Proteins are large molecules made up of amino acids that are capable of many things; from catalyzing biological activity, to physically supporting tissues. One of the first pieces of the puzzle in understanding a particular protein is to know about its 3D shape, or conformation. That's what Foldit does. Users are presented with a partially folded protein as determined by an algorithm. They use a number of tools built into the interface to align the protein's folds of amino acids until they find the lowest energy state. This is the shape a protein must have in order to perform its function.
The study authors notes that different players have different play styles. Some were adept at making large scale changes to approximate the final shape. Others had a knack for fine tweaking of the structure to find the perfect conformation. When gamers combined their skills, they accomplished some real science. Researchers in other fields are considering employing gamers in similar ways after the success of Foldit. The next time someone tells you you're wasting time playing games, tell them about this.
Intel recently scrapped plans to launch Larrabee-based discrete graphics products while hinting that the multi-core GPU technology still holds promise as far as high-performance computing goes. It today unveiled plans to launch a new line of products, based on its Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture, to cater to the needs of various HPC segments.
The announcement implies that all the time and effort spent on Larrabee hasn't gone down the drain since the MIC architecture is itself based on a bunch of Intel projects, including Larrabee and the Single-chip Cloud Computer.
It should be very clear to anyone familiar with the Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC) – a research microprocessor containing 48 Intel Architecture cores, that a commercial product derived from it is almost bound to feature a ridiculous number of cores. Indeed, the first offering in the new line will feature 50 cores on a single chip. Knights Core, as the chip is codenamed. will be made on a 22nm process.
"Intel's Xeon processors, and now our new Intel® Many Integrated Core architecture products, will further push the boundaries of science and discovery as Intel accelerates solutions to some of humanity's most challenging problems," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.
We are eagerly anticipating a future of neural implants that can form brain-computer links, but one British scientist is out to bring us down. Mark Gasson has become the first human be infected with a computer virus. This feat was accomplished with small RFID chip Gasson had implanted in his hand. In the experiment, the virus infected chip was able to pass the infection to other devices, thus propigating much like biological viral vectors.
This proof on concept is of concern as a future of implantable devices is coming on fast. Various medical devices could be infected with viruses that then spread to other people. The idea is scary to be sure. People put up with computer viruses and security holes, but what can we do if the threat has the ability to cause real harm? Before you know it, we'll be reviewing Norton 360 Bio-Implant Edition.
So will you one of the cyborgs of the future, or is the whole idea too creepy?
They always say the best camera is the one you have with you, but if you're like me, then you probably have more than one camera phone shot that probably wasn't even worth the effort. Low light images taken with small sensors often come out dull and granny if you're lucky, but more often the picture serves as a reminder that the pinhole camera you used wasn't really up to the task. The bigger the camera the better the picture seemed to always be the rule of thumb, but a little known technology called Quantum Dots could challenge this theory.
Manufacturer InVisage explains that the quantum dots used in its technology are actually tiny semiconducting crystals and are able to absorb various colors thanks to a "doppelganger trick". If the technology lives up to its promise, it means smaller cameras will be able to capture more light then they do currently, vastly improving the quality of low light shots. "Placing the quantum dots on top of the electronics means more pixels can be crammed into a given area and less incoming light is lost. Moreover, photodetectors based on quantum dots produce less noisy images, so the picture is sharper even if the number of pixels is not increased."
No products have been announced, and sure this is all still just scientific theory, but I think batteries and cameras are two technologies that everyone is hoping will get better and smaller in the next few years. Intel can make a million transistors dance on the head of a pin, but my Blackberry still can't take a picture outdoors after 5 PM, go figure.
Sure, you could count on wind or solar to power the future, but why not something more unlikely, and therefore more interesting? A new power generator created at the University of Michigan uses ambient vibrations in the air to generate power. Even distant sounds or a human walking around with it can cause the cells to pump out juice. They don’t currently make much power, so don’t think you’ll have one in your laptop or smartphone anytime soon, but smaller electronics could benefit.
