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Physicists persevere in quest for inexhaustible energy source

Physicists persevere in quest for inexhaustible energy source

MADISON - As gas prices soar and greenhouse gases continue to blanket the atmosphere, the need for a clean, safe and cheap source of energy has never seemed more pressing.
Scientists have long worked to meet that need, exploring alternative energy technologies such as wind and solar power. But, after decades of quiet progress, the spotlight is now on another potentially inexhaustible energy source.

Seven countries signed an agreement in Brussels last week (May 24) to launch construction of the multibillion dollar International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in southern France. The largest fusion-energy experiment ever conducted, ITER is the culmination of years of research by scores of scientists, and is poised to answer long-standing questions about the real-world viability of fusion energy. The United States, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation are joint sponsors of the project, which will experimentally generate up to 500 million watts of energy.

An international collective of physicists and engineers is working to both complement and lend expertise directly to the ITER initiative - and researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are firmly placed among them.

"[ITER] is a major threshold that we've been waiting to get to for 20 years," says Raymond Fonck, a UW-Madison professor of engineering physics and the chief scientist of ITER's U.S. project office. "The project is the No. 1 priority in fusion research in the country and the world, and essentially takes us to a regime we've never been to before."

Fusion energy describes the energy that is released when atomic particles "fuse" together to form heavier particles. The process is fundamental to our universe, fueling both the sun and the stars. Here on Earth, physicists have tried to harness the energy potential of nuclear fusion by working with plasma, essentially a collection of particles, such as hydrogen nuclei, that carry electric charge. Because hydrogen can be easily extracted from seawater - a cheap and abundant resource - scientists have been tantalized by the prospect of plasma one day serving as an inexhaustible fuel.

But plasma has to be very, very hot - on the order of millions of degrees - for its gas particles to efficiently collide and release energy. "Basically, we're trying to make a sun here on Earth," says Stewart Prager, a UW-Madison physics professor, who also advises the U.S. government on national fusion-energy research. "But it turns out to be one of the most difficult scientific problems in the world."

One of the biggest hurdles, of course, is finding a container that can hold searing hot plasma without burning down itself. Scientists have been working around the problem by using invisible magnetic fields to hold the plasma in place, but they are still searching for the most efficient and optimal ways to do it. UW-Madison scientists are delving into pure physics and engineering research questions surrounding the issue. Their work both complements ITER's goals and, in a sense, looks one step beyond it.

Prager and his team, for instance, run the Madison Symmetric Torus (MST) - the largest fusion-energy experiment on campus. Shaped like a donut, the MST holds plasma heated to 10 million degrees. But instead of using a strong magnetic field to hold the plasma, Prager is exploring whether weaker - and therefore more economical - magnetic fields could accomplish the same task. The work has led to new insights about properties of plasma, and, in turn, has given rise to unique partnerships with astrophysicists, who are using the MST to explore basic questions about the plasma around black holes, galactic discs and other mysterious happenings of the solar system.

"We are now starting to appreciate and explore links between plasmas in the lab and plasmas in the universe, which is really interesting," Prager says.

Full story.

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Law aims for broadband boost

Law aims for broadband boost
Phone companies that extend Internet service would qualify for credits
By DORIS HAJEWSKI
dhajewski@journalsentinel.com
Posted: May 30, 2006

Phone companies that extend broadband Internet service to unserved rural areas will qualify for up to $7.5 million in tax credits under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 483, which was introduced by Sens. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) and Robert Jauch (D-Poplar), aims to spur investment by telecom providers in areas that are less profitable because of the location or low population density.

The bill was hailed as a boon to development in rural areas by representatives of both AT&T and TDS Telecom Corp.


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Aquinas would have shunned stem cell work

Aquinas would have shunned stem cell work

By EDWARD J. RICHARD
Published Sunday, May 28, 2006

Contrary to the implication of former Sen. Thomas Eagleton in his commentary in the Tribune last Sunday, Saint Thomas Aquinas did not teach that the human embryo is something less than human.

