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  • May 30, 2013
  • 10:11 AM
  • 775 views

Atom-trapping laser gratings : A technological quantum leap for space

by Perikis Livas in Chilon

New micro-fabricated grating chips developed through ESA-led research enable the laser-based cooling and capture of atoms on a more compact basis than ever before, potentially delivering laboratory-standard performance for precision environmental sensing and timekeeping from devices portable enough to be flown into space.... Read more »

ESA Space Engineering. (2013) Atom-trapping laser gratings : A technological quantum leap for space. ESA. info:/

  • May 29, 2013
  • 11:30 PM
  • 934 views

Microscopic computing in cells and with self-assembling DNA tiles

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

One of the three goals of natural algorithms is to implement computers in non-electronic media. In cases like quantum computing, the goal is to achieve a qualitatively different form of computing, but other times (as with most biological computing) the goal is just to recreate normal computation (or a subset of it) at a different […]... Read more »

Cardelli L, & Csikász-Nagy A. (2012) The cell cycle switch computes approximate majority. Scientific Reports, 656. PMID: 22977731  

  • May 29, 2013
  • 12:41 PM
  • 633 views

New Catalysts Will Get Cellphones Running on Acid

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Physicist Florian Nitze at the Umeå University, Sweden, has developed several new catalysts that improve the capacity of the fuel cells, making it possible to use relatively environmentally friendly formic acid in fuel cell powering your mobile phone or laptop.... Read more »

  • May 29, 2013
  • 08:13 AM
  • 729 views

Angelina Jolie doesn't trust medical imaging

by Know Your Images in Know Your Images

Angelina Jolie shocked us all with her decision to remove both her breasts in order to prevent breast cancer. Her breast cancer risk was calculated based on genetics and was 87%. Now it is 5%. I have to agree that this woman is brave! However, I think a very intense screening could have been done with very good results. There are several methods to detect breast cancer: (digital) mammography, tomosynthesis, breast MRI, ultrasound, positron emission tomography and even microwave imaging. Some without any risk, besides the huge amount of money that they cost if we would perform them on every woman. I think money is not a problem for Angelina Jolie and she could get checked out as many times as she wanted...The following article "Warner, E. (2004). Surveillance of BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutation Carriers With Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Ultrasound, Mammography, and Clinical Breast Examination JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 292 (11), 1317-1325 DOI: 10.1001/jama.292.11.1317" refers all these important points:- "Women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations who do not undergo prophylactic surgery have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of up to 85%, with a significantly higher risk of breast cancer than the general population from age 25 years onward." - This is the case of Angelina Jolie.- "The combination of MRI, ultrasound, and mammography had a sensitivity of 95%." - great numbers!- "To date, the reluctance to use breast MRI for surveillance of high-risk women outside the context of a clinical trial relates, to a large extent, to its high cost and relatively low specificity compared with mammography." - This would not be a problem for Angelina Jolie.- "In conclusion, our results support the position that MRI-based screening is likely to become the cornerstone of breast cancer surveillance for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, but it is necessary to demonstrate that this surveillance tool lowers breast cancer mortality before it can be recommended for general use." - A public figure like Angelina Jolie could help this matter.And another article "Kriege M, Brekelmans CT, Boetes C, Besnard PE, Zonderland HM, Obdeijn IM, Manoliu RA, Kok T, Peterse H, Tilanus-Linthorst MM, Muller SH, Meijer S, Oosterwijk JC, Beex LV, Tollenaar RA, de Koning HJ, Rutgers EJ, Klijn JG, & Magnetic Resonance Imaging Screening Study Group (2004). Efficacy of MRI and mammography for breast-cancer screening in women with a familial or genetic predisposition. The New England journal of medicine, 351 (5), 427-37 PMID: 15282350" states: "In conclusion, our study shows that the screening program we used, especially MRI screening, can detect breast cancer at an early stage in women at risk for breast cancer."... Read more »

  • May 28, 2013
  • 04:31 PM
  • 506 views

Shape-shifting Nanoparticles Flip from Sphere to Net in Response to Tumor Signal

by Perikis Livas in Chilon

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have designed tiny spherical particles to float easily through the bloodstream after injection, then assemble into a durable scaffold within diseased tissue. An enzyme produced by a specific type of tumor can trigger the transformation of the spheres into netlike structures that accumulate at the site of a cancer, the team reports in the journal Advanced Materials this week.... Read more »

Susan Brown. (2013) Shape-shifting Nanoparticles Flip from Sphere to Net in Response to Tumor Signal. UC San Diego News Center. info:/

  • May 27, 2013
  • 04:55 PM
  • 910 views

Transparent Graphene Electrode Makes Flexible Solar Cells Possible

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

In a recent article published in journal Advanced Functional Materials, researchers describe a new graphene-coated transparent electrode made of silver nanowires. Because of its ability to bend without breaking, the new invention can be used to create flexible solar cells, computer and consumer electronics displays and future “optoelectronic” circuits for sensors and information processing.... Read more »

