Sunday, 26 February 2017

Smart material, smart future

"Smart" materials respond to environmental stimuli with particular changes in some variables. For that reason they are often also called responsive materials. Depending on changes in some external conditions, "smart" materials change either their properties (mechanical, electrical, appearance), their structure or composition, or their functions.

Mostly, "smart" materials are embedded in systems whose inherent properties can be favorably changed to meet performance needs. Smart materials and structures have widespread applications in several areas.

Materials are basic to every manufacturing process; the smarter they get, the better will be the product. Smart materials market deals with typically designed materials, whose physical properties can be altered through controlling its operational environment. Physical parameters, namely stress, temperature, moisture, pH, electric, and magnetic fields, are imposed upon these special materials to facilitate their restructuring.

The topical developments in the smart material & technologies segment translates theoretical possibilities of material science to a different technical level, altogether. With these smart materials, theories that appeared as science-fiction a couple of decades back, is the materialized reality of modern world, writes Digvijay Deshmukh, Research Analyst at Allied Market Research.

Latest technological trends have surfaced from ongoing disquisition of existing materials. Shape-memory material & technology trend takes on the smart materials industry by wonder, given the amount of shape change that can be induced and recovered by simply changing the temperature.

Materials that can heal small structural defects in themselves, or the self-healing materials, also have gained popularity in market avenues.

Others, such as piezoelectric, magnetostrictive, thermoelectric, chromogenic, and elastomer materials, prevail in the sundry industrial applications.

It is estimated that the net value of the smart material market will be around $72.63 billion from 2015 to 2022. During this period, the industry is expected to register its growth at a CAGR of 14.9%.

Sustained progress will be maintained through strategic product development and business expansion. Smart materials & technologies, when implemented in complex technical systems, reduce their intricacies.

Aerospace & defense, automotive, engineering, industrial, healthcare, and consumer electronics are the end-consumption segments in the industry. Its offerings are available under a vast range of smart metals & alloys, smart textiles, smart polymers, and smart fluids. The final products include transducers, actuators & motors, and structural materials.

Recently, a group of researchers at the Washington State University have introduced a breakthrough that can, quite literally, change the shape of the smart materials market. They have developed a one-of-its-kind, multifunctional substance, which has the ability to restructure its physical arrangement when exposed to heat or light. Their findings indicate that their photoresponsive liquid crystalline epoxy networks have three building blocks incorporated into it azobenzene chromophores, liquid crystals, and dynamic ester bonds.

The group revels after the successful compilation of multiple intelligent functions, such as shape-memory behavior, photo-mechanical movement, and self-healing property, in one single material. Every time the material fold or unfolds, it remembers its original orientation and heals accordingly.

Intensive research in material sciences is bound to influence the scope for other segments. Innovative smart inorganic polymers, for instance, will altogether eliminate the need for polymer additives and plasticizers, notes Digvijay Deshmukh.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Top Ten Tips for Increasing Concentration

Proven concentration tips and strategies for improving your ability to concentrate.

Are you having trouble concentrating on your studies? Well don't worry – it happens to the best of students.

Let's first try to understand what concentration is. According to an expert, “Concentration is taking your mind off many things and putting it on one thing at a time.” Decide what you want to concentrate on. In many ways, you become what you focus on — that is, you take on some of its characteristics.

Top ten tips from experts

Start assignments with some curiosity about the material and a positive attitude toward learning.

Designate a place where you go only to study. Use proper lighting.

Identify your distractions. Find ways to decrease them or to postpone them until study breaks (e.g., taking the phone off the hook, turning off instant messenger).

Decrease noises around you while studying. If you need some background music it should be soft. Keep the TV off.

Use "active study" techniques: sit straight in a chair at a desk, start out with questions about the material, outline chapters, underline key phrases after reading a section, write notes in margins, ask yourself what you have learned.

Divide your work into smaller manageable tasks that can be completed in a short period of time. Push yourself to complete one small task, then move on to the next task. Focus on one small task at a time.

Use times of peak alertness for studying difficult or less interesting topics. When you are tired or hungry concentration will be lowered.

When your mind starts to wander come up with some cue words to say to yourself (e.g., "Focus." "Get back on task.") to focus your concentration again.

Take breaks when you have completed tasks or when you feel concentration has decreased. Breaks should be approximately 10-15 minutes.

If you have other assignments or issues on your mind write them down on a "to do" list or take a small step to deal with them. Then get back to focusing on the task at hand.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel was also, somewhat surprisingly, a national best-seller. At a time when other popular nonfiction topics centered on personal relationships and diets, Diamond caught the attention of the reading public with a fascinating account of more than 13,000 years of human evolution and societal development.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, anthropologist Diamond explains why some societies are more materially successful than others. He attributes societal success to geography, immunity to germs, food production, the domestication of animals, and use of steel.

