sábado, 31 de agosto de 2013

Exploring the impossible

Don Lincoln
Friday, Aug. 30

German physicist Werner Heisenberg realized that, in the subatomic world, energy doesn't have to be conserved. This realization led physicists to understand that high-intensity particle beams, such as those planned for future Fermilab Intensity Frontier research experiments, could probe phenomena not accessible with the high-energy beams at the LHC
One of the most rock-solid principles of physics is the conservation of energy, which simply means that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Energy can slosh around and change forms. It can convert from the potential energy of a drawn bow to the kinetic energy of an arrow in flight to the sound energy of the "thwack" as the arrow hits its target. If you learn nothing else in a physics class, you learn that energy is conserved.

Thus it may be a little disconcerting to later learn that this principle isn't quite as cut and dried as you were originally taught. In the quantum realm, energy conservation isn't absolute. It turns out that in the world of the ultra-small, energy can not be conserved as long as the time that it isn't conserved is brief. Further, the greater the unconserved energy, the shorter the time during which this weird state of affairs can happen.

To understand how this works, think about how you might go about lending money to a fiscally unreliable friend. If he asked to borrow a dollar, you'd give him the money and not worry too much about when you'd get it back. The loan is small, and if you didn't see the money for a long time, it would probably be OK. On the other hand, if you loaned him $100, you might want to be repaid in a week or so. If you loaned him $100,000, you'd probably want to get that money back right away.

The subatomic universe is the same way, constantly borrowing and paying back energy. Most of the time, these "energy loans" are small. Big ones are rare and very short-lived. The key word here is "rare."

While the leviathan LHC at CERN can study high energies through pure brute force, there is another way to investigate high-energy phenomena: Study lots and lots of lower-energy collisions in the hopes of finding one "in the act" of temporarily borrowing a lot of energy from the vacuum of the universe. If you are lucky, you can see some very high-energy phenomena this way.

Fermilab's shift from experiments using high-energy beams to those using high-intensity beams plays right into this approach. The best way to see rare phenomena is to study lots and lots of interactions, and the best way to do that is to use extremely high-intensity beams.

Although the energy books have to be balanced at the end of the day, or, more appropriately, at the end of the collision, very rare phenomena can pop up due to the occasional rare borrowing of lots of energy. In fact, it is virtually certain that future experiments at Fermilab using low-energy, high-intensity beams will be able to make some physical measurements that are beyond the reach of the LHC.

—Don Lincoln

Want a phrase defined? Have a question? E-mail today@fnal.gov.

viernes, 30 de agosto de 2013

Not Science Fiction: A Brain In A Box To Let People Live On After Death


Scientists believe it may be possible in the future for human brains to survive death in robotic bodies. but would we want to?

I recently had the unusual experience of seeing three renowned scientists discuss whether it's possible to remove a human brain from a body, put it in a tank, and give it a robotic body. This wasn't some bizarre late-night bar discussion: The conversation was a serious talk conducted on stage at a conference at New York's Lincoln Center. The University of Southern California's Theodore Berger, Duke University's Mikhail Lebedev, and Alexander Kaplan of Moscow University, all believe it's possible for the brain to survive body-death inside a cybernetic shell.

In their panel at the Global Future 2045 conference, the trio discussed a future that sounds like a combination of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the recent mouse inception, and Krang, the brain-in-a-box villain of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The talk, which took place in a mixture of Russian and English, focused on making it possible in our lifetime to conduct brain transplants, harvesting human parts from the body for cybernetic integration, and making self-aware brains comfortable in their new robot homes. It was just another Saturday afternoon, in other words.

Notably absent from the conversation was what the quality of life would be for human brains harvested into robotic bodies. Although all three researchers come from impeccable neurology backgrounds, the talk centered on mostly whether it would be possible to make the technology work. Whether it would be wise, or what the experience would be like for both patients and loved ones, wasn't discussed as much.

The three researchers believe brain transplants are possible because the human brain is the last organ in the body to cease function after death. Because the death process includes a short window where the brain functions without support from other organs, Berger, Kaplan, and Lebedev all believe there is precedent to have the human brain functioning indefinitely in a non-human carrier--as long as the appropriate support system is there for the brain. They also stress the fact that nerve cells age slowly compared to other organs.

This brain-in-a-robot would be supported by biological blood substitutes (with “the necessary hormonal-biochemical and energetic substrate), multi-channel brain-computer interfaces with two-way information exchange, neural prostheses, artificially regrown human organs, and other biotech tools that we can't even imagine. Because there is no precedent for the human brain surviving and functioning outside of a human body, degrees of consciousness, intelligence, comprehension, and a million other existential quandaries that would or wouldn't exist in a robo-brain simply aren't evaluated. The data points aren't there for us to understand, even if it's possible to transplant a human brain into a robot, what it's like to be a human brain transplanted into a robot.

