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  • richardmitnick 7:19 am on July 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , UC San Diego   

    From UCSD via Science: “These disaster machines could help humanity prepare for cataclysms” 

    AAAS

    AAAS

    UC San Diego bloc

    Jul. 14, 2016
    Warren Cornwall

    1
    The “Wall of Wind” at Florida International University in Miami can blow as fiercely as a category-5 hurricane. Robert Sullivan

    For the past year, Tara Hutchinson has been trying to figure out what will happen to a tall building made from thin steel beams when “the big one” hits.

    To do that, she has erected a six-story tower that rises like a lime-green finger from atop a shrub-covered hill on the outskirts of San Diego, California. Hundreds of strain gauges and accelerometers fill the building, so sensitive they can detect wind gusts pressing against the walls. Now, Hutchinson just needs an earthquake.

    In most of the world, this would be a problem. Even here, where a major fault runs right through downtown, the last quake of any note struck 6 years ago and was centered in nearby Mexico. But Hutchinson, a structural engineering professor at the University of California (UC), San Diego, doesn’t need plate tectonics to cooperate. This summer she has an appointment at one of the world’s biggest earthquake machines.

    2
    6 Story CFS Load Bearing Project Downtown Los Angeles – Wilshire Vermont (Topping out Roof). http://nheri.ucsd.edu/projects/2016-light-gauge-cold-steel-buildings/

    This device—a sort of bull ride for buildings—is one in a network built around the United States over the past 15 years to advance natural disaster science with more realistic and sophisticated tests. Costing more than $280 million, the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative has enabled scientists to better imitate some of the most powerful and destructive forces on Earth, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides.

    The work has led to new building standards and better ways to build or retrofit everything from wharves to older concrete buildings. Scientists have gained insights into how quakes damage pipes in walls and ceilings and how to help quake-proof highway ramps, tall steel buildings, parking garages, wooden homes, and brick walls, to name a few.

    That expansion continues today. In a new $62 million, 5-year program, the network of doomsday machines is expanding to simulate hurricanes and tornadoes and is joining forces with computer modeling to study how things too big for a physical test, such as nuclear reactors or an entire city, will weather what Mother Nature throws at them.

    Scaling down disasters

    Credit California’s Northridge earthquake for helping set this in motion. The 1994 quake, centered near Los Angeles, killed 72 and cost an estimated $25 billion in damages. In its aftermath, a report commissioned by Congress warned that the country needed a more systematic approach to studying how to reduce damage from earthquakes. NSF responded with the $82 million Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. The money funded a construction spree at 14 sites around the country. Another $200 million paid for operating the sites through 2014. That included UC San Diego, which unveiled the world’s largest outdoor shake table in 2004.

    3
    A building awaits its ordeal on the shake table at the University of California, San Diego. Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego

    4
    Researchers at Oregon State University, Corvallis, unleash tsunamis in a wave basin. © Aurora Photos/Alamy Stock Photo

    Descriptions of these disaster labs are often couched in superlatives: the biggest, the longest, the most powerful. In addition to the San Diego facility, the projects funded under the original program and its successor, the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI), include North America’s largest wave flume for studying tsunamis at Oregon State University, Corvallis; the world’s largest university-based hurricane simulator at Florida International University in Miami; and, at UC Davis, the world’s biggest centrifuge for making scale models mimic the stresses on tons of buildings, rock, and dirt—crucial information for assessing how structures will weather earthquakes and landslides.

    More than bragging rights is at stake. When it comes to learning how buildings cope with the forces generated in a natural disaster, size often does matter. For example, the way soil particles stick together, an important factor in landslide risks, depends on how much mass is pushing down on them. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to build accurate, tiny versions of rebar: steel rods embedded in concrete structures that are critical to building performance. Similar difficulties arise with measuring how hurricane-force winds interact with a building.

    “You can’t take a real building and scale it down to one-tenth and put it in a wind tunnel. The physics doesn’t work,” says Forrest Masters, a wind engineer at the University of Florida in Gainesville who directs his university’s share of NHERI. That includes a machine capable of subjecting 5-meter-tall walls to the air pressures found in a 320-kilometer-per-hour hurricane, and a wind tunnel whose floor can be modified to see how different terrain influences the way wind interacts with structures.

    Computer models too can fall short in accurately reproducing all the forces at play as, say, a bridge twists and sways in an earthquake. So many different pieces in the bridge are pulled in so many directions at once that it can fail in unpredictable ways, causing models to misrepresent reality. In 2010, a contest at the San Diego shake table pitted 41 teams of experts running models against a real-life test of a 7-meter-tall bridge column topped with 236 metric tons of concrete blocks. The computer results were all over the place, says Stephen Mahin, a structural engineer at UC Berkeley who helped orchestrate the event. On average, they underestimated how much the column would sway by 25%. “You can’t quite trust the computer results yet,” Mahin says.

    One morning in mid-May, Hutchinson inspects her building in the final stages of preparation for the test. She points to tiny gaps that have sprung open where metal ceiling joists meet the wall in a first-floor room. That happened during a minor, preliminary shake her team delivered to the building a day earlier. It’s the kind of thing that could make a difference in how load is shared between pieces of the building, and how much damage the building suffers in the next temblor. And it wouldn’t show up in a computer model.

    “You’re not going to account for every screw,” she says. “Look at how subtle this damage is.”

    Shake, rattle, and roll

    Devising a machine that can pack the same wallop as a magnitude-8.0 earthquake or a category-5 hurricane isn’t easy, or cheap. A look under the hood of San Diego’s shake table illustrates the kind of mechanical muscle needed. Joel Conte, an engineering professor who oversees the shake table operations, leads the way into a cavernous under-ground room filled with machinery. A 20,000- liter metal tank holds the hydraulic fluid that drives the entire system. Two pumps slurp the fluid from there into a bank of 50 slender black cylinders reminiscent of street light poles at pressures reaching 34,000 kilopascals (5000 pounds per square inch). That high pressure is crucial, generating enough force to swiftly move an entire building.