It has become routine now, in the stem cell debate, to throw out assertions that certain writings of Saints Augustine and Aquinas are not consistent with the authentic Catholic teaching on the grave sinfulness of abortion and destruction of pre-nascent life.These saints taught the serious sinfulness of deliberate destruction of innocent life at any stage, and they believed that the child in the womb - they were not aware of zygotes and embryos, as such - was human from the start. (See Anne B. Gardiner’s article in the New Oxford Review, 2004.) In an on the subject published in the Jan. 17, 2003, National Catholic Reporter, bioethics expert and Professor Father Brian Johnstone said, "There was never any question (in Augustine and Aquinas) of whether terminating a pregnancy was sinful, but rather what kind of sin it was in the early stages - homicide or something else."


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Ethicists take center stage as biotech acquires new capabilities

Right and wrong become business questions
Ethicists take center stage as biotech acquires new capabilities
San Francisco Business Times - May 26, 2006
by Daniel S. Levine

Baseball's steroid scandal has focused on a question of punctuation. If Barry Bonds surpasses Hank Aaron on the all-time list of home run hitters, should the record be followed by an exclamation point or an asterisk?

But when legal scholars, ethicists, political scientists and others gather at Stanford University on May 26 to 28 for "Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights," their discussion will extend well beyond mundane steroids to include implantable computer chips to improve brain power, the use of bionic suits
that provide the wearer superhuman strength or the use of genetic modification to enhance human abilities.

The rapid pace of advancing biotechnology is raising complex questions about how technology should be used, who should profit from certain advances, how the benefits of these technologies should be distributed and how people should be protected from unintended effects and consequences.

Whether biotechnology companies want to listen or not, bioethics are increasingly shaping public opinion and public policy about emerging technologies and their implications.

"Bioethics are no longer restricted to the academy," said Christopher Scott, executive director of Stanford University's Center for Biomedical Ethics' Program in Stem Cells and Society. "The Bush presidency, more than any other, has shown that these individuals can actually influence public policy in a major way."

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Patent office overwhelmed by bio-inventions

Patent office overwhelmed by bio-inventions
New rules would limit follow-on additions to patent claims
San Francisco Business Times - May 26, 2006
by Eric Young

Increasing backlogs at the U.S. Patent Office are a longstanding frustration for biotech executives.

But they said a new set of proposals meant to reduce the waiting time will not provide much relief.

New rules under consideration would allow just one follow-on to a pending application. A subsequent application would have to explain why it was not submitted previously. Historically, the Patent Office has not placed limits on these filings.

A second, related proposal would limit an application to 10 claims, which are statements describing the heart of the invention. Many applications have traditionally had at least 20 claims.

Officials at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va., said the proposals are designed to cut the number of patent applications waiting to be reviewed by examiner. They agreed that the system must be fixed. Almost one-third of new applications in 2004 were for inventions that already had been reviewed by the Patent Office.

Some applications even had claims that patent examiners had previously rejected. While some resubmissions are necessary, patent officials said, the time it takes to address them detracts from the agency's ability to examine new patent applications.

The backlog, which has increased in recent years, frustrates biotech companies, which tend to be frequent filers of complex and lengthy applications.

The backlogs are an increasingly serious issue for biotechs. It can take patent examiners up to 15 months to begin reviewing an organic chemistry patent application. It can take more than three years to get a drug application to a patent examiner. Once a review has begun, the Patent Office can take several more years to grant a patent.

Full story.

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Growing Glowing Nanowires to Light Up the Nanoworld

Growing Glowing Nanowires to Light Up the Nanoworld

NIST "grows" semiconductor nanowires that emit ultraviolet light as part of a project to make prototype nano-lasers and other devices and the measurement tools needed to characterize them. Electron micrograph shows the gallium nitride wires growing on a silicon substrate (color added for contrast.)