There are even interim holding facilities where living human brains could hypothetically be stored before transplantation.

While their roundtable discussion admittedly sounded like a master's exercise in strange science, the kicker is that all three are engaged in preliminary efforts to make this happen. Last year, at the resolutely mainstream MIT Media Lab, I saw Dr. Berger speak about hacking the memories of rats. Berger's lab at USC is actively working on prosthetic brain implants that both falsify memories and stimulate brain function in damaged neurons. The lab's work recently received media attention when it successfully generated new memories in a rat that had its hippocampus chemically disabled. In literature, Berger emphasizes his technology's potential for treating Alzheimer's and dementia through the possibility of “building spare parts for the brain;” on-stage in New York, he said it could also lead in the future to full-on brain transplants.

This would work in tandem with Kaplan's and Lebedev's specialties. The two Russian scientists research brain-computer interfaces (BCIs)--plug-in interfaces which meld the human brain and nervous system to computer operating systems. While BCIs are most commonly found in toys that read brainwaves to detect stress or concentration, they have revolutionary potential to change the lives of stroke victims and the disabled.

When combined, brain prosthetics and brain-computer interfaces could lead to brain transplants decades from now. Would you want to spend decades or even a century living inside a robotic body at the mercy of a software interface to navigate the world? We're just beginning to grasp the ethical, philosophical, and scientific implications. But with the right amount of funding, research, and cooperation, it's entirely possible.

New Form of Carbon is Stronger Than Graphene and Diamond

August 15, 2013

Chemists have calculated that chains of double or triple-bonded carbon atoms, known as carbyne, should be stronger and stiffer than any known material.

Photo: Rice University
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The sixth element, carbon, has given us an amazing abundance of extraordinary materials. Once there was simply carbon, graphite and diamond. But in recent years chemists have added buckyballs, nanotubes and any number of exotic shapes created out of graphene, the molecular equivalent of chickenwire.

So it’s hard to believe that carbon has any more surprises up its sleeve. And yet today, Mingjie Liu and pals at Rice University in Houston calculate the properties of another form of carbon that is stronger, stiffer and more exotic than anything chemists have seen before.

The new material is called carbyne. It is a chain of carbon atoms that are linked either by alternate triple and single bonds or by consecutive double bonds.

Carbyne is something of a mystery. Astronomers believe they have detected its signature in interstellar space but chemists have been bickering for decades over whether they had ever created this stuff on Earth. A couple of years ago, however, they synthesised carbyne chains up to 44 atoms long in solution.

The thinking until now has been that carbyne must be extremely unstable. In fact some chemists have calculates that two strands of carbyne coming into contact would react explosively.

Nevertheless, nanotechnologists have been fascinated with potential of this material because it ought to be both strong and stiff and therefore useful. But exactly how strong and how stiff, no one has been quite sure.

This is where Liu and co step in. These guys have calculated from first principles the bulk properties of carbyne and the results make for interesting reading. 

For a start, they say that carbyne is about twice as stiff as the stiffest known materials today. Carbon nanotubes and grapheme, for example, have a stiffness of 4.5 x 10^8 N.m/kg but carbyne tops them with a stiffness of around 10^9 N.m/kg

Just as impressive is the new material’s strength. Liu and co calculate that it takes around 10 nanoNewtons to break a single strand of carbyne. “This force translates into a specific strength of 6.0–7.5×10^7 N·m/kg, again significantly outperforming every known material including graphene (4.7–5.5×10^7 N·m/ kg), carbon nanotubes (4.3–5.0×10^7 N·m/ kg), and diamond (2.5–6.5×10”7 N·m/kg4),” they say.

Carbyne has other interesting properties too. Its flexibility is somewhere between that of a typical polymer and double-stranded DNA. And when twisted, it can either rotate freely or become torsionally stiff depending on the chemical group attached to its end.

Perhaps most interesting is the Rice team’s calculation of carbyne’s stability. They agree that two chains in contact can react but there is an activation barrier that prevents this happening readily. “This barrier suggests the viability of carbyne in condensed phase at room temperature on the order of days,” they conclude.

All this should whet the appetite of nanotechnologists hoping to design ever more exotic nanomachines, such as nanoelectronic and spintronic devices. Given the advances being made in manufacturing this stuff, we may not have long to wait before somebody begins exploiting the extraordinary mechanical properties of carbyne chains for real.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1308.2258 : Carbyne From First Principles: Chain Of C Atoms, A Nanorod Or A Nanorope?

Artificial intelligence 'will take the place of humans within five years’

ORIGINAL: The Telegraph
By Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor
29 Aug 2013

Salespeople, call centre staff and customer service personnel could all be replaced by computers within the next few years, claims one technology entrepreneur.

