Four-year-olds are more likely than younger children to imitate unnecessary actions when learning how to complete a task, according to a new study of social cues.
From infancy, children learn by watching and imitating adults. Even when adults show them how to open a latch or solve a puzzle, for example, children use social cues to figure out what actions are important.
The findings imply that children of different ages have different expectations when they watch and learn from adults, based on their growing social understanding, say the authors.Related Articles On Futurity
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“Understanding what causes children to imitate in any given situation, and especially to imitate actions that seem to have no obvious purpose, sheds light on how children’s minds work and what influences their learning,” says Tamar Kushnir, assistant professor of child development in the Cornell University College of Human Ecology.Faithful imitation
To explore how age and social context influence children ‘s imitation behavior, the researchers conducted two experiments with two- and four-year-olds. In one, children played one of three games with the experimenter (copying the experimenter’s hand gestures, taking turns to find and fit a puzzle piece, or a non-interactive drawing game).
Then, they played a puzzle-box game after watching the experimenter show two actions on the toy and retrieve a puzzle piece. In half the trials, only the second action was necessary to recover the puzzle piece.
The researchers found that the four-year-olds faithfully imitated both necessary and unnecessary actions to get the puzzle piece, regardless of the game they played beforehand.
Two-year-olds, however, were heavily influenced by the context set up by the prior game. They were more likely to faithfully imitate unnecessary actions after playing the copying game and more likely to selectively emulate just the necessary action after playing the puzzle-solving game.Social knowledge
A second experiment ruled out the possibility that the two-year-olds were merely primed to copy anyone—their strategies were not influenced by the copy game when they played it with a different experimenter.
This suggests that toddlers in the first experiment were actively engaged in a social interaction with a particular individual from which they inferred goals for the following game, conclude Kushnir and graduate student Yue Yu. Their findings underscore the important role that children’s developing social knowledge plays in what and how they learn, they say.
When toddlers watch adults, what they pay attention to and imitate appears highly dependent on the context and expectations set up by the adult, and this points to the importance of establishing rapport before trying to teach them something, says Yu.
Preschoolers, on the other hand, are more likely to view all adult’s purposeful actions as part of the social interaction, perhaps even as social norms, and thus imitate them as faithfully as possible. This enables imitation to be a source, not just for learning about objects (e.g., how a latch works), but for rich and accurate cultural transmission, Yu adds.
The National Science Foundation partially funded the study, which appears online in Developmental Psychology.
Source: Cornell University
Keeping track of diet and exercise through text messages may help you lose more weight, according to a small study of obese women who received daily texts as part of a weight-loss program.
Research shows that when people keep a written record of their food intake and daily activity, they do better at losing weight. But sticking with detailed monitoring of food consumption and exercise habits electronically or via traditional pen and paper can prove cumbersome. If people stop doing it, they may stop losing weight.Related Articles On Futurity
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Tracking the information through text messages could save time and improve the likelihood of people sticking with their get-healthy routine.
A new study published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that after six months, 26 obese women who used daily texting as part of the Shape Plan weight-loss intervention lost nearly 3 pounds, while another 24 who followed traditional methods gained 2 1/2 pounds. The average age of participants was 38.
The daily text messages focused on tracking tailored behavioral goals—such as no sugary drinks or 10,000 steps per day—along with brief feedback and tips.
Every morning, participants got a text from an automated system that said, “Please text yesterday’s # of steps you walked, # of sugary drinks, and if you ate fast food.”
Based on how they responded to the text, the automated system sent another text with personalized feedback and a tip.
“Text messaging has become ubiquitous and may be an effective method to simplify tracking of diet and exercise behaviors,” says Dori Steinberg, a post-doctoral obesity researcher in the Obesity Prevention Program at Duke University.Weight tracking via text
Text messaging offers several advantages compared to other self-monitoring methods:
- Unlike Web-based diet and exercise diaries, data in a text message can be entered quickly on nearly all mobile phone platforms. This provides more portability, nearly real-time tracking and more accessibility for receiving tailored feedback.
- Previous studies show that long-term adherence to traditional monitoring is poor, possibly because they are time- and labor-intensive, require extensive numeracy and literacy skills, and can be perceived as burdensome.
- Text messaging has been conventionally limited to about 15-20 words per message, thus reducing the detail and cognitive load that is required for documenting diet and exercise behaviors.
The study primarily focused on helping obese black women lose weight (82 percent of participants were black). That’s because 59 percent of black women are obese, and many use cell phones, researchers say.
This combination makes text messaging a good way to reach this high-risk population.
About half of participants texted every day throughout the six-month program, with 85 percent texting at least two days per week. Most participants reported that texting was easy, and helped them meet their goals.
The key challenge in weight loss is helping people keep weight off for the long-term. So the next step is to see if texting can help people maintain their weight loss, Steinberg says.
“Given the increasing utilization of mobile devices, text messaging may be a useful tool for weight loss, particularly among populations most in need of weight-loss treatment.”
Source: Duke University
A recent slowdown in global warming has led some skeptics to renew their claims that industrial carbon emissions are not causing a century-long rise in Earth’s surface temperatures.
But rather than letting humans off the hook, a new study published in Science adds support to the idea that the oceans are taking up some of the excess heat, at least for the moment.
In a reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last 10,000 years, researchers have found that its middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during apparent natural warming cycles in the previous 10,000.
“We’re experimenting by putting all this heat in the ocean without quite knowing how it’s going to come back out and affect climate,” says Braddock Linsley, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and co-author of a study published in Science. “It’s not so much the magnitude of the change, but the rate of change.”Pause in climate change
In its latest report, released in September, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming. While global temperatures rose by about one-fifth of a degree Fahrenheit per decade from the 1950s through 1990s, warming slowed to just half that rate after the record hot year of 1998.
The IPCC has attributed the pause to natural climate fluctuations caused by volcanic eruptions, changes in solar intensity, and the movement of heat through the ocean. Many scientists note that 1998 was an exceptionally hot year even by modern standards, and so any average rise using it as a starting point would downplay the longer-term warming trend.
The IPCC scientists agree that much of the heat that humans have put into the atmosphere since the 1970s through greenhouse gas emissions probably has been absorbed by the ocean.
However, the findings in Science put this idea into a long-term context, and suggest that the oceans may be storing even more of the effects of human emissions than scientists have so far realized.
“We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy,” says Yair Rosenthal, a climate scientist at Rutgers and the study’s lead author. “It may buy us some time—how much time, I don’t really know. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”Ancient marine life Related Articles On Futurity
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Ocean heat is typically measured from buoys dispersed throughout the ocean, and with instruments lowered from ships, with reliable records at least in some places going back to the 1960s.
