A chip to detect neurodegenerative diseases in early stages

agosto 11, 2010 Biotechnology No Commenti

Scientists from the Faculty of Medicine at University of Calgary (Canada) have just disclosed the result of a research project which could represent a real milestone in the history of the struggle against neurodegenerative diseases, such as for example Parkinson’s or Alzheimer.

In fact, the Canadian research team, lead by Naweed Syed, has created a microchip which is capable of detecting small changes in micro electric communication between brain cells, and therefore analyze how these changes may be a sign of the first symptoms of serious diseases.

These neurochips can also be installed in a cultivation of brain cells, which will use it to communicate with each other while, in turn, the chip would analyze the communication between human brain cells. Initially this was only possible for a few cells at the time, while now, a newer and improved version of this neurochip can work even with large groups of cells.

In this way, extracting a sample of brain cells from a patient, it will be possible to examine the way they connect to each other, matching it with how a perfectly functioning group of cells would work. Detecting any imperfection in the transmission of ions between cells, it is possible to detect the early stages of a neurodegenerative disease.

Neurochips are automated, so anyone can implant brain cells. For doctors this means no need for complicated training programs on brain scanners that must anyway be operated under the supervision of a specialized technician. Now, the doctor can be a technician as well, with obvious improvements in terms of flexibility of the analysis work, as well as time saving, hopefully meaning a good result for patients suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer or Parkinson.

Listening bugs are safe, for now

agosto 11, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Those who have followed political life in Italy lately will certainly have noticed how the headlines are no longer arguing about the proposed bill, better known as “gag bill” which was supposed to impose limitations on telephone wiretapping, while at the same time it was raising serious doubts about his legitimacy and the real reason why this bill was supposed to pass.

Difficulties within the centre-right coalition, and the split of a party only apparently monolithic and centered on Berlusconi’s figure as an absolute Chief, have taken the spotlight, leaving discussion on this bill in the shade. To tell the truth, the bill on eavesdropping has been one of the reasons for this crisis, ultimately leading to a split between supporters of the absolute Chief and those, in the coalition that supports the Government, that keep ears and eyes open to listen to the cry for law, order and honesty coming not only from their electorate, but from electors of other parties.

The ones that just left the PDL party had already raised exceptions and suggested amendments to the gag bill, so much that it would have been completely changed, taking it into a direction that, obviously, would not have been useful for the interests of the Prime Minister and of others who would silently have benefited from this law.

Therefore, because of this split, the Berlusconi administration is no longer (or not only) negotiating amendments to the bill that would regulate the recourse to listening bugs, but also to reach a stable majority to keep ruling the country.

For what it matters, from our little corner on the Web, we will maintain our no to a bill that does not really heed the cry for privacy coming from the common man (who would have nothing to fear if he leads a honest life), but rather heeds that coming from those who would not want their dirty deals to be exposed.

After electric helicopters, we need water-powered ones…

agosto 11, 2010 Technology No Commenti

…and here is one! With a perfect sense of timing, since in the last few days we were talking about energy saving and usage of alternative, renewable and clean sources of power for helicopters and aircraft of various kinds, here comes news about the presentation of Dragon Fly, a one-seat helicopter, powered by hydrogen which, as you might know, emits water as a by-product after combustion.

Therefore, our hydrogen helicopter is absolutely not polluting the air. Its source of power is based on the usage of hydrogen peroxide, diluted at a 50% or 70% grade, and used to provide power to a small rocket engine, which is just 20 cm long and weighing less than one kilo, but despite its small size generates up to 102hp of power.

Dragon Fly uses two of these rockets, mounted on the tips of its rotors, and thanks to this it is able to reach, along with its only passenger on board, a maximum speed of around 100 knots. On top of this, commands are very intuitive and easy to master.

The only inconvenience at the present stage lies in the quite high consumption rate of hydrogen peroxide. In fact, in order to fly, the chopper needs up to 45 liters of fuel per hour. Considering that one liter of hydrogen peroxide would cost more or less $1, one hour of flight is not exactly cheap.

Introduced during the recent AirVenture 2010 in Wisconsin, Dragon Fly was designed by the Swiss engineer Riccardo Cavalcanti; of course, this prototype is not for sale yet, and the final price idea, but should be somewhere in the 120 thousand dollars region, makes it suitable for those with no financial problems who like to hover around in their one-seat emission-free toy.

The most secure USB drive in the world

agosto 11, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Or at least, if not the most secure, certainly among the first, and sure enough, a nice bit of trouble for any aspiring hacker who should accidentally run into one of them wishing to find out what it contains.

We are talking about the latest release by MXI Security, specializing in security when carrying sensitive data via USB drives. Their Stealth M series, and in particular the Stealth MXP Bio model, has just been released in a new 64 Gb format, which represents a further addition to a line of products starting at 1 Gb.

In particular, these USB drives are designed for being used by government agencies or armed forces, which for obvious reasons make security and protection of their sensitive data an absolute priority. The MXP Bio model, apart from featuring a 256-bit AES encryption, is also equipped with a 3-level authentication process, with a combination of passwords, teamed up with a biometric scanner, as well as support for CAC/PIV cards with PIN code, used by government officials.

The processor inside this drive, which is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified, is supplied by Bluefly, the world leader in production of security processors for USB drives, and along with the security features outlined above, MXP Bio is also equipped with a particular version of Windows, called Stealth Zone Embedded Standard Edition, which can boot up Windows directly from the USB drive, thus preventing the computer on which it is used from having direct access to any data stored on it; basically, the computer is only used to browse contents, and once the USB drive is unplugged, data can not be retrieved.

In a few words, if your USB drive is one of those 800 thousand which get lost every year worldwide, with a Stealth drive you can sleep tight, your data is safe.

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