Steven Spielberg's 2001 film Artificial Intelligence (AI) depicts a future where robots have become eerily human. 

Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) specialist Dmitry Aksenov has been working on building computers that “think like human beings” since he was 10 years old. “It is my passion,” he said.

Mr Aksenov, now 21 years old, founded technology company London Brand Management in 2011. The company provides an AI service for big brands who want to outsource customer or staff interactions to computers. Customers send questions in to LBM’s system (nicknamed “The Brain” by developers) via email or text and it responds within five seconds.

This technology is currently being used by BMW to field questions about its new electric car, the i3. BMW UK marketing director Chris Brownridge has found the system uncannily human in its responses.BMW I Genius is capable of understanding each question and responding accurately every time as if you were talking to an expert from the company,” he said. “The system operates around the clock, allowing the consumer to ask any question relating to the “i” cars but without the hassle of having to pick up the phone or go into a dealership.”

Thousands of users have already tried the service. “The only thing that gives away the fact they are talking to a computer is that it responds so fast,” said Mr Aksenov. “No real person could receive, read and respond to a message in three seconds.

It not only reads the keywords and understands the kind of information you are trying to learn; it also interprets context, sentiment, and can even understand humour. It also remembers and learns as you talk to it, so it’s capable of having a proper conversation.

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This new technology represents a huge step forward in service automation, he claimed. LBM’s system is cloud-based, which means it can be accessed from anywhere (like Gmail or Facebook). It can deal with thousands of enquiries simultaneously, and its database has an unlimited memory capacity.

The Brain is equivalent to having thousands of call centre staff or salespeople, he said. “Except that unlike people, with our limited brain capacity, AI remembers everything and needs no downtime.”

The company is currently focused on replacing traditional sales and marketing roles but is also moving into the customer care and call centre space. New projects for an NHS cancer hospital and a major Japanese electronics company are already under way. “There are applications for this system in hundreds of industries,” he said.

Mr Aksenov provides the technology to brands under licence with a one-off implementation fee to “teach” the system. Unlike hiring humans, however, “AI only has to learn once,” he said.

Within five years we will have a system that truly knows more than a human could ever know and is more efficient at delivering information,” he said. “It will replace many of the boring jobs that are currently done by humans. Unfortunately, this may take some jobs from the economy by replacing human beings with a machine. But it is the future.

A perfect model for a struggle of a nation…

Up: One Month After Hiroshima, 1945
Down: One Month After The Earthquake and Tsunami, 2011
A perfect model for a struggle of a nation…
That's why Japan is always powerful .

En Medellín han perecido 720 árboles por muerte súbita

ORIGINAL: El Colombiano
30 de agosto de 2013 

Original: El Colombiano

Como los humanos, los árboles también se mueren de repente. Así lo reveló un estudio realizado por el Área Metropolitana, a través de un convenio con las Universidades Nacional y la Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia que permitió detectar que de una muestra de 11.710 árboles de 25 especies, 720 mostraron síntomas de muerte súbita.

El profesor de Ingeniería Forestal de la Universidad Nacional, Flavio Moreno, director de la investigación, dijo que para el estudio se cuenta con expertos en silvicultura urbana, cambio climático, contaminación atmosférica, fitopatología y entomología.

Agregó que el Área Metropolitana se interesó por este trabajo, porque se detectó que desde hace algunos años varios árboles de la ciudad estaban presentando un fenómeno de mortalidad sin ninguna explicación y con una cifra por encima de la que se esperaría de cualquier población.

En 2010 se hizo una primera fase con la Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia, en la cual se reconocieron las primeras 15 especies más afectadas.

Para 2012 se inició la segunda fase, en la cual se involucró la Universidad Nacional. En ella, se analizaron los posibles factores, tales como clima, contaminación de la ciudad, ataque de insectos y de hongos, mala nutrición, inadecuada localización, daños físicos por podas mal hechas, heridas o daño por parte de las personas y localización inadecuada en aceras, calles y avenidas.

Explicó que los síntomas de este fenómeno se manifiestan en pérdida anormal de follaje, retraso en la producción de hojas y muerte de ramas desde su parte terminal hacia el tronco, y desde la parte más alta de la copa hacia la base.

"Es una muerte prematura que nada tiene que ver con procesos naturales. Es similar a lo que sucede con un niño o joven que se muere sin tener una enfermedad previa. Todo el mundo se alerta a ver qué pasó y eso es lo que le ocurre a estos árboles. Sin embargo, aunque la investigación apenas comienza (detectamos el problema desde 2008), y se está trabajando bien, la solución es a largo plazo", dijo el ingeniero forestal León Morales, integrante del equipo.

Las especies más afectadas son la palma payanesa, el pero de agua, guayacanes, tulipán africano, casco de vaca, eucaliptos y gualanday, entre otras.

