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  • richardmitnick 4:57 pm on February 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Huge stores of Arctic sea ice likely contributed to past climate cooling", Experiments show that there was enough cold fresh water to disrupt ocean salt-temperature circulation patterns and trigger abrupt climate cooling such as the Younger Dryas., , UMASS Amherst,   

    From UMass Amherst and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution via phys.org: “Huge stores of Arctic sea ice likely contributed to past climate cooling” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    and

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    via


    phys.org

    February 20, 2020
    Raymond Bradley

    1
    One of the last remains of the formerly extensive ice off the coast of Ellesmere Island, Arctic Canada, pictured in July 2002. At the end of the last Ice Age, ice such as this would have covered large parts of the Arctic Ocean and been up to 164 feet (50 meters) thick in places, creating an enormous reservoir of fresh water independent from land-based lakes and ice sheets, say Raymond Bradley of UMass Amherst and Alan Condron of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in a new paper on past climate. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Alan Condron

    In a new paper, climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution propose that massive amounts of melting sea ice in the Arctic drained into the North Atlantic and disrupted climate-steering currents, thus playing an important role in causing past abrupt climate change after the last Ice Age, from about 8,000 to 13,000 years ago. Details of how they tested this idea for the first time are online now in Geology.

    Raymond Bradley, director of UMass Amherst’s Climate Systems Research Center, and lead author Alan Condron, research scientist at Woods Hole, explain that geologists have considered many theories about abrupt temperature plunges into “glacier-like” conditions since the last glaciers retreated, notably a very cold period about 12,900 years ago, known as the Younger Dryas. Meteorite impact and volcanic eruptions were proposed to explain these episodes, but evidence has been unconvincing, they add.

    Now Condron and Bradley, with Ph.D student Anthony Joyce, say they have new evidence that periodic break-up of thick Arctic sea ice greatly affected climate. Melting of this ice led to freshwater flooding into the seas near Greenland, Norway and Iceland between 13,000 and 8,000 years ago, slowing the strength of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). They say their experiments show that there was enough cold, fresh water to disrupt ocean salt-temperature circulation patterns and trigger abrupt climate cooling such as the Younger Dryas.

    Bradley explains, “Understanding the past helps us understand how the Arctic system works.”

    Condron says researchers once thought this cold period was triggered by the draining of Lake Agassiz, an enormous glacial lake at the edge of the massive ice sheet that once extended from the Arctic south into modern New York. “But although the lake was big by modern standards, it has been difficult in the climate modeling community to trigger a 1,000-year cold period with the water it contained, because the volume of water is not large enough to weaken the Atlantic circulation over a long period,” he notes.

    “However, the volumes of water we find stored as sea ice in the Arctic vastly exceed the volume of Lake Agassiz, making sea ice break-up a really good candidate for triggering the Younger Dryas cooling,” he adds.

    To establish that there was enough ice in the Arctic to disrupt the sea circulation pattern, the researchers used numerical climate model experiments to estimate past Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. They also examined diaries and journals of early 19th and 20th century Arctic expeditions to see if those explorers, whose explorations came at the end of a “Little Ice Age,” encountered unusually thick sea ice.

    Condron and Bradley cite the impressions of Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares, who led the 1875 British Arctic Expedition to the North Pole. He was so struck by the extensive, thick ice his expedition encountered that he introduced the term “palaeocrystic ice” to describe “floes… of gigantic thickness with a most uneven surface and covered with deep snow.”

    They note, “It seems from these, and other accounts kept by early Arctic explorers, that the Arctic Ocean was covered by ice considerably thicker than has been observed over the past 30-40 years. While recent climate warming in the Arctic has caused much of this old and thick ice to break up and melt, large pieces of it were also still being reported in the early 20th century.” including floes used as scientific research stations by both the U.S. and Russia as late as the Cold War.

    They say their numerical ocean/sea-ice model of the volume of freshwater stored as sea ice and changes in ice export at the end of the Ice Age show these were large enough to slow the AMOC and cool climate. Thick ice over the Arctic Ocean created “an enormous reservoir of freshwater, independent of terrestrial sourc¬es.” As ice sheets retreated and sea level rose, changes in atmospheric circulation and land-based floods caused this ice to flow to the sea through Fram Strait east of Greenland, where it melted and freshened Nordic Seas enough to weaken Atlantic circulation.

    As both the volume of ice stored in the Arctic Basin and the magnitude of these export events far exceed the volume of meltwater discharged from Lake Agassiz, they report, “our results show that ice from the Arctic Ocean itself may have played an important role in causing abrupt climate change in the past.” This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and its Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment. Also, numerical simulations were carried out using MITgcm.

    See the full article here .

