Rabu, 30 November 2011

Toyota Fun-Vii: A car That Thinks It's a Smartphone


If Toyota has its way, paint jobs could become a thing of the past, because it’s unveiled a car that can change its whole look in an instant.
The Fun-Vii, which stands for ‘vehicle interactive internet’, is a concept car with a bodyshell made of touch-screen panels that not only allow the driver to change the pattern on display but also connect the car to the dealership’s website for a check-up.
It even greets its driver with a message that flashes up on the door.

Toyota showed off the unique car ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show today, with company president Akio Toyoda saying: ‘A car must appeal to our emotions. If it’s not fun, it’s not a car.’

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The car giant has no plans to put Fun-Vii into production just yet, but explained that it’s an example of the kinds of technologies that it could incorporate into designs in the future.

It said in a statement: ‘It heralds Toyota’s vision of a future where people, cars and society are linked.’

Smart: The car can display various graphics on its interior or exterior
Two other electric Toyota concept cars have also been revealed.
The FT-EV III is a four-seater electric vehicle based on the Toyota iQ.
Equipped with a lithium-ion battery, it achieves an estimated cruising range of 65 miles on a fully charged battery.

Wacky: The Fun-Vii won't go into production but demonstrates the kinds of technologies that could be incorporated into cars in the future

Toyota is developing EV technology with the aim of launching a vehicle suitable for short-distance travel in 2012, when the plug-in market comes to the UK.
The FCV-R (Fuel Cell Vehicle – Reality & Revolution) concept, meanwhile, is a practical, family sized vehicle fuelled by hydrogen.
This concept model represents the next step towards the commercial launch of a Toyota fuel cell vehicle by 2015.


This should be able to reach 430 miles on one charge.



The Limbo-Dancing Robot


It seems that robots with a soft touch are all the rage.
A flexible robot built by Harvard scientists that can wiggle and worm through tight gaps is the latest prototype in the growing field of soft-bodied machines.
The inspiration for it came from squids and starfish, which deform their shapes to move around. Robots that can manoeuvre in this way could be particularly useful after a disaster like an earthquake, with rescuers able to send them through small cracks.




Shaping up to be a great innovation: The flexible robot can inflate and deflate and wiggle and squirm to allow it to move through small gaps
They could also be deployed on battlefields where the terrain would be too rough for more conventional rigid machines.

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'The unique ability for soft robots to deform allows them to go places that traditional rigid-body robots cannot,’ Matthew Walter, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an email to the Associated Press.
A team from Tufts University earlier this year showed off a four-inch (10-centimetre) caterpillar-shaped robot made of silicone rubber that can curl into a ball and propel itself forward.

The Harvard project, funded by the Pentagon's research arm, was described online yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new robot, which took two months to construct, is five inches (12.7 centimetres) long. Its four legs can be separately controlled by pumping air into the limbs, either manually or via computer. This gives the robot a range of motions including crawling and slithering.
The researchers, led by chemist George M Whitesides, tested the robot's flexibility by having it squirm underneath a pane of glass just three-quarters of an inch from the surface.
Scientists maneuvered the robot through the tiny gap 15 times using a combination of movements. In most cases, it took less than a minute to get from side to side.
Researchers eventually want to improve the robot's speed, but were pleased that it did not break from constant inflation and deflation.
‘It was tough enough to survive,’ said Harvard postdoctoral fellow Robert Shepherd, adding that the robot can traverse on a variety of surfaces including felt cloth, gravel, mud and even Jell-O.
There were drawbacks, though. The robot is tethered to an external power source and scientists need to find a way to integrate the source before it can be deployed in the real world.
‘There are many challenges to actively moving soft robots and no easy solutions,’ Tufts neurobiologist Barry Trimmer, who worked on the caterpillar robot, said in an email.
Robotics researcher Carmel Majidi, who heads the Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, said the latest robot is innovative even as it builds on previous work.
‘It's a simple concept, but they're getting lifelike biological motions,’ he said.
Click here to see video. 
Environment Clean Generations

The worms that could lead mankind's way to Mars


  • Worms can survive and reproduce in space
  • Worms found in rubbish tips share 20,000 genes with humans
  • 'Survivors' of mission returned healthy
It may be some time before man sets foot on Mars but the final frontier could soon be crossed by worms.
British scientists have successfully sent them on a mission to the International Space Station to test how they deal with space travel.
Not only did they remain healthy throughout their six-month mission but they produced 24 generations of offspring while in orbit.


