SciTech Briefs

Particle collider running with more power

Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth, resumed operations last week after a few months of inactivity. The experiments, which began last Thursday, reached record-breaking energy levels of 8 trillion electron-volts. The LHC will be active until November, when it will be upgraded over the following 20 months. The upgrades will give the collider a top energy of 14 trillion electron-volts.

One of the primary goals of the LHC, and of this year’s experiments in particular, is to find evidence of the Higgs boson. Sometimes called the “God particle,” the Higgs is a theoretical subatomic particle that may be the reason why matter has mass. The hunt for the Higgs has been a focus of physicists for years, with experiments at the Tevatron, another collider located in Batavia, Ill., giving inconclusive evidence of its existence at the end of last year.

Source: BBC

New link found between CO2, global warming

Research on carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature during the Pleistocene ice ages (2.5 million to 11,700 years ago) has provided additional evidence that carbon dioxide levels and global climate are linked. A team led by scientists from Harvard University, Columbia University, and Oregon State University extrapolated core-ice samples from the Antarctic to establish a global record of surface temperatures.

In previous studies, it appeared that carbon dioxide levels rose after temperature increased, leading climate skeptics to question the role of carbon dioxide in climate change. This recent report shows that rising temperatures both correlated with and lagged behind increases in carbon dioxide concentrations. The researchers concluded that increased carbon dioxide levels explain much of how the planet was able to warm up from the last ice age.

Source: Nature

DARPA challenge aims to involve humanoid robot

According to industry sources, the next Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge will require teams to build humanoid robots able to work in industrial disasters and rough terrain. DARPA is a division of the military that pursues cutting-edge research, with famous results such as ARPANET, part of the original internet.

The Grand Challenge is a competition funded by the agency in which teams must complete a specified scenario. Previous competitions have included urban and desert races for automated vehicles. Carnegie Mellon’s Tartan Racing won the 2007 urban challenge.

In the new challenge, teams will have to construct bipedal, humanoid robots that can operate with only supervisory control. Robots will need to drive a utility vehicle, unlock a room with a key, enter the room, and cross a debris-strewn floor. After this, the robot must climb a ladder and interact with a pump and valve.

Source: CNET

Scientists find feathery dinosaur in China

Paleontologists in China’s Liaoning province have unearthed fossils of the largest feathered creature ever discovered, called Yutyrannus huali. This dinosaur weighed 1.4 metric tons, or over 3,000 pounds, and was about the length of a school bus. It lived about 125 million years ago.

Fossil evidence suggests that the species was covered entirely with feathers. However, researchers are not sure exactly what purpose the feathers had since the creature’s size made flight out of the question.

Because the dinosaurs lived in an area with an average temperature of 50°F, the cold-blooded creatures may have needed additional insulation. Although paleontologists previously thought large body size excluded feathers, recent discoveries of medium-sized feathered dinosaurs, and now Yutyrannus huali, present new possibilities.

Source: Science

Human Genome Project moves to Amazon

The 1,000 Genomes Project, an effort of the National Institutes of Health and the largest database of human genetics, will be moving to Amazon’s cloud services. Although the genetic data was previously available online, it was costly and it required interested scientists to have powerful computing resources. Amazon hosting will drastically cut costs for researchers in terms of both access and analysis.

The 1,000 Genomes Project actually includes genomic data from 1,700 individuals, with 900 more samples being added this year. One of the project’s goals is to enable research that more accurately predicts disease based on genetic factors. Two-hundred terabytes of genetic data will be transferred to Amazon — an amount so large that it would require 30,000 DVDs’ worth of storage. The transfer is part of a larger government-wide initiative to make large datasets more widely available for analysis.

Source: Scientific American

Google glasses will allow visualizing maps, photo-taking

Google announced that it is testing Project Glass, a set of augmented reality glasses that include a clear display that sits above the right eye. The built-in display technology can stream information to the lens, and the wearer can interact with the device through voice commands. Potential uses identified by Google include visualizing maps, taking photos, and video conferencing.

Although rumors have existed about Project Glass for months, the development team made the first official announcement on Google+ last week. The devices run a version of the Android operating system used on smartphones, and they also have GPS and motion sensors. Although the glasses are not yet for sale, Google plans to test them with the public.

Source: The New York Times