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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Next generation Internet : Web 3.0 and beyond: the next 20 years of the internet

(24hoursnews ) A picture of the web in 2030, and it is very powerful - and very smart - indeed

In the heart of Silicon Valley, at what is referred to, somewhat romantically, as the 'web's edge', something is stirring.

A new type of internet is being imagined, far more powerful that the one which lets you link up with your friends or watch a video uploaded by a stranger.

Facebook, YouTube and the other social networks and blogs that fall within the scope of 'Web 2.0' may be beginning to penetrate the mainstream, but to those whose Cassandra-like vision lets them see the web in 2020 and beyond, they are but a pixel in a much larger picture.

In a little over a decade, according to the engineers building the internet of tomorrow, the web will be able to connect every aspect of our digital lives - be it a website, an e-mail, or a file on our PC - to every other aspect. It will know, for instance, when you are typing an e-mail, what the subject of the e-mail is, and be able to suggest websites and books as well as documents, photos and videos you have saved that may be relevant to that topic
It will be achieve this by virtue of the inherent 'intelligence' in the underlying architecture of the internet, they say. In other words, the web is becoming smart.

Nova Spivack is an evangelist of the next phase of the web's development - what Silicon Valley, with its expansionist zeal, has taken to calling Web 3.0, or 'the semantic web'.

Broadly speaking, Mr Spivack says, Web 3.0 refers to the attempt by technologists to overhaul radically the basic platform of the internet so that it 'understands' the near infinite pieces of information that reside on it and draws connections between them.

If Web 2.0 was all about harnessing the collective intelligence of crowds to give information a value - lots of people liked this story so you might too (, people who like Madonna also like this artist (, lots of people linked to this site so that makes it the most relevant (Google's basic PageRank algorithm) - then Web 3.0 is about giving the internet itself a brain.

For those still a bit lost, Mr Spivack, the founder of Radar Networks, a leading Web 3.0 company, says it's useful to think about the web's development in ten-year cycles.

"We have had the first decade of the web, or Web 1.0," he says, which was about the development of the basic platform of the internet and the ability to make huge amounts of information widely accessible, "and we're nearing the end of the second decade - Web 2.0 - which was all about the user interface" and enabling users to connect with one another.

"Now we're about to enter the third decade - Web 3.0 - which is about making the web much smarter."

Each decade in turn corresponds to an engineering focus on either 'the front end' or 'back end' of the web. Web 1.0 was a back-end decade, focusing on the web's basic platform, its link structure and navigation system. Web 2.0 was front end, with a heavy focus on users and usability, clean-looking sites, and people making connections with one another.

In Web 3.0, the emphasis will revert to the back end, with a renewal of the web's key index - the essential data that is catalogued by search engines like Google. That in turn, Mr Spivack says, will make way for Web 4.0, another 'front-end decade', only with more advanced programs than the likes of Facebook.

A prime example of a Web 3.0 technology is 'natural-language search', which refers to the ability of search engines to answer full questions such as 'Which US Presidents died of disease?'. In some cases, the sites that appear in the results do not reference the original search terms, reflecting the fact that the web knows, for instance, that Reagan was a US President, and that Alzheimer's is a disease.

"Our engine reads every page of the web sentence by sentence and returns results by drawing on a general knowledge of language and what specific concepts in the world mean, and their relationship with one another," said Barney Pell, chief executive of Powerset, which is developing natural-language technology. The firm, based at the prestigious Palo Alto Research Centre, in California, is sometimes talked about as a Google-killer, should its offering - which is not yet widely available - become popular.

It's not just search that will be overhauled in the web of the future, however. One of the recurrent themes in the presentations at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco was 'open platforms', the idea that a website or device, like a mobile phone, should be able to accommodate whichever features or applications its user wants. Think of the iPhone as a folder into which an owner could 'drag and drop' any application - a weather forecaster, an e-mail service - without Apple having to approve such an action.

Some of the world's largest technology companies - Nokia, Apple and MySpace - all made announcements embracing the idea of open platforms, suggesting that the web will become a place where much more mixing and matching of different services will be permitted.

Alongside this will come tmore mature virtual worlds, or what Silicon Valley's faithful - perhaps to get away from connotations of the computer game - have started referring to as 'immersive environments'.

"The web is going to be a much more immersive, a much more multi-dimensional environment," said John Doerr, one of the founding board members at Google and a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which invests heavily in the tech sector.

Mr Doerr's presentation touched on a range of areas that would be affected by the web, in particular green technologies and the energy sector, as well as disease therapy, and he gave stark warning to any firm that was not willing to embrace emerging trends. "In any real revolution there are winners and losers. The internet wasn't some kind of 'kum ba ya' thing," he said.

When the time came to pack up the projects and exchange the last business cards, there was a sense - as there was seven years ago - that Silicon Valley was riding a wave of seemingly limitless investor confidence, begging an obvious question.

"Are we officially in a bubble yet?" one of the conference moderators asked, repeatedly.

No one was willing to answer. In the meantime, the vast sums of money to be made and the new services to change people's lives, radically and everywhere, were both things to be celebrated.

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New Invention :New algorithms : Copper Broadband now 200x Faster by Dr John Papandriopoulos

24hournews :Copper Broadband now 200x Faster by Dr John Papandriopoulos

"People have been trying to push up the speeds of broadband to as fast as possible by pushing the actual bandwidth limits," Papandriopoulos tells Image and Data Manager Online. "The underlying problem is really one of interference, in effect your neighbor is interfering with your speed," he said. A bit more from the report:

An Australian PhD student has devised a way of getting extra bandwidth out of copper. Dr John Papandriopoulos, who is waiting for patents to get processed on his technology, says it could provide speeds up to 250Mbps over traditional copper lines. The article, which offers scant technical specifics, says the technology "uses mathematic modeling to reduce the interference that slows down downloading."

