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May 26, 2006, 0:09 AM CT

Detector Sees The Invisible

Detector Sees The Invisible
An inexpensive detector developed by a NASA-led team can now see invisible infrared light in a range of "colors," or wavelengths.

The detector, called a Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP) array, was the world's largest (one million-pixel) infrared array when the project was announced in March 2003. It was a low-cost alternative to conventional infrared detector technology for a wide range of scientific and commercial applications. However, at the time it could only detect a narrow range of infrared colors, equivalent to making a conventional photograph in just black and white. The new QWIP array is the same size but can now sense infrared over a broad range.

"The ability to see a range of infrared wavelengths is an important advance that will greatly increase the potential uses of the QWIP technology," said Dr. Murzy Jhabvala of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Principal Investigator for the project.

Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but some types are generated by and perceived as heat. A conventional infrared detector has a number of cells (pixels) that interact with an incoming particle of infrared light (an infrared photon) and convert it to an electric current that can be measured and recorded. They are similar in principle to the detectors that convert visible light in a digital camera. The more pixels that can be placed on a detector of a given size, the greater the resolution, and NASA's QWIP arrays are a significant advance over earlier 300,000-pixel QWIP arrays, previously the largest available.........

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May 24, 2006, 7:04 PM CT

Our Milky Way Galaxy

Our Milky Way Galaxy

Modeler's view of our Milky Way Galaxy in a lumpy halo with a number of satellites.

Photo: NASA. Simulation: Stefan Gottlober/AIP.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


May 24, 2006, 6:55 PM CT

Software Defuses Demographic Time-bomb

Software Defuses Demographic Time-bomb
As a number of baby boomers look forward to their retirement, manufacturing industry bosses fear the wealth of knowledge that will be lost with their departure.

To stem this drain of information, University of Cambridge researcher Dr Tony Holden has developed a software program which captures employees' experience as they work.

Dr Holden, Department of Engineering, designed the new program, entitled 'Lifetrack', being marketed by the US company The Works Software. The software was developed from the results of a two-year industrial research program sponsored by BP, Honeywell Control and Cambridge University to model the social, communication and information dimensions of how staff work in industrial manufacturing plants. The aim was to significantly improve plant safety, integrity and efficiency.

Serious problems at plants have been traced back to inconsistent views of the same operation. With Lifetrack, everyone has the same consistent view of operations to reduce the chance of misunderstandings and reduce the learning curve of new staff.

"Today, knowledge retention programs don't provide anything for capturing tacit knowledge where it really exists in an organization - with operational staff at the ground level", says Dinesh Vadhia, CEO of The Works Software. "The trick is to capture, retain and share knowledge while operational staff are doing their job".........

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May 24, 2006, 0:18 AM CT

Hope For The Blind

Hope For The Blind

An MIT poet has developed a small, relatively inexpensive "seeing machine" that can allow people who are blind, or visually challenged like her, to access the Internet, view the face of a friend, "previsit" unfamiliar buildings and more.

Recently the machine received positive feedback from 10 visually challenged people with a range of causes for their vision loss who tested it in a pilot clinical trial. The work was reported in Optometry, the Journal of the American Optometric Association, earlier this year.

The work is led by Elizabeth Goldring, a senior fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. She developed the machine over the last 10 years, in collaboration with more than 30 MIT students and some of her personal eye doctors. The new device costs about $4,000, low compared to the $100,000 price tag of its inspiration, a machine Goldring discovered through her eye doctor.

Goldring's adventures at the intersection of art and high technology began with a visit to her doctor, Lloyd Aiello, head of the Beetham Eye Institute of the Joslin Diabetes Center. At the time, Goldring was blind. (Surgeries have since restored vision in one eye).

To better examine her eyes, Aiello asked her to go to the Schepens Eye Research Institute at Harvard, where technicians peered into her eyes with a diagnostic device known as a scanning laser opthalmoscope, or SLO. With the machine they projected a simple image directly onto the retina of one eye, past the hemorrhages within the eye that contributed to her blindness. The idea was to determine whether she had any healthy retina left.........

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May 24, 2006, 0:01 AM CT

Cleaner Technologies

Cleaner Technologies Researchers pose on the roof of the Georgia Tech Student Athletic Center, which is covered with photovoltaic cells as part of a long-term research project.
Volatile weather, summer smog alerts, soaring fuel prices and rising greenhouse-gas levels have focused increased attention on cleaner, more-sustainable technologies.

That concern can be clearly seen among the startup companies formed in Georgia Tech's VentureLab program, which is assisting more than a half-dozen early-stage companies that are pursuing clean-technology products and services. These new technologies range from renewable fuels and high-efficiency solar cells to hurricane forecasting and tiny jet-like devices that could reduce aircraft-fuel consumption.

Georgia Tech is well positioned to pursue clean technology and renewable energy. Among its a number of interdisciplinary research centers are the University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaics Research and Education, the Center for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technology, the Strategic Energy Initiative, the Institute for Sustainable Technology and Development, and the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics.

"Our clean-tech companies have one aim in common - to use Georgia Tech discoveries to make many things happen in a more environmentally sensitive and economically viable way," said Stephen Fleming, Georgia Tech's chief commercialization officer.

Commercialization Services, a unit of Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute, identifies, evaluates and promotes Georgia Tech innovations with potential commercial value. Most such discoveries fall into two categories: the majority are licensed to established corporations, while a few - about one in 10- have the right stuff to form the basis for new companies.........

