25,410 science & technology articles
 
  • Brazil passes trailblazing Internet privacy law
    A man reads the a website in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2013 Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday passed comprehensive legislation on Internet privacy in what some have likened to a web-user’s bill of rights, after stunning revelations its own president was targeted by US cyber-snooping. The lower House of Deputies had passed the bill earlier, and late Tuesday the Senate gave it a green light. That leaves only the expected signature into law from President Dilma Rousseff. “The bill sets out principles, guarantees, rights, and duties for Internet users, and Internet service providers” in Brazil, a statement on the Senate’s website said. The law is aimed at balancing freedom of expression and the web-users’ rights to privacy and protection of personal data, Rousseff says. Still, Brazilian authorities do not control what happens outside their country; the government-backed law stopped short of requiring companies such as Google and Facebook to store local users’ data in Brazilian data centers. Rousseff has spoken out forcefully against cyber-snooping revealed by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. The US eavesdropping targeted her staff’s communications and those of others at Petrobras, the state oil giant. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Brazil hosts meeting to craft Internet governance rules
    Brazil will host a meeting Wednesday on how the Internet should be governed in the future, aiming for global partnership after worldwide outrage over allegations of widespread online spying by the United States. … Read more
  • LinkedIn to anchor new San Francisco high-rise
    San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee says the professional networking site LinkedIn will expand its presence in the city by anchoring a high-rise office building under construction. Lee announced Tuesday that LinkedIn has signed a lease to occupy the entire 26-story structure scheduled to be completed in the city’s South of Market neighborhood by 2016. City officials say the nearly 450,000 square feet of office space could accommodate some 2,500 employees. Terms of the deal were not released. Mountain View-based LinkedIn Corp. currently occupies 135,000 square feet in a downtown San Francisco tower and plans to occupy another 87,000 square feet near downtown. Earlier this month, Salesforce.com signed a $560 million, 15-year lease to occupy a 61-story skyscraper in San Francisco that’s expected to be the tallest building on the West Coast when it’s completed in 2017. Source: Phys.org … Read more
  • Attacks on payment systems trail other cybercrimes
    Target’s massive data breach last year caused consumers to panic and drew attention to Internet crime. Yet a new study finds that breaches on retailer payment systems are less common than other kinds of attacks. … Read more
  • Former Iron Curtain still barrier for deer
    In this picture taken near the town of Harrachov, Czech Republic, on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 deer cross a creek in a winter enclosure. The Iron Curtain was traced by a real electrified barbed-wire fence that isolated the communist world from the West. It was an impenetrable Cold War barrier _ and for some inhabitants of the Czech Republic it still is. Deer still balk at crossing the border with Germany even though the physical fence came down a quarter century ago, with the painful Cold War past apparently still governing their behavior, new studies show. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) The Iron Curtain was traced by an electrified barbed-wire fence that isolated the communist world from the West. It was an impenetrable Cold War barrier—and for some inhabitants of the Czech Republic it still is. Deer still balk at crossing the border with Germany even though the physical fence came down a quarter century ago, new studies show. Czechoslovakia, where the communists took power in 1948, had three parallel electrified fences, patrolled by heavily armed guards. Nearly 500 people were killed when they attempted to escape communism. Deer were also victims of the barrier. A seven-year study in the Czech … Read more
  • Hundreds in Mexico protest telecommunications law
    Hundreds of students and activists marched in Mexico’s capital Tuesday to protest a telecommunications law being debated by the Senate that they say will allow the government to arbitrarily censor Internet content. … Read more
  • Microsoft expands ad-free Bing search for schools
    Microsoft is expanding a program that gives schools the ability to prevent ads from appearing in search results when they use its Bing search engine. The program, launched in a pilot program earlier this year, is now available to all U.S. schools, public or private, from kindergarten through the 12th grade. … Read more
  • Online retailers have clear advantage by not collecting sales tax
    Two independent studies use two very different approaches to reach the same conclusion: some online retailers really do have an advantage over traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The studies find evidence from investors, analysts and consumers themselves that suggest online stores have a competitive edge when they don’t have to collect sales tax from shoppers. … Read more
  • Florida is ‘Ground Zero’ for sea level rise
    A man stands in a life guard station as he watches the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean in Miami Beach, Florida on September 27, 2006 Warm sunshine and sandy beaches make south Florida and its crown city, Miami, a haven for tourists, but the area is increasingly endangered by sea level rise, experts said Tuesday. During a special Senate hearing held in Miami Beach, Senator Bill Nelson described south Florida as “Ground Zero” for climate change and its threats to coastal communities. The perils for Miami are particularly concerning because it has the most assets at stake in the world in terms of assets like homes, beachfront hotels and businesses, according to the World Resources Institute, a global research firm. Not only is there $14.7 billion in beachfront property, but Miami is also home to the world’s fourth largest population of people vulnerable to sea level rise, the WRI said. Nearly 20 million people live in the entire state of Florida, and about three quarters live on the coast, said Nelson. Waters rising The waters around south Florida are rising fast. The Florida coast has already seen 12 inches (30 centimeters) of sea rise since 1870. Another nine inches to two feet (23 to … Read more
  • Tesla delivers first China cars, plans expansion
    Customers and journalists examine a Tesla Model S sedan at an event in Beijing, China, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Tesla Motors delivered its first eight electric sedans to customers in China on Tuesday and Musk said the company will build a nationwide network of charging stations and service centers as fast as it can. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) Tesla Motors Inc. delivered its first eight electric sedans to customers in China on Tuesday and CEO Elon Musk said the company will build a nationwide network of charging stations and service centers as fast as it can. Tesla probably will invest several hundred million dollars in charging infrastructure in China, Musk told reporters. He said it will open several hundred service centers. “My instructions to the team are to spend money as fast as they can spend it without wasting it,” he said. The Palo Alto, California, company previously announced a $121,000 sticker price for its Model S in China. It said import taxes and shipping account for the difference with its U.S. price tag of $81,000. Customers received the first Model S sedans at a brief ceremony at Tesla’s office in a Beijing industrial park, also the site of its … Read more
  • New critter discovered on whale carcass
    A new species of bug, similar in appearance to the common woodlouse, has been found plastered all over a whale carcass on the floor of the deep Southern Ocean. Scientists say that Jaera tyleri is the first in its genus to be found in the southern hemisphere, and may be unique to the whale bone habitat. The bones themselves are a remarkable chance discovery. They were spotted on a live video feed, beamed to scientists aboard the RRS James Cook from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the sea floor. The UK researchers were searching the depths for hydrothermal vents, or ‘black smokers’, when they stumbled upon the remains. ‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Dr Katrin Linse of NERC’s British Antarctic Survey, who led the study . ‘We were all really thrilled. You could never hope to find a whale fall on purpose – it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.’ ‘It gave us a rare opportunity to look at the ecology of these unique habitats, and which sorts of species settle on them.’ ‘After spotting them on the cameras, we used the robotic arm of the ROV to pull a few of the bones up to the ship to examine … Read more
  • UK’s lead in physics healthy but insecure
    The quantity and quality of scientific papers produced by UK physicists indicates that the UK remains in an elite group of nations contributing at the leading edge of physics research. New research published today, Tuesday 22 April, shows that, when the quality of the UK’s scientific output is compared with that of its leading international competitor nations, the UK’s lead in physics comes despite a lack of investment relative to other scientific disciplines, such as the life sciences. … Read more
  • Hairballs are the natural result of your cat’s grooming behavior
    Believe it or not, April 25 is Hairball Awareness Day, one of the pet-health awareness events recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. If you have a pet cat, you’re probably plenty aware of hairballs: We find them on the carpet and accidentally step on them when we wake up, an unpleasant experience that triggers memory of hearing hacking in the middle of the night. Ugh. … Read more
  • Update: Cloaked DNA nanodevices survive pilot mission
      Wyss Institute Core Faculty member William Shih and Technology Development Fellow Steven Perrault explain why DNA nanodevices need protection inside the body, and how a virus-inspired strategy helps protect them.   It’s a familiar trope in science fiction: In enemy territory, activate your cloaking device. And real-world viruses use similar tactics to make themselves invisible to the immune system. Now scientists at Harvard’sWyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have mimicked these viral tactics to build the first DNA nanodevices that survive the body’s immune defenses. … Read more
  • Genetic testing shows Neanderthals less diverse than modern humans
    Homo neanderthalensis, adult male. Credit: John Gurche, artist / Chip Clark, photographer A large team of researchers with members from Europe, the U.S. and China has found evidence that suggests modern humans are more genetically diverse than were Neanderthals. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes genetic studies they did on Neanderthal specimens from three separate locations and compared them against one another to highlight differences. They report that Neanderthals were much less diverse than modern humans suggesting they lived more isolated lives. Neanderthals, once one of our closet living relatives, split off on the family tree approximately 550,000 to 765,000 years ago, though recent evidence suggests there was intermingling before Neanderthals, for whatever reason, disappeared. They are considered to be an extinct species of human beings, of the genus Homo. They lived throughout Eurasia, from Western Europe to Central and Northern Asia, and may have died out as recently as 45,000 years ago (the date is still in dispute.) They have been in the news of late as scientists have discovered that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred— approximately 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the genomes of modern non-African people today is Neanderthal. In … Read more
  • Carnegie Mellon system lets iPad users explore data with their fingers
    Spreadsheets may have been the original killer app for personal computers, but data tables don’t play to the strengths of multi-touch devices such as tablets. So researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a visualization approach that allows people to explore complex data with their fingers. … Read more
