Monday, April 21, 2014

No Compromises on AFM...

JILA's modified AFM probes measuring DNA molecules. The older mod (long cantilever, right) eliminated the usual gold coating to enhance long-term stability. The latest version (left) retains the gold coating where needed to reflect light but maintains excellent stability. Researchers also removed a large section to reduce stiffness and friction near surfaces. The new probe provides precise results much faster than before, while reducing “noise” (colored squiggles).
Credit: Baxley/JILA
JILA researchers have engineered a short, flexible, reusable probe for the atomic force microscope (AFM) that enables state-of-the-art precision and stability in picoscale force measurements. Shorter, softer and more agile than standard and recently enhanced AFM probes, the JILA tips will benefit nanotechnology and studies of folding and stretching in biomolecules such as proteins and DNA.

An AFM probe is a cantilever, shaped like a tiny diving board with a small, atomic-scale point on the free end. To measure forces at the molecular scale in a liquid, the probe attaches its tip to a molecule such as a protein and pulls; the resulting deflection of the cantilever is measured. The forces are in the realm of piconewtons, or trillionths of a newton. One newton is roughly the weight of a small apple.

The new probe design, described in ACS Nano,* is the JILA research group's third recent advance in AFM technology. JILA is jointly operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder.

No Compromises: JILA’s Short, Flexible, Reusable AFM Probe, Laura Ost

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Nation of Warring Tribes...

See previous: "Weaponized Pseudoscience" yesterday. Quoting part of the post: "we're in the aftermath of 'created realities,' and I fear this self-willed ignorance of science is slowly unraveling our nation." We are the sum of the stories we tell of ourselves, some noble; some salacious; some shameful. Some of them are best left unsaid...
Post 2012 election tweets

This is the eventual culmination of pseudoscience run amok - it metastasizes as a weapon: societal instability reaching for an "ideal" that never existedThe rude, reintroduction of  pseudo social science hack Charles Murray as adviser to Gregg Abbott in Texas politics; the so-called "debate" on climate change; the age of the universe (6,000 versus 13.8 billion) and evolution versus "intelligent design" are not designed to enlighten: they are to evade, obfuscate inducing ignorance, an effective method of control. When science and critical thinking skills are properly taught, you ask questions of authority, and authoritarians don't want that. They'd rather you memorize a Bible verse (many they've never read, but their marketing departments find useful in their machinations); they'd rather you repeat a Jingoism/slogan/talking points - thinking is out of the question since it will begat questions. This is no better than the "conspiracy theories" that bloviators use to whip their audiences on right-leaning AM talk radio to frenzied mania, high profits and a spot on network news.

These are the "chickens coming home to roost" of the "Southern Strategy," this is what dog-whistle politics reaps after it's sown in the wind. This is when your ratings are dependent on making everyone afraid of "the other," and that larger-than-life other happens to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "I want my country back": the 'good old days' for some; the bad ones for everyone else that they don't give a damn about. Meanwhile, we have two years to obsolescence on the global stage when "Made in America" becomes a rarefied artifact.

Never mind that human life originated in Africa; that the oldest known footprints of Homo Erectus happens to have been found in Kenya. It makes us all African, this expressed malady over class, place and pigmentation a form of melanin-envy and self-loathing.

Never mind that hate is not an election-winning strategy and that Karl Rove waisted a lot of billionaire's money trying to throw the election from "We the People" to the oligarchs.

We worship money as a national deity, and no other god really. We're supposedly divided between "makers and takers" and the self-labeled makers seem to have no problem taking another tax cut. Their recipe for job creation has so far equaled Marie Antoinette's famously attributed comment (actually by Maria Theresa 100 years before in Spain): "let them eat cake." There is no room at the oligarch's Inns, mansions, wealth seminars or dinner tables.

