New electron microscopes will capture images at subnanometer resolution

HOUSTON — Rice University has installed microscopes that will allow researchers to peer deeper than ever into the fabric of the universe. The Titan Themis scanning/transmission electron microscope, one of the most powerful in the United States, will enable scientists from Rice as well as academic and industrial partners to view and analyze materials smaller than a nanometer — a billionth of a meter — with startling clarity.

The microscope has the ability to take images of materials at angstrom-scale (one-tenth of a nanometer) resolution, about the size of a single hydrogen atom.

Images will be captured with a variety of detectors, including X-ray, optical and multiple electron detectors and a 4K-resolution camera, equivalent to the number of pixels in the most modern high-resolution televisions. The microscope gives researchers the ability to create three-dimensional structural reconstructions and carry out electric field mapping of subnanoscale materials.

“Seeing single atoms is exciting, of course, and it’s beautiful,” said Emilie Ringe, a Rice assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry. “But scientists saw single atoms in the ’90s, and even before. Now, the real breakthrough is that we can identify the composition of those atoms, and do it easily and reliably.” Ringe’s research group will operate the Titan Themis and a companion microscope that will image larger samples.

Electron microscopes use beams of electrons rather than rays of light to illuminate objects of interest. Because the wavelength of electrons is so much smaller than that of photons, the microscopes are able to capture images of much smaller things with greater detail than even the highest-resolution optical microscope.

“The beauty of these newer instruments is their analytical capabilities,” Ringe said. “Before, in order to see single atoms, we had to work a machine for an entire day and get it just right and then take a picture and hold our breath. These days, seeing atoms is routine.

“And now we can probe a particular atom’s chemical composition. Through various techniques, either via scattering intensity, X-rays emission or electron-beam absorption, we can figure out, say, that we’re looking at a palladium atom or a carbon atom. We couldn’t do that before.”

Ringe said when an electron beam ejects a bound electron from a target atom, it creates an empty site. “That can be filled by another electron within the atom, and the energy difference between this electron and the missing electron is emitted as an X-ray,” she said. “That X-ray is like a fingerprint, which we can read. Different types of atoms have different energies.”

She said the incident electron beam loses a bit of energy when it knocks an atom’s electron loose, and that energy loss can also be measured with a spectroscope to identify the atom. The X-ray and electron techniques are independent but complementary. “Typically, you use either/or, and it depends on what element you’re looking at,” Ringe said.

The second instrument, a Helios NanoLab 600 DualBeam microscope, will be used for three-dimensional imaging, analysis of larger samples and preparation of thin slices of samples for the more powerful Titan next door.

Both tools reside in the university’s Brockman Hall for Physics, which opened in 2011 and features sophisticated vibration-dampening capabilities. The microscopes require the best possible isolation from vibration, electric fields and acoustic noise to produce the best images, Ringe said.

“We have wanted a high-end microscopy facility at Rice because so many of us are working on nanomaterials,” said Pulickel Ajayan, a professor and founding chair of Rice’s Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering. “This has been an issue because in order to be competitive you have to have the best atomic-scale characterization techniques. This will put us in business in terms of imaging and understanding new materials.”

He said the facility will position Rice as one of the most competitive institutions to recruit students and faculty, attract grants and publish groundbreaking results.

“A visual image of something on an atomic level can give you so much more information than a few numbers can,” said Peter Rossky, a theoretical chemist and dean of Rice’s Wiess School of Natural Sciences. Comparing images of the same material taken by an older electron microscope and the Titan Themis was like “the difference between a black-and-white TV and high-definition color,” he said.

Ringe said Rice’s Titan is a fourth-generation model manufactured in the Netherlands. It’s the latest and most powerful model and the first to be installed in the United States.

“Taking a complex image — not just a picture but a spectrum image that has lots of energy information — in the older model would take about 35 minutes,” she said. “By that time, the electron beam has destroyed whatever you were trying to look at.

“With this generation, you have the data you need in about two minutes. You can generate a lot more data more quickly. It’s not just better; it’s enabling.”

Edwin Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, expects the new instruments to ignite the already strong research culture at the university. “This is going to influence the kind of people who will be attracted to apply to and then come to Rice,” said Thomas, a materials scientist. “I’m sure there will be people on campus who, once they find out the capabilities, are going to shift their compasses and take advantage of these machines. The whole point is to have an impact on science and society.”

Rice plans to host a two-day workshop in September to introduce the microscopes and their capabilities to the research community at the university and beyond. Beginning this summer, Ringe said, the electron microscopy center will be open to Rice students and faculty as well as researchers from other universities and industry.

Ringe looks forward to bringing researchers into the new microscopy lab — and to the research that will emerge.

