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  • richardmitnick 8:25 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , , , ,   

    From FNAL: “Three Fermilab scientists awarded $17.5 million in SciDAC funding” 

    FNAL II photo

    FNAL Art Image
    FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    October 23, 2017
    Troy Rummler

    Three Fermilab-led collaborations have been awarded a combined $17.5 million over three years by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program. Researchers James Amundson, Giuseppe Cerati and James Kowalkowski will use the funds to support collaborations with external partners in computer science and applied mathematics to address problems in high-energy physics with advanced computing solutions.

    The awards, two of which can be extended to five years, mark the fourth consecutive cycle of successful bids from Fermilab scientists, who this year also bring home the majority of high-energy physics SciDAC funding disbursed. The series of computational collaborations has enabled Fermilab to propose progressively more sophisticated projects. One, an accelerator simulation project, builds directly on previous SciDAC-funded projects, while the other two projects are new: one to speed up event reconstruction and one to design new data analysis workflows.

    “Not only have we had successful projects for the last decade,” said Panagiotis Spentzouris, head of Fermilab’s Scientific Computing Division, “but we acquired enough expertise that we’re now daring to do things that we wouldn’t have dared before.”

    1
    James Amundson

    SciDAC is enabling James Amundson and his team to enhance both the depth and accuracy of simulation software to meet the challenges of emerging accelerator technology.

    His project ComPASS4 will do this by first developing integrated simulations of whole accelerator complexes, ensuring the success of PIP-II upgrades, for example, by simulating the effects of unwanted emitted radiation. PIP-II is the lab’s plan for providing powerful, high-intensity proton beams for the international Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. The work also supports long-term goals for accelerators now in various stages of development.

    “We will be able to study plasma acceleration in much greater detail than currently possible, then combine those simulations with simulations of the produced beam in order to create a virtual prototype next-generation accelerator,” Amundson said. “None of these simulations would have been tractable with current software and high-performance computing hardware.”

    2
    Giuseppe Cerati

    The next generation of high-energy physics experiments, including the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, will produce an unprecedented amount of data, which needs to be reconstructed into useful information, including a particle’s energy and trajectory. Reconstruction takes an enormous amount of computing time and resources.

    “Processing this data in real time, and even offline, will become unsustainable with the current computing model,” Giuseppe Cerati said. He, therefore, has proposed to lead an exploration into modern computing architectures to speed up reconstruction.

    “Without a fundamental transition to faster processing, we would face significant reductions in efficiency and accuracy, which would have a big impact on an experiment’s discovery potential,” he added.

    3
    James Kowalkowski

    James Kowalkowski’s group will aim to redefine data analysis, enhancing optimization procedures to use computing resources in ways that have been unavailable in the past. This means fundamental changes in computational techniques and software infrastructure.

    In this new way of working, rather than treating data sets as collections of files, used to transfer chunks of information from one processing or analysis stage to the next, researchers can view data as immediately available and moveable around a unified, large-scale distributed application. This will permit scientists within collaborations to process large portions of collected experimental data in short order — nearly on demand.

    “Without the special funding from SciDAC to pull people from diverse backgrounds together, it would be nearly impossible to carry out this work,” Kowalkowski said.

    See the full article here .

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

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  • richardmitnick 8:13 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Antennas, Applied Research & Technology, “Specific radiation efficiency”, , , Nanotube fiber antennas as capable as copper, ,   

    From Rice: “Nanotube fiber antennas as capable as copper” 

    Rice U bloc

    Rice University

    October 23, 2017
    Mike Williams

    1
    Rice University graduate student Amram Bengio sets up a nanotube fiber antenna for testing. Scientists at Rice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have determined that nanotube fibers made at Rice can be as good as copper antennas but 20 times lighter. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Rice researchers show their flexible fibers work well but weigh much less

    Fibers made of carbon nanotubes configured as wireless antennas can be as good as copper antennas but 20 times lighter, according to Rice University researchers. The antennas may offer practical advantages for aerospace applications and wearable electronics where weight and flexibility are factors.

    The research appears in Applied Physics Letters.

    The discovery offers more potential applications for the strong, lightweight nanotube fibers developed by the Rice lab of chemist and chemical engineer Matteo Pasquali. The lab introduced the first practical method for making high-conductivity carbon nanotube fibers in 2013 and has since tested them for use as brain implants and in heart surgeries, among other applications.

    The research could help engineers who seek to streamline materials for airplanes and spacecraft where weight equals cost. Increased interest in wearables like wrist-worn health monitors and clothing with embedded electronics could benefit from strong, flexible and conductive fiber antennas that send and receive signals, Pasquali said.

    The Rice team and colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a metric they called “specific radiation efficiency” to judge how well nanotube fibers radiated signals at the common wireless communication frequencies of 1 and 2.4 gigahertz and compared their results with standard copper antennas. They made thread comprising from eight to 128 fibers that are about as thin as a human hair and cut to the same length to test on a custom rig that made straightforward comparisons with copper practical.

    “Antennas typically have a specific shape, and you have to design them very carefully,” said Rice graduate student Amram Bengio, the paper’s lead author. “Once they’re in that shape, you want them to stay that way. So one of the first experimental challenges was getting our flexible material to stay put.”

    2
    Bengio prepares a sample nanotube fiber antenna for evaluation. The fibers had to be isolated in Styrofoam mounts to assure accurate comparisons with each other and with copper. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Contrary to earlier results by other labs (which used different carbon nanotube fiber sources), the Rice researchers found the fiber antennas matched copper for radiation efficiency at the same frequencies and diameters. Their results support theories that predicted the performance of nanotube antennas would scale with the density and conductivity of the fiber.

    “Not only did we find that we got the same performance as copper for the same diameter and cross-sectional area, but once we took the weight into account, we found we’re basically doing this for 1/20th the weight of copper wire,” Bengio said.

    “Applications for this material are a big selling point, but from a scientific perspective, at these frequencies carbon nanotube macro-materials behave like a typical conductor,” he said. Even fibers considered “moderately conductive” showed superior performance, he said.

    Although manufacturers could simply use thinner copper wires instead of the 30-gauge wires they currently use, those wires would be very fragile and difficult to handle, Pasquali said.

    “Amram showed that if you do three things right — make the right fibers, fabricate the antenna correctly and design the antenna according to telecommunication protocols — then you get antennas that work fine,” he said. “As you go to very thin antennas at high frequencies, you get less of a disadvantage compared with copper because copper becomes difficult to handle at thin gauges, whereas nanotubes, with their textile-like behavior, hold up pretty well.”

    Co-authors of the paper are, from Rice, graduate students Lauren Taylor and Peiyu Chen, alumnus Dmitri Tsentalovich and Aydin Babakhani, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and, from NIST in Boulder, Colo., postdoctoral researcher Damir Senic, research engineer Christopher Holloway, physicist Christian Long, research scientists David Novotny and James Booth and physicist Nathan Orloff. Pasquali is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry.