    Conte turns down a passageway, tracing the path of the fluid through steel pipes 30 centimeters across, and into a room dominated by a mass of steel resembling the hull of a flat-bottomed boat. This is the epicenter. A metal plate 5 centimeters thick, 12 meters long, and nearly 8 meters wide sits overhead, bolted to the steel underbelly. At either end, an actuator that looks something like a car’s shock absorber, but is as thick as a man’s torso, extends from this structure to the concrete wall. When the commands come from computers in a nearby building, the actuators will jerk to life, the hydraulic fluid driving them back and forth. The plate, pushed and pulled between them, will slide across metal sheets polished mirror-smooth at speeds of up to 1.8 meters per second. Voilà! Instant quake.

    “The real world, you cannot count on it,” Conte says. “You cannot say, ‘Oh, I’m going to sit and wait for the next earthquake in front of this big building, and I’m going to invest a lot in sensors.’ You may have to wait 30, 40, 50 years. So you produce an earthquake.”

    Since its construction for $10 million, the shake table has tested a four-story concrete parking garage, a wind turbine, and a five-story concrete building complete with elevator and stairs, among other things. The tests have shown that special inserts can increase resilience by allowing a building to move over its foundation and that modular concrete floors can behave erratically unless they have additional reinforcement. They have also revealed how tall, wood-framed buildings fail and how reinforcements can strengthen old brick buildings.

    Back in his office, Conte gleefully clicks through the “best of” video highlights. A four-story wood building twists and splinters to the ground. A parking garage teeters back and forth like a rocking chair. A split screen shows two identical rooms filled with hospital beds and medical equipment. One is in a building outfitted with padded foundations that help it absorb an earthquake’s shock; the other isn’t. As the video runs, beds in the regular building suddenly lurch back and forth before toppling over. In the other, they barely move.

    In the current test, Hutchinson wants to see how a building six stories tall made from lightweight steel performs during and after an earthquake. She thinks it could do well, partly because it’s lighter than a concrete building of the same height, giving it less mass to generate damaging forces during a quake. Today, building codes allow this type of construction to be just shy of 20 meters tall. But the tallest building really put to the test was only two stories high.

    The structure, modeled after an apartment building, is destined for a multistage torture test. Hutchinson and her colleagues will first put it through a simulation of several quakes, including Northridge and a 2010 magnitude-8.8 in Chile. Then they will set fires in parts of the building to see how it holds up in a blaze triggered by quake damage. Then they will shake the building again in a mock aftershock, hard enough that it might collapse.

    The results aren’t just of academic interest. Sponsors of the test include manufacturers of the steel construction parts, the insurance industry, and state government. “There’s nothing like a full-scale test,” says Richard McCarthy, executive director for the Cali–fornia Seismic Safety Commission in Sacramento, a government commission that advises policymakers. It contributed $100,000 to the event, he says, partly with an eye toward potential changes to building codes governing construction using these materials.

    Conte is now lobbying state officials for a $14 million upgrade that would allow the machine to run even more realistic tests. Right now it can move only back and forth in two directions; new hardware would add up-and-down, side-to-side, and diagonal motions, enabling it to move in every direction—like the world’s biggest shake table, an indoor facility in Miki, Japan.

    Up next: Hybrid simulations

    Scientists are trying to go even bigger by marrying such physical tests with computer models. The resulting “hybrid” simulations can test massive structures too big to fit inside any test facility, says James Ricles, a civil engineer at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His lab, which is part of the NSF network, tests well-understood parts of a structure with computer models but stages physical tests for parts that the models can’t handle. In a feedback loop measured in milliseconds, sensors from the physical test send data to the model, which adapts and sends new signals that tell the machines driving the physical test how to tweak their next moves.

    Ricles’s lab simulated the behavior of an elevated highway during an earthquake by physically testing the concrete columns while testing a virtual model of the bridge deck in a computer. He recently applied the same strategy to testing a design meant to allow a steel building to rock back and forth rather than bend during a quake. A four-story chunk of the building stood in the lab; the rest of it existed only in the microprocessors of a computer.

    Destruction is a definite part of the work’s appeal, says Gilberto Mosqueda, an engineering professor who runs hybrid tests at UC San Diego: “You build these models, and essentially you shake them till you break them.” But the mountains of data generated by the tests also open the way to more sophisticated numerical models that could one day do some of the work of the doomsday machines.

    Whereas the earlier NSF program focused on big testing platforms, the NHERI initiative is putting more money into the virtual side. The University of Texas, Austin, won $13.7 million to build a data repository and software platform to store information from years of field tests. In the future, engineers should be able to tap data in the digital repository to boost the accuracy of their computer models. And NSF will soon issue an $11 million award for a computational modeling and simulation center.

    “Will we get to the point where we can just model everything and have confidence? That may still be a long way off,” says Joy Pauschke, a structural engineer and director of the NSF program that funds the testing work in Arlington, Virginia. “But hopefully as we test and improve models, we start moving towards having better capabilities with the computational modeling.”

    Berkeley’s Mahin—whose 2010 contest exposed the shortcomings of models—now also foresees bright prospects for modeling. Advances in machine learning and cloud computing, he predicts, will lead to models capable of simulating not just single buildings but entire communities. Unleashing “virtual disasters” could then enable researchers and government officials to grasp the region-wide effects of a major quake or storm and decide which measures today would prevent the most damage.

    “In 20 years, you can model a whole city in a very complicated way, I think,” Mahin says. “There’s a great hope this analysis can help mitigate the damage from future natural disasters.”