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    About Science X in 100 words

    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
    Mission 12 reasons for reading daily news on Science X Organization Key editors and writersinclude 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education stateUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:50 am on February 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Generating electricity 'out of thin air'", Air-gen, , , , , , UMASS Amherst, Using a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air.   

    From UMass Amherst via COSMOS Magazine: “Generating electricity ‘out of thin air'” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    via

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    18 February 2020
    Nick Carne

    Researchers unveil a new device powered by a microbe.

    1
    Graphic image of a thin film of protein nanowires generating electricity from atmospheric humidity. UMass Amherst/Yao and Lovley labs.

    Scientists in the US have developed a device they say uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air.

    Writing in the journal Nature, electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, introduce the Air-gen (or air-powered generator), which Lovley describes as “the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet”.

    Air-Gen has electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter, which Lovley discovered in the Potomac River three decades ago and has been working with ever since, in particular investigating its potential for “green electronics”.

    The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapour naturally present in the atmosphere.

    It requires only a thin film of protein nanowires less than 10 microns thick. The bottom of the film rests on an electrode, while a smaller electrode that covers only part of the nanowire film sits on top.

    The film adsorbs water vapour from the atmosphere. A combination of the electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires, coupled with the fine pores between the nanowires within the film, establishes the conditions that generate an electrical current between the two electrodes.

    Developed in Yao’s lab, Air-gen is low-cost, non-polluting and renewable, and needs neither sun nor wind, the researchers say. It can work indoors, or in extremely low humidity of the desert.

    The current generation can power only small electronics, but they hope to bring it to commercial scale soon. Beyond that is the idea a small Air-gen “patch” that can power electronic wearables such as health and fitness monitors and smart watches. And then, maybe, there are mobile phones.

    “The ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems,” says Yao. “For example, the technology might be incorporated into wall paint that could help power your home. Or, we may develop stand-alone air-powered generators that supply electricity off the grid.”

    Lovley also is working to improve the practical biological capabilities of Geobacter. His lab recently developed a new microbial strain to more rapidly and inexpensively mass produce protein nanowires.

    “We turned E. coli into a protein nanowire factory,” he says. “With this new scalable process, protein nanowire supply will no longer be a bottleneck to developing these applications.”

    The Royal Institution of Australia has an education resource based on this article.
    You can access it here.

    See the full article here .

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    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:39 am on December 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "School of Earth and Sustainability Fish Ecologists Win Sea Grant Support ", , , UMASS Amherst   

    From UMass Amherst: “School of Earth and Sustainability Fish Ecologists Win Sea Grant Support “ 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    December 11, 2019

    1
    River Herring

    A team led by director of the Gloucester Marine Station Adrian Jordaan and including ecologists Michelle Staudinger and Allison Roy of the U.S. Geological Survey recently received support for their study of migrating alewife and blueback herring in freshwater, river and estuary environments.

    They intend to provide new information on the density, mortality and resource needs of juvenile life stages and explore the link between spawning adults and the success of their offspring. The project is one of seven sponsored by Woods Hole Sea Grant that will focus on priority issues in the Massachusetts coastal environment, including not only river herring population studies but shark-seal-human interactions, coastal resiliency and the sources and fate of microplastics in marine ecosystems.

    The awards represent a total anticipated research investment of $1.47 million over two years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other non-federal matching funds, and are subject to release of federal funds. Woods Hole Sea Grant Director Matt Charette says, “We are excited to be able to support research on topics of critical importance to Massachusetts and beyond.”

    As Jordaan, an associate professor of fish population ecology and conservation in the Department of Environmental Conservation and School of Earth and Sustainability, explains these two fish species known collectively as river herring migrate in spring from the ocean to freshwater to spawn. Both also return to the ocean after spawning and will repeat spawning runs into freshwater in future years until death.

    They also display complex and varied movements, shaped by interactions with dams and fish passage structures, in coastal systems during the spawning season. Movements appear to be related to daily temperature and flow conditions but only limited research has been conducted on this topic.

    They point out that larvae and juvenile life stages of these fish are generally considered to occupy freshwater, while older juveniles migrate to salt water in summer and fall. However, recent studies suggest that some individuals experience early growth in salt water, which means that estuaries might be important for juvenile river herring growth and perhaps for helping to buffer against poor productivity in upstream freshwater habitat.

    “To the best of our knowledge,” Jordaan and colleagues write, “no work to date has effectively sampled juveniles across the freshwater-to-marine transition to understand the relative contributions of production from upstream freshwater and downstream estuarine habitats.” The different contribution of these habitats towards producing offspring is critical for understanding the population dynamics of the two species, and effectively guiding monitoring, restoration and adaptation efforts, they add.