To look back farther in time, scientists have developed ways to analyze the chemistry of ancient marine life to reconstruct the climates in which they lived. In a 2003 expedition to Indonesia, the researchers collected cores of sediment from the seas where water from the Pacific flows into the Indian Ocean.
By measuring the levels of magnesium to calcium in the shells of Hyalinea balthica, a one-celled organism buried in those sediments, the researchers estimated the temperature of the middle-depth waters where H. Balthica lived, from about 1,500 to 3,000 feet down.
The temperature record there reflects middle-depth temperatures throughout the western Pacific, the researchers say, since the waters around Indonesia originate from the mid-depths of the North and South Pacific.Warming up 15 times faster
Though the climate of the last 10,000 years has been thought to be relatively stable, the researchers found that the Pacific intermediate depths have generally been cooling during that time, though with various ups and downs. From about 7,000 years ago until the start of the Medieval Warm Period in northern Europe, at about 1100, the water cooled gradually, by almost 1 degree C, or almost 2 degrees F.
The rate of cooling then picked up during the so-called Little Ice Age that followed, dropping another 1 degree C, or 2 degrees F, until about 1600. The authors attribute the cooling from 7,000 years ago until the Medieval Warm Period to changes in Earth’s orientation toward the sun, which affected how much sunlight fell on both poles. In 1600 or so, temperatures started gradually going back up.
Then, over the last 60 years, water column temperatures, averaged from the surface to 2,200 feet, increased 0.18 degrees C, or .32 degrees F. That might seem small in the scheme of things, but it’s a rate of warming 15 times faster than at any period in the last 10,000 years, says Linsley.
One explanation for the recent slowdown in global warming is that a prolonged La Niña-like cooling of eastern Pacific surface waters has helped to offset the global rise in temperatures from greenhouse gases. In a study in the journal Nature in August, climate modelers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography showed that La Niña cooling in the Pacific seemed to suppress global average temperatures during northern hemisphere winters but allowed temperatures to rise during northern hemisphere summers, explaining last year’s record U.S. heat wave and the ongoing loss of Arctic sea ice.
When the La Niña cycle switches, and the Pacific reverts to a warmer than usual El Niño phase, global temperatures may likely shoot up again, along with the rate of warming.
“With global warming you don’t see a gradual warming from one year to the next,” says Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in the research. “It’s more like a staircase. You trot along with nothing much happening for 10 years and then suddenly you have a jump and things never go back to the previous level again.”
The study’s long-term perspective suggests that the recent pause in global warming may just reflect random variations in heat going between atmosphere and ocean, with little long-term importance, says Drew Shindell, a climate scientist with joint appointments at Columbia’s Earth Institute and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a lead author on the latest IPCC report.
“Surface temperature is only one indicator of climate change,” he says. “Looking at the total energy stored by the climate system or multiple indicators—glacier melting, water vapor in the atmosphere, snow cover, and so on—may be more useful than looking at surface temperature alone.”
The study’s third author, Delia Oppo, is a climate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Source: Columbia University
Researchers have developed a faster 3D printing process and are now using it to model and fabricate objects that comprise multiple materials.
Although 3D printing—or direct digital manufacturing—has the potential to revolutionize various industries by providing faster, cheaper, and more accurate manufacturing options, fabrication time and the complexity of multi-material objects have long been a hurdle to its widespread use in the marketplace.
With this newly developed 3D printing process, however, the team has shaved the fabrication time down to minutes, bringing the manufacturing world one step closer to achieving its goal.
“Digital material design and fabrication enables controlled material distributions of multiple base materials in a product component for significantly improved design performance. Such fabrication capability opens up exciting new options that were previously impossible,” says lead author Yong Chen, professor in the department of industrial and systems engineering at University of Southern California.Related Articles On Futurity
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Traditional modeling and prototyping approaches used to take days, but over the past several decades various additive manufacturing (AM) processes have been developed to fabricate both homogeneous and heterogeneous objects more quickly.
Currently, AM processes such as multi-jet modeling, which create a solid 3D object from a digital model by laying down successive layers of material, can fabricate a complex object in a matter of hours.
Last year, Chen and another team of researchers improved an AM-related process called mask-image-projection-based stereolithography (MIP-SL) to drastically speed up the fabrication of homogeneous 3D objects.
In the MIP-SL process, a 3D digital model of an object is sliced by a set of horizontal planes and each slice is converted into a two-dimensional mask image. The mask image is then projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface and light is projected onto the resin to cure it in the shape of the related layer.
Furthermore, the team developed a two-way movement design for bottom-up projection so that the resin could be quickly spread into uniform thin layers. As a result, production time was cut from hours to a few minutes.
In their latest paper, the team successfully applies this more efficient process to the fabrication of heterogeneous objects that comprise different materials that cure at different rates. This new 3D printing process will allow heterogeneous prototypes and objects such as dental and robotics models to be fabricated more cost- and time-efficiently than ever before.
In future work, Chen and his team will investigate how to develop an automatic design approach for heterogeneous material distribution according to user-specified physical properties and how to improve the fabrication speed.
Chen and Pu Huang and Dongping Deng, two industrial and systems engineering doctoral candidates, are presenting their findings at ASME’s 2013 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in San Diego on November 20th.
The country’s economic and social safety net expanded to catch many Americans during the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, working as it was designed to do, a study finds.
“The programs did their job and made a difference,” says Johns Hopkins University economist Robert A. Moffitt. “There’s no question about it.”Related Articles On Futurity
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Aggregate safety net spending rose $500 billion from 2007 to 2010, Moffit found. Caseloads rose too, from 276 million to 310 million. Carrying the bulk of the load, he says, were the Earned Income Tax Credit, unemployment insurance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, the three programs accounted for about a third of the spending increase.
Other programs that expanded to meet the demand included Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security retirement and disability benefits.
“Our results show that there was a major response from the safety net to the Great Recession,” Moffitt says. The study appears in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
Spending on SNAP—food stamps—more than doubled, Moffitt found, vaulting from $30 billion in 2007 to $65 billion in 2010. The program was not only helping more people, Moffitt says, but also those people were each getting slightly more assistance.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal income tax refund for low- to moderate-income working families, grew from $49 billion to $59 billion. Spending per person actually dropped, however, and the growth was entirely due to an increase in the number of recipients, Moffitt says.
Medicaid spending also rose during the recession, from $327 billion in 2007 to $401 billion in 2010, Moffitt found. Social insurance programs grew substantially as well, with unemployment insurance showing the steepest incline—from $34 billion to $142 billion during the recession.
