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September 26, 2006, 9:30 PM CT

Steps On The Accelerator Pedal

Steps On The Accelerator Pedal
Two major research centres opened today (19th September), bringing the UK to the forefront of international efforts in Accelerator Science and Technology. The Cockcroft Institute and the John Adams Institute will both be national focal points for UK researchers and companies to develop cutting-edge accelerator technologies for major new projects such as the International Linear Collider and a Neutrino Factory.

Prof Keith Mason, Chief Executive of PPARC said "UK physicists carry the responsibility for key detector components and often hold leadership positions in most major experiments around the world. The establishment of these two centres of excellence will consolidate that position and ensure that the UK continues to make significant scientific and technological contributions to the next generation of frontline accelerators worldwide". Commenting on the technology transfer prospects Prof Mason added, "The new Accelerator Institutes will build strong links between the research community and high technology industry to ensure that knowledge transfer takes place between the two and that UK companies are well positioned to win future contracts for work in this sector".

The International Linear Collider is currently under design in a co-ordinated global effort. It will collide electrons with their antimatter partner, positrons, creating interactions which will reveal how the evolution of the Universe began in its earliest moments. It will provide answers to the most basic questions about the laws which govern this evolution.........

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September 26, 2006, 9:26 PM CT

Student makes dough

Student makes dough sample of dough stretcjed in Ng's lab is far too small for a cookie. Photo / Donna Coveney
Trevor Shen Kuan Ng rolls dough. He also stretches it like Silly Putty, twirls it like taffy and flattens it into rectangles like wide fettuccine.

Ng, an MIT mechanical engineering graduate student, is getting an education in dough. His Ph.D. thesis concerns the mechanical properties of matter--in this case, dough--and how it behaves when subjected to forces. In engineering-speak, this is called rheology, and it provides valuable information for commercial bakeries that need accurate, repeatable techniques for measuring the properties of dough to ensure the tastiest product.

Ng's work is part of the non-Newtonian fluid dynamics research group headed by Gareth H. McKinley, professor of mechanical engineering.

Non-Newtonian fluids are unusual materials. Their viscosity, or slipperiness, changes with the amount of strain applied to them. A number of non-Newtonian fluids have microscopic structures that affect how they react when poked or prodded, and how fast they move when they flow. Picture peanut butter or mayonnaise dripping from a tap--they would not behave like water. Some non-Newtonian fluids such as polymers bounce like a ball if dropped but flow smoothly if placed on a surface.

McKinley's research group looks at DNA, saliva, tree sap and okra, a natural polymer used as a food thickener for thousands of years. Snail slime and such oddities as magnetic fluids also are investigated.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

September 26, 2006, 9:17 PM CT

New Era For MIT Media Lab

New Era For MIT Media Lab This image shows the plan for the the Media Lab's upper atrium. Image / Maki and Associates
MIT announced recently that it will break ground in spring 2007 for a new Media Lab designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. The expansion marks a new era of innovation for the Media Lab, which has become legendary for inventions that have ignited the digital revolution, are redefining the potential for creative expression, and, in the future, will push the boundaries of human augmentation.

This milestone signals MIT's commitment to expanding the highly interdisciplinary, often unconventional research that has become the Media Lab's trademark. The 163,000-square-foot, six-story building will feature an open, atelier-style, adaptable architecture specifically designed to provide the flexibility to respond to emerging research priorities. High levels of transparency throughout the building's interior will make ongoing research visible, encouraging connections and collaboration among researchers.

Together with the existing Wiesner Building, designed by MIT alumnus I. M. Pei (1940 B.Arch.), the expanded facility will also house the List Visual Arts Center, the School of Architecture and Planning's Design Lab and Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the Department of Architecture's Visual Arts Program, and MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies. Another key component of the building will be the Okawa Center for Future Children, established at the Media Lab in 1998 through a $27 million donation from Isao Okawa, the late chairman of CSK Corp. and SEGA Enterprises, Ltd.........

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September 26, 2006, 7:22 PM CT

Powerful HP Graphing Calculator

Powerful HP Graphing Calculator
HP recently introduced the HP 50g graphing calculator, which offers more connectivity options and greater configurability so users can share and work with mathematical data in the way that best suits their needs.