  • People pay more attention to the upper half of field of vision, study finds
    A new study from North Carolina State University and the University of Toronto finds that people pay more attention to the upper half of their field of vision – a finding which could have ramifications for everything from traffic signs to software interface design. … Read more
  • Male health linked to testosterone exposure in womb, study finds
    Ball-and-stick model of the testosterone molecule, C19H28O2, as found in the crystal structure of testosterone monohydrate. Credit: Ben Mills/Wikipedia Men’s susceptibility to serious health conditions may be influenced by low exposure to testosterone in the womb, new research suggests. A study has revealed how men’s testosterone levels may be determined before they are born. Understanding why some men have less of the hormone than others is important because testosterone is crucial for life-long health. Low levels of the hormone have been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Researchers have shown that the cells responsible for producing testosterone in adults – known as Leydig cells – are derived from a specific population of stem cellsfound in the testes. The team found evidence of these stem cells in the developing testes of babies, rats, mice and marmosets in the womb. Leydig cells do not develop until puberty but the team showed that their function is impaired if their stem cell forefathers are exposed to reduced levels of testosterone in the womb. Read more at: MedicalXpress … Read more
  • Cyber risks can cause disruption on scale of 2008 crisis, study says
    A visitor walks past a stand offering security solutions for the Internet at the 2014 CeBIT computer technology trade fair on March 10, 2014 in Hanover Organisations must dramatically improve their response to cyber risks to avoid a new global shock on the scale of the financial crisis that rocked the world in 2008, a study showed Tuesday. Zurich Insurance said in a statement that even cyber security professionals did not have a clear overview of all the interconnected risks organisations can face. The Swiss insurance group, which has produced a report on cyber risks in cooperation with the Atlantic Council think tank, warned that “a build-up in these risks could create a failure on a similar scale to the 2008 financial crisis“. Subprime mortgages were at the root of that crisis which began when the US housing market collapsed, dragging down major banks, and causing panic on world financial markets. The Zurich Cyber Risk Report said IT risks could pose a threat of a similar scale. “Few people truly understand their own computers or the Internet, or the cloud to which they connect, just a few truly understood the financial system as a whole or the parts to which they are most directly … Read more
  • Vacuum ultraviolet lamp of the future created in Japan
    The VUV lamp, which has a potential to be powerful tool for the surface treatment and optical cleaning, was demonstrated. Credit: S. ONO/Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech) A team of researchers in Japan has developed a solid-state lamp that emits high-energy ultraviolet (UV) light at the shortest wavelengths ever recorded for such a device, from 140 to 220 nanometers. This is within the range of vacuum-UV light—so named because while light of that energy can propagate in a vacuum, it is quickly absorbed by oxygen in the air. This fact makes vacuum UV light extremely useful for industrial applications from sterilizing medical devices to cleaning semiconductor substrates because when it strikes oxygen-containing molecules on a surface, it generates highly reactive oxygen radicals, which can completely destroy any microbes contaminating that surface. Existing commercial vacuum UV lamps are bulky and expensive, however. They also use a lot of power, run hot, have short lifetimes and contain toxic gasses that can pollute the environment and harm people. The new lamp avoids those issues because it was fabricated with a solid-state phosphor made from a thin film of KMgF3, which is easy to make, avoids the use of toxic gasses and does not … Read more
  • Paleoanthropologists use models to show humans may have left Africa earlier than thought
    Landmarks shown in one individual cranium. Credit: Katerina Harvati/University of Tübingen and Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment A team of European researchers is suggesting that humans dispersed out of Africa in multiple waves, rather than in just one, and that it occurred much earlier than has been previously thought. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes how they built migration models based on gene flow and skull characteristics to predict human migration out of Africa. Scientists have generally agreed that humans first migrated out of Africa 40,000 to 70,000 years ago, culminating in settlements that span the globe. That estimate has been rocked in recent years however, by discoveries of stone artifacts in the Arabian Desert that date back at least 100,000 years (close to the time that modern humans were thought to have arisen). In this new effort, the researchers have expanded on the idea that humans may have left Africa sooner than most had thought, and that it likely happened via multiple routes, rather than just one. The models the team built took into account genetic dispersal and human skull shape—they created four possible model scenarios of migration—two that … Read more
  • Teens who gain pleasure from helping others could be less prone to depression, research shows
    Balloon Analog Risk Task. On each trial of the task, participants are shown a virtual balloon. Participants can make one of two button responses: pump or cash-out. For every decision to pump the balloon, participants earn a monetary reward (A–D). At any point the participant can choose to cashout and keep the accumulated earnings (E). If the participant pumps the balloon too large, the balloon may explode, and the participant will earn no money for that trial (F). Credit: (c) PNAS, 2014. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323014111 Happiness derived from tasks that help others, like raising money for a charity, could be better for teen mental health than happiness derived from selfish activities, like eating chocolate or listening to music, according to research by Adriana Galvan of the University of California and her colleagues. Galvan and her team studied how teens’ brains respond to these two different ways of finding happiness. They found that teens who are more likely to gain pleasure from helpful tasks are less likely to develop depressive symptoms than teens who are more likely to gain pleasure from selfish ones. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As far back as the fourth century BC, Aristotle … Read more
  • Researchers achieve higher solar-cell efficiency with zinc-oxide coating
    Yahia Makableh demonstrates how a small array of 9-millimeter, gallium-arsenide solar cells can provide energy for small devices. Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have achieved the highest efficiency ever in a 9 millimeter-squared solar cell made of gallium arsenide. After coating the cufflink-sized cells with a thin layer of zinc oxide, the research team reached a conversion efficiency of 14 percent. A small array of these cells – as few as nine to 12 – generate enough energy for small light-emitting diodes and other devices. But surface modification can be scaled up, and the cells can be packaged in large arrays of panels to power large devices such as homes, satellites, or even spacecraft. The research team, led by Omar Manasreh, professor of electrical engineering, published its findings in Applied Physics Letters and the April 2014 issue of Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells. An alternative to silicon, gallium arsenide is a semiconductor used to manufacture integrated circuits, light-emitting diodes and solar cells. The surface modification, achieved through a chemical synthesis of thin films, nanostructures and nanoparticles, suppressed the sun’s reflection so the cell could absorb more light. But even without the surface coating, the researchers were able to achieve 9-percent efficiency … Read more
  • Research shows impact of Facebook unfriending
    Two studies from the University of Colorado Denver are shedding new light on the most common type of `friend’ to be unfriended on Facebook and their emotional responses to it. The studies, published earlier this year, show that the most likely person to be unfriended is a high school acquaintance. “The most common reason for unfriending someone from high school is that the person posted polarizing comments often about religion or politics,” said Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student in the Computer Science and Information Systems program at the CU Denver Business School. “The other big reason for unfriending was frequent, uninteresting posts.” Sibona’s first study examined `context collapse and unfriending behaviors’ on Facebook and his second looked at `the emotional response to being unfriended.’ Both studies were based on a survey of 1,077 people conducted on Twitter. The first study found that the top five kinds of people respondents unfriended were: High School friends Other Friend of a friend Work friends Common interest friend “We found that people often unfriend co-workers for their actions in the real world rather than anything they post on Facebook,” Sibona said. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Rainbow trout genome sequenced
     Using fish bred at Washington State University, an international team of researchers has mapped the genetic profile of the rainbow trout, a versatile salmonid whose relatively recent genetic history opens a window into how vertebrates evolve. The 30-person team, led by Yann Guiguen of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, reports its findings this week in Nature Communications. … Read more
  • Cougars’ diverse diet helped them survive the Pleistocene mass extinction
    Credit: Wikimedia Commons Cougars may have survived the mass extinction that took place about 12,000 years ago because they were not particular about what they ate, unlike their more finicky cousins–the saber-tooth cat and American lion. Both perished along with the woolly mammoth and many of the other supersized mammals that walked the Earth during the late Pleistocene. … Read more
  • Volitional control from optical signals
    Building better brain control interfaces with detailed imaging. Credit: thinktechuk.wordpress.com In their quest to build better BMIs, or brain-machine-interfaces, researchers have recently begun to look closer at the sub-threshold activity of neurons. The reason for this trend is that with only a limited number of recording sites availible in any practical interface, researchers want to get the most complete signal possible from each one. The problem with only using spikes from the output pyramidal cells of the cortex, is that relatively speaking, these guys only put out a spike every once in a blue moon. The real story emerges over much shorter timescales within the dendritic networks of these cells. Efforts to use these smaller potentials as indicators of volitional intent, recorded in the guise of calcium signals, has gotten under way by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley. The team, lead by electrical engineer Jose Carmena, reported their latest results in a recent issue Nature Neuroscience. Using two-photon imaging the group was able to record every cell within a 150 x 150 μm field of view. They focused on layer II-III neurons form the mouse motor or somatosensory cortex which specifically expressed the genetically-encoded calcium indicator gCaMP6f. Read more at: … Read more
  • Mantis shrimp stronger than airplanes
    NOTE TO REPORTERS: There are mantis shrimp in the lab of David Kisailus that can be photographed and filmed.  Inspired by the fist-like club of a mantis shrimp, a team of researchers led by University of California, Riverside, in collaboration with University of Southern California and Purdue University, have developed a design structure for composite materials that is more impact resistant and tougher than the standard used in airplanes. “The more we study the club of this tiny crustacean, the more we realize its structure could improve so many things we use every day,” said David Kisailus, a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Science and the Winston Chung Endowed Chair of Energy Innovation at the UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering.   David Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical engineering, in his lab.PHOTO CREDIT: CARLOS PUMA The peacock mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, is a 4- to 6-inch-long rainbow-colored crustacean with a fist-like club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. Researchers, led by Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical engineering, are interested in the club because it can strike prey thousands of times without breaking. The force created by the impact of the mantis shrimp’s club is more than 1,000 times … Read more
