Hawaii Continues it’s Growth

A volcano on Hawaii’s largest island is  spilling lava into the ocean creating a rare and spectacular fusion of steam and waves that officials say could attract thrill-seeking visitors if it continues.

Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii began flowing into the ocean 7 miles away on Saturday.

The volcano has been erupting continuously from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983.

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Fire and brimstone: Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii flows into the ocean creating a rare and spectacular fusion of steam and waves Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii flows into the ocean creating a rare and spectacular  fusion of steam and waves
Battle of the elements: Lava from the volcano, which has been erupting continuously from its Pu'u O'o vent since 1983, reached the ocean at the weekendLava from the volcano, which has  been erupting continuously from its Pu’u O’o vent since 1983, reached the ocean at the weekend

The flow was the first from the volcano to  reach the ocean since December, said Janet Babb, spokeswoman for the U.S.  Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Even as Hawaii tourism officials awaited an  increase in visitors drawn by the explosive natural show, officials warned of  potentially deadly risks and urged visitors to stay a safe distance away and respect barriers placed around the lava flow.

‘Ocean entries can be quite beautiful but also quite dangerous,’ Babb said.

When the lava reaches the ocean, it cools, darkens and hardens into a lava delta amid an outpouring of steam. The lava delta is newly created land that is unstable and can collapse without warning.

Forces of nature: Waves crash over lava as it flows into the ocean. The hardening lava forms a delta which is unstable and can collapse without warningWaves crash over lava as it flows into  the ocean. The hardening lava forms a delta which is unstable and can collapse without warning
Steam rises from the waves as the lava meets the ocean
Waves crash over lava as it flows into the ocean near Volcanoes National Park in Kalapana, Hawaii
  Officials have warned any thrill-seekers of  the potentially deadly risks if they try to get too close to the area because  the hardened lava can break off hurling hot water in their direction

When it collapses, even visitors standing 100  yards (meters) away can be hurt because large chunks of lava and hot water are  hurled their direction by the collapse, Babb said.

‘The molten lava meeting the ocean creates  steam which may look innocuous, but can be quite hazardous,’ she said.

‘It’s acidic and contains tiny particles of  volcanic glass. And waves crashing with the lava can send out scalding water.’

It was not clear how long the lava would continue flowing into the ocean.

Unpredictable: Experts say it was not clear how long the lava would continue flowing into the oceanExperts say it was not clear how long the lava would continue flowing into the ocean
Molten masterpiece: A plume of smoke rises from Kilauea crater in Volcanoes National Park in Volcano, Hawaii A plume of smoke rises from Kilauea  crater in Volcanoes National Park in Volcano, Hawaii

George Applegate, director of the Big Island  Visitors Bureau, said he expected an increase in tourists due to the latest  occurrence of the phenomenon.

‘We always do,’ Applegate said. ‘A lot of  people want to see a live lava flow.’

Tourism officials declined to estimate how  many more visitors they might see on the Big Island because of the lava flow.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses Kilauea, welcomed more than  1.3million visitors last year, according to park spokeswoman Jessica  Ferracane.

Security workers were keeping people beyond  the barriers during approved viewing hours, said Barry Periatt, plans and  operations officer for Hawaii County’s Civil Defense Agency.

No communities around the volcano are  threatened by the lava flow, Periatt said. The nearest town is Kalapana Gardens,  which is more than half a mile away. It suffered major damage from a 1986  volcano flow.

Attribution: Simon Tomlinson, Daily Mail

Silent Running

Owls could hold the key to developing ‘stealth’ passenger jets, according to new research.

Being woken up at the crack of dawn by noisy airplanes could become a thing of the past thanks to scientists who are trying to replicate the ability of the birds to fly silently in search of  prey.

Owls rely on specialized plumage to reduce sound so they can hunt with stealth and scientists are studying the wing  structure in a bid to design better conventional aircraft.

Stealthy: A long-eared owl in flight. Scientists are studying the wing structures that enable the nocturnal hunters to fly silently in the hope of replicating them to produce quieter passenger aircraftA long-eared owl in flight. Scientists are  studying the wing structures that enable the nocturnal hunters to fly silently in the hope of replicating them to produce quieter passenger aircraft

Dr Justin Jaworski, of the University of  Cambridge, said: ‘Many owl species have developed specialized plumage to effectively eliminate the aerodynamic noise from their wings, which allows them to hunt and capture their prey using their ears alone.’

All wings, either natural or engineered, create turbulent eddies as they cut through the air. When these hit the trailing edge of the wing, they are amplified and scattered as sound.