    Jordaan and colleagues say that new data from their studies would fill a substantial gap in understanding the life history requirements and sources of mortality of juvenile river herring.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:17 am on November 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stanford and UMass Amherst develop algorithms that train AI to avoid specific misbehaviors", , , , UMASS Amherst   

    From Stanford University: “Stanford, UMass Amherst develop algorithms that train AI to avoid specific misbehaviors” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    November 21, 2019
    Tom Abate

    Robots, self-driving cars and other intelligent machines could become better-behaved thanks to a new way to help machine learning designers build AI applications with safeguards against specific, undesirable outcomes such as racial and gender bias.


    Deboki Chakravarti. As robots, self-driving cars and other intelligent machines weave AI into everyday life, a new way of designing algorithms can help machine-learning developers build in safeguards against specific, undesirable outcomes like racial and gender bias, to help earn societal trust.

    Artificial intelligence has moved into the commercial mainstream thanks to the growing prowess of machine learning algorithms that enable computers to train themselves to do things like drive cars, control robots or automate decision-making.

    But as AI starts handling sensitive tasks, such as helping pick which prisoners get bail, policy makers are insisting that computer scientists offer assurances that automated systems have been designed to minimize, if not completely avoid, unwanted outcomes such as excessive risk or racial and gender bias.

    A team led by researchers at Stanford and the University of Massachusetts Amherst published a paper Nov. 22 in Science suggesting how to provide such assurances.

    The paper outlines a new technique that translates a fuzzy goal, such as avoiding gender bias, into the precise mathematical criteria that would allow a machine-learning algorithm to train an AI application to avoid that behavior.

    “We want to advance AI that respects the values of its human users and justifies the trust we place in autonomous systems,” said Emma Brunskill, an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford and senior author of the paper.

    Avoiding misbehavior

    The work is premised on the notion that if “unsafe” or “unfair” outcomes or behaviors can be defined mathematically, then it should be possible to create algorithms that can learn from data on how to avoid these unwanted results with high confidence. The researchers also wanted to develop a set of techniques that would make it easy for users to specify what sorts of unwanted behavior they want to constrain and enable machine learning designers to predict with confidence that a system trained using past data can be relied upon when it is applied in real-world circumstances.

    “We show how the designers of machine learning algorithms can make it easier for people who want to build AI into their products and services to describe unwanted outcomes or behaviors that the AI system will avoid with high-probability,” said Philip Thomas, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and first author of the paper.

    Fairness and safety

    The researchers tested their approach by trying to improve the fairness of algorithms that predict GPAs of college students based on exam results, a common practice that can result in gender bias. Using an experimental dataset, they gave their algorithm mathematical instructions to avoid developing a predictive method that systematically overestimated or underestimated GPAs for one gender. With these instructions, the algorithm identified a better way to predict student GPAs with much less systematic gender bias than existing methods. Prior methods struggled in this regard either because they had no fairness filter built-in or because algorithms developed to achieve fairness were too limited in scope.

    The group developed another algorithm and used it to balance safety and performance in an automated insulin pump. Such pumps must decide how big or small a dose of insulin to give a patient at mealtimes. Ideally, the pump delivers just enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels steady. Too little insulin allows blood sugar levels to rise, leading to short term discomforts such as nausea, and elevated risk of long-term complications including cardiovascular disease. Too much and blood sugar crashes – a potentially deadly outcome.

    Machine learning can help by identifying subtle patterns in an individual’s blood sugar responses to doses, but existing methods don’t make it easy for doctors to specify outcomes that automated dosing algorithms should avoid, like low blood sugar crashes. Using a blood glucose simulator, Brunskill and Thomas showed how pumps could be trained to identify dosing tailored for that person – avoiding complications from over- or under-dosing. Though the group isn’t ready to test this algorithm on real people, it points to an AI approach that might eventually improve quality of life for diabetics.

    In their Science paper, Brunskill and Thomas use the term “Seldonian algorithm” to define their approach, a reference to Hari Seldon, a character invented by science fiction author Isaac Asimov, who once proclaimed three laws of robotics beginning with the injunction that “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”

    While acknowledging that the field is still far from guaranteeing the three laws, Thomas said this Seldonian framework will make it easier for machine learning designers to build behavior-avoidance instructions into all sorts of algorithms, in a way that can enable them to assess the probability that trained systems will function properly in the real world.

    Brunskill said this proposed framework builds on the efforts that many computer scientists are making to strike a balance between creating powerful algorithms and developing methods to ensure that their trustworthiness.

    “Thinking about how we can create algorithms that best respect values like safety and fairness is essential as society increasingly relies on AI,” Brunskill said.

    See the full article here .


