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Plant scientist discovers basis of evolution in violins

October 9, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin? Much more than you might imagine. Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is applying “morphometrics”, which statistically tests hypotheses about factors that affect shape, to changes in the shape of violins over time. His work revealed a strong degree of design transmission and imitation.

Getting metabolism right

October 8, 2014 7:59 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Metabolic networks are mathematical models of every possible sequence of chemical reactions...

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At the interface of math and science

September 30, 2014 8:09 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Paul Atzberger, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and in mechanical engineering, often works in areas where mathematics plays an ever more important role in the discovery and development of new ideas. Most recently he has developed new mathematical approaches to gain insights into how proteins move around within lipid bilayer membranes.

Math model designed to replace invasive kidney biopsy for lupus patients

September 19, 2014 8:34 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

Mathematics might be able to reduce the need for invasive biopsies in patients suffering kidney damage related to the autoimmune disease lupus. In a new study, researchers developed a math model that can predict the progression from nephritis, or kidney inflammation, to interstitial fibrosis, scarring in the kidney that current treatments cannot reverse. A kidney biopsy is the only existing way to reach a definitive diagnosis.

Study: Number-crunching could lead to unethical choices

September 15, 2014 5:02 pm | News | Comments

Calculating the pros and cons of a potential decision is a way of decision-making. But repeated engagement with numbers-focused calculations, especially those involving money, can have unintended negative consequences, including social and moral transgressions, says new study. Several experiments supported these findings and pointed to a “calculative mindset” that can take precedence in reaching conclusions.

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Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy

September 12, 2014 1:48 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT | News | Comments

The central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. The traditional view holds that a single particle really is a wave that collapses only when observed. But John Bush, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that another explanation, the pilot-wave theory, deserves a second look.

Scientist explores birth of a planet

September 8, 2014 1:53 pm | News | Comments

Dr. John Carr, a scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, is part of an international team that has found what they believe is evidence of a planet forming around a star about 335 light years from Earth. They made the chance discovery while studying the protoplanetary disk of gas around a distant forming star using a technique called spectro-astrometry, which allows astronomers to detect small changes in the position of moving gas.

A new foundation for mathematics

September 3, 2014 12:57 pm | by Florian Meyer