30 November 2011

Featured Video: Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is a must see video. Very highly recommended. Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberley Academy - January 29th 2010.

A discussion about science, society, and the universe with Stephen Colbert, who is out of character, at the Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey.

They talk about everything from the red matter producing black holes from the movie, Star Trek and why James Cameron's Titanic annoys Neil DeGrasse Tyson to the discovery of methane in Mars. Lots of stuff and really entertaining.

Stephen Colbert Interviews Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The interview proper starts around the 6 minute mark

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist. He is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and also a Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.

Stephen Colbert is a comedian and political satirist known for his TV show, The Colbert Report.

Guided Rockets Hit Fast-Moving Targets in Test

“It’s a fire-and-forget weapon,” said Ken Heeke, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) program officer for the Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS). “No longer do you have to continue to monitor the target after you’ve fired the weapon. You can move on to the next threat with the assurance that the rocket will hit the target.”

The Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker is a Future Naval Capabilities product intended to equip the existing unguided Hydra-70, 2.75-inch rocket with a low-cost guidance capability. The weapon system will provide the warfighter with an effective means to combat the small boat swarm threat, also known as the fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) threat.

How does the LCITS work? Targeting data from launch aircraft sensors are transmitted via a digital smart launcher to the weapon. Rocket fly-out occurs under mid-course guidance provided by an IMU, and upon arrival in a search basket, transitions to identification and tracking of the target with an imaging infrared seeker as it closes for the kill.

Unlike laser-guided weapons that require operators to select and monitor a target from launch to detonation, LCITS gives unguided rockets the ability to compute and home in on targets automatically after launch.

Video: Low-Cost Imaging Terminal Seeker (LCITS) in action

In their live fire test, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division engineers used a shore-based launcher to fire two LCITS rockets, one inert and the other with an explosive warhead. Using inertial guidance, they flew to a point where the infrared terminal guidance system took over. Onboard imaging infrared seekers identified their intended targets among five maneuvering small boats. The rockets adjusted trajectories to intercept and eliminate two of the boats.

The test was part of the Medusa Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, an effort funded by the Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense and Republic of Korea.

LCITS will provide a tactically effective and cost effective means to combat the real asymmetric threat to U.S. and coalition naval forces posed by an adversary’s use of small boat swarm tactics. It will provide increased engagement capability, launch envelope, and probability of kill, while reducing exposure of the war fighter.

Alzheimer's Disease Risk Minimized by Eating Fish

A weekly diet of baked or broiled fish may improve brain health and reduce risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease. This is according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"This is the first study to establish a direct relationship between fish consumption, brain structure and Alzheimer's risk," said Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled fish at least one time per week had better preservation of gray matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."

Alzheimer's disease is an incurable, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and cognitive skills. According to the National Institute on Aging, as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease. In MCI, memory loss is present but to a lesser extent than in Alzheimer's disease. People with MCI often go on to develop Alzheimer's disease.

For the study, 260 cognitively normal individuals were selected from the Cardiovascular Health Study. Information on fish consumption was gathered using the National Cancer Institute Food Frequency Questionnaire. There were 163 patients who consumed fish on a weekly basis, and the majority ate fish one to four times per week. Each patient underwent 3-D volumetric MRI of the brain. Voxel-based morphometry, a brain mapping technique that measures gray matter volume, was used to model the relationship between weekly fish consumption at baseline and brain structure 10 years later. The data were then analyzed to determine if gray matter volume preservation associated with fish consumption reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease. The study controlled for age, gender, education, race, obesity, physical activity, and the presence or absence of apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4), a gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Video: The Causes and Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Gray matter volume is important and crucial to brain health. At high levels, the health of the brain is stable and maintained. Decreases in gray matter volume indicate that brain cells are shrinking.

According to the study, a weekly diet of fish positively positively associated with gray matter volumes in several areas of the brain. Areas such as the greater hippocampal, posterior cingulate and orbital frontal cortex had a positive effect on the grey matter volumes with relation to fish consumption. This reduces the risk for five-year decline to MCI or Alzheimer's by almost a factor of five.

"Consuming baked or broiled fish promotes stronger neurons in the brain's gray matter by making them larger and healthier," Dr. Raji said. "This simple lifestyle choice increases the brain's resistance to Alzheimer's disease and lowers risk for the disorder."

The results also showed increased levels of cognition in people who ate fish.

Video: NIH - Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease

"Working memory, which allows people to focus on tasks and commit information to short-term memory, is one of the most important cognitive domains," Dr. Raji said. "Working memory is destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. We found higher levels of working memory in people who ate baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis, even when accounting for other factors, such as education, age, gender and physical activity."

The study noted changes only on baked or broiled fish, eating fried fish, on the other hand, has no effect on cognitive decline. Scientists are looking into other areas such as stem cell research to find a cure for the disease.

News via: Eureaklert!