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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

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

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  • richardmitnick 2:37 pm on November 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mercury is so small that a transit can only be seen through a telescope., Rare Transit of Mercury Safe Viewing on November 11, Sunwheel, To prevent serious eye damage it is extremely important to view it only using properly designed filters., UMASS Amherst   

    From UMass Amherst: “UMass Amherst Sunwheel Offers Rare Transit of Mercury Safe Viewing on November 11” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    November 6, 2019
    Janet Lathrop
    jlathrop@umass.edu
    413-545-2989

    Astronomers will be on hand to assist public viewing and explain events.

    1
    Mercury transit. Photo credit: NASA

    On Monday, Nov. 11, the planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun, an event that will not be visible in North America again until 2049, says Stephen Schneider, professor of astronomy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

    Mercury is so small that a transit can only be seen through a telescope, Schneider points out, but to prevent serious eye damage it is extremely important to view it only using properly designed filters. There is no time during a transit when it is safe to look at the sun directly, and Mercury is too small to be seen through eclipse glasses, he warns.

    Weather permitting, UMass astronomers invite the public to the campus’s Sunwheel, where they plan to set up telescopes to safely observe Mercury during its transit progress between 7:36 a.m. to 1:04 p.m., while also explaining what’s happening. During this rare event, the planet will appear as a tiny black dot crossing the face of the sun for several hours.

    Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 days, but it is only properly aligned with Earth about a dozen times each century for a transit to be seen, the astronomer says. In addition to the rarity of the alignments making it difficult to witness, one must also be on the daytime side of Earth to see it. The entire 2019 transit is visible from the East Coast of the United States this year, but the next two transits in 2032 and 2039 will occur at night in North America, he adds.

    The slight dimming of the light from a star during a transit is of interest to astronomers because it is the method that has been used to detect exoplanets orbiting other stars. Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, is about two-fifths the diameter of Earth. The transit will provide a glimpse of just how large stars are, compared to planets, Schneider explains.

    The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road about one-quarter mile west of University Drive. Visitors to the Sunwheel should be prepared for wet footing.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:47 pm on September 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Building the new soft electronics will require a new class of materials that exhibits high conductivity while also remaining chemically and mechanically compatible with the host matrix., , , Soft nanoelectronic composites are critical to advancing fields such as wearable devices; soft robotics; and personalized healthcare., The conductive protein nanowires exhibit highly tunable conductivity while remaining significantly softer than carbon nanotubes or noble metals such as gold., The new devices will use conductive protein nanowires-or pili- that will function as the conductive element of the protein-based soft electronics., The scientists plan to use conductive protein nanowires and mechanically soft nanomaterials to create a new nanocomposite that is strong flexible and highly conductive., They disperse evenly in water while nanotubes and metals clump together., UMASS Amherst   

    From UMass Amherst: “UMass Amherst Researchers Awarded $1.75-million in NSF Funding to Study and Develop New Class of Soft Electronics” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    September 4, 2019
    Stephen S. Nonnenmann
    ssn@engin.umass.edu
    413-545-4051

    1
    Soft stretchable electronic device

    New devices will exhibit both flexibility and high conductivity.

    A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a four-year, $1.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study and construct soft stretchable electronic devices that can be used in future healthcare, security and communications applications.

    The scientists plan to use conductive protein nanowires and mechanically soft nanomaterials to create a new nanocomposite that is strong, flexible and highly conductive.

    The interdisciplinary research team is led by Stephen S. Nonnennman, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and includes Todd S. Emrick, professor of polymer science and engineering, Derek R. Lovley, Distinguished Professor of microbiology, and Jessica D. Schiffman, associate professor of chemical engineering. All four faculty members are affiliated with the Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS), which combines deep and interdisciplinary expertise from 29 departments on the UMass Amherst campus to translate fundamental research into innovations that benefit humankind.

    Soft nanoelectronic composites are critical to advancing fields such as wearable devices, soft robotics, and personalized healthcare. “The conductive protein nanowires exhibit highly tunable conductivity while remaining significantly softer than carbon nanotubes or noble metals such as gold,” says Nonnenmann. “The second key point is that they disperse evenly in water, while nanotubes and metals clump together. These two factors really make pili-polymer nanocomposite pairings particularly exciting to explore and manufacture.”

    The NSF Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) program is related to the national Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) which aims to “deploy advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today, at a fraction of the cost.” MGI integrates experimental materials discovery with computational design. The DMREF team also includes Arthi Jayaraman, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Delaware, a world-renowned authority on computational studies of molecular-level phenomena. Together, their work “has the potential to bring the U.S. to the forefront of flexible electronics development, while training the next generation workforce to maintain this competitive advantage.”

