Science
Latest Science News that affects the Technology industry is reported here.

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Texas Instruments, Ambient Corp's Thought-controlled Wheelchair Yesterday, Texas Instruments, a designer and supplier of digital signal processing solutions, showcased what it claims to be the world’s first motorized wheelchair to be controlled by thought. This took place at the Texas Instruments Developers Conference (TIDC) India 2007 event.

Interestingly, this wheelchair is not controlled mechanically nor is it controlled by speech. Instead it is guided by thought and by a slight movement of the Adam’s apple.

Texas Instruments had collaborated with Ambient Corp. who provided solutions based on the MSP 430 microcontroller developed by none other than Texas Instruments.

When the user of the wheelchair wishes to communicate, an implanted sensor/larynx control system ‘reads’ the electrical signals that the brain uses to command the larynx to speak. The sensor then processes and sends this information to a computer, which then carries out a direct command in the form of motor control.

In simple words, to make the wheelchair move, all the user has to do is think about these actions and then make a slight movement of his/her Adam’s apple.

According to Praveen Ganapathy, Director – Corporate Business Development, Texas Instruments India, “Applications such as these demonstrate beyond any doubt that there are increasingly fewer limits to how innovative technology can better the lives of disadvantaged people.”

Michael Callahan, co-founder and CEO, Ambient Corp said, “Current technology enables you to press a button and a word or a phrase is emitted. However, there are severely disabled people who have neither the physical dexterity that this requires not the power of speech. Such solutions are intended for them.”

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Bangalore Nano 2007 logo Bangalore Nano 2007, slated to take place on 6th and 7th December, have announced a “Poster Session” that will run simultaneously with the conferences. At the event, budding scientists and researchers from premier institutes and universities will be given a golden chance to demonstrate their innovations, research techniques and results in the field of NanoScience and Nanotechnology on this international platform. Audience from Indian and Multi-National organizations, research institutes, VCs, capitalists and Government Representatives and several other researchers will be present at the prestigious gathering and participants get to present their papers in front of all these esteemed people.

Over 20 papers would be presented on several topics right from Nano particles, Nano tubes, Nano medicines to Nano dentistry. Innovation, problem solving approach and socio-economic importance of the research are the criteria to be considered while zeroing on the best posters. These are essentially issues in the field of Basic Nano Science and Nanotechnology, which yet need to be solved.

Shri. M. N. Vidyashankar, Secretary to Karnataka Government, Dept of IT, BT and Science & Technology stated, “Currently India is going through the Phase of Research and Innovation in the field of Nanotechnology. There are lots of researches happening in some of the premier institutions in the country. We believe that the poster session at Bangalore Nano 2007 would provide a great platform to all these institutions to showcase their researches and innovations to the industry stalwarts, researchers, VCs and get the necessary funding which will help them in taking their research to the next step.”

Leading institutes such as IIT – Mumbai and Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research – Bangalore, Pondicherry University, Indian Institute of Science – Bangalore, National Physical Laboratory – New Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University – New Delhi, National Institute of Technology – Tiruchirapalli, Ceramic Technological Institute of BHEL will be presenting their research papers at the Poster Session at Bangalore Nano 2007.

The Bangalore Nano 2007 will be held at Bangalore in Karnataka, India.

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Hurricane

Don’t be baffled about the climate, which has become so extreme these days all over the world. According to news agencies, a study has found that the number of Atlantic hurricanes in an average season has doubled in the last century because of warmer seas and changing wind patterns caused by global warming.

The new study was carried out by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology. They found three periods since 1900 when the average number of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes augmented sharply, and then leveled off and remained steady. The scientists revealed that the increase in the number of the hurricanes has taken place in two jumps, with an average of 6 tropical cyclones per year from 1905 to 1930, mounting to 10 tropical storms from 1931 to 1994 and 15 tropical storms from 1995 to 2005, hurricanes included.

But there are some skeptics of this theory, who feel that the data from the early decades of the 20th Century is not dependable as cyclones probably formed and died in mid-ocean, where no one knew they existed. But Holland and Webster defended their work saying that the improved data from the last half of the century cannot be exclusively responsible for the increase. They wrote, “We are led to the confident conclusion that the recent upsurge in the tropical cyclone frequency is due in part to greenhouse warming, and this is most likely the dominant effect.”

Whatever it is, changes in the temperature have caused weather-related differences all over the world. Two years ago, the United States was hit by Hurricane Katrina, which prompted the American authorities to evacuate New Orleans. This year too, there were floods in England, which led the British authorities to evacuate lots of people. Closer home in India, we have had a lot of changes in the temperature. So it seems that people as well as the governments will have to take this issue very seriously.

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Light Harvesting Bacteria

One of the most interesting things about a bacteria safari is finding new micro-organisms that makes one think and take notice about the diversity that exists on this planet. And that’s what a research team found when it went to the springs of Yellowstone, which is well known for housing certain kinds of light-harvesting bacteria.

It was led by David Ward of Montana State University and Penn State molecular geneticist Donald Bryant. They found the Candidatus Chloracidobacterium thermophilum bacteria that have light-harvesting antennae. What’s surprising is that it belongs to Acidobacteria phylum, which until now was not known to possess any chlorophyll-producers.

Donald Bryant along with his colleagues discovered the bacteria in three hot springs in Yellowstone, Mushroom Spring, Octopus Spring and Green Finger Pool, which are located nearby the Old Faithful Geyser. Bryant explained, “Finding a previously unknown, chlorophyll-producing microbe is the discovery of a lifetime for someone who has studied bacterial photosynthesis for as long as I have (35 years).”

The finding is significant as now, out of the 25 bacteria phyla, six contain light-harvesting members capable of photosynthesis. The scientists used metagenomic methods, where they took a soil sample and extracted every gene they could get from it. David Ward remarked, “It’s another member of the community, and it contributes to efficiently harvesting light. It’s a good solar reactor. That may be one of the downstream applications of this.”

The researchers also found that these light harvesting bacteria have chlorosomes, which are photosynthetic antenna complex found in green sulfur bacteria. This was the first time aerobic or oxygen-tolerant microbes have been found that have chlorophyll-packed structures. The bacterium generates two types of chlorophyll which explains how it flourishes together with other species in microbial mats and compete for light with cyanobacteria.

The discovery of the light harvesting bacteria by David Ward, Donald Bryant and their team is very significant as it will help scientists study not only biological beings but also help researchers find new avenues in the field of energy production.