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December 5, 2006, 9:27 PM CT

Improve Memory using Virtual Reality

 Improve Memory using Virtual Reality
A new study of virtual marketing strategies finds that this isn't always true. Ann E. Schlosser (University of Washington) tested how well people used a camera after learning about its functions two different ways: either through an interactive virtual rendition or through text and static pictures. She found that though virtual experiences improved people's memories of the camera's functions, it also increased false positives that is, more people believed it could do things that it couldn't do.

"Although object interactivity may improve memory of associations compared to static pictures and text, it may lead to the creation of vivid internally-generated recollections that pose as memories," Schlosser writes in the recent issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

In addition, though the virtual experience was better for retaining information, it didn't help test subjects recognize the actual items when presented in real life: "The benefits of learning via virtual experience may come with costs: the ease of generating mental images may create later confusion regarding whether a retrieved mental image was perceived or imagined," she writes.

Schlosser also warns that while it might seem advantageous if consumers think a product has features it doesn't actually have, this can actually lead to customer dissatisfaction. She explains, "Consumers who discover that the product does not have these attributes will likely feel misled by the company".........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 5, 2006, 8:52 PM CT

Astronomers Study Shape Of Stellar Candles

Astronomers Study Shape Of Stellar Candles Artist's impression of how Type Ia supernovae may look like as revealed by the spectr-polarimetry observations.
Astronomers are reporting remarkable new findings that shed light on a decade-long debate about one kind of supernovae, the explosions that mark a star's final demise: does the star die in a slow burn or with a fast bang" From their observations, the scientists find that the matter ejected by the explosion shows significant peripheral asymmetry but a nearly spherical interior, most likely implying that the explosion finally propagates at supersonic speed.

These results are reported today in Science Express, the online version of the research journal Science, by Lifan Wang, Texas A&M University (USA), and colleagues Dietrich Baade and Ferdinando Patat from ESO.

"Our results strongly suggest a two-stage explosion process in this type of supernova," comments Wang. "This is an important finding with potential implications in cosmology".

Using observations of 17 supernovae made over more than 10 years with ESO's Very Large Telescope and the McDonald Observatory's Otto Struve Telescope, astronomers inferred the shape and structure of the debris cloud thrown out from Type Ia supernovae. Such supernovae are thought to be the result of the explosion of a small and dense star - a white dwarf - inside a binary system. As its companion continuously spills matter onto the white dwarf, the white dwarf reaches a critical mass, leading to a fatal instability and the supernova. But what sparks the initial explosion, and how the blast travels through the star have long been thorny issues.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

December 5, 2006, 8:23 PM CT

Nanotechnology's Potential Threatened

Nanotechnology's Potential Threatened Dr. Neal F. Lane
"Nanoscale science and engineering promise to be as important as the steam engine, the transistor, and the Internet, and have the potential to revolutionize all other technologies" as per Neal Lane, former science advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton. "But that outcome is not guaranteed".

Dr. Lane made his remarks today at a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The program marked the release of a new article in the December 2006 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, "What drives public acceptance of nanotechnology"".

"A recent poll by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies shows that while public awareness of nanotechnology is increasing, fully 69 percent of Americans have heard little or nothing about nanotechnology," said Lane. "More young people are seeing nanotechnology in advertisements for MP3 players than are learning about nanotechnology in schools".

"In my view, given whats at stake, this situation is unacceptable. I fear that nanotechnology may be heading for a fall. A major environmental, medical or safety problemreal or boguswith a product or application thats labeled nanotechnologywhether it actually is nanotechnology or notcould dampen public confidence and financial investment in nanotechnologys future, and could even lead to unwise regulation. We should not let this happen," stated Dr. Lane.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

December 5, 2006, 8:18 PM CT

Turn Off Proteins Stretch A DNA Loop

Turn Off Proteins Stretch A DNA Loop Photo Credit: Mike White, UCSD
Biologists have discovered that the physical manifestation of DNA loops are a consequence of a number of biochemical processes in the cell, such as the regulation of gene expression. In other words, these loops indicate the presence of enzymes or other proteins that are turned on. Now physicists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered that stretching the DNA molecule can also turn off the proteins known to cause loops in DNA.