Earthling: The tiny Caenorhabditis elegans soilworm is helping scientists to understand how humans could respond the rigours of inter-planetary space-flight
The team from the University of Nottingham carried out the research partly to understand how astronauts would be affected by extended journeys, such as a two-year trip to Mars.
A type of tiny worm found in rubbish tips – Caenorhabditis elegans – was deployed for the 200-mile journey because it shares more than 20,000 genes with humans and its muscles and central nervous system work in a similar way.

When the survivors – worms only live for a few weeks – returned to Earth to be studied, the scientists found they showed normal development movement, feeding patterns, and the capacity to reproduce.
The research could also help scientists understand more about muscle-wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy.
Space travel in zero-gravity conditions can cause dramatic muscle wastage in astronauts, as it appears to reduce the level of the protein myosin which keeps them strong. 

Space calling: The worms were kept aboard the International Space Station for six months, during which time they showed no adverse effects
Dr Nathaniel Szewczyk, who led the study, said it showed worms could be a successfully used as guinea pigs to test conditions on Mars.
He said: ‘While this sounds like science fiction, a fair number of scientists agree that we could colonize other planets, and will one day need to if mankind wants to avoid extinction.
‘Given the high cost of manned space missions and high failure rate for Mars missions we suggest that these worms as a cheap model to test some of the biological effects of long-distance space travel.
‘It may seem surprising but many of the biological changes that happen during spaceflight affect astronauts nad worms in the same ways.’
His team did a previous test in 2009 where they sent worms to space but only for four days before they were frozen for the return journey.
Dailymail

Selasa, 29 November 2011

China’s Colossal Structures Confound


There seems to be no end to the  weird and king-sized structures populating China's desert - or to the explanation for these mega-projects.
Take the giant jigsaw-like grids that started the latest wave of interest in these mysteries of the Gobi. Some suggest they are hoaxes perpetrated on the Google Earth-obsessed. Jonathan Hill, a research technician at the Mars Space Flight Facility, notes that the grids can be viewed from space. So maybe they're used to calibrate China's spy satellites. In an  interview with  Life's Little Secrets,  Hill cites a giant white cross, which was created in the 1960s in Casa Grande, Arizona by the US to calibrate their orbiting eyes in the sky.


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But that doesn't explain  this Masonic-looking pair of patterns, etched into the desert. Clearly, there's more going on than just a spy-cam focal point. Some  believe it is the Yaerbashi training airfield of the Chinese air force's  8th Flying Academy, or perhaps China's  Yaerbashi Test Range. Others wonder if it might be a giant joke played on sat-spotters.
"As to what the figure-8 things and the weird glyphs on the northern chevron are, I have no real idea," emails former CIA analyst Allen Thomson. "Although it wouldn't surprise me if the glyphs were made by some people who were bored out of their minds by being stuck out in the middle of nowhere and decided to have some fun with the eyes in the sky."
If it's a giant gag, it's not the only one. Check out the gallery to see all the things Wired.com's Danger Room readers have found this week scouring Google Earth's images of the Gobi.


   Environment Clean Generations

Serotonin can Repair Chronic Liver Disease


Publishing in the leading medical journal Nature Medicine, a team led by Newcastle University academics have identified serotonin receptors which can be targeted with drugs to enhance the natural healing properties of the liver.
In liver disease, extent of tissue damage depends on the balance between the generation of scar tissue and the regeneration of new liver cells. In a significant minority of people who get injury to their organs instead of repairing them, they form scars. This can progress to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis where the scarring is so extensive the liver is unable to clean blood or produce vital hormones and clotting factors. Liver scars also provide an ideal environment for the development of cancers.

Publishing in Nature Medicine and showcased in Nature Research Highlights, the paper describes how working in mouse models the team were able to tip this balance to favour healthy tissue regeneration and block scarring by manipulating the actions of serotonin - the “happy” drug.