HP's most powerful calculator, the HP 50g is designed for engineering, math and science professionals and students. It features more connectivity options than other graphing calculators in its class, allowing users to transfer data and applications via convenient, industry-standard USB, SD card and serial ports(1) as well as wireless infrared communications.

Users also can customize the calculator by developing and saving programs and macros and by re-assigning key functions so that the most-used functions are at their fingertips.

"With the high-end HP 50g, HP continues to enhance its robust calculator portfolio," said Fred Valdez, general manager, Calculator Division, HP. "HP calculators lead the way in empowering users to do more with their calculating devices by creating well-engineered solutions - from the smart functions that they perform down to the look of the display and feel of the keyboard".

In addition to the standard Algebraic mode, the HP 50g offers the Reverse Polish Notation (RPN)(2) and groundbreaking Textbook data entry modes that are only found on HP calculators. RPN is an efficient sequence that reduces the number of keystrokes needed to make a calculation; Textbook entry allows users to write and edit equations symbolically, as if they were writing on a sheet of paper.........

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September 25, 2006, 9:46 PM CT

Laser probe may offer insight into Parkinson's disease

Laser probe may offer insight into Parkinson's disease
In a finding that may offer clues about Parkinson's disease, a team led by Duke University scientists used a sophisticated laser system to gain evidence that a dark brown pigment that accumulates in people's brains consists of layers of two other pigments usually found in hair.

Other researchers previously had determined via chemical analysis that the dark pigment, called neuromelanin, is composed of the two pigments: eumelanin, found in black-haired people, and pheomelanin, found in redheads. But how those pigments are arranged structurally remained unknown -- and this structuring may prove to be of critical importance, as per the researchers.

In addition, in 2005 a Duke team that included some of the same researchers involved in the current study reported using the laser system to establish that pheomelanin is chemically disposed to activate oxygen while eumelanin is not. Oxygen activation is suspected to play a role in the neurogenic cascade of events behind Parkinson's disease.

In the new report, researchers from Duke, North Carolina State University and the Institute of Biomedical Technologies in Segrate, Italy, outlined evidence that neuromelanins isolated from human brains have cores of oxygen-activating pheomelanin covered by a protective surface of eumelanin.........

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September 25, 2006, 9:44 PM CT

Avian Flu Vaccine Provokes Strong Immune Response

Avian Flu Vaccine Provokes Strong Immune Response Avian Flu Virus
When combined with an immune-boosting substance called an adjuvant, low doses of an experimental vaccine against a strain of avian influenza (H9N2) provoked a strong antibody response in human volunteers, report scientists supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The clinical trial of 96 adults was conducted at the NIAID-supported Viral Respiratory Pathogens Research Unit at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and was led by Robert L. Atmar, M.D. The results are now online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

"The results of this clinical trial add to the growing body of information demonstrating the potential value of adjuvanted avian influenza vaccines," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine to boost the body's immune response to the vaccine's antigen. "In the event of an influenza pandemic, adjuvanted vaccines could provide a way to extend a limited vaccine supply to more people," he adds.

In 1999, two children in Hong Kong became infected with H9N2, a strain of avian influenza that had not previously been detected in humans. Humans have little or no natural immunity to a virus--such as H9N2 or the more deadly H5N1 avian influenza--that historically has circulated only in birds. If H9N2 or H5N1 were to acquire the ability to spread easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic could result, health experts say.........

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September 24, 2006, 9:45 PM CT

To A Billion Electron Volts

To A Billion Electron Volts
Scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working with colleagues at the University of Oxford, have accelerated electron beams to energies exceeding a billion electron volts (1 GeV) in a distance of just 3.3 centimeters. The researchers report their results in the recent issue of Nature Physics.

By comparison, SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, boosts electrons to 50 GeV over a distance of two miles (3.2 kilometers) with radiofrequency cavities whose accelerating electric fields are limited to about 20 million volts per meter.

The electric field of a plasma wave driven by a laser pulse can reach 100 billion volts per meter, however, which has made it possible for the Berkeley Lab group and their Oxford collaborators to achieve a 50th of SLAC's beam energy in just one-100,000th of SLAC's length.