The nano world is getting brighter. Nanowires made of semiconductor materials are being used to make prototype lasers and light-emitting diodes with emission apertures roughly 100 nm in diameter—about 50 times narrower than conventional counterparts. Nanolight sources may have many applications, including “lab on a chip” devices for identifying chemicals and biological agents, scanning-probe microscope tips for imaging objects smaller than is currently possible, or ultra-precise tools for laser surgery and electronics manufacturing.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are growing nanowires made of gallium nitride alloys and making prototype devices and nanometrology tools. The wires are grown under high vacuum by depositing atoms layer by layer on a silicon crystal. NIST is one of few laboratories capable of growing such semiconductor nanowires without using metal catalysts, an approach believed to enhance luminescence and flexibility in crystal design. The wires are generally between 30 and 500 nanometers (nm) in diameter and up to 12 micrometers long. When excited with a laser or electric current, the wires emit an intense glow in the ultraviolet or visible parts of the spectrum, depending on the alloy composition.

A paper in the May 22 issue of Applied Physics Letters* reports that individual nanowires grown at NIST produce sufficiently intense light to enable reliable room-temperature measurements of their important characteristics. For example, the peak wavelength of light emitted with electric field parallel to the long axis of a nanowire is shifted with respect to the peak wavelength emitted with electric field perpendicular to the wire. Such differences in emission are used to characterize the nanowire materials and also may be exploited to make sensors and other devices.

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Theoretical Blueprint for Invisibility Cloak Reported

Theoretical Blueprint for Invisibility Cloak Reported

Once devised using exotic artificial 'metamaterials,' the cloak will have numerous uses, from defense applications to wireless communications

Durham, N.C. -- Using a new design theory, researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering and Imperial College London have developed the blueprint for an invisibility cloak. Once devised, the cloak could have numerous uses, from defense applications to wireless communications, the researchers said.
Such a cloak could hide any object so well that observers would be totally unaware of its presence, according to the researchers. In principle, their invisibility cloak could be realized with exotic artificial composite materials called "metamaterials," they said.

"The cloak would act like you've opened up a hole in space," said David R. Smith, Augustine Scholar and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School. "All light or other electromagnetic waves are swept around the area, guided by the metamaterial to emerge on the other side as if they had passed through an empty volume of space."

Electromagnetic waves would flow around an object hidden inside the metamaterial cloak just as water in a river flows virtually undisturbed around a smooth rock, Smith said.

The research team, which also includes David Schurig of Duke's Pratt School and John Pendry of Imperial College London, reported its findings on May 25, 2006, in Science Express, the online advance publication of the journal Science. The work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
First demonstrated by Smith and his colleagues in 2000, metamaterials can be made to interact with light or other electromagnetic waves in very precise ways. Although the theoretical cloak now reported has yet to be created, the Duke researchers are on their way to producing metamaterials with suitable properties, Smith said.

"There are several possible goals one may have for cloaking an object,” said Schurig, a research associate in electrical and computer engineering. "One goal would be to conceal an object from discovery by agents using probing or environmental radiation."

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Honda Says Brain Waves Control Robot

May 25, 7:44 AM EDT

Honda Says Brain Waves Control Robot

By YURI KAGEYAMA
AP Business Writer

TOKYO (AP) -- In a step toward linking a person's thoughts to machines, Japanese automaker Honda said it has developed a technology that uses brain signals to control a robot's very simple moves.

In the future, the technology that Honda Motor Co. developed with ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories could be used to replace keyboards or cell phones, researchers said Wednesday. It also could have applications in helping people with spinal cord injuries, they said.

In a video demonstration in Tokyo, brain signals detected by a magnetic resonance imaging scanner were relayed to a robotic hand. A person in the MRI machine made a fist, spread his fingers and then made a V-sign. Several seconds later, a robotic hand mimicked the movements.

Further research would be needed to decode more complex movements.

The machine for reading the brain patterns also would have to become smaller and lighter - like a cap that people can wear as they move about, said ATR researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani.

What Honda calls a "brain-machine interface" is an improvement over past approaches, such as those that required surgery to connect wires. Other methods still had to train people in ways to send brain signals or weren't very accurate in reading the signals, Kamitani said.

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Doyle tells bishops he won't rethink stem cell support

Doyle tells bishops he won't rethink stem cell support

(Published Thursday, May 25, 2006 08:14:11 AM CDT)

By Ryan J. Foley
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle broke with Wisconsin's two most prominent Catholic bishops on Wednesday, bluntly telling them he would not rethink his strong support of embryonic stem cell research.