    The U.S. Air Force supported the research.

    See the full article here .

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    Rice U campus

    In his 1912 inaugural address, Rice University president Edgar Odell Lovett set forth an ambitious vision for a great research university in Houston, Texas; one dedicated to excellence across the range of human endeavor. With this bold beginning in mind, and with Rice’s centennial approaching, it is time to ask again what we aspire to in a dynamic and shrinking world in which education and the production of knowledge will play an even greater role. What shall our vision be for Rice as we prepare for its second century, and how ought we to advance over the next decade?

    This was the fundamental question posed in the Call to Conversation, a document released to the Rice community in summer 2005. The Call to Conversation asked us to reexamine many aspects of our enterprise, from our fundamental mission and aspirations to the manner in which we define and achieve excellence. It identified the pressures of a constantly changing and increasingly competitive landscape; it asked us to assess honestly Rice’s comparative strengths and weaknesses; and it called on us to define strategic priorities for the future, an effort that will be a focus of the next phase of this process.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:07 am on October 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, ,   

    From T3 – Technion Technology Transfer: “World-class Sponsorship for Technion DRIVE” 

    Technion T3 Technology Transfer

    Technion bloc

    Technion

    World-class Sponsorship for Technion DRIVE

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    Technion DRIVE Accelerator, a 9 month acceleration program for pre-seed and seed companies.

    The Technion DRIVE Accelerator Is successfully completing its first year of operation. Its impressive list of sponsors includes WeHealth by Servier and L’Oreal. WeHealth by Servier works in cooperation with startup partners to create innovative medical services and devices to improve patient care in targeted areas. L’Oreal has a pioneering innovation model which involves responsibility, global networking and sponsorship of research.

    “The participation of Servier and L’Oréal in the Technion DRIVE Accelerator shows their strong interest in being active players in Technion Innovation,” says Muriel Touaty, Director General of Technion France. “We are delighted that these two influential global companies are part of the initiative to accelerate startups born from the Technion innovation ecosystem,” adds CEO of T³ Benny Soffer.

    The Technion DRIVE Accelerator is a pre-seed and seed acceleration program that maximizes innovation potential from Technion’s global ecosystem – which includes faculty, researchers, students and alumni. In addition to seed funding, the accelerator offers business mentoring; office space; and access to Technion’s resources, research facilities, infrastructure and equipment. At Technion, the DRIVE embodies both the Technion vision of world-class research and the T³ mission of facilitating successful new ventures.

    After one year of operation the Drive already has a spread of fifteen pioneering start-ups. Among them are Mobility Insight – that is on its way to raising $5 million for its vehicle fleet and transportation management solution. In the area of autonomous systems, two companies address the challenges of drone technology. The first, Convexum, offers a cybersecurity platform for taking over and landing malicious drones and RegulusX Cyber Ltd that offers off-the-shelf security suite to protect drones from cyber-attacks and other system breaches. Another company – Feelit – is bringing the sense of touch to robotics with flexible sensing patch solutions that aim to exceed the sensitivity of human touch.

    Fields of innovation supported by the DRIVE include DIgital Health, Materials, ICT, Robotics, Augmented Reality, Big Data, FinTech and Autonomous Vehicles.

    L’Oreal and WeHealth by Servier are part of a global network of sponsors: LH Financial; FineTech Pharmaceutical; Global IoT Technology Ventures, Inc. (GiTV); FengHe Group; Cybele holdings; Liberty Mutual Insurance; Goodwin; and Shibolet & Co.


    Technion DRIVE Accelerator

    See the full article here .

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    Technion Campus

    A science and technology research university, among the world’s top ten,
    dedicated to the creation of knowledge and the development of human capital and leadership,
    for the advancement of the State of Israel and all humanity.

    T³ – Technion Technology Transfer

    T³ is the technology transfer office of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Entrepreneurship and commercialization are at the core of Technion innovation. As part of the Technion R&D Foundation (TRDF), T³ is a one-stop-shop for innovation and the expansion of Technion as a global hub for entrepreneurship, startups and commercialization.
    At T³, we commercialize cutting edge technologies developed by Technion researchers, students and alumni. T³’s mission is to facilitate and support the transformation of scientific discoveries into applied solutions. By creating optimal alliances between scientists, industrial partners, entrepreneurs, and investors, T³ enables a smooth transfer of technology to the world. Through its activities, T³ ensures that Technion IP and knowhow contributes to Israel’s economy and improves the quality of life worldwide.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:38 am on October 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity, , , The electricity-eating microbes that the researchers were hunting for belong to a larger class of organisms that scientists are only beginning to understand   

    From Quanta: “New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    June 21, 2016 [Just found in social media. Where has it been?]
    Emily Singer

    1
    Yamini Jangir and Moh El-Naggar

    Last year, biophysicist Moh El-Naggar and his graduate student Yamini Jangir plunged beneath South Dakota’s Black Hills into an old gold mine that is now more famous as a home to a dark matter detector.

    2
    A bottom-up view inside the Large Underground Xenon dark matter experiment, which is located a mile beneath the surface in the Black Hills of South Dakota. LUX Dark Matter.

    Unlike most scientists who make pilgrimages to the Black Hills these days, El-Naggar and Jangir weren’t there to hunt for subatomic particles. They came in search of life.

    In the darkness found a mile underground, the pair traversed the mine’s network of passages in search of a rusty metal pipe. They siphoned some of the pipe’s ancient water, directed it into a vessel, and inserted a variety of electrodes. They hoped the current would lure their prey, a little-studied microbe that can live off pure electricity.

    The electricity-eating microbes that the researchers were hunting for belong to a larger class of organisms that scientists are only beginning to understand. They inhabit largely uncharted worlds: the bubbling cauldrons of deep sea vents; mineral-rich veins deep beneath the planet’s surface; ocean sediments just a few inches below the deep seafloor. The microbes represent a segment of life that has been largely ignored, in part because their strange habitats make them incredibly difficult to grow in the lab.

    Yet early surveys suggest a potential microbial bounty. A recent sampling of microbes collected from the seafloor near Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California, uncovered a surprising variety of microbes that consume or shed electrons by eating or breathing minerals or metals. El-Naggar’s team is still analyzing their gold mine data, but he says that their initial results echo the Catalina findings. Thus far, whenever scientists search for these electron eaters in the right locations — places that have lots of minerals but not a lot of oxygen — they find them.

    As the tally of electron eaters grows, scientists are beginning to figure out just how they work. How does a microbe consume electrons out of a piece of metal, or deposit them back into the environment when it is finished with them? A study published last year revealed the way that one of these microbes catches and consumes its electrical prey. And not-yet-published work suggests that some metal eaters transport electrons directly across their membranes — a feat once thought impossible.

