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The Lead

New clues about a brain protein with high affinity for valium

January 29, 2015 4:18 pm | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Valium, one of the best known antianxiety drugs, produces its calming effects by binding with a particular protein in the brain. But the drug has an almost equally strong affinity for a completely different protein. Understanding this secondary interaction might offer clues about Valium's side effects and point the way to more effective drugs.

Neutron beams reveal how two potential pieces of Parkinson’s puzzle fit

January 29, 2015 11:44 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

To understand diseases like Parkinson’s, the tiniest of puzzles may hold big answers. That’s why...

X-ray study reveals division of labor in cell health protein

January 29, 2015 11:24 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Researchers working in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered that a...

Laser pulse that gets shorter by itself

January 28, 2015 8:53 am | by Florian Aigner, Vienna Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

In a marathon, everyone starts at roughly the same place at roughly the same time. But the...

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Slowing down the speed of light traveling through air

January 23, 2015 9:30 am | by Univ. of Glasgow | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that the speed of light can be slowed slightly as it travels through materials such as water or glass. However, it has generally been thought impossible for particles of light, known as photons, to be slowed as they travel through free space, unimpeded by interactions with any materials.

Research recreates planet formation, giant planets in the laboratory

January 23, 2015 9:14 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

New laser-driven compression experiments reproduce the conditions deep inside exotic super-Earths and giant planet cores, and the conditions during the violent birth of Earth-like planets, documenting the material properties that determined planet formation and evolution processes. The experimentsreveal the unusual properties of silica under the extreme pressures and temperatures relevant to planetary formation and interior evolution.

Black hole on a diet creates a “changing look” quasar

January 22, 2015 11:18 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. astronomers have identified the first “changing look” quasar, a gleaming object in deep space that appears to have its own dimmer switch. The discovery may offer a glimpse into the life story of the universe’s great beacons. Quasars are massive, luminous objects that draw their energy from black holes. Until now, scientists have been unable to study both the bright and dim phases of a quasar in a single source.

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Peering into cosmic magnetic fields

January 21, 2015 12:03 pm | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

The generation of cosmic magnetic fields has long intrigued astrophysicists. Since it was first described in 1959, a phenomenon known as Weibel filamentation instability has generated tremendous theoretical interest from astrophysicists and plasma physicists as a potential mechanism for seed magnetic field generation in the universe. However, direct observation of Weibel-generated magnetic fields remained challenging for decades.

New method to generate arbitrary optical pulses

January 21, 2015 11:43 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

Scientists from the Univ. of Southampton have developed a new technique to generate more powerful, more energy-efficient and low-cost pulsed lasers. The technique, which was developed by researchers from the university's Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), has potential applications in a number of fields that use pulsed lasers including telecommunications, metrology, sensing and material processing.

Engineers use x-rays to illuminate catalysis, revise theories

January 21, 2015 9:11 am | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Many of today's most promising renewable energy technologies rely upon catalysts to expedite the chemical reactions at the heart of their potential. Catalysts are materials that enhance chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. For over a century, engineers across the world have engaged in a near-continual search for ways to improve catalysts for their devices and processes.

X-rays shed light on scrolls buried by volcano

January 21, 2015 8:45 am | by Frank Jordans, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists have succeeded in reading parts of an ancient scroll that was buried in a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago, holding out the promise that the world's oldest surviving library may one day reveal all of its secrets. The scroll is among hundreds retrieved from the remains of a lavish villa at Herculaneum that, along with Pompeii, was one of several Roman towns that were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

Laser-patterning technique turns metals into supermaterials

January 20, 2015 11:14 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

By zapping ordinary metals with femtosecond laser pulses researchers from the Univ. of Rochester have created extraordinary new surfaces that efficiently absorb light, repel water and clean themselves. The multifunctional materials could find use in durable, low maintenance solar collectors and sensors.

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Rapid journey through a crystal lattice

January 15, 2015 7:39 am | by Andreas Battenberg, TUM | News | Comments

The time frames, in which electrons travel within atoms, are unfathomably short. For example, electrons excited by light change their quantum-mechanical location within mere attoseconds. But how fast do electrons whiz across distances corresponding to the diameter of individual atomic layers?

Ultra-realistic radiation detection training without radioactive materials

January 14, 2015 10:49 am | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

Training of first responders on the hazards of actual radiological and nuclear threats has been challenged by the difficulties of adequately representing those threats. Training against such threats would involve using hazardous, highly radioactive materials, experiencing actual radiation doses in training, or require the distribution of radioactive material over a large geographical area.

Photonic crystal nanolaser biosensor simplifies DNA detection

January 13, 2015 12:01 pm | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A simple method to sense DNA, as well as potential biomarker proteins of cancer or other diseases such as Alzheimer's, may soon be within reach thanks to the work of a team of Yokohama National Univ. researchers in Japan. As the team reports in Applied Physics Letters, they created a photonic crystal nanolaser biosensor capable of detecting the adsorption of biomolecules based on the laser's wavelength shift.

