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  • richardmitnick 12:47 pm on January 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Texas A&M   

    From Texas A&M: “A&M professors help develop new telescope” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    Dec 4, 2017
    Elaine Soliman

    The new telescope will help change how astronomers study space.

    LSST


    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    The LSST Facility will change how astronomers study the sky by providing a new method of examination.

    The ability to finally be able to analyze and learn more about dark matter and dark energy is just around the corner thanks the innovative Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST. It is being developed by an international team made of over thousands of people, including three professors at Texas A&M.

    The LSST is a groundbreaking telescope which will develop a digital picture of the entire sky continuously over a three-night period. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, according to Lucas Macri, institutional board representative of the LSST. The LSST is aimed to become operational as soon as 2022. This project wasn’t feasible fifteen years ago, but the LSST will bring in all sorts of new data about the universe around us, according to Macri.

    “Imagine if our only knowledge of biology was one picture of a cell that you took once,” Macri said. “The nice thing about a microscope … is you can actually see a cell … that dynamic and that temporal coverage, of in this case, a cell, gives you a lot of information and it is the same thing with the sky. We’ve been able to study small patches of the sky repeatedly. Many pictures of them see things that change, discover new stars, exploding stars, asteroid, whatever. But we have never been able to do an unbiased complete survey of the sky.”

    The LSST is able to do this using a charged couple device that is sensitive to light. It also requires a large mirror to be cast, and a lot glass melted into the right shape. The LSST has two mirrors in one shape which collect in a flight with enough quality so that eventually one can make these pictures of the sky, according to Macri.

    “The telescope was able to be designed to look at a large part of the sky,” Nicholas Suntzeff, university distinguished professor and head of the TAMU Astronomy Group said. “The digital detector for the LSST is the size of [a] table. Imagine covering [a] table with silicon chips and cramming them all together. And so every image you take with this telescope is the size of [a] table and you’re taking images every twenty seconds all night long. So this is an unbelievable size of an image of a focal plane. And compare that with the camera that’s being built for the LSST and so that’s what [a] table is, it’s the size of the image. As a person whose built instruments that just blows my mind that we’re able to do something like that.”

    This flood of new information about the entire universe can be utilized to further understand dark matter and dark energy. With the development of the LSST, astronomers can learn more about dark matter and energy than was ever possible before. They will also be able to better understand transient objects, according to Suntzeff.

    “This telescope will be the first big telescope to devote itself to searching for what we call in astronomy the transient sky,” Suntzeff said. “Stars that vary get brighter and fainter. Stars that explode. Galaxies that get brighter and fainter. Black holes that rip apart stars. Gamma Ray explosions at the edge of the universe. And we’ll discover things that we can’t even imagine right now. That’s one of the beauties of astronomy.

    Every time a telescope is built, that opens up a new way of looking at the universe, Suntzeff said.

    “We anticipate cool things to discover that ultimately what was really exciting was to discover things that we had no idea existed,” Suntzeff said. “So, in this case we’re opening up the transient sky and we will find things beyond our imaginations.”

    The LSST will also be able to help predict if an asteroid is projected to hit the earth, according to Macri. Macri said if an asteroid the size of Kyle Field hit the earth, the impact wouldn’t be the problem, but the amount of dust would eventually black out the whole earth.

    The LSST is currently being developed as a worldwide project. The LSST headquarters are in Tuscon, Arizona. Astronomers at Stanford University are developing the camera, which will be the largest digital camera ever assembled. The telescope itself is being built in Chile.

    Suntzeff, who picked the mountain in Chile on which to build the telescope, was actually one of the first people involved with the project approximately twenty years ago. According to Suntzeff, the LSST has brought together the astronomy and statistics departments.

    “It’s unbelievable how much data is going to come from this telescope,” Suntzeff said. “And in order to sift through the data we can’t just be normal astronomers. We have to use advanced mathematical and statistical techniques. So we’ve begun a program in collaboration with the statistics department in studying something that’s called astrostatistics. And astrostatistics will allow us to have tools to allow us to search very large databases for objects of interest.”

