Category Archives: Science

Science, technology, geekery of a sciency nature, nature, space.

Turning CO2 Into Building Blocks: Green Technology and Cost-Effective Manufacturing Processes

Researchers from Australia’s University of Newcastle, the Orica chemical company and innovation leaders GreenMag Group – collectively called Mineral Carbonation International – think they have a solution. After six years of researching carbon dioxide capture and storage, the group has discovered how to turn CO2 into solid, permanent rocks. These carbon dioxide “bricks” can be turned into building material for a variety of uses. Carbon dioxide is produced from manufacturers using fossil fuels in their industrial processes.

CO2 Smokestack

A new $9 million manufacturing plant in Newcastle is expected to begin producing the bricks along with other green building products for industry and residential application. According to published accounts, the plant will be situated at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) and should be operational by 2017.

This sort of process incentivizes companies to expend money and effort to capture the CO2 in the first place. Manufacturers gain a new base material as well as products they can sell for profit while incidentally trapping carbon emissions permanently. Thankfully, more research is being done to learn how to stop pumping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. The focus is shifting to capture and storage of dangerous chemicals. The question is not whether these practices can mitigate climate change but rather how to make these systems cost-effective.

Solid CO2

Solid CO2

Research leaders Professor Bodgan Dlugogorski and Orica Senior Research Associate Dr Geoff Brent claim the planned pilot plant will allow larger scale testing of the processes. Cost savings and emission reductions compared to other CO2 storage methods will also be gathered.  

Carbon charcoal

Carbon charcoal

“The key difference,” Dlugogorski said, “between geosequestration and ocean storage and our mineral carbonation model is we permanently transform CO2 into a usable product, not simply store it underground”

Coal Mining

Small scale labs have already proven the process. The next stage uses an experimental plant to move the brick process towards mass production. The process seems relatively simple. CO2 is captured by manufacturing plants and then combined with low-grade minerals like calcium silicate or magnesium. The result is inert carbonates, turning the trapped CO2 into a solid. This becomes the basis for new building materials.

It the system works as planned on a large scale every carbon-producing plant such as coal-fired power stations can upgrade to capture and store carbon emissions. Using the carbon in manufacturing reuses the material rather than leaving a storage problem after capture. The ongoing project is managed by Mineral Carbonation International.


University of Newcastle


Electrolux Design Contest

My Dream Bots: Tiny, Flying, House-Cleaning Robots!

The annual Electrolux Design Contest is always full of amazing innovations. This year, the winner features tiny flying robots that clean your house for you. For many of us, that is even better than jet packs and flying cars.

Adrian Perez Zapata, a student at Universidad San Buenaventura Medellín and Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia, envisions a set of 908 bots assessing the home and then cleaning what seems dirty. Perez Zapata was inspired by watching bees pollinating a flower in his university gardens.



Swarm of MAB Flying, Cleaning Robots with their Spherical Mother Ship

The concept, called Mab, requires a short initial configuration to work independently. Users can schedule cleanings or request custom cleaning of particular areas in the home. Mab also recommends a weekly cleaning cycle based on the bots’ scan of the environment. The system can connect to home networks including computers and cell phones to report their progress or any problems.

The microbot bugs swarm out of their spherical mother ship, deposit tiny amounts of water and cleaning solution onto dirty surfaces, then suck up the dirty water. The swarm returns to the core and unloads their dirty water before venturing on to the next cleaning project. Solar powered tiny spinning propellers move the robots through the air.


Solar Powered Flying Housecleaning Robots

Images courtesy Electrolux Design Lab

Mars Mission

Sleep Your Way to Mars

If you weren’t paying attention, NASA has been recruiting astronauts for a one-way trip to colonize Mars. No kidding. Sadly, they passed on hiring a middle-aged redhead (ahem) for the job. Their loss. 



Anyway, the question arises about just how the hell they are going to get people there without them going batshiat crazy on the trip. The voyage should begin in the next 15 years or so, so the selected crew starts training now for the arduous trip.