    The Rock Eaters

    Though eating electricity seems bizarre, the flow of current is central to life. All organisms require a source of electrons to make and store energy. They must also be able to shed electrons once their job is done. In describing this bare-bones view of life, Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Albert Szent-Györgyi once said, “Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest.”

    Humans and many other organisms get electrons from food and expel them with our breath. The microbes that El-Naggar and others are trying to grow belong to a group called lithoautotrophs, or rock eaters, which harvest energy from inorganic substances such as iron, sulfur or manganese. Under the right conditions, they can survive solely on electricity.

    The microbes’ apparent ability to ingest electrons — known as direct electron transfer — is particularly intriguing because it seems to defy the basic rules of biophysics. The fatty membranes that enclose cells act as an insulator, creating an electrically neutral zone once thought impossible for an electron to cross. “No one wanted to believe that a bacterium would take an electron from inside of the cell and move it to the outside,” said Kenneth Nealson, a geobiologist at the University of Southern California, in a lecture to the Society for Applied Microbiology in London last year.


    Ken Nealson – Environmental Microbiology Annual Lecture 2015: Extracellular electron transport (EET): opening new windows of metabolic opportunity for microbes.
    For more information about Environmental Microbiology
    visit http://goo.gl/7ZJOc6 For more information about Environmental Microbiology Reports
    visit http://goo.gl/NBdORV

    3
    Lucy Reading-Ikkanda/Quanta Magazine

    In the 1980s, Nealson and others discovered a surprising group of bacteria that can expel electrons directly onto solid minerals. It took until 2006 to discover the molecular mechanism behind this feat: A trio of specialized proteins [PubMed] sits in the cell membrane, forming a conductive bridge that transfers electrons to the outside of cell. (Scientists still debate whether the electrons traverse the entire distance of the membrane unescorted.)

    Inspired by the electron-donators, scientists began to wonder whether microbes could also do the reverse and directly ingest electrons as a source of energy. Researchers focused their search on a group of microbes called methanogens, which are known for making methane. Most methanogens aren’t strict metal eaters. But in 2009, Bruce Logan, an environmental engineer at Pennsylvania State University, and collaborators showed for the first time that a methanogen could survive using only energy from an electrode [PubMed]. The researchers proposed that the microbes were directly sucking up electrons, perhaps via a molecular bridge similar to the ones the electron-producers use to shuttle electrons across the cell wall. But they lacked direct proof.

    Then last year, Alfred Spormann, a microbiologist at Stanford University, and collaborators poked a hole in Logan’s theory. They uncovered a way [PubMed] that these organisms can survive on electrodes without eating naked electrons.

    The microbe Spormann studied, Methanococcus maripaludis, excretes an enzyme that sits on the electrode’s surface. The enzyme pairs an electron from the electrode with a proton from water to create a hydrogen atom, which is a well-established food source among methanogens. “Rather than having a conductive pathway, they use an enzyme,” said Daniel Bond, a microbiologist at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. “They don’t need to build a bridge out of conductive materials.”

    Though the microbes aren’t eating naked electrons, the results are surprising in their own right. Most enzymes work best inside the cell and rapidly degrade outside. “What’s unique is how stable the enzymes are when they [gather on] the surface of the electrode,” Spormann said. Past experiments suggest these enzymes are active outside the cell for only a few hours, “but we showed they are active for six weeks.”

    Spormann and others still believe that methanogens and other microbes can directly suck up electricity, however. “This is an alternative mechanism to direct electron transfer, it doesn’t mean direct electron transfer can’t exist,” said Largus Angenent, an environmental engineer at Cornell University, and president of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology. Spormann said his team has already found a microbe capable of taking in naked electrons. But they haven’t yet published the details.

    Microbes on Mars

    Only a tiny fraction — perhaps 2 percent — of all the planet’s microorganisms can be grown in the lab. Scientists hope that these new approaches — growing microbes on electrodes rather than in traditional culture systems — will provide a way to study many of the microbes that have been so far impossible to cultivate.

    “Using electrodes as proxies for minerals has helped us open and expand this field,” said Annette Rowe, a postdoctoral researcher at USC working with El-Naggar. “Now we have a way to grow the bacteria and monitor their respiration and really have a look at their physiology.”

    Rowe has already had some success.

    In 2013, she went on a microbe prospecting trip to the iron-rich sediments that surround California’s Catalina Island. She identified at least 30 new varieties [PubMed]of electric microbes in a study published last year. “They are from very diverse groups of microbes that are quite common in marine systems,” Rowe said. Before her experiment, no one knew these microbes could take up electrons from an inorganic substrate, she said. “That’s something we weren’t expecting.”

    Just as fishermen use different lures to attract different fish, Rowe set the electrodes to different voltages to draw out a rich diversity of microbes. She knew when she had a catch because the current changed — metal eaters generate a negative current, as the microbes suck electrons from the negative electrode.

    3
    Yamini Jangir, then a graduate student in Moh El-Naggar’s lab at the University of Southern California, collects water from a pipe at the Sanford Underground Research Facility nearly a mile underground. Connie A. Walter and Matt Kapust

    SURF-Sanford Underground Research Facility


    SURF Above Ground

    SURF Out with the Old


    SURF An Empty Slate


    SURF Carving New Space


    SURF Shotcreting


    SURF Bolting and Wire Mesh


    SURF Outfitting Begins


    SURF circular wooden frame was built to form a concrete ring to hold the 72,000-gallon (272,549 liters) water tank that would house the LUX dark matter detector


    SURF LUX water tank was transported in pieces and welded together in the Davis Cavern


    SURF Ground Support


    SURF Dedicated to Science


    SURF Building a Ship in a Bottle


    SURF Tight Spaces


    SURF Ready for Science


    SURF Entrance Before Outfitting


    SURF Entrance After Outfitting


    SURF Common Corridior


    SURF Davis


    SURF Davis A World Class Site


    SURF Davis a Lab Site


    SURF DUNE LBNF Caverns at Sanford Lab


    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA


    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF


    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford


    U Washington LUX Xenon experiment at SURF


    SURF Before Majorana


    U Washington Majorana Demonstrator Experiment at SURF

    The different varieties of bacteria that Rowe collected thrive under different electrical conditions, suggesting they employ different strategies for eating electrons. “Each bacteria had a different energy level where electron uptake would happen,” Rowe said. “We think that is indicative of different pathways.”

    Rowe is now searching new environments for additional microbes, focusing on fluids from a deep spring with low acidity. She’s also helping with El-Naggar’s gold mine expedition. “We are trying to understand how life works under these conditions,” said El-Naggar. “We now know that life goes far deeper than we thought, and there’s a lot more than we thought, but we don’t have a good idea for how they are surviving.”