Slick and slender snake beats short and stubby lizard in sand swimming

January 13, 2015 8:20 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

For swimming through sand, a slick and slender snake can perform better than a short and stubby lizard. That’s one conclusion from a study of the movement patterns of the shovel-nosed snake, a native of the Mojave Desert of the southwest U.S.

Novel inorganic material emits laser light

January 13, 2015 8:01 am | by Spanish National Research Council | News | Comments

The work, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates that the new material presents efficient and degradation-resistant laser emission in the blue, a spectral region of interest in applications such as spectroscopy or materials processing, among others.

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Compact batteries enhanced by spontaneous silver matrix formations

January 9, 2015 7:40 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a promising lithium-based battery, the formation of a highly conductive silver matrix transforms a material otherwise plagued by low conductivity. To optimize these multi-metallic batteries, scientists needed a way to see where, when and how these silver, nanoscale "bridges" emerge. Now, researchers have used x-rays to map this changing atomic architecture and revealed its link to the battery's rate of discharge.

“Seeing” hydrogen atoms to unveil enzyme catalysis

January 7, 2015 11:03 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Enzymes are catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in living organisms and control many cellular biological processes by converting a molecule, or substrate, into a product used by the cell. For scientists, understanding details of how enzymes work is essential to the discovery of drugs to cure diseases and treat disorders.

New technology enables ultra-fast steering, shaping of light beams

January 6, 2015 10:12 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A team of engineers has developed a new acousto-optic device that can shape and steer beams of light at speeds never before achieved. The new technology will enable better optical devices to be made, such as holographs that can move rapidly in real time.

Research suggests approach to treat virus causing respiratory illness in children

January 5, 2015 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New research findings point toward a class of compounds that could be effective in combating infections caused by enterovirus D68, which has stricken children with serious respiratory infections in the U.S. and elsewhere. The researchers used x-ray crystallography to learn the precise structure of the original strain of EV-D68 on its own and when bound to an anti-viral compound called "pleconaril."

Neutrinos can deliver full-on hits and “glancing blows”

January 2, 2015 8:03 am | by Leonor Sierra, Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

In what they call a “weird little corner” of the already weird world of neutrinos, physicists have found evidence that these tiny particles might be involved in a surprising reaction. Neutrinos are famous for almost never interacting. As an example, ten trillion neutrinos pass through your hand every second, and fewer than one actually interacts with any of the atoms that make up your hand.

Is the Higgs boson a piece of the matter-antimatter puzzle?

December 16, 2014 8:28 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Several experiments, including the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have helped explain some, but not all, of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Now a SLAC theorist and his colleagues have laid out a possible method for determining if the Higgs boson is involved.

Earth’s most abundant mineral finally has a name

December 15, 2014 8:00 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

An ancient meteorite and high-energy x-rays have helped scientists conclude a half century of effort to find, identify and characterize a mineral that makes up 38% of the Earth. And in doing so, a team of scientists clarified the definition of the Earth's most abundant mineral, a high-density form of magnesium iron silicate, now called Bridgmanite, and defined estimated constraint ranges for its formation.

New way to plug 'leaky' light cavities

December 11, 2014 8:07 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have demonstrated a new and more efficient way to trap light, using a phenomenon called bound states in the continuum (BIC) that was first proposed in the early days of quantum wave mechanics.

Solid-state proteins maximize the intensity of fluorescent-protein-based lasers

December 8, 2014 4:03 pm | by Massachusetts General Hospital | News | Comments

The same research team that developed the first laser based on a living cell has shown that use of fluorescent proteins in a solid form rather than in solution greatly increases the intensity of light produced, an accomplishment that takes advantage of natural protein structures surrounding the light-emitting portions of the protein molecules.

Rattled atoms mimic high-temperature superconductivity

December 8, 2014 9:29 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

An experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provided the first fleeting glimpse of the atomic structure of a material as it entered a state resembling room-temperature superconductivity—a long-sought phenomenon in which materials might conduct electricity with 100% efficiency under everyday conditions.

X-ray laser acts as tool to tack life’s chemistry

December 8, 2014 9:03 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

An international research team that includes researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has captured the highest-resolution protein snapshots ever taken with an x-ray laser, revealing how a key protein in a photosynthetic bacterium changes shape when hit by light.

Atomic “mismatch” creates nano “dumbbells”

December 5, 2014 9:55 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Like snowflakes, nanoparticles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The geometry of a nanoparticle is often as influential as its chemical makeup in determining how it behaves, from its catalytic properties to its potential as a semiconductor component. Thanks to a new study, researchers are closer to understanding the process by which nanoparticles made of more than one material, called heterostructured nanoparticles, form.

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