Are We Martians After All?


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Life’s cradle? According to biochemist Steven Benner, life on Earth may have originated in martian rock samples like these.
If you looked in a mirror this morning, you may have seen a descendant of creatures from Mars. That is, if biochemist Steven Benner of the Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology in Gainesville, Florida, is right. “Life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock,” Benner declares. Today, at the European Association of Geochemistry’s Goldschmidt Conference in Florence, Italy, Benner made what many in the origin-of-life debate call an interesting, but not convincing, new case for our martian heritage.

However and wherever life began, one thing is sure: Its first organic building blocks, called hydrocarbons, had a number of hurdles to clear before evolving into living cells. Fed with heat or light and left to themselves, hydrocarbons tend to turn into useless tarlike substances. And even when complex molecules like RNA (most biologists' best guess for the first genetic molecule) arise, water quickly breaks them down again.

Benner argues that those chemical hurdles would have been lower on early Mars than on young Earth. To begin with, early Earth was probably a water world, completely covered by oceans, but water covered only parts of Mars’s surface. Moreover, he notes, rocks on Mars had a stronger oxidizing effect than rocks on Earth, so oxygen-bearing molecules would have formed more easily there. "This is established by observations today on both planets, as well as by models for how planets form," he says.

As a result, molybdates—molecules that contain molybdenum and oxygen—could have existed on Mars, but probably not on Earth. Like oxidized boron (which occurs in dry regions and would also have been rare on a water-covered early Earth), molybdates tend to prevent organic materials from turning into tar. Benner says laboratory experiments show that molybdates can convert certain organic molecules into ribose—an important component of DNA. “This is a fact,” he says.

That would make it more likely that life originated on our planetary neighbor, Benner says. Martian microorganisms could have reached Earth on meteorites, flung away from the Red Planet’s surface by cosmic impacts.

Benner’s hypothesis “is a neat idea, but not yet proven,” says biochemist William Bains of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Some theories for the origin of life do not need molybdenum at all, Bains says, and scientists don’t know for sure whether early Earth was completely covered in water while early Mars was not.

Astrobiologist Paul Davies of Arizona State University, Tempe, agrees that Benner’s argument “greatly strengthens the case” for Mars as the first home of terrestrial life. But, he adds, “It comes down to probabilities. The case is suggestive but not overwhelming.” Even if early life existed on Mars, he says, it would be hard to prove that those life forms planted the seeds of our own existence. “In fact, because the traffic of [meteoritic] material between Earth and Mars is so prolific, once life gets going on one it will be transferred to the other very quickly, making the place of origin almost impossible to discern.

Astrochemist Pascale Ehrenfreund of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is a bit more optimistic about resolving the issue. Laboratory experiments under conditions that resemble early Mars might lead to realistic answers, she says. But she doesn’t find Benner’s “interesting idea” convincing.

Benner himself concedes that scientists may never know how and where life emerged. "We will likely need to be satisfied with answers to a more indirect question: How might life have emerged?” Finding martian life, either extant or extinct, could help by revealing information about ancient martian biochemistry. “This could lead to an ‘Aha!’ moment that opens new thinking relevant to the historical question.

As for pinpointing the location of the origin of life once and for all, Benner quips, “Building a time machine will help.

Super-heavy weight element confirmed

ORIGINAL: ABC-Science Australia
28 August 2013 Darren Osborne

The finding could strengthen the case for formally adding element 115 to the periodic table - and giving it a name (Source: Brian Cantoni/Flickr)

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The periodic table: location, location, location, Science Online, 29 Apr 2010
New element for periodic table, Science Online, 20 Oct 2009

If you struggle remembering more than a dozen elements on the periodic table, your task just got harder with the discovery of chemical element 115.

An international team of researchers, led by physicists from Lund University, have found evidence of the new, super-heavy element, as part of an experiment at GSI research facility in Germany.

It confirms earlier experiments by scientists at Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory almost a decade ago.

The finding, to be published in the scientific journal The Physical Review, could strengthen the case for adding element 115 to the periodic table.

"This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years", says Professor Dirk Rudolph from the Division of Nuclear Physics at Lund University.

Commentating on the latest discovery, Dr Liz Williams, a nuclear physicist at the Australian National University (ANU) says making super-heavy elements is extremely challenging.

"We typically smash lighter atoms into a thin foil of much heavier atoms and hope that some tiny fraction of these collisions actually produces the element we are interested in creating," says Williams, who is part of an Australian team working with researchers at the collaboration at GSI.

Short-lived existence

To create element 115, scientists bombarded a thin film of americium with calcium ions. But they don't last long. In almost an instant they decay into smaller atoms, releasing photons and alpha particles at the same time. Measurements of the photon energy levels show the new atom has the expected energies for x-ray radiation expected for element 115.

