Mike's Newspaper

Giant Snake-Shaped Generators Could Capture Wave Power

Roland Piquepaille writes "UK researchers have developed a prototype of a future giant rubber tube which could catch energy from sea waves. The device, dubbed Anaconda, uses 'long sea waves to excite bulge waves which travel along the wall of a submersed rubber tube. These are then converted into flows of water passing through a turbine to generate electricity.' So far, the experiments have been done with tubes with diameters of 0.25 and 0.5 meters. But if the experiments are successful, future full-scale Anaconda devices would be 200 meters long and 7 meters in diameter, and deployed in water depths of between 40 and 100 meters. An Anaconda would deliver an output power of 1MW (enough to power 2,000 houses). These devices would be deployed in groups of 20 or even more providing cheap electricity without harming our environment."

Robobug goes to war: Troops to use electronic insects to spot enemy 'by end of the year'

British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives.

Prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year, scuttling into potential danger areas such as booby-trapped buildings or enemy hideouts to relay images back to troops safely positioned nearby.

India Launches 10 Satellites At Once

freakxx writes "India sets a world record after launching 10 satellites in one go using its workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). All the satellites were put into their respective orbits successfully. It was the core-alone version of the launch vehicle weighing 230 tonnes with a payload of 824 kg in total. Two of the satellites were Indian satellites while the rest were from different countries. By this launch, the ISRO has proven its credibility and it is going to boost India's image in the attractive multi-billion commercial market of satellite launches. This was the 12th successful launch of the PSLV."

Researcher: Basic Greenhouse Equations "Totally Wrong"

The conclusions are supported by research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research last year from Steven Schwartz of Brookhaven National Labs, who gave statistical evidence that the Earth's response to carbon dioxide was grossly overstated. It also helps to explain why current global climate models continually predict more warming than actually measured.

The equations also answer thorny problems raised by current theory, which doesn't explain why "runaway" greenhouse warming hasn't happened in the Earth's past. The new theory predicts that greenhouse gas increases should result in small, but very rapid temperature spikes, followed by much longer, slower periods of cooling -- exactly what the paleoclimatic record demonstrates.

Simulated Rat Brains

Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne computational neuroscientists hope to model a complete rat brain within two years on their IBM Blue Brain supercomputer and download it into a robotic rat to develop like a real rat--one with a "mind of its own."

Finnish patient gets new jaw from own stem cells

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Scientists in Finland said they had replaced a 65-year-old patient's upper jaw with a bone transplant cultivated from stem cells isolated from his own fatty tissue and grown inside his abdomen.

Circuit Diagram Of The Human Brain

Scientists at Harvard University are planning to create a circuit diagram of the human brain by using new machines that automatically turn brain tissue into high-resolution neural maps.

The researchers say that their main aim is to map every synapse in the brain, so that such a diagram could be created as would help understand the brain's activity far better than most of the presently available advanced brain-monitoring tools, such as fMRI.

Gagarin was not the first cosmonaut

As 40 years have passed since Gagarin’s flight, new sensational details of this event were disclosed: Gagarin was not the first man to fly to space. Three Soviet pilots died in attempts to conquer space before Gagarin's famous space flight, Mikhail Rudenko, senior engineer-experimenter with Experimental Design Office 456 (located in Khimki, in the Moscow region) said on Thursday. According to Rudenko, spacecraft with pilots Ledovskikh, Shaborin and Mitkov at the controls were launched from the Kapustin Yar cosmodrome (in the Astrakhan region) in 1957, 1958 and 1959. "All three pilots died during the flights, and their names were never officially published,"

Mapping the Most Complex Structure in the Universe: Your Brain

ATLUM uses a lathe and specialized knife to create long, thin strips of brain cells that can be imaged by an electron microscope. Software will eventually montage the images, creating an ultrahigh-resolution 3-D reconstruction of the mouse brain, allowing scientists to see features only 50 nanometers across.

"It works like an apple peeler," Lichtman said. "Our machine takes a brain, peels off a surface layer, and puts it all on tape. These technologies will allow us to get to the finest resolution, where every single synapse is accounted for."

Startup Says It Can Make Ethanol for $1 a Gallon, and Without Corn

Besides cutting production costs to fire sale prices, the process avoids some key drawbacks of making ethanol from corn, company officials said. It wouldn't impact the food supply, and its net energy balance is high because the technique works almost anywhere using almost anything with great efficiency. The end result will be E85 sold at the pump for about a dollar cheaper per gallon than gasoline, according to the company.

Reversal Of Alzheimer's Symptoms Within Minutes In Human Study

The new study documents a dramatic and unprecedented therapeutic effect in an Alzheimer’s patient: improvement within minutes following delivery of perispinal etanercept, which is etanercept given by injection in the spine. Etanercept (trade name Enbrel) binds and inactivates excess TNF. Etanercept is FDA approved to treat a number of immune-mediated disorders and is used off label in the study.

Biofuels on a Big Scale

Now, the first large-scale study shows that switchgrass yields more than five times the energy needed to grow, harvest, and transport the grass and convert it to ethanol. The results could propel efforts to sow millions of hectares of marginal farmland with biofuel crops.

Hello Kitty Contact Lenses Shake Me to the Core

There's something not quite right about this girls' eyes. No, it's not the emo makeup or stupid hair coloring, although those are pretty bad. It's… oh my god, it is. She has Hello Kitty contact lenses. We're through the looking glass here. Take a closer look, if you dare.

