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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Microsoft targets the mobile web

Everything is coming on finger stips on the gress of Technology, technology leaders are concious about the upcoming times and business era, its a time of mobile era.
Microsoft is advancing with the step.

Microsoft has launched a bid to capture a segment of the growing market for rich web content on mobile phones.
The software firm has signed a deal with handset manufacturer Nokia to bring its Silverlight platform to millions of mobile phones.

Silverlight is seen as a competitor to Adobe's Flash, which is already used by popular websites such as YouTube.

The software will first be available on Nokia's high end smart phones running a Symbian operating system.

Flash phone

Nokia's S60 platform, which uses Symbian, will be the first to take advantage of Silverlight.

S60 is used in handsets built by LG and Samsung as well as Nokia and is the most popular smart phone software platform with more than 53% market share.

It is used in Nokia's latest N96 phone, the successor to it's popular N95.

Other handsets and internet tablets running different software will follow at a later date, according to the firm.

Silverlight allows designers and developers to produce rich web applications that are independent of browser, operating system and handset.

Microsoft has stressed its value for developing Web 2.0 applications that would work on a computer, but also on any other device including mobile phones.

The software enters a marketplace already dominated by Adobe's Flash, and its recently launched Air product.

Flash is already on millions of mobile phones.

Adobe has agreements with 18 of the top 20 device manufacturers worldwide including Nokia.

And, according to Adobe, 450 million devices have been shipped with the cut-down version of Flash, known as Flash Lite.

Microsoft will hope to compete with this presence.

The firm is currently working on a version of Sliverlight for its own Windows Mobile software

Universe Loaded With Natural Magnifying Glasses

One of the best tools astronomers have to glimpse the distant universe is a technology that nature invented. Cosmic magnifying glasses called gravitational lenses help scientists zoom in on far-away scenes they could never spot otherwise.

In a recent survey of a section of the universe, researchers counted 67 new gravitational lenses, leading them to believe there are nearly half a million similar lenses in the rest of the universe.

"Gravitational lenses amplify the signal," said Peter Capak, an astronomer at California Institute of Technology who worked on the study. "It's like a second telescope in front of your telescope. We can see things that are much fainter than we can normally see."

These natural telescopes are created when massive objects distort the space-time around them through the strength of their gravitational pull, causing light to bend as it travels through the warped space.
If a gravitational lens lies between us and a distant object, then the image of the object we see can be distorted and magnified.

In the rare case that a gravitational lens is perfectly aligned between Earth and a distant object, "typically you can get at least a factor of 10 � 50 magnification," said Jean-Paul Knieb, an astronomer at Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, France, leader of the study.

The effect was predicted in the 1930s by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and was first observed in 1979.

The 67 newly discovered lenses are caused by large galaxies, although clusters of galaxies often produce strong gravitational lenses too.

A team of astronomers used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, along with follow-up observations from the ground, to image a 1.6 square degree field of sky (about nine times the area of the full Moon) in great detail. The researchers then pored over the images by eye to spot the tell-tale circular warping signatures of gravitational lenses.

In addition to giving scientists a better idea of how many gravitational lenses are out there, the discovery will help researchers study the spread of dark matter around the galaxies causing the lenses.

"The main thing the gravitational lenses do for us is they allow us to study the mass distribution in individual galaxies," Capak told "A lot of the mass is contained in dark matter. We want to understand how the dark matter is distributed."

By analyzing patterns in the warping of space-time caused by the gravitational lenses, the scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the structure of galaxies.

"You can think of the lenses as glass beads," Capak said. "If you hold up a glass bead and look thorough it, it distorts the picture behind it. The shape of the glass bead is what's causing the different distortions. The shape of the mass distribution in galaxies is distorting the background in different ways."

Team probes mysteries of oceanic bacteria

Wee creatures are key to Earth's environment
Microbes living in the oceans play a critical role in regulating Earth's environment, but very little is known about their activities and how they work together to help control natural cycles of water, carbon and energy.

A team of MIT researchers led by Professors Edward DeLong and Penny Chisholm is trying to change that.

Borrowing gene sequencing tools developed for sequencing the human genome, the researchers have devised a new method to analyze gene expression in complex microbial populations. The work could help scientists better understand how oceans respond to climate change.

"This project can help us get a better handle on the specific details of how microbes affect the flux of energy and matter on Earth, and how microbes respond to environmental change," said DeLong, a professor of biological engineering and civil and environmental engineering.

"The new approach also has other potential applications, for example, one can now realistically consider using indigenous microbes as in situ biosensors, as well as monitor the activities of human-associated microbial communities much more comprehensively," DeLong said.

