ALL ABOUT THE YOU-KNOW-WHATS Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new US $100 bill, which will go into circulation later this year. It had been introduced in 2010 but production problems, including “sporadic creasing,” delayed the release Plus they couldn’t get rid of the “specimen” watermark, apparently. (Via NPR)
An earthquake was detected Tuesday in North Korea just north of a site where the country has conducted nuclear tests, providing strong indication that Pyongyang has gone ahead with a highly anticipated third test. There was, however, no confirmation of the test.
South Korea said it suspects North Korea has conducted third nuclear test. Nuclear blasts can create tremors but they are distinct from those caused by natural earthquakes.
The U.N. organization monitoring nuclear tests says it has detected an “unusual seismic event” in North Korea.
“There is a high possibility that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test,” said Chi Heoncheol, an earthquake specialist at the government-funded Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources. Chi said a magnitude 3.9 magnitude earthquake and a magnitude 4.5 earthquake were detected in the North’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
South Korean, U.S. and Japanese seismic monitoring agencies put the magnitude of Tuesday’s quake at 4.7, 4.9 and 5.2 respectively.
Yesterday, Google Maps released a crowdsourced view of North Korea, which before was just white space.
The big grey blob you see here? That’s Hwasong Gulag, a 212-square mile concentration camp. It houses 10,000 people, and reportedly, no one has ever escaped.
Collision Science Helps Predict Fusion Chamber Behavior
An international team of physicists has calculated the efficiency of a reaction involving an incoming electron kicking out an electron from the metal beryllium (Be) or its hydrogen compound molecules, in an article about to be published in EPJ D by Springer.
The efficiency, which partly depends on the electron’s incoming speed, is encapsulated in a quantity referred to as electron-impact ionization cross sections (EICS). Electron-molecule interactions matter because they occur in a broad range of applications from the simplest like fluorescent lamps to the most complex, for example, in ionized matter found in plasmas such as latest generation screens, the outer space of the universe, and in fusion reactors.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/01/collision-science-helps-predict-fusion-chamber-behavior
Method Treats Heat Like Light
An MIT researcher has developed a technique that provides a new way of manipulating heat, allowing it to be controlled much as light waves can be manipulated by lenses and mirrors.
The approach relies on engineered materials consisting of nanostructured semiconductor alloy crystals. Heat is a vibration of matter — technically, a vibration of the atomic lattice of a material — just as sound is. Such vibrations can also be thought of as a stream of phonons — a kind of “virtual particle” that is analogous to the photons that carry light. The new approach is similar to recently developed photonic crystals that can control the passage of light, and phononic crystals that can do the same for sound.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/01/method-treats-heat-light
Potential New Clock Measures Time Based on Mass
It’s part clock, part scale: A newly developed atomic clock measures time based on the mass of a single atom. The research, published online January 10 inScience, is controversial but could provide scientists with more precise methods of measuring both time and mass.
“This is the first clock based on a single particle,” says Holger Müller, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Its ticking rate is determined only by the particle’s mass.”
The idea for the clock stemmed from the quantum principle that particles also behave as waves, and vice versa. In particular, Müller and his colleagues wanted to determine how frequently the wave form of a single atom oscillates, a quantity that in quantum mechanics is inherently linked to the atom’s mass. Then the researchers could use those oscillations like swings of a pendulum to create a clock.
The snag in Müller’s plan was that it’s impossible to directly measure the oscillation frequency of waves of matter. The frequency of these waves is about 1025 hertz, 10 orders of magnitude higher than that of visible light waves. So Müller and his colleagues came up with an apparatus that creates two sets of waves — one based on a cesium atom at rest and another on the atom in motion. The researchers measured the frequency difference between the waves and then used that number, a manageable 100,000 hertz or so, to calculate the much larger oscillation frequency of cesium at rest.
With this approach, Müller was able to use the wave frequency of the cesium atom to create a clock that would gain or lose a second after eight years. That’s better than a wristwatch but about a hundred millionth as precise as today’s best atomic clocks, which count the frequency of light emissions from an atom as its electrons release small bursts of energy.
Physicists not involved with Müller’s research are impressed with his clever technique but are skeptical about its potential for precise timekeeping. “I think the paper is slightly oversold,” says Vladan Vuletić, a quantum physicist at MIT.
Other researchers have a more conceptual objection: Because there is nothing at this frequency actually oscillating within the atom, they say it is not a clock at all. “It may be a clock numerically, but it’s not a physical clock,” says Christian Bordé, a physicist at the Paris Observatory. Müller counters that the clock’s simplicity is its greatest trait: He is measuring an intrinsic quantum property of an atom, one that depends only on the atom’s mass.
