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The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

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Study reveals new characteristics of complex oxide surfaces

July 25, 2014 8:25 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

A novel combination of microscopy and data processing has given researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) an unprecedented look at the surface of a material known for its unusual physical and electrochemical properties. The research team led by ORNL’s Zheng Gai examined how oxygen affects the surface of a perovskite manganite, a complex material that exhibits dramatic magnetic and electronic behavior.

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Molecule could lead to new way to repair tendons

July 25, 2014 8:15 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

It’s an all-too familiar scenario for many people. You sprain your ankle or twist your knee. If you’re an adult, the initial pain is followed by a long road of recovery, with no promise that the torn ligament or tendon will ever regain its full strength. That’s because tendon and ligament cells in adults produce little collagen, the fibrous protein that is used to build new tendon and ligament tissue.

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Collecting just the right data

July 25, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Much artificial intelligence research addresses the problem of making predictions based on large data sets. An obvious example is the recommendation engines at retail sites like Amazon and Netflix. But some types of data are harder to collect than online click histories. And in other applications there may just not be enough time to crunch all the available data.

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Researchers discover new way to determine cancer risk of chemicals

July 25, 2014 7:00 am | Comments

A new study has shown that it is possible to predict long-term cancer risk from a chemical exposure by measuring the short-term effects of that same exposure. The findings could make it possible to develop simpler and cheaper tests to screen chemicals for their potential cancer causing risk.

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Just 8.2% of our DNA is “functional”

July 25, 2014 6:59 am | Comments

According to recently published research, scientists in the U.K. say that just 8.2% of human DNA is likely to be doing something important, or “functional”. This figure is very different from one given in 2012, when some scientists involved in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project stated that 80% of our genome has some biochemical function.

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Four billion-year-old chemistry in cells today

July 25, 2014 6:58 am | Comments

The primordial soup theory suggests that life began in a pond or ocean as a result of the combination of metals, gases from the atmosphere and some form of energy, such as a lightning strike, to make the building blocks of proteins which would then evolve into all species. New research shows how mitochondria in cells continue to perform similar reactions in our bodies today.

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The microbes make the sake brewery

July 25, 2014 6:56 am | Comments

According to recent research that marks the first time investigators have taken a microbial census of a sake brewery, the microbial populations found on surfaces in the facility resemble those found in the product, creating the final flavor. This means a sake brewery has its own microbial terroir.

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Antioxidant biomaterial promotes healing

July 25, 2014 6:55 am | Comments

When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body usually reacts negatively. For the first time ever, researchers at Northwestern Univ. have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues.

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Biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event

July 25, 2014 6:54 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford Univ. | Comments

Stanford Univ. biology Prof. Rodolfo Dirzo and his colleagues are warning that "defaunation" could have harmful downstream effects on human health. The planet's current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But, Dirzo says, this may be reaching a tipping point.

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New approach helps form non-equilibrium structures

July 25, 2014 6:49 am | Comments

Scientists at Northwestern Univ. have developed a new technique for creating non-equilibrium systems, which experience constant changes in energy and phases, such as temperature fluctuations, freezing and melting, or movement. The method, which involves injecting energy through oscillations to force particles to self-assemble under non-equilibrium conditions, should help us understand the fundamentals of this mysterious topic.

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Study shows how to power California with wind, water and sun

July 25, 2014 6:49 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Univ. | Comments

New Stanford Univ. research outlines the path to a possible future for California in which renewable energy creates a healthier environment, generates jobs and stabilizes energy prices. Among other metrics, the plan calculates the number of new devices and jobs created, land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for infrastructure changes.

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Study reveals atomic structure of key muscle component

July 25, 2014 6:47 am | Comments

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and is the basis of most movement in the body. Adding to the growing fundamental understanding of the machinery of muscle cells, a group of biophysicists in Pennsylvania have published work that describes in minute detail how actin filaments are stabilized at one of their ends to form a basic muscle structure called the sarcomere.

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Report: 2011 extramural R&D funding by U.S.-located businesses nears $30 billion

July 24, 2014 9:56 am | Comments

According to a new report available from NSF's National Center of Science and Engineering Statistics U.S.-located companies spent $29.6 billion for extramural (purchased and collaborative) research and development performed by domestic and overseas organizations. This represents more than 10% of total company-funded, company-performed R&D.

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Junk DNA not as worthless as once thought

July 24, 2014 9:50 am | Comments

Around 75% of the supposed functionless DNA in the human genome is transcribed into so-called non-coding RNAs, and little is known about their function. Now, researchers have demonstrated that the production of non-coding RNAs is precisely regulated. They suspect that non-coding RNAs might play a role in regulating cellular processes or in the modified immune response following exposure to environmental toxicants.

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Urban heat’s effect on the environment

July 24, 2014 9:36 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Comments

New research from North Carolina State Univ. shows that urban “heat islands” are slowly killing red maples in the southeastern U.S. One factor is that researchers have found warmer temperatures increase the number of young produced by the gloomy scale insect—a significant tree pest—by 300%, which in turn leads to 200 times more adult gloomy scales on urban trees.

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