    Building the new soft electronics will require a new class of materials that exhibits high conductivity while also remaining chemically and mechanically compatible with the host matrix. Current stretchable electronics use thin, hard and brittle conductive materials such as metal nanowires or carbon nanotubes embedded in stretchable elastic polymers, but they often fail because of the mechanical mismatch between the materials. The new devices will use conductive protein nanowires, or pili, that will function as the conductive element of the protein-based soft electronics.

    The team will leverage their collective expertise to design and develop protein nanowire-matrix pairings that are both highly functional and easily manufactured. Development of such structures will pair molecular modeling (Jayaraman) with synthetic biology (Lovley) to determine amino acid sequences that not only provide conductivity, but also anchor points to integrate into the polymer matrices (Emrick) and flexible fabrics (Schiffman) developed in parallel. Nonnenmann will evaluate their electronic-mechanical functionality using advanced microscopy and transport methods, thus forming a computational-synthetic-experimental feedback loop across the team. The goal of advantageously combining new synthetic polymers with these biologically derived protein nanowires is both intellectually challenging and vital to making advances in this bioelectronics field.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on October 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An unexpected and powerful outflow of molecular gas in a distant active galaxy similar to the Milky Way, , , , , IRAS17020+4544, , UMASS Amherst   

    From UMass Amherst: “International Team of Researchers Uses the Large Millimeter Telescope to Observe a Powerful Molecular Wind in an Active Spiral Galaxy” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    October 29, 2018

    Min S. Yun
    myun@astro.umass.edu
    413/545-2215

    Photos courtesy of Anna Lia Longinotti of the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica in Mexico.

    An international team of astrophysicists using the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) in central Mexico has detected an unexpected and powerful outflow of molecular gas in a distant active galaxy similar to the Milky Way.

    The University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano, Mexico, at an altitude of 4850 meters on top of the Sierra Negra

    The galaxy is 800 million light years from Earth. The findings are published in the current edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    1
    Artist composite of the LMT while observing the galaxy IRAS17020+4544.

    2
    Artist representation of an active galaxy with a powerful molecular outflow and its nucleus constituted by a supermassive black hole with an accretion disk from where an ultra fast X-ray wind is launched/ejected.

    The research team includes Min S. Yun, a professor of astronomy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues from Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and institutions in Italy, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

    Yun says that the LMT, which is operated jointly by UMass Amherst and INAOE, is uniquely suited for detecting a faint, broad line like this observational result and is designed specifically for this type of experiment. “Understanding how frequently the central supermassive black hole disrupts its host galaxy through a yet unknown energetic feedback process is one of the most important unanswered questions in the study of galaxy evolution today, and the LMT with its full 50-meter surface that was just completed, should yield more insights in the coming observing seasons,” he says

    Anna Lia Longinotti of the INAOE, who led the research, says “The novelty of this result is that we are seeing feedback in a galaxy where this phenomenon is not expected. The other two galaxies where it was observed are more dust- and gas-rich, whereas this galaxy is a spiral type, therefore more similar to the Milky Way. This discovery opens the path to explore the possibility that active galactic nuclei (AGN) feedback can be produced also by less luminous objects with different characteristics.”

    About two years ago, thanks to X-ray data obtained by the European Space Agency satellite XMM-Newton, the presence of ultra-fast outflows of ionized, hot gas at sub-relativistic velocity was reported in this same object, called IRAS17020+4544.

    ESA/XMM Newton

    These winds are thought to originate in the accretion disk located around the supermassive black hole that powers luminous active galactic nuclei (quasars). The activity of this type of galaxy is related to the energy released by accretion processes that take place close to the black hole. Despite hosting an active nucleus, this galaxy is considerably less luminous when compared to quasars.

    The data obtained with the LMT spectrograph Redshift Search Receiver (RSR), developed at UMass Amherst, reveal that such X-ray ultra-fast outflows co-exist with molecular outflow of cold and dense gas that emits in millimeter frequencies, according to a paper recently published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Longinotti explains that the gas detected by the LMT is located within the same host galaxy at a large distance, 2,000 to 20,000 light years from the central black hole, whereas the X-ray fast wind is located much closer to the black hole in the heart of the active nucleus.

    She highlighted that among the scientific merits in pursuing observations of AGN molecular gas, one is to corroborate the existence of a connection of accretion disk fast winds and large-scale outflows of molecular gas. “In this galaxy we already had evidence of a wind capable of producing feedback to the host galaxy. Feedback processes may be the result of large ejection of mass and energy that has the effect of sweeping the galaxy and stripping the gas with which stars are formed. The gas entrained by the outflow travels outward and the galaxy is left without ‘prime food’ to form new stars. Eventually, the effect of the feedback is that the galaxy turns inefficient in forming stars and it becomes a passive galaxy,” she says.