    Currently, these TAMU professors are preparing their graduate students for what is to come in the next few years with the completion of the LSST.

    “Well I am preparing for some software I was thinking about getting students to work LSST related problems in particular to identify objects that may be interesting to us,” said Lifan Wang, professor in physics and astronomy at TAMU and member of the LSST dark energy science collaboration.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Located in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston and within a two to three-hour drive from Austin and Dallas.
    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
    More than $820 million in research expenditures generated by faculty-researchers
    Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:49 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Texas A&M   

    From Texas A&M: “Channeling helium: Researchers take next step toward fusion energy” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    1
    (Plasma Science and Fusion Center) Science Alert

    November 10, 2017
    Lorian Hopcus
    lorian.hopcus@tamu.edu

    1

    Fusion is the process that powers the sun, harnessing it on Earth would provide unlimited clean energy. However, researchers say that constructing a fusion power plant has proven to be a daunting task, in no small part because there have been no materials that could survive the grueling conditions found in the core of a fusion reactor. Now, researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered a way to make materials that may be suitable for use in future fusion reactors.

    The sun makes energy by fusing hydrogen atoms, each with one proton, into helium atoms, which contain two protons. Helium is the byproduct of this reaction. Although it does not threaten the environment, it wreaks havoc upon the materials needed to make a fusion reactor.

    “Helium is an element that we don’t usually think of as being harmful,” said Dr. Michael Demkowicz, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “It is not toxic and not a greenhouse gas, which is one reason why fusion power is so attractive.”

    However, if you force helium inside of a solid material, it bubbles out, much like carbon dioxide bubbles in carbonated water.

    “Literally, you get these helium bubbles inside of the metal that stay there forever because the metal is solid,” Demkowicz said. “As you accumulate more and more helium, the bubbles start to link up and destroy the entire material.”

    Working with a team of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Demkowicz investigated how helium behaves in nanocomposite solids, materials made of stacks of thick metal layers. Their findings, recently published in Science Advances, were a surprise. Rather than making bubbles, the helium in these materials formed long channels, resembling veins in living tissues.

    “We were blown away by what we saw,” Demkowicz said. “As you put more and more helium inside these nanocomposites, rather than destroying the material, the veins actually start to interconnect, resulting in kind of a vascular system.”

    This discovery paves the way to helium-resistant materials needed to make fusion energy a reality. Demkowicz and his collaborators believe that helium may move through the networks of veins that form in their nanocomposites, eventually exiting the material without causing any further damage.

    Demkowicz collaborated with Di Chen, Nan Li, Kevin Baldwin and Yongqiang Wang from Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as former student Dina Yuryev from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The project was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    “Applications to fusion reactors are just the tip of the iceberg,” Demkowicz said. “I think the bigger picture here is in vascularized solids, ones that are kind of like tissues with vascular networks. What else could be transported through such networks? Perhaps heat or electricity or even chemicals that could help the material self-heal.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Located in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston and within a two to three-hour drive from Austin and Dallas.
    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
    More than $820 million in research expenditures generated by faculty-researchers
    Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:09 pm on December 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Led Study Helps Prove Galaxy Evolution Theory   

    From Texas A&M: “Texas A&M-Led Study Helps Prove Galaxy Evolution Theory” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    1
    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), as captured in phenomenal panorama from 5,000 meters at Chilean Altiplano — the highlands of the Andes Mountains. The Milky Way was passing through its zenith at that very moment, and Zodiacal light is also visible in the lower part of the image, with Venus shining through as well. (Credit: Yuri Beletsky, Carnegie Observatories.)

    “We used ALMA to detect adolescent versions of the Milky Way and found that such galaxies do indeed have much higher amounts of molecular gas, which would fuel rapid star formation. I liken these galaxies to an adolescent human who consumes prodigious amounts of food to fuel their own growth during their teenage years.”
    Dr. Casey Papovich, Texas A&M astronomer

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at  Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    2
    Composite image of the molecular gas (indicated in red), superimposed on Hubble Space Telescope images of the four young Milky Way-like galaxies studied by Texas A&M astronomer Casey Papovich and his collaborators using ALMA. These Hubble images are much sharper than the images of the gas from ALMA. Therefore, while the gas appears as a halo here, Papovich says it is more likely to be co-spatial with the starlight in the galaxies. (Credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory.)