This is only the first step, says Wim Leemans of Berkeley Lab's Accelerator and Fusion Research Division (AFRD). "Billion-electron-volt beams from laser-wakefield accelerators open the way to very compact high-energy experiments and superbright free-electron lasers".

Channeling a path to billion-volt beams.

In the fall of 2004 the Leemans group, dubbed LOASIS (Laser Optics and Accelerator Systems Integrated Studies), was one of three groups to report reaching peak energies of 70 to 200 MeV (million electron volts) with laser wakefields, accelerating bunches of tightly focused electrons with nearly uniform energies.........

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September 23, 2006, 11:38 AM CT

Taking Uncertainty Principle To Unprecedented Level

Taking Uncertainty Principle To Unprecedented Level A scanning electron microscope image of an aluminum and silicon nitride resonator coupled to a superconducting single electron transistor.
In the submicroscopic world -- the domain of elementary particles and individual atoms -- things behave in the strange, counter-intuitive fashion governed by the principles of quantum mechanics. Nothing (or so it seems) like our macroscopic world -- or even the microscopic world of cells or bacteria or dust particles -- where Newton's much more reasonable laws keep things sensibly ordered.

The problem comes in finding the dividing line between the two worlds -- or even in establishing that such a line exists. To that end, Keith Schwab, associate professor of physics who moved to Cornell this year from the National Security Agency, and his colleagues have created a device that approaches this quantum mechanical limit at the largest length-scale to date.

And surprisingly, the research also has shown how scientists can lower the temperature of an object -- just by watching it.

The results, which could have applications in quantum computing, cooling engineering and more, appear in the Sept. 14 issue of the journal Nature.

The device is actually a tiny (8.7 microns, or millionths of a meter, long; 200 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, wide) sliver of aluminum on silicon nitride, pinned down at both ends and allowed to vibrate in the middle. Nearby, Schwab positioned a superconducting single electron transistor (SSET) to detect minuscule changes in the sliver's position.........

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September 20, 2006, 7:59 PM CT

Launching Of Solar-B

Launching Of Solar-B Image above: An artist concept of Solar-B
Image credit: NASA/GSFC/C. Meane
Solar-B is an international mission to study our nearest star, the sun. To accomplish this, the Solar-B mission includes a suite of three science instruments -- the Solar Optical Telescope, X-ray Telescope and Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer.

Together, these instruments will study the generation, transport, and dissipation of magnetic energy from the photosphere to the corona and will record how energy stored in the sun's magnetic field is released, either gradually or violently, as the field rises into the sun's outer atmosphere.

By studying the sun's magnetic field, researchers hope to shed new light on explosive solar activity that can interfere with satellite communications and electric power transmission grids on Earth and threaten astronauts on the way to or working on the surface of the moon. In particular they want to learn if they can identify the magnetic field configurations that lead to these explosive energy releases and use this information to predict when these events may occur.

Led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Solar-B mission is a collaboration between the space agencies of Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. NASA helped in the development, funding and assembly of the spacecraft's three science instruments. Solar-B is part of the Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program within the Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Solar Terrestrial Probes Program is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., managed the development of instrument components provided by NASA, with additional support by academia and industry.........

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September 19, 2006, 5:08 AM CT

Detect Coastal Ocean Pollution

Detect Coastal Ocean Pollution Image courtesy of Time
Public health officials now may be able to know instantly when pollution has moved into the coastal ocean - a breakthrough that could enable authorities to post warnings or close beaches in minutes rather than days thanks to research by UC Irvine researchers.

The new technique analyzes temperature and salinity data collected by sensors located in the water along the Southern California coast. Researchers found that fluctuations in the sensor data correlate with changes in water quality as soon as they occur. This type of analysis may lead to detection methods that are far faster than the current method of physically collecting water and testing it in a lab.

"Decisions to post a warning or close a beach are currently made one to three days after a sample is collected. This would be fine if you were testing water that sits in a tub, but ocean currents are highly dynamic, and water quality varies hour by hour and minute to minute," said Stanley B. Grant, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at UCI. "Our research shows that near real-time sensor data can be used to detect changes in the state of the coastal ocean - information that could, in concert with traditional monitoring data and new ocean observing systems, eventually result in the creation of an up-to-the-minute water-quality report accessible by the public on the Internet".........

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