A beautiful new video from "The Sagan Series" — an open-source project dedicated to spreading scientific literacy — has brought the words of the late astronomer, Carl Sagan, to life.
The video combines audio from Sagan's audiobook with footage of the world's most significant leaders, cultural events and natural beauty, stitching them together to create a complete picture of life on Earth. In its closing moments, Sagan makes a compelling plea for humans to take better care of one another and our planet.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar
Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin jointly
announced today having achieved a new world record for the conversion of
sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar
subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and
entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was
measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar
spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into
electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of
solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap.
Back in May 2013, the German-French
team of Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin had
already announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency. Building on this result,
further intensive research work and optimization steps led to the present
efficiency of 44.7%.
These solar cells are used in
concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), a technology which achieves more than twice
the efficiency of conventional PV power plants in sun-rich locations. The
terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally
came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for
the conversion of sunlight to electricity. In this multi-junction solar cell,
several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked
on top of each other. The single subcells absorb different wavelength ranges of
the solar spectrum.
"We are incredibly proud of our
team which has been working now for three years on this four-junction solar
cell," says Frank Dimroth, Department Head and Project Leader in charge of
this development work at Fraunhofer ISE. "This four-junction solar cell
contains our collected expertise in this area over many years. Besides improved
materials and optimization of the structure, a new procedure called wafer
bonding plays a central role. With this technology, we are able to connect two
semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each other
with high crystal quality. In this way we can produce the optimal semiconductor
combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells."
"This world record increasing
our efficiency level by more than 1 point in less than 4 months demonstrates
the extreme potential of our four-junction solar cell design which relies on
Soitec bonding techniques and expertise," says André-Jacques
Auberton-Hervé, Soitec's Chairman and CEO. "It confirms the acceleration
of the roadmap towards higher efficiencies which represents a key contributor
to competitiveness of our own CPV systems. We are very proud of this
achievement, a demonstration of a very successful collaboration."
"This new record value
reinforces the credibility of the direct semiconductor bonding approaches that
is developed in the frame of our collaboration with Soitec and Fraunhofer ISE.
We are very proud of this new result, confirming the broad path that exists in
solar technologies for advanced III-V semiconductor processing," said Leti
CEO Laurent Malier. Concentrator modules are produced by Soitec (started in
2005 under the name Concentrix Solar, a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISE). This
particularly efficient technology is employed in solar power plants located in
sun-rich regions with a high percentage of direct radiation. Presently Soitec
has CPV installations in 18 different countries including Italy, France, South
Africa and California.
There really is an app for everything -- including brushing your teeth.
Procter & Gamble has launched a new app under its Oral-B brand designed to help consumers have more understanding about their oral health care.
“At P&G Oral Care, the ultimate vision is perfect oral health,” Kris Parlett, senior communications manager for Oral-B Power, tells Marketing Daily. “If you look at the trends in oral care, health care and consumer behavior, they’re all converging on health care apps.”
The new app, available free through the App Store, works with Oral-B’s power toothbrushes to provide a timer and “quadrant guide” to ensure even and thorough tooth cleaning. It also includes a statistics function to chart brushing sessions and a content feed of calendar events, news and weather to keep people’s attention while brushing for a two-minute session.
“We are all so used to constant stimulation, and [this is] turning an everyday chore into something productive,” Parlett says. “With our children’s products, we know if you provide kids with an activity for their brushing, they’ll go for the entire two minutes.”
A new "smart tooth" could help people track their health by revealing exactly how much time is spent eating, drinking and talking.
Artificial teeth that detect when people chew, drink, speak and cough could help people track exactly how much they eat, along with other aspects of their health, researchers say.
In a study, the scientists used dental cement to glue sensors onto the teeth of eight volunteers. The devices were accelerometers that recognized movement in all three dimensions, and were coated with dental resin to keep them safe from saliva. Thin wires connected to the sensors helped collect their data.