British Scientists Create Ion-Mask, a Waterproof Coating for Gadgets

Scientists in Britain have come up with a solution for making electronic gadgets completely waterproof, using a type of coating that repels liquids. The technology has, up until now, been used for military gear, but the makers of Ion-Mask are already in discussion with three cellphone manufacturers with a view to using the coating on their products.

The Case for Diesel: Clean, Efficient, Fast Cars (Hybrids Beware!)

Today, diesel powertrains are on the map again, for both car manufacturers and efficiency-minded drivers. The technology could be here to stay, even if fuel prices (improbably) decline. The new cars run as well as their gasoline-powered competitors. And as for the emissions problems of the past—well, the dirty bird of fossil fuels isn’t so dirty anymore.

Stanford's nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones

Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.

The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.

Beamed Sonic Advertising Is Coming

newtley writes in with a story from Ad Age a few days back. "Advertisers are determined to get into your head by one means or another, and Holosonic Research Labs has found yet another way of invading your privacy in the name of forcing you pay attention. You're walking down a street in New York when all of a sudden, a woman's voice whispers 'Who's that? Who's There?' No, you weren't having a psychotic episode; you were being subjected without your permission to 'sound in a narrow beam, just like light.' It was coming at you from a rooftop speaker seven stories up."

Bill of Rights Day

Since today is Bill of Rights Day, it seems like an appropriate time to pause and consider the condition of the safeguards set forth in our fundamental legal charter.

Let’s consider each amendment in turn.

New study increases concerns about climate model reliability

A new study comparing the composite output of 22 leading global climate models with actual climate data finds that the models do an unsatisfactory job of mimicking climate change in key portions of the atmosphere.

This research, published on-line Wednesday in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology, raises new concerns about the reliability of models used to forecast global warming.

“The usual discussion is whether the climate model forecasts of Earth’s climate 100 years or so into the future are realistic,” said the lead author, Dr. David H. Douglass from the University of Rochester. “Here we have something more fundamental: Can the models accurately explain the climate from the recent past? “It seems that the answer is no.”

New Material Provides Constant Light For 12 Years Without a Power Source

MPK, a company that has made a name producing glow-in-the-dark paint, has developed self-luminous micro particles called Litrospheres. The new material is said to be inexpensive (35 cents to light up a 8 ½ x 11 piece of plastic that is 1/8" thick), non-toxic, and capable of staying constantly lit for over 12 years thanks to a betavoltaic technology that uses a radioactive gas.

Physicists perform the first ever quantum calculation

Professor Andrew White, from UQ's Centre for Quantum Computer Technology together with colleagues from the University of Toronto in Canada, said by manipulating quantum mechanically entangled photons – the fundamental particles of light – the prime factors of the number 15 were calculated.

Lightning Bolts within Cells

Using novel voltage-sensitive nanoparticles, researchers have found electric fields inside cells as strong as those produced in lightning bolts. Previously, it has only been possible to measure electric fields across cell membranes, not within the main bulk of cells. It's not clear what causes these strong fields or what they might mean. But now that it's possible to measure them, researchers hope to learn about disease states such as cancer by studying these electric fields.


But unfortunately, the "freeze" is just another fraud - and like the other bailout proposals, it has nothing to do with U.S. house prices, with "working families," keeping people in their homes or any of that nonsense.

The sole goal of the freeze is to prevent owners of mortgage-backed securities, many of them foreigners, from suing U.S. banks and forcing them to buy back worthless mortgage securities at face value - right now almost 10 times their market worth.

The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.

BMW Prototype Races Autonomously

The car drives itself around a track a high speed. YouTube of British Top Gear TV program.

Scientists Cure Mice Of Sickle Cell Using Stem Cell Technique

Using a recently developed technique for turning skin cells into stem cells, scientists have cured mice of sickle cell anemia -- the first direct proof that the easily obtained cells can reverse an inherited, potentially fatal disease.

Possible Scattering Of Human Remains On Disney Rides Reported

The woman told Disney park workers that the substance she dumped was baby powder, but officials are investigating the possibility that she sprinkled human ashes, Local 6 reported.

Some Disney watchers said park-goers tell them that people smuggling in the cremated remains of their loved ones and then sprinkling ashes on rides has been going on for a while.

They said it started at the Haunted Mansion, but now the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride is growing in popularity.

Falling prices driving crisis

Unaffordable loans don't cause foreclosures directly. Even as subprime lending became more common, even when people fell behind on mortgage payments - during the economic downturn in 2001, for example - foreclosures were rare because house prices continued to rise.

In part, people were able to escape trouble by selling their homes at prices high enough to cover their debts. But the research also suggests that troubled borrowers tried harder to make the necessary payments, in the expectation they would profit eventually.

Conversely, when prices started falling, people struggling to make payments had less incentive to find the money. And the value of the home could drop below the outstanding debt, making it impossible to sell. Over the last two years, the number of foreclosures exploded.

Researchers aim to harness sperm power for nano-robots

By breaking down the individual steps in the biological pathway that sperm use to generate energy, the researchers plan to reproduce that pathway for use in a human-made device.

"Our idea is not the final product but rather an energy-delivery system," said Alex Travis, Cornell assistant professor of reproductive biology at the College of Veterinary Medicine's Baker Institute for Animal Health and the study's senior author.

"As a proof of principle that this kind of strategy could work, we've shown that the first two enzymes could be attached to the same chip and act in series," added Chinatsu Mukai, a postdoctoral associate in Travis' lab and a co-author.

