Lander Designed for Titan's Methane Seas Tests Tech on Chilean Lake

Space.com - Fri, 14/04/2017 - 5:18am
A floating lander tests the winds and waves on a lake in Chile in preparation for a future mission to the methane and ethane lakes of Saturn's moon Titan.
Categories: Science

How to condense water out of air using only sunlight for energy

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 14/04/2017 - 3:33am

A water harvester designed and built at MIT condenses water from air. The harvester uses sunlight to heat metal-organic framework (MOF) material (inserted just below the glass plate on top), driving off the water vapor and condensing it (in the yellow and red condenser sitting at the bottom) for home use. (photo credit: Hyunho Kim/MIT)

MIT scientists have invented a water harvester that uses only sunlight to pull water out of the air under desert conditions, using a “metal-organic framework” (MOF) powdered material developed at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).

Under conditions of 20–30 percent humidity (a level common in arid areas), the prototype device was able to pull 2.8 liters (3 quarts) of water from the air over a 12-hour period, using one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of MOF.

(Left) A schematic of metal-organic framework (MOF) material. The three large yellow, orange, and green balls are porous spaces for capturing and concentrating water molecules. (Right) As ambient air diffuses through the porous MOF, water molecules preferentially attach to the interior surfaces. Sunlight entering through a window heats up the MOF and drives the bound water toward the condenser, which is at the temperature of the outside air. The vapor condenses as liquid water and drips into a collector. (credit: UC Berkeley and MIT)

In 2014, a UC Berkeley team team led by chemist Omar Yaghi*, PhD, synthesized a porous MOF — a combination of zirconium metal and adipic acid** — that was able to bind water vapor. He suggested to Evelyn Wang, PhD, a mechanical engineer at MIT, that they join forces to turn the MOF into a water-collecting system.

Today (April 13, 2017), the system was announced in a paper published in the journal Science, with Yaghi and Wang as co-senior authors.***

“We wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert, you could survive because of this device. A person needs about a Coke can of water per day. That is something one could collect in less than an hour with this system.” — Evelyn Wang

The new solar-powered harvester is a major breakthrough in the long-standing challenge of harvesting water from the air at low humidity, according to Yaghi. “There is no other way to do that right now, except by using extra energy. Your electric dehumidifier at home ‘produces’ very expensive water.”

Regions with desert climates (2011). Red: hot desert climates. Pink: cold desert climates. (credit: Koppen World Map/CC)

“We wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert, you could survive because of this device,” Wang said. “A person needs about a Coke can of water per day. That is something one could collect in less than an hour with this system. … This work offers a new way to harvest water from air that does not require high relative humidity conditions and is much more energy efficient than other existing technologies.”

Running water and carbon-dioxide capture next

Yaghi and his team are currently working on improving their MOFs, while Wang continues to improve the harvesting system to produce more water.

The current MOF can absorb only 20 percent of its weight in water, but other MOF materials could possibly absorb 40 percent or more, and the material can be tweaked to be more effective at higher or lower humidity levels, Yaghi believes.

Rooftop tests at MIT confirmed that the water harvester works in real-world conditions. (photo credit: Hyunho Kim/MIT)

“It’s not just that we made a passive device that sits there collecting water; we have now laid both the experimental and theoretical foundations so that we can screen other MOFs, thousands of which could be made, to find even better materials,” he said. “There is a lot of potential for scaling up the amount of water that is being harvested. It is just a matter of further engineering now.”

“To have water running all the time, you could design a system that absorbs the humidity during the night and evolves it during the day,” Wang added. “Or design the solar collector to allow for this at a much faster rate, where more air is pushed in.”

Some MOFs being developed by Yaghi’s team could hold gases such as hydrogen or methane. The chemical company BASF is testing one of Yaghi’s MOFs in natural gas-fueled trucks; MOF-filled tanks hold three times the methane that can be pumped under pressure into an empty tank.

Other MOFs are able to capture carbon dioxide from flue gases, catalyze the reaction of adsorbed chemicals, or separate petrochemicals in processing plants.