    Everyone has a backstory, even our own Milky Way galaxy. And much like social media, the picture is not always as pretty as it appears on the current surface, says Texas A&M University astronomer Casey Papovich.

    Papovich notes that large disk galaxies like our own Milky Way were not always the well-ordered, pinwheel-like, spiral structures we see in the universe today. On the contrary, he and other international experts who specialize in galaxy formation and evolution believe that about 8-to-10 billion years ago, progenitors of the Milky Way and similar disk/spiral galaxies were smaller and less organized, yet highly active in their youth.

    In previous NASA and National Science Foundation-funded research, Papovich and his collaborators showed that these younger versions of such galaxies were churning out new stars faster than at any other point in their lifespans, suggesting that they must be amazingly rich in star-forming material. And now, they have compelling evidence — the galactic equivalent of a smoking gun.

    Using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — a huge, highly sophisticated radio telescope array situated at 16,500 feet altitude in the high desert of Chile — a Papovich-led team of astronomers studied four very young versions of galaxies like the Milky Way that are 9 billion light-years distant, meaning the team could see them as they looked approximately 9 billion years ago. They discovered that each galaxy was incredibly rich in carbon monoxide — a well-known tracer of molecular gas, which is the fuel for star formation.

    The team’s findings are reported in a paper posted to arXiv and set to be published in the inaugural issue of Nature Astronomy in January.

    “We used ALMA to detect adolescent versions of the Milky Way and found that such galaxies do indeed have much higher amounts of molecular gas, which would fuel rapid star formation,” said Papovich, lead author on the paper and a member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. “I liken these galaxies to an adolescent human who consumes prodigious amounts of food to fuel their own growth during their teenage years.”

    In addition to Papovich, the research team also includes fellow Texas A&M astronomers Ryan Quadri and Kim-Vy Tran, as well as astronomers from Leiden Observatory in Holland, Swinburne University and Macquarie University in Australia, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the University of Texas at Austin, Lyon Observatory in France and the Max Plank Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

    Though the relative abundance of star-forming gas is extreme in these galaxies, Papovich says they are not yet fully formed and rather small compared to the Milky Way as we see it today. The new ALMA data indicate that the vast majority of the mass in these galaxies is in cold molecular gas rather than in stars — a situation that Papovich says is reversed at present in our Milky Way, where the mass in stars outweighs that in gas by a factor of 10 to 1. These observations, he notes, are helping build a complete picture of how matter in Milky-Way-size galaxies evolved and how our own galaxy formed.

    “Most stars today exist in galaxies like the Milky Way, so by studying how galaxies like our own formed, we’ve come to understand the most typical locations of stars in the universe,” said Papovich, a member since 2008 of the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy, where he is a co-holder of the Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 Chair in Experimental Physics. “Our current research shows that Milky Way-mass galaxies appear to accumulate most of their gas during their first few billion years of history. At that stage, they have most of the fuel they need to produce the stars they currently encompass in the present.”

    The presence of extensive gas reservoirs backs up the team’s previous observations that provided the first tangible pictures showcasing the unprecedented life story of Milky Way galaxy evolution. Among other details, their prior study revealed a stellar birth rate 30 times higher than it is in the Milky Way today — roughly one per year, compared to about 30 each year 9.5 billion years ago.

    “Thanks to ALMA and other innovative instruments that allow us to peer 9 billion years into the past to analyze galaxies that are likely similar to the progenitor of our own Milky Way galaxy, we can actually prove what our observations show,” Papovich said.

    Papovich and his team recently have been awarded more highly competitive time with ALMA to study the temperature and density of the star-forming gas, allowing them to measure and map its transitions and phases and ideally the related impacts within the galaxies.

    “This will begin to tell us how these galaxies formed stars at such a rapid pace, compared to conditions at present,” he said.