    The accretion disk wind observed in X-ray light is launched with a certain amount of energy and force. “Our measurements seem to indicate that the molecular outflow conserves this initial energy while sweeping the galaxy, therefore we do see this connection, and it seems to indicate that the behavior of the black hole, which is responsible for launching the disk wind, has a profound effect on the gas distributed at a much larger scale within the host galaxy. In conclusion, this connection regulates star formation activity and galaxy evolution.

    Longinotti says this phenomenon was not expected in objects that are not quasars nor Ultra Luminous Infrared Galaxies, both characterized by having a large amount of molecular gas. “We knew that LMT technical features routinely allow observation of molecular gas in galaxies but in this particular one we could determine the presence of the molecular outflow, and measure its velocity. Although not as high as those found for the X-ray wind, the molecular outflow velocity ranges between 700 and 1000 km/s, therefore well in excess to the cold gas typically observed in co-rotation in several galaxies.”

    INAOE’s Olga Vega who also participated in the project, highlighted that the LMT is currently the best single-dish telescope to carry out this type of research. She says, to date, the connection of these winds was detected only in three objects, and the other two are 10 times more luminous than this one. Vega says now that the LMT is operating with 50 meters of diameter and new instrumentation is being installed, it is an ideal observatory to search and detect these outflows in other galaxies. “If the aim is to perform a deeper study, it is necessary to go to interferometry as this technique allows dimensions, spatial distribution and geometry of the molecular outflows to be revealed. Nonetheless, the LMT will have a fundamental role to discover new molecular outflows and thus, to unveil the nature of cosmic feedback and its role in galaxy evolution.”

    Longinotti says this particular galaxy will be the subject of further multi-wavelength studies making it the first time that such a wide and complete campaign is carried out to advance understanding of the outflow phenomenon.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:34 pm on October 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , INFN/Borexino Solar Neutrino detector, , Physicist and International Team Report First ‘Snapshot’ of Complete Spectrum of Neutrinos Emitted by the Sun, UMASS Amherst   

    From UMass Amherst: “Physicist, International Team, Report First ‘Snapshot’ of Complete Spectrum of Neutrinos Emitted by the Sun” 

    U Mass Amherst

    From UMass Amherst

    October 24, 2018
    Andrea Pocar
    pocar@physics.umass.edu
    413/545-2011

    1
    Borexino calibration

    About 99 percent of the Sun’s energy emitted as neutrinos is produced through nuclear reaction sequences initiated by proton-proton (pp) fusion in which hydrogen is converted into helium, say scientists including physicist Andrea Pocar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Today they report new results from Borexino, one of the most sensitive neutrino detectors on the planet, located deep beneath Italy’s Apennine Mountains.

    INFN/Borexino Solar Neutrino detector, at Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, situated below Gran Sasso mountain in Italy

    “Neutrinos emitted by this chain represent a unique tool for solar and neutrino physics,” they explain. Their new paper in Nature reports on “the first complete study of all the components of the pp-chain performed by Borexino.” These components include not only the pp neutrinos, but others called Beryllium-7 (7Be), pep and Boron-8 (8B) neutrinos. The pp fusion reaction of two protons to produce deuteron, nuclei of deuterium, is the first step of a reaction sequence responsible for about 99 percent of the Sun’s energy output, Pocar says.

    He adds, “What’s new today is incremental, it’s not a leap, but it is the crowning of more than 10 years of data-taking with the experiment to show the full energy spectrum of the Sun at once. Our results reduce uncertainty, which is perhaps not flashy but it’s type of advance that is often not recognized enough in science. The value is that measurements get more precise because with more data and thanks to the work of dedicated young physicists, we have a better understanding of the experimental apparatus.”

    “Borexino offers the best measurement ever made for the pp, 7Be and pep neutrinos,” he adds. “Other experiments measure the 8B neutrinos more precisely, but our measurement, with a lower threshold, is consistent with them.”

    Further, “Once you have more precise data, you can feed it back into the model of how the Sun is behaving, then the model can be refined even more. It all leads to understanding the Sun better. Neutrinos have told us how the Sun is burning and, in turn, the Sun has provided us with a unique source to study how neutrinos behave. Borexino, scheduled to run for another two to three years, has strengthened our understanding of the Sun very profoundly.”

    For earlier studies of pp, 7B, pep and 8B neutrinos, the team had focused on each one separately in targeted analyses of the collected data in restricted windows of energy, “like trying to characterize a forest by taking one picture each of many individual types of trees,” Pocar notes. “Multiple pictures give you an idea of a forest, but it’s not the same as the photo of the entire forest.”

    “What we have done now is take a single photo that reflects the whole forest, the whole spectrum of all the different neutrinos in one. Instead of zooming in to look at little pieces, we see it all at once. We understand our detector so well now, we are comfortable and confident that our one shot is valid for the whole spectrum of neutrino energies.”