"While I appreciate your thoughts on this important issue, I also feel a responsibility to promote vital research which holds the potential to save countless lives and bring thousands of jobs to our state," Doyle, a Catholic, wrote in a letter to Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Madison Bishop Robert Morlino.

The Democratic governor wrote in response to the bishops' letter on Monday in which they criticized an executive order he signed last month setting aside $5 million to recruit companies doing stem cell research to Wisconsin.

Doyle has consistently championed research using embryonic stem cells, which was pioneered at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has made the issue a central part of his re-election campaign. His challenger, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, supports sharp limits on the research.

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Sleeping pill wakes men in vegetative state

Sleeping pill wakes men in vegetative state

Sarah Boseley, health editor
Tuesday May 23, 2006
The Guardian

A drug commonly used as a sleeping pill appears to have had a miraculous effect on brain-damaged patients who have been in a permanent vegetative state for years, arousing them to the point where some are able to speak to their families, scientists report today.

The dramatic improvement occurs within 20 minutes of taking the drug, Zolpidem, and wears off after around four hours - at which point the patients return to their permanent vegetative state, according to a paper published in the medical journal NeuroRehabilitation.


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Legislators, Catholic officials seize on accord over stem cells

Legislators, Catholic officials seize on accord over stem cells

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By TOM HESTER JR.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

TRENTON -- Lawmakers who support embryonic stem cell research and Roman Catholic officials who oppose it don't often find themselves joined in agreement, but that's what they did Tuesday to promote adult stem cell research through the state's Catholic hospitals.

In what they described as a groundbreaking initiative, New Jersey's 15 Catholic hospitals have agreed to encourage umbilical cord and placenta blood donation to the state's two public cord blood banks.

Umbilical cords and placentas contain adult stem cells, not the embryonic stem cells the Catholic Church opposes being used for research.

"The ethical principles of our Catholic health care tradition demand that we step up to the plate and support and encourage this donation," said the Rev. Joseph W. Kukura, president of the Catholic Health Care Partnership of New Jersey.

The agreement was fostered by Assemblyman Neil Cohen, a leading New Jersey stem cell research advocate who supports research on embryos. Catholic groups have fiercely fought Cohen's proposals but stood with him on Tuesday.

"The differences are obvious," Cohen said. "What we're trying to do is take our commonality and address some aspect of stem cell research."

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The Psychological Strain of Living Forever

The Psychological Strain of Living Forever
Thursday, May 25, 2006
By Ker Than

In Oscar Wilde's novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," the main character barters his soul for eternal youth, but becomes wicked and immoral in the process.

Leon Kass believes humanity risks striking a similar Faustian bargain if it pursues technology that extends life spans beyond what is natural.

If our species ever does unlock the secrets of aging and learns to live forever, we might not lose our souls, but, like Dorian, we will no longer be human either, says Kass, a bioethicist at the University of Chicago and a longtime critic of life-extension research.

For Kass, to argue that life is better without death is to argue "that human life would be better being something other than human."

Kass' position is controversial, but it gets at some of the central issues surrounding the life-extension debate: What is aging? Is it a disease to be cured, or a natural part of life? If natural, is it necessarily good for us?

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Stem cells may help incontinence

Stem cells may help incontinence
Researchers calling treatment a cure
By JOHN FAUBER
jfauber@journalsentinel.com
Posted: May 21, 2006

Doctors say they were able to cure urinary incontinence in the vast majority of patients who were treated with injections of their own stem cells.

The finding, which was presented Sunday, is the latest accomplishment in a promising area of research: using adult stem cells derived from patients' own muscle tissue to treat a troubling condition that affects more than 15 million Americans.

The researchers described the treatment as a cure, meaning that the patients did not need to wear pads after they were treated.

"It's highly effective, and it's much more effective than we previously thought," said lead author Hannes Strasser. "If somebody had told me it would have worked so well four years ago, I would not have believed it."