"Winner of Melbourne University's Chancellor's Prize for Excellence, Dr John Papandriopoulos could soon find himself the focus of a number of networking companies and government agencies interested in wringing more performance from existing network infrastructure. Dr John developed a set of algorithms (US and Aussie patents pending) that reduce the impact of cross talk on data streams sharing the same physical copper line, taking less than a year to achieve the breakthrough. It is claimed that the algorithms can produce up to 200x improvement over existing copper broadband performance (quoted as being between one and 25 mbit/sec), with up to 200 mbit/sec apparently being deliverable. If the mathematical theories are within even an order of magnitude of the actual gains achieved, Dr John's work is likely to have widespread implications for future bandwidth availability across the globe."

According to Dr John,

the technology could be installed directly into existing modems as a software upgrade or be shipped in new modems depending on the ability of the particular modem type. In addition to this there would be a further installation required at the DSLAM in your telephone exchange which would then start cutting down the interference. Don't expect to see the offering on your local PC store shelves anytime soon though, as Dr John hopes it will be available within 3-4 years.

Researcher Information - Dr John Papandriopoulos

Personal Details
Name Dr John Papandriopoulos
Affiliation Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
University of Melbourne
Contact Details CUBIN, Dept. of EEE, University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Vic
Phone: +61 3 8344 3810
(this email address is displayed using a Javascript function with the aim of stopping email collectors)


John Papandriopoulos was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1978. He received the combined B.E. degree in communications engineering and B.App.Sci. degree in computer science from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), Australia, in 2001 and was awarded the J. N. McNicol Prize (University Medal) in 2002.

He completed his Ph.D. in 2006 within the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research interests include non-linear (non)convex optimization techniques and applications, particularly in the cross-layer design of wireless networks and resource allocation in CDMA and OFDM-based networks.

John has worked with Telstra, Agilent Technologies, and the 3G Mobile R&D Division of NEC Australia. He has also served two years as the Chairperson of the University of Melbourne IEEE Student Branch from 2003.

Areas of Expertise
Research Areas Communications Theory; Signal Processing; Mobile Networking; Broadband Access;
Application Areas Mobile Communications; Wireless Data Communications; Broadband Communications;

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Evolutionary Sprint Made Us

Evolutionary Sprint Made Us Human

Evolutionary Sprint Made Us Human

Many more genes separate humans from chimpanzees than scientists believed. A new study shows that what sets us apart from our closest primate cousin is the accelerated rate at which we acquire new genes and ditch unnecessary ones.
It's often said that there's only 1% to 2% difference between the genomes of chimps and humans, two species that had their most recent common ancestor about 5 million years ago. But that percentage refers to the nucleotide differences in shared genes. Evolution can do more than just tinker with gene sequences; the number of copies of a gene can also vary from one species to the next, even when the gene itself stays the same. Sometimes genes are gained, and sometimes they are lost. Quantifying this turnover has been difficult, however, because it requires the complete genome sequences of many species.

Now, with several mammals sequenced and a suite of new statistical methods available, Matthew Hahn and colleagues at Indiana University, Bloomington, have taken a closer look. They measured how quickly genes were duplicated or lost across six mammalian genomes. By looking at about 120,000 genes in 10,000 gene families, they discovered that gene turnover was faster in primates than in dogs or in rodents, and even faster in humans, who swapped genes 1.6 times faster than monkeys and 2.8 times quicker than nonprimates. Thanks to this rapid change, 6.4% of the 22,000-odd human genes aren't present in chimps, making the gap between the two suddenly seem much wider.

"You can think of the genome as a revolving door--genes keep coming and going," says Hahn, who published the findings online 18 October in the journal Genetics. He argues that the turnover provides fuel for natural selection to act upon; gene families that rapidly expanded also showed the signatures of adaptive changes in their DNA. And one gene family that stood out in particular was a group of brain genes, which more than doubled in size in humans.

The study highlights "the important role that gene turnover plays in mammalian evolution," says genome biologist James Sikela of the University of Colorado, Denver. But he cautions that the recently "finished" genome sequences that the researchers used may have so-called assembly errors in them that could skew the results. It's difficult to prove the complete absence of a gene, he warns; in addition, extra copies of genes can be missed. Although these errors could affect the rate estimates, Hahn says he tested for their effects, and he doubts that they explain the rapid acceleration seen in humans.

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Adult stem cells lack key regulator

Top panels: Cells of the intestinal lining of mice lacking the embryonic pluripotency regulator Oct4 stop dividing and die after radioactive exposure. Middle panels: Intestinal stem cells then become activated and begin dividing rapidly. Bottom panels: The intestinal lining is completely regenerated, with stem cells relocating to the bottom. Image / Chris Lengner

The protein Oct4 plays a major role in embryonic stem cells, acting as a master regulator of the genes that keep the cells in an undifferentiated state. Unsurprisingly, researchers studying adult stem cells have long suspected that Oct4 also is critical in allowing these cells to remain undifferentiated. Indeed, more than 50 studies have reported finding Oct4 activity in adult stem cells.

But those findings are misleading, according to research in the lab of Whitehead member and MIT biology professor Rudolf Jaenisch.

In a paper published online in Cell Stem Cells on Oct. 10, postdoctoral fellow Christopher Lengner has shown that Oct4 is not required to maintain mouse adult stem cells in their undifferentiated state, and that adult tissues function normally in the absence of Oct4. Furthermore, using three independent detection methods in several tissue types in which Oct4-positive adult stem cells had been reported, Lengner found either no trace of Oct4, or so little Oct4 as to be indistinguishable from background readings.

This means that pluripotency, the ability of stem cells to change into any kind of cell, is regulated differently in adult and embryonic stem cells.

"This is the definitive survey of Oct4," said Jaenisch. "It puts all those claims of pluripotent adult stem cells into perspective."

Oct4 is essential in maintaining the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells, but only for a short time before the embryo implants in the uterine wall. After implantation, Oct4 is turned off and the cells differentiate into all of the 200-plus cell types in the body.

