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Researchers Engineer Mice with Anomalies Linked to Autism and Schizophrenia PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 02:15

By creating animals with chromosomal abnormalities, they hope to learn more about how the disorders develop.

Family studies suggest a strong genetic component to autism and schizophrenia, but the disorders are thought to arise during early development, making it difficult to study the underlying genetics.

Now researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York have created mice with chromosomal abnormalities that mirror those seen in humans with these disorders, which should make it easier to study the role of genetics in the development of the brain.

China Beckons for Green-Energy Startups PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 September 2011 21:58

Boston Power's move reflects China's willingness to provide incentives for companies in strategic industries.

Many in the U.S. have an interest in getting clean-tech ventures off the ground. Among them are the government, capital markets, industry, and science labs. But China seems ready to do more on every front to make such projects happen, and to do it right now—without red tape or concern about economic turmoil.

Leading-edge battery maker Boston Power appears to have come to that conclusion. The company is set to move to China, where the government is helping to cut the firm a $125-million deal that no one else is likely to match.

The Latest Sports Stat: Players' Vital Signs PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 September 2011 21:51

Wearable sensors collect data from athletes as they're playing—data that could soon be broadcast during the game.

Statistics in sports is about to hit a whole new level. A new generation of wearable monitors that measure heart rate, electrical activity in the heart, lung capacity, metabolism, and other metrics is allowing scientists to study athletes' physiology as they play.

The data has obvious potential to enhance players' health, and to help trainers tailor workouts, but device makers and the sports industry seem most excited about the prospects for entertainment. They are already working on ways to display the data during games, in stadiums and on television, giving fans unprecedented insight into players.

How Pathogens Fight Drugs PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 September 2011 18:32

"Death galaxy" chip shows bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance at a surprising pace.

When attacked with antibiotics, bacteria can mutate rapidly in order to survive—it's what makes, for instance, the staph infection MRSA so dangerous. New research suggests that such bacterial evolution occurs even faster, and in a more predictable fashion, than anyone thought. Using a novel type of microfluidics chip, researchers have shown that bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance in less than 10 hours.

EU Is Overrating Biofuels Benefits PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 05:26

New report suggests an error in estimates of greenhouse gas emissions.

A scientific committee of the European Union has published a report arguing that EU policies favoring biofuels are based on a "serious" error in calculating the overall greenhouse gas emissions associated with the fuels. The result, says the committee, is an underestimation that could have "immense" climate-related consequences.

The policies, which include the EU's emissions trading system and renewable energy targets, do not adequately take into account the effects of land-use changes, the committee argues. It concludes that as a result, biofuels are often considered carbon-neutral when they may actually be adding carbon to the atmosphere.

A Quick Post-Surgical Wake-Up Call PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 05:18

Researchers find that giving rats the common stimulant Ritalin can revive them during general anesthesia.

After they've undergone general anesthesia, patients typically experience hours of sleepiness, disorientation, and confusion. But perhaps patients could be quickly stimulated into alertness. That's the surprising suggestion of a new study in the October issue of Anesthesiology, which finds that, in rats, the common stimulant methylphenidate (Ritalin) can help speed recovery from general anesthesia.

British to Test Geoengineering Scheme PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 20:08

Can a garden hose to the stratosphere really keep the planet cool?

In October, British researchers supported by the U.K. government will attempt to pump water a kilometer into the air using little more than a helium balloon and a rubber hose. The experiment, which will take place at a military airfield along England's east coast, is meant as a test of a proposed geoengineering technique for offsetting the warming effects of greenhouse gases. If the balloon and hose can handle the water's weight and pressure, similar pipes rising 20 kilometers could pump tons of reflective aerosols into the stratosphere.

What It Takes to Power Google PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 September 2011 19:35

The Web giant reveals its energy use for the first time.

Google is the first major Web company to reveal exactly how much energy it uses—information that will help researchers and policy makers understand how the massive explosion of Internet usage and cloud computing is contributing to global energy consumption.

Google uses 260 million watts continuously across the globe, the company reported on Wednesday.

An Objective Way to Measure Pain PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 September 2011 19:29

Researchers use brain imaging to detect patterns of brain activity associated with pain—a potential boon for doctors and drug developers.

Pain has always been in the eye of the beholder. Doctors evaluating patients, as well as scientists studying pain, have had to rely on subjective descriptions, making pain notoriously difficult to measure and track. A new study from Stanford University takes a first step toward an objective measure for pain.

Fingertip Microscope Can Peek Inside a Moving Animal PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 September 2011 21:07

Made from cheap, mass-producible parts, the device could help scientists learn how the brain directs movement.

An inexpensive microscope about the size of a gumdrop could allow scientists to peer into the inner workings of living, moving animals much more easily. The device is small and light enough—it weighs less than two grams—to be mounted atop a rodent's head, where it can capture the activity of up to 200 individual brain cells as the animal explores its environment.