The Red Planet has been a dream for humanity for years. We’ve made giant leaps in technology and the requirements for space travel, so the colonization project may now be possible. NASA and project researchers are shooting for launch in or near 2030. In spite of how far away that seems, it really is not.

NASA-funded engineers are working on ways to put the astronauts into hibernation during the trip. No, this is not an Arthur C. Clarke novel, this is real life. Hibernation would make the Mars trip cheaper, safer, and easier on the crews, according to researchers. The plan is to induce a state similar to how bears snooze through a long winter.

Using current propulsion technology, it will take six to nine months to reach Mars. Happy and healthy awake astronauts will consume huge amounts of food, water, and living space. Happy hibernating astronauts, by comparison, would let the spacecraft travel lighter and leaner, with more resources devoted to other capacities. Less mass assigned to consumables reduces the cost of the entire system.

Mission to Mars


Life support systems would not have to work as hard and hibernating voyagers would be confined to one area of the ship. Radiation shielding would be hardened over that area, so no new propulsion systems to minimize radiation doses is be needed. More astronauts could go on the colonization expedition if they are hibernating. Having more people along will make the process after planet-fall much more efficient and productive.

Just how are these brainiacs planning to chill out the astronauts? The research team is using advances in therapeutic hypothermia developed for head and spinal cord injuries, for one. With this, tissue damage is prevented during low blood flow times by lowering the body’s core temperature.

Researchers claim the metabolic rate decreases by five to seven percent for every one-degree Fahrenheit drop in body temperature. Researchers are aiming for ten degrees drop in core body temperature during the voyage, which factors to a 50 to 70 percent reduction in metabolism.

This is a far cry from freezing someone and thawing them out when they get to the end of the trip. Astronauts will still need air, and will get nutrients via IVs. Supposedly, the body temperature drop would induce unconsciousness by itself; otherwise, sedatives would need to be added to the IV feed.

Maybe adding middle-aged redheads to the voyage would require ice cream and lots of Xanax in the drip. I am beginning to see their point. However, I would want to be awake for part of the voyage just to occasionally revel in the awesomeness.

Mission to Mars

Mars Astronauts with Rover

Back to hypothermia. The research team is trying to figure out the best way to drop core temperature. Right now, the leading idea is using the gel pads doctors currently use. Cold IVs could also do the trick, but they are trying to avoid multiple needles, it seems.

They could also let the spacecraft cool down naturally in the cold vacuum of space, and then warm the place back up as the destination neared. I have visions of astronaut-shaped Pop Tarts, but that is probably wrong. So far, the longest hypothermic hibernation has been ten days for humans. That has been dictated by medical need rather than human tolerances.

Challenges for hibernating spacefarers would include bone loss and muscle degeneration from lack of gravity and lack of exercise. Space station astronauts have a gym set up, and must work hard on gravity-based exercises to keep up their strength. Unresponsive and immobile hibernators would have no such advantage.

However, one study is examining the practicalities of spinning the spacecraft to induce artificial gravity. They could spin the ship faster with sleeping astronauts, because motion sickness would not be an issue. Faster spinning equals more gravity, and thus less bone and muscle loss. Scientists are also looking at how bears, in hibernation for five to seven months, don’t lose muscle strength.

Mars Mission

Nautilus-X Demo Ship – NASA

Thankfully, research teams are also looking at things that would make hibernation impractical or impossible on the long trip to Mars. If they don’t find any deal-breakers, then they will move on to more in-depth research. The 2030s are creeping up faster every day. Engineers say the hypothermia experiments can begin on the International Space Station at any time.

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Second Star to the Right, and Straight on Till Morning


Second Star to the Right and Straight on Till Morning

Simple Star Navigation in My Own Backyard

I’ve always wanted to be able to navigate by the stars, using them as a compass just as the ancestors did for thousands of years. I finally found some easy tricks to do this.

