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new evidence for cosmological constant

“ "The most exciting aspect of the work is that there is no external data that we plug in," Marinoni told SPACE.com, meaning that their findings aren't dependent on other calculations that could be flawed.”


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dexterous prosthetics

“A new generation of much more sophisticated and lifelike prosthetic arms, sponsored by the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), may be available within the next five to 10 years. Two different prototypes that move with the dexterity of a natural limb and can theoretically be controlled just as intuitively--with electrical signals recorded directly from the brain--are now beginning human tests.”

 


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can the broken brain be re-wired?

About ReNeuron’s ReN001 stem cell therapy for stroke

“ReNeuron’s ReN001 cell therapy for stroke consists of a neural stem cell line, designated CTX, which has been generated using the Company’s proprietary cell expansion and cell selection technologies and then taken through a full manufacturing scale-up and quality-testing process. As such, ReN001 is a standardised, clinical and commercial-grade cell therapy product capable of treating all eligible patients presenting.

“ReN001 has been shown to reverse the functional deficits associated with stroke disability when administered several weeks after the stroke event in relevant pre-clinical models of the condition. Extensive pre-clinical testing also indicates that the therapy is safe, with the ReN001 cells eventually cleared from the body with no adverse safety effects arising.

“In the PISCES Phase I trial, a total of 12 patients will receive the ReN001 therapy between 6 and 24 months after their stroke. If ultimately shown to be safe and effective clinically, ReN001 would therefore offer a significant new treatment option for stroke survivors. The therapy offers the potential for a degree of recovery of function in disabled stroke patients, resulting in greater independence and quality of life for these patients and reduced reliance on health and social care systems.

“The ReN001 cells that are being used in the initial clinical trial are taken from the existing manufactured cell banks that will form the basis of the eventual marketed product. There will therefore be no need to re-derive and test new ReN001 cell lines for subsequent clinical trials or for the market – all such cells can simply be expanded from the existing banked and tested product.”


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robonaut to go to space

From R2’s Twitter feed, “I’m living on the station as long as there is a station. ISS 4 LIFE!”

Robonaut R2. Image: NASA
Robonaut R2. Image: NASA

“Robonaut 2 or R2, will launch to the International Space Station on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission, it will become the first dexterous humanoid robot in space, and the first US-built robot at the space station. But that will be just one small step for a robot and one giant leap for robot-kind.”

“The dexterity of R2 allows it to use the same tools that astronauts currently use and removes the need for specialized tools just for robots.

“One advantage of a humanoid design is that Robonaut can take over simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks on places such as the International Space Station. Because R2 is approaching human dexterity, tasks such as changing out an air filter can be performed without modifications to the existing design.”


how R2 got prepped for flight and packed up, 3:31 mins


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replacing human car drivers with competent computers - in a street near you

“Google consulted with the engineers that have made such a success of the DARPA Challenges, which have been honing the state of the automated vehicle art for several years. The Toyotas in question have logged 140,000 total miles and have just had a single accident, which occurred when a human driver rear-ended a Google Prius. The array of hardware and software used in this automated fleet is very impressive, but most estimates say that adoption of this technology is still a long way off, with guesses ranging from 8 years to never.”


0:27 secs

Google autonomous driving. source: Google, image: New York Times
source: Google, image: New York Times

related material
fuel cells and battery-powered vehicles


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experiencing a 7.1 quake, christchurch new zealand - from our roving correspondent invincy

screenshot of animated Christchurch quake map.
Screenshot of animated Christchurch quake map. Source: christchurchquakemap.co.nz

7/9/10
We are still a bit rattled as we had a couple of big aftershocks last night. Up to 5.4. Neither of us was sleeping properly when it came, and it didn't help. B. decided we should move to the spare room as the chimney can't fall on us there. The chimney has loosened up a bit, so we are getting someone to take it down in the next couple of days, and fill in the hole with tiles. At some point we will then put a flue back in so we can use the wood burner.