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Normally when a liver is injured – by a virus such as Hepatitis C or B, by alcohol, environmental factors or by a metabolic or autoimmune condition – specialised blood cells known as platelets make general repairs and secrete serotonin. However, the team found that when scar-forming cells - Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) – are present they are instructed by the serotonin to make more scar tissue and switch off the healthy regeneration.
Identifying the receptor called 5-HT2B through which serotonin instructs the scar forming cells to switch off regeneration, they found that this resulted in less scarring and more regeneration.
Of the work funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, lead author, Professor Derek Mann said; “These are promising results in mouse models of liver disease and suggest that chemicals targeting 5-HT2B , which are currently in clinical trials for mood disorders and pulmonary hypertension might also have an application in the treatment of chronic liver disease.”The group believe the mechanism may also be found in other organs and offers an exciting opportunity for study in the future.
Reference:  Stimulating healthy tissues regeneration by targeting the 5-HT2B receptor in chronic liver disease, Derek A Mann et al. Nature Medicine.10.1038/10.1038/nm.2490

'Moving Platforms' Could Make Rail Travel More Efficient

Paul Priestman from London design consultancy Priestmangoode has come up with a way of letting passengers board trains while they're moving, making the rail network more efficient.
His "Moving platforms" concept would see long-distance trains in continuous motion. Separately, a tram system would collect passengers from local stations. Those trams would then speed up alongside the long-distance trains, and dock alongside them -- while both are moving at speed -- so that passengers can transfer from one to the other. The carriages would stay connected for approximately the same amount of time that the train normally spends stopped at a station.


Once the transfer is complete, the tram would slow down again to make another trip around the local stations to allow passengers to embark and disembark locally. Tickets would be checked using an RFID system, not unlike an Oyster card, to ensure that each passenger pays the correct fare.
The system would not only let the high-speed trains be more efficient and have a more predictable schedule, but also decrease the amount of time passengers spend waiting on cold platforms for a connecting train. You can see Priestman explain his thinking in the video embedded below.



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On Priestmangoode's website, the agency says: "Our experience of various systems has led us to conclude that it is hugely inefficient to run a new 21st century high tech, high speed train service on a 19th century infrastructure that was invented for steam trains."

Priestman adds: "I'm under no illusion this is a big idea, but we have to think big. The world is going to a be a very different place in 10 to 20 years time and we have to think of alternative ways of travel."

For Your Eyes Only: Polarising Privacy Monitor Mod


f you are currently staring at an old LCD monitor and a pair of discarded spectacles, and are wondering if there's something you can do with them in the next couple of hours, then good news! We have just the project for you. So go grab yourself a coffee, some paint thinners and an X-acto knife (do not mix these together) and I'll finish writing this post.
The project is this rather excellent "privacy" monitor, a display which can only be seen by you when wearing a pair of magic glasses, as built by Instructables member Dimovi.




The theory is simple: Remove the polarised film from the monitor so that you only see a white backlit screen. Then take this film, cut to fit your spare specs and you can see the screen only when you wear them.


The practice isn't much more complicated. Once you have removed the monitor's bezel, you slice the film like an art thief would slice an etching from its frame. Use the thinners (which you hopefully still haven't mixed with the coffee) to remove any glue still stuck to the glass screen and reassemble.
Now, using the old glasses lenses as templates, cut yourself some new polarised lenses and pop them into the frames. You're done. This is, of course, completely impractical for everyday use, but for secure computer use, or just watching porn whilst sitting comfortably amongst your coworkers, it's ideal.


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Chemistry Puzzler SpaceChem Offered to Schools for Free


Indie game developer Zachtronics Industries is offering its chemistry-focused puzzler SpaceChem to schools for free, in a bid to outdo other educational games, "that often forget to be fun."
The game is all about constructing complicated chemical factories that can autonomously turn a handful of atoms -- like hydrogen and carbon -- into real-world molecules -- like methane (CH4), without everything breaking.


To do this, you create tracks for a pair of nanoscopic robots called waldoes to run along, and lay down commands (like pick-up, bond or fuse an atom) for them to carry out when they pass over.

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What you're really doing is visual programming, complete with debugging. The majesty of SpaceChem is the devious way it teaches you techniques like in-order execution, loops, branching, synchronisation primitives and subroutines, without you even realising it. Making it a perfect game for education.
 Zachtronics admits that SpaceChem's molecular machine is "a concept that is not entirely grounded in reality," and points out that later levels introduce imaginary atoms (and space aliens), but reckons that it offers "an opportunity to practice problem solving skills," and "a way to get students excited about computer programming and chemistry."