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May 22, 2006, 2:05 PM CT

Storms Roll Past Saturn

Storms Roll Past Saturn
Three large and impressive vortices, including two that appear to be interacting, are captured here as they swirl through Saturn's active southern latitudes.

This view shows latitudes slightly to the north of those seen in Round and Round They Go and was taken a few minutes previous to the left side image in that release.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 750 nanometers. The image was acquired on April 15, 2006, at a distance of approximately 3.9 million kilometers (2.4 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 23 kilometers (14 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.........

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May 21, 2006, 9:46 AM CT

Cluster Flies Through Earth's Electrical Switch

Cluster Flies Through Earth's Electrical Switch
ESA's Cluster satellites have flown through regions of the Earth's magnetic field that accelerate electrons to approximately one hundredth the speed of light. The observations present Cluster scientists with their first detection of these events and give them a look at the details of a universal process known as magnetic reconnection.

On 25 January 2005, the four Cluster spacecraft found themselves in the right place at the right time: a region of space known as an electron diffusion region. It is a boundary just a few kilometres thick that occurs at an altitude of approximately 60 000 kilometres above the Earth's surface. It marks the frontier between the Earth's magnetic field and that of the Sun. The Sun's magnetic field is carried to the Earth by a wind of electrically charged particles, known as the solar wind.

An electron diffusion region is like an electrical switch. When it is flipped, it uses energy stored in the Sun's and Earth's magnetic fields to heat the electrically charged particles in its vicinity to large speeds. In this way, it initiates a process that can result in the creation of the aurora on Earth, where fast-moving charged particles collide with atmospheric atoms and make them glow.

There is also a more sinister side to the electron diffusion regions. The accelerated particles can damage satellites by colliding with them and causing electrical charges to build up. These short circuit and destroy sensitive equipment.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


May 18, 2006, 9:31 PM CT

Searching For Crater Chains

Searching For Crater Chains
As the fragments of shattered comet 73P/Schwassmann Wachmann 3 glide harmlessly past Earth this month in full view of backyard telescopes, onlookers can't help but wonder, what if a comet like that didn't miss, but actually hit our planet?

For the answer to that question, we look to the Sahara desert.

In a remote windswept area named Aorounga, in Chad, there are three craters in a row, each about 10 km in diameter. "We believe this is a 'crater chain' formed by the impact of a fragmented comet or asteroid about 400 million years ago in the Late Devonian period," explains Adriana Ocampo of NASA headquarters.

Right: A space-based radar image of Aorounga South. [More].

Ocampo and his colleagues discovered the chain in 1996. The main crater "Aorounga South" had been known for a number of years-it sticks out of the sand and can be seen from airplanes and satellites. But a second and possibly third crater were buried. They lay hidden until radar onboard the space shuttle (SIR-C) penetrated the sandy ground, revealing their ragged outlines.

"Here on Earth, crater chains are rare," says Ocampo, but they are common in other parts of the solar system.

The first crater chains were discovered by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft. In 1979 when the probe flew past Jupiter's moon Callisto, cameras recorded a line of craters, at least fifteen long, evenly spaced as if someone had strafed the moon with a Gatling gun. Eventually, eight chains were found on Callisto and three more on Ganymede.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


May 18, 2006, 9:24 PM CT

How Big is Big?

How Big is Big?
A team of scientists, which includes a Penn State astronomer, is announcing the construction of a new map of the sky containing more than 600,000 galaxies that covers distances of well over a billion light-years. "The map was created with data from several years of observations by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey," said Penn State Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Donald Schneider, a coauthor of the investigation. "The extremely large luminosities of the galaxies allow us to detect them at great distances, and the large-scale distribution of the sources carries information about the conditions present in the very early universe." Schneider is the Chairman of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Quasar Science Group and the SDSS Scientific Publications Coordinator.

Since the 1970s, astronomers have discovered structures in the three-dimensional distribution of galaxies on ever larger scales, up to hundreds of millions of light years. Researchers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II) announced the first measurements of galactic structures more than a billion light years across.

The three-dimensional map of more than 600,000 galaxies covers over one-tenth of the sky. "The volume probed here is the same as a cube 5.3 billion light years on a side," said principal author Nikhil Padmanabhan of Princeton University. "It reaches one-third of the way to the edge of the observable Universe, and we measure structures that extend over a significant fraction of that distance".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


May 17, 2006, 10:27 PM CT

New Supercomputing Center

New Supercomputing Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in collaboration with IBM and New York state, has announced a $100 million partnership to create the world's most powerful university-based supercomputing center, and a top 10 supercomputing center of any kind in the world.

The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), based on the Rensselaer campus and at its Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy, N.Y., is designed both to help continue the impressive advances in shrinking device dimensions seen by electronics manufacturers, and to extend this model to a wide array of industries that could benefit from nanotechnology, as per the partners.

Cadence Design Systems, a leader in electronic design automation (EDA) software, and AMD, a leader in advanced microprocessor technology and products, will collaborate with Rensselaer and IBM at the Supercomputing Center in advanced simulation and modeling of nanoelectronic devices and circuitry. This activity complements the ongoing joint R&D activity between IBM and AMD in East Fishkill and Albany developing advanced high performance Silicon on Insulator (SOI) semiconductor devices and manufacturing processes.

The CCNI will focus on reducing the time and costs associated with designing and manufacturing nanoscale materials, devices, and systems.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


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