Not everyone benefited equally from the welfare increases, Moffitt discovered. He reported that families just above and just below the poverty line received most of the aid, more than the lowest earners.
The additional money went to a wide range of demographic groups, and families with and without children, he found. Somewhat less of the increase went to the elderly and the disabled.
“There have been many complaints that the US safety net has been shredded and is inadequate to serve those who in need. And there have been other voices saying that government is ineffectual and that much of the money is wasted,” Moffitt says.
“My findings—which I did not expect—showed that neither of these is correct. The US safety net is very healthy and was extremely responsive to the Great Recession, helping families of all different types and at all different income levels.”
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Many people inside and outside engineering have emphasized the importance of training ethical, socially conscious engineers, but Erin Cech, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University wondered if engineering education in the US actually encourages young engineers to take seriously their professional responsibility to public welfare.
“There’s an overarching assumption that professional engineering education results in individuals who have a deeper understanding of the public welfare concerns of their profession,” she says. “My study found that this is not necessarily the case for the engineering students in my sample.”
Published in the journal Science, Technology and Human Values, a new study included more than 300 students who entered engineering programs as freshmen in 2003 at four US universities in the Northeast. Rice students were not included in the study.
Participants were surveyed in the spring of each year and at 18 months after graduation. In the surveys, students were asked to rate the importance of professional and ethical responsibilities and their individual views on the importance of improving society, being active in their community, promoting racial understanding and helping others in need.
In addition, the students were asked how important the following factors are to their engineering programs: ethical and/or social issues, policy implications of engineering, and broad education in humanities and social sciences.Engineering code of ethics
As part of their education, engineering students learn the profession’s code of ethics, which includes taking seriously the safety, health, and welfare of the public. However, it appears that there is something about engineering education that results in students becoming more cynical and less concerned with public policy and social engagement issues.
Results showed that the students left college less concerned about public welfare than when they entered.
“The way many people think about the engineering profession as separate from social, political, and emotional realms is not an accurate assessment,” Cech says.
“People have emotional and social reactions to engineered products all the time, and those products shape people’s lives in deep ways; so it stands to reason that it is important for engineers to be conscious of broader ethical and social issues related to technology.”
This “culture of disengagement” is rooted in how engineering education frames engineering problem-solving.
“Issues that are nontechnical in nature are often perceived as irrelevant to the problem-solving process,” Cech says.
“There seems to be very little time or space in engineering curricula for nontechnical conversations about how particular designs may reproduce inequality—for example, debating whether to make a computer faster, more technologically savvy and expensive versus making it less sophisticated and more accessible for customers.”
Ignoring these issues does a disservice to students because practicing engineers are required to address social welfare concerns on a regular basis, even if it involves a conflict of interest or whistleblowing, Cech says.
“If students are not prepared to think through these issues of public welfare, then we might say they are not fully prepared to enter the engineering practice.”
The National Science Foundation funded the research.
Source: Rice University
Food scientists say an additive could help curb a chemical reaction that causes wine to look, smell, and taste funky.
The researchers added chelation compounds that bind with metals to inhibit oxidation, or oxygen’s ability to react with some of the trace metals that are found in the wine, according to Gal Kreitman, a doctoral candidate in food science at Penn State.Related Articles On Futurity
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“Oxidation has several bad effects on wine, such as discoloration and a loss of aroma,” says Kreitman. “It can cause browning, as well as the loss of fruity characteristics, something that is much more noticeable in white wines.”
Oxygen usually enters wine through the cork and interacts with metals, particularly iron, setting off a chain reaction that changes compounds that add particular and often disagreeable tastes and smells to the drink, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.Iron in wine
Because two types of oxidations states—iron 2 and iron 3—are present in wine, the researchers looked at iron 2 and iron 3 chelators, including bipyridine, Ferrozine, ethylenediaminetertraacetic acid (EDTA) and phytic acid.
Both types of chelators significantly inhibited the oxidation in the wine, says Kreitman.
“The ligands of bipyridine, Ferrozine, EDTA, and phytic acid bind to the metals, which can inhibit their reaction,” says Kreitman. A ligand is a molecule that is able to bind to the central atom of a metal.
The researchers analyzed the concentrations of iron and copper in white wine and also measured the amount of oxidation that occurred after the chelators were added to the wine samples. The wine was made from pinot gris, a variety of grape that is often used in white wines.Less metal, more salt
Winemakers have previously attempted to control oxidation in the wine by stripping out the metals, which are acquired through the soil and from the grape. However, Kreitman says those processes are impractical and expensive.
“Unfortunately, the process to remove the metals can strip color and flavor compounds from the wine and processes like ion exchange can end up making the wine taste more salty,” Kreitman says.
Kreitman says that further research would be needed to find chelators that are food safe. While there are chelators that are safe for consumption, many have yet to be approved for food-making and winemaking processes. Phytic acid is one chelator that might be both effective in neutralizing oxidation, as well as safe for consumption, according to Kreitman.
Ryan J. Elias, assistant professor of food science at Penn State; Annegret Cantu, director of research and development at VinPerfect; and Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at the University of California, Davis, also contributed to the study.
Source: Penn State
Results from a DNA study of a young boy’s skeletal remains believed to be 24,000 years old could turn the archaeological world upside down.
Nearly 30 percent of modern Native American’s ancestry came from this youngster’s gene pool, suggesting First Americans came directly from Siberia, according to a study published in Nature.Related Articles On Futurity
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The skeleton was first discovered in the late 1920s near the village of Mal’ta in south-central Siberia, and since then it has been referred to as “the Mal’ta child” because until this DNA study the biological sex of the skeleton was unknown.
“Now we can say with confidence that this individual was a male,” says Kelly Graf, an assistant professor in the anthropology department at Texas A&M University.
Graf helped extract DNA material from the boy’s upper arm and “the results surprised all of us quite a bit,” she explains.
“It shows he had close genetic ties to today’s Native Americans and some western Eurasians, specifically some groups living in central Asia, South Asia, and Europe. Also, he shared close genetic ties with other Ice-Age western Eurasians living in European Russia, Czech Republic, and even Germany.
“We think these Ice-Age people were quite mobile and capable of maintaining a far-reaching gene pool that extended from central Siberia all the way west to central Europe.”Native American migration
Another significant result of the study is that the Mal’ta boy’s people were also ancestors of Native Americans, explaining why some early Native American skeletons such as Kennewick Man were interpreted to have some European traits.
“Our study proves that Native Americans ancestors migrated to the Americas from Siberia and not directly from Europe as some have recently suggested,” Graf explains.
