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Past Highlights

April 2004





NSB 2004 Vannevar Bush, Public Service Awards, Span Research, Scholarship, Science Communication and Policy


Vannevar Bush awardIn a career that spans a half-century, the name Mary L. Good has been synonymous with interdisciplinary research, contributions to science, education, and science and technology policy - uniquely and successfully woven throughout a career that has included positions in academia, government and industry. The National Science Board (NSB) has named Good to receive the 2004 Vannevar Bush Award for her life-long contributions to science, engineering and technology, and for leadership throughout her multi-faceted career. The NSB has also recognized neurologist Oliver W. Sacks and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for their respective individual and organizational contributions to increase public understanding of science or engineering by selecting them for the NSB's annual Public Service Awards.
Read the full story . ... Posted 4/26/04


Enzyme "Ink" Shows Potential for Nanomanufacturing; Experiment uses biomolecules to write on a gold substrate


Ashutosh Chilkoti.Duke University engineers have demonstrated that enzymes can be used to create nanoscale patterns on a gold surface. Since many enzymes are already commercially available and well characterized, the potential for writing with enzyme "ink" represents an important advance in nanomanufacturing. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation through a Nanotechnology Interdisciplinary Research Initiative (NIRT) grant.
Image: Duke University photo by Jim Wallace
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/22/04


Four New Research Centers to Explore Link Between Oceans and Human Health


WaveThe National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, have announced funding for four joint Centers for Oceans and Human Health. The centers will be located at the University of Washington, the University of Hawaii, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and the University of Miami. The federal agencies expect to invest a combined total of $5 million annually for the next five years to support the four centers. The centers will bring together experts in biomedical and oceanographic sciences for the first time to study the effects of harmful algal blooms, marine pathogens, and the oceans’ vast potential for drug discovery.
Image: GettyImages/PhotoDisc/Bruce Heinemann
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/22/04


Oldest Hemoglobin Ancestors Offer Clues to Earliest Oxygen-Based Life; Close look at structure of transport proteins could aid search for blood substitutes


Image is from an animated simulation of the molecular dynamics of an A. pernix protoglobin model developed at the Maui High Performance Computing Center.Red-blooded genealogists take note: The discovery in microbes of two oxygen-packing proteins, the earliest known ancestors to hemoglobin, brings scientists closer to identifying the earliest life forms to use oxygen. According to the project's lead investigator, University of Hawaii microbiologist Maqsudul Alam, the research may also aid in the search for blood substitutes as new molecular details shed light on how the structure of such proteins, called protoglobins, evolved to transport and release oxygen.
Image and simulation courtesy: James Newhouse, MHPCC
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/20/04


Yet Another Benefit of Green Tea; New, biodegradable machining compound is more effective than industry standards


Image showing close up of tThe machine used by Ventana Research for evaluating fluids during the Phase I SBIR program.Derived in part from green tea, a new biodegradable machining compound for computer hard drive manufacturing is three to four times more effective than toxic counterparts. In an industry where more than 161 million hard drives leave assembly lines each year, the new compound could significantly improve manufacturing efficiency and minimize environmental risks. Engineered by John Lombardi of Ventana Research Corporation in Tucson, Ariz., as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant, the chemical is part of a slurry that polishes the ceramics—made from aluminum oxide and titanium carbide—used in computer hard drive read-write heads.
Image courtesy: Erica von Koerber, Evon Photography (Tucson, Ariz.)
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/20/04


Shell Beads from South African Cave Show Modern Human Behavior 75,000 Years Ago


Image showing several marine shells that were selected for size and perforated 75, 000 years ago.Perforated shells found at South Africa's Blombos Cave appear to have been strung as beads about 75,000 years ago—making them 30,000 years older than any previously identified personal ornaments. Archaeologists excavating the site on the coast of the Indian Ocean discovered 41 shells, all with holes and wear marks in similar positions, in a layer of sediment deposited during the Middle Stone Age. "The Blombos Cave beads present absolute evidence for perhaps the earliest storage of information outside the human brain," says Christopher Henshilwood, program director of the Blombos Cave Project and professor at the Centre for Development Studies of the University of Bergen in Norway.
Image courtesy: C. Henshilwood & F. d'Errico
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/16/04


New Molecule Heralds Breakthrough in Electronic Plastics; New material could mean easier manufacture of paper-thin TVs and "smart" cloth