* Yaghi holds the James and Neeltje Tretter chair in chemistry at UC Berkeley and is a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is also the founding director of the Berkeley Global Science Institute, and a co-director of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute and the California Research Alliance by BASF. He invented metal-organic frameworks more than 20 years ago, combining metals like magnesium or aluminum with organic molecules in a tinker-toy arrangement to create rigid, porous structures ideal for storing gases and liquids. Since then, more than 20,000 different MOFs have been created by researchers worldwide.

** Metal-organic framework-801 [Zr6O4(OH)4(fumarate)6]

*** The work was supported in part by ARPA-E, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy. The work on MOFs in Yaghi’s laboratory is supported by BASF and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


UC Berkeley | Pulling drinkable water out of dry air

Omar Yaghi explains how to make a MOF and their tremendous ability to absorb gases and liquids, including water directly from low-humidity air. A MOF he synthesized was used by MIT engineers to construct a water harvester that sucks water from dry air and condenses it for drinking. Video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally, UC Berkeley. Harvester photos courtesy of MIT.

Abstract of Water harvesting from air with metal-organic frameworks powered by natural sunlight

Atmospheric water is a resource equivalent to ~10% of all fresh water in lakes on Earth. However, an efficient process for capturing and delivering water from air, especially at low humidity levels (down to 20%), has not been developed. We report the design and demonstration of a device based on porous metal-organic framework-801 [Zr6O4(OH)4(fumarate)6] that captures water from the atmosphere at ambient conditions using low-grade heat from natural sunlight below one sun (1 kW per square meter). This device is capable of harvesting 2.8 liters of water per kilogram of MOF daily at relative humidity levels as low as 20%, and requires no additional input of energy.

Categories: Science

Apple Has a Secret Team Working On Non-Invasive Diabetes Sensors

Slashdot - Fri, 14/04/2017 - 3:30am
schwit1 quotes a report from CNBC: Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, miles from corporate headquarters. They are part of a super secret initiative, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, according to three people familiar with the matter. Such a breakthrough would be a "holy grail" for life sciences. Many life sciences companies have tried and failed, as it's highly challenging to track glucose levels accurately without piercing the skin. The initiative is far enough along that Apple has been conducting feasibility trials at clinical sites across the Bay Area and has hired consultants to help it figure out the regulatory pathways, the people said. schwit1 adds: "From a business aspect, the most interesting part of this venture might be how Apple combines its penchant for secrecy with maneuvering through those regulatory pathways. It's one thing to introduce another new bit of consumer electronics kit. It's an entirely other thing to get a medical device past the FDA."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

AI Programs Exhibit Racial and Gender Biases, Research Reveals

Slashdot - Fri, 14/04/2017 - 1:05am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: An artificial intelligence tool that has revolutionized the ability of computers to interpret everyday language has been shown to exhibit striking gender and racial biases. The findings raise the specter of existing social inequalities and prejudices being reinforced in new and unpredictable ways as an increasing number of decisions affecting our everyday lives are ceded to automatons. In the past few years, the ability of programs such as Google Translate to interpret language has improved dramatically. These gains have been thanks to new machine learning techniques and the availability of vast amounts of online text data, on which the algorithms can be trained. However, as machines are getting closer to acquiring human-like language abilities, they are also absorbing the deeply ingrained biases concealed within the patterns of language use, the latest research reveals. Joanna Bryson, a computer scientist at the University of Bath and a co-author, warned that AI has the potential to reinforce existing biases because, unlike humans, algorithms may be unequipped to consciously counteract learned biases. The research, published in the journal Science, focuses on a machine learning tool known as "word embedding," which is already transforming the way computers interpret speech and text.