  • Unique pair of supermassive black holes in an ordinary galaxy discovered
    A pair of supermassive black holes in orbit around one another have been discovered by an international research team including Stefanie Komossa from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. This is the first time such a pair could be found in an ordinary galaxy. They were discovered because they ripped apart a star when ESA’s space observatory XMM-Newton happened to be looking in their direction.The findings are published in the May 10 issue of the “Astrophysical Journal”, and appeared online today at the astrophysics preprint server. … Read more
  • Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultrathin solar cells
    In the quest to reduce solar energy costs, Stanford engineers survey how researchers are trying to get more bang per buck inside the silicon crystals where light meets matter to make energy. In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultrathin solar cells that cut material costs. At the same time, they’re keeping these thin cells efficient by sculpting their surfaces with photovoltaic nanostructures that behave like a molecular hall of mirrors. … Read more
  • High-performance, low-cost ultracapacitors built with graphene and carbon nanotubes
    A scanning electron microscope image shows the ultracapacitor’s composite film containing graphene flakes and single-walled carbon nanotubes. Credit: Journal of Applied Physics By combining the powers of two single-atom-thick carbon structures, researchers at the George Washington University’s Micro-propulsion and Nanotechnology Laboratory have created a new ultracapacitor that is both high performance and low cost. The device, described in the Journal of Applied Physics, capitalizes on the synergy brought by mixing graphene flakes with single-walled carbon nanotubes, two carbon nanostructures with complementary properties. Ultracapacitors are souped-up energy storage devices that hold high amounts of energy and can also quickly release that energy in a surge of power. By combining the high energy-density properties of batteries with the high power-density properties of conventional capacitors, ultracapacitors can boost the performance of electric vehicles, handheld electronics, audio systems and more. Single-walled carbon nanotubes and graphene both have unique and excellent electronic, thermal, and mechanical properties that make them attractive materials for designing new ultracapacitors, said Jian Li, first author on the paper. Many groups had explored the use of the two materials separately, but few had looked at combining them, he said. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Bright lights, small crystals: Scientists use nanoparticles to capture images of single molecules
    Luminescence of UCNPs. a, Schematic of energy transfer upconversion with Yb3+ as sensitizer and Er3+ as emitter. b, Minimum peak excitation intensities of NIR light needed for multiphoton single-molecule imaging of various classes of luminescent probes. The peak excitation intensity ranges shown are required to detect signals of 100 c.p.s. Credit: Courtesy Daniel Gargas, Emory Chan, Bruce Cohen, and P. James Schuck, The Molecular Foundry, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory   When imaging at the single-molecule level, small irregularities known as heterogeneities become apparent – features that are lost in higher-scale, so-called ensemble imaging. At the same time, it has until recently been challenging to develop luminescent probes with the photostability, brightness and continuous emission necessary for single-molecule microscopy. Now, however, scientists in the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Berkeley, CA have developed upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) under 10 nm in diameter whose brightness under single-particle imaging exceeds that of existing materials by over an order of magnitude. The researchers state that their findings make a range of applications possible, including cellular and in vivo imaging, as well as reporting on local electromagnetic near-field properties of complex nanostructures. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Sloth guts are designed for hanging upside down, study finds
    A three-toed sloth (Bradypus) plays at the Aiunau Foundation in Caldas, Colombia on September 15, 2012 Three-toed sloths have a unique abdominal design—their innards fixed to their lower ribs to avoid squashing the lungs while hanging upside down, a study said Wednesday. The South and Central American forest dweller, also known as the brown-throated sloth, spends a large part of its life hanging from its hind legs to reach young, tender leaves growing on the tips of branches, as well as to groom. With its slow metabolism, it may take the sloth a month to digest a single leaf, and it can store a third of its bodyweight in urine and faeces—which it deposits about once a week. “This means that the stomach and bowel contents make up a considerable proportion of their body mass,” said Rebecca Cliffe of the Swansea Laboratory for Animal Movement in Wales, who co-authored the study in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Pentagon scientists show off life-size Atlas robot
    US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) is shown the Atlas robot by Brad Tousley, head of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, at the Pentagon on April 22, 2014 US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got a first-hand look at a life-size robot that resembles Hollywood’s “Terminator,” the latest experiment by the Pentagon’s hi-tech researchers. But unlike the cinematic version, the hulking Atlas robot is designed not as a warrior but as a humanitarian machine that would rescue victims in the rubble of a natural disaster, officials said on Tuesday. The 6-foot-2-inch (187 centimeters) Atlas is one of the entrants in a contest designed to produce a man-like life-saver machine, the brainchild of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The competition, which will require the bots to navigate rough terrain and enter buildings, was created in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima quake and tsunami disasters. DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm known for futuristic projects often evoking science fiction, showed off the Atlas robot to Hagel, but except for LED lighting, the humanoid was apparently switched off on a “static” display. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Telescope tech using membrane optics moves to Phase 2
    Instead of using traditional glass mirrors or lenses, MOIRE seeks to diffract light with Fresnel lenses made from a lightweight membrane roughly the thickness of household plastic wrap. MOIRE would house the membranes in thin metal “petals” that would launch in a tightly packed configuration. Upon reaching its destination orbit, the satellite would then unfold the petals to create the full-size multi-lens optics. The United States military’s advanced research arm (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA) never bored with the topic of finding smaller, less expensive launch vehicles, is now in Phase 2 of a program called MOIRE. The program is for creating first-ever images using lightweight membrane optics. MOIRE could help redefine how orbital telescopes are built, launched and used. MOIRE stands for the Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation. DARPA said, “MOIRE aims to create technologies that would enable future high-resolution orbital telescopes to provide real-time video and images of the Earth from Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO)—roughly 22,000 miles above the planet’s surface.” This would be a step forward; size and cost constraints have prevented placing large-scale imaging satellites in GEO. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Robot scouts rooms people can’t enter
    Pictured from left to right: Jeff Rojo, Preston Yeschick, Matt Bodington, Travis Marshall and Steven Sanchez. Photo by: Allie Nicodemo Download image    Firefighters, police officers and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at Arizona State University is working on a project that would help alleviate that uncertainty.       related video Students solve industry challenges through iProjects Watch full size video. “We’re creating a room-mapping system that can be used to map rooms in three-dimensional space,” says Travis Marshall, a student in the College of Technology and Innovation. With guidance from two faculty mentors, Marshall and four other ASU students are working with Sandia National Laboratories to come up with a way to scan a room and produce a 3-D rendering of what’s inside. The product they’re building consists of a laser sensor attached to a motor that sweeps all the way around a room, taking 700-800 individual scans, each one with about 680 unique data points. This information is transmitted to a computer program that creates a picture of the room and all its contents. Whoever is controlling the sensor remotely can … Read more
  • Team builds world’s first CubeSat microgravity laboratory
    ASU researchers build their own ‘patch of asteroid’ inside of a small spinning satellite     A dozen astronauts have walked on the moon, and several rovers have been piloted on Mars, giving us a good understanding of these off world environments. But when it comes to asteroids, scientists enter uncharted territory. Landing on an asteroid is notoriously difficult. Asteroids have very little gravity, because they have very little mass. Most of them appear to be rubble piles held together loosely, with surfaces covered in boulders and gravels and fine materials, much like the moon, but with a lot more cohesion. On an asteroid, a rock the size of a bank building weighs as much as a cricket on Earth, making an astronaut like a superman. But what would you anchor to, what you would land on, and how would you move around? Because scientists and engineers don’t know the most basic mechanical properties of an asteroid, sending a billion dollar landing mission to an asteroid is risky and even likely to fail, until some preliminary investigations are conducted, requiring years of lead time. A team at Arizona State University is looking to mitigate that risk and improve that schedule … Read more
  • In the ‘slime jungle’ height matters
    3D rendering showing multiple patches of loosely packed mutant cells (yellow) pushing through and over the densely packed parent cells (red).  In communities of microbes, akin to ‘slime jungles’, cells evolve not just to grow faster than their rivals but also to push themselves to the surface of colonies where they gain the best access to oxygen, new research shows. An international team led by Oxford University researchers has demonstrated a link between the success of cells within a slime jungle and their ability to position themselves. In a series of experiments the team found that within these dense communities mutant bacteria that used secretions to grow upwards into ‘towers’ were more successful than ‘normal’ bacteria that lay low. It suggests that in such dense communities natural selection drives cells to grow upwards. Whilst the experiments used a soil bacterium (Pseudomonas fluorescens), understanding slime jungles is important as the microbes building such communities include many disease-causing bacteria – bacterial communities (biofilms) account for 80% of all chronic infections and many have evolved a resistance to antibiotics. A report of the research is published in the journal PNAS. ‘These biofilm colonies are the jungles of the microbial world, where bacteria live in close proximity and jostle for space and nutrients,’ said Professor … Read more
  • Dying coral reefs threaten the livelihood of millions
