Although liquid water covers a majority of Earth's surface, scientists are still searching for planets outside of our solar system that contain water. Researchers have used a new technique to analyze the gaseous atmospheres of such extrasolar planets and have made the first detection of water in the atmosphere of the Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the nearby star tau Boötis.
Engineers like to make things that work. And if one wants to make something work using nanoscale...
In the battle against infection, immune cells are the body's offense and defense. It has long...
Methane, a key greenhouse gas, has more than doubled in volume in Earth's atmosphere since 1750. Its increase is believed to be a leading contributor to climate change. But where is the methane coming from? Research by a California Institute of Technology atmospheric chemist suggests that losses of natural gas—our "cleanest" fossil fuel—into the atmosphere may be a larger source than previously recognized.
In 2011, biologists at Caltech demonstrated a highly effective method for delivering HIV-fighting antibodies to mice—a treatment that protected the mice from infection by a laboratory strain of HIV delivered intravenously. Now the researchers have shown that the same procedure is just as effective against a strain of HIV found in the real world, even when transmitted across mucosal surfaces.
We tend to be creatures of habit. In fact, the human brain has a learning system devoted to guiding us through routine, or habitual, behaviors. At the same time, the brain has a separate goal-directed system for the actions we undertake only after careful consideration of the consequences. We switch between the two systems as needed. But how does the brain know which system to give control to at any given moment? Enter The Arbitrator.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 18% of American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Previous studies of anxiety in the brain have focused on the amygdala, an area known to play a role in fear. But a team of researchers had a hunch that understanding a different brain area, the lateral septum (LS), could provide more clues into how the brain processes anxiety.
The human intestinal tract, or gut, is best known for its role in digestion. But this collection of organs also plays a prominent role in the immune system. In fact, it is one of the first parts of the body that is attacked in the early stages of an HIV infection. Knowing how the virus infects cells and accumulates in this area is critical to developing new therapies for the over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV.
In the Earth Surface Dynamics Lab at the California Institute of Technology the behavior of rivers is modeled through the use of artificial rivers—flumes—through which water can be pumped at varying rates over a variety of carefully graded sediments while drag force and acceleration are measured. The largest flume is a 12-m tilting version that can model many river conditions.
For decades, astrophysicists have encountered a puzzling contradiction: although many galactic-wind models—simulations of how matter is distributed in our universe—predict that the majority of the "normal" matter exists in stars at the center of galaxies, in actuality these stars account for less than 10% of the matter in the universe. A new set of simulations offer insight into this mismatch between the models and reality.
If you've ever slipped on a slimy wet rock at the beach, you have bacteria to thank. Those bacteria, nestled in a supportive extracellular matrix, form bacterial biofilms. For some marine organisms, these biofilms serve a vital purpose, flagging suitable homes for such organisms and actually aiding the transformation of larvae to adults. A new study is the first to describe a mechanism for this phenomenon.
Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments have been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock with experiments performed on Mars. The work could not only help in understanding the geologic history of Mars but also aid in the search for evidence of ancient life on the planet.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed when individuals exhibit characteristic behaviors that include repetitive actions, decreased social interactions and impaired communication. Curiously, many individuals with ASD also suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as abdominal cramps and constipation. Using the co-occurrence of brain and gut problems in ASD as their guide, researchers are investigating a new therapy.
Where do you go to look at the stars? Away from city lights, certainly. But if you're serious about peering far out into space, to the observable edges of our universe, at submillimeter wavelengths, you have to do a little better than that. You have to go farther and higher, up to where the atmosphere is thin. And if you want to look at the stars for more than a few nights a year, you also need some place that is very, very dry.
In developing nations, rural areas and even one's own home, limited access to expensive equipment and trained medical professionals can impede the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Many qualitative tests that provide a simple "yes" or "no" answer have been optimized for use in these resource-limited settings. But few quantitative tests can be done outside of a laboratory or clinical setting.
From the production of tougher, more durable smartphones and other electronic devices, to a wider variety of longer lasting biomedical implants, bulk metallic glasses are poised to be mainstay materials for the 21st Century. Featuring a non-crystalline amorphous structure, bulk metallic glasses can be as strong or stronger than steel, as malleable as plastics, conduct electricity and resist corrosion.
