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New analysis explains collagen’s force

January 22, 2015 7:48 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

Research combining experimental work and detailed molecular simulations has revealed, for the first time, the complex role that water plays in collagen. The new analysis reveals an important mechanism that had never been observed before: Adding even small amounts of water to, or removing water from, collagen in tendons can generate surprisingly strong forces, as much as 300 times stronger than the forces generated by muscles.

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Senate says climate change real, but doesn't agree on cause

January 21, 2015 6:16 pm | by By Dina Cappiello - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

The Republican-controlled Senate acknowledged Wednesday that climate change is real but refused to say humans are to blame. The series of votes publicly tested Republicans' stance on global warming just days after two federal agencies declared 2014 the hottest year on record and hours after President Barack Obama called global warming one of the greatest threats to future generations.

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Study: DNA trick cripples bacteria that escape confinement

January 21, 2015 2:18 pm | by By Malcolm Ritter - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | Comments

Bacteria have been modified so that they die if they get out of human control, a potential step toward better management of genetically engineered organisms—perhaps including crops, researchers say. Genetically altered microbes are used now in industry to produce fuels, medicines and other chemicals. The new technique might also reduce the risk of using them outdoors, such as for cleaning up toxic spills.

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Officials begin testing mystery gunk linked to bird deaths

January 21, 2015 2:18 pm | by By Kristin J. Bender - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

San Francisco Bay Area officials have begun laboratory tests and necropsies on dead seabirds found coated with a mysterious substance that looks and feels like dirty rubber cement. More than 125 dead birds have been found along the bay's shorelines, said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

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Peering into cosmic magnetic fields

January 21, 2015 12:03 pm | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | Comments

The generation of cosmic magnetic fields has long intrigued astrophysicists. Since it was first described in 1959, a phenomenon known as Weibel filamentation instability has generated tremendous theoretical interest from astrophysicists and plasma physicists as a potential mechanism for seed magnetic field generation in the universe. However, direct observation of Weibel-generated magnetic fields remained challenging for decades.

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New method to generate arbitrary optical pulses

January 21, 2015 11:43 am | by Univ. of Southampton | Comments

Scientists from the Univ. of Southampton have developed a new technique to generate more powerful, more energy-efficient and low-cost pulsed lasers. The technique, which was developed by researchers from the university's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), has potential applications in a number of fields that use pulsed lasers including telecommunications, metrology, sensing and material processing.

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Nanobeaker offers insight into the condensation of atoms

January 21, 2015 11:15 am | by Univ. of Basel | Comments

An international team of physicists has succeeded in mapping the condensation of individual atoms, or rather their transition from a gaseous state to another state, using a new method. The team was able to monitor for the first time how xenon atoms condensate in microscopic measuring beakers, or quantum wells, thereby enabling key conclusions to be drawn as to the nature of atomic bonding.

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Smart keyboard cleans, powers itself

January 21, 2015 9:44 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

In a novel twist in cybersecurity, scientists have developed a self-cleaning, self-powered smart keyboard that can identify computer users by the way they type. The device, reported in ACS Nano, could help prevent unauthorized users from gaining direct access to computers.

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Optimizing optimization algorithms

January 21, 2015 9:36 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Optimization algorithms are everywhere in engineering. Among other things, they’re used to evaluate design tradeoffs, to assess control systems and to find patterns in data. One way to solve a difficult optimization problem is to first reduce it to a related but much simpler problem, then gradually add complexity back in, solving each new problem in turn and using its solution as a guide to solving the next one.

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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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