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  • richardmitnick 12:38 pm on November 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Marvelous Molecular Machine", A finely tuned molecular process in the camouflage of certain squid may lead to the next generation of bio-inspired synthetic materials., , , , , UC Santa Barbara   

    From UC Santa Barbara: “A Marvelous Molecular Machine” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc
    From UC Santa Barbara

    November 15, 2019
    Harrison Tasoff
    Sonia Fernandez
    (805) 893-4765
    sonia.fernandez@ucsb.edu

    “A Marvelous Molecular Machine”

    A finely tuned molecular process in the camouflage of certain squid may lead to the next generation of bio-inspired synthetic materials.

    1
    The adaptive iridocytes in the skin of the California market squid are able tune color through most of the spectrum.

    Squids, octopuses and cuttlefish are undisputed masters of deception and camouflage. Their extraordinary ability to change color, texture and shape is unrivaled, even by modern technology.

    Researchers in the lab of UC Santa Barbara professor Daniel Morse have long been interested in the optical properties of color-changing animals, and they are particularly intrigued by the opalescent inshore squid. Also known as the California market squid, these animals have evolved the ability to finely and continuously tune their color and sheen to a degree unrivaled in other creatures. This enables them to communicate, as well as hide in plain sight in the bright and often featureless upper ocean.

    In previous work, the researchers uncovered that specialized proteins, called reflectins, control reflective pigment cells — iridocytes — which in turn contribute to changing the overall visibility and appearance of the creature. But still a mystery was how the reflectins actually worked.

    “We wanted now to understand how this remarkable molecular machine works,” said Morse, a Distinguished Emeritus Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and principal author of a paper that appears in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Understanding this mechanism, he said, would provide insight into the tunable control of emergent properties, which could open the door to the next generation of bio-inspired synthetic materials.

    Light-reflecting skin

    Like most cephalopods, opalescent inshore squid, practice their sorcery by way of what may be the most sophisticated skin found anywhere in nature. Tiny muscles manipulate the skin texture while pigments and iridescent cells affect its appearance. One group of cells controls their color by expanding and contracting cells in their skin that contain sacks of pigment.

    Behind these pigment cells are a layer of iridescent cells — those iridocytes — that reflect light and contribute to the animals’ color across the entire visible spectrum. The squids also have leucophores, which control the reflectance of white light. Together, these layers of pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells give the squids the ability to control the brightness, color and hue of their skin over a remarkably broad palette.

    Unlike the color from pigments, the highly dynamic hues of the opalescent inshore squid result from changing the iridocyte’s structure itself. Light bounces between nanometer-sized features about the same size as wavelengths in the visible part of the spectrum, producing colors. As these structures change their dimensions, the colors change. Reflectin proteins are behind these features’ ability to shapeshift, and the researchers’ task was to figure out how they do the job.

    Thanks to a combination of genetic engineering and biophysical analyses, the scientists found the answer, and it turned out to be a mechanism far more elegant and powerful than previously imagined.

    “The results were very surprising,” said first author Robert Levenson, a postdoctoral researcher in Morse’s lab. The group had expected to find one or two spots on the protein that controlled its activity, he said. “Instead, our evidence showed that the features of the reflectins that control its signal detection and the resulting assembly are spread across the entire protein chain.”

    An Osmotic Motor

    Reflectin, which is contained in closely packed layers of membrane in iridocytes, looks a bit like a series of beads on a string, the researchers found. Normally, the links between the beads are strongly positively charged, so they repel each other, straightening out the proteins like uncooked spaghetti.

    Morse and his team discovered that nerve signals to the reflective cells trigger the addition of phosphate groups to the links. These negatively charged phosphate groups neutralize the links’ repulsion, allowing the proteins to fold up. The team was especially excited to discover that this folding exposed new, sticky surfaces on the bead-like portions of the reflectin, allowing them to clump together. Up to four phosphates can bind to each reflectin protein, providing the squid with a precisely tunable process: The more phosphates added, the more the proteins fold up, progressively exposing more of the emergent hydrophobic surfaces, and the larger the clumps grow.

    As these clumps grow, the many, single, small proteins in solution become fewer, larger groups of multiple proteins. This changes the fluid pressure inside the membrane stacks, driving water out — a type of “osmotic motor” that responds to the slightest changes in charge generated by the neurons, to which patches of thousands of leucophores and iridocytes are connected. The resulting dehydration reduces the thickness and spacing of the membrane stacks, which shifts the wavelength of reflected light progressively from red to yellow, then to green and finally blue. The more concentrated solution also has a higher refractive index, which increases the cells’ brightness.

    “We had no idea that the mechanism we would discover would turn out to be so remarkably complex yet contained and so elegantly integrated in one multifunctional molecule — the block-copolymeric reflectin — with opposing domains so delicately poised that they act like a metastable machine, continually sensing and responding to neuronal signaling by precisely adjusting the osmotic pressure of an intracellular nanostructure to precisely fine-tune the color and brightness of its reflected light,” Morse said.

    What’s more, the researchers found, the whole process is reversible and cyclable, enabling the squid to continually fine-tune whatever optical properties its situation calls for.

    New Design Principles

    The researchers had successfully manipulated reflectin in previous experiments, but this study marks the first demonstration of the underlying mechanism. Now it could provide new ideas to scientists and engineers designing materials with tunable properties. “Our findings reveal a fundamental link between the properties of biomolecular materials produced in living systems and the highly engineered synthetic polymers that are now being developed at the frontiers of industry and technology,” Morse said.

    “Because reflectin works to control osmotic pressure, I can envision applications for novel means of energy storage and conversion, pharmaceutical and industrial applications involving viscosity and other liquid properties, and medical applications,” he added.

    Remarkably, some of the processes at work in these reflectin proteins are shared by the proteins that assemble pathologically in Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative conditions, Morse observed. He plans to investigate why this mechanism is reversible, cyclable, harmless and useful in the case of reflectin, but irreversible and pathological for other proteins. Perhaps the fine-structured differences in their sequences can explain the disparity, and even point to new paths for disease prevention and treatment.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education CoalitionUC Santa Barbara Seal
    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on November 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Tomorrow’s Data Centers", , , Bringing the speed high data capacity and low-energy use of light (optics) to advanced internet infrastructure architecture., , The amount of worldwide data traffic is driving up the capacity inside data centers to unprecedented levels and today’s engineering solutions break down., The deluge of data we transmit across the globe via the internet-enabled devices and services that come online every day has required us to become much more efficient., The keys according to Blumenthal are to shorten the distance between optics and electronics., This challenge is a now job for Blumenthal’s FRESCO: FREquency Stabilized COherent Optical Low-Energy Wavelength Division Multiplexing DC Interconnects., UC Santa Barbara, While still in early stages the FRESCO team’s technology is very promising.   

