Saturday, June 30, 2012

Animation on electronic paper


 Plastic Logic revealed a big shift in strategy last month, pushing its own flexible plastic-based epaper displays for third-party products, and its new video-capable color panels are top of the agenda. SlashGear caught up with Plastic Logic at the company’s Cambridge, UK, R&D center today to see one of the very first demonstrations of the new screen, a flexible panel that can support color video playback at up to 12fps. Read on for the video demo.

 Video-capable e-paper has been something of a holy grail for ereader manufacturers, who so far have had to deal with the flickering page-refresh of existing E Ink screens. Plastic Logic’s display isn’t up to the sort of framerates you’d want for true video playback – that demands around 25-30fps – but it’s sufficient for animations and reasonable clips, or indeed Flash content on websites.

 Plastic Logic showed us two versions of the screen technology, one a color panel that uses a special filter layer over the top of the e-paper screen itself, and another smaller, monochrome version better suited to a pocket-sized mobile device. Both use the company’s unique plastic transistor technology, meaning they’re virtually indestructible: you can bend and twist them, drop them, or hit them with hammers, and they’ll still keep working. Right now, the color screen shows six smaller video preview panes, something Plastic Logic says is down to its own test driver equipment, rather than a limitation of the panel technology itself.

 Although streaming video on an ereader is one obvious possibility – and Plastic Logic confirmed it’s in talks with various ereader manufacturers, though declined to name specific names – another benefit of the faster refresh rate is more natural navigation on a tablet-style device. Flicking between pages using a touchscreen overlay layer, something else Plastic Logic can integrate, would thus allow you to see previews of each page’s content, much as paging through a document on an iPad does today.

Plastic Logic demos colour video animation on electronic paper

The development could lead to wider use of e-paper in low-power devices

By | Techworld

Plastic electronics company Plastic Logic has demonstrated colour video animation on a flexible plastic display, which it claims is the first example of an organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) driving electronic paper at video rate.

The demonstration proves that the potential uses of electronic paper extend far beyond monochrome text-based e-readers to more sophisticated tablet-style devices that can run colour video, while still keeping power consumption low.

Electronic paper only draws power when the display is updated, making it very energy-efficient. It also reflects light in the same way as ordinary paper, so there is no need for a backlight.

Paul Cain, Plastic Logic's senior manager for technology, said that playing video on electronic paper uses more power than static images, because it is updating all the time, but still uses less power than an equivalent display with an LCD backlight.

At the moment, the frame frequency of videos running on Plastic Logic's plastic electronic displays is fairly low (12 frames per second), because increasing the speed can reduce the contrast of images. However, it is sufficient for simple video clips, such as Flash content on websites, and Cain said the company was working to improve this.

“Ultimately it’s a trade off between speed and contrast,” said Cain. “Our partners who provide the media are very interested in working on this as well.”

Plastic Logic's plastic electronic displays are not only low-power but also thin, light, flexible and extremely robust. This opens up a range of possible uses, including wearable gadgets such as digital watches and hospital wristbands, rugged educational tools, electronic billboards and ID cards.

The ability to render colour images and the low power consumption of e-paper displays, which results in extended battery life, also makes them attractive for business use.

During an open day at its R&D centre in Cambridge, Plastic Logic also showed how an e-paper display could be used as a smartphone accessory, allowing the user to wirelessly transmit images and attachments from the phone to a portable lightweight e-paper screen for larger viewing in seconds.
The company said it was currently working with a number of smartphone companies to grow this concept.

Last month, Plastic Logic announced it was abandoning plans to manufacture its own e-readers, deciding instead to to license its flexible display technology and software to OEMs, system integrators, and device manufacturers.

“Some of our discussions are with e-reader companies where they are interested in rugged or flexible versions of their products,” Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee told Techworld.
“We along the way have worked out how to optimise the front-of-screen performance on EPDs using our backplane, and therefore we have a number of elemental software parts which we could also take to market as licensing solutions,” he added.

Earlier this month it was announced that Plastic Logic is sharing in a £20 million round of funding from the Technology Strategy Board for collaborative research and development related to electronics, photonics and electrical systems.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Patch removes skin cancers

by Peter Murray

What if treating skin cancer was just a matter of wearing a patch for a few hours? At this year’s Society of Nuclear Medicine’s Annual Meeting one group of researchers presented such a patch. The patch is infused with phosphorus-32, a radioactive isotope used to treat some types of cancer. In a study of 10 patients with basal cell carcinoma located on their faces, the patch was applied for three hours, then for another three hours four and seven days later. When biopsies were taken three months after treatment all ten patients, ranging from 32 to 74 years old, showed no traces of their tumors. When biopsies were performed again at six months, however, the basal cell carcinomas had returned in two of the patients.

The trial is admittedly very small, and larger studies still need to be performed before the patch can even be considered an effective and safe treatment. But if it is, the patch could provide a relatively painless alternative to surgery or radiotherapy commonly used to treat basal cell carcinomas, and avoid the scars or discomfort associated with those treatments.

There are two types of skin cancers: melanoma and nonmelanoma. Melanomas occur when melanocytes, the cells that produce the skin pigment melanin, become cancerous. While only making up about 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, they cause the majority of skin cancer deaths. Of the 76,250 new melanoma cases in 2012 so far, 9,180, or about 12 percent, have died.

Nonmelanoma cancers are more common than melanomas, and in fact are the most common type of cancer in the United States. And the most common type of nonmelanoma is basal cell carcinoma, which accounts for about three-quarters of all nonmelamonas. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 2,152,500 people were treated for nonmelanoma skin cancers in 2006. By comparison, the number of cases for all other types of cancer was an estimated 1.4 million. That means for every five people being treated for skin cancer, three of them are for nonmelanoma.
But while nonmelanoma cancers are typically not lethal – they account for less than 0.1 percent of cancer related deaths – the superficial tumors often cause disfiguration, which can be especially traumatic if located on the face.

“The study is important for the field of nuclear medicine as it opens a new dimension in the field of therapeutic nuclear medicine and dermatology, especially for the treatment of skin malignancies,” Priyanka Gupta, a student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and lead author of the study said in a press release. “For patients, it is beneficial because it is a simple, inexpensive and convenient procedure that does not require them to be admitted to the hospital. This may become the standard procedure for treating basal cell carcinoma or serve as an alternative when surgery and radiotherapy are not possible.”

Advances in medicine aren’t always measured in terms of life-saving potential, but added convenience and accessibility as well. While the phosphorous-32 skin patch probably won’t do much to decrease skin cancer-related mortalities, it could do much to dethrone nonmelanomas as the most numerous type of cancer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fueled by immigration, Asians are fastest-growing U.S. group

By Rebecca Trounson / Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Asian Americans are now the nation’s fastest-growing racial group, overtaking Latinos in recent years as the largest stream of new immigrants arriving annually in the United States.
In an economy that increasingly depends on highly skilled workers, Asian Americans are also the country’s best educated and highest-income racial or ethnic group, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, U.S. Asians, who trace their roots to dozens of countries in the Far East, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, are arguably the most highly educated immigrant group in U.S. history, the study shows. And although there are significant differences among them by country of origin, on the whole they have found remarkable success in their new land.