    See the full article here .

    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    Earthquake and Post-Earthquake Fire Performance of Mid-Rise Light-Gauge Cold-Formed Steel Framed Buildings

    Abstract: Light-gauge cold-formed steel (CFS) framed multi-story residential housing has the potential to support societies urgent need for low cost, multi-hazard resilient housing. CFS-framed structures offer lower installation and maintenance costs, are durable, ductile, lightweight, and manufactured from recycled materials. In addition, consistency in material behavior and low material costs are added benefits compared with their wood-framing counterparts. The components of CFS-framed assemblies (studs, track, joists) can be assembled quickly and with relative ease into prefabricated panels. Notably, the ductile nature of a CFS-framed structure aligns with the performance needs in moderate to high seismic zones. Compared to other lightweight framing solutions (such as timber), CFS is non-combustible, an important basic characteristic to prohibit fire spread. Taken in totality, these many beneficial attributes lead to a highly sustainable infrastructure for housing communities.

    This research aims to evaluate the earthquake and post-earthquake fire performance of mid-rise CFS-building systems through full-scale earthquake and live thermal testing of a 6-story wall-braced system. Through partnership with cold-form steel and other materials suppliers, design engineers, and insurance entities, a unique experimental program is underway. Central to this effort is the construction of a full-scale portion of a 6-story CFS-wall braced building directly on the UCSD Large High Performance Outdoor Shake Table. Wall and floor systems for the building are assembled in a panelized fashion off-site, thus the overall erection time of the building is dramatically reduced. The test building will be subjected to low amplitude white noise motions and sequentially increasing in amplitude earthquake motions. Subsequently, live thermal tests will be conducted on two floors of the building, in corridor and room like spaces strategically designed to investigate thermal patterns that develop due to reduced compartmentation ensued during the earthquake motions.

    5

    Investigators
    Prof. Tara Hutchinson (PI)
    Prof Gil Hegemeir (Co-PI)
    Dr. Xiang Wang (Post-Doctoral Researcher)
    Mr. Srikar Gunisetty (Graduate Student) [UC San Diego]
    Prof. Brian Meacham [WPI]
    Dr. Praveen Kamath [WPI]

    Sponsors
    Department of Housing and Urban Development, California Seismic Safety Commission, and more than 10 industry sponsors (see: http://cfs-research.ucsd.edu)

    See this full article here .

    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 8:00 am on June 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , topological plexcitons, UC San Diego   

    From UCSD: “Scientists Design Energy-Carrying Particles Called ‘Topological Plexcitons’” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    June 09, 2016
    Kim McDonald

    1
    Plexcitons travel for 20,000 nanometers, a length which is on the order of the width of human hair. Graphic by Joel Yuen-Zhou

    Scientists at UC San Diego, MIT and Harvard University have engineered “topological plexcitons,” energy-carrying particles that could help make possible the design of new kinds of solar cells and miniaturized optical circuitry.

    The researchers report their advance in an article* published in the current issue of Nature Communications.

    Within the Lilliputian world of solid state physics, light and matter interact in strange ways, exchanging energy back and forth between them.

    “When light and matter interact, they exchange energy,” explained Joel Yuen-Zhou, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego and the first author of the paper. “Energy can flow back and forth between light in a metal (so called plasmon) and light in a molecule (so called exciton). When this exchange is much faster than their respective decay rates, their individual identities are lost, and it is more accurate to think about them as hybrid particles; excitons and plasmons marry to form plexcitons.”

    Materials scientists have been looking for ways to enhance a process known as exciton energy transfer, or EET, to create better solar cells as well as miniaturized photonic circuits which are dozens of times smaller than their silicon counterparts.

    “Understanding the fundamental mechanisms of EET enhancement would alter the way we think about designing solar cells or the ways in which energy can be transported in nanoscale materials,” said Yuen-Zhou.

    The drawback with EET, however, is that this form of energy transfer is extremely short-ranged, on the scale of only 10 nanometers (a 100 millionth of a meter), and quickly dissipates as the excitons interact with different molecules.

    One solution to avoid those shortcomings is to hybridize excitons in a molecular crystal with the collective excitations within metals to produce plexcitons, which travel for 20,000 nanometers, a length which is on the order of the width of human hair.

    Plexcitons are expected to become an integral part of the next generation of nanophotonic circuitry, light-harvesting solar energy architectures and chemical catalysis devices. But the main problem with plexcitons, said Yuen-Zhou, is that their movement along all directions, which makes it hard to properly harness in a material or device.

    He and a team of physicists and engineers at MIT and Harvard found a solution to that problem by engineering particles called “topological plexcitons,” based on the concepts in which solid state physicists have been able to develop materials called “topological insulators.”

    “Topological insulators are materials that are perfect electrical insulators in the bulk but at their edges behave as perfect one-dimensional metallic cables,” Yuen-Zhou said. “The exciting feature of topological insulators is that even when the material is imperfect and has impurities, there is a large threshold of operation where electrons that start travelling along one direction cannot bounce back, making electron transport robust. In other words, one may think about the electrons being blind to impurities.”

    Plexcitons, as opposed to electrons, do not have an electrical charge. Yet, as Yuen-Zhou and his colleagues discovered, they still inherit these robust directional properties. Adding this “topological” feature to plexcitons gives rise to directionality of EET, a feature researchers had not previously conceived. This should eventually enable engineers to create plexcitonic switches to distribute energy selectively across different components of a new kind of solar cell or light-harvesting device.

    Other co-authors of the paper are Semion Saikin of Harvard and Tony Zhu, Mehmet Onbasli, Caroline Ross, Vladimir Bulovic and Marc Baldo of MIT. The research project was supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion Center.

