Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Electronic ink: packaging messages

I am intrigued by this technology and what it will look like in our everyday lives in the future. In a story in Fortune magazine:

"Digital paper has a long history of unfulfilled promise. But the wait for "electronic ink" may be coming to an end. E Ink, a spinout from MIT's Media Lab, announced in October that it has, together with LG Philips LCD, built a new flexible 10.1-inch display that is about the thickness of construction paper and has the resolution of a standard desktop monitor. Already last spring Microsoft used a color version of E Ink's technology to light up the packaging of Xbox game Jade Empire. Siemens is using an entirely different technology—electrochromatic polymers - a "wafer thin" color display that can deliver video, something the slightly higher-resolution E Ink technology can't yet manage. "I've gotten a lot of interest from advertising agencies," says Norbert Aschenbrenner of Siemens. So, long before Tolstoy fans get a one-page, foldable version of War and Peace, grocery shoppers should see Tony the Tiger waving madly at them from the Frosted Flakes box on aisle four. "

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Measurement nails greenhouse effect

I am back on the global warming beat with a new report from Science.

The new study states that global ocean levels are rising twice as fast today as they were 150 years ago, and human-induced warming appears to be the culprit.

While the speed at which the ocean is rising, almost two millimeters per year today compared to one millimeter annually for the past several thousand years, affirms scientific concerns of accelerated global warming, the scientists say.

The press release on Eurekalert says, Rutgers professor of geological sciences Kenneth G. Miller reports on a new record of sea level change during the past 100 million years based on drilling studies along the New Jersey coast. The findings establish a steady millimeter-per-year rise from 5,000 years ago until about 200 years ago. In contrast, sea-level measurements since 1850 from tidal gauges and more recently from satellite images, when corrected for land settling along the shoreline, reveal the current two-millimeter annual rise.

"Without reliable information on how sea levels had changed before we had our new measures, we couldn't be sure the current rate wasn't happening all along," says Miller. "Now, with solid historical data, we know it is definitely a recent phenomenon. The main thing that's changed since the 19th century and the beginning of modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," he adds. "Our record therefore provides a new and reliable baseline to use in addressing global warming."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sound and the modern hospital

Sometimes the obvious gets studied. This study's findings show that hospital noise levels have grown steadily over the past five decades, disturbing patients and staff members, raising the risk of medical errors and hindering efforts to modernize hospitals with speech recognition systems. Some studies even indicate that excessive noise can slow the pace of healing and contribute to stress and burnout among hospital workers.

Now that hospitals are competing for patients, they are looking for the competitive advantage. This means that a hospital that reduces its noise level may improve satisfaction and outcomes. Researchers say, "A noisy intensive care unit introduces patient, family and staff dissatisfaction. It has also been reported that noise can contribute to lapses in short-term memory, which could then introduce safety concerns. "

Check out the study by Johns Hopkins researchers and learn more about James West who "turned a tiny microphone into a very big career. The Hopkins research professor has already revolutionized the field of electroacoustics. Now he's setting his sights on medicine, the Internet, and beyond."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What rats and humans have in common

I have reported scientific findings for quite some time, but I am always intrigued by how scientists extrapolate findings from mice and rats to humans.

Actually, these rodents are good models to study, but I love the reporting when when a new finding emerges, such as this one:

Scientists at McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida say (or at least their public relations reps say) "People don't have to run marathons to keep their brain cells in shape - regular, light activity may do the trick. In the first study to show that lifelong exercise decreases cellular aging in the brain, scientists say that moderately active rats have healthier DNA and more robust brain cells than their less active counterparts." In just one sentence we moved from rats to people - both with "regular, light activity" with improved brain cell activity.
The research was presented at the Society for Neuroscience's 35th annual meeting.

I do love this quote from one researcher: "The difference between humans and rats is that it isn't as easy to get humans to exercise. Put an exercise wheel in a rat cage and a rat will zoom around on that thing all the time, unless it's sleeping. But putting an exercise machine in your family room doesn't mean you're going to use it."

Monday, November 07, 2005

NCI uses nanotech to find molecular signatures

Everything is pointing to nanotechnology in medicine, including on the cancer front:

Wired Magazine covers nanotechnology and cancer. It states that "the National Cancer Institute, which recently announced two waves of funding for nanotech training and research, sees nanotechnology as vital to its stated goal of 'eliminating suffering and death from cancer by 2015.'"

Wired continues with, "The first cancer nanotech applications will likely involve detection. Nanoparticles could recognize cancer's molecular signatures, gathering the proteins produced by cancerous cells or signaling the presence of telltale genetic changes. Researchers have already used a protein called albumin -- considered a naturally occurring nanoparticle -- to detect proteins found in ovarian cancer tissue. Other nanoparticles could adhere to cancerous cells and, when viewed under a magnetic resonance imager or fluorescent light, reveal cancers now hidden to our eyes. How soon these cancer nanotechnologies will be commercially available is hard to guess. Though the NCI's Cancer Nanotechnology Plan calls for clinical trials on out-of-body applications within three years, and trials on in-body therapies and diagnostics within five years, researchers are cautious about promising too much."