29 November 2011

Digital Contact Lens for Heads Up Display and Augmented Reality

Movies and computer games have long used the Heads Up Display (HUD). Usually in movies, these are used to depict futuristic weapon systems or devices. Movies like Terminator, Iron Man and even the old Robocop movies have shown the HUD.

In computer games, those information on the screen help the player know what is going on during the game.

A head-up display or heads-up display (HUD) is any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. In real life applications, most would recognize the HUD from videos of jet fighters. Those are the things the pilot sees superimposed to his helmet visor or screen.

They were initially developed for use in assisting pilots flying military aircraft and other military applications. Now, HUDs can be seen used in commercial aircraft, automobiles, and other applications.

Researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, and Aalto University in Finland constructed a device that could one day lead to this kind of technology without the use of heavy bulky devices. They constructed a computerized single-pixel contact lens.

Babak Parviz is from the University of Washington and the lead researcher of the study.

Video: An imagining of how HUD can seamlessly integrate into our daily lives.

Parviz says, "Our group has expertise in miniaturization and integration of devices into unconventional substrates. The contact lens is a perfect platform for this. We also wanted to explore if it is possible to have a single personal display instead of numerous devices with numerous displays per person,"

The lens display consists of an antenna to gather power from an external source, an integrated circuit to store this energy, and a transparent sapphire chip containing a single blue LED. According to Parviz, this device does not affect the function as a normal contact lens in any way. It feels like a normal contact lens.

The device could overlay computer data onto what the person is seeing, making it easy to access information instantly from platforms such as laptops, computers, and mobile phones. It could also be linked to a person's body monitor or biosensor gather information and alert the wearer to any changes in his body.

At the moment, the device is in its early stages. The researchers are looking into making improvements that will allow a fully functional, remotely powered, high-resolution display on the lens. They also need to resolve the display of text characters on the display.

Parviz explains, "We still need to perfect the focusing mechanism further before we can do this if the text is arbitrary. Pre-determined text is a lot easier..."

Parviz and team are not the only ones looking into this technology. Electrical Engineering students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst are also developing a Personal Head-Up Display. One such design is a HUD in skiing goggles.

Dream Sleep Relieves Stress from Emotional Pain

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley discovered that during the REM phase of sleep (also known as the dream phase), our body's stress chemistry shuts down while the brain processes emotional experience and relaxes us off the difficult memories. Basically, the research finds that time spent in dream sleep can help us overcome painful and stressful experiences.

Matthew Walker is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study to be published in the journal Current Biology.

Walker says, "The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day’s emotional experiences,”

This may help explain why people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a hard time recovering from distressing experiences and suffer reoccurring nightmares. War veterans are most likely to suffer from PTSD.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.

Video: What is the right kind of sleep? What happens when we sleep?

But this insight also offer clues into why we dream. Walker says, "We know that during REM sleep there is a sharp decrease in levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with stress. By reprocessing previous emotional experiences in this neuro-chemically safe environment of low norepinephrine during REM sleep, we wake up the next day, and those experiences have been softened in their emotional strength. We feel better about them, we feel we can cope."

Walker said he got the idea when a physician at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle told him of a blood pressure drug that was inadvertently preventing recurring nightmares in patients with PTSD.

The drug had a side effect of suppressing the chemical norepinephrine in the brain. This creates a more stress free brain during REM which results in reducing nightmares and better quality sleep. According to Walker, this suggests a connection between PTSD and REM sleep.

Unlike other brain conditions such as Parkinson's disease, PTSD is psychological in nature. This makes it difficult to treat as the conditions that result in it are not physical in nature. But this doesn't mean that other brain conditions are easily treatable. The study gives more insight into why we dream and how it can help in PTSD and other psychological conditions.

"This study can help explain the mysteries of why these medications help some PTSD patients and their symptoms as well as their sleep," Walker said. "It may also unlock new treatment avenues regarding sleep and mental illness."

Related Links

One Day On Earth: Help Document the Worlds Story
The Tech of Storytelling
Digital Contact Lens for Heads Up Display and Augmented Reality
How Our Brains Keep Us Focused
Noisy Toys May Cause Hearing Damage
New Insights Into Psychopathy
Power of the Mind: Therapy for Parkinson's Disease
Kung Fu Pandas Set to Attack World of Warcraft
Noisy Toys May Cause Hearing Damage

28 November 2011

Climate Change Findings Not As Severe

A new study funded by the National Science Foundation's Paleoclimate Program and published online this week in the journal Science reports that the rate of global warming from the doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may not be as severe as some other studies estimate. Andreas Schmittner is an Oregon State University researcher and lead author on the Science article.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center defines climate change as "a significant change (such as a change having important economic, environmental and social effects) in the mean values of a meteorological element (in particular temperature or amount of precipitation) in the course of a certain period of time, where the means are taken over periods of the order of a decade or longer.." Climate change today is synonymous with global warming. Within the scientific community, global warming refers to increases to surface temperature, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect.