"We have convincingly shown that Oct4 has no role in adult stem cells," said Lengner.

He initially set out to determine how tissues previously shown to express Oct4 (the intestinal lining, brain, bone marrow and hair follicle) functioned without the protein. To do so, he bred mice in which the Oct4 gene had been deleted from a given tissue type.

Next, Lengner stressed the tissue in several ways, forcing the adult stem cells within to regenerate the tissue. All regenerated normally. Lengner and his fellow researchers then tested to confirm that Oct4 had indeed been deleted from these cells. Finally, the researchers set out to validate the previously published reports claiming Oct4 was expressed in these adult stem cell types. Using highly sensitive tests that could detect Oct4 at the single-cell level, they were unable to confirm the earlier reports.

"This is a cautionary tale of believing what you read in the literature," said Lengner, who suggests that earlier studies may have misapplied tricky analytical techniques or worked with cell cultures that had spent too much time in an incubator.

"We now know that adult stem cells regulate their pluripotency, or 'stemness,' using different mechanisms from embryonic stem cells, and we're studying these mechanisms," he said. "Is there a common pathway that governs stemness in different adult stem cells, or does each stem cell have its own pathway? We don't yet know."

Other authors of this paper are from Massachusetts General Hospital, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine and the Russian Academy of Science.

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MIT works toward novel therapeutic device

Applications include zapping cancer cells

Microspheres coated with certain molecules stick to the protein P-selectin on a glass surface and begin to roll across that surface. Microspheres without the coating did not stick and roll Diagram courtesy / Seungpyo Hong, MIT

MIT and University of Rochester researchers report important advances toward a therapeutic device that has the potential to capture cells as they flow through the blood stream and treat them. Among other applications, such a device could zap cancer cells spreading to other tissues, or signal stem cells to differentiate.

Their concept leverages cell rolling, a biological process that slows cells down as they flow through blood vessels. As the cells slow, they adhere to the vessel walls and roll, allowing them to sense signals from nearby tissues that may be calling them to work. Immune cells, for example, can be slowed and summoned to battle an infection.

"Through mimicking a process involved in many important physiological and pathological events, we envision a device that can be used to selectively provide signals to cells traveling through the bloodstream," said Jeffrey M. Karp of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. "This technology has applications in cancer and stem cell therapies and could be used for diagnostics of a number of diseases."

The team, led by Karp, started with technology to induce cell rolling for research. With an implantable therapeutic device in mind, they improved that cell rolling technology to make it safe, more stable and longer lasting.

The improvements are described in the October 20 online issue of the journal Langmuir, published by the American Chemical Society.

In the body, P-selectin and other selectin proteins regulate cell rolling in blood vessels. When P-selectin is present on a vessel's inner wall, cells that are sensitive to it will stick to that patch and begin to roll across it.

To induce rolling in the laboratory, the original technology weakly adheres P-selectin to a glass surface and flows cells across it. This surface treatment remains stable for several hours then breaks down. "While this method is useful for experiments, it's not good for long-term stability," said Karp. An implantable device needs a coating that lasts weeks or even months so that patients won't need to come in frequently for replacements.

To improve the technology, the team experimented with several chemical methods to immobilize P-selectin on a glass surface. They identified a polyethelene glycol (PEG) coating that strongly bonded to P-selectin. This coating is also "non-fouling," meaning it does not react with or accumulate other proteins, so it is potentially safe for use in an implant.

P-selectin remains stable on this coating for longer than the original technology. In tests with microspheres coated with a molecule that interacts with P-selectin, these spheres slowed down significantly as they flowed over the surface coated with layers of PEG and P-selectin. The effect was stable past four weeks, the longest the devices have been tested.

To validate that this technology works with cells that are sensitive to P-selectin, the team flowed neutrophils (white blood cells) across the coated surface. They too slowed and rolled on surfaces treated with the new coating, and the effect again lasted for at least four weeks.

The next step is translating these results to animal studies and using the technology to slow and capture stem cells and cancer cells circulating in the blood stream.

Ultimately CellTraffix, Inc., a sponsor of this technology and its licensee, wants to apply the technique to a device that is either implanted into the blood stream or appended as a shunt. In addition to PEG and selectin molecules, the device would also include a therapeutic agent. Such an agent would interact only with certain cells for a specific purpose.

According to University of Rochester biomedical engineering professor Michael King, who developed the concept for adhesive capture and reprogramming of cells, the device could, for example, slow down metastatic, or spreading, cancer cells and kill them.

Karp also has appointments at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. King is also a member of the scientific advisory board of CellTraffix, Inc. (formerly Stem Capture, Inc.), a funder of the work. Their coauthors include first author Seungpyo Hong, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering; MIT undergraduates Huanan Zhang, Jennifer Q. Zhang, and Jennifer N. Resvick, also of chemical engineering; graduate student Dooyoung Lee of the University of Rochester; assistant professor Ali Khademhosseini of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer.

In addition to funding from CellTraffix, Inc., the work was also funded by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Program of the National Science Foundation.

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Laptop And Digital Camera Memory

Laptop And Digital Camera Memory

Laptop And Digital Camera Memory Devices Improved With Nanotechnology

Arizona State University's Center for Applied Nanoionics (CANi) has a new take on old memory, one that promises to boost the performance, capacity and battery life of consumer electronics from digital cameras to laptops. Best of all, it is cheap, made from common materials and compatible with just about anything currently on the market.

In using readily available materials, we've provided a way for this memory to be made at essentially zero extra cost, because the materials you need are already used in the chips -- all you have to do is mix them in a slightly different way," said Michael Kozicki, director of CANi.

For some time now, conventional computer memory has been heading toward a crunch -- a physical limit of how much storage can be crammed into a given space. Traditional electronics begins to break down at the nanoscale -- the scale of individual molecules -- because pushing electronics closer together creates more heat and greater power dissipation. As consumer electronics such as MP3 players and digital cameras shrink, the need for more memory in a smaller space grows.