    Papovich, Quadri and Tran are among roughly two dozen astronomers around the world who have spent years studying carefully selected distant galaxies similar in mass to the progenitor of our own Milky Way that were found in two deep-sky program surveys of the universe, the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and the FourStar Galaxy Evolution Survey (ZFOURGE). Beyond ALMA, the team’s research has used observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    “NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft
    ESA/Herschel spacecraft

    The Hubble images from the CANDELS survey also provided structural information about galaxy sizes and how they evolved. Far-infrared light observations from Spitzer and Herschel helped the astronomers trace the star-formation rate.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Located in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston and within a two to three-hour drive from Austin and Dallas.
    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
    More than $820 million in research expenditures generated by faculty-researchers
    Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:08 pm on November 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Texas A&M   

    From Texas A&M: “Astronomers ‘expect the unexpected’ with new telescope” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    Oct 4, 2016 [This just appeared in social media.]
    Josh Hopkins

    Giant Magellan Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, to be built  some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile
    Giant Magellan Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile

    In 2022, the dreams of hundreds of astronomers across the world will become a reality with the completion of a telescope large enough to see to the edge of the universe.

    The Giant Magellan Telescope is a telescope being constructed in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Chile, one of the best locations for a telescope in the world. Texas A&M is among a large number of universities and science institutions supporting the project, including Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution.

    Nick Suntzeff, A&M astronomy professor, said the sheer size of the collecting area will enable the GMT to see further than any other current telescope.

    “When we go on the sky, we will be able to see things that no one else can,” Suntzeff said. “We will be able to look at nearby stars for planets with signatures of life in their atmospheres; we will be able to look at galaxies at the edge of the universe. There will be some amazing science we will be able to do.”

    Darren DePoy, A&M astronomy professor, said construction first began on the project in Nov. 2015 and so far, support buildings and infrastructure are almost completed. DePoy said one of the most difficult parts of the project will be constructing the foundation — or pier — the telescope will sit upon.

    “The key element of the telescope is a giant chunk of concrete. You dig a hole straight down to bedrock then you fill that hole up with concrete, and that’s what the telescope sits on,” DePoy said. “It needs to be incredibly stable. It’s an enormous amount of concrete. Something dramatic will happen to get all this concrete in this big hole that they will dig on top of the mountain to make the pier for the telescope.”

    DePoy said once completed, the telescope will have an expected lifetime of between 50 and 100 years.

    “We can apply the telescope to whatever is the most interesting science 50 years from now,” DePoy said. “Who knows what that might be? By changing its functions the instruments that go on the back of our telescope we can make sure the telescope is vibrant, and useful, and always producing good results.”

    Suntzeff said the project has the majority of the money it needs for completion and is expected to be online by 2022 or 2023.

    “When I first came here we had a little bit of money and it was just a dream,” Suntzeff said. “We still don’t have all of the money but it’s a reality now, and that’s very exciting. We will be the largest telescope when it is built and we will be on the sky before any of the other large telescopes for a while.”

    Suntzeff said even though astronomers have expectations for what they will see with the telescope, he expects the unexpected.

    “Whenever you open up a new telescope and start looking at the sky the cool stuff that you discover is not the stuff you expected, it’s completely unexpected,” Suntzeff said. “That’s what I think is really exciting, what it is that we don’t know what we’re going to discover.”

    Jerry Strawser, chief financial officer at Texas A&M, said the university considers the project an investment in science.

    “Like a lot of things, this is a long-term project and it is going to take a number of years to get finished,” Strawser said. “But there are a number of leading astronomers who are on the board of directors who are excited about the project and what it will do for their research and the scientific community.”

    DePoy said incredible scientific research can be done using the Giant Magellan Telescope.