    *Scienc article:
    There is no link to this article. I have requested the link. If I get it, I will update this post.

    See the full article here .

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:47 pm on June 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , UC San Diego, ,   

    From UCSD: “Building a defense against Zika” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    June 3, 2016
    Scott LaFee

    1
    Credit: UC San Diego

    On April 18, 1947, a monkey in Uganda’s Zika Forest fell ill with a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 degrees higher than normal. “Rhesus No. 766” was part of a yellow fever virus study. Scientists took a blood sample. They conducted tests. The rhesus monkey had been stricken by something unknown. In time, the revealed virus would be named after the place where it was first discovered.

    But for decades to follow, the Zika virus would garner only sporadic and limited scientific attention. It was determined that the virus could infect humans, but symptoms—if there were any—appeared to be mild (fever, joint pain, rash) and passing. Zika wasn’t deemed a significant human health threat until a major outbreak occurred in the Yap Islands north of Australia in 2007, followed by another in French Polynesia in 2013. For the first time, the Zika virus was associated with serious symptoms, including life-threatening neurological disorders.

    2
    Zika virus. Credit: UC San Diego

    Last year, the virus spread to Brazil, which will host the Olympic Games in August. Thousands were infected, including pregnant women who subsequently gave birth to babies with microcephaly—a birth defect characterized by an undersized head and brain.

    Alarms sounded around the world. Reports of Zika cases began appearing elsewhere, including the United States and San Diego County. The virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Most cases outside endemic regions in Africa, Asia and South America are imported, borne by unsuspecting infected travelers, though Zika can also be sexually transmitted. No mosquito-transmitted Zika virus cases have been reported in the continental United States, but there have been cases reported in returning travelers.

    Seventy years after its discovery, Zika remains relatively—and alarmingly—unknown.

    But that’s changing fast—and some of the progress is being driven by researchers at UC San Diego Health.

    “UC San Diego is a hotbed of science that can be applied in a very productive way,” said Dr. Robert Schooley, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases. “There are people here doing immunology who can characterize the immune response during an acute infection; in neurosciences who can characterize the impact of the virus on neural cells; who have been working on vaccines for HIV and are now turning their attention to this virus.”

    Indeed, last month in a pair of scholarly journals and in an international announcement, UC San Diego researchers working on Zika have grabbed headlines and public notice:

    3
    From left to right: Jair Siqueira-Neto, Alysson Muotri and Tariq Rana Credit: UC San Diego

    How Zika damages developing brain cells

    On May 6, writing in the journal Cell Stem Cell, a team led by senior study author Tariq Rana, professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, published the first explanation of how the Zika virus can damage developing brain cells. Using a 3-D, stem cell-based model of a first-trimester human brain, the team discovered that Zika activates TLR3, a molecule human cells normally use to defend against invading viruses. Rana and colleagues also showed that by inhibiting this mechanism damage by the virus was reduced, hinting of a possible therapeutic approach to mitigating the effects of prenatal Zika virus infections.

    “We all have an innate immune system that evolved specifically to fight off viruses, but here the virus turns that very same defense mechanism against us,” said Rana. “By activating TLR3, the Zika virus blocks genes that tell stem cells to develop into the various parts of the brain. The good news is that we have TLR3 inhibitors that can stop this from happening.”
    First experimental proof of Zika birth defects

    On May 11 in the journal Nature, Alysson Muotri, associate professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, described the first “direct experimental proof” that the Brazilian strain of Zika virus can actually cause severe birth defects—previously only assumed based upon clinical observations and anecdotal evidence.

    Muotri and colleagues made their case conducting studies in mouse models, using human stem cells and in cerebral organoids – miniature, 3-D brains grown in vitro. Most telling: Infected pregnant mice gave birth to pups displaying not just undersized heads and brains, but overall stunted growth.

    “The data in mice also suggest that microcephaly is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Muotri. “The animals have extensive intra-uterine growth arrest, which essentially means poor fetal development in the womb. Media covering the Zika story have focused upon affected babies with small heads because such images are profoundly dramatic, but the true health impact is likely to be more widespread and devastating.”
    OpenZika

    And on May 19, the OpenZika project debuted, a collaboration by IBM’s World Community Grid and scientists in Brazil, UC San Diego and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. The project allows anyone with a personal computer or Android device to download and run an app that automatically performs virtual experiments for participating scientists whenever the machines are idle, such as looking for compounds that could form the basis for new antiviral drugs. Currently, there is no vaccine or medicine to treat Zika virus.

    The project will screen more than 20 million compounds from existing databases against models of Zika protein structures with dramatically more speed than in a traditional lab. UC San Diego will play a key role when screening efforts identify promising candidates, said Jair Siqueira-Neto, assistant professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where leading-edge robotic equipment will test the candidates against the actual virus.

    “The best part of this project is that it’s truly ‘open’—we will share all of the data we gather with the research community and general public, further accelerating Zika virus research. What’s more, researchers not already participating in OpenZika are invited to submit proposals to receive free computing power to support additional Zika projects.”

    Rutgers Open Zika

    Zika

    Odds are some of those additional Zika projects will originate at UC San Diego.

    See the full article here .
    See the original blog post with WCG and Rutgers articles here .

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:20 pm on April 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , UC San Diego   

    From UCSD: “Remote Italian Village Could Harbor Secrets of Healthy Aging” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    March 29, 2016
    Michelle Brubaker

    Researchers will examine 300 Italian residents, all over 100 years old

    1
    Researchers are studying residents of a remote Italian village to better understand aging and longevity. Photo by La Citta di Salerno

    The average life expectancy in the United States is approximately 78 years old. Americans live longer, with better diets and improved health care, than ever before, but only 0.02 percent will hit the century mark.

