Tuesday, March 10, 2015


The State of the Future - March 11, 2015 - via @AndresAgostini



UPDATE

Apple’s Latest Betrayal. “Seriously, f*ck them,” read the tweet by M.J. The person was speaking about Apple and the new MacBook the company recently announced. There are countless other tweets and comments with the same sentiment. Right now there’s visceral hate directed at the company. A swath of consumers feel betrayed by the stark design of the new MacBook. Our original post on the topic was shared over 25,000 times. For good reason, too.

The new MacBook thinks different. It has more in common with a tablet than most laptops. Think of it as an iPad that has a keyboard and runs OS X. And like the iPad, it only has one port, which is the cause of the outcry.

Most computers have several ports scattered around the frame. There’s usually one for charging, a couple USB ports for various tasks and some sort of port to output video. The new MacBook combines all three into a lone USB-C port. This means users will not be able to, say, charge the laptop and an iPhone at the same time. Or input data from a flash drive while outputting video to an external monitor.

READ MORE.  http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/10/apples-latest-betrayal/

UPDATE

Big Data 101: Using Large-Scale Data Mining to Find Fraud. You may have heard the term “big data” or “data mining,” but what do those terms mean? Today’s WatchBlog sheds light on how GAO analyzes large amounts of data to identify instances of potential improper payments or fraud.

What Is Data Mining and How Does GAO Use It? Data mining allows us to quickly identify relevant patterns in large databases, typically compiled from multiple sources. We’ve used this technique multiple times to identify potential improper payments or fraud on a large scale. For example, we’ve used data mining to

Identify people who may be receiving multiple federal payments. For example, by comparing data from different sources—such as benefit rolls for various programs and death files—we identified 59,251 individuals who received concurrent disability payments totaling $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2013, and over 2,600 people with potentially invalid identifying information who received $21 million in relief following Hurricane Sandy; Identify outliers or other particular patterns. For example, we found that about 83,000 Department of Defense employees and contractors who held or were determined eligible for secret, top secret, or other clearances had more than $730 million in unpaid federal tax debt as of June 30, 2012; and
Create maps that allow us to easily determine whether there are suspect patterns. For example, the map below shows an expected distribution of greater numbers of people living along the coast receiving relief funds following Hurricane Sandy.

READ MORE.  http://blog.gao.gov/2015/03/10/big-data-101-using-large-scale-data-mining-to-find-fraud/

UPDATE

One-Year Data for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement in U.S. Patients. Study results of one-year data for more than 12,000 patients who had transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in the United States show an overall one-year death rate of 23.7 percent and a stroke rate of 4.1 percent, according to a study published in the March 10 issue of JAMA.

“Transcatheter aortic valve replacement has become transformational for patients who need a new valve and are at high-risk for surgery or inoperable. aortic valve stenosis TAVR illustrationBut we have been lacking long-term data for this group of patients who are considering this procedure,” says study lead author David R. Holmes, Jr., M.D., a Mayo Clinic interventional cardiologist. “Before this study, we only had 30-day information. This is a milestone and will help us better guide patients and learn as physicians.”

For the study, researchers used the Transcatheter Valve Therapies Registry, developed by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the American College of Cardiology, combining 12,182 TAVR patient procedures performed from November 2011 through June 2013 and linking to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrative claims for one-year data using direct Medicare patient identifiers (name and social security numbers).

Other important results from the study are:

Median age of patients was 84 years old, and 52 percent of patients were female.
8 percent of patients were discharged directly to home.
Thirty-day mortality was 7 percent.
4 percent of survivors were re-hospitalized only once, and 12.5 percent twice.
TAVR received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 2011. It is used with increasing frequency for the treatment of severe aortic stenosis in patients who are at high or prohibitive risk for surgical aortic valve replacement, Dr. Holmes says.

Aortic valve stenosis happens when the valve narrows. The narrowing prevents the valve from fully opening, restricting blood flow from the heart into the aorta and then to the rest of the body. In TAVR, a minimally invasive procedure, physicians access the heart through a blood vessel in the leg or, less often, through an incision in the chest. A catheter is inserted through the access point, and the physician guides the catheter to the heart. Once in place, the replacement valve is passed through the catheter and positioned into place, and catheters are removed.

