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  • richardmitnick 12:34 pm on August 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Erika Tuttle, ,   

    From WCG: Women in STEM – “Meet a World Community Grid Team Member: Erika Tuttle” 

    New WCG Logo


    World Community Grid (WCG)

    26 Aug 2016

    Erika Tuttle can be considered World Community Grid’s chief detective, since her job duties include searching for everything from website bugs to old invoices.

    Erika Tuttle began working on the World Community Grid team in 2009, but she was already very familiar with the project and many other IBM programs. Both of her parents (now retired) were longtime IBM employees who had begun working for the company in the 1960s. “IBM is what my parents talked about at the dinner table,” Erika says. “Sometimes I would go in to the office with my mother, and I thought it was the coolest place. I loved hearing about what she did at work.”

    After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, Erika began a career the television industry, eventually becoming a senior producer. But she continued to be interested in IBM. Her mother, longtime program coordinator Tedi Hahn, worked with World Community Grid for many years. As Tedi moved from being a full-time employee to part-time, she began training Erika to handle the program coordinator position.

    Tedi retired in 2015, and Erika became the full-time program coordinator. Every day, she dives into areas such as website testing, financial reconciliation, helping to coordinate with IBM’s legal team, managing the World Community Grid forum, and other important operations tasks.

    With a busy career and a family, spare time is limited. But she and her family enjoy boating on Lake Lanier and rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs together.

    Erika appreciates working with World Community Grid volunteers and with IBMers from around the world. “I really enjoy the international aspect of this job,” she says. “This is a great opportunity to work with people worldwide.”

    See the full article here.

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    World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”

    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper



    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

    Please visit the project pages-

    FightAIDS@home Phase II

    FAAH Phase II

    Rutgers Open Zika

    Help Stop TB
    WCG Help Stop TB
    Outsmart Ebola together

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Mapping Cancer Markers

    Uncovering Genome Mysteries
    Uncovering Genome Mysteries

    Say No to Schistosoma

    GO Fight Against Malaria

    Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

    Computing for Clean Water

    The Clean Energy Project

    Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

    Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

    Help Fight Childhood Cancer

    Help Conquer Cancer

    Human Proteome Folding


    World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
    IBM Corporation

    IBM – Smarter Planet

  • richardmitnick 7:24 am on August 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From Symmetry: “Winners declared in SUSY bet” 

    Symmetry Mag


    Kathryn Jepsen

    Peter Munch Andersen

    Physicists exchanged cognac in Copenhagen at the conclusion of a bet about supersymmetry and the LHC.

    As a general rule, theorist Nima Arkani-Hamed does not get involved in physics bets.

    “Theoretical physicists like to take bets on all kinds of things,” he says. “I’ve always taken the moral high ground… Nature decides. We’re all in pursuit of the truth. We’re all on the same side.”

    But sometimes you’re in Copenhagen for a conference, and you’re sitting in a delightfully unusual restaurant—one that sort of reminds you of a cave—and a fellow physicist gives you the opportunity to get in on a decade-old wager about supersymmetry and the Large Hadron Collider. Sometimes then, you decide to bend your rule. “It was just such a jovial atmosphere, I figured, why not?”

    That’s how Arkani-Hamed found himself back in Copenhagen this week, passing a 1000-Krone bottle of cognac to one of the winners of the bet, Director of the Niels Bohr International Academy Poul Damgaard.

    Arkani-Hamed had wagered that experiments at the LHC would find evidence of supersymmetry by the arbitrary date of June 16, 2016. Supersymmetry, SUSY for short, is a theory that predicts the existence of partner particles for the members of the Standard Model of particle physics.

    CERN/LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    Standard model of Supersymmetry DESY
    Standard model of Supersymmetry DESY

    The deadline was not met. But in a talk at the Niels Bohr Institute, Arkani-Hamed pointed out that the end of the gamble does not equal the end of the theory.

    “I was not a good student in school,” Arkani-Hamed explained. “One of my big problems was not getting homework done on time. It was a constant battle with my teachers… Just give me another week! It’s kind of like the bet.”

    He pointed out that so far the LHC has gathered just 1 percent of the total amount of data it aims to collect.

    With that data, scientists can indeed rule out the most vanilla form of supersymmetry. But that’s not the version of supersymmetry Arkani-Hamed would expect the LHC to find anyway, he said.

    It is still possible LHC experiments will find evidence of other SUSY models—including the one Arkani-Hamed prefers, called split SUSY, which adds superpartners to just half of the Standard Model’s particles. And if LHC scientists don’t find evidence of SUSY, Arkani-Hamed pointed out, the theoretical problems it aimed to solve will remain an exciting challenge for the next generation of theorists to figure out.

    “I think Winston Churchill said that in victory you should be magnanimous,” Damgaard said after Arkani-Hamed’s talk. “I know also he said that in defeat you should be defiant. And that’s certainly Nima.”

    Arkani-Hamed shrugged. But it turned out he was not the only optimist in the room. Panelist Yonit Hochberg of the University of California, Berkeley conducted an informal poll of attendees. She found that the majority still think that in the next 20 years, as data continues to accumulate, experiments at the LHC will discover something new.

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 2:05 pm on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Jupiter’s Extended Family? A Billion or More” 

    NASA JPL Banner


    August 26, 2016
    News Media Contact
    Preston Dyches
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    Written by Pat Brennan
    NASA Exoplanet Program

    Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system’s formation and evolution. (Illustration) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.

    Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

    It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds. The best-ever chance to do this is now, with Juno, a NASA probe the size of a basketball court, which arrived at Jupiter in July to begin a series of long, looping orbits around our solar system’s largest planet. Juno is expected to capture the most detailed images of the gas giant ever seen. And with a suite of science instruments, Juno will plumb the secrets beneath Jupiter’s roiling atmosphere.


    It will be a very long time, if ever, before scientists who study exoplanets — planets orbiting other stars — get the chance to watch an interstellar probe coast into orbit around an exo-Jupiter, dozens or hundreds of light-years away. But if they ever do, it’s a safe bet the scene will summon echoes of Juno.

    “The only way we’re going to ever be able to understand what we see in those extrasolar planets is by actually understanding our system, our Jupiter itself,” said David Ciardi, an astronomer with NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute (NExSci) at Caltech.


    Not all Jupiters are created equal

    Juno’s detailed examination of Jupiter could provide insights into the history, and future, of our solar system. The tally of confirmed exoplanets so far includes hundreds in Jupiter’s size-range, and many more that are larger or smaller.

    The so-called hot Jupiters acquired their name for a reason: They are in tight orbits around their stars that make them sizzling-hot, completing a full revolution — the planet’s entire year — in what would be a few days on Earth. And they’re charbroiled along the way.

    But why does our solar system lack a “hot Jupiter?” Or is this, perhaps, the fate awaiting our own Jupiter billions of years from now — could it gradually spiral toward the sun, or might the swollen future sun expand to engulf it?

    Not likely, Ciardi says; such planetary migrations probably occur early in the life of a solar system.

    “In order for migration to occur, there needs to be dusty material within the system,” he said. “Enough to produce drag. That phase of migration is long since over for our solar system.”

    Jupiter itself might already have migrated from farther out in the solar system, although no one really knows, he said.

    Looking back in time

    If Juno’s measurements can help settle the question, they could take us a long way toward understanding Jupiter’s influence on the formation of Earth — and, by extension, the formation of other “Earths” that might be scattered among the stars.

    “Juno is measuring water vapor in the Jovian atmosphere,” said Elisa Quintana, a research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “This allows the mission to measure the abundance of oxygen on Jupiter. Oxygen is thought to be correlated with the initial position from which Jupiter originated.”

    If Jupiter’s formation started with large chunks of ice in its present position, then it would have taken a lot of water ice to carry in the heavier elements which we find in Jupiter. But a Jupiter that formed farther out in the solar system, then migrated inward, could have formed from much colder ice, which would carry in the observed heavier elements with a smaller amount of water. If Jupiter formed more directly from the solar nebula, without ice chunks as a starter, then it should contain less water still. Measuring the water is a key step in understanding how and where Jupiter formed.

    That’s how Juno’s microwave radiometer, which will measure water vapor, could reveal Jupiter’s ancient history.

    “If Juno detects a high abundance of oxygen, it could suggest that the planet formed farther out,” Quintana said.

    A probe dropped into Jupiter by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1995 found high winds and turbulence, but the expected water seemed to be absent. Scientists think Galileo’s one-shot probe just happened to drop into a dry area of the atmosphere, but Juno will survey the entire planet from orbit.

    NASA Galileo

    The chaotic early years

    Where Jupiter formed, and when, also could answer questions about the solar system’s “giant impact phase,” a time of crashes and collisions among early planet-forming bodies that eventually led to the solar system we have today.

    Our solar system was extremely accident-prone in its early history — perhaps not quite like billiard balls caroming around, but with plenty of pileups and fender-benders.

    “It definitely was a violent time,” Quintana said. “There were collisions going on for tens of millions of years. For example, the idea of how the moon formed is that a proto-Earth and another body collided; the disk of debris from this collision formed the moon.

    Theia collision with Earth
    Theia collision with Earth. William K. Hartmann

    And some people think Mercury, because it has such a huge iron core, was hit by something big that stripped off its mantle; it was left with a large core in proportion to its size.”

    Part of Quintana’s research involves computer modeling of the formation of planets and solar systems. Teasing out Jupiter’s structure and composition could greatly enhance such models, she said. Quintana already has modeled our solar system’s formation, with Jupiter and without, yielding some surprising findings.

    “For a long time, people thought Jupiter was essential to habitability because it might have shielded Earth from the constant influx of impacts [during the solar system’s early days] which could have been damaging to habitability,” she said. “What we’ve found in our simulations is that it’s almost the opposite. When you add Jupiter, the accretion times are faster and the impacts onto Earth are far more energetic. Planets formed within about 100 million years; the solar system was done growing by that point,” Quintana said.

    “If you take Jupiter out, you still form Earth, but on timescales of billions of years rather than hundreds of millions. Earth still receives giant impacts, but they’re less frequent and have lower impact energies,” she said.

    Getting to the core

    Another critical Juno measurement that could shed new light on the dark history of planetary formation is the mission’s gravity science experiment. Changes in the frequency of radio transmissions from Juno to NASA’s Deep Space Network will help map the giant planet’s gravitational field.

    NASA Deep Space Network Canberra, Australia
    “NASA Deep Space Network Canberra, Australia, radio telescopes on watch.