"These aren’t the poor, tired, huddled masses that Emma Lazarus described in that inscription on the Statue of Liberty," said Paul Taylor, the research center’s executive vice president.
In fact, the Asian newcomers’ achievements are likely to change the way many Americans think about immigrants, typically as strivers who work hard in the hope that their children and grandchildren will have easier lives and find greater success in this country, Taylor said.

For U.S. Asians, especially those who arrived in recent years, the first generation itself is doing well, outpacing Americans as a whole when it comes to education, household income and family wealth, according to the report released Tuesday.

Asian Americans also tend to be more satisfied than most Americans with their own lives, the survey found, and they hold more traditional views than the general public on the value of marriage, parenthood and hard work.

As a whole, Asian Americans are more likely than the general public to prefer a big government that provides more services. They also lean Democratic and a majority approves of President Barack Obama’s job performance. Obama’s approval rating among the general public is hovering around 44 percent.

Although the first large wave of Asian immigrants came to the U.S. in the early 19th century, the population grew slowly for more than a century, held down by severe restrictions and official prohibitions, some explicitly racist. Most Asian Americans now living in the U.S. arrived after 1965 legislation that allowed immigration from a wider range of countries.

Asian Americans now make up nearly 6 percent, or 18.2 million, of the U.S. population, the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show. Nearly three-quarters were born abroad, and about 8 million came to this country in the last 30 years.

Geographically, nearly half of all U.S. Asians live in the Western states. California, the traditional gateway for Asian immigrants, has by far the largest number, almost 6 million. Of the major Asian subgroups, in fact, only those from India are relatively evenly distributed throughout the country, with the largest share, 31 percent, living in the Northeast.

Asian immigration has grown rapidly in recent years, with nearly 3 million arriving since 2000. At the same time, Latino immigration, especially from Mexico, has slowed sharply, mainly because of the weakened U.S. economy and tougher border enforcement.

As a result, the number of newly arrived Asian immigrants has outpaced Latinos each year since 2009, according to Pew’s analysis of census data. In 2010, for instance, 36 percent of new U.S. immigrants were Asian, compared with 31 percent who were Latino.

The most recent immigrants have arrived even as the economy has boomed in many Asian countries and the standard of living has risen. Taylor said the reason many Asians move to the U.S. include shifts in U.S. immigration policies, changes in their home countries and U.S. labor needs for science, engineering and math graduates.

The Pew study combines recent census and economic data with an extensive, nationally representative survey of 3,500 Asian Americans. The interviews, conducted from January to March, were done in English and seven Asian languages.

Chinese Americans are the largest Asian immigrant group, with more than 4 million who identified as Chinese, followed by Filipinos, Indians, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese.

U.S. Asians as a whole are more satisfied than most Americans with their lives overall (82 percent compared to 75 percent), with their personal finances (51 percent compared to 35 percent) and with the general direction of the country (43 percent compared to 21 percent).

More than half of adult Asian Americans say that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life; 34 percent of all American adults agree. Asian Americans are more likely than American adults in general to be married (59 percent compared to 51 percent) and their newborns are less likely than U.S. infants as a whole to have an unmarried mother (16 percent compared to 41 percent).

Experts praised the study, saying that it was likely to change views of U.S. Asians for scholars and the public alike.

"This really opens up a conversation and sheds light on a community that is extremely heterogenous and very complex," said Tritia Toyota, a former Los Angeles television reporter who is now an adjunct professor of anthropology and Asian studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, an associate professor of political science at UC Riverside, also noted that in terms of their education, recent Asian immigrants are an elite group. More than two-thirds of recent adult immigrants are either college students or college graduates, the study showed. So, he said, experts should be careful when comparing their characteristics with other Americans.

"This is a select group even in their own countries," he said.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Xbox 720 document leak reveals $299 console with Kinect 2 for 2013, Kinect Glasses project

By Tom Warren

While it's clear Microsoft isn't planning to introduce its next-generation Xbox console this year, all signs indicate that a 2013 launch is in the cards. A newly leaked 56-page document sheds some light on the company's plans, for what it calls the "Xbox 720." The presentation appears to be from August 2010, and references future improvements like SmartGlass, a Metro dashboard, and Xbox TV apps. Alongside its incremental Xbox 360 updates, Microsoft has a clear vision for its next-generation Xbox 720 console — we've dug into its plans to bring you the best bits.

Xbox 720

Microsoft outlines a competitive differentiation for its next-generation Xbox, including support for Blu-ray, native 3D output and glasses, concurrent apps, and additional sensor and peripheral support. Alongside a promised 6x performance increase, there's also mention of true 1080p output with full 3D support and an "always on" state for the console. A slide on core hardware indicates that the next Xbox will be designed to be scalable in the number of CPU cores and their frequencies. Microsoft appears to have been debating whether to use six or eight ARM or x86 cores clocked at 2GHz each with 4GB of DDR4 memory alongside three PPC cores clocked at 3.2GHz each for backwards compatibility with existing Xbox 360 titles.

Microsoft positions its Xbox 720 as the only box needed for living room entertainment in the document, providing background recording functionality for TV content and a unified Windows 8 foundation to make it easier for application developers to build apps that target Xbox, PC, and Windows Phone. Illustrations of the Xbox 720 throughout the presentation make it comparable in looks to an old set-top box, but appear to be just a concept design used in 2010. Microsoft rounds off the document with a promised price point of $299 with its Kinect 2 hardware and a prediction of a 10-year lifecycle with more than 100 million units sold.

Kinect 2

The next iteration of Microsoft's Kinect accessory appears to be an incremental improvement over the current hardware. Microsoft references higher accuracy, stereo imaging, improved voice recognition, support for four-player tracking, an improved RGB camera, and dedicated hardware processing. One particular aspect of the leaked slides is a focus on four-player gaming and Kinect props. "In Kinect v2 we can continue to go beyond controllers and offer peripherals and accessories that heighten game immersion," reads a note section of one of the slides. The Kinect accessories idea appears to be one that is not designed to replace controllers, but will allow devices to interact with the sensor.

Microsoft's plans for four-player Kinect gaming reference carnival, darts, and basketball games as a broad way to use the new tracking.

Kinect Glasses (project Fortaleza)

Microsoft lays out a roadmap for its "Fortaleza" Kinect Glasses — which appears to be a research project the company is working on. There's little mention of the hardware involved, but the glasses appear to be Wi-Fi- or 4G-enabled and incorporate augmented reality in a way that's similar to Google's Project Glass augmented reality glasses. Described as a "breakthrough heads up and hands-free device," Kinect Glasses is marked as a 2014 product that won't launch alongside the Xbox 720 console. Microsoft doesn't provide any specifics about how the glasses will work on the Xbox, but they do appear to be designed to be mobile for use away from the console.

Update: It looks like the leaked document has now been removed. Clicking through to Scribd (where it had been hosted this morning) only shows a note that it was removed "at the request of Covington & Burling LLP," an international law firm that lists Microsoft as one of its clients.
Nukezilla reported on some of the information contained in the leaked document last month.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Man Calls 911 Over Sandwich Order

 "They are playing games with me..."