READ MORE.  http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/jama-publishes-one-year-data-for-transcatheter-aortic-valve-replacement-procedure-in-u-s-patients/?linkId=12816331

UPDATE

Hackers Can Now Use One Free Tool To Hijack Your Facebook-Linked Login For Pretty Much Any Site

Modern life means logging in to about a zillion different websites and apps every week, with about a zillion different accounts. But there are ways to streamline it all — for example, logging in to everything with your Facebook account, as millions do. 

That’s much more convenient not only for you, but for hackers who have a new way to target you: a free, easy-to-download tool that exploits a bug in those logins to let them hijack your account. Oops.

The researcher who discovered the bug and designed the tool set it loose in the wild last week, Vice’s Motherboard site reports, after claiming Facebook ignored his reports of the problem.

The tool basically works by allowing an attacker to worm their way into a user’s cookies for a specific website and then access their account on that site.

READ MORE.  http://consumerist.com/2015/03/10/hackers-can-now-use-one-free-tool-to-hijack-your-facebook-linked-login-for-pretty-much-any-site/?linkId=12813458

UPDATE

Uber's lofty goal: Hire 1 million women drivers

Uber wants to hire 1 million women drivers over the next five years.

It's an ambitious goal, even for a fast-growing startup like Uber, which doesn't have a total of 1 million drivers globally yet.

The company, which connects drivers and passengers via a smartphone app, says it has "hundreds of thousands" of drivers worldwide.
Uber's plan to hire women drivers is part of a global partner ship with UN Women.

The announcement comes in the wake of criticism that Uber isn't doing enough to ensure the safety of female passengers. Allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced across the globe -- from Chicago and Los Angeles to New Delhi. The worst was a case where a woman reported being raped by an Uber driver in New Delhi.

Uber was temporarily banned in the city and recently installed a "panic button" for passengers there.

READ MORE.  http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/10/technology/uber-women-drivers/index.html?sr=twmoney031015uberwomen0623story

UPDATE

Peter Thiel becomes a part-time partner at Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator

Peter Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal and Palantir and a prominent investor who built up hedge fund Clarium Capital Management and the venture capital firm Founders Fund, has joined prominent Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator as a part-time partner.

“In addition to founding PayPal and Palantir and being the first investor in Facebook, Peter has been involved with many of the most important technology companies of the last 15 years, both personally and through Founders Fund, and the founders of those companies will generally tell you he has been their best source of strategic advice,” Y Combinator president Sam Altman wrote in a blog post today announcing the news. “He already works with a number of YC companies, and we’re very happy he’ll be working with more.”

If you sensed a bit of an issue given the fact that Thiel remains involved with Founders Fund, well, there could be one, but Y Combinator intends to prevent it.

“Peter won’t invest in any companies while they’re in YC or for 3 months after they present at Demo Day (this will apply to Peter’s investment entities as well), which should eliminate any unfair advantage,” Altman wrote.

READ MORE.  http://venturebeat.com/2015/03/10/peter-thiel-becomes-a-part-time-partner-at-silicon-valleys-y-combinator/

UPDATE

"After nearly seven years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family."

That's how Patrick Pichette, one of Google's highest-ranking executives, led his announcement on Tuesday that he'd be retiring from his role at the company. That line of reasoning has become something of a safe cliché among notable executives leaving their posts. But then Pichette did something unusual: He kept going, offering a candid explanation about the struggles of work/life balance at his level.

Pichette recalls a vacation in Africa with his wife last fall, during which she suggested they keep traveling and really see the world. He initially demurred, noting the importance of his work at the Internet giant.

"Then she asked the killer question," Pichette wrote in his memo, which he posted to Google+. "So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air."

He started to lay out the argument in his head: Their kids had grown up and moved away. He had worked for nearly 30 consecutive years of his life. And his wife clearly deserved more quality time. He knew it was time to "hit the road."

READ MORE.  http://mashable.com/2015/03/10/googles-cfo-retires-memo/?utm_cid=mash-com-Tw-bus-link

UPDATE


The challenges of making battery-operated electric cars

ANY doubts that electric cars are the future are rapidly blown away within minutes of driving a Tesla Model S. It is not so much the rapid acceleration, but the smooth and relentless supply of power from its electric motor. That is the thing about electric motors: they produce a twisting force called torque instantly. So much torque, in fact, there is no need for a gearbox. This saves weight and makes more room for all the toys, such as the giant touchscreen that dominates the Tesla’s centre console. It is a shame then that Levi Tillemann did not crown this car the winner in his book “The Great Race”, instead of wimping out at the end by declaring the quest for the car of the future is a “race we all run together”.