Conventional aircraft, which have hard trailing edges, are particularly noisy in this regard.

But owls possess distinct physical attributes that contribute to their silent flight including a comb of stiff feathers along the leading edge of the wing, a soft downy material on top and a flexible fringe at the trailing edge.

It is not known whether it is a single attribute or the combination of all three that are the root cause of the noise reduction.

The researchers attempted to unravel this mystery by developing a theoretical basis for the owl’s ability to mitigate sound from the trailing edge of its wing, which is typically an airfoil’s dominant noise source.

Earlier owl experiments suggest their wing noise is much less dependent on air speed and that there is a large reduction of high frequency noise across a range where human ears are most sensitive.

Noisy: A Ryanair plane lands at Dublin Airport. Conventional aircraft, which have hard trailing edges, are particularly noisy as the hard trailing edges of their wings create turbulent eddies in the air A Ryanair plane lands at Dublin Airport.  Conventional aircraft, which have hard trailing edges, are particularly noisy as  the hard trailing edges of their wings create turbulent eddies in the air

Using mathematical models, the researchers demonstrated elastic and porous properties of a trailing edge could be tuned so aerodynamic noise would depend on the flight speed as if there were no edge at all.

Professor Nigel Peake, who presented the  study at a meeting of the American Physical Society in San Diego, added: ‘This implied the dominant noise source for conventional wings could be eliminated.

‘The noise signature from the wing could then be dictated by otherwise minor noise mechanisms such as the roughness of the wing surface.’

Attribution: Damien Gayle

Extraordinary Genius

A new study suggests that Albert Einstein’s extraordinary genius may have been related to a uniquely shaped brain.

Researchers compared Einstein’s brain to 85 ‘normal’ human brains to determine, what, if any, unusual features it possessed.

‘Although the overall size and asymmetrical shape of Einstein’s brain were normal, the prefrontal, somatosensory, primary motor, parietal,  temporal and occipital cortices were extraordinary,’ said Dean Falk, the Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State,  told Science  Daily.

EinsteinResearchers now believe the unique shape of  Einstein’s brain may have helped boost his cognitive abilities

‘These may have  provided the neurological underpinnings for some of his visuospatial and mathematical abilities, for  instance.’

Using 14 recently discovered pictures of the  genius’ brain, Falks and her colleagues were able to describe Einstein’s entire cerebral cortex.

Their study, ‘The Cerebral Cortex of Albert  Einstein: A Description and Preliminary Analysis of Unpublished Photographs,’  were published Nov. 16 in Brain, a journal on neurology.

FalkDean Falk and her colleagues were able to present for the first time a clear description of Einstein’s cortex
Einstein  Researchers used photos taken of Einstein’s  brain upon his death in 1955 to advance their findings

With permission from his family, Einstein’s  brain was removed and photographed upon his death in 1955.

It was even sectioned into 240 blocks to make histological slides.

The paper will also outline a ‘roadmap’ to Einstein’s brain made in 1955 by Dr. Thomas Harvey.

                                          Left and right views of Einstein’s brain

Most of those photos, blocks, and slides have been lost from the public eye, and the photographs used by Falk’s team are held by the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Attribution: Mail Online

Bond Car

James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 was put through a series of huge explosions and stunts during the filming of Skyfall, including one scene which saw the priceless vehicle explode in flames.

However, producers have revealed the secret behind the stunts – if they lost a car, they could simply print another. Yes, that’s right, print another one.

Three replica cars, a third of the size of  the real thing, were created using a large scale 3D printer.

18 individual parts were printed to create the Aston Martin seen on screen18 individual parts were printed to create the Aston  Martin seen on screen

The models double for the priceless original vehicle from the 1960s in the film’s action scenes.

They were made by British firm Propshop Modelmakers Ltd, which specialize in the production of film props, and used Voxeljet to print the cars.

‘Propshop commissioned us to build three plastic models of the Aston Martin DB5,’ voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer.

‘We could have easily printed the legendary sports car in one piece at a scale of 1:3 using our high-end VX4000 printer, which can build moulds and models in dimensions of up to eight cubic metres.

‘But the British model builders were pursuing a different approach.

Once assembled, the models were finished by hand, and were indistinguishable from the full sized versions, according the their makersOnce assembled, the models were finished by hand, and were indistinguishable from the full sized versions, according the their makers

‘To ensure that the Aston Martin was as true to detail as possible, and for the purpose of integrating numerous functions into the film models, they decided on an assembly consisting of a total of 18 individual components.

