Award-Winning Videos Bring the Microscopic World to Life

By Carl Engelking | April 24, 2014 4:02 pm

We’ve all heard the saying that good things come in small packages, and using modern imaging technology, we can appreciate the splendor of the world at the microscopic level.

On Wednesday, the winners of the Nikon’s Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition were announced. The purpose of the contest is to find videos that best capture the beauty and complexity of life through the microscope. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

115-Year-Old Woman’s Blood Reveals Limits on Longevity

By Carl Engelking | April 24, 2014 2:30 pm

henny

Discovering the secret to a long and healthy life has always intrigued humanity — you need look no further than the nearest magazine rack to see that that fascination is today alive and well. And now scientists have some new hints, thanks to blood samples from one of the longest-lived humans yet to walk this Earth: Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, who was 115 when she died in 2005. A new genetic analysis of blood and tissue samples collected during her autopsy indicates that life’s outer limits might be set by our cells’ finite ability to divide.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: aging, genes & health

Mystery Solved: Supernova Lies Behind Cosmic ‘Magnifying Glass’

By Bill Andrews | April 24, 2014 1:56 pm
supernova

Schematic illustration of the magnification by a galaxy. A massive object between us and the supernova bends light rays much as a glass lens can focus light. As more light rays are directed toward the observer than would be without the lens, the supernova appears magnified. Credit: Kavli IPMU

Looking through space for distant stars, galaxies and anything else is hard. But luckily, sometimes the universe itself lends a helping hand, in the form of a galactic-sized magnifying lens. The real trick is being able to spot this weird interplay of light and gravity, but thanks to a recent superbright supernova, scientists now have a much better handle on this phenomenon.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: stars

Cochlear Implant Plus Gene Therapy Could Restore Hearing to the Deaf

By Breanna Draxler | April 23, 2014 1:38 pm

cochlear-implantCochlear implants have restored hearing to many deaf people, but they haven’t advanced much since they were unveiled in the 1970s. That may be set to change with an exciting new advance, not in the technology of the device itself, but rather in using gene therapy to increase the device’s effectiveness. Today researchers announced that they’ve been able to restore tonal hearing in guinea pigs with the new method of gene delivery.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts

Algorithm Is First to Identify Faces Better Than Humans Can

By Carl Engelking | April 23, 2014 12:37 pm

faces

Let’s face it, from trivia to teaching, computers are doing things we thought were uniquely human — and doing them better. Now, facial recognition, a skill humans once dominated, has a new champion. Computer scientists have developed a facial recognition algorithm that, for the first time, outperforms humans’ own abilities.

Facial recognition systems are already better than humans at comparing two images to determine if they are the same person, but only when variables like lighting, pose and expression are controlled. When you shake things up, humans still correctly identify faces with over 97 percent accuracy; before now no other algorithm had come close that mark. However, scientists’ new algorithm, called GaussianFace, performed the feat with an accuracy of 98.52 percent.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts

Women Prefer Complex Composers for Sexual Flings

By April Reese | April 23, 2014 12:15 pm

musician

“Where words fail, music speaks,” wrote the Danish fairytale author and poet Hans Christian Andersen in the 19th century. Around the same time, over in England, the more practically-minded Charles Darwin was wondering what purpose music served, evolutionarily speaking. He knew that neither birds nor humans need it for survival, but maybe, he thought, it plays a role in sexual selection. Did we first begin breaking out in song to “charm the opposite sex,” as Darwin put it?

Very likely so, according to a new study by British researchers. Not only can music help men attract mates, the more complex the song, the greater the composer’s chances of getting a woman to sleep with him.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

‘Minecraft’ Helps Residents Remake Developing Cities

By Carl Engelking | April 22, 2014 4:17 pm
minecraft

Haiti’s Les Cayes waterfront as replicated in Minecraft. (Credit: United Nations Human Settlements Programme)

For the most part, video games are simply another form of entertainment like movies, television and books; rarely will a video game serve a purpose other than to provide a leisurely pastime. But Minecraft is breaking that mold. The critically acclaimed video game is now democratizing the planning and design of run-down public spaces around the world.

Minecraft is an open-ended game that allows players to construct anything they can imagine using textured cubes as their building material. Mojang, the game’s creators, partnered with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in 2012 to kickstart the “Block by Block” initiative, which encourages people to reimagine their communities by designing plans using the Minecraft platform. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: computers

Biofuel Made From Corn Waste Less ‘Green’ Than Gasoline

By Carl Engelking | April 22, 2014 2:49 pm

shutterstock_157616018

Biofuel created from corn waste may not be the clean, eco-friendly oil alternative the United States government is hoping for. A new study has found that fuel generated from harvested corn leftovers creates more greenhouse gases than conventional gasoline — at least in the short term.

The fuel under study, called cellulosic ethanol, has been touted in recent years as a promising successor to current corn-based ethanol. Unlike the ethanol now mixed into gasoline, cellulosic ethanol is made of non-edible plant waste, meaning it wouldn’t divert food to fuel.

However researchers found that that waste, left on fields, was doing something after all. Their computer models indicate that removing corn leaves and stalks from fields could result in an increase in carbon emissions because the soil would have greater air exposure.

The findings from the federally funded study were published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
MORE ABOUT: energy, sustainability

SpaceX Rocket Launch Looks Stunning From Drone’s-Eye View

By Carl Engelking | April 21, 2014 3:19 pm

We’re used to seeing rockets launch and disappear into the sky, but things are a little different at Elon Musk’s SpaceX facility in Texas. On Friday, the company launched its first test flight of a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) rocket, which reached over 800 feet in altitude and then made a controlled landing.

Later that same day, SpaceX capped that momentous achievement with a bird’s-eye video of the test flight, courtesy of a hexacopter drone. The drone provides an up-close look as the rocket rises to 820 feet, hovers for a few moments, then gracefully descends to a soft landing. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

Powdered Alcohol To Be Sold in U.S. This Fall

By Carl Engelking | April 21, 2014 2:36 pm

shutterstock_183604589

Update: If you were looking forward to enjoying Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product, this fall, you may need to wait a bit longer. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted Palcohol “label approval” on April 8, but rescinded its approval April 21 after this article was published. A representative with the bureau told the Associated Press that the original approvals were issued in error. Palcohol’s parent company Lipsmark will need to resubmit its labels for approval. [This update was published at 9:20 a.m. April 22]

Instantly turning water into an alcoholic beverage is no longer a feat of biblical proportions. Come fall, it will be legal for Americans to purchase powdered alcohol, which can turn water into rum, vodka or a variety of cocktails.

The product, called Palcohol, is the brainchild of alcohol enthusiast Mark Phillips. He invented the potent powder because he wanted an easy, portable way to enjoy an adult beverage after a day of hiking, biking or kayaking. The federal government recently gave its stamp of approval for the sale and manufacture of the product, and it could be on the shelves of your local liquor store in the fall. Read More

MORE ABOUT: alcohol, food science
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