Educators can email zach@zachtronicsindustries.com to request a permanent site license of the game, until January 2012.
The game has also recently received a new mode called sandbox, which lets players construct experimental molecular computers and pipelines. To celebrate, the indie puzzler has received a permanent price cut from £8.99 to £6.99. It's also available on iPad in the form of SpaceChem Mobile, for £3.99.
 Environment Clean Generations

We are entering a time of 'anarchonomy' ?

We are moving to a world revolving around alternate economies where we've all become traders, according to Chris Sanderson from the Future Laboratory, speaking at Intelligence Squared's If Conference.
He referred to this trend as "anarchonomy", a hybrid of anarchy and economy. "As we see change in geopolitics and social networks, so we see anarchy happening in business," he said. With these anarchonomic business models we no longer just transact. "We've all become traders. We all have something to sell, so the whole basis of consumption and process of consumer activity has changed."


According to Sanderson we are at the base of a "mountain of destruction" and are entering a period of transformation. He described the move towards more collaborative consumption and taking a generous approach to innovation. He quoted Daniel Burrus as saying: "The best way to create ideas is to change the ones we have. Taking an abundant approach, rather than a scarcity approach, helps us all."
He described how were are entering a world of DIY and hacking, and cited the digital haberdashery Technology Will Save Us as a shining example of this new paradigm. "They are trying to earn a buck, but making money doesn't seem to be at the heart of what they do."

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"Apple are doomed for failure," he said, in reference to the fact that they make it so hard to open up their devices. "They better watch out, because the competition is round the corner. It won't be Dell or IBM or HTC or Lenovo… it's you and me. We are the competitor set. We will come up with better ideas. That's the DIY challenge."

He mentioned Sugru, the silicon gel that can be used to fix devices, as the sort of product that allows us to deal with obsolescence. "We can hack the system, we can hack the product. We make it better," he said. This trend isn't only evident in crafty individuals, but in burgeoning markets such as China where they have copied the iPhone to create the HiPhone, which they view as an improvement. He added: "What do you do if you are Apple? That's the challenge that traditional manufacturers face in the 21st century."

Rabu, 23 November 2011

Curiosity Will Carry Your Name to Mars!


Yes indeed! Those how enrolled to this competition will have the chance that now, on Saturday, november 26 2011, their names will get to Mars with the help of Curiosity rover; the possibility of sending your name to mars started back in 2009.  

Nasa will launch its car-size Curiosity rover this week in it's most expensive and scientifically complicated bid yet to discover if there was ever life on Mars.
Curiosity, which is the prize of Nasa's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission, will be launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday.
'This is a Mars scientist's dream machine,' Ashwin Vasavada, MSL deputy project scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, told reporters at a press conference on November 10. 



Curiosity: Nasa will launch its car size rover this Saturday, in this picture the rover examines a rock on Mars with a set of tools at the end of the rover's arm, which extends about 2 meters.

'This rover is not only the most technically capable rover ever sent to another planet, but it's actually the most capable scientific explorer we've ever sent out.'
Curiosity started it's life designed in 2004 and at one ton it weighs five times more than its Mars rover predecessors Spirit and Opportunity.
During the 23 months after landing, Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover.
Mission of discovery: Highlighted Russian-built, neutron-shooting instrument on the Curiosity rover of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will check for water-bearing minerals in the ground beneath the rover.
Launch: Nasa graphic detailing the launch (which has now been delayed to Saturday) and the arrival back to earth

Curiosity will also carry the most advanced load of scientific gear ever used on Mars’ surface, a more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers.

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Curiosity is about twice as long and five times as heavy as NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003. 
But it inherited many design elements from them, including six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system and cameras mounted on a mast to help the mission’s team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes. 



Unlike earlier rovers, Curiosity carries equipment to gather samples of rocks and soil, process them and distribute them to onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments.
It has a robotic arm which deploys two instruments, scoops soil, prepares and delivers samples for analytic instruments and brushes surfaces.
Its assignment is to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.
The goal of the mission is to assess whether the landing area has ever had or still has environmental conditions favorable to microbial life.
Curiosity will land near the foot of a layered mountain inside Gale crater, layers of this mountain contain minerals that form in water.
The portion of the crater floor where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments.


