Tag: associate professor (page 1 of 2)

17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out





Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com
By Amanda MacMillan


You're probably all too aware of the major sources of stress in your life -- money, your terrible commute, the construction workers who start jackhammering at 5 a.m. But stress and anxiety don't have to just come from obvious or even negative sources. "There are plenty of chronic strains and low-grade challenges that don't necessarily overwhelm you in the moment, but almost take more of a toll in the long run," says Scott Schieman, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. These are some of unexpected reasons why you might feel anxious or agitated. By recognizing them for what they are, says Schieman, you can better prepare to cope.

1. Your Significant Other
Even if you have a blissfully happy relationship with your live-in partner or spouse, you're both bound to do things that get on each other's nerves. "Early in the relationship, it's usually about space and habits -- like whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or the bottom of the tube," says Ken Yeager, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Later on, you might clash over parenting style or financial issues, and finding a unified front to face these issues together." So what's the key to surviving and thriving in your life together? Finding balance, says Yeager: spending the right amount of time together (not too much and not too little), making compromises, keeping communication open and honest, and remembering to acknowledge what you love about each other on a daily basis.


2. Everyday Annoyances
We're told not to sweat the small stuff, but sometimes it's the little things that have the biggest impact on our mood: the never-ending phone calls with your insurance company, the rude cashier at the grocery store, the 20 minutes you lose looking for a parking space. "We let these things bother us because they trigger unconscious fears," says Yeager -- fears of being seen as irresponsible, of being bullied or embarrassed, or of being late all the time, for example. "Sometimes you need to take a step back and realize that you're doing the best you can given the circumstances." 


3. Other People's Stress
Stress is contagious, according to a 2014 German study: In a series of experiments, most participants who simply observed others completing a stressful task experienced an increase themselves in production of the stress hormone cortisol -- a phenomenon known as empathic stress. You can also experience stress when someone you know is affected by a traumatic event, like a car crash or a chronic illness. "You start to worry, 'Oh my gosh, could that happen to me?'," says Yeager. "We tend not to think about these things until they hit close to home."


4. Social Media social media
It may seem like Facebook is the only way you keep up with the friends you don't see regularly -- which, during particularly busy times, can be just about all of them. The social network also has a downside, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center: It can make you aware of stressful situations in your friends' lives, which in turn can add more stress to your life. The Pew report didn't find that social media users, overall, had higher levels of stress, but previous studies have suggested that frequent social-media use can be associated with negative body image and prolonged breakup pain.


5. Distraction
A distraction can be a good thing then when it takes your mind off of a stressful situation or difficult decision, like when you take a break from work to meet a friend for lunch. But it works the other way, as well: When you're so busy thinking about something else that you can't enjoy what's going on around you, that kind of distraction can be a recipe for stress. Practicing mindfulness gives you brain the refresh it needs, says Richard Lenox, director of the Student Counseling Center at Texas Tech University. Paying full attention to your surroundings when you're walking and driving can help, he adds. "Stress and anxiety tend to melt away when our mind is focused on the present." 


6. Your Childhood
Traumatic events that happened when you were a kid can continue to affect your stress levels and overall health into adulthood. A 2014 University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that these childhood experiences may actually change parts of the brain responsible for processing stress and emotion. The way you were raised can also have a lasting impact on your everyday angst, suggests a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study. Researchers found that children of parents with social anxiety disorders are more likely to develop "trickle-down anxiety" -- not simply because of their genes, but because of their parents' behaviors toward them such as a lack of warmth and emotion, or high levels of criticism and doubt.


7. Tea And Chocolate
You probably know to take it easy on the coffee when you're already feeling on edge. "Caffeine is always going to make stress worse," says Yeager. But you may not think as much about drinking several cups of tea at once, or chowing down on a bar of dark chocolate -- both of which can contain nearly as much caffeine as a cup of joe. "Chocolate is a huge caffeine source," says Yeager. "I know people who don't drink coffee but they'll eat six little candy bars in a two-hour period because they want the same kind of jolt." Too much caffeine, in any form, can cause problems with sleep, digestion, and irritability. 


8. Your Expectations woman trail running
When things don't go the way you've planned, do you tend to get upset and act defensively, or do you roll with the punches and set off on a new plan? If it's the former, you could be contributing to a mindset of pessimism and victimization that will slowly wear you down, even when things may not be as bad as they seem. "Your level of serenity is inversely proportionate to your expectations," says Yeager. That doesn't mean you shouldn't set ambitious goals for yourself or settle for less than what you want, of course, but being realistic about what's truly possible is important, as well.


9. Your Reaction To Stress
If you tend to deal with stressful situations by working long hours, skipping your workouts, and bingeing on junk food, we've got some bad news: You're only making it worse. "We know that physical activity and healthy foods will help your body better deal with stress, and yet we often avoid them when we need them the most," says Yeager. "People really need to think about this downward spiral we get into and work harder to counteract it."