The technology works by utilizing a piezoelectric material that produces a current when stressed. The breakthrough here is that any vibrations can activate the device. Previous versions required predictable “periodic” vibrations. As it stands, the generator can produce 0.5 milliwatts just by being carrier around by a human. That’s more than enough to power a pacemaker or a watch. We’re certainly holding out hope that the capacity increases in the future
NASA just crashed two probes into the moon. Don’t worry though, they totally meant to do it. The two probes were slammed into the lunar surface at over 5000 miles per hour in order to throw up a plume of debris that could be analyzed for signs of water ice. Those non-science types watching online were hoping for a visible plume of dust from the impacts. They were disappointed.
The expected 6-mile plume of debris didn’t materialize, but according to NASA scientists it went just fine on their end. LCROSS principal investigator Tony Colaprete said, “I saw variations in the spectra. I'm thrilled—that's a very good sign. The spectra is where the science is."
The Centaur probe hit the surface first, while being monitored by the LCROSS probe. The LCROSS then took the plunge itself. The area of impact was selected because the craters near the South Pole are never completely illuminated by the sun, meaning ice could be present. Colaprete said in the press conference, “If there's water there, or anything else interesting, we'll find it."
The team behind this project consists of researchers from institutions in the US, Singapore and China. The new LEDs, though fully inorganic, possess qualities associated with both organic and inorganic LEDs. "We wanted to see if we could use inorganic LEDs in ways that exploit some of the processing advantages of organic LEDs,” John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois, told the journal Science.
We’ve heard the phrase “visual computing” being used a lot lately – it refers to the use of computers and graphical environments to interact with and manipulate heady data sets and other textbookish content. Well, we’ve encountered one of the most visually stunning and impressive examples of visual computing in San Francisco’s Morrison Planetarium, the new $20 million dollar facility that’s a part of the recently reopened California Academy of Sciences. This isn’t your daddy’s planetarium (nor is it Barack Obama’s famous $3 million dollar star charter, either).
The Morrison Planetarium is a technological marvel, enabling astronomers not only to show traditional star charts, but to guide visitors through an immersive fly-through of our universe – realistically rendered in real-time. We were fortunate enough to be invited for a private screening of the new exhibit, and went behind to scenes to check out exactly what PC hardware drives this modern stellar cartography lab. And before you ask – yes, the system can play Quake.
We'll guide you through a tour of the planetarium, show you what visitors get to experience in the amazing digital presentation, and then walk you behind the scenes for an exclusive look at how the tech gods who built the whole system make it work. Trust us, you'll be impressed.
These days it seems like “nanotube” is sort of a magic word. Scientists will say something crazy like “We’re building an elevator to space” and everyone else asks “How you gonna do that, scientists?” and they just say “carbon nanotubes,” and we’re like “oh, cool.” So go ahead and guess how scientists have created a kind of paper that’s 500 times as strong as steel and only weighs a tenth as much.
That’s right, it’s nanotubes. The paper, called “buckypaper,” is flexible in single sheets, and can be layered to form rigid plates. It’s being rapidly developed for commercial production, for use in everything from armor to laptops to fuel cells.
Ben Wang, one of the professors leading the charge to commercialize buckypaper, explains that the strength of the paper comes from nanotubes’ enormous surface area, saying “If you take a gram of nanotubes, just one gram, and if you unfold every tube into a graphite sheet, you can cover about two-thirds of a football field.”
What do you all think? How might we use this super-strong paper in the future? Hit the jump and let us know.
The study used an MRI to measure the brain activity of a group of seniors while they performed simulated internet search tasks, and also as they read a book. According to Dr. Gary Small, the tests showed that “when older people read a simulated book page, we see areas of the brain activated… When they search on the Internet, they use the same areas, but there was much greater activation particularly in the front part, which controls decision-making and complex reasoning.”
Of course, greater brain activity is good for keeping sharp (hence the popularity of Nintendo’s Brain Age series of games) so this study means that searching the net could help keep you firing on all cognitive cylinders as you age. However, the increased activity was only found in those who had experience with searching the internet, so if you have any older relatives who are still net-illiterate, it might be time to give them a few lessons in the fine art of Googling.