According to Williams, these experiments typically produce only one or two atoms at a time and there is little room for error when it comes to creating and measuring them.

"These atoms live for only a very short time, so we have to do all of this very quickly and carefully," she says.

Williams adds this latest finding will strengthen element 115's case for being added to the periodic table.

"It's really important to confirm the existence of new super-heavy elements at multiple labs before they are added to the periodic table."

In the near future, a committee comprising members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry will meet to decide whether further experiments are needed. For now it will remain known by its temporary name ununpentium (Uup), or one-one-five.

More to come?

Williams believes this isn't the end of the line for super-heavy elements - which already includes element 116 (livermorium) - but admits it isn't going to be easy creating them.

"We are reaching the end of what we can do with current methods," she says. "Part of the work we do here at the ANU is aimed at exploring better ways to form super-heavy elements, and all I can tell you right now is that it is not an easy task."

And while it may take a lot of time, effort and energy, the information gained from these experiments is worthwhile.

"Every time we discover a new super-heavy element, we learn more about the matter that makes up our visible universe," says Williams. "Each new super-heavy element gives us new insight into how the atomic world works."

The secret inner world of plants


Delve deep inside plants to see the tiny cells from which they are built, captured in stunning detail by scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.
The secret inner world of plants : Plants not only harness the power of our star and use it's energy, they are survivalists. Plants encourage rain, they use physics and chemistry and communicate - they are far more advanced than we once thought.

Quantum coherence: In essence, rather than the energy from a particular photon choosing one route to pass through the photosynthetic system, it travels through multiple channels simultaneously, allowing it to pick the quickest route (See earlier post: http://goo.gl/agp8K )

Capillary action: Sugars produced in leaves diffuse through a network of tube-shaped cells called the phloem. Sugars accelerate as they move, so the bigger the leaves the faster they reach the rest of the plant. But the phloem in stems, branches and the trunk acts as a bottleneck. The major mechanism for long-distance water transport is described by the cohesion-tension theory, whereby the driving force of transport is transpiration, that is, the evaporation of water from the leaf surfaces. Water molecules cohere (stick together), and are pulled up the plant by the tension, or pulling force, exerted by evaporation at the leaf surface. (See earlier post : http://goo.gl/mCmsPL )

Part of the water cycle:
Scientists say the rainforest is critical in generating the streams and rivers that ultimately turn turbines. If trees continue to be felled, the energy produced by one of the world's biggest dams could be cut by a third. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (See earlier post: http://goo.gl/plP37l )

Plants communicate:
Not just with themselves but with co-dependent species. (See Post Flowers Buzz with electricity : 
http://goo.gl/BUeY8N). Also see information on Grass : http://goo.gl/r0RYtM

Pic Detail:
Plant veins transport water and nutrients to the leaves, where energy from the sun is used to convert carbon dioxide and water into plant sugars and oxygen. The veins then ship the sugars out of the leaf to where they are needed. (Dr Sarah Rich, Plant Biology, UWA)

Main article:

Further reading for the curious

This Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) plant embryo reveals two leaves and a primary root. Peroxisomes, which break down oils to give the dormant seed the energy boost it needs to become a seedling, have been stained with a green fluorescent dye. Scale: 0.8mm (Simon Law, Whelan Lab)
By using a dye which changes from clear to blue when a particular gene is turned on, this photo reveals which parts of the Arabidopsis thaliana flower are breaking down fat (they're stained blue). Turning fatty molecules into energy is important for flower growth. Scale: 2mm across. (Andrew Wiszniewski, Smith Lab)
It may look like a sea creature, but it's a close up of the female and male parts of a flower (left and right respectively). Pollen grains can be seen in the male anther. The blue areas show the location of genes turned on in response to drought stress. Scale: 0.8mm. (Vindya Uggalla, Whelan Lab)
Flavonoids are pigment molecules that have many roles in plants, including protection from UV rays. By staining this Arabidopsis thaliana embryo, scientists were able to show it could still produce flavonoids, despite a mutation in its DNA. Scale: 0.8mm across. (Andrew Wiszniewski, Smith Lab)
Plant veins transport water and nutrients to the leaves, where energy from the sun is used to convert carbon dioxide and water into plant sugars and oxygen. The veins then ship the sugars out of the leaf to where they are needed. (Dr Sarah Rich, Plant Biology, UWA)
Small root hair cells are sprouting from the primary root of this germinating Arabidopsis thaliana seedling. These hairs provide the root with a greatly increased surface area, aiding in the uptake of water and vital nutrients. Scale: 0.4mm across. (Simon Law, Whelan Lab)
Rather than letting the useful materials go to waste, this plant is pulling them out. The black areas are where this dynamic process is happening. The red blobs are chloroplasts, where sunlight is captured to make energy; the green dots are mitochondria; and the blue areas are cell walls. Scale: 0.291mm across. (Dr Olivier Keech, Smith Lab)
A close up of a poppy flower bud reveals it is covered in tiny hair-like protective structures called trichomes, which provide protection from frost and water loss and can keep predators and pests away. Scale: 30mm across. (Rachel Shingaki-Wells, Millar lab)
The beautiful colours inside this Darwinia leiostyla flower come from pigment molecules called carotenoids. These powerful molecules play an important role in plant development, growth, energy production and cellular protection. Scale: 10mm across (Dr Cathie Colas des Francs, Small Lab)
Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) is the lab rat of plant science. Its studied by thousands of scientist around the world because it's easy to grow, highly productive and completes its life cycle in only 6-8 weeks. (Dr Olivier Keech, Smith Lab)
Sugar and proteins are distributed within a plant cell by the actin cytoskeleton - a network of tiny filaments highlighted in this image by fluorescent protein. The oval shaped pores are stomata, which allow carbon dioxide, oxygen and water in and out of the plant. Scale: 0.085mm across. (Dr Olivier Keech, Smith Lab)
When scientists discover a new protein how do they work out what it does? By fusing a green fluorescent protein with the new protein they can track it within the cell - in this case to the endoplasmic reticulum network, a factory that produces and packages proteins and carbohydrates. Scale: 0.072mm. (Botao Zhang, Whelan Lab)

