David Kirkpatrick

November 26, 2010

Barcoding mouse embryos …

… and people are next.

Sounds pretty creepy, but it seems there’s some actual utility in the process to aid in vitro fertilization right now.

From the link:

Scientists from Spain’s Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), along with colleagues from the Spanish National Research Council, have successfully developed an identification system in which mouse embryos and oocytes (egg cells) are physically tagged with microscopic silicon bar code labels. They expect to try it out on human embryos and oocytes soon.

The purpose of the system is to streamline in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures. If egg cells and embryos can be quickly and easily identified, then things should run much smoother, and success rates should be higher.

The research, published online in Human Reproduction, represents a first step towards designing a direct labeling system of oocytes and embryos. The objective was to develop a system that minimizes risks when identifying female gametes and embryos during in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures, to reduce the phases of the clinical process requiring control and supervision by two embryologists.

 

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November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:49 pm

Hope your day was filled with food and football.

thankgiving

November 24, 2010

Holiday air travel food for thought

Not only is the TSA a ridiculous bureaucratic mess that isn’t making anyone any safer at airports or in the skies, plus it’s now turned into an organization demanding organized “legal” molestation. It’s also very possibly damaging your health if you want to avoid the unwanted groping.

From the link:

As millions of U.S. travelers get ready for the busiest flying day of the year, scientists still can’t agree over whether the dose of radiation delivered by so-called backscatter machines is significantly higher than the government says. This is despite months of public debate between the White House, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and independent scientists.

Full-body scanners have been installed at many U.S. airports. The machines use either low-energy, millimeter wavelength radiation, which is harmless, or X-rays, which can potentially be hazardous. X-rays can ionize atoms or molecules, which can lead to cancerous changes in cells. Even if the government has significantly underestimated the dose of radiation delivered by an X-ray scanner, it is likely to be relatively small.

And more:

In April, four scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote a public letter to the White House warning that the government may have underestimated the dosage of ionizing radiation delivered to a person’s skin from a backscatter machine by one or two orders of magnitude. The scientists, who have expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, oncology, and X-ray crystallography, pointed out that the government’s estimate was based on radiation exposure for the entire body. During scanning, the majority of radiation will be focused on the surface of the body, meaning a more concentrated dose of radiation is delivered to the skin.

November 18, 2010

Rare earth mineral news

I’ve blogged about this more than once, but if you need the ultra-quick version — China supplies pretty much the entire world with rare earth minerals, elements that are used to manufacture vital electronics and computing parts, because it’s been doing so very, very cheaply for a long time. Recently the nation has used its rare earth monopoly as an economic bludgeon, most notably against Japan and the United States.

We know the U.S. and Australia, among other countries, have rare earth element resources. Now that we know just how rare earth rich the U.S. is, it’s time to seriously ramp up domestic production and get off the cheap Chinese teat.

From the fourth (and last) link:

Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

“This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States,” commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. “It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation’s natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come.”

REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

Mobile advertising is about to boom

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:30 pm

Ready, or not, here it comes to the tune of an expected one billion-plus buys next year. This Technology Review post on the subject is interesting, but one quote stood out to me:

Can you name some brands whose mobile advertising has been very engaging and useful for the user?

One of my favorite campaigns recently was one that was run by Dunkin’ Donuts, where they were releasing a new iced latte product to the market. When the user went to the screen, the screen frosted over, very much like the frost on the side of a glass for your iced latte, and then with your finger you wiped the frost off the screen.

This was art that was reproducing the experience that people have in the real world, and it brings a real joy to people.

If you can combine the engaging nature of the medium together with that joy, together with the message that ties directly with this product you’re offering, that’s very powerful for the advertiser.

I have the feeling one person’s joy is another person’s total pain-in-the-ass with this campaign.

 

November 17, 2010

The erosion of personal privacy continues

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:41 am

And a to a very large extent, the violated are willfully doing it to themselves. I really wonder, do most people have no idea what data mining is and what it can do given a substantial amount of personal information? Maybe the boy-wonder CEOs of Google and Facebook are right, and most people just don’t care.