Mr Tillemann’s book is about the car guys, mostly those employed by the giant carmakers in America, China and Japan, and their titanic struggles to bring electric vehicles to the market (and, at one point, in the case of General Motors, trying to kill them). Yet it was Tesla, an upstart from Silicon Valley founded by the PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, that took the laurels by building electric cars that run rings around the others. Teslas use improved versions of industry-standard lithium-ion batteries, rather than any exotic concoctions put together by the battery guys. These players are running in a different but parallel global race described by Steve LeVine in “The Powerhouse” about the visionary attempts to develop a battery that would “save the world”. The world is still waiting.

READ MORE.  http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21645119-challenges-making-battery-operated-electric-cars-charging-ahead?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/ChargingAhead

UPDATE

MIT’s sustainability community gets to work
Inaugural event brings together over 100 campus leaders to plan for greater efficiency, reduced waste.

It was apparent even before the meeting began that this would be a different kind of event: The cups and plates were compostable, the name badges were plain paper, and there were no programs at all — the conference agenda came via a smartphone app.
Those small differences clearly signaled the purpose of this gathering: getting the MIT community to embrace the principles of efficiency and sustainability. The invitation-only event, called “Sustainability Connect,” took place Monday, bringing together faculty members, students, leaders of MIT’s facilities and sustainability offices, administrators, and others to hear about ongoing plans and to brainstorm about how to move the Institute toward a greener, cleaner, less-wasteful future.
The aim is to make MIT into a living laboratory for exploring, testing, and quantifying ways to make more efficient use of energy, water, buildings, and equipment — and then to disseminate information about the most successful practices to have a global impact.

READ MORE.  https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/sustainability-connect-0305

UPDATE

Tires That Generate Electricity. Tires and cars have had an important relationship ever since the first auto rolled onto a dusty, haphazard road. But what if tires could play a more integrated role in vehicle design?

In a debut that caught many by surprise, Goodyear unveiled a new tire concept at the 2015 Geneva Autoshow. Called the BH03, the futuristic tire concept imagines how an auto’s wheels could generate electricity that would then power a car.

According to Goodyear’s engineers, BH03 would harness the heat created by vibrations, road friction and the sun to generate power. To realize these spectacular properties the BH03 would have a wrap of thermos-reactive, piezoelectric material underneath its outer shell. As heat penetrates the first layer of the tire the thermos-reactive material beneath would begin producing electricity.

How much?

That’s still unknown.

While there’s no timetable for when the BH03 will hit the road, if it ever does, it’s easy to imagine how helpful this tire design could be for electric and hybrid cars. With range-phobia preventing greater adoption of fuel-efficient car designs, a fleet of BH03 tires could be a way to push EV ranges even further. Although, I wonder what the magic number is for making range a non-issue—500, 800, 1000 miles?

READ MORE'  http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/9751/Tires-That-Generate-Electricity.aspx

UPDATE

Heart on A Chip Aids Drug Screening

When University of California, Berkeley, bioengineers say they are holding their hearts in the palms of their hands, they are not talking about emotional vulnerability.

Instead, the research team led by bioengineering professor Kevin Healy is presenting a network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells housed in an inch-long silicone device that effectively models human heart tissue, and they have demonstrated the viability of this system as a drug-screening tool by testing it with cardiovascular medications.

This organ-on-a-chip, reported in a study to be published Monday, March 9, in the journal Scientific Reports, represents a major step forward in the development of accurate, faster methods of testing for drug toxicity. The project is funded through the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening Initiative, an interagency collaboration launched by the National Institutes of Health to develop 3-D human tissue chips that model the structure and function of human organs.

READ MORE.  http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/9740/Heart-on-A-Chip-Aids-Drug-Screening.aspx

UPDATE

3DP & Powder-Based Cement, A Breakthrough for Construction, Architecture?

A UC Berkeley research team led by architecture professor Ronald Rael has unveiled the first and largest powder-based 3-D-printed cement structure built to date. The debut of this groundbreaking project is a demonstration of the architectural potential of 3-D printing. It will close the fifth annual Berkeley Circus, which celebrates the research and accomplishments of the College of Environmental Design (CED) community.

The freestanding pavilion, “Bloom,” is 9 feet high and has a footprint that measures about 12 feet by 12 feet. It is composed of 840 customized blocks that were 3-D-printed using a new type of iron oxide-free Portland cement polymer formulation developed by Rael.