Size: Showing the scale of the car-size rover against a 7ft man

Selection of Gale followed consideration of more than 30 locations by more than 100 scientists participating in a series of open workshops.
Because the Gale landing site is so close to the crater wall, it would not have been considered safe if the mission were not using this precision.
Advancing the technologies for precision landing of a heavy payload will yield research benefits beyond the returns from Mars Science Laboratory itself.
Those same capabilities would be important for later missions both to pick up rocks on Mars and bring them back to Earth, and conduct extensive surface
exploration for Martian life.

NASA Television’s countdown launch commentary begins at 4:30 a.m. PST (7:30 a.m. EST) on November 26.



Environment Clean Generations
Dailymail

Senin, 21 November 2011

New Hope for Life on Europa


 Evidence from a Nasa space probe suggests that Europa, the frosty moon of Jupiter, hides great lakes of liquid water just beneath its outer shell of ice. This gives new hope that the satellite's deep ocean of water could harbour life.
The information comes from the unmanned Galileo spacecraft, which arrived at Jupiter and its moons in 1995. It was the first spacecraft to investigate the Jovian system, revealed fresh information about the gas giant's atmosphere and sent back mountains of data to analyse.


It also returned evidence that one moon -- Europa -- hides an enormous ocean of liquid water, deep beneath the ice. It potentially contains more water than all of the Earth's oceans combined, but lying tens of miles beneath a shell of impenetrable ice made it seem unlikely to harbor life.
But fresh data reveals that there is a dramatic exchange between Europa's icy shell and the ocean beneath, and evidence for giant lakes just beneath the moon's surface. This would allow nutrients to easily travel between the surface and the ocean beneath, giving new hope that life could flourish in Europa's seas.
The data comes from Galileo images of an example of something that astrogeologists refer to as chaos terrain -- two roughly circular, bumpy features on Europa's surface. From looking at similar processes on Earth in ice shelves and under glaciers overlaying volcanoes, we can speculate about the geological process on Europa.

It suggests that the warmer water in the ocean beneath has welled up, which causes the surface ice to melt. This forms fractured cracks and jagged mounds of ice, and leaves behind massive lakes of water.
"The data opens up some compelling possibilities," said Mary Voytek, director of Nasa's Astrobiology Program at agency headquarters in Washington. "However, scientists worldwide will want to take a close look at this analysis and review the data before we can fully appreciate the implications of these results."


Europa is on the drawing board for another investigatory mission in the next decade. Nasa plans to launch the $4.7 billion Jupiter Europa Orbiter in 2020, with the intention of reaching the Jovian system in 2025. The probe would use an ice-penetrating radar to see exactly what lies beneath the moon's frigid shell.

Plan to Save the Oceans


The world has made lacklustre progress in meeting most of the commitments it made 20 years ago to safeguard the oceans, says a report. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, agreements were made on issues such as sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, capacity building, and biodiversity; later, the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 in South Africa set targets and timetables to achieve those goals.


But a report entitled Oceans at Rio+20 has rated both the effort and the achievements to date in protecting oceans and meeting these commitments as 'low to medium'.
Meanwhile a separate, UN report says that at least 40 per cent of the global oceans are 'heavily affected' by human activities and that 60 per cent of the world's major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably. It makes ten proposals for improvement.
Oceans at Rio+20 calls for a string of actions, including more scientific research and capacity building in small island states, to try to tackle the problems.

Read more
Environment Clean Generations

The Hidden Costs of Gold


The high price of gold has sent thousands into the informal mining sector and exposed workers and the environment to the devastating effects of mercury poisoning. Trembling and irritable, at times psychotic, the hat makers of 19th”� century England were know to be a bit odd at best. Separating fur from animal skins, they washed them in a compound”� called mercury nitrate a process that released vapors into steaming ”�air already choked with fumes.