From the link:

In this cell-phone-centric age, your friends might learn that you’ve gone to see a movie when you arrive at the theater and check in on Facebook or Foursquare. But that’s probably too late to function as anything more than a boast. An iPhone app called Blaze Mobile Wallet tells them the instant you book a ticket in advance, giving them time to respond and meet you there.

When users pay for a reservation using the app, which debits funds from a prepaid account, a Facebook post lets friends know all the details: film, theater, and show time. “It makes it more likely that friends will join them at the movie,” says Michelle Fisher, CEO of Blaze Mobile, one of a slew of companies exploring how cell phones that act as wallets can encourage new connections between friends—and between businesses and their customers.

 

November 16, 2010

Metamaterials and artificial black holes

Yeah, I know I’m way off the blogging pace these days — just very busy. But, I couldn’t let this release go past.

The release, warm from the inbox:

Artificial Black Holes Made with Metamaterials

Design for Manmade Light Trapping Device Could Help Harvest Light for Solar Cells.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — While our direct knowledge of black holes in the universe is limited to what we can observe from thousands or millions of light years away, a team of Chinese physicists has proposed a simple way to design an artificial electromagnetic (EM) black hole in the laboratory.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

In the Journal of Applied Physics, Huanyang Chen at Soochow University and colleagues have presented a design of an artificial EM black hole designed using five types of composite isotropic materials, layered so that their transverse magnetic modes capture EM waves to which the object is subjected. The artificial EM black hole does not let EM waves escape, analogous to a black hole trapping light. In this case, the trapped EM waves are in the microwave region of the spectrum.

The so-called metamaterials used in the experiment are artificially engineered materials designed to have unusual properties not seen in nature. Metamaterials have also been used in studies of invisibility cloaking and negative-refraction superlenses. The group suggests the same method might be adaptable to higher frequencies, even those of visible light.

“Development of artificial black holes would enable us to measure how incident light is absorbed when passing through them,” says Chen. “They can also be applied to harvesting light in a solar-cell system.”

The article, “A simple design of an artificial electromagnetic black hole” by Wanli Lu, JunFeng Jin, Zhifang Lin, and Huanyang Chen appears in the Journal of Applied Physics. See: http://link.aip.org/link/japiau/v108/i6/p064517/s1

ABOUT Journal of Applied Physics

Journal of Applied Physics is the American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) archival journal for significant new results in applied physics; content is published online daily, collected into two online and printed issues per month (24 issues per year). The journal publishes articles that emphasize understanding of the physics underlying modern technology, but distinguished from technology on the one side and pure physics on the other. See: http://jap.aip.org/

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.

SOURCE  American Institute of Physics

Photo:http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
Photo:http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
American Institute of Physics

Web Site: http://www.aip.org

November 12, 2010

Adventures in bad writing

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:43 pm

Hate to pick on an otherwise fine article, but this really stuck out: “For security reasons, never leave your laptop unsecured.”

And for daily nutrition reasons, always take in daily nutrition.

Makes you wonder where the editor was at Forbes that day.

Robots with an, ahem, personal touch

Probably got you with the title. Here’s news from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

From the link:

A robot known as “Cody” successfully wiped away blue candy from a test user’s legs and arms without being too forceful, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (led by assistant professor Charlie Kemp) reported at the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) conference last month.

November 5, 2010

Creating terrorists — here comes the science …

Looks like “taking the fight” to the terrorists on their turf to keep them from coming here is a fairly flawed strategy. Studies on phase transition show that action only serves to create many more terrorists than would ordinarily be running around as bad actors (and not in the emoting sense.)

From the link:

Feedback loops are interesting because they lead to nonlinear behavior, where the ordinary intuitive rules of cause and effect no longer apply. So a small increase in one type of behavior can lead to a massive increase in another. In the language of physics, a phase transition occurs.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens in August’s model. They show that for various parameters in their model, a small increase in the removal rate of active radicals generates a massive increase in passive supporters, providing an almost limitless pool from which to recruit more active radicals.

