“(PhysOrg.com) — In the past 20 years, the Amish population in the US has doubled, increasing from 123,000 in 1991 to 249,000 in 2010. The huge growth stems almost entirely from the religious culture’s high fertility rate, which is about 6 children per woman, on average. At this rate, the Amish population will reach 7 million by 2100 and 44 million by 2150. On the other hand, the growth may not continue if future generations of Amish choose to defect from the religion and if secular influences reduce the birth rate. In a new study, Robert Rowthorn, emeritus professor of economics at Cambridge University, has looked at the broader picture underlying this particular example: how will the high fertility rates of religious people throughout the world affect the future of human genetic evolution, and therefore the biological makeup of society?
Rowthorn has developed a model that shows that the genetic components that predispose a person toward religion are currently “hitchhiking” on the back of the religious cultural practice of high fertility rates. Even if some of the people who are born to religious parents defect from religion and become secular, the religious genes they carry (which encompass other personality traits, such as obedience and conservativism) will still spread throughout society, according to the model’s numerical simulations.
“Provided the fertility of religious people remains on average higher than that of secular people, the genes that predispose people towards religion will spread,” Rowthorn told PhysOrg.com. “The bigger the fertility differential between religious and secular people, the faster this genetic transformation will occur. This does not mean that everyone will become religious. Genes are not destiny. Many people who are genetically predisposed towards religion may in fact lead secular lives because of the cultural influences they have been exposed to.””
“Glaring, overlit faces and blacked-out night-time backgrounds have ruined photographs, film and video ever since they were invented. Why can’t cameras just record things the way our eyes see them? Now a video system based on new data-crunching techniques means they can. New Scientist explores what it will mean for the picture on your TV screen.”
“Traditional cameras capture their images on a flat surface, formerly photographic film but now usually a digital photodetector. In a conventional camera, extra lenses are required to flatten the image before it hits the detector, otherwise it appears blurry or uneven.
The eyeball camera does away with the need for these extra, movable lenses, and reshapes the sensor instead. Rather than adjusting the image to suit a flat surface, it flexes the sensor to match the curvature of the image and the lens.
To achieve this, Rogers has mounted an array of silicon photodetectors on an elastic membrane, which in turn forms the surface of a fluid-filled chamber (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015440108). Using hydraulic actuators to adjust the amount of fluid in the chamber, the membrane can be flexed to take up convex or concave shapes.
The lens is formed by fluid held in a gap between a glass window and an elastic membrane whose shape can also be adjusted hydraulically.
The eyeball technology could be used in night-vision cameras that now typically use bulky and expensive lenses to capture infrared images. Another application would be endoscopes, where very tiny cameras with a wide field of view are required, Rogers says.
Corin Gawith, an optoelectronics researcher at the University of Southampton, UK, says the device is an elegant solution to the problem of making lens systems less bulky. “In an endoscope you can see how it would be very useful because you’ve got a very small lens and what you are trying to do is take an image of quite a wide area,” he says. “Same again in the security camera. What they are offering is a very compact way of achieving that.””
“The crucial trick is that although both the electrodes and the electrolyte appear solid, they are actually finely structured at the nanometre scale (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre). This is to allow the lithium ions free passage. Getting the materials in question to settle down in an appropriate arrangement has taken blood, sweat and tears but Planar’s scientists think they have cracked the problem.
The “inks” they use to print their battery cells are waterborne precursor chemicals that, when mixed and sprayed onto the substrate in appropriate (and proprietary) concentrations and conditions, react to form suitably nanostructured films. Once that has happened, the water simply evaporates and the desired electronic sandwich is left behind in a thousandth of the time that it would take to make it using vacuum deposition.
Printing batteries this way also offers the possibility of incorporating other thin-film devices, such as ultracapacitors, directly into the cells. An ultracapacitor is an electricity-storage device that can be charged and discharged rapidly. In electric cars, ultracapacitors can capture energy from regenerative braking and use it for fast acceleration.
Planar says its cells will be more reliable than conventional lithium-ion cells, will be able to store two to three times more energy in the same weight and will last for tens of thousands of recharging cycles. They could also be made for a third of the cost. …
If the pilot production line is successful, the company hopes to begin operations in earnest in about 18 months. To start with it will make small cells for portable devices. It will then scale up to larger cells and, in around six years’ time, it hopes to be producing batteries powerful enough for carmakers. If, by then, anyone needs a replacement battery for a Chevy Volt, such technology may offer a solid-state alternative that could increase that car’s all-electric range from about 65km (40 miles) to some 200km. Lack of range is reckoned one of the main obstacles to the widespread use of electric cars. If solid-state batteries could overcome such range anxiety that would, indeed, be a revolution on a par with the silicon chip.”
” * Hydrogen-based fuel produces no greenhouse gases so could help nations slash their carbon footprint
* It is due to be available at the pumps in three to five years
A revolutionary synthetic fuel which costs just 90p per gallon and will run in existing cars could spell the end of sky-high prices at the pumps.
With current petrol prices at 128.6p per litre, the new hydrogen-based fuel would offer much-needed respite for motorists.
But critics argue that it will be years before it becomes widely available.
As it is hydrogen-based, it produces no greenhouse gases at all so an added advantage is it could help nations slash the size of their carbon footprint .
It is hoped the technology, developed in a top secret programme at an English laboratory, could spell the end of dramatic petrol price fluctuations.”
“European robins may maintain quantum entanglement in their eyes a full 20 microseconds longer than the best laboratory systems, say physicists investigating how birds may use quantum effects to “see” Earth’s magnetic field.
Quantum entanglement is a state where electrons are spatially separated, but able to affect one another. It’s been proposed that birds’ eyes contain entanglement-based compasses.
Conclusive proof doesn’t yet exist, but multiple lines of evidence suggest it. Findings like this one underscore just how sophisticated those compasses may be.
“How can a living system have evolved to protect a quantum state as well — no, better — than we can do in the lab with these exotic molecules?” asked quantum physicist Simon Benjamin of Oxford University and the National University of Singapore, a co-author of the new study. “That really is an amazing thing.””
“In a study published today in Science (e-publication ahead of print), a global research team reports that the cancer drug Taxol (Paclitaxel) promotes the regeneration of injured nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS) after spinal cord injury. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany and the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury in Maryland, together with colleagues at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and University of Miami in Florida, found that the drug reduces the major obstacles to neural cell repair in the spinal cord of injured rats.”
“Una dintre afecţiunile societăţii moderne este somnolenţa diurnă excesivă, numită şi hipersomnie. Ca frecvenţă, simptomele legate de somn, între care se numără şi somnolenţa diurnă, sunt considerate a fi pe locul al doilea, după durere, între acuzele întâlnite în cabinetele de medicină generală. Somnolenţa diurnă excesivă este mult mai periculoasă decât oboseala, deoarece determină reducerea performanţelor intelectuale, emoţionale şi fizice, dar şi creşterea riscului de accidente.”
“High school biology teachers need more training to, um, help them understand and thus believe in basic tenets of biology.
That’s the conclusion of Penn State scientists, who discovered that most are reluctant to teach evolutionary theory in class. The report comes just two days after a warning from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that the US is slipping down the world league tables in terms of the quality of its science education.”
“Ministerul Dezvoltarii Regionale si Turismului (MDRT) vrea sa infiinteze o retea nationala de trasee cicloturistice, pe drumuri asfaltate sau nemodernizate aflate in special in zone cu peisaje pitoresti si trafic auto redus, potrivit unui proiect de hotarare de guvern elaborat de institutie si citat de Mediafax.”
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