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Posted on Monday, January 14 - 2008

If earth had been slightly smaller and less massive, life might never have gained a foothold. They key to life on Earth as we know it, scientists figure, is plate tectonics the forces that move continents and build mountains. And the more massive a world is, the thinner its plates are. Thinner plates are weaker and more easily moved and so able to support the kinds of crucial planet-shaping plate tectonics experienced on this planet over the billions of years that life evolved from simple one-celled organisms to complex creatures that can fly, swim and read. "Plate tectonics are essential to life as we know it," said Diana Valencia of Harvard University, whopresented research on the topic here Wednesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

"Our calculations show that bigger is better when it comes to the habitability of rocky planets." The study reveals Earth has been on the edge of habitability from the beginning, and just eked by to allow life-friendly conditions. The results give hope to astronomers looking for life on other planets. "It expands the potential to find life on other planets that are different from Earth," said astrophysicist Sara Seager of MIT, who was not involved in the study. She added that Valencia "has shown us that we can have hope that we can have life there." Not too hot, not too cold: Plate tectonics, Valencia explains, is what allows the carbon cycle on Earth to operate. So as platesspread apart from each other, slide under one another, and even crash into each other to lift gigantic mountain ranges like the Himalayas, they also recycle carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas acts as a thermostat to keep Earth balmy but not scorching over geologic time scales. "Recycling is important even on a planetary scale," Valencia explained. Valencia and her Harvard colleagues, Richard O"Connell and Dimitar Sasselov, examined so-called super-Earths more than twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times as massive.

View: Full Article | Source: Live Science

Views : 38603

Posted on Friday, August 30 - 2013

One researcher was able to move the other"s hand.
Image Credit: YouTube / University of Washington

Researchers at the University of Washington have built a working human-to-human mind control system. Previous mind control research has enabled brain-to-brain communication between rats but it is believed that this is the first time such a system has been successful with human subjects. The remarkable experiment was conducted by Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco who captured the wholething on video.

Rao was equipped with a special cap fitted with electrodes that were hooked up to a machine capable of reading electrical activity in the brain, while Stocco sat at the other side of the campus with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed over the region of his brain responsible for hand movements.For the experiment Rao would look at a screen and play a simple computer game that involved firing a cannon, but instead of actually pressing a button he instead imagined his right hand moving to do so. Across campus, Stocco, who was unable to see or hear the game, felt his hand moving in correlation to Rao"s thoughts, a sensation that he likened to a nervous tic."It was both exciting and eerieto watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain," said Rao. "This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains."

Source: University of Washington

Views : 4866

Posted on Thursday, August 29 - 2013

The tiny brains will help to find treatments for neurological disorders.
Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason

The miniature brains are the size of a pea and will be used to aid research in to neurological disorders. Known as cerebral organoids, the tiny brainswere grown using a complex process beginning with embryonic stem cells or adult skin cells.

Droplets of gel were used to provide a scaffolding for the tissue to grow when combined with a special nutrient solution.Researchers believe that the organoids, complete with many of the same regions as a fully developed brain such as the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, offer them a fairly accurate representation for the brain of a nine-week-old fetus."What our organoids are good for is to modeldevelopment of the brain and to study anything that causes a defect in development," said researcher Dr Juergen Knoblich. "Ultimately we would like to move towards more common disorders like schizophrenia or autism. They typically manifest themselves only in adults, but it has been shown that the underlying defects occur during the development of the brain."

Source: BBCNews

Views : 4582

Posted on Wednesday, August 28 - 2013

Rain clouds can be produced on demand.
Image Credit: CC 2.0 JDP90

Scientists are experimenting with laser pulses that can create clouds and influence the weather. The sophisticated weather modification technique has been continuing to gain momentum andwill be discussed in detail at a meeting of the UN World Meteorological Organization in Geneva next month.The technique uses lasers to send intense pulses of light in to the sky, inducing the formation of ice and the condensation of water which in turn results in cloud formation.

The ability to do this on demand would provide a way to trigger heavy rainfall or lightning at a more convenient time before a major event or away from an area vulnerable to flooding or damage.Weathermanipulation is not a new idea - from ritualistic rain dances to experimental cloud seeding, mankind has always held a fascination with controlling the heavens. While previous efforts have yielded some degree of success, the new laser pulse method could prove to be the first reliable mechanism that can change the weather on demand without the use of chemicals.

Source: LWC

Views : 4626

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