Researchers have been approaching the problem from two directions, either trying to leapfrog to the next generation of memory, or refining current memory. CANi took both approaches, amping up performance via special materials while also switching from charge-based storage to resistance-based storage.

"We've developed a new type of old memory, but really it is the perfect memory for what's going to be required in future generations," Kozicki said. "It's very low-energy. You can scale it down to the nanoscale. You can pack a lot of it into a small space."

CANi was also able to overcome the limitations of conventional electronics by using nanoionics, a technique for moving tiny bits of matter around on a chip. Instead moving electrons among charged particles, called ions, as in traditional electronics, nanoionics moves the ions themselves.

"We've actually been able to move something the size of a virus between electrodes to switch them from a high resistance to a low resistance, which is great for memory," Kozicki said.

Most memory today stores information as charge; in the binary language of computers, this means that an abundance of charge at a particular site on a chip translated as a "one," and a lack of charge is translated as a "zero." The problem with such memory is that the smaller its physical size, the less charge it can reliably store.

Resistance-based memory, on the other hand, does not suffer from this problem and can even store multiple bits on one site. Moreover, once the resistance is set, it does not change, even when the power is switched off.

CANi's previous high-performance resistance-change memory has been licensed to three companies, including Micron Technology and Qimonda, and has attracted the attention of Samsung, Sony and IBM. However, it used some materials, specifically silver and germanium sulfide, previously unused by industry and therefore required new processes to be developed.

The real advancement of CANi's newest memory is that researchers discovered a way to use materials already common in chip manufacturing. Although "doping" -- mixing silicon with small amounts of conductive materials such as boron, arsenic or phosphorus -- has been common practice for years, copper in silicon dioxide was largely unheard of. In fact, it was strictly avoided.

"People have actually gone to great lengths to keep the silicon oxide and the copper apart," Kozicki said. "But in our case, we are very interested in mixing the copper with the oxide -- basically, so that it would become mobile and move around in the material."

"Because it can move in there, we can make a sort of nanoscale switch," he added. "This very, very small switch can be used in memory applications, storing information via a range of resistance values."

Industry has already shown interest in the new memory and, if all goes well, consumers could see it on the market within a few years.

"What it means is we could replace all of the memory in all sorts of applications -- from laptops to iPods to cell phones to whatever -- with this one type of memory," Kozicki said. "Because it is so low energy, we can pack a lot of memory and not drain battery power; and it's not volatile -- you can switch everything off and retain information. What makes this significant is that we are using materials that are already in use in the semiconductor industry to create a component that's never been thought of before."

The research was conducted in collaboration with Research Center Jülich in Germany. It was published in the October 2007 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices in the article "Bipolar and Unipolar Resistive Switching in Cu-doped SiO2." The team included Christina Schindler, on loan from Germany to CANi, Sarath Chandran Puthen Thermadam of CANi, Kozicki, and Rainer Waser of the Institute for Solid State Research and Center for Nanoelectronics Systems and Information Technology in Jülich.

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Massive Star's Afterlife: A Supernova

Massive Star's Afterlife: A Supernova Seeds New Planets

A spectacular new image shows how complex a star's afterlife can be. By studying the details of this image made from a long observation by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers can better understand how some stars die and disperse elements like oxygen into the next generation of stars and planets.

At a distance of about 20,000 light years, G292.0+1.8 is one of only three supernova remnants in the Milky Way known to contain large amounts of oxygen. The image shows a rapidly expanding, intricately structured, debris field that contains, along with oxygen, other elements such as neon and silicon that were forged in the star before it exploded.

"We are finding that, just like snowflakes, each supernova remnant is complicated and beautiful in its own way," said Sangwook Park of Penn State who led the work, released in conjunction with the "8 Years of Chandra" symposium in Huntsville, Ala.

By mapping the distribution of X-rays in different energy bands, the Chandra image traces the distribution of chemical elements ejected in the supernova. The results imply that the explosion was not symmetrical. For example, blue (silicon and sulfur) and green (magnesium) are seen strongly in the upper right, while yellow and orange (oxygen) dominate the lower left. These elements light up at different temperatures, indicating that the temperature is higher in the upper right portion of G292.0+1.8.

Slightly below and to the left of the center of G292.0+1.8 is a pulsar, a dense, rapidly rotating neutron star that remained behind after the original star exploded. Assuming that the pulsar was born at the center of the remnant, it is thought that recoil from the lopsided explosion may have kicked the pulsar in this direction.

Surrounding the pulsar is a so-called pulsar wind nebula, a magnetized bubble of high-energy particles. The narrow, jet-like feature running from north to south in the image is likely parallel to the spin axis of the pulsar. This structure is most easily seen in high energy X-rays. In the case of G292.0+1.8, the spin direction and the kick direction do not appear to be aligned, in contrast to apparent spin-kick alignments in some other supernova remnants.

Another intriguing feature of this remnant is the bright equatorial belt of X-ray emission that extends across the center of the remnant. This structure is thought to have been created when the star - before it died - expelled material from around its equator via winds. The orientation of the equatorial belt suggests that the parent star maintained the same spin axis both before and after it exploded.

"The detection of the pulsar and its wind nebula confirms that the supernova that led to G292 produced a neutron star through the collapse of the core of a massive star," said coauthor John Hughes of Rutgers University, "The ability to study the asymmetry of the original explosion using X-ray images of the remnant gives us a powerful new technique for learning about these cataclysmic events."

These results will appear in the December 1st issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

nova (pl. novae) is a cataclysmic nuclear explosion caused by the accretion of hydrogen onto the surface of a white dwarf star. Novae are not to be confused with Type Ia supernovae, or another form of stellar explosion first announced by Caltech in May 2007, Luminous Red Novae.

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China Successfully Launches Lunar Probe

China Successfully Launches Lunar Probe

China launched its first lunar probe Wednesday, the first step in an ambitious 10-year plan to send a rover to the moon and return it to earth.