10. Multitasking
Think you're being super efficient by tackling four tasks at once? Chances are you're not -- and it's only decreasing your productivity while increasing your stress. A 2012 University of Irvine study, for example, found that people who responded to emails all day long while also trying to get their work done experienced more heart-rate variability (an indicator of mental stress) than those who waited to respond to all of their emails at one time. Focusing on one task at a time can ensure that you're doing that job to the best of your abilities and getting the most out of it, so you won't have to worry about or go back and fix it later, says Schieman. And don't worry: You'll have enough time to do it all. In fact, you may discover you have more time than you thought.


11. Your Favorite Sport
Watching a tight game of college hoops can stress you out -- even if your alma mater wins. "The body doesn't distinguish between 'bad' stress from life or work and 'good' stress caused by game-day excitement," says Jody Gilchrist, a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Heart and Vascular Clinic. Watching sports can even trigger the body's sympathetic nervous system, releasing adrenaline and reducing blood flow to the heart. Those temporary consequences aren't usually anything to be concerned about, but over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and increased disease risk. And, of course, it doesn't help if you're adding alcohol and binge-eating to a situation that's already stressful on your body. You may not be able to control the outcome of the game, says Gilchrist, but you can limit its effects on your own body. 


12. Digital Devices laptop in bed
Whether you're using it for work or play, technology may play a large role in your mental health, says Yeager. Using computers or e-readers too close to bedtime could lead to sleep problems, he says, and spending too much time virtually socializing can make real-life interactions seem extra stressful. (Plus, texting doesn't trigger the same feel-good hormones as face-to-face talk does.) Then there's the dreaded "work creep," says Schieman, when smartphones allow employees to be tethered to their jobs, even during off-hours. "People say they're only going to check email for an hour while they're on vacation, but the problem with email is that they're filled with responsibilities, new tasks, and dilemmas that are going to be hard to compartmentalize and put out of your head once that hour is up."


13. Your (Good) Health
While it may not be as stressful as having a chronic illness or getting bad news at the doctor's office, even people in the best shape of their lives worry about their bodies, their diets, and their fitness levels. In fact, people who take healthy living to an extreme may experience some rather unhealthy side effects. People who follow low-carb diets, for example, are more likely to report being sad or stressed out, while those on any kind of restrictive meal plan may feel more tired than usual. And it's not unheard of for someone to become obsessed with healthy eating (known as orthorexia) or working out (gymorexia). Like any form of perfectionism, these problems can be stressful at best, and extremely dangerous at worst.


14. Housework
Does folding laundry help you feel calm, or does it make your blood boil? If you're in a living situation where you feel you're responsible for an unfair share of work, even chores you once enjoyed may start to feel like torture. "Dividing up housework and parenting responsibilities can be tricky, especially if both partners work outside the home," says Schieman. "And whether you define that division of labor as equal or unequal can really change your attitude toward it."


15. Uncertainty
Stress can be defined as any perceived or actual threat, says Yeager, so any type of doubt that's looming over you can contribute to your anxiety levels on a daily basis. "When you know something could change at any minute, you always have your guard up and it's hard to just relax and enjoy anything." Financial uncertainty may be the most obvious stressor -- not being sure if you'll keep your job during a round of layoffs, or not knowing how you'll pay your credit card bill. Insecurities in other areas of life, like your relationship or your housing status, can eat away at you too.


16. Your Pet bulldog puppy
No matter how much you love your furry friends, there's no question that they add extra responsibility to your already full plate. Even healthy animals need to be fed, exercised, cleaned up after, and given plenty of attention on a regular basis -- and unhealthy ones can be a whole other story. "Pets can be the most positive source of unconditional love, but at the same time they require an extreme amount of energy," says Yeager. People also tend to underestimate the stress they'll experience when they lose a pet. "I've had people in my office tell me they cried more when their dog died than when their parent died. It's a very emotional connection."


17. Your Education
Having a college degree boosts your odds of landing a well-paying job, so although you're less likely to suffer from money-related anxiety, your education can bring on other types of stress, according to a 2014 study by Schieman and his University of Toronto colleagues. His research found that highly educated people were more likely to be stressed out thanks to job pressures, being overworked, and conflicts between work and family. "Higher levels of authority come with a lot more interpersonal baggage, such as supervising people or deciding whether they get promotions," says Schieman. "With that type of responsibility, you start to take things like incompetency and people not doing their jobs more personally, and it bothers you more."

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Physicists: Black holes don’t erase information




Excerpt from earthsky.org
Since 1975, when Hawking showed that black holes evaporate from our universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to a black hole’s information.