    Coral reefs with healthy structural complexity provide numerous hiding places for reef fish. Declining coral reef health is threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people living in the coastal tropics, according to a study by University of Queensland researchers. Lead author Dr Alice Rogers said coral reefs were dying due to pollution, climate change and overfishing and further decline would impact on reef fisheries. “We studied coral reefs in the Caribbean where many people rely on reef fisheries for food and income,” said Dr Rogers from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences and University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences. “We found the continued declines in reef health could lead to a considerable reduction in fishery catches and negative impacts on the livelihoods of these people.” The researchers studied coral reefs in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in The Bahamas, one of the best-protected marine parks in the Caribbean. Dr Rogers said they measured the abundance and type of fish in areas of high and low complexity reef. “Corals create an amazingly complex habitat with lots of holes, cracks and crevices that serve as hiding places and homes for a huge abundance and diversity of organisms,” … Read more
  • Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell
    A single gold nanoparticle, or monomer, appears green when illuminated (top left), while a pair of gold nanoparticles bound to an mRNA splice variant, or dimer, appears reddish (top right). Monomers and dimers also scatter light differently, as shown in the graph above. (Purdue University image / Joseph Irudayaraj) Download Photo Purdue University researchers have developed a way to detect and measure cancer levels in a living cell by using tiny gold particles with tails of synthetic DNA. A team led by Joseph Irudayaraj, professor ofagricultural and biological engineering, used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these mRNA splice variants in a cell can be determined by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles. … Read more
  • Disorder on the nanoscale may be responsible for solar-cell efficiency
    Methylammonium lead iodide perovskite In the past few years, perovskite solar cells have made large leaps forward in efficiency, recently achieving energy conversion with up to 16 percent efficiency. These simple and promising devices are easy enough to make and are made up of earth abundant materials, but little work has been done to explore their atomic makeup. Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia University used high-energy x-rays at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) to characterize the structure of methylammonium lead iodide (MAPbI3) in titanium oxide – the active material in high-performance perovskite solar cells. Their results are reported in a paper published online in Nano Letters on November 22, 2013, Photoluminescent properties of these materials are thought to depend sensitively on the degree of structural order and defects. To characterize the structure, the researchers used beamline X17A at NSLS to study samples of the MAPbI3. Atomic pair distribution function analysis of x-ray diffraction data revealed that 30 percent of the material forms a tetragonal perovskite phase, while 70 percent exists in a disordered state. The presence of disordered material correlates with strong changes in the photoluminescence and absorbance spectra. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Material prevents plastic from ageing, offering environmental and cost savings for the energy industry
    Dr Sam Lau holding up a plastic membrane that has received a ‘shot of botox’. When applied to plastic lining this ‘botox for plastic’ can clean up exhaust gases from power plants much more effectively than existing methods. Currently, the techniques industry use to separate out raw materials such as gases, liquids and solids are extremely energy-intensive, accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s energy use each year. According to lead author Dr Sam Lau, the new ‘botox’ technique offers a solution that will make the separation process a staggering 50 times faster. “At the moment power generators rely on plastic linings made up of tiny holes just one nanometre wide, a tiny fraction of a width of a human hair,” he said. “For decades scientists have been trying to improve the efficiency of this process by using plastics with larger holes. However, these larger openings tend to age very quickly and collapse within a matter of days. “What we’ve done is make use of incredible compact materials known as Metallic Organic Frameworks – or MOFs – which have the surface area of a football field in just one gram. “We found that the density of the MOFs acts like a … Read more
  • Protein expression gets the heart pumping
    Heart diagram. Credit: Wikipedia Most people think the development of the heart only happens in the womb, however the days and weeks following birth are full of cellular changes that play a role in the structure and function of the heart. Using mouse models, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have now been able to categorize the alternative splicing (the process in which genes code proteins, determining their role) that takes place during these changes and what mechanisms they affect. The findings, which appear in Nature Communications, also helped to identify a protein that regulates some of the alternative splicing and then goes on to change dramatically in its expression during the postnatal period. “The cells of the heart stop dividing after birth but they have to continue growing and working together for the heart to pump the blood. So basically, we have made the connection between the process of alternative splicing and the development of this system that coordinates heart contraction and function,” said Thomas Cooper, the S. Donald Greenberg professor of pathology & immunology at Baylor. Read more at: medicalXpress … Read more
  • For an immune cell, microgravity mimics aging
    At specified times during the T-Cell Activation in Aging study, the International Space Station’s crew will use hand-operated tools to add activation and fixative materials to experiment units like the one seen here. Credit: Millie Hughes-Fulford Telling someone to “act your age” is another way of asking him or her to behave better. Age, however, does not always bring improvements. Certain cells of the immune system tend to misbehave with age, leaving the elderly more vulnerable to illness. Because these cells are known to misbehave similarly during spaceflight, researchers are studying the effects of microgravity on immune cells to better understand how our immune systems change as we age. NASA and the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, have teamed up to support research aboard the International Space Station that may one day advance medical care and quality of life for all humanity. T-Cell Activation in Aging is the first study to launch into space that is funded by the Biomedical Research on the International Space Station National Institutes of Health initiative. It is difficult to study the genetic and molecular changes associated with aging-related immune suppression because the condition develops over decades, and the elderly often … Read more
  • Lead in ‘tap-water’ in ancient Rome up to 100 times more than local spring waters
    Mercatus Traiani (Trajan’s market), a semi circular ancient market in Rome’s historical city center. Credit: Elias Z. Ziadeh/Wikipedia A team of researchers with members from France, Great Britain and the U.S. has found that lead concentrations in drinking water in Rome, during the height of the Roman Empire were 100 times that of local spring waters. In their paper published inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they took sediment samples from two sources in the city that revealed lead levels over a thousand year period. Scientists and historians have for years debated the possibility that lead poisoning was a contributing factor in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire—water carried from afar in aqueducts was directed into lead pipes for distribution in the empire’s capital city of Rome—leading to speculation that leaders had gone mad due to exposure in their drinking water. In this new effort, the researchers have concluded that while lead levels in the ancient drinking water were high, they weren’t high enough to have been a major health hazard, and thus, lead cannot be blamed for the demise of the empire. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Low-cost 3D printed hand suits man for daily needs
      Jose Delgado, Jr., a 53-year-old man born without most of his left hand, has given positive feedback about a $50 3D prosthetic hand. He talked about all it can help him do in a video that was presented by the person who helped make the hand. Delgado’s account, praising the hand for enabling good day to day functionality, made the rounds of tech sites this week. The story drew interest not only because this is a 3D-printed prosthesis but also because he said that, in a number of ways, he liked it better than his $42K myoelectric prosthesis. (A myoelectric-controlled prosthesis is an artificial limb that you control with the electrical signals generated naturally by your own muscles.) Delgado’s myoelectric hand tapped into muscle signals on his arm to trigger the closing or opening of the fingers. The story involves Jeremy Simon, founding partner at 3D Universe. Delgado asked if Simon could help make a 3D printed prosthesis for him. Simon worked with Delgado in developing a suitable 3D-printed hand. “Jose found his way to me and asked if I could help make a 3D printed prosthesis for him.” The total cost of materials for a 3D printed e-NABLE … Read more
  • Commonly available blood-pressure medication prevents epilepsy after severe brain injury
    Between 10 and 20 percent of all cases of epilepsy result from severe head injury, but a new drug promises to prevent post-traumatic seizures and may forestall further brain damage caused by seizures in those who already have epilepsy. A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, Ben-Gurion University in Israel and Charité-University Medicine in Germany reports in the current issue of the journal Annals of Neurology that a commonly used hypertension drug prevents a majority of cases of post-traumatic epilepsy in a rodent model of the disease. If independent experiments now underway in rats confirm this finding, human clinical trials could start within a few years. … Read more
  • First size-based chromatography technique for the study of living cells
    With size-based chromatography, a hexagonally ordered array of gold nanoparticles is fabricated onto a hybrid live cell-supported membrane. Membrane components move freely through the array provided they don’t exceed its physical dimensions. This reveals organizational aspects of the membrane environment unobservable by other techniques. Using nanodot technology, Berkeley Lab researchers have demonstrated the first size-based form of chromatography that can be used to study the membranes of living cells. This unique physical approach to probing cellular membrane structures can reveal information critical to whether a cell lives or dies, remains normal or turns cancerous, that can’t be obtained through conventional microscopy. “We’ve developed membrane-embedded nanodot array platforms that provide a physical means to both probe and manipulate membrane assemblies, including signaling clusters, while they are functioning in the membrane of a living cell,” says Jay Groves, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, who led this research. Groves, who is also a professor with the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Chemistry Department, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, is a recognized leader in developing techniques for studying the impact of spatial patterns on living cells. The live-cell supported synthetic membranes he and his group have been developing are … Read more
  • Team shows potential of RNA as heat-resistant polymer material for nanoarchitectures
    (Phys.org) —A team of nanotechnology researchers at the University of Kentucky has discovered new methods to build heat resistant nanostructures and arrays using RNA. The research, led by Peixuan Guo, professor and William Farish Endowed Chair in Nanobiotechnology at the UK College of Pharmacy and Markey Cancer Center, is reported in an article titled “RNA as a Boiling-Resistant Anionic Polymer Material To Build Robust Structures with Defined Shape and Stoichiometry,” coauthored by Emil F. Khisamutdinov and Daniel L. Jasinski. The article, which will appear in a forthcoming edition of the journal ACS Nano, published by the American Chemical Society (ACS), was selected as an ACS “Editors’ Choice” and prepublication data is available for free download. Chemical polymers have seen extensive use in a variety of industries—including clothing, piping, plastics, containers, bottles, cookware, tools and medical materials for drug delivery and tissue engineer materials—because of their high stability and ability to hold their global shape and size. However, on the microscopic scale, these polymers form into random micro-structures, making their size and shape difficult to control. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • In Mediterranean marble, secrets of the global carbon cycle