    El-Naggar emphasizes that the field is still in its infancy, likening the current state to the early days of neuroscience, when researchers poked at frogs with electrodes to make their muscles twitch. “It took a long time for the basic mechanistic stuff to come out,” he said. “It’s only been 30 years since we discovered that microbes can interact with solid surfaces.”

    Given the bounty from these early experiments, it seems that scientists have only scratched the surface of the microbial diversity that thrives beneath the planet’s shallow exterior. The results could give clues to the origins of life on Earth and beyond. One theory for the emergence of life suggests it originated on mineral surfaces, which could have concentrated biological molecules and catalyzed reactions. New research could fill in one of the theory’s gaps — a mechanism for transporting electrons from mineral surfaces into cells.

    Moreover, subsurface metal eaters may provide a blueprint for life on other worlds, where alien microbes might be hidden beneath the planet’s shallow exterior. “For me, one of the most exciting possibilities is finding life-forms that might survive in extreme environments like Mars,” said El-Naggar, whose gold mine experiment is funded by NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. Mars, for example, is iron-rich and has water flowing beneath its surface. “If you have a system that can pick up electrons from iron and have some water, then you have all the ingredients for a conceivable metabolism,” said El-Naggar. Perhaps a former mine a mile underneath South Dakota won’t be the most surprising place that researchers find electron-eating life.

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:07 pm on October 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, , , Visualizing Science 2017: Finding the Hidden Beauty in College Research   

    From U Texas at Austin: “Visualizing Science 2017: Finding the Hidden Beauty in College Research” 

    U Texas Austin bloc

    University of Texas at Austin

    20 October 2017
    Steven E Franklin

    Five years ago the College of Natural Sciences began an annual tradition called Visualizing Science with the intent of finding the inherent beauty hidden within scholarly research. Each spring faculty, staff and students in our college community are invited to send us images that celebrate the splendor of science and the scientific process. Every year they deliver the moments where science and art meld and become one, and this year is no exception.

    The pursuit of scientific discovery often contains a visual aspect, as researchers explore the topics that fascinate them and attempt to communicate their discoveries in a meaningful way. History is rife with examples: Su Song drew detailed star maps, Charles Darwin sketched evolutionary trees in his notes, Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray diffraction images were vital to determining the structure of DNA, and Richard Feynman’s diagrams helped transform theoretical physics, to name a few.

    Now, with the advent of supercomputers and sophisticated software, scientific visualizations are becoming an invaluable part of the discovery process. Many modern scientists use 3-D models and data visualizations to uncover hidden patterns in data, to expose the inner workings of life or to reveal the very structure of the universe. This trend is exemplified by several of our newest Visualizing Science award winners.

    The winning images this year were publically revealed at Art in Science, an event put on by our Natural Sciences Council as part of Natural Sciences Week. These finalists, seven of the most stunning submissions from our scientific community, are featured below. The first six images were chosen by committee based on their beauty and scientific merit. The final image, our Facebook favorite, was chosen by the public on our Facebook page. The first six images will be displayed on campus in The University of Texas at Austin Tower and the Kuehne Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library, as well as on digital screens throughout buildings in the College of Natural Sciences.

    Please enjoy the fruits of our fifth annual Visualizing Science competition:

    First Place
    1
    Most stars in the Universe are not in isolation, but rather form in clusters. In the most compact clusters, a million stars as bright as a billion suns are packed within just a few light-years. This image shows the turbulent gas structures in a three-dimensional, multi-physics supercomputer simulation during the formation of such massive clusters, with the red-to-violet rainbow spectrum representing gas at high-to-low densities. Stars are the fundamental building blocks of galaxies, and of the Universe as a whole, and understanding star formation provides crucial insights to the history and future of our cosmos. The simulation and the visualization were produced locally on the Texas-sized supercomputers, Stampede and Lonestar 5, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). — Benny Tsang, Astronomy Graduate Student.

    TACC Maverick HP NVIDIA supercomputer

    TACC Lonestar Cray XC40 supercomputer

    Dell Poweredge U Texas Austin Stampede Supercomputer. Texas Advanced Computer Center 9.6 PF

    TACC HPE Apollo 8000 Hikari supercomputer

    TACC Maverick HP NVIDIA supercomputer

    Second Place
    2
    This three-dimensional high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT) image differentiates between the bony chainmail (in orange) embedded in the skin of a Komodo Dragon and the underlying bones of its skull (in white). The chainmail is formed by bony deposits in the head called cephalic osteoderms. The Komodo was donated by the Fort Worth Zoo after its death. Travis LaDuc catalogued the specimen into the Biodiversity Collections and made arrangements to have it scanned by Jessie Maisano in the Jackson School of Geosciences’s CT facility. The image is part of a manuscript being submitted to a scientific journal, featuring four authors: Chris Bell and Jessie Maisano of UT Jackson School of Geosciences; Diane Barber of the Ft. Worth Zoo; and LaDuc. — Travis LaDuc, Curator of Herpetology in the Department of Integrative Biology.

    Third Place
    3
    In this computer simulation of a diffusion process, particles are dropped in the center of a circle and then move randomly about its area until they meet another particle to which they stick. As they accumulate, the particles form growing fractal structures that are called Brownian Trees. One example of where these structures can be found in nature is in electro-chemical deposition processes, such as electroplating. — Lukas Gradl, Physics Graduate Student.

    Honorable Mentions
    4
    A close-up of a fabric that was embroidered using algorithmic design and patterning. The process includes programming the repetitive algorithm, designing and trying a pattern that will work best in holding the structure, hand folding, industrial steaming and chemical treatment. — Luisa Gil Fandino, Lecturer, Division of Textiles and Apparel.
    5
    Quantum computers run on magic states, a valuable resource required for some quantum operations. Understanding which quantum states are magic and which are not can be tricky. When states are plotted in 3-D space, the magic states form a bubbly fractal, as seen here. — Patrick Rall, Physics Graduate Student.
    6
    Newton’s method is a way of finding where a function is equal to zero. It’s simple and generally very effective, but small changes in the input can lead to large differences in the output. Though this makes its implementation more difficult, it also creates a fractal structure called a Newton fractal. In this image, Newton’s method was applied to many different inputs to graph the fractal: color represents the output of the algorithm, and shading represents its convergence time. — Arun Debray, Mathematics Graduate Student.