    “Maybe 100 years from now we will be building telescopes on the moon and then we really won’t need telescopes here on the surface of the earth, that’s not really very pertinent to me,” DePoy said. “For now, it’s a really super worthwhile thing to do. We can find planets with life on them, if we can, if they’re there. We can look at some of the earliest galaxies; we can investigate how the universe is structured.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Located in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston and within a two to three-hour drive from Austin and Dallas.
    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
    More than $820 million in research expenditures generated by faculty-researchers
    Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:35 am on July 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Powered exoskeletons, Texas A&M   

    From COSMOS: “Moving exoskeletons from sci-fi into medical rehabilitation and therapy” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS

    21 July 2016
    No writer credit explicit

    Exoskeletons are enhancing human strength, assisting disabled people and even provide rehabilitation after injuries.

    Chances are, you’ve seen a person using a powered exoskeleton – what you might think of as a sort of bionic suit – but only in the movies. In the 2013 movie “Elysium,” for example, Matt Damon’s character has an exoskeleton that makes his body stronger and faster than it would otherwise be. Simply described, they are devices that can be externally worn, resembling the skeleton of the body part they are attached to and able to provide support in many ways.

    That technology isn’t just in science fiction; it really exists and has even been commercialized. It supports devices that enhance human strength, assist disabled people and even provide rehabilitation after injuries. Our work focuses on helping stroke patients’ recovery.

    Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. More than 85 percent of them survive, but only 10 percent recover completely. The rest must deal with mobility impairment and cognitive disabilities.

    Stroke victims can get help relearning skills they have lost or learn new ways of performing tasks to compensate for lost abilities. The most effective rehabilitation is specific to the skills the patient needs, and of sufficient intensity and duration to truly retrain the nerves and muscles involved. However, the number of trained human therapists who can provide this support is limited, while the demand is growing, particularly as populations age.

    1
    Physical therapy can require a lot of professional time and contact. Can robots help? Patient and therapist via shutterstock.com

    We at the Laboratory for Control, Robotics and Automation (LCRA) at Texas A&M University are working to help solve this problem by developing an intelligent robotic device that can provide therapy services in hospitals and clinics as an enhancement to conventional therapy methods. Our device will be connected to a patient’s upper arm and back during therapy sessions, providing individualized movement assistance to increase strength and flexibility. Such a device benefits therapists by reducing the physical load of their jobs, and patients by providing affordable and widely available therapy opportunities.

    2
    Initial development of the exoskeleton was at the Laboratory for Control, Robotics and Automation at Texas A&M University. Author provided.

    A growing need

    The number of elderly people worldwide is growing, as life expectancies increase. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the number of Americans age 65 or over will double by 2050. Research suggests that people in that age group have an increased risk of suffering a stroke. We expect the number of stroke survivors who need rehabilitation services to rise significantly in the near future.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of occupational therapy and physical therapy jobs is expected to increase 27 percent and 34 percent, respectively, by 2020. Though interest in the field is growing, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation projects the current physical therapist shortage will increase significantly in the upcoming decades. Efforts to keep rehabilitation at its current service quality could result in a shortage of as many as 26,000 physical therapists by 2020; improving service or updating it to reflect ongoing research will require even more people.

    Robots for rehabilitation

    While there remain a number of things that only human therapists can do, many rehab exercises are highly repetitive. This is where robotic systems excel: They can perform the same task countless times, with precision and accuracy without fatigue or loss of attention.

    Many researchers around the world have developed robotic devices for rehabilitation purposes. These devices are typically designed specifically to work on patients’ paralyzed arms or legs. Many clinical studies confirm the effectiveness of automated therapy; in some cases it is even better than conventional therapy. However, there is still a long way to go.

    Challenges of automated therapy

    Despite the many benefits robotic based rehabilitation can offer to society, not many clinics are equipped with such devices. Rehabilitation exoskeletons often require very complicated design and control processes, which usually result in bulky, heavy and expensive devices. In addition, patient trust or comfort with a therapist might be reduced when interacting with a robot.

    These challenges limit the usage of robotic devices to research centers and a few rehabilitation centers. Considering the significant role of exoskeletons in the future of rehabilitation, it is time to address these challenges.

    How our robot solves these challenges

    Our work is focused on developing a lighter, more compact robotic exoskeleton device that can help stroke patients recover strength and motion in their arms. To this end, we have done detailed analysis of even the simplest device components.