Rice Gene Digs Deep To Triple Yields In Drought

ORIGINAL: Asian Scientist
By Science and Development Network | Featured Research
August 6, 2013

Japanese researchers have identified a gene that triples the yield of rice during droughts by giving rice plants deeper roots.

Asian Scientist (Aug. 6, 2013) - A gene that gives rice plants deeper roots can triple yields during droughts, according to Japanese researchers writing in Nature Genetics this week (4 August).

Rice is a staple food for nearly half of the world’s population, but is also particularly susceptible to drought owing to its shallow roots, researchers say.

The new study shows that by pointing roots down instead of sideways, the Deeper Rooting 1 (DRO1) gene results in roots that are nearly twice as deep as those of standard rice varieties.

If rice adapts to or avoids drought conditions using deeper roots, it can get water and nutrients from the deep soil layers,” says the study’s lead author Yusaku Uga, a researcher with Japan’s National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences.

Uga and his team found that in moderate drought conditions, the yield of rice with DRO1 was double that of the shallow-rooted rice variety. Under severe drought conditions, this increased to 3.6 times greater.

The most important point is that we had rice grains produced under drought conditions,” says Uga.

When rice crops just tolerate drought, they cannot get water and nutrients, resulting in a kind of survival mode.”

The DRO1 gene occurs naturally in more than 60 rice varieties. For the study, the research team crossbred a rice variety carrying DRO1 with a shallow-rooted variety and then bred the offspring together to produce a rice crop in which DRO1 was uniformly present.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that an additional 8-10 million tonnes of rice will be needed each year to keep rice prices affordable at around US$300 per tonne. Finding a drought-resistant variety of rice may be key to attaining this goal, according to researchers.

Drought is the most widespread and damaging of all environmental stresses,” says Sophie Clayton, head of communications at IRRI.

In some states in India, severe drought can cause as much as 40 per cent yield loss [in rice crops]. Moreover, with the onset of climate change, droughts may become more frequent and more severe.

The article can be found at: Uga et al. (2013) Control Of Root System Architecture By DEEPER ROOTING 1 Increases Rice Yield Under Drought Conditions.


Source: Science and Development Network; Photo: IRRI.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

miércoles, 28 de agosto de 2013

La gran Titanoboa recorre el mundo

ORIGINAL: El Colombiano
Por Ramiro Velázquez Gómez
4 de abril de 2012

Una réplica, película y videojuegos reconstruyen la mayor serpiente del planeta que habitó en Colombia.
A 60 millones de años de haber desaparecido asombra al mundo. Lo hizo ya en Nueva York, sigue en Washington y se paseará por otras regiones. Hasta a Colombia, su casa, vendrá.

Se tragaba cocodrilos, enormes tortugas, lo que encontrara a su paso en ese antiguo y tupido bosque sudamericano: La Guajira.

Titanoboa cerrejonensis cobró vida. Esta serpiente, la más grande que jamás existió sobre la Tierra, de casi 15 metros y 1.250 kilos, se paseó por la Gran Estación Central en Nueva York, donde sorprendió a los visitantes. "¿Era un animal, un animal real? ¡Es enorme!" balbuceó Chris Wood citado por Jennifer Welsh en LiveScience.

