Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

One last one from this week’s Economist newspaper

The X Prize Foundation
Now count to a hundred
A new prize for the genomics of the elderly is now on offer

IN BRITAIN, those who live to be 100 years old receive a birthday card from the queen. In the future, centenarians everywhere may also receive a call from a geneticist. If they do, he or she will be seeking a sample of DNA that might, eventually, help to reveal the genetic components of extreme longevity. The more immediate use, however, will be in a competition. For on October 26th the X Prize Foundation, based in Playa Vista, California, unveiled its latest carrot to the world’s scientists.

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Evolution in action before our eyes!

Pollution and evolution
The Economist
An accidental experiment in America shows how evolution happens
IT IS not often that biologists have a chance to watch natural selection in action. The best-known cases—the evolution of resistance to antibiotics in bacteria and to pesticides in insects—are responses to deliberate changes people have made in the environment of the creatures concerned. But mankind has caused lots of accidental changes as well, and these also offer opportunities to study evolution.

Great article from the economist newspaper on the latest advances in reading our mind, when awake and while we dream…

Reading the brain


It is now possible to scan someone’s brain and get a reasonable idea of what is going through his mind

IF YOU think the art of mind-reading is a conjuring trick, think again. Over the past few years, the ability to connect first monkeys and then men to machines in ways that allow brain signals to tell those machines what to do has improved by leaps and bounds. In the latest demonstration of this, just published in the Public Library of Science, Bin He and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota report that their volunteers can successfully fly a helicopter (admittedly a virtual one, on a computer screen) through a three-dimensional digital sky, merely by thinking about it. Signals from electrodes taped to the scalp of such pilots provide enough information for a computer to work out exactly what the pilot wants to do.

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Nobel Prize group breaks its own rules after unexpected death of recipient

Immunologist Dr. Ralph M. Steinman will be one of the first posthumous Nobel Prize recipients

by | Last updated 7:55PM EDT on October 3, 2011

After one of the 2011 Nobel Prize honorees died on Friday, the Nobel commitee was forced with a tough choice: revoke Dr. Ralph M. Steinman’s prize, or allow him to be in violation of an essential tenet of the world’s most prestigious award? In a decision today, the Nobel committee opted to go against time-honored tradition — Steinman’s status as a Nobel winner won’t be revoked, since he was selected while he was still alive.

Along with two other researchers, Steinman was recognized within the medicine category for his work in immunology. In 1973, Steinman discovered dendritic cells, a new class of immune cell with practical applications for virus vaccination and cancer treatment. Dendritic cells are a kind of Antigen Presenting Cell (APC) known for their role in activating T cells — a process critical to the human body’s immune response. Steinman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, and has been at work on a treatment for his own condition based on his work with dendritic cells.

The Nobel Prize was established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. The first round of honors across categories was awarded in 1901, spanning Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. In 1961, the Nobel Prize was was also awarded posthumously, to a Swedish diplomat who (like Steinman) died after the award was announced but before the ceremony.

If you find the Nobel Prize’s research and tradition a bit too stuffy, check out the 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes — the serious ceremony’s zanier counterpart. This year’s Ig Nobel winners include publications on the yawning habits of tortoises and the viability of wasabi in waking up unsuspecting sleepers during emergencies.

[via The New York Times]
Nobel Prize group breaks its own rules after unexpected death of recipient | Tecca

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This is just ridiculous! Shows the State of Nation

Government logo fail of the day: “

This is like an Onion parody on steroids. Only it’s 100 percent real.
Inspired by President Obama’s “Sputnik moment” speech back in January, the government-sponsored Smithsonian Institute has launched a new blog called “Department of Innovation”. As they describe it:
Seems a long time ago, but it was only back in January when Barack Obama told us that America had reached a “Sputnik moment.” He was referring to the competition with China to be the Big Dog of the 21st century global economy, but the subtext was that the country needs an attitude adjustment, that we need to start channeling Silicon Valley, a place where people may pledge to “Do no evil” but the true religion is innovation.
It made for one fine sound bite. But it hasn’t exactly inspired a bunch of innovation rallies and bake sales. So in the spirit of banging the drum for new ideas and fresh thinking, this blog will track all things innovative, not just in science and technology, but also in how we live, how we learn, how we entertain ourselves.
Sharp-eyed reader Rob M. certainly found the “Department of Innovation”s logo entertaining. You will, too.
Take a closer look:

As Rob wrote me this morning: “Check out the logo. 3 interlocking gears arranged in this fashion will not move in any direction. They are essentially locked in place. Which when you think about it, is a perfect analogy of today’s government!”Also a perfect analogy for a hapless administration’s pretense of entrepreneurial expertise: Total non-starter.
And that, my friends, is your government logo fail of the day…


Another commenter at the Smithsonian blog also noticed: “I love this feature. I thought, however, that I would comment on the Department of Innovation meshing gears logo. The gears can’t turn. Perhaps that was the intended effect?”
Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Our commenter Cynosura adds: “Not to pick at nits, but the position of the gears (interlocking, thus unable to turn) is not the only problem with the logo. The gear pitch (space between tooth centers) is not consistent. I realize that it’s a logo and not a technical drawing, but it hurts my eyes to look at it. Even if the small gears were separated, the gears would likely jam during the first revolution…”

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The MasterFeeds

Amateur astronomer Matthias Kronberger discovered the soccer-ball nebula, called Kronberger 61, in January 2011 after poring over digitized photos of sky surveys from the 1980s. After he alerted professional astronomers, the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii zoomed in on the region to create the new, color-composite image.
Kronberger 61 lies roughly 13,000 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation and is almost perfectly round—an oddity when compared with the other 3,000 or so planetary nebulae already discovered.
“Very few are this spherical. They’re usually elongated and look like butterflies and other objects,” said astronomer George Jacoby of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization in Pasadena, California, who helped image the nebula with Gemini.

“Soccer Ball” Nebula Discovered by Amateur Astronomer

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Interesting article from the Financial Times:
Asia: Heirs and spares
Financial Times, 11:14pm Sunday 10th July 2011

By Amy Kazmin, Patti Waldmeir and Girija Shivakumar

The political, economic and social consequences of a preference for sons – and an attendant shortage of girls – is alarming policymakers

In the Indian farming village of Medina, 200km from Delhi, the narrow lanes are clogged with high-end sport utility vehicles, reflecting the prosperity brought by rising land values to this traditional community. In their mud-floored homes, residents display flatscreen televisions, refrigerators and other modern conveniences.
But Medina’s families are also using their new wealth to acquire a scarce local commodity: teenage girls to act as wives for the community’s growing cohorts of unmarried men.

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