Princeton and Northwestern now says the previous experiment in self-governance is over, and is at its inevitable conclusion: we are an oligarchy, well before Putin could reestablish it in Russia. It explains why the authoritarians here so admire his veracity; his bare-shirted cowboy diplomacy - to hell he might cause World War III:

Cliches like, "itchy trigger finger" and "tall in the saddle" and "riding off or on into the sunset." Cliches like, "Get off of my planet by sundown!" More so than cliches like, "he died with his boots on." Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap steak tough. And Bonzo's substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece ? a miracle ? a cotton-candy politician...Presto! Macho! (Gil-Scott Heron, "B Movie")

THIS IS A MENTAL DISORDER and psychological warfare foisted writ large on the American public through echo chambers and so-called "think tanks" under the clever auspices of "maintaining traditional values" while in the full spirit of Orwellian doublespeak, annihilating  them. On the day Jared Lee Loughner was sentenced to 7 consecutive life sentences plus 140 years (gees), we'd be mindful that this information age may be overloading weaker minds (he was told "don't retreat: reload" and that he did to disastrous effect). Thus, birth certificates in short or long form; Harvard transcripts and passports demanded by bloviating reality-show hosts that could spend $50 on a good toupee versus 5 million on an empty stunt are irrelevant when you've already a made-up mind that what facts don't agree with your skewed worldview will be judged false. Fear is a political motivator, but moribund when you actually try to run a country on it as well as magical thinking. It worked really well up to 2008 (being facetious), and I'm not inclined to see if repeated, it will self-correct in 2014 or 2016. I end paraphrasing Albert Einstein's observations on the nature of insanity, and quoting verbatim Nietzsche:

“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

TPM: Harder to Handle; More on the Fox Effect, Josh Marshall

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weaponized Pseudoscience...
I've used this photo on a previous post. However, we're in the aftermath of "created realities," and I fear this self-willed ignorance of science is slowly unraveling our nation.

Weaponize (n): to adapt for use as a weapon of war; first known use of Weaponize: 1957 (Merriam-Webster)

A pseudoscience is a belief or process which masquerades as science in an attempt to claim a legitimacy which it would not otherwise be able to achieve on its own terms; it is often known as fringe- or alternative science. The most important of its defects is usually the lack of the carefully controlled and thoughtfully interpreted experiments which provide the foundation of the natural sciences and which contribute to their advancement.

Reference: Pseudoscience: What is it? How can I recognize it?

In "Ode to a Distant Prospect of Eton College," Thomas Gray says a great many things that if you can decipher the old English and British countryside references, (the Thames is mentioned twice), the beginning is essentially the plot of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

The ending is the origin of "ignorance is bliss":

Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.

The blissful ignorance is their eventual fate with entropy: aging with associated pains and eventual demise. Ignorance is not a way to run a republic.

Yet lately, I've seen ignorance forged into the weapon of pseudoscience on the anvil of suspicion, anger, rage, huckster-foisted conspiracy theories, division and racial animus.

Bill O'Reilly tried an "old shtick" (quoting Joan Walsh, see Salon link) with basketball coach John Calipari: “I mean, you are a good guy, coach, but, hey, now the culture has coarsened,” said O’Reilly. “I don’t know if you listen to this rap stuff and the hip-hop stuff. Has that changed their attitude? I mean, how do you impose discipline on kids who are pretty much gonna do what they want to do?” ( Coach was there to discuss his book; O'Reilly was riling up his base of older, whiter viewers that feel their country slipping away in a deluge of demographics and diversity. If the big-O and the fogies stopped and did the math, most won't be around in 2042 when it does occur. The question is, will the country still be?

Cliven Bundy hasn't paid his cattle grazing fees in 21 years, or $1.2 million dollars of tax payer money. He's lost every court case he's tried to defend himself, saying he doesn't "recognize the sovereignty of the federal government." He just uses their/our land; their/our roads to get his product to market; their/our electricity; their/our power; their/our computer systems to balance his books, in essence: Cliven Bundy is a "taker" supported by the echo chamber that birthed the Tea Party April 15, 2009.

Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, founder of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan murdered three fellow humans opening fire outside a Jewish Community Center and a nearby retirement community. He managed to kill two Methodists: a doctor and his fourteen-year-old grandson and a woman visiting her aged mother.

Tomorrow: "A Nation of Warring Tribes"

Friday, April 18, 2014

Micro Robotics...

Building big: A team of three small, magnetically steered robots worked together to build this structure from toothpick-sized carbon rods.

Someone glancing through the door of Annjoe Wong-Foy’s lab at SRI International might think his equipment is infested by ants. Dark shapes about a centimeter across move to and fro over elevated walkways: they weave around obstacles and carry small sticks.

A closer look makes it clear that these busy critters are in fact man-made. Wong-Foy, a senior research engineer at SRI, has built an army of magnetically steered workers to test the idea that “microrobots” could be a better way to assemble electronics components, or to build other small structures.

Wong-Foy’s robotic workers have already proved capable of building towers 30 centimeters (two feet) long from carbon rods, and other platforms able to support a kilogram of weight. The robots can work with glass, metal, wood, and electronic components. In one demonstration, they made a carbon truss structure with wires and colored LEDs mixed in to serve as the lab’s Christmas tree.

“We can scale to many more robots at low cost,” says Wong-Foy, who thinks his system could develop into a new approach to manufacturing. Many electronic components are the right size to be handled by his microrobots, he says, and teams of them might prove a good way to lay them out onto circuit boards.

MIT Technology Review:
Tiny robots that work together like ants could lead to a new way to manufacture complex structures and electronics, by Tom Simonite

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Proto Tony Stark...

Robot suit: An exoskeleton on display in Brazil is designed to be worn, and controlled, by a paralyzed person.
I cautiously wish him good luck...

In less than 60 days, Brazil will begin hosting soccer’s 2014 World Cup, even though workers are still hurrying to pour concrete at three unfinished stadiums. At a laboratory in São Paulo, a Duke University neuroscientist is in his own race with the World Cup clock. He is rushing to finish work on a mind-controlled exoskeleton that he says a paralyzed Brazilian volunteer will don, navigate across a soccer pitch using his or her thoughts, and use to make the ceremonial opening kick of the tournament on June 12.

The project, called Walk Again, is led by Miguel Nicolelis, a 53-year-old native of Brazil and one of the biggest names in neuroscience. If it goes as planned, the kick will be a highly public display of research into brain-machine interfaces, a technology that aims to help paralyzed people control machines with their thoughts and restore their ability to get around.

But the Walk Again project is drawing doubters. Saying the demonstration is as much publicity stunt as science, they question whether it will illustrate any real degree of thought control. That’s because it relies on a fairly old, imprecise brain-recording technology called EEG, or electroencephalography.

At least three other research groups have recently published reports of EEG-controlled exoskeletons. Yet so far, none have managed to do much more than send a start or stop signal. They let the robotic harness do the rest of the work on a preset trajectory, with plenty of outside assistance in balancing.

MIT Technology Review:
World Cup Mind-Control Demo Faces Deadlines, Critics
A Brazilian neuroscientist says brain-controlled robotics will let the paralyzed walk again. By Antonio Regalado

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Translocation of Nanoparticles...

Left: Snapshot of the simulation system. The (20, 20) type carbon nanotube (CNT) combined with two graphite sheets (cyan) solved in a periodic water box represents a nanometre water channel, and a polymer-functionalized nanoparticle (NP) is driven through it by an external electric field.
Right: The NP structures with different polymer length and number, and the polymer terminal is charged (green).

As carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are excellent water transporters, the researchers use all-atom molecular dynamics simulations to study the translocation of charged NPs through a fluidic CNT. A series of simulations are conducted for NPs with different polymer length, polymer number, charge amount and charge position. With the increase in polymer length, the NP flux decreases as a whole due to the increase in NP size. The negatively charged NP translocation fails at the smallest polymer length because of the strong binding of Na+.

Nanotech Web: Determining the translocation of nanoparticles