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November 2015 — December 2015

Set to Take Over Tech: 70% of Iran's Science and Engineering Students are Women (Dec 30, 2015)
70% of of Iran’s science and engineering students are women, and in a small, but promising community of startups, they’re being encouraged to play an even bigger role. The common myth about women in Iran is that they are seen, but not heard, that they’re not permitted to drive, that they are second-class citizens, and that entrepreneurship and positions of power are out of reach. These notions are wrong. For years, women in Iran have owned and managed businesses, many of them in male domin...
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HPC Myths Need Not Hamper the Technology's Growth (Dec 30, 2015)
As high performance computing continues to work its way into the enterprise tech mainstream, a variety of myths and misconceptions conspire to slow the technology’s growth. Companies looking to take advantage of HPC to grow their business need to tell the difference between the real challenges facing high performance computing adoption and misinterpretations with little basis in reality. So is there any truth to some of the more popular HPC myths? With the industry analyst group IDC predicting...
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Gene Behavior Distinguishes Viral from Bacterial Infections (Dec 29, 2015)
Coughs, fevers and green mucus can accompany an infection, but most of the time, doctors can only guess whether the culprit is bacterial or viral. A new study points out a way to identify the perp. An infection changes the behavior of the afflicted person’s genes, and that host response differs depending on whether bacteria or a virus is doing the damage, scientists report in the Dec. 15 Immunity. This virus-bacteria distinction could ultimately help doctors quickly figure out what ails a pers...
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This Tool Boosts Science, Engineering Interest (Dec 29, 2015)
Hannah Strobl likes animals and dreams of becoming a veterinarian, and recently, she was clicking through a specialized online STEM teaching tool at a snappy pace. “I like that it teaches you more about science, social studies and reading,” said the 12-year-old Ooltewah Middle School student about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training program called Learning Blade. State officials viewed Hannah and her classmates as they took part in a class at Ooltewah, hopefu...
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Testing Einstein's Theories With Satellites Stuck in Eccentric Orbits (Nov 28, 2015)
When ESA launched its fifth and sixth Galileo navigation satellites, things went wrong. Because of a fault in the upper stage, both spacecraft ended up in elongated elliptical orbits instead of circular ones, making them unusable for navigation. Corrections of their orbits restored their function as navigation satellites, but their orbits still remained highly elliptical. To the satellite navigation engineers, this was a nuisance requiring changes in the software and the technology. But for phys...
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New Nanoscopic Tools to Study Ligand-binding of Receptors (Nov 28, 2015)
ignalling processes in organisms are governed by specific extracellular and intracellular interactions and involve hundreds of different functionally highly versatile receptors situated in cell membranes. For scientists wishing to understand signalling processes the situation is made more complex by the receptors not only being unevenly distributed and often able to bind more than one ligand but also by the same type of receptor being able to bind a ligand strongly, weakly or not at all. New met...
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Preventing Famine with Mobile Phones (Nov 27, 2015)
There are different possible causes for famine and malnutrition—not all of which are easy to foresee. Drought and crop failure can often be predicted by monitoring the weather and measuring soil moisture. But other risk factors, such as socio-economic problems or violent conflicts, can endanger food security too. Scientists from TU Wien and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis have developed a way to monitor food security using a smartphone app, which combines weather and s...
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Atomic-level Study Provides Real-time View of Fuel Cell Catalysts (Nov 27, 2015)
Atomic-level imaging of catalysts by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory could help manufacturers lower the cost and improve the performance of fuel cells. Fuel cells use platinum catalysts that enable the reactions that convert chemical energy into electricity. Alloying platinum with noble metals such as cobalt reduces the overall cost, but these alloyed catalysts can vary in performance. An ORNL team is said to have used scanning transmission electron mi...
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'Comet' Supercomputer Blazing Trails via Science Gateways (Nov 26, 2015)
Just six months after coming online, Comet, the new petascale supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, is already blazing new paths of discovery, thanks in part to its role as a primary resource for an assortment of science gateways that provide scientists across many research domains with easy access to its computing power. Simply described, science gateways provide web browser access to applications and data used by specific researc...
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A Network of Artificial Neurons Learns to Use Human Language (Nov 26, 2015)
A group of researchers from the University of Sassari (Italy) and the University of Plymouth (UK) has developed a cognitive model, made up of two million interconnected artificial neurons, able to learn to communicate using human language starting from a state of "tabula rasa," only through communication with a human interlocutor. The model is called ANNABELL (Artificial Neural Network with Adaptive Behavior Exploited for Language Learning) and it is described in an article published in the inte...
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Energy-Efficient Reaction Drives ORNL Biofuel Conversion Technology (Nov 25, 2015)
A new study from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory explains the mechanism behind a technology that converts bio-based ethanol into hydrocarbon blend-stocks for use as fossil fuel alternatives. Scientists have experimented for decades with a class of catalysts known as zeolites that transform alcohols such as ethanol into higher-grade hydrocarbons. As ORNL researchers were developing a new type of zeolite-based conversion technology, they found the underlying reaction unf...
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Looking at Swells in 3D (Nov 25, 2015)
Scientists have long been interested in studying how winds influence ocean waves. NCAR Senior Scientist Peter Sullivan wanted to examine the relationship in reverse: How do waves affect the atmosphere? The result is this striking 3D animation showing the influence of ocean waves on the air above. While strong winds from storms create waves on the ocean surface, those waves don’t just stop. They travel away from the storm, sometimes thousands of miles, to areas with lighter winds. There, in th...