Northern Hemisphere Constellations

Northern Hemisphere Constellations

1. The Big Three

There are 58 stars useful for navigation, and 38 constellations encompass them all. Start with learning to spot Cassiopeia, Crux, and Orion (the Big Three) plus the Big and Little Dipper. 

2. Learn to Find the North Star

The North Star, or Polaris, indicates mostly-north rather than True North. The reason? True North changes as the polarity of the Earth shifts. For the present, though, Polaris is a pretty good guide at about one degree off True North. Find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and follow the ladle or bowl of the dipper. The outside edge of the ladle points straight up to the North Star.

If you go too far past Polaris, you will see a constellation that looks a little like a “W.” That is the constellation Cassiopeia. Polaris is about midway between the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. It is also the end star of the handle of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor).

Finding the North Star

Finding the North Star

3. Find Your Way South

Find the constellation Orion, easily identifiable by the three stars in a row known as Orion’s Belt. Find Orion’s sword, and follow it’s point to South. Another way to navigate southward is to draw a line between the tips of a crescent moon. Follow that imaginary line to the horizon and towards the South Pole.


5. Know How Stars Move

Stars in the sky track from East to West. Look for Orion’s Belt. The far right-hand star, Mintaka, rises very close to true East and sets at due West.

6. Go Down Under

The North Star is not visible South of the Equator, of course. Down under, look for the constellation Crux, or the Southern Cross, which looks like a kite. Draw an imaginary line from the top of the kite to the bottom. This line points South.

Crux - the Southern Cross

Crux – the Southern Cross

7. Make a Land-Based Star Survey

Place two sticks in the ground one yard apart. Pick any star, and line it up with the tops of both sticks, much like looking down a rifle sight. As the Earth rotates, the star will appear to move. If the star tracks left, you are facing North. If it tracks right, you are facing South. If it rises, you are facing East, and if it sinks you are facing West.

Wheel of the Sky - the Northern Hemisphere Constellations

Wheel of the Sky – the Northern Hemisphere Constellations

Plan on seeing some new additions to my back yard experimental station. I already made a simple stone compass, but it is currently covered with cantaloupe vines.

Winter Constellations - Northern Hemisphere

Winter Constellations – Northern Hemisphere

Northern Hemisphere Summer Constellations

Northern Hemisphere Summer Constellations


Bezos Expeditions

Apollo 11 Engines Found on Seafloor!

Bezos Expeditions – 7/19/2


When we stepped off the Seabed Worker four months ago in Port Canaveral, we had enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. We brought back thrust chambers, gas generators, injectors, heat exchangers, turbines, fuel manifolds and dozens of other artifacts – all simply gorgeous and a striking testament to the Apollo program. There was one secret that the ocean didn’t give up easily: mission identification. The components’ fiery end and heavy corrosion from 43 years underwater removed or covered up most of the original serial numbers. We left Florida knowing the conservation team had their work cut out for them, and we’ve kept our fingers crossed ever since.

Today, I’m thrilled to share some exciting news. One of the conservators who was scanning the objects with a black light and a special lens filter has made a breakthrough discovery – “2044” – stenciled in black paint on the side of one of the massive thrust chambers. 2044 is the Rocketdyne serial number that correlates to NASA number 6044, which is the serial number for F-1 Engine #5 from Apollo 11. The intrepid conservator kept digging for more evidence, and after removing more corrosion at the base of the same thrust chamber, he found it – “Unit No 2044″ – stamped into the metal surface.”  ~~~ from report

Check out the full article and lots more amazing photos here:

Bezos Expeditions

Apollo 11 Engine
Josh Bernstein and Evan Kovacs captured all of the amazing underwater high definition photographs

Fandango - Movie Tickets Online

Kuiper Belt

Hidden Oceans in the Far Solar System?

New and ongoing discoveries by two interplanetary probes indicate oceans underneath miles of ice on distant moons.

NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006, sending it on track for Pluto with a due date in July 2015. The journey will total over 3 billion miles. Pluto lives on the outskirts of the Solar System in the neighborhood of the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt houses multitudes of frozen objects believed to be leftover bits from the creation of the Solar System. Over 1600 have been catalogued thus far.

Kuiper Belt

Kuiper Belt – image

New Horizon will explore Pluto and its moons as well as some of the ice worlds in the Kuiper Belt. These far away objects have been largely untouched since the solar system was born billions of years ago. They could hold information about the origins and evolution of the solar system and planets.


Pluto temperatures average -387 F (-233 C) on a good day. The landscape is icy and dim perhaps similar to Arctic regions on Earth. The Sun probably appears as just a bright point in the sky and daytime on Pluto is likely darker than a stormy day on Earth. The Pluto sky, though, would be clear enough to see thousands of stars even in the daytime.

New Horizons is looking for evidence of a sub-surface ocean on Pluto. The outer surface of Pluto appears to be a thin nitrogen shell over water ice. Researchers believe the presence or absence of a bulge in the surface at the planet’s equator will provide this evidence. A bulge could be 10 km tall.


Pluto as it appears in the best images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo – NBC News

A bulge will indicate no ocean lies underneath, because liquid water moving over time would have reduced or eliminated the bulge. If New Horizons sees evidence of stretching of the surface due to temperature changes, however, that would be more indicative of an ocean. If an ocean exists on Pluto, potassium and other isotopes undergoing radioactive decay and emitting heat would probably maintain it. Potassium ions would be most likely to occur in a rocky planetary core, and would need to occur at about 1/10 the rate of that found in meteorites from the early Solar System. Researchers believe this is a good possibility for existing on Pluto.

The nature of the ice on the surface will also influence whether an ocean exists. Ice that is slushier and resists flowing would suck the heat out of the water beneath, causing the ocean to freeze. A more solid shell would hold in heat and maintain the ocean.

A planet wide ocean might be beneath 100-120 miles (165-200 km) of ice. The ocean itself might be from 60 to 105 miles (100 to 170 km) deep with an average depth of 100 miles (165 km). The planet might also have geysers similar to those found on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Neptune’s moon Triton.

New Horizon Status Update – Late May 2013

New Horizons will pass within 7750 miles of the surface of Pluto, providing high-resolution photos and mapping of the planet that currently appears as a blurry mix of brown and gold. Even images from farther away will be 10 times better than the best of those from the Hubble Space Telescope. Ridges and valleys of 260 feet (80 m) should be distinguishable. Water is necessary for life as we know it, and scientists are finding it farther out into the solar system than expected.

As of late May 2013, New Horizons was approximately 2.6 billion miles from the sun and about 600 million miles away from Pluto. Arrival at the distant world is under 700 days away. New Horizons has been underway over 2700 days since launch. It is currently involved in a wake-up period after 100 days in hibernation. It is undergoing a thorough annual checkup and software updates in addition to approach and close-encounter rehearsals.

In August, the ship will go back to sleep for several more months. The navigation team has determined the ship is on course, and no fuel needs to be spent making course corrections. This summer, the ship will be close enough to photograph Pluto separately from Charon, its largest moon. The first week of July is the 35th anniversary of the discovery of Charon.

Saturn and Jupiter’s Moons and the Cassini Spacecraft

Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto may have liquid oceans under their icy surfaces, and Saturn’s moon Titan probably has underground water. It may also have a ocean of ammonia-enriched water below the surface in addition to liquid methane surface lakes and seas.  Enceladus, another moon of Saturn, appears to have liquid water below the surface enhanced by giant geysers of water vapor, organic particles and ice particles erupting from fissures near the South Pole. The Cassini spacecraft has directly sampled these eruptions. Some asteroids may even have liquid water under their surfaces.


