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Bionic Hand Has Muscles Made From Smart Metal Wires

March 24, 2015 - 3:24pm
In cultural perception, an artificial hand looks something like a Steampunk reworking of a hand, with gears and pistons and rods. In the future, an artificial hand would look just like a hand, except with muscles made from smart metal wires.

Engineers at Saarland University have equipped an artificial hand with muscles made from  nickel-titanium shape-memory wire, enabling the fabrication of flexible and lightweight robot hands for industrial applications and novel prosthetic devices. The muscle fibers are composed of bundles of the ultra-fine nickel-titanium alloy wires, each about the width of a human hair, and they are able to tense and flex and the material has sensory properties allowing the artificial hand to perform extremely precise movements. 
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Pulsed Electric Fields - An Alternative To Thermal Pasteurization In Milk For Low-Income Countries

March 24, 2015 - 2:56pm
Milk has a long been a nutritional and economic staple in western countries but it is quickly susceptible to pathogens quite easily, which is why pasteurization, which kills harmful microbes, is the norm for all but the food fad fringes. Due to harmful microbes, raw milk is 150X as likely as pasteurized milk to result in illness.

Refrigeration and chemicals can manage pathogen growth but Listeria monocytogenes are less sensitive to low temperature; therefore, they can proliferate at refrigeration during transportation and storage.  And not everyone has access to the infrastructure needed for a permanent electricity supply needed to drive refrigeration.

Perhaps if electricity were just needed in bursts.
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Less Than Half: Alzheimer's Diagnosis Disclosure Rates Much Lower Than Other Serious Diseases

March 24, 2015 - 1:30pm

The 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report found that only 45 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease or their caregivers were told the diagnosis by their doctor.

That is significantly lower than the 90 percent of people told the diagnosis for the four most common cancers.

Why? The reason most commonly cited by health care providers for not disclosing an Alzheimer's diagnosis is fear of causing the patient emotional distress but, according to the report, "studies that have explored this issue have found that few patients become depressed or have other long-term emotional problems because of the [Alzheimer's] diagnosis." 

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What Are Personality Disorders And How Are They Treated?

March 24, 2015 - 1:00pm

Filmmakers know personality disorders make for compelling viewing.

Think of attention-seeking Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" (1939). Or the manipulation and callous disregard for others in "Silence of the Lambs" (1991), "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and "Chopper" (2000). Then there are the fears of abandonment and emotional instability in "Fatal Attraction" (1987) and "Girl, Interrupted" (1999).

Cinema is less adept, however, at showing the ordinary joys, heartache and sometimes suicidal despair of the friends, workers or relatives we might know with personality disorders.

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Would You Have Sex For Science?

March 24, 2015 - 8:00am

Who volunteers to have sex in a laboratory?

I was struck by this question when reading about an experimental study of ideal sexual positions for men with back pain.

For the purpose of the research, couples were filmed using motion capture and infra-red technology while they had sex.

The researchers were in a separate booth where they could hear, but not see, the participants. Electrodes were used to record muscle activity in certain parts of the body, to get an idea of force.

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Isolated Attosecond Pulse Generation At The Carbon K-edge - First Proof

March 24, 2015 - 6:12am

In a recent study, "Spatiotemporal isolation of attosecond pulses in the soft X-ray water window " published in Nature Communications by the Attoscience and Ultrafast Optics Group, led by ICREA Professor at ICFO Jens Biegert, the generation of isolated attosecond pulses at the carbon K-edge at 284 eV (4.4 nm), within the water window range, was achieved.

Carbon is one of the most abundant elements in the Universe and the building block of life on earth. It is a fundamental element for both organic compounds, such as cells, lipids, carbohydrates, as well as inorganic compounds, such as those used to fabricate carbon nanotubes, graphene, organic electronics and light harvesting devices.


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Alzheimer's: Tau, Not Amyloid, Is The Primary Driver

March 24, 2015 - 5:09am
An examination of over 3,600 postmortem brains has concluded that the progression of dysfunctional tau protein drives the cognitive decline and memory loss seen in Alzheimer's disease. That means amyloid, the other toxic protein that characterizes Alzheimer's and builds up as dementia progresses is not the primary culprit.

There has been an ongoing debate about the relative contributions of amyloid and tau to the development and progression of cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's but the findings suggest that halting toxic tau should be a new focus for Alzheimer's treatment, 

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Obese Women With Gestational Diabetes Who Add Weight 40X More Likely To Get Type 2 Diabetes

March 24, 2015 - 4:31am

New research published in Diabetologia shows that in women who have developed gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy, being obese before the pregnancy and putting on more weight after it massively increases the risk of later developing type 2 diabetes (T2D).


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Canadian Immigrants Are In Better Health Than Citizens - Until They Stay A While

March 24, 2015 - 2:32am

Research has shown that the health of immigrants is generally better than that of citizens of their host country, at least on their arrival and for some time afterwards. But a team of researchers in Montreal has found that this is not true of all groups of immigrants; children and older people, for example, may be exceptions. "Our analysis suggests that immigrant health policies should not be 'one size fits all' in type, and that they need to take account of immigrants' ages and the indicators of the health problems they are vulnerable to", according to Zoua Vang, Professor of Sociology at McGill University and Alain Gagnon, Director of the Demography Department at the University of Montreal.


