Tag Archives: everything

X-rays from deep space help track down the universe's missing matter

Although it makes up everything we see and touch on a daily basis, ordinary (or baryonic) matter is relatively rare in the universe, and weirder still there seems to be a huge chunk of it missing. After 20 years of scouring the sky, astronomers using the ESA’s XMM-Newton observatory have now found clues to this missing matter hiding in intergalactic gas.

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Category: Physics

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general design discussion • Re: We have $10,000 – what should we buy?

+1 on the photo setup if you don’t have one already. Having a really good camera, a couple softbox lights, and a backdrop set up and able to be used at any time has been really useful at work. Not only do pictures of our final models look great, but it’s really easy to have professional looking photos of everything along the way. And it should cost much less than $10,000 so you’ll have plenty left over for something else.

3D printers would be great if you don’t have them already. I think they help designers work on both form and function and help push their 3D modeling skills. Just make sure the students don’t think their hotshots for knowing 3D printing – it’s not really that hard (at least the usual stuff) and at least for now it doesn’t replace knowledge of mass manufacturing processes.

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Big data may only offer ‘fuzzy snapshot’ of health

When it comes to understanding what makes people tick—and get sick—medical science has long assumed that the bigger the sample of human subjects, the better. New research suggests this big-data approach may be wildly off the mark.

That’s largely because emotions, behavior, and physiology vary markedly from one person to the next and one moment to the next. So averaging out data from a large group of human subjects at a given instant offers only a snapshot, and a fuzzy one at that, researchers say.

The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have implications for everything from mining social media data to customizing health therapies, and could change the way researchers and clinicians analyze, diagnose, and treat mental and physical disorders.

“If you want to know what individuals feel or how they become sick, you have to conduct research on individuals, not on groups,” says study lead author Aaron Fisher, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Diseases, mental disorders, emotions, and behaviors are expressed within individual people, over time. A snapshot of many people at one moment in time can’t capture these phenomena.”

Moreover, the consequences of continuing to rely on group data in the medical, social, and behavioral sciences include misdiagnoses, prescribing the wrong treatments, and generally perpetuating scientific theory and experimentation that is not properly calibrated to the differences between individuals, Fisher says.

That said, a fix is within reach: “People shouldn’t necessarily lose faith in medical or social science,” he says. “Instead, they should see the potential to conduct scientific studies as a part of routine care. This is how we can truly personalize medicine.”

Plus, he notes, “modern technologies allow us to collect many observations per person relatively easily, and modern computing makes the analysis of these data possible in ways that were not possible in the past.”

Fisher and fellow researchers used statistical models to compare data collected on hundreds of people, including healthy individuals and those with disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.

In six separate studies they analyzed data via online and smartphone self-report surveys, as well as electrocardiogram tests to measure heart rates. The results consistently showed that what’s true for the group is not necessarily true for the individual.

Twitter isn’t a super reliable way to gauge emotion

For example, a group analysis of people with depression found that they worry a great deal. But when the same analysis was applied to each individual in that group, researchers discovered wide variations that ranged from zero worrying to agonizing well above the group average.

Moreover, in looking at the correlation between fear and avoidance—a common association in group research—they found that for many individuals, fear did not cause them to avoid certain activities, or vice versa.

“Fisher’s findings clearly imply that capturing a person’s own processes as they fluctuate over time may get us far closer to individualized treatment,” says UC Berkeley psychologist Stephen Hinshaw, an expert in psychopathology and faculty member of the department’s clinical science program.

In addition to Fisher, coauthors of the study are from Drexel University and the University of Groningen.

Source: UC Berkeley

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How wrapping drugs in spider silk helps craft a better cancer vaccine

Immune cells that have absorbed nanoparticles of spider silk (green), carrying peptides for potential cancer vaccines

Strong and light, spider silk is one of the most impressive materials in the natural world. Both the real thing and synthetic versions have been used to improve everything from clothing to car seats, cooling electronics to preserving produce, making sweet music or helping people hear it, and even patching up severed nerves. Now, scientists in Germany and Switzerland have found a new use for spider silk – wrapping up cancer drugs to protect them until they can reach their tumorous targets.

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Category: Medical

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Tax on medical devices resulted in cuts to R&D

Companies cut funding for research and development in response to a tax imposed on medical devices as part of the Affordable Care Act, according to new research.

Daeyong Lee, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University, examines how certain provisions of the federal health care reform law have affected families and firms. His latest paper, published in the journal Research Policy, analyzed the 2.3 percent excise tax imposed on medical devices in 2013. The research shows the tax significantly reduced R&D investment, sales revenue, gross margins, and earnings by the following amounts:

  • R&D expenditures: $34 million
  • Sales revenue: $188 million
  • Gross margins: $375 million
  • Earnings: $68 million

The study, the first to look at the actual cost for manufacturers, found the tax also affected operating and marketing costs, Lee says.

In the paper, Lee explains that the federal government imposed the tax on the medical device industry because it would benefit from expanded health coverage. The tax applied to everything from needles and syringes to coronary stents, defibrillators and irradiation equipment. Certain items including hearing aids, eyeglasses, and contact lenses were exempt. The medical device field is one of the top five R&D intensive industries, and Lee says a decline in investment could have long-term consequences.

