Counselors helping people use the federal government's online health exchange are giving mixed reviews to the updated site, with some zipping through the application process while others are facing the same old sputters and even crashes. The Obama administration had promised a vastly improved shopping experience on healthcare.gov by the end of November, and this is the first week for users to test the updated site.
Hard-to-predict sudden changes to Earth's environment are more worrisome than climate change's bigger but more gradual impacts, a panel of scientists advising the federal government concluded Tuesday. The 200-page report by the National Academy of Sciences looked at warming problems that can occur in years instead of centuries. The report repeatedly warns of potential "tipping points" where the climate passes thresholds.
A consortium led by Northwestern Univ. will establish a new NIST-sponsored center of excellence for advanced materials research. The Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD) will be funded in part by a $25 million award from NIST over five years and will focus on computational tools, databases and experimental techniques to allow “materials by design”, a major goal of the Materials Genome Initiative.
NASA said Monday that the Hubble Space Telescope is the best bet for figuring out whether Comet ISON disintegrated during its brush with the sun last week. A pair of solar observatories saw something emerge from around the sun following ISON's close approach on Thanksgiving Day. But scientists don't yet know whether the spot of light was merely the comet's shattered remains or what's left of its icy nucleus.
Hydrogen is a “green” fuel that burns cleanly and can generate electricity via fuel cells. One way to sustainably produce hydrogen is by splitting water molecules using the renewable power of sunlight, but scientists are still learning how to control and optimize this reaction with catalysts. At the National Synchrotron Light Source, a research group has determined key structural information about a potential catalyst.
Listen up nickel-titanium and all you other shape-memory alloys, there’s a new kid on the block that just claimed the championship for elasticity and is primed to take over the shape memory apps market at the nanoscale. A research team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has discovered a way to introduce a recoverable strain into bismuth ferrite of up to 14% on the nanoscale.
A government panel proposed additional measures to lessen the radioactive water crisis at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant, saying Tuesday that current plans are not enough to prevent the risk of a disaster. Officials on the Industry Ministry's contaminated water panel also said that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant could run out of storage space for contaminated water within two years if current plans are not fully workable.
Oil and water don’t mix, as any chemist or cook knows. Tom Russell, a polymer scientist from the Univ. of Massachusetts who now holds a visiting faculty appointment with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Materials Sciences Div., is using that chemical and culinary truth to change the natural spherical shape of liquid drops into ellipsoids, tubes and even fibrous structures similar in appearance to glass wool.
When engineers design devices, they must often join together two materials that expand and contract at different rates as temperatures change. Such thermal differences can cause problems if, for instance, a semiconductor chip is plugged into a socket that can’t expand and contract rapidly enough to maintain an unbroken contact over time. The potential for failure at such junctures has intensified as devices have shrunk to the nanoscale.
Researchers have identified a protein that causes loss of function in immune cells combating HIV. The scientists report in a paper appearing online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that the protein, Sprouty-2, is a promising target for future HIV drug development, since disabling it could help restore the cells’ ability to combat the virus that causes AIDS.
Researchers in Switzerland have managed to combine antennas and solar cells to work together with unprecedented efficiency in a near future. This is a first step towards more compact and more lightweight satellites. The technology could also be deployed in the autonomous antenna systems used in the aftermath of natural disasters.
The Office of Naval Research is demonstrating the Fleet Integrated Synthetic Training/Testing Facility (FIST2FAC) in Florida this week, showing how gaming technology is helping naval forces develop operations strategies in a hassle-free way.
Scientists are interested in how the shape of Greenland’s hidden bedrock affects how ice moves, and have been employing a powerful radar technique that has been used in Antarctica to see through thousands of feet of ice. Mapping this terrain a key factor in making predictions about the future of these massive ice reservoirs and their contribution to sea level rise in a changing climate.
A chemical system developed by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago can efficiently perform the first step in the process of creating syngas, gasoline and other energy-rich products out of carbon dioxide. A novel “co-catalyst” system using inexpensive, easy-to-fabricate carbon-based nanofiber materials efficiently converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a useful starting material for synthesizing fuels.
Online retailer Amazon.com aiming to deliver packages quicker than pizza. Its so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project, now underway in Amazon’s research and development labs, could get goods to customers in 30 minutes or less. But the company admits it will take years to advance the needed technology and for the needed federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations to be created.