Solar Now Cheaper than Coal

The Nanosolar company was founded in 2002 and is working to build the world’s largest solar cell factory in California and the world’s largest panel-assembly factory in Germany. They have successfully created a solar coating that is the most cost-efficient solar energy source ever. Their PowerSheet cells contrast the current solar technology systems by reducing the cost of production from $3 a watt to a mere 30 cents per watt. This makes, for the first time in history, solar power cheaper than burning coal.

NASA Requires JPL Scientists To Give Up Right To Privacy

Markmarkmark writes "Wired is reporting that all NASA JPL scientists must 'voluntarily' (or be fired) sign a document giving the government the right to investigate their personal lives and history 'without limit'. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists this includes snooping into sexual orientation, mental & physical health as well as credit history and 'personality conflict'. 28 senior NASA scientists and engineers, including Mars Rover team members, refused to sign by the deadline and are now subject to being fired despite a decade or more of exemplary service. None of them even work on anything classified or defense related. They are suing the government and documenting their fight for their jobs and right to personal privacy."

Algae fueling new renewable energy research boom

Some varieties of algae are as much as 50 percent oil, and that oil can be converted into biodiesel or jet fuel. The biggest challenge is slashing the cost of production, which by one Defense Department estimate is running more than $20 a gallon.

"If you can get algae oils down below $2 a gallon, then you'll be where you need to be. And there's a lot of people who think you can," said Jennifer Holmgren, director of the renewable fuels unit of UOP LLC, an energy subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc.

Study: Children of Latino immigrants speaking more English, less Spanish

The nation's Latinos are showing a "dramatic increase" in their English language ability across generations, moving from a Spanish-dominant population for immigrants, to a predominantly English-fluent population for their children, a new report shows.

The Pew study found that while only about one in four Latino immigrants is fluent in English, nine in 10 of their children are. By the third generation in the U.S., three-quarters of Latino adults speak mainly or only English at home.

BoxBux Sux as Stix Hix Nix Xmas Flix

"It's sad, but hopefully these wonderful films will do much better in the overseas market," said Ebert. "No matter how much down inside they know how Christmas is wrong, and Santa is wrong, it's hard for Americans to see their elves portrayed in a balanced, realistic way, as tragically haunted sadistic pederasts. By contrast European filmgoers are much more sophisticated and educated, so they eat that sh*t right up."

A Working Brain Model

Scientists in Switzerland working with IBM researchers have shown that their computer simulation of the neocortical column, arguably the most complex part of a mammal's brain, appears to behave like its biological counterpart. By demonstrating that their simulation is realistic, the researchers say, these results suggest that an entire mammal brain could be completely modeled within three years, and a human brain within the next decade.

A New Way to Control Weight?

"It was hard to believe at first," said Marc Hamilton, associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia and leader of the research team. He said the team didn't expect to find a strong signal when they began researching what happens to fat when we remain seated. But the effect, both in laboratory animals and humans, turned out to be huge.

The solution, Hamilton said, is to stand up and "putter."

Obesity Rates Are Leveling Off

Obesity rates in American women have leveled off and stayed steady since 1999, a long enough time for researchers to say the plateau appears to be real. And, they say, there are hints that obesity rates may be leveling off for men, too.

Why banking is an accident waiting to happen

Why does banking generate such turmoil, with the crisis over securitised lending the latest example? Why is the industry so profitable? Why are the people it employs so well paid? The answer to these three questions is the same: banking takes high risks. But the public sector subsidises this risk-taking. It does so because banks provide a utility. What the banks give in return, however, is gung-ho speculation.

Juche Justice

A North Korean factory boss accused of making international phone calls was executed by a firing squad in front of 150,000 people, it emerged today. The manager was gunned down in a sports stadium in South Pyongan province after authorities claimed he'd installed (sic) 13 in a basement to reach the outside world, the Good Friends aid agency revealed.

And six people were also crushed to death and 34 others injured in an apparent stampede as they left after the execution, it was claimed.

Eighth wonder of the world?

The first time the police came it was over alleged tax evasion and still the temples lay undiscovered. But a year later the police swooped on the community demanding: "Show us these temples or we will dynamite the entire hillside."

Falco and his colleagues duly complied and opened the secret door to reveal what lay beneath.

Three policemen and the public prosecutor hesitantly entered, but as they stooped down to enter the first temple - named the Hall of the Earth - their jaws dropped.

Inside was a circular chamber measuring 8m in diameter.

Mapping the Brain's Neural Network

Ponca City, We Love You writes "New technologies could soon allow scientists to generate a complete wiring diagram of a piece of brain. With an estimated 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses in the human brain, creating an all-encompassing map of even a small chunk is a daunting task. Only one organism's complete wiring diagram now exists: that of the microscopic worm C. elegans, which contains a mere 302 neurons. The C. elegans mapping effort took more than a decade to complete. Research teams at MIT and at Heidelberg in Germany are experimenting with different approaches to speed up the process of mapping neural connections. The Germans start with a small block of brain tissue and bounce electrons off the top of the block to generate a cross-sectional picture of the nerve fibers. They then take a very thin slice, 30 nanometers, off the top of the block. 'Repeat this [process] thousands of times, and you can make your way through maybe the whole fly brain,' says the lead researcher. They are training an artificial neural network to emulate the human process of tracing neural connections to speed the process about 100- to 1000-fold. They estimate that they need a further factor of a million to analyze useful chunks of the human brain in reasonable times."