The study notes that its findings is even less severe than the one projected by the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2007. The IPCC report of 2007 estimate that the Earth's surface would warm by 2 to 4.5 degrees Celsius. The mean, or "expected value" increase in the IPCC estimates was 3.0 degrees. Most climate model studies use the doubling of carbon dioxide as a basic index.

Some previous studies have claimed much more severe impact with as much as 10 degrees or higher with a doubling of CO2. Although these projections come with an acknowledged low probability.

Video: What is climate? What's the difference between climate and weather? What are greenhouse gasses?

Schmittner's findings based on their data reveal a climate sensitivity of about 2.4 degrees using the basic index. Climate sensitivity is how the Earth will respond to projected increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

He says that, "Many previous climate sensitivity studies have looked at the past only from 1850 through today, and not fully integrated paleoclimate date, especially on a global scale,"

Schmittner adds, "When you reconstruct sea and land surface temperatures from the peak of the last Ice Age 21,000 years ago -- which is referred to as the Last Glacial Maximum -- and compare it with climate model simulations of that period, you get a much different picture. If these paleoclimatic constraints apply to the future, as predicted by our model, the results imply less probability of extreme climatic change than previously thought...".

As an example, the study suggests that the ocean was only about two degrees (Celsius) cooler then (21,000 years ago) than it currently is. But this also shows how much a small change in ocean temperature can affect other places elsewhere.

Video: What is climate change?

Although the findings do show a lesser impact than expected, climate change is still a serious issue that should be addressed. Schmittner says, "...our study implies that we still have time to prevent that from happening, if we make a concerted effort to change course soon.".

At this time, there are a lot of emerging technologies targeted to reducing the carbon footprint of the Earth such as eco-friendly vehicles, processes, alternative energy, and even far reaching ideas.

Climate Change and Global Warming is a very controversial issue when it comes to studying Earth. Environmentalists have long been fighting for this cause but because of political and industrial agendas, there has been a resistance to the idea of global warming. This is a lengthy video by Dr Richard Milne, School of Biological Sciences about separating skepticism from denial regarding climate change and global warming. But it should not be denied that everyone on Earth must do their part in being aware of how to care and protect the planet.

26 November 2011

The Tech of Storytelling

From cave paintings to words to pictures to images with sound, for knowledge or entertainment, from the cave to the internet, from child to adult; storytelling has always been one of the cornerstones of human culture. The ability to convey a story even out of the most mundane experience. But even storytelling has been touched by technology. The evolution from words to a book to digital technology, for good or for bad, technological advances has given us more ways to telling a story.

Not near a movie but more than reading a book, iPad storyteller Joe Sabia introduces us to Lothar Meggendorfer, who created a bold technology for storytelling: the pop-up book. Sabia shows how new technology has always helped us tell our own stories, from the walls of caves to his own onstage iPad.

As the video shows, even story telling has evolved from simple pictures painted on a cave to using various media to convey what is happening. Watch and see how the art of telling a story has evolved:

Video: Joe Sabia with an iPad storytelling

We still haven't approached the boundaries of story telling. With the rapid advance of technology, it's difficult to really say what tomorrow may bring. But regardless with all this, it all boils down to whether the story is good or not.

Here is a video of Bonafide Rojas. Simple. Just words but powerful:

Related Links
Kung Fu Pandas Set to Attack World of Warcraft
Mysterious Coded Manuscript Cracked After 300 Years
Steve Jobs Next Big Thing?
Nightwork: The MIT Hacker
Famous Scientists of the 21st Century
One Day On Earth: Help Document the Worlds Story
What Does 4G Technology Do For Mobile Phones?
Dream Sleep Relieves Stress from Emotional Pain
Digital Contact Lens for Heads Up Display and Augmented Reality
How Our Brains Keep Us Focused
Noisy Toys May Cause Hearing Damage

25 November 2011

Mars Rover Curiosity to Look for Signs of Life

On November 26, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It has already been delayed one day to allow time for the team to remove and replace a flight termination system battery.

Update: Nov 26
The rocket successfully lifted off. Video at end of post

The MSL Mission's main feature is Curiosity. It is the largest and most advanced rover ever sent to the planet Mars. It has 10 science instruments to use to search for evidence of environment favorable for microbial life. It is equipped with a laser to look inside rocks and release their gasses for the onboard spectrometer to analyze and send the data back to Earth.

The Curiosity rover has multiple cameras and instruments, including Goddard's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. SAM will help the rover discover whether Mars ever had the potential to carry life by analyzing the Martian soil and environment for evidence of water, carbon, and other life building materials.

