Friday, June 30, 2006

Buffett gives Gates Foundation his wealth

What can I say - this news [in the Washington Post] gives me chills - the good kind:

"Investment guru Warren Buffett, whose stake in the company he founded is worth $44 billion, disclosed plans to give nearly all of it away, mostly to the world's largest charitable organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"That revelation in Fortune magazine comes on the heels of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates's announcement earlier this month that he would transition from running his company to running his foundation - and marks a golden age for philanthropic giving akin to that of a century ago, when industrialists such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew W. Mellon gave vast amounts of their wealth to the arts and society."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Electric signals - no wiring

New findings suggest that magnetic fields created using nanotechnology could make computers up to 500 times more powerful, if new research is successful.

The University of Bath is to lead an international £555,000 three-year project to develop a system which could cut out the need for wiring to carry electric currents in silicon chips.

Computers double in power every 18 months or so as scientists and engineers develop ways to make silicon chips smaller. But in the next few years they will hit a limit imposed by the need to use electric wiring, which weakens signals sent between computer components at high speed.

The new research project could produce a way of carrying electric signal without the need for wiring. Wi fi internet systems and mobile phones use wireless technology now, but the electronics that create and use wireless signals are too large to be used within individual microchips successfully.

The research project, which involves four universities in the UK and a university and research centre in Belgium and France, will look at ways of producing microwave energy on a small scale by firing electrons into magnetic fields produced in semi-conductors that are only a few atoms wide and are layered with magnets.

The process, called inverse electron spin resonance, uses the magnetic field to deflect electrons and to modify their magnetic direction. This creates oscillations of the electrons which makes them produce microwave energy. This can then be used to broadcast electric signals in free space without the weakening caused by wires.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Vaccine for cervical cancer: behind the scenes

I am intrigued by the presentation of this research in this press release on Eurekalert!

"Creation of a successful vaccine against cervical cancer, approved today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is the culmination of research that occurred thanks not only to scientists and physicians, but also to generous farmers and veterinarians, priests and nuns willing to tell all – and some very patient cows. At the University of Rochester Medical Center, the initial research more than 20 years ago included visits to veterinarians and meat-packaging plants in Upstate New York to collect scrapings from "prized" cow warts, and surveys of people unlikely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease – priests and nuns who had taken a vow of celibacy. The work with the cows, the warts, the nuns and the priests illustrates how basic research can pay off in big and unexpected ways.

Will scoring improve in World Cup with new ball?

I enjoyed the stories in the news about the new football that is being used in the World Cup, so I am posting a press release from the University of Bath.

"The new football that will be used for the first time in the World Cup’s opening game on Friday (9 June 2006) is likely to bamboozle goalkeepers at some stage of the tournament, a leading scientist has warned.

The Adidas ‘Teamgeist’ football has just 14 panels - with fewer seams - making its surface ‘smoother’ than conventional footballs which have a 26 or 32 panel hexagon-based pattern.

This makes it aerodynamically closer to a baseball and, when hit with a slow spin, will make the ball less stable, giving it a more unpredictable trajectory in flight.

“With a very low spin rate, which occasionally happens in football, the panel pattern can have a big influence on the trajectory of the ball and make it more unpredictable for a goalkeeper,” said Dr Ken Bray, a sports scientist at the University of Bath and author of the new popular science book How to score – science and the beautiful game.

“Because the Teamgeist ball has just 14 panels it is aerodynamically more similar to the baseball which only has two panels.

“In baseball, pitchers often throw a ’curve ball’ which is similar to a swerving free kick and the rotating seam disrupts the air flow around the ball in much the same way as a football does.
“Occasionally though, pitchers will throw a ’knuckleball’ which bobs about randomly in flight and is very disconcerting for batters.

“It happens because pitchers throw the ball with very little spin and as the ball rotates lazily in the air, the seam disrupts the air flow around the ball at certain points on the surface, causing an unpredictable deflection.

“With the world’s best players in Germany this summer, there are bound to be plenty of spectacular scoring free kicks.

“But watch the slow motion replays to spot the rare occasions where the ball produces little or no rotation and where goalkeepers will frantically attempt to keep up with the ball’s chaotic flight path.”

The ball, which has been used by teams competing in the World Cup in practice sessions, has already been criticised by England goalkeeper Paul Robinson and Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann for its light-weight and unpredictable behaviour.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Crater beneath Antarctic linked to meteor

A new study press release planetary scientists have found evidence of a meteor impact much larger and earlier than the one that killed the dinosaurs - an impact that they believe caused the biggest mass extinction in Earth's history.

The 300-mile-wide crater lies hidden more than a mile beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. And the gravity measurements that reveal its existence suggest that it could date back about 250 million years - the time of the Permian-Triassic extinction, when almost all animal life on Earth died out.

Its size and location - in the Wilkes Land region of East Antarctica, south of Australia - also suggest that it could have begun the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent by creating the tectonic rift that pushed Australia northward.

Read more about this facinating discovery by Ohio State University researchers.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Brain and computer chips advance

For the first time, scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Biochemistry coupled living brain tissue to a chip equivalent to the chips that run computers, according to a report inJournal of Neurophysiology.

The scientists developed a revolutionary noninvasive technique that enables them to record neural communication between thousands of nervecells in the tissue of a brain slice with high spatial resolution. This technique involves culturing razor-thin slices of the hippocampus region on semiconductor chips.

The biophysicists were able to visualize the influence of pharmaceutical compounds on the neural network. This makes the “brain-chip” a novel test system for brain and drug research.