In the poorly ventilated workshops of the industrial revolution, ”�prolonged exposure led to mercury poisoning and eventually the phrase as mad as a hatter.”�”�  The types of conditions that put industrial workers at risk of mercury ”�poisoning have long been banned in the west with the EU going as far”� as forbidding the sale of mercury thermometers to the public in 2008.”�”�
But in Africa, hazardous conditions still exist.  Small scale miners use mercury to extract gold across the continent with the numbers rising as the precious metal has tripled in price ”�from $513 an ounce in 2005 to $1700 this year.
Read more .
Environment Clean Generations

Air Pollution Linked to Droughts and Major Storms


A groundbreaking new study has found an increase in air pollution can reduce rainfall in drought-affected regions and worsen the severity of storms in wet regions or seasons.
Researchers have discovered that increases in air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in dry regions or seasons.


This while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons, according to results of a new study.
The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols - soot, dust and other particulates in the atmosphere - may affect weather and climate.
The findings have important implications for the availability, management and use of water resources in regions across the United States and around the world.


"Using a 10-year dataset of atmospheric measurements, we have uncovered the long-term, net impact of aerosols on cloud height and thickness and the resulting changes in precipitation frequency and intensity," says Zhanqing Li, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland and lead author of a paper reporting the results.

Revenge of the Internal Combustion Engine


At the Chevrolet dealership here, customers want to see and touch the Volt, the gasoline-electric hybrid hailed by enthusiasts as the kind of innovation that could secure the future of General Motors.

But they usually kick the Volt's tires and move on, often to a Cruze. The compact Chevy gets up to 42 miles per gallon, and you can buy two of them for the cost of one $40,000 Volt.
Call it the revenge of the internal combustion engine.
Major automakers and the Obama administration have bet heavily on hybrids and pure electric vehicles. But new and more efficient gas engines are winning on the showroom floor, an inconvenient truth that could slow the acceptance of electric cars.

"They come in to look at a Cruze. They drive a Volt. They go back to the Cruze. It really helps us with sales of the Cruze," said Michael Mosser, general manager of Suburban Chevrolet of Ann Arbor.
The plug-in Volt has become General Motors Co's high-mileage halo car. But the hybrid has also been outsold by its simpler sibling by 200 to 1. Globally, GM has sold about 5,000 Volts versus 1 million Cruzes.
"It's naive to think that the world is going to switch tomorrow to EVs," said Larry Nitz, GM's executive director for vehicle electrification.




Meanwhile, new cars with traditional engines are showing striking fuel efficiency gains thanks to technologies such as turbochargers, direct injection, and engines that shut down when the vehicle stops, then spring back to life when the driver presses the accelerator.
Turbochargers compress the air flowing into engines, allowing more fuel into the cylinders, while direct injection provides improved delivery of the fuel needed in each engine cylinder so it burns cleaner and more efficiently.
The average fuel economy for new vehicles is now 2.5 more miles per gallon than four years ago. And emissions of greenhouse gases per new car are down 14 percent since late 2007, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Photo shows Suburban Chevrolet dealership sales person Scott Northway showing two potential customers a Chevrolet Cruze on display at the dealership in Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 22, 2011.

Sustainability Score Turns World Order Upside Down


The United Nations Human Development Index is the world's all-purpose national scorecard, a single number that represents a country's success at providing a decent life for its people. But according to a Mongolian ecologist who feels his own country has been led astray, it's time to update the HDI with a critically missing component: sustainability.

"My country is likely to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but the current HDI offers no encouragement for it to grow sustainably," wrote Chuluun Togtokh of the National University of Mongolia in a 16 November  Nature essay.

Togtokh presents an alternative ranking system, one that adds per-capita carbon emissions to the Human Development Index's standard factors of life expectancy, adult literacy and per-capita purchasing power. Carbon emissions are a shorthand for sustainability; though they tend to be linked with income, countries like Norway and Singapore show that high fuel consumption isn't absolutely necessary for prosperity, and there's no correlation between fuel consumption and health or education.




When the carbon footprint is added, the Human Development Index is thrown into disarray. Australia, the United States and Canada all drop from the top 10. The United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Qatar and Bahrain -- all countries that score high on the standard HDI -- also fall. Rising are Hong Kong, Sweden and Switzerland, while Norway stays on top. "Anyone who has visited the Nordic countries will recognise that moderation need not compromise a high standard of living," wrote Togtokh.Like any system that puts a numerical score on complex social and economical circumstances, the Human Development Index has been criticised for oversimplification. Togtokh's system, which he calls the Human Sustainable Development Index, is no different, and it's certainly possible to be carbon-responsible but overpolluting in other ways. But at least it's a start.