That's more cells than can be monitored using an expensive two-photon microscope, which doesn't allow the animal to move, says Mark Schnitzer, a neuroscientist at Stanford University and one of the device's creators.

How the Health-Care System Slows Mobile Medical Technology PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 02:13

Under a fee-for-service structure, doctors aren't motivated to embrace innovation.

The advent of cheaper sensors and wireless transmitters, along with ubiquitous computing power in the form of smart phones, is making it easier and easier for patients with chronic diseases to track their conditions at home. But many health-care providers seem reluctant to adopt these technologies.

Experts say this is, in large part, because of the reimbursement system in U.S. health care, where physicians are paid for each test or office visit they provide.

Peak Oil Debunked PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 September 2011 21:56

Daniel Yergin's new book is a valuable guide to how energy drives the world's economy.

The timing of Daniel Yergin's new book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, could hardly be better. With oil prices remaining high, with new sources of natural gas and oil being exploited around the world, and with demand for energy expected to reach new highs over the next several decades, Yergin sets out to explain the history, economics, and politics behind the world's continuing love affair with fossil fuels and show, too, just how hard it will be to end our dependence, given the earth's surprising, and seemingly endless, ability to enable it.

From Your Heart to Your iPhone PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 September 2011 18:35

A new app gets data from an implanted device and can share it with the patient, doctors, and family.

A smart-phone app under development for heart-failure patients allows them to keep track of the pressure inside their heart as measured by an implanted sensor. That data could help patients adjust their medication to maintain a healthy pressure, much as diabetics do with insulin and blood sugar readings.

Called Pam+ (for "patient advisory module"), the app is being developed by researchers at the University of Southern California in collaboration with medical device maker St. Jude Medical.

Brain Imaging Reveals What You're Watching PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 September 2011 18:29

Researchers develop an fMRI-based model to reconstruct moving images that people are seeing.

Scientists are a step closer to constructing a digital version of the human visual system. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed an algorithm that can be applied to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) imagery to show a moving image a person is seeing.

Neuroscientists have been using fMRI to study the human visual system for years, which involves measuring changes in blood oxygen levels in the brain.

The Future of Hydrogen Cars PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011 05:23

Proton OnSite's lack of progress toward its proposed "hydrogen highway" demonstrates the low priority America gives this alternative fuel.

In October 2010, Proton OnSite's subsidiary SunHydro opened a hydrogen fuel station at its Wallingford, Connecticut, headquarters. The station was the first of at least nine that the company planned to build up and down the East Coast to supply hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles. Yet SunHydro has not built a single additional station since.

Intel Chases a More Power-Efficient Future PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 20:10

An improved microprocessor and a deal with Google could lead to more Intel chips in mobile devices.

Intel has announced a line of more power-efficient microprocessors for smart phones and tablets that could help recapture some of this increasingly valuable market segment. At the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in San Francisco this week, the company also announced that it's forming an alliance with Google to get the Android operating system released more quickly for Intel hardware.

Nanotube Cables Hit a Milestone: As Good as Copper PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 20:05

Researchers achieve a goal they've been after since the 1980s—the advance could make cars and airplanes lighter, and renewable energy more practical.

For the first time, researchers have made carbon-nanotube electrical cables that can carry as much current as copper wires. These nanotube cables could help carry more renewable power farther in the electrical grid, provide lightweight wiring for more-fuel-efficient vehicles and planes, and make connections in low-power computer chips. Researchers at Rice University have now demonstrated carbon-nanotube cables in a practical system and are designing a manufacturing line for commercial production.

Battery Storage Could Get a Huge Boost from Seaweed PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 September 2011 19:32

A binding agent found in everything from ice cream to cosmetics could let lithium-ion cells hold much more energy.

Lithium-ion batteries could hold up to 10 times as much energy per cell if silicon anodes were used instead of graphite ones. But manufacturers don't use silicon because such anodes degrade quickly as the battery is charged and discharged.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Clemson University think they might have found the ingredient that will make silicon anodes work—a common binding agent and food additive derived from algae and used in many household products. They say this material could not only make lithium-ion batteries more efficient, but also cleaner and cheaper to manufacture.

Powering Gadgets a Step at a Time PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 September 2011 21:09

A microfluidics approach could be ideal for harnessing electricity from footsteps.

A new way to harvest footfall energy could someday let shoes generate enough power to keep cell phones and laptops topped up.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have come up with a microfluidics technique that scavenges considerably more energy from human footfalls and converts it into electric power.

New Implant Can Monitor Tumors Continuously PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 September 2011 21:04

Researchers hope to combine the sensor with a device to deliver targeted chemotherapy.

A team of medical engineers in Germany has developed an implant to continuously monitor tumor growth in cancer patients. The device, designed to be implanted in the patient near the tumor site, uses chip sensors to measure oxygen levels in the blood, an indicator of growth. The data is then transmitted wirelessly to an external receiver carried by the patient and transferred to his or her doctor for remote monitoring and analysis. 

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