In fact, this relationship between frequency and mass means Müller’s technique may prove most useful as a scale for measuring mass. Scientists define the kilogram, the base unit of mass, with a lump of metal stored in a French vault — a lump that is likely gaining heft from contamination (SN: 11/20/10, p. 12). The international General Conference on Weights and Measures, led by Bordé, wants to replace this artifact with a kilogram standard based on fundamental physical constants.
Müller says he can do just that by measuring the frequency of matter waves to accurately determine an atom’s mass. Once he finds the mass of one atom, he says, it is straightforward to relate it to the masses of other atoms. He will have a lot of convincing to do, but Müller plans to let the scientific process play out to test his ideas. “This is a concept that physicists never thought about,” he says. “This frequency wasn’t measurable until now.”
A major snowstorm has blanketed parts of the Middle East, including Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, and Turkey, causing at least eight deaths. Above, the city of Istanbul.
(Photos: Bulent Kilic / AFP-Getty via NBC News)
GE Healthcare has introduced a new data acquisition technology designed to improve patient comfort by largely eliminating the horrible noise generated during an MRI scan. Conventional MRI scanners can generate noise levels in excess of 110 dBA (creating a din that sounds like a cross between a vehicle’s reverse warning horn and a Star Trek phaser) but GE says its new Silent Scan MRI technology can reduce this to just above background noise levels in the exam room.
The noise that MRI scanners produce is related to changes in the magnetic field that allow the slice by slice body scan to be carried out. In recent years, industry efforts to speed up the scanning process have also resulted in louder and louder scans. The designers have attempted to dampen these noises with mufflers and baffles, achieving only limited success.
Silent Scan is achieved through two new developments. First, acoustic noise is essentially eliminated by using a new 3D scanning and reconstruction technique called Silenz. When the Silenz protocol is used in combination with GE’s new high-fidelity MRI gradient and RF system electronics, the MRI scanning noise is largely eliminated at its source.
At the 2012 meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, an MRI system compatible with the Silent Scan technology was linked into a soundproof room. When the MRI system used conventional scanning methods, a staccato, stuttering racket with noise peaks up to 110 dBA was heard. However, when Silent Scan was switched on, the noise level dropped to 76 dBA, just above the background noise of the MRI electronics. This is accomplished without substantial trade-offs in scanning time or image quality, according to Richard Hausmann, president and CEO, GE Healthcare MR. The comparison is shown in this video.
Silent Scan technology has not yet obtained 510k Premarketing Notification clearance from the FDA, so it’s not yet available for sale. GE is presumably hoping for a decision that Silent Scan is “substantially equivalent” to existing MRI scanners, a result that would greatly simplify the new technology’s entry into the diagnostic market.
Photoset reblogged from with 1,101 notes
Newtown begins to bury littlest victims of school massacre
A grief-stricken Newtown on Monday began burying the littlest victims of the school massacre, starting with two 6-year-old boys — one of them a big football fan, the other a mischievous, whip-smart youngster whose twin sister survived the rampage.
Family, friends and townspeople streamed to two funeral homes to say goodbye to Jack Pinto, who loved the New York Giants and idolized their star wide receiver, and Noah Pozner, who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.
Noah’s twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza that left 20 children and six adults dead last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in an attack so horrifying that authorities cannot not say whether the school will ever reopen.
A rabbi presided at Noah’s service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket adorned with a Star of David. (Mario Tama/Getty Images; Jason DeCrow/AP; Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Beautiful Islamic prayer during tonight’s interfaith vigil.
Software Greatly Improves Asteroid Detection
Helping to inform the next phase in asteroid detection, a Univ. of Arizona team has set out to develop new tracking methods and computer algorithms, joining scientists across the nation working to spot asteroids headed for a close pass-by or impact with Earth.
UA computer scientists Jonathan Myers and Alon Efrat will work directly with the Minor Planet Center, the MPC, located at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts. The two will be improving existing software and algorithms utilized by the MPC, the world’s authority on asteroids and comets in our solar system, providing orbits and observational data to astronomers around the globe.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/12/software-greatly-improves-asteroid-detection
NASA is known for its “Blue Marble” images, which show Earth’s sunlit disk as seen from space — and now it’s making a splash with the nighttime view, nicknamed the “Black Marble.”
This picture of the night lights of North and South America is just one frame in the Black Marble series, which is based on data from the Suomi NPP satellite and was unveiled today during the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco.
