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Engineers develop micro-tentacles for tiny robots

June 22, 2015 9:50 am | by Mike Krapfl, News Service, Iowa State Univ. | Comments

The tiny tube circled an ant's thorax, gently trapping the insect and demonstrating the utility of a microrobotic tentacle developed by Iowa State Univ. engineers. While most robots squeeze two fingers together to pick things up, these tentacles wrap around items gently.

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Seeing more deeply with laser light

June 22, 2015 8:47 am | by Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation | Comments

A human skull, on average, is about 0.3 in thick, or roughly the depth of the latest smartphone. Human skin, on the other hand, is about 0.1 in, or about three grains of salt, deep. While these dimensions are extremely thin, they still present major hurdles for any kind of imaging with laser light.

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Scientists make new estimates of the deep carbon cycle

June 22, 2015 8:23 am | by Stuart Wolpert, UCLA | Comments

Over billions of years, the total carbon content of the outer part of the Earth has gradually increased, scientists reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Craig Manning, a professor of geology and geochemistry at UCLA, and Peter Kelemen, a geochemistry professor at Columbia Univ., present new analyses that represent an important advance in refining our understanding of Earth's deep carbon cycle.

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Could we one day control the path of lightning?

June 22, 2015 8:14 am | by Stéphanie Thibault, INRS | Comments

Lightning darts across the sky in a flash. And even though we can use lightning rods to increase the probability of it striking at a specific location, its exact path remains unpredictable. At a smaller scale, discharges between two electrodes behave in the same manner, streaking through space to create electric arcs where only the start and end points are fixed. How then can we control the current so that it follows a predetermined path?

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How owls could help make wind turbines, planes quieter

June 22, 2015 7:56 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | Comments

A newly designed material, which mimics the wing structure of owls, could help make wind turbines, computer fans and even planes much quieter. Early wind tunnel tests of the coating have shown a substantial reduction in noise without any noticeable effect on aerodynamics.

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How to wipe out polio and prevent its re-emergence

June 22, 2015 7:45 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | Comments

Public health officials stand poised to eliminate polio from the planet. But a new study shows that the job won't be over when the last case of the horrible paralytic disease is recorded. Using disease-transmission models, a Univ. of Michigan team has demonstrated that silent transmission of poliovirus could continue for more than three years with no reported cases.

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Uncovering a dynamic cortex

June 22, 2015 7:37 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proven that the brain’s cortex doesn’t process specific tasks in highly specialized modules, showing that the cortex is, in fact, quite dynamic when sharing information. Previous studies of the brain have depicted the cortex as a patchwork of function-specific regions.

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New model to study HIV latency in brain cells

June 19, 2015 12:45 pm | by Helmholtz Zentrum Muchen | Comments

Over 35 million people worldwide are currently infected by HIV. Antiviral therapies can keep the virus from multiplying. However, no drug can cure infection so far, because various cell types continue to carry the virus in a latent, quiescent, state. Scientists have now established a model for latent HIV infection of brain cells. The researchers used this model to identify various compounds that affect latency of the virus in the brain.

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Mold unlocks new route to biofuels

June 19, 2015 10:38 am | by Univ. of Manchester | Comments

Scientists at The Univ. of Manchester have made an important discovery that forms the basis for the development of new applications in biofuels and the sustainable manufacturing of chemicals. Based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, researchers have identified the exact mechanism and structure of two key enzymes isolated from yeast molds that together provide a new, cleaner route to the production of hydrocarbons.

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Scientists solve decades-old cell biology puzzle

June 19, 2015 9:55 am | by European Molecular Biology Laboratory | Comments

Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg have solved a question that has puzzled cell biologists for decades: How does the protein machine that allows cells to swallow up molecules during endocytosis function? Endocytosis is the process by which cells engulf molecules and draw them inside the cell where they perform different functions.

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Climate change won’t reduce winter deaths

June 19, 2015 9:12 am | by Institute of Physics | Comments

In a study that contradicts the received wisdom on health impacts of climate change, scientists say that we shouldn’t expect substantial reduction in winter deaths as a result of global warming. This new research is published in Environmental Research Letters.

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Chemists devise technology that could transform solar energy storage

June 19, 2015 8:19 am | by Melody Pupols, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Comments

The materials in most of today’s residential rooftop solar panels can store energy from the sun for only a few microseconds at a time. A new technology developed by chemists at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles is capable of storing solar energy for up to several weeks, an advance that could change the way scientists think about designing solar cells.

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Brain receptor found to affect cocaine addiction

June 19, 2015 7:47 am | by Cathy Wilde, Univ. at Buffalo | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. at Buffalo have discovered a previously unknown neural pathway that can regulate changes made in the brain due to cocaine use, providing new insight into the molecular basis of cocaine addiction.

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Adapting nanoscience imaging tools to study ants’ heat-deflecting adaptations

June 19, 2015 7:41 am | by Alasdair Wilkins, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Comments

The tiny hairs of Saharan silver ants possess crucial adaptive features that allow the ants to regulate their body temperatures and survive the scorching hot conditions of their desert habitat. According to a new research paper, the unique triangular shape and internal structure of the hairs play a key role in maintaining the ant’s average internal temperature below the critical thermal maximum of 53.6 C (128.48 F).

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Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

June 19, 2015 7:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression. The findings offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences.

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