Egypt Independent: Science-Main news http://www.egyptindependent.com//enhome_channel/Environment/rss.xml en Are smart glasses about to come back into fashion? http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2476658 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2017/02/25/501184/glasses.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Dust off your Google Glass Explorer editions, according to new data, smart glasses is where the smart money will be in the wearables market over the next five years.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Interest in &quot;traditional&quot; wearable form factors &ndash; ie, smartwatches and fitness bands &ndash; is already starting to slow, or so says Juniper Research, whose latest white paper claims that although such devices are set to make up 75% of the global market this year, will only represent 50% come 2021.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At the same time, smart glasses will represent 11% of the market, or an estimated US$9bil (RM40.1bil) in revenues.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to research author James Moar, the stigma of smart glasses generated by the launch of Google Glass is starting to fade and will soon be forgotten as more devices that look like traditional sunglasses such as GlassUP come on to the market.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Their image is also being rehabilitated by the continued success of Snapchat that decided to go with image-capturing sunglasses as its first piece of hardware.&nbsp;</div> Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:10:00 +0000 AFP 2476658 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2017/02/25/501184/glasses.jpg Smartphones are revolutionizing medicine http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2476655 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2012/09/24/54605/hi-farmer-phone-6col.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Smartphones are revolutionising the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, thanks to add-ons and apps that make their ubiquitous small screens into medical devices, researchers say.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If you look at the camera, the flash, the microphone... they all are getting better and better,&quot; said Shwetak Patel, engineering professor at the University of Washington.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;In fact the capabilities on those phones are as great as some of the specialised devices,&quot; he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this week.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Smartphones can already act as pedometers, count calories and measure heartbeats.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But mobile devices and tablets can also become tools for diagnosing illness.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;You can use the microphone to diagnose asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder),&quot; Patel said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;With these enabling technologies you can manage chronic diseases outside of the clinic and with a non-invasive clinical tool.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It is also possible to use the camera and flash on a mobile phone to diagnose blood disorders, including iron and hemoglobin deficiency.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;You put your finger over the camera flash and it gives you a result that shows the level of hemoglobin in the blood,&quot; Patel said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An app called HemaApp was shown to perform comparably well as a non-smartphone device for measuring hemoglobin without a needle. Researchers are seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its wider use.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Smartphones can also be used to diagnose osteoporosis, a bone disorder common in the elderly.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Just hold a smartphone, turn on the right app in hand and tap on your elbow.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Your phone&#39;s motion picture sensor picks up the resonances that are generated,&quot; Patel said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If there is a reduction in density of the bone, the frequency changes, which is the same as you will have in an osteoporosis bone.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Such advances can empower patients to better manage their own care, Patel said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;You can imagine the broader impact of this in developing countries where screening tools like this in the primary care offices are non-existent,&quot; he told reporters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;So it really changes the way we diagnose, treat and manage chronic diseases.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Lower costs&nbsp;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Mobile smartphone devices are already helping patients manage cancer and diabetes, says Elizabeth Mynatt, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Someone who is newly diagnosed with diabetes really needs to become their own detectives,&quot; she said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;They need to learn the changes they need to make in their daily lifestyle.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>For women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers provided a tablet that allows them real-time access to information on the diagnosis, management of their treatment and side effects.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The technique also helps patients who may not be able to travel to a medical office for regular care, reducing their costs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Our tool becomes a personal support system,&quot; Mynatt said. &quot;They can interact to get day-to-day advice.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Research has shown this approach &quot;changes dramatically their behaviour,&quot; she added.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The pervasiveness of the adoption of mobile platform is quite encouraging for grappling with pervasive socio-economic determinants in terms of healthcare disparities.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A growing number of doctors and researchers are turning to smartphones for use in their daily work, seeing them as a useful tool for managing electronic health data and figuring out the most effective clinical trials, said Gregory Hager, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Clinical trials currently cost around US$12mil (RM53.5mil) to run from start to finish, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The new idea is micro-randomised trials, which should be far more effective, with more natural data,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Although the costs could be dramatically lower, too, the field is still new and more work needs to be done to figure out how to fully assess the quality and the effectiveness of such trials. &nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Sat, 25 Feb 2017 11:07:00 +0000 AFP 2476655 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2012/09/24/54605/hi-farmer-phone-6col.jpg Earth-sized planets discovered orbiting nearby star: NASA http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2476602 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2017/02/23/507556/newplanets.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Astronomers have found at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The findings were also announced at a news conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington.</p><p>Researchers believe that the planets are temperate, meaning they could have liquid water; this may be the best place outside of our solar system to look for life.