Beautiful Plumage – 1/18/2013 – JPL Image of Enceladus geyser plume. Image by Cassini Spacecraft in visible light reflected off Saturn. North on Enceladus is up and 45 degrees to the right in this image. Cassini was approximately 483,000 miles (777,000 km) from Enceladus when this image was captured. Image – Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mike Brown and Kevin Hand of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have announced the ice surface of Europa contains the same chemicals as the ocean underneath the surface. Future exploration of the moon could answer questions about life in that ocean just by analyzing the surface.

 Brown and Hand detected magnesium sulfate on one side of the moon, and surmise the surface contains other salt compounds that could only come from its ocean. The pair will use the same ground-based telescopes to examine Ganymede and perhaps Europa. Plans are in the works for the European Space Agency to send a mission to the Jovian system in 2030, including flybys of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

 Saturn’s Moon Dione

Other interesting news from distance iceballs includes that from the Cassini orbiter visiting Saturn’s moon Dione. Instruments onboard Cassini have found hints of a particle stream coming from the moon as well as images of features similar to the geysers on Enceladus. Images showed evidence of a possible liquid or slushy layer under the hard ice crust of Dione.

A surface feature called Janiculum Dorsa, a mountain ridge approximately 800 km long and 0.6-1.2 miles (1-2 km) tall appears to sit atop a part of the Dione crust that flexes by approximately 0.3 mile (0.5 km). This suggests the icy crust was warm when the ridge formed, and the best way to get that heat is through the presence of a subsurface ocean during the ridge’s creation.



Image: The Cassini spacecraft looks down almost directly at the north pole of Dione. The feature just left of the terminator line at bottom is Janiculum Dorsa, a long, roughly north-south trending ridge. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 22, 2008. The view was from a distance of approximately 650,000 kilometers (404,000 miles) from Dione. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Tidal pulls from Dione’s orbit – the stretching and squeezing as it gets closer to and farther away from Saturn in the orbit – and an icy crust capable of moving independently from the core of the moon could also produce the heat.  From a distance, the moon appears like nothing so much as a boring ice cue ball. Close up images of the Janiculum Dorsa ridge indicate the moon may still be geologically active today. It is a feature similar to those on Enceladus that houses the geysers. Dione could be a fossil of a world once like geyser moon Enceladus, or a weaker copy of Enceladus according to scientists at JPL.


Janiculum Dorsa, a mountain ridge on Dione, appears as a long, raised scar in the middle of this image from Cassini.

Dione has a diameter of 698 miles (1123 km) and is the fourth largest moon of Saturn. It is the 15th largest moon in the solar system, and orbits Saturn at approximately the same distance between Earth and her moon. It is one of 53 named satellites of the ringed planet. The moon is 1.48 as dense as water, indicating it has a dense core surrounded by ice. The average temperature on Dione is -302F (-186C). These temperatures cause the ice surface to behave much like rock.

Cassini also detected a faint oxygen atmosphere on Dione, equivalent to the oxygen density 300 mi (480 km) above Earth. Dione orbits with the same side always facing Saturn, a position referred to as “tidally locked.” The Earth’s moon orbits the same way in relation to Earth. Dione’s gravity keeps Helene and Polydeuces, two smaller moons,  locked into their orbital positions as the three travel around Saturn together.

Dione also influences the orbits of Enceladus and Mimas, two of Saturn’s larger moons. Scientists are still puzzling over why Enceladus became so geologically active with geysers and geologic activity, while Dione did not move as quickly.

 Regardless, scientists are discovering that subsurface liquid oceans are fairly common on these ice satellites. Other worlds of high interest for the presence of liquid water include dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto, and Pluto’s moon Charon.

Read More about the exploration of the far solar system, the search for life off Earth, and the space missions mentioned in this article:


Why They Act So Crazy – Science and Teenage Brain Development

Recent research shows the adolescent brain does not fully mature until approximately age 25. During the maturation process, the brain strengthens some neurons and neural connections through repeated use, and eliminates others through lack of use. Substance abuse further impairs and delays development, as and strengthens maladaptive neural connections through repeated use.