    Knowing the nature of Jupiter’s core could reveal how quickly the planet formed, with implications for how Jupiter might have affected Earth’s formation.

    And the spacecraft’s magnetometers could yield more insight into the deep internal structure of Jupiter by measuring its magnetic field.

    “We don’t understand a lot about Jupiter’s magnetic field,” Ciardi said. “We think it’s produced by metallic hydrogen in the deep interior. Jupiter has an incredibly strong magnetic field, much stronger than Earth’s.”

    Mapping Jupiter’s magnetic field also might help pin down the plausibility of proposed scenarios for alien life beyond our solar system.

    Earth’s magnetic field is thought to be important to life because it acts like a protective shield, channeling potentially harmful charged particles and cosmic rays away from the surface.

    Earth’s magnetic field, NASA

    “If a Jupiter-like planet orbits its star at a distance where liquid water could exist, the Jupiter-like planet itself might not have life, but it might have moons which could potentially harbor life,” he said.

    An exo-Jupiter’s intense magnetic field could protect such life forms, he said. That conjures visions of Pandora, the moon in the movie “Avatar” inhabited by 10-foot-tall humanoids who ride massive, flying predators through an exotic alien ecosystem.

    Juno’s findings will be important not only to understanding how exo-Jupiters might influence the formation of exo-Earths, or other kinds of habitable planets. They’ll also be essential to the next generation of space telescopes that will hunt for alien worlds. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will conduct a survey of nearby bright stars for exoplanets beginning in June 2018, or earlier.


    The James Webb Space Telescope, expected to launch in 2018, and WFIRST (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope), with launch anticipated in the mid-2020s, will attempt to take direct images of giant planets orbiting other stars.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated
    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated


    “We’re going to be able to image planets and get spectra,” or light profiles from exoplanets that will reveal atmospheric gases, Ciardi said. Juno’s revelations about Jupiter will help scientists to make sense of these data from distant worlds.

    “Studying our solar system is about studying exoplanets,” he said. “And studying exoplanets is about studying our solar system. They go together.”

    To learn more about a few of the known exo-Jupiters, visit:


    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo


    NASA image

  • richardmitnick 12:13 pm on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Breast milk sugar may protect babies against deadly infection, Group B streptococcus, ,   

    From ICL: “Breast milk sugar may protect babies against deadly infection” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    26 August 2016
    Kate Wighton

    A type of sugar found in some women’s breast milk may protect babies from a potentially life threatening bacterium called Group B streptococcus.

    These bacteria are a common cause of meningitis in newborns and the leading cause of infection in the first three months of life in the UK and globally.

    The new research, on 183 women in The Gambia and published in the journal Clinical and Translational Immunology, suggests a sugar found in some women’s breast milk protect babies against the bacteria.

    The bug is carried naturally in the vagina and bowels by up to one in three women and can be transferred to the baby during childbirth or in breast milk. In the UK pregnant women deemed high risk are offered a test for the bacteria, or women can pay privately. This test consists of a swab a few weeks before a woman’s due date. However there is still a chance of a woman picking up the bacteria in her gut at some point between the test and giving birth (once the bug gets into the gut of the mother or baby it can trigger an infection).

    However, the new research, from the Centre for International Child Health at Imperial, found that naturally-occurring sugars in a woman’s breast milk may have protective effects against Group B streptococcus.

    Each woman’s breast milk contains a mixture of many different types of sugar, called human milk oligosaccharides. These are not digested in the baby’s tummy and act as food for the ‘friendly bacteria’ in a baby’s intestine.

    The type of sugars a woman produces in her breast milk are partly dictated by her genetic make-up. A type of genetic system in particular, called the Lewis antigen system (which is involved in making the ABO blood group), plays an important role in determining breast milk sugars.

    In the study, the team tested all the mothers’ breast milk for the sugars that are known to be controlled by these Lewis genes. They also tested women and their babies for Group B streptococcus at birth, six days later, and then between 60 and 89 days after birth.

    The team found women who produced breast milk sugars linked to the Lewis gene were less likely to have the bacteria in their gut, and their babies were also less likely to get the bacteria from their mothers at birth.

    In addition, among the babies who had the bacteria in their guts at birth, the infants whose mothers produced a specific sugar in their breast milk, called lacto-n-difucohexaose I, were more likely to have cleared the bacteria from their body by 60-89 days after birth. This suggests this breast milk sugar, which is linked to the Lewis gene, may have a protective effect.

    The researchers then went on to show in the laboratory that breast milk containing this particular sugar – lacto-n-difucohexaose I – was better at killing the Group B streptococcus bacteria compared to breast milk without this specific sugar.

    Around half of all women in the world are thought to produce the sugar lacto-N-difucohexaose I.

    Dr Nicholas Andreas, lead author of the research from the Department of Medicine at Imperial said: “Although this is early-stage research it demonstrates the complexity of breast milk, and the benefits it may have for the baby. Increasingly, research is suggesting these breast milk sugars (human milk oligosaccharides) may protect against infections in the newborn, such as rotavirus and Group B streptococcus, as well as boosting a child’s “friendly” gut bacteria.”

    He added the presence of these sugars allows “friendly” bacteria to flourish and out-compete any harmful bacteria that may be in the youngster’s gut, such as Group B streptococcus.