The DNA work performed on the boy is the oldest complete genome of a human sequenced so far, the study shows. Also found near the boy’s remains were flint tools, a beaded necklace and what appears to be pendant-like items, all apparently placed in the burial as grave goods.
The discovery raises new questions about the timing of human entry in Alaska and ultimately North America, a topic hotly debated in First Americans studies.
“Though our results cannot speak directly to this debate, they do indicate Native American ancestors could have been in Beringia—extreme northeastern Russia and Alaska—any time after 24,000 years ago and therefore could have colonized Alaska and the Americas much earlier than 14,500 years ago, the age suggested by the archaeological record.
“What we need to do is continue searching for earlier sites and additional clues to piece together this very big puzzle.”
Graf is part of an international team spearheaded by Eske Willerslev and Maanasa Raghaven from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and additional researchers from Sweden, Russia, United Kingdom, University of Chicago, and University of California-Berkeley. The Danish National Science Foundation, Lundbeck Foundation, and the National Science Foundation funded their work.
Graf and Willerslev conceived the project and traveled to the Hermitage State Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the remains are now housed to collect samples for ancient DNA.
Source: Texas A&M University
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It may be counter-intuitive, but engineers say by adding a subtle, wrinkle-like texture they can create surfaces that shed liquid much faster than smooth ones.
The team demonstrated that the approach works on a variety of surface materials, and even notes that natural water-shedding surfaces like butterfly wings and nasturtium leaves possess similar properties.Related Articles On Futurity
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“We’ve demonstrated that we can use surface texture to reshape a drop as it recoils in such a way that the overall contact time is significantly reduced,” says James Bird, the paper’s lead author, who directs the Interfacial Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Boston University.
“The upshot is that the surface stays drier longer if this contact time is reduced, which has the potential to be useful for a variety of applications.”
Such surfaces may improve the performance of systems that operate better under dry conditions, such as steam turbines or aircraft wings. Furthermore, the approach may help cold surfaces resist icing by shedding liquid drops before they freeze.37 percent drop in contact time
Adding tiny ridges to a surface, they found, alters the way water drops react when they strike and causes them to bounce off quicker. Prior to adding the ridges, a drop would spread out to a maximum diameter, retract until the edges of the drop met its stationary center point and bounce off.
With the introduction of the ridges, the center point moved to meet the edges as the drop recoiled. The drop then split in two before jumping off the surface.
This single innovation reduced contact time from 12.4 to 7.8 milliseconds, or about 37 percent. The experiment produced the shortest contact time achieved in the lab under comparable conditions, based on peer-reviewed studies going back to the 1960s.
“We reduced the distance the drop had to move by redistributing its mass,” explains Bird, a mechanical engineering and materials science assistant professor. “We introduced larger-scale ridges that were much bigger than the microstructure on the surface, but much smaller than the thickness of the drop.
“The ridges were large enough to influence the hydrodynamics but not so large that they would immediately split the drop.”
The researchers drew upon funds from the National Science Foundation and Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency. Bird and his Massachusetts Institute of Technology collaborators—senior author Kripa Varanasi, Rajeev Dhiman, and Hyuk-Min Kwon—have filed patents on the methods described in the journal Nature.
Source: Boston University
The post Wrinkled surface repels water faster than smooth one appeared first on Futurity.
It’s time to drop the requirement that inventions be “useful” in order to merit a patent, according to legal expert and chemist Sean B. Seymore.
A better criteria in this age of chemical and pharmaceutical innovation would be that an invention gets a “useful disclosure,” meaning it is explained clearly enough that others can build on it, says Seymore. He is a professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School and holds a secondary appointment as a professor of chemistry.Related Articles On Futurity
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A patent gives an inventor the right to exclude others from practicing an invention for a period of time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.What’s useful?
“A key challenge for the post-World War II patent system is how to assess utility for chemical and pharmaceutical inventions,” Seymore writes in an article to be published in 2014 in the Minnesota Law Review.
“For those inventions with a known therapeutic activity at the time of patenting, the asserted utility was always clear—to treat some specific ailment or disease.
“But what about the much broader universe of chemical compounds which have no therapeutic or other concrete, non-research based use at the time patent protection is sought? The judicial response to this question—the essential utility question of the modern era—has shaped the current utility requirement.”
While the utility requirement worked well when patent applications were mostly mechanical or recreational inventions such as games, a field like chemistry has many intermediate advances that are vital but have no immediate practical use.
The progress of science slows down if such patents aren’t granted. Getting past the utility requirement has become so burdensome that some scientists make up false uses in order to get a patent, Seymore says.Better patent law
To correct the situation, Seymore suggests that instead of emphasizing the usefulness of the invention, the Patent Office and the courts should value the disclosure of the “technical details about the invention.”
“The patent system incentivizes the disclosure of information that the public might not otherwise get,” Seymore writes. “The disclosure adds to the sum of useful knowledge immediately—not at the end of the patent term but as soon as the patent document publishes.
“Patent theory contemplates that the early entry of useful knowledge into the public storehouse reduces research-and-development waste, spurs creativity, leads others to climb onto the patentee’s shoulders in seeking improvements or wholly new inventions, and, of course, extends the frontiers of science and technology.”
Dropping utility as a patentability requirement would be a radical step; it’s been part of the law since the Patent Act of 1790.
“It is now time to eliminate utility as a condition of patentability,” Seymore writes. “Patent law should be less concerned with useful inventions and more concerned with ensuring that the public gets a useful disclosure.”
Source: Vanderbilt University
Resveratrol—a natural compound found in colored vegetables, fruits, and especially grapes—may be an effective way to block the effects of the highly addictive drug methamphetamine.
Earlier studies have shown the compound may minimize the impact of Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease in people who maintain healthy diets.Related Articles On Futurity
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Dennis Miller, associate professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, studies therapies for drug addiction and neurodegenerative disorders. His research targets treatments for methamphetamine abuse and has focused on the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in drug addiction.
Dopamine levels in the brain surge after methamphetamine use, an increase that is associated with the motivation to continue using the drug, despite its adverse consequences.
However, with repeated methamphetamine use, dopamine neurons may degenerate causing neurological and behavioral impairments, similar to those observed in people with Parkinson’s disease.Enjoyment or craving?
“Dopamine is critical to the development of methamphetamine addiction—the transition from using a drug because one likes or enjoys it to using the drug because one craves or compulsively uses it,” Miller says.
“Resveratrol has been shown to regulate these dopamine neurons and to be protective in Parkinson’s disease, a disorder where dopamine neurons degenerate; therefore, we sought to determine if resveratrol could affect methamphetamine-induced changes in the brain.”