Video: NASA Mission Briefing on the Martian Rover, Curiosity and its mission to Mars

Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center asks, "Did microbial life ever originate on Mars, and what happened to it as the planet changed? Did it just go extinct, or did it go underground, where it would be protected from space radiation and temperatures might be warm enough for liquid water?"

He further adds, "Curiosity will focus on geology and minerals to determine if the environment on Mars in the distant past had the potential to support life. It will be digging in the dirt trying to understand the habitability issue in a place where water may have flowed, where there could have been a lake..."

Curiosity will arrive at the Gale crater, a 96-mile-wide crater that contains a record of environmental changes in its sedimentary rock, in August 2012.

Video: NASA confirm that the Mars Science Laboratory is on its way to the Red Planet

As per NASA: NASA's Curiosity rover has begun the journey to Mars after its Atlas V rocket launched successfully from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 26. Ten instruments aboard MSL will provide new data about whether the area within and around Mars' Gale Crater could ever have supported microbial life. The Mars Science Laboratory is expected to reach Mars next August.

Last month, Russia's Phobos-Gunt mission to Mars failed when the rocket failed to activate shortly after launching. It is presently orbiting the Earth.

Video: Lift off the the Atlas V rocket carrying Curiosity

24 November 2011

Searching for the Cause of Infant Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer affecting the blood or bone marrow. It is characterized by an abnormal increase of white blood cells and abnormalities in the blood, the bone marrow and the lymphoid system, which are all known as hematological neoplasms.

10% of leukemia affect newly born babies; Infant Leukemia.

Aside from cell and DNA mutations that causes cancer, the cause of infant leukemia or leukemia in general is a mystery. There is good news though, medical breakthroughs such as stem cell transplantation and medicine (see video below) are showing positive gains towards a cure and treatment for the disease.

The British Journal of Cancer published a study by the Division of Pediatric Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of Minnesota regarding the use of analgesic by mothers during pregnancy. They want to find out if it is a factor in infant leukemia. The Children's Oncology Group study concluded that "overall, analgesic use during pregnancy was not significantly associated with the risk of infant leukemia..."

Another study also published in The British Journal of Cancer looked into the socioeconomic status of the affected families in England and Wales between 1976 and 2005. By using data from the census appropriate to the decade (1976-2005), the socioeconomic status for each case was measured. They found that childhood leukemia incidence seems to be higher in relatively affluent communities. They conclude that, "Possible explanations include under diagnosis of leukaemia in children from poorer communities, and/or association of higher SES (socioeconomic status) with hypothesised risk factors, such as population mixing and delayed exposure to infection..."

Video: Killing Leukemia: Full recovery real for kids in Russia

As it is, the cause of infant leukemia is still unknown. But a team of scientists in Spain may have found a significant factor towards a cure or treatment for the disease. The Grupo Español de Trasplante de Médula Ósea en Niños at the Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla published a study on stem cell transplantation (SCT).

They studied 26 infants who were submitted to a stem cell transplantation for acute leukemia. And from their study, they conclude that "SCT is a valid option in the treatment of infant acute leukemia, and it may overcome the high risk of relapse with conventional chemotherapy showing very reduced toxicity. This study suggests that SCT should be performed in CR1 in the early phase of the disease..."

CR1 means The first Complete Response.

In Russia, Russia Today reports a medical breakthrough where 70 per cent of young sufferers of leukemia now make a full recovery. This claim is still being studied.

22 November 2011

Defending The Earth From Asteroids

On Friday, 13 April 2029, Asteroid 2004 MN4 also known as Apophis, will have a close encounter with the Earth.

The asteroid will not hit the Earth.

It will be so close to the Earth that the asteroid will be passing below the communication satellites orbiting the Earth. On April 13, 2029, Apophis will fly past the Earth 18,600 miles above it. The satellites orbit at 22,300 miles.

Although the asteroid will narrowly miss the Earth, there is a small complication. It may collide with the Earth seven years later.

Upon passing the Earth, if Apophis passes thru a certain region of space above the planet called the Keyhole, which is about 600 miles wide, seven years later on April 13, 2036, the asteroid will directly collide with the Earth. April 13, 2036 is also a Friday. There is a 1 in a million chance that the asteroid will pass thru the keyhole.

Video: Neil DeGrasse Tyson discusses Apophis and the destruction it can bring

Apophis is around 1,150 (350 meters) feet in diameter, bigger than a football field. It's not big enough to wipe out civilization but can cause serious damage. The impact can be comparable to detonating a 510 megatons of TNT. In comparison, the biggest hydrogen bomb ever exploded was 50 megatons.

Scientists all over are busy finding ways to avert this disaster. China's Tsinghua University proposed launching an impactor spacecraft in a retrograde orbit, steered and powered by a solar sail. The spacecraft will move the asteroid away from the gravitational keyhole. As mentioned by Phil Plait in the video, another solution is to launch a probe that will hit the asteroid first then launch another one that will safely "tow" the asteroid away from the Earth using an ion drive. There may even be a possibility of towing it to orbit the Earth in order to mine the asteroid for minerals.