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Supremes: Injunctions Not Always Appropriate For Patent Infringers

Supremes: Injunctions Not Always Appropriate For Patent Infringers
Posted by Peter Lattman

The Supreme Court just issued its decision in Ebay v. MercExchange (opinion not yet available), ruling that a permanent injunction does not automatically follow a court’s finding of patent infringement. Justice Thomas authored the unanimous decision with concurring opinions by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy.

The decision is a major victory for not only Ebay but also for technology companies such as Intel and Microsoft which want the courts to have considerable discretion in deciding whether to issue injunctions.

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First baby in Britain designed cancer-free

First baby in Britain designed cancer-free
By Mark Henderson, Science Editor

A WOMAN is pregnant with Britain’s first designer baby selected to prevent an inherited cancer, The Times can reveal.
Her decision to use controversial genetic-screening technology will ensure that she does not pass on to her child the hereditary form of eye cancer from which she suffers.

Although they did not have fertility problems, the woman and her partner created embryos by IVF. This allowed doctors to remove a cell and test it for the cancer gene, so only unaffected embryos were transferred to her womb.

The couple are the first to take advantage of a relaxation in the rules governing embryo screening.

When the technique was developed in 1989 it was allowed only for genes that always cause disease, such as those for cystic fibrosis. However, it was approved last year for the eye cancer, which affects only 90 per cent of those who inherit a mutated gene.

The pregnancy will increase controversy over the procedure, which the Government’s fertility watchdog authorised on Wednesday for genes that confer an 80 per cent lifetime risk of breast and bowel cancer.

Critics argue that the action is unethical because it involves the destruction of some embryos that would never contract these illnesses if they were allowed to develop into children. Even those that would potentially become ill could expect many years of healthy life first, and some of the disorders involved are treatable or preventable.


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Wistech.org Has Been "Joe Job"ed

Recently, wistech.org added a catch-all e-mail account. Since that time, hundreds of e-mails have been caught replying to e-mail addresses that wistech.org does not use and has never used. The content of these e-mails is obviously SPAM. Please be assured that these e-mails did not originate from wistech.org.

This abuse our domain name is called a "Joe Job". WATA has been informed that short of abadoning our domain, there is nothing we can do to prevent this. We are just as angry about this abuse as you are. We apologize.

WATA rarely initiates e-mail contact with anyone who does not already know us. WATA maintains only a handful of e-mails -- all of which are listed somewhere on this site. If you have signed up for a feed e-mail, it should come from feedblitz.com. If you receive something from an address not on this site, it is not from us. Deleting the message is the best response.

If you want to find the true source of the SPAM, the following link has information about how to read the headers on the e-mail. Go to SPAMCOP. The source IP address is buried in the header coding.

For more information about Joe Jobs.
(Warning: Content of Wikipedia may have changed since this link was established.)

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Light's Most Exotic Trick Yet: So Fast it Goes ... Backwards?

Light's Most Exotic Trick Yet: So Fast it Goes ... Backwards?

In the past few years, scientists have found ways to make light go both faster and slower than its usual speed limit, but now researchers at the University of Rochester have published a paper today in Science on how they've gone one step further: pushing light into reverse. As if to defy common sense, the backward-moving pulse of light travels faster than light.

Confused? You're not alone.

"I've had some of the world's experts scratching their heads over this one," says Robert Boyd, the M. Parker Givens Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester. "Theory predicted that we could send light backwards, but nobody knew if the theory would hold up or even if it could be observed in laboratory conditions."

Boyd recently showed how he can slow down a pulse of light to slower than an airplane, or speed it up faster than its breakneck pace, using exotic techniques and materials. But he's now taken what was once just a mathematical oddity—negative speed—and shown it working in the real world.

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S Korea scientist on fraud charge

S Korea scientist on fraud charge

The South Korean cloning scientist who faked his stem cell research has been charged with fraud and embezzlement.

Hwang Woo-suk was also charged with using millions of dollars in grants for private purposes, as well as violating laws on bio-ethics.

Earlier this year Dr Hwang's apparently ground-breaking work, such as producing stem cell lines from cloned human embryos, was found to be fake.

Prosecutors said that he would not be taken into custody at present.


