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Submission + - 7 Cyberlearning Technologies Transforming Education

aarondubrow writes: The National Science Foundation funds basic cyberlearning research and since 2011 has awarded roughly 170 grants, totaling more than $120 million, to EdTech research projects around the country. However, NSF's approach to cyber-learning has been different from other public, private and philanthropic efforts. NSF funds compelling ideas, helps rigorously test them and then assists in transitioning the best ideas from research to practice. A story in the Huffington Post describes 7 examples of leading cyberlearning projects, from artificial intelligence to augmented reality, that are transforming education.

Submission + - Programming safety into self-driving cars (

aarondubrow writes: Automakers have presented a vision of the future where the driver can check his or her email, chat with friends or even sleep while shuttling between home and the office. However, to AI experts, it's not clear that this vision is a realistic one. In many areas, including driving, we'll go through a long period where humans act as co-pilots or supervisors before the technology reaches full autonomy (if it ever does). In such a scenario, the car would need to communicate with drivers to alert them when they need to take over control. In cases where the driver is non-responsive, the car must be able to autonomously make the decision to safely move to the side of the road and stop. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed 'fault-tolerant planning' algorithms that allow semi-autonomous machines to devise and enact a "Plan B."

Submission + - Brain Cell Linker Dependence Shown by Supercomputer Simulations (

jorge_salazar writes: Neuroscientists at Stony Brook University in New York teamed up with computational biophysicists at Florida State University and found that the function of a key brain cell receptor critically depends on a short polypeptide segment, which they call a linker, to function. Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and a number of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia are associated with malfunctions of this brain receptor, called the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor. Obama's $100 million BRAIN initiative promises to bring together more eclectic teams like this one to find new tools to map the human brain's billions of nerve cells, networks, and pathways in real time.

Submission + - Maryam Mirzakhani Is First Woman Fields Medalist (

An anonymous reader writes: Mirzakhani is the first woman to win a Fields Medal. The gender imbalance in mathematics is long-standing and pervasive, and the Fields Medal, in particular, is ill-suited to the career arcs of many female mathematicians. It is restricted to mathematicians younger than 40, focusing on the very years during which many women dial back their careers to raise children.

Mirzakhani feels certain, however, that there will be many more female Fields medalists in the future. “There are really many great female mathematicians doing great things,” she said.

Submission + - Mouth Bacteria Can Change Its Diet, Supercomputers Reveal (

jorge_salazar writes: Bacteria outnumber the cells of your body by 10 to 1. Scientists are just beginning to understand what those bacteria do to promote or hinder health. By using supercomputers to reveal gene activity, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin found that bacteria under the gums "drastically" change their metabolism, or diet, depending on whether they're in a diseased or healthy area of the mouth. They say these findings could eventually lead to prevention or even reversal of 'bacterial-shift' diseases like diabetes, periodontitis, or Crohn's disease.

Submission + - How a supercomputer beat the scrap heap and lived on to retire in Africa. (

jorge_salazar writes: Pieces of the decommissioned Ranger supercomputer, 40 racks in all, were shipped to researchers in South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana to help seed their supercomputing aspirations. They say they'll need supercomputers to solve their growing science problems in astronomy, bioinformatics, climate modeling and more. Ranger's own beginnings were described by the co-founder of Sun Microsystems as a "historic moment in petaflop computing."

Submission + - Making graphene work for real-world devices (

aarondubrow writes: Graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the carbon material graphite, is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, but a number of practical challenges must be overcome before it can emerge as a replacement for silicon in electronics or energy devices. One particular challenge concerns the question of how graphene diffuses heat, in the form of phonons. Thermal conductivity is critical in electronics, especially as components shrink to the nanoscale. Using the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Professor Li Shi simulated how phonons (heat-carrying vibrations in solids) scatter as a function of the thickness of the graphene layers. He also investigated how graphene interacts with substrate materials and how phonon scattering can be controlled. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Applied Physical Letters and Energy and Environmental Science.

Submission + - Alzheimer's and cancer link found, thanks to supercomputers (

jorge_salazar writes: Cancer and Alzheimer's disease appear to have an inverse relationship. If you have one disease, you're less likely to get the other. Using supercomputers, Houston-based scientists have discovered a molecular-level missing link in the cell signaling pathways between the two dreaded diseases.

Submission + - Will Obama Get His $5 Billion for Science? (

sciencehabit writes: Today’s budget request to Congress appears to contain some very good news for scientists: A proposed $5 billion in new money for an array of research-related programs, including hundreds of new grants for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a new biosafety research laboratory, and a new high-risk, high-reward funding program for biomedical science modeled on the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). But don’t get your hopes up: The new money is essentially contingent on Congress making changes to the tax code and spending priorities that aren’t likely to happen this fiscal year.

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