New Worlds: Does the gatekeeper have your number?

December 18, 2005 02:01

Now you can open your garage door with your cell phone.

New Worlds: Does the gatekeeper have your number?

cell phone 88. (photo credit: )

How can you open a gate without getting out of your car? A remote control is one way; now your cellular phone is another. Kesharim Systems, based in Israel, is a company which specializes in wireless and line-linked communications, and has started selling its "Control In Out" system. When you use your cellphone for this purpose, you do not pay for air time. The CIO system is made up of a small microprocessor that contains a database into which one can download the cellphone numbers of people allowed to open a gate. Up to 1,200 numbers can be stored. The system works like the cellphone call-identification service using a SIM card and a GSM network. All those allowed to open a gate, such as that leading to a car park, call a phone number. The system checks to see if the caller's number is on the list, and the gate opens in seconds. The company ( claims the system is 100% reliable and very simple. There is no need to carry a separate remote control device or call a guard to open the gate if your batteries run out. Costing $790 and up, depending on the number of authorized numbers, the device is meant not only for companies, kibbutzim, moshavim, private homes and apartment buildings, but also for hotels that provide parking to their guests. EINSTEIN'S THEORY PROVEN WITH PENCIL LEAD Scientists at the University of Manchester have discovered a new way to test Einstein's theory of relativity using the "lead" (really graphite) of a pencil. Until now it was only possible to test it by building expensive machinery or by studying stars in distant galaxies, but a team of British, Russian and Dutch scientists has now proven it can be done using an ultra-thin material called Graphene. The group, led by physics and astronomy Prof. Andre Geim, discovered the one-atom-thick material last year. Graphene is created by extracting one-atom-thick slivers of graphite via a process similar to that of tracing with a pencil. "To understand implications of the relativity theory, researchers often have to go to considerable lengths, but our work shows that it is possible to set up direct experiments," he said. "In theory, this will speed up possible discoveries and probably save billions of pounds." A paper recently published in Nature describes how electric charges in Graphene appear to behave like relativistic particles with no mass (zero rest mass). The new particles are called massless Dirac fermions and are described by Einstein's relativity theory (so-called the Dirac Equation). The team also reports several new relativistic effects: They have shown that massless Dirac fermions are pulled by magnetic fields in such a manner that they gain a dynamic (motion) mass described by the famous Einstein equation E=mc2. This is similar to the case of photons (particles of light) that also have no mass but still respond to gravity due to their dynamic mass, which is described by the same equation. MAN'S BEST FRIEND TELLS SECRETS Any dog lover can tell you that every breed is different. Some dogs will take any abuse from a child, while others protest. Some make fierce guardians, while others will be friendly even to burglars. Now, two new studies at the US Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Maryland reveal the genomic differences beneath such canine characteristics. In the December issue of Genome Research (a special issue devoted to dogs), TIGR researchers Ewen Kirkness and Wei Wang compared the genome sequences of a standard poodle and a boxer. Finding key genetic differences, the researchers went on to compare those variations in the genomes of nine additional dog breeds - beagle, Labrador retriever, German shepherd, Italian greyhound, English shepherd, Bedlington terrier, Portuguese water dog, Alaskan malamute and Rottweiler, as well as five genomes of wild canids (four types of wolves and a coyote). "This work demonstrates a significant amount of variation between individual dogs at the genomic level," says Kirkness, lead investigator. "That variation can now be exploited to study the differences between dogs, their diseases, development and behaviors." More broadly, Kirkness adds, the comparisons illustrate evolutionary influences that can shape mammalian genomes. In the study, the scientists first compared the two most complete canine genomes available. Those belong to Shadow, a standard poodle whose genome was published by TIGR in 2003, and Tasha, a boxer sequenced by the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2004. To compare Shadow's and Tasha's genomes, the researchers tracked short interspersed elements (SINEs) - stretches of DNA that occur randomly in the genomes of many organisms. SINEs are inserted near or within genes, often turning the expression of those genes up, down or even off. The scientists found that the poodle and boxer differ in their content of SINEs at 10,562 locations in their genomes. Broadening the study to compare SINEs among the additional nine dog breeds and five wild canids, the scientists estimated that the overall dog population contains at least 20,000 SINE differences. To genomics researchers, variable SINEs can act as signposts for genes linked to disease or traits. The dog is a unique genomics model. Through selective breeding, humans have created the highest degree of physical and behavioral differences seen within any species. Roughly 400 dog breeds exist, with specific breeds predisposed to heart disease, cancer, blindness, deafness and other common disorders. Identifying genes responsible for diseases or physical traits may be easier to do in dogs that have been genetically selected. Eventually, Kirkness predicts, efforts to document genetic differences between dogs will lead to major health gains for the animals. And perhaps humans, too; A dog genome is estimated to include 19,300 genes, nearly all of them corresponding to similar human genes. Humans suffer from many of the same illnesses as their four-legged friends, and even show similar symptoms, but the genetic underpinnings have proved difficult to trace. The genetic contributions to many common diseases appear to be easier to uncover in dogs. If so, it is a significant step forward in understanding the roots of genetic disease in both dogs and humans.

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