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May 2015 — June 2015

AI Points to Better Decision-Making Despite Poker Match Loss (Jun 4, 2015)
We often approach life as if it were a chess match, assuming every piece is visible. But that’s seldom true. As Tuomas Sandholm of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science sees it, life is more like a hand of poker. Other players have cards we can’t see, and they often try to trick us. Could our decisions be better if we leveraged artificial intelligence? That’s the question Sandholm and graduate students Noam Brown and Sam Ganzfried set out to answer. Using the Blacklight...
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Connect4Learning Jumpstarts Science and Math for Preschoolers (Jun 4, 2015)
Preschoolers engaged, teachers enthusiastic about moving math and science to the head of the class The 4-year-olds at All Souls School in Englewood, Colo., are learning their shapes and numbers within a science lesson about sea creatures. It's a new approach to early childhood education that focuses more attention on science and math while incorporating important literacy connections along the way. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Denver education professors...
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Little Particles, Big Effect (Jun 3, 2015)
Since the time the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) first swept into America’s social consciousness in 1982, HIV has been misunderstood. But research conducted with the support of supercomputer allocations from the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) and grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) reveals a potential breakthrough in the way scientists pursue treatment—it’s all about the nanoparticles. A nanoparticle is microscopic and so small it exhibits ...
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Supernova Hunting with Supercomputers (Jun 3, 2015)
Type Ia supernovae are famous for their consistency. Ironically, new observations suggest that their origins may not be uniform at all. Using a “roadmap” of theoretical calculations and supercomputer simulations, astronomers observed for the first time a flash of light caused by a supernova slamming into a nearby star, allowing them to determine the stellar system from which the supernova was born. This finding confirms one of two competing theories about the birth of Type Ia supernovae. But...
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Nepal Disaster Relief Efforts to Be Aided By Glacier Researchers (Jun 2, 2015)
Researchers who normally use high-resolution satellite imagery to study glaciers are using their technology to help with disaster relief and longer-term stabilization planning efforts related to the recent earthquake in Nepal. Two research teams – one at Ohio State University and another at the University of Minnesota – are working quickly to employ Surface Extraction for TIN-based Searchspace Minimization (SETSM) software to produce high-resolution, 3-D digital surface maps for use in the N...
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ORNL Demonstrates First Large-Scale Graphene Fabrication (Jun 2, 2015)
One of the barriers to using graphene at a commercial scale could be overcome using a method demonstrated by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Graphene, a material stronger and stiffer than carbon fiber, has enormous commercial potential but has been impractical to employ on a large scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material. Now, using chemical vapor deposition, a team led by ORNL’s Ivan Vlassiouk has fabricated polymer compo...
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No-Tech Board Games that Teach Coding Skills to Young Children (Jun 1, 2015)
Thanks in part to STEM education initiatives and the tech boom, coding in the classroom has become more ubiquitous. Computer programming tasks students to persistently work to solve problems by thinking logically. What’s more, learning how to code is a desired 21st century career skill. There are several digital games designed for kids as young as 5 that turn coding into a fun activity, such as Kodable and Scratch Jr. But some game designers are going further back to programming’s fundamenta...
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Smartphone Video Microscope Automates Detection of Parasites in Blood (Jun 1, 2015)
A research team led by UC Berkeley engineers has developed a new smartphone microscope that uses video to automatically detect and quantify infection by parasitic worms in a drop of blood. This next generation of UC Berkeley’s CellScope technology could help revive efforts to eradicate debilitating filarial diseases in Africa by providing critical information to health providers in the field. The UC Berkeley engineers teamed up with Dr. Thomas Nutman from the National Institute of Allergy and ...
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Great Innovative Idea-Machine Teaching (May 31, 2015)
Machine teaching is machine learning turned upside down: it is about finding the optimal (e.g. the smallest) training set. Solving the machine teaching problem in general can be intricate and is an open mathematical question, though for a large family of learners the resulting bi-level optimization problem can be approximated. Machine teaching can have an impact in education, where the “student” is really a human student, and the teacher certainly has a target model (i.e. the educational goa...
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How the Human Brain Separates the Ability to Talk and Write (May 31, 2015)
While the human ability to write evolved from the ability to speak, writing and speaking are supported by entirely different parts of the brain, according to new research from Rice University, Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University. The research shows that it is possible for stroke victims who cannot speak a grammatically correct sentence to write it perfectly, and vice versa. “Modality and Morphology: What We Write May Not Be What We Say” is available online and will appear in a...
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Nintendo Finally Returns to Profitability (May 30, 2015)
For the first time since 2011, gaming giant Nintendo is a profitable company. In the company's financial report for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2015, Nintendo posted net sales of 550 billion yen (around U.S. $4.61 billion), which led to a welcome operating income of 24.8 billion yen (U.S. $207.8 million). Nintendo, which saw 75.4 percent of their sales come from outside Japan, attributed some of their financial success in the past year to the depreciation of the yen against the US do...
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Alumnus Gift of Software Fosters Creativity and Learning for Students (May 30, 2015)
As part of Michigan State University’s Empower Extraordinary campaign, the College of Arts and Letters has received an in-kind gift valued at more than $100,000 from CAL alumnus Peter Stougaard, a former studio executive for DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox. The gift is in the form of 4,000 software licenses for an Apple app Stougaard developed called PopBoardz, whereby users can create, organize and present ideas in the form of video, images, websites or any file type all on one screen. Stouga...