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Study Says Stem Cell 'Fusion' Occurs In Tumors

Study Says Stem Cell 'Fusion' Occurs In Tumors (May 8, 2006)

PORTLAND, Ore. - An Oregon Health & Science University study is adding credence to an increasingly popular theory that fusion is what bonds stem cells with bone marrow cells to regenerate organ tissue.

Scientists in the OHSU School of Medicine found that transplanted cells derived from adult bone marrow can fuse with intestinal stem cells of both normal and diseased tissue comprising the cellular lining of intestinal walls, known as the epithelium. The findings, reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point to the integral role of bone marrow-derived cells in not only regeneration of damaged tissue, but also disease progression.

"It's the first observation that there's fusion at the level of stem cells," said the study's corresponding author, Melissa Wong, Ph.D., assistant professor of dermatology, and cell and developmental biology. "Second, we're seeing cell fusion in tumors and we believe that this concept is an underappreciated mechanism for promoting tumor growth. Our findings have implications on how tissues regenerate and how, in the process of this regeneration, cells may become prone to future problems. "

Although the tumor in her study did not "initiate" tumors or become malignant, Wong believes the fusion process is one explanation for how tumors acquire genetic instability and have the potential to give rise to malignant cancer.

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ILLINOIS STYLE: UI researcher makes crude oil from pig manure

ILLINOIS STYLE: UI researcher makes crude oil from pig manure
DAVE ORRICK
(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

HAMPSHIRE, Ill. - Can the other white meat's manure make black gold?

They say you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, but University of Illinois researchers are working some interesting magic at the other end of the animal.

"We are the first to actually do this," professor Yuanhui Zhang says proudly of his team's ability to turn swine manure into crude oil. He's a bio-environmental engineer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who has led the 10-year research project that recently announced a breakthrough in porcine petroleum.

. . .

Zhang's big breakthrough is that he's designed a more efficient process: a continuous reactor. Instead of converting hog waste one batch at a time, Zhang's lab, which is funded in part by the Illinois Pork Producers Association, has developed a method to feed waste continuously into a reactor, which is essentially an industrial-strength pressurized oven. And, Zhang boasts, "We don't even need pre-drying."

Chemically, pig dung isn't as different from oil as one might think. In Zhang's reactor, a process known as thermochemical conversion partially breaks down hydrocarbon molecules that make up most of the excrement, and voila: porky petrol.

Similar but not identical to the black gold it took Mother Nature eons to brew, Zhang's fuel behaves like diesel.

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Nanotubes used for first time to send signals to nerve cells

Nanotubes used for first time to send signals to nerve cells
GALVESTON, Texas — Texas scientists have added one more trick to the amazing repertoire of carbon nanotubes — the ability to carry electrical signals to nerve cells.


Nanotubes, tiny hollow carbon filaments about one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, are already famed as one of the most versatile materials ever discovered. A hundred times as strong as steel and one-sixth as dense, able to conduct electricity better than copper or to substitute for silicon in semiconductor chips, carbon nanotubes have been proposed as the basis for everything from elevator cables that could lift payloads into Earth orbit to computers smaller than human cells.


Thin films of carbon nanotubes deposited on transparent plastic can also serve as a surface on which cells can grow. And as researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and Rice University suggest in a paper published in the May issue of the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, these nanotube films could potentially serve as an electrical interface between living tissue and prosthetic devices or biomedical instruments.


“As far as I know, we’re the first group to show that you can have some kind of electrical communication between these two things, by stimulating cells through our transparent conductive layer,” said Todd Pappas, director of sensory and molecular neuroengineering at UTMB’s Center for Biomedical Engineering and one of the study’s senior authors. Pappas and UTMB research associate Anton Liopo collaborated on the work with James Tour, director of the Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory at Rice’s Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Rice postdoctoral fellow Michael Stewart and Rice graduate student Jared Hudson.


The group employed two different types of cells in their experiments, neuroblastoma cells commonly used in test-tube experiments and neurons cultured from experimental rats. Both cell types were placed on ten-layer-thick “mats” of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) deposited on transparent plastic. This enabled the researchers to use a microscope to position a tiny electrode next to individual cells and record their responses to electrical pulses transmitted through the SWNTs.