3-D Printers Redefine Industrial Design

When it came time for Joe Hebenstreit to buy a wedding ring for his wife-to-be, he stuck with what he knew. That didn't involve going to the neighborhood jewelry store or venturing into a Tiffany's. Instead, Hebenstreit simply designed the ring in CAD by himself and then printed out a three-dimensional prototype using a 3-D printer.

"I designed it in 3-D, printed it out in wax, and then cast it in platinum at a high temperature casting place," Hebenstreit explains nonchalantly. "You can do a lot of cool things with 3-D printers," he continues. "They come up with new uses for them all the time."

Paleontologists Discover Bug the Size of a Volkswagen

A fossilized claw found in a German rock formation belonged to a giant sea scorpion 8 feet long that lived 390 million years ago.

British Nuclear Security Kind of Slipshod

No two-person control or complicated safety features: until 1998, you could arm British nukes with a bicycle lock key.

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws -- like a battery cover on a radio -- using a thumbnail or a coin.
Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Certainly most of the security was procedural. But still....

Sesame Street DVD Deemed Adult-Only Entertainment

theodp writes "The earliest episodes of Sesame Street are being made available on DVD, but the NYT notes Volumes 1 and 2 carry a rather strange warning: 'These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child.' So why are they unsuitable for toddlers in 2007? Well, in the parody 'Monsterpiece Theater,' Alistair Cookie — played by Cookie Monster — used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. 'That modeled the wrong behavior,' explained a Sesame Street executive producer, adding that 'we might not be able to create a character like Oscar [the Grouch] now.'"

Major Breakthrough in Direct Neural Interface

jd writes "In a major breakthrough, neurologists are reporting that they can decypher neurological impulses into speech with an 80% accuracy. A paralyzed man who is incapable of speech has electrodes implanted in his brain which detect the electrical pulses in the brain relating to speech. These signals are then fed into computers which covert these pulses into signals suitable for speech synthesis. As a biotech marvel, this is astonishing. Depending on the rate of development it is possible to imagine Professor Hawking migrating to this, as it would be immune to any further loss of body movement and would vastly accelerate his ability to talk. On the flip-side, direct brain I/O is also a major step towards William Gibson's Neuromancer and other cyberpunk dark futures."

Microbes Churn Out Hydrogen at Record Rate

FiReaNGeL writes to mention that Penn State Researchers have improved on their original microbial electrolysis cell design bringing the resulting system up to better than 80 percent efficiency when considering all energy inputs and outputs. "By tweaking their design, improving conditions for the bacteria, and adding a small jolt of electricity, they increased the hydrogen yield to a new record for this type of system. 'We achieved the highest hydrogen yields ever obtained with this approach from different sources of organic matter, such as yields of 91 percent using vinegar (acetic acid) and 68 percent using cellulose,' said Logan. In certain configurations, nearly all of the hydrogen contained in the molecules of source material converted to usable hydrogen gas, an efficiency that could eventually open the door to bacterial hydrogen production on a larger scale."

The New Dawn of Solar

The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. With backing from Google’s founders and $20 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, Nanosolar’s first commercial cells rolled off the presses this year.

Wind Dam Design for Russian Lake is Spooky, Awesome

This innovative, ghostlike structure is a wind dam, a sail-like structure to harness wind energy, and thought to be the first of its kind in the world. If the project is given the green light, the $5 million dam, which is designed by British architect Laurie Chetwood, will be going up next year on Lake Ladoga, in the northwest of Russia. More pics and details below.

Not to Say We Told You So, But…

The latest reports from Massachusetts warn that with just seven weeks left until the state’s mandate for individual health insurance goes into effect, more than 100,000 residents have failed to buy the required insurance. That represents nearly 20 percent of the state’s uninsured population and more than half of the uninsured with incomes too high to qualify for subsidies.

According to insurance industry insiders, the plans are too costly for the target market and the potential customers — largely younger, healthy men — have resisted buying them.

How could anyone know that an individual mandate for health insurance would be unenforceable? Oh yeah, we told them.

Hollywood strike underlines bleak outlook for movie business

The report, by the research company Global Media Intelligence in association with its partner Merrill Lynch, concludes that much of the income - past and future - that studios and writers have been fighting about has already gone to the biggest stars, directors and producers in the form of ballooning participation deals. A participation is a share in the gross revenue, not the profit, of a movie.

Trojan Found In New HDs Sold In Taiwan

GSGKT writes "About 1,800 brand new 300-GB or 500-GB external hard drives made for Maxtor in Thailand were found to have trojan horse malwares pre-installed (autorun.inf and ghost.pif). When the HD is in use, these forward information on the disk to two websites in Beijing, China: www.nice8.org or www.we168.org. The article implies that authorities believe the Chinese government is behind the trojans. A later article pins down the point of infection to a subcontractor company in China. A couple of months back the Register was reporting on pre-installed malware detected on Maxtor disks sold in the Netherlands. This earlier report was downplayed by a Seagate spokesman." The more recent Taipei Times article says that Seagate admits the problem on its Web site, but a search there turns up nothing.