"We showed that certain enzymes acting on DNA could be switched off or on simply by applying a small amount of mechanical tension across the DNA molecule," said Douglas Smith, an assistant professor of physics at UCSD who headed the team that published the discovery in the recent issue of the Biophysical Journal. "We showed this by mechanically manipulating and stretching single DNA molecules. This switching effect could provide a molecular mechanism for cells to be able to sense and respond to mechanical stresses that they may normally experience. Such stresses could be generated internally by the cells themselves, such as when the cell undergoes changes in shape during the cell cycle, or as external stresses from the environment".

The amount of tension or stretching that needs to be applied to the molecule is extremely small, Smith added, only one pico-Newton, or one-trillionth of the force generated by the weight of an apple. Other members of the UCSD team were Gregory Gemmen, a physics graduate student, and Rachel Millin, a laboratory assistant. The study was supported by grants from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Kinship Foundation and Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 5, 2006, 4:43 AM CT

Dreaming Of A Nanotech Christmas

Dreaming Of A Nanotech Christmas
Will parents put an iPod Nano or Head Nano Titanium tennis racket under the Christmas tree for their children this year? Will holiday revelers hang a Nano-Infinity stocking on their fireplace mantle for Santa Claus to fill? Just what does compel shoppers to either buy nanotechnology products, or avoid them because of real or imagined risks?

With over 350 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology consumer products available for purchase this gift-giving season (see:, and with $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods incorporating nanotechnology expected by 2014, there is a lot at stake in how these questions are answered.

The results of the first large-scale empirical study of how consumers consider risks and benefits when deciding whether to purchase or use specific nanotechnology products will appear in the December 2006 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The article's lead author, Steven C. Currall, University College London and London Business School, and a co-author, Neal Lane, Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and former U.S. Presidential Science Advisor, will report their findings at a program and live webcast on Tuesday, December 5th at 2:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars ( The Nature Nanotechnology article is embargoed until December 5th at 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

December 4, 2006, 10:03 PM CT

Clues to Pregnancy in Male Pipefish

Clues to Pregnancy in Male Pipefish A new function for an "old" gene in pipefish
Credit: Siam Ocean World Aquarium, Bangkok
Genetic archaeology is providing a new clue to one of the greatest gender mysteries in the fish world: how did male pregnancy evolve in a family of fish?

A gene discovered in the gulf pipefish hints that a gene already busy with kidney and liver function may have learned new tricks in the male womb, said April Harlin-Cognato, a biologist at Michigan State University, and her colleagues. Their research results, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are published in this week's online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We're interested in the evolution of novelty and how novel traits evolve," Harlin-Cognato said. "Why is this the only fish that exhibits male pregnancy? It's one of the more difficult phenomena to explain in evolutionary biology, and we're wondering if it's a matter of old genes learning new tricks".

Gulf pipefish are a member of the same family as seahorses. They look like seahorses without the curved tails. As in seahorses, male pipefish accept eggs from the females, fertilize them and carry them in pouches. These brood pouches have evolved into complex organs able to nurture and protect the eggs.

Harlin-Cognato, who conducted the research along with Eric Hoffman of the University of Central Florida, and Adam Jones of Texas A&M University, found a new type of gene that codes for a protein called astacin, which performs a variety of functions in bony fish.........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

December 4, 2006, 9:53 PM CT

Strontium Atomic Clock

Strontium Atomic Clock
Using an ultra-stable laser to manipulate strontium atoms trapped in a "lattice" made of light, researchers at JILA have demonstrated the capability to produce the most precise "ticks" ever recorded in an optical atomic clock-techniques that may be useful in time keeping, precision measurements of high frequencies, and quantum computers using neutral atoms as bits of information.

The JILA strontium lattice design, described in the Dec. 1 issue of Science,* is a leading candidate for next-generation atomic clocks that operate at optical frequencies, which are much higher than the microwaves used in today's standard atomic clocks and thus divide time into smaller, more precise units. JILA is a joint institution of the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder).