    To understand how people can live longer throughout the world, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have teamed up with colleagues at University of Rome La Sapienza to study a group of 300 citizens, all over 100 years old, living in a remote Italian village nestled between the ocean and mountains on the country’s coast.

    “We are the first group of researchers to be given permission to study this population in Acciaroli, Italy,” said Alan Maisel, MD, lead UC San Diego School of Medicine investigator and professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

    The Acciaroli study group is known to have very low rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. It favors a Mediterranean diet markedly infused with the herb rosemary. Due to the location of the village, Maisel said locals also walk long distances and hike through the mountains as part of their daily activity.

    “The goal of this long-term study is to find out why this group of 300 is living so long by conducting a full genetic analysis and examining lifestyle behaviors, like diet and exercise,” said Maisel. “The results from studying the longevity of this group could be applied to our practice at UC San Diego and to patients all over the world.”

    Maisel and his research team will work with their Italian counterparts to collect blood samples and distribute questionnaires to the group over the next six months.

    The study will also involve tests to look at metabolomics, biomes, cognitive dysfunction and protein biomarkers for risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease and cancer.

    “This project will not only help to unlock some of the secrets of healthy aging, but will build closer ties with researchers across the globe, which will lead to more science and improved clinical care in our aging population,” said Salvatore DiSomma, MD, lead Italian investigator and professor of emergency medicine at University of Rome La Sapienza.

    Co-authors include Nicholas Schork, Robert Rissman, Chris Benner, Tatianna Kisseleva, William Kemen, Rob Knight, Dillip Jeste, Lori Daniels, and Mohit Jain, all with UC San Diego.

    The study is supported, in part, from European grants

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:06 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , UC San Diego   

    From UCSD: “From the Field: Chilean Tsunami Rocks Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    Scripps Institution of Oceanography UCSD
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography

    Chance timing leads to first seismic observations of tsunami impacts on an ice shelf

    Nov 13, 2015
    Peter Bromirski

    1
    Servicing a seismic station in subzero temperatures and high winds. Photo courtesy of Spencer Niebuhr

    The magnitude 8.3 earthquake on Sept.16, 2015 off the coast of Chile generated a tsunami that was felt throughout the Pacific. Serendipitously, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego-led project has a broadband seismic array deployed on the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) in Antarctica.

    These seismic stations made the first large-scale broadband seismic array observations of the response of an ice shelf to tsunami arrivals. A team of Scripps researchers now in Antarctica is recovering seismic data from 34 seismic stations spanning the ice shelf. Strong signals generated by the tsunami impacting the shelf were detected at all stations from which data has been recovered, with the expectation that the entire ice shelf was rocked.

    Because the shortest direct path for the tsunami to the RIS goes through West Antarctica, refraction and scattering by seafloor ridges and seamounts must have diverted the tsunami energy that impacted the RIS.

    Ice shelves are slabs of ice that extend from land over the ocean like a half-cover on a jacuzzi. Ice shelves provide a buttressing effect, restraining the flow of grounded ice sheets to the sea. When this restraint is removed, the flow of land ice into the ocean accelerates, raising sea level. The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf in Antarctica that covers an area of the Ross Sea roughly the size of Texas, and restrains West Antarctic grounded ice sheet that could contribute as much as three meters of sea-level rise.

    The seismic survey studying the vibrations of the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) in response to ocean wave impacts will provide information on the structure and strength of the RIS, giving baseline “state-of-health” ice shelf measurements that will be used to identify the magnitude of changes in its integrity over time.

    The servicing of the stations installed in November 2015 involves flying by Twin Otter aircraft to the stations and uncovering the instrument recording boxes buried by about 3-4 feet of snow. The Scripps team, led by Peter Bromirski with Anja Diez, Zhao Chen, and Jerry Wanetick, swap out the disc drives that contain the full year of data. Temperatures at the stations during data recovery have ranged from about -15 to -26° C (5 to -15° F), with winds as high as 40 knots.

    The National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs-funded project will continue collecting seismic and GPS data for another full year, including through the austral winter.

    The triggers that initiated the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002 and the Wilkens Ice Shelf in 2008 have not been identified. While tsunamis were not factors in those events, West Antarctic ice shelves are exposed to circum-Pacific-generated tsunamis that could provide the trigger for the collapse of weakened ice shelves, removing their restraining influence.

    Institutions participating in the study include Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Washington University in St. Louis, Colorado State University, and Penn State University.

    See the full article here .

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:30 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSD and Scripps: “UC San Diego and TSRI Launch New Consortium to Create ‘Virtual Cell’” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    Scripps Institute
    Scripps Research Institute

    1
    Credit: Art Olson and TSRI

    Drawing on complementary strengths, the University of California, San Diego and The Scripps Research Institute have formed a new consortium with a big mission: to map cells in space and time.

    The consortium will offer fellowship funding for 10 to 12 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to work on collaborative projects that build bridges between the campuses and different disciplines to assemble and simulate a virtual model of a cell, down to an atomic level of detail.

    “Leveraging existing strengths at UC San Diego and Scripps, the collaboration will advance scientific excellence and research infrastructure at both institutions,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “The goal of building virtual cells poses an important challenge to researchers in fields from experimental biology to computation and information analysis.”

    “We are entering into this promising collaboration between our campuses with great optimism,” said TSRI Acting President and CEO Jim Paulson. “The Visible Molecular Cell Consortium aims to bring together the best minds from different disciplines to understand and articulate how the body’s cells work, which will lay important groundwork to understanding health and disease.”

    The Visible Molecular Cell Consortium will be directed jointly by Art Olson, professor at TSRI and Rommie Amaro, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego.