  • May 26, 2013
  • 11:30 PM
  • 716 views

Distributed computation in foraging desert ants

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

For computer scientists, ants are most familiar from ant colony optimization. These algorithms rely on simulating how ants lay, follow, and modify pheromone trails to find efficient paths from their hives to food sources. Hence, it might come as a surprise that this is not a universal feature of ants. The cataglyphis niger desert ant […]... Read more »

  • May 24, 2013
  • 11:30 PM
  • 1,078 views

Computer science on prediction and the edge of chaos

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

With the development of statistical mechanics, physicists became the first agent-based modellers. Since the scientists of the 19th century didn’t have super-computers, they couldn’t succumb to the curse of computing and had to come up with analytic treatments of their “agent-based models”. These analytic treatments were often not rigorous, and only a heuristic correspondence was […]... Read more »

Chazelle, B. (2012) Natural algorithms and influence systems. Communications of the ACM, 55(12), 101. DOI: 10.1145/2380656.2380679  

  • May 24, 2013
  • 10:07 AM
  • 1,891 views

Ants Reveal How to Build a Tunnel You Can't Fall Down

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish




It's hard to keep your footing in a steep tunnel made of loose dirt while others are scrambling around and over your body. Harder still in pitch blackness. That's why fire ants build tunnels that will catch them when they fall—a strategy human engineers might want to steal.

"Slips and missteps are likely a constant, recurring feature of life underground," says Nick Gravish, a graduate student in Daniel Goldman's rheology and biomechanics lab at Georgia Tech. Yet ants have to traverse their tunnels quickly, especially when there's a colony emergency like a flood or destruction by a gardener's spade.

To study how ants engineer their tunnels, Gravish brought the fire ant Solenopsis invicta into the lab. Invasive to countries around the world and packing a nasty sting, these South American ants deal out plenty of hardship. But Gravish was interested in how they handle adversity themselves.

First, the ants were put into "laboratory soil" (actually tiny glass balls) to dig. Researchers took x-ray CT scans of the resulting tunnels and found that no matter the moisture of the "soil" or the size of the glass beads, ants dug circular tunnels of approximately the same diameter. That diameter was just a little bit more than the length of their bodies, not counting legs or antennae.

This suggested that the diameter of the tunnel was crucial to the fire ants. To see how well the ants moved within these tunnels, the researchers recorded video of them climbing as fast as they could. ("We startled them into climbing at high speed by exhaling gently into the nest," Gravish says.) They saw that ants were able to navigate their tunnels quickly, reaching speeds of more than 9 body lengths per second. They also saw that sometimes the ants slipped and had to recover their footing.

In addition to their tunnels, the researchers recorded ants climbing in vertical glass tubes. To get a better idea of how ants corrected their falls, the scientists jolted the tubes to knock the ants off the walls while they were climbing. (If you enjoy videos in the falling-bugs genre, this study generated several new additions. Here's one video of several ants falling and stopping themselves.)




Now the reason ants build tunnels so close in diameter to their own body length became clear. Ants responded to a fall by spreading all their appendages wide and waiting until they jammed to a stop. "One of the coolest things we found was that fire ants used their antennae to brace themselves," Gravish says. While falling, the ants turned these delicate sensors into extra load-bearing limbs.

When the glass tube width increased to 1.3 times the ants' body length, the strategy began to fail. The tunnels ants built themselves had an average diameter of just 1.06 times their body length, the authors report in PNAS. It seems fire ants put most of the responsibility for stopping falls on the tunnels themselves. After that, all a plummeting insect has to do is stretch out its limbs.

Gravish likens this strategy to the way humans build stairs. Steps are engineered to fit our bodies. If they're too tall or short, we struggle to use them (or maybe just fall down them). But with the right design, our environment works with us to get us where we're going.

This strategy could inspire how we design robots for confined spaces such as search-and-rescue zones, Gravish says. For instance, "falling is usually considered a failure mode for a robot." But fire ants seem to use little falls to descend more quickly through their tunnels. If engineers knew the size of the cracks and crevices in a disaster area, they might be able to send in many inexpensive robots designed to tumble through those spaces—rather than one very expensive robot built to keep its footing.

What about humans ourselves: would we benefit from building tunnels that were only as wide as our head-plus-torso length, like the ants? Gravish points out that fire ants often fall many body lengths before catching themselves, making this not such a great strategy for people. "Ants have a robust exoskeleton," he says. "We humans are quite soft in comparison."


Images: ant in tunnel by Laura Danielle Wagner; ants falling by Gravish et al.