<br /><br />This discovery outside of our solar system is rare because the planets have the winning combination of being similar in size to Earth and being all temperate, meaning they could have water on their surfaces and potentially support life. &quot;This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star,&quot; said Michaël Gillon, lead study author and astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium.</p><p>The seven exoplanets were all found in tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1 (after a telescope called Transiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) Estimates of their mass also indicate that they are rocky planets, rather than being gaseous like Jupiter. Three planets are in the habitable zone of the star, known as TRAPPIST-1e, f and g, and may even have oceans on the surface.<br /><br />The researchers believe that TRAPPIST-1f in particular is the best candidate for supporting life. It&#39;s a bit cooler than Earth, but could be suitable with the right atmosphere and enough greenhouse gases. If TRAPPIST-1 sounds familiar, that&#39;s because these researchers announced the discovery of three initial planets orbiting the same star in May. The new research increased that number to seven planets total.</p><p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/trapist_planets_0.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 301px;" /></p><p><em>The TRAPPIST-1 star system with Planet Earth drawn in. The &quot;ultracool dwarf&quot; star has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it (artist&#39;s rendition, CNN).</em></p><p>&quot;I think we&#39;ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there,&quot; said Amaury Triaud, one of the study authors and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge. &quot;I don&#39;t think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was (life). Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to what we have on Earth, we will know.&quot;</p><p>Life may begin and evolve differently on other planets, so finding the gases that indicate life is key, the researchers added.<br />&quot;This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,&quot; said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA&#39;s Science Mission Directorate. &quot;Answering the question &#39;are we alone?&#39; is a top science priority, and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.&quot;</p><p>And as we&#39;ve learned from studying and discovering exoplanets before, where there is one, there are more, said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seager and other researchers are encouraged by the discovery of this system because it improves our chances of finding another habitable planet, like Earth, in the future, by knowing where to look.</p><p><strong>What we know</strong></p><p>The planets are so close to each other and the star that there are seven of them within a space five times smaller than the distance from Mercury to our sun. This proximity allows the researchers to study the planets in depth as well, gaining insight about planetary systems other than our own.</p><p>Starting closest to the star and moving out, the planets have respective orbits from one and a half to nearly 13 Earth days. The orbit of the farthest planet is still unknown.</p><p>Standing on the surface of one of the planets, you would receive 200 times less light than you get from the sun, but you would still receive just as much energy to keep you warm since the star is so close. It would also afford some picturesque views, as the other planets would appear in the sky as big as the moon (or even twice as big).</p><p>On TRAPPIST-1f, the star would appear three times as big as the sun in our sky. And because of the red nature of the star, the light would be a salmon hue, the researchers speculate. The researchers believe the planets formed together further from the star. Then, they moved into their current lineup. This is incredibly similar Jupiter and its Galilean moons.</p><p>Like the moon, the researchers believe the planets closest to the star are tidally locked. This means that the planets always face one way to the star. One side of the planet is perpetually night, while the other is always day.</p><p>The researchers believe that TRAPPIST-1f in particular is the best candidate for supporting life. It&#39;s a bit cooler than Earth, but could be suitable with the right atmosphere and enough greenhouse gases.</p><p>&quot;I think we&#39;ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there,&quot; said Amaury Triaud, one of the study authors and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge. &quot;I don&#39;t think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was (life). Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to what we have on Earth, we will know.&quot; Life may begin and evolve differently on other planets, so finding the gases that indicate life is key, the researchers added.</p><p>&quot;This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,&quot; said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA&#39;s Science Mission Directorate. &quot;Answering the question &#39;are we alone?&#39; is a top science priority, and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/trap2.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 301px;" /></p><p><em>The seven exoplanets were all found in tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1, after a telescope called Transiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope (artists&#39; rendition, CNN)</em></p><p>And as we&#39;ve learned from studying and discovering exoplanets before, where there is one, there are more, said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seager and other researchers are encouraged by the discovery of this system because it improves our chances of finding another habitable planet, like Earth, in the future, by knowing where to look.</p><p><strong>What we know</strong><br />The planets are so close to each other and the star that there are seven of them within a space five times smaller than the distance from Mercury to our sun. This proximity allows the researchers to study the planets in depth as well, gaining insight about planetary systems other than our own.</p><p><strong>The seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 compared with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.</strong><br />Starting closest to the star and moving out, the planets have respective orbits from one and a half to nearly 13 Earth days. The orbit of the farthest planet is still unknown.<br />Standing on the surface of one of the planets, you would receive 200 times less light than you get from the sun, but you would still receive just as much energy to keep you warm since the star is so close. It would also afford some picturesque views, as the other planets would appear in the sky as big as the moon (or even twice as big).</p><p><strong>What the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like.</strong></p><p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/artistnasa_0.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 301px;" /></p><p>Based on preliminary climate modeling, the researchers believe that the three planets closest to the star may be too warm to support liquid water, while the outermost planet, TRAPPIST-1h, is probably too distant and cold to support water on the surface. But further observation is needed to know for sure.</p><p><strong>How the discovery was made</strong><br />TRAPPIST-1 barely classifies as a star at half the temperature and a tenth the mass of the sun. It is red, dim and just a bit larger than Jupiter. But these tiny ultracool dwarf stars are common in our galaxy.<br /><br />The researchers used a telescope called TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) to observe its starlight and changes in brightness. The team saw shadows, like little eclipses, periodically interrupting the steady pattern of starlight. This is called transiting. The shadows indicated planets, and further observation confirmed them.