    The sugars are also thought to act as decoys, and fool the bacteria into thinking the sugar is a type of human cell that can be invaded. The bacteria latch onto the sugar and is then excreted by the body. This may help protect the baby from infection until their own immune system is more mature to fight off the “bad bugs” at around six months of age.

    The team hope their findings might lead to new treatments to protect mothers and babies from infections. The researchers raise the possibility of giving specific breast milk sugar supplements to pregnant and breast-feeding women who do not carry the active Lewis gene. This may help prevent harmful bacteria getting into the baby’s gut at birth and in the first weeks of life.

    Some companies are already exploring adding such sugars to formula milk, but Dr Andreas cautioned it would be difficult to replicate the mix of sugars found in breast milk: “These experimental formulas only contain a couple of these compounds, whereas human breast milk contains dozens of different types. Furthermore, the quantity of sugars produced by the mother changes as the baby ages so that a newborn baby will receive a higher amount of sugars in the breast milk compared to a six-month-old.”

    Dr Andreas, who is a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for International Child Health at Imperial, also suggested that testing new mothers’ blood for the Lewis gene may be beneficial: “If we know whether a mother is colonised with Group B streptococcus and know if she carries an active copy of the Lewis gene, it may give us an indication of how likely she is to pass the bacteria on to her baby, and more personalised preventive measures could be applied.”

    The work was supported by the Medical Research Council at the MRC Unit The Gambia, the Wellcome Trust, and the Thrasher Research Fund.

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

  • richardmitnick 11:59 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , New Efforts to Identify Dark Matter   

    From AAS NOVA: “New Efforts to Identify Dark Matter” 


    American Astronomical Society

    26 August 2016
    Susanna Kohler

    The dark matter of the universe forms the basis for the formation of galaxies. But what is this dark matter made of? [AMNH]

    Could the dark matter in our universe be “warm” instead of “cold”? Recent observations have placed new constraints on the warm dark matter model.

    What’s the Deal with Cold/Warm/Hot Dark Matter?

    An example of cold dark matter: MACHOs, massive objects like black holes that are hiding in the halo of our galaxy. [Alain r]

    Nobody knows what dark matter is made of, but we have a few theories. The objects or particles that could make up dark matter fall into three broad categories — cold, warm, and hot dark matter — based on something called their “free streaming length,” or how far they moved due to random motions in the early universe.

    Neutrinos are an example of hot dark matter: very light particles with free streaming lengths much longer than the size of a typical galaxy. Cold dark matter could consist of objects like black holes or brown dwarfs, or particles like WIMPs — all of which are very heavy and therefore have free streaming lengths much shorter than the size of a galaxy.

    Warm dark matter is what’s in between: middle-mass particles with free streaming lengths roughly the size of a galaxy. There aren’t any known particles that fit this description, but there are theorized particles such as sterile neutrinos or gravitinos that do.

    Cumulative mass functions at z = 6 for different values of the warm dark matter particle mass mX. The shaded boxs on the left correspond to the observed number density of faint galaxies within different confidence levels. [Menci et al. 2016]

    Smoothing Out the Universe

    The widely favored model is lambda-CDM, in which cold dark matter makes up the missing matter in our universe. This model nicely explains much of what we observe, but it still has a few problems. The biggest issue with lambda-CDM is that it predicts that there should be many more small, dwarf galaxies than we observe.

    While this could just mean that we haven’t yet managed to see all the existing, faint dwarf galaxies, we should also consider alternative models — the warm dark matter model chief among them.

    In the early universe, small density perturbations on sub-galactic scales produce dwarf galaxies in the lambda-CDM model. But in the warm dark matter model, the longer free streaming length of the dark matter particles smooth out some of those small perturbations. This results in the formation of fewer dwarf galaxies — which fits better with our current observations.

    Limits on Warm Dark Matter

    So how can we test this alternative model? The maximum number density of dark-matter halos predicted by the warm dark matter model at a given redshift depends on the mass of the candidate dark matter particle: a larger particle mass means that more halos form. We therefore can set lower limits on the mass of dark matter particles in a two-step process:

    1. Calculate the maximum number density of dark matter halos predicted by models, and
    2. Compare this to the measured abundance of the faintest galaxies at a given redshift.

    Another way of looking at it: for different values of the dark matter particle mass mX, this shows the maximum number density of dark matter halos predicted at z = 6. The shaded areas represent the observed number density of faint galaxies at different confidence levels. [Menci et al. 2016]

    Recently, unprecedented new Hubble observations of ultra-faint, lensed galaxies in the Hubble Frontier Fields at z~6 have allowed for the discovery of more faint galaxies at this redshift than ever before. Now, a team of scientists led by Nicola Menci (INAF Rome) have used these observations to set a new limit on the lowest mass that candidate dark matter particles can have.

    Menci and collaborators find that these new observations constrain the particle masses to be above 2.9 keV at the 1σ confidence level. These constitute the tightest constraints on the mass of candidate warm dark matter particles derived to date, and they even allow us to rule out some production mechanisms for theorized particles.

    Extending this analysis to other clusters with deep observations will only improve the constraints, bringing us ever closer to understanding what dark matter is made of.