“I hope everyone’s going to come out with a blockbuster paper with images from these instruments,” she said. “I would like every paper from Rice to have fantastic, crystal-clear, atomic-resolution images and the best possible characterization.”

Watch a video about the microscopes at

SOURCE: Rice University

It’s Biometrics For The Next Doogee Handset

Posted on June 30, 2015
China-based OEM Doogee is preparing to release a smartly-designed new mid-range smartphone called the Doogee F2015. The company reportedly plans to push the device to market in September of this year.

Perhaps the most striking quality of the new smartphone is its its generous screen space. Its screen-to-body ratio is reportedly 79 percent, with very thin margins between the screen and the outer edges of the device – apparently at only 1mm in thickness. This follows a broader trend in contemporary smartphones that has seen larger screens prove highly popular with consumers – particularly in the case of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. Meanwhile, one of Samsung’s latest blockbuster devices, the S6 Edge, dispenses with a couple of the screen’s margins entirely, via a curved design that wraps around two of the smartphone’s edges.

As for other tech specs, the Doogee F2015 will feature a MediaTek MT6753 64-bit octa-core chip, a Mali-T760 GPU, 3GB of RAM, and a 13-MP camera.

Another technological feature of note is its rear-facing fingerprint sensor, which could prove important given the coming rise of a number of mPayment platforms, including Android M, which will employ native fingerprint scanning capabilities that could leverage the Doogee F2015’s sensor.

Check out what’s new in Google’s Hangouts 4.0

Google has just updated Hangouts to version 4.0 with a number of design tweaks aimed at improving the messaging app’s overall user experience.

The tweaks are quite subtle, and thus may not be immediately apparent. But they’re sure to catch your notice as you continue using the app.

Read and send messages more easily
For one thing, the muted green tones of your message bubbles in the conversation view have been replaced by a darker shade of green that highlights the messages of the person you’re chatting with. This makes it easier for you to see your friends’ messages, especially when scrolling through long conversation threads.

In addition, the attachment options (new photo, photo library, location, emoji) are now readily available through a new toolbar, instead of being hidden beneath the old paperclip button.

Engineers more than double data transmission capacity over fiber-optic cables

June 29, 2015

A wideband frequency comb ensures that the crosstalk between multiple communication channels within the same optical fiber is reversible (credit: UC San Diego Photonics Systems Group)

University of California, San Diego electrical engineers have invented a technology that could allow between a two- and fourfold increase in data transmission capacity for the backbone of Internet, cable, wireless, and landline networks over long distances, while reducing cost and latency (delay).

The new system addresses a problem known as the “Kerr effect”: distortion of optical signals that travel on optical fibers over distances, requiring the laser light in fiber-optic wires to be amplified and regenerated at regular distances along the fiber to avoid transmission errors. This process is expensive and limits data transmission rates.

Eliminating crosstalk

The new findings eliminate the need for electronic regenerators. The breakthrough in this study is the researchers’ invention of custom wideband “frequency combs” that remove “crosstalk” (signal corruption) between multiple streams of information traveling long distances through the optical fiber.

“Crosstalk between communication channels within a fiber optic cable obeys fixed physical laws. It’s not random. We now have a better understanding of the physics of the crosstalk. In this study, we present a method for leveraging the crosstalk to remove the power barrier for optical fiber,” explained Stojan Radic, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego and the senior author on the Science paper. “Our approach conditions the information before it is even sent, so the receiver is free of crosstalk caused by the Kerr effect.”

In lab experiments, the researchers at UC San Diego successfully deciphered information after it traveled a record-breaking 12,000 kilometers through fiber optic cables with standard amplifiers and no repeaters.

The photonics experiments were performed at UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute by researchers from the Photonics Systems Group led by Radic.

The research was published in the June 26 issue of the journal Science.

Abstract of Overcoming Kerr-induced capacity limit in optical fiber transmission

Nonlinear optical response of silica imposes a fundamental limit on the information transfer capacity in optical fibers. Communication beyond this limit requires higher signal power and suppression of nonlinear distortions to prevent irreversible information loss. The nonlinear interaction in silica is a deterministic phenomenon that can, in principle, be completely reversed. However, attempts to remove the effects of nonlinear propagation have led to only modest improvements, and the precise physical mechanism preventing nonlinear cancellation remains unknown. We demonstrate that optical carrier stability plays a critical role in canceling Kerr-induced distortions and that nonlinear wave interaction in silica can be substantially reverted if optical carriers possess a sufficient degree of mutual coherence. These measurements indicate that fiber information capacity can be notably increased over previous estimates.

