Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.

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Coastal Water Study: ‘Dead Zones’ Multiplying Fast


A global map of “dead zones”—where coastal waters contain too little oxygen to sustain life—shows (as black dots) a concentration in the Northern Hemisphere, where human activity has had the most effect.
As of August 2008, there were more than 400 known “dead zones,” scientists said, up from just over 300 in the 1990s. Image courtesy Science/AAAS

“Dead zones” are on the rise, says a new study that identified stark growth in the number of coastal areas where the water has too little oxygen to sustain marine life.

There are now more than 400 known dead zones in coastal waters worldwide, compared to 305 in the 1990s, according to study author Robert Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Related article: Are the oceans giving up?

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Uncle Sam Wants Your Brain

Drugs that make soldiers want to fight. Robots linked directly to their controllers’ brains. Lie-detecting scans administered to terrorist suspects as they cross U.S. borders.

These are just a few of the military uses imagined for cognitive science — and if it’s not yet certain whether the technologies will work, the military is certainly taking them very seriously.

“It’s way too early to know which — if any — of these technologies is going to be practical,” said Jonathan Moreno, a Center for American Progress bioethicist and author of Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense. “But it’s important for us to get ahead of the curve. Soldiers are always on the cutting edge of new technologies.”

Moreno is part of a National Research Council committee convened by the Department of Defense to evaluate the military potential of brain science. Their report, “Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies,” was released today. It charts a range of cognitive technologies that are potentially powerful — and, perhaps, powerfully troubling.

Here are the report’s main areas of focus:

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A ‘Frankenrobot’ with a biological brain

PARIS (AFP) – Meet Gordon, probably the world’s first robot controlled exclusively by living brain tissue.

Stitched together from cultured rat neurons, Gordon’s primitive grey matter was designed at the University of Reading by scientists who unveiled the neuron-powered machine on Wednesday.

Related article: ‘Brain’ in a dish flies flight simulator

Their groundbreaking experiments explore the vanishing boundary between natural and artificial intelligence, and could shed light on the fundamental building blocks of memory and learning, one of the lead researchers told AFP.

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Prince Charles warns GM crops risk causing the biggest-ever environmental disaster

Prince Charles warns GM crops risk causing the biggest-ever environmental disaster Listen: The Prince of Wales speaks out

The mass development of genetically modified crops risks causing the world’s worst environmental disaster, The Prince of Wales has warned.

In his most outspoken intervention on the issue of GM food, the Prince said that multi-national companies were conducting an experiment with nature which had gone “seriously wrong”.

The Prince, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, also expressed the fear that food would run out because of the damage being wreaked on the earth’s soil by scientists’ research.

He accused firms of conducting a “gigantic experiment I think with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong”.

“Why else are we facing all these challenges, climate change and everything?”.

Related article: The Prince of Wales: ‘If that is the future, count me out’

Relying on “gigantic corporations” for food, he said, would result in “absolute disaster”.

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Berkeley Scientists: Mass Extinction of Species

Scientists: Humans To Blame

Devastating declines of amphibian species around the world are a sign of a biodiversity disaster larger than just the deaths of frogs and salamanders, University of California, Berkeley scientists said Tuesday.

Researchers said substantial die-offs of amphibians and other plant and animal species add up to a new mass extinction facing the planet, the scientists said in an online article this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related articles:
Wildlife populations ‘plummeting’
Wildlife extinction rates ’seriously underestimated’
UN official: Biodiversity loss could hurts medical research

“There’s no question that we are in a mass extinction spasm right now,” said David Wake, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley.

“Amphibians have been around for about 250 million years. They made it through when the dinosaurs didn’t. The fact that they’re cutting out now should be a lesson for us.”

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Scientists stop the ageing process

There is more to life. The human body was not designed to “fall apart”.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Alexis Carrel was able to keep cells from a chicken heart alive and replicating new cells for 28 years, far outliving the life of a chicken which is 7 to 12 years. The cells did not die of aging they simply terminated the experiment.

“The cell is immortal. It is merely the fluid in which it floats that degenerates. Renew this fluid at regular intervals, give the cell what it requires for nutrition, and as far as we know, the pulsation of life can go on forever.” – Dr. Alexis Carroll, Nobel Prize Winner

Highly Recommended:
The Biology Of Belief
The Wisdom of Your Cells
Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East

More here: (Health & Science) (Gesundheit & Wissenschaft)
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Clean bill of health: Scientists have shown that clearing damaged protein from the liver helps stop age decline in the organ (Source: iStockphoto)

Scientists have stopped the ageing process in an entire organ for the first time, a study released today says.

Published in today’s online edition of Nature Medicine, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York City also say the older organs function as well as they did when the host animal was younger.

The researchers, led by Associate Professor Ana Maria Cuervo, blocked the ageing process in mice livers by stopping the build-up of harmful proteins inside the organ’s cells.

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White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life

The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the “potential for life” on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability–the “potential” for Mars to support life–at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say.

The data are much more complex than results related NASA’s July 31 announcement that Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice at the site.

International news media trumpeted the water ice confirmation, which was not a surprise to any of the Phoenix researchers. “They have discovered water on Mars for the third or fourth time,” one senior Mars scientists joked about the hubbub around the water ice announcement.

The other data not discussed openly yet are far more “provocative,” Phoenix officials say.

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PTSD leaves physical footprints on the brain

At a recent conference for some of the area’s leading neurologists, San Francisco physicist Norbert Schuff captured his colleagues’ attention when he presented colorful brain images of U.S. soldiers who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The yellow areas, Schuff explained during his presentation at the city’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center, showed where the hippocampus, which plays major roles in short-term memory and emotions, had atrophied. The red swatches marked hyperfusion – increased blood flow – in the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for conflict resolution and decision-making. Compared with a soldier without the affliction, the PTSD brain had lost 5 to 10 percent of its gray matter volume, indicating yet more neuron damage.

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