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In Latin America, Educated Women Having Kids Outside Marriage Are Increasingly Popular

March 24, 2015 - 2:32am

In Latin America, consensual (common-law) unions are traditionally associated with poorer or indigenous populations. But recent research is turning this conventional wisdom on its head, finding that that in the past 30 years or so consensual unions have become increasingly popular throughout Latin America, including in higher-income groups. In certain countries, such as Panama, common-law partnerships are now as widespread as in Quebec.


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India Must Address Its TB Epidemic

March 24, 2015 - 1:55am
Effective tuberculosis control in India needs political will and commitment. Unless this happens, TB will continue to be India's silent epidemic and a death sentence for poor people, warns consultant physician and public health specialist, Zarir Udwadia in BMJ.

20 years ago it was widely believed that India was successfully on its way to controlling its alarming tuberculosis (TB) epidemic yet India still has 2.2 million new cases and more than 300,000 deaths each year. Economic numbers are a guess at best but in the article he claims losses of $23 billion. At the heart of this crisis is the failure of India's Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) to engage and monitor the country's large and unregulated private sector, argues Udwadia. 
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National Data Science Bowl Winner Announced

March 24, 2015 - 1:08am
A team that developed an algorithm capable of automating the analysis of plankton populations – a critical step in measuring ocean health - has won the inaugural National Data Science Bowl.
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Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation Shows 10 Years Of Changing UK Winters

March 24, 2015 - 12:32am
A 10 year project to observe and analyze regular data about ocean circulation and how it impacts on Britain’s climate has provided new insight into Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a major system of currents in the North Atlantic.

10 years is too short a time to be meaningful but it is an important milestone. Since 2004, the project team has been monitoring the AMOC at 26.5N degrees, near where it carries its maximum heat, using instruments moored at 30 locations across the Atlantic between the Canary Islands and the Bahamas - so-called fixed arrays. The arrays’ instruments measure the temperature, salinity and pressure of the ocean, from which the AMOC’s strength and structure can be calculated.
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What Grade Do Academics Give To IARC Organophosphate Claims? A Big "F"

March 23, 2015 - 10:04pm

In politics, all parties have their own 'fact-checking' and supposedly non-partisan organizations debunking each other, so they can't really be trusted. But in science true neutral fact-checking is actually possible.
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Wandering Jupiter, Did Our Solar System Once Have Super-Earths?

March 23, 2015 - 8:21pm
We may have Jupiter to thank for our unusual solar system. 

Before the inner planets we now call  Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars formed, a great inward-and-then-outward journey that Jupiter made early in the solar system's history may have torn apart a number of super-Earths - planets larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune - and caused their giant remnants to fall into the sun billions of years ago.
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Facial Movements Of Unborn Babies Show Effects Of Maternal Smoking?

March 23, 2015 - 5:46pm
High-definition scans lead a team of researchers to conclude that the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy may be reflected in the facial movements of mothers' unborn babies.

In the small pilot study, the scholars observed 4-d ultrasound scans and found that fetuses whose mothers were smokers showed a significantly higher rate of mouth movements than the normal declining rate of movements expected in a fetus during pregnancy. The researchers suggested that the reason for this might be that the fetal central nervous system, which controls movements in general and facial movements in particular did not develop at the same rate and in the same manner as in fetuses of mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy.
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End Of Latency: Musicians Rehearse 1,000 Miles Apart With No Delay

March 23, 2015 - 5:19pm
Latency is so ingrained into modern communication we almost forget about it but in live or recorded events, like performances or rehearsals over a long distance, it is crippling.

 When recording a soundtrack over a pre-recorded base, the latency is perceptible to the human ear if a delay of 15-20 milliseconds occurs - the track seems displaced from the rest, giving the sense of being poorly played. To resolve displacement over long distances, elements such as sound capture, sound coding and decoding servers, intermediate network elements, lines of communication and the software used all must be factored in.
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Phonons Controlled: Magnets Manipulate Sound Too

March 23, 2015 - 4:57pm
Researchers have discovered proof that acoustic phonons, the elemental particles that transmit both heat and sound, have magnetic properties. 

In a new paper, the authors describe how a magnetic field roughly the size of a medical MRI reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12 percent. But because the phonons reacted to the magnetic field, the particles must be sensitive to magnetism.  
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Migraine Headaches And Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Linked

March 23, 2015 - 4:31pm
Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome are more than twice as likely to have migraine headaches, according to data derived from nearly 26,000 Americans responding to a national health survey. Among other questions, participants were asked whether they had had carpal tunnel syndrome during the past year or "severe headache or migraine" during the past three months.

Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome have symptoms such as hand numbness and weakness, resulting from pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. 

The association also runs in the other direction, with migraine patients having higher odds of carpal tunnel syndrome, say Dr. Huay-Zong Law and colleagues of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
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Cosmic Building Block Dust From An Ancient Supernova Found

March 23, 2015 - 4:23pm
One of astronomy's big questions is why galaxies forming as recently as 1 billion years after the Big Bang contain so much dust. The leading hypothesis is that supernovae, stars that explode at the end of their lives, contain large amounts of metal-enriched material that, in turn, harbors key ingredients of dust, like silicon, iron and carbon.
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