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Taking R Training to the World (May 29, 2015)
R, the free open-source software environment for statistical computing and graphics, brings out a crowd. In fact, so much so that a recent online and in-person tutorial on the subject broke training participation records for the event's organizers—the National Institute for Computational Sciences, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. Approximately 800 people worldwide signed up for the four-hour, online ...
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Biting Back: Scientists Aim to Forecast West Nile Outbreaks (May 29, 2015)
New research has identified correlations between weather conditions and the occurrence of West Nile virus disease in the United States, raising the possibility of being able to better predict outbreaks. The study, by researchers with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finds strong correlations across much of the country between an increased occurrence of West Nile virus disease and above average temperatures in the preceding year. The...
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Tiny Silicone Spheres Come Out of the Mist (May 28, 2015)
Technology in common household humidifiers could enable the next wave of high-tech medical imaging and targeted medicine, thanks to a new method for making tiny silicone microspheres developed by chemists at the University of Illinois. Led by chemistry professor Kenneth Suslick, the researchers published their results in the journal Advanced Science. Microspheres, tiny spheres as small as a red blood cell, have shown promise as agents for targeted drug delivery to tissues, as contrast agents for...
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Brain-injured Patients Need Therapies Based on Cognitive Neuroscience (May 28, 2015)
Patients with traumatic brain injuries are not benefiting from recent advances in cognitive neuroscience research – and they should be, scientists report in a special issue of Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. Those who treat brain-injured patients rarely make use of new scientific discoveries about the workings of the brain. Instead, doctors, nurses and emergency personnel rely on a decades-old tool, the Glasgow coma scale, to categorize brain injuries as mild, moderate or severe.



Simulating Seasons (May 27, 2015)
Changes in rainfall patterns associated with climate change can be devastating to people living in Malawi, a small landlocked country in southeast Africa, leading to food crises, famines and loss of life. Two researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, Kerry Cook and Edward (Ned) Vizy, are dedicated to understanding how climate change and climate variability will impact Malawi and other regions throughout Africa. By running regional climate models, Cook and Vizy are examining Africa's dive...
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Long-Term Study on Ticks Reveals Shifting Migration Patterns, Disease Risks (May 27, 2015)
With more than 15 years spent studying ticks, Indiana University's Keith Clay has found southern Indiana to be an oasis free from Lyme disease, the condition most associated with these arachnids that are the second most common parasitic disease vector on Earth. He has also seen signs that this low-risk environment is changing, both in Indiana and in other regions of the United States. Clay has received support for his research on ticks from over $2.7 million in grants from the National Science F...
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Earthquakes Reveal Deep Secrets Beneath East Asia (May 20, 2015)
A new work based on 3-D supercomputer simulations of earthquake data has found hidden rock structures deep under East Asia. Researchers from China, Canada and the U.S. worked together to publish their results in March 2015 in the American Geophysical Union Journal of Geophysical Research, Solid Earth. The scientists used seismic data from 227 East Asia earthquakes during 2007-2011, which they used to image depths to about 900 kilometers, or about 560 miles below ground. The researchers say their...
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SDSC’s "Comet" Supercomputer Enters Early Operations Phase (May 20, 2015)
Comet, a new petascale supercomputer designed to transform advanced scientific computing by expanding access and capacity among traditional as well as non-traditional research domains, has transitioned into an early operations phase at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego.Comet is the result of a National Science Foundation Award currently valued at $21.6 million including hardware and operating funds. The new cluster is capable of an overall peak ...
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A Computer Model Combination Could Unravel the Mysteries of Sudden Firestorms (May 16, 2015)
The thought of a wildfire evokes images of firefighting crews, airplanes, and helicopters battling the blaze. But fire analysts and managers have other weapons in their arsenal to plan the attack before sending resources out. Among those are computer-model wildfire forecasts. For many years, Smith has been involved with teams strategizing to suppress some of the biggest wildfires across Texas and the nation, and so he’s familiar with the important questions that wildfire computer model forecas...
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Technology that Overcomes Movement During Imaging (May 16, 2015)
Jefferson Lab, in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University, has been developing a system for imaging in un-anesthetized, unrestrained mice. Basic research into human disease states and pharmaceutical development depend heavily on biomedical investigations involving animal models. But studies are limited by the necessity of using anesthetic and/or physical restraint during imaging. Jefferson Lab technology has been used in an awake animal study. Unique mouse b...
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Los Angeles is Next in Battle Over All-Girls Science, Tech Schools (May 15, 2015)
One determined band of Los Angeles educators thinks it has an answer to encourage girls toward high tech careers: a girls-only public school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, designed to boost girls' flagging performance in those "STEM" subjects compared to their male peers. The Los Angeles Unified School District voted to approve the Girls Academic Leadership Academy. The proposal will now head to the California Board of Education, which must grant a waiver to open a si...
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IBM's Watson Enters Market for Analyzing Cancer Genetics (May 15, 2015)
The Genome Institute at Washington University is one of 14 big-name cancer centers partnering with IBM to use the computing giant’s Watson artificial intelligence system to compare patients’ genetic data with databases of cancer genes and every scientific paper published about cancer genetics. What takes a team of experts hours or days can be accomplished in minutes by Watson. “I’m not aware of another platform that allows as much power right now nor have I seen one in development,” sa...
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Blue Waters Enables Realistic 3D Simulations of Colliding Black Holes (May 14, 2015)
When astronomers try to simulate colliding giant black holes, they usually rely on simplified approximations to model the swirling disks of matter that surround and fuel these gravitational monsters. Researchers now report that, for the first time, they have simulated the collision of two supermassive black holes using a full-blown treatment of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, allowing a 3D portrayal of these disks of magnetized matter. The simulations more accurately describe the radi...
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