For a study published in Neuroscience Letters, scientists using procedures established by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease research, gave rats resveratrol once a day for seven days in about the same concentration as a human would receive from a healthy diet.
After a week of resveratrol, they measured how much dopamine was released by methamphetamine and found that resveratrol significantly diminished methamphetamine’s ability to increase dopamine levels in the brain.Grapes’ added bonus
Furthermore, resveratrol diminished methamphetamine’s ability to increase activity in mice, a behavior that models the hyperactivity observed in people that use the stimulant.
“People are encouraged by physicians and dietitians to include resveratrol-containing products in their diet and protection against methamphetamine’s harmful effects may be an added bonus,” Miller says.
“Additionally, there are no consistently effective treatments to help people who are dependent on methamphetamine.
“Our initial research suggests that resveratrol could be included in a treatment regimen for those addicted to methamphetamine and it has potential to decrease the craving and desire for the drug.
“Resveratrol is found in good, colorful foods, and has few side effects. We all ought to consume resveratrol for good brain health; our research suggests it may also prevent the changes in the brain that occur with the development of drug addiction.”
Source: University of Missouri
To build the world’s smallest system that can create FM signals, engineers turned to atomically thin graphene.
James Hone, a mechanical engineering professor at Columbia University, who co-led the project, says the work “demonstrates an application of graphene that cannot be achieved using conventional materials. And it’s an important first step in advancing wireless signal processing and designing ultrathin, efficient cell phones.
“Our devices are much smaller than any other sources of radio signals, and can be put on the same chip that’s used for data processing.”Why graphene? Related Articles On Futurity
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Graphene, a single atomic layer of carbon, is the world’s strongest material, and also has electrical properties superior to the silicon used to make the chips found in modern electronics.
The combination of these properties makes graphene an ideal material for nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), which are scaled-down versions of the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) used widely for sensing of vibration and acceleration.
For example, Hone explains, MEMS sensors figure out how your smartphone or tablet is tilted to rotate the screen.
In this new study, published in Nature Nanotechnology, the team took advantage of graphene’s mechanical “stretchability” to tune the output frequency of their custom oscillator, creating a nanomechanical version of an electronic component known as a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO).
With a VCO, explains Hone, it is easy to generate a frequency-modulated (FM) signal, exactly what is used for FM radio broadcasting.FM signals
The team built a graphene NEMS whose frequency was about 100 megahertz, which lies right in the middle of the FM radio band (87.7 to 108 MHz). They used low-frequency musical signals (both pure tones and songs from an iPhone) to modulate the 100 MHz carrier signal from the graphene, and then retrieved the musical signals again using an ordinary FM radio receiver.
“This device is by far the smallest system that can create such FM signals,” says Hone.
While graphene NEMS will not be used to replace conventional radio transmitters, they have many applications in wireless signal processing.
“Due to the continuous shrinking of electrical circuits known as ‘Moore’s Law’, today’s cell phones have more computing power than systems that used to occupy entire rooms. However, some types of devices, particularly those involved in creating and processing radio-frequency signals, are much harder to miniaturize,” says project co-leader Kenneth Shepard, an electrical engineering professor.
“These ‘off-chip’ components take up a lot of space and electrical power. In addition, most of these components cannot be easily tuned in frequency, requiring multiple copies to cover the range of frequencies used for wireless communication.”
Graphene NEMS can address both problems: they are very compact and easily integrated with other types of electronics, and their frequency can be tuned over a wide range because of graphene’s tremendous mechanical strength.
“There is a long way to go toward actual applications in this area,” notes Hone, “but this work is an important first step. We are excited to have demonstrated successfully how this wonder material can be used to achieve a practical technological advancement—something particularly rewarding to us as engineers.”
The Hone and Shepard groups are now working on improving the performance of the graphene oscillators to have lower noise. At the same time, they are also trying to demonstrate integration of graphene NEMS with silicon integrated circuits, making the oscillator design even more compact.
A Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship 2012 and the US Air Force supported the project.
Source: Columbia University
A study with more than 400 students shows that poor, urban students at a Harlem charter school were 100 percent less likely to be incarcerated than peers in Harlem public schools.
The students were also 49 percent more likely to attend college and 71 percent less likely to become pregnant, researchers report.
Test scores also improved for students attending Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Charter School, which has a longer school year and a comprehensive network of community resources.Related Articles On Futurity
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The findings—some of the first to examine the benefits of a charter school after graduation—appear in the National Bureau of Economic Research.Tests and questions
Together with Harvard Professor of Economics Roland Fryer, Will Dobbie, assistant professor of economics and public affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, analyzed survey data collected from 407 of the 570 6th graders who entered the Harlem charter school through a lottery system in 2005 and 2006.
Students responded to questions related to their education achievement and attainment, their risk-taking behaviors, and personal health. They also evaluated the students’ math and reading skills through the Woodcock-Johnson intelligence tests, a series of exams used to determine a wider range of cognitive skills.
Dobbie and Fryer then augmented these results with administrative data from the New York City Department of Education and the National Student Clearinghouse. They compared those Harlem students that won the lottery with the 163 students who did not.Adult outcomes
While the researchers did see extremely lower rates of incarceration and pregnancy and higher rates of college attendance, they found little impact on asthma, obesity, or mental health on those same students—though lottery winners reported eating more nutritious foods.
“Using data from the Promise Academy in the Harlem Children’s Zone, we provide a proof-of-concept that the best practices used by high-performing charter schools can impact adult outcomes,” says Dobbie.
Dobbie says Harlem’s Promise Academy is reasonably representative of charter schools nationwide and only differs in that it serves more economically disadvantaged youth.
The Broad Foundation and the Ford Foundation provided funding for the research.
Source: Princeton University
A study conducted before Typhoon Haiyan struck the islands earlier this month looked at the aftermath of tropical cyclones in the Philippines over the last 25 years and found dramatically high death rates for baby girls after the storms.
While officials report roughly 740 deaths on average every year due to typhoon exposure in the Philippines, post-typhoon mortality among baby girls is approximately 15 times higher than that, likely due to the storm’s indirect poverty-worsening effects.
Because the Philippines is so hard hit by typhoons every year, the authors estimate that these delayed infant deaths account for approximately 13 percent of the country’s overall infant mortality rate.
The risk of a baby girl dying after a typhoon doubles if she has older sisters in the home, and the risk doubles again if she has older brothers—suggesting that the competition for resources among siblings may play a key role in these deaths.