    N. Menci et al 2016 ApJ 825 L1. doi:10.3847/2041-8205/825/1/L1

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:43 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Astronomers find a brown dwarf companion to a nearby debris disk host star, , , HR 2562,   

    From phys.org: “Astronomers find a brown dwarf companion to a nearby debris disk host star” 


    August 26, 2016
    Tomasz Nowakowski

    Collapsed datacubes showing HR 2562B in each of the four modes observed with GPI and reduced using KLIP. The K2 image is from February 2016 and demonstrates two possible solutions for the inner edge of the disk (38 and 75 AU with dashed and dotted-dashed lines respectively) assuming inclination of 78 degrees and position angle of 120 degrees. Credit: Konopacky et al., 2016.

    Astronomers have detected a brown dwarf orbiting HR 2562 – a nearby star known to host a debris disk. The newly discovered substellar companion is the first brown dwarf-mass object found to reside in the inner hole of a debris disk. The findings were presented in a paper published Aug. 23 on the arXiv pre-print server.

    HR 2562, located some 110 light years away, is an F5V star, about 30 percent more massive than the sun. It has a debris disk—a circumstellar belt of dust and planetesimals left over from planetary formation. The disk around HR 2562, spans from 38 to 75 AU away from the host star.

    In January and February 2016, a team of researchers, led by Quinn Konopacky of the University of California, San Diego, observed HR 2562 using the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), mounted on the Gemini South Telescope in Chile. GPI is a high-contrast imaging instrument, allowing imaging and integral field spectroscopy of extrasolar planets. The observations of HR 2562 were conducted as part of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES), that images young Jupiters and debris disks around nearby stars.

    However, their search for a young, Jupiter-like planet resulted in a discovery of a much more massive substellar object. The data obtained during the observations, allowed the team to confirm the existence of a brown dwarf that could have at least 15 Jupiter masses. The newly found companion is separated by about 20 AU from the host star and was designated HR 2562B.

    “We present the discovery of a brown dwarf companion to the debris disk host star HR 2562. This object, discovered with the Gemini Planet Imager, has a projected separation of 20.3±0.3 AU from the star,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

    Separation by only 20 AU means that HR 2562B lies within the inner hole of the debris disk; significantly, it is the first known brown dwarf residing inside such a gap. The scientists also noted that so far, only few substellar companions have been imaged within 100 AU from their host stars.

    While the separation of HR 2562B has been precisely estimated, its mass remains uncertain. The scientists revealed that its minimum mass is at least 15 Jupiter masses. However, the brown dwarf could be even 45 times more massive than Jupiter as well. Thus, the mean value was calculated to be 30 Jupiter masses.

    Moreover, the host star’s age also remains to be determined, as previous observations delivered conflicting results, ranging from 20 million to even 1.6 billion years. However, for the purposes of the recent study, the team adopted a nominal age range of 300 to 900 million years.

    The findings, accepted for publication in ApJ Letters, published by Konopacky and her team, could be helpful to better understand the formation process of circumstellar companions; it is widely debated whether these objects form within a circumstellar disk and reach a mass above the deuterium burning limit or via cloud fragmentation, as in binary systems with a high mass ratio.

    The researchers concluded that future studies of the HR 2562 system should focus on constraining the true mass and orbit of the companion. It could be essential to determine its possible origin, which could offer evidence of planet formation above the deuterium burning limit.

    See the full article here .

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

  • richardmitnick 11:24 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    From Ethan Siegel: “NASA’s Revived STEREO-B Could Save Us From A Trillion Dollar Disaster” 

    From Ethan Siegel

    Aug 26, 2016

    An X-class solar flare erupted from the Sun’s surface in 2012. At the time, it was the largest flare in five years. Image credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) via Getty Images.

    Solar flares are spectacular sights from space, where giant streams of plasma are ejected from the Sun’s interior at incredibly high energies and speeds. They stream through the Solar System, usually traveling the Sun-Earth distance in three days or fewer. While this intense, ionized radiation would be dangerous to an astronaut in the depths of space, for the most part our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere shields our bodies from any harm. The magnetic field funnels the radiation away from Earth, only enabling it to strike in a region around the poles, while the atmosphere ensures that the charged particles themselves don’t make it down to the surface. But their changing magnetic fields do, and that’s enough to induce currents in electrical wires, circuits and loops. Thankfully, now that NASA’s STEREO-A and STEREO-B spacecraft are both alive simultaneously, we’ll get the earliest warnings possible if a potential catastrophe is headed our way.

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft
    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    You might think this is a rare event, but it’s not at all rare like a meteor striking Earth is rare. It’s not even “rare” in the sense that seeing a supernova from Earth is rare; an ultra-high-energy solar flare directed right at Earth is a question of when, not if. Imagine a beautiful, clear day. The Sun is shining, the skies are clear, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer day. All of a sudden, the Sun itself appears to brighten, just for a brief amount of time, like it released an extra burst of energy. That night, some 17 hours later, the most spectacular auroral display ever brightens the night in a way you never imagined.

    Sunspots are often, but not always, portents of where a solar flare is most likely to occur. Image credit: Shahrin Ahmad (ShahGazer), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Workers across the United States awaken at 1 a.m., because the sky is as bright as the dawn. Aurorae illuminate the skies as far south as the Caribbean, beneath the Tropic of Cancer. And long, electricity-carrying wires spark, start fires and even operate and send signals when there’s no electricity! This even includes, believe it or not, when they aren’t plugged in. This isn’t a science-fiction scenario; this is history. This is what a catastrophic Solar Storm looks like, and this actually occurred exactly as described in 1859.