<br />In July, the team was able to determine that two of the closest planets to the stars had atmospheres that were more compact and comparable to those of Earth, Venus and Mars by observing starlight through the planets&#39; atmosphere.<br /><br />By using a global network ground-based telescopes like TRAPPIST and space-based telescopes like Spitzer, the researchers continued looking toward the TRAPPIST system and were able to determine the orbital periods, distances from their star, radius and and masses of the planets.</p><p><strong>What&#39;s next</strong></p><p>Over the next decade, the researchers want to define the atmosphere of each planet, as well as to determine whether they truly do have liquid water on the surface and search for signs of life.</p><p>Although 40 light-years away doesn&#39;t sound too far, it would take us millions of years to reach this star system. But from a research perspective, it&#39;s a close opportunity and the best target to search for life beyond our solar system. &quot;If we learn something now, it can determine if we looked in the right place,&quot; Gillon said.</p><p><strong><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/ei/weirdplanet.jpg" style="width: 536px; height: 301px;" /></strong></p><p><em>Illustrators get us up close with alien planets (artist&#39;s rention, CNN)</em></p><p>In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch and be positioned 1 million miles from Earth with an unprecedented view of the universe. It can observe large exoplanets and detect starlight filtered through their atmosphere.</p><p>The researchers are also searching for similar star systems to conduct more atmospheric research. Four telescopes named SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) based in Chile will survey the southern sky for this purpose.</p><p>This star system will probably outlive us because this type of star evolves so slowly. When our sun dies, TRAPPIST-1 will still be a young star and will live for another trillion years, Gillon said. After we are gone, if there is another part of the universe for life to carry on, it may be in the TRAPPIST-1 system.</p><p>&quot;This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations,&quot; said Sean Carey, manager of NASA&#39;s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. &quot;Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.&quot;<br />&nbsp;</p> Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:10:00 +0000 CNN 2476602 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2017/02/23/507556/newplanets.jpg Long-term stress might make you fat: study http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2476603 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2017/02/23/507555/170221135231-11-hidden-medical-causes-of-weight-gain-exlarge-169.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div><p>Could constant stress be making you fat?</p></div><div>To find out, English researchers compared stress levels and body weight of more than 2,500 men and women over age 54 who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.</div><ul></ul><div>The study,&nbsp;published Thursday in&nbsp;the journal Obesity,looked at the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in locks of hair gathered from participants.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We found levels of cortisol in the hair to be positively and significantly correlated to larger waist circumference and higher body mass index or BMI,&quot; said lead author Sarah Jackson, a research associate at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health at University College London.&quot;These results provide consistent evidence that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of obesity.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div>Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that is released into the bloodstream in times of stress. In addition to suppressing inflammation and regulating blood pressure, cortisol helps maintain steady supplies of blood sugar and gives an energy boost to handle emergencies.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div>&quot;It&#39;s providing glucose to the brain, keeping things going during a stressful event,&quot; Jackson said. &quot;It also plays a huge role in metabolism, body composition and the accumulation of body fat.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The release of cortisol, she says, is triggered by receptors that are densely located in visceral fat tissue, the type that surrounds our organs, which may explain its association with weight gain and loss.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Cortisol is usually tested via blood, urine or saliva, but that captures only a snapshot in time.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day depending on time of day, what you eat, sudden stressful situations, even illness,&quot; Jackson said. &quot;That why blood, urine and saliva tests are not good measures for long-term stress.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17892760" target="_blank">Studies</a>&nbsp;have shown that cortisol levels can also be detected in hair follicles. The new research harvested a 2-centimeter lock from each participant. That amount of hair correlates to two months of growth, said Jackson, providing a look at the levels of cortisol over that period of time.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The results suggest that &quot;chronic high-level cortisol exposure may play a role in the maintenance of obesity,&quot; but Jackson adds that because the study was not longitudinal, researchers could not establish a true cause and effect.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Susan Fried, a professor and director of translational adipose biology and obesity at the Diabetes Metabolism Obesity Institute, said the results are consistent with research associating high cortisol levels and obesity. However, she agreed that there is no evidence of causation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;As indicated in the paper, measurements of hair cortisol reflect exposure over the past several months,&quot; Fried, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email. &quot;But the obesity in the people studied likely developed many years earlier. Thus, these high hair cortisol values may simply reflect social or biological stress associated with being obese.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is possible, for example, that the social stigma that people with obesity often endure may cause mental stress and hence high cortisol levels.</div><div>It is also possible that stress over the past few months may also be due to medical conditions caused by obesity, for example it may be difficult and painful for people with obesity to walk.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div>The researchers will &quot;continue to weigh and measure our study participants every four years to determine the ways stress affects body mass over time,&quot; Jackson said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the meantime, she suggests that people under chronic stress look to ways other than eating to ease their tensions, such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There&#39;s a lot of evidence that cortisol influences appetite and even our preference for high-calorie comfort foods,&quot; Jackson said. &quot;So I know that&#39;s tough. But it&#39;s best to look for better ways to manage stress and avoid using food as a crutch.&quot;</div></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p> Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:47:00 +0000 CNN 2476603 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2017/02/23/507555/170221135231-11-hidden-medical-causes-of-weight-gain-exlarge-169.jpg