Robot Run Warehouse Speeds Deliveries

Ponca City, We Love You writes "The robot invasion may soon be coming to a warehouse near you. In a conventional warehouse, workers walk from shelf to shelf to fill orders, while in conveyor-based systems, boxes move past workers who pack them. A new warehouse design arranges rows and columns of freestanding shelves in a memory-chip-like grid serviced by robots. When a consumer submits an order, robots deliver the relevant shelving units to workers who pack the requested items in a box and ship them off allowing workers to fill orders two to three times faster than they could with conventional methods because the robots can work in parallel, allowing dozens of workers to fill dozens of orders simultaneously. The robotic system is also faster because the entire warehouse can adapt, in real time, to changes in demand by having the robots move shelves with popular items closer to the workers (pdf), where the shelves can be quickly retrieved while items that aren't selling are gradually moved farther away. Two giant warehouses have already been built for Staples and a third is being built for Walgreens where the software will also keep track of expiration dates to ensure that items that can go bad are sent out in the order that they're stocked."

Nissan Developing Color Changing Paint

If Nissan has anything to say about it, soon all soccer moms will be James Bonds, changing the color of their car with the flip of a switch. That's because Nissan is developing a paramagnetic iron oxide paint polymer. Using an electrical charge, the arrangement of iron oxide crystals can be tweaked, adjusting the car's color. (It just so happens that metal-bodied cars make for excellent conductive surfaces.) But we're really excited over Nissan's surely bogus but juicy claim to have the technology on the market extremely soon, by 2010 if possible. Oh...except there's one catch.

Automated Custom Manufacturing

With its user-friendly design templates, rapid-manufacturing technology, and online marketplace, a company called Ponoko intends to help bring an end to the era of mass production. Instead, it believes, its service opens up the way to mass individualization--the creation of one-of-a-kind products by way of user-driven design and manufacturing.

A visitor to Ponoko's website can either upload a digital design for a product or select another user's design, and within five to ten days, the company has manufactured the components of the product and is ready to ship them back. Customers can also design objects without building them, leaving their designs on file for others to use; the website has a "showroom" where customers can browse through a catalogue that lists pictures and prices of designs and products created by other users.

Mirror, Mirror In The Brain: Mirror Neurons, Self-understanding And Autism Research

Some scientists speculate that a mirror system in people forms the basis for social behavior, for our ability to imitate, acquire language, and show empathy and understanding. It also may have played a role in the evolution of speech. Mirror neurons were so named because, by firing both when an animal acts and when it simply watches the same action, they were thought to "mirror" movement, as though the observer itself were acting.

Research team makes progress toward 'printing' organs

In the study, the team used bio-ink particles, or spheres containing 10,000 to 40,000 cells, and assembled, or “printed,” them on to sheets of organic, cell friendly “bio-paper.” Once printed, the spheres began to fuse in the bio-paper into one structure, much the same way that drops of water will fuse to form a larger drop of water.

How a Tumor Is Like an Embryo

It's now increasingly apparent that one mechanism, quite possibly the dominant mechanism, involves the ability by the cancer cell to resurrect early embryonic behavioral programs. [In the embryo, these programs] normally enable different tissues to form and depend on the ability of embryonic cells to move from one site in the body to another. This movement in the embryo is superficially similar to metastasis. The way cancer cells acquire this embryonic trait of being able to move throughout the organism depends on their ability to resurrect these early embryonic behavioral programs...

Yet Another Energy Revolution (Yawn)

Invoking the Valley's experience with microprocessors and telecommunication, Koshla promises, "All the innovation came from little companies that had breakthrough technologies....You should have a thousand points of innovation and for sure you'll get a breakthrough."

So are we headed for a future of clean, green energy funded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs? Don't bet on it. If I were investing, I'd short every one of these ventures.

The Charge of the Ultra-Capacitors

The synergy between batteries and capacitors—two of the sturdiest and oldest components of electrical engineering—has been growing, to the point where ultracapacitors may soon be almost as indispensable to portable electricity as batteries are now.

Who's Fueling Whom?

President Bush, a former oil executive, declared last year that we are "addicted to oil." In this year's State of the Union speech, he set a national goal of producing 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017. The next morning, C. Ford Runge, who studies food and agriculture policy at the University of Minnesota, calculated that this would require 108 percent of the current crop if it all came from corn.

TSA Tipped Off Screeners About Security Test

The Transportation Security Administration promotes its programs to ensure security by using undercover operatives to test its airport screeners. In one instance, however, the agency thwarted such a test by alerting screeners across the country that it was under way, even providing descriptions of the undercover agents.

Inflatable Solar Arrays: Up To 25X Cheaper, Feature Cool 'Puffy' Look

Using traditional photovoltaics and a very non-traditional inflatable concentrator and tensegrity truss rigging structure, the folks at Cool Earth Solar have developed a system that could be far cheaper than polished aluminum mirrors. In fact, the inflatable versions are up to 400 times cheaper than regular mirrors and they are so lightweight that they can be suspended on cable lines as opposed to individual base systems —thereby using far less steel in construction. That means faster installation and minimal land use disruption.

Prepare for the credit drama sequel

Never mind the fact that the risky tranches of subprime-linked debt (the so-called BBB ABX series) have fallen 80 per cent since the start of the year; in a sense, such declines are only natural for risky assets in a credit storm.

Instead, what is really alarming is that the assets which were supposed to be ultra-safe – namely AAA and AA rated tranches of debt – have collapsed in value by 20 per cent and 50 per cent odd respectively.

This is dangerous, given that financial institutions of all stripes have been merrily leveraging up AAA and AA paper in recent years, precisely because it was supposed to be ultra-safe and thus, er, never lose value.