    “This is a particularly exciting time for such efforts, due to a number of technological and scientific factors,” said Amaro. “Advances in various imaging technologies, modeling frameworks and cyber-infrastructure are enabling us to make new strides in the creation of 3D virtual cells. This timely new inter-institutional alliance will provide new insights into the inner workings of cell machinery, some of which may present opportunities for novel therapeutics.”

    In recent years, more powerful imaging devices and automated programs in high resolution imaging have provided more detailed pictures of cells and their proteins than ever before, but scientists have not yet translated the huge amounts of data into a single, atomic-level cellular model. This is a “big data” challenge, Olson points out, applied to the uncharted territory of cellular architecture and ecology.

    “Even the simplest living cells contain 1 to 2 million proteins, of 3,000 to 4,000 different types,” said Olson. “Figuring out how they work together over time will shed light on the cell as a living, working individual entity. Just like you couldn’t build a car from just its wiring diagram, we can’t have a complete understanding of a cell unless we know how all of its physical parts work together in 3D.”

    The researchers hope to one day be able to zoom into cells at the atomic level and zoom out to see “nano neighborhoods,” where cells interact. On top of that, they aim to visualize protein interactions in real time to better understand cellular function. The new consortium will help scientists put the pieces together.

    TSRI is known for its structural biology using both cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, and both Olson’s and Amaro’s labs develop and use advanced graphics programs to visualize complex cellular machinery. UC San Diego is home to the only publicly available supercomputer in California and the National Biomedical Computation Resource, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored national resource that develops multi-scale modeling tools.

    Olson and Amaro plan to host their first “lightning talk” workshop, where any scientist can present their work and seek out collaborators, on Oct. 2. They also plan to organize a bi-annual conference to encourage new collaborations and share results. Researchers interested in learning more about the consortium are encouraged to contact visiblemolecularcell@gmail.com.

    The organizers anticipate the consortium will be particularly strong in neurological diseases and infectious diseases, such as influenza, HIV and Ebola virus, although the insights into cellular behavior will be applicable across many fields.

    See the full article here .

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

    Scripps Institute Campus

    The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), one of the world’s largest, private, non-profit research organizations, stands at the forefront of basic biomedical science, a vital segment of medical research that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Over the last decades, the institute has established a lengthy track record of major contributions to the betterment of health and the human condition.

    The institute — which is located on campuses in La Jolla, California, and Jupiter, Florida — has become internationally recognized for its research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, virology, and synthetic vaccine development. Particularly significant is the institute’s study of the basic structure and design of biological molecules; in this arena TSRI is among a handful of the world’s leading centers.

    The institute’s educational programs are also first rate. TSRI’s Graduate Program is consistently ranked among the best in the nation in its fields of biology and chemistry.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:21 am on April 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSD: “‘Holey’ graphene for energy storage” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    April 21, 2015
    Liezel Labios

    1
    Rajaram Narayanan, a nanoengineering graduate student at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and lead author of the Nano Letters paper.

    2
    Zigzag and armchair defects in graphene.

    Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have discovered a method to increase the amount of electric charge that can be stored in graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The research, published recently online in the journal Nano Letters, may provide a better understanding of how to improve the energy storage ability of capacitors for potential applications in cars, wind turbines, and solar power.

    Capacitors charge and discharge very fast, and are more useful for quick large bursts of energy, such as in camera flashes and power plants. Their ability to rapidly charge and discharge is an advantage over the long charge time of batteries. However, the problem with capacitors is that they store less energy than batteries.

    How can the energy storage of a capacitor be improved? One approach by researchers in the lab of mechanical engineering professor Prabhakar Bandaru at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego was to introduce more charge into a capacitor electrode using graphene as a model material for their tests. The principle is that increased charge leads to increased capacitance, which translates to increased energy storage.

    How it’s made

    Making a perfect carbon nanotube structure ― one without defects, which are holes corresponding to missing carbon atoms ― is next to impossible. Rather than avoiding defects, the researchers in Bandaru’s lab figured out a practical way to use them instead.

    “I was motivated from the point of view that charged defects may be useful for energy storage,” said Bandaru.

    The team used a method called argon-ion based plasma processing, in which graphene samples are bombarded with positively-charged argon ions. During this process, carbon atoms are knocked out of the graphene layers and leave behind holes containing positive charges ― these are the charged defects. Exposing the graphene samples to argon plasma increased the capacitance of the materials three-fold.

    “It was exciting to show that we can introduce extra capacitance by introducing charged defects, and that we could control what kind of charged defect we could introduce into a material,” said Rajaram Narayanan, a graduate student in professor Bandaru’s research group and first author of the study.

    Using Raman spectroscopy and electrochemical measurements, the team was able to characterize the types of defects that argon plasma processing introduced into the graphene lattices. The results revealed the formation of extended defects known as “armchair” and “zigzag” defects, which are named based on the configurations of the missing carbon atoms.

    Additionally, electrochemical studies helped the team discover a new length scale that measures the distance between charges. “This new length scale will be important for electrical applications, since it can provide a basis for how small we can make electrical devices,” said Bandaru.

    Journal reference:

    R. Narayanan, H. Yamada, M. Karakaya, R. Podila, A. M. Rao, and P. R. Bandaru. Modulation of the Electrostatic and Quantum Capacitances of Few Layered Graphenes through Plasma Processing. Nano Letters 2015. DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.5b00055

    This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here.

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:33 pm on April 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSD: “Genetics Overlap Found Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Cardiovascular Risk Factors” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    April 16, 2015
    Scott LaFee

    An international team of scientists, led by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have found genetic overlap between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and two significant cardiovascular disease risk factors: high levels of inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP) and plasma lipids or fats. The findings, based upon genome-wide association studies involving hundreds of thousands of individuals, suggest the two cardiovascular phenotypes play a role in AD risk – and perhaps offer a new avenue for potentially delaying disease progression.