“Highly advanced equipment in hospitals is a critical aspect of medical care,” Lee says. “Some devices such as coronary stents require high-research investment. If medical device firms stop or reduce that investment, we won’t have better equipment and devices for complicated surgeries or procedures.”

Lee looked at different scenarios when calculating the tax effect, controlling for economic factors that might affect investment. To limit the tax impact, firms could have increased prices, passing the burden to consumers. Lee says that did not happen, likely because of the market power of large hospitals and clinics. The data for the study are specific to large customers, not individuals.

In response, medical device firms diversified their customer base and increased global market sales, which were exempt from the tax, Lee says. The findings also suggest firms significantly reduced operating costs for selling, general and administrative expenses, but not advertising and labor expenses.

Congress passed an appropriations act in 2015, which included a two-year moratorium on the medical device excise tax. In January, it was extended to 2020, Lee says. Given the study findings, he says the moratorium could provide time to consider other tax options that do not target a single industry. In the paper, Lee suggests policymakers expand the tax base and include other industries, such as health insurance companies, which also have benefited from increased demand as a result of the health care reform act.

“If there is a broader tax base, the negative effects will be reduced,” Lee says. “The government needs to raise revenue to cover the costs of the Affordable Care Act, but there are other ways to do it without harming a research and development intensive industry.”

Source: Iowa State University

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Olafur Eliasson’s first building is marvelous

The Danish-Icelandic artist’s architectural studio has built its first building, for the heirs of Lego founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen.

The highly popular, large-scale installation works of Olafur Eliasson are often described as mind-bending, perceptual, and phenomenological—and for good reason. The Danish-Icelandic artist’s otherworldly creations have included everything from New York City Waterfalls, four artificially constructed, 90-foot-tall waterfalls beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, to spatial interventions that play with our senses, like The Weather Project, a monumental installation that simulated a sunny, misty environment in the main turbine hall of London’s Tate Modern.

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Ikea is ditching single-use plastic by 2020

By 2020, if you order “Nordic fruit water” with your vegetarian meatballs at one of Ikea’s in-store restaurants, you’ll no longer be able to drink it with a plastic straw. The company will stop using single-use plastic including straws, cutlery, and drink stirrers in its cafes. (It already uses silverware most of the time, but occasionally supplements it with plastic forks and spoons). It will also remove single-use plastic products, like garbage bags and 200-packs of straws, from the shelves of the store.

It’s a small part of the company’s sustainability strategy. Ikea is already planning to phase out virgin oil-based plastic in its products, moving to either plastic made from renewable materials or recycled plastic. It was the first major retailer to stop using plastic bags, in 2007. It invested in a plastic recycling plant in 2017 to help with that goal.

[Source Photo: Ikea]

By 2030, the company aims to only use renewable and recycled materials in everything it sells. It will offer solar panels in more stores, sell more plant-based food, buy 100% renewable energy by 2020, and will offer zero-emissions home deliveries by 2025. It’s reducing emissions in line with the goals of the Paris agreement, with plans to become climate positive by 2030–meaning that it will reduce emissions beyond the amount its value chain creates.

The goals for plastic make it a leader among retailers. “I think the approach of Ikea is interesting in that they take a full-systems perspective,” says Sander Defruyt, who leads the New Plastics Economy initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organization that helps companies transition to a circular economy. “They recognize the need to eliminate some of the most problematic or unnecessary plastics where possible, and at the same time, also make sure that they decouple the plastics they do use from virgin fossil fuel plastics by using recycled plastic as much as possible and for the remainder switch to renewables. It’s a nuanced and quite comprehensive strategy.”

Ikea is not alone. The European Union plans to ban around 10 plastic items that commonly end up as ocean waste, including plastic knives and forks, straws, and cotton buds. Miami Beach and Seattle have passed bans on plastic straws. Alaska Airlines is replacing plastic straws and stirrers with versions made from birch and bamboo. Companies like Unilever and Walmart have committed to shift to 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging. The U.K. grocery chain Iceland will stop using plastic packaging on its own brand of products. France has a roadmap for a circular economy that includes plans to recycle 100% of plastic by 2025. India has ambitious plans to ban single-use plastics by 2022.

Over the last few years, and particularly in the last six months, there has been “an exponential curve” of action on plastic in the global economy, says Defruyt. “It’s obviously never happening fast enough, we don’t have time to lose, but it’s great to see it’s really picking up and all of these commitments are in the market now.”

It’s official: Ikea is no longer just a furniture company

Ikea is partnering with Adidas, Lego, and Sonos to sell you everything.

What the hell are you up to, Ikea? The Swedish company announced a surprisingly long list of partnerships with some of the most iconic brands and designers in the world today at its 2018 Democratic Design Days event yesterday in Älmhult, Sweden. Its new collections show that the company is looking far beyond its assemble-it-yourself furniture and meatball business.  It wants to become the source for affordable, well-designed everything.

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