    Yale scientists have clarified how calcium carbonate from rocks transforms into carbon dioxide gas by studying Mediterranean marble. Here, a microscopic view of Epidote mineral crystals, which formed from the dissolution reactions that liberated carbon dioxide. The individual crystals are only a few millimeters long. (Photo courtesy of Jay Ague/Yale)     Scientists at Yale University have clarified how carbon dioxide escapes minerals deep inside Earth and seeps into the planet’s atmosphere, a significant step in the planet’s natural carbon cycle. Deeper insight into the cycle helps scientists more accurately assess how humans are altering carbon’s movement and affecting the planet’s climate. … Read more
  • Engineering students invent virtual fitting room for online shoppers
    One blessing of the Internet: shopping conveniently online for clothes. One curse of the Internet: shopping conveniently online for clothes. “Nothing fits,” said Lam Yuk Wong, a senior in electrical and computer engineering at Rice University. “Everybody says this. They order clothes and they don’t fit. People get very unhappy.” … Read more
  • Drones unearth more details about Chaco culture
    Recently published research describes how archaeologists outfitted a customized drone with a heat-sensing camera to unearth what they believe are ceremonial pits and other features at the site of an ancient village in New Mexico. The discovery of the structures hidden beneath layers of sediment and sagebrush is being hailed as an important step that could help archaeologists shed light on mysteries long buried by eroding desert landscapes from the American Southwest to the Middle East. The results of the research were published earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science. … Read more
  • Sixty percent of Japanese support whale hunt
    A handout picture taken by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) in 2013 shows a Bryde’s whale on the deck of a Japanese whaling ship Sixty percent of Japanese people support the country’s whaling programme, but only 14 percent eat whale meat, a new poll showed Tuesday. The survey comes less than a month after the United Nations’ top court ruled the annual mission to the Southern Ocean by Japanese whaling vessels was a commercial hunt masquerading as science in a bid to skirt an international ban. A weekend opinion poll conducted by the liberal Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed that 60 percent of 1,756 voters supported the “research” whaling programme, against 23 percent who opposed it. Asked how often they ate whale meat, however, only four percent said they eat “sometimes” and another 10 percent said they eat it “fairly infrequently”. Nearly half (48 percent) said they have not eaten it for “a long time”, while 37 percent of respondents said they never eat whale meat. Although not difficult to find in Japan, whale meat is not a regular part of most Japanese people’s diet. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • NASA’s MMS observatories stacked for testing
    All four stacked Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, spacecraft with solar arrays are ready to move to the vibration chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where they will undergo environmental tests. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn Engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories – also called mini-stacks—at a time, to construct a full four-stack of observatories. Next, the MMS four-stack will be carefully transported from their Goddard cleanroom to a special vibration facility—housed within the same immense integration and testing facility—where they will be secured to a large shaking table and subjected to vibration tests. These tests help to ensure the structural integrity of the stacked spacecraft prior to shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The vibration tests determine whether the four MMS spacecraft can withstand the extreme vibration and dynamic loads they will experience inside the fairing of the Atlas V launch vehicle on launch day. It’s during the first moments after lift-off that the spacecraft is exposed to the most stress. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Hyperbolic homogeneous polynomials, oh my!
    Hyperbolic homogeneous equations on the chalkboard in Professor Dinakar Ramakrishnan’s office at Caltech. Credit: Cynthia Eller   Cutting-edge mathematics today, at least to the uninitiated, often sounds as if it bears no relation to the arithmetic we all learned in grade school. What do topology and combinatorics and n-dimensional space have to do with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division? Yet there remains within mathematics one vibrant field of study that makes constant reference to basic arithmetic: number theory. Number theory—the “queen of mathematics,” according to the famous 19th century mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss—takes integers as its starting point. Begin counting 1, 2, 3, and you enter the domain of number theory. Number theorists are particularly interested in prime numbers (those integers that cannot be divided by any number other than itself and 1) and Diophantine equations. Diophantine equations are polynomial equations (those with two or more variables) in which the coefficients are all integers. It is these equations that are the inspiration for a recent proof offered by Dinakar Ramakrishnan, Caltech’s Taussky-Todd-Lonergan Professor of Mathematics and executive officer for mathematics, and his coauthor, Mladen Dimitrov, formerly an Olga Taussky and John Todd Instructor in Mathematics at Caltech and now professor of mathematics at … Read more
  • Students take clot-buster for a spin
    In the hands of some Rice University senior engineering students, a fishing rod is more than what it seems. For them, it’s a way to help destroy blood clots that threaten lives. … Read more
  • Students design ‘nested’ dumpster to slash shipping costs
    Behind strip malls and fast-food restaurants, they stand solid, dependable and mostly forgotten, awaiting our refuse. Mobile waste receptacles, known generically as dumpsters, are as much a part of the American landscape as sidewalks and sewers. Most of the commercial waste produced in the United States ends up in them, and dumpsters have proven an efficient means of trash disposal and collection. … Read more
  • Apple offering free recycling of all used products
    Employees wear green shirts near Apple’s familiar logo displayed with a green leaf at the Apple Store timed to coincide with Tuesday’s annual celebration of Earth Day in Sydney, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Apple is offering free recycling of all its used products and vowing to power all of its stores, offices and data centers with renewable energy to reduce the pollution caused by its devices and online services. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) Apple is offering free recycling of all its used products and vowing to power all of its stores, offices and data centers with renewable energy to reduce the pollution caused by its devices and online services. The iPhone and iPad maker is detailing its efforts to cultivate a greener Apple Inc. in an environmental section on the company’s website that debuted Monday. The site highlights the ways that the Cupertino, California, company is increasing its reliance on alternative power sources and sending less electronic junk to landfills. Apple had already been distributing gift cards at some of its 420 worldwide stores in exchange for iPhones and iPods still in good enough condition to be resold. Now, all of the company’s stores will recycle any Apple product at no charge. Gift … Read more
  • Taiwan sets up sanctuary for endangered humpback dolphin
    This handout photo taken by the Taiwan Forestry Bureau on August 26, 2009 and released on April 21, 2014 shows two Ido-Pacific humpback dolphins swimming in the Taiwan Strait Taiwan is setting up its first marine wildlife sanctuary, in a bid to protect its dwindling population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, officials said Monday. Local conservation groups say the dolphin numbers have halved to around 60 in the past decade, due to pollution, industrial development, and destruction of habitat. “Indo-Pacific dolphin population is a key index to measure the health of the maritime environment,” said Tsai Chia-yang, the head of the Chuanghua Environmental Protection Union. The Council of Agriculture confirmed it will establish a vast 76,300 hectare (188,461 acres) sanctuary off the west coast of the country. “We’re happy to announce the setting up of the sanctuary before this year’s Earth Day,” Kuan Li-hao, an official of the forestry bureau, referring to the annual United Nations event launched in 1970 and celebrated on April 22. Normal fishing in the area will be unaffected, as the government said a total ban would not be possible as sanctuary’s success depended on the cooperation of local fishermen. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • New multiscale model unifies physical laws of water flow to span all scales
    The unified multiscale model developed at PNNL couples water transport equations in such a way that this one model can represent transport at both pore (top) and watershed (bottom) scales. Water moves through multifaceted physical boundaries. This poses a significant challenge for scientists who must simulate water flow across many domains. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) conquered this barrier by merging different physical laws. Their new approach can describe any type of water flow in soils and the terrestrial ecosystem, in soil pores, streams, lakes, rivers and oceans, and in mixed media of pores and solids for soil and aquifer. The versatile properties of the new approach allow cross-domain simulation of water flow at different scales. The research was published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal. From stream flow, to soil and irrigation saturation, to underground aquifers, understanding how water travels through many varied regions is important for understanding water cycling and its effect on agriculture, water conservation, and climate changes. For scientists, the challenge is simulating water’s travels through many different domains in ways that are efficient and effective. Soil is a complex system consisting of large spaces (macropore) where water easily flows and small spaces … Read more
  • ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth
    Artist’s concept image of ISEE-3 (ICE) spacecraft. Credit: NASA It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian 1, or L1. Monitoring that wind helped scientists better understand the interconnected sun-Earth system, which at its most turbulent can affect satellites around Earth. In 1984, it was given a new mission and called the International Cometary Explorer. In September 1985, it passed directly through the tail of Comet Giacobini-Zinner, making it the first spacecraft to encounter and gather data from a comet. It also went on to fly by Comet Halley in March 1986. From 1991 until 1997, when it was too far away for reliable communications, this satellite continued to investigate the sun. Now it’s coming home to visit – making its closest approach to Earth in August 2014 before it heads back out to interplanetary space. This is the story of NASA’s and the European Space Agency’s International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3). Beacon signals from the spacecraft’s communications system demonstrate that it is still operating, but scientists and engineers don’t know how well. This beacon is also … Read more
  • Simulating in tiny steps gave birth to long-sought-after method
    Using computer simulations to predict which drug candidates offer the greatest potential has thus far not been very reliable, because both small drug-like molecules and the amino acids of proteins vary so much in their chemistry. Uppsala researchers have now cunningly managed to develop a method that has proven to be precise, reliable and general. … Read more