A Connecticut man knows how he likes his sandwich, and so does the 911 dispatcher who took his call on Wednesday afternoon complaining about how it was made.
“I specifically asked for little turkey, and little ham, a lot of cheese and a lot of mayonnaise and they are giving me a hard time. I wonder if you can stop by and just  …” he said when he called 911 from Greatful Deli in East Hartford on Wednesday afternoon.
You can listen to the full call here.
But, here are the highlights:
The dispatcher remains calm and manages to calm Rother McLennon down, all why trying to make him realize that a sandwich, no matter how much it differs from what he asked for, is no reason to call 911.

“You’re calling 911 because you don’t like way that they’re making your sandwich?” the dispatcher asks.

“Exactly,” he said.

With that settled, the dispatcher offers some advice:
“So, then, don’t buy it,”  she said.

But McLennon, who seems to be a regular at the deli, tells her he’s not just calling about this sandwich. He also fears that they won’t make his sandwich to his specific request in the future.
“I mean, I just want to solve this the right way,” he said. “Her sister made it, but she left. They are playing games with me, so I was just wondering if you could come by,” he said. “I just want it resolved and I want to be able to come back here and get the regular sandwich that I ask for.”

The call ends with more advice to the caller
“In the future, just don‘t buy the sandwich,” 911 tells him.

“I’ll look at it before I buy it,” he said.

Tila Azinheira, who owns the deli, said the man placed a phone order for 14 sandwiches and they made them the way he asked. Then, he did not want to pay for them.

Azinheira said the deli told the man they could not take the sandwiches back because they were special orders, then he used the deli's phone to call 911.

McLennon called the deli on Thursday to apologize and tell them that he would be coming back in the future for more sandwiches, the deli owner said.  

No information was immediately available on the man’s age or his hometown. Police have not filed charges.

9-Year-Old Who Changed School Lunches Silenced, then Ban lifted By Politicians

A council has lifted its controversial ban on a nine-year-old girl taking photographs of her school meals.

Martha Payne, from Argyll, got more than two million hits on her NeverSeconds blog in just a few weeks.

Argyll and Bute Council said press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.
But council leader Roddy McCuish later told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he had instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

He said: "It is a good thing to do, to change your mind, and I have certainly done that."
The council was widely criticised for the move, which had sparked a furious reaction on social media.
Local MSP Mike Russell, Scotland's education secretary, wrote to the council's chief executive in his capacity as local MSP, calling for the "daft" ban to be overturned.

Martha became an internet hit after she began publishing photographs of her Lochgilphead Primary School lunches on 30 April.

She gave each meal a 'food-o-meter' and health rating, and counted the number of mouthfuls it took her to eat it.

But in a post published on Thursday evening, Martha said her headteacher told her not to take any more photographs for the blog.

Under the headline "Goodbye", the post stated: "This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.

"I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I'll miss seeing the dinners you send me too."
The council's decision to impose the ban came after the Daily Record newspaper published a photograph of Martha alongside chef Nick Nairn under the headline "Time to fire the dinner ladies.."
Charity blog
Martha had been using the blog - which she started with the help of her father Dave - to raise money for the Mary's Meals charity.

An explanatory note posted on the blog by her father read: "Martha's school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I'd like to thank them all.
The decision, according to her father, was not taken by the school, which has been very supportive, but by the Argyll and Bute council.

It's not quite clear why - perhaps there is a ban on taking photos inside schools, or maybe there is some concern about the damage to the reputation of the school meals service.

I prefer to think there is another explanation - and that this is all a cunning plan by the councillors to draw attention to their beautiful region with its dramatic coastline, and fine cuisine.

It seems to be working - the case of the banned blog is rapidly becoming a cause celebre, with emails, tweets, and presumably phone calls arriving at council headquarters from around the world.
"I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha's photography.

"It is a shame that a blog that today went through two million hits, which has inspired debates at home and abroad and raised nearly £2,000 for charity is forced to end."

Mr Payne later told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme his daughter was not happy about the council's decision.

He added: "I can see that the photographs at the start didn't look the most appetising, but Martha marked the last school meal 10 out of 10.

"I understand that it's brought pressure from around the world and media interest, but that is really out of our control.

"But we are very supportive of the school - the fact that she has been encouraged to blog and she got permission to do this is testament to them.

"Everyone in the kitchens has been wonderful to Martha and she enjoys going into lunch every day."
In a statement released on its website, Argyll and Bute Council claimed media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.

It added: "The council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the 'never seconds' blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly-held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils.

"However this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing.

If you had met with the staff at the school yesterday, the level of distress that was there - It was palpable. It was very significant for them. People were in tears”

Cleland Sneddon Argyll and Bute Council
"In particular, the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.

"There have been discussions between senior council staff and Martha's father however, despite an acknowledgement that the media coverage has produced these unwarranted attacks, he intimated that he would continue with the blog.

"The council has had no complaints for the last two years about the quality of school meals other than one from the Payne family received on 6 June and there have been no changes to the service on offer since the introduction of the blog."

Cleland Sneddon, the executive director of community services at Argyll and Bute Council, told the BBC that school catering staff had been left "in tears" by press coverage.
He added: "Newspapers have a significant impact on public opinion. They have a significant impact on this particular staff group.

"If you had met with the staff at the school yesterday, the level of distress that was there - it was palpable. It was very significant for them. People were in tears. This was a culmination of a period of seven weeks of this level of coverage and we had to take some action to protect our staff."
However, Mr McCuish later told the BBC that he had instructed senior officials to lift the ban immediately.

Martha's blog was featured by media across the globe, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tweeting: "Shocking but inspirational blog. Keep going, big love from Jamie x."
Photo of Martha's school lunch Martha gave this cheeseburger a health rating of just 2/10
After hearing about the ban, Oliver tweeted on Friday morning: "Stay strong Martha" before urging his 2.3 million followers to retweet the message to show their support for the schoolgirl.
Martha had been raising money through a Justgiving page for the Mary's Meals charity, which helps feed some of the poorest children in the world.
Publicity caused by the ban helped her smash through her £7,000 target - with total pledges reaching more than £20,000 on Friday.

The total stood at only about £2,000 on Thursday evening.
A Mary's Meals spokesman said: "Martha's support for Mary's Meals has been amazing and we are extremely grateful for everything that she has done to help us reach some of the hungriest children in the world.

"We are overwhelmed by the huge response to her efforts today which has led to so many more people donating to her online donation page.

"Thanks to this fantastic support, Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary's Meals as part of our Sponsor A School initiative and has broken the record for hitting a Sponsor A School online fundraising target in the quickest amount of time".
Among the pictures Martha published on her blog was one featuring her £2 lunch of a pizza slice, a croquette, sweetcorn and a cupcake.

Martha wrote: "I'm a growing kid and I need to concentrate all afternoon and I can't do it on one croquette. Do any of you think you could?"

For the past two months, one of my favorite reads has been Never Seconds, a blog started by 9-year-old Martha Payne of western Scotland to document the unappealing, non-nutritious lunches she was being served in her public primary school. Payne, whose mother is a doctor and father has a small farming property, started blogging in early May and went viral in days. She had a million viewers within a few weeks and 2 million this morning; was written up in Time, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and a number of food blogs; and got support from TV cheflebrity Jamie Oliver, whose series “Jamie’s School Dinners” kicked off school-food reform in England.
Well, goodbye to all that.

