Roland Piquepaille writes: "Climate change and global warming are realities nobody can deny. Today, it is important to feed the world at lower costs. An international team of researchers led by biologists at the University of Bristol in the UK has 'shown how to increase the length of root hairs on plants, potentially improving crop yields, as plants with longer root hairs take up minerals and water more efficiently.' Very interesting approach, but read more for additional details and references, including an interesting artist rendering showing how this research work would help to feed Africa."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "As you probably know, Earth's magnetosphere, 'the invisible bubble of magnetic fields and electrically charged particles that surrounds and protects the planet from the periodically lethal radiation of the solar wind,' was discovered in 1958. Until now, it was composed of five regions, including the ionosphere or the Van Allen radiation belts. Now, a U.S. research team has discovered a sixth region, called the warm plasma cloak. Read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "U.S. astronomers and engineers have built a new camera to precisely measure the size of planets moving around distant stars. This camera has been dubbed OPTIC — short for 'Orthogonal Parallel Transfer Imaging Camera.' According to the research team, it is 'so sensitive that it could detect the passage of a moth in front of a lit window from a distance of 1,000 miles.' I'm not sure if this analogy is right, but the team said it was able to precisely define the size of a planet called WASP-10b which is orbiting around the star WASP-10, about 300 light-years from Earth. Read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to a Stanford University researcher, 'wind, water and sun beat biofuels, nuclear and coal for clean energy.' The scientist 'has conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed, major, energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability.' Wow! The researcher found that some sources of energy were 25 to 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options. Some of his conclusions make sense, some are controversial, but read more for additional details and references not included in the Stanford document."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "University of Delaware (UD) scientists and engineers are currently working at South Pole under very harsh conditions. This research team is one of the many other ones working on the construction of IceCube, the world's largest neutrino telescope in the Antarctic ice, far beneath the continent's snow-covered surface. When it is completed in 2011, the telescope array will occupy a cubic kilometer of Antarctica. One of the lead researchers said that 'IceCube will provide new information about some of the most violent and far-away astrophysical events in the cosmos.' The UD team has even opened a blog to cover this expedition. It will be opened up to December 22, 2008. I guess they want to be back in Delaware for Christmas, but read more for additional details and references, including a diagram of this telescope array built inside ice."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "My monthly award for the best news release title goes to Brown University. It says that two of its researchers have discovered a difference in skin tone associated with gender. 'They determined that men tend to have more reddish skin and greenish skin is more common for women.' And don't think it's just another exotic research project. According to the research team, this 'information has a number of potential industry or consumer applications in areas such as facial recognition technology, advertising, and studies of how and why women apply makeup.' Interesting, but read more for additional details and references."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, horticulture and floriculture) constitute a $45 billion/year industry in the U.S. alone, of which the tree fruit and nursery industries have a farm gate value of $20 billion/year. But because the fruit are hand-picked for the most part, labor costs are exploding and represent 58% of the net value of the farm economy. So two teams of researchers at CMU are developing automated farming robotic systems to help apple and orange growers. The groups are using $10 million in grants ($6 million for apples and $4 million for oranges) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s new Specialty Crop Research Initiative. But read more for additional details and a picture of a prototype of a robot vehicle for apple growers which is currently tested in orchards."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "An international team of researchers has filmed an immune cell becoming infected by a parasite. And it was able to chase it as the infection begins to spread throughout the body. Here is a quote from the lead scientist: 'Using multi-photon microscopy, we studied dendritic cells in the skin. Under normal conditions we found the cells in the epidermis (top layer) were static, whereas in the dermis (second layer) they were very active, moving around as though seeking out pathogens. Once we established this, it was fascinating to introduce the Leishmania infection and watch as the parasite was picked up by the cells and the process by which it began to spread throughout the body.' But read more for additional references and a picture showing the migratory mechanisms of dermal and epidermal dendritic cells."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Spanish researchers have published a study about the potential future impact of robots on society. They think that the potentially widening gap between the first and third worlds will cause a technological imbalance over the next 12 years. One of the researchers said that 'just as we depend upon mobile phones and cars in our daily lives today, the next 15 years will see mass hybridization between humans and robots.' So they predict that robots will be around — and inside — us. But read more for additional references and a picture showing how robots will be incorporated into our domestic tasks according to the researchers."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Spanish researchers have developed a computer model able to generate virtual faces which display emotions and moods according to personality traits. The team leader explains: 'The aim of this work has been to design a model that reveals a person's moods and displays them on a virtual face. In the same 3-D space we have integrated personality, emotions and moods, which had previously been dealt with separately.' This model could be applied in both educational environments (virtual tutors and presenters with personality traits) and in video game characters. But read more for additional references and pictures of a virtual character showing various universal emotions: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "MIT researchers have used their Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor, in operation since 1993, to bring the promise of fusion as a future power source a bit closer to reality. As you probably know, fusion is the reaction that produces the sun's energy and it has an 'enormous potential for future power generation because fusion plant operation produces no emissions.' Their advances are closely scrutinized by scientists participating to the planned ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) now under construction in France. But read more for additional references, a picture of the control room of the MIT's fusion reactor and for one of the most obfuscated abstracts I have ever read."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is known for its inspections of nuclear facilities around the world. But it's quite surprising to learn that the IAEA is collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to apply nuclear science to food security. 'IAEA scientists use radiation to produce improved high-yielding plants that adapt to harsh climate conditions such as drought or flood, or that are resistant to certain diseases and insect pests.' This mutation induction technique has been used for a number of years — even if I'm discovering this today. More than 3,000 crop varieties of some 170 different plant species have been released through the direct intervention of the IAEA, from rice to barley, and from bananas to grapefruits. But read more for additional references and a picture of mutant banana samples as an example of a crop modified by the IAEA researchers."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "MIT researchers have developed a robot inspired by the razor clam. According to the engineers, this RoboClam could lead to a 'smart' anchor that burrows through the ocean floor to reposition itself and could even reverse. These small robots, which have the size of a cigarette lighter, could be used as 'tethers for small robotic submarines that are routinely repositioned to monitor variables such as currents and temperature. [They also could] be directed to a specific location could also be useful as a detonator for buried underwater mines.' But read more for many additional references and a picture of the MIT's RoboClam close to a real razor clam."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "Researchers are using supercomputers to create new balls that will improve the game of avid golfers by flying farther. They've used the supercomputers at Arizona State University to simulate the physics of golf balls and to model how air flows around a ball in flight and to study how this flow is influenced by the ball's dimples. Their goal is to make a better golf ball by optimizing the size and pattern of these dimples and lowering the drag golf balls encounter as they fly through the air. 'For a golf ball, drag reduction means that the ball flies farther,' says one of the engineers. A single simulation takes about 300 hours by using 500 processors — so these balls could be expensive to produce. And the scientists are the first to admit that new golf balls based on their research are years away. But read more for many additional references and pictures describing a direct numerical simulation of the flow around a dimpled golf ball."
Roland Piquepaille writes: "U.S. researchers report that the termite named Termes panamensis possesses the fastest mandible strike ever recorded. 'Footage of the soldier termite's jaws as they strike an invader at almost 70 meters per second was captured on a high speed video camera in the laboratory at 40,000 frames per second.' As said one of the researchers, 'many insects move much faster than a human eye can see so we knew that we needed high speed cameras to capture their behavior, but we weren't expecting anything this fast.' I guess this discovery will not change our world, except for a new page in the Guinness Book of World Records. Read more for many additional references and pictures of the soldier mandibles of Termes panamensis."