  • AT&T explores expansion of super-fast Internet
    In this Oct. 19, 2009 file photo, the AT&T logo is on display at a RadioShack store in Gloucester, Mass. AT&T on Monday, April 21, 2014 said that it plans a major expansion of super-fast Internet services to cover as many as 100 municipalities in 25 metropolitan areas. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File) AT&T says it will expand super-fast Internet services to as many as 100 additional cities in 25 metropolitan areas. The service’s 1 gigabit per second speed is about 100 times what U.S. consumers typically get with broadband. That means faster video downloads and the ability for more devices to connect to the network without congestion. AT&T currently has such speeds in Austin, Texas, and has committed to offer the service in Dallas. A rival offering from Google Inc. is available in Kansas City and is coming soon to Austin and Provo, Utah. AT&T Inc. says the specific number of new markets will depend on discussions with local officials and assessments of potential demand. The company may start building some of the new networks by the end of the year. Source: Phys.org … Read more
  • NASA image: God of the Gap
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Saturn’s moon Pan, named for the Greek god of shepherds, rules over quite a different domain: the Encke gap in Saturn’s rings. Pan (17 miles, or 28 kilometers across) keeps the Encke gap open through itsgravitational influence on the ring particles nearby. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 48 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 25, 2013. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) from Pan and at a Sun-Pan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 87 degrees. Image scale is 9 miles (14 kilometers) per pixel. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. Source: Phys.org … Read more
  • Lack of breeding threatens blue-footed boobies’ survival
    Blue-footed Boobies are on the decline in the Galápagos. A new study appearing in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology indicates numbers of the iconic birds, known for their bright blue feet and propensity to burst into dance to attract mates, have fallen more than 50 percent in less than 20 years. The drastic drop in population is probably due to an unexplained disappearance of sardines from the Boobies’ diet, said Dave Anderson, a professor of biology at Wake Forest University and the study’s principal investigator. This in turn has adult Boobies electing not to breed. Without breeding, old birds die and are not replaced but new young adults, and the population shrinks. Where did all the Boobies go? Scientists started noticing a strange trend at the Galápagos’ 10 or so Blue-footed Booby breeding colonies in 1997. The colonies were simply empty. “Until 1997, there were literally thousands of boobies’ at these breeding sites and hundreds of nests full of hatching chicks,” Anderson said. “Then suddenly, the Boobies just weren’t there. There were a few cases where we found isolated breeding attempts but most of these didn’t produce chicks.” At first, seabird ecologists thought the lack of breeding was an isolated occurrence. Environmental … Read more
  • Teachers’ scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores
    As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published by APA. “Teachers are desperately keen to motivate their students in the best possible way but may not be aware of how messages they communicate to students around the importance of performing well in exams can be interpreted in different ways,” said lead author David Putwain, PhD, of Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England. … Read more
  • First steps towards “Experimental Literature 2.0″
    Narrative focalisations sequence in La simulation humaine. Credit: Cyril Bornet – DH Lab – EPFL As part of a student’s thesis, the Laboratory of Digital Humanities at EPFL has developed an application that aims at rearranging literary works by changing their chapter order. “The human simulation” a saga written by the Swiss writer Daniel de Roulet and whose tenth and final volume was released today, is the basis for this experiment. We already had the Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, Raymond Queneau’s book in which the reader can compose sonnets by choosing each verse out of ten possibilities. Well, as of today we have The Human Simulation in digital format. It results from a joint project between the Laboratory of Digital humanities (DH Lab) at EPFL, led by Frédéric Kaplan, and the Swiss writer Daniel de Roulet. It offers a new type of reading path through a book sequence – ten novels – that explore 75 years of nuclear history between Japan, Ukraine and the United States. Developed as a free application (in French) for smartphones, tablets or computers, The Human Simulation offers a neat and dynamic reading experience of ten different books. At least in appearance. They are all certainly based on … Read more
  • Scientists find key steps linking dietary fats and colon cancer tumor growth
    Scientists have shown new genetic evidence that could strengthen the link between the role of dietary fats with colon cancer progression. The study, led by Arizona State University researcher and physician Dr. Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., has identified a molecular culprit, called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta (PPAR delta), which, when deleted in a mouse model ofcolon cancer, stopped key steps required for the initiation and progression of tumor growth. … Read more
  • Taking the pulse of mountain formation in the Andes
    Sedimentary deposits near Cerdas in the Altiplano plateau of Bolivia. These rocks contain ancient soils used to decipher the surface temperature and surface uplift history of the southern Altiplano. (Photo by Carmala Garzione/University of Rochester.) New research points to a rapid surface uplift of mountain ranges Scientists have long been trying to understand how the Andes and other broad, high-elevation mountain ranges were formed. New research by Carmala Garzione, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester, and colleagues sheds light on the mystery. … Read more
  • Malfunction in molecular ‘proofreader’ prevents repair of UV-induced DNA damage
    Malfunctions in the molecular “proofreading” machinery, which repairs structural errors in DNA caused by ultraviolet (UV) light damage, help explain why people who have the disease xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) are at an extremely high risk for developing skin cancer, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). Their findings will be published this week in the early online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Previous research has shown that a DNA-repair protein called human UV-damaged DNA-binding protein, or UV-DDB, signals for a repair when two UV-DDB moleculesbind to the site of the problem, said senior investigator Bennett Van Houten, Ph.D., the Richard M. Cyert Professor of Molecular Oncology, Pitt School of Medicine, and co-leader of UPCI’s Molecular and Cell Biology Program. “Our new study shows UV-DDB makes stops along the DNA strand and transiently attaches to it, causing a proofreading change in the protein’s conformation, or shape. If the DNA is damaged the protein stays, if the DNA is not damaged the protein leaves,” Dr. Van Houten said. “When it comes to a spot that has been damaged by UV radiation, two molecules of UV-DDB converge and stay tightly … Read more
  • Scientists uncover hints of a novel mechanism behind general anesthetic action
    Despite decades of common use for surgeries of all kinds, the precise mechanism through which general anesthesia works on the body remains a mystery. This may come as a surprise to the millions of Americans who receive inhaled general anesthesia each year. New research led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania investigated the common anesthetic sevoflurane and found that it binds at multiple key cell membrane protein locations that may contribute to the induction of the anesthetic response. Their findings will appear online in PNAS(Proceedings of the National Academy of Science). … Read more
  • Fast, simple-to-use assay reveals the ‘family tree’ of cancer metastases
    Illustration showing hematogeneous metastasis. Credit: National Cancer Institute A Massachusetts General Hospital-based research team has developed a simple assay that can reveal the evolutionary relationships between primary tumors and metastases within a patient, information that may someday help with treatment planning. The process of metastasis – a tumor‘s ability to spread to other parts of the body – is still poorly understood. It is not easy to determine whether metastasis began early or late in the development of the primary tumor or whether individual metastatic sites were seeded directly from the original tumor or from an intermediate site. Now a research team has developed a simple assay that can reveal the evolutionary relationships among various tumor sites within a patient, information that may someday help with treatment planning. “If we could build a ‘family tree’ of all cancer nodules in a patient, we could determine how different tumors are related to each other and reconstruct how the cancer evolved,” says Kamila Naxerova, PhD, of the Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), corresponding author of the report being published in PNAS Early Edition. Read more at: MedicalXpress … Read more
  • Proposed Mars ‘Icebreaker’ mission detailed
    Summary: NASA Scientists have outlined a new lander mission to Mars, dubbed ‘Icebreaker.’ According to their study, the lander could soon be ready to drill beneath the surface of Mars and search for signs of past or present life. … Read more
  • How Mighty Jupiter Could Have Changed Earth’s Habitability
    Summary: Is Jupiter a friendly planet, Earth’s enemy, or perhaps both? Jupiter as imaged by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, with the moon Europa’s shadow falling on its atmosphere. Credit: NASA     Is Jupiter a friendly planet, Earth’s enemy, or perhaps both? For decades, scientists have talked about how the giant gas planet keeps some asteroids from striking our small world, while others have pointed out that Jupiter’s gravity could send some civilization-shattering asteroids our way. While that debate goes on, a subtler question arises about how influential Jupiter was in the early Solar System. Jupiter is by far the heavyweight planet in the Solar System, weighing in at 320 Earth masses. Its gravity not only influences small asteroids that go by, but also tugs on other planets in the solar system – including our own. What if Jupiter had had a more eccentric orbit? Could that have affected the habitability of Earth? A new peer-reviewed study published on preprint site Arxiv, called “The role of Jupiter in driving Earth’s orbital evolution,” examines these questions in more detail. It was presented at the Australian Space Science Conference. At first blush it appears Jupiter’s position in the Solar System could vary greatly without hurting life’s beginnings as we … Read more
  • The Importance of Plumes
    The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided evidence that the Universe isn’t slowing down in its infinite rush into whatever lies beyond. … Read more
  • Research challenges understanding of biodiversity crisis
      A University of St Andrews study has found that, despite fears of a biodiversity crisis, there has in fact not been a consistent drop in numbers of species found locally around the world. Instead, in a study of 100 communities and a total of 35,000 species that span from trees to starfish, scientists found a consistent change in which species are found in any one place. The researchers, who were surprised by the findings, say that the study should not detract from the threat many of the world’s species are under, but that policy-makers should focus on changes in biodiversity composition as well as loss. The findings, published by the leading journal Science this week, are the result of research led by Dr Maria Dornelas and Professor Anne Magurran of the Centre for Biological Diversity and Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews. The full text of the paper is available at: dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1248484. An international research team studied over 6 million observations in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats from the poles to the equator. Instead of finding a loss in biodiversity, they discovered that the species inhabitance of different locations has been systematically changing over time. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Ecology team improves understanding of valley-wide streamwater chemistry