What happens to the information that goes into a black hole? Is it irretrievably lost? Does it gradually or suddenly leak out? Is it stored somehow? Physicists have puzzled for decades over what they call the information loss paradox in black holes. A new study by physicists at University at Buffalo – published in March, 2015 in the journal in Physical Review Letters – shows that information going into a black hole is not lost at all.

Instead, these researchers say, it’s possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.

Dejan Stojkovic, associate professor of physics at the University at Buffalo, did the research with his student Anshul Saini as co-author. Stojkovic said in a statement:
According to our work, information isn’t lost once it enters a black hole. It doesn’t just disappear.
What sort of information are we talking about? In principle, any information drawn into a black hole has an unknown future, according to modern physics. That information could include, for example, the characteristics of the object that formed the black hole to begin with, and characteristics of all matter and energy drawn inside.

Stojkovic says his research “marks a significant step” toward solving the information loss paradox, a problem that has plagued physics for almost 40 years, since Stephen Hawking first proposed that black holes could radiate energy and evaporate over time, disappearing from the universe and taking their information with them. 

Disappearing information is a problem for physicists because it’s a violation of quantum mechanics, which states that information must be conserved.
According to modern physics, any information about an astronaut entering a black hole - for example, height, weight, hair color - may be lost.  Likewise, information about he object that formed the hole, or any matter and energy entering the hole, may be lost.  This notion violates quantum mechanics, which is why it's known as the 'black hole information paradox.


According to modern physics, any information related to an astronaut entering a black hole – for example, height, weight, hair color – may be lost. This notion is known as the ‘information loss paradox’ of black holes because it violates quantum mechanics. Artist’s concept via Nature.

Stojkovic says that physicists – even those who believed information was not lost in black holes – have struggled to show mathematically how the information is preserved. He says his new paper presents explicit calculations demonstrating how it can be preserved. His statement from University at Buffalo explained:
In the 1970s, [Stephen] Hawking proposed that black holes were capable of radiating particles, and that the energy lost through this process would cause the black holes to shrink and eventually disappear. Hawking further concluded that the particles emitted by a black hole would provide no clues about what lay inside, meaning that any information held within a black hole would be completely lost once the entity evaporated.

Though Hawking later said he was wrong and that information could escape from black holes, the subject of whether and how it’s possible to recover information from a black hole has remained a topic of debate.

Stojkovic and Saini’s new paper helps to clarify the story.
Instead of looking only at the particles a black hole emits, the study also takes into account the subtle interactions between the particles. By doing so, the research finds that it is possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.
Interactions between particles can range from gravitational attraction to the exchange of mediators like photons between particles. Such “correlations” have long been known to exist, but many scientists discounted them as unimportant in the past.
Stojkovic added:
These correlations were often ignored in related calculations since they were thought to be small and not capable of making a significant difference.
Our explicit calculations show that though the correlations start off very small, they grow in time and become large enough to change the outcome.
Artist's impression of a black hole, via Icarus
Artist’s impression of a black hole, via Icarus

Bottom line: Since 1975, when Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein showed that black holes should slowly radiate away energy and ultimately disappear from the universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to information inside a black hole. Dejan Stojkovic and Anshul Saini, both of University at Buffalo, just published a new study that contains specific calculations showing that information within a black hole is not lost.

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MRSA superbug killed by 1,100-year-old home remedy, researchers say


MRSA attacks a human cell. The bacteria shown is the strain MRSA 252, a leading cause of hospital-associated infections. (Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH)


Excerpt from washingtonpost.com
By Justin Wm. Moyer 

Even in the age of AIDS, avian flu and Ebola, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, is terrifying.

The superbug, which is resistant to conventional antibiotics because of their overuse, shrugs at even the deadliest weapons modern medicine offers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated MRSA contributed to the deaths of more than 5,000 people in the United States in 2013. It even attacked the NFL, and some say it could eventually kill more people than cancer. And presidential commissions have advised that technological progress is the only way to fight MRSA.

But researchers in the United Kingdom now report that the superbug proved vulnerable to an ancient remedy. The ingredients? Just a bit of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall — a florid name for cow’s bile.

This medicine sounds yucky, but it’s definitely better than the bug it may be able to kill.

“We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” Freya Harrison of the University of Nottingham, who worked on the research, told the BBC.

The oxgall remedy, billed as an eye salve, was found in a manuscript written in Old English from the 10th century called “Bald’s Leechbook” — a sort of pre-Magna Carta physician’s desk reference. Garlic and copper are commonly thought to have antibiotic or antimicrobial properties, but seeing such ingredients in a home remedy at Whole Foods is a far cry from researchers killing a superbug with it.

According to Christina Lee, an associate professor in Viking studies at Nottingham, the MRSA research was the product of conversations among academics of many stripes interested in infectious disease and how people fought it before antibiotics.