    A significant coronal mass ejection from the Sun that (thankfully) was not directed at Earth. Image credit: NASA / GSFC / SDO.


    The way this actually happens is that the Sun, rather than being this constant ball of nuclear fire in the sky, has an active surface, complete with an intricate magnetic structure, temperature variations, sunspots, and occasional flares and mass ejections. For reasons we don’t completely understand, the Sun’s activity levels ebb and peak on an 11-year timescale known as the Solar Cycle, and the transition between 2013/2014 was anticipated to have been the peak of our current cycle. We’re more likely to see larger numbers of flares, as well as stronger-than-average flares, during the peak years, but in reality they can occur at any time.

    Typically (but not always), these flares pose no danger to anything here on Earth, for a variety of reasons.

    1.) Most solar flares are not directed anywhere near the Earth. Space is a big place, and even at our relatively close distance of 93 million miles (or 150 million km) from the Sun, that’s a long way away. Even though most sunspots occur near the solar equator, more than 95% of flares and ejections, when they occur, never impact our planet at all. But there is that pesky few percent that does impact us.

    A representation of how most ionized particles are diverted away from Earth by our magnetic field. Image credit: NASA.

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase
    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    2.) Most flares are too small, too slow and sub-optimally aligned to get past the Earth’s magnetic field. Our magnetic field is awesome! Sure, it might be less than 1 G (gauss) at the surface (or 0.0001 T — for Tesla — for you mks sticklers out there), barely enough to deflect your compass needles towards the magnetic poles. But the field extends far into space, and the matter ejected in a solar flare are almost exclusively charged particles, which typically move at speeds of only a million miles an hour.

    These particles are bent by our magnetic field (as are all charged particles moving through a magnetic field) and will mostly be deflected away from the Earth. The ones that are bent into the Earth will crash into our upper atmosphere; this is the cause of nearly all auroral events.

    The atmospheric effects of the aurorae, as seen from space. Image credit: NASA / ISS expedition crew 23.

    3.) Our atmosphere is sufficiently thick to prevent these charged particles from irradiating us. Even if the flare moves quickly (or at about five million miles-per-hour), is huge (containing billions of tons of matter), and is aimed directly at us, the charged particles will never make it through our atmosphere, down to the surface. In fact, they peter out to practically nothing nearly 50 km above the Earth’s surface, far higher than any mountains or even that the heights airliners reach. Unless you’re in space (for some reason) at the time, you won’t receive any more radiation than you normally would, and there is no biological risk.

    But there is one real risk, and it’s a consequence of our physical laws of electromagnetism.

    The anatomy of the dangers of a solar flare. Image credit: NASA.

    A charged particle is bent as it moves through a magnetic field because of the connection between electricity and magnetism. But that same connection means that a change in electric currents — which are made by the motion of charged particles — create changing magnetic fields. And if you have a changing magnetic field either around a wire or through a loop or coil of wire, you will generate electric currents!

    So while there may not be a danger to you, there is a huge danger to electronics, ranging from automobiles to transformers to — most frighteningly of all — the entire power grid! That’s the real danger of a solar storm: an event similar to the 1859 Carrington event could cause anywhere between an estimated $1-to-$2 trillion of property damage, mostly due to electrical fires and damage to our infrastructure.

    Depiction of 1859 Carrington event.Politesseo

    A number of NASA satellites throughout the solar system. Image credit: NASA.

    With the space weather satellites we had up just a few years ago, we would have about a half-day’s warning to shut down our power stations and voluntarily shut off the grid in the event of such a flare. With STEREO-A and STEREO-B operating simultaneously, however, we can know as soon as the flare occurs, giving us up to three days of lead time. These events cannot be predicted in advance, and neither can their interaction with the interplanetary-and-Earth’s magnetic field, so you must never listen to fear-mongers who tell you a catastrophic solar flare is imminent; we can only be prepared to react when one is detected.

    The combination of NASA’s STEREO-A (ahead) and STEREO-B (behind), combined with the solar dynamics observatory (SDO) near Earth gives us a full view of the entire photosphere of the Sun at once. Image credit: NASA.

    Ideally, we’d be able to either upgrade the grid or to simply install a sufficient amount of electrical grounding, but practically, the first option is a long-term project that no one is working on, and the second one is continuously thwarted by thievery of copper wire. Power stations and substations simply do not maintain enough grounding due to this thievery, and there’s no known antidote to that, since if death-by-electrocution isn’t enough of a deterrent, what will be?

    There’s no need to be afraid of these things, but you do need to be prepared. If an ultra-massive, fast-moving coronal mass ejection ever heads directly towards Earth, you are literally taking your life into your hands if you do not shut down and unplug all of your electronic devices — and your power companies deliberately black out your neighborhood — until the storm passes. Long-distance wires, power stations and substations and the major components of the electrical grid itself will be at the greatest risk, as they will have huge direct currents (in systems designed only to carry AC) induced in them. The smartest move for those components, quite honestly, might be to sever the wires. That’s the only surefire way we have of personally safely dealing with things now.

    But you should also keep in mind that there’s only about a 1% chance we’ll get a large, powerful Earth-directed flare in any given year, and only about a 0.2% of getting an event like we did in 1859. So be aware, be informed and know how to deal with it if it happens, but don’t lose any sleep over it! Instead, your best bet is — when applicable — to go outside and enjoy the auroral show!