What this model describes, of course, is the cycle of violence that occurs in so many of the world’s trouble spots.

That has profound implications for governments contemplating military intervention that is likely to cause “collateral damage.” If you replace the term “active radical” with “terrorist” then a clear prediction of this model is that military intervention creates the conditions in which terrorism flourishes.

They say that this feedback loop can halted only if the removal of terrorists can be achieved without the attendant radicalizing side effects. As August and colleagues put it: “if this happened practically without casualties, fatalities, applying torture or committing terroristic acts against the local population.”

This is an interesting approach. It clearly shows that public opinion and behavior can change dramatically in ways that are difficult to predict.

 

November 4, 2010

Transparent solar panels?

A very real possibility. This sounds like very promising technology.

The release:

Transparent Conductive Material Could Lead to Power-Generating Windows

Combines elements for light harvesting and electric charge transport over large, transparent areas

November 3, 2010

conjugated polymer honeycombClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Top: Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb. Bottom (left-to-right): Confocal fluorescence lifetime images of conjugated honeycomb, of polymer/fullerene honeycomb double layer and of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend. Efficient charge transfer within the whole framework is observed in the case of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend as a dramatic reduction in the fluorescence lifetime.

UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material, described in the journal Chemistry of Materials, could be used to develop transparent solar panels or even windows that absorb solar energy to generate electricity.

The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes. Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).

“Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation,” said lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

Furthermore, the material remains largely transparent because the polymer chains pack densely only at the edges of the hexagons, while remaining loosely packed and spread very thin across the centers. “The densely packed edges strongly absorb light and may also facilitate conducting electricity,” Cotlet explained, “while the centers do not absorb much light and are relatively transparent.”

Mircea CotletClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Mircea Cotlet, Ranjith Krishna Pai, and Zhihua Xu (seated at the microscope).

“Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays,” said co-author Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at the CFN.

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.

The scientists fabricated the honeycomb thin films by creating a flow of micrometer-size water droplets across a thin layer of the polymer/fullerene blend solution. These water droplets self-assembled into large arrays within the polymer solution. As the solvent completely evaporates, the polymer forms a hexagonal honeycomb pattern over a large area.

“This is a cost-effective method, with potential to be scaled up from the laboratory to industrial-scale production,” Xu said.

The scientists verified the uniformity of the honeycomb structure with various scanning probe and electron microscopy techniques, and tested the optical properties and charge generation at various parts of the honeycomb structure (edges, centers, and nodes where individual cells connect) using time-resolved confocal fluorescence microscopy.

The scientists also found that the degree of polymer packing was determined by the rate of solvent evaporation, which in turn determines the rate of charge transport through the material.

“The slower the solvent evaporates, the more tightly packed the polymer, and the better the charge transport,” Cotlet said.

“Our work provides a deeper understanding of the optical properties of the honeycomb structure. The next step will be to use these honeycomb thin films to fabricate transparent and flexible organic solar cells and other devices,” he said.

The research was supported at Los Alamos by the DOE Office of Science. The work was also carried out in part at the CFN and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility. The Brookhaven team included Mircea Cotlet, Zhihua Xu, and Ranjith Krishna Pai. Collaborators from Los Alamos include Hsing-Lin Wang and Hsinhan Tsai, who are both users of the CFN facilities at Brookhaven, Andrew Dattelbaum from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility, and project leader Andrew Shreve of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility are two of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

 

GOP establishment v. Tea Party movement

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

Not hard to predict, and now it begins …

From today’s Playbook:

RECRIMINATIONS: WHY REPUBLICANS DON’T CONTROL THE SENATE -Jonathan Martin and Manu Raju: “With tea party-backed candidates going down in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada, depriving Republicans of what would have been a 50-50 Senate, a bloc of prominent senators and operatives said party purists like Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had foolishly pushed nominees too conservative to win … Movement conservatives pointed the finger right back at the establishment, accusing the National Republican Senatorial Committee of squandering millions on a California race that wasn’t close … ‘Candidates matter,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). ‘It was a good night for Republicans but it could have been a better one. We left some on the table. … If you think what happened in Delaware is “a win” for the Republican Party, then we don’t have a snowball’s chance to win the White House. … If you think Delaware was a wake-up call for Republicans, then we have shot at doing well for a long time.’

“Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott put it plainly: ‘We did not nominate our strongest candidates.’ Had Republicans run Castle in Delaware and establishment favorites Sue Lowden in Nevada and Jane Norton in Colorado, Lott said, … ‘we would have won and been sitting at 50.’ … Another high-profile senator [placed] the blame … at the feet of Graham’s South Carolina colleague, DeMint. … ‘It’s like you’re on the five-yard line ready to score and the quarterback calls the play and some member of your team tackles one of your members and keeps you from scoring. … We came tantalizingly close to a majority … I’m completely mystified by it.”http://bit.ly/br1xoW

Update 11/5/10 — Peggy Noonan piles on.

November 3, 2010

A 3D printed car?

Filed under: Business, et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 pm

Yes.

From the link:

The Urbee — an electric/liquid-fuel hybrid that will get the equivalent of over 200 mpg on the highway and 100 MPG in the city — is the first prototype car ever to have its entire body 3D printed, according to a Stratasys press release.

All exterior components — including the glass panel prototypes — were created using Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus 3D Production Systems, using fused deposition modeling (FDM), an additive rapid prototyping process in which a plastic filament is liquefied and extruded to form layers of a model.

 

November 2, 2010

Cool nanotech image — growing nanowires

Cool image and interesting process

nanotechnology image
In the growth of sapphire nanowires using the vapor-liquid-solid method, scientists have observed that a facet at the liquid-solid interface alternately grows and shrinks, which promotes nanowire growth. These images are from the video below. Image credit: Sang Ho Oh, et al.

From the link:

Nanowires can be grown in many ways, but one of the lesser-understood growth processes is vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) growth. In VLS, a vapor adsorbs onto a liquid droplet, and the droplet transports the vapor and deposits it as a crystal at a liquid-solid interface. As the process repeats, a nanowire is built one crystal at a time. One advantage of the VLS process is that it allows scientists to control the nanowire’s growth in terms of size, shape, orientation, and composition, although this requires understanding the growth mechanisms on the atomic scale. In a new study, scientists have investigated the steps involved in VLS growth, and have observed a new oscillatory behavior that could lead to better controlled nanowire growth.

Hit the link for a video of the process.

Is Apple about to acquire Facebook?

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:03 pm

As crazy as it sounds, this is more than simple idle speculation.

From the link:

Last month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs hinted that a big acquisition is in the works—that is, Apple might tap into its $50 billion war chest. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around $50 billion ever since.

Also from the link; not quite a smoking gun, but it does give you something to think about:

The more intriguing acquisition target is Facebook. Jobs is probably kicking himself for not thinking up social networking. He fancies himself a cultural revolutionist wielding technology, and that’s exactly what Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have become for this next generation.

Jobs and Zuckerberg had been spotted enjoying a stroll in an obscure park near Palo Alto shortly before Jobs suggested a major acquisition may be in the works. This bit of news, reported by the Los Angeles Times, set off a whirlwind of speculation that Facebook was the target.

Need an explanation …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:18 am

… for today’s electoral outcome? Here you go.

From the link:

The number of Americans who say things are going badly in the country, at 75 percent, is higher than it has been on the eve of any midterm election since the question was first asked in the mid-1970s, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that the economy remains, by far, the top issue on the minds of Americans. Fifty-two percent of people questioned say the economy’s the most important issue facing the country.

“That’s more than the deficit, education, health care, terrorism, energy, illegal immigration and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “No other issue was named as the country’s top problem by more than 8 percent.”

The economy has been the issue most on the mind of Americans in CNN polling since the end of 2007.