Carnegie Mellon researchers enhance biological image analysis

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Lane Center for Computational Biology recently unveiled technology that can significantly speed up critical steps in an automated method for analyzing cell cultures and other biological specimens, according to the university. Published online in the Journal of Machine Learning Research, the study suggests that the new technique is capable of enabling higher accuracy analyses of microscopic images created by high-throughput biological screening methods and can help decode the complex structure of human tissues. Commenting on the innovation, the researchers note that improved accuracy could help cut costs and boost time efficiency related to these screening methods. They add that the technology could lead to new types of experiments that “previously would have required an infeasible amount of resources,” as well as potentially reveal “interesting but subtle anomalies that otherwise would go undetected,” according to the release. Meanwhile, the release notes that the technique can be adapted in fields beyond biology “because it improves the efficiency of the belief propagation algorithm, a widely used method for drawing conclusions about interconnected networks” (Carnegie Melon release, 5/1/08).

Yahoo unveils new search engine concept in India

Yahoo is rolling out the beta test of its new search concept that aggregates text, images, and video results on a single results page in India, IDG News Service reports. Called the Glue Pages Beta, the latest search engine update currently works for specific search terms across select categories such as health, sports, entertainment, travel, technology, and finance and displays the Glue Pages results alongside the usual Yahoo India search results. According to officials, Yahoo selected India for the beta test because it is an important company market with a rising number of new users, plentiful local content and a large number of developers capable of creating applications around Yahoo's technologies. If the beta proves successful, Yahoo plans to expand Glue Pages to other countries (Ribeiro, IDG News Service/CIO, 5/8/08).

HP launches tech research collaboration program

HP's new research director on Wednesday is launching a formal collaborative research program, the Associated Press reports. Under the program, HP will request project proposals from university researchers and select dozens to help fund for as many as three years. In addition, while patents from the work completed at universities could remain in the schools, HP would become first in line to license the technologies. The AP notes, however, that the resulting intellectual property also could become freely available in much the same way that IBM’s 2006 agreement stated under its university collaboration plan (Bergstein, AP/USA Today, 5/7/08).

Microsoft China breaks ground on massive Beijing-based tech facility

Microsoft China on Tuesday began construction on a 280-million-dollar research facility in the middle of Beijing's "Silicon Valley," AFP reports. Slated for completion in 2010 and located in Beijing's Zhongguancun area, the Microsoft China R and D Campus will include two buildings measuring 80 meters and 65 meters (270 feet and 215 feet) and totaling 101,000 square meters (1.1 million square feet) of space (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/6/08).

Cell phones bring medicine to remote areas

U.S. and Brazilian researchers have developed an inexpensive technical system capable of bringing advanced medical services to remote areas, United Press International reports. Led by Harvard University Professor George Whitesides, the research team designed a system using cell phone cameras and paper test-strips to collect and characterize artificial urine samples. To test the system, researchers photographed the color-changing test-strips using the cell phones and electronically transmitted them to an off-site expert. From the test-strip images, the off-site expert was able to accurately measure glucose and protein levels that are commonly used to diagnose kidney diseases. According to researchers, the system also could help conduct similar analyses of teardrops and saliva. They add that, in addition to diagnosing human diseases, the system could also help detect diseases in plants and livestock and be used to test water and food quality. Commenting on the system, Whitesides notes that "the cellular communications industry is, and will continue to become, a global resource that can be leveraged for detecting disease" (UPI, 5/6/07).

MIT building low-cost solar concentrator

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are building a prototype power concentrator that they say could revolutionize the solar energy field, United Press International reports. Under the direction of MIT mechanical engineering graduate student Spencer Ahrens, the student research team is constructing a 12-foot-square mirrored dish that can concentrate sunlight by a factor of 1,000. UPI notes that the toll will be made from simple, inexpensive industrial materials selected for price, durability and ease of assembly rather than for optimum performance. According to Ahrens, the team aims to make a dish that, in mass production, can be competitive in cost with other energy sources and produce heat for space heating and electric power at the same time. He adds that, if placed in the Sun Belt, the dish could make roughly 10,000 peak watts of heat and 3,500 peak watts of electricity (UPI, 5/7/08).

Sun announces plans to release JavaFX

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Tuesday announced that its JavaFX client technology for building rich Internet applications (RIA) will ship in the fall, Computerworld reports. Announced at the 13th annual JavaOne event in San Francisco, the consumer launch will follow a July release of a developer preview version. The toll box specifically includes a runtime, scripting language and media-coded framework for building RIAs for the desktop, mobile television or browser. Computerworld notes that “the technology allows users to ‘drag’ an online application to the desktop, where it can take advantage of local files and storage” (Havenstein, Computerworld, 5/6/08).

New technology can eliminate microchip defects

Princeton University researchers have created a strategy to rid microchips of minute defects, a change that could pave the way to smaller, more powerful nanometer-scale chips, United Press International reports. Published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the study indicates that the new nanotechnology “enables more precise shaping of microchip components than has been possible,” UPI reports. Researchers add that more precise component shapes could help manufacturers build smaller and better microchips. According to UPI, the method “involves quickly melting the structures on a chip and then guiding the resulting flow of liquid so that it re-solidifies into the desired shapes.” Researchers note the process is made possible because natural forces acting on the molten structures, such as surface tension, smooth the structures into geometrically more accurate shapes (UPI, 5/5/08).

CMS launches PHR pilot in South Carolina

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently launched a pilot personal health records (PHRs) program in South Carolina, Government Health IT reports. Rolled out on April 4 and announced on Monday, the one-year voluntary program offers the state’s Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in the fee-for-service plan access to a PHR that tracks hospital and physician claims information. While the PHR does not populate prescription data, users can enter their medication information manually. The system also offers users links to online resources addressing their health conditions. In addition, the portal enables users to designate family members and health professionals as representatives authorized to view the information in their PHRs through their own secure login. CMS officials designed the pilot to help them learn more about how patients use PHRs and plan to encourage more beneficiaries to use the online tools. Meanwhile, CMS will continue offering limited PHRs on its own Web site and is conducting an additional PHR pilot with seven other health plans (Ferris, Government Health IT, 5/5/08).

Google supports open-source security group

Google, a long proponent of open-source software, has joined two other tech organizations in supporting the Open Source Computer Emergency Response Team (oCERT), IDG News Service reports. Launched less than two months ago, oCERT is designed to serve as a clearinghouse for data on security vulnerabilities in open-source products. Specifically, the idea is to keep “open-source distributors on top of flaws and helping small software projects ensure that users of their code are aware of any issues,” IDG reports. Since its inception, oCERT has published four advisories and garnered sponsorship from Inverse Path and the Open Source Lab, in addition to Google (McMillan, IDG News Service/Yahoo! News, 5/5/08).

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