    This article is dedicated to Jake Morgan, whose fascination with solar storms led him to write his first book: Sunburned. Jake recently suffered a catastrophic accident and is undergoing significant time in the ICU; you can help support his GoFundMe here.

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

  • richardmitnick 10:54 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Sex reshapes the immune system to boost chances of pregnancy   

    From New Scientist: “Sex reshapes the immune system to boost chances of pregnancy” 


    New Scientist

    26 August 2016
    Alice Klein

    Sending messages of acceptance. Sciepro/Science Photo Library

    Semen does more than fertilise eggs. In mice, it seems to prime the female’s immune system for pregnancy, making it more likely that an embryo will successfully implant in the womb. It appears to prompt similar changes in women, a finding that could explain why IVF is more successful in during treatment.

    Sarah Robertson at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and her colleagues found that each time a female mouse copulates, it caused the release of immune cells called regulatory T-cells, which are known to dampen down inflammation in the body.

    This process may be important for allowing embryos to implant in the womb, rather than being rejected as a foreign body. In people, low regulatory T-cell counts are linked to several reproductive problems, including unexplained infertility, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and pre-term labour.

    Examining the cervix in women, the team found signs that semen does seem to prompt immune system changes in people too. Shortly after sex, they detected the cervix begins to release immune signalling molecules, which may be a sign of increased levels of regulatory T-cells.

    “It’s as if the seminal fluid is a Trojan horse that activates the immune cells to get things ready for conception,” says Robertson.

    As well as making the embryo more likely to successfully implant in the womb lining, it’s possible that such effects also minimise the chances of a woman’s body rejecting the fetus later on in pregnancy, she says. Women who conceive after limited sexual activity are , she adds.

    IVF help

    The findings, presented at the International Congress of Immunology in Australia this week, fit with observations that semen contains several signaling molecules – including cytokines, prostaglandins, and hormones – that can have an effect on female tissue.

    The discovery has implications for IVF. After a woman’s eggs have been fertilised in the lab, an embryo is chosen for implantation and is surgically inserted into the womb. This is one of the points where IVF can fail, if an embryo is unable to implant in a woman’s uterine lining.

    Many fertility clinics advise couples to abstain from sex during IVF treatment to minimise risk of infection from seminal fluid during the implantation surgery. This is a small risk outweighed by the benefits semen can have for the female immune system, Robertson says.

    This is supported by a recent review of studies that concluded that sex during IVF improves embryo implantation rates by 23 per cent. “I think it’s really good for couples to know that there’s something they can do to help their chances – it allows them to take a bit of control back,” says Robertson.

    Peter Illingworth of IVF Australia says the evidence is compelling. “I personally always say to IVF patients: ‘if you want to have sex, just have sex’.” But many couples choose not to during the treatment because IVF causes a lot of discomfort, he says. “If you’ve got ovaries the size of baseballs, sex is a much less appealing prospect.”

    Conception delay

    The effect of semen on a woman’s immune system could also help explain why most couples do not fall pregnant straight away, says Robertson. “In humans, it seems that at least three months of sexual cohabitation is required to give you the priming that you need,” she says.

    If low levels of regulatory T-cells are for a cause of infertility, therapies that increase them may help women who have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a long time. Treatments like these are currently being developed for immune conditions like graft-versus-host disease, but they haven’t been tested for fertility yet.

    “Our results suggest that the first-line approach to treating infertility should be to tell people to go home and practise,” Robertson says. “But if that doesn’t work, tackling regulatory T cells may be the way to go.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:40 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Researchers develop new porous materials using doughnut nanorings   

    From ICL: “Researchers develop new porous materials using doughnut nanorings” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    22 August 2016
    Michael Panagopulos

    Image: Ella Marushchenko

    Researchers propose a new design of highly open liquid-crystalline structures from geometrically unique rigid nanorings.

    Researchers from Imperial College London, University of Manchester and Cornell University have used a computational approach to identify a new class of highly porous structures. The structures could be used to produce new materials which have potential applications for the pharmaceutical and photonics industries, among others.

    When considering phases of matter, most people think of solid, liquid and gas states. A less-known phase with rather well-known applications is the intermediate between solids and liquids: the liquid crystal state. For instance, liquid crystal displays (LCD) are present in our everyday life, including calculators, phones, computers and TVs. The properties of this unique state of matter depend upon the degree of order in the material: in the smectic phase, molecules are orientationally ordered along one direction and they tend to arrange themselves in layers. Slightly closer to the liquid phase is the nematic phase, in which molecules have no positional order but are preferentially oriented along a given direction (the director).

    In a new paper, entitled Assembly of porous smectic structures formed from interlocking high-symmetry planar nanorings which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the authors used a molecular-simulation approach to examine several non-convex molecular geometrically different doughnut-shaped nanoring structures in order to identify the stable microstructures and their liquid-crystalline phase properties.

    The researchers investigated a particular class of frame-like particles, namely perfectly rigid and planar nanorings, by direct molecular-dynamics simulation. Starting from a circular shape, they explored ellipsoidal and polygonal geometries; these were modelled by varying the symmetry, the cavity size and the width of the rings. Three types of nanoparticles were compared in terms of various properties: doughnuts (single rings formed from different numbers of tangent beads and symmetries); bands (multi-stacked circular rings made up of identical rings bound sideways); and washers (multi-layered circular rings made up of an outer ring and smaller inner rings).

