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How studying bat touch could help build better planes

May 4, 2015 8:51 am | by Columbia Univ. Medical Center | Videos | Comments

Bats are masters of flight in the night sky, capable of steep nosedives and sharp turns that put our best aircrafts to shame. Although the role of echolocation in bats’ impressive midair maneuvering has been extensively studied, the contribution of touch has been largely overlooked. A study published in Cell Reports shows, for the first time, that a unique array of sensory receptors in the wing provides feedback to a bat during flight.

New research into health benefits of coffee

May 1, 2015 10:29 am | by Monash Univ. | News | Comments

New research has brought us closer to being able to understand the health benefits of coffee. Monash Univ. researchers, in collaboration with Italian coffee roasting company Illycaffè, have conducted the most comprehensive study to date on how free radicals and antioxidants behave during every stage of the coffee brewing process, from intact bean to coffee brew.

Practical gel that simply “clicks” for biomedical applications

May 1, 2015 10:17 am | by Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

If you opt to wear soft contact lenses, chances are you are using hydrogels on a daily basis. Made up of polymer chains that are able to absorb water, hydrogels used in contacts are flexible and allow oxygen to pass through the lenses, keeping eyes healthy. Hydrogels can be up to 99% water and as a result are similar in composition to human tissues.

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How some beetles produce a scalding defensive spray

May 1, 2015 9:36 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Bombardier beetles, which exist on every continent except Antarctica, have a pretty easy life. Virtually no other animals prey on them, because of one particularly effective defense mechanism: When disturbed or attacked, the beetles produce an internal chemical explosion in their abdomen and then expel a jet of boiling, irritating liquid toward their attackers.

Study: Global warming to push 1 in 13 species to extinction

April 30, 2015 2:04 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Global warming will eventually push 1 out of every 13 species on Earth into extinction, a new study projects. It won't quite be as bad in North America, where only 1 in 20 species will be killed off because of climate change or Europe where the extinction rate is nearly as small. But in South America, that forecasted heat-caused extinction rate soars to 23%, the worst for any continent.

Inflammatory immune cells can flip the genetic script

April 30, 2015 8:47 am | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A type of immune cell that promotes inflammation during the immune response, TH17, can convert into another type of cell that reduces inflammation, Yale Univ. researchers have found. The finding, published in Nature, points to a possible therapeutic strategy for inflammation-mediated diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Illuminating the dark zone

April 30, 2015 8:01 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

The human body is a cross between a factory and a construction zone; at least on the cellular level. Certain proteins act as project managers, which direct a wide variety of processes and determine the fate of the cell as a whole. One group of proteins called the WD-repeat (WDR) family helps a cell choose which of the thousands of possible gene products it should manufacture.

“The Future Postponed: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit”—was prepared by a committee of MIT researchers and research administrators. Examining how funding cutbacks will affect the future of scientific studies

New MIT report details benefits of investment in basic research

April 29, 2015 2:24 pm | by Abby Abazorius, MIT | News | Comments

Last year was a notable one for scientific achievements: In 2014, European researchers discovered a fundamental new particle that sheds light on the origins of the universe, and the European Space Agency successfully landed the first spacecraft on a comet. Chinese researchers, meanwhile, developed the world’s fastest supercomputer, and uncovered new ways to meet global food demand.

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The super-particle is called a Bose-Einstein condensate, where the term condensate denotes a group of particles that all behave in the same way. That it should be possible to create such a condensate was first proposed theoretically by Bose and Einstein i

Quantum particles at play: Game theory elucidates the collective behavior of bosons

April 28, 2015 11:16 am | by LMU Munich | News | Comments

Quantum particles behave in strange ways and are often difficult to study experimentally. Using mathematical methods drawn from game theory, LMU physicists have shown how bosons, which like to enter the same state, can form multiple groups.

A team of researchers using the Advanced Photon Source, above, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility at Argonne National Laboratory, demonstrated unparalleled sensitivity for measuring the distribution of trace elements in thicker sp

X-ray ptychography, fluorescence microscopy combo sheds new light on trace elements

April 24, 2015 10:44 am | by Angela Hardin, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have developed a new approach that combines ptychographic x-ray imaging and fluorescence microscopy to study the important role trace elements play in biological functions on hydrated cells. A team of researchers using the Advanced Photon Source demonstrated unparalleled sensitivity for measuring distribution of trace elements in thicker specimens at cryogenic temperatures, in this case at about 260 degrees below Fahrenheit.

New DNA codes for mammoths: Step toward bringing them back?

April 23, 2015 2:05 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists are getting their best look yet at the DNA code for the woolly mammoth, thanks to work that could be a step toward bringing back the extinct beast. Researchers deciphered the complete DNA code, or genomes, of two mammoths. The new genomes are far more refined than a previous one announced in 2008.