    Solar neutrinos stream out of the star at the center of our system at nearly the speed of light, as many as 420 billion hitting every square inch of the earth’s surface per second. But because they only interact through the nuclear weak force, they pass through matter virtually unaffected, which makes them very difficult to detect and distinguish from trace nuclear decays of ordinary materials, Pocar says.

    The Borexino instrument detects neutrinos as they interact with the electrons of an ultra-pure organic liquid scintillator at the center of a large sphere surrounded by 1,000 tons of water. Its great depth and many onion-like protective layers maintain the core as the most radiation-free medium on the planet. It is the only detector on Earth capable of observing the entire spectrum of solar neutrino simultaneously, which has now been accomplished, he notes.

    The UMass Amherst physicist, one principal investigator on a team of more than 100 scientists, is particularly interested in now turning his focus to measure yet another type of solar neutrino known as CNO neutrinos, which he hopes will be useful in addressing an important open question in stellar physics, that is the metallicity, or metal content, of the Sun.

    “There are two models that predict different levels of elements heavier than helium, which for astronomers is a metal, in the Sun; a lighter metallicity and a heavier model,” he notes. CNO neutrinos are emitted in a cyclic fusion reaction sequence different from the pp chain and subdominant in the Sun, but thought to be the main source of power for heavier stars. The CNO solar neutrino flux is greatly affected by the solar metallicity.

    Pocar says, “Our data is possibly showing some slight preference for heavy metallicity, so we’ll be looking into that because neutrinos from the Sun, especially CNO, can help us disentangle this.”

    Borexino is an international collaboration funded by National Science Foundation in the United States, the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics that manages the Gran Sasso labs, and funding agencies in Germany, Russia and Poland.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:17 pm on December 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gut microbiota, , Tracking Effects of a Food Preservative on the Gut Microbiome, UMASS Amherst   

    From UMASS Amherst: “Tracking Effects of a Food Preservative on the Gut Microbiome” 

    U Mass Amherst

    UMass Amherst

    December 18, 2017
    Janet Lathrop
    jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
    413/545-2989

    UMass Amherst food scientists find transient effects on gut microbiome.

    1
    David Sela. No image credit.

    Antimicrobial compounds added to preserve food during storage are believed to be benign and non-toxic to the consumer, but there is “a critical scientific gap in understanding the potential interactions” they may have with the hundreds of species of microbes in our intestines, say David Sela, a nutritional microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues.

    Sela and co-authors in the food science department at UMass Amherst today report results of their study conducted in mice of one of these preservative compounds, food-grade epsilon (ε)-polylysine, in the Nature Springer journal, Science of Food.

    Unexpectedly, they found that the polylysine compound temporarily perturbed the diversity of microbes in the mouse gut, but this change was transient and over the 15-week study period, the mouse gut microbiome resolved and returned to conditions similar to those at the start of the study. While the mouse gut microbiomes differed by the animals’ gender, Sela notes, the observed treatment changes to the antimicrobial ε-polylysine were experienced the same regardless of gender.

    Sela says, “This is a very interesting phenomenon that we haven’t seen before, to our knowledge. We’re certainly interested in looking into it further. We do not know enough about what preservatives do to the microbiomes in the gut.”

    Food not only nourishes the body but it also nourishes the beneficial bacteria, the microbiomeliving in the intestines, he points out. Food scientists and microbiologists are increasingly interested in these less-studied inhabitants, which may number as many as our own human cells, and the “prebiotic” foods that nourish them. Microbes in the gut make molecules and compounds that help the body, or help some of the hundreds of other beneficial members of the community.

    For this study, Sela and UMass Amherst co-authors Hang Xiao and Julian McClements divided 40 female and 40 male mice into four groups of 10 animals each. They fed 10 female and 10 male mice the food-grade biopolymer ε-polylysine as found in food preservatives, while control groups of 10 animals each received food without the additives. Two other groups received ε-polylysine plus pectin or ε-polylysine plus maltodextrin, common food additives that might be expected to interact with the ε-polylysine.

    As the authors explain, both ε-polylysine and pectin are not dissolved or absorbed in the upper gastro-intestinal tract and may interact with resident microbial communities there.

    For their analysis of gut microbiota, the researchers sampled mouse fecal pellets at three points: baseline, five weeks and nine weeks. Sela says, “The concentrations of gut microbes changed in response to polylysine as we fed the mice throughout the study. Surprisingly, the microbiome snapped back to the original concentrations despite continuous feeding of the polylysine, but we don’t understand how or the potential relevance to health.”

    “Starting at about week five it changed,” he adds, “but by about week 9 it was back. The microbes’ functions shifted, which is really interesting that you can have different populations doing different things. Typically the microbiome will stay shifted when you give antibiotics, for example, so our results suggest that somehow there is an adaptation to the food-grade preservative.