“We were talking about the specter of antibiotic resistance,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview. The medical researchers involved in the discussions said to the medievalists: “In your period, you guys must have had something.”

Not every recipe in Bald’s Leechbook is a gem. Other advice, via a translation from the Eastern Algo-Saxonist: “Against a woman’s chatter; taste at night fasting a root of radish, that day the chatter cannot harm thee.” And: “In case a man be a lunatic; take skin of a mereswine or porpoise, work it into a whip, swinge the man therewith, soon he will be well. Amen.”

Though the Leechbook may include misses, it may help doctors find a solution to a problem that only seems to be getting worse.

If the oxgall remedy proves effective against MRSA outside of the lab — which researchers caution it may not — it would be a godsend. Case studies of MRSA’s impact from the CDC’s charmingly named Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report seem medieval.

In July 1997, a 7-year-old black girl from urban Minnesota was admitted to a tertiary-care hospital with a temperature of 103 F.” Result: Death from pulmonary hemorrhage after five weeks of hospitalization.

In January 1998, a 16-month-old American Indian girl from rural North Dakota was taken to a local hospital in shock and with a temperature of 105.2 F.” Result: After respiratory failure and cardiac arrest, death within two hours of hospital admission.

In January 1999, a 13-year-old white girl from rural Minnesota was brought to a local hospital with fever, hemoptysis” — that’s coughing up blood — “and respiratory distress.” The result: Death from multiple organ failure after seven days in the hospital.

“We believe modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge, which is largely contained in non-scientific writings,” Lee told the Telegraph. “But the potential of these texts to contribute to addressing the challenges cannot be understood without the combined expertise of both the arts and science.”

Lee stressed that it was the combination of ingredients that proved effective against MRSA — which shows that people living in medieval times were not as barbaric as popularly thought. Even 1,000 years ago, when people got sick, other people tried to figure out how to help.

“We associate ‘medieval’ with dark, barbaric,” Lee said. “… It’s not. I’ve always believed in the pragmatic medieval ages.”
The research will be presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham. In an abstract for the conference, the team cautioned oxgall was no cure-all.

“Antibacterial activity of a substance in laboratory trials does not necessarily mean the historical remedy it was taken from actually worked in toto,” they wrote.

Lee said researchers hope to turn to other remedies in Bald’s Leechbook — including purported cures for headaches and ulcers — to see what other wisdom the ancients have to offer.

“At a time when you don’t have microscope, medicine would have included things we find rather odd,” she said. “In 200 years, people will judge us.”

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Astronomers Discover Ancient Dust Filled Galaxy ~ Debunks earlier theories that earliest galaxies had no dust only gas


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Excerpt from voicechronicle.com


Astronomers have discovered a dust-filled ancient galaxy from the very early universe, which debunks earlier theories that earliest galaxies had no dust but gas. Astronomers from the University of Copenhagen used the Very Large Telescope’s X-shooter instrument along with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and discovered a galaxy, named Galaxy A1689-zD1, which is an ancient galaxy and far from Earth.
The astronomers stated that the galaxy which
they were surprised to discover is far more evolved system than expected. It had a fraction of dust similar to a very mature galaxy, such as the Milky Way. Such dust is vital to life, because it helps form planets, complex molecules and normal stars. 

According to the astronomers A1689-zD1 is only observable by virtue of its brightness being amplified more than nine times by a gravitational lens in the form of the spectacular galaxy cluster. Without the gravitational boost, the glow from this very faint galaxy would have been too weak to detect.

The astronomers stated that they are viewing A1689-zD1 when the Universe was only about 700 million years old, which is 5% of its present age. According to them, it is a relatively modest system — much less massive and luminous than many other objects that have been studied before at this stage in the early universe and hence a more typical example of a galaxy at that time.

A1689-zD1 is being observed as it was during the period of reionization, when the earliest stars brought with them a cosmic dawn, illuminating for the first time an immense and transparent universe and ending the extended stagnation of the Dark Ages. Expected to look like a newly formed system, the galaxy surprised the observers with its rich chemical complexity and abundance of interstellar dust.

Dust plays an extremely important role in the universe – both in the formation of planets and new stars.

Darach Watson, Associate Professor at Dark Cosmology Centre, University of Copenhagen, and the lead author of the study, said, “After confirming the galaxy’s distance using the VLT we realized it had previously been observed with ALMA. We didn’t expect to find much, but I can tell you we were all quite excited when we realized that not only had ALMA observed it, but that there was a clear detection. One of the main goals of the ALMA Observatory was to find galaxies in the early Universe from their cold gas and dust emissions — and here we had it!”

The researchers hope that future observations of a large number of distant galaxies could help unravel how frequently such evolved galaxies occur in this very early epoch of the history of the universe.

