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With phased-array radar, electrical engineers aim to make car travel safer

October 29, 2014 | Comments

Electrical engineers from the Univ. of California, San Diego have developed hardware for a new generation of automotive radar systems designed to keep drivers, and the pedestrians around them they may not see, safe. Their project is part of an initiative led by Toyota Technical Center that won a 2014 R&D 100 Award for its “Automotive Phased Array Radar.”

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Tiny nanopores make big impact

October 30, 2014 8:05 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | Comments

A team led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has created a new kind of ion channel consisting of short carbon nanotubes, which can be inserted into synthetic bilayers and live cell membranes to form tiny pores that transport water, protons, small ions and DNA. These carbon nanotube “porins” have significant implications for future health care and bioengineering applications.

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Sculpting solar systems: Magnetic fields seen for first time

October 30, 2014 7:50 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Comments

Astronomers have caught their first glimpse of the invisible magnetic fields that sculpt solar systems. Looking at a bright, nearby baby star and the dust swirling in its cradle, astronomers from the Univ. of Illinois and six collaborating institutions were able to make out the shape of the magnetic field surrounding the star.

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Harnessing error-prone chips

October 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

As transistors get smaller, they also grow less reliable. Increasing their operating voltage can help, but that means a corresponding increase in power consumption. With information technology consuming a steadily growing fraction of the world’s energy supplies, some researchers and hardware manufacturers are exploring the possibility of simply letting chips botch the occasional computation.

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Study: Cinematic experience governed by contextual clues, not screen size

October 29, 2014 1:12 pm | Comments

If the surroundings are designed to be sufficiently stimulating, even a simple computer screen is enough to generate an intense cinematic experience. After observing some 300 study subjects, researchers in Germany have concluded that the angle of viewing does not play a vital role in the cinematic experience. Instead, the presence of so-called contextual visual cues plays a greater role in actually drawing viewers into a movie.

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Scientists rank thousands of substances according to potential exposure level

October 29, 2014 1:09 pm | Comments

An overwhelming number of chemicals from household and industrial products are in the environment, and hundreds are in our bodies. But for most of them, scientists have yet to determine whether they cause health problems. Now they’ve taken the first step toward doing that by estimating which substances people are exposed to the most.

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Imaging electrons moving at 80,000 m/sec in a semiconductor

October 29, 2014 12:45 pm | Comments

Researchers in Japan have directly observed and recorded electron flow at 80,000 m/sec in a semiconductor. They did so by combining a new laser pulse light source and a photoemission electron microscope to develop an ultra high-speed microscope that enabled visualization of electrons on a 20 nm and 200 femtosec scale.

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Nano ruffles in brain matter

October 29, 2014 12:37 pm | Comments

An accumulation of amyloid-beta proteins deposits called plaques is known to cause Alzheimer’s disease. One aspect of this illness that has not received much attention is which role the structure of the brain environment plays. Researchers have discovered that macromolecules like astrocytes provide well-defined physical cues in the form of ruffles that have a crucial role in promoting healthy interactions between cells in the hippocampus.

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ECG on the run: Continuous surveillance of marathon athletes is feasible

October 29, 2014 9:40 am | Comments

The condition of an athlete's heart has for the first time been accurately monitored throughout the duration of a marathon race. The real-time monitoring was achieved by continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) surveillance and data transfer over a public mobile phone network. The new development allows instantaneous diagnosis of potentially fatal rhythm disorders.

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Researchers prove mathematical models can predict cellular processes

October 29, 2014 9:33 am | Comments

A team led by Virginia Tech researchers studied cells found in breast and other types of connective tissue and discovered new information about cell transitions that take place during wound healing and cancer. They developed mathematical models to predict the dynamics of cell transitions, and by comparison gained new understanding of how a substance known as transforming growth factor triggers cell transformations.

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Scientists discover exact receptor for DEET that repels mosquitoes

October 29, 2014 9:24 am | Comments

DEET has been the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, and now researchers led by a Univ. of California, Davis, scientist have discovered the exact odorant receptor that repels them. They also have identified a plant defensive compound that might mimic DEET, a discovery that could pave the way for better and more affordable insect repellents.

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Blood test may help to diagnose pancreatic cancer

October 29, 2014 9:16 am | Comments

Cancer researchers have found that a simple blood test might help diagnose pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease. In new research at Indiana Univ., scientists have found that several microRNAs, which are small RNA molecules, circulate at high levels in the blood of pancreatic cancer patients.

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Supply rocket headed to space station explodes

October 28, 2014 9:28 pm | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | Comments

An unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded moments after liftoff Tuesday evening, with debris falling in flames over the launch site in Virginia. No injuries were reported following the first catastrophic launch in NASA's commercial spaceflight effort.

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Can the wave function of an electron be divided and trapped?

October 28, 2014 5:55 pm | Comments

Electrons are elementary particles, indivisible, unbreakable. But new research at Brown Univ. suggests the electron's quantum state, known as the electron wave function, can be separated into many parts and trapped in tiny bubbles of liquid helium. That has some strange implications for the theory of quantum mechanics.

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Electric-car drivers trading gas for solar power

October 28, 2014 5:33 pm | by Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writer | Comments

Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gas-free. Now, a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight. Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The approach is not cheap, but advocates say the investment pays off over time and is worth it for the thrill of fossil fuel-free driving.

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Plasma switch to help GE upgrade the U.S. power grid

October 28, 2014 12:58 pm | Comments

When researchers at General Electric Co. sought help in designing a plasma-based power switch, they turned to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which helped them develop a plasma-filled tube that would replace semiconductor switches used for changing direct current to alternating current. The proposed switch could contribute to a more advanced and reliable electric grid and help to lower utility bills.

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