GPS takes piloting to new level of accuracy

NASA has developed a way to pilot aircraft independent of local navigational aids, infrastructure and even good ol’ landmarks. The NASA Global Differential GPS system at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has demonstrated the ability to achieve real-time aircraft positioning accuracy of 10 centimeters horizontally and 20 centimeters vertically, anywhere in the world. Think of it this way: Using the NASA system, a pilot could remotely navigate an unmanned aircraft from, say, Atlanta, Georgia and have it land within three inches of its target in Tokyo, Japan.

‘Archirtecture of Attention’ identified

I’m sorry, what were you saying? I got distracted by this story from the American Psychological Association that says researchers have successfully mapped different aspects of attention to parts of the brain’s frontal lobes. Turns out that the once-monolithic concept of “attention” has at least three distinct processes that look to be functionally and anatomically different.

Researchers probe possible Strep, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder link

A new study aims to determine once and for all whether a link exists between obsessive-compulsive behavior and strep infections in children. The research, to be conducted by the University of Florida and the National Institutes of Mental Health, is prompted by anecdotal reports from parents with OCD kids that their children’s behavior, such as compulsive hand washing, worsens when the child is ill with strep.

Fat cells converted to bone

Pre-cells destined to become fat can be converted instead into true bone cells in
response to outside signals, say researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. The finding could pave the way for scientists to replenish lost bone cells in patients with conditions like osteoporosis, and to help repair bone defects. The new bone cells have all the hallmarks associated with mature bone formation, including production of bone proteins and calcification, the UCSF team says.

Chaos Seen in Movement of Ring-Herding Moons of Saturn

Chaos can explain the seemingly random behavior of two moons of Saturn, JPL researchers say. The moons — Pandora and Prometheus — are more than 100,000 miles off course of where they would be if their orbits followed conventional physics. “With chaotic interactions, a barely perceptible difference in starting conditions can make such a great difference in later positions that the movements are not fully predictable over time. The two moons give each other a gravitational kick each time Pandora passes inside Prometheus, about every 28 days. Because neither’s orbit is quite circular, the distance between them on those occasions — hence the strength of the kick — varies.”

Parkinson’s patients look to gene therapy

Medical researchers have successfully reversed the progression of Parkinson’s disease in rats through the use of gene therapy. By adding a gene for a single enzyme, they were able to reprogram brain circuits and halt the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells, one of the key problems in the disease. The lack of dopamine is what leads the the tell-tale shaking and muscle twitches of Parkinson’s patients.

Deep Fritz holds on

You can’t keep a good supercomputer down, especially when it only knows how to do one thing: Play chess. Deep Fritz, the German-built brainiac, forced DNA-based competitor Vladimir Kramnik into a draw Thursday, in a crucial Game Four of the eight-game “Brains of Bahrain” competition. At the half-way point, Kramnik leads the series 3-1. One more win guarantees he won’t lose the “duel of the century” (a decidedly modest claim, considering the year).

See also: Vlad the Impaler Defeats Fritz the Ditz

Researchers Elucidate Machinery of Major Anti-Cancer Drug Target

Researchers have detailed the functioning of an enzyme that is a central component of a signaling pathway important for about 30 percent of cancers. The findings about how the enzyme, called farnesyl transferase (FTase), works could help improve the FTase-inhibiting drugs that pharmaceutical companies are now testing to fight a broad spectrum of cancers.