Their technique, which has already yielded a few surprising discoveries, is reported in the March 3 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The work was facilitated by the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center established in 2006 to explore microbial ocean life, most of which is not well understood.

The traditional way to study bacteria is to grow them in Petri dishes in a laboratory, but that yields limited information, and not all strains are suited to life in the lab. "The cast of characters we can grow in the lab is a really small percentage of what's out there," said DeLong, who is research coordinator for C-MORE.

The MIT team gathers microbe samples from the waters off Hawaii, in a part of the ocean known as the North Pacific Gyre.

Each liter of ocean water they collect contains up to a billion bacterial cells. For several years, researchers have been sequencing the DNA found in those bacteria, creating large databases of prevalent marine microbial genes found in the environment.

However, those DNA sequences alone cannot reveal which genes the bacteria are actually using in their day-to-day activities, or when they are expressing them.

"It's a lot of information, and it's hard to know where to start," said DeLong. "How do you know which genes are actually important in any given environmental context?"

To figure out which genes are expressed, DeLong and colleagues sequenced the messenger RNA (mRNA) produced by the cells living in complex microbial communities. mRNA carries instructions to the protein-building machinery of the cell, so if there is a lot of mRNA corresponding to a particular gene, it means that gene is highly expressed.

The new technique requires the researchers to convert bacterial mRNA to eukaryotic (non-bacterial) DNA, which can be more easily amplified and sequenced. They then use sequencing technology that is fast enough to analyze hundreds of millions of DNA base pairs in a day.

Once the sequences of highly expressed mRNA are known, the researchers can compare them with DNA sequences in the database of bacterial genes and try to figure out which genes are key players and what their functions are.

The team found some surprising patterns of gene expression, DeLong said. For example, about half of the mRNA sequences found are not similar to any previously known bacterial genes.

Lead authors of the paper are Jorge Frias-Lopez, research scientist in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), and CEE graduate student Yanmei Shi. Maureen Coleman, graduate student in CEE, Gene Tyson, postdoctoral associate in CEE, and Stephan Schuster of Pennsylvania State University also authored the paper with Chisholm and DeLong.

Science journalism: bright future ahead

"There's never been a better time to become a journalist," declared Dianne Lynch, dean of the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, in her talk at a two-day MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowships symposium last week on the future of science journalism.

Some people might have thought otherwise, given the spate of reports recently about the falling circulation and revenues of newspapers and the resulting staff layoffs and buyouts. But those problems have nothing to do with journalism itself, Lynch said, but only with "the demise of a business model" that's based on "an outdated delivery system."

The news business is changing fast, but it's not going away. In fact, more people than ever are reading about science and technology, but just doing it in different ways--for the most part, online instead of in traditional printed newspapers, Lynch explained.

The symposium, held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the MIT fellowship program that has become the leading professional program for mid-career science journalists, drew 192 ex-Knight fellows (or Bush fellows, as the program was known in its initial years) and other journalists from around the country and several other nations.

The event also marked another milestone, the impending retirement of the program's director, Boyce Rensberger, after 10 years. He will be replaced in June by Philip Hilts, who teaches science journalism at Boston University. The program was founded by Victor McElheny in 1983.

MIT President Susan Hockfield opened the meeting by stressing the importance of good science communications in this era when people are constantly faced with increasingly complex scientific and technical issues. "We need to help the public make decisions based on fact, not fear," she said. "Without incisive, nuanced writing, we at MIT might as well fold up our solar collectors and go home."

The role of journalists is changing in this evolving media landscape, said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. While their role has often been described as that of gatekeepers, the more appropriate role is now that of authenticator--helping readers figure out, from the vast array of sources of information now available, what can be believed and trusted and "where the good stuff is." Comparing science to sports, he said the journalist's role is evolving from that of color commentator to being a referee on the field.

But as much as the means of distribution may change and business models may need to shift accordingly, people's interest in reading authoritative reporting has not diminished, Rosenstiel said. "The problem is not a demand problem," he said. For example, "more people actually read what comes out of The New York Times newsroom" than ever before. Although we are now in a period of transition in terms of how people receive their news and information, "things will work out," he predicted. "There's a golden age of science journalism ahead."

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PANTHER sensor from MIT Lincoln Laboratory quickly detects pathogens

This prototype of the PANTHER device is about one cubic foot and weighs 37 pounds.

Researchers at MIT Lincoln Laboratory have developed a powerful sensor that can detect airborne pathogens such as anthrax and smallpox in less than three minutes.

The new device, called PANTHER (for PAthogen Notification for THreatening Environmental Releases), represents a "significant advance" over any other sensor, said James Harper of Lincoln Lab's Biosensor and Molecular Technologies Group. Current sensors take at least 20 minutes to detect harmful bacteria or viruses in the air, but the PANTHER sensors can do detection and identification in less than 3 minutes.