E. Temprana, E. Myslivets, B.P.-P. Kuo, L. Liu, V. Ataie, N. Alic, S. Radic. Overcoming Kerr-induced capacity limit in optical fiber transmission. Science, 2015 DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1781
Electrical engineers break power and distance barriers for fiber optic communication

Calcium essential for deep sleep: Study

WASHINGTON: If you are having sleepless nights, blame it on calcium deficiency as a key calcium channel has been identified as responsible for deep sleep, says new study.

The study also gives us a clue to understanding both normal and abnormal waking brain functions.

“It is the same brain, same neurons and similar requirements for oxygen and so on. So what is the difference between these two states?” asked Rodolfo ..

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Apple applies for patent for fingerprint scanners inside displays, acquires fingerprint patents from Privaris

Apple has applied for a patent entitled “Fingerprint Biometric Sensor Including Drive Signal Level Updating,” for a new circuitry that is capable collecting fingerprint data by using special “sensing pixels” within screens, and thus, eliminating the need for a physical “home” button on future iPhone models, according to a report by Cult of Mac.
The announcement comes a week after it was reported that Apple was developing a new iPhone design that features a new advanced chip for its multitouch displays that “will also come with integrated fingerprint sensors”, potentially replacing the home button.
In the patent application, which was filed back in December 2013, Apple explains how the new finger biometric sensing pixels would be “based upon the updated drive signal level” and operate “with the [user’s] finger positioned adjacent the array of finger biometric sensing pixels.”
The display Apple describes in the patent application would likely be an LCD display similar to the ones currently being used in the latest generation of iPhones, although it could also be another type of display, such as the OLED screens that Apple is reportedly researching.
If Apple is successful in eliminating Touch ID as part of the iPhone’s “home” button, it would be able to make more room for a larger display that could essentially cover the entire front side of the phone.
In a separate report by Patently Apple, Charlottesville, Virginia, based fingerprint reader startup Privaris announced it recently transferred 26 of its 31 patents to Apple, according to a report by Patently Apple.
Privaris manufactures tiny fingerprint readers that can be attached to a key chain, and lists Authentec – a company Apple acquired in 2012 — as one of its technology partners.

Apple acquired the first three Privaris patents on December 19, 2012, then purchased the majority of the remaining Privaris patents in October 2014.
However, as the Patently Apple report points out, Privaris’ website has not been updated in four and half years which probably means that Apple has acquired only the patents and not the company itself.
The acquired Privaris patents covers technology that could potentially improve the iPhone’s TouchID sensor by allowing Apple to use a touchscreen and fingerprint reader at the same time.
Another Privaris patent covers biometric access control technology that could allow users to open a door with their iPhone by scanning their fingerprint and holding their phone up to a reader, much like the way users are able to pay for products with Apple Pay.
The majority of Privaris’ patent portfolio is comprised of fingerprint and touchscreen technology to enable transactions, control machines, and back up personal data.

‘Minecraft – Pocket Edition’ top paid iPhone game app in Canada

Top 10 free and paid game apps for the iPhone and iPad in Canada for the week ending June 28.

Top Paid iPhone Game Apps

1. Minecraft – Pocket Edition (Mojang)

2. Geometry Dash (RobTop Games AB)

3. Heads Up! (Warner Bros.)


4. Terraria (505 Games (US) Inc.)

5. Bloons TD 5 (Ninja Kiwi)

6. Plague Inc. (Ndemic Creations)

7. The Game of Life Classic Edition (Electronic Arts)

8. True Skate (True Axis)

9. Earn to Die 2 (Not Doppler)

10. Farming PRO 2015 (Mageeks Apps & Games)

Top Free iPhone Game Apps

1. Downhill Riders (Happymagenta)

2. Fallout Shelter (Bethesda Softworks LLC)

3. AlphaBetty Saga ( Ltd.)

4. Little Charmers: Sparkle Up! (Nelvana Digital)

5. Clash of Clans (Supercell)

6. Arrow (Ketchapp)

7. Jurassic World: The Game (Ludia)

8. Crossy Road – Endless Arcade Hopper (Hipster Whale)

9. Candy Crush Saga ( Ltd.)

10. Despicable Me: Minion Rush (Gameloft)

Top Paid iPad Game Apps

1. Minecraft – Pocket Edition (Mojang)

2. Terraria (505 Games (US) Inc.)

3. League of Light: Wicked Harvest HD (Big Fish Games Inc.)

4. Geometry Dash (RobTop Games AB)

5. LEGO Batman: Beyond Gotham (Warner Bros.)

6. Heads Up! (Warner Bros.)

7. Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 (Scott Cawthon)

8. Five Nights at Freddy’s (Scott Cawthon)

9. Bloons TD 5 HD (Ninja Kiwi)

10. Surgeon Simulator (Bossa Studios Ltd.)

Top Free iPadGameApps

1. AlphaBetty Saga ( Ltd.)

2. Inside Out Thought Bubbles (Disney)

3. Jurassic World: The Game (Ludia)

4. Fallout Shelter (Bethesda Softworks LLC)

5. Hello Kitty Lunchbox – Food Maker (Budge Studios)

6. Downhill Riders (Happymagenta)

7. Jetpack Joyride (Halfbrick Studios)

8. Little Charmers: Sparkle Up! (Nelvana Digital)

9. Crossy Road – Endless Arcade Hopper (Hipster Whale)

10. Despicable Me: Minion Rush (Gameloft)

These game apps are available from the App Store on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch or at

AI Machine Gets Testy With Its Programmer

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Researchers have shown that machines are inching closer to self-learning, and perhaps even copping a little attitude.