This afternoon, Martha (who goes by “Veg” on the blog) posted that she will have to shut down her blog, because she has been forbidden to take a camera into school. She said:
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too.
A little later, her father Dave (who helped her set up the blog but has been hands-off on the content), added to her post:
Veg’s Dad, Dave, here. I felt it’s important to add a few bits of info to the blog tonight. Martha’s school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all. I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.
Can we all agree how monumentally stupid this is?

Martha Payne, via

Here we have a kid who got excited enough about feeding children well that she not only changed the food in her own district — within two weeks, officials were allowing children in her school to have “unlimited salads, fruit and bread,” which apparently was the policy all along only someone forgot to say so — but also got children around the world excited about their lunches too. Over the blog’s seven weeks, she received images of school lunches from Germany, Japan, Finland, Illinois, Spain, Washington State, a school in Atlanta that keeps kosher, and on.

And no, to stave off the inevitable snark, she’s not a bratty entitled kid. Here’s how we know: By her 19th post, she decided she’d gotten enough attention that she wanted to redirect it somewhere useful, and she asked her followers to donate to a charity called Mary’s Meals that funds school food in Africa. She started off the donations by sending £50 that she got from a magazine that reprinted some of her photos. By today, according to her father’s note, she had raised £2,000.

We anguish about getting kids to be enthusiastic about healthy, sustainable food — to not prefer the bad stuff, not waste the good stuff, and not be entitled little monsters who whine about when their next chicken nugget is arriving. And then a child emerges who, out of her own creativity and curiosity, does all of that, and gets other children around the world excited about doing it too. And then she gets told she is offending the powers that be, and is slapped down.

Those would be the powers who told a 9-year-old that she was making “bad choices” out of the food being served at her school, without ever taking responsibility for what they had allowed to be offered. (Which is not necessarily the norm for school lunches in Scotland, as this piece from the Daily Record makes clear.)


If you’d like to tell the Argyll and Bute Council, who made the decision, exactly how idiotic they’ve been, their webpage is here. (And they are @argyllandbute on Twitter.)
If you’d like to send support to Martha, you can leave a comment on her final post. (Her email is on the same page.)

And if you’d like to honor her ingenuity by supporting the school-food charity she picked, the donation page is here.

(While I was writing this post, the news of the no-photography rule was posted by the Argyll News and the media site STV-Glasgow. The Argyll and Bute Council has not responded.)
Thanks @MJRobbins for flagging NeverSeconds’ goodbye post on Twitter.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Antibody cocktail cures monkeys of Ebola

Regime extends treatment window from minutes to hours. 
by Deborah-Fay Ndhlovu

Monkeys infected with Ebola have been cured by a cocktail of three antibodies first administered 24 hours or more after exposure. The result raises hopes that a future treatment could improve the chances of humans surviving the disease caused by the deadly virus, which kills up to 90% of infected people and could potentially be used as a biological weapon. Most treatment regimes tested to date only improve chances of survival if administered within one hour of infection.
Patient with Ebola being wheeled out on stretcher
There are no approved treatments for people infected with Ebola.
Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

Researchers based at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada, administered an antibody cocktail named ZMAb to cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) infected with the Zaire virus — the deadliest strain of Ebola, prevalent in African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. All four of the monkeys that began the three-dose treatment regime within 24 hours of being infected survived. Two of four monkeys given the cocktail from 48 hours of infection also lived. A monkey that was not treated died within five days of infection.
“The antibodies slowed replication until the animals’ own immune systems kicked in and completely cleared the virus,” says Gary Kobinger, a medical microbiologist at the University of Manitoba who led the study. The results are published today in Science Translational Medicine1.
The antibodies, isolated from mice vaccinated with fragments of the virus, target and neutralize a glycoprotein on the surface of the virus that allows it to enter and infect cells. Although the strategy of using antibodies is not new, Kobinger says that, unlike many previous treatments, his group's cocktail contains multiple antibodies that each target different locations of the glycoprotein, making it harder for the virus to resist attack. Many other regimes that have been tested in animals and discarded were pre-exposure vaccines that focus on preventing infection, rather than treatments that can be administered hours after the infection has taken hold.

Defyrus, a biotechnology firm based in Toronto, Canada, is developing the antibodies as part of an Ebola treatment called Defilovir, in which they work in tandem with DEF201, an antiviral gene therapy. The company is planning to test the safety of the regime in humans in a phase I clinical trial set to begin before the end of 2014, says Jeffrey Turner, the company's chief executive.
“The therapy could be far more effective than others currently available,” says Thomas Bowden, a structural biologist at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, UK. Although ZMAb targets only one strain of the Ebola virus, the approach might be broadened to produce similar cocktails that treat infection with related strains, he says.

“This is certainly a viable strategy and they have only a few steps before they can go through to humans,” says Bowden.

Dennis Burton, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, says that the results are “very encouraging” for cases where the antibodies can be given within one day or so of exposure to Ebola. But the work is unlikely to help in cases where the infection is established and symptoms have appeared. “I would remain rather pessimistic given the explosive course of Ebola virus disease,” he says.

MIT Creates Glucose Fuel Cell To Power Implanted Brain-Computer Interfaces

New energy source for future medical implants: sugar

Implantable fuel cell built at MIT could power neural prosthetics that help patients regain control of limbs.
Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers human cells: glucose. This glucose fuel cell could be used to drive highly efficient brain implants of the future, which could help paralyzed patients move their arms and legs again.

The fuel cell, described in the June 12 edition of the journal PLoS ONE, strips electrons from glucose molecules to create a small electric current. The researchers, led by Rahul Sarpeshkar, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, fabricated the fuel cell on a silicon chip, allowing it to be integrated with other circuits that would be needed for a brain implant.

The idea of a glucose fuel cell is not new: In the 1970s, scientists showed they could power a pacemaker with a glucose fuel cell, but the idea was abandoned in favor of lithium-ion batteries, which could provide significantly more power per unit area than glucose fuel cells. These glucose fuel cells also utilized enzymes that proved to be impractical for long-term implantation in the body, since they eventually ceased to function efficiently.

The new twist to the MIT fuel cell described in PLoS ONE is that it is fabricated from silicon, using the same technology used to make semiconductor electronic chips. The fuel cell has no biological components: It consists of a platinum catalyst that strips electrons from glucose, mimicking the activity of cellular enzymes that break down glucose to generate ATP, the cell’s energy currency. (Platinum has a proven record of long-term biocompatibility within the body.) So far, the fuel cell can generate up to hundreds of microwatts — enough to power an ultra-low-power and clinically useful neural implant.

“It will be a few more years into the future before you see people with spinal-cord injuries receive such implantable systems in the context of standard medical care, but those are the sorts of devices you could envision powering from a glucose-based fuel cell,” says Benjamin Rapoport, a former graduate student in the Sarpeshkar lab and the first author on the new MIT study.

Rapoport calculated that in theory, the glucose fuel cell could get all the sugar it needs from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes the brain and protects it from banging into the skull. There are very few cells in the CSF, so it’s highly unlikely that an implant located there would provoke an immune response. There is also significant glucose in the CSF, which does not generally get used by the body. Since only a small fraction of the available power is utilized by the glucose fuel cell, the impact on the brain’s function would likely be small.