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New prehistoric human discovered in Taiwan



human jaw fossil found in Taiwan
“Penghu 1,” the newly discovered human with large teeth, is another piece of critical evidence suggesting that other humans besides Homo sapiens lived in Asia from 200,000 to 10,000 years ago.


Excerpt from sciencerecorder.com


Paleontologists have identified the first known prehistoric human specimen from Taiwan, which may have been part of a species that lived alongside modern humans until as recently as 10,000 years ago.
“Penghu 1,” the newly discovered human with large teeth, is another piece of critical evidence suggesting that other humans besides Homo sapiens lived in Asia from 200,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Among the species that lived in Europe within that period were Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo floresiensis The Penghu 1, which has been described in the most recent issue of Nature Communications, has added to that sizable list of humans that may have lived with and interbred with modern humans.

“The available evidence at least does not exclude the possibility that they survived until the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, and it is tempting to speculate about their possible contact,” said the study’s co-author Yousuke Kaifu, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Tokyo, to Discovery News.
Kaifu, along with the paper’s lead author Chun-Hsiang Chang, and their team have studied the new human’s remains, primarily a jawbone that still contains big teeth. The jawbone was found by fishermen off the Taiwanese coast in the Penghu Channel. They then sold it to a local antique shop where it was found and bought by the collector Kun-Yu Tsai, who donated his collection to the National Museum of Natural Science in Taiwan. It then caught the eye of Chang, who works at the museum as a geologist.
Chang and his team now believe that the Penghu 1 could suggest a new species of human or at least a distinct regional group of Homo erectus. He suspects that the jawbone belonged to an elderly adult due to the worn state of the teeth. Unlike Homo floresiensis, the Penghu 1 grew to adult stature and lived on the Asian mainland.
“The associated faunal remains suggest that the area was a relatively open, wet woodland,” said Kaifu. “This is because of the presence of large-bodied mammals, such as elephants (Stegodon), horses and bear, but the fauna also included animals that prefer marshlands in a hot and humid climate, such as water buffaloes.”
All of these aspects would seem very attractive to modern humans, as well as the prehistoric humans they co-existed with. Although Penghu 1 is clearly not a modern human, its jaw bears many similarities to Homo erectus. Very little is known about human evolution in Asia, so this is a considerably welcome discovery, as fossils from much earlier periods discovered in China have offered valuable insights into what a Cretaceous ecosystem looked like. There are also many similarities between Penghu 1 and the Peking Man remains from Zhoukoudian, China, although the former appears to be much more primitive. It has also been compared to the archaic Homo heidelbergensis and also Denisovan remains.

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The Future of Technology in 2015?




Excerpt from
cnet.com


The year gone by brought us more robots, worries about artificial intelligence, and difficult lessons on space travel. The big question: where's it all taking us?

Every year, we capture a little bit more of the future -- and yet the future insists on staying ever out of reach.
Consider space travel. Humans have been traveling beyond the atmosphere for more than 50 years now -- but aside from a few overnights on the moon four decades ago, we have yet to venture beyond low Earth orbit.
Or robots. They help build our cars and clean our kitchen floors, but no one would mistake a Kuka or a Roomba for the replicants in "Blade Runner." Siri, Cortana and Alexa, meanwhile, are bringing some personality to the gadgets in our pockets and our houses. Still, that's a long way from HAL or that lad David from the movie "A.I. Artificial Intelligence."
Self-driving cars? Still in low gear, and carrying some bureaucratic baggage that prevents them from ditching certain technology of yesteryear, like steering wheels.
And even when these sci-fi things arrive, will we embrace them? A Pew study earlier this year found that Americans are decidedly undecided. Among the poll respondents, 48 percent said they would like to take a ride in a driverless car, but 50 percent would not. And only 3 percent said they would like to own one.
"Despite their general optimism about the long-term impact of technological change," Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Center wrote in the report, "Americans express significant reservations about some of these potentially short-term developments" such as US airspace being opened to personal drones, robot caregivers for the elderly or wearable or implantable computing devices that would feed them information.
Let's take a look at how much of the future we grasped in 2014 and what we could gain in 2015.

Space travel: 'Space flight is hard'

In 2014, earthlings scored an unprecedented achievement in space exploration when the European Space Agency landed a spacecraft on a speeding comet, with the potential to learn more about the origins of life. No, Bruce Willis wasn't aboard. Nobody was. But when the 220-pound Philae lander, carried to its destination by the Rosetta orbiter, touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, some 300 million miles from Earth, the celebration was well-earned.
A shadow quickly fell on the jubilation, however. Philae could not stick its first landing, bouncing into a darker corner of the comet where its solar panels would not receive enough sunlight to charge the lander's batteries. After two days and just a handful of initial readings sent home, it shut down. For good? Backers have allowed for a ray of hope as the comet passes closer to the sun in 2015. "I think within the team there is no doubt that [Philae] will wake up," lead lander scientist Jean-Pierre Bibring said in December. "And the question is OK, in what shape? My suspicion is we'll be in good shape."
The trip for NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has been much longer: 3 billion miles, all the way to Pluto and the edge of the solar system. Almost nine years after it left Earth, New Horizons in early December came out of hibernation to begin its mission: to explore "a new class of planets we've never seen, in a place we've never been before," said project scientist Hal Weaver. In January, it will begin taking photos and readings of Pluto, and by mid-July, when it swoops closest to Pluto, it will have sent back detailed information about the dwarf planet and its moon, en route to even deeper space.


