Archive for October 6, 2011

Was Earth’s Water Imported from Space?

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

“The composition of the Earth-Moon system indicates that the Moon probably formed from a collision between the proto-Earth and a Mars-sized body.

That collision was incredibly violent, and left the Earth hot enough that its atmosphere would primarily consist of vaporized silicate rock.

Once it solidified, those conditions would have left the planet very dry, with our current water largely delivered by smaller bodies that have impacted the Earth since.

So far, only a single type of meteorite has been found to have hydrogen and oxygen isotopes that matched those found in the oceans.

But researchers have now checked a comet derived from the Kuiper belt, and showed that it also is a good match for the Earth’s oceans…

Now, using the ESA’s Herschel observatory, researchers have gotten a good reading on the comet 103P/Hartley 2, which orbits near Jupiter but probably got its start in the Kuiper belt, just outside the orbit of Neptune.

And it turns out that the deuterium/hydrogen ratio is nearly an exact match for that in Earth’s oceans.

That means a large population of comets have just become candidates for seeding our planet with water.”

Controlling Virtual Limbs by Feeling Virtual Textures

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

“Although real-life brain-controlled prosthetics that enable a person to, say, pick up a pencil continue to improve for amputees, limbs that can actually feel touch sensations have remained a challenge.

Now, by implanting electrodes into both the motor and the sensory areas of the brain, researchers have created a virtual prosthetic hand that monkeys control using only their minds, and that enables them to feel virtual textures.

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University in Durham, N.C., whose group has been developing so-called brain-machine interfaces, says that one of the pitfalls in these systems is that “no one’s been able to close the loop” between controlling a limb and feeling a physical touch. So he and a group of researchers decided to create a “brain-machine-brain” interface using a virtual system.

The researchers implanted two sets of tiny electrodes into a monkey’s brain: one set in the motor control center, and the other in the part of the somatosensory cortex that processes the sensation of physical touch from the left hand.

Using the first set, the monkey could control a virtual monkey arm on a computer screen and sweep the hand over virtual disks with different “textures.” Meanwhile, the second set of electrodes fed a series of electrical pulses into the touch center of its brain. A low frequency of pulses indicated a rough texture, whereas high frequency indicated a fine texture (see video), and the monkeys quickly learned to tell the difference.

By giving the monkey rewards when it identified the right texture, the researchers discovered that it took as few as four training sessions for the animal to consistently distinguish the textures from one another, even when the researchers switched the order of the visually identical disks on the screen.

The researchers then implanted the electrodes into the sensory region that receives tactile sensations from the foot in a different monkey; this monkey, too, acted as if the virtual appendage (in this case, the foot) was its own, moving it to correctly identify the textures, the team reports online today in Nature.”

Cloned Human Embryo Can Serve as Embryonic Stem Cell Factory

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Blastocysts created by somatic cell nuclear transfer can be a source of embryonic stem cells.The New York Stem Cell Foundation

“Scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory have reprogrammed an adult human egg cell to an embryonic state using cloning technology and created a self-reproducing line of embryonic stem cells from the developing embryo.

In so doing, they have managed a feat that has at times been thought impossible, then inevitable, then completed, then incomplete and unfeasible. Their work is published today in Nature.

It is not the end-all experiment that scientists aiming to create embryonic stem cells have been hoping for — the embryos are not true clones, because the DNA of the stem-cell line does not match that of the patient who donated cells — but it is a step in that direction and addresses some of the problems that have flummoxed experiments.”

Oracle Announces Plans for Java at JavaOne

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

The following announcements were made by Oracleabout current and future versions of Java at the annual JavaOne conference this week:

  • Availability of an early access version of JDK 7 for the Mac OS.
  • Plans to “bridge the gap” between Java ME and Java SE.
  • An approach to modularizing Java SE 8 that will rely on the Jigsaw platform.
  • A new project that aims to use HTML5 to bring Java to Apple’s iOS platform.
  • Availability of JavaFX 2.0, a pending proposal to open source that technology.
  • Gearing up Java EE for the cloud.
  • A delay in the release of Java 8.
  • Java Micro Edition (ME) will continue to target mobile devices and will “evolve” through the submission of new Java Specification Requests (JSRs) to the Java Community Process (JCP).
  • Java Standard Edition (SE) will continue to target embedded systems.
  • Plans to submit a proposal to update Java ME version’s library specifications to enable better alignment with Java Development Kit (JDK) 7. It would primarily be an upgrading of CLDC to use the language features of SE 7, but it would continue to be a subset of Java SE.
  • The Connected Device Configuration (CDC) component of Java ME, which is a HotSpot implementation that is optimized for resource-constrained devices, such as Blu-ray players and tablet PCs, will become a subset of SE enabled by project Jigsaw.
  • Availability of JavaFX 2.0, the first update of the Java user interface (UI) platform. All of the JavaFX script APIs have been converted to 100 percent Java.
  • Plans to submit a proposal to open source the JavaFX platform as a new project within the OpenJDK Community.Oracle plans to start by contributing the JavaFX UI controls and related libraries and will contribute other JavaFX components in multiple phases.”

Dip in Carbon Nanotubes Improve Batteries, Ultracapacitors

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Scanning electron microscope images show the surface of nanostructured graphene-manganese oxide electrodes covered with conductive carbon nanotubes (top) and a polymer (bottom).Credit: Nano Letters

“A simple trick could improve the ability of advanced ultracapacitors, or supercapacitors,  to store charge.

The technique, developed by Stanford University researchers, could enable the use of new types of nanostructured electrode materials that store more energy.

While ultracapacitors provide quick bursts of power and can be recharged many more times than batteries without losing their storage capacity, they can store only a 10th as much energy as batteries, which limits their applications.

To improve their energy density, researchers have focused on the use of electrode materials with greater surface area—such as graphene and carbon nanotubes—which can hold more charge-carrying ions.

The Stanford team, led by Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao, used composite electrodes made of graphene and manganese oxide.

Manganese oxide is considered an attractive electrode material because, “one, manganese is abundant so it’s very low cost,” Cui says. “It also has high theoretical capacity to store ions for supercapacitors.””

Google Mobile Search is Threatened by Apple’s Siri

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

“One day after Tim Cook’s first presser as Apple’s new CEO, the Internet is scurrying to analyze whether the lack of a radically redesigned iPhone 5 will give competitors a leg-up on Apple. Hardware-wise, maybe not, depending on what the competition has up its sleeve.

But there’s one element to the iPhone 4S—software, we might add—that is likely to eventually hit Apple’s competition where it hurts: the new “virtual intelligent assistant” known as Siri.

Introduced during Apple’s iPhone event in Cupertino on Tuesday, Siri offers iPhone 4S users a way to interact with their devices, apps, and data with natural language voice commands.

Users can send and receive texts or e-mails simply by talking to Siri, find out whether there will be rain today, create new Reminders and calendar items, ask for directions, move appointments, and more.

Not only that, but users can ask Siri to look up a plethora of information, such as restaurant reviews from Yelp or even simple facts from Wikipedia or Wolfram Alpha. Cooking and need to convert a recipe’s tablespoons to teaspoons? Ask Siri and get the answer back almost instantly without having to type a single character…

For Google, this is not good news. Google’s mobile search users (on any platform) are increasingly important to the company as more people begin to use their phones to look up local information such as directions, restaurant listings, reviews, and more.

Google Places, which works in conjunction with Google Maps, Google Plus, and Google Offers and allows businesses to pay for higher placement, was born almost entirely out of watching how and what users search for on their mobile devices.

Mobile ads attached to those queries are exploding right now—arguably moreso than just regular browser ads—and while Google doesn’t live or die by that revenue alone, it’s certainly not something to be taken lightly.”

Goodbye, Steve.

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

In life, you had the rare honor of being described with almost all the adjectives people could lay their hands on –  eccentric, passionate, prickly, brilliant, ego-centric and visionary. But nobody can deny that the $300+ Billion Apple empire wouldn’t have happened without you – only you.

And despite long periods of ailment, your death on Wednesday at the age of 56 prompted a global gasp as we all remember how much you have changed our lives in the worlds of computing, music and mobile phones, communications, information access and entertainment.

And we will continue to do so.

Goodbye, Steve. Rest in Peace.

Steve Jobs: February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs in his own words

Steve Jobs Through the Years

Steve Jobs Was Always Kind To Me

Steve Jobs: a personal remembrance

Tribute Video to Steve Jobs

Remembering Steve Jobs: we all pay tribute

Reactions to Steve Jobs’ Death

Wozniak Tearfully Remembers His Friend Steve