Crack in an Avonside Park footpath
Crack in an Avonside Park footpath.

B.'s mum C. was getting so jittery that she was transported off by dad to some relatives in Nelson to calm down. I am trying to calm down so I can have a better night's sleep (and B. too). The reality is (as the boss H. loves to say) we are safe. If a big shaking starts, then we will move from wherever we are to a doorway. It will be an inconvenience, as I have already started to put things back in cupboards and they could fall down and break things. The chimney coming down would also be an inconvenience but it is not likely to, like most of the people in Christchurch, we will be alright. No one has died, there were just two life threatening injuries. Just have to wait for the grumpy old giant to stop rolling over and go back to sleep!

A pump shifted out of the ground
A pump shifted out of the ground

The pictures on the news do show the worst problems, but on the whole the city is functioning pretty well. Talking of giants, the one that woke up was a small fault that no scientist knew about 30km from Christchurch.

Marker at abelard.org

The fault that ruptured the surface of Canterbury paddocks and produced the magnitude 7.1 earthquake has been quiet for at least 16,000 years. [Quoted from nz.herald.co.nz]

Major fault lines in New Zeland. Image: GNS Science
Major fault lines in New Zeland. Image: GNS Science

The really big one (along the southern alps) has yet to wake up and is expected to at any moment.


The Alpine Fault, which carries most of the plate boundary strain, is spectacularly marked out
on satellite images by the western edge of the Southern Alps snowline. ©NASA

However the epicentre is likely to be much further away.

sand volcanoes pushed up by the quake
Sand volcanoes pushed up by the quake

8/9/10
I found it hard to sleep after another shock at 1am this morning, then there was a big one at 7:49. The office has stayed closed again, so I have gone over to stay with one of my work colleagues, K., rather than stay alone in the house. K. was surprised at the damaged roads in our neigbourhood, which is another example of large areas being relatively ok, while others are a bit munted as they say over here.

Avonside road damage.
Avonside road damage.
related material
tectonics: tectonic plates - floating on the surface of a cauldron
earthquake severity
Richter scale
JMA seismic intensity scale


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are the universal constants universal?

“What they found shocked them. The further back they looked with the VLT, the larger alpha seemed to be—in seeming contradiction to the result they had obtained with the Keck. They realised, however, that there was a crucial difference between the two telescopes: because they are in different hemispheres, they are pointing in opposite directions. Alpha, therefore, is not changing with time; it is varying through space. When they analysed the data from both telescopes in this way, they found a great arc across the sky. Along this arc, the value of alpha changes smoothly, being smaller in one direction and larger in the other. The researchers calculate that there is less than a 1% chance such an effect could arise at random. Furthermore, six of the quasars were observed with both telescopes, allowing them to get an additional handle on their errors.”

related material
the constants of nature


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sky ‘crop circles’ make snow, or rain

Holes and tunnels punched in clouds over southern USA. Image: Earth Observatory, NASA
Holes and tunnels punched in clouds over southern USA.
Image:
Earth Observatory, EOS Project Science Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center>

“Andrew Heymsfield of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and colleagues flew a research plane through the snow produced by a hole-punch cloud west of Denver International Airport in 2007. The plane was loaded with instruments for studying how ice forms in clouds. Radar from the ground picked up a strange echo in their wake, indicating oddly-shaped snowflakes.

“ “We didn’t know it, but we went right through this precipitation feature that was spotted from the ground,” Heymsfield said. Video from the flight showed a hole in a patch of altocumulus clouds (see below), and two inches of snowfall directly below the hole.

“Heymsfield and colleagues examined flight records for the nearby airport and linked the hole and the snow to two commercial turboprop aircraft that had taken off about an hour before. The movement of supercooled water droplets over the planes’ propellers cooled them enough to make them freeze and plunge to Earth as snowflakes, Heymsfield said. Normally, snowflakes or raindrops need a speck of dust or another imperfection to form around. But supercooled water can freeze instantly, if it cools quickly to around minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit.”



2:52 mins


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