Scared Teen

Professionals working with adolescents need to be aware of brain development, brain functions, and the interactions with environment, substance abuse and other issues. Appropriate expectations of the teen must be in place, but must also take into account that their capabilities are functionally different from those of an adult. Assist teens to learn their strengths and to compensate for their weaknesses, and to think through risky behaviors and to think independently.

Structures in the brain delayed during normal adolescence.

The Amygdala: Regulates emotional reactions.  Teenagers have a tendency to react explosively and to misread others’ emotions. The amygdala or “drama center” of the brain develops far faster than the rest of the teenage brain, leaving other brain structures unable to respond appropriate or to control the emotional outbursts.

Prefrontal Cortex: Regulates information processing, judgment and behavioral control. We see this adolescent brain immaturity in teens’ poor judgment and impulsivity, foreseeing consequences and setting goals and plans. This is one of the last areas of the brain to mature, and we can clearly see that teen behavior makes more sense in the context of an immature prefrontal cortex. This area also manages organization, problem solving, critical thinking and the ability to learn from experience.

Limbic System:  Holds the pleasure and emotion centers, modulates the libido, and contains circuits vital for memory and motivation.

Temporal Lobe:  Critical for understanding and processing language, as well as middle term and complex memories. The temporal lobe controls auditory and visual learning and emotional stability.

Adults with alcohol use disorders had a significantly smaller volume of the hippocampus, a brain structure primarily responsible for memory.

Teen Brains

Effects on Behavior and Mood

Combine a fully active and developed amygdala with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, many of the mood swings and behaviors blamed on “raging hormones” make sense. The prefrontal cortex acts as the “brake” on all thoughts and feelings people have. It is the last area of the brain to develop, not fully maturing until at least age 24.

Unfortunately, this particular developmental lag also puts the adolescent at risk for making poor decisions, such as abusing drugs. Introduction of many drugs and alcohol into the still-developing teenage brain may have long-lasting and profound consequences. Substances can disrupt brain function in critical areas related to memory, motivation, learning, judgment, and behavior control. Not surprisingly, teens who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse often have school and family problems, poor school performance, physical and mental health problems and involvement with the juvenile justice system.

What is Normal?

Sensation seeking, impulsive and risk taking behavior are quite normal until the brain development process is complete. A typical teen with a development will prefer activities with peers that are exciting, and novel activities that provide interesting input. They will have a tendency to be attentive to social interactions, as well as to have difficulty controlling emotions. They also will struggle with the ability to consider negative consequences of their actions. Scare tactics, such as the DARE program, are ineffective for this reason – teens are simply less able to process fear of punishment.


The underdeveloped adolescent brain leads teens be more influenced by peers than adults are, and more prone to “group think. They engage in risky behavior more often than adults, in part due to their sense of invincibility. They get more of a “rush from taking risks, and rarely think about the possibility of consequences. Still – developing impulse control skills affects teenage reckless behavior. They experience rapid and extreme mood changes connected with their troubles with self-control. Part of a teen developing their own identity is experimenting with different activities and adult rules. However, their judgment and impulse control may result in making poor choices.

Environment plays a crucial role in determining whether a teen’s immature judgment will lead to criminal behavior. Most delinquent youth do not continue to commit crimes as adults.  Substance abuse has a negative effect on these odds. The younger a teen is when they start using substances, the more likely they are to self-report addiction later in life. Increased hormonal production may lead to greater drug use, and the still-developing amygdala definitely increases the teen’s feelings of social disinhibition when intoxicated, compared to adults.

Adolescence is a period of significant brain maturation, and one incomplete until the mid-twenties. Teens are more likely to react impulsively or on instinct without thinking of consequences when they face stress or emotional decisions. Professionals who work with teens must understand the primary developmental differences between adults and adolescents. They need to encourage growth in teens thinking, and be open about risks involved with teen behavior choices.