Testing brain activity to identify cybersecurity threats

April 22, 2015 10:37 am | by Angie Hunt, Iowa State Univ. | News | Comments

The old adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link certainly applies to the risk organizations face in defending against cybersecurity threats. Employees pose a danger that can be just as damaging as a hacker. Iowa State Univ. researchers are working to better understand these internal threats by getting inside the minds of employees who put their company at risk.

Engineering the P450 enzyme to perform new reactions

April 22, 2015 8:24 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Enzymes, the micro machines in our cells, can evolve to perform new tasks when confronted with novel situations. But what if you want an enzyme to do an entirely different job—one that it would never have to do in a cell? In a recent report published in ACS Central Science, researchers show that they can mimic nature and perform evolution in a test tube, developing enzymes that can perform brand-new chemical reactions.

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Engineered softwood could transform pulp, paper and biofuel industries

April 22, 2015 7:44 am | by Krista Eastman, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Scientists have demonstrated the potential for softwoods to process more easily into pulp and paper if engineered to incorporate a key feature of hardwoods. The finding could improve the economics of the pulp, paper and biofuels industries and reduce those industries' environmental impact.

A better grasp of primate grip

April 21, 2015 10:59 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists are coming to grips with the superior grasping ability of humans and other primates throughout history. In a new study, a research team led by Yale Univ. found that even the oldest known human ancestors may have had precision grip capabilities comparable to modern humans. This includes Australopithecus afarensis, which appears in the fossil record a million years before the first evidence of stone tools.

Microalgae used for green asphalt

April 21, 2015 10:25 am | by CNRS | News | Comments

Microalgae offer a highly promising alternative to petroleum products without competing for resources used in the food industry. They have now been used, for the first time, to make asphalt. Researchers have recently proved the viability of bioasphalt, demonstrating its close similarity to the "real" asphalt used to pave roads.

Engineers introduce design that mimics nature’s camouflage

April 20, 2015 8:22 am | by Scott Schrage, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln Communications | News | Comments

It can shift from red to green to violet. It can mimic patterns and designs. And it can do all of this in a flash, literally. The same qualities that define the cuttlefish, a sea dweller that uses its powers of dynamic camouflage to survive and communicate, also apply to a new engineering feat that behaves much like nature's master of disguise.

New lab technique reveals structure, function of proteins critical in DNA repair

April 17, 2015 12:32 pm | by Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

By combining two highly innovative experimental techniques, scientists at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have for the first time simultaneously observed the structure and the correlated function of specific proteins critical in the repair of DNA, providing definitive answers to some highly debated questions, and opening up new avenues of inquiry and exciting new possibilities for biological engineering.

3D-printed blossoms a growing tool for ecology

April 17, 2015 10:36 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

3D printing has been used to make everything from cars to medical implants. Now, Univ. of Washington ecologists are using the technology to make artificial flowers, which they say could revolutionize our understanding of plant-pollinator interactions.

How climate affects biodiversity

April 17, 2015 8:22 am | by Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

How does climate change affect the occurrence and distribution of species? This is a key question in the climate debate, and one that is hard to answer without information about natural variation in species abundance. Now researchers from Uppsala Univ. can, for the first time, give us a detailed picture of natural variation through study published in Current Biology.

Flourishing faster

April 17, 2015 8:16 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Scientists at The Univ. of Manchester have discovered a way to make trees grow bigger and faster, which could increase supplies of renewable resources and help trees cope with the effects of climate change. In the study, published in Current Biology, the team successfully manipulated two genes in poplar trees in order to make them grow larger and more quickly than usual.

Zinc deficiency linked to activation of Hedgehog signaling pathway

April 17, 2015 8:03 am | by Mary Martialay, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | News | Comments

Zinc deficiency, long associated with numerous diseases like certain cancers, can lead to activation of the Hedgehog signaling pathway, a biomolecular pathway that plays essential roles in developing organisms and in diseases, according to new research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Tracing dust samples using fungal DNA

April 16, 2015 12:33 pm | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, have developed a statistical model that allows them to tell where a dust sample came from within the continental U.S. based on the DNA of fungi found in the sample.

Inhibitor for abnormal protein points way to more selective cancer drugs

April 16, 2015 8:20 am | by Dave Zobel, Caltech | News | Comments

Nowhere is the adage "form follows function" more true than in the folded chain of amino acids that makes up a single protein macromolecule. But proteins are very sensitive to errors in their genetic blueprints. One single-letter DNA "misspelling" (called a point mutation) can alter a protein's structure or electric charge distribution enough to render it ineffective or even deleterious.

BPA exposure in pregnant mice affects fertility in three generations

April 16, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

When scientists exposed pregnant mice to levels of bisphenol A (BPA) equivalent to those considered safe in humans, three generations of female mouse offspring experienced significant reproductive problems, including declines in fertility, sexual maturity and pregnancy success, the scientists report in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

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