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Embryo in the eye of a needle

Embryo in needle’s eye, by Yorkos Nikas

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Gut bacteria could be affecting the body’s response to a new type of cancer treatment

Cancer immunotherapy – treatments that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer – has been gaining traction in recent years as a new approach to treating the disease. But one of its major drawbacks is its variability: for some cancer patients, the drugs have led to remarkable remissions with few side effects. Others have tried them only to find little benefit and a lot of discomfort

.It’s something researchers have been trying to understand, exploring whether there are other drugs that could be used to boost the response in some people, or if genetics could be playing an underlying role in making it more effective in others. And they may finally be onto something.

A team of researchers has recently discovered a link between people’s responses to immunotherapy treatments and the microbes that live in their gut. Having a more diverse gut microbiome, they found, is linked to a better response. The research, which will be presented at an upcoming medical conference, is the first study to make this link in people. Previous studies have however found similar results in mice. Source: Gut bacteria could be affecting the body’s response to a new type of cancer treatment

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Neural networks promise sharpest ever images

Telescopes, the workhorse instruments of astronomy, are limited by the size of the mirror or lens they use. Using ‘neural nets’, a form of artificial intelligence, a group of Swiss researchers now have a way to push past that limit, offering scientists the prospect of the sharpest ever images in optical astronomy. The new work appears in a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The diameter of its lens or mirror, the so-called aperture, fundamentally limits any telescope. In simple terms, the bigger the mirror or lens, the more light it gathers, allowing astronomers to detect fainter objects, and to observe them more clearly. A statistical concept known as ‘Nyquist sampling theorem’ describes the resolution limit, and hence how much detail can be seen.

The Swiss study, led by Prof Kevin Schawinski of ETH Zurich, uses the latest in machine learning technology to challenge this limit. They teach a neural network, a computational approach that simulates the neurons in a brain, what galaxies look like, and then ask it to automatically recover a blurred image and turn it into a sharp one. Just like a human, the neural net needs examples – in this case a blurred and a sharp image of the same galaxy – to learn the technique. Source: Neural networks promise sharpest ever images

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3D gif of IC410

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Ruptured venule under the scanning electron microscope

Magnification x2300, by Steve Gschmeissner

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Archaeologists just made the “find of a lifetime” buried beneath Scotland

A bronze sword, a gold-decorated spearhead, well-preserved sheath fittings, and fur skins – all thought to date back to around 3,000 years – are some of the remarkable finds uncovered at a dig currently underway in the UK. Archaeologists on the site have described it as the “find of a lifetime” and continue to uncover the remains of dwellings, pots, and other artefacts, so there could be more to come from this treasure trove of ancient relics.

The items have been uncovered near the town of Carnoustie, in the council area of Angus on the east coast of Scotland.Experts from GUARD Archaeology, commissioned to carry out the dig, say that it’s a “rare and internationally significant hoard” that can teach us a lot more about Bronze Age living (and fighting) in the area. “It is very unusual to recover such artefacts in a modern archaeological excavation, which can reveal so much about the context of its burial,” project officer Alan Hunter Blair from GUARD Archaeology told BBC News.

The sword is very well preserved, according to archaeologists, but it’s the accompanying spearhead that’s really exciting – only a handful of such gold-marked spearheads have ever been uncovered in Britain. Source: Archaeologists just made the “find of a lifetime” buried beneath Scotland

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Smartphones are revolutionising medicine

Researchers are finding new benefits to smartphone features such as camera and flash, which can help examine and diagnose patien

Smartphones are revolutionising the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, thanks to add-ons and apps that make their ubiquitous small screens into medical devices, researchers say: “If you look at the camera, the flash, the microphone… they all are getting better and better,” said Shwetak Patel, engineering professor at the University of Washington.

“In fact the capabilities on those phones are as great as some of the specialized devices,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this week.

Smartphones can already act as pedometers, count calories and measure heartbeats. But mobile devices and tablets can also become tools for diagnosing illness. “You can use the microphone to diagnose asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder),” Patel said. “With these enabling technologies you can manage chronic diseases outside of the clinic and with a non-invasive clinical tool.”

It is also possible to use the camera and flash on a mobile phone to diagnose blood disorders, including iron and hemoglobin deficiency. “You put your finger over the camera flash and it gives you a result that shows the level of hemoglobin in the blood,” Patel said.

An app called HemaApp was shown to perform comparably well as a non-smartphone device for measuring hemoglobin without a needle. Researchers are seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its wider use.

Smartphones can also be used to diagnose osteoporosis, a bone disorder common in the elderly. Just hold a smartphone, turn on the right app in hand and tap on your elbow.