The JILA group, led by NIST Fellow Jun Ye, achieved the highest "resonance quality factor"-indicating strong, stable signals when a very specific frequency of laser light excites the atoms-ever recorded in coherent spectroscopy, or studies of interactions between matter and light. "We can define the center, or peak, of this resonance with a precision comparable to measuring the distance from the Earth to the sun with an uncertainty the size of a human hair," says first author Martin Boyd, a CU-Boulder graduate student. This enabled observation of very subtle sublevels of the atoms' electronic energy states created by the magnetic "spin" of their nuclei.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

December 4, 2006, 5:08 AM CT

Robotic Pets May Be Bad Medicine

Robotic Pets May Be Bad Medicine Sherry Turkle
In the face of techno-doomsday punditry, Sherry Turkle has long been a proponent of the positive. In her books, "The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit" and "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet," Turkle has explored the relationship between human and machine and found much to ponder and even praise.

But now the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self has a confession: "I have finally met technology that upsets and concerns me."

Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, outlined her concerns about the implications of increasingly personal interactions between robots and humans during a Nov. 20 lecture on "What Questions do 'Sociable Robots' Pose for STS?," part of the Program in Science, Technology and Society (STS) fall colloquium.

Turkle, a clinical psychology expert, spoke earnestly and openly about her fears, acknowledging that some parts of her research "gave me the chills" on a very personal level and that she is "struggling to find an open voice".

A pioneer of the now accepted notion that "technologies are never just tools," Turkle set the stage with a discussion of her work on machines as "evocative objects" and "relational artifacts." She cited quotes from children about how they see robots. For example, she cited a 6-year-old describing his Furby: "It's alive for a Furby. You know something this smart should have arms. It might want to pick up something or to hug me".........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

December 4, 2006, 4:49 AM CT

Coffee and tea brewing wands

Coffee and tea brewing wands Available at each at Wisdom Wands.
Here's a drinking concept for tea and coffee lovers that I've never seen before -- brewing wands that you use to brew your hot drink then use as a straw to sip through. Normally, you don't drink hot beverages through a straw (I vaguely recall trying to once or twice and burning my throat because I couldn't guage the temperature before it was too late). And then there's the straw melting issue with normal straws. Makes me wonder how much of the pleasure of drinking hot tea and coffee has to do with the sensation of sipping from the edge of a cup. But I do like the idea of brewing from loose tea leaves or ground coffee beans one cup at a time. And maybe drinking tea and coffee through a straw would be a nice change of pace.

The Java Wand is basically a mini French press filter attached to a glass straw. You add coffee straight into your cup of hot water, let it brew, add milk and sugar, then drink through the wand. The similar Health Tea Wand is a glass wand with a strainer at the bottom to strain your tea leaves as you drink.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

December 3, 2006, 8:58 PM CT

How Mirrors Can Light Up The World Guardian

How Mirrors Can Light Up The World Guardian
I have to admit that I am not up-to-date on the latest alternative energy solutions. However that said, I was surprised to find out the latest on solar technology. If this BBC article is accurate, then the solution to the energy crisis may be closer than fusion energy.

Again, I am not up on the technology here and do not know if the costs are prohibitive for these mirrors. Here is an excerpt from the article to get you started:

Most people in Britain think of solar power as a few panels on the roof of a house producing hot water or a bit of electricity. But as per two reports prepared for the German government, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa should be building vast solar farms in North Africa's deserts using a simple technology that more resembles using a magnifying glass to burn a hole in a piece of paper than any space age technology.

Two German scientists, Dr Gerhard Knies and Dr Franz Trieb, calculate that covering just 0.5% of the world's hot deserts with a technology called concentrated solar power (CSP) would provide the world's entire electricity needs, with the technology also providing desalinated water to desert regions as a valuable byproduct, as well as air conditioning for nearby cities.

Read the rest of this article at the Guardian link at the top of this post.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

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