    Facebook Favorite
    7
    This photo captures a serendipitous moment during a trip to Port Aransas for a Field Study Seminar course in Environmental Science. Alec was using a hand lens to take notes about the grain type of the beach sand when a honeybee landed on his lab partner’s hand. Alec held his lens up to the bee, quickly grabbed the camera from his bag and snapped the picture before the visitor bee flew off. — Alec Blair, Environmental Science (Biological Sciences option) Undergraduate Student

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Texas Arlington Campus

    In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered that a site be set aside to meet the state’s higher education needs. After a series of delays over the next several decades, the state legislature reinvigorated the project in 1876, calling for the establishment of a “university of the first class.” Austin was selected as the site for the new university in 1881, and construction began on the original Main Building in November 1882. Less than one year later, on Sept. 15, 1883, The University of Texas at Austin opened with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students — and a mission to change the world. Today, UT Austin is a world-renowned higher education, research, and public service institution serving more than 51,000 students annually through 18 top-ranked colleges and schools.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:03 pm on October 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Applied Research & Technology, , , How to Trigger a Massive Earthquake   

    From Eos: “How to Trigger a Massive Earthquake” 

    AGU bloc

    AGU
    Eos news bloc

    Eos

    19 October 2017
    Lucas Joel

    Humans may be to blame for California’s second-largest 20th century earthquake, and a team of seismologists has now proposed how that could have happened.

    1
    A school in Kern County in California destroyed by the 1952 earthquake. A new study suggests that this earthquake could have been set off by nearby oil drilling activities, and it explains how that might have happened. Credit: NOAA National Geophysical Data Center

    A Los Angeles Times article published on 11 June 1952 tells of a successful new oil well at Wheeler Ridge in Kern County in California. The well operated for 98 days, but then, on 21 July at 4:52 a.m. local time, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake let loose beneath the well along the White Wolf fault. It was the second-largest earthquake in California in the 20th century, and it killed 12 people. A team of seismologists, reporting new research, thinks the oil drilling triggered the event. The work is the first to give a detailed explanation for how industrial activity could cause such a big earthquake, the researchers said.

    Taking oil out of the ground likely destabilized the White Wolf fault, triggering the Kern County quake, explained Susan Hough, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif., and lead author of a study published this month in the Journal of Seismology.

    The work follows a 2016 Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America study in which Hough and a colleague suggest that oil drilling played a role in other historic southern California earthquakes, like the deadly 1933 6.4-magnitude Long Beach earthquake that killed 120 people. That study, however, lacked an explanation for how drilling could trigger such large quakes when modern experience shows that induced quakes rarely exceed a magnitude of even 5. This time, Hough and her colleagues propose a mechanism.

    Putting the Pieces Together

    Hough told Eos how she stumbled across old California state reports that give detailed accounts of oil drilling activity in southern California. The reports revealed evidence for a spatial and temporal association between oil industry activity and earthquakes. “From the industry data for the [oil] production volumes and the location of the well and the location of the [White Wolf] fault, we can show that the stress change on the fault would’ve been potentially significant,” she said.

    The stress change Hough refers to happened as the well pumped oil out of the ground. This, Hough explained, likely triggered the quake by “unclamping” the underlying fault. In this case, picture the fault as a fracture along an inclined plane where crustal blocks on opposite sides stall as they try to move past one another. “The fault is locked because there’s friction on the fault, and part of the reason for that is there’s the weight of the overlying crust on the fault plane,” said Hough. “But if you take some of that weight off, it shifts; it’s going to reduce the confining pressure…depending on the faults that are there, that could just destabilize what had been a locked fault.”

    2
    Oil wells line the Huntington Beach shoreline in southern California in 1926. In 1933, the 6.3-magnitude Long Beach earthquake struck, and according to seismologists, the temblor was likely due to oil drilling in the Huntington Beach region. Credit: Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives

    Liquids like oil, however, typically lubricate faults, making them more prone to slipping. So how could removing oil help trigger an earthquake? The answer lies in the structure of the rock layers beneath the well, which, Hough explained, prevented the oil’s lubricating effects from reaching the White Wolf fault. This means it was only a matter of removing the oily overburden that led to the fault destabilization.

    According to the team’s calculations, the amount of oil removed from above the fault generated a stress change of about 1 bar of pressure, a value that seismologists generally think of as the amount of stress change required to set an earthquake in motion, Hough explained. “After 80 days of drilling, the stress change was right at and exceeding that magic number that we think is significant,” she said.

    “They’ve developed a very plausible geologic scenario for how the Kern County earthquake could’ve been induced,” said Gillian Foulger, a geophysicist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the work. “They’re really putting flesh on the bones for this particular earthquake.”

    Foulger also agrees that a modest change in the overlying weight could have been enough to set off the quake. “Earthquakes are a little bit like snow avalanches,” she said. “You can have a massive amount of snow pile up on a mountainside, and then you have a skier who skis across it and that’s just enough to trigger the disturbance that causes the whole lot to fall off.”

    Unlikely Recurrence

    Hough presents a model for initiating a large earthquake based on just one case example, although she thinks her work can apply to induced earthquakes in general: “It highlights the possibility that inducing any initial [earthquake] nucleation in proximity to a major fault could be the spark that detonates a larger rupture,” she said.

    “Nucleation” refers to the small change in stress needed to destabilize a fault—a stress change that could happen in oil-producing regions today. But the chances of producing another temblor in the manner of the Kern County earthquake are slim, according to Hough, mostly because oil fields tend not to sit above major fault lines. In addition, oil producers long ago changed to a standard practice of injecting water into the ground after oil removal, something that was not done at the Wheeler Ridge oil field and that could have restored much of the otherwise lost weight locking the fault.

    Most induced earthquakes are small—usually no bigger than a 4 magnitude—although there is no reason to suspect that humans cannot induce a big quake, explained Hough. The reason most induced quakes tend to be relatively small, she added, is that most earthquakes, in general, tend to be small. “One school of thought argues that the size distribution is the same for induced and natural earthquakes,” she said. But whether there is a maximum size limit for induced earthquakes, seismologists still do not know, she added.

    An important aspect of the new work, Foulger said, is that Hough presents a model that other scientists can test, which is a first for a large induced event like the Kern County earthquake. For Seth Stein, a geophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., who also had no part in the study, “the take-home is that for one of the largest earthquakes that we know of in the last hundred years, a reasonable case can be made that it was induced.”

    See the full article here .

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:32 am on October 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Converting the jiggles of perturbed optical fiber strands into information about the direction and magnitude of seismic events, Earthquake science, Fiber optic seismic observatory, , , Seismometers,   

    From Stanford: “Stanford researchers build a ‘billion sensors’ earthquake observatory with optical fibers” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    October 19, 2017
    Ker Than

    1
    Map shows location of a 3-mile, figure-8 loop of optical fibers installed beneath the Stanford campus as part of the fiber optic seismic observatory. (Image credit: Stamen Design and the Victoria and Albert Museum)

    Thousands of miles of buried optical fibers crisscross California’s San Francisco Bay Area delivering high-speed internet and HD video to homes and businesses.

    Biondo Biondi, a professor of geophysics at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, dreams of turning that dense network into an inexpensive “billion sensors” observatory for continuously monitoring and studying earthquakes.