    From UC Santa Barbara: “Tomorrow’s Data Centers” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc
    From UC Santa Barbara

    November 12, 2019
    Sonia Fernandez

    1
    The deluge of data we transmit across the globe via the internet-enabled devices and services that come online every day has required us to become much more efficient with the power, bandwidth and physical space needed to maintain the technology of our modern online lives and businesses.

    2
    L to r: Electrical and computer engineering professor Dan Blumenthal, and doctoral student researchers Grant Brodnik and Mark Harrington
    Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez

    “Much of the world today is interconnected and relies on data centers for everything from business to financial to social interactions,” said Daniel Blumenthal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. The amount of data now being processed is growing so fast that the power needed just to get it from one place to another along the so-called information superhighway constitutes a significant portion of the world’s total energy consumption, he said. This is particularly true of interconnects — the part of the internet infrastructure tasked with getting data from one location to another.

    “Think of interconnects as the highways and the roads that move data,” Blumenthal said. There are several levels of interconnects, from the local types that move data from one device on a circuit to the next, to versions that are responsible for linkages between data centers. The energy required to power interconnects alone is 10% of the world’s total energy consumption and climbing, thanks to the growing amount of data that these components need to turn from electronic signals to light, and back to electronic signals. The energy needed to keep the data servers cool also adds to total power consumption.

    “The amount of worldwide data traffic is driving up the capacity inside data centers to unprecedented levels and today’s engineering solutions break down,” Blumenthal explained. “Using conventional methods as this capacity explodes places a tax on the energy and cost requirements of physical equipment, so we need drastically new approaches.”

    As the demand for additional infrastructure to maintain the performance of the superhighway increases, the physical space needed for all these components and data centers is becoming a limiting factor, creating bottlenecks of information flow even as data processing chipsets increase their capacity to a whopping 100 terabytes per second.

    “The challenge we have is to ramp up for when that happens,” said Blumenthal, who also serves as director for UC Santa Barbara’s Terabit Optical Ethernet Center, and represents UC Santa Barbara in Microsoft’s Optics for the Cloud Research Alliance.

    This challenge is a now job for Blumenthal’s FRESCO: FREquency Stabilized COherent Optical Low-Energy Wavelength Division Multiplexing DC Interconnects. Bringing the speed, high data capacity and low-energy use of light (optics) to advanced internet infrastructure architecture, the FRESCO team aims to solve the data center bottleneck while bringing energy usage and space needs to a more sustainable level.

    The effort is funded by ARPA-e under the OPEN 2018 program and represents an important industry-university partnership with emphasis on technology transition. The FRESCO project involves important industry partners like Microsoft and Barefoot Networks (now Intel), who are looking to transition new technologies to solve the problems of exploding chip and data center capacities.

    The keys, according to Blumenthal, are to shorten the distance between optics and electronics, while also drastically increasing the efficiency of maintaining the synchrony of the optical signal between the transmitting and receiving end of the interconnect.

    FRESCO can accomplish this by bringing the performance of optical technology — currently relegated to long-haul transmission via fiberoptic cable — to the chip and co-locating both optic and electronic components on the same switch chip.

    “The way FRESCO is able to do this is by bringing to bear techniques from large-scale physics experiments to the chip scale,” Blumenthal said. It’s a departure from the more conventional faceplate-and-plug technology, which requires signal to travel some distance to be converted before moving it along.

    From Big Physics to Small Chips

    Optical signals can be stacked in a technique known as coherent wave-division multiplexing (WDM), which allows signal to be sent over different frequencies — colors — over a single optical fiber. However, because of space constraints, Blumenthal said, the traditional measures used to process long-haul optical signals, including electronic digital signal processing (DSP) chips and very high bandwidth circuits, have to be removed from the interconnect links.

    FRESCO does away with these components with an elegant and powerful technique that “anchors” the light at both transmitting and receiving ends, creating spectrally pure stable light that Blumenthal has coined “quiet light.”

    “In order to do that we actually bring in light stabilization techniques and technologies that have been developed over the years for atomic clocks, precision metrology and gravitational wave detection, and use this stable, quiet light to solve the data center problem,” Blumenthal said. “Bringing key technologies from the big physics lab to the chip scale is the challenging and fun part of this work.”

    Specifically, he and his team have been using a phenomenon called stimulated Brillouin scattering, which is characterized by the interaction of light — photons — with sound produced inside the material through which it is traveling. These sound waves — phonons — are the result of the collective light-stimulated vibration of the material’s atoms, which act to buffer and quiet otherwise “noisy” light frequencies, creating a spectrally pure source at the transmitting and receiving ends. The second part of the solution is to anchor or stabilize these pure light sources using optical cavities that store energy with such high quality that the lasers are anchored in a way that allows them to be aligned using low-energy electronic circuits used in the radio world.

    The act of alignment requires that the light frequency and phase are kept equal so that data can be recovered. This normally requires high power analog electronics or high powered digital signal processors (DSPs), which are not viable solutions for bringing this capacity inside the data center (they have 100,000s of fiber connections in the data center, as compared to 10s of connections in the long-haul). Also, the more energy and space the technologies inside the data center take, an equal number or more get expended on the cooling of the data center.

    “There is very little energy needed to just keep them aligned and finding each other,” Blumenthal said of FRESCO, “similar to that of electronic circuits used for radio. “That is the exciting part — we are enabling a transmission carrier at 400 THz to carry data using low-energy simple electronic circuits, as opposed to the use of DSPs and high bandwidth circuitry, which in essence throws a lot of processing power at the optical signal to hunt down and match the frequency and phase of the optical signal so that data can be recovered.” With the FRESCO method, the lasers from the the transmitting and receiving ends are “anchored within each other’s sights in the first place, and drift very slowly on the order of minutes, requiring very little effort to track one with the other,” according to Blumenthal.

    On the Horizon, and Beyond

    While still in early stages, the FRESCO team’s technology is very promising. Having developed discrete components, the team is poised to demonstrate the concept by linking those components, measuring energy use, then transmitting the highest data capacity over a single frequency with the lowest energy to date on a frequency stabilized link. Future steps include demonstrating multiple frequencies using a technology called optical frequency combs that are integral to atomic clocks, astrophysics and other precision sciences. The team is in the process of integrating these components onto a single chip, ultimately aiming to develop manufacturing processes that will allow for transition to FRESCO technology.