“Your phone’s motion picture sensor picks up the resonances that are generated,” Patel said. “If there is a reduction in density of the bone, the frequency changes, which is the same as you will have in an osteoporosis bone.”

Such advances can empower patients to better manage their own care, Patel said.

“You can imagine the broader impact of this in developing countries where screening tools like this in the primary care offices are non-existent,” he told reporters. “So it really changes the way we diagnose, treat and manage chronic diseases.”

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-smartphones-revolutionizing-medicine.html#jCp

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Wireless power transmission safely charges devices anywhere within a room

A new method developed by Disney Research for wirelessly transmitting power throughout a room enables users to charge electronic devices as seamlessly as they now connect to WiFi hotspots, eliminating the need for electrical cords or charging cradles. The researchers demonstrated their method, called quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), inside a specially built 16-by-16-foot room at their lab. They safely generated near-field standing magnetic waves that filled the interior of the room, making it possible to power several cellphones, fans and lights simultaneously.

“This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as WiFi,” said Alanson Sample, associate lab director & principal research scientist at Disney Research. “This in turn could enable new applications for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging.”

A research report on QSCR by the Disney Research team of Matthew J. Chabalko, Mohsen Shahmohammadi and Alanson P. Sample was published on Feb. 15, 2017 in the online journal PLOS ONE.

“In this work, we’ve demonstrated room-scale wireless power, but there’s no reason we couldn’t scale this down to the size of a toy chest or up to the size of a warehouse,” said Sample, who leads the lab’s Wireless Systems Group. Source: Wireless power transmission safely charges devices anywhere within a room

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The microscopical beauty of our kidneys

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Dubai Is Set to Launch the World’s First Hover-Taxis Within Months

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Invisible TV

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Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle shrouded in fog, taken by Matthew Hyde from his vantage point of the 14th floor of Capital Tower. Via BBC Wales

Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion located in the city centre of Cardiff, Wales. The original motte and bailey castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort. The castle was commissioned either by William the Conqueror or by Robert Fitzhamon, and formed the heart of the medieval town of Cardiff and the Marcher Lord territory of Glamorgan. In the 12th century the castle began to be rebuilt in stone, probably by Robert of Gloucester, with a shell keep and substantial defensive walls being erected. Further work was conducted by Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester in the second half of the 13th century. Cardiff Castle was repeatedly involved in the conflicts between the Anglo-Normans and the Welsh, being attacked several times in the 12th century, and stormed in 1404 during the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr. Continue reading

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Hans Rosling: Data visionary and educator dies aged 68

Sad news today. Hans Rosling, our favourite statistician, has died from pantriatic cancer. We would urge you to watch any of Hans’ great presentations, like this one on population. It’s very, very good.

Thanks to Phil Krause for bringing this to our attention.

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ATP tattoo

ATP hummingbird moths Tattoo by Jessa Huebing-Reitinger

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is an energy-bearing molecule found in all living cells. Formation of nucleic acids, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and many other energy-consuming reactions of metabolism are made possible by the energy in ATP molecules. The energy in ATP is obtained from the breakdown of foods.

An ATP molecule is composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus atoms. There are three phosphorus atoms in the molecule. Each of these phosphorus atoms is at the center of an atomic group called a phosphate. The phosphate groups are linked to one another by chemical bonds called phosphate bonds. The energy of ATP is locked in these bonds. Via DailyAnatomy

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Electron micrograph of blood

Mindblowing electron micrograph of blood (single erythrocytes) inside a micro needle 🙂 We think many people would like blood a lot more if we could see it like this! Image by Science photo library via ILA

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Flipping the switch on ammonia production: Process generates electricity instead of consuming energy

Nearly a century ago, German chemist Fritz Haber won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for a process to generate ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen gases. The process, still in use today, ushered in a revolution in agriculture, but now consumes around one percent of the world’s energy to achieve the high pressures and temperatures that drive the chemical reactions to produce ammonia. Today, University of Utah chemists publish a different method, using enzymes derived from nature, that generates ammonia at room temperature. As a bonus, the reaction generates a small electrical current. The method is published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Although chemistry and materials science and engineering professor Shelley Minteer and postdoctoral scholar Ross Milton have only been able to produce small quantities of ammonia so far, their method could lead to a less energy-intensive source of the ammonia, used worldwide as a vital fertilizer.

“It’s a spontaneous process, so rather than having to put energy in, it’s actually generating its own electricity,” Minteer says.