State television showed pictures of the Chang'e 1 orbiter taking off with a trail of smoke from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province in southwestern China.

The launch comes just weeks after China's regional rival Japan put a probe into orbit around the moon in a big leap forward for Asia's undeclared space race. India is likely to join the regional rivalry soon, with plans to send its own lunar probe into space in April.

The Long March 3A rocket carrying the probe blasted off shortly after 6 p.m. local time after officials from the China National Space Administration said weather conditions were good for a lift off.

Several thousand people living within 1 1/2 miles of the launch center and under the rocket's trajectory were evacuated two hours before the launch, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

More than 2,000 tourists were also on hand to watch the rocket soar into space.

The Chang'e 1, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, will orbit Earth while technical adjustments are made, and will enter the moon's orbit by Nov. 5, administration spokesman Li Guoping said when the launch plans were announced Monday.

The project's goal is to analyze the chemical and mineral composition of the lunar surface. The probe will use stereo cameras and X-ray spectrometers to map three-dimensional images of the surface, and to study the moon's dust.

The 5,070-pound Chang'e 1 is expected to transmit its first photo back to China in late November, and to conduct explorations of the moon for a year.

The launch marks the first step of a three-stage moon mission. In about 2012 there will be a moon landing with a moon rover. In the third phase about five years later, another rover will land on the moon and be returned to earth with lunar soil and stone samples, Xinhua said.

In 2003, China became only the third country in the world after the United States and Russia to put its own astronauts into space.

But China also alarmed the international community in January when it blasted an old satellite into oblivion with a land-based anti-satellite missile. It was the first such test ever conducted by any nation.

The Long March rocket had a drawing on it of a moon with an eclipse which was also designed to look like a dragon. "China Moon Probe" was written in Chinese on the rocket.

A government official said last week China hopes to join an international space station project that already counts leading space powers like the United States and Russia as its members.

China does not participate in the International Space Station, due in part to American unease about allowing a communist dictatorship a place aboard.

The space station's first section was launched in 1998 and it has been inhabited continuously since 2000 by Russian, U.S. and European crew mates.

Japan's space agency said nearly two weeks ago that its lunar probe was in high orbit over the moon and all was going well as it began a yearlong project to map and study the lunar surface.

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Robotic Cars Must Drive In Darpa Challenge

The robotic vehicles must navigate traffic circles, avoid moving obstacles, and merge into lanes without human intervention. They also must obey California's traffic laws.

Some of the best and brightest geek squads are revving up their engines for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Urban Challenge next month.
More than 30 semifinalists will compete, beginning Friday, to qualify their robotic vehicles for the final competition on Nov. 3, in Victorville, Calif. Twenty teams will make it to the urban military training grounds on the former George Air Force Base, for cash prizes of up to $2 million.

For some in Team Berlin, that could mean slowing down a bit. The team includes engineering students and faculty from Rice University in Houston and from Freie Universität Berlin, whose home turf includes the Autobahn.

"The vehicles must perform as well as someone with a California driver's license," Darpa Director Tony Tether said in a prepared statement.

Teams from Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, and Virginia Tech are among the finalists.

The vehicles also will conduct simulated military supply missions to judge their performance in realistic environments.

With many technology companies and innovators participating and supporting the event, innovations from the race are used to improve car safety and robotics. The U.S. military aims to operate one-third of its vehicles without drivers by 2015. Darpa hosted its first Grand Challenge in 2004 to spur innovation needed to meet that goal.

The first year, none of the vehicles could finish the qualifying course. By 2005, 23 teams qualified and Stanford's Stanley took the $2 million prize, completing about 130 miles in nearly seven hours. This year, teams developed cars that made it through intersections with other cars and moved as smoothly as if drivers had taken the wheel.

Science Scene

Science Scene

Sleep deprivation may make emotions hard to control

Twenty-six adults were assigned either to a sleep deprivation treatment for 35 hours or to a normal sleep treatment, in a study performed at UC Berkeley and recently published in Current Biology.

As the participants looked at 100 different images, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The images ranged from emotionally neutral to negative images depicting things such as mutilated bodies.

According to the imaging, the amygdalae in the sleep deprived group reacted 60 percent more than in the normal-sleep group. The amygdala is the area in the brain responsible for processing emotion. (

CD players could be used as laboratory tools

CD players use lasers to scan either CDs or DVDs for microscopic bumps that encode sounds and images. They work by detecting whether light is reflected or not. Researchers at Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain reasoned that the same technology could be used to detect the presence or absence of chemicals in laboratory samples instead of using portable microarray detectors which cost $40,000 to $80,000.

By adding extra sensors to detect changes in the intensity of light, the CD players were able to detect concentrations of pesticides as low as 20-billionths of a gram per liter, a level of sensitivity comparable to that of current lab scanners. Up to 300,000 samples could be put on a single blank CD. The results of the experiment are published in Analytic Chemistry. (

Coal power plants rejected in Kansas, Fla.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment rejected permits for two 7,000-megawatt coal-fired power plants proposed by Sunflower Electric Power Corporation. The decision is one in a string of many decisions made since the Supreme Court decided in April that carbon dioxide qualifies as an air pollutant under the Federal Clean Air Act.

In Florida, four separately proposed coal-fired power plants were rejected by state authorities or were withdrawn.

As carbon capture technology becomes more affordable, coal may once again become a practical option. Selective filters could be installed in either the smoke stacks of the power plants or in the combustion cycle of the power plant. Once the carbon gas is captured, it is compressed and then pumped into the ground as a liquid. Currently such technology increases the price of building a coal-fired power plant by 60 to 70 percent.

Dinosaur footprints found in Australia

Twelve-foot tall, warm-blooded, carnivorous dinosaurs roamed southern Australia 115 million years ago, when the continent was joined to Antarctica, according to Australian paleontologists who recently found three fossilized footprints along the south shore of Australia, near Victoria. Each footprint was approximately 14 inches long and each had at least two or three partial toes.