"With Earth's human population reaching 7 billion in the past month, it is reasonable to question the UN's true commitment to sustainability," wrote Togtokh. "The HDI has shifted the target of development beyond the almighty dollar; the proposed HSDI would go one step further, and change the role models for development."

Minggu, 20 November 2011

A Super-Entity Inside the Human Brain


Super-entities are not just limited to dominance of the globe. Just as the economy is intertwined and largely controlled by a small and powerful core network, so too is your brain. Researchers have long known that some areas of the brain are deeply connected to other regions — but now a team from Indiana University and the Netherlands says these connected brain regions form strong connections to each other, creating a cerebral “rich club.”
This club comprises 12 hub regions, which the researchers say are involved in complex human behavior and cognitive tasks. If any of the members of this club were damaged, the effects would be wide-ranging; if brain areas outside the club were damaged, a patient would see localized effects but the overall brain’s information flow would be uninterrupted.


Led by Martijn van den Heuvel, a professor at the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience at University Medical Center Utrecht, the team looked at MRI scans of 21 healthy men and women. With a technique called diffusion imaging, they were able to map the brains’ large-scale connections. The 12 ultra-interconnected regions are found in the precuneus; superior frontal cortex; superior parietal cortex; subcortical hippocampus; the putamen and the thalamus. Most of these areas are involved in complex information processing. Van den Heuvel called it the “G8 summit of our brain.”

“It’s a group of highly influential regions that keep each other informed and likely collaborate on issues that concern whole brain functioning,” he said in a statement. “Figuring out what is discussed at this summit might be an important step in understanding how our brain works.”

This could have implications for various mental health disorders, for instance. Neuroscientists could examine how the rich club is affected in patients with schizophrenia. Or they could study how degenerative brain diseases impact the rich club and its connections.

The tightly woven connections among these regions were surprising, said Olaf Sporns, a professor in IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “All these regions are getting all kinds of highly processed information, from virtually all parts of the brain,” he said.

Sporns is among an international team of researchers trying to map all the connections in the brain, what’s known as the connectome. “It's a fundamental step toward understanding the brain as a networked system,” Sporns said.

Laser Beams form our Eyes?


By day, Seok-Hyun Yun and Malte Gather are physicists at Massachusetts General Hospital. But at night, for the past four years, they worked on making a human cell behave like a laser. They built their human laser out of the same three components found in all lasers: a pump source, which provides the initial light energy; an optical cavity, which concentrates the light from the pump source into a beam; and a gain medium, a substance in which electrons are excited until they reach a higher-energy state and simultaneously release that energy as a beam of photons—laser light.

Awesome!

Yun and Gather modified a human kidney cell to produce green fluorescent protein (GFP), the substance that makes jellyfish bioluminescent. This was their gain medium. They cultured these modified cells and placed one between two mirrors, creating the optical cavity—“a cell sandwich,” Yun says. They then sent pulses of blue light from a miniature laser (the pump source) through the cell, where it bounced between the mirrors. The cell glowed green, and light shot out. Through a microscope, the physicists saw a grayish mass (the cell) with luminescent spots (the laser).

Light Pinball: Physicists created a laser by placing mirrors on either side of a human cell and sending pulses of blue light through it. The light bounced back and forth until a laser beam shot out in one direction.

Now What?

A living laser could be used to activate cancer-treating drugs using photodynamic therapy. Doctors could inject light-sensitive compounds into a patient’s bloodstream to seek out tumors and diseased cells. Normally, such compounds are activated externally, but if both the drugs and the light itself were internal, treatment would be more precise. For now, though, Yun is primarily interested in the possibility of using his human laser to detect slight changes in cells. The intracavity light passes through the cells thousands or millions of times before exiting as a laser beam. Yun says that scientists could use the ricocheting light to monitor cell behavior with unprecedented sensitivity, similar to an intracellular high-speed camera. And yes, he says, his process could one day allow people to shoot laser beams from their eyes, though it would be more flashlight than death ray. “If a light source was implanted in the eye, it might be possible to control it with brain signals.”