Source: Flipping the switch on ammonia production: Process generates electricity instead of consuming energy

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This monster wind turbine just set a new record for energy output

A new offshore wind turbine has produced more energy over a 24-hour period than any other commercially available turbine, generating close to almost 216,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in a single day. That’s enough to power around 7,200 homes in the US on its own for 24 hours, though this particular turbine is being tested near Østerild in Denmark, and will soon be deployed in Europe.

The V164 was recently upgraded to reach 9 megawatts (MW) of rated power – an impressive boost, considering many modern offshore turbines in use today are in the 4 to 6 MW range. Source: ScienceAlert

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Featured Artworks – The Human Condition – René Magritte

The Human Condition (La condition humaine) generally refers to two similar oil on canvas paintings by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte. One was completed in 1933 and is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The other was completed in 1935 and is part of the Simon Spierer Collection in Geneva, Switzerland. A number of drawings of the same name exist as well, including one at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

One of Magritte’s most common artistic devices was the use of objects to hide what lies behind them. For example, in The Son of Man (1964) an apple hides the face of a man wearing a bowler hat, and in The Pleasure Principle (1937) a bright flash likewise obscures a face. In The Human Condition, the cover-up appears in the form a painting within a painting. Magritte had this to say of his 1933 work:

In front of a window seen from inside a room, I placed a painting representing exactly that portion of the landscape covered by the painting. Thus, the tree in the picture hid the tree behind it, outside the room. For the spectator, it was both inside the room within the painting and outside in the real landscape.

Paintings within paintings appear frequently in Magritte works. Euclidean Walks (1955) is a work perhaps most like The Human Condition. It places a canvas in front of a high window depicting the tower of a close building and a street below. In The Fair Captive (1947), there is a beach scene with an easel set up. As in the previous cases it holds a canvas depicting what the viewer might expect to be behind it. This time though, flames from a burning tuba in front of the frame are seen “reflected.” The Call of the Peaks (1942) shows a mountain canvas in front of a mountain background which is buffeted on the right by a curtain.

The list of similar works can easily be extended to include such paintings as The Key to the Fields (1936), its 1964 reincarnation Evening Falls and the 1942 work The Domain of Arnheim, all of which feature broken windows whose shattered glass pieces on the floor still show the outside world they used to conceal.

Another series of pieces which show both strong similarities and strong differences from The Human Condition are the works titled The Alarm Clock. In these works, a painting is placed on an easel in front of a window or on a balcony with a simple landscape in the background. However, the painting does not show what may possibly be behind, but is instead an upside-down basic fruit still life. Via Wiki

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Physicists have found a metal that conducts electricity but not heat

Share to TwitterShare to FlipboardShare to Copy LinkResearchers have identified a metal that conducts electricity without conducting heat – an incredibly useful property that defies our current understanding of how conductors work. The metal contradicts something called the Wiedemann-Franz Law, which basically states that good conductors of electricity will also be proportionally good conductors of heat, which is why things like motors and appliances get so hot when you use them regularly. But a team in the US has shown that this isn’t the case for metallic vanadium dioxide (VO2) – a material that’s already well known for its strange ability to switch from a see-through insulator to a conductive metal at the temperature of 67 degrees Celsius (152 degrees Fahrenheit).

“This was a totally unexpected finding,” said lead researcher Junqiao Wu, from Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division.”It shows a drastic breakdown of a textbook law that has been known to be robust for conventional conductors. This discovery is of fundamental importance for understanding the basic electronic behaviour of novel conductors.

“Not only does this unexpected property change what we know about conductors, it could also be incredibly useful – the metal could one day be used to convert wasted heat from engines and appliances back into electricity, or even create better window coverings that keep buildings cool. Researchers already know of a handful of other materials that conduct electricity better than heat, but they only display those properties at temperatures hundreds of degrees below zero, which makes them highly impractical for any real-world applications.Vanadium dioxide, on the other hand, is usually only a conductor at warm temperatures well above room temperature, which means it has the ability to be a lot more practical. Source: Physicists have found a metal that conducts electricity but not heat

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Watch Alien Worlds Whirl Around a Distant Star

Not too far away, four worlds are orbiting a young, bright star—and now, after staring at the alien stellar system for seven years, we can watch as the planets quietly trace their cosmic loops.

There’s something indescribably majestic about watching these whirling worlds, each obeying the same laws of planetary motion that Johannes Kepler derived four centuries ago. After all, though we can see moons orbiting our planetary neighbors, it’s improbable that we’ll ever observe our own solar system perform this dance from afar.

The blotted-out star in the center of the video is called HR 8799, and it’s in the constellation Pegasus, about 129 light-years from Earth. About five times brighter than the sun, HR 8799 is just 30 million years old, the equivalent of a stellar newborn. Source: Watch Alien Worlds Whirl Around a Distant Star

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