‘The entire body is based on a steel frame, almost identical to how vehicles were assembled in the past,’ said  Ederer.

‘In addition to the automotive industry, foundries, designers and artists, the film industry represents an entirely new customer base for voxeljet.

‘3D printing is on the cusp of a great future in the film industry.

‘The technology offers fantastic opportunities, since it is usually much faster, more precise and more  economical than classic model construction,’ says Ederer.


voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer with one of the 3D printers used
voxeljet CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer with one of the 3D printers  used

Voxeljet started the printing process once the computer files with the design data for all components were available.

The models are produced with the layer-by-layer application of particle material that is glued together with a binding agent.

As each layer is finished, another is printed on top to build up a 3D model.

The parts are then individually cleaned.

A total of 54 individual parts for the three vehicle models, including mudguards, doors, bonnets, roofs and more, were then packaged and transported to Pinewood Studios near  London.

The model builders at Propshop then meticulously assembled and finished the components, painted them in the original colour and added chrome applications along with realistic-looking bullet holes.

The finished model, which was seen in several key scenes of the filmThe finished model, which was seen in several key scenes  of the film

After the finishing process, it is impossible to distinguish the Aston Martin models made with the voxeljet printer from the original, even in the close-up shots, the firm says.

‘The priceless Aston Martin DB5, which was used in the first James Bond film exactly 50 years ago, remains unscathed, while one of the elaborately and meticulously constructed models explodes in flames in the film,’ it said.

‘An expensive crash, since one of the three models was auctioned off by Christie’s for almost $170,000.

Daniel Craig with the real Aston Martin DB 5Daniel Craig with the real Aston Martin DB 5
Real or model? A close up of one of the model car's bumper and bonnetReal or model? A close up of one of the model car’s  bumper and bonnet

Heal Thy Self

Human skin is a special material: It needs to be flexible, so that it doesn’t crack every time a user clenches his fist. It needs to be sensitive to stimuli like touch and pressure—which are measured as electrical signals, so it needs to conduct electricity. Crucially, if it’s to survive the wear and tear it’s put through every day, it needs to be able to repair itself. Now, researchers in California may have designed a synthetic version—a flexible, electrically conductive, self-healing polymer.

The result is part of a decadelong miniboom in “epidermal electronics”—the production of circuits thin and flexible enough to be attached to skin (for use as wearable heart rate monitors, for example) or to provide skinlike touch sensitivity to prosthetic limbs. The problem is that silicon, the base material of the electronics industry, is brittle. So various research groups have investigated different ways to produce flexible electronic sensors.

Chemists, meanwhile, have become increasingly interested in “self-healing” polymers. This sounds like science fiction, but several research groups have produced plastics that can join their cut edges together when scientists heat them, shine a light on them, or even just hold the cut edges together. In 2008, researchers at ESPCI ParisTech showed that a specially designed rubber compound could recover its mechanical properties after being broken and healed repeatedly.

Chemical engineer Zhenan Bao of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and her team combined these two concepts and explored the potential of  self-healing polymers in epidermal electronics. However, all the self-healing polymers demonstrated to date had had very low bulk electrical conductivities and would have been little use in electrical sensors. Writing in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers detail how they increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms, allowing electrons to “jump” between the metal atoms. The polymer is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, affecting the difficulty the electrons have jumping from one to the other and changing the electrical resistance of the polymer.

To demonstrate that both the mechanical and the electrical properties of the material could be repeatedly restored to their original values after the material had been damaged and healed, the researchers cut the polymer completely through with a scalpel. After pressing the cut edges together gently for 15 seconds, the researchers found the sample went on to regain 98% of its original conductivity. And crucially, just like the ESPCI group’s rubber compound, the Stanford team’s polymer could be cut and healed over and over again.

“I think it’s kind of a breakthrough,” says John J. Boland, a chemist at the CRANN nanoscience institute at Trinity College Dublin. “It’s the first time that we’ve seen this combination of both mechanical and electrical self-healing.” He is, however, skeptical about one point: “With a scalpel you can very precisely cut the material without inducing significant local mechanical deformation around the wound.” Failure due to mechanical tension, however, could stretch the material, producing significant scarring and preventing complete self-healing, he suspects.

Now, Bao and her fellow researchers are working to make the polymer more like human skin. “I think it will be very interesting if we can make the self-healing skin elastic,” she says, “because, while it’s currently flexible, it’s still not stretchable. That’s definitely something we’re moving towards for our next-generation self-healing skin.”

