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New sensor uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure

October 10, 2014 2:09 pm | Videos | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have invented a sensor that uses radio waves to detect subtle changes in pressure. Already used to monitor brain pressure in laboratory mice as prelude to possible use with human patients, this pressure-sensing technology relies on a specially designed rubber and could lead to touch-sensitive “skin” for prosthetic devices.

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Plasmonic paper detects trace amounts of chemicals and molecules

October 10, 2014 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.

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The new family portrait? 3-D-printed statue selfies

October 10, 2014 11:52 am | by Peter Svensson, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

The advent of digital cameras and smartphones killed the traditional mall portrait studio, but 3-D printing has sparked a new trend. Overloaded with digital photos, statues may be moving in to fulfill our desire for portraits that stand out. New York's Museum of Art and Design offered scans and statues earlier this year. Shapeways, the company that supplied the exhibit, scanned about 6,000 people and sold about 1,500 statues for $30.

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Autism as a disorder of prediction

October 10, 2014 11:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Autism is characterized by many different symptoms: difficulty interacting with others, repetitive behaviors and hypersensitivity to sound and other stimuli. Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have put forth a new hypothesis that accounts for these behaviors and may provide a neurological foundation for many of the disparate features of the disorder.

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Leaky, star-forming galaxies help researchers better understand the universe

October 10, 2014 10:57 am | by Tracey Reeves, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

By focusing on large, star-forming galaxies in the universe, researchers at Johns Hopkins Univ. were able to measure its radiation leaks in an effort to better understand how the universe evolved as the first stars were formed. The team reports in a paper published online in Science that an indicator used for studying star-forming galaxies that leak radiation, is an effective measurement tool for other scientists to use.

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Satellite sees hot spot of methane in U.S. Southwest

October 10, 2014 9:14 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A surprising hot spot of the potent global-warming gas methane hovers over part of the southwestern U.S., according to satellite data. That result hints that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies considerably underestimate leaks of methane, also called natural gas. While methane isn't the most plentiful heat-trapping gas, scientists worry about its increasing amounts and have had difficulties tracking emissions.

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Molecular structure of Hep C envelope protein unveiled

October 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affects 160 million people worldwide. There’s no vaccine for HCV and the few treatments that are available do not work on all variants of the virus. Before scientists can develop potential vaccines and additional therapies they must first thoroughly understand the molecular-level activity that takes place when the virus infects a host cell.

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Automated imaging system looks underground to improve crops

October 10, 2014 8:22 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Plant scientists are working to improve important food crops to meet the food needs of a growing world population. However, boosting crop output will require improving more than what can be seen of these plants above the ground. Root systems are essential to gathering water and nutrients, but understanding what’s happening in these unseen parts of the plants has until now depended mostly on lab studies and subjective field measurements.

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Snakes and snake-like robots show how sidewinders conquer sandy slopes

October 10, 2014 8:15 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech and Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | Videos | Comments

The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights, including how sidewinders effectively traverse sandy slopes.

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Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

October 10, 2014 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.

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DNA nanofoundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles

October 10, 2014 7:50 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.

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Plant scientist discovers basis of evolution in violins

October 9, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin? Much more than you might imagine. Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is applying “morphometrics”, which statistically tests hypotheses about factors that affect shape, to changes in the shape of violins over time. His work revealed a strong degree of design transmission and imitation.

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Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.

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Researchers capture images of elusive protein HIV uses to infect cells

October 9, 2014 11:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

HIV is adept at eluding immune system responses because the protein it uses to infect cells is constantly changing. Now a team of researchers including scientists from Yale Univ. have stripped the cloak from this master of disguise, providing a high-resolution image of this surface spike protein and monitoring how it constantly changes its shape, information that suggests new ways to attack the virus through drugs and vaccines.

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Light frequencies sniff out deadly materials from a distance

October 9, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

Spectroscopic chemical sensing has great promise, but current technologies lack sensitivity and broad spectral coverage. DARPA’s Spectral Combs from UV to THz (SCOUT) program aims to overcome these limitations. The goal is to develop chip-sized, optical frequency combs that accurately identify even tiny traces of dangerous biological and chemical substances several football fields away, DARPA is now soliciting proposals for a solution.

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