An organic solution of Oligotron mixed with chemicals in a vial, a mask made by a laser printer and a photoprinted NSF image after exposure to ultraviolet light and rinsing.Researchers have developed a new plastic that conducts electricity, may be simpler to manufacture than industry counterparts and easily accommodates chemical attachments to create new materials. Developed by TDA Research in Wheat Ridge, Colo., with NSF Small Business Innovation Research support, Oligotron polymers are made of tiny bits of material that possess a conducting center and two, non-conducting end pieces. The end pieces allow the plastic bits to dissolve in solvents and accommodate specialized molecules. For decades, researchers have been trying to craft electronics that use plastics instead of metal to transmit currents. In addition to the potential savings in weight and cost, conducting polymers could be manufactured in a variety of convenient shapes, yielding such innovations as fabrics that transmit data and incredibly thin video displays.
Photo courtesy: Brian J. Elliott, TDA Research, Inc.
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/13/04


Turning Robots into a Well-Oiled Machine; Robot teams to help emergency responders in the trenches


Photo of the third-generation COTS Scout.Humans are social creatures, but robots, for the most part, are not. To help emergency response personnel in the trenches, a team of researchers is writing the playbook to turn a group of robots into a single well-oiled machine. Led by Nikos Papanikolopoulos, researchers at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania and Caltech are devising software that will allow small robots to coordinate their actions and carry out complex commands from a human operator. The work is supported by a $2.6 million Information Technology Research award from NSF. "Effective teamwork doesn't translate easily into electronics, and at disaster sites, it could literally mean the difference between life and death," said NSF program officer Rita Rodriguez. "Addressing the research challenges requires a multidisciplinary approach and, for this project, the combined expertise of the three-campus research team."
Image courtesy: University of Minnesota Center for Distributed Robotics
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/13/04


How Long Does It Take for Earth's Magnetic Field to Reverse? Long-Debated, A Firm Answer Is Now On The Horizon


Map of PNAS articles from eight biology subfields, color-coded according to subfield. A 2-D view on the 3-D space, selected automatically by the computer.The time it takes for Earth's magnetic field to reverse polarity is approximately 7000 years, but the time it takes for the reversal to occur is shorter at low latitudes than at high latitudes, a geologist funded by NSF has concluded. Brad Clement of Florida International University published his findings in a recent issue of the journal Nature. The results are a major step forward in scientists' understanding of how Earth’s magnetic field works. The magnetic field has exhibited a frequent but dramatic variation at irregular times in the geologic past: it has completely changed direction. Such polarity reversals provide important clues to the nature of the processes that generate the magnetic field, said Clement.
Image: iStockPro
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/13/04


Here There Be Data: Mapping the Landscape of Science


Map of PNAS articles from eight biology subfields, color-coded according to subfield. A 2-D view on the 3-D space, selected automatically by the computer.In ancient maps of the world, expanses of unknown territory might hold a warning to would-be explorers: Here there be monsters. For today's explorers seeking to navigate and understand the world of science, the monsters are the untamed collections of data that inhabit a largely uncharted landscape. The April 6, 2004, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) features nearly 20 articles by some of tomorrow's mapmakers. Representing the computer, information and cognitive sciences, mathematics, geography, psychology and other fields, these researchers present attempts to create maps of science from the ever-growing and constantly evolving ocean of digital data.
Image courtesy: Thomas Landauer, University of Colorado, Boulder; Darrell Laham, Marcia Derr, Knowledge Analysis Technologies
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/6/04


A Tiny Wind to Cool the Tiniest Circuits; Researchers develop miniature cooling system that generates nanoscale breezes


Part of a diagram depicting one version of the design of a new type of cooling technology for computers.Researchers have crafted miniature cooling systems similar in concept to the silent fans now available to filter and circulate the air in homes, but the miniscule "fans" are only microns (millionths of a meter) across. Using minute voltages, the devices generate ions that discharge to create small breezes -- perfect for cooling cell phones, laptop computers, and the tiniest devices. As electronics shrink, so must the cooling systems that keep them from overheating. The new technology developed at Purdue University is at the right scale for tiny electronic machines. The system's electrodes are crafted from carbon nanotubes only five nanometers (billionths of a meter) across at the tip, and the device does not use water or other cumbersome cooling fluids.
Image courtesy: Daniel J. Schlitz, Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering
Read the full story. ... Posted 4/1/04


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