    This technology is likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to possible innovations in the realm of optical telecommunications.

    “We see our chipset replacing over a data center link what today would take between four to 10 racks of equipment,” Blumenthal said. “The fundamental knowledge gained by developing this technology could easily enable applications we have yet to invent, for example in quantum communications and computing, precision metrology and precision timing and navigation.”

    “If you look at trends, over time you can see something that in the past took up a room full of equipment become something that was personally accessible through a technology innovation — for example supercomputers that became laptops through nanometer transistors,” he said of the disruption that became the wave in personal computing and everything that it enabled. “We know now how we want to apply the FRESCO technology to the data center scaling problem, but we think there also are going to be other unforeseen applications too. This is one of the primary reasons for research exploration and investment without knowing all the answers or applications beforehand.”

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education CoalitionUC Santa Barbara Seal
    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:45 am on May 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Researchers Just Tested a Prototype Probe Designed to 'Sail' Between The Stars", , Directed-energy light sail and a wafer-scale spacecraft (WSS), , UC Santa Barbara, UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group (ECG)   

    From UC Santa Barbara via Science Alert: “Researchers Just Tested a Prototype Probe Designed to ‘Sail’ Between The Stars” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc
    From UC Santa Barbara

    via

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    13 MAY 2019
    MATT WILLIAMS

    1
    UCSB

    At the University of California, Santa Barbara, researchers with the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group (ECG) are currently working on ways to achieve the dream of interstellar flight.

    Under the leadership of Philip Lubin, the group has dedicated a considerable amount of effort towards the creation of an interstellar mission consisting of directed-energy light sail and a wafer-scale spacecraft (WSS) “wafercraft“.

    If all goes well, this spacecraft will be able to reach relativistic speeds (a portion of the speed of light) and make it to the nearest star system (Proxima Centauri) within our lifetimes.

    Recently, the ECG achieved a major milestone by successfully testing a prototype version of their wafercraft (aka. the “StarChip”). This consisted of sending the prototype via balloon into the stratosphere to test its functionality and performance.

    The launch was conducted in collaboration with the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis on April 12, 2019. This date was selected to coincide with the 58th anniversary of Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s orbital space flight, making him the first human to go to space.

    The test consisted of launching the prototype aboard a balloon to an altitude of 32,000 metres (105,000 feet) above Pennsylvania.

    As Lubin explained in an interview with UCSB’s The Current:

    “It’s part of a process of building for the future, and along the way you test each part of the system to refine it. It’s part of a long-term program to develop miniature spacecraft for interplanetary and eventually for interstellar flight.”

    The idea behind the StarChip is simple. By taking advantage of advancements in miniaturization, all the necessary components of an exploratory mission could be mounted on a spacecraft the size of a human hand.

    The sail component builds on the concept of a solar sail and developments made with lightweight materials; and together, they add up to a spacecraft that could be accelerated up to 20 percent the speed of light.

    For the sake of this flight, the science team that created it put the StarChip through a series of tests designed to gauge its performance in space and ability to explore other worlds.

    Aside from seeing how it faired in Earth’s stratosphere (three times higher than the operational ceiling of airplanes), the prototype collected more than 4000 images of the Earth.

    As Nic Rupert, a development engineer in Lubin’s lab, explained:

    “It was designed to have many of the functions of much larger spacecraft, such as imaging, data transmission, including laser communications, attitude determination and magnetic field sensing. Due to the rapid advancements in microelectronics we can shrink a spacecraft into a much smaller format than has been done before for specialized applications such as ours.”

    3
    Prototype StarChip tested by the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group. (UCSB)

    While the StarChip performed flawlessly on this flight, there are some massive technical hurdles ahead.

    Considering the distances involved – 4.24 light years (40 trillion kilometres; 25 trillion miles) – and the fact that the spacecraft will need to reach a fraction of the speed of light, the technological requirements are daunting.

    As Lubin said:

    “Ordinary chemical propulsion, such as that which took us to the Moon nearly 50 years ago to the day, would take nearly one hundred thousand years to get to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. And even advanced propulsion such as ion engines would take many thousands of years. There is only one known technology that is able to reach the nearby stars within a human lifetime and that is using light itself as the propulsion system.”

    One of the greatest challenges at this point is building an Earth-based laser array that would be capable of accelerated the laser sail.

    “If you have a large enough laser array, you can actually push the wafers with a laser sail to get to our goal of 20 percent of the speed of light,” added Rupert. “Then you’d be at Alpha Centauri in something like 20 years.”

    Since 2009, the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group has been researching and developing this concept as part of a NASA Advanced Concepts program called Starlight.

    Since 2016, they have received considerable support from Breakthrough Initiatives (the non-profit space exploration program created by Yuri Milner) as part of Breakthrough Starshot.

    Solar sail. Breakthrough Starshot image. Credit: Breakthrough Starshot

    Rather than creating a single spacecraft, the team hopes that their research will lead to the creation of hundreds and even thousands of waferscale craft that could visit exoplanets in nearby star systems.

    These spacecraft would do away with the need for propellant and would be able to make the journey within a few decades rather than centuries or millennia.

    In this respect, these spacecraft would be able to reveal whether or not life exists beyond Earth in our lifetimes. Another interesting aspect of the UCSB project involves sending life from Earth to other exoplanets.

    Specifically, tardigrades and the nematode C. elegans, two species that have been shown to be highly resistant to radiation, capable of handling the conditions of space, and capable of being cryogenically frozen and revived.

    This aspect of their plan is not unlike the proposal made by Claudius Gros of Goethe University’s Institute for Theoretical Physics.

    Appropriately named “Project Genesis,” the proposal calls for spacecraft propelled by directed energy to travel to other star systems and seed any “transiently habitable” exoplanets that are there.

    In short, life would be given a jumpstart on planets that are habitable but not inhabited.

    As David McCarthy, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSB, explained, getting to the point where all is possible is a very iterative process.

    “The point of building these things is to know what we want to include in the next version, in the next chip,” he said. “You start with off-the-shelf components because you can iterate quickly and inexpensively.”

    With this high-altitude test complete, the UCSB group is aiming for a suborbital first flight next year. Meanwhile, advances in silicon optics and integrated wafer-scale photonics – thanks in part to research being conducted by UCSB’s electrical and computer engineering department – are reducing the cost of mass-producing these tiny spacecraft.