Karim Oweiss, an associate professor of electrical engineering, computer science and neuroscience at Michigan State University, says the work is a good step toward developing implantable medical devices that don’t require external power sources.

“It’s a proof of concept that they can generate enough power to meet the requirements,” says Oweiss, adding that the next step will be to demonstrate that it can work in a living animal.

A team of researchers at Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and other institutions recently demonstrated that paralyzed patients could use a brain-machine interface to move a robotic arm; those implants have to be plugged into a wall outlet.

Mimicking biology with microelectronics

Sarpeshkar’s group is a leader in the field of ultra-low-power electronics, having pioneered such designs for cochlear implants and brain implants. “The glucose fuel cell, when combined with such ultra-low-power electronics, can enable brain implants or other implants to be completely self-powered,” says Sarpeshkar, author of the book “Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics.” This book discusses how the combination of ultra-low-power and energy-harvesting design can enable self-powered devices for medical, bio-inspired and portable applications.

Sarpeshkar’s group has worked on all aspects of implantable brain-machine interfaces and neural prosthetics, including recording from nerves, stimulating nerves, decoding nerve signals and communicating wirelessly with implants. One such neural prosthetic is designed to record electrical activity from hundreds of neurons in the brain’s motor cortex, which is responsible for controlling movement. That data is amplified and converted into a digital signal so that computers — or in the Sarpeshkar team’s work, brain-implanted microchips — can analyze it and determine which patterns of brain activity produce movement.

The fabrication of the glucose fuel cell was done in collaboration with Jakub Kedzierski at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “This collaboration with Lincoln Lab helped make a long-term goal of mine — to create glucose-powered bioelectronics — a reality,” Sarpeshkar says. Although he has just begun working on bringing ultra-low-power and medical technology to market, he cautions that glucose-powered implantable medical devices are still many years away.


MIT creates glucose fuel cell to power implanted brain-computer interfaces 

Neuroengineers at MIT have created a implantable fuel cell that generates electricity from the glucose present in the cerebrospinal fluid that flows around your brain and spinal cord. In theory, this fuel cell could eventually drive low-power sensors and computers that decode your brain activity to interface with prosthetic limbs.

The glucose-powered fuel cell is crafted out of silicon and platinum, using standard semiconductor fabrication processes. The platinum acts as a catalyst, stripping electrons from glucose molecules, similar to how aerobic animal cells (such as our own) strip electrons from glucose with enzymes and oxygen. The glucose fuel cell products hundreds of microwatts (i.e. tenths of a milliwatt), which is a surprisingly large amount — it’s comparable to the solar cell on a calculator, for example. This should be more than enough power to drive complex computers — or perhaps more interestingly, trigger clusters of neurons in the brain. In theory, this glucose fuel cell will actually deprive your brain of some power, though in practice you probably won’t notice (or you might find yourself growing hungry sooner…)
The glucose fuel cell, sitting in the cerebrospinal fluid of your brainSize-wise, the MIT engineers have created glucose-powered fuel cells that are as large as 64x64mm (2.5in), or as small as just a few millimeters. In the picture above, the large yellow square is a single 64x64mm fuel cell, and it’s surrounded by a bunch of smaller versions. Presumably the largest fuel cell produces the most electricity — but at that size, I don’t think it would fit inside a human brain at least. You could quite easily implant a few dozen of the smallest fuel cells in your spinal cord, however.

This discovery is exciting for two main reasons: a) The fuel cell is completely synthetic, and b) they can be produced using low-tech, decades-old chip fabrication processes. Glucose fuel cells have been created before, primarily to power pacemakers, but they used biological enzymes (like your own cells) — and enzymes need to be replenished. Platinum, however, will happily strip electrons from glucose indefinitely. Platinum also has the added bonus of being very biocompatible — i.e. your immune system doesn’t try to reject it. Cerebrospinal fluid is almost entirely devoid of cells, too — it’s basically just a glucose-rich fluid that insulates your brain and spine. Because there are no cells, this means there are no white blood cells that can reject the fuel cell.

Ultimately, this fuel cell will hopefully be used to power implanted, ultra-low-power devices that sit inside your skull or spinal cord. In actual fact, MIT’s research into this fuel cell was led by Rahul Sarpeshkar, who happens to be one of the leaders of hybrid digital-biological devices. So far, implanted devices have mostly been tethered to a wall socket — but now, Sarpeshkar’s group can begin work on implants that are completely self-powered.

Now read about a brain-computer interface that bypasses paralyzed limbs, or decoding the brain to integrate a bionic eye
Read more at MIT or download the paper at PLoS ONE (non-paywalled!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Trained Rats Map Minefields With GPS

Rats go high tech to root out land mines

Associate Professor of Psychology Kevin Myers holds a rat in his lab at Bucknell.Associate Professor of Psychology Kevin Myers holds a rat in his lab at Bucknell.

By Julia Ferrante
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Since the invention of land mines some seven centuries ago, activists, researchers and government officials have tried to root out the indiscriminate and deadly weapons with everything from metal detectors and robots to dogs, bees and rats.

The methods have, however, proved dangerous, labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Two Bucknell University professors are working with a U.S. Department of Defense contractor to develop faster and more sophisticated technology and methods to detect land mines. The team has devised a system to train rats to recognize and respond to the explosives, using materials that can be delivered anywhere with instructions that anyone can use.

"This is something that could drop out of the sky and give you everything you need to train rodents to sniff out land mines, even if the people who are using it can't read or write," said Kevin Myers, an associate professor of psychology who studies learning, memory and motivation as it relates to appetite and food preferences in rats.

Myers and Joe Tranquillo, associate professor of biomedical and electrical engineering, are working with Coherent Technical Services Inc. (CTSI). The U.S. Army Research Office has awarded the company and Bucknell $100,000 for Phase I of the project. Such contracts are designated for small businesses and academic research partnerships that address real problems with marketable technology.

Land mines are especially dangerous because they are often buried then lay concealed for years. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines describes land mines as indiscriminate weapons that kill and injure thousands of people each year, instilling fear and serving as a barrier to development.

'Innovative yet low-tech'
The project is an "innovative yet low-tech solution" to address a problem in developing areas of the world, Myers said. The big advantage to training rats rather than larger animals is that the rats are small and light and do not trip the land mines, which can remain dangerous for years after they are installed.

"Some people think we are sending off rats to blow up mines, and that's absolutely not the case," Myers said.

In his lab at Bucknell, Myers is training rats to respond to the scent of land mines by doing a simple task: turning in circles.

"The process is similar to how bomb-sniffing dogs are trained," he said. "There is a distinctive odor from the explosive in land mines, which diffuses in the soil. We have to train rats to recognize that. Rats' olfactory sensitivity is orders of magnitude higher than that of humans. We need to train the rats to regard that odor as significant by associating it with a food reward."

Cross-disciplinary collaboration
The project is a combination of psychology, animal behavior and engineering, Myers said.
"I think about how animal perception, memory and behavior fit into the problem, but the task is to design apparatus and a procedure to do this more efficiently," he said. "How do you design a Skinner box so it can be used by someone who doesn't speak English, or doesn't have academic training in behavioral psychology? How do you make it rugged so you can drop it out of a plane?"