Gravish, N., Monaenkova, D., Goodisman, M., & Goldman, D. (2013). Climbing, falling, and jamming during ant locomotion in confined environments Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302428110

... Read more »

Gravish, N., Monaenkova, D., Goodisman, M., & Goldman, D. (2013) Climbing, falling, and jamming during ant locomotion in confined environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302428110  

  • May 23, 2013
  • 03:37 PM
  • 1,099 views

Researchers Turn a Smartphone into a Biosensor

by Jason Carr in Wired Cosmos

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a cradle and app for the iPhone that uses the phone’s built-in camera and processing power as a biosensor to detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other molecules. Having such sensitive biosensing capabilities in the field could enable on-the-spot tracking of groundwater contamination, combine the phone’s GPS … Read More →... Read more »

Gallegos, D., Long, K., Yu, H., Clark, P., Lin, Y., George, S., Nath, P., & Cunningham, B. (2013) Label-free biodetection using a smartphone. Lab on a Chip, 13(11), 2124. DOI: 10.1039/C3LC40991K  

  • May 23, 2013
  • 11:58 AM
  • 612 views

New Method for Clean and Safe Hydrogen Production Proposed

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Duke University engineers have developed a new safer method for catalytic hydrogen production. According to the authors of the study, it does not require high temperatures and produces smaller amounts of toxic chemicals than other industrial hydrogen production technologies.... Read more »

  • May 21, 2013
  • 10:15 AM
  • 906 views

Algorithmic view of historicity and separation of scales in biology

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

A Science publications is one of the best ways to launch your career, especially if it is based on your undergraduate work, part of which you carried out with makeshift equipment in your dorm! That is the story of Thomas M.S. Chang, who in 1956 started experiments (partially carried out in his residence room in […]... Read more »

  • May 19, 2013
  • 11:45 PM
  • 881 views

Natural algorithms and the sciences

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

Today, I am passing through New York City on my way to Princeton’s Center for Computational Intractability for a workshop on Natural Algorithms and the Sciences (NA&S). The two day meeting will cover everything from molecular algorithms for learning and experiments on artificial cells to bounded rationality in decision-making and the effects of network topology […]... Read more »

Chazelle, B. (2012) Natural algorithms and influence systems. Communications of the ACM, 55(12), 101. DOI: 10.1145/2380656.2380679  

  • May 18, 2013
  • 07:00 AM
  • 1,565 views

Bigger groups make better decisions

by Randy Olson in Randal S. Olson's Blog

Randy Olson reviews a research paper that shows us how bigger groups can make more accurate decisions.... Read more »

  • May 16, 2013
  • 08:38 AM
  • 666 views

‘Brainbow,’ version 2.0

by Perikis Livas in Chilon

The breakthrough technique that allowed scientists to obtain one-of-a-kind, colorful images of the myriad connections in the brain and nervous system is about to get a significant upgrade.... Read more »

Peter Reuell. (2013) ‘Brainbow,’ version 2.0. Harvard Gazette. info:/

  • May 14, 2013
  • 09:30 PM
  • 1,240 views

Four color problem, odd Goldbach conjecture, and the curse of computing

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

For over twenty-three hundred years, at least since the publication of Euclid’s Elements, the conjecture and proof of new theorems has been the sine qua non of mathematics. The method of proof is at “the heart of mathematics, the royal road to creating analytical tools and catalyzing growth” (Rav, 1999; pg 6). Proofs are not […]... Read more »

Rav, Y. (1999) Why Do We Prove Theorems?. Philosophia Mathematica, 7(1), 5-41. DOI: 10.1093/philmat/7.1.5  

  • May 13, 2013
  • 09:58 AM
  • 1,366 views

Riding Hexapod Walkers on Dusty Alien Worlds

by Jason Carr in Wired Cosmos

Speculative fiction is the home of countless machines that fly in space, yet resemble humanoid lifeforms. Scientists are now working on the next generation of robots that will blaze a trail in space by going where humans simply can’t maneuver on their own. Like so many things in the field of space exploration, the descendents … Read More →... Read more »

  • May 13, 2013
  • 09:45 AM
  • 450 views

A Quantum Version of Google

by Carian Thus in United Academics

A team of computer scientists in Spain applied a quantum PageRank algorithm to a network with 7 webpages. They found that the quantum PageRank sometimes ordered the webpages differently in terms of importance, but averaging the quantum PageRank score over time recovered the classical ordering.... Read more »

Paparo, G., & Martin-Delgado, M. (2012) Google in a Quantum Network. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep00444  

  • May 9, 2013
  • 08:43 AM
  • 1,203 views

Reflections on WebSci‘13

by Peter Kraker in Science and the Web

I spent last week at Web Science 2013 in Paris. And what a well spent time that was. Web Science was for sure the most diverse conference I have ever attended. One of the reasons for this diversity is that Webscience was collocated with CHI (Human-Computer-Interaction) and Hypertext. But most importantly, the community of Webscience …Read More... Read more »

Peter Kraker, Kris Jack, Christian Schlögl, Christoph Trattner, & Stefanie Lindstaedt. (2013) Head Start: Improving Academic Literature Search with Overview Visualizations based on Readership Statistics. Web Science 2013. info:/

  • May 9, 2013
  • 08:36 AM
  • 556 views

More Than a Good Eye: Carnegie Mellon Robot Uses Arms, Location and More To Discover Objects

by Perikis Livas in Chilon

A robot can struggle to discover objects in its surroundings when it relies on computer vision alone. But by taking advantage of all of the information available to it – an object’s location, size, shape and even whether it can be lifted – a robot can continually discover and refine its understanding of objects, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.... Read more »

Byron Spice. (2013) More Than a Good Eye: Carnegie Mellon Robot Uses Arms, Location and More To Discover Objects. Carnegie Mellon University News. info:/

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