According to researchers, the environment that the dinosaurs inhabited could range from -22 degrees to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 120 million years ago, the supercontinent called Gondwana, made up of South America, Africa, India and Antarctica began to break apart. Fifty million years ago the Australian continent broke apart from Antarctica and began to move northward.

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Discovery chasing space station

Shuttle Discovery chased the international space station in orbit Wednesday as its seven astronauts geared up for a laser inspection of their ship's wings.

It was the first full day of what NASA considers to be the most complicated space station construction mission yet. The shuttle was to reach the station Thursday.

NASA's space operations chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, said after Tuesday's liftoff that the astronauts face a tremendous series of challenges, but noted, "I can't think of a better start to this mission than what we got today." It was the third on-time shuttle launch in a row.

At least six pieces of foam insulation came off Discovery's fuel tank during liftoff, but because that occurred after the crucial first two minutes, the debris posed no risk to the shuttle, officials said.

"It's preliminary only, but it did look like a clean ascent," Mission Control informed Discovery's commander Pamela Melroy, only the second woman to lead a shuttle crew.

Astronauts woke up early Wednesday to "Lord of the Dance," which begins with the lyrics "I danced in the morning when the earth was begun, I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun." Melroy said it was one of her favorites songs and thanked her husband, Doug, for tipping off Mission Control.

Melroy and her crew were to use a laser-tipped inspection boom Wednesday to check Discovery's vulnerable wings and nose, standard procedure since the Columbia accident.

They will go extra slow, however, for a thorough check of three wing panels that may have cracks just beneath a protective coating. Even though NASA's own safety group wanted to delay the launch, senior managers decided a week ago that wing repairs were unnecessary.

NASA is extra sensitive about launch debris and the shuttle's thermal shielding ever since a hole in the wing brought down Columbia in 2003, the result of a strike by a slab of fuel-tank foam.

A much smaller piece of foam broke off a bracket on the fuel tank during the last launch in August, possibly along with ice, and gouged Endeavour's belly. That led to changes to Discovery's fuel tank to prevent dangerous ice buildup from the super-cold propellants.

Discovery's primary payload is an Italian-built compartment, about the size of a small bus, that will serve as the docking port for science labs due to arrive beginning in December. Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli is personally delivering the pressurized chamber, called Harmony.

During their 1 1/2-week station visit, the astronauts must install Harmony, relocate a giant girder and set of solar wings, extend those solar wings and radiators, and test a thermal tile repair kit. Five spacewalks are planned, which will be the most ever conducted while a shuttle is docked at the station.

Astronaut Daniel Tani will move into the station once Discovery docks. He will replace Clayton Anderson, who will return to Earth on the shuttle after five months in space.

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Monster Black Hole Can't Be Explained

 Monster Black Hole Can't Be Explained

Astronomers: Monster Black Hole Can't Be Explained

A stellar black hole much more massive than theory predicts is possible has astronomers puzzled.

Stellar black holes form when stars with masses around 20 times that of the sun collapse under the weight of their own gravity at the ends of their lives.

Most stellar black holes weigh in at around 10 solar masses when the smoke blows away, and computer models of star evolution have difficulty producing black holes more massive than that.

The newly weighed black hole is 16 solar masses. It orbits a companion star in the spiral galaxy Messier 33, located 2.7 million light-years from Earth. Together they make up the system known as M33 X-7.

"We're having trouble using standard theories to explain this system because it is so massive," study team member Jerome Orosz of the University of California, San Diego, told

The black hole in M33 X-7 is also the most distant stellar black hole ever observed.

The findings, detailed in the Oct. 17 issue of the journal Nature, could help improve formation models of "binary" systems containing a black hole and a star.

It could also help explain one of the brightest star explosions ever observed.

Black hole eclipse

Black holes can't be seen, because all matter and light that enters them is trapped. So black holes are detected by noting their gravitational effects on nearby stars or on material that swirls around them.

The companion star of the M33 X-7 pair passes directly in front of the black hole, as seen from Earth, once every three days, completely eclipsing its X-ray emissions.

It is the only known binary system in which this occurs, and it was this unusual arrangement that allowed astronomers to calculate the pair's masses very precisely.

The tight orbits of the black hole and star suggests the system underwent a violent stage of star evolution called the common-envelope phase, in which a dying star swells so much it sucks its companion inside its gas envelope.

This results in either a merger between the two stars or the formation of a tight binary in which one star is stripped of its outer layers.

The team thinks the latter scenario happened in the case of M33 X-7, and that the stripped star exploded as a supernova before imploding to form a black hole.

However, something unusual must have happened to M33 X-7 during this phase to create such a massive black hole.

"The black hole must have lost a large amount of mass for the two objects to be so close," Tomasz Bulik, an astronomer at the University of Warsaw in Poland, writes in a related Nature article. "But on the other hand, it must have retained enough mass to form such a heavy black hole."

The team estimates the black hole's progenitor must have shed gas at a rate about 10 times less than models predicted before it exploded.

"[M33 X-7] might thus provide both the upper and lower limits on the amount of mass loss and orbital tightening that can occur in the common envelope," added Bulik, who was not involved in the study.

Twin black holes

If other massive stars also lose very little material during their last stages, it could explain the incredible luminosity of 2006gy, one of the brightest supernovas ever observed, the researchers say.

One day, the lone star in M33 X-7 will also disappear, notes study team member Jeffrey McClintock of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

"This is a huge star that is partnered with a huge black hole," McClintock says. "Eventually, the companion will also go supernova, and then we'll have a pair of black holes."

While 16 solar masses is hefty for a stellar black hole, it is miniscule compared with the black holes thought to lie in the heart of many large galaxies, including our own.

Such "supermassive" black holes have masses millions to billions times that of our sun, but they are thought to form by mechanisms different from the stellar variety.