Attribution: Real Clear Science

Talk About Something Old, Something New

For the mobile gadget enthusiast who nonetheless loves to have that period look at home, one U.S. designer has come up with the ultimate iPhone dock.

The iPhone Gramophone borrows the iconic analogue horn speaker from the earliest sound playback devices and uses it to amplify the sound from Apple gadgets’ speakers.

Simply place your iPad or iPhone in the solid walnut base and the metal horn will boost the volume of the gadget’s speakers by three or four times – with no need for electricity.

The retro device is the brainchild of Matt Richmond, a San Francisco-based furniture designer who built the original prototype from a Twenties horn speaker bought from an East Bay antiques shop.

‘I found this old Victrola horn that had a shape I really loved, and I thought, “How cool would it be if I could use this with my phone?”,’ he said.

‘I held up my phone to the opening on the speaker, and I could immediately tell it was something that would work.’

Taking a heavy piece of hardwood, Mr Richmond carved a hole for the horn, a slot for his phone, and a channel to connect the two.

The result was a elegant but functional iPhone speaker dock, with no battery or plug required.

The nascent product needed little in the way of marketing: everyone who saw Mr Richmond’s original device wanted one of their own and soon, after word reached the internet, he had more orders than he could hope to fill.

So Mr Richmond refined his designs and teamed up with luxury brand Restoration Hardware to bring his product to a wider audience.

Compatibility: The solid walnut base of the retail version of the Gramophone accepts all iPhone models - the new connector on the iPhone 5 poses no technical problems for its iron and brass hornWith a base hand-crafted from solid  walnut, the Gramophone accepts all iPhone models – the new connector on the  iPhone 5 poses no technical problems for its iron and brass horn
Inspired: The retro device is the brainchild of Matt Richmond, a San Francisco-based furniture designer who built the original prototype from a Twenties horn speaker bought from an East Bay antiques shopThe retro device is the brainchild of Matt  Richmond, a San Francisco-based furniture designer who built the original  prototype from a Twenties horn speaker bought from an East Bay antiques shop

With a base hand-crafted from solid walnut, the retail version of the iPhone Gramophone accepts all iPhone models – the new connector on the iPhone 5 poses no technical problems for its iron and brass horn.

Like Mr Richmond’s original prototype it needs no electricity or batteries, and so can be used wherever its owner bothers to heft it.

However, its old-school amplification technology means its not for head bangers.

‘It’s not overpowering, so it’s great in the background,’ Mr Richmond said. ‘And it’s directional – you can point the horn  where you want the sound. If you put it in a corner it’ll really fill a room.’

The iPhone Gramophone is available online from Restoration Hardware for $249.

Attribution: Damien Gayle

New Pacemaker

More than 3 million people worldwide have their hearts regulated by a pacemaker, with numbers rising due to an aging population.

Patients face regular operations to replace worn-out batteries, but now scientists believe a person’s own beating heart could generate enough electricity to power the life-saving  devices.

Researchers at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan have created a prototype that runs of piezoelectricity – the electrical charge generated from motion.

Future of pacemakers? The energy harvester developed at the University of Michigan can harness energy from vibrations and convert it to electricityFuture of pacemakers? The energy harvester developed at the University of Michigan can harness energy from vibrations and convert it to  electricity

Lead author Dr Amin Karami said it could be a promising technological solution for pacemakers, because they require only small amounts of power to operate.

At present the implanted devices, which send electrical impulses into the heart to help  maintain a normal heartbeat, have to be replaced every five to seven years when their batteries run out.

Dr Karami said: ‘Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years. You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is  implemented.’

The researchers stumbled across the medical breakthrough by accident. They were looking to design a light unmanned aircraft which could be powered by the vibrations of its own  wings.

They then realized that the properties of  certain power-generating piezoelectric materials could be applied to powering pacemakers.

Dr Karami: Said device could save patients from countless operations to replace batteries
Dr Karami said device could save patients from countless operations to replace batteries

For the latest study the team measured heartbeat-induced vibrations in the chest. They then used a ‘shaker’ to reproduce the vibrations in the laboratory and connected it to a prototype cardiac energy harvester they had developed.

Measurements of the prototype’s performance, based on a wide range of simulated heartbeats, showed the energy harvester generated more than 10 times the power required by modern pacemakers.

‘The device is about half the size of batteries now used in pacemakers and includes a self-powering back-up capacitor’, Dr Karami said. Researchers hope to integrate their technology into commercial pacemakers.