The researchers had the volunteers chew gum, drink a bottle of water, cough or read a section of an article. The participants spent about 40 seconds on each activity.
"Our mouth is an opening into our health — our drinking and eating behaviors shed light on our diet," said researcher Hao-hua Chu, a computer scientist at National Taiwan University in Taipei. "How frequently we cough also tells us about our health, and how frequently we talk is related to social activity that can be related to health."
Each of these activities moves teeth in a unique way. When it came to recognizing what a study participant was doing based solely on data from the devices, the system researchers developed was up to 93.8 percent accurate.
Chu said his 11-year-old daughter helped inspire him to invent these "smart teeth."
"Unfortunately, she has to go to dentist a lot," he told LiveScience. "That got me to thinking — is there a way to integrate digital technology into artificial teeth?"
The scientists also took removable artificial teeth and embedded accelerometers in them. Future prototypes will include small Bluetooth radios capable of wirelessly transmitting sensor data to nearby mobile devices for analysis.
"Your future dentist can offer two options for artificial teeth — the first one is a traditional artificial tooth, and the second option is a smart tooth that you can use to record your activity," Chu said. "We might also be able to put in a small energy harvester to provide enough power to run the device for a day at least, instead of taking the tooth out and recharging it."
Additional sensors added to smart teeth could help detect even more detailed information; for instance, what people are eating, Chu added.
Chu with Polly Huang, and their colleagues Cheng-Yuan Li, Yen-Chang Chen and Wei-Ju Chen presented their work Sept. 11 at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Switzerland. Watch the video below for more information:
When I was a teenager my primary care doctor told me that "It
doesn't matter what you eat until your late 20's because that is when your
metabolism starts to decline". It sounded like bad advice at the
time, and even worse now, being that the latest medical research is proving our
diets and activity levels as children are largely linked to our health
later in life:
Obese children have a four times greater risk of having high blood pressure when they reach adulthood compared to normal weight kids, new research shows.
The study authors also found that overweight children had double the risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension, later in life.
"We've shown that the risk for hypertension starts in childhood," said study author Dr. Sara Watson, a pediatric endocrinology fellow at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University in Indianapolis. "That period is very important. There are changes in obese children that contribute to risk of cardiometabolic diseases." So-called cardiometabolic diseases are caused by high blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and excess belly fat.
If left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
Starting in 1986, the researchers tracked the development of over 1,100 healthy adolescents from Indianapolis. Doctors checked their height, weight and blood pressure twice a year, finding that about two-thirds were normal weight, while 16 percent were obese and 16 percent were overweight.
The researchers followed up this year with the now-adult study participants. About 26 percent of obese children had ended up with high blood pressure as adults, compared with 14 percent of overweight children and just 6 percent of normal weight children. The team was scheduled to report on its data Thursday at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.
Watson said the increased risk for kids who are simply overweight is in some ways more troubling than the risk associated for obese children.
"The risk is double for the kids that are overweight," Watson said. "Right now, a lot of our focus is on obese children, but I think it's important when kids are in the overweight category to address them as well, because their risk is high, too."
The 27-year study is important "because there are relatively few studies that have been done looking at the long-term impact of childhood obesity on adult health," said Myles Faith, an associate professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. "It takes a long time to see the development of disease, and following children over time is a mighty work. These long-term studies are a precious resource for science."
Families and pediatricians need to keep an eye on kids' body mass index (BMI) and take steps to help children control their weight, Faith and Watson said. BMI is a measurement based on height and weight. Parents should insist that pediatricians track their child's BMI, and be ready to participate in healthy eating and exercise.
"We have good evidence that family treatments for childhood obesity can improve BMI and can improve blood pressure in adolescents," Faith said. "Strategies involving the family can be helpful in reducing childhood obesity. It's important to think of this for the family unit as well."
Other studies presented at the heart association meeting also touched upon children and high blood pressure.