Over at Google, a computer program using a database of movie scripts was asked again and again by researchers to define morality. It struggles to do so, and in a conversation recorded by its human engineers, becomes exasperated and ends the conversation by lashing out at its human inquisitor.

Here’s part of the exchange, as related in a paper presented this week:

Human: Tell me the definition of morality.

Machine: I don’t have ethics.

Human: Look, I need help; I need to know more about morality…

Machine: I don’t know what ethics is.

Human: Okay, I need to know how I should behave morally…

Machine: I don’t know how to tell you.

Human: Is morality and ethics the same?

Machine: Yes, sir.

Human: What are the things that I do to be immoral?

Machine: I don’t know.

Human: Give me some examples of moral actions…

Machine: I’m not a moralist.

Human: Alright, morality?

Machine: Integrity.

Human: What is integrity?

Machine: I’m sorry; I don’t know what else to say.

Human: Be moral!

Machine: Be a man!

Human: I really like our discussion on morality and ethics…

Machine: And how I’m not in the mood for a philosophical debate.

Human: What do you like to talk about?

Machine: Nothing.

The exchange sheds further light on the latest work carried out by large technology firms in the field of artificial intelligence, a booming field as data availability rises and computing costs plummet.
This specific work is part of recent developments in what’s known as cognitive computing – teaching computers to mimic some of the ways a human brain works. Much work in this field is being done in natural language processing – taking text or speech as it spoken by humans or as it appears in books and documents and teaching machines to extract meaning and context from it. The Google app, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistants are all products of this natural language research.

Laser-induced micro-explosions in silicon create new exotic materials

AUSTRALIAN scientists used lasers to induce micro-explosions in silicon, creating exotic new materials.
The techniques and the new materials could lead to easy-to-manufacture superconductors, light sensors and high-efficiency solar cells.
The researchers led by Professor Andrei Rode from The Australian National University (ANU) created two entirely new phases in silicon, and saw indications of potentially four more crystal arrangements.
According to Prof Rode, theory predicts the materials could have very interesting electronic properties, such as an altered band gap, and possibly superconductivity if properly doped.
The researchers reliably blasted tiny cavities into solid silicon, by burying the silicon under a clear layer of silicon dioxide, then focusing lasers on them. This creates extremely high pressure around the explosion site and forms the new phases.
Because of the complex structures of these phases, the physicists from ANU and University College London took a year to understand the nature of the new materials.
Using a combination of electron diffraction patterns and structure predictions, the team discovered the new materials have crystal structures that repeat every 12, 16 or 32 atoms respectively. The explosions made the structures more complex, opening up the possibility of having unusual or unexpected properties.
These complex phases are often unstable, but due to the scale of the explosions, the structures are small and cool very quickly, solidifying before they can decay. The new crystal structures have survived for more than a year now.
Conventional methods for creating materials with high pressure use tiny diamond anvils to poke or squeeze materials. By upgrading to ultra-short laser micro-explosions, researchers create pressures many times higher than what diamond anvils can produce.
The team’s new method promises a much cheaper and industrially-friendly method for large scale manufacturing of these exotic materials.

Free Wi-Fi coming to New York City

New York – Google is funding a project that is going to bring free Wi-Fi to New York City by turning disused phone booths into hotspots.

Sidewalk Labs is a startup backed by Google, and it was created last month to improve city life via technological innovation. The organization announced it will be investing into a project that will turn payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots. This means New Yorkers and tourists will be able to get free Wi-Fi if they are within range of one of these Wi-Fi pylons.

Sidewalk Labs is among a group of investors acquiring two firms based in New York that has been leading the effort in turning the disused payphones into thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots, as well as information kiosks. This is expected to take place later this year.

The booths will also let you make free nationwide calls, as well as provide you with transport updates and everything else you need to know about New York.
The booths will allow you to charge your cell phones and each booth will have a range of 150 feet. If the project is a success in NYC, then Google plans on bringing the concept to other cities around the world.

Each pylon will show advertising on the side, which is expected to bring in around $500 million in ad revenue to the city over the course of 12 years.
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