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Innovators fear the patent trolls

Innovators fear the patent trolls
JUDY NEWMAN jdnewman@madison.com

It probably wasn't until the threat of losing e-mail service through the popular, handheld BlackBerry devices sent a shudder through the nation that most people were even aware of a growing trend: small companies, often with only a handful of employees, taking on the tech giants in big-bucks patent lawsuits.

Microsoft has been a target; so have Intel Corp., eBay and many others.

Not only the big guys are affected. The Madison company Esker is in litigation, as well. Esker develops business-to-business software, and a small Atlanta firm called Catch Curve claims Esker is violating its patents, which cover fax systems and e-mail. Esker and Catch Curve have filed suit against each other in U.S. District Courts in Madison and Atlanta.

A term that's become popular lately in patent litigation is "patent trolls," used to describe companies that register or buy patents but have no plans to make any product based on the patent. Opponents say their sole purpose is to collect money from companies that have developed a technology, process or design covered under the patent and are successfully selling products or may do so.

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State's 2 biggest cities drop on Forbes list

State's 2 biggest cities drop on Forbes list
Survey ranks U.S. metro areas by business climate
By ANDREW JOHNSON
andrewjohnson@journalsentinel.com
Posted: May 4, 2006

Mayor Tom Barrett touts Milwaukee as a city that is "open for business," but a Forbes magazine survey released Thursday says that doing business here has become more difficult.

Milwaukee and Madison fell 38 places and 21 places, respectively, in Forbes' eighth annual "Best Places for Business and Careers Survey," which ranks the 200 largest U.S. metro areas based on economic conditions and quality of life factors.

The rankings pegged Albuquerque, N.M., as the top city for business, followed by Raleigh, N.C., and Houston.

Rankings are based on several factors, including the cost of doing business, cost of living, education, income growth and job growth.

"I think the rankings give a good proxy for the economic climate of a metro area," said Kurt Badenhausen, associate editor of Forbes.

Increases in the cost of doing business and the cost of living, combined with declines in income growth and job growth, contributed to Milwaukee's fall to No. 124 from No. 86 a year ago. Those same areas caused Madison to skid to No. 31 from No. 10 a year ago. One factor that contributed to many cities' decline in this year's list was the expansion of the list from the top 150 metro areas to the top 200. Because of that expansion, Green Bay debuted this year at 106 - 18 places in front of Milwaukee.


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Blood-Compatible Nanoscale Materials Possible Using Heparin

Blood-Compatible Nanoscale Materials Possible Using Heparin

TROY, N.Y. — Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have engineered nanoscale materials that are blood compatible using heparin, an anticoagulant. The heparin biomaterials have potential for use as medical devices and in medical treatments such as kidney dialysis.

The researchers prepared several materials with heparin composites or coatings, including carbon nanotubes, nanofibers, and membranes with nanosized pores, and then demonstrated the materials’ high compatibility with blood. Heparin is a common therapeutic used to maintain blood flow or prevent clotting during medical procedures and treatments.

The researchers demonstrated the composite heparin membrane with nanopores could work as an artificial kidney, or dialyzer, by filtering the blood and maintaining its flow. The presence of this blood-compatible dialyzer could potentially eliminate the need for systemic administration of heparin to the patient during kidney dialysis, the researchers say.

The heparin-coated membranes are described in a paper titled “Ionic Liquid-Derived Blood Compatible Membranes for Kidney Dialysis,” published online Apr. 24 in advance of print in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research.

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Research hub seeks proposals

Research hub seeks proposals
UW institutes hope seed grants will foster collaboration
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: May 2, 2006

Organizers of the planned $375 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in Madison said Monday that they are looking for researchers from around the state to compete in a new seed grant program.

The program initially will provide funding of $3 million, which was donated by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and John and Tashia Morgridge, said Elizabeth L.R. Donley, general counsel for the foundation, which is known as WARF.

The program represents the first time in Wisconsin history that there has been a funded effort to jump-start collaboration among researchers across the state, and it signals a move to drive a collective entrepreneurial effort.


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