Bloom is a precise 3-D-printed cement polymer structure that overcomes many of the previous limitations to 3-D-printed architecture. Such limitations include the speed and cost of production as well as aesthetics and practical applications.

Rael designed and led the yearlong research project with funding and collaborative support from the Siam Research and Innovation Co. Ltd. (SRI), the research and development division of Siam Cement Group (SCG). SCG, the largest cement company in Thailand, provided the Portland cement. Additional support and materials were provided by Emerging Objects, a startup company co-founded by Rael and Virginia San Fratello, and Entropy Resins.

READ MORE. http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/9738/3DP-Powder-Based-Cement-A-Breakthrough-for-Construction-Architecture.aspx

UPDATE

A New (Longer) Life for Li-Ion Batteries? 

Lithium-ion batteries are common in consumer electronics. They are one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries for portable electronics, with a high energy density, no memory effect and only a slow loss of charge when not in use. Beyond consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries have also grown in popularity for military, electric vehicle and aerospace applications.

Now, researchers at Arizona State University are exploring new energy storage technology that could give the battery an even longer life cycle.

Led by Dan Buttry, professor and chair of ASU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the research also involves former undergraduate researcher Jarred Olsen and current graduate student Tylan Watkins. Olsen joined Buttry’s group as an undergraduate researcher to work in the ionic liquids area. The work he contributed to this study was performed while he was on an internship at Boulder Ionics working at both Boulder and ASU with Watkins. Olsen is currently a doctoral student at the University of Washington, Seattle.

READ MORE.  http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/9734/A-New-Longer-Life-for-Li-Ion-Batteries.aspx

UPDATE

Mercedes-Benz Commits $500 Million to Build “Sprinter” Vans in the USA

Mercedes-Benz Vans has announced that it will invest around half a billion dollars to build a new van plant in the United States. Located in Charleston, South Carolina, the facility will supply the North American market with the next-generation Sprinter. With the new plant, Mercedes-Benz Vans will become one of the biggest industrial employers in the region. Within the total area of more than 200 acres (more than 800,000 m²), the division will create a completely new body shop, a paint shop and an assembly line. Construction of the new factory is scheduled to begin in 2016. Over 1300 jobs will be created.

The new Sprinter plant in the United States is essential for Mercedes-Benz Vans, as the large van segment is expected to grow rapidly in North America over the next few years. The United States is one of the most dynamic van markets in the world. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz Vans currently faces high U.S. import duties and a complex disassembly process of Sprinters made in Germany for sale in the U.S. The new plant and the vehicles 'Made in USA' will enable the company to more economically meet the growing demand from North American customers in the future and to considerably reduce delivery time on this market.

"Today is a very important day for Mercedes-Benz Vans and certainly also a very significant day for the Charleston area. We are investing around half a billion dollars to create a top-notch Mercedes-Benz van plant here in South Carolina. This plant is key to our future growth in the very dynamic North American van market," said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, at the official announcement of the plant's location. "Charleston is an excellent location for our new plant. The region has very highly skilled workers, a dense network of reliable suppliers, and an outstanding logistics infrastructure that includes good transport connections to the nearby harbor."

READ MORE.  http://www.engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/9744/Mercedes-Benz-Commits-500-Million-to-Build-Sprinter-Vans-in-the-USA.aspx
UPDATE

Research shows that salt affects more than just blood pressure

Sodium is essential for fluid balance and cellular homeostasis, or maintenance of a stable internal environment in an organism. But the amount of salt needed to maintain homeostasis in adults is quite low—about 500 milligrams (mg) per day. 
In contrast, most Americans consume more than six times that much, which leads to high blood pressure in many people.
But what if you're one of the lucky ones who can eat all the salty snacks and convenience foods you want and still register low numbers on the blood pressure cuff?

New research suggests you may not be so lucky after all.

A review paper co-authored by two faculty members in the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences and two physicians at Christiana Care Health System provides evidence that even in the absence of an increase in blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect target organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.