The technology has been licensed to Innovative Biosensors, Inc. (IBI) of Rockville, Md. In January, IBI began selling a product, BioFlash, that uses the PANTHER technology.

"There is a real need to detect a pathogen in less than three minutes, so you have time to take action before it is too late," said Harper, the lead scientist developing the sensor.

The PANTHER sensor uses a cell-based sensor technology known as CANARY (after the birds sent into mines to detect dangerous gases), and can pick up a positive reading with only a few dozen particles per liter of air.

The device could be used in buildings, subways and other public areas, and can currently detect 24 pathogens, including anthrax, plague, smallpox, tularemia and E. coli.

"There's really nothing out there that compares with this," said Todd Rider of Lincoln Lab's Biosensor and Molecular Technologies Group, who invented the CANARY sensor technology.

Rider started developing CANARY in 1997 when he realized that there were no sensors available that could rapidly detect pathogens. His idea was to take advantage of nature's own defense system--specifically the B cells that target pathogens in the human body. "B cells in the body are very fast and very sensitive," Rider said.

The CANARY concept uses an array of B cells, each specific to a particular bacterium or virus. The cells are engineered to emit photons of light when they detect their target pathogen. The device then displays a list of any pathogens found.

CANARY is the only sensor that makes use of immune cells. Other available sensors are based on immunoassays or PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which take much longer and/or are not as sensitive as CANARY.

Rider and colleagues first reported the success of CANARY (which stands for Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks and Yields) in the journal Science in 2003. Since then, they have been working to incorporate the technology into a portable device that could be used in a variety of settings where environmental threats might exist.

The new device, PANTHER, takes the CANARY technology and combines it with an air sampler that brings pathogens into contact with the detector cells. The prototype sensor is about a cubic foot and weighs 37 pounds and is well suited to building-protection applications. With minor modifications it could also enhance biological detection capabilities for emergency responders.

CANARY has been tested in rural and coastal environments as well as urban ones. It could eventually be used on farms or in food-processing plants to test for contamination by E. coli, salmonella, or other food-borne pathogens.

Another potential application is in medical diagnostics, where the technology could be used to test patient samples, giving rapid results without having to send samples to a laboratory.

"Instead of going to the doctor's office and waiting a few days for your test results, with CANARY you could get the results in just a minute or so," said Rider.

The research on PANTHER was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Human Cytomegalovirus-encoded microRNA regulates expression of multiple genes involved in replication

Our ability to understand the biology of viruses depends not only on functional analysis of genes they encode but also on specific regulation of those genes during viral infection. In herpesviruses, virus gene regulation is highly complex and plays a significant role in determining the virus replication cycle during acute, latent, or persistent infection. The discovery that many herpesviruses express small regulatory RNAs, known as microRNAs (miRNAs), has opened up a whole new area of research in regulation of gene expression. A recent paper demonstrates that a microRNA expressed by human cytomegalovirus is able to regulate multiple virus genes, including one gene thought to be crucial for both acute and latent stages of viral infection in the host. Expression of this microRNA results in a significant reduction in viral replication. This work therefore demonstrates that viral microRNAs can regulate multiple viral genes and can have significant effects on the replication of a virus.

Although multiple studies have documented the expression of over 70 novel virus-encoded microRNAs (miRNAs), the targets and functions of most of these regulatory RNA species are unknown. In this study a comparative bioinformatics approach was employed to identify potential human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) mRNA targets of the virus-encoded miRNA miR-UL112-1. Bioinformatics analysis of the known HCMV mRNA 3′ untranslated regions (UTRs) revealed 14 potential viral transcripts that were predicted to contain functional target sites for miR-UL112-1. The potential target sites were screened using luciferase reporters that contain the HCMV 3′UTRs in co-transfection assays with miR-UL112-1. Three of the 14 HCMV miRNA targets were validated, including the major immediate early gene encoding IE72 (UL123, IE1), UL112/113, and UL120/121. Further analysis of IE72 regulation by miR-UL112-1 with clones encoding the complete major immediate early region revealed that the IE72 3′UTR target site is necessary and sufficient to direct miR-UL112-1-specific inhibition of expression in transfected cells. In addition, miR-UL112-1 regulation is mediated through translational inhibition rather than RNA degradation. Premature expression of miR-UL112-1 during HCMV infection resulted in a significant decrease in genomic viral DNA levels, suggesting a functional role for miR-UL112-1 in regulating the expression of genes involved in viral replication. This study demonstrates the ability of a viral miRNA to regulate multiple viral genes

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