    Over the past year, Biondi’s group has shown that it’s possible to convert the jiggles of perturbed optical fiber strands into information about the direction and magnitude of seismic events.

    The researchers have been recording those seismic jiggles in a 3-mile loop of optical fiber installed beneath the Stanford University campus with instruments called laser interrogators provided by the company OptaSense, which is a co-author on publications about the research.

    “We can continuously listen to – and hear well – the Earth using preexisting optical fibers that have been deployed for telecom purposes,” Biondi said.

    Currently researchers monitor earthquakes with seismometers, which are more sensitive than the proposed telecom array, but their coverage is sparse and they can be challenging and expensive to install and maintain, especially in urban areas.

    By contrast, a seismic observatory like the one Biondi proposes would be relatively inexpensive to operate. “Every meter of optical fiber in our network acts like a sensor and costs less than a dollar to install,” Biondi said. “You will never be able to create a network using conventional seismometers with that kind of coverage, density and price.”

    Such a network would allow scientists to study earthquakes, especially smaller ones, in greater detail and pinpoint their sources more quickly than is currently possible. Greater sensor coverage would also enable higher resolution measurements of ground responses to shaking.

    “Civil engineers could take what they learn about how buildings and bridges respond to small earthquakes from the billion-sensors array and use that information to design buildings that can withstand greater shaking,” said Eileen Martin, a graduate student in Biondi’s lab.

    From backscatter to signal

    Optical fibers are thin strands of pure glass about the thickness of a human hair. They are typically bundled together to create cables that transmit data signals over long distances by converting electronic signals into light.

    2
    The fiber optic seismic observatory successfully detected the 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico on Sept. 8, 2017. (Image credit: Siyuan Yuan)

    Biondi is not the first to envision using optical fibers to monitor the environment. A technology known as distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) already monitors the health of pipelines and wells in the oil and gas industry.

    “How DAS works is that as the light travels along the fiber, it encounters various impurities in the glass and bounces back,” Martin said. “If the fiber were totally stationary, that ‘backscatter’ signal would always look the same. But if the fiber starts to stretch in some areas — due to vibrations or strain — the signal changes.”

    Previous implementation of this kind of acoustic sensing, however, required optical fibers to be expensively affixed to a surface or encased in cement to maximize contact with the ground and ensure the highest data quality. In contrast, Biondi’s project under Stanford — dubbed the fiber optic seismic observatory — employs the same optical fibers as telecom companies, which lie unsecured and free-floating inside hollow plastic piping.

    “People didn’t believe this would work,” Martin said. “They always assumed that an uncoupled optical fiber would generate too much signal noise to be useful.”

    But since the fiber optic seismic observatory at Stanford began operation in September 2016, it has recorded and cataloged more than 800 events, ranging from manmade events and small, barely felt local temblors to powerful, deadly catastrophes like the recent earthquakes that struck more than 2,000 miles away in Mexico. In one particularly revealing experiment, the underground array picked up signals from two small local earthquakes with magnitudes of 1.6 and 1.8.

    “As expected, both earthquakes had the same waveform, or pattern, because they originated from the same place, but the amplitude of the bigger quake was larger,” Biondi said. “This demonstrates that fiber optic seismic observatory can correctly distinguish between different magnitude quakes.”

    Crucially, the array also detected and distinguished between two different types of waves that travel through the Earth, called P and S waves. “One of our goals is to contribute to an early earthquake warning system. That will require the ability to detect P waves, which are generally less damaging that S waves but arrive much earlier,” Martin said.

    The fiber optic seismic observatory at Stanford is just the first step toward developing a Bay Area-wide seismic network, Biondi said, and there are still many hurdles to overcome, such as demonstrating that the array can operate on a city-wide scale.
    Media Contacts

    Biondo Biondi, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: (650) 723-1319, biondo@stanford.edu

    Eileen Martin, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: ermartin@stanford.edu

    Ker Than, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: (650) 723-9820

    QCN bloc

    Quake-Catcher Network

    6.11.16

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. With your help, the Quake-Catcher Network can provide better understanding of earthquakes, give early warning to schools, emergency response systems, and others. The Quake-Catcher Network also provides educational software designed to help teach about earthquakes and earthquake hazards.

    After almost eight years at Stanford, and a year at CalTech, the QCN project is moving to the University of Southern California Dept. of Earth Sciences. QCN will be sponsored by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers into a real-time motion sensing network. QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC).

    BOINCLarge

    BOINC WallPaper

    The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called MEMS accelerometers, and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong new motions are observed. QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise (like doors slamming, or trucks driving by).

    There are two categories of sensors used by QCN: 1) internal mobile device sensors, and 2) external USB sensors.

    Mobile Devices: MEMS sensors are often included in laptops, games, cell phones, and other electronic devices for hardware protection, navigation, and game control. When these devices are still and connected to QCN, QCN software monitors the internal accelerometer for strong new shaking. Unfortunately, these devices are rarely secured to the floor, so they may bounce around when a large earthquake occurs. While this is less than ideal for characterizing the regional ground shaking, many such sensors can still provide useful information about earthquake locations and magnitudes.

    USB Sensors: MEMS sensors can be mounted to the floor and connected to a desktop computer via a USB cable. These sensors have several advantages over mobile device sensors. 1) By mounting them to the floor, they measure more reliable shaking than mobile devices. 2) These sensors typically have lower noise and better resolution of 3D motion. 3) Desktops are often left on and do not move. 4) The USB sensor is physically removed from the game, phone, or laptop, so human interaction with the device doesn’t reduce the sensors’ performance. 5) USB sensors can be aligned to North, so we know what direction the horizontal “X” and “Y” axes correspond to.

    If you are a science teacher at a K-12 school, please apply for a free USB sensor and accompanying QCN software. QCN has been able to purchase sensors to donate to schools in need. If you are interested in donating to the program or requesting a sensor, click here.

    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, developed at UC Berkeley.

    Earthquake safety is a responsibility shared by billions worldwide. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) links existing networked laptops and desktops in hopes to form the worlds largest strong-motion seismic network.

    Below, the QCN Quake Catcher Network map
    QCN Quake Catcher Network map -39655″ />

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    See the full article here .

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    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

    Stanford University Seal

     
  • richardmitnick 12:31 pm on October 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, LIFT- Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow, , Materials Manufacturing,   

    From U Michigan: “Advanced manufacturing lab opens in Detroit” 

    U Michigan bloc

    University of Michigan

    October 12, 2017 [better late…]
    Nicole Casal Moore

    Center to drive lightweight manufacturing technology.

    1
    Xun Lin, ME PhD Student, works in the S.M. Wu Manufacturing Research Center. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

    A $50 million lightweighting research and development lab that the University of Michigan helped to jumpstart opened its doors today in Detroit’s Corktown district.