To answer those questions, Myers asked Tranquillo to collaborate with him on the project. Tranquillo is working with student Matt Young Jr. in the University's new Richard J. Mooney Innovative Design Laboratory to develop the electrical, mechanical and thermal technology and software for the project. Graphic illustrations will provide users with step-by-step instructions on how to train and work with the rats in areas where land mines are present.

"It's a complicated problem," Tranquillo said. "The project involved devising a way to monitor and track how the rat is performing as well as developing an icon-based laptop to guide people who have little experience with technology or animal training," Tranquillo said.

The training protocol
The rats will be outfitted with miniature backpacks and wireless transmitters that track their positions and movements. During the first part of their training, the rats learn to associate a mild buzz in the backpack - much like the "vibrate" setting in a cell phone - with getting a food reward.  Eventually, the buzz itself acts as a reward that may be triggered when the rats complete certain tasks.

In the next phase of training, the rats are prompted to sniff various odors and are rewarded for doing something specific in response, such as turning to the left rather than the right, when the land mine odor is present. Eventually, the rats learn to behave more distinctively when they detect that odor.
"Because the rat associates the buzzer with food, you can use it to reward the rat for initiating some kind of action," Myers said. "We chose to teach them to turn in circles because that is not something they would do spontaneously. And it's easy to detect when they're doing it with a couple of motion sensors in the backpack."

The wireless transmitter also enables the trainers to communicate with the rats in the field, Tranquillo said. "We'll be able to constantly track the rat's location as it sniffs around a field and take note where the rat starts circling to tell us it smells a mine."
If the project is successful, the contract could be extended for two years with an award of up to $750,000. In Phase II, the Army would provide support for recruiting private investors for the final phase, product development.

Contact: Division of Communications

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Graduate Degree For $100

Backed by Charles River Ventures:

company profile:

watch their careers video here:

This story appears in the June 25, 2012 issue of Forbes Magazine.

Sebastian Thrun. Photo: Eric Millette for Forbes.

Ask Sebastian Thrun what makes him tick, and the inventor and Google Fellow ­offers up three favorite themes: big open problems, a desire to help people and “disrespect for authority.” Thrun, 45, has been aiming high—and annoying the old guard—for nearly two decades. As a college student in Germany he dashed off to conferences to present major papers on machine learning without getting his professor’s permission. Thrun made the cover of FORBES in 2006 with his talk of creating self-driving cars that could navigate traffic and follow directions without human guidance. As the founding head of Google’s advanced-research X Lab, Thrun helped turn those robocars into reality. After 200,000 miles of road tests his vehicles are safe enough for Nevada to approve them on public roads. California may follow suit.

Thrun has found a fresh challenge that excites him even more: fixing higher education. Conventional ­university teaching is way too costly, inefficient and ­ineffective to survive for long, he contends. He wants to ­foment a teaching revolution in which the world’s best instructors conduct highly interactive online classes that let them reach 100,000 students simultaneously and globally.

Financiers at Charles River Ventures have already pumped $5 million into Thrun’s online-ed startup, Udacity. “I like to back people who have disruptive ­personalities,” explains CRV partner George Zachary. “They create disruptive solutions.”
Udacity’s earliest course offerings have been free, and although Thrun eventually plans to charge something, he wants his tuition schedule to be shockingly low. Getting a master’s degree might cost just $100. After teaching his own artificial intelligence class at Stanford last year—and attracting 160,000 online signups—Thrun believes online formats can be far more effective than traditional classroom lectures. “So many people can be helped right now,” Thrun declares. “I see this as a mission.”

There’s a startup boom in online higher education, but nearly all of the players hope to advance by working within the system. EdX is a joint venture of Harvard and MIT. Coursera has backing from Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. 2Tor, which has raised $90 million in venture capital, runs online graduate programs in business and nursing for the likes of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgetown. Such startups see benefits in teaming up with universities to ­decide what should be taught online, how to teach it and how to handle delicate issues such as grading, course credits, diplomas and anticheating safeguards.

Such careful collegiality is not the Thrun way. “It’s pretty obvious that degrees will go away,” Thrun says. “The idea of a degree is that you spend a fixed time right after high school to educate yourself for the rest of your career. But ­careers change so much over a lifetime now that this model isn’t valid anymore.”

So Udacity is charting its own path as a career academy for brainy people of all ages. Udacity’s offices are just a few hundred yards from Stanford, but they’re a world away from the school’s idyllic environs. Its open, barnlike work area has stained beige carpets, cheap desks and a Go board perched on a flimsy coffee table. Most of its 25 employees are video, graphics or software whizzes determined to make each second of online instruction as eye-catching and compelling as possible.

It currently offers 11 courses, for free, in subjects such as computer programming, statistics and mathematics, plus a robocar programmer’s workshop with Thrun himself. It rustles up some instructors from the likes of Rutgers and the state universities of Virginia and Utah. Other teachers are experts from industry. Faculty pay runs between $5,000 and $10,000 per course. Many of Udacity’s students are midcareer professionals who want to sharpen specific skills. Udacity later this year is expanding into the humanities. Thrun says the service will always have “a free path,” but the idea is eventually to charge for certificates or enhanced features such as chat.

It was only last year that Thrun seemed like a fast-track scholar thriving within academia. In eight years he rose from a Ph.D. student at the University of Bonn to a tenured post in Stanford’s computer science department (with a stint in between at Carnegie Mellon). “I was a popular professor,” Thrun says. “My teaching ratings were usually good. I could take complicated subjects and explain them in an entertaining way.”

Even so, professor Thrun privately knew something was wrong. In many of his classes students fared much worse on the midterm exams than he expected. He says he had fallen into the “lecturing trap,” in which the instructor looks brilliant and a handful of top-performing students create the appearance of a lively class—but most students aren’t keeping pace. Thrun needed a way to engage all students.

Down the road in Mountain View an obscure hedge fund analyst named Salman Khan was winning acclaim for his short math tutorials watched by millions on YouTube. At Stanford another computer science professor, Daphne Koller, was finding success by experimenting with ways to “flip” the classroom, covering lecture material as video homework while using scheduled class time to solve problems.

Thrun decided to apply new elements to a fall 2011 artificial intelligence class that he and Google research chief Peter Norvig cotaught at Stanford. They offered a free ­online version to the world, attracting 58,000 signups by August. After a burst of press coverage, enrollment tripled. Online dilettantes dropped out fast, but 23,000 committed learners finished the course. To Thrun’s delight many of them aced his exams. By Thrun’s tally he influenced more students through that single online course than he had in all his two decades of classroom teaching.

Thrun in January let the world know his full-time status at Stanford was over. The retreat evoked mixed feelings on campus. He had already surrendered tenure in March 2011 because his off-campus commitments (such as starting the Google Glass augmented reality program) claimed too many hours. Running Udacity is his main job now, though he has a 20% time commitment at Stanford as a research professor, guiding graduate students. He still works one day a week at Google, reporting to Sergey Brin.

