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Seismic gap may be filled by an earthquake near Istanbul

September 11, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

When a segment of a major fault line goes quiet, it can mean one of two things: The “seismic gap” may simply be inactive, or the segment may be a source of potential earthquakes, quietly building tension over decades until an inevitable seismic release. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Turkey have found evidence for both types of behavior on different segments of the North Anatolian Fault.

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Chemists discover way nose perceives common class of odors

September 10, 2014 6:10 pm | Comments

Biologists claim that humans can perceive and distinguish a trillion different odors, but little is known about the underlying chemical processes involved. Biochemists at The City College of New York have found an unexpected chemical strategy employed by the mammalian nose to detect chemicals known as aldehydes.

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Optical circuit uses record low energy to operate

September 10, 2014 6:07 pm | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | Comments

Optical circuits use light instead of electricity, making them faster and more energy-efficient than electrical systems. Scientists in Switzerland have now developed a silicon-based photonic crystal nanocavity to be used as a first building-block for photonic “transistors”. The new device requires record low energy to operate.

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Angling chromium to let oxygen through

September 10, 2014 6:03 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | Comments

Researchers have been trying to increase the efficiency of solid oxide fuel cells by lowering the temperatures at which they run. In a serendipitous finding at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers have created a new form of strontium-chromium oxide that performs as a semiconductor and also allows oxygen to diffuse easily, a requirement for a solid oxide fuel cell.

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Nanotechnology aids in cooling electrons without external sources

September 10, 2014 1:23 pm | Comments

A team of researchers has discovered a way to cool electrons to -228 C without external means and at room temperature, an advancement that could enable electronic devices to function with very little energy. The process involves passing electrons through a quantum well to cool them and keep them from heating.

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“Electronic skin” could improve early breast cancer detection

September 10, 2014 1:09 pm | Comments

For detecting cancer, manual breast exams seem low-tech compared to other methods such as MRI. But scientists are now developing an “electronic skin” that “feels” and images small lumps that fingers can miss. Knowing the size and shape of a lump could allow for earlier identification of breast cancer, which could save lives.

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Novel method for portable detection of drugs

September 10, 2014 10:37 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

Despite being outlawed in 2012 in the U.S., the synthetic drugs known as “bath salts”—which really aren’t meant for your daily bath—are still readily available in some retail shops, on the Internet and on the streets. To help law enforcement, scientists are developing a novel method that could be the basis for the first portable, on-site testing device for identifying the drugs.

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Brain structure could predict risky behavior

September 10, 2014 10:31 am | by Karen N. Peart, Yale Univ. | Comments

Some people avoid risks at all costs, while others will put their wealth, health and safety at risk without a thought. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that the volume of the parietal cortex in the brain could predict where people fall on the risk-taking spectrum.

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Where to grab space debris

September 10, 2014 10:10 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Objects in space tend to spin—and spin in a way that’s totally different from the way they spin on earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any number of actual or potential space missions, from cleaning up debris in the geosynchronous orbit favored by communications satellites to landing a demolition crew on a comet.

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Apple pushes digital wallet with Apple Pay

September 10, 2014 8:47 am | by Mae Anderson, AP Technology Writer | Comments

Apple is betting that people want to pay with a tap of the phone rather than a swipe of the card. The technology company on Tuesday introduced a new digital wallet service called Apple Pay that is integrated with its Passbook credential-storage app and its fingerprint ID security system. The announcement came as Apple introduced several new products including a new, larger iPhone 6 and a watch.

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Searching for new forms of superconductivity in 2-D electron liquids

September 10, 2014 8:38 am | Comments

A new frontier for studying 2-D matter is provided by planar collections of electrons at the surface of transition-metal-oxide (TMO) materials, in which high electron densities give rise to interactions that are stronger than in semiconductors. Scientists hope to find exotic phenomena in these highly-interactive electron environments and one of the leaders in this effort is James Williams, a new fellow at the Joint Quantum Institute.

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Wireless experts tap unused TV spectrum

September 10, 2014 8:30 am | Comments

Rice Univ. wireless researchers have found a way to make the most of the unused UHF TV spectrum by serving up fat streams of data over wireless hotspots that could stretch for miles. In a presentation today at the Association for Computing Machinery's MobiCom 2014 conference, researchers will unveil a multiuser, multiantenna transmission scheme for UHF, a portion of the radio spectrum that is usually reserved for television broadcasts.

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More health symptoms reported near “fracking” natural gas extraction

September 10, 2014 8:07 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | Comments

A Yale Univ.-led study has found a greater prevalence of health symptoms reported among residents living close to natural gas wells, including those drilled by hydraulic fracturing. The researchers conducted a random survey of 492 people in 180 households with ground-fed water wells in southwestern Pennsylvania, where natural gas extraction activity is significant.

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Solid light could compute previously unsolvable problems

September 10, 2014 7:46 am | by John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton Univ. | Comments

Researchers at Princeton Univ. have begun crystallizing light as part of an effort to answer fundamental questions about the physics of matter. The researchers are not shining light through crystal—they are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons, the basic element of light, so that they become fixed in place.

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Cloud computing revolution applies to evolution

September 10, 2014 7:30 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

A $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant to two Rice Univ. computer science groups will allow them to build cloud computing tools to help analyze evolutionary patterns. With the three-year grant, Christopher Jermaine and Luay Nakhleh, both associate professors of computer science, will develop parallel processing tools that track the evolution of genes and genomes across species.

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