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Illinois to Lead NSF Midwest Big Data Hub (Nov 24, 2015)
In the future, big data could help unlock the mysteries of fields ranging from the natural sciences to medicine, and Illinois has a new opportunity to take a leading role. To accelerate advancements in the rapidly emerging field of big data analysis, the National Science Foundation has given $5 million to establish four regional Big Data Hubs. Catalyzed by an initial award from the National Science Foundation called SEEDCorn, which stands for “Sustainable Enabling Environment for Data Collabor...
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Measuring the Activity of Our Now, Very Active Sun (Nov 24, 2015)
Three hundred years ago, the Sun began to wake up. For 70 years—from about 1645 to 1715—the Sun had been eerily quiet, with very few sunspots erupting on its surface. This prolonged period of muted activity, known as the Maunder Minimum, is the most dramatic so-called "grand minimum" ever recorded by humans. Scientists think that grand minima of a similar scale occurred before the Maunder Minimum and that more are likely in the future. But their origins remain an enigma. Recently, however, s...
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Ford to Test Autonomous Vehicles at Mcity (Nov 23, 2015)
Ford will be the first automaker to test its autonomous vehicles at Mcity, a full-scale simulated urban environment that was developed as part of the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Center. The site will allow Ford to test its autonomous vehicle fleet close to its Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters, taking advantage of the diverse roads and realistic neighborhoods Mcity offers. The Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, which includes driver-assist technology such as incl...
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SpaceX Completes Testing of SuperDraco Engines (Nov 23, 2015)
SpaceX and NASA announced that the propulsion system designed to safely abort the upcoming crewed Dragon capsule — dubbed SuperDraco — has been successfully fired 27 times and completed development testing. The SuperDraco thrusters are scaled up versions of the small Draco thruster used for maneuvering and docking control on the upper stages of the Falcon 9 rocket, the upcoming Falcon Heavy, and the Dragon spacecraft. SuperDraco provides roughly 200x more thrust than its little brother, and ...
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NSF Funds 'Big Data' Innovation Hub for the Western U.S. (Nov 22, 2015)
The National Science Foundation has announced funding for a ‘Big Data’ Innovation Hub for the Western United States intended to facilitate collaboration among the region’s technology sector and other organizations to address research challenges in areas such as precision medicine, natural resource utilization, hazard management, and metro regional development. The Western Hub is part of an NSF program that includes more than $5 million to establish regional hubs for data science innovation...
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Cybersecurity is Everywhere. Is it in your K-12 CS Program? (Nov 22, 2015)
Cybersecurity is in the news and is newsworthy. One of the more common themes in cybersecurity is the dearth of qualified cybersecurity professionals and how the United States might address that lack in the education system. Several colleges and universities have begun to add cybersecurity programs, and credentialing bodies are developing certificates and credentials for those already in the workforce but perhaps lacking the proper skills and training. The ACM Education Policy Committee and the ...
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Grant Funds Computer Simulation to Train Social Work Students, Clinicians (Nov 21, 2015)
A federal grant of more than $919,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will fund one new course at the University of Illinois and support training for clinicians at area agencies in conducting early interventions with people who abuse substances. The training will be accomplished using a computer simulation called the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment protocol, an early intervention often used in hospital emergency rooms and other public he...
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UC Sand Diego Launches Robotics Institute (Nov 21, 2015)
The Jacobs School of Engineering and Division of Social Sciences at the UC San Diego have launched the Contextual Robotics Institute to develop safe and useful robotics systems. These robotics systems will function in the real world based on the contextual information they perceive, in real time. Elder care and assisted living, disaster response, medicine, transportation and environmental sensing are just some of the helpful applications that could emerge from tomorrow’s human-friendly robots....
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Cities Take Innovative Approaches to Launch K-12 Computer Science (Nov 20, 2015)
Not too long ago, ACM and CSTA released a study that found computer science education was on the decline. Published in 2010, the report, titled "Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age," found that the number of high schools offering introductory computer science courses had declined 17% between 2005 and 2009. Universities and tech companies had begun to worry publicly about a growing gap between the number of jobs available and the number of people who mi...
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NEXRAD Archive Data Available on Amazon S3 (Nov 20, 2015)
The Big Data Project (BDP) is an initiative undertaken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to increase public availability of large volumes of environmental data collected and generated by the agency. As part of the Big Data Project, Unidata is working in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on a demonstration project to provide access to a more than twenty years of archivedNEXRAD Level II radar data — augmented continuously with new, real-time data — stored...
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Google's Project Loon Internet Balloons Will Soon Cover Indonesian Sky (Nov 19, 2015)
Google plans to deploy hundreds of Project Loon balloons in an effort to make fast internet more accessible to the citizens of Indonesia. The company will collaborate with Indonesian network operators for transmitting LTE-speed connections to around 100 million people in the region. To that end, Google has signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian telecom operators — Indosat, Telkomsel, and XL Axiata. The testing of Project Loon airborne base station technology across Indonesia will...
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Will Candy Crush Deal Leave Activision with a Bitter Taste? (Nov 19, 2015)
Candy Crush describes itself as the "sweetest game around" - but even so there's no guarantee that the $5.9 billion takeover of King.com won't leave both investors and players with a bitter taste. The big-budget, action-centric PC and console titles that Californian buyer Activision Blizzard is best known for are quite different to the more simple puzzle and role-playing mobile and web-based games its Stockholm and London-headquartered acquisition is skilled at making. Furthermore, the size of t...
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Mysteries of Infant Development (Nov 18, 2015)
If you wanted to design a robot that could learn and develop like a human infant, to gain the skills and abilities of a human child, you would do well to talk to IU experimental psychologist Linda Smith — as roboticists around the world have done. Among the many questions you would need to answer are two that Smith addresses every day in the lab she has directed for 38 years and counting: What are the building blocks of human cognition? How does human intelligence take shape? For children who ...
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