Authors of the paper, "Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure," include William Farquhar and David Edwards in UD's Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology; William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care; and Claudine Jurkovitz, a nephrologist epidemiologist and senior scientist in the Value Institute Center for Outcomes Research at Christiana Care.
The paper was published in the March 17 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

READ MORE.  http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-salt-affects-blood-pressure.html

UPDATE

Researchers see way cocaine hijacks memory. Washington State University researchers have found a mechanism in the brain that facilitates the pathologically powerful role of memory in drug addiction. Their discovery opens a new area of research for targeted therapy that would alter or disable the mechanism and make drug addiction less compulsive.
Turning off the mechanism is "diminishing the emotional impact or the emotional content of the memory, so it decreases the motivation to relapse," said Barbara Sorg, a professor of neuroscience at Washington State University, Vancouver. Her findings appear in the latest Journal of Neuroscience.

Memories associated with drug use are a leading suspect in driving the impulses behind drug addiction. The brain reinforces memories, in part by giving them emotional weight. The result is a personal blueprint of rewards and cues guiding fundamental decisions.

Drug use creates memories so powerful they hijack the system, turning physiology into pathology.

"If you saw 'Spinal Tap,' it's like memory turned up to 11," said Sorg.
Sorg and Megan Slaker, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience, gave male rats cocaine in a specific setting, a drug cage, conditioning them to associate the experience with that place. With each new experience, the rats would draw memories of previous experiences there, reconsolidate them with new information and in effect reinforce the memory.

READ MORE.  http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-cocaine-hijacks-memory.html

UPDATE

Move over Mozart: Study shows cats prefer their own beat

Move over Mozart: Study shows cats prefer their own beatAs more animal shelters, primate centers and zoos start to play music for their charges, it's still not clear whether and how human music affects animals.

Now, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that while cats ignore our music, they are highly responsive to "music" written especially for them. The study is online at Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

"We are not actually replicating cat sounds," says lead author Charles Snowdon, an emeritus professor of psychology. "We are trying to create music with a pitch and tempo that appeals to cats."

The first step in making cat music is "to evaluate music in the context of the animal's sensory system," he says. Cats, for example, vocalize one octave higher than people, "So it's vital to get the pitch right. Then we tried to create music that would have a tempo that was appealing to cats." One sample was based on the tempo of purring, the other on the sucking sound made during nursing.

In the tests, Snowdon and former UW undergraduate student (now a Ph.D. student at Binghamton University) Megan Savage brought a laptop and two speakers to the homes of 47 cats and played four sound samples: two from classical music, and two "cat songs" created by University of Maryland composer David Teie.
The music began after a period of silence, and the cat's behavior was noted. Purring, walking toward the speaker and rubbing against it were adjudged positive response, while hissing, arching the back and erecting the fur were negative.

READ MORE.  http://phys.org/news/2015-03-mozart-cats.html

UPDATE

Traveling without moving: Quantum communication scheme transfers quantum states without transmitting physical particles

While Einstein considered quantum entanglement as "spooky action at a distance," and those who fully accept entanglement acknowledge it to be counterintuitive, current entanglement-based quantum communication schemes for transferring an unknown quantum state from one place to another require classical transportation of particles between sender and receiver. Now consider this: Recently, scientists in China at Harbin Institute of Technology, Yanbian University and Changchun University demonstrated what is known as a counterfactual approach in which quantum information can be transferred between two distant participants without sending any physical particles between them. The researchers accomplished this by entangling two nonlocal qubits with each other without interaction – meaning that the present scheme can transport an unknown qubit in a nondeterministic manner without prior entanglement sharing or classical communication between the participants. Moreover, the scientists state that their approach provides a new method for creating entanglement that allows two qubits to be entangled without interaction between them.

Prof. Shou Zhang discussed the paper that he and his colleagues published in Scientific Reports. "There's a long-held assumption in the classical information field that information transfer requires physical particles to travel between sender and receiver – an assumption first challenged in 2013 by Hatim Salih and his colleagues1," Zhang tells Phys.org. By using the so-called chained quantum Zeno effect, the 2013 paper showed how information can in fact be transferred between two locations without any physical particles traveling between them. (In the quantum Zeno effect, time evolution caused by quantum decoherence in quantum systems is suppressed by, for example, continuous observation or measurement, interaction with the environment, or stochastic fields. In a chained quantum Zeno effect, a series of secondary splitter/detector loops ensure that there is never a significant probability of decoherence.) "This mind-boggling and highly counterintuitive communication protocol inspired us to think whether quantum information can be transferred counterfactually," Zhang adds, "so in fact, our present scheme can be considered as an incremental extension of Salih's work from classical bit to quantum bit."