    In addition to interstellar travel, this technology could facilitate rapid, low-cost missions to Mars and other locations in the Solar System.

    Lubin and his fellow researchers have also spent years exploring applications for planetary defense against comets, mitigating space debris, boosting Earth-orbiting satellites, or remotely powering distant Solar System outposts.

    When it comes to directed energy, the possibilities really are staggering.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Santa Barbara Seal
    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:28 am on April 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Getting Hotter Underwater", A new study suggests that some species are feeling the heat more than others., , “New conservation efforts will be needed if the ocean is going to continue supporting human wellbeing nutrition and economic activity” said lead author Malin Pinsky associate professor at Rutgers , “There’s no such thing as a cool shady spot under the sea, Between 1996 and 2014 New York’s registered lobster landings decreased by 97.7%, , Ecosystems are in flux as rising temperatures affect where animals can live and how they behave., Global warming harms ocean life worse than it does on land”, Local extinctions are currently proceeding at twice the rate in the ocean as on land., More species are living in the higher end of their temperature tolerances in the ocean than on land., UC Santa Barbara   

    From UC Santa Barbara: “Getting Hotter Underwater” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc
    From UC Santa Barbara

    April 29, 2019
    Harrison Tasoff

    1
    Photo Credit: Ron McPeak

    Ecosystems are in flux as rising temperatures affect where animals can live and how they behave. And a new study suggests that some species are feeling the heat more than others.

    An international team of scientists including Douglas McCauley, an associate professor at UC Santa Barbara, has discovered that marine animals are especially vulnerable to rising temperatures. The results appear in the journal Nature.

    “We certainly did not discover for the first time that global warming harms for ocean life, but we did discover, arguably, that global warming harms ocean life worse than it does on land,” said McCauley, a marine ecologist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology and the university’s Marine Science Institute. “And that, actually, is pretty important to realize because it teaches us where to focus our energy when trying to remediate ecosystems and build out resiliency to climate impacts.”

    The team searched the literature for data on the range of survivable temperatures for 318 terrestrial and 88 marine species from 15 different classes of coldblooded animals, such as lizards, fish and spiders. They were curious what temperature range each animal could handle, and how close it was living to its thermal maximum. They also asked how the habitats in this safe temperature range will move as climate change progresses.

    Their key finding was that more species are living in the higher end of their temperature tolerances in the ocean than on land. This is likely early evidence of ocean warming, according to McCauley. “The species in the ocean appear to be much more sensitive to global warming as many are already sitting so close to the ceiling of the range of temperatures they can safely tolerate,” he said. This could explain why local extinctions are currently proceeding at twice the rate in the ocean as on land.

    In fact, by compiling data on some of the species’ historical ranges and comparing it to their current ranges, McCauley could actually see widespread population die-off in the warmer sub-regions. Take the American lobster for example. This iconic species is synonymous with New England, and historically it was commonly caught in states like New York. But the lobster populations there have dropped precipitously. Between 1996 and 2014 New York’s registered lobster landings decreased by 97.7%.

    Playing a different game

    Terrestrial and aquatic animals have different challenges and strategies when coping with extreme temperatures, any of which could factor into the differences, the researchers found. Water is very good at retaining heat, so marine animals don’t experience the daily or seasonal temperature fluctuations that most terrestrial animals deal with. McCauley hypothesized that the lack of experience with large temperature fluctuations may be one reason marine species are more susceptible to rising temperatures.

    For instance, a lizard native to the eastern seaboard might experience a difference as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit between day and night, and perhaps 120 degrees between summer and winter. Those temperature ranges are unheard of for marine species.

    Land animals can also take advantage of thermal refuges — a burrow, a shady tree, a stream — to cool off on a daily basis. But that doesn’t work underwater. “There’s no such thing as a cool shady spot under the sea,” McCauley said. In any given area all the water equalizes to the same temperature.

    Some marine animals seek refuge in cooler water deeper down, but ocean ecosystems can vary over the span of a few dozen feet. Light level, water pressure and food availability quickly change as you dive, meaning this isn’t a strategy that most animals can adopt.

    “So, while it may seem like, ‘why don’t you just go down there to beat the heat,’ for some of these marine animals, that is as infeasible as suggesting deer could adapt by just setting up shop in caves,” McCauley said. The differences are about as extreme.

    Priorities

    McCauley hopes that a better understanding of the scope and scale of global warming’s effects on wildlife will help us tailor our response most efficiently. “Dealing with climate change is a triage exercise where we have to figure out who’s most in trouble, get there and get ahead of the problem as best and as fast as we can,” he said.

    Reducing carbon emissions would make the greatest impact, said McCauley. As we work towards this critical long-term goal, we can also make progress by removing other stressors affecting ocean life. Reducing nutrient and plastic pollution, better managing global fisheries and creating marine reserves can all alleviate pressures on marine animals, giving them a better chance of adapting to long-haul challenges like climate change, he added.

    Some species, like the American lobster, are slowly shifting their range north, but not all animals can do this. Both on land and in the sea, geography and barriers can keep animals from moving to cooler areas. Species living on isolated islands, or in the shallow waters around them, are perfect examples of this.

    Habitat fragmentation only exacerbates the problems associated with these geographic barriers. “If you have species becoming climate refugees that have to flee overheating habitats,” McCauley noted, “roads and fences are going to slow them down or make it downright impossible to travel to cooler habitats.”

    Human impact

    Humans depend on the ocean for their lives and livelihoods, and the researchers are concerned that the patterns they found will affect us as well.

    “The findings suggest that new conservation efforts will be needed if the ocean is going to continue supporting human wellbeing, nutrition and economic activity,” said lead author Malin Pinsky, an associate professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

    “This research was focused more on understanding how the is ocean changing. And the next step is answering the question, ‘Who cares?’” McCauley said. “I want to know, in particular, if and how these impacts on ocean health matter to human health.”

    McCauley and his collaborators have joined health scientists at Harvard University and social scientists at UC Santa Cruz to assess how the disappearance of ocean animals might affect human health and nutrition. The researchers will head to the island nation of Kiribati to work with local communities in understanding how some of these changes may influence them. This includes measuring the fish populations, speaking with fishermen and working with local health officials to measure community nutritional health.