 Adolescents should receive acknowledgment and reward for independent thinking, and be assisted with setting goals. Future oriented thinking is difficult for teens, and they will need assistance in this. Professionals should also help them recognize and utilize their unique strengths


How to spot a murderer’s brain

Do your genes, rather than upbringing, determine whether you will become a criminal? Adrian Raine believed so – and breaking that taboo put him on collision course with the world of science

The Observer,

murderer brain scans

Scans of a normal brain, left, beside that of murderer Antonio Bustamante, who was spared the death penalty after a jury was shown these pictures. Photograph: Public domain

When Raine started doing brain scans of murderers in American prisons, he was among the first researchers to apply the evolving science of brain imaging to violent criminality. His most comprehensive study, in 1994, was still, necessarily, a small sample. He conducted PET [positron emission tomography] scans of 41 convicted killers and paired them with a “normal” control group of 41 people of similar age and profile. However limited the control, the colour images, which showed metabolic activity in different parts of the brain, appeared striking in comparison. In particular, the murderers’ brains showed what appeared to be a significant reduction in the development of the prefrontal cortex, “the executive function” of the brain, compared with the control group.

Shop at the Discovery Channel Store.

The advancing understanding of neuroscience suggested that such a deficiency would result in an increased likelihood of a number of behaviours: less control over the limbic system that generates primal emotions such as anger and rage; a greater addiction to risk; a reduction in self-control; and poor problem-solving skills, all traits that might predispose a person to violence.

Raine cites two very recent brain-imaging studies to back this up. One is a study in New Mexico in which prisoners are scanned on release. “What they are discovering is that if the functioning of the anterior cingulate, part of the limbic system, is lower than normal before release, they are twice as likely to be reconvicted in the next three years. And that marker is more accurate a guide than all other social factors,” Raine says. A second study apparently shows if a released prisoner has a significantly smaller volume in the amygdala, the almond-shaped part of the brain crucial for processing memory and emotion, he or she is three times more likely to reoffend. “Now, this is only two studies, but what they are beginning to show is proof of concept, that if we added neurological factors into the equation we could do a better job at predicting future behaviour.”

Full article HERE

Read more about neuroscience, brain structure and criminality:


Once You Know, You Newegg


Google Glass – Part 2

I wrote about Google Glass back on 12/24/12, and the implications it might have as a “wearable computer.” Here is the original post:

Now it seems they are ready to release the thing to the public for around $1500, according to NBC News technology. Here is an excerpt of their article and a linkie.

Everyone’s favorite future toy, Google Glass, may soon be more than a gadget-blogger’s fantasy. Tech website The Verge has gotten official confirmation from Google that they plan to launch the head-worn device before the end of the year, and for under $1,500.


Google Glass Headset. Photo courtesy of Google.


We The People: Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research

The White House


Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research

By Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Thank you for your participation in the We the People platform. The Obama Administration agrees that citizens deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for. As you may know, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been looking into this issue for some time and has reached out to the public on two occasions for input on the question of how best to achieve this goal of democratizing the results of federally-funded research. Your petition has been important to our discussions of this issue.

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.

To that end, I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

As I mentioned, these policies were developed carefully through extensive public consultation. We wanted to strike the balance between the extraordinary public benefit of increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research and the need to ensure that the valuable contributions that the scientific publishing industry provides are not lost. This policy reflects that balance, and it also provides the flexibility to make changes in the future based on experience and evidence. For example, agencies have been asked to use a 12-month embargo period as a guide for developing their policies, but also to provide a mechanism for stakeholders to petition the agency to change that period. As agencies move forward with developing and implementing these polices, there will be ample opportunity for further public input to ensure they are doing the best possible job of reconciling all of the relevant interests.

In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovations—not to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.

So thank you again for your petition. I hope you will agree that the Administration has done its homework and responded substantively to your request.