Video: Phil Plait talks about asteroid impacts, Apophis and ways to avoid a collision.

The B612 Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroid strikes, estimated that if an impact with Apophis does occur, the path of the collision extends across Southern Russia, the north Pacific (near Californa and Mexico) then between Nicaragua and Costa Rica crossing Colombia and Venezual ending in the Atlantic before reaching Africa.

World's Lightest Material is a Metal

Engineers have developed the world's lightest material. It is about one hundred times lighter than Styrofoam(tm) and is made from the metal, nickel.

The joint team from the University of California, Irvine, HRL Laboratories and the California Institute of Technology published their research in latest edition of Science. Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL is the lead author.

The material is made out of tiny hollow metallic tubes arranged into a micro-lattice - a criss-crossing diagonal pattern with small open spaces between the tubes. Dr. Schaedler says, "The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,"

The material's design allows complete recovery from compression and very high energy absorption. After being compressed to just 50% of it's thickness, the material regained 98% of its original height and resumed its original shape.

Video: Actual material being compressed to 50% of its thickness

According to their publication, "These materials are fabricated by starting with a template formed by self-propagating photopolymer waveguide prototyping, coating the template by electroless nickel plating, and subsequently etching away the template..."

Compared to aerogels (the world's lightest solid), the material's design is ordered in nature because of the lattice. Aerogels are formed with random cellular structures making them "less stiff, strong, energy absorptive or conductive than the bulk of the raw materials that they are made out of..".

The manager of the architected materials group at HRL, William Carter, compared the new material to larger, familiar structures, "Modern buildings, exemplified by the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, are incredibly light and weight-efficient by virtue of their architecture. We are revolutionizing lightweight materials by bringing this concept to the nano and micro scales."

This new material can be used for thermal insulation, battery electrodes, shock absorbers, and sound dampeners.

20 November 2011

What is String Theory?

For the past decade, physicists all over are focusing their attention on string theory. But what is string theory?

A simple explanation to string theory is that it is the basic fundamental building block for everything. When all the matter in the universe is broken down to its most basic component, it will be tiny particles that look like strings; String Theory.

That basically is the most simple answer to what String Theory is. But going one step further is where things get really complicated.

When we look an object, we know it is made up of molecules. These molecules are broken up into individual atoms. These atoms are then made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons are made up of quarks. These particles have already been discovered by scientists.

According to string theory, these quarks (including the electron) can still be broken up into smaller units. These are tiny one dimensional particles called "strings". These strings vibrate in different frequencies which dictate what kind of particle they make up. Basically, in string theory, a neutron and and a proton are made up of the same material.

What string theory suggests is that the whole universe is made up of these strings. But it doesn't just stop there. String theory opens up more complex questions.

Based on the math, for these strings to exists, the universe has to be made up of not just three dimensions, but ten dimensions. Ten dimensions plus one dimension of time.

Video: David Tong, a physicist at Cambridge University, explains String Theory

Why is string theory important?

Presently, there are four known forces existing in the universe. These forces are gravity, electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. Each of these forces are governed by its own set of rules and equations. Some of these rules contradict or are even not acknowledged by the others.

For example, gravity according to Einstein is transmitted through the dimension of space. But what about electromagnetic force? What dimension does it exist in?

String theory attempts to unify all these forces into one theory. The theory of everything. Where all the forces of nature can be explained in one equation. That is what string theory is all about.

Video: Brian Greene explains String Theory. Highly recommended

To get real world implications of string theory, we look at the history of physics.

When we discovered gravity and understood this force, we entered the industrial age.

Electromagnetic force welcomed the electronic age with electricity. With the knowledge of the strong and weak nuclear forces, we were brought into the nuclear age with nuclear power.

Learning string theory, will unify all these forces and would probably usher in a new age in human civilization. How will it actually impact us specifically? We still don't know. String theory is just still that. A theory.

It is theorized that the size of a string is of the Planck scale which is 1.616252×10−35 m. These strings are so small that if we can magnify a hydrogen molecule to be as big as the milky way, these strings would still be the size of a width of a human hair. The Large Hadron Collider and other experiments are being conducted to verify the existence of strings.

There are also other theories that attempt to unify the forces of the universe without using strings. One such theory is Loop Quantum Gravity. This will be the topic of a future article.

Video: Michio Kaku, co-founder of Field String Theory explains why the universe has 11 dimensions

Related Links

What Is Antimatter?
What Is The Higgs Boson And Why It Matters
Speed of Light Theory To Be Challenged Again
Project Sixtrack: The Large Hadron Collider and Your Computer
Whats New @CERN 07 Nov 2011
Particles Travel Faster Than Light Again
Whats New @CERN 06 Dec 2011
CERN Press Release: Higgs Particle Search Status Still Inconclusive
Bartenders Use Physics in Mixing Cocktails
Danceroom Spectroscopy: Quantum Physics on the Dance Floor.