‘What we have proven is that under optimal conditions, this concept is working,’ Dr Karami said.

The researcher, who presented the study at a meeting of the American Heart Association, said the technology might one day also power other implantable cardiac devices, such as  defibrillators.

About 700,000 people worldwide, including 100,000 in the U.S who have heart rhythm disturbances get a pacemaker or defibrillator each year.

In the United States, pacemakers sell for about $5,000, which does not include the cost of surgery, a hospital stay and additional care.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Center for  Advancing  Translational Sciences.

Attribution: Claire Bates

New Cancer Detector

A groundbreaking device that can diagnose  cancer in just 20 minutes is being developed by British scientists.

The world’s first tumor profiler, as it is known, will allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to quickly identify all known types of cancer while the patient waits.

It is hoped the device, which will also gauge the correct drug to prescribe cancer sufferers, will be used within the next three years.

A British company has developed a device that can diagnose cancer in just 20 minutes - and decide the best drug for treatment

The device has been invented as part of a partnership between private firm QuantuMDx, Newcastle University and Sheffield University.

Scientists say the Q-Cancer device will have a dramatic impact on the rapid and accurate diagnosis of cancer.

Company officials said the device has the potential to prolong the lives of the 12 million newly diagnosed cancer sufferers around the world.

It will enable surgeons to immediately remove most, if not all of the tumor, and allow cancer specialists to prescribe the correct treatment regime according to the type of cancer developed.

The device makes use of advanced nanotechnology, analyzing submicroscopic amounts of tissue to work out the type of cancer, its genetic make-up and how far it has developed.

Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O'Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device
Professor John Burn (left), a renowned geneticist, and Jonathan O’Halloran, both of QuantuMDx, the company developing the device

Professor Sir John Burn, the Newcastle University academic who is also medical director of QuantuMDx, said: ‘We have a world leading position to deliver complex DNA tumor testing to the routine pathology lab or even to the operating theatre.

‘A low-cost device requiring no technical expertise will extract, amplify and analyze tumor DNA to make sure the patient gets the right treatment first time and without delay.’

Chief executive Elaine Warburton said:  ‘Currently tumor samples are sent away to a centralized sequencing laboratory, which can take several weeks to turnaround results, usually at a very high price which is not routinely affordable to many.

‘As far as we are aware, QuantuMDx’s current underlying technologies, which can break up a sample and extract the DNA in under five minutes represents a world first for complex molecular diagnostics.

Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior  science information officer, said: ‘Using the latest technology to analyze tumors quickly and cheaply could make a real difference to cancer patients and we will watch these developments with interest. It will need thorough testing to show it meets the standards required  for routine use.’

Attribution: Anna Hodgekiss

One Shot, One Kill

DARPA Invests in One-Shot Rifle System Capable Under Varying Conditions for Snipers

from:  at The Blaze

DARPA Awards $6 Contract for Development of One Shot Rifle System for Snipers

(Image: Wikimedia)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s research arm, has awarded a San Diego company a multi-million dollar contract to develop a rifle-mounted system that would allow snipers to better hit targets in one shot, as this single shot could be the only one they get.

In its Advanced Sighting System Project, DARPA states that its goal is to “enable snipers to accurately hit targets with the first round, under crosswind conditions, day or night, at the maximum effective range of the weapon.”

DARPA Awards $6 Contract for Development of One Shot Rifle System for Snipers

(Image: DARPA)

For its next-generation, One Shot XG Phase, DARPA is looking for a “significantly smaller ‘field-ready system’ that can be ‘clipped-on’ directly to the weapon, eliminating the need for a spotter/observer in future sniper operations.”

To accomplish this, DARPA recently awarded Cubic Defense Applications a $6 million contract.

“If military snipers could neutralize enemy targets with a single round, they could potentially save many lives,” Steve Sampson, vice president of Advanced Programs for Cubic Defense Applications, said in the company’s statement. “One Shot XG seeks to allow our snipers to immediately obtain downrange crosswind, direction and range to target to provide ballistic corrections.

Using a crosswind measurement algorithm and electro-optic and laser designs, Cubic and its partners expect to take a different approach to this sniper program.

“Cubic has developed both systems and components, from fiber lasers and quantum well modulators to smart cards. One Shot XG will directly benefit from at least a decade of development geared towards state-of the art field-proven MILES combat training products,” Tony Maryfield, program manager and principal investigator for the One Shot XG product development at Cubic, said in a statement.

Attribution: Businessweek