The image has been built up from readings made by the weather/climate satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS. It’d be tough to snap this kind of picture at any single moment, because of cloud cover as well as seasonal changes in the way sunlight falls on our planet. Suomi NPP’s handlers had an easier job, because the satellite could make multiple passes in April and October. Those fly-overs produced data that could be presented as a full-disk nighttime view of Earth.
NASA says the VIIRS instrument’s “day-night band” is well-suited to pick up on dim signals such as city lights as well as gas flares, auroras, wildfires and reflected moonlight. For the Black Marble images, stray sources of light were removed during processing to emphasize the city lights.
Side Note: I recommend this fascinating article for anyone who’s been as interested in developments of the brain in the past couple of weeks or in general and the refreshing data about how our pattern recognition works and how it can lead to not only a better understanding of our own minds but also a better understanding into building more accurate artificial intelligence in robots. The accuracy and how natural the intelligence comes off is important if we are to have robots that work for and aid us, if we are to have extensions of what our technology can do with what we know about the human body and brain I think robotics is one way to go about it. It’s like using technology as a canvas and expressing our own biological makeup through it. In this article LS gets into a new software model that accurately replicates certain human-like mistakes with a very limited amount of virtual pattern recognizers. Excuse me for leaving the whole bit of the article I just found it too interesting to leave anything out.
Spaun, a new software model of a human brain, is able to play simple pattern games, draw what it sees and do a little mental arithmetic. It powers everything it does with 2.5 million virtual neurons, compared with a human brain’s 100 billion. But its mistakes, not its abilities, are what surprised its makers the most, said Chris Eliasmith, an engineer and neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Ask Spaun a question, and it hesitates a moment before answering, pausing for about as long as humans do. Give Spaun a list of numbers to memorize, and it falters when the list gets too long. And Spaun is better at remembering the numbers at the beginning and end of a list than at recalling numbers in the middle, just like people are.
“There are some fairly subtle details of human behavior that the model does capture,” said Eliasmith, who led the development of Spaun, or the Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network. “It’s definitely not on the same scale [as a human brain],” he told TechNewsdaily. “It gives a flavor of a lot of different things brains can do.”
Eliasmith and his team of Waterloo neuroscientists say Spaun is the first model of a biological brain that performs tasks and has behaviors. Because it is able to do such a variety of things, Spaun could help scientists understand how humans do the same, Eliasmith said. In addition, other scientists could run simplified simulations of certain brain disorders or psychiatric drugs using Spaun, he said.
A brain with thought and action
Researchers have made several brain models that are more powerful than Spaun. The Blue Brain model at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in France has 1 million neurons. IBM’s SyNAPSE project has 1 billion neurons. Those models aren’t built to perform a variety of tasks, however, Eliasmith said.
Spaun is programmed to respond to eight types of requests, including copying what it sees, recognizing numbers written with different handwriting, answering questions about a series of numbers and finishing a pattern after seeing examples.
Spaun’s myriad skills could shed light on the flexible, variable human brain, which is able to use the same equipment to control typing, biking, driving, flying airplanes and countless other tasks, Eliasmith said. That knowledge, in turn, could help scientists add flexibility to robots or artificial intelligence, he said. Artificial intelligence now usually specializes in doing only one thing, such as tagging photos or playing chess. “It can’t figure out to switch between those things,” he said.
In addition, artificial intelligence isn’t built to mimic the cellular structure of human brains as closely as Spaun and other brain models do. Because Spaun runs more like a human brain, other researchers could use it to run health experiments that would be unethical in human study volunteers, Eliasmith said. He recently ran a test in which he killed off the neurons in a brain model at the same rate that neurons die in people as they age, to see how the dying off affected the model’s performance on an intelligence test.
Such tests would have to be just first steps in a longer experiment, Eliasmith said. The human brain is so much more complex than models that there’s a limit to how much models are able to tell researchers. As scientists continue to improve brain models, the models will become better proxies for health studies, he said.
Next up: a brain in real time
There’s one major way Spaun differs from a human brain. It takes a lot of computingpower to perform its little tasks. Spaun runs on a supercomputer at the University of Waterloo, and it takes the computer two hours to run just one second of a Spaun simulation, Eliasmith said.
So Eliasmith’s next major step for improving Spaun is developing hardware that lets the model work in real time. He’ll cooperate with researchers at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and hopes to have something ready in six months, he said.
In the far future, people may find Spaun’s humanlike flaws deliberately built into robot assistants, Eliasmith said. “Those kinds of features are important in a way because if we’re interacting with an agent and it has a kind of memory that we’re familiar with, it’ll more natural to interact with,” he added.
Eliasmith and his colleagues published their latest paper about Spaun today (Nov. 29) in the journal Science.
Page 1 of 17