A Fully-Functioning Nanotube Radio

team of researchers at UC Berkeley have invented a radio made of a single carbon nanotube. The device is just a few billionths of a meter in size - so small that it could fit inside a living cell, or float along in your bloodstream....It could be used in medical devices that swim through your body, responding to radio commands. Or it could be put inside tiny wireless devices. It could even be put inside a human ear, an idea which inevitably leads to visions of a dark future where people are implanted with radios and telephones that they can't ever turn off.

Spock-Ear Plastic Surgery Mod is Not Logical

Ever thought of getting yourself a permanent pair of Star Trek Vulcan ears? A day trip to the plastic surgeon can get that done for you. This body modification is said to enhance the music listening experience, but then, you have to go around looking like Spock to enjoy that questionable benefit.

Hitler's veggie diet misguided bid to fix farts

Medical historians are unanimous that der Fuhrer had der farting problem, according to an article by historian and travel writer Tony Perrottet in this month's The Smart Set, a magazine from Drexel University in Philadelphia. Hitler wrongheadedly tried to cure himself, Perrottet says, by reasoning a mostly vegetarian diet would make his farts less offensive.
[Morrell] also likely worsened Hitler's dementia with Dr. Koester's Anti-gas Pills, which contained strychnine, a poison, and antropine, which causes mood swings. Morrell also injected Hitler with amphetamines every morning starting in 1941. U.S. intelligence later found Morell was daily pumping Hitler with 28 different drugs. But Morrell's diaries make clear that no matter what, Hitler kept on farting.

Small World ride revamped for bigger passengers

The problem, quite simply, is that the flume that the boats ride in, and the boats themselves, were designed and built in 1963 on the assumption that the male adult riders would average 175 pounds and the women about 135, which they pretty much did at the time. Alas, those figures are as outdated today as the Rocket to the Moon ride.

The Small World ride now must accommodate adults who frequently weigh north of 200 pounds, which it often cannot do. Increasingly, overweighted boats get to certain points in the ride and bottom out, becoming stuck in the flume.

Confiscated Scissors Transformed into Stabby Spiders

Ever wonder what happens to all the pointy objects confiscated by those eagle-eyed defenders of justice at airport security? Well, at least some of the potentially-stabby scissors are turned into sweet spiders by artist Christopher Locke. He's got a step-by-step on his site on how he did it, and one thing is definitely for certain: if these scissors didn't make it onto an airplane before, they definitely won't now. Yikes.

Even in Death, This Guy is a Massive Nerd

A tombstone in the shape of a computer.

FBI Puts Antiwar Protesters on Criminal Database; Canada Uses It To Ban Protesters From Entry

Two well-respected US peace activists, CODEPINK and Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin and retired Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, were denied entry into Canada On October third. The two women were headed to Toronto to discuss peace and security issues at the invitation of the Toronto Stop the War Coalition. At the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Bridge they were detained, questioned and denied entry.

"In my case, the border guard pulled up a file showing that I had been arrested at the US Mission to the UN where, on International Women's Day, a group of us had tried to deliver a peace petition signed by 152,000 women around the world," says Benjamin. "For this, the Canadians labeled me a criminal and refused to allow me in the country."

Poor, Not Dumb: Common Sense Reform for Medicaid

Most important to me as a doctor whose rural practice was destroyed by the frustrating, unsustainable bureaucracy known as Medi-Cal, this model for reform increases quality healthcare access for those with few other options.

I sustained a personal and professional loss when I was forced to stop providing services as the only breast cancer surgery specialist in a 70-mile radius in central California who still accepted Medi-Cal. I could no longer afford the $10,000-$15,000 monthly hemorrhage related to reimbursement so low it would be cheaper to close my office doors.

The Catastrophist View

What would it take to send the U.S. economy—and New York’s—into free fall? A doomsday primer.

Renewable Energy BS at U.S. News & World Report

Ethanol (E100) prices on U.S. spot markets last week averaged $1.87 a gallon. That is indeed cheaper than the price of conventional gasoline in those same markets ($2.25 per gallon), but ethanol has only two-thirds of the energy content of gasoline. If you want to buy enough ethanol to displace the energy you get from a gallon of gasoline, you would have to spend $2.80 per gallon. Hence, ethanol is not cheaper than gasoline, and federal mandates to use ethanol in transportation fuel does not reduce pump prices.

Electricity prices last week averaged 9.57 cents per kilowatt hour. Given that there are 3,400 BTUs in a kilowatt hour of electricity and about 124,000 BTUs in a gallon of gasoline, simple math dictates that it would cost $3.50 to buy enough electricity to get the same amount of energy we get from a gallon of gasoline.

Lack of sleep is a lot like mental illness

Feeling cranky after a bad night's sleep? Now there could be an explanation. Brain activity associated with psychiatric illness has been observed in healthy people who missed a single night's sleep. As well as shedding light on why sleep deprivation makes us feel so bad, the study could change our thinking about mental illness.

Focus Fusion On Google Tech Talks

Henning Burdack writes "Eric Lerner talks on Google Tech Talks about Focus Fusion, which would be a much cheaper and more feasible technology as a fusion energy source than any other current approach, based upon the dense plasma focus device. The technology will use hydrogen-boron fusion with direct induction of ion energy and photovoltaic conversion of x-ray emission, obviating the need of a steam-cycle and thus resulting in higher efficiencies. High temperatures of 1 billion Kelvin (100 keV) have been reached years ago. It only needs $2 million in funding and two years of research for a proof of concept, and maybe four more years for a prototype with positive energy output. In contrast to other fusion efforts it utilizes the natural instabilities of plasma instead of fighting them. Focus Fusion has been discussed on Slashdot before, and a patent application is also available, going a bit more into detail."