    The doughnut-like, high-symmetry nonconvex rings with large internal cavities were found to interlock within a two-dimensional layered structure leading to the formation of distinctive smectic phases which possess uniquely high free volumes of up to 95% – significantly larger than the 50% which is typically achievable with conventional convex rod- or disc-like particles whose geometries do not lead to this interlocking phenomenon therefore limiting their porosity.

    These types of self-assembled arrays are particularly interesting due to their exceptional optical, electrical and mechanical properties which are a consequence of their large surface-to-volume ratios. The highly porous structures are good candidates as adsorption and storage materials and have promising opportunities in a broad range of applications including drug-delivery and therapeutics, catalysis, optics, photonics and nanopatterned scaffolds.

    Professor Erich Muller, co-author of the paper and Professor of Thermodynamics in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London said “For the first time, we have looked at geometrically unique nanoring structures and found that certain shapes and sizes can lead to highly porous structures with free volumes of up to 95%. This breakthrough has some exciting possible industrial applications in many areas due to their extraordinary electrical, optical and chemical properties.”

    The different models explored are shown in this figure from the paper. A basic circular ring structure is shown in the first model, from which the rest of the models are derived. The other six models are ellipsoidal rings with different aspect ratios and polygonal rings with decreasing order of rotational symmetry, all of which have similar cavity size as the first model. Models h) and i) show the two extremes of the number of beads which lead to the formation of smectic phases, while model j) is a structure which does not form an ordered fluid structure). The last two models represent a band and a washer model, respectively, where the former has smectic phase properties and the latter forms nematic phase.

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

  • richardmitnick 10:15 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Johns Hopkins Wilmer Zika Center, ,   

    From JHU: “Johns Hopkins launches first-known multidisciplinary Zika virus center in the world” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    Kim Polyniak

    Center team will provide comprehensive care to patients with mosquito-borne virus, conduct research

    As the number of patients with Zika virus grows worldwide, Johns Hopkins Medicine today announced the opening of the new Johns Hopkins Wilmer Zika Center dedicated primarily to caring for patients with the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted virus.

    The center is composed of providers and staff from departments and divisions at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, including epidemiology, infectious diseases, maternal-fetal medicine, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, physiotherapy, psychiatry, and social work. Medical experts from Brazil, a country greatly affected by Zika virus, are also members of the center.

    “Patients will no longer be required to travel to multiple centers for care relating to Zika virus,” says William May, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. “Physicians and staff members in various departments at Johns Hopkins will be available to provide comprehensive care to patients within one institution.”

    Infections from Zika virus have reached epidemic proportions in parts of the world in the past year, with Brazil being the epicenter of the outbreak. Several non-travel-related cases have recently been reported in Florida, suggesting local transmission there. According to the World Health Organization, Zika may be responsible for thousands of babies being born with microcephaly, a severe birth defect that affects the brain, and for some adults experiencing neurological symptoms.

    The Wilmer Eye Institute led the development of what is believed to be the first such comprehensive and multidisciplinary Zika center. In addition to microcephaly, Zika is also reported to cause eye abnormalities in up to more than half of babies infected with the illness, according to a recent study in Brazil. The Wilmer Eye Institute is able to diagnose and, in many cases, treat eye concerns associated with Zika virus—including cataracts and other vision issues—with specialized technology.

    Adult and pediatric patients worldwide can be referred to the center by outside physicians or through Johns Hopkins departments and divisions, including emergency medicine and maternal-fetal medicine. Patients can also call the Wilmer Eye Institute to schedule an appointment. A case manager will work with patients to develop a care plan and identify specialists with whom the patient should follow up.

    “When a patient, particularly a pregnant woman, contracts Zika virus, it can be a tremendously alarming experience,” says Jeanne Sheffield, director of maternal-fetal medicine for the Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Our team will be able to coordinate our efforts to determine patients’ needs and provide the best care possible.”

    The Zika center team will also be involved in research to learn more about the virus, about which many unknowns still exist.

    “Our No. 1 priority will be focused on our patients,” May says, “but our hope is that our care will also lead to many new developments in the effort to fight this potentially devastating disease.”

    See the full article here .


    There is a new project at World Community Grid [WCG] called OpenZika.
    Zika depiction. Image copyright John Liebler, http://www.ArtoftheCell.com
    Rutgers Open Zika

    WCG runs on your home computer or tablet on software from Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing [BOINC]. Many other scientific projects run on BOINC software.Visit WCG or BOINC, download and install the software, then at WCG attach to the OpenZika project. You will be joining tens of thousands of other “crunchers” processing computational data and saving the scientists literally thousands of hours of work at no real cost to you.

    This project is directed by Dr. Alexander Perryman a senior researcher in the Freundlich lab, with extensive training in developing and applying computational methods in drug discovery and in the biochemical mechanisms of multi-drug-resistance in infectious diseases. He is a member of the Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Pathogens, in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience, at the Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School. Previously, he was a Research Associate in Prof. Arthur J. Olson’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where he ran the day-to-day operations of the FightAIDS@Home project, the largest computational drug discovery project devoted to HIV/AIDS, which also runs on WCG. While in the Olson lab, he also designed, led, and ran the largest computational drug discovery project ever performed against malaria, the GO Fight Against Malaria project, also on WCG.

    Rutgers smaller

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    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

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