    LIFT, which stands for Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow, and IACMI, The Composites Institute unveiled the 100,000-sq.-ft. facility. It’s a cornerstone of LIFT’s effort to establish a regional manufacturing ecosystem that moves advanced lightweight metals out of the research lab and into tomorrow’s cars, trucks, airplanes and ships for both the commercial and military sectors.

    “The metalworking industry in our country already employs almost half a million people,” said Alan Taub, LIFT’s chief technical officer and a professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering at U-M. “Through LIFT technology advances and education and workforce programs, we are enabling further growth.”

    2
    Mihaela Banu, ME Associate Professor, shows an example of an alloy in the GG Brown Building. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

    LIFT, which was formerly the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), launched in 2014 as a partnership among U-M, Ohio State University and Ohio-based manufacturing technology nonprofit EWI. The institute is a node in the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, an Obama administration White House initiative to help U.S. manufacturers become more competitive. It is now called Manufacturing USA. U-M faculty played pivotal roles in helping to conceive and shape this network.

    “The purpose of these manufacturing innovation institutes is to mature the technology and the manufacturing-readiness through precompetitive R&D and establish industrial commons necessary to anchor manufacturing in the U.S.”said Sridhar Kota, the Herrick Professor of Engineering at U-M and a professor of mechanical engineering. “LIFT’s six pillars of lightweight metals processing technology have significant applications to automotive and aerospace industries.”

    Kota held an appointment as assistant director for advanced manufacturing at the White House from 2009-12. He proposed the idea of so-called Edison Institutes to bridge the “innovation gap” between basic research and manufacturing-readiness. Kota helped create Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in 2011 to move the network forward. Other university leaders served on a working group of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

    “These new institutes will help put ‘&’ back in R&D in order to get a better return on investment of taxpayers’ dollars,” Kota said earlier.

    The new lab is a joint effort between LIFT and IACMI, The Composites Institute, which is another Manufacturing USA institute. It will allow institute members, partners and others in the industry to conduct research and development projects, in both lightweight metals and advanced composites. It will also provide education space for students and adult learners focused on the composites and lightweight materials industries.

    With more than 74 member organizations including companies, universities, research institutions, and education and workforce leaders as partners, LIFT is expected to contribute to economic development and positive job impact in Detroit and stretching to the five-state region of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky over the next five years. Most of these jobs will be in the metal stamping, metalworking, machining and casting industries that are dominant in the Midwest region.

    Beyond its R&D efforts, the institute aims to help educate the next generation of manufacturing’s technical workforce. LIFT will engage workforce partners from across the region to strengthen education and training pathways to high quality jobs in all transportation manufacturing sectors, including the automobile, aircraft, heavy truck, ship, rail and defense industries.

    LIFT receives federal funding as well as funding from the consortium partners themselves, including the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the state of Ohio.

    See the full article here .

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    U MIchigan Campus

    The University of Michigan (U-M, UM, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to simply as Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Originally, founded in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the Michigan Territory officially became a state, the University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet (781 acres or 3.16 km²), and has two satellite campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. The University was one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.

    Considered one of the foremost research universities in the United States,[7] the university has very high research activity and its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as professional degrees in business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni (as of 2012) comprises more than 500,000. Besides academic life, Michigan’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Wolverines. They are members of the Big Ten Conference.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:15 pm on October 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Evolutionary theory, Genetics of adaptation,   

    From Monash U: “New discovery challenges long-held evolutionary theory” 

    Monash Univrsity bloc

    Monash University

    19 October 2017
    Silvia Dropulich
    T: +61 3 9902 4513
    M: +61 (0) 0435138743
    silvia.dropulich@monash.edu

    1
    Mike McDonald, a recent ARC Future Fellow with Laura Woods (left) and Aysha Sezmis (right).
    Photo Credit: Steve Morton

    Monash scientists involved in one of the world’s longest evolution experiments have debunked an established theory with a study that provides a ‘high-resolution’ view of the molecular details of adaptation.

    Many of the challenges facing the world today are the result of evolutionary processes.

    “Cancer is an evolving group of cells within your body, antibiotic resistance is the result of bacteria adapting to the use of antibiotics, and climate change is forcing whole ecosystems to adapt or die,” said study co-lead author Dr Mike McDonald, from the Monash School of Biological Sciences.

    “A major goal of modern evolutionary biology is to be able to predict or anticipate evolutionary changes,” he said.

    “Our study, published in Nature, provides a high-resolution view of the molecular details of adaptation over substantial evolutionary timescales.

    “The insights we provide into the rate, repeatability, and molecular basis of adaptation will contribute to a better understanding of these evolutionary processes and challenges.”

    Dr McDonald, a recent ARC Future Fellow, specialises in the genetics of adaptation. To explore this area Dr McDonald’s lab propagates populations of yeast and other microbes such as E.coli for thousands of generations in a variety of laboratory environments.

    Dr McDonald has been involved in the ‘E.coli long-term evolution experiment’ – an ongoing experimental evolution study now in its 30th year led by Richard Lenksi. This study has been following the genetic changes in 12 initially identical E.coli populations.

    “The Lenski study is the longest running microbial evolution experiment with more than 67,000 generations of E.coli, which is equivalent to over one million years of human evolution,” Dr McDonald said.

    “In our study we found that even though the E. coli populations in our experiment have been evolving in a very simple environment for a long time, they are still adapting to their environment.

    “In other words the fit get fitter.

    “But the established theory tells us that adaptation should have stopped by now since there should be a ‘fitness peak’” that the E.coli should have reached by now – and our work shows that this is not the case.”

    According to Dr McDonald, one explanation is that as E. coli evolve, they change the environment that they are growing in. This change to the environment then drives further evolution, so that the populations may never stop adapting.

    In his study, researchers undertook genome sequencing which allowed them to track over 33,000 mutations for 61,000 generations of evolution, providing them resolution they needed.

    “This also gave us a comprehensive view of how repeatable adaptation is, and how random effects can affect the outcomes of evolution,” Dr McDonald said.

    See the full article here .

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    Monash U campus

    Monash University (/ˈmɒnæʃ/) is an Australian public research university based in Melbourne, Australia. Founded in 1958, it is the second oldest university in the State of Victoria. Monash is a member of Australia’s Group of Eight and the ASAIHL, and is the only Australian member of the influential M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies. Monash is one of two Australian universities to be ranked in the The École des Mines de Paris (Mines ParisTech) ranking on the basis of the number of alumni listed among CEOs in the 500 largest worldwide companies.[6] Monash is in the top 20% in teaching, top 10% in international outlook, top 20% in industry income and top 10% in research in the world in 2016.[7]

    Monash enrolls approximately 47,000 undergraduate and 20,000 graduate students,[8] It also has more applicants than any university in the state of Victoria.