Sí, esta enorme serpiente volvió a la vida. Hallada por un grupo de científicos del Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute en la mina de El Cerrejón, equipo encabezado por el colombiano Carlos Jaramillo , fue mostrada al mundo en un artículo en la revista Nature en febrero de 2009.

En ese rico yacimiento fosilífero donde se han encontrado otras enormes criaturas que vivieron en el Paleoceno medio a tardío, se halló una vértebra cloacal casi completa y decenas de otras vértebras y costillas de la enorme criatura.

Ahora, el Museo Smithsonian de Historia Natural la recreó. No solo mediante descomunales modelos, uno de ellos tragándose un cocodrilo, sino que produjo una película que es presentada en el canal del Smithsonian.

El trabajo continúa
"Todo esto es parte de nuestro trabajo", dijo Jaramillo al periódico. "El Smithsonian hizo una película cuya premiere fue el miércoles 28, junto con una exhibición de Titanoboa que estará en el Museo de Historia Natural en Washington por varios meses, y luego viajará a varios museos en el mundo".

La serpiente de El Cerrejón va más allá. También se publicó un extenso artículo en el Smithsonian Magazine sobre la manera como se hallaron los restos, se creó un videojuego para iphone y ipad (se llama Titanoboa) y juguetes y hasta dulces con su forma, dijo Jaramillo, geólogo de la Nacional y doctor de la Universidad de Florida.

La película, Titanoboa Monster Snake, también será presentada en Colombia, en unión con Maloka y el Instituto Von Humboldt. Se está subtitulando en español para que pueda ser proyectada en aquel auditorio. "Espero que en algún momento en abril".

Entre la bruma de una selva muy húmeda, Titanoboa se mueve con rapidez para sumergirse en el agua, donde quieta detrás de la flora marina espera. Un enorme cocodrilo se acerca y el movimiento ágil de la serpiente no le permite escapar. Una escena de la película que recrea esos ambientes cálidos de hace 58 a 60 millones de años en una Tierra en la que las concentraciones de dióxido de carbono eran cinco o seis veces mayores que las actuales, calentando el aire de tal manera que esta serpiente, de sangre fría, pudo encontrar las condiciones adecuadas para alcanzar semejante tamaño.

Titanoboa, la serpiente monstruo, la antigua habitante de El Cerrejón y La Guajira, camina de nuevo.

Greenpeace: www.SaveTheArctic.org: Shell Protest Stunt Video Removed By YouTube At Request Of F1 Officials [VIDEO]

ORIGINAL: International Business Times
August 27 2013
Environmental activist group Greenpeace performed a few protest stunts at the Formula One Grand Prix in Belgium. Vimeo/Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists spoiled the fun with an unexpected surprise at an award ceremony at the Formula One Grand Prix race hosted at the Circuit de Sap-Francorchamps race course in Belgium on Sunday.

A Greenpeace activist hangs above the podium of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps Reuters
The environmental activist group set up four remote controlled car antennas in front of the victory ceremony stage that raised a banner with a Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) logo edited together with the face of a polar bear and a web URL (SaveTheArctic.org). A Formula One official present at the event was seen trying to break down the banner. As soon as he was able to break down the first banner, another one rose from the front of the stand. Greenpeace performed the stunt as part of a larger protest against Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Artic.

Greenpeace activists were also seen at the event, unfurling a larger banner bearing the tagline “Arctic oil? Shell no!

A Greenpeace activist hangs from the main grandstand during the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps Reuters
According to Greenpeace, the video of the event on YouTube was allegedly taken down through a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice sent by Formula One organizers.

Watch the video of the award ceremony above.

U. N, primera en investigación en Colombia

ORIGINAL: Red Renata
28 de Agosto de 2013 10:08

La U. N. ocupa el primer lugar en la medición realizada por el Sapiens Research Group, que la cataloga como la mejor Universidad en investigación del país." title="La U. N. ocupa el primer lugar en la medición realizada por el Sapiens Research Group, que la cataloga como la mejor Universidad en investigación del país
En el más reciente reporte de clasificación de universidades colombianas, la Universidad Nacional de Colombia ocupa el lugar número uno. El Ranking U-Sapiens, medición realizada por el Sapiens Research Group, posiciona a la U. N. en el primer lugar de la lista de las mejores instituciones de educación superior (IES) colombianas según indicadores de investigación (2012-II).

Esta clasificación es considerada como la que mejor refleja el aspecto investigativo de las IES del país, ya que hace una correlación entre diferentes universidades teniendo en cuenta las variables: revistas indexadas (Publindex), maestrías y doctorados activos, grupos de investigación categorizados en Colciencias.

Luego de evaluar estos aspectos, los expertos realizan la respectiva clasificación y explican qué hacen las universidades que ocupan los primeros lugares.

"Las diez primeras posiciones reflejan el empeño en una dinámica investigativa activa y en crecimiento constante”, aspecto que la Institución cumple al pie de la letra pues siempre está en procesos de mejoramiento continuo”.