19 November 2011

Particles Travel Faster Than Light Again

18 March 2012
CERN UPDATE: ICARUS Experiment Indicate Neutrino Speed Consistent With Speed Of Light

Scientists at CERN conducted an improved version of their experiment involving particles moving faster than light. This version has confirmed the results of the first experiment. The particles do travel a little above the speed of light. They ran the test 20 times all with the same result.

In the experiment, particles called neutrinos are sent through the Earth's crust from CERN in Geneva towards Italy at the Gran Sasso laboratory 732km away. The experiment is named OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Tracking Apparatus).

The first OPERA experiment used longer bunches of neutrinos which others thought could result in errors in measuring the speed. Those bunches lasted 10 millionths of a second. This time, OPERA used shorter bunches at just 3 billionths of a second long.

When the scientists at CERN took the measurements this time, they found it similar to the first experiment. The neutrinos were travelling 60 billionths of a second faster than light speed.

Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity states the nothing can go faster than the speed of light. This notion has been a solid foundation in physics. To refute this would have massive implications in the field of science.

Video: Antonio Ereditato of the University of Bern Dario Autiero CNRS on the OPERA experiment

The team's findings were posted to the Arxiv repository and have been submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, It has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community.

"So far no arguments have been put forward that rule out our effect. This additional test we made is confirming our original finding, but still we have to be very prudent, still we have to look forward to independent confirmation. But this is a positive result." Dr Ereditato said.

Next year, Borexino and Icarus, two other experiments at Gran Sasso will begin cross checking the results of Opera. The US and Japan will also test the observations with their Minos and T2K experiments.

It may take awhile before the other experiments will be able to report their findings.


OPERA website
CERN UPDATE: ICARUS Experiment Indicate Neutrino Speed Consistent With Speed Of Light
CERN Update: Faster Than Speed of Light May Be Due To Hardware Fault
Follow Up Report on OPERA Faster Than Light Particles
Speed of Light Theory To Be Challenged Again
Famous Scientists of the 21st Century
Project Sixtrack: The Large Hadron Collider and Your Computer
What Is The Higgs Boson And Why It Matters
What is String Theory?
Whats New @CERN 07 Nov 2011
Whats New @CERN 06 Dec 2011

17 November 2011

Lake of Water on Jupiter Moon Europa

Scientists have found evidence that there are under-ice lakes of water near the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter's moon. (NASA video in post).

The results were published in the journal Nature.

These lakes are predicted to be just around 3 kilometers below the crust covered by a layer of ice. As they stated in their study, "...guided by processes observed within Earth's subglacial volcanoes and ice shelves. The data suggest that chaos terrains form above liquid water lenses perched within the ice shell as shallow as 3 kilometres. Our results suggest that ice–water interactions and freeze-out give rise to the diverse morphologies and topography of chaos terrains. The sunken topography of Thera Macula indicates that Europa is actively resurfacing over a lens comparable in volume to the Great Lakes in North America.."

The cracks on the surface of Europa are similar to those found on Antarctica. These glaciers and ice shelves also form cracks by the rising of warmer water which causes the surface to crack and at the same time form another layer of freshly formed ice. They theorized that This process could transfer nutrients between the surface water and the ocean's depths.

Video: Announcement of Europa Lake discovery.

"That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable," said lead author Britney Schmidt from the University of Texas at Austin, US, who analysed images collect by the Galileo spacecraft launched in 1989.

The results are awaiting confirmation of their discovery by radar probing. Both the US and Europe are planning space missions to Europa and other moons of Jupiter to verify and collect data. These may happen in five years or so.

Video: Proposed Space Mission to Europa and other moons of Jupiter

15 November 2011

Advances in Lithium Ion Batteries: 1 Week Power on a 15 Minute Charge

A team of engineers at Northwestern University have created an electrode that allows a lithium ion (li ion) battery to carry a charge for one week on a single 15 minute recharge.

Energy in the battery is used when the lithium ions travel from the anode, through the electrolyte, to the cathode. When they travel in the opposite direction, the battery is recharged. The duration that the battery can maintain it's charge depends on how many lithium ions can be packed into the anode or cathode. The speed at which the li ions can move from the electrolyte to the anode dictates how fast the battery can recharge.

Currently, li ion batteries are charged when electrons move from the electrolyte into the anode. Anodes are now made of graphene which allows one lithium atom to pass per six carbon atoms. Before graphene, silicon was used as the material for anodes since it allows four lithium atoms to pass per one silicon atom. Although silicon, because of this, is considered superior, it contracts and expands during charging which results in fragmentation in the battery.

