US President Barack Obama, arriving in Israel on Wednesday, will be the guest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a rapid-fire presentation at the Israel Museum showcasing some of Israel’s best technology.
Israel, Netanyahu will tell Obama, has made unique contributions in the fields of medicine, agriculture, road safety, robotics, and more — and will prove it by showing him some of the world-changing innovations developed here.
Seven of Israel’s most important contributions — chosen by a committee of government and technology leaders — will be presented to Obama in the context of the museum’s “Israeli Technology for a Better World” exhibit. After touring the the exhibit, Obama will be introduced to the tech leaders of tomorrow in the form of three young Israelis who won a robotics contest last year with their Robowaiter, a special robot “butler” designed to help the disabled.
The half-hour presentation will show Obama the following products:
Phinergy aluminum-air battery for electric vehicles: The Phinergy battery solves a major problem of electric vehicles — the short range of travel provided by batteries before a recharge is needed.
The Phinergy battery allows a threefold increase in travel range over a regular electric vehicle, with a much lower weight than conventional batteries. This is due to the fact that it is based on metal air technology which utilizes oxygen from the surrounding air instead of oxygen manufactured by heavy materials built into the battery. The result: A much lighter battery that can power cars for a significantly longer time than current batteries, solving the two issues that many believe are preventing electric cars from taking off.
Mobileye’s road safety alert system: No longer a start-up, Mobileye’s alert system, based on cameras and sensors, working in tandem with advanced software, tells drivers when they are too close to the vehicle in front of them, and when dangerous situations are likely to develop. The heads-up gives drivers an edge, making them more alert and giving them crucial extra seconds to prepare to deal with problem situations. The result: fewer traffic accidents.
Full story via Times of Israel
For such a robot to work, it would need to be smaller than a human cell, yet sophisticated enough to communicate with them. To achieve this, the researchers needed to create a computer that is based on the body’s own building blocks – DNA.
The Weizmann Institute scientists were able to create a genetic device that operates autonomously inside bacterial cells. Despite this being a major breakthrough, the researchers still have a way to go in order to apply this technology for nanobots that operate inside human cells, which are more complex than their bacterial counterparts.
Many diseases in the human body cause some genes to be modified inside the cells. The microscopic device “scans” the cell to see if all genes in it are expressed as they should be, since a malfunctioning molecule will cause a disruption in gene-expression. For instance, cells affected by cancer express a malfunction in genes related to cell-growth, causing them to expand rapidly and creating tumors.
Making damaged cells self-destruct
The device is pre-programmed with information about the cell and if the information it finds inside the cell matches its programming, it creates a protein that emits green light. The researchers, Prof. Ehud Shapiro and Dr. Tom Ran of the Biological Chemistry and Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Departments, say that in the future, the light emitting protein could be replaced with one that can cause cells to self-destruct if the cell is diagnosed as damaged.
Full story via No Camels
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It’s Valentine’s Day and many couples will declare trust and respect to one another as a sign of love. But according to a new Israeli study, the secret to long-lasting love stories is found in our brains. And it’s a hormone called oxytocin.
Bar-Ilan University’s Psychology Professor Ruth Feldman found that couples who stay together have higher levels of oxytocin in their blood when they first pair up than couples who ultimately break up.
Oxytocin is a hormone that has been linked to sexual reproduction, maternal bonding and anxiety.
Feldman spent years studying the hormone’s role in the mother–child bond. She called on Cupid to aim his arrow at the brain and decided to compare oxytocin levels in new lovers and singles.
“The increase in oxytocin during the period of falling in love was the highest that we ever found,” Feldman reported.
The study looked at 60 couples. Levels of oxytocin were measured through a simple blood test. Couples with the highest levels of the hormone were still together six months after the start of the study. Feldman reported that they were also more touchy feely to each other.
“These findings suggest that [oxytocin] in the first months of romantic love may serve as an index of relationship duration,” wrote the researchers.
The study was published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Two science projects — one to map the human brain, the other to explore the extraordinary properties of the carbon-based material graphene — have won an EU contest to receive up to 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) in funding each over the next decade.
The EU’s Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) is expected to award the grant to the two winning projects at a ceremony to be held today (Monday) in Brussels, Belgium. Twenty-one groups of researchers competed for the prize, six of them reached the competition’s final stage, yet only two were awarded the grant, to be paid out over ten years.