The researchers did not find a spike in the mortality rates for baby boys, but they uncovered an elevated mortality risk among baby girls that lasts up to two years after a typhoon.
“It seems unlikely that the households in which female infants die are intentionally allowing these infants to perish,” the researchers say. “It is more plausible that parents believe their newborn can cope with higher-than-average levels of neglect, and that there will be limited permanent damage. Unfortunately, for a small number of unlucky families, the assumption proves false.”Better care for baby boys?
The authors also speculate that parents may provide more or different food or care to baby boys than girls, perhaps unconsciously.
The high death rate for baby girls is probably the specific result of the economic aftermath that follows a typhoon’s destruction and the coping strategies used by families that struggle economically for months or years after a typhoon.Related Articles On Futurity
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The researchers document how families dramatically reduce spending on healthcare, education, and nutritious foods for years after they lose their homes, property, infrastructure, and income.
“Infants are more fragile than other family members, and some can’t handle it when families cut back. Their health deteriorates gradually, and then one day, they just don’t pull through,” says Solomon Hsiang, assistant professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley.
“We think that economic factors are key, because roughly half of the baby girls who die weren’t even born or conceived when the various storms hit.”
The spike in female infant deaths underscores the huge economic adjustments for typhoon survivors. The study found that in an average year, the income of Filipino households in typhoon-hit areas is depressed 6.6 percent due to typhoons that occurred the year before, leading to a 7.1 percent reduction in average household spending.Planning for typhoons is rare
However, when particularly strong storms strike, incomes may fall more than 15 percent the following year—compounding loss from damage to a family’s home and belongings. And although or maybe partially because typhoons are a regular weather feature in the Philippines, families don’t seem to save in advance or borrow much money for recovery expenses.
Instead, during a difficult year families reduce spending, primarily on medicine and education by about 25 percent, transport and communication by about 35 percent, and high-nutrient foods that include meat, dairy products, eggs, and fruit by about 30 percent.
Researchers used a physical model that Hsiang developed in 2010 to replicate and record typhoon exposure in individual provinces.
To measure household impacts, they matched their reconstructed storm data with economic information collected every three years by the Filipino government on family income, consumption, and physical assets. They then linked both datasets to a third data set on births and infant mortality.
This triad of data sets allowed the researchers to characterize the multi-dimensional household responses and provide an alarming look at climate adaptation and mitigation practices.
The researchers suggest several policies to help improve the post-storm situation for Filipinos:
- Develop credit subsidies for low-income families
- Expand insurance networks over larger regions, to reduce risk
- Educate parents about the risks of post-typhoon child neglect
- Tax goods like tobacco and alcohol to finance subsidies for children
- Enhance enforcement of building codes
- Increase typhoon-related research and development funding
“The fact that we continue to observe large typhoon impacts in one of the world’s most intense typhoon climates where populations have already adapted suggests that costs are so high that populations think that they are better off suffering typhoon losses rather than investing in additional protection,” Hsiang says.
“This indicates that a central challenge for policy makers is to convince people to spend on costly investments that will protect them in the future.
“It’s a bit like trying to convince people to wear a seat belt while driving a car or a helmet while riding a bike.”
Jesse Anttila-Hughes of the University of San Francisco was a co-author on the study.
Source: UC Berkeley
The rate of abnormalities like shortened or missing legs was less than 2 percent among frogs and toads on national wildlife refuges, according to a 10-year study.
The findings suggest that the malformations first reported in the mid-1990s were more rare than feared.
However, much higher rates were found in local “hotspots,” suggesting that where these problems occur, they have local causes. The results are published in PLOS ONE.
“We now know what the baseline is and the 2 percent level is relatively good news, but some regions need a deeper look,” says Marcel Holyoak, professor of environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis, and a co-author on the study.68,000 frogs and toads
Hotspot regions included the Mississippi River Valley, California, and south-central and eastern Alaska.Related Articles On Futurity
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Mari Reeves, a graduate student working with Holyoak, led the data analysis and is corresponding author on the paper. Reeves now works at the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.
The Fish and Wildlife Service carried out fieldwork for the study at 152 refuges across the country between 2000 and 2009. Researchers collected more than 68,000 frogs and toads for the study. The complete dataset is available to researchers and the public online.
The aim of the study was to understand where and when these abnormalities occur—Are they widespread, or localized? Are they persistent, or do they appear and fade away?—rather than to identify specific causes, Holyoak says.
Understanding the patterns of these hotspots in space and time can help researchers home in on likely causes, he says.Varied causes
The results show that abnormality hotspots occur in specific places, but within these hotspots the rate of malformations can change over time, Holyoak says.
“We see them at an elevated frequency one year or for a few years, and then they recover,” he says.
The most common problems observed were missing or shortened toes or legs, and skin cysts. Only 12 cases of frogs with extra legs were found.
Many different potential causes have been put forward for the abnormalities, including pollution from industry or agriculture, parasites, ultraviolet exposure, and naturally occurring heavy metals leaching into water bodies. The exact cause may vary from place to place, Holyoak notes.
The study comes against a background of a general decline in amphibian populations both in the US and worldwide.
For example, the California red-legged frog is now listed as threatened. Frogs and toads may be especially sensitive to changes in climate and air or water quality.
It’s not clear whether or not hotspots of malformations contribute to this general decline, Holyoak says, but the new dataset will help researchers explore the problem.
The Fish and Wildlife Service funded the study. Other authors contributed from the University of Colorado, Boulder; the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Annapolis; and Indiana University School of Medicine.
Source: UC Davis
To get more pregnant women and infants in minority populations immunized, public health officials may need to change the way they talk about the benefits of flu vaccination, experts say.
Researchers conducted a randomized message-framing study in a group of pregnant women ages 18 to 50 from September 2011 through May 2012. The women were exposed to messages that either promoted maternal-infant benefits associated with immunization (gain-frame messages) or that described negative consequences of not being immunized (loss-frame messages).Related Articles On Futurity
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The study also evaluated whether exposure to the film “Contagion” would influence women’s perceptions and acceptance of the delivered messages. The film, which opened at the onset of the study, depicts a pandemic outbreak caused by the rapid transmission of a new virus and the efforts to find a vaccine.