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Scientists Generate Powerful Antimatter Ray

24hoursnewsScientists Generate Powerful Antimatter Ray

Successes like this at a university reactor are actually starting to drive big ideas and big thoughts around the country and around the world."siad Dr. Ayman Hawari, director of the Nuclear Reactor Program at NC State"

Researchers at North Carolina State University have produced the world's most powerful antimatter beam.

"There is a reactor in Munich, Germany, that has been generating those types of radiation beams for some time now, and our analysis of the data shows that we have exceeded what they have reported," Dr. Ayman Hawari, director of the Nuclear Reactor Program at North Carolina State, told the university's Web site.

The beam, consisting of an intense burst of positrons, was generated at the school's PULSTAR campus nuclear reactor, which first went online in 1972.

A positron is the "mirror image" of an electron - it has the same weight and properties of the most basic atomic particle, but is positively rather than negatively charged.

Theoretical physicists believe there are equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the universe, but few antimatter particles have been found "in the wild."

North Carolina State researcher hope the positron beam will form the basis of antimatter-based instruments.


There were high-fives all around NC State University's PULSTAR nuclear reactor earlier this month, as students, staff and faculty celebrated a new scientific benchmark - they had just produced the most intense operating positron (antimatter electron) beam anywhere in the world.

"There is a reactor in Munich, Germany, that has been generating those types of radiation beams for some time now, and our analysis of the data shows that we have exceeded what they have reported," said Dr. Ayman Hawari, associate professor of nuclear engineering and director of the Nuclear Reactor Program at NC State.

"Our excitement comes from the realization that now it has become possible to achieve certain objectives that were not possible before," he said. "Thinking from a scientific point of view, you immediately think, 'We're going to be able to do what we thought we should do.'"

Success was two years in the making - the positron project began in 2005 as a collaboration between NC State, the University of Michigan and Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

"The idea here is that if we create this intense beam of antimatter electrons - the complete opposite of the electron, basically - we can then use them in investigating and understanding the new types of materials being used in many applications," Hawari said.

Now that the intense beam has been generated, members of NC State's nuclear engineering program and their collaborators will turn their focus to developing instrumentation such as antimatter spectrometers and potentially long-discussed antimatter microscopes, which would allow for a much more detailed look into materials at the atomic level.

"We're starting to see into the future," Hawari said. "Successes like this at a university reactor are actually starting to drive big ideas and big thoughts around the country and around the world for the applications of these successes."

NC State holds a storied place in nuclear history - in 1953, the university became the host of the first university-based nuclear reactor in the world. Since then, NC State has a continuous history of operating four different reactor facilities - including the PULSTAR, which became operational in 1972 - all designed for teaching, research and community service.

"We have an active nuclear engineering program that is one of the largest in the country," Hawari said. "We supply hands-on experience for our nuclear engineers working toward degrees at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels of this program.

"Our students are able to take classes and use the reactor in their day-to-day course work," he said. "In addition, they are able to get trained on reactor operations and obtain federal licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as nuclear reactor operators."

Currently, there are approximately 25 universities across the United States with active nuclear reactors on campus, ranging from smaller, demonstration-type reactors to larger, project-oriented reactors such as the one at NC State. The number of nuclear engineering programs without reactors is larger, but students at other universities can gain experience with the PULSTAR reactor through a Web-based interface.

"About two years ago, we created a virtual version of the reactor's data systems, control systems and readout systems so students lacking the advantages that we have here at NC State can take classes with us over the Internet and learn that way," Hawari said. "Students at the University of Tennessee and Georgia Tech have been doing that on a regular basis, and now we are discussing that with other engineering programs not only across the country but internationally as well."

As the virtual program continues develop, another trend has developed - students who received their undergraduate degrees elsewhere are coming to NC State to continue their education in pursuit of higher degrees.

"The reactor is a huge recruiting tool," Hawari said. "After they get exposure to the reactor and the facilities online at their own universities, many of them become excited about the possibility of coming to NC State for hands-on experience."

From their assistance with the positron beam to "real-world" analysis of materials from the World Trade Center and Space Shuttle Columbia disasters, NC State's nuclear engineering students are involved in virtually every facet of the reactor program.

"Our graduate and undergraduate students are fully engaged in all of the projects we have at the reactor," Hawari said. "Without exaggeration, the work done at this reactor is on par with the work done at the best international scientific facilities in the world.

"We are unique, and we are doing things on the cutting edge of radiation science."

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CyberLink Launches Webcam

CyberLink Launches Webcam

CyberLink Launches Webcam Application: YouCam

CyberLink Corp. (TSE:5203), a leader in digital home solutions, today announced the release of CyberLink YouCam, the webcam software that adds dynamic effects to live instant message conversations.

CyberLink YouCam offers the following:

-- 49 dynamic effects that can be applied during live video chatting, including frames, filters, distortions, and emotion effects

-- Compatibility with Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Skype, and AOL Instant Messenger

-- Applying effects while capturing videos and photos

-- Capturing of single shot or multi-shot sequences in JPEG format

-- Uploading of captured videos and photos to YouTube or direct emailing from within YouCam

-- Free effects available for download from CyberLink's website (

"There's been explosive growth in the use of webcams to do instant messaging as a quick way to keep in touch across long distances, for work and for pleasure," said Alice H. Chang, CyberLink CEO. "And with the huge availability of web cameras -- both built into notebooks and standalone units -- CyberLink YouCam creates a fun way to talk to friends online, with all kinds of expressive effects that can be used with a web camera."

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CyberLink YouCam is available online in the following languages: English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), German, Japanese, French, Italian, Korean, and Spanish. Multi-license packs allow users to install their software on two different computers. CyberLink also offers OEM versions to PC and CE manufacturing customers.

