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Robotic ocean gliders aid study of melting polar ice

November 12, 2014 8:18 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | Comments

The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers now have a better understanding of the cause.

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Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

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Atomic timekeeping, on the go

November 12, 2014 7:58 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

What time is it? The answer, no matter what your initial reference may be, will always trace back to the atomic clock. The international standard for time is set by atomic clocks—room-sized apparatuses that keep time by measuring the natural vibration of atoms in a vacuum. The frequency of atomic vibrations determines the length of one second.

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Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

November 12, 2014 6:58 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods. Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water.

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Ebola workers ask Congress for help

November 12, 2014 3:58 am | by Lauran Neergaard - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

Health workers on the front line of the Ebola crisis say the need for urgent help isn't letting up, as Congress begins considering President Barack Obama's $6.2 billion emergency aid request to fight the disease. Despite reports that the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, cases still are rising in other areas.

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Bending in search of new materials

November 11, 2014 2:15 pm | by Britt Faulstick, Drexel Univ. | Comments

Making a paper airplane in school used to mean trouble. Today it signals a promising discovery in materials science research that could help next-generation technology get off the ground. Researchers at Drexel Univ. and Dalian Univ. of Technology in China have chemically engineered a new, electrically conductive nanomaterial that is flexible enough to fold, but strong enough to support many times its own weight.

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Archaeologists discover remains of Ice-Age infants

November 11, 2014 11:32 am | by National Science Foundation | Comments

The bones and teeth of two—possibly related—Ice-Age infants, who were buried more than 11,000 years ago in central Alaska, constitute the youngest human remains ever found in the North American Arctic, according to a new paper published by National Science Foundation-funded researchers.

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Telescope effort reveals asteroid’s size for first time

November 11, 2014 10:49 am | by Joe Fohn, Communications Dept., Southwest Research Institute | Comments

When the double asteroid Patroclus-Menoetius passed directly in front of a star on the night of Oct. 20, 2014, a team of volunteer astronomers across the U.S. was waiting. Observing the event, known as an occultation, from multiple sites where each observer recorded the precise time the star was obscured, yielded the first accurate determination of the two objects’ size and shape.

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Creating bright x-ray pulses in the laser laboratory

November 11, 2014 10:17 am | by Vienna Univ. of Technology | Comments

X-rays are widely used in medicine and in materials science. To take a picture of a broken bone, it’s enough to create a continuous flux of x-ray photons, but in order to study time-dependent phenomena on very short timescales, short x-ray pulses are required. One possibility to create short hard x-ray pulses is hitting a metal target with laser pulses.

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“Antibiogram” use in nursing facilities could improve antibiotic use

November 11, 2014 10:05 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | Comments

Use of “antibiograms” in skilled nursing facilities could improve antibiotic effectiveness and help address problems with antibiotic resistance. Antibiograms are tools that aid health care practitioners in prescribing antibiotics in local populations. They are based on information from microbiology laboratory tests and provide information on how likely a certain antibiotic is to effectively treat a particular infection.

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Climate worsening watery dead zones

November 11, 2014 9:55 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | Comments

Global warming is likely playing a bigger role than previously thought in dead zones in oceans, lakes and rivers around the world and it's only going to get worse, according to a new study. Dead zones occur when fertilizer runoff clogs waterways with nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. That leads to an explosion of microbes that consumes oxygen and leaves the water depleted of oxygen, harming marine life.

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Baby photos of a scaled-up solar system

November 11, 2014 8:46 am | by Daniel Stolte, Univ. Relations - Communications, Univ. of Arizona | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of Arizona have discovered what might be the closest thing to "baby photos" of our solar system. A young star called HD 95086 is found to have two dust belts, analogous to the asteroid and Kuiper belts in the solar system, surrounded by a large dust halo that only young planetary systems have. 

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Researchers take snapshots of potential “kill switch” for cancer

November 11, 2014 8:35 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | Comments

A study conducted in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has revealed how a key human protein switches from a form that protects cells to a form that kills them—a property that scientists hope to exploit as a “kill switch” for cancer. The protein, called cIAP1, shields cells from programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

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Good vibrations rock an insulator to go metallic

November 11, 2014 8:24 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Comments

For more than 50 years, scientists have debated what turns particular oxide insulators, in which electrons barely move, into metals, in which electrons flow freely. Some scientists sided with Nobel Prize–winning physicist Nevill Mott in thinking direct interactions between electrons were the key. Others believed, as did physicist Rudolf Peierls, that atomic vibrations and distortions trumped all.

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Heat transfer sets noise floor for ultra-sensitive electronics

November 11, 2014 8:10 am | by Ken Than, Caltech | Comments

A team of engineers and scientists has identified a source of electronic noise that could affect the functioning of instruments operating at very low temperatures, such as devices used in radio telescopes and advanced physics experiments. The findingscould have implications for the future design of transistors and other electronic components.

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