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Study details impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on beach microbial communities

February 18, 2015 7:46 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech | Comments

When oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill first began washing ashore on Pensacola Municipal Beach in June 2010, populations of sensitive microorganisms, including those that capture sunlight or fix nitrogen from the air, began to decline. At the same time, organisms able to digest light components of the oil began to multiply, starting the process of converting the pollutant to carbon dioxide and biomass.

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Smarter multicore chips

February 18, 2015 7:33 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Comments

Computer chips’ clocks have stopped getting faster. To keep delivering performance improvements, chipmakers are instead giving chips more processing units, or cores, which can execute computations in parallel. But the ways in which a chip carves up computations can make a big difference to performance.

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Building a more versatile frequency comb

February 17, 2015 7:25 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | Comments

Frequency combs are the rulers of light. By counting a wavelength's many oscillations, they measure distance and time with extraordinary precision and speed. Since the discovery of optical frequency combs in the 1990s, many applications in metrology, spectroscopy and frequency synthesis have emerged.

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Researchers develop algorithm to make simulation of ultra-fast processes possible

February 17, 2015 7:17 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

When electronic states in materials are excited during dynamic processes, interesting phenomena such as electrical charge transfer can take place on quadrillionth-of-a-second, or femtosecond, timescales. Numerical simulations in real time provide the best way to study these processes, but such simulations can be extremely expensive.

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U.S. natural gas market buffered against local policy intervention

February 17, 2015 7:02 pm | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | Comments

The depth and efficiency of the U.S. natural gas market would buffer it against potential local policy interventions aimed at limiting access to shale gas resources, according to a new paper by energy economists at Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

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Washington state panel mulls bill to trim vaccine exemptions

February 17, 2015 4:28 pm | by Rachel La Corte,Associated Press | Comments

Personal or philosophical opposition to vaccines would not be an authorized exemption for the parents of school-age children under a measure that received a public hearing before a House committee on Tuesday, drawing at least two dozen opponents to the proposed change.

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Fiber-optic monitoring tools could help industry unlock geothermal energy

February 17, 2015 12:43 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | Comments

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientists and engineers are working with industry partners and the U.S. Dept. of Energy to develop a highly detailed monitoring system for geothermal wells. Man-made geothermal systems that emulate natural ones could, by some conservative estimates, produce a total of 100 gigawatts of cost-competitive electricity over the next 50 years.

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A close call of 0.8 light years

February 17, 2015 12:35 pm | by Leonor Sierra, Univ. of Rochester | Comments

A group of astronomers from the U.S., Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system's distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close—five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.

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Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

February 17, 2015 12:17 pm | by Univ. of Gothenburg | Comments

At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study led by researchers at the Univ. of Gothenburg shows that plants have been very resilient to those events. For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world's surface.

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New spin on spintronics

February 17, 2015 11:18 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | Comments

A team of researchers from the Univ. of Michigan and Western Michigan Univ. is exploring new materials that could yield higher computational speeds and lower power consumption, even in harsh environments. Most modern electronic circuitry relies on controlling electronic charge within a circuit, but this control can easily be disrupted in the presence of radiation, interrupting information processing.

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Novel solid-state nanomaterial platform enables terahertz photonics

February 17, 2015 11:11 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | Comments

Compact, sensitive and fast nanodetectors are considered to be somewhat of a "Holy Grail" sought by many researchers around the world. And now a team of scientists in Italy and France has been inspired by nanomaterials and has created a novel solid-state technology platform that opens the door to the use of terahertz photonics in a wide range of applications.

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Molecular inhibitor breaks cycle that leads to Alzheimer’s

February 17, 2015 11:02 am | by Tom Kirk, Univ. of Cambridge | Comments

A molecule that can block the progress of Alzheimer's disease at a crucial stage in its development has been identified by researchers in a new study, raising the prospect that more such molecules may now be found. The report shows that a molecular chaperone can play the role of an "inhibitor" part-way through the molecular process that's thought to cause Alzheimer's.

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Ancient rocks show life on Earth 3.2 billion years ago

February 17, 2015 9:13 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | Comments

A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth. But what happened next? Life can exist without oxygen; but without plentiful nitrogen to build genes, life on the early Earth would have been scarce. The ability to use atmospheric nitrogen to support more widespread life was thought to have appeared roughly 2 billion years ago.

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More infectious diseases emerging because of climate change

February 17, 2015 9:03 am | by Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | Comments

The appearance of infectious diseases in new places and new hosts, such as West Nile virus and Ebola, is a predictable result of climate change, says a noted zoologist affiliated with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln.  

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The future of electronics could lie in material from the past

February 17, 2015 8:31 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, The Ohio State Univ. | Comments

The future of electronics could lie in a material from its past, as researchers from The Ohio State Univ. work to turn germanium, the material of 1940s transistors, into a potential replacement for silicon. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, Asst. Prof. of Chemistry Joshua Goldberger reported progress in developing a form of germanium called germanane.

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