Sunday, September 16, 2007

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

Mathematics plays critical role in war against terror:
A terrorist cell quietly forms and grows in a pattern -- crossing countries, oceans, hemispheres. Surprising to many, a "weapon" just as quiet -- mathematics -- can connect the dots and reveal the organizational pattern of something this sinister. Mathematicians from Denmark, Germany, England, Canada and the United States will convene at the Rochester Institute of Technology Sept. 20-22 for the fourth Conference on Mathematical Methods in Counterterrorism to discuss the role mathematics and computational techniques play in analyzing terrorist activity.

Unique role for blood formation gene identified:
All blood cell production in adults depends on the steady work of a vital gene that if lost results in early bone marrow failure, Dartmouth Medical School cancer geneticists have found. Their research reveals an unexpected role for the gene in sustaining the adult blood-forming system, and opens novel strategies for targeting the gene, which is often involved in a type of childhood leukemia.

Qubits poised to reveal our secrets:
Two research groups have finally built quantum computers capable of running Shor's algorithm -- a mathematical routine capable of breaking the most common encryption systems that protect our banking and business. Cryptographers are split between believing the computers are nowhere near ready to pose a threat to the world's data while others believe that cryptography will now be forced to move on from prime-number-based encryption technologies.

Physicists pin down spin of surface atoms:
UC-Berkeley physicists have successfully measured the atomic spin of an isolated atom, one of the necessary steps on the road to quantum computers and spintronics devices. Using a scanning tunneling microscope with a spin-polarized tip, Michael Crommie and colleagues mapped the surface topography and the surface energy levels to determine the spin of adatoms, the first time this has been measured directly.

NASA astronomers find bizarre planet-mass object orbiting neutron star:
Using NASA's Swift and Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellites, astronomers have discovered one of the most bizarre planet-mass objects ever found.

Scientists eye secrets of retinal regeneration:
Peering at microscopic changes within the retina, scientists in the department of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, have discovered a key mechanism driving eye health and eye disease.

Brain network related to intelligence identified:
Researchers have uncovered evidence of a distinct neurobiology of human intelligence. This Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory identifies a network related to intelligence, one primarily involving areas in the frontal and the parietal lobes. The data suggest that some of the brain areas related to intelligence are the same areas related to attention, memory and language. This possible integration of cognitive functions suggests that intelligence levels might be based on how efficient the frontal-parietal networks process information.



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