Key points captured for you:

Farming and domesticating animals provide social stability that is lacking in hunter-gatherer societies. Labor specialization enablescertain groups to develop weapons.

Major portions of Eurasia had a natural advantage in developing agriculture and domesticating animals because of geography and the presence of plants and animals that could be easily domesticated.

The landmass of Eurasia, laid out on an east-west axis, allowed for the sharing of crops, animals, and ideas. The Americas, stretched out on a north-south axis, traverse various climate zones and geographic boundaries that discourage trade.

The diversity and density of Eurasian populations created an immunity to germs that would later wipe out the more isolated populations of the Americas.

Although the book has raised a few points of controversy among scientists, it also has gained widespread praise. Some scientists argue against Diamond’s thesis that geography and environment are the most important factors in shaping the world as modern humans know it. But most critics praise Diamond for the task he successfully took upon himself, which was to answer a very complex question.

In the prologue of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond recounts how he became intrigued when his New Guinean friend Yali asked, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” The cargo that Yali refers to is technology—tools as simple as axes; accessories such as umbrellas; and more complicated inventions such as computers, cell phones, and the Internet. After all, Diamond points out, a mere two centuries prior to his meeting Yali, New Guineans were still using stone tools. What factors caused this gap between the development of one culture and another?

Diamond searched for an answer by examining millions of years of history, mapping out the migrations of early humans from Africa to Eurasia, from eastern Asia to the Pacific Ocean islands, and from Siberia to the North and South American continents. He follows humans as they evolve biologically, and then he concentrates on specific representative societies to illustrate his findings.

To define the differences between developing cultures, Diamond emphasizes the effects of food production, writing, technology, government, and religion. Then he demonstrates, in his opinion, why the differences among various cultures occurred. More important (and one of the reasons for some of the controversy surrounding this book), Diamond concludes that it is ultimately geography, not biology or race as some other studies have tried to prove, that produced the cultural disparities his friend Yali had pointed out.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

How genomics is dramatically changing the future of medicine

Genomics? It is a fairly new research field. But it is worth getting to know, because it's changing how we approach health and medicine in a big way.

As the World Health Organization defines it, genomics is the study of genes and how they function. When applied to medicine, genomics is being used to identify how our genes relate to human development. That includes "every genetic element that has an 

impact on disease, your health, longevity, and even behavior," says Dr. Edison Liu, an oncologist and the president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory. "Genomics provides the personalized blueprint of your entire genetic make-up."

This emerging field is providing some of the most personalized and effective medical treatments in human history, according to Laurie  Vazquez a science and tech writer.

Genomic medicine really started with The Human Genome Project, which set out to map all the genes in the human genome. Our DNA  is made of four chemical bases; human genes are different lengths and combinations of those bases. Using that information, plus a  rudimentary template taken from fruit fly research, scientists started deciphering the human genome in 1995. By April 2003, the map of our 20,500 genes was complete, says Vazquez.

That map was a goldmine for medical research. For the first time, medical researchers had a detailed set of instructions for creating a healthy human being. They could locate and identify diseases at a genetic level, and then design specific treatments to eliminate them without affecting anything else inside a patient's body.

"We can use new innovations in genetic testing to more precisely predict, diagnose, and treat conditions in individual patients instead of having to settle for a one-size-fits-all approach," AMA President Dr. Andrew W. Gurman told Vazquez.

That means fewer drugs, and fewer surgeries.

Genomics "is already delivering precision treatments to the clinic with remarkable speed," says Liu. One of the most successful examples is newborn screening, which uses blood, hearing, and other tests to identify chronic and potentially life threatening diseases in babies up to two weeks old. Genomic testing speeds this process up and increases its efficiency, letting doctors identify and treat more of those diseases than ever before with greater accuracy.

Researchers can also use genomics to target and treat rare genetic disorders which, according to the CDC, affect about 25 million people in the United States. Most of those diseases — like Angelman's Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and FAM Hypercholesterolemia — are rooted in our genes. Genomics offers potential solutions to conditions that before could only partially be managed by medication.

And the way we treat cancer is changing, too. Genomics can be used to detect, identify, and treat cancers more quickly and effectively than chemotherapy and radiation, and with far less stress and recovery time for the patient. "The entire area of personalized cancer vaccines now has a new lease on life because of new genomics capabilities," says Dr. Pramod Srivastava, a researcher at UConn Health studying ways to create a personalized ovarian cancer vaccine. "Previous personalized cancer vaccines acted on faith; with genomics, we can actually know how each patient's vaccine is unique. It is a remarkable transformation of the whole field of cancer immunology and immunotherapy."

But as with many great innovations, there are limitations. "The lag between the field of genomics and its application within the healthcare industry has become a significant challenge," says Walter Nakonechny, associate program director of genomic education at Jackson Laboratory. In other words, our healthcare system can't quite keep up with all these new advancements, notes Vazquez.