Thrun lets his Udacity students know he is a Stanford professor, but he knows he can’t promote Udacity as a conduit to Stanford’s top professors. Doing his best to be diplomatic, Thrun in late May called his association with Stanford “fantastic.” Computer science department chair Jennifer Widom returned the courtesy, declaring herself “a big fan of Sebastian.” Still, tensions exist.

When Thrun started sketching out his online course in the summer of 2011, he briefly considered ways of offering some of Stanford’s cachet to the free online students. ­Stanford administrators shuddered. “We told Sebastian: ‘You really can’t do that,’” Widom recalled. So online students didn’t get a completion certificate with a Stanford ­insignia; they also didn’t get a sheet showing how their test scores compared with those of Stanford students.

Big-name universities are understandably loath to alter long-held procedures for course content, academic credit and faculty status. So be it, Thrun says. Udacity, still in its infancy, can write its own rulebook. Thrun’s philosophy of online teaching involves a nonstop barrage of online quizzes, one every two to five minutes, that become the centerpieces of each lesson. “You don’t lose weight by watching someone else exercise,” he says. “You don’t learn by watching someone else solve problems. It became clear to me that the only way to do online learning effectively is to have students solve problems.”

Sometimes a quiz will call for a quick calculation. Other times students must choose among options or create a line or two of computer code. Students’ entries can be automatically scored within seconds. A correct answer lets students move on right away; a faulty solution elicits an offer to try again.

Whimsy is a frequent visitor. In an introductory course on search engine techniques, instructor David Evans, a Virginia professor, explains network design by sketching a map of ancient Greece, with stylized little bonfires showing how primitive smoke signals helped spread the word that Agamemnon had returned from battle. Evans then asks ­students to identify ways that this long-ago network could be made to operate faster. Among the options: Zeus could increase the speed of light.
Thanks to a global boom in cheap, high-speed Internet connectivity, such courses can be beamed around the world for just 50 cents to $1 per student. That makes mass teaching much more affordable than it was a few years ago. Just as important, the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks means that today’s students are comfortable forming multihour study groups with online acquaintances they’ve never met in the physical world.

Udacity’s engineers are learning which little things they need to get right. The company’s production studio carefully avoids full-body shots of professors lecturing; that makes for tiresome viewing. Instead, most footage consists of close-up shots of instructors writing out key lecture points on a digital tablet. Clever editing speeds up long words. When everything clicks, one instructor says, “it feels like a personal tutorial.”

Technique alone will carry Udacity only so far. Figuring out how to assess 100,000 people’s work in the humanities or social sciences will be a huge challenge. There, tough questions aren’t meant to elicit the same answer from everyone who knows the subject. Thrun has high hopes for peer-based grading, perhaps with a social-reputation score attached, so that classmates help identify their wisest peers. But such methods haven’t been tested yet.

Another roadblock: making sure that grade-obsessed students don’t cheat by swapping answers among friends or setting up lots of dummy accounts that they control. It’s an awkward secret of online education: People who crave an A can use multiple accounts to learn so much about course design that they can masquerade as geniuses when finally retaking the course under their own names.
Thrun’s decision to shake free of any direct ties to big-name universities could haunt him, too. Rival player Coursera is building up its course catalog faster, thanks to outspoken support from a variety of university presidents.

Still, Thrun likes his odds. “I love to throw myself into situations where I don’t understand everything yet,” he says. “That way I learn so much. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I succeed. But the goal is to reemerge at the other end, doing something good.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

3D Printing - Neri Oxman - Organic Art

3D Printing Is The Future Of Manufacturing And Neri Oxman Shows How Beautiful It Can Be

by David J. Hill 
Neri Oxman's piece Monocoque 2 uses a 3D printing technique that allows parts to be made from multiple materials in a single build.

To be on forefront of a cutting edge field like 3D printing, the skill set required is pretty stacked. You need to be a designer, engineer, researcher, innovator, and technologist. You should be a good public speaker to present new discoveries to others. And it doesn’t hurt to be a professor at MIT.
Neri Oxman fits the bill, and her creations are demonstrating the powerful combination of 3D printing and new design algorithms inspired from nature.

Trained as an architect, Oxman is currently an assistant professor of media arts and science at the MIT Media lab. In 2009, she was named by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People” and made ICON’s list of the top 20 most influential architects to shape the future. As director of the research group, Mediated Matter, she is exploring digital design and new fabrication technologies. Collaborating with materials science professor W. Craig Carter, they’ve developed algorithms that mimic patterns and processes in nature to create unique sculptures possible only through 3D printing. The produced works are quite amazing and are receiving international attention.

At this early stage in its development, 3D printing is being used mostly to generate replicas of natural and man-made structures. Just as a computer printer makes copies of 2D images, 3D printers have copied a variety of objects that we’ve profiled previously, such as robotschairsprostheticskidneys, and jaw bones, to mention a few. But Neri Oxman and her colleagues are discovering new design and engineering principles that will help to mature 3D printing into a technology capable of producing complex structures impossible by other manufacturing techniques.
Below is a gallery of Oxman’s work over the last seven years.

Multiversites Creatives exhibit
Recently, Neri’s work, sponsored by Objet, showed at the Centre Pompiduo in Paris as part of a Multiversites Creatives exhibit on 3D printing titled Imaginary Beings: Mythologies of the Not Yet. The pieces, LĂ©viathan 1 and Kafka, are part of the torso series and Pneuma 1 is part of the pulmonary series and are pictured below.  Also, for a video (in French) from the exhibit showing more of Neri’s pieces, click here.

LĂ©viathan 1 (2012)

Kafka (2012)

Pneuma 1 (2012)

Making The Future
Earlier this year, Neri was asked to produce a piece to showcase the future of manufacturing for a Technology Review report.

Making The Future (2012)

You can watch this recent video produced by Objet in which Neri describes her approach to design:
Body Contoured Forms (Work in progress)
An ongoing study in the Oxman lab is exploring the design of skins and body armors based on human tissue. Speaking to PopSci, Oxman said, “Most patterns in nature—whether scales or spiderwebs—have some kind of logic that can be computationally modeled.” Armour is bioinspired to protect by being designed specifically to a person’s body. Carpal Skin is a prototype of a glove aimed at protecting against carpal tunnel syndrome.
Armour (2012)

Carpal Skin (2009-2010)

Completed Projects
Some of the following works are in the Museum of Science in Boston.
Beast (2008-2010)

Raycounting (2007-2010)

Fatemap (2008)

6D Phase Space (2008)

Cartesian Wax (2007)

Rapid Craft (2005-2006)

Exploration Into Porous Skin 1 (2005)

The 'smart bomb' therapy that blasts breast cancer

A promising new study shows that a powerful drug can attach directly to tumor cells while leaving healthy cells relatively untouched

Researchers are excited about a new cancer therapy that explicitly targets breast cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone. The experimental "smart bomb," which attaches directly to tumors before killing them, is being hailed as "a major step forward" in the fight against cancer and could potentially reach the market within a year. Here's what you should know about the breakthrough:
Why is it called a "smart bomb"?