    Sela says, “We think this is going to be of interest to food manufacturers who use food-grade antimicrobial compounds and to people researching anti-microbial resistance.” The work was supported by the USDA’s National Research Initiative and its National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:05 pm on December 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ‘Translational Ecology’ Aims to Offer Actionable Science to Resource Managers, New Field, UMASS Amherst   

    From University of Massachusetts – Amherst: “New Field, ‘Translational Ecology,’ Aims to Offer Actionable Science to Resource Managers” 

    U Mass Amherst

    UMass Amherst

    UMass Amherst Northeast Climate Science Center contributes to national movement

    December 1, 2017
    Janet Lathrop
    jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
    413/545-2989

    Most students and early career scientists in ecology and environmental science are keen to do meaningful, field-applicable work to address such problems as habitat loss, reduced biodiversity and climate change, says Toni Lyn Morelli, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research ecologist with the Northeast Climate Science Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, but this can be a challenge because they must first meet the academic demand to “publish or perish.”

    To address this, a new field called “translational ecology” is springing up, inspired by approaches used by biomedical researchers who are now increasingly partnering with clinicians to overcome the same sorts of obstacles that once prevented fundamental medical research from finding its way into practice.

    Morelli contributed to three research articles and a commentary in today’s special, free issue of the leading journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, dedicated to exploring the new field of “translational ecology.” That is where ecologists seek to solve the communication gap between those who conduct relevant research and publish in the peer-reviewed literature, and decision-makers who actually direct environmental management and policy. The goal is to increase the likelihood that research will contribute to direct action, she says.

    1
    Toni Lyn Morelli. NO image credit.

    Morelli explains, “Natural resource decision-makers frequently express frustration that scientists provide answers to the wrong questions, or otherwise fail to address their information needs in the contexts in which decisions are made.” Further, “researchers often default to one-way communication,” rather than seeking collaborations or getting creative about shepherding their results toward outlets used by ecologists in the field.

    In the invited commentary, Morelli and two colleagues, one from the USGS’s Alaska Climate Science Center (CSC), the other from its Southeast CSC, note that “whether the scientific focus is on fires or frogs, lemurs or landscapes, there is an increasing need not just for pure science, and not just for applied science, but for translational science.” They also point out that “scientists increasingly bear a responsibility to present science in ways that are directly useful for, and are even produced with, those who face decisions in complex, real-world situations.”

    One of the papers contributed by Morelli and lead authors at the Southwest CSC (SWCSC) and the University of Arizona in Tucson, with others across the country, defines the foundations, goals and methods of translational ecology. As the authors explain, the new approach “seeks to link ecological knowledge to decision-making by integrating the science with the full complement of social dimensions that underlie today’s complex environmental issues. Notably, it is distinct from both basic and applied ecological research.”

    They emphasize using interdisciplinary team approaches and “scientist-practitioner partnerships.” They point out that “addressing research questions arising from on-the-ground management issues, rather than from the top-down or expert-oriented perspectives of traditional science, can foster the long-term trust and commitment that is critical for long-term, sustained engagement between partners.”

    An example is the work that Morelli has been doing to identify and conserve climate change refugia, areas that are buffered from climate change. Work in the Northeast and Midwest has focused on identifying particularly cold streams and lakes that can enable prized fish like brook trout and walleye to persist despite warming temperatures. Scientists including Morelli are working closely with state and federal managers to map these cold water refugia so that they can be protected from pollution and other stressors.

    Another of the special issue articles co-authored by Morelli focuses on “principles to guide academic scientists” in overcoming institutional obstacles. Approaches include working with organizations such as regional non-profits that have direct connections to projects on the ground, focusing on place-based research and being open to new opportunities. Their goal is “to cultivate a culture of translational ecology,” she says.

    Morelli also contributed to an article on how to help more students become translation ecology professionals. The authors write that “becoming a translational ecologist requires specific attention to obtaining critical non-scientific disciplinary breadth and skills that are not standard within a classical graduate education in ecology.” They describe the need for “broad training in interdisciplinary skills,” and outline “methods by which interested ecologists may take steps toward becoming translational.”

    Work featured in the special issue was funded by the USGS through the SWCSC and National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Mass Amherst campus

    UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, is a nationally ranked public research university offering a full range of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.

    As the flagship campus of America’s education state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leader of the public higher education system of the Commonwealth, making a profound, transformative impact to the common good. Founded in 1863, we are the largest public research university in New England, distinguished by the excellence and breadth of our academic, research and community outreach programs. We rank 29th among the nation’s top public universities, moving up 11 spots in the past two years in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual college guide.

     
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