    Researcher Kevin McGuire takes a water sample from a forest stream. Credit: Virginia Tech A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components. “Headwater streams make up the majority of stream and river length in watersheds, affecting regional water quality,” said Assistant Professor Kevin J. McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. “However, the actual patterns and causes of variation of water quality in headwater streams are often unknown.” “Understanding the chemistry of these streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help us protect aquatic ecosystems,” said Gene E. Likens, president emeritus and distinguished senior scientist emeritus with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Connecticut. Results of the study that used a new statistical tool to describe spatial patterns ofwater chemistry in stream networks are published in the April 21 issue of theProceedings of the National Academy of Science by a team of ecosystem scientists, including McGuire and Likens. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • Bark beetles change Rocky Mountain stream flows, affect water quality
    Gray trees killed by bark beetles pepper the landscape in Rocky Mountain National Park. Credit: Lindsay Bearup On Earth Week—and in fact, every week now—trees in mountains across the western United States are dying, thanks to an infestation of bark beetles that reproduce in the trees’ inner bark. Some species of the beetles, such as the mountain pine beetle, attack and kill live trees. Others live in dead, weakened or dying hosts. In Colorado alone, the mountain pine beetle has caused the deaths of more than 3.4 million acres of pine trees. What effect do all these dead trees have on stream flow and water quality? Plenty, according to new research findings reported this week. Dead trees don’t drink water “The unprecedented tree deaths caused by these beetles provided a new approach to estimating the interaction of trees with the water cycle in mountain headwaters like those of the Colorado and Platte Rivers,” says hydrologist Reed Maxwell of the Colorado School of Mines. Maxwell and colleagues have published results of their study of beetle effects on stream flows in this week’s issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. As the trees die, they stop taking up water from the soil, known as transpiration. Transpiration is … Read more
  • Sampling study suggests Mississippi River has ample sand to prevent delta land loss
    Rice University researcher Jeffrey Nittrouer on an exposed dune field in the Bonnet Carré spillway in Louisiana in July 2011. Nittrouer and colleagues found that about 40 percent of the sand being carried down the Mississippi River was diverted through the spillway during a flood diversion that year. Credit: J. Nittrouer/Rice University A pair of researchers has found, via sand sampling data, that the common perception that too little sand is being carried down the Mississippi River to replenish depleted loads is incorrect. In their study, published in Nature Geoscience,Jeffrey Nittrouer, of Rice University and Enrica Viparelli of the University of South Carolina describe how they analyzed sand sample data from two locations downstream from the Missouri River, and found that reduced sand loads due to damming has been made up for with increased river bottom erosion. For many years, scientists and many people who live on or near the Mississippi River delta have blamed damming of the Missouri River back in the 1950′s for the extensive permanent flooding that has occurred in the delta since, dubbed by the researchers a “catastrophic drowning.” To stop the drowning, geologists and other scientists have suggested building back parts of the flooded areas using sand or … Read more
  • Team finds link between sleep and immune function in fruit flies
    A fruit fly sleeps away infection. Credit: Julie Williams, Perelman School of Medicine When we get sick it feels natural to try to hasten our recovery by getting some extra shuteye. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that this response has a definite purpose, in fruitflies: enhancing immune system response and recovery to infection. Their findings appear online in two related papers in the journal Sleep, in advance of print editions in May and June. “It’s an intuitive response to want to sleep when you get sick,” notes Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology research associate Julie A. Williams, PhD. “Many studies have used sleep deprivation as a means to understand how sleep contributes to recovery, if it does at all, but there is surprisingly little experimental evidence that supports the notion that more sleep helps us to recover. We used a fruitfly model to answer these questions.” Along with post-doctoral fellow, Tzu-Hsing Kuo, PhD, Williams conducted two related studies to directly examine the effects of sleep on recovery from and survival after an infection. In the first paper, they took a conventional approach by subjecting fruit flies to sleep deprivation before infecting them with either … Read more
  • Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth
    Thomas Kelly, who was a professor of material science and engineering at UW-Madison for 18 years, demonstrates the atom probe his company built, which helped date a 4.4 billion-year-old zircon — the oldest existing bit of earth. Photos: David Tenenbaum     It’s a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when UW-Madison geoscienceprofessor John Valley dated an ancient crystal found in Australia to 4.4 billion years ago. The date, after all, was only 100 million years after Earth started to solidify from a ball of molten rock. … Read more
  • Hydrogen sulfide nanoreporters gather intel on oil before pumping
    Scientists at Rice University have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they’re still in the ground. … Read more
  • Scientist discovers ancient species of assassin fly
    This 100 million year old fossil of a male assassin fly provided researchers with a new window into the ecology of the Cretaceous period. Torsten Dikow discovered and named a new species of assassin fly, Burmapogon bruckschi, after studying the first two specimens ever preserved in Burmese amber. Credit: David Grimaldi National Museum of Natural History scientist Torsten Dikow discovered and named a new species of assassin fly, Burmapogon bruckschi, after studying the first two specimens ever preserved in Burmese amber. For more than 100 million years, assassin flies have ruled the world of insects as a top predator. The lineages of these ancient creatures, known for their ability to catch and prey upon nearly any other insect, were previously only studied in limestone fossils dating back to 112 million years. Details of the new discovery are published in the April 21 edition of American Museum Novitates. “The transparency of these amber fossils gives researchers a new window into the ecology of the Cretaceous period, and sheds light on the evolutionary history of a family of flies that has withstood the test of time for millions of years,” said Dikow, a research scientist in the Department of Entomology. “The fossils of these … Read more
  • Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe
    Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with no need for an external source of energy. In short, he has redesigned the axe. This is a lever-based axe. The axe head is attached to the handle from the side and not through the center. This results in the center of gravity of the axe head being to one side of the center line of strike. Leveraxe is based on a lever mechanism and rotational action. “Everybody who has tried splitting wood with a traditional axe knows that it takes a lot of power to penetrate and split the wood,” according to the axe-maker, but with Kärnä’s invention you must loosen your grip when the axe, with its birch handle, hits the log, to allow for its levering movement. Each swing of the axe splits a piece of wood. The axe does not get stuck in the wood and holds it steady for the next swing. “You can easily and safely start splitting suitably sized logs from the sides by striking closer to edges. No more needing the futile … Read more
  • New material coating technology mimics nature’s lotus effect
    Ever stop to consider why lotus plant leaves always look clean? The hydrophobic – water repelling – characteristic of the leaf, termed the “Lotus effect,” helps the plant survive in muddy swamps, repelling dirt and producing beautiful flowers. Of late, engineers have been paying more and more attention to nature’s efficiencies, such as the Lotus effect, and studying its behavior in order to make advances in technology. As one example, learning more about swarming schools of fish is aiding in the development of unmanned underwater vehicles. Other researchers are observing the extraordinary navigational abilities of bats that might lead to new ways to reconfigure aviation highways in the skies. Ranga Pitchumani , professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and currently on an invitational assignment as the chief scientist and director of the Concentrating Solar Power and Systems Integration programs of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, would like to see more efficiencies and clever designs in technology. His work reflects this philosophy. His recent development of a type of coating for materials that has little to no affinity for water emulates the Lotus effect. Commonplace material coatings are as simple as paints and varnishes. More sophisticated coatings might be used … Read more
  • MESSENGER completes its 3,000th orbit of Mercury, sets mark for closest approach
    Artist depiction of the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury. Credit: NASA / JHU/APL On April 20, MESSENGER completed its 3,000th orbit of Mercury and moved closer to the planet than any spacecraft has been before, dropping to an altitude of 199 kilometers (123.7 miles) above the planet’s surface. “We are cutting through Mercury’s magnetic field in a different geometry, and that has shed new light on the energetic electron population,” said MESSENGER Project Scientist Ralph McNutt, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “In addition, we are now spending more time closer to the planet in general—and that has, in turn, increased the opportunities for all of the remote sensing instruments to make higher-resolution observations of the planet.” MESSENGER has been completing three orbits of Mercury every day since April 2012, when two orbit-correction maneuvers reduced its orbital period about Mercury from 12 hours to 8 hours. The shorter orbit has allowed the science team to explore new questions about Mercury’s composition, geological evolution, and environment that were raised by discoveries made during the first year of orbital operations. Read more at: Phys.org … Read more
  • More questions than answers as mystery of domestication deepens
    SID HASTINGS/WUSTL PHOTOS Washington University biologist Ken Olsen, who studies the genetic basis of evolution in plants, and archeologist Fiona Marshall, whose research focuses on animal domestication in Africa, enjoy an interdisciplinary chat. We all think we have a rough idea of what happened 12,000 years ago when people at several different spots around the globe brought plants under cultivation and domesticated animals for transport, food or fiber. But how much do we really know? Recent research suggests less than we think. For example, why did people domesticate a mere dozen or so of the roughly 200,000 species of wild flowering plants? And why only about five of the 148 species of large wild mammalian herbivores or omnivores? And while we’re at it, why haven’t more species of either plants or animals been domesticated in modern times? If nothing else, the tiny percentages of domesticates suggests there are limitations to human agency, and that it almost certainly is not true that people can step in and completely remodel through artificial selection an organism shaped for millennia by natural selection. The small number of domesticates is just one of many questions raised in a special issue of the Proceedings of the … Read more
