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May 2010
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July 2010

IceCube telescope: Extreme science meets extreme electronics

Junko Yoshida
EE Times

MADISON, Wis. — The world’s largest telescope, currently under construction more than a mile beneath the Antarctic ice, is on schedule to be completed next year, according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, the lead institution for a scientific project called IceCube.

Ninety-five percent of the IceCube telescope, consisting of thousands of digital optical modules developed for scientists working to understand the universe, is already installed and operating at the South Pole, said Albrecht Karle, a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in an interview with EE Times.

The IceCube telescope is no ordinary apparatus. With a volume of one cubic kilometer, the instrument is pointed not to the sky, but downward towards the center of the Earth, buried beneath tons of ice in the coldest spot in the world. No one will ever “look through” this telescope. Instead, it will convey its findings through vast arrays of digital sensors.

Scientists backed by the National Science Foundation are looking for very small, very elusive particles called neutrinos that can tell scientists much more about the universe than photons or charged particles.

Full story.

US experiment hints at 'multiple God particles'

By Paul Rincon

Science reporter, BBC News

There may be multiple versions of the elusive "God particle" - or Higgs boson - according to a new study.

Finding the Higgs is the primary aim of the £6bn ($10bn) Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment near Geneva.

But recent results from the LHC's US rival suggest physicists could be hunting five particles, not one.

The data may point to new laws of physics beyond the current accepted theory - known as the Standard Model.

Full story.

Cellular Dynamics, Promega to collaborate on tests

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: June 15, 2010 10:08 a.m.

Cellular Dynamics International and Promega Corp. have entered into a research collaboration to develop toxicity tests for drug developers that use stem-cell derived heart cells.

The companies, both based in Madison, said the collaboration has potential to provide pharmaceutical company researchers with more predictive data, driving the development of safer and more effective drugs.

Their tests would use an alternative to embryonic stem cells known as iPS, or induced pluripotent stem cells that are made by Cellular Dynamics. To make iPS cells, Cellular Dynamics scientists take tissue cells, for example, and engineer them into cells that have all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells and are able to turn into beating heart cells, liver cells or any other cells in the body.

Full story.

New measurements from Fermilab’s MINOS experiment suggest a difference in a key property of neutrinos and antineutrinos

BATAVIA, Illinois-Scientists of the MINOS experiment at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator laboratory today (June 14) announced the world’s most precise measurement to date of the parameters that govern antineutrino oscillations, the back-and-forth transformations of antineutrinos from one type to another. This result provides information about the difference in mass between different antineutrino types. The measurement showed an unexpected variance in the values for neutrinos and antineutrinos. This mass difference parameter, called Δm2 (“delta m squared”), is smaller by approximately 40 percent for neutrinos than for antineutrinos.

However, there is a still a five percent probability that Δm2 is actually the same for neutrinos and antineutrinos. With such a level of uncertainty, MINOS physicists need more data and analysis to know for certain if the variance is real.

Neutrinos and antineutrinos behave differently in many respects, but the MINOS results, presented today at the Neutrino 2010 conference in Athens, Greece, and in a seminar at Fermilab, are the first observation of a potential fundamental difference that established physical theory could not explain.

“Everything we know up to now about neutrinos would tell you that our measured mass difference parameters should be very similar for neutrinos and antineutrinos,” said MINOS co-spokesperson Rob Plunkett. “If this result holds up, it would signal a fundamentally new property of the neutrino-antineutrino system. The implications of this difference for the physics of the universe would be profound.”

Full story.

Scientists Grow Cells in 3-D Using Magnetic Fields

June 11, 2010

Cells in the human body live in amazingly complex, three-dimensional environments that are crucial for the cells' proper function. The lung, for example, consists of layers of different kinds of cells that work together to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air and the blood.

The way these cells work together, and the chemicals that they express to communicate with one another, change when they live on a flat, two-dimensional surface.

Given these differences in cell behavior and expression, it's intriguing that the standard for testing new drugs and chemicals are tests that use cells grown in flat-bottomed Petri dishes.

In an effort to more accurately mimic the effect of drugs or toxic chemicals on real living tissue, scientists from Rice University and the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston have developed a new laboratory technique that uses magnetic levitation to grow cells in three-dimensional shapes. Compared with cell cultures grown on flat surfaces, these 3-D cell cultures form tissues that more closely resemble those inside the body. The technique has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of developing new drugs, as well as reduce the use of animals when testing the safety of manufactured chemicals. The team's results were published in March 2010 in Nature Nanotechnology.

Full story.