“European’s position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas,” European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said in a statement Monday.
The Human Brain Project aspires to meet one of the biggest challenges of modern science: understanding the human brain and creating the most accurate model of the human brain to date. The Human Brain Project seeks to aggregate information about the brain and its functions in an effort to develop treatment for neurological diseases, help test new drugs and model supercomputing techniques on the brain.
The project first came about during an initiative called the Blue Brain Project that began in May 2005 and was led by brain researcher Professor Henry Markram at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland. Markram, who completed his doctorate at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, is also heading up the current project.
His partners include more than 80 researchers from universities and research institutes throughout Europe and elsewhere. Israelis from the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University are also taking part in the project, whose total budget is estimated at 1.19 billion euros.
An additional aspect of the project aims to create a database of all 560 known neurological diseases that will be accessible to physicians and researchers. These include Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s and epilepsy, as well as psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and sleep disorders. The researchers plan to keep the public informed about new discoveries by cooperating with science museums throughout Europe, and the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.
The other winning project, called “Graphene-CA: Graphene Science and Technology for Information and Communications Technologies and Beyond,” will investigate the properties of graphene, which conducts electricity better than copper, is at least 100 times stronger than steel and is believed to be the future of nanotechnology.
Led by physicist Jari Kinaret of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the graphene researchers, which also include Israelis, hope to use it to develop nano-materials – and ultimately nano-robots capable of producing energy and transmitting data from inside the human body.
A male’s genome contains information that can help scientists guess his surname, American and Israeli researchers have discovered. The findings have serious implications for data privacy; intelligence services around the world are bound to be interested.
In the study published in the journal Science, researchers have developed a formula for an algorithm that can discover men’s surnames by looking at the Y chromosome, the male chromosome. The Y chromosome, which is transmitted from father to son from generation to generation, includes markers called short tandem repeats, which form a kind of fingerprint.
The researchers, headed by Dr. Yaniv Erlich of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, fed 40 markers into a computer and compared them to Y-chromosome sequences on websites. In the United States, there are companies that show people’s genome sequences derived from saliva samples; this makes it possible to determine a person’s origins and locate relatives around the world.
“Even though there isn’t a unified database of all genetic sequences on the Internet, comparing a subject’s Y chromosome with information from existing databases could help locate his family,” says Israeli team member Eran Halperin, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology.
In addition to the Whitehead Institute, the research was carried out by experts at Harvard, MIT and the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California.
The researchers and doctoral student David Golan of Tel Aviv University’s statistics department developed the formula for the algorithm, which was tested on 911 men in the United States. The numbers were compared to Internet databases containing genetic sequences of 135,000 men with the most common surnames in the United States, most of them of European origin. The algorithm identified the surname 12 percent of the time, a success rate it later boosted to 18 percent.
The researchers, for example, applied the algorithm to the genome sequence of American geneticist Craig Venter, the head of a research institute in San Diego who was one of the first to sequence the human genome.
In the U.S.-Israeli experiment, the algorithm identified the Venter surname, and after crossing the data with other discoveries, figured out his age. Knowing that he lives in California, the researchers showed that only one other person in the state shares the unique spots on his chromosomes.
The researchers also scanned Y chromosomes of 10 residents of Utah, without knowing their last names; the algorithm helped them figure out the surnames of five of them, all of them Mormons.
“The identification technique could have a number of useful applications such as locating relatives and identifying corpses in natural disasters,” says Halperin. “But the research also reveals a fundamental problem: If a person publishes his genome on the Internet, even when this is done anonymously, his identity is pretty much exposed.”
Halperin adds that the ability to find a surname is based only on the Y chromosome, one of the body’s 46 chromosomes. The study also raises questions about sharing genetic information from various sources.
“We take a positive view of sharing genetic information on public databases – with permission, of course,” says Halperin. “Sharing information is essential to science, and there are many advantages to users of these services. But it’s important that all organizations involved in the data sharing be aware of the possible exposure and weigh their decisions accordingly.”
Erlich adds: “The obvious conclusion from the study is that biometrics can produce unexpected situations. We believe legislators must proceed with great caution when they plan such databases.”