Versions and Pricing

CyberLink YouCam is available online in the following configurations:

-- YouCam (single user) USD 34.95 and Euro 24.99(1)
-- YouCam (2-license pack) USD 49.95 and Euro 34.99(1)
-- YouCam (4-license pack) USD 69.95 and Euro 49.99(1)
(1) plus any applicable tax/VAT[FEED_CRLF]

About CyberLink

CyberLink Corp is the leader and pioneer in enabling digital multimedia on PCs and CEs. CyberLink Software Solutions include: complete applications for Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs, Digital Home entertainment, Mobile TV and eHRD solutions. CyberLink's headquarters is in Taipei and has operations in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region, including Japan. For more information, please visit CyberLink's website at

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Ballmer: Microsoft won't join spectrum

Ballmer: Microsoft won't join spectrum

Ballmer: Microsoft won't join spectrum auction in January
CEO said he leaves that to the service provider experts

Microsoft Corp. won't be participating in the 700 MHz spectrum auction planned by the Federal Communications Commission for January, CEO Steve Ballmer said today.

"Microsoft has no plans to participate in the spectrum auction," Ballmer told a crowd at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment 2007 show here. He made the remark in a question-and-answer session at the end of his keynote address announcing the new System Center Mobile Device Manager.

Ballmer said service providers are better equipped than Microsoft to handle spectrum that they have acquired.

"Service providers and the telecom industry have the core competence" to participate in a spectrum auction, he said. They have the expertise to set up networks, invest in research and development, and provide customer service, he added.

"That is a core capability," he said. If Microsoft were to buy "one piece of spectrum in one country, it would do a lot to alienate the telecom industry, and that does not further our goal."

Ballmer spent much of an hourlong keynote describing Microsoft's goals in the mobile market. "Compared to anybody else in the industry, we are trying to provide a critical mass of solutions and innovations," he said. Partnering with service providers will be one of many goals, he said, noting that Sprint Nextel Corp. and AT&T Inc. are partners in the newly announced Mobile Management Server initiative.

Unlike other large companies, Ballmer said, Microsoft is trying to address the mobile needs of both businesses and consumers. "Apple is not [business-focused] and IBM is not [consumer-focused]," he said. "We're trying to do both and meet the needs of workstyle and lifestyle. ... We're very persistent."

Apple's work with mobile devices has so far been more closed than what Microsoft envisions, Ballmer said. "Apple has done nice work but is more end-to-end and self-contained, and RIM [Research in Motion, Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry] is similar, but we're trying to be more enabling of other players and service providers," he said.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently said he would open the iPhone to outside developers, but Apple has come under criticism for making the device available only for users on AT&T's EDGE network in the U.S.

In several demonstrations, Ballmer described ways that the new Mobile Device Manager will support corporate IT shops, allowing them to update devices and keep an over-the-air inventory of the various models they use while also allowing them to wipe clean a device that is lost or disable a camera on a phone when desired.

But Ballmer's talk seemed equally devoted to Microsoft's consumer focus on mobile software capabilities, even though the company didn't announce anything new in that arena today. In several demonstrations, Ballmer and an assistant were able to show how voice and text commands can quicken an e-mail search or a Web search for a location, such as a restaurant.

A key mobile capability for both consumers and workers will be the ability to connect to PC, he noted, pointing to one application that used a cell phone to tell a home-based media-enabled PC to record a television show.

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New Microsoft software takes aims at RIM customers :COMPETITION WITH BLACKBERRY

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Mobile devices are acquiring the computing firepower to become crucial productivity tools for business people and management nightmares for technology administrators.Microsoft Corp. introduced software on Monday to manage advanced mobile phones much like personal computers, taking aim at a business dominated by Research in Motion's BlackBerry

"The IT (information technology) folks, the same as it was in the PC environment, don't want to roll out 10,000 devices. They want roll out one device 10,000 times," said Michael Gartenberg, analyst at Jupiter Research. "Microsoft is hoping to replicate the success and the model of the PC."

The world's largest software maker will unveil software dedicated to managing devices using its Windows Mobile platform during CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote speech on Tuesday at the CTIA wireless conference in San Francisco.

The Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 will allow technology administrators to send applications to phones, control security and generally simplify management of devices which are becoming more and more complex.

This positions Windows Mobile devices, which have been sold mainly through retail shops, to appeal to organizations who buy phones in bulk to distribute to their workforce. It's a market dominated by Research in Motion's BlackBerry.

Rob Enderle, industry analyst at the Enderle Group, said the market for smart phones, advanced phones with many PC-like attributes, is still evolving and many companies like Microsoft and Apple Inc. are targeting RIM's lead.

"The market for smart phones is still largely under penetrated," said Enderle, who provides advice and industry insight to Microsoft. "RIM has a number of reasons to be concerned, (and it's) not just Microsoft."

Microsoft, which has declined to comment on persistent rumors that it is interested in acquiring RIM to tap into the company's corporate customers, said reaching out to large organizations is a critical part of its goal to sell over 20 million Windows Mobile licenses in fiscal year 2008, which ends next June.

"This is a key part of accelerating our business," said Scott Horn, general manager of marketing at Microsoft's Windows Mobile business. "You're going to see (Mobile Device Manager) really ramp up in fiscal 2009 starting July 1."


RIM has been working for years to extend the capabilities of its BlackBerry devices beyond its trademark wireless e-mail service, offering applications that allow workers to access company data and collaborate.

The advantage that RIM holds over Microsoft, according to Enderle, is that RIM makes both the software and hardware. It also offers the services to help companies deploy the devices, providing a cohesive single offering.

Microsoft said it formed a partnership with a service company called Enterprise Mobile to build and deploy Windows Mobile phones customized for different organizations, working with a number of wireless carriers and handset manufacturers.

New phones supporting the Mobile Device Manager software will be available in the second quarter of 2008 from Samsung Electronics, Palm Inc., Motorola Inc. and other device manufacturers.

The server software will be released in the first half of next year, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft said the average Windows Mobile smartphone now has the processing power, storage and graphics capabilities of computers from 7 or 8 years ago. They also run on more powerful networks to open up the device to new applications.

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