  • Study clarifies action of potential new class of pain relievers that may benefit, not hurt, the heart
    The shows the effects of myeloid cell mPGES-1 deletion on plaque macrophage abundance, less in the myeloid mPGES-1 knockout versus wild type. Credit: Lihong Chen, MD, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Nonsteroidal antinflamatory drugs (NSAIDs) that block an enzyme called COX-2 relieve pain and inflammation but can cause heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and even sudden cardiac death. This has prompted a decade-plus search for safer, but still effective, alternatives to these commonly prescribed, pain-relieving drugs. Building on previous work that showed that deleting an enzyme in the COX-2 pathway in a mouse model of heart disease slowed the development of atherosclerosis, a team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has now extended this observation by clarifying that the consequence of deleting the enzyme mPEGS-1 differs, depending on the cell type in which it is taken away. In a report published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lihong Chen, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of senior author Garret FitzGerald, MD, FRS, director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, found that deleting mPGES-1 in macrophages markedly slows the rate at … Read more
  • A plague in your family: The independent evolution of harmful organisms from one bacterial family
    Yersinia enterocolitica colonies growing on XLD agar plates. Credit: CDC For the first time, researchers have studied the Black Death bacterium’s entire family tree to fully understand how some of the family members evolve to become harmful. Contrary to popular belief, the team found pathogenic members of this bacterial familydo not share a recent common disease-causing ancestor, but instead, have followed parallel evolutionary paths to become harmful. The Yersinia family of bacteria has many sub species, some of which are harmful and others not. Two of the most feared members of this bacterial family are Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the bubonic plague or the Black Death, andYersinia enterocolitica, a major cause of gastroenteritis. Previous studies of this family of bacteria have focused on the harmful or pathogenic species, fragmenting our full understanding of the evolution of these species. “In order to understand how an organism becomes dangerous or pathogenic, we need to understand their non-pathogenic family members to see what makes them different to the pathogenic forms,” says Dr Sandra Reuter, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “Our dataset has allowed us to redefine the family structure of this unique set of bacteria and give us a full view of how an … Read more
  • Study of equatorial ridge on Iapetus suggests exogenic origin
    Raw image from Cassini space probe of the equatorial ridge on Saturn’s moon Iapetus. Image: NASA A combined team of researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island and the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas is suggesting in a paper they’ve uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, that an equatorial mountainous ridge on one of Saturn’s moons has an exogenic origin. They are basing their theory on 3D models of the moon they’ve created and an analysis of the types of peaks present. Iapetus, the 3rd largest of Saturn’s approximately 60 moons, is distinct for two reasons. One is its odd two-tone coloring; the other is the back-bone looking mountain range straddling part of its equator. Scientists have been puzzled by the origin of the mountain range as the moon doesn’t have other geologic qualities that could have given rise to it, such as shifting plates or volcanic activity. Thus, some have suggested that the mountains came from above, rather than below, or in other words, they have an exogenic origin, meaning they came from somewhere else. To gain a better understanding of the mountain range, the research team built a 3D model of it on a computer in their lab, faithfully replicating the … Read more
  • Krypton used to accurately date ancient Antarctic ice
    This is the ice core driller Tanner Kuhl with the blue ice drill on Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. The field camp is visible in the background. Credit: Xavier Fain A team of scientists has successfully identified the age of 120,000-year-old Antarctic ice using radiometric krypton dating – a new technique that may allow them to locate and date ice that is more than a million years old. The ability to discover ancient ice is critical, the researchers say, because it will allow them to reconstruct the climate much farther back into Earth’s history and potentially understand the mechanisms that have triggered the planet to shift into and out of ice ages. Results of the discovery are being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The oldest ice found in drilled cores is around 800,000 years old and with this new technique we think we can look in other regions and successfully date polar ice back as far as 1.5 million years,” said Christo Buizert, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the PNAS article. “That is very exciting because a lot of interesting things happened with the Earth’s climate prior to 800,000 … Read more
  • Directing charges through single molecules: Progress made in developing nanoscale electronics
    A single layer of organic molecules connects the positive and negative electrodes in a molecular-junction OLED. Credit: Alexander Shestopalov/University of Rochester. Scientists are facing a number of barriers as they try to develop circuits that are microscopic in size, including how to reliably control the current that flows through a circuit that is the width of a single molecule. Alexander Shestopalov, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester, has done just that, thereby taking us one step closer to nanoscale circuitry. “Until now, scientists have been unable to reliably direct a charge from one molecule to another,” said Shestopalov. “But that’s exactly what we need to do when working withelectronic circuits that are one or two molecules thin.” Shestopalov worked with an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) powered by a microscopically small, simple circuit in which he connected a one-molecule thin sheet of organic material between positive and negative electrodes. Recent research publications have shown that it is difficult to control the current traveling through the circuit from one electrode to the other in such a thin circuit. As Shestopalov explains in a paper published in the journal Advanced Material Interfaces, the key was adding a second, inert layer … Read more
  • What you see is where you go: Fruit fly visual interneurons may compute temporal integration of visual motion
    Simultaneous neuronal and behavioral recordings. (A) Schematic of the setup for whole-cell patch-clamp recordings during flight. (B) Maximal intensity projection of the Gal4 line R27B03 crossed to UAS-eGFP showing the dendrites of three labeled HS cells of one lobula plate (approximately 30 μm in depth) in green. Neuropil staining shown in purple. (Scale bar: 50 μm.) (C) Example traces obtained from one fly. Periods of closed-loop stripe fixation are interspersed with 3 s of open-loop stimulus presentation (shaded gray areas), when a square wave pattern drifts horizontally in the cell’s preferred direction (PD) (here at 0.5 Hz temporal frequency). The traces indicate the optomotor behavior measured as difference between wing stroke amplitudes (L-R), the membrane potential (V) of an HS cell recorded simultaneously, and the response of the same HS cell to a similar stimulus during quiescence. HS cells depolarize in response to PD motion and hyperpolarize in response to null direction (ND) motion (Fig. S1). The motor output shows a similar directional dependence. Rightward stimulus motion elicits increases in L-R, corresponding to a right turn. During the closed-loop portion of the flight trials, the cells responded robustly to the horizontal motion of the stripe. Flies occasionally perform fast turns … Read more
  • Cow manure harbors diverse new antibiotic resistance genes
    Manure from dairy cows, which is commonly used as a farm soil fertilizer, contains a surprising number of newly identified antibiotic resistance genes from the cows’ gut bacteria. The findings, reported in mBio the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, hints that cow manure is a potential source of new types of antibiotic resistance genes that transfer to bacteria in the soils where food is grown. … Read more
  • Today’s Antarctic region once as hot as California, Florida
    Parts of ancient Antarctica were as warm as today’s California coast, and polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean registered 21st-century Florida heat, according to scientists using a new way to measure past temperatures. … Read more
  • Brain size matters when it comes to animal self-control
    Chimpanzees may throw tantrums like toddlers, but their total brain size suggests they have more self-control than, say, a gerbil or fox squirrel, according to a new study of 36 species of mammals and birds ranging from orangutans to zebra finches. … Read more
  • New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma
    A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma. Fibrosis, or scarring, is a hallmark of the disease, and progressive tightening of the skin and lungs can lead to serious organ damage and, in some cases, death. The concept for new therapeutic options centers on findings made by Swati Bhattacharyya, PhD, research assistant professor in Medicine-Rheumatology, who identified the role that a specific protein plays in promoting fibrosis. … Read more
  • Researchers develop new model of cellular movement
    Proteins actin and vinculin bind together at a site identified by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine. The interaction of the proteins plays an important role in cell movement. Credit: UNC/Campbell Lab Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of origin and migrate throughout the body. A new study led by Sharon Campbell, PhD, professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the UNC School of Medicine and member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, deepens the understanding of a pair of proteins – vinculin and actin – that work together to allow a cell to migrate throughout the body. The study, published in the journal Structure, proposes a new model for understanding how these proteins bind together to facilitate cell movement. This team effort was conducted in collaboration with the labs of UNC Lineberger members Keith Burridge, Nikolay Dokholyan, and Richard Superfine, as well as with Edward Egelman’s laboratory at the University of Virginia. The best model for the interaction between vinculin and actin dates back to 2006, when researchers used low-resolution electron microscopy data and computational modeling … Read more
  • Researchers develop scalable methods for manufacturing metamaterials
    Metamaterials, or materials that have had their matter rearranged so they interact with light in specific ways, could be key to making everything from super lenses for satellite surveillance to biosensors that can detect Alzheimer’s disease—if they weren’t so expensive to fabricate. A one-millimeter-square sample can take up to two weeks to produce. … Read more
  • LADEE mission ends with planned lunar impact
    Ground controllers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have confirmed that NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 17. LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft’s orbit naturally decayed following the mission’s final low-altitude science phase. During impact, engineers believe the LADEE spacecraft, the size of a vending machine, broke apart, with most of the spacecraft’s material heating up several hundred degrees – or even vaporizing – at the surface. Any material that remained is likely buried in shallow craters. “At the time of impact, LADEE was traveling at a speed of 3,600 miles per hour – about three times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet,” said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at Ames. “There’s nothing gentle about impact at these speeds – it’s just a question of whether LADEE made a localized craterlet on a hillside or scattered debris across a flat area. It will be interesting to see what kind of feature LADEE has created.” Read more at: Phys.org … Read more

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