What Harold H. Kung did was sandwich clusters of silicon between the graphene sheets. The research team claimed it will make more ions to stay in the anode or cathode (increasing the duration of the charge) and would eliminate or minimize the fragmentation. Using nanotechnology, they also drilled 10 to 20 nano-meter holes in the sheets to speed up the recharging process by as much as ten times. Kung, lead author of the paper, is a professor of chemical and biological engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also a Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellow.

Video: How Lithium Ion batteries are made

Kung says, "We have found a way to extend a new lithium-ion battery's charge life by 10 times. Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today."

Lithium-ion batteries are common in most electronic devices as well as in hybrid and electric cars. They are popular because of their energy density and maintain a slow loss of charge when not in use.

Last year, Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also discovered a process using nanotechnology and carbon nanotubes to create a powerful wave of energy. This discovery may one day lead the way to create a new environmentally friendly battery.

What Does 4G Technology Do For Mobile Phones?

A phone call or an SMS text message is still the same in a 4G network. What's the big buzz with 4G?

Starting from 1981, cellular phone or mobile phone technology advances a generation (G) every ten years. 1981 came out with the 1G or 1st Generation network (Analog). In 1992, the 2G came out using digital signals. Around 2001 to 2002, mobile phone networks upgraded to the 3G system which introduced broadband data services to mobile users. 3G data speeds are around 1 to 3 megabits per second (Mbps). Although, actual speeds for 3G has been said to just hit 144 kilobits to 2 megabits.

In 2012, it is expected that most mobile carriers will be switching to 4G technology. Early 4G systems have been introduced with mobile data speeds of around 3 to 5 Mbps. These are the available speed at the low end of the spectrum for 4G. 4G speeds are touted to go up to 100Mbs and over in the long run. The current given speed starts at 3 Mbps to 5 Mbps which is already comparable to cable and DSL broadband internet speeds.

What 4G actually offers is faster data speeds for accessing the internet. Streaming HD quality movies or even playing multiplayer video games can now be possible with a 4G phone.

A 4G system offers digital broadband packet data over an IP (Internet Protocol) network. This is already available but not with mobile phones. Skype and other voice messaging services uses IP networks (Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP). 4G allows the user to be constantly connected to the internet at higher speeds.

This opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of interacting with the internet on a mobile phone. This is already being done with social media such as Facebook and Twitter updates. But with the given speed of 4G, it can be much more.

Video: 4G Systems (Note: Watch other video below for an in-depth explanation)

The two main technologies associated with 4G is LTE (Long Term Evolution) and Mobile WIMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). Although both can give peak speeds of 100Mbps and up to 1 Gbps (gigabits per second), experts are saying that this may be available in five to seven years but not now.

HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) technologies are considered not 4G but more 3.5G or 3.9G. The Apple iPhone 3G uses EDGE technology and HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) for the later models.

Of course, without the necessary hardware, 4G wouldn't be as exciting. Mobile phones also would have to catch up with the technology. Advances in industrial materials such as graphene, OLED and the use of nanotechnology will maximize the benefits of 4G.

Video: Great Explanation on Different Mobile Systems from 1G to 4G
RELATED LINKS Defining 4G: The 98-Mbps Gap How carriers will make money (from you) on 4G Helix Nebula - The Science Cloud: Business and Science Tie Up For European Cloud Computing Quantum Computers Offer Secure Cloud Computing Software Engineers Develop Cryptographic Attack That Allows Access to Secure Internet Servers New Way in OLED Production Steve Jobs Next Big Thing? New Use For Graphene Discovered: Distillation MIT NEWS: The faster-than-fast Fourier transform Application of Nanotechnology and Thermodynamics in Measuring Devices Digital Contact Lens for Heads Up Display and Augmented Reality

13 November 2011

What Is The Higgs Boson And Why It Matters

CERN Announces Discovery of Higgs Boson

For the past couple of years, scientists have been trying to discover the Higgs Boson. But what is it? For a really simple explanation, Stephen Colbert, Justin Bieber, and Professor Peter Higgs himself will help explain it here.

Basically, the Higgs boson is theorized to be the particle that determines the mass of an object. More than the Higgs particle (a boson is a class of particles), it is the Higgs field that is important. The Higgs boson is the particle that comprises the field, much like how photons comprise the electromagnetic field.

By discovering the Higgs Boson, scientist may then understand how mass is obtained and why some elements have more mass than others.

Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity. Unlike weight, mass is not affected by gravity. An object has no weight in space but still has mass.

Video: Stephen Colbert and Physicist Brian Cox talking about the Higgs Boson. Highly recommended.

Imagine two people walking at the same pace and same direction in a mall, one is an unknown person and the other is Justin Bieber. Once the two stop walking, more people will flock around Justin Bieber than the other person. Once they start to move again, Bieber would have a hard time gaining momentum to move again because of the people surrounding him. The other, with no one hindering his movement, can easily resume his pace. Bieber has more mass thus slowing him down when trying to accelerate.

