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Molly Brown of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD has created a new method to anticipate food shortages brought on by drought. The model uses data from satellite remote sensing of crop growth and food prices, and could improve the ability for government and humanitarian aid officials to plan and respond to drought-induced food price increases. Until now, officials have studied the after-effects of floods or droughts that might affect crop production as their best means of warning of a coming food security crisis. Agricultural economists often use a mathematical formula and data on crop yield, a range of market prices, and other variables to develop a price model that estimates what food prices may be in the marketplace. Brown combined satellite data and climate variables with the price model to create maps of millet prices covering a complete area. With these maps, decision-makers can predict price changes, food availability, and food insecurity. According to Brown, "This model can help officials better understand the role that climate plays in food availability and pricing, and also in famine warning when applied to a real-time planning effort." The model can be used in any region of the world where there are seasonal climate factors that can contribute to local food production crises. Visit here for the full story.

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Techs of the Week

An eye-movement- tracking system displays a wide-view-angle image while simultaneously displaying a high-resolution image in the vicinity of the viewpoint of the viewer's eye. It is compact enough to be easily mounted on the viewer's head. The wearer can be presented with a highly realistic image even without using monitors with an increased number of scanning lines. Click here for more info. A software program allows scanning of large images to proceed while the image parts already scanned are processed simultaneously, speeding up the process of digitizing the image. This technique can be useful in aerial photography or graphic arts where large images need to be scanned. Time delays waiting for the scanner are avoided. Click here for more info. The Technologies of the Week describe inventions offered for license through the yet2.com marketplace. Search over $2.5 billion of licensable technologies at www.yet2.com.

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Transforming Ultrasound

University of Virginia Engineering School researchers have developed an advanced imaging algorithm that provides clearer ultrasound images. The teamís method of signal processing can be used with a range of imaging and sensing systems such as ultrasound, radar, sonar, telecommunications, and some optical imaging systems. Called the Time-domain Optimized Near-field Estimator (TONE), the algorithm enhances the effectiveness of medical ultrasound imaging, providing medical professionals with dramatically improved image resolution and contrast. In an ultrasound scanner, computer algorithms use reflected sound waves to create real-time images of the organ or tissue being examined. The images are not always clear, which is a concern when screening for life-threatening conditions such as cancer. TONE reduces the contribution of off-axis signals -- reflections coming from undesired locations -- forming images with better contrast and resolution. The team performed a series of simulations using sample ultrasound data to test the algorithm and compared it to conventional beamforming strategies (CBF) used by current ultrasound scanners. Results showed a significant improvement in spatial resolution over CBF. The next step will involve using the TONE algorithm to image actual human tissue where the technology could have the greatest impact. Find out more here.

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Innovate and Win!

Your unique invention could win you $20,000 or other great prizes. Enter your design idea in the 2007 Create the Future Design Contest, presented by SolidWorks Corp. and NASA Tech Briefs. Entries are being accepted in six categories: Machinery, Equipment, and Component Technology; Consumer Products; Medical; Safety and Security; Transportation; and Sustainable Technologies. Co-sponsored by COMSOL Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the sixth annual contest recognizes outstanding innovations in product design, awarding a Grand Prize of $20,000, and six First Prizes (one from each category) of Hewlett-Packard engineering workstations. Entrants may elect to have their entry posted on the contest Web site, and the 10 most-visited entries will each be awarded $250. All qualified entrants will receive a Create the Future Design Contest T-shirt. All entries must be received by October 15, 2007, so submit your design idea today. Go here for guidelines and the official entry form.

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Technology Business Briefs

Nanoscale, Robotic Actuators This technology achieves high work output per unit volume in micro-robotic actuators; in particular, TiNi actuators for powering nano-robotic movement and manipulation of structures at near molecular scale. Refresh Methodology for 3T-DRAM Cells An internal refresh operation for 3-T DRAM runs independently in the memory block no matter what the external access is, such that the speed advantage of 6T-SRAM and the area advantage of DRAM can be obtained at the same time. The Technology Business Briefs portray licensing or selling opportunities intermediated by NextTechs. NextTechs Technologies, LLC is a Global Technology Investment Bank engaged in technology offers and needs intermediation in over 41 industries and 141 research disciplines. Search NextTechs' Technology Portfolio here.

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Formation of Fear

Researchers from MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have uncovered a molecular mechanism that governs the formation of fears stemming from traumatic events. The work could lead to the first drug to treat the millions of adults who suffer from debilitating fears, including hundreds of soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who are returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The researchers showed that inhibiting a kinase (enzymes that change proteins) called Cdk5 facilitates the extinction of fear learned in a particular context. Conversely, the learned fear persisted when the kinase's activity was increased in the hippocampus, the brain's center for storing memories. Emotional disorders such as post-traumatic stress and panic attacks stem from the inability of the brain to stop experiencing the fear associated with a specific incident or series of incidents. For some people, upsetting memories of traumatic events do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. The researchers found that some of the molecular machinery that initially encodes the troubling memories also regulates their extinction. Read the full story here.

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The Right Track for Vision Correction

More and more people are putting away their eye-glasses and contact lenses as a result of laser vision correction surgery. LASIK, the most widely performed version of this surgical procedure, improves vision by reshaping the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, using an excimer laser. One excimer laser system, Alcon’s LADARVision® 4000, utilizes a laser radar (LADAR) eye tracking device that gives it unmatched precision.

Posted in: NTB, Spinoff

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