Friday, December 23, 2011

"At near-absolute-zero temperatures, atoms can be held in an optical lattice"

At near-absolute-zero temperatures, atoms can be held in an optical lattice—formed by standing light waves, where the atoms sit in the troughs of the waves at low potential energy. At these temperatures, they lose most of their thermal fluctuations and begin to act like an ideal quantum system. Atoms held in an optical lattice can be used to simulate electrons trapped in a crystalline solid, so this quantum system can be helpful in studying important phenomena like quantum magnetism and high-temperature superconductivity. The atoms could also be used for quantum logic gates and registers (the working memory of quantum computers).
Source and rest of the story:

This is intriguing, when I was a kid I thought Molecular circuits were just Sci Fi, now it is looking like quantum computers may be a reality in my lifetime.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ediacaran fossils

The authors have essentially performed a CAT scan of these tiny fossils, except they use energies high enough to fry human tissues. This is sufficient to reveal subtle internal features, including what appears to be a nucleus inside many of the cells, as shown above. The authors argue that this isn't not just a matter of similar appearance. The object has a consistent location within the cells, takes up a consistent fraction of the cell's volume, and only appears once per cell, all of which are features of a nucleus.
Source and full story:

Mass Extinctions have long been an area of interest to me, so I find this deeply interesting.  As much for the advances of Technology in Paleontology/Paleobiology, as for the actual fossils being discussed.

Birds can do Math

Pigeons can learn abstract numerical rules, a skill that scientists had believed only primates possessed. Although the birds may not be able to do higher math, their ability to reason numerically is likely something that a wide variety of species can do, too, researchers say.
Full story at

Simply Cool, Planets & Stars to scale

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Neutrinos and Dark Matter

A planned Neutrino Telescope KM3NeT looks to add a lot to our knowledge about the universe.  It will also be one of the largest objects ever built.

When it the KM3NeT is finished it will join the IceCube particle detector in the Antarctic in the search into the understanding the cosmos.

Google Hacking

I keep mentioning this to people, so decided to put it here for easy reference.

Tom Bowers:  Goggle Hacking

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Discovery of a ‘Dark State’ Could Mean a Brighter Future for Solar Energy"

Using "organic plastic semiconductor material" a group led by  Xiaoyang Zhu is looking to double Solar Cell efficiency.

The maximum theoretical efficiency of the silicon solar cell in use today is approximately 31 percent, because much of the sun's energy hitting the cell is too high to be turned into usable electricity. That energy, in the form of "hot electrons," is instead lost as heat. Capturing hot electrons could potentially increase the efficiency of solar-to-electric power conversion to as high as 66 percent.

Source and full story at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Angela Zhang wins 100k for creating cancer-killing nanoparticle

She’s just been awarded the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Her project was entitled “Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells.”
 Rest of the Story

Congratulations Angela Zhang!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Honor Among Rats, if not Thieves

Well they are talking about Empathy, but that wouldn't be as snappy a title.  I was surprised that Rats display this behavior for, I assume, non related Rats.  I would have expected them to be Psychopathic or Sociopathic by human terms.

This snippet from ars:

Now, new research in Science suggests that rats are capable of empathy. The study tested how rats responded when their fellow rats were trapped, and found that they would not only spend time and energy deliberately helping their trapped companions, but they would even share food after liberating them.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two rotating spheres separated by thousands of kilograms of liquid sodium aim to mimic Earth's interior

Ten years in the making, the US$2-million project is nearly ready for its inaugural run. Early next year, the sphere will begin whirling around while loaded with 13,000 kilograms of molten sodium heated to around 105 °C. Researchers hope that the churning, electrically conducting fluid will generate a self-sustaining electromagnetic field that can be poked, prodded and coaxed for clues about Earth's dynamo, which is generated by the movement of liquid iron in the outer core. If it works, it will be the first time that an experiment that mirrors the configuration of Earth's interior has managed to recreate such a phenomenon.
           Source & rest of story:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NASA Announcing Kepler Discoveries at Science Conference

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA will host a news briefing at 8 a.m. PST, Monday, Dec. 5, to announce new discoveries by the Kepler mission. The briefing, during the Kepler Science Conference, will be in building 152 at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. Kepler is detecting planets and possible candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances to help scientists better understand our place in the galaxy.

A live stream of the Kepler Science Conference will be available at:

Kepler Science Conference:

Kepler Mission:

An easy way to curb smart-phone thieves

The idea that your smart phone could make you vulnerable to a thief has triggered a strong reaction.

Earlier this week I highlighted this problem and readers asked why the cell phone's serial number couldn't be used to block stolen phones, rendering them useless.

I assumed that idea was simplistic. Surely there was a good reason why it wouldn't work. There isn't.

Rest of the story from C.W. Nevius, Chronicle Columnist