    3
    Performing a close analysis of device components. Author provided.

    While development is ongoing, we are using new technologies and have adopted the most recent findings of rehabilitation science research to build a device that better prepare patients for activities of daily living. In addition to helping stroke patients, this device can also be used for rehabilitation of other patients with arm disabilities or injuries.

    The technical evaluations of the device will be completed on the Texas A&M campus in College Station early next year. Once the safety of device is guaranteed, we will test it on real stroke patients in Hamad Medical Center in Doha, Qatar by fall 2017.

    Looking to the future

    Our final goal is to develop home-based exoskeletons. Currently portability, high costs and limitations on the performance of the available systems are the main barriers for using rehab exoskeletons in patients’ homes. Home-based rehabilitation could dramatically improve the intensity and effectiveness of therapy patients receive. Robots could, for example, allow patients to start therapy in the very early stages of recovery, without having to deal with the hassles of frequent and long visits to clinics. In the comfort of their own homes, people could get specific training at the appropriate level of intensity, overseen and monitored by a human therapist over the internet.

    Maximizing therapy robots’ ability to help patients depends on deepening the human-robot interaction. This sort of connection is the subject of significant research of late, and not just for patient treatment. In most cases where people are working with robots, though, the human takes the lead role; in therapy, the robot must closely observe the patient and decide when to provide corrective input.

    Virtual reality is another technology that has proven to be an effective tool for rehabilitation purposes. Virtual reality devices and the recently developed augmented reality systems can be adapted to use with rehab exoskeletons. Although linking the real and virtual worlds within these systems is a challenging task, an exoskeleton equipped with a high fidelity virtual- or augmented-reality device could offer unique benefits.

    These opportunities are challenging to be realized. But if we manage to develop such systems, it could open a world of fantastic opportunities. Imagine automated rehabilitation gyms, with devices specific to different motions of different body parts, available for anyone who needed them. But there are even more miraculous possibilities: Would no one need a wheelchair anymore?

    These devices can also help reduce the social isolation many stroke patients experience. With the aid of augmented reality tools, therapy robots can help patients interact with each other, as in a virtual exercise group. This sort of connection can make rehabilitation a pleasant experience in patients’ daily lives, one they look forward to and enjoy, which will also promote their recovery.

    This technology could have everyday uses for healthy individuals, too. Perhaps people would one day own an exoskeleton for help with labor-intensive tasks at home or in the garden. Factory workers could work harder and faster, but with less fatigue and risk of injury. The research is really just beginning.
    The Conversation

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:35 am on November 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Texas A&M   

    From Texas A&M: “Texas A&M Grad Student’s aTmCam Offers Cosmic Insight for Dark Energy Survey” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    “We’ve done other small projects for the Dark Energy Survey in the past, but this is yet another example of the excellent work our undergrad and grad students are doing in our lab. I think this is Texas A&M’s greatest contribution to this project and what makes me the most proud.”
    Jennifer Marshall, Texas A&M astronomer

    thing
    The Texas A&M University-built Atmospheric Transmission Monitoring Camera (aTmCam) is installed at Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory on the concrete pad formerly used by the El Enano dome. It is designed to enable the improved photometric calibration of data acquired by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the CTIO’s 4m Blanco telescope visible in the background. (Credit: Brian Nord, Fermilab)

    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope
    CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope interior
    CTIO Victor M Blanco Telescope

    Dark Energy Camera
    DECam, built at Fermilab

    As a child peering through her toy telescope, Texas A&M University graduate student Ting Li was fascinated by the Moon and constellations — not so much by their cosmic beauty, but about why they exist in the first place.

    “The sky always seemed so beautiful to me,” Li said. “But outer space — that has always been a mystery.”

    Now working toward her doctorate in astronomy as a member of Texas A&M’s Charles R. ’62 and Judith G. Munnerlyn Astronomical Laboratory, Li has developed her own instrument designed to help scientists understand more about the cosmos.

