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New class of synthetic molecules mimics antibodies

December 17, 2014 9:43 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | Comments

A Yale Univ. laboratory has crafted the first synthetic molecules that have both the targeting and response functions of antibodies. The new molecules attach themselves simultaneously to disease cells and disease-fighting cells. The result is a highly targeted immune response, similar to the action of natural human antibodies.

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Rover finds methane spikes on Mars

December 17, 2014 8:32 am | by Associated Press, Marcia Dunn | Comments

NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, has detected spikes of methane in the planet's atmosphere. That suggests something is producing or venting the scientifically tantalizing gas, but no one knows what. Most of Earth's atmospheric methane comes from animal and plant life, and the environment itself. So the Martian methane raises the question of past or present microbial life.

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Big data analysis reveals gene sharing in mice

December 17, 2014 8:01 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have detected at least three instances of cross-species mating that likely influenced the evolutionary paths of “old world” mice, two in recent times and one in the distant past. The researchers think these instances of introgressive hybridization are only the first of many needles waiting to be found in a very large genetic haystack.

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Life on an aquaplanet

December 17, 2014 7:43 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

Nearly 2,000 planets beyond our solar system have been identified to date. Whether any of these exoplanets are hospitable to life depends on a number of criteria. Among these, scientists have thought, is a planet’s obliquity—the angle of its axis relative to its orbit around a star.

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Researchers reveal Ebola virus spreads in social clusters

December 16, 2014 3:45 pm | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | Comments

An analysis of the ongoing Ebola outbreak reveals that transmission of the virus occurs in social clusters, a finding that has ramifications for case reporting and the public health. Prior studies of Ebola transmission were based on models that assumed the spread of infection occurred between random pairs of individuals.

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Technology advances eye tracking as biomarker for brain function

December 16, 2014 3:19 pm | by Stacey Harris, NYU Langone Medical Center | Comments

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have developed new technology that can assess the location and impact of a brain injury merely by tracking the eye movements of patients as they watch music videos for less than four minutes, according to a study published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

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Cells build “cupboards” to store metals

December 16, 2014 3:06 pm | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers in conjunction with collaborators at Univ. of California, Los Angeles have found that some cells build intracellular compartments that allow the cell to store metals and maintain equilibrium. Nearly 40% of all proteins require metal ions such as zinc, copper, manganese or iron for activity.

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New law for superconductors

December 16, 2014 2:47 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have discovered a new mathematical relationship—between material thickness, temperature and electrical resistance—that appears to hold in all superconductors. The result could shed light on the nature of superconductivity and could also lead to better-engineered superconducting circuits for applications like quantum computing and ultra-low-power computing.

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Scientists trace nanoparticles from plants to caterpillars

December 16, 2014 2:37 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | Comments

In one of the most comprehensive laboratory studies of its kind, Rice Univ. scientists traced the uptake and accumulation of quantum dot nanoparticles from water to plant roots, plant leaves and leaf-eating caterpillars. The study found that nanoparticle accumulation in both plants and animals varied significantly depending upon the type of surface coating applied to the particles.

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New tracers can identify coal ash contamination in water

December 16, 2014 2:20 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | Comments

Duke Univ. scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool.

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Turning hydrogen into “graphene”

December 16, 2014 2:13 pm | by Carnegie Institute | Comments

New work from Carnegie Institute's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene under extreme pressures.

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Researchers generate tunable photon-pair spectrum

December 16, 2014 9:14 am | by Univ. of California, San Diego | Comments

A team of researchers have demonstrated a way to emit and control quantum light generated using a chip made from silicon—one of the most widely used materials for modern electronics. The researchers say practical applications of quantum optics will seem more feasible if devices for generating and controlling these photons can be manufactured using conventional materials from the semiconductor industry.

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Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell Univ. materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

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Is the Higgs boson a piece of the matter-antimatter puzzle?

December 16, 2014 8:28 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | Comments

Several experiments, including the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have helped explain some, but not all, of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Now a SLAC theorist and his colleagues have laid out a possible method for determining if the Higgs boson is involved.

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Getting bot responders into shape

December 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is tackling one of the biggest barriers to the use of robots in emergency response: energy efficiency. Through a project supported by DARPA, Sandia is developing technology that will dramatically improve the endurance of legged robots, helping them operate for long periods while performing the types of locomotion most relevant to disaster response scenarios.

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