The treatment, referred to by doctors as T-DM1, combines two proven therapies to blast cancer cells: The drug Herceptine, a gene-targeted therapy sometimes used on patients whose tumors overproduce a specific protein, and a cancer-blasting form of chemotherapy so poisonous that it can't be administered alone. The two are bonded together by a chemical that unleashes when it comes into contact with breast cancer cells, delivering a potent payload that — unlike other cancer-fighting treatments — leaves healthy cells out of harm's way. Hence, T-DM1's "smart bomb" moniker.

How effective is it?
About 1,000 women with advanced breast cancer were given the drug. After two years, 65 percent of the women who received T-DM1 were still alive versus 47 of a control group administered standard treatment. More tests are necessary, however, because the margin was just below the rigid criteria cancer researchers use before declaring a new treatment a winner.

Why is this such a breakthrough?It's the first study that proves tumors can be precisely targeted with an antibody, minimizing uncomfortable side effects. "People don't lose their hair, they don't throw up. They don't need nausea medicines, they don't need transfusions," study leader Dr. Kimberly Blackwell of Duke University tells The Associated Press.

When might T-DM1 become available?
The drug's parent company, Roche, plans to file for FDA marketing approval in the U.S. and Europe by the end of the year. Shanu Modi, a New York breast cancer oncologist, who was not involved in the study, tells Bloomberg Businessweek: If T-DM1 is approved, "it is going to be rapidly taken up by the oncology community. For sure, I will be using a lot of it."

Sources: Associated PressBloomberg Businessweek, Wall Street Journal

Monday, June 4, 2012

Amelia Earhart: New evidence

For decades, pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart was said to have “disappeared” over the Pacific on her quest to circle the globe along a 29,000-mile equatorial route.

Amelia Earhart: New evidence tells of her last days on a Pacific atoll (+video)


New information gives a clearer picture of what happened 75 years ago to Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan, where they came down and how they likely survived – for a while, at least – as castaways on a remote island.


Now, new information gives a clearer picture of what happened 75 years ago to Ms. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, where they came down and how they likely survived – for a while, at least – as castaways on a remote island, catching rainwater and eating fish, shellfish, and turtles to survive. The tale hints at lost opportunities to locate and rescue the pair in the first crucial days after they went down, vital information dismissed as inconsequential or a hoax, the failure to connect important dots regarding physical evidence.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.

Using what fuel remained to turn up the engines to recharge the batteries, they continued to radio distress signals for several days until Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept off the reef by rising tides and surf. Using equipment not available in 1937 – digitized information management systems, antenna modeling software, and radio wave propagation analysis programs, TIGHAR concluded that 57 of the 120 signals reported at the time are credible, triangulating Earhart’s position to have been Nikumaroro Island.

"Amelia Earhart did not simply vanish on July 2, 1937,” Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News. “Radio distress calls believed to have been sent from the missing plane dominated the headlines and drove much of the US Coast Guard and Navy search.”

"When the search failed, all of the reported post-loss radio signals were categorically dismissed as bogus and have been largely ignored ever since," Mr. Gillespie said. But the results of the study, he said, “suggest that the aircraft was on land and on its wheels for several days following the disappearance.”

In addition, several artifacts found years ago – some of it discovered by Pacific islanders who later inhabited the island – seem to confirm TIGHAR’s conclusion.

These include broken glass artifacts showing evidence of secondary use as tools for cutting or scraping; large numbers of fish and bird bones collected in, or associated with, ash and charcoal deposits; several hundred mollusk shells, as well as bones from at least one turtle; bone fragments and dried fecal matter that might be of human origin.

A photo taken three months after Earhart’s flight shows what could be the landing gear of her aircraft in the waters off the atoll.

“Analyses of the artifacts, faunals and data collected during the expedition are on-going but, at this point, everything supports the hypothesis that the remains found at the site in 1940 were those of Amelia Earhart,” according to TIGHAR.

Other artifacts (some of them reported in 1940 but then lost) include a bone-handled pocket knife of the type known to have been carried by Earhart, part of a man’s shoe, part of a woman’s shoe, a zipper of the kind manufactured in the 1930s, a woman’s compact, and broken pieces of a jar appearing to be the same size and unusual shape as one holding “Dr. Berry's Freckle Ointment.” (Earhart was known to dislike her freckles.)

In July, TIGHAR researchers will return to the area where Earhart and Noonan are thought to have spent their last days, using submersibles to try and detect the famous aircraft they believe to have been swept off a Pacific reef in 1937.


US Navy prepares mission to solve riddle of Amelia Earhart's death

By , Tokyo

Seventy-five years after Amelia Earhart sealed her place in flying history as the first woman to attempt to circumnavigate the world, the US Navy is preparing a mission to solve the riddle of her death in the Pacific.

One of the most enduring mysteries of the annals of aviation, is what happened after Miss Earhart last radioed from her Lockheed Model 10E "Electra" that she was unable to locate an airstrip for landing.
The accepted wisdom was that Earhart's aircraft had simply run out of fuel and crashed into the ocean on July 2, 1937, as she searched for Howland Island.
Howland was the final refuelling stop before flying on to Honolulu and completing the journey by touching down in Oakland, California.
An expedition that will set sail from Hawaii on July 2, which marks the 75th anniversary of the last message by Phoenix International, the US Navy's primary source of deep ocean search and recovery expertise, will map a former British possession that has been indentified as the most likely crash site.
A team of enthusiasts from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) has drawn up the plans for the expedition, which is backed by the US State Department.
It will use high technology, including multi-beam sonar, to inspect a steep and craggy underwater mountainside on the western reef slope of island of Nikumaroro, a former British colony that is today part of the republic of Kiribati.
"Our objective on this expedition is to conduct a thorough search of the area we judge to be most likely to contain wreckage from the Earhart Electra," said Tighar.

While much of the aircraft is likely to have been lost in the intervening years, researchers believe some key components - such as the Pratt & Whitney engines - could still be where they sank 75 years ago.

"Any man-made objects found will be photographed and their location carefully recorded," the group said. "No recovery of objects will be attempted unless necessary to confirm identification.#"Should identifiable wreckage from the Electra be discovered it will be documented as thoroughly as possible in situ so that a separate expedition can be equipped with the appropriate means to recover and conserve the materials."

If the aircraft had sufficient fuel to reach Nikumaroro, which was at the time the uninhabited British possession known as Gardner Island, it could have landed on reef flats before being washed over the ledge.

Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, could have survived on the island for a time, but eventually succumbed to injury or infection, food poisoning or thirst.

The theory is supported by British colonial records in Fiji reporting the discovery of the partial skeleton of a castaway who perished shortly before the island was settled in 1938.
The bones were found in the shade of a tree in a part of the island that fits the description of the encampment that Tighar has been excavating.

The site is dotted with the remains of small fires on which meals of birds, fish, turtle and even rat were cooked.

Previous research trips have turned up parts of aluminium skin from an aircraft, plexiglass from a cockpit, a zip made in Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s, a broken pocket knife of the same brand that was listed in an inventory of Earhart's aircraft and the remains of a 1930s woman's compact.
Ric Gillespie, executive director of Tighar, says they still need to find incontrovertible proof that Earhart on Nikumororo - the "smoking gun."

This expedition apparently offers the best chances of that yet, with new forensic evidence of a photo that may show part of the aircraft on the reef sufficient to convince the US government to support the project.