READ MORE.  http://phys.org/news/2015-03-quantum-scheme-states-transmitting-physical.html

UPDATE

In 2012, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft made a voluntary commitment to increase the proportion of female scientists in W2 and W3 positions and in remuneration groups E13 to E15 of the Collective Wage Agreement for Government Service Workers (TVöD). The aim is to increase the numbers five times by one percentage point each year up to 2017. This target was agreed with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Joint Science Conference.

In 2012, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft made a voluntary commitment to increase the proportion of female scientists in W2 and W3 positions and in remuneration groups E13 to E15 of the Collective Wage Agreement for Government Service Workers (TVöD). The aim is to increase the numbers five times by one percentage point each year up to 2017. This target was agreed with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Joint Science Conference.

READ MORE.  http://www.mpg.de/7999136/women-science

UPDATE


Searching for Earth's twin. The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research establishes data centre for the European space mission PLATO to search for exoplanets

How common are planets such as Earth in our galaxy? And are such celestial objects suitable for the development of life? The European Space Agency’s (ESA) new planet-hunting mission PLATO (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) will take an unprecedented step towards answering these questions. ESA has now given the official go-ahead for this mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2024. In its six year lifetime, the spacecraft will search for planets around one million stars; of these 85,000 will be characterized precisely. In close collaboration with many European partners, Germany will play a key role in the mission: the Institute of Planetary Research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin will head the overall mission; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen will lead the processing of the observations in the PLATO Data Center.

 Under a foreign sun: the universe appears to be harbouring a large number of exoplanets. PLATO will survey a million stars searching for those orbited by Earth-like exoplanets.

PLATO will for the first time fully characterize these stars and their planets. The ultimate goal of the mission is to find an Earth-twin: “PLATO will enable us to find planets that orbit their star in the habitable zone: planets where liquid water is expected, and where life as we know it can be maintained”, says Heike Rauer from DLR, who will lead the mission.

In order to reach this ambitious goal, PLATO is equipped not with one, but with an array of 34 telescopes mounted on a single satellite. By surveying a very large fraction of the sky for six years, PLATO will study the full diversity of stars and planetary systems across our galaxy. “PLATO will finally give us the big picture”, says Gizon.

READ MORE.  http://www.mpg.de/7957207/PLATO

UPDATE

“In some respects, the Wikipedia of science” Expert communities consider the online series Living Reviews as their first port of call for information

Bernard Schutz, Director of the MPI for Gravitational Physics and initiator of the Living Reviews series of open access journals explains his recipe for success and describes the obstacles still to be overcome.

Review journals are based on the principle of providing articles containing a scientific overview of a particular specialised field. A huge amount of work goes into such articles. Once printed on paper, they age very quickly – so, in the late 1990s, I came up with the idea of the Living Reviews, which would only be published online and could therefore be updated as “living articles” when new information becomes available.

The articles can be used freely, they incorporate multimedia elements – in summary, it all sounds a bit like Wikipedia...

That’s an interesting point. One thing should be made clear: we are older than Wikipedia; the first contributions to Living Reviews in Relativity were published in 1998. And there are a few crucial differences: whereas all users can contribute to Wikipedia articles, this is not the case with Living Reviews. The authors are selected and there is a strict peer review process – this guarantees quality. What’s more, our contributions are often over 100 pages long and also contain, of course, animated sequences, graphics and images. From the user’s perspective, however, the Living Reviews and Wikipedia have certain things in common: Whereas people obtain information about everyday life through Wikipedia, we have become the first port of call for members of our expert community who are looking for information. So Living Reviews can be referred to in some respects as the Wikipedia of science – however, the standards are higher, because the contributions are intended as binding reference sources.

READ MORE.  http://www.mpg.de/7617181/living-reviews-Schutz-interview

UPDATE

Ageing research cluster in Cologne moves closer together. Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing opens new research building

At the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, scientists from over 20 nations are deciphering exactly how and why living organisms age. The Institute has continued to grow since its foundation in 2008. Its staff members were previously accommodated in several buildings on the campus of the University Hospital of Cologne. The young, international team can now look forward to more laboratory space and shorter distances: the new research building officially opened on 18 October. Around 400 guests from the worlds of science, politics and business attended the event.

The MPI for Biology of Ageing is just six years old but it is already well established internationally, as Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society, emphasizes: “Together with the University of Cologne and other research institutions, one of the leading gerontology clusters in Europe has emerged in the Cologne-Bonn region.” It is not just ageing research in Cologne that is young, so too are the staff. The average age of the around 160 employees is 33. “Our dynamic scientists are working rigorously to find answers to the fundamental questions surrounding the phenomenon of ageing and longevity,” says top-level British researcher Linda Partridge, Managing Director of the Institute. Questions such as: Why do living organisms age? What biological processes determine their life span? What role do genes and the environment play in the ageing process?