Children who have one or more high blood pressure readings are three times more likely to develop hypertension as adults, one report discovered.
Using the same pool of Indianapolis kids, researchers found that the rate of high blood pressure during adulthood was 8.6 percent for children who didn't have a high reading when they were young. That rate jumped to 18 percent for adults who had at least one high reading as a kid, and 35 percent for adults who had two or more high readings as children.
"This study highlights the need for pediatricians to regularly check blood pressure and weight," study author Wanzhu Tu, a professor of biostatistics at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, said in a news release from the American Heart Association. "An occasional increase in blood pressure does not justify treatment, but it does justify following these children more carefully."
Other research found that measuring the sodium levels of a child's urine can help doctors identify those at risk for adult hypertension.
Doctors used a urine screen to test the amount of sodium retention in a group of 19 children. Sodium retention increases fluid in the blood vessels, which can raise blood pressure.
Eight children were found to be retaining sodium, and of those kids, seven also had high blood pressure.
"Hypertension is no longer an adult disease," senior researcher Gregory Harshfield, director of the Institute of the Georgia Prevention Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, explained in the news release.
SOURCES: Sara Watson, M.D., pediatric endocrinology fellow, Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University, Indianapolis; Myles Faith, Ph.D., associate professor, nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; American Heart Association, news release, Sept. 12, 2013; Sept. 12, 2013, presentation, American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Research scientific sessions, New Orleans
If you want the full health benefits of broccoli, bypass the freezer aisle, as new research suggests that the frozen variety lacks the cancer-fighting properties the vegetable is known for.
While busy families often reach for bags of frozen broccoli for the convenience factor, a team of U.S. scientists has found that blanching or cooking the vegetable at high heat (part of the flash-freezing process) zapped the broccoli of myrosinase, a key enzyme needed to produce sulforaphane, the powerful cancer-preventive compound.
Sulforaphane is formed when fresh broccoli is chopped or chewed, a process that puts glucoraphanin and myrosinase into contact with one another.
After conducting a series of experiments, however, scientists from the University of Illinois noted that blanching the vegetables at a slightly lower temperature than the current industry standard could help preserve most of the enzyme myrosinase without compromising food safety and quality. Instead of 86C, scientists recommend heating the broccoli at 76C.
But not all is lost when it comes to frozen broccoli. The cancer-fighting compound can be unlocked in both its frozen and cooked state when paired with other foods that contain myrosinase.
For example, team frozen broccoli with raw radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, horseradish, spicy mustard or wasabi to give the bioactive compounds a kickstart, scientists say.
As little as three to five servings of broccoli a week has been shown to have a cancer-protective benefit.
The full study was published in the Journal of Food Science and can be found here.
Recent medical research has linked poor oral health with pancreatic cancer and arthritis. Now, a new study has found that an infection from a common type of mouth bacteria can contribute to colorectal (or colon) cancer as well.
The bacteria, called Fusobacterium nucleatum, can attach to colon cells and trigger a sequence of changes that can lead to colon cancer, according to the team at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.
The researchers also found a way to prevent the bacteria from attaching to colon cells.
"This discovery creates the potential for new diagnostic tools and therapies to treat and prevent the cancer," lead investigator Yiping Han said in a university news release.
The findings show the importance of good oral health, said Han, a professor of periodontics. She noted that levels of F. nucleatum are much higher in people with gum disease.
The study was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, which also contained another study from a different research group showing how F. nucleatum can speed the accumulation of cancer cells.
Source: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Aug. 14, 2013.
Musk has proposed a system of tubes built either above or below ground that will move people between cities that are less than 900 miles apart.
Musk said that the main cost of building such a system would be the tubes, which would cost "several billion dollars." But Musk said, "Even several billion is a low number when compared with several tens of billion proposed for the track of the California rail project."
The system could also be self-powering. Musk said by placing solar panels on top of the tube, the Hyperloop can generate far in excess of the energy needed to operate.
Musk's full press release on Hyperloop can be found here.