    “In many places like this, oceans are a local life support service,” say McCauley. “In the more remote islands it can be fish and rice for dinner or, if you run out of fish, just rice.”
    Contact Info:

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Santa Barbara Seal
    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:15 pm on November 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: INCITE program, , , Stellar mass loss, UC Santa Barbara   

    From UC Santa Barbara’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP): “Stellar Simulators” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    UC Santa Barbara

    KavliFoundation

    The Kavli Foundation

    November 22, 2016
    Julie Cohen

    It’s an intricate process through which massive stars lose their gas as they evolve. And a more complete understanding could be just calculations away, if only those calculations didn’t take several millennia to run on normal computers.

    But astrophysicists Matteo Cantiello and Yan-Fei Jiang of UC Santa Barbara’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) may find a way around that problem.

    The pair have been awarded 120 million CPU hours over two years on the supercomputer Mira — the sixth-fastest computer in the world — through the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

    MIRA IBM Blue Gene Q supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility
    MIRA IBM Blue Gene Q supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility

    INCITE aims to accelerate scientific discoveries and technological innovations by awarding, on a competitive basis, time on supercomputers to researchers with large-scale, computationally intensive projects that address “grand challenges” in science and engineering.

    “Access to Mira means that we will be able to run calculations that otherwise would take about 150,000 years to run on our laptops,” said Cantiello, an associate specialist at KITP.

    Cantiello and Jiang will use their supercomputer time to run 3-D simulations of stellar interiors, in particular the outer envelopes of massive stars. Such calculations are an important tool to inform and improve the one-dimensional approximations used in stellar evolution modeling. The researchers aim to unravel the complex physics involved in the interplay among gas, radiation and magnetic fields in such stars — stellar bodies that later in life can explode to form black holes and neutron stars.

    The physicists use grid-based Athena++ code — which has been carefully extended and tested by Jiang — to solve equations for the gas flow in the presence of magnetic fields (magnetohydrodynamics) and for how photons move in such environments and interact with the gas flow (radiative transfer). The code divides the huge calculations into small pieces that are sent to many different CPUs and are solved in parallel. With a staggering number of CPUs — 786,432 to be precise — Mira speeds up the process tremendously.

    This research addresses an increasingly important problem: understanding the structure of massive stars and the nature of the process that makes them lose mass as they evolve. This includes both relatively steady winds and dramatic episodic mass loss eruptions.

    Called stellar mass loss, this process has a decisive effect on the final fate of these objects. The type of supernova explosion that these stars undergo, as well as the type of remnants they leave behind (neutron stars, black holes or even no remnant at all), are intimately tied to their mass loss.

    The study is particularly relevant in light of the recent detection of gravitational waves from LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). The discovery demonstrated the existence of stellar mass black holes orbiting so close to each other that eventually they can merge and produce the observed gravitational waves.

    “Understanding how these black hole binary systems formed in the first place requires a better understanding of the structure and mass loss of their stellar progenitors,” explained Jiang, a postdoctoral fellow at KITP.

    The implications of the work Cantiello and Jiang will perform on Mira also extend to broader fields of stellar evolution and galaxy formation, among others.

    See the full UCSB article here .
    See the full Kavli article here .

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    The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.

    The Foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

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    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:54 am on July 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , For Whom the Births (and Worms) Toll, , UC Santa Barbara   

    From UCSB: “For Whom the Births (and Worms) Toll” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    UC Santa Barbara

    July 21, 2016
    Jim Logan

    1
    Tsimane children. No image credit

    2
    Tsimane women. Photo Credit: Lisa McAllister

    Human childbirth is not only unpleasant, it’s also assumed to take a toll on women’s health, even while women have a greater life expectancy. A new study led by UC Santa Barbara researchers, however, finds that indigenous women in the Bolivian Amazon with some of the highest birth rates in the world today experience negligible health costs from their intense reproductive effort.

    The study tracking 869 Tsimane women over 12 years is the most comprehensive under natural conditions ever conducted, said Michael Gurven, a professor of anthropology at UCSB and the lead author of Health Costs of Reproduction Are Minimal Despite High Fertility, Mortality and Subsistence Lifestyle, published in Nature Scientific Reports. The findings are remarkable because they run counter to expectations, he noted, given that the Tsimane live as horticulturalist-foragers in a harsh environment with limited food and an abundance of pathogens and parasites.

    It is often thought that costly (“cell-mediated”) immune function is suppressed during pregnancy to help tolerate the growing fetus, and so exposure to harmful pathogens should be dangerous. Tsimane growth is also stunted due to limited nutrition and long periods of parasitic exposure. In this environmental context, the average Tsimane woman has nine births in rapid order, and each child is breastfed for nearly two years.

    “One might expect such high, cumulative reproductive costs to take its toll on a woman’s health if her body doesn’t have a chance to recover,” Gurven explained. “Yet we found — using common metrics of maternal health and nutritional status such as weight and body mass index, and some biomarkers assessing anemia and immune activation — that although women with more kids spaced closer together tended to have lower weight and BMI than those with fewer kids spaced further apart — when we looked at changes within women over time, these anthropometric measures increased over successive births.” American women, by contrast, typically gain weight with each successive pregnancy, but they have only a few children and are well nourished, he added.

    Gurven, director of UCSB’s Evolutionary Anthropology and Biodemography Research Group, and co-director of the Tsimane Health and Life History Project, said the findings bring into focus one way that extensive human sociality, or “cooperative breeding,” helps differentiate us from other primates, and has allowed us to swarm the planet. Humans such as the Tsimane who live under natural fertility conditions have a higher birthrate than would be expected of a primate of our size, with infants weaned early and the next child arriving fairly quickly. “Despite rapid reproduction, female hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists typically work less, not more, to meet their greater energetic needs for lactation,” he explained. “This is only possible in a highly social species where others can help out during periods of need.”

    In other species, Gurven said, mothers expend greater energy foraging for food because they’re essentially on their own. Lactating baboons, for example, spend a lot more time looking for something to eat because they don’t have others cooperatively provisioning them. All that extra effort to find more food burns calories, and thereby delays the time at which they start ovulating again.

    “So the Tsimane case is fascinating in this light: Women having nine births spaced close together, yet not experiencing obvious maternal depletion, is a testament to the favorable social structure of humans who actively pool their efforts and resources within and among generations,” Gurven said. “Women not showing evidence of maternal depletion is only possible due to high levels of cooperation from kin and other group members that support women when pregnant and lactating.”