Storm worm strikes back at security pros

The worm can figure out which users are trying to probe its command-and-control servers, and it retaliates by launching DDoS attacks against them, shutting down their Internet access for days, says Josh Corman, host-protection architect for IBM/ISS, who led a session on network threats.

China launches first Moon orbiter

The satellite, named Chang'e 1, took off from the Xichang Centre in south-west China's Sichuan province at 1800 local time (1000 GMT).

Analysts say it is a key step towards China's aim of putting a man on the Moon by 2020, in the latest stage of an Asian space race with Japan and India

Terabyte Thumb Drives Made Possible by Nanotech Memory

Researchers have developed a low-cost, low-power computer memory that could put terabyte-sized thumb drives in consumers' pockets within a few years.

Thanks to a new technique for manipulating charged copper particles at the molecular scale, researchers at Arizona State University say their memory is, bit-for-bit, one-tenth the cost of -- and 1,000 times as energy-efficient as -- flash memory, the predominant memory technology in iPhones and other mobile devices.

Fannie, Freddie Portfolios Shrink

Though Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been arguing that they should be granted authority to buy more mortgages to help ease a credit crunch, data released by the companies this week show that they haven't been using the authority they already possess.

Freddie Mac sold more mortgage-related assets last month than during any other month in the almost four years for which it has posted data on the Web.

In addition, Freddie Mac reduced its commitments for future purchases, indicating that it was slackening activities that might give the mortgage markets a lift.

Video search makes phone a 'second pair of eyes'

Video-equipped cellphones could soon offer simple way to find useful information about the surrounding world.

Currently, the best way to use a cellphone to find information about, for example, a product or an ad on a wall is by entering an internet search query with the keypad. Soon, however, it may be easier to simply record a video clip of an item of interest and have your phone tell you about it instead.

The Last Laugh - subprime

YouTube English comedy about subprime loans.

The pseudo-science hurting markets

In 1990 William Sharpe and Harry Markowitz won the prize three years after the stock market crash of 1987, an event that, if anything, completely demolished the laureates’ ideas on portfolio construction. Further, the crash of 1987 was no exception: the great mathematical scientist Benoît Mandelbrot showed in the 1960s that these wild variations play a cumulative role in markets – they are “unexpected” only by the fools of economic theories.

US loan default problems widen

Poor quarterly results from banks across the US over the past two weeks suggest credit problems once confined to high-risk mortgage borrowers are spreading across the consumer landscape, posing new risks to the economy and weighing heavily on the markets.

US banks have raised reserves for loan losses by at least $6bn over the second quarter and by even larger amounts from last year, indicating financial executives believe consumers will be increasingly unable to make payments on a variety of loans.

Medical: Scientists Develop Artery Scurrying Micro Robot

The boffins at Chonnam National University have created a microscopic robot to be used in medical procedures to clear blocked arteries. The miniscule robot has six legs and walks in the same manner as a crab. The researchers have discovered the robot is capable of traveling a whopping 55 yards in three weeks.

Provider of Free Public Domain Music Shuts Down

Mark Rogers writes "The International Music Score Library Project has provided access to copies of many musical scores that are in the public domain. It has just been shut down due to a cease-and-desist letter sent to the site operator by a European Union music publisher (Universal Edition). A majority of the scores recently available at IMSLP were in the public domain worldwide. Other scores were not in the public domain in the United States or the EU (where copyright extends for 70 years after the composer's death), but were legal in Canada (where the site is hosted) and many other countries. The site's maintainers clearly labeled the copyright status of such scores and warned users to follow their respective country's copyright law. Apparently this wasn't enough for Universal Edition, who found it necessary to protect the interests of their (long-dead) composers and shut down a site that has proved useful to many students, professors, and other musicians worldwide."

Enron Accounting at Citigroup

Citigroup Net tangible assets as of June 30 2007 are $65.5 billion. That's kind of interesting isn't it? Citigroup has $65.5 billion in net tangible assets but $160 billion invested in off balance sheet SIVs and conduits.

If a fire sale of those SIVs and conduits resulted in a 25% loss, Citigroup would have net tangible assets of $25.5 billion. If a fire sale of SIVs and conduits resulted in a 41% loss in those SIVs and conduits, Citigroup would have zero net tangible assets.

Virus-Built Electronics

In producing this novel fiber, the researchers have demonstrated a completely new way of making nanomaterials, one that uses viruses as microscopic building blocks. Belcher, a professor of materials science and biological engineering at MIT, says the approach has two main advantages. First, in high concentrations the viruses tend to organize themselves, lining up side by side to form an orderly pattern. Second, the viruses can be genetically engineered to bind to and organize inorganic materials such as those used in battery electrodes, transistors, and solar cells.

'Bionic' nerve to bring damanged limbs and organs back to life

In a study published in October's Experimental Neurology, Dr Paul Kingham and his team at the UK Centre for Tissue Regeneration (UKCTR) isolated the stem cells from the fat tissue of adult animals and differentiated them into nerve cells to be used for repair and regeneration of injured nerves. They are now about to start a trial extracting stem cells from fat tissue of volunteer adult patients, in order to compare in the laboratory human and animal stem cells.

New mathematical model predicts more virulent microbes

As even larger societies developed, more virulent organisms, such as measles, emerged because the population could permit the virus to spread. Our most recent epidemics, including influenza in the early 20th century and AIDS today, involve organisms that can kill millions because these highly virulent organisms have a huge pool of people to infect, and still be transmitted.

