MIT to open energy resource center

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is collaborating with a German research firm to establish a sustainable energy center near the college, United Press International reports. According to MIT’s president, the school will be opening the MIT-Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in conjunction with Germany's Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft research group. Partly funded by the German government, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft currently operates more than 80 research sites around the world. Officials note the new energy site will likely create nearly 60 new jobs to start, though the center’s managing director suggests the main benefit will be solar technological research. According to a report in the Boston Globe, the center initially will rely on $5 million from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and an additional $1 million from the international energy company National Grid (UPI, 4/13/08).

Computer simulates merger of three black holes

U.S. astrophysicists at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation say they have, for the first time, used a supercomputer to simulate the merger of three black holes, United Press International reports. Specifically, the scientists simulated triplet black holes to test their 2005 breakthrough method, which simulated the merger of two black holes by applying Einstein's theory of general relativity. According to the researchers, the new simulation of multiple black holes evolving, orbiting and eventually colliding has confirmed a robust computer code free of limitations. Slated for publication in the May issue of the journal Physical Review D, the study outlines "rich dynamics leading to very elliptical orbits, complicated orbital dynamics, simultaneous triple mergers and complex gravitational wave forms that might be observed by gravitational wave detectors," one author notes. He adds that "these simulations are timely because a triple quasar was recently discovered by a team led by Caltech astronomer George Djorgovski. This presumably represents the first observed supermassive black hole triplet" (UPI, 4/14/08).

USGS creates online flooding map

The U.S. Geological Survey recently unveiled an online map that tracks flood conditions across the nation, United Press International reports. Available at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/, the new system is part of the USGS WaterWatch suite of Web-based streamflow products, officials note. The real-time water monitoring and other information available at the Web site include current flood levels, historical peaks and National Weather Service flood forecasts. Monthly flood reports are also available that include maximum flows and compare the data to previous years at each station. According to USGS’s associate director for water, "the water monitoring systems shown on this map help ensure timely and uninterrupted water information for forecasters, emergency managers, scientists and the general public." He adds that "improved flood monitoring and assessment will help reduce the risks to communities, property and human life" (UPI, 4/14/08).

Database to offer free access to NIH-funded research

According to NPR's "Talk of the Nation," a new ruling that took effect last week requires researchers to post the results of their published U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research in a free, publicly accessible database within one year. The federal law states that researchers who receive NIH funding must submit "an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts" for publication in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central database ("Talk of the Nation," 4/11/08).

Microsoft releases new street traffic tool

Microsoft recently unveiled a new online service that predicts traffic congestion for, All Headline News reports. Tapping data from Google, Yahoo and AOL's Mapquest, Microsoft's new Clearflow service will deliver updated traffic feeds to users, enabling them to plan a detour to bypass road congestion and save time. The service is currently free to 72 U.S. cities. Wired.com, however, pointed out some potential problems with the technology including the inconsistent real-time traffic situations that could result in changes that will not register as the user is in the process of obtaining specific traffic information (Duerme, AHN, 4/11/08).

NASA launches new science Web site

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently unveiled a new Web site designed to provide information about its scientific endeavors and achievements, United Press International reports. The new Web page, available at http://nasascience.nasa.gov, will provide in-depth coverage of NASA's past, present and future science missions, according to NASA officials. The site also will feature interactive tables and searches for Earth, heliophysics, planetary and astrophysics missions; insight into dark matter and dark energy, planets around other stars, climate change, Mars and space weather; resources for researchers such as links to upcoming science solicitations and opportunities; and expanded "For Educators" and "For Kids" sections to provide access to a broader range of resources for learning the science behind NASA missions (UPI, 4/10/08).

Robotic cart outfitted as train entertains at children’s hospital

A robotic cart is entertaining patients, staff, and visitors at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, after a recent “fashion makeover” made the machine that transports medical supplies and equipment look like a railroad car, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The cart—called TUG—now features a conductor who “speaks” using the voice of actor Don LaFontaine. Children’s has been using the cart since October 2007; there are about 100 in use at hospitals across the country. The robot makes about 20 trips a day to transport equipment and supplies such as specialty dressing, oxygen monitors, and feeding pumps throughout the hospital, enabling staff to focus on moving patients more quickly. TUG uses assigned elevators, stops when it senses a person or nursing cart, and parallel parks in a hallway after completing a transport, saying “pardon my caboose” while backing up. According to the hospital’s patient care manager, the extra hand has helped improve attention paid to patients, adding that “anytime you have a chance to…keep the people in touch with the patients, it’s a good thing” (Newson, Journal Sentinel, 3/30/08).

ESA opens new space laboratory

The European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday opened a new lab at its Netherlands space research center, United Press International reports. Located at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC), the new state-of-the-art space and technology laboratory includes a propulsion laboratory and a design center. Officials tout the new center as helping to broaden horizons, adding that "all the different disciplines come together to develop new technologies. If Europe wants to remain at the forefront of developments in space, then we have to look to the future. That is exactly what is happening here at ESTEC" (UPI, 4/10/08).

Nursing homes need more advanced IT tools, study finds

More sophisticated use of health information technology (IT) is needed in nursing facilities in order to develop information exchanges across short-term and long-term care facilities, according to the author of a new study, Modern Healthcare reports. Slated for publication in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Advances in Patient Safety, the study, titled "Measuring IT Sophistication in Nursing Homes," suggests that Missouri nursing homes use "minimal" levels of IT. Specifically, the study of 199 Missouri facilities found that larger, noninvestor-owned nursing homes had a higher percentage of IT use in their admission process than other facilities. However, both smaller and larger noninvestor-owned facilities used less advanced technology in the discharge process, according to one report author. The study also found that investor-owned, medium-size facilities were less likely to use IT for resident care management but did use IT to estimate bed availability. Modern Healthcare, meanwhile, notes that the study supports the results of a study released last year by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, which found that IT adoption at nursing homes has lagged behind other health care facilities (DerGurahian, Modern Healthcare, 4/9/08).

Quantum computing in reach, researchers say

Northwestern University Professor Prem Kumar recently announced that he and his colleagues have demonstrated one of the basic building blocks for distributed quantum computing—using entangled photons generated in optical fibers, United Press International reports. The research appears in the journal Physical Review Letters. Kumar notes that “because it is done with fiber and the technology that is already globally deployed, we think it is a significant step in harnessing the power of quantum computers.” According to UPI, “quantum computing differs from classical computing in that a classical computer works by processing ‘bits’ that exist in two states, either one or zero.” Quantum computing uses quantum bits (qubits), which can be both one and zero simultaneously, as well as just one or zero, the scientists said, noting such values are possible because qubits are quantum units similar to atoms or photons that operate under the rules of quantum rather than classical mechanics (UPI, 4/10/08).

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