Also in December, NASA made a first test spaceflight of its Orion capsule on a quick morning jaunt out and back, to just over 3,600 miles above Earth (or approximately 15 times higher than the International Space Station). The distance was trivial compared to those those traveled by Rosetta and New Horizons, and crewed missions won't begin till 2021, but the ambitions are great -- in the 2030s, Orion is expected to carry humans to Mars.
In late March 2015, two humans will head to the ISS to take up residence for a full year, in what would be a record sleepover in orbit. "If a mission to Mars is going to take a three-year round trip," said NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will be joined in the effort by Russia's Mikhail Kornienko, "we need to know better how our body and our physiology performs over durations longer than what we've previously on the space station investigated, which is six months."
There were more sobering moments, too, in 2014. In October, Virgin Galactic's sleek, experimental SpaceShipTwo, designed to carry deep-pocketed tourists into space, crashed in the Mojave Desert during a test flight, killing one test pilot and injuring the other. Virgin founder Richard Branson had hoped his vessel would make its first commercial flight by the end of this year or in early 2015, and what comes next remains to be seen. Branson, though, expressed optimism: "Space flight is hard -- but worth it," he said in a blog post shortly after the crash, and in a press conference, he vowed "We'll learn from this, and move forward together." Virgin Galactic could begin testing its next spaceship as soon as early 2015.
The crash of SpaceShipTwo came just a few days after the explosion of an Orbital Sciences rocket lofting an unmanned spacecraft with supplies bound for the International Space Station. And in July, Elon Musk's SpaceX had suffered the loss of one of its Falcon 9 rockets during a test flight. Musk intoned, via Twitter, that "rockets are tricky..."
Still, it was on the whole a good year for SpaceX. In May, it unveiled its first manned spacecraft, the Dragon V2, intended for trips to and from the space station, and in September, it won a $2.6 billion contract from NASA to become one of the first private companies (the other being Boeing) to ferry astronauts to the ISS, beginning as early as 2017. Oh, and SpaceX also has plans to launch microsatellites to establish low-cost Internet service around the globe, saying in November to expect an announcement about that in two to three months -- that is, early in 2015.
One more thing to watch for next year: another launch of the super-secret X-37B space place to do whatever it does during its marathon trips into orbit. The third spaceflight of an X-37B -- a robotic vehicle that, at 29 feet in length, looks like a miniature space shuttle -- ended in October after an astonishing 22 months circling the Earth, conducting "on-orbit experiments."

Self-driving cars: Asleep at what wheel?

Spacecraft aren't the only vehicles capable of autonomous travel -- increasingly, cars are, too. Automakers are toiling toward self-driving cars, and Elon Musk -- whose name comes up again and again when we talk about the near horizon for sci-fi tech -- says we're less than a decade away from capturing that aspect of the future. In October, speaking in his guise as founder of Tesla Motors, Musk said: "Like maybe five or six years from now I think we'll be able to achieve true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination." (He also allowed that we should tack on a few years after that before government regulators give that technology their blessing.)
Prototype, unbound: Google's ride of the future, as it looks today Google
That comment came as Musk unveiled a new autopilot feature -- characterizing it as a sort of super cruise control, rather than actual autonomy -- for Tesla's existing line of electric cars. Every Model S manufactured since late September includes new sensor hardware to enable those autopilot capabilities (such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and automated parking), to be followed by an over-the-air software update to enable those features.
Google has long been working on its own robo-cars, and until this year, that meant taking existing models -- a Prius here, a Lexus there -- and buckling on extraneous gear. Then in May, the tech titan took the wraps off a completely new prototype that it had built from scratch. (In December, it showed off the first fully functional prototype.) It looked rather like a cartoon car, but the real news was that there was no steering wheel, gas pedal or brake pedal -- no need for human controls when software and sensors are there to do the work.
Or not so fast. In August, California's Department of Motor Vehicles declared that Google's test vehicles will need those manual controls after all -- for safety's sake. The company agreed to comply with the state's rules, which went into effect in September, when it began testing the cars on private roads in October.
Regardless of who's making your future robo-car, the vehicle is going to have to be not just smart, but actually thoughtful. It's not enough for the car to know how far it is from nearby cars or what the road conditions are. The machine may well have to make no-win decisions, just as human drivers sometimes do in instantaneous, life-and-death emergencies. "The car is calculating a lot of consequences of its actions," Chris Gerdes, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, said at the Web Summit conference in Dublin, Ireland, in November. "Should it hit the person without a helmet? The larger car or the smaller car?"