A group of researchers at Caltech has created the optical equivalent of a tuning fork: a device that can help steady the electrical currents needed to power high-end electronics and stabilize the signals of high-quality lasers. The work marks the first time that such a device has been miniaturized to fit on a chip and may pave the way to improvements in high-speed communications, navigation and remote sensing.
The lightweight skeletons of organisms such as sea sponges display a strength that far exceeds that of manmade products constructed from similar materials. Scientists have long suspected that the difference has to do with the hierarchical architecture of the biological materials; the way the silica-based skeletons are built up from different structural elements. Now engineers at Caltech have mimicked such a structure.
One of the many counter-intuitive and bizarre insights of quantum mechanics is that even in a vacuum all is not completely still. Low levels of noise (quantum fluctuations) are always present. Always, that is, unless you can pull off a quantum trick. And that's just what a Caltech team has done.
Wall turbulence develops when fluids—liquid or gas—flow past solid surfaces at anything but the slowest flow rates. Progress in understanding and controlling wall turbulence has been somewhat incremental because of the massive range of scales of motion involved, but recently engineers in the U.S. and the U.K. have developed a new and improved way of looking at the composition of turbulence near walls.
Earth’s atmosphere did not always contain oxygen, and one of science's greatest mysteries is how and when oxygenic photosynthesis—the process responsible for producing oxygen on Earth through the splitting of water molecules—first began. A team has now found evidence of a precursor photosystem involving manganese that predates cyanobacteria, the first group of organisms to release oxygen into the environment via photosynthesis.
Smaller begets bigger. Such is often the case for galaxies, at least: The first galaxies were small, then eventually merged together to form the behemoths we see in the present universe. Now, a team of astronomers has discovered a dust-filled, massive galaxy churning out stars when the cosmos was a mere 880 million years old—making it the earliest starburst galaxy ever observed.
Chemists at California Institute of Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believe they can now explain one of the remaining mysteries of photosynthesis, the chemical process by which plants convert sunlight into usable energy and generate the oxygen that we breathe. The finding suggests a new way of approaching the design of catalysts that drive the water-splitting reactions of artificial photosynthesis.
Currently, most white blood cell counts are performed with large-scale equipment in central clinical laboratories. If a physician collects blood samples from a patient in the office, it can take days to get the results. But now engineers at the California Institute of Technology, working with LeukoDx, have developed a portable device to count white blood cells that needs less than a pinprick's worth of blood and takes just minutes to run.
Imagine that the chips in your smartphone or computer could repair and defend themselves on the fly, recovering in microseconds from problems ranging from less-than-ideal battery power to total transistor failure. It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of engineers at the California Institute of Technology, for the first time ever, has developed just such self-healing integrated chips.
When viruses like HIV/AIDS strike in underdeveloped regions of the world, they often spiral out of control in part because there is no easy way to bring diagnostic equipment to remote areas so that the diseases can be identified, treated, and stopped before they spread. Now, an inexpensive, portable, easy-to-use device, built by a team of Caltech engineers and biologists, promises to speed the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS and other diseases—and improve treatment—in even the most far-flung corners of the world.
Every great structure depends on specific mechanical properties to remain strong and reliable. Rigidity is of particular importance for maintaining the robust functionality of everything from colossal edifices to the tiniest of nanoscale structures. In biological nanostructures it has been difficult to measure this stiffness, which is essential to their properties and functions. But scientists at the California Institute of Technology have recently developed techniques for visualizing the behavior of biological nanostructures in both space and time, allowing them to directly measure stiffness and map its variation throughout the network.
Scientists have long dreamed of creating a quantum computer—a device rooted in the bizarre phenomena that transpire at the level of the very small, where quantum mechanics rules the scene. It is believed that such new computers could process currently unsolvable problems in seconds. Researchers have tried using various quantum systems, such as atoms or ions, as the basic, transistor-like units in simple quantum computation devices. Now Caltech researchers are laying the groundwork for an on-chip optical quantum network.
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