Thursday, 5 November 2009

Johnald's Fantastical Daily Link Splurge

Johnald's Fantastical Daily Link Splurge

Hubble’s New Camera Delivers Another Stunner

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 09:05 AM PST


The Hubble Space Telescope's new camera is returning incredibly detailed, stunning images of space. This close-up view of an area near the core of the iconic Southern Pinwheel galaxy, or M83, shows very rapid star birth.

pinwheelm83The image to the right of the entire galaxy, taken from the ground by the European Southern Observatory's 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile, shows the location of the image above. Hubble's detailed view reveals that the spiral arms of the galaxy, about 15 million light-years from Earth, are lousy with clusters of infant stars, only a few million years old. The clusters show up as red because of the hydrogen gas they emit, and they have blown holes in the brownish dust tracks of the arms.

The image also reveals around 60 supernova remnants, around five times more than had previously been seen. the different wavelengths of light captured by Hubble's camera, from ultraviolet to near-infrared, gives scientists a look at stars in all stages of formation, which will help them understand the evolution of the Pinwheel galaxy, and give them insight into galaxy formation in general.

Images: 1) NASA, ESA, STScI/AURA. High-Def Version. 2) ESO.

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This Is Your Brain, on Sofa

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 02:22 PM PST


It's either the ultimate in couch comfort or a totally bizarre idea dreamed up by a pair of designers obsessed with neuroscience. Either way, the "Brainwave Sofa" is clearly a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture.

The couch's lumpy, bumpy shape is a three-dimensional version of a brain scan, specifically a three-second recording of designer Lucas Maassen's alpha brain waves as he closed his eyes and thought of the word "comfort." Data from the electroencephalograph was processed by BioExplorer, a 3-D visualization program, and then fed directly into a milling machine that cut the shape out of soft foam.bwmilling

"The process is a wink to a rather futuristic design process," the couch creators wrote in a press release, "for which a designer merely has to close his or her eyes, or merely rest, to have the brain do all the work, and create the data needed to have the CNC machine cut the shape of the sofa."

The x-axis of the couch represents Maassen's brain waves in hertz, while the y-axis shows the amount of alpha activity as a percentage, and the z-axis is the time in milliseconds. Once the foam core of the sofa was completed, the designers covered it by hand in soft gray felt and decorated the valleys of the brain waves with buttons.

The Brainwave Sofa goes on display Wednesday at the Bits 'n Pieces Exhibition in New York. If you happen to stop by the show, please have a seat on the brain couch — and let us know if it's comfy. Or just weird.


Images: Lucas Maassen and Dries Verbruggen/Unfold.

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Gadgets and Ideas to Revolutionize Healthcare

Posted: 04 Nov 2009 11:44 AM PST


The TED medicine conference gave 400 people a glimpse at the future of healthcare last week, bringing together an eclectic group of innovators, from photographers to stem cell experts, each with a different point to make.

Here are some of the highlights.

Craig Venter said he has spent the last twenty years digitizing biology. Now, the genomics pioneer is doing something with all of that data. His lab has been transplanting entire genomes from one microorganism to another, building synthetic life forms with machines, and decoding a random soup of genes from seawater using high speed sequencing machines.

Venter made a convincing argument that those DNA sequences discovered during his voyages will be put to good use. Aquatic microbes are constantly waging chemical warfare with each other, and 10,000 antibiotics remain to be discovered in the seas, he said. By studying the genes from those combative organisms, researchers could develop a wide range of new medications.

Synthetic life itself could be used as a medication, according to Andrew Hessel, founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, a group that aims to fight breast cancer with customized cancer-killing viruses. His organization aims to turn medical research on its head by offering individualized treatments through a member-owned organization, rather than supporting the development of one-size-fits-all drugs, which are peddled by big drug companies. Hessel aims to conduct human trials on an open-minded breast cancer patient who has no attractive medical alternatives, after testing sets of the cancer-destroying viruses on cells taken from her own tumor.

Image Above: Craig Venter talking about genomics and synthetic biology./Michael Timmons.