Robots: Legging it out

So when do the robots finally become our overlords? Probably not in 2015, but there's sure to be more hand-wringing about both the machines and the artificial intelligence that could -- someday -- make them a match for homo sapiens. At the moment, the threat seems more mundane: when do we lose our jobs to a robot?
The inquisitive folks at Pew took that very topic to nearly 1,900 experts, including Vint Cerf, vice president at Google; Web guru Tim Bray; Justin Reich of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society; and Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft. According to the resulting report, published in August, the group was almost evenly split -- 48 percent thought it likely that, by 2025, robots and digital agents will have displaced significant numbers of blue- and white-collar workers, perhaps even to the point of breakdowns in the social order, while 52 percent "have faith that human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution."


Still, for all of the startling skills that robots have acquired so far, they're often not all there yet. Here's some of what we saw from the robot world in 2014:
Teamwork: Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne in May showed off their "Roombots," cog-like robotic balls that can join forces to, say, help a table move across a room or change its height.
A sense of balance: We don't know if Boston Dynamics' humanoid Atlas is ready to trim bonsai trees, but it has learned this much from "The Karate Kid" (the original from the 1980s) -- it can stand on cinder blocks and hold its balance in a crane stance while moving its arms up and down.
Catlike jumps: MIT's cheetah-bot gets higher marks for locomotion. Fed a new algorithm, it can run across a lawn and bound like a cat. And quietly, too. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground," MIT's Sangbae Kim, a professor of mechanical engineering, told MIT News. "This is kind of a new paradigm where we're controlling force in a highly dynamic situation. Any legged robot should be able to do this in the future."
Sign language: Toshiba's humanoid Aiko Chihira communicated in Japanese sign language at the CEATEC show in October. Her rudimentary skills, limited for the moment to simple messages such as signed greetings, are expected to blossom by 2020 into areas such as speech synthesis and speech recognition.
Dance skills: Robotic pole dancers? Tobit Software brought a pair, controllable by an Android smartphone, to the Cebit trade show in Germany in March. More lifelike was the animatronic sculpture at a gallery in New York that same month -- but what was up with that witch mask?
Emotional ambition: Eventually, we'll all have humanoid companions -- at least, that's always been one school of thought on our robotic future. One early candidate for that honor could be Pepper, from Softbank and Aldebaran Robotics, which say the 4-foot-tall Pepper is the first robot to read emotions. This emo-bot is expected to go on sale in Japan in February.

Ray guns: Ship shape

Damn the photon torpedoes, and full speed ahead. That could be the motto for the US Navy, which in 2014 deployed a prototype laser weapon -- just one -- aboard a vessel in the Persian Gulf. Through some three months of testing, the device "locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near-instantaneous lethality," Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research, said in a statement. Those targets were rather modest -- small objects mounted aboard a speeding small boat, a diminutive Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, and so on -- but the point was made: the laser weapon, operated by a controller like those used for video games, held up well, even in adverse conditions.

Artificial intelligence: Danger, Will Robinson?

What happens when robots and other smart machines can not only do, but also think? Will they appreciate us for all our quirky human high and low points, and learn to live with us? Or do they take a hard look at a species that's run its course and either turn us into natural resources, "Matrix"-style, or rain down destruction?
laser-weapon-system-on-uss-ponce.jpg
When the machines take over, will they be packing laser weapons like this one the US Navy just tried out? John F. Williams/US Navy
As we look ahead to the reboot of the "Terminator" film franchise in 2015, we can't help but recall some of the dire thoughts about artificial intelligence from two people high in the tech pantheon, the very busy Musk and the theoretically inclined Stephen Hawking.
Musk himself more than once in 2014 invoked the likes of the "Terminator" movies and the "scary outcomes" that make them such thrilling popcorn fare. Except that he sees a potentially scary reality evolving. In an interview with CNBC in June, he spoke of his investment in AI-minded companies like Vicarious and Deep Mind, saying: "I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is potentially a dangerous outcome."
He has put his anxieties into some particularly colorful phrases. In August, for instance, Musk tweeted that AI is "potentially more dangerous than nukes." And in October, he said this at a symposium at MIT: "With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. ... You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he's like... yeah, he's sure he can control the demon, [but] it doesn't work out."
Musk has a kindred spirit in Stephen Hawking. The physicist allowed in May that AI could be the "biggest event in human history," and not necessarily in a good way. A month later, he was telling John Oliver, on HBO's "Last Week Tonight," that "artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not too distant future." How so? "It could design improvements to itself and outsmart us all."
But Google's Eric Schmidt, is having none of that pessimism. At a summit on innovation in December, the executive chairman of the far-thinking tech titan -- which in October teamed up with Oxford University to speed up research on artificial intelligence -- said that while our worries may be natural, "they're also misguided."

