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The ups and downs of the seemingly idle brain

January 21, 2015 9:24 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | Comments

Even in its quietest moments, the brain is never “off.” Instead, while under anesthesia, during slow-wave sleep, or even amid calm wakefulness, the brain’s cortex maintains a cycle of activity and quiet called “up” and “down” states. A new study by Brown Univ. neuroscientists probed deep into this somewhat mysterious cycle in mice, to learn more about how the mammalian brain accomplishes it.

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Engineers use x-rays to illuminate catalysis, revise theories

January 21, 2015 9:11 am | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | Comments

Many of today's most promising renewable energy technologies rely upon catalysts to expedite the chemical reactions at the heart of their potential. Catalysts are materials that enhance chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. For over a century, engineers across the world have engaged in a near-continual search for ways to improve catalysts for their devices and processes.

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Model explores location of future U.S. population growth

January 21, 2015 8:59 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a population distribution model that provides unprecedented county-level predictions of where people will live in the U.S. in the coming decades. Initially developed to assist in the siting of new energy infrastructure, the team’s model has a broad range of implications from urban planning to climate change adaptation.

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X-rays shed light on scrolls buried by volcano

January 21, 2015 8:45 am | by Frank Jordans, Associated Press | Comments

Scientists have succeeded in reading parts of an ancient scroll that was buried in a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago, holding out the promise that the world's oldest surviving library may one day reveal all of its secrets. The scroll is among hundreds retrieved from the remains of a lavish villa at Herculaneum that, along with Pompeii, was one of several Roman towns that were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

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Research aims to improve lithium-based batteries

January 21, 2015 8:31 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Research probing the complex science behind the formation of "dendrites" that cause lithium-ion batteries to fail could bring safer, longer-lasting batteries capable of being charged within minutes instead of hours. The dendrites form on anode electrodes and may continue to grow until causing an internal short circuit, which results in battery failure and possible fire.

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One nanoparticle, six types of medical imaging

January 21, 2015 8:22 am | by Charlotte Hsu, Univ. at Buffalo | Comments

It’s technology so advanced that the machine capable of using it doesn’t yet exist. Using two biocompatible parts, Univ. at Buffalo researchers and their colleagues have designed a nanoparticle that can be detected by six medical imaging techniques: computed tomography (CT) scanning, positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, photoacoustic imaging, fluorescence imaging, upconversion imaging and Cerenkov luminescence imaging.

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Cancer-causing agent detected in water after pipeline spill

January 21, 2015 8:19 am | by By Matthew Brown - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

Eastern Montana residents rushed to stock up on bottled water Tuesday after authorities detected a cancer-causing component of oil in public water supplies downstream of a Yellowstone River pipeline spill. Elevated levels of benzene were found in water samples from a treatment plant that serves about 6,000 people in the agricultural community of Glendive, near North Dakota.

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Hearing-aid intervention helps individuals gradually adjust to devices

January 21, 2015 8:10 am | by Jesslyn Chew, Univ. of Missouri | Comments

When individuals wear their hearing aids for the first time, they are flooded with sounds they haven’t heard in months or years; yet, previous research has shown not all new sounds are welcomed. Ambient noises can be painful, irritating and difficult to ignore, causing some individuals to stop using their hearing aids right away. Now, a Univ. of Missouri researcher has developed an intervention.

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Self-assembled nanotextures create antireflective surface on silicon solar cells

January 21, 2015 8:05 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Comments

Reducing the amount of sunlight that bounces off the surface of solar cells helps maximize the conversion of the sun's rays to electricity, so manufacturers use coatings to cut down on reflections. Now scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings.

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Sequestration on shaky ground

January 21, 2015 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

Carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth’s surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current carbon sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

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Melting glaciers have big carbon impact

January 20, 2015 11:21 am | by Kathleen Haughney, Florida State Univ. | Comments

As the Earth warms and glaciers all over the world begin to melt, researchers and public policy experts have focused largely on how all of that extra water will contribute to sea level rise. But another impact lurking in that inevitable scenario is carbon. More specifically, what happens to all of the organic carbon found in those glaciers when they melt?

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Laser-patterning technique turns metals into supermaterials

January 20, 2015 11:14 am | by American Institute of Physics | Comments

By zapping ordinary metals with femtosecond laser pulses researchers from the Univ. of Rochester have created extraordinary new surfaces that efficiently absorb light, repel water and clean themselves. The multifunctional materials could find use in durable, low maintenance solar collectors and sensors.

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Snails produce weaponized insulin

January 20, 2015 11:06 am | by Joe Rojas-Burke, Univ. of Utah | Comments

As predators go, cone snails are slow moving and lack the typical fighting parts. They’ve made up for it by producing a vast array of fast-acting toxins that target the nervous systems of prey. A new study reveals that some cone snails add a weaponized form of insulin to the venom cocktail they use to disable fish.

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Geophysicists find the crusty culprits behind sudden tectonic plate movements

January 20, 2015 10:40 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | Comments

Yale Univ.-led research may have solved one of the biggest mysteries in geology: namely, why do tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface, which normally shift over the course of tens to hundreds of millions of years, sometimes move abruptly? A new study says the answer comes down to two things: thick crustal plugs and weakened mineral grains.

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Ocean floor dust gives new insight into supernovae

January 20, 2015 10:32 am | by Phil Dooley, The Australian National Univ. | Comments

Scientists plumbing the depths of the ocean have made a surprise finding that could change the way we understand supernovae, exploding stars way beyond our solar system. They have analyzed extraterrestrial dust thought to be from supernovae that has settled on ocean floors to determine the amount of heavy elements created by the massive explosions.

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