Drawing blood from zoo animals in a non-intrusive way can be difficult, for obvious reasons. A pilot project aims to enlist a blood-sucking insect to do the
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.16.2008 at 2:38 pm 2 Comments
Using animals to assist with human medical procedures is nothing new. Leeches can help heal skin grafts by restoring circulation in blocked veins and removing pooled blood under new grafts. Maggots will clean a wound by eating only the dead tissue, thereby aiding in preventing infection. Now, an insect commonly known as the kissing bug is being put to work in zoos in Germany and England as a living syringe.
IBM's latest supercomputer crunches numbers at enormous speeds--and will soon be put to use for nuclear warfare
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.12.2008 at 9:56 am 15 Comments
IBM has broken its own record of computer processing speed by pushing its newest supercomputer past the petaflop barrier. The Roadrunner, a massive machine occupying 6,000 square feet of space, this week achieved a peak of 1.026 petaflops, or just over one million billion calculations per second. Just ten years ago, the fastest supercomputer in the world would have taken 20 years to finish a problem the Roadrunner is capable of finishing in a week.
While the government drags its feet on making a decision, public opprobrium of the concept grows
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.11.2008 at 11:10 am 0 Comments
The European Union is proceeding more slowly than the Food and Drug Administration did during its investigation into the efficacy and safety of cloned meat and milk. While the United States has already given industry the go-ahead to begin farming the cloned animals, the EU is taking a more measured approach, even with the European Food Safety Authority's public statement that there is no expectation of additional environmental risks.
At the intersection of science and crafts lies one very trippy mathematical principle
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.11.2008 at 9:47 am 0 Comments
The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef
The Institute For Figuring/Alyssa Gorelic
The simplest way to understand hyperbolic space is to think of a lettuce leaf. It's a two-dimensional surface on which the curvature is bunched up in such a way that it puts a twist on flat Euclidean geometry. For years, mathematicians had a difficult time modeling the space visually until the late 1990s when Daina Taimina, a mathematician at Cornell, discovered that the complex shapes could be reproduced through crochet. Flash forward a handful of years to the day when Margaret Wertheim read about it and began to crochet the shapes herself. Her twin sister Christine soon joined in and before long they realized they had stumbled onto a series of forms they recognized as coral.
Scientists discover the smallest extrasolar planet yet and speculate on conditions ripe for life
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.06.2008 at 7:08 am 16 Comments
The search for a planet analogous to our own has taken one step closer with the discovery of the smallest extrasolar planet yet orbiting a star which could support life. It is about three and one-third times the size of Earth, much more in line with our home than the gas giants on the scale of Jupiter or Saturn we had been finding up to this point. (An even smaller planet has so far been found, but it is orbiting a pulsar. Pulsars spew highly powerful radiation, so it's highly unlikely that anything within their vicinity could survive).
Sea otter deaths linked to water runoff contaminated with parasite-filled cat feces
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.05.2008 at 10:40 am 3 Comments
Toxoplasma gondii is one of the fascinating little parasitic creatures capable of changing the natural behavoir of its infected host. It needs to live in a cat in order to reproduce, but the rest of its life cycle can be spent in just about any warm-blooded animal. When it makes its way into a rat or mouse, for example, it has the peculiar ability to render the rodent unafraid of cats and even drawn to their scent. This powerful evolutionary trait increases the T. gondii's chances of reproduction—a mouse hanging around with cats is obviously likely to be eaten.
Scientists suspect ships may be delivering objects far smaller than cargo: dangerous bacteria
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.05.2008 at 7:04 am 1 Comment
As a cargo ship empties or takes on load, its ballast tanks fill or release water in order to balance the boat properly. Ballast is generally needed to increase the draft of a vessel (how deeply it sits in the water) so that its propellers are adequately submerged. The consequence of taking on these huge quantities of water is that they are most frequently released in environments thousands of miles from where they originated, when a ship reaches its destination.
Scientists capture the assembly of HIV in action and open the door to a new way to research disease
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.04.2008 at 12:10 pm 1 Comment
The video shows what looks like a faint nebula in deep space, its neighboring stars resolving to their full brightness after a long exposure. Only the images are not of the very large and distant; they are exactly the opposite. It is the picture of a cell membrane and the stars are hundreds of thousands of molecules at the cell's surface, gathering together to form a particle of the HIV virus. It is the first video of any virus being born and visually illuminates a process never before documented in real time.
Researchers fit macaques with one of the most advanced prosthetics in the hopes of improving life for amputees (not to mention marshmallow-starved primates)
By Matt RansfordPosted 06.03.2008 at 2:26 pm 2 Comments
While robotic prosthetics controlled by electrical impulses from an amputee are nothing new, their range of motion and practicality in daily life have been particularly limited since they first appeared on the market. New research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh promises to change that, with a robotic arm capable of complex and subtle movements. The scientists behind the project successfully trained macaque monkeys to feed themselves by using the arm to reach out for an grab marshmallows without knocking them over. It sounds like an inconsequential task, but the hurdles between an arm on which the "hand" simply opens and closes and an arm with an articulated shoulder, elbow, and wrist, and a gripping hand working together with the brain have been not insignificant.