Otros datos
El informe del Banco Mundial “Evaluaciones de políticas nacionales de educación: la educación superior en Colombia” establece que de los 13.274 artículos científicos de autores colombianos (procedentes de seis instituciones del país), la mayoría (4.679) tienen su origen en la U. N.

En el Ranking Iberoamericano SIR 2011, que evalúa la actividad investigativa, la U. N. ocupa, entre 1.369 instituciones iberoamericanas, el puesto 56, y se ubica en el puesto 25 entre las 1.229 de Latinoamérica y el Caribe.

Las cifras de excelencia académica y expansión del conocimiento de la Universidad, a diciembre de 2012, hablan por sí solas.

El 28% de la producción científica del país, según Scopus, lo aporta la U. N. a través de su propia producción editorial y de artículos indexados en revistas nacionales e internacionales.

Además, del total del país, el 31% de los programas doctorales, el 39% de los doctores graduados y el 34% de los estudiantes de doctorado matriculados pertenecen a la Universidad.

Durante la última década, la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, según ha manifestado Alexander Gómez Mejía, vicerrector de Investigación, ha hecho un gran esfuerzo institucional para fortalecer su función investigativa.

“Tenemos presencia en todos los departamentos del país y realizamos más de cinco mil proyectos de extensión (labores de educación continua, consultoría, proyectos de investigación aplicada), contratados por diferentes instituciones y entes del nivel nacional”.

Fuente: Agencia de Noticias UN - Unimedios
FacebookPuntajeInstituciones de educación superiorTipoDepartamentoCiudad
127.770+ Universidad Nacional de ColombiaUOBogotá 
79.632+ Universidad de AntioquiaUOAntioquia 
53.536+ Universidad de los AndesUPBogotá 
51.788+ Universidad del ValleUOValle del Cauca 
49.600+ Pontificia Universidad JaverianaUPBogotá 
39.811+ Universidad Nacional de ColombiaUOAntioquia 
32.563Fundación Universidad del NorteUPAtlántico 
30.112+ Universidad Industrial de SantanderUOSantander 
24.243+ Universidad de CaldasUOCaldas 
23.125+ Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de ColombiaUOBoyacá 
23.056+ Universidad Pontificia BolivarianaUPAntioquia 
22.738+ Universidad Tecnológica de PereiraUORisaralda 
20.633+ Universidad de CartagenaUOBolívar 
19.268+ Universidad EAFITUPAntioquia 
19.263+ Universidad Distrital Francisco José de CaldasUOBogotá 
19.170+ Universidad Externado de ColombiaUPBogotá 
17.705+ Universidad del CaucaUOCauca 
17.059+ Universidad Santo TomásUPBogotá 
16.793+ Universidad del RosarioUPBogotá 
16.156+ Universidad de MedellínUPAntioquia 
14.641+ Universidad de la SalleUPBogotá 
13.974+ Universidad de la SabanaUPCundinamarca 
13.933+ Universidad del AtlánticoUOAtlántico 
12.280+ Universidad Pedagógica NacionalUOBogotá 
12.127+ Universidad del MagdalenaUOMagdalena 
11.087+ Universidad CESUPAntioquia 
10.410+ Universidad Militar Nueva GranadaUOBogotá 
9.809+ Universidad de CórdobaUOCórdoba 
9.700+ Universidad del TolimaUOTolima 
9.528+ Universidad Simón BolívarUPAtlántico 
9.350+ Universidad LibreUPValle del Cauca 
9.146+ Universidad de ManizalesUPCaldas 
8.853+ Universidad el BosqueUPBogotá 
8.587+ Universidad de PamplonaUONorte de Santander 
8.530+ Universidad del QuindíoUOQuindío 
7.952+ Universidad de NariñoUONariño 
7.813+ Universidad Nacional de ColombiaUOValle del Cauca 
7.417+ Universidad Autónoma de BucaramangaUPSantander 
7.329+ Universidad LibreUPBogotá 
7.280+ Universidad SurcolombianaUOHuila 
7.211+ Pontificia Universidad JaverianaUPValle del Cauca 
6.454+ Fundación Universidad Jorge Tadeo LozanoUPBogotá 
6.267+ Universidad Sergio ArboledaUPBogotá 
6.168+ Universidad ICESIUPValle del Cauca 
6.092+ Universidad Autónoma de OccidenteUPValle del Cauca 
5.685+ Universidad EANUPBogotá 
5.575+ Universidad Tecnológica de BolívarUPBolívar 
5.352+ Universidad Autónoma de ManizalesUPCaldas 
5.266+ Universidad Antonio NariñoUPBogotá 
5.138+ Universidad Católica de ColombiaUPBogotá