Neutrino Experiment Repeat at Cern Finds Same Result


The team which found that neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment - and confirmed the result.
If confirmed by other experiments, the find could undermine one of the basic principles of modern physics.
Critics of the first report in September had said that the long bunches of neutrinos (tiny particles) used could introduce an error into the test.
The new work used much shorter bunches.

It has been posted to the Arxiv repository and submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, but has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community.
The experiments have been carried out by the Opera collaboration - short for Oscillation Project with Emulsion (T)racking Apparatus.
It hinges on sending bunches of neutrinos created at the Cern facility (actually produced as decays within a long bunch of protons produced at Cern) through 730km (454 miles) of rock to a giant detector at the INFN-Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy.
The initial series of experiments, comprising 15,000 separate measurements spread out over three years, found that the neutrinos arrived 60 billionths of a second faster than light would have, travelling unimpeded over the same distance.

The idea that nothing can exceed the speed of light in a vacuum forms a cornerstone in physics - first laid out by James Clerk Maxwell and later incorporated into Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity.


Timing is everything
 
Initial analysis of the work by the wider scientific community argued that the relatively long-lasting bunches of neutrinos could introduce a significant error into the measurement.
Those bunches lasted 10 millionths of a second - 160 times longer than the discrepancy the team initially reported in the neutrinos' travel time.
To address that, scientists at Cern adjusted the way in which the proton beams were produced, resulting in bunches just three billionths of a second long.
When the Opera team ran the improved experiment 20 times, they found almost exactly the same result.

"This is reinforcing the previous finding and ruling out some possible systematic errors which could have in principle been affecting it," said Antonio Ereditato of the Opera collaboration.
"We didn't think they were, and now we have the proof," he told BBC News. "This is reassuring that it's not the end of the story."

The first announcement of evidently faster-than-light neutrinos caused a stir worldwide; the Opera collaboration is very aware of its implications if eventually proved correct.
The error in the length of the bunches, however, is just the largest among several potential sources of uncertainty in the measurement, which must all now be addressed in turn; these mostly centre on the precise departure and arrival times of the bunches.
"So far no arguments have been put forward that rule out our effect," Dr Ereditato said.
"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."
That confirmation may be much longer in coming, as only a few facilities worldwide have the detectors needed to catch the notoriously flighty neutrinos - which interact with matter so rarely as to have earned the nickname "ghost particles".
Next year, teams working on two other experiments at Gran Sasso experiments - Borexino and Icarus - will begin independent cross-checks of Opera's results.
The US Minos experiment and Japan's T2K experiment will also test the observations. It is likely to be several months before they report back.
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Faster Chips, Faster Internet, Everything Faster


We’ve constructed a world out of fiber optic cable and silicon, but Arizona State University researchers think their new material can do better. They have synthesized a new kind of single-crystal nanowire from a compound of erbium--a material generally used to dope fiber optic cables to amplify their signals--and they claim it could increase the speed of the Internet, spawn a new generation of computers, and improve photovoltaic solar cells, sensor technologies, and solid-state lighting.
That’s a tall order, but the ASU team says their erbium material is up to it. In fact, erbium is already augmenting these things. Erbium atoms are generally used to dope fiber optic cable, boosting its optical properties and amplifying signals. But because of the particular properties of erbium, cramming enough atoms onto a cable to make it an effective amplifier requires a fairly long cable.



So how do you cram more erbium atoms into a cable? You make the cable itself out of erbium. That’s easier said than done, and the breakthrough here is the erbium compound that can be produced in high quality, single-crystal form. Using the compound, the researchers can create objects with 1,000 times more erbium atoms in them than they could when they were simply doping other materials with erbium. And while that doesn’t translate directly into cables or silicon chips that are 1,000-times faster, it does translate into remarkable improvements in speed and efficiency, the researchers say.

It also enables erbium atoms to be packed into small architectures where they couldn’t be packed in significant numbers previously. That means they can be integrated into silicon chips to speed the performance of computers and other devices even as the fiber optic cables that feed those devices data are also improved by the erbium compound. And all of that could be powered with vastly more efficient PV solar cells made of the erbium compound.
The researchers are testing the material for a range of applications, including those mentioned above. There’s no word yet as to when it might be commercially available. But we imagine it will be fast.