    So are there really no health costs to such high fertility? “Dying in or shortly after childbirth is definitely more common among Tsimane than in high-income countries,” Gurven added, “but here we were more interested in the sustained costs to survivors.” Other health conditions can worsen with successive births among Tsimane. Cystocele — or prolapsed bladder — is one of these, as is lower bone-mineral density and higher risk of osteoporosis, as Gurven, Jonathan Stieglitz (Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, France) and his team revealed in a paper by published last year in American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

    The metabolic costs of immune defense against pathogens

    Though living in a pathogenic world typical of the preindustrial past does not appear to make reproduction more costly for women, it does impact the immune system in important ways. A study by Gurven’s group, led by his colleague Aaron Blackwell earlier this year, revealed how the Tsimane’s immune system has risen to the challenge to tolerate or defend against the diverse onslaught of micro-critters.

    Now a new paper by Gurven, Megan Costa, a visiting demographer to UCSB’s Broom Demography Center, Benjamin Trumble, a postdoctoral fellow in UCSB’s Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research, Blackwell and colleagues reports that the Tsimane have a high resting metabolic rate (RMR) and total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) — meaning they burn more calories per pound of body weight per day than sedentary industrialized populations. For Tsimane women, their RMR is 18 to 47 percent higher than expected and for men it’s 22 to 40 percent. The researchers show that higher levels of physical activity and other factors cannot account for the higher energy expenditure. Among Tsimane, those with clinical symptoms of intestinal worms and high white blood cell count indicative of active infection had 10 to 15 percent higher RMR. This amounts to roughly 150 extra calories per day, or the equivalent of a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola.

    Total daily energy expenditure has its limits, so with extra energy spent on fighting infection, and energy spent producing children and intensive breastfeeding, what areas of health have to take a hit? This is a question Gurven’s team is currently tackling with ongoing biomedical surveillance. Some possibilities include low bone mineral mass, anemia, altered blood lipid profile, lethargy and other sickness behavior. Consistent with these diversions of energy, Tsimane bone mineral status and cholesterol levels are substantially lower than among age-matched U.S. peers, and anemia and depressed affect is prevalent in both sexes (but greater in women).

    Another possibility is that investing less in physical growth will result in smaller body size and weight. Indeed, height is stunted and obesity is rare in Tsimane, who have levels of obesity eight to 10 times lower than that of their American age-matched peers. This doesn’t mean, however, that being loaded with pathogens and parasites is a good diet strategy, said Gurven, who noted some snake-oil diet pills dating back to the 1930s have included roundworm eggs or tapeworm parts.

    “Sometimes they work, often they don’t,” Gurven said. “And the harmful effects of infection — from anemia, worms getting into your lungs, bowel obstruction, to name a few — can be fatal. Giardia and amoebas can also help you lose weight, but too rapidly, and often with dehydration and potentially fatal consequences. These parasites can also deprive the body of vital nutrients. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend people dance barefoot in latrines in the hopes of shedding some pounds.”

    The paper, High Resting Metabolic Rate Among Amazonian Forager-Horticulturalists Experiencing High Pathogen Burden, is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:52 am on July 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From UC Santa Barbara- “Entanglement : Chaos” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    July 11, 2016
    Sonia Fernandez

    1
    A quantum qubit array. Photo Credit: Michael Fang/Martinis Lab

    2
    Experimental link between quantum entanglement (left) and classical chaos (right) found using a small quantum computer. Photo Credit: Courtesy Image

    3
    The Google and UCSB researchers, from left to right: Jimmy Chen, John Martinis, Pedram Roushan, Yu Chen, Anthony Megrant and Charles Neill. Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez

    Using a small quantum system consisting of three superconducting qubits, researchers at UC Santa Barbara and Google have uncovered a link between aspects of classical and quantum physics thought to be unrelated: classical chaos and quantum entanglement. Their findings suggest that it would be possible to use controllable quantum systems to investigate certain fundamental aspects of nature.

    “It’s kind of surprising because chaos is this totally classical concept — there’s no idea of chaos in a quantum system,” Charles Neill, a researcher in the UCSB Department of Physics and lead author of a paper that appears in Nature Physics. “Similarly, there’s no concept of entanglement within classical systems. And yet it turns out that chaos and entanglement are really very strongly and clearly related.”

    Initiated in the 15th century, classical physics generally examines and describes systems larger than atoms and molecules. It consists of hundreds of years’ worth of study including Newton’s laws of motion, electrodynamics, relativity, thermodynamics as well as chaos theory — the field that studies the behavior of highly sensitive and unpredictable systems. One classic example of a chaotic system is the weather, in which a relatively small change in one part of the system is enough to foil predictions — and vacation plans — anywhere on the globe.

    At smaller size and length scales in nature, however, such as those involving atoms and photons and their behaviors, classical physics falls short. In the early 20th century quantum physics emerged, with its seemingly counterintuitive and sometimes controversial science, including the notions of superposition (the theory that a particle can be located in several places at once) and entanglement (particles that are deeply linked behave as such despite physical distance from one another).

    And so began the continuing search for connections between the two fields.

    All systems are fundamentally quantum systems, according Neill, but the means of describing in a quantum sense the chaotic behavior of, say, air molecules in an evacuated room, remains limited.

    Imagine taking a balloon full of air molecules, somehow tagging them so you could see them and then releasing them into a room with no air molecules, noted co-author and UCSB/Google researcher Pedram Roushan. One possible outcome is that the air molecules remain clumped together in a little cloud following the same trajectory around the room. And yet, he continued, as we can probably intuit, the molecules will more likely take off in a variety of velocities and directions, bouncing off walls and interacting with each other, resting after the room is sufficiently saturated with them.

    “The underlying physics is chaos, essentially,” he said. The molecules coming to rest — at least on the macroscopic level — is the result of thermalization, or of reaching equilibrium after they have achieved uniform saturation within the system. But in the infinitesimal world of quantum physics, there is still little to describe that behavior. The mathematics of quantum mechanics, Roushan said, do not allow for the chaos described by Newtonian laws of motion.

    To investigate, the researchers devised an experiment using three quantum bits, the basic computational units of the quantum computer. Unlike classical computer bits, which utilize a binary system of two possible states (e.g., zero/one), a qubit can also use a superposition of both states (zero and one) as a single state. Additionally, multiple qubits can entangle, or link so closely that their measurements will automatically correlate. By manipulating these qubits with electronic pulses, Neill caused them to interact, rotate and evolve in the quantum analog of a highly sensitive classical system.

