SciTech Briefs

3-D printed objects may help blind use Internet

Blind children in Japan can now feel the results of their latest web search. Hands On Search, sponsored by Yahoo! Japan, is a project aimed at making Internet search results tactile, rather than just visual and auditory.

The Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, affiliated with the University of Tsukuba, Tokyo, has a custom-made 3-D printer which looks like a big puffy cloud. When kids ask the machine for things, it processes the request using voice recognition, searches for the relevant 3-D data and prints out the object.

Source: CNET News

Breakthrough in Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Researchers have developed a way to illuminate a key protein associated with Alzheimer’s. Until very recently, all research on Alzheimer’s was based on detecting amyloid, a sticky substance that develops in the brain of people suffering from Alzheimer’s. However, another protein called tau, also associated with Alzheimer’s, piles up in the brain in the form of harmful tangles.

Researchers at National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan, have discovered that a class of molecules can latch onto tau tangles and help illuminate them during PET scans.

Source: Science News

Vitamin E fights static electricity

It has been found that Vitamin E can get rid of static electricity. Static electricity, known for the tiny jolts that one gets while walking barefoot on a carpet, can cause shocks that spark fires and explosions in electronics.

When surfaces rub against each other, uncharged molecules called free radicals are generated in addition to the static electric charges. Researchers at Northwestern University have shown that these radicals help stabilize the charges that develop. Vitamin E is a radical scavenger, which absorbs these radicals. Thus, when the objects are dipped in a Vitamin E solution, the charges are destabilized and static electricity cannot be generated.

Source: Science News

Comets may be source of life

New findings support the hypothesis that life on Earth arose from the wreckage of comet collisions. Experiments have found that when a steel projectile is collided with a comet-like concoction, amino acids are produced. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins, which are the key molecules for life. It is possible energy from the impact of the comets with the earth may have catalyzed the transformation of simple carbon compounds into amino acids.

This is an alternative to the traditional hypothesis that life arose on earth from combination of chemicals that existed in the earth’s atmosphere and deep-sea vents.

Source : Science News

Yeast strain can endlessly rejuvenate

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics have found that a certain type of yeast can stay young forever by rejuvenating every time it reproduces.

In general, microbes reproduce by splitting into two halves and dividing the cell material between the two halves. In most cases, one of the halves gets all the new material and the other gets all the old and damaged material.

In one yeast type, however, when the cell splits, an equal amount of old and new material goes into both the resultant halves. As both cells get only half the damaged material, the resultant cells are both appear younger than before.

Source : SciTech News

iPhone 5S raises privacy and security concerns

One of the highlights of Apple’s newly released iPhone 5S is a fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone. This does away with the need for a passcode, making the phone much more secure against theft and misuse.

However, concerns have been raised about the collection of sensitive personal data like fingerprints. In addition to a possible privacy concern, it’s a potential security hazard as well; If one’s fingerprints fall into the wrong hands, hackers can impersonate him or her for the rest of their life, as they are inalterable.

Source : The Washington Post