In the future, the hitherto three departments and five research groups will address these issues at the Institute’s new research building which has 4,500 square meters of laboratory space – the equivalent of 20 tennis courts. The new building was realized thanks to special funding from the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia. Funding was also provided by the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, the federal state and federal government. Helmut Dockter, State Secretary at the NRW Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research, remarked: “The MPI for Biology of Ageing’s new building is a further milestone for ageing research in North-Rhine Westphalia. The research infrastructure in this field, which has been developed over a period of time, now has another facet which is making a significant contribution to the solution of society’s greatest challenge – healthy ageing.”

READ MORE.  http://www.mpg.de/7575444/MPI-Biology-Ageing-research_building

UPDATE

Higgs particle can disintegrate into particles of dark matter. The Standard Model of particle physics successfully describes the smallest constituents of matter. But the model has its limitations: It does not explain the dark matter of the universe. Christoffer Petersson, a research scientist at Chalmers Univ. of Technology, has found a solution. His theories are now being tested at the particle physics laboratory CERN.

Physicists describe the smallest constituents of nature—elementary particles and forces acting between them using a set of theories known as the Standard Model. This model was developed in the 1970s and has been very successful, particularly in predicting the existence of undiscovered particles.

In recent decades, particle physicists have discovered one of the predicted particles in the Standard Model after another in their particle accelerators. The last in the series was the Higgs particle, the existence of which was confirmed by the scientists at the particle accelerator Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in 2012. This completed the Standard Model.

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UPDATE

Four ways to break the universe's speed limit What can travel faster than the speed of light?

BI Answers: What can travel faster than the speed of light?

When Albert Einstein first predicted that light travels the same speed everywhere in our universe, he essentially stamped a speed limit on it: 670,616,629 miles per hour.

But that's not the entire story. In fact, it's just the beginning.

Before Einstein, mass — the atoms that make up you, me, and everything we see — and energy were treated as separate entities. But in 1905, Einstein forever changed the way physicists view the universe.

Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity permanently tied mass and energy together in the simple yet fundamental equation E=mc^2. This little equation predicts that nothing with mass can move as fast as light, or faster.

The closest humankind has ever come to reaching the speed of light is inside of powerful particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider and the Tevatron. These colossal machines accelerate subatomic particles to more than 99.99% the speed of light, but as Physics Nobel laureate David Gross explains, these particles will never reach the cosmic speed limit.

To do so would require an infinite amount of energy and, in the process, the object's mass would become infinite, which is impossible. (The reason particles of light, called photons, travel at light speeds is because they have no mass.)

Since Einstein, physicists have found that certain entities can reach superluminal (that means "faster-than-light") speeds and still follow the cosmic rules laid down by special relativity. While these do not disprove Einstein's theory, they give us insight into the peculiar behavior of light and the quantum realm.

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UPDATE

Gigaom Shuts Down in Crowded Tech Media Landscape

When tech blog Gigaom announced Monday that it was unable to pay its creditors and would shut down, the media world reacted mostly with shock.
Not only was Gigaom posting as recently as that afternoon — about the Apple Watch event — but the site also didn’t appear to be all that cash-strapped. Its most recent funding round last year raised $8 million, at which point the site’s founder Om Malik gave up his day-to-day role. The site had ramped up efforts to find new revenue streams, such as an events business and research arm.
Clearly, though, something went wrong. “We do not know at this time what the lenders intend to do with the assets or if there will be any future operations using those assets,” Gigaom management wrote in a statement. “The company does not currently intend to file bankruptcy.”

Gigaom’s fate had others in the digital media industry wondering if the event portended a larger “content shakeout,” especially given that Say Media recently sold its own tech site ReadWrite.
Executives in the media and venture capital worlds say it is quite difficult to be a self-sustaining site these days, considering the crowded tech media space.
“When everybody from The Wall Street Journal to the New York Times to everybody else has doubled down on covering tech, what’s your value?” said Rafat Ali, the CEO and founder of travel site Skift. Mr. Ali sat on an advisory board to Gigaom after the site he founded, paidContent, was acquired by the company (though he says they never asked him for advice).
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