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Move Over Predator Alien: The human eye can see ‘invisible’ infrared light too


The eye can detect light at wavelengths in the visual spectrum. Other wavelengths, such as infrared and ultraviolet, are supposed to be invisible to the human eye, but Washington University scientists have found that under certain conditions, it’s possible for us to see otherwise invisible infrared light. Image: Sara Dickherber

Excerpt from
news.wustl.edu
By Jim Dryden

Any science textbook will tell you we can’t see infrared light. Like X-rays and radio waves, infrared light waves are outside the visual spectrum. 

But an international team of researchers co-led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that under certain conditions, the retina can sense infrared light after all. 

Using cells from the retinas of mice and people, and powerful lasers that emit pulses of infrared light, the researchers found that when laser light pulses rapidly, light-sensing cells in the retina sometimes get a double hit of infrared energy. When that happens, the eye is able to detect light that falls outside the visible spectrum.

The findings are published Dec. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Online Early Edition. The research was initiated after scientists on the research team reported seeing occasional flashes of green light while working with an infrared laser. Unlike the laser pointers used in lecture halls or as toys, the powerful infrared laser the scientists worked with emits light waves thought to be invisible to the human eye.

“They were able to see the laser light, which was outside of the normal visible range, and we really wanted to figure out how they were able to sense light that was supposed to be invisible,” said Frans Vinberg, PhD, one of the study’s lead authors and a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University. 

Vinberg, Kefalov and their colleagues examined the scientific literature and revisited reports of people seeing infrared light. They repeated previous experiments in which infrared light had been seen, and they analyzed such light from several lasers to see what they could learn about how and why it sometimes is visible.

“We experimented with laser pulses of different durations that delivered the same total number of photons, and we found that the shorter the pulse, the more likely it was a person could see it,” Vinberg explained. “Although the length of time between pulses was so short that it couldn’t be noticed by the naked eye, the existence of those pulses was very important in allowing people to see this invisible light.”



Robert Boston

Kefalov’s team developed this adapter that allowed scientists to analyze retinal cells and photopigment molecules as they were exposed to infrared light. The device already is commercially available and in use at several vision research centers around the world.
“The visible spectrum includes waves of light that are 400-720 nanometers long,” explained Kefalov, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. “But if a pigment molecule in the retina is hit in rapid succession by a pair of photons that are 1,000 nanometers long, those light particles will deliver the same amount of energy as a single hit from a 500-nanometer photon, which is well within the visible spectrum. That’s how we are able to see it.”

Robert Boston

Frans Vinberg, PhD (left), and Vladimir J. Kefalov, PhD, sit in front of a tool they developed that allows them to detect light responses from retinal cells and photopigment molecules.

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Scientists Admit There Is a Second, Secret DNA Code Which Controls Genes

Contributed by Michael ForresterThe fascinating and recent discovery of a new, second DNA code further lends credence to what metaphysical scientists have been saying for millennia -- the body speaks two different languages.Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, researchers have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins.But biologists have suspected for years that some kind of epigenetic inheritance occurs at the cellular level. The different [...]

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1 MW E-Cat Cold Fusion Device Test Successful

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On October 28, 2011, Andrea Rossi demonstrated his 1 megawatt E-Cat system to his first customer, who had engineers/scientists on hand to test/validate its performance. Due to a glitch, it provided 479 kW of continuous power for 5.5 h...

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Be aware of the problems of organ printing and the future of artificial biology

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by Anthony Gucciardi See all articles by this author Email this author

(NaturalNews) Organ printing, or the process of engineering tissue via 3D printing, possesses revolutionary potential for organ transplants. But do sociol...

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Rossi Cold Fusion Validated by Swedish Skeptic’s Society

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Yet another test of Andrea Rossi's Energy Catalyzer (E-Cat) has been performed on a 4.5 kW version near the University of Bologna. This time a new set of observers were present, one of which is the chairman of the Swedish Skeptics...

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Cold Fusion Steams Ahead at World’s Oldest University

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Progress accelerates as a year long study of Andrea Rossi's Nickel-Hydrogen Cold Fusion technology (energy catalyzer) at the University of Bologna is announced. The birthplace of higher education has become the developmental womb ...

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Magnetic Resonance Make Tangible “Invisible”

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By Mitch Battros - Earth Changes Media Mar 2, 2011 - 11:22:50 AM  

New findings show the manipulation of magnetic resonance (charged particles) can be used to make visible tangible items (see, touch, solid) "invisibl...

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