Science-Technology

Science, Archaeology, Geology, Paleontology, Astronomy, Space, Technology, new products

Hacking the human brain – lab-made synapses for artificial intelligence

One of the greatest challenges facing artificial intelligence development is understanding the human brain and figuring out how to mimic it. Now, one group reports in ACS Nano that they have developed an artificial synapse capable of simulating a fundamental function of our nervous system — the release of inhibitory and stimulatory signals from the same “pre-synaptic” terminal.

By American Chemical Society - Friday, August 4, 2017 - Full Story

Wine snobbery: Fact vs. fiction (video)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2017 — We all know at least one wine snob who goes through all sorts of rituals that they swear will bring out the best flavor, like swirling the glass and decanting the bottle before drinking. But is there any merit to these claims? We talked to expert wine researchers and sommeliers to find out. Watch the latest Reactions video in which we play wine fact versus fiction:

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - Full Story

New law could shore up U.S. helium supply

Helium is essential for MRIs, the fiber optics that deliver images to our TVs, scientific research and of course, party balloons. In the past decade, helium prices have sky-rocketed due to supply shortages. But if small updates are made to an old law, the U.S. could boost its domestic helium output and help keep critical medical tests and electronics running, reports Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Senior C&EN Correspondent Marc S. Reisch explains that the rise in helium prices is partly due to an uncertain market that is plagued by geopolitical disputes. For example, the recent Qatar blockade temporarily stopped helium shipments from that country, a major producer. Sales from the U.S. reserves help counter some of the instability, but the government plans to stop dipping into the stockpile. Additionally, restrictions on how helium can be extracted have caused its production in the U.S. to stall.

As a result, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources held a hearing in June on the newly proposed Helium Extraction Act of 2017. This bill would update the nearly 100-year-old Mineral Leasing Act to allow operators to lease and drill on federal land for the sole purpose of extracting the element. Currently, they can only recover helium when drilling for oil and gas. While this change would not immediately solve helium shortages because it takes years to establish a well, industry experts say it would be a step in the right direction.

More helium is on the way

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - Full Story

Longer-lasting fragrance is just a shampoo away, thanks to peptides

Many people select their shampoo based on smell. Unfortunately, that scent usually doesn’t last long on hair. Now, one team reports in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces a new way to help the fragrance “stick” to hair longer.

Fragrances are one of the most expensive shampoo ingredients, but most of these floral- or fruity-smelling compounds evaporate rapidly or are easily washed away when surfactants, such as shampoos, are used. Currently, manufacturers try to keep the smells around longer by incorporating delivery systems. One such system is “profragrances” in which a polymer is attached to the scent compound and is broken off once shampooing starts, and another is encapsulation of the scent compound with polymers. Although these approaches have been shown to be effective, they still don’t help fragrances adhere to the hair for long periods. Harm-Anton Klok, Andreas Herrmann and colleagues are now looking at ways to promote the deposition of scents onto hair.

The group identified a cyclic peptide that could bind to hair under shampooing conditions, which meant a low pH and in the presence of surfactants. Then, the peptide was connected to the two popular delivery systems: a microcapsule and a profragrance model polymer. They found that the peptide efficiently deposits both types of systems to hair. The researchers say that for the polymer and microcapsule tests, those that were bound to a peptide were loaded about 5 and 20 times more efficiently, respectively, onto hair than those that lacked a peptide. This increased deposition resulted in a stronger fragrance smell on hair for up to 24 hours after shampooing.

Selective Peptide-Mediated Enhanced Deposition of Polymer Fragrance Delivery Systems on Human Hair

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - Full Story

Personalized ‘earable’ sensor monitors body temperature in real time

Wireless, wearable sensors are all the rage with millions of people now sporting fitness trackers on their wrists. These devices can count footsteps, monitor heart rate and other vital signs. Now researchers report in the journal ACS Sensors that they have developed a 3-D printed sensor worn on the ear that measures one of the most basic medical indicators of health in real time: core body temperature.

The ups and downs of core body temperature can signal a range of health conditions. The most obvious is an infection, which causes a fever. But temperature fluctuations can also indicate insomnia, fatigue, metabolic function and depression. Current wearable sensors can detect skin temperature, but this can change depending on how hot or cold an environment is. And oral and other thermometers that measure core body temperature are designed only for periodic use and aren’t meant to be strapped on for constant detection. So Ali Javey and colleagues set out to develop a convenient device to monitor core body temperature in real time on a continuous basis.