    The findings are published in current online issue of Circulation.

    “For many years we have known that high levels of cholesterol and high levels of inflammation are associated with increased risks for Alzheimer’s disease,” said study co-author Paul M. Ridker, MD, MPH, the Eugene Braunwald Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The current work finds that specific genetic signals explain a part of these relationships. We now need to characterize the function of these genetic signals and see whether they can help us to design better trials evaluating inflammation inhibition as a possible method for Alzheimer’s treatment.”

    The researchers used summary statistics from genome-wide association studies of more than 200,000 individuals, looking for overlap in single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with clinically diagnosed AD and CRP and the three components of total cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides (TG). SNPs are fragments of DNA sequence that commonly vary among individuals within a population.

    They found up to a 50-fold enrichment of AD SNPs for different levels of association with CRP, LDL, HDL and TG, which then lead to identification of 55 loci – specific locations on a gene, DNA sequence or chromosome – linked to increased AD risk. The researchers next conducted a meta-analysis of these 55 variants across four independent AD study cohorts, encompassing almost 145,000 persons with AD and healthy controls, revealing two genome-wide significant variants on chromosomes 4 and 10. The two identified genes – HS3ST1 and ECHDC3 – were not previously associated with AD risk.

    “Our findings indicate that a subset of genes involved with elevated plasma lipid levels and inflammation may also increase the risk for developing AD. Elevated levels of plasma lipids and inflammation can be modified with treatment, which means it could be possible to identify and therapeutically target individuals at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease who are also at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease,” said Rahul S. Desikan, MD, PhD, research fellow and radiology resident at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and the study’s first author.

    If so, the research may have significant ramifications. Late-onset AD is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 30 million persons worldwide – a number that is expected to quadruple over the next 40 years. The societal costs, from medical to lost productivity, are staggering. The 2010 World Alzheimer Report estimated total annual costs at $606 billion.

    “Currently, there are no disease modifying therapies and much attention has been focused upon prevention and early diagnosis,” said Ole A. Andreassen, MD, PhD, a senior co-author and professor of biological psychiatry at the University of Oslo in Norway. “Delaying dementia onset by even just two years could potentially lower the worldwide prevalence of AD by more than 22 million cases over the next four decades, resulting in significant societal savings.”

    Senior author Anders M. Dale, PhD, professor of neurosciences and radiology and director of the Center for Translational Imaging and Precision Medicine at UC San Diego, said further research will be needed: “Careful and considerable effort will be required to further characterize the novel candidate genes detected in this study and to detect the functional variants responsible for the association of these loci with Alzheimer’s risk. It will also be important to understand whether these genes, in combination with other known markers such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid measurements and APOE E4 status, can improve the prediction of disease risk in AD.”

    Co-authors include Linda K. McEvoy, and David S. Karow, UCSD Department of Radiology; Andrew J. Schork, UCSD Department of Cognitive Science; Yunpeng Wang, UCSD Department of Neurosciences and NORMENT and University of Oslo; Wesley K. Thompson, UCSD Department of Psychiatry; Abbas Dehghan, M. Arfan Ikram, and Sven J. van der Lee, Erasmus Medical Center, Netherlands; Daniel I. Chasman, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Dominic Holland, UCSD Department of Neurosciences; Chi-Hua Chen, UCSD Department of Radiology and NORMENT; James B. Brewer, UCSD departments of Radiology and Neurosciences; Christopher P. Hess, UCSF; Julie Williams, Rebecca Sims, and Michael C. O’Donovan, Cardiff University School of Medicine, UK; Seung Hoan Choi, Boston University; Joshua C. Bis, and Cornelia M. van Duijn, University of Washington; Vilmundur Gudnason, and Anita L.DeStefano, University of Iceland; Bruce M. Psaty, NHLBI; Lenore Launer, NIA; Sudha Seshadri, NHLBI and Boston University School of Medicine; Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, University of Miami; Richard Mayeux, Columbia University; Jonathan L. Haines, Case Western University; Lindsay A. Farrer, Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health; John Hardy, University College London; Ingun Dina Ulstein and Dag Aarsland, Oslo University Hospital; Tormod Fladby, University of Oslo; Linda R. White, and Sigrid B. Sando, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Trondheim University Hospital; Arvid Rongve, Haugesund Hospital; Aree Witoelar, NORMENT; Srdjan Djurovic, University of Bergen, Norway; Bradley T. Hyman, Massachusetts General Hospital; Jon Snaedal, University Hospital Reykjavik; Stacy Steinberg, and Hreinn Stefansson, deCODE Genetics; Kari Stefansson, deCODE Genetics and University of Iceland; and Gerard D. Schellenberg, University of Pennsylvania.

    Funding for this research came, in part, from the National Institutes of Health (K02 NS067427; T32 EB005970; R01GM104400-01A; R01MH100351; AG033193 and U0149505), the Research Council of Norway, the South East Norway Health Authority, Norwegian Health Association and the KG Jebsen Foundation.

    See the full article here.

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:21 am on March 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSD: “Search for extraterrestrial intelligence extends to new realms” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    March 19, 2015
    Susan Brown

    1
    The NIROSETI team with their new infrared detector inside the dome at Lick Observatory. Left to right: Remington Stone, Dan Wertheimer, Jérome Maire, Shelley Wright, Patrick Dorval and Richard Treffers. Photos by © Laurie Hatch [at the UCO Lick Nickel One meter telescope on which NIROSETI is installed]

    New instrument will scan the sky for pulses of infrared light

    Astronomers have expanded the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light. Their new instrument has just begun to scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from greater distances. It also takes less energy to send the same amount of information using infrared signals than it would with visible light.