How special is American inequality?

I was surprised to discover that U.S. market income (i.e., pre-tax) inequality is lower than the U.K.’s, the same as Germany’s, and only slightly higher than Sweden’s...

This is from Brandolini and Smeeding’s 2007 “Inequality Patterns in Western-Type Democracies: Cross-Country Differences and Time Changes” [pdf]. While the U.S. pre-tax Gini is still on the high side of the median of these 16 OECD countries, it is remarkable how much differences in tax and transfer policies push the U.S. to the top in inequality in disposable income.

Inside America's Richest Insurance Racket

Title companies appeared a century ago, helping to protect home buyers from being swindled by crooks who sold properties they didn't own. A title insurance policy protects the buyer in case the deed turns out to be defective but the seller cannot be collared to refund the purchase price. It is far less necessary in these days of computerized records, online searches and rare instances of title fraud or hidden liens.

Yet First American and its two main rivals--number two Fidelity National (no relation to Fidelity mutual funds) and third-ranked LandAmerica--are fat and thriving in an $18-billion-a-year business that has quadrupled in ten years.

First American has doubled its prices in a decade, to an average charge of $1,472 per home for a title search and insurance. Meanwhile, thanks to computerized record-keeping, the cost of searching for a home's ownership records online has fallen to as low as $25. Technology also has helped make mistakes rarer; now only $74 of each policy goes to pay claims--that is, make home buyers with defective deeds whole. That leaves a $1,373 spread for overhead and for profit.

How to Argue against SCHIP

Then I like to close with this: “If you’re not interested in the best way to promote child health, not interested in targeting government assistance to the needy, and not concerned about trapping families in low-wage jobs…exactly what is it you are hoping to accomplish?”

Promising Malaria Vaccine Is Found to Work in Babies

he world’s most promising malaria vaccine has been shown to work in infants less than a year old, the most vulnerable group, according to a study being published today.

The study, published in the Lancet, was small, involving only 214 babies in Mozambique, and was intended to show only that the vaccine was safe at such young ages. But it also indicated that the risk of catching malaria was reduced by 65 percent after the full course of three injections.

Apple to open iPhone to independent programmers

Apple announced Wednesday it will provide a development kit to let independent programmers create new applications for the device, a move that could eventually open the music player-phone to new games and link it to corporate e-mail systems.

Earthquake experts: Hayward Fault is a 'tectonic time bomb'

Studying layers of soil in a trench they dug near the Fremont BART station, earthquake experts have made a startling discovery: The Hayward Fault has had a big earthquake every 140 years, on average, since 1315. And this Sunday marks year 139.

"It wouldn't be a surprise to any seismologist if it had a big earthquake tomorrow," said Tom Brocher, coordinator of Northern California Earthquake Hazards investigations for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. "This is a real threat."

Junkfood Science Exclusive: The big one — results of the biggest clinical trial of healthy eating ever

So, to settle the issue once and for all, one of the largest, longest and most expensive randomized, controlled, primary dietary intervention clinical trial in the history of our country was launched in 1993. This was to be THE study to end all studies and proponents believed it would finally prove the benefits of not just low-fat diets, but what has come to epitomize the government's very definition of “healthy eating.” According to the National Institutes of Health, it was "one of the largest studies of its kind ever undertaken in the United States and is considered a model for future studies of women’s health.” It was a major undertaking, costing $415 million and was conducted at 40 medical centers across the country. It was a well-designed and carefully conducted study and researchers were confident this would prove the rightness of eating “right.”

More than 8 years later, there was no difference in the incidences of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks or strokes among those who ate “healthy” and those who ate whatever they pleased.

Drug-Resistant Bacterium Spreading

A dangerous germ that has been spreading around the country causes more life-threatening infections than public health authorities had thought and is killing more people in the United States each year than the AIDS virus, federal health officials reported today.

The microbe, a strain of a once innocuous staph bacterium that has become invulnerable to first-line antibiotics, is responsible for more than 94,000 serious infections and nearly 19,000 deaths each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated.

Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard

For chronically failing schools like these, the No Child Left Behind law, now up for renewal in Congress, prescribes drastic measures: firing teachers and principals, shutting schools and turning them over to a private firm, a charter operator or the state itself, or a major overhaul in governance.

But more than 1,000 of California’s 9,500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing. Barring revisions in the law, state officials predict that all 6,063 public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading.

Death special: The plan for eternal life

I'M SITTING in a darkened hall listening to neuroscientist Anders Sandberg describe how to scan ultra-thin sections of brain. First, embed the brain in plastic, then use a camera combined with laser beam and diamond blade to capture images of the tissue as it is sliced.

The method is being developed (in mice, so far) to better understand the architecture of the brain. But Sandberg, who is based at the University of Oxford, has a rather more ambitious aim in mind. For him, this work is merely the first step towards uploading the contents of human brains - memories, emotions and all - onto a computer.

The Toll of Unhealthy Health Care Practices

The dirty little secret of public health is the disease and death caused by those employed to cure the sick. Hospital-acquired infections[1] (HAIs) are estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to kill between 1.5 and 3 million people every year.[2] Unhygienic practices and unclean hospitals--and, in poorer nations, unsafe blood products and reused injection equipment--kill patients in droves. With little public awareness of this problem, infection control remains a low priority. Historically, some vaccination programs have infected vast numbers of populations they were intended to protect.

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