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Categories: Science

Used Tesla Model S Sedans Sell Faster Than Any Other High-End Used Vehicle

Slashdot - Fri, 14/04/2017 - 12:35am
According to a survey conducted by Autolist, "used Tesla Model S sedans sell faster than luxury-car competitors do, and faster than other top-selling used vehicles from Motor Co. and General Motors Co.," reports MarketWatch. From the report: Used Model S sedans had the briefest time on the market of all vehicles included in the survey, taking, on average, 87 days to sell. That was about 5% quicker than the average for vehicles in the model's peer group, which included the Audi A7, the Porsche Panamera, the BMW 6 Series, the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Lexus LS 460. The listing prices of used Tesla Model S sedans were between 3% and 5% above their peer-group average for the past year, after controlling for price differences among the models, Autolist.com said. "We would expect top-performing vehicles in a peer group to have prices [about] 2% above our adjusted expectations for the segment. But 3% to 5% above, and maintaining that level of performance over the past year? That's surprising," Alex Klein, Autolist.com's vice president of data science, said in emailed comments.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Roku-Enabled TVs Will Soon 'Listen' To Programs You're Watching To Suggest Streaming Content

Slashdot - Fri, 14/04/2017 - 12:05am
Roku-enabled TVs will be receiving a new OS update that will listen to what show or movie you're watching via your cable or satellite set-top or over-the-air antenna, in order to suggest internet-streaming content. "Compatible TVs will use automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to identify the content and then suggest additional viewing options available on via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu," reports Variety. From the report: It may seem vaguely Big Brother-ish, but Roku is being careful about ensuring consumer privacy: Users will be required to enable the feature via an opt-in prompt. In addition, the "More Ways to Watch" feature can be turned off at any time (although Roku says viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted). For now, the "More Ways to Watch" feature is available only in the U.S., and only for Roku-enabled television sets available from Best Buy's Insignia, Sharp, Hisense and TCL. It will be coming first to conventional HDTV models first, followed by support for 4K Roku TV models later this summer.

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Categories: Science

Researchers Develop Master Fingerprints That Can Break Into Smartphones

Slashdot - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 11:20pm
Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. "The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people's fingerprints," reports Digital Trends. "Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone." From the report: Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user's finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else's phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. "It's as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one," Memon said. The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone's TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.

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Categories: Science

World's most spoken language is 'Terpene'

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 11:07pm
If you're small, smells are a good way to stand out. A team of researchers has demonstrated for the first time that two different types of micro-organisms -- bacteria and fungi -- use fragrances, known as terpenes, to hold conversations. And that's not all. The researchers suggest that terpenes are the most popular chemical medium on our planet to communicate through.
Categories: Science

More Americans Now Work Full-Time From Home Than Walk and Bike To Office Jobs

Slashdot - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 10:40pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: In the United States, the past decade has been marked by booming cities, soaring rents, and a crush of young workers flocking to job-rich downtowns. Although these are heady days for pavement-pounding urbanists, a record 2.6% of American employees now go to their jobs without ever leaving their houses. That's more than walk and bike to work combined. These numbers come from a Quartz analysis of data from the U.S. census and the American Community Survey. The data show that telecommuting has grown faster than any other way of getting to work -- up 159% since 2000. By comparison, the number of Americans who bike to work has grown by 86% over the same period, while the number who drive or carpool has grown by only 12%. We've excluded both part-time and self-employed workers from these and all results. Though managers are the largest group of remote workers, as a percentage of a specific occupation computer programmers are the most over-represented. Nearly 8% of programmers now work from home, following a staggering increase of nearly 400% since 2000.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Unlike Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s Electric Big-Rig Actually Makes Sense

Wired News - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 10:11pm
Making an electric semi work isn't easy, but it's not rocket science. The post Unlike Hyperloop, Elon Musk's Electric Big-Rig Actually Makes Sense appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Nintendo Discontinues the NES Classic Edition

Slashdot - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 10:00pm
A Nintendo representative has confirmed today that the company will be discontinuing the NES Classic Edition, "a plug-and-play console that became popular with collectors as soon as it launched last fall," reports Polygon. The last shipments of the consoles will hit stores this month. From the report: [Nintendo said in a statement to IGN:] "Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product." "NES Classic Edition wasn't intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans," it told IGN.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

That ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Was Just Waiting For the Right Target