The researchers integrated data processing circuits, a wireless module and an infrared sensor, which detects ear (and thus core body) temperature, in a 3-D printed device. The disk-like structure covers the ear and can be customized to fit the contours of a person’s ear for a comfortable fit. To ensure that users can still hear clearly while wearing the device, the researchers embedded a microphone to capture and transmit outside sounds to the inner ear. And the Bluetooth module transmits temperature measurements to a custom smartphone app. Testing showed that the “earable” sensor measurements closely matched those of a commercial ear thermometer.—“3D Printed ‘Earable’ Smart Devices for Real-Time Detection of Core Body Temperature

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, July 26, 2017 - Full Story

The chemistry of fried chicken (video)

WASHINGTON,  Battered and deep-fried chicken might be one of the most delicious foods ever. But what makes this summer picnic staple so tasty? It all comes down to the chemistry of frying. In the latest Reactions video, learn how the delicate dance of fat at high temperatures leads to a crispy, savory summer snack:

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, July 20, 2017 - Full Story

5 Israeli precision-ag technologies making farms smarter

Israeli precision agriculture started with a drip and became a deluge.

The “drip” is drip irrigation. The single most significant advance in modern agriculture, invented in Israel by Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu in 1959, increases crop yield, quality and consistency while using less water.

Netafim, the multinational company founded in 1965 to commercialize the Blass invention, remains the foremost name in irrigation technologies worldwide.

The “deluge” includes a host of farm management solutions. No fewer than 70 Israeli companies make tools for measuring, analyzing, monitoring and automating processes to give crops and soil exactly what they need, exactly when and where they need it, ensuring minimal waste of resources and maximum efficiency and yield.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, July 19, 2017 - Full Story

How dragon blood could save your life (video)

WASHINGTON — Chemists have found potential drugs and other really useful compounds in some truly bizarre places in nature. For example, a natural immune defense in the blood of komodo dragons, a sponge armed with resistance to bacterial infection or a 400-million-year-old medical workhorse just might save your life someday.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - Full Story

Jumping Kangaroos: 1 – Autonomous Cars: 0

As The Verge reports, self-driving, i.e. “autonomous cars” (ACs) have a problem, at least in Aussie-land. They can’t figure out whether the kangaroos are going to jump or not or, if so, where to.

At least the Volvo company engineers recognized the kangaroo problem and admitted to it. Other AC proponents appear to be less cognizant or forthcoming at this time.

Perhaps the problem is even worse than you may have thought. The autonomous cars’ computers may not be able to differentiate between kangaroos, jumping mice, or any other “small animal” species with a tail—or even between some without a tail.

By Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - Full Story

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

Versatile, light-weight materials that are both strong and resilient are crucial for the development of flexible electronics, such as bendable tablets and wearable sensors. Aerogels are good candidates for such applications, but until now, it’s been difficult to make them with both properties. Now, researchers report in ACS Nano that mimicking the structure of the “powdery alligator-flag” plant has enabled them to make a graphene-based aerogel that meets these needs.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - Full Story

Swimming microbots can remove pathogenic bacteria from water (video)

The lack of clean water in many areas around the world is a persistent, major public health problem. One day, tiny robots could help address this issue by zooming around contaminated water and cleaning up disease-causing bacteria. Scientists report a new development toward this goal in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - Full Story

Real-time vapor analysis could improve training of explosive-detecting dogs

With a sense of smell much greater than humans, dogs are considered the gold standard for explosive detection in many situations. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. In a study appearing in the ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry, scientists report on a new, more rigorous approach to training dogs and their handlers based on real-time analysis of what canines actually smell when they are exposed to explosive materials.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - Full Story

Deveron UAS: First Mover Advantage in $32B Ag Market for Drones

A Brief History of Drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have been around for the better part of a century, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that drones entered the popular lexicon, mostly through their use in stealth military applications.

The first “drone” (named for making a sound similar to a male bee) was actually a boat. Introduced at an exhibition at Madison Square Garden in 1898, inventor Nikolas Tesla used voice commands (actually radio frequencies) to make the unmanned small vessel change direction, to the delight of the audience. Unmanned aircraft was subsequently used by the United States during World War Two, to train anti-aircraft gunners, and Germany, which invented a 2,300-pound bomb called “Fritz X” with four small wings and a radio controller.

