Tuesday News Flash -Sci, Space Tech


Pluto's Mysterious Moons, Nix & Hydra

In June 2005, two small moons were discovered orbiting Pluto, much farther out than its larger moon, Charon.For a year, the discovery team, led by planetary astronomer Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., debated what to call the moons. On June 21, 2006, they settled on Nix and Hydra, the names of a goddess and creature in Greek mythology.
Nix is dimmer and thus thought to be slightly smaller than Hydra, but ranging 2.6 billion to 4.7 billion miles (4.2 billion and 7.5 billion km) away from Earth, the moons are too dim and distant for astronomers to be able to tell exactly how small they are. Astronomers are confident, however, that both moons are smaller than 50 miles (80 km) in diameter.


Ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue volcano Loops the Southern Hemisphere

Thousands of passengers were grounded at Melbourne airport today as the Chilean ash cloud returned. The ash cloud from the Chilean volcano has looped around the world and is disrupting Australian airlines – and their put-upon passengers – for a second time. The Puyehue volcano in southern Chile erupted spectacularly on 5 June. The resulting plume of ash reached the southern hemisphere on 11 and 12 June and forced airlines to cancel flights in South America and Australia, respectively. Now, the plume has returned to Australia.

21BRAI_SPAN-articleLarge A tiny worm unlocks secrets of the brain

In an effort to understand the nervous system of the Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm, Dr. Cornelia Bargmann, professor and Head of the Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at Rockefeller University, engineered two roundworm neurons to glow bright green if a neuron responds when the worm is exposed to certain pheromones. The study of its nervous system offers one of the most promising approaches for understanding the human brain, since it uses similar working parts but is around a million times less complex. It has just 302 neurons and 8,000 synapses. Though the worm’s nervous system is routinely described as simple, that is true only in comparison with the human brain. The worm has 22,000 genes, almost as many as a person, and its brain is a highly complex piece of biological machinery.

Ramani-Heat2-259x267 Computers mimic human 3-D vision

The "heat mean signature" of a human hand model is used to perceive the six segments of the overall shape and define the fingertips (credit: Purdue University/Karthik Ramani and Yi Fang)
Researchers at Purdue University have developed two new techniques for computer-vision technology that mimic how humans perceive three-dimensional shapes. The techniques, heat mapping and heat distribution, apply mathematical methods to enable machines to perceive three-dimensional objects by mimicking how humans perceive three-dimensional shapes by instantly recognizing objects no matter how they are twisted or bent, an advance that could help machines see more like people.

Mind_070829090646996_wideweb__300x415 How many objects can you hold in mind simultaneously?

Neuroscientists at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have found that cognitive capacity limitations (the ability to hold about four things in our minds at once) reflect a dual model of working memory. The researchers investigated the neural basis of this capacity limitation in two monkeys performing the same test used to explore working memory in humans. First, the researchers displayed an array of two to five colored squares, then a blank screen, and then the same array in which one of the squares changed color. The task was to detect this change and look at the changed square.

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