    The idea dates back decades, Wright pointed out. Charles Townes, the late UC Berkeley scientist whose contributions to the development of lasers led to a Nobel Prize, suggested the idea in a paper published in 1961.

    Scientists have searched the heavens for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search to the optical realm more than a decade ago. But instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light have only recently become available.

    2
    Shelley Wright holds a fiber tht emits infrared light for calibration of the detectors.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said, for technology to catch up. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Three years ago while at the Dunlap Institute, Wright purchased newly available detectors and tested them to see if they worked well enough to deploy to a telescope. She found that they did. Jérome Maire, a Fellow at the Dunlap, “turned the screws,” Wright said, playing a key role in the hands-on effort to develop the new instrument, called NIROSETI for near-infrared optical SETI.

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed to for potential signs of other civilizations, a record that could be revisited as new ideas about what signals extraterrestrials might send emerge.

    Because infrared light penetrates farther through gas and dust than visible light, this new search will extend to stars thousands rather than merely hundreds of light years away. And the success of the Kepler Mission, which has found habitable planets orbiting stars both like and unlike our own, has prompted the new search to look for signals from a wider variety of stars.

    NASA Kepler Telescope
    Kepler

    NIROSETI has been installed at the University of California’s Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose and saw first light on March 15.

    3
    Skies cleared for a successful first night for NIROSETI at Lick Observatory. The ghost image is Shelley Wright, pausing for a moment during this long exposure as the rest of her team continued to test the new instrument inside the dome.

    Lick Observatory has been the site of several previous SETI searches including an instrument to look in the optical realm, which Wright built as an undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz under the direction of Remington Stone, the director of operations at Lick at that time. Dan Werthimer* and Richard Treffers of UC Berkeley designed that first optical instrument. All three are playing critical roles in the new search.

    NIROSETI could uncover new information about the physical universe as well. “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” Werthimer said. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    4
    Patrick Dorval, Jérome Maire and Shelley Wright in the control room of the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, where their new instrument has been deployed.

    The group also includes SETI pioneer Frank Drake of the SETI Institute and UC Santa Cruz who serves as a senior advisor to both past and future projects and is an active observer at the telescope.

    Drake pointed out several additional advantages to a search in this new realm. “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success.” he said. The receivers are also much more affordable that those used on radio telescopes.

    “There is only one downside: the extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction,” Drake said, though he sees a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student. Shelley Wright is also a member of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at UC San Diego. Richard Treffers is now at Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

    See the full article here.
    [The owner of this blog is a small financial supporter of UCO Lick, SETI Institute, UC Santa Cruz where UCO is managed, and SETI@home, which caused him to spend an inordinate amount of time on this post. I hope it gets read by a lot of people.

    *Dan Werthimer is co-founder and chief scientist of the SETI@home project and directs other UC Berkeley SETI searches at radio, infrared and visible wavelengths, including the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Radio Emissions from Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations (SERENDIP). He is also the principal investigator for the worldwide Collaboration for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research (CASPER). SETI@home runs on software developed by BOINC at UC Berkeley.

    SETI@home screensaver

    6
    Dan Werthimer

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    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:30 pm on February 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSD: “3D Enzyme Model Provides New Tool for Anti-Inflammatory Drug Development” 

    UC San Diego bloc

    UC San Diego

    January 26, 2015
    Heather Buschman

    Researchers develop first computer models of phospholipase A2 enzymes extracting their substrates out of the cell membrane, an early step in inflammation

    Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) enzymes are known to play a role in many inflammatory diseases, including asthma, arthritis and atherosclerosis. It then stands to reason that PLA2 inhibitors could represent a new class of anti-inflammatory medication. To better understand PLA2 enzymes and help drive therapeutic drug development, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine developed 3D computer models that show exactly how two PLA2 enzymes extract their substrates from cellular membranes. The new tool is described in a paper published online the week of Jan. 26 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    1
    Phospholipase Cleavage Sites. Note that an enzyme that displays both PLA1 and PLA2 activities is called a Phospholipase B

    “This is the first time experimental data and supercomputing technology have been used to visualize an enzyme interacting with a membrane,” said Edward A. Dennis, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry and senior author of the study. “In doing so, we discovered that binding the membrane triggers a conformational change in PLA2 enzymes and activates them. We also saw several important differences between the two PLA2 enzymes we studied — findings that could influence the design and development of specific PLA2 inhibitor drugs for each enzyme.”

    The computer simulations of PLA2 enzymes developed by Dennis and his team, including first author Varnavas D. Mouchlis, PhD, show the specific molecular interactions between PLA2 enzymes and their substrate, arachidonic acid, as the enzymes suck it up from cellular membranes.

    Make no mistake, though — the animations of PLA2 in action are not mere cartoons. They are sophisticated molecular dynamics simulations based upon previously published deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (DXMS) data on PLA2. DXMS is an experimental laboratory technique that provides molecular information about the interactions of these enzymes with membranes.

    “The combination of rigorous experimental data and in silico [computer] models is a very powerful tool — the experimental data guided the development of accurate 3D models, demonstrating that these two scientific fields can inform one another,” Mouchlis said.

    The liberation of arachidonic acid by PLA2 enzymes, as shown in these simulations, sets off a cascade of molecular events that result in inflammation. Aspirin and many other anti-inflammatory drugs work by inhibiting enzymes in this cascade that rely on PLA2 enzymes to provide them with arachidonic acid. That means PLA2 enzymes could potentially also be targeted to dampen inflammation at an earlier point in the process.

    Co-authors include Denis Bucher, UC San Diego, and J. Andrew McCammon, UC San Diego and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    This research was funded, in part, by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (grants GM20501 and P41GM103712-S1), National Science Foundation (grant ACI-1053575) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    See the full article here.

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    UC San Diego Campus

    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
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