conditions of the arctic. Based on studies of mitochondrial DNA, polar bears had earlier been considered an example of surprisingly rapid adaptation of a mammal to colder climates. The polar bear's specific adaptations, including its black skin, white fur, and fur-covered feet now seem less surprising. "In fact, the polar bear genome harbours a lot of distinct genetic information," says Hailer, "which makes a lot of sense, given all the unique adaptations in polar bears."

Maternally inherited (mitochondrial) DNA was showing a biased picture

Previous studies of mitochondrial DNA had indicated that polar bears are much younger as a species. The authors of the new paper in "Science" explain this apparent discrepancy with past events of hybridization between polar and brown bears - a process recently observed in the Canadian arctic. After their initial speciation, polar bears and brown bears came into contact again, maybe due to past climatic fluctuations. The mitochondrial DNA found in polar bears today was probably inherited from a brown bear female that hybridized with polar bears at some point in the late Pleistocene. It appears that much of the nuclear genome remained unaffected by hybridization, so polar bears retained their genetic distinctiveness…”

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Non-Native Forest Species 'Extending Growing Season'

3:00:31 AM, Friday, April 27, 2012

“(BBC 26 April 2012) Non-native plant species are extending the growing season in eastern US forests by an average of four weeks, a study has suggested.

There was no difference in the start of growing during the spring, but the report found a noticeable difference between native and non-native species in the autumn.

This could have a profound impact on forest ecosystems, such as how soil nutrients are absorbed, the paper says.

The findings are published by Nature.

"There is a bit of a saying in these parts that if you go for a hike in March and you see something green, then it is an invader," said author Jason Fridley, an ecologist at Syracuse University, US.

"So I thought I would invest little bit of my time to quantify that if the invaders were waking up a little earlier in the spring, and were keeping their leaves longer in the fall, what was the significance to their ecology and their ability to get into the forests."

Prof Fridley said that his experiment, carried out over three years and involving more than 70 species, actually revealed that there was not a signal of non-native species coming into leaf earlier than native species during the spring…”

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Tiny Sharks Provide Glowing Clue

2:42:18 AM, Friday, April 27, 2012

“(BBC, 26 April 2012) Tiny sharks in South East Asia have helped scientists to understand the origins of glowing shark species.

A number of deep-dwelling sharks have special light-emitting organs on their undersides that allow them to glow.

A study of pygmy sharks now suggests the ability to control the trick evolved from a shallow water ancestor.

Dr Julien Claes from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium led the research.

He said: "bioluminescence remains one of the most mysterious areas of shark biology."

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

According to Dr Claes more than 10% of currently described shark species are luminous.

Scientists refer to the glow as "counter-illumination": without it, anything looking upwards for a meal would easily see the sharks' bodies silhouetted against the bright sky above.

Previous studies have shown that lantern sharks, named for their glow, also use this ability to communicate.

By producing a hormone called prolactin, the sharks can exhibit bursts of blue light, which they use to communicate with others in dark water, where visual clues are minimal…”

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Splatters of Molten Rock Signal Period of Intense Asteroid Impacts on Earth

2:32:21 AM, Friday, April 27, 2012

“(April 25, 2012, phys.org) New research reveals that the Archean era — a formative time for early life from 3.8 billion years ago to 2.5 billion years ago — experienced far more major asteroid impacts than had been previously thought, with a few impacts perhaps even rivaling those that produced the largest craters on the Moon, according to a paper published online today in Nature.

The fingerprints of these gigantic blasts are millimeter- to centimeter-thick rock layers on Earth that contain impact debris: sand-sized droplets, or spherules, of molten rock that rained down from the huge molten plumes thrown up by mega-impacts. This barrage of asteroids appears to have originated in an extended portion of the inner asteroid belt that is now mostly extinct. Computer models suggest the zone was likely destabilized about 4 billion years ago by the late migration of the giant planets from the orbits they formed on to where we find them today.

The team conducting this study includes members or associates of the NASA Lunar Science Institute's Center of Lunar Origin and Evolution (CLOE), based at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo.

Archean rocks are scarcer than rocks of any other age, and impact spherule beds have been found only in terrains where conditions were ideal for capture and preservation, such as in shales deposited on the seafloor below the reach of waves. At least 12 spherule beds deposited between 3.47 and 1.7 billion years ago (Ga) have been found, with most in the Archean; 7 between 3.23-3.47 Ga, 4 between 2.49-2.63 Ga and 1 between 1.7-2.1 Ga…”

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