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Researchers detect brightest pulsar ever recorded

October 9, 2014 8:09 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

Astronomers have detected a pulsating dead star that appears to be burning with the energy of 10 million suns, making it the brightest pulsar ever detected. The pulsar—a rotating, magnetized neutron star—was found in the galaxy Messier 82 (M82), a relatively close galactic neighbor that’s 12 million light-years from Earth.

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U.S. Ebola patient dies; airport screening expanded

October 8, 2014 6:37 pm | by Mike Stobbe - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died Wednesday despite intense but delayed treatment, and the government announced it was expanding airport examinations to guard against the spread of the deadly disease. The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports.

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IBM opens new Watson headquarters

October 8, 2014 2:39 pm | by Mae Anderson - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | Comments

IBM revealed details about new projects for its Watson cognitive computing software as it opened its New York headquarters. The company has been developing business uses for Watson with clients since it announced in January it was investing more than $1 billion in the technology, including about $100 million in startup companies working on Watson projects.

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Technology that controls brain cells with radio waves earns early BRAIN grant

October 8, 2014 12:30 pm | Comments

A proposal to develop a new way to remotely control brain cells from Sarah Stanley, a research associate in Rockefeller Univ.’s Laboratory of Molecular Genetics is among the first to receive funding from President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative. The project will make use of a technique called radiogenetics that combines the use of radio waves or magnetic fields with nanoparticles to turn neurons on or off.

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Breakthrough allows researchers to watch molecules “wiggle”

October 8, 2014 12:11 pm | Comments

A new crystallographic technique, called fast time-resolved crystallography, developed in the U.K. is set to transform scientists’ ability to observe how molecules work. Although this method, also known as Laue crystallography, has previously been possible, it has required advanced instrumentation that is only available at three sites worldwide. Only a handful of proteins have been studied using the traditional technique.

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Neuroscientists use snail research to help explain “chemo brain”

October 8, 2014 12:00 pm | Comments

It is estimated that as many as half of patients taking cancer drugs experience a decrease in mental sharpness, but what causes “chemo brain” has eluded scientists. In the study involving a sea snail that shares many of the same memory mechanisms as humans and a drug used to treat cancer, scientists in Texas identified memory mechanisms blocked by the drug. Then, they were able to counteract the mechanisms by administering another agent.

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Do-it-yourself flu vaccine? Study shows it works

October 8, 2014 10:40 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

A study suggests that do-it-yourself flu vaccine might be possible. Researchers found that military folks who squirted a nasal vaccine up their noses were as well-protected as others who got it from health workers. The study leader says there is no reason that ordinary people could not be taught to give the vaccine, especially for children who might be less scared if they received it from mom or dad.

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Laser comb system maps 3-D surfaces remotely

October 8, 2014 9:37 am | Comments

Researchers at NIST have demonstrated a laser-based imaging system that creates high-definition 3-D maps of surfaces from as far away as 10.5 m. The method, which combines a form of laser detection and ranging that is sensitive enough to detect weak reflected light with the ranging accuracy made possible by frequency combs, may be useful in diverse fields, including precision machining and assembly, as well as in forensics.

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Researchers pump up oil accumulation in plant leaves

October 8, 2014 9:20 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Comments

Increasing the oil content of plant biomass could help fulfill the nation's increasing demand for renewable energy feedstocks. But many of the details of how plant leaves make and break down oils have remained a mystery. Now a series of detailed genetic studies conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals previously unknown biochemical details about those metabolic pathways.

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Three win Nobel for super-zoom microscopes

October 8, 2014 9:20 am | by Karl Ritter and Malin Rising, Associated Press | Comments

Two Americans and a German scientist won the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for finding ways to make microscopes more powerful than previously thought possible. Working independently of each other, U.S. researchers Eric Betzig and William Moerner and Stefan Hell of Germany shattered previous limits on the resolution of optical microscopes by using molecules that glow on command to peer inside tiny components of life.

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New way to make foams could lead to lightweight, sustainable materials

October 8, 2014 8:30 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

Anyone who has blown a bubble and seen how quickly it pops has first-hand experience on the major challenge in creating stable foams. At its most basic level, foam is a bunch of bubbles squished together. Liquid foams, a state of matter that arises from tiny gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid, are familiar in everyday life, from beer to bathwater. They also are important in commercial products and processes.

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Lab-on-a-chip for early diagnosis of cancer

October 8, 2014 8:09 am | by Brendan M. Lynch, KU News Service | Comments

Scientists have been laboring to detect cancer and a host of other diseases in people using promising new biomarkers called “exosomes.” Indeed, Popular Science magazine named exosome-based cancer diagnostics one of the 20 breakthroughs that will shape the world this year. Exosomes could lead to less invasive, earlier detection of cancer, and sharply boost patients’ odds of survival.

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Getting metabolism right

October 8, 2014 7:59 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Metabolic networks are mathematical models of every possible sequence of chemical reactions available to an organ or organism, and they’re used to design microbes for manufacturing processes or to study disease. Based on both genetic analysis and empirical study, they can take years to assemble. Unfortunately, a new analytic tool suggests that many of those models may be wrong.

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Ebola's victims may include dog in Spain

October 7, 2014 7:38 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

Ebola's victims may include a dog named Excalibur. Officials in Madrid got a court order to euthanize the pet of a Spanish nursing assistant with Ebola because of the chance the animal might spread the disease. At least one major study suggests that dogs can be infected with the deadly virus without having symptoms. But whether or how likely they are to spread it to people is less clear.

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Unconventional photoconduction in an atomically thin semiconductor

October 7, 2014 3:36 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT | Comments

It’s a well-known phenomenon in electronics: Shining light on a semiconductor, such as the silicon used in computer chips and solar cells, will make it more conductive. But now researchers have discovered that in a special semiconductor, light can have the opposite effect, making the material less conductive instead. This new mechanism of photoconduction could lead to next-generation excitonic devices.

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