    Monash is home to major research facilities, including the Australian Synchrotron, the Monash Science Technology Research and Innovation Precinct (STRIP), the Australian Stem Cell Centre, 100 research centres[9] and 17 co-operative research centres. In 2011, its total revenue was over $2.1 billion, with external research income around $282 million.[10]

    The university has a number of centres, five of which are in Victoria (Clayton, Caulfield, Berwick, Peninsula, and Parkville), one in Malaysia.[11] Monash also has a research and teaching centre in Prato, Italy,[12] a graduate research school in Mumbai, India[13] and a graduate school in Jiangsu Province, China.[14] Since December 2011, Monash has had a global alliance with the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.[15] Monash University courses are also delivered at other locations, including South Africa.

    The Clayton campus contains the Robert Blackwood Hall, named after the university’s founding Chancellor Sir Robert Blackwood and designed by Sir Roy Grounds.[16]

    In 2014, the University ceded its Gippsland campus to Federation University.[17] On 7 March 2016, Monash announced that it would be closing the Berwick campus by 2018.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:52 am on October 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Applied Research & Technology, Bio-inspired robot sensor skin, Flexible ‘skin’ can help robots, , prosthetics perform everyday tasks by sensing shear force,   

    From University of Washington: “Flexible ‘skin’ can help robots, prosthetics perform everyday tasks by sensing shear force” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    October 17, 2017
    Jennifer Langston

    1
    The flexible sensor skin wrapped around the robot finger (orange) is the first to measure shear forces with similar sensitivity as a human hand — which is critical for successfully gripping and manipulating objects.UCLA Engineering

    If a robot is sent to disable a roadside bomb — or delicately handle an egg while cooking you an omelet — it needs to be able to sense when objects are slipping out of its grasp.

    Yet to date it’s been difficult or impossible for most robotic and prosthetic hands to accurately sense the vibrations and shear forces that occur, for example, when a finger is sliding along a tabletop or when an object begins to fall.

    Now, engineers from the University of Washington and UCLA have developed a flexible sensor “skin” that can be stretched over any part of a robot’s body or prosthetic to accurately convey information about shear forces and vibration that are critical to successfully grasping and manipulating objects.

    The bio-inspired robot sensor skin, described in a paper published in Sensors and Actuators A: Physical [ScienceDirect], mimics the way a human finger experiences tension and compression as it slides along a surface or distinguishes among different textures. It measures this tactile information with similar precision and sensitivity as human skin, and could vastly improve the ability of robots to perform everything from surgical and industrial procedures to cleaning a kitchen.

    “Robotic and prosthetic hands are really based on visual cues right now — such as, ‘Can I see my hand wrapped around this object?’ or ‘Is it touching this wire?’ But that’s obviously incomplete information,” said senior author Jonathan Posner, a UW professor of mechanical engineering and of chemical engineering.

    “If a robot is going to dismantle an improvised explosive device, it needs to know whether its hand is sliding along a wire or pulling on it. To hold on to a medical instrument, it needs to know if the object is slipping. This all requires the ability to sense shear force, which no other sensor skin has been able to do well,” Posner said.

    2
    The bio-inspired sensor skin developed by University of Washington and UCLA engineers can be wrapped around a finger or any other part of a robot or prosthetic device to help convey a sense of touch.UCLA Engineering

    Some robots today use fully instrumented fingers, but that sense of “touch” is limited to that appendage and you can’t change its shape or size to accommodate different tasks. The other approach is to wrap a robot appendage in a sensor skin, which provides better design flexibility. But such skins have not yet provided a full range of tactile information.

    “Traditionally, tactile sensor designs have focused on sensing individual modalities: normal forces, shear forces or vibration exclusively. However, dexterous manipulation is a dynamic process that requires a multimodal approach. The fact that our latest skin prototype incorporates all three modalities creates many new possibilities for machine learning-based approaches for advancing robot capabilities,” said co-author and robotics collaborator Veronica Santos, a UCLA associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

    The new stretchable electronic skin, which was manufactured at the UW’s Washington Nanofabrication Facility, is made from the same silicone rubber used in swimming goggles. The rubber is embedded with tiny serpentine channels — roughly half the width of a human hair — filled with electrically conductive liquid metal that won’t crack or fatigue when the skin is stretched, as solid wires would do.

    When the skin is placed around a robot finger or end effector, these microfluidic channels are strategically placed on either side of where a human fingernail would be.

    As you slide your finger across a surface, one side of your nailbed bulges out while the other side becomes taut under tension. The same thing happens with the robot or prosthetic finger — the microfluidic channels on one side of the nailbed compress while the ones on the other side stretch out.

    When the channel geometry changes, so does the amount of electricity that can flow through them. The research team can measure these differences in electrical resistance and correlate them with the shear forces and vibrations that the robot finger is experiencing.

    3
    As the robot finger slides along a surface, serpentine channels embedded in the skin and filled with electrically conductive liquid metal stretch on one side of the finger and compress on the other. This changes the amount of electricity that can flow through the channels, which can be correlated with shear force and vibration.Reprinted from Sensors and Actuators A: Physical 2017:264:289-297; Yin, J., Santos, V.J., and Posner, J.D. “Bioinspired flexible microfluidic shear force sensor skin,” with permission from Elsevier.

    “It’s really following the cues of human biology,” said lead author Jianzhu Yin, who recently received his doctorate from the UW in mechanical engineering. “Our electronic skin bulges to one side just like the human finger does and the sensors that measure the shear forces are physically located where the nailbed would be, which results in a sensor that performs with similar performance to human fingers.”

    Placing the sensors away from the part of the finger that’s most likely to make contact makes it easier to distinguish shear forces from the normal “push” forces that also occur when interacting with an object, which has been difficult to do with other sensor skin solutions.

    The research team from the UW College of Engineering and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has demonstrated that the physically robust and chemically resistant sensor skin has a high level of precision and sensitivity for light touch applications — opening a door, interacting with a phone, shaking hands, picking up packages, handling objects, among others. Recent experiments have shown that the skin can detect tiny vibrations at 800 times per second, better than human fingers.

    “By mimicking human physiology in a flexible electronic skin, we have achieved a level of sensitivity and precision that’s consistent with human hands, which is an important breakthrough,” Posner said. “The sense of touch is critical for both prosthetic and robotic applications, and that’s what we’re ultimately creating.”

    The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    For more information, contact Posner at jposner@uw.edu.

    Grant numbers NSF: CBET – 1264046 and NSF: CBET – 1461630.

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    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
    • folia przeciwsłoneczna do samochodu 6:47 pm on October 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      I’m a third-generation educator, and when I see a piece of teaching this good, all I can do is offer my professional kudos. I hope it’s a lesson you don’t have to re-teach.

      Like

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