    The result is a map of entanglement entropy of a qubit that, over time, comes to strongly resemble that of classical dynamics — the regions of entanglement in the quantum map resemble the regions of chaos on the classical map. The islands of low entanglement in the quantum map are located in the places of low chaos on the classical map.

    “There’s a very clear connection between entanglement and chaos in these two pictures,” said Neill. “And, it turns out that thermalization is the thing that connects chaos and entanglement. It turns out that they are actually the driving forces behind thermalization.

    “What we realize is that in almost any quantum system, including on quantum computers, if you just let it evolve and you start to study what happens as a function of time, it’s going to thermalize,” added Neill, referring to the quantum-level equilibration. “And this really ties together the intuition between classical thermalization and chaos and how it occurs in quantum systems that entangle.”

    The study’s findings have fundamental implications for quantum computing. At the level of three qubits, the computation is relatively simple, said Roushan, but as researchers push to build increasingly sophisticated and powerful quantum computers that incorporate more qubits to study highly complex problems that are beyond the ability of classical computing — such as those in the realms of machine learning, artificial intelligence, fluid dynamics or chemistry — a quantum processor optimized for such calculations will be a very powerful tool.

    “It means we can study things that are completely impossible to study right now, once we get to bigger systems,” said Neill.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:58 am on June 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSB: “We’ll Leave the Lights On For You” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    May 17, 2016
    Shelly Leachman

    Photonics advances allow us to be seen across the universe, with major implications for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, says UC Santa Barbara physicist Philip Lubin.

    1
    Photo Credit: iStock Photo

    Looking up at the night sky — expansive and seemingly endless, stars and constellations blinking and glimmering like jewels just out of reach — it’s impossible not to wonder: Are we alone?

    For many of us, the notion of intelligent life on other planets is as captivating as ideas come. Maybe in some other star system, maybe a billion light years away, there’s a civilization like ours asking the exact same question.

    Imagine if we sent up a visible signal that could eventually be seen across the entire universe. Imagine if another civilization did the same.

    The technology now exists to enable exactly that scenario, according to UC Santa Barbara physics professor Philip Lubin, whose new work applies his research and advances in directed-energy systems to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). His recent paper “The Search for Directed Intelligence” appears in the journal REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration.

    “If even one other civilization existed in our galaxy and had a similar or more advanced level of directed-energy technology, we could detect ‘them’ anywhere in our galaxy with a very modest detection approach,” said Lubin, who leads the UCSB Experimental Cosmology Group. “If we scale it up as we’re doing with direct energy systems, how far could we detect a civilization equivalent to ours? The answer becomes that the entire universe is now open to us.

    “Similar to the use of directed energy for relativistic interstellar probes and planetary defense that we have been developing, take that same technology and ask yourself, ‘What are consequences of that technology in terms of us being detectable by another ‘us’ in some other part of the universe?’” Lubin added. “Could we see each other? Can we behave as a lighthouse, or a beacon, and project our presence to some other civilization somewhere else in the universe? The profound consequences are, of course, ‘Where are they?’ Perhaps they are shy like us and do not want to be seen, or they don’t transmit in a way we can detect, or perhaps ‘they’ do not exist.”

    The same directed energy technology is at the core of Lubin’s recent efforts to develop miniscule, laser-powered interstellar spacecraft. That work, funded since 2015 by NASA (and just selected by the space agency for “Phase II” support) is the technology behind billionaire Yuri Milner’s newsmaking, $100-million Breakthrough Starshot initiative announced April 12.

    Lubin is a scientific advisor on Starshot, which is using his NASA research as a roadmap as it seeks to send tiny spacecraft to nearby star systems.

    In describing directed energy, Lubin likened the process to using the force of water from a garden hose to push a ball forward. Using a laser light, spacecraft can be pushed and steered in much the same way. Applied to SETI, he said, the directed energy system could be deployed to send a targeted signal to other planetary systems.

    “In our paper, we propose a search strategy that will observe nearly 100 billion planets, allowing us to test our hypothesis that other similarly or more advanced civilizations with this same broadcast capability exist,” Lubin said.

    “As a species we are evolving rapidly in photonics, the production and manipulation of light,” he explained. “Our recent paper explores the hypothesis: We now have the ability to produce light extremely efficiently, and perhaps other species might also have that ability. And if so, then what would be the implications of that? This paper explores the ‘if so, then what?’”

    Traditionally and still, Lubin said, the “mainstay of the SETI community” has been to conduct searches via radio waves. Think Jodie Foster in “Contact,” receiving an extraterrestrial signal by way of a massive and powerful radio telescope. With Lubin’s UCSB-developed photonics approach, however, making “contact” could be much simpler: Take the right pictures and see if any distant systems are beaconing us.

    “All discussions of SETI have to have a significant level of, maybe not humor, but at least hubris as to what makes reason and what doesn’t,” Lubin said. “Maybe we are alone in terms of our technological capability. Maybe all that’s out there is bacteria or viruses. We have no idea because we’ve never found life outside of our Earth.

    “But suppose there is a civilization like ours and suppose — unlike us, who are skittish about broadcasting our presence — they think it’s important to be a beacon, an interstellar or extragalactic lighthouse of sorts,” he added. “There is a photonics revolution going on on Earth that enables this specific kind of transmission of information via visible or near-infrared light of high intensity. And you don’t need a large telescope to begin these searches. You could detect a presence like our current civilization anywhere in our galaxy, where there are 100 billion possible planets, with something in your backyard. Put in context, and we would love to have people really think about this: You can literally go out with your camera from Costco, take pictures of the sky, and if you knew what you were doing you could mount a SETI search in your backyard. The lighthouse is that bright.”

    See the full article here .

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    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:32 am on June 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From UCSB: “Brain Power” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    June 2, 2016
    Julie Cohen
    julie.cohen@ucsb.edu

    Neuroscience researchers identify a gene critical for human brain development and unravel how it works

    1
    Immunostaining after two weeks of differentiation of neural progenitor cells into neurons. Photo Credit: Neha Rani

    2
    Kenneth Kosik and Neha Rani Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez

    Compared to other mammals, humans have the largest cerebral cortex. A sheet of brain cells that folds in on itself multiple times in order to fit inside the skull, the cortex is the seat of higher functions. It is what enables us to process everything we see and hear and think.

    The expansion of the cerebral cortex sets humans apart from the rest of their fellow primates. Yet scientists have long wondered what mechanisms are responsible for this evolutionary development.

    New research from the Kosik Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology Lab at UC Santa Barbara has pinpointed a specific long nocoding ribonucleic acid (lncRNA) that regulates neural development (ND). The findings appear in the journal Neuron.