By Rick Mills - Saturday, July 1, 2017 - Full Story

American Chemical Society files suit against Sci-Hub

WASHINGTON,  On June 23, 2017, the American Chemical Society (ACS) filed suit in the United States District Court Eastern District of Virginia against unnamed confederates of Sci-Hub, a self-proclaimed web pirate organization that steals and then illegally reproduces and disseminates copyrighted scientific research articles on the internet. The suit asserts infringement of the professional Society’s copyrights, as well as counterfeiting and infringement of its trademarks.

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - Full Story

The Statue of Liberty’s true colors (video)

WASHINGTON — The Statue of Liberty is an iconic blue-green symbol of freedom. But did you know she wasn’t always that color? When France gifted Lady Liberty to the U.S., she was a 305-foot statue with reddish-brown copper skin. Her color change is thanks to about 30 years’ worth of chemistry in the air of New York City harbor. See how this monumental statue transitioned from penny red to chocolate brown to glorious liberty green in this Reactions video, just in time for Independence Day:  .

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - Full Story

Our Sense Of Smell Is Better Than Originally Thought

Biology textbooks are riddled with passages relating how bad humans are at perceiving odors. As the oft-quoted statistic goes, humans can only perceive ‘10,000 odors’, a number that sits particularly well with some dog-lovers, who like to remind us that canines have 300 million odor receptors, while humans only sport 6 million. But a study in 2014 revealed that humans might not be as olfactorily challenged as we once thought because, as it turns out, we can perceive more than 1 trillion odors—and that’s a conservative estimate. 1

The original belief that humans’ sense of smell is worse than that of other animals—dogs, mice, moles and even sharks was based on a 19th century hypothesis about free will that has more in common with phrenology than with our modern understanding of how brains work. John McGann, a neuroscientist who studies olfaction at Rutgers University, recently revealed how we ended up with this myth. The truth is humans are actually pretty good at smelling our world. 2

By Jack Dini - Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - Full Story

The chemistry of olive oil (video)

WASHINGTON—Whether you sop it up with bread or use it to boost your cooking, olive oil is awesome. But a lot of chemistry goes on in that bottle that can make or break a product. Extra virgin olive oil is the most expensive (and most delicious) variety, in part thanks to its low acidity. Check out the latest Reactions video for more olive oil chemistry, including how to keep yours fresh and how to best use it to give your food a flavor boost

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - Full Story

Building a Real Monorail System for Los Angeles

Fellow Angelenos:

As we know, President Trump has proposed a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan for rebuilding the United States toward making it great again, and Los Angeles leads the way in serious need for rebuilding our freeways and public transportation system. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti was recently in Washington D.C. hustling money for completing former mayor Villaragosa’s unfinished “subway to the sea” scam, which is nowhere near to Westwood where Garcetti is proposing, never mind the sea.

By Robert L. Rosebrock - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - Full Story

Beetles spark development of color-changing nanoparticles for commercial use

Inspired by the varying colors that gleam off of beetle shells, scientists have developed color-shifting nanoparticles that can change hue even after being embedded into a material. A report on the new, inexpensive technique, which could lead to the production of easier-to-read sensors and anti-tampering tags, appears in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, June 15, 2017 - Full Story

New fabric coating could thwart chemical weapons, save lives

Chemical weapons are nightmarish. In a millisecond, they can kill hundreds, if not thousands. But, in a study published in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials, scientists report that they have developed a way to adhere a lightweight coating onto fabrics that is capable of neutralizing a subclass of these toxins — those that are delivered through the skin. The life-saving technique could eventually be used to protect soldiers and emergency responders.

Since their first use in World War I, dozens of chemical weapons with devastating potential have been developed. For example, just a pinprick-sized droplet of the nerve gas sarin on the skin is lethal. Recently, scientists have begun exploring the use of zirconium-based metal-organic framework (MOF) powders to degrade and destroy these harmful compounds. MOFs are miniscule, porous structures that have large surface areas that allow them to absorb vast amounts of gases and other substances. The zirconium within them helps neutralize toxic materials. But making MOFs can be tedious, requiring high temperatures and long reaction times. Plus, most MOF powders are unstable and incorporating them onto clothing has proven challenging. Dennis Lee, Gregory N. Parsons and colleagues wanted to see if they could “grow” MOFs onto fabric at room temperature, potentially creating a lightweight shield that could be used on uniforms and protective clothing.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, June 8, 2017 - Full Story