Wired News - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 9:48pm
What's a Massive Ordinance Air Blast? "Just a big canister with a lot of explosive in it." The post That ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Was Just Waiting For the Right Target appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

New Processors Are Now Blocked From Receiving Updates On Old Windows

Slashdot - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 9:20pm
halfEvilTech writes: Last year, Microsoft announced they were planning on blocking OS updates on newer Intel CPU's, namely the 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors. Ars Technica reports: "Now, the answer appears to be 'this month.' Users of new processors running old versions of Windows are reporting that their updates are being blocked. The block means that systems using these processors are no longer receiving security updates." While Windows 7 has already ended mainstream support, the same can't be said for Windows 8.1 which is still on mainstream support until January of next year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Relationship between drug injection risk behaviors, immune activation

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:42pm
Investigators examined the relationship between injection drug use and immune activation in a sample of HIV infected and uninfected people who inject drugs. Findings suggest that efforts to encourage injection cessation or reduction in frequency can have positive health benefits through reducing immune activation.
Categories: Science

Research unravels mysteries of mouthparts of butterflies

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:42pm
A researcher has been studying how the mouthparts of butterflies and moths work since 2010. His research shows that the method in which flies and butterflies ingest liquids into their own bodies for nourishment may be used as a model for delivering disease-fighting drugs to the human body. Drug delivery systems are engineered technologies for the targeted delivery and/or controlled release of therapeutic agents.
Categories: Science

Key question on titanium oxide, water interactions resolved

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:42pm
When water comes in for a landing on the common catalyst titanium oxide, it splits into hydroxyls just under half the time. Water's oxygen and hydrogen atoms shift back and forth between existing as water or hydroxyls, and water has the slightest advantage, like the score in a highly competitive tennis game.
Categories: Science

Scientists tag humpback whales in southeast Pacific

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:42pm
Whales from both poles migrate long distances to breed in tropical waters. Researchers tagged 47 humpbacks with satellite transmitters to understand how the humpbacks' Southeastern Pacific population moves within breeding areas.
Categories: Science

Former Sysadmin Accused of Planting 'Time Bomb' In Company's Database

Slashdot - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:40pm
An anonymous reader writes: Allegro MicroSystems LLC is suing a former IT employee for sabotaging its database using a "time bomb" that deleted crucial financial data in the first week of the new fiscal year. According to court documents, after resigning from his job, a former sysadmin kept one of two laptops. On January 31, Patel entered the grounds of the Allegro headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts, just enough to be in range of the factory's Wi-Fi network. Allegro says that Patel used the second business-use laptop to connect to the company's network using the credentials of another employee. While connected to the factory's network on January 31, Allegro claims Patel, who was one of the two people in charge of Oracle programming, uploaded a "time bomb" to the company's Oracle finance module. The code was designed to execute a few months later, on April 1, 2016, the first week of the new fiscal year, and was meant to "copy certain headers or pointers to data into a separate database table and then to purge those headers from the finance module, thereby rendering the data in the module worthless." The company says that "defendant Patel knew that his sabotage of the finance module on the first week of the new fiscal year had the maximum potential to cause Allegro to suffer damages because it would prevent Allegro from completing the prior year's fiscal year-end accounting reconciliation and financial reports."

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Categories: Science

Deciphering plant immunity against parasites

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:10pm
Nematodes are a huge threat to agriculture since they parasitize important crops such as wheat, soybean, and banana; but plants can defend themselves. Researchers have identified a protein that allows plants to recognize a chemical signal from the worm and initiate immune responses against the invaders. This discovery will help to develop crop plants that feature enhanced protection against this type of parasites.
Categories: Science

'Bad' air may impact 'good' cholesterol increasing heart disease risk

Science Daily - Thu, 13/04/2017 - 8:10pm
Traffic-related air pollution may increase risk of developing cardiovascular diseases through its effects on high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as 'good' cholesterol. US middle-aged and older adults living in areas with high levels of traffic-related air pollution tended to have lower levels of good cholesterol. Changes in HDL levels were observed after brief and medium-length exposures to air pollution.
Categories: Science