    “This lncND, as we’ve called it, can be found only in the branch of primates that leads to humans. It is a stretch of nucleotides that does not code a protein,” said senior author Kenneth S. Kosik, the Harriman Professor of Neuroscience Research in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. “We demonstrate that lncND is turned on during development and turned off when the cell matures.”

    Lead author Neha Rani, a postdoctoral scholar in the Kosik Lab, idenfitied several binding sites on lncND for another type of RNA called a microRNA. One of them, called microRNA-143, binds to lncND.

    “We found that lncND could sequester this microRNA and in doing so regulate the expression of Notch proteins,” Rani said. “Notch proteins are very important regulators during neuronal development. They are involved in cell differentiation and cell fate and are critical in the neural development pathway.”

    Kosik describes lncND as a platform that binds these microRNAs like a sponge. “This allows Notch to do what it’s supposed to do during development,” he explained. “Then as the brain matures, levels of lncND go down and when they do, those microRNAs come flying off the platform and glom onto Notch to bring its levels down. You want Notch levels to be high while the brain is developing but not once maturation occurs. This lncND is an elegant way to change Notch levels quickly.”

    To replicate these cell culture results, Rani used human stem cells to grow neurons into what is called a mini brain. In this pea-sized gob of brain tissue, she identified a subpopulation — radial glial cells (neuronal stem cells) and other neural progenitors — responsible for making lncND.

    But the researchers wanted to see the radial glial cells in actual human brain tissue, so they turned to colleagues in the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Graduate Program at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine. Using in situ hybridization in developing human brain tissue, Rani, in collaboration with UCSF researcher Tom Nowakowski, found lncND in neural precursor cells but not in mature neurons.

    “It was right where we thought it would be in brain tissue,” said Kosik, who is also the co-director of UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute. “But we still had one more thing we had to do because people would still not be satisfied that we had done everything possible to show that lncND was really doing something functionally.”

    So the UCSF team introduced lncND into the fetal brain of a gestating mouse. Green fluorescent protein labeling allowed them to see the early development pattern and show that lncND, which ordinarily is not present in mice — lncND is present only in some primates including humans — had a functional effect on development.

    “When we overexpressed lncND in the mouse fetus, we actually affected development in the predicted manner,” Kosik said. “The early developmental pattern was shifted toward more precursor cells, even though the mouse does not make lncND at all.”

    According to Kosik, this work not only identifies a very critical gene for human brain development but also offers a clue about a component that likely contributed to brain expansion in humans. “We have shown that lncND might be an important player in human brain expansion, which is exciting in itself,” Rani said. “Another interesting aspect of this work is that lncND appears to help regulate the key developmental pathway of Notch signaling.”

    See the full article here .

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    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:41 pm on May 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Tiny Vampires, UC Santa Barbara,   

    From UCSB: “Tiny Vampires” Women in Science (No, the women are not the vampires in question) 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    May 25, 2016
    Julie Cohen

    1
    Susannah Porter. Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez

    Paleobiologist Susannah Porter finds evidence of predation in ancient microbial ecosystems dating back more than 740 million years.

    2
    The Chuar Group in the Grand Canyon was once an ancient seabed. Photo Credit: Carol Dehler

    Vampires are real, and they’ve been around for millions of years. At least, the amoebae variety has. So suggests new research from UC Santa Barbara paleobiologist Susannah Porter.

    Using a scanning electron microscope to examine minute fossils, Porter found perfectly circular drill holes that may have been formed by an ancient relation of Vampyrellidae amoebae. These single-celled creatures perforate the walls of their prey and reach inside to consume its cell contents. Porter’s findings* appear in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    “To my knowledge these holes are the earliest direct evidence of predation on eukaryotes,” said Porter, an associate professor in UCSB’s Department of Earth Science. Eukaryotes are organisms whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles such as mitochondria.

    “We have a great record of predation on animals going back 550 million years,” she continued, “starting with the very first mineralized shells, which show evidence of drillholes. We had nothing like that for early life — for the time before animals appear. These holes potentially provide a way of looking at predator-prey interactions in very deep time in ancient microbial ecosystems.”

    Porter examined fossils from the Chuar Group in the Grand Canyon — once an ancient seabed — that are between 782 and 742 million years old. The holes are about one micrometer (one thousandth of a millimeter) in diameter and occur in seven of the species she identified. The holes are not common in any single one species; in fact, they appear in not more than 10 percent of the specimens.

    “I also found evidence of specificity in hole sizes, so different species show different characteristic hole sizes, which is consistent with what we know about modern vampire amoebae and their food preferences,” Porter said. “Different species of amoebae make differently sized holes. The Vampyrellid amoebae make a great modern analog, but because vampirelike feeding behavior is known in a number of different unrelated amoebae, it makes it difficult to pin down exactly who the predator was.”

    According to Porter, this evidence may help to address the question of whether predation was one of the driving factors in the diversification of eukaryotes that took place about 800 million years ago.

    “If that is true, then if we look at older fossil assemblages — say 1 to 1.6 billion years old — the fossilized eukaryote will show no evidence of predation,” Porter said. “I’m interested in finding out when drilling first appears in the fossil record and whether its intensity changes through time.”

    Porter also is interested in seeing whether oxygen played a role in predation levels through time. She noted that the microfossils those organisms attacked were probably phytoplankton living in oxygenated surface waters, but like vampyrellid amoebae today, the predators may have lived in the sediments. She suggests that those phytoplankton made tough-walled cysts — resting structures now preserved as fossils — that sank to the bottom where they were attacked by the amoebae.

    “We have evidence that the bottom waters in the Chuar Group in that Grand Canyon basin were relatively deep — 200 meters deep at most — and sometimes became anoxic, meaning they lacked oxygen,” Porter explained.

    “I’m interested to know whether the predators only were present and making these drill holes when the bottom waters contained oxygen,” Porter added. “That might tie the diversification of eukaryotes and the appearance of predators to evidence for increasing oxygen levels around 800 million years ago.

    “We know from the modern vampire amoebae that at least some of them make resting cysts themselves,” Porter said. “A former student of mine joked we should call these coffins. So one of our motivations is to see if we can find these coffins in the fossil assemblage as well. That’s the next project.”

    *Science paper:
    Tiny vampires in ancient seas: evidence for predation via perforation in fossils from the 780–740 million-year-old Chuar Group, Grand Canyon, USA

    See the full article here .

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