This group or clustering effect is called the Higgs mechanism, as postulated by British physicist Peter Higgs. The group of people surrounding Justin basically is a "Higgs field". Each person in that group is the "Higgs boson".

Basically, what Peter Higgs is proposing is that there is a field (Higgs field) that are attracted to objects thus slowing them down, giving them mass. The more particles (Higgs Boson) of the field that object attracts, the more mass it has. Furthermore, as the mass of an object approaches zero, the closer it gets to accelerating to the speed of light. This can be seen with light, since light has no mass and travels at that speed.

Video: Dr. Don Lincoln of Fermilab explains the Higgs Boson

Roger Cashmore Department of Physics of the University of Oxford, UK says, "We know from quantum theory that fields have particles associated with them, the particle for the electromagnetic field being the photon. So there must be a particle associated with the Higg's field, and this is the Higgs boson. Finding the Higgs boson is thus the key to discovering whether the Higgs field does exist and whether our best hypothesis for the origin of mass is indeed correct."

It should be noted that there are theories that does not include the Higgs field and are also equally important. So finding the Higgs field or proving that it does not exist then were both equally important in the field of science.

As Mary and Ian Butterworth of Imperial College London, and Doris and Vigdor Teplitz of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas state, "If particles get their masses from interacting with the empty space Higgs field, then the Higgs particle must exist; but we can't be certain without finding the Higgs. We have other hints about the Higgs; for example, if it exists, it plays a role in "unifying" different forces. However, we believe that nature could contrive to get the results that would flow from the Higgs in other ways. In fact, proving the Higgs particle does not exist would be scientifically every bit as valuable as proving it does."

Although the discovery of the Higgs particle was announced in 2012 by CERN, scientists were still not sure whether the particle they found was actually the Higgs. It was in March 2013 when the findings were verified and CERN released this statement, "CMS and ATLAS have compared a number of options for the spin-parity of this particle, and these all prefer no spin and positive parity [two fundamental criteria of a Higgs boson consistent with the Standard Model]. This, coupled with the measured interactions of the new particle with other particles, strongly indicates that it is a Higgs boson."

Video: Professor Peter Higgs talk about his life work and the Higgs Boson

Related Links

CERN Announces Discovery of Higgs Boson
What is String Theory?
Speed of Light Theory To Be Challenged Again
Project Sixtrack: The Large Hadron Collider and Your Computer
Whats New @CERN 07 Nov 2011
What Is The Higgs Boson And Why It Matters
Particles Travel Faster Than Light Again
Whats New @CERN 06 Dec 2011
CERN Press Release: Higgs Particle Search Status Still Inconclusive
Bartenders Use Physics in Mixing Cocktails
Danceroom Spectroscopy: Quantum Physics on the Dance Floor.

Power of the Mind: Therapy for Parkinson's Disease

Researchers at Cardiff University have discovered a new technique for patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

Patients learned to regulate brain activity by just thinking of it. Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, Prof David Linden from Cardiff University, who led the research, described the process as "real-time neural feedback".

It's almost like a Jedi Mind Trick.

It should be noted that this is not a cure for Parkinson's disease. Linden stresses that the technique improved function that could lead to a better quality of life. At this time, Parkinson's is still incurable. Although, scientists are looking into human embryonic stem cell research for a cure for Parkinson's Disease and other degenerative diseases.

Actually, what happens is that the patients with early stages of Parkinson's disease, learned to control areas of the brain associated with movement by the power of thought. They were placed in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner and were asked to do simple exercises like squeezing a hand. The subjects were then shown in real time, the level of activity in the brain as recorded by the MRI.

Afterwards, they were asked to imagine complex movements in order to activate the brain centers which saw a corresponding reading on the instruments. This procedure trained the patients to activate these localized brain centers to increase and decrease the level of activity at will; just by thinking of it.

Video: Panelists debate clinical trials and its gains and pitfalls through a Parkinson's Disease case

As the abstract states,"Self-regulation of brain activity in humans based on real-time feedback of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal is emerging as a potentially powerful, new technique. Here, we assessed whether patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) are able to alter local brain activity to improve motor function. Five patients learned to increase activity in the supplementary motor complex over two fMRI sessions using motor imagery. They attained as much activation in this target brain region as during a localizer procedure with overt movements. Concomitantly, they showed an improvement in motor speed (finger tapping) and clinical ratings of motor symptoms (37% improvement of the motor scale of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale). Activation during neurofeedback was also observed in other cortical motor areas and the basal ganglia, including the subthalamic nucleus and globus pallidus, which are connected to the supplementary motor area (SMA) and crucial nodes in the pathophysiology of PD..

An evaluation of the clinical trials show that movement of patients trained in this technique improved by 30%.

Here's a video about Parkinson's Disease: Progress and Promise in Stem Cell Research