    Li’s breakthrough device — dubbed the Atmospheric Transmission Monitoring Camera, or aTmCam — provides an innovative and efficient way of measuring subtle changes in the light that is constantly moving throughout the atmosphere. The resulting data will used by scientists as part of the Dark Energy Survey, a five-year investigation to understand the mysterious expansion of the universe.

    Li’s aTmCam, located at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, is housed in a mini-observatory that she and a Munnerlyn Lab team of undergraduate researchers hand-built. Completely computer-automated and operating on a script programmed by Li, the device is comprised of a row of four high-power telescopes mounted with four charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras, each with a different filter.

    On clear evenings, the mini-observatory’s seven-foot diameter dome opens, and aTmCam aims at a target star in the night sky. Each of its four cameras will capture a unique image of the wavelengths of light transmitted by the star. By observing specific features of the four images, Li can track changes in the atmosphere, providing preliminary data that DES scientists then will use to calibrate the photometry of Type Ia supernova — considered the best cosmological “standard candles” for measuring cosmic distances — taken as part of the survey.

    “The scientific objectives of the Dark Energy Survey require measurements of the brightness of stars and galaxies with unprecedented precision,” said Texas A&M astronomer Darren DePoy, director of the Munnerlyn Lab and himself the project scientist for the world’s largest digital camera, the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam). “The Earth’s atmosphere absorbs, scatters and otherwise compromises such measurements. Fortunately, Ting’s approach removes one of the worst offending effects — the variability of the transmission of light through the atmosphere with time — in a robust manner. The added precision allows for significantly better distance determinations, which in turn substantially improves our ability to measure the effects of dark energy on the universe.”

    As it stands, Li’s aTmCam will be in operation at least for the duration of the survey, but she believes it could have a much longer shelf-life, not to mention broader appeal. For starters, any researchers interested in observing variable stars and exoplanets may find aTmCam useful in determining if any irregularities are due to the star itself or to the atmosphere.

    “In general, anyone interested in precision photometry can find use for aTmCam,” Li said. “Earth’s atmosphere is constantly changing, and this will ensure the most precise measurements are taken.”

    Thanks in part to the precision science and astronomical instrumentation expertise represented within the Munnerlyn Lab and the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M has a key role in several major astronomical ventures across the world. Perhaps the most colossal is the Giant Magellan Telescope project, an 11-partner international collaboration working to construct the world’s largest telescope in Chile by 2019. The next-generation wonder features seven massive honeycomb mirrors and an adaptable optics system that hinges on state-of-the-art astronomical instrumentation, including first-light instruments being built at Texas A&M.

    Giant Magellan Telescope
    Giant Magellan Interior
    Giant Magellan Telescope

    In 2010, Texas A&M astronomers were tasked with building the world’s premier survey spectrograph, the Visible Integral-Field Replicable Unit Spectrographs (VIRUS), a key component in the National Science Foundation-funded Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX), one of the first international efforts to probe and understand dark energy.

    Beyond high-profile global partnerships, the Munnerlynn Lab’s broader astronomical contribution is in training future astronomers — undergraduate and graduate students like Li who have had direct involvement in the construction of the instrumentation and the resulting accumulation of data.

    “We’ve done other small projects for the Dark Energy Survey in the past, but this is yet another example of the excellent work our undergrad and grad students are doing in our lab,” said Jennifer Marshall, associate research scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and manager of the Munnerlyn Lab. “I think this is Texas A&M’s greatest contribution to this project and what makes me the most proud.”

    For Li, it’s the culmination of a three-year process of constructing prototypes and test runs that involved multiple trips to Chile, often in extreme conditions. On more than one occasion, Li endured the high altitude’s freezing temperatures for hours at a time while making sure aTmCam ran properly.

    “It’s amazing to have a working observatory at one of the best sites in Chile, if not the world,” Li said. “After all that we’ve been through in that short timeframe, everything is finished and working.”

    See the full article here.

    Located in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston and within a two to three-hour drive from Austin and Dallas.
    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
    More than $820 million in research expenditures generated by faculty-researchers
    Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.

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