“Influenza causes significant illness and death among vulnerable populations, including pregnant women,” says Paula Frew, assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine and the Rollins School of Public Health, and the study’s lead author. “Yet despite the recognized benefits of seasonal flu immunization, vaccine coverage among pregnant women remains suboptimal, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that pregnant women receive the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine. These immunizations protect both mothers and children. Infants up to six months having a decreased risk of influenza infection if their mothers were vaccinated. Maternal immunization also has been shown to reduce premature birth and low birth weight.Common misperceptions
Despite these recommendations and benefits, common perceptions and economic status often prevent pregnant women from receiving flu shots. These include a perception that the vaccine transmits influenza or is ineffective, a lack of concern about influenza severity, and a lack of health insurance and inability to pay for vaccinations. Research shows racial and ethnic minority women also may be less likely to receive flu vaccines and to experience more illness, hospitalizations, and death from influenza.
“We focused our study on a community-based approach to raising vaccine coverage and awareness among this at-risk population,” notes Frew.
The researchers enrolled 261 women in the study and assigned 87 to a gain-frame message group, 90 to a loss-frame message group, and 84 to a control group. The majority of women (88.5 percent) were African-American, while 7.3 percent were Hispanic and 4.2 percent were other/multicultural. The majority of women (69.2 percent) lived in households with total earnings of $20,000 or less. Fifty-five percent of the women were unemployed and 51.9 percent achieved high school or equivalent education. Seventy-two percent of the women were single.
Following the messaging, nearly half the respondents said they intended to vaccinate their new infants after six months of age. Compared with the controls group, both the gain-framed message group and the loss-framed message group were associated with a greater intention to vaccinate their infants.
Women who intended to be vaccinated themselves during pregnancy were also 10 times more likely to express intention to vaccinate their infants. Women who perceived influenza as very serious, or believed they were susceptible to illness, were more likely to express intention to vaccinate infants. Race was not a significant contributing factor in intent to immunize.Doctor visits
A higher proportion of women who saw the film “Contagion” considered the gain- and loss-frame messages more appealing, easy to remember, and new and fresh compared with those who did not see the film and were exposed to the same messages.
“Our study found that promoting immunization among women during pregnancy can achieve behavioral effects that not only provide protection for the mothers and their unborn children, but also establish a positive trajectory for immunization of infants,” says Frew. “Based on these results we believe vaccination messages need to be incorporated into health care visits as standard of care.”
Because viewing the movie “Contagion” made the immunization messages more appealing and easier to remember, the researchers also believe exposure to messages through mass media, including entertainment, movie advertising, and public service announcements, could potentially enhance recall of well-designed messages among pregnant women.
The findings are reported in the Journal of Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.
Source: Emory University
The post Why flu shot messages fail to reach minority women appeared first on Futurity.
Teens with a parent or a sibling who has been deployed are more likely than their nonmilitary peers to feel depressed and contemplate suicide, according to a survey of more than 14,000 adolescents in California.
Children whose family members have been deployed many times were at even higher risk of feeling sad or hopeless, the findings suggest.
“Given the link between separation and emotional health, it is not surprising that adolescents experiencing deployments were more likely to report feeling sad or hopeless, depressive symptoms, and increased suicide ideation and that more deployments further exacerbated these experiences,” says Julie A. Cederbaum, the lead author of the study and one of a team of researchers from the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.Related Articles On Futurity
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Data used came from the California Healthy Kids Survey given to all 7th, 9th, and 11th graders in California. The current study looked at a subsample of California schools with high concentrations of military students.
Unlike most studies on the mental health of military-connected children, this one was drawn from a nonclinical sample of students in public schools.
It also compares military-connected youth with nonmilitary-connected youth attending the same classrooms and schools, and living in the same communities. Past studies have been conducted in settings such as mental health clinics, hospitals, or at therapeutic summer camps specifically designed for military-connected children.Thoughts of suicide
Analysis shows that 33.7 percent of students with a parent in the military and over 35 percent of those with a sibling in the military said they felt sad or hopeless during the past year. Almost 25 percent of 9th and 11th grade students with a military parent and over 26 percent of students with a military sibling thought about ending their lives.
That compares to 31 percent of students with no one in the military who said they felt sad or hopeless during the past year. And 19.1 percent of 9th and 11th graders with no one in the military who thought about ending their lives.
“These findings match those published earlier this year in a similar, separate analysis which focused on substance use among military youth,” says Tamika Gilreath, a co-author for this study and a lead researcher for a series of several papers on the well-being, health behaviors, and experiences of school-age children in military families.
“It is not military family connection itself but the youths’ and families’ experiences associated with the past 10 years of war. It is important that we begin to take necessary steps to prevent and intervene in the well-being of our military-connected youth.”Harder on girls than boys
As in other studies, girls are more likely than boys to report poor well-being. One reason, the researchers suggest, is that adolescent girls may take on more responsibility at home when one parent is deployed.
The authors also offer other possible explanations for why military children in their early teen years may be experiencing feelings of sadness, suicidal ideation, and other depressive symptoms.
Adolescents, more than younger children, may have a better understanding of the consequences of war. And even if they support their deployed parent they may also “perceive deployment as a burden on them and on the nondeployed parent,” the authors write.
Previous research suggests that an adolescent’s mental well-being may also depend on how well the parent at home is handling the stress of the deployment.Deployed siblings matter, too
The study’s focus on siblings as well as parents in the military is fairly rare. A sibling’s deployment can also lead to changes in family roles and dynamics.
Less is known about how a young person is affected by a sibling’s deployment—but since adolescence is a time of increasing independence from parents—and a teen may feel more connected to an older brother or sister than a parent during this time, it’s possible that a sibling going off to war may have an even greater impact.
The authors suggest public schools, mental health providers and physicians systematically screen adolescents—especially those in military-connected families and those experiencing parental or sibling deployment—for depression and suicide ideation.
“Providers can be trained to identify warning signs that an adolescent may be experiencing problems and should be supported with referrals to evidence-based interventions that can reduce the long-term consequences of deployment-related stressors,” the authors write.
“Increasing capacity of support personnel in medical and school settings can help identify the mental health risks and needs of adolescents with military-connected parents and siblings,” Cederbaum says.
Researchers from Bar Ilan University in Israel and the Chapman University College of Educational Studies contributed to the study.
The post Kids of deployed soldiers more likely to consider suicide appeared first on Futurity.
Boys with autism who watch television, use a computer, or play video games in their bedroom may not be getting enough sleep.
“Previous research has shown that bedroom access to screen-based media is associated with less time spent sleeping in the general population,” says Christopher Engelhardt, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Thompson Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders at the University of Missouri. “We found that this relationship is stronger among boys with autism.”Related Articles On Futurity
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For a new study published in Pediatrics, researchers examined the relationship between media use and sleep among boys with autism compared to typically developing boys or boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
They surveyed parents of boys with ASD, parents of boys with ADHD, and parents of typically developing boys about the children’s hours of media use each day, bedroom access to media, and the average hours of sleep they received per night.
They found a relationship between bedroom access to a television or computer and reduced sleep among boys with autism. Additionally, they found that average video-game exposure was related to less time spent sleeping among the boys with ASD.To sleep better, turn it off
“Even though our findings are preliminary, parents should be aware that media use may have an effect on sleep, especially for children with autism,” Engelhardt says.
“If children are having sleep problems, parents might consider monitoring and possibly limiting their children’s media use, especially around bedtime.”
Future research should further explore the processes by which bedroom access to media could contribute to sleep disturbances in children with ASD.
“Our current results were cross-sectional, meaning that we are not able to determine whether pre-bedtime media exposure causes some children with autism to sleep less,” Engelhardt says.
“However, the relationship between bedroom media access and sleep was particularly large among boys with autism, suggesting that we should continue to carefully research this possibility.”
About one in 88 children are on the autism spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is characterized by social and communication difficulties as well as repetitive behaviors.
Sleep problems also are highly prevalent in children with autism and may have many different underlying causes. Media use may exacerbate some of these underlying problems, and appears to be an area for future research in helping to improve sleep outcomes for children with autism.
“It is also important to note that some media use may also be beneficial for children with autism,” Engelhardt says. “Future research is also needed to determine how video games and other technologies may be helpful in teaching and reinforcing skills and behaviors.”
Source: University of Missouri
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Scientists have created the world’s first self-healing battery electrode and say it could open the door to better batteries for phones, cars, and other gadgets.
The secret is a stretchy polymer that coats the electrode, binds it together, and spontaneously heals tiny cracks that develop during battery operation.
“Self-healing is very important for the survival and long lifetimes of animals and plants,” says Chao Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University and one of two principal authors of the paper. “We want to incorporate this feature into lithium ion batteries so they will have a long lifetime as well.”
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Wang developed the self-healing polymer in the lab of Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, whose group has been working on flexible electronic skin for use in robots, sensors, prosthetic limbs, and other applications.
For the battery project, Chao added tiny nanoparticles of carbon to the polymer so it would conduct electricity.
“We found that silicon electrodes lasted 10 times longer when coated with the self-healing polymer, which repaired any cracks within just a few hours,” Bao says.
“Their capacity for storing energy is in the practical range now, but we would certainly like to push that,” says Yi Cui, an associate professor at Stanford and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, who led the research with Bao.
The electrodes worked for about 100 charge-discharge cycles without significantly losing their energy storage capacity.
“That’s still quite a way from the goal of about 500 cycles for cell phones and 3,000 cycles for an electric vehicle,” Cui notes, “but the promise is there, and from all our data it looks like it’s working.”A more flexible battery
Researchers worldwide are racing to find ways to store more energy in the negative electrodes of lithium ion batteries to achieve higher performance while reducing weight. One of the most promising electrode materials is silicon; it has a high capacity for soaking up lithium ions from the battery fluid during charging and then releasing them when the battery is put to work.
But this high capacity comes at a price: silicon electrodes swell to three times their normal size and shrink back down again each time the battery charges and discharges.
The brittle material soon cracks and falls apart, degrading battery performance. This is a problem for all electrodes in high-capacity batteries, says Hui Wu, a former Stanford postdoc who is now a faculty member at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and the other principal author of the paper.
To make the self-healing coating, scientists deliberately weakened some of the chemical bonds within polymers¬—long, chain-like molecules with many identical units.Practical road forward
The resulting material breaks easily, but the broken ends are chemically drawn to each other and quickly link up again, mimicking the process that allows biological molecules such as DNA to assemble, rearrange, and break down.
Researchers in Cui’s lab and elsewhere have tested a number of ways to keep silicon electrodes intact and improve their performance. Some are being explored for commercial uses, but many involve exotic materials and fabrication techniques that are challenging to scale up for production.
The self-healing electrode, which is made from silicon microparticles that are widely used in the semiconductor and solar cell industry, is the first solution that seems to offer a practical road forward, Cui says.
The researchers think this approach could work for other electrode materials as well, and they will continue to refine the technique to improve the silicon electrode’s performance and longevity.
They detailed the results in an article published in the journal Nature Chemistry.
The Department of Energy through SLAC’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford funded the work.
Source: Stanford University
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A person’s social network is a better predictor than race, age, gender, poverty, or gang affiliation of whether they will become a victim of gun homicide.
“Risk factors like race and poverty are not the predictors they have been assumed to be,” says Andrew Papachristos, associate professor of sociology at Yale University. “It’s who you hang out with that gets you into trouble. It’s tragic, but not random.”Related Articles On Futurity
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Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the research likens gun violence to a blood-borne pathogen in that crime, like a disease, follows certain patterns.
People in the same social network are more likely to engage in similar risky behaviors—like carrying a firearm or taking part in criminal activities—which increases the probability of victimization.
“Generally, you can’t catch a bullet from just anyone,” Papachristos says. “Your relationship with the people involved matters. It’s not unlike needle sharing or unprotected sex in the spread of HIV.”
For the study, researchers examined police and gun homicide records from 2006 to 2011 for residents living within a six-square mile area that had some of the highest rates for homicide in Chicago.
They found that 6 percent of the population was involved in 70 percent of the murders, and that nearly all of those in the 6 percent already had some contact with the criminal justice or public health systems.Risky networks
In addition, those in the 6 percent had a 900 percent increased risk of becoming a victim of gun homicide—suggesting that being part of a risky network might offer more insight into one’s chance of becoming a victim than other risk factors.
“You could easily identify who the dots are on these network maps and direct the resources accordingly,” Papachristos says.
Which is exactly what the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has done. In a new violence prevention initiative, the CPD is currently using network analysis to identify the area’s top 20 residents most likely to shoot someone or be shot.
A CPD police commander and the head of a community anti-violence program recently visited these high-risk individuals at their homes, explained how their history and networks landed them on the list, and delivered the message that their lives matter and they want them to stay out of trouble.
“The CPD is using this as a way to reach out to people, rather than just make arrests,” says Papachristos.Better policing
While it is too early to know the approach’s long-term effects, other cities are taking notice and working on similar network models, including East Paolo Alto and Stockton in California, and Bridgeport and New Haven in Connecticut.
Papchristos has scaled up his study to the entire city of Chicago, a network of more than 170,000 individuals. He is currently expanding into other cities and also following the physical guns in social networks.
“Ultimately, we want to answer the question of how can we police better, smarter, and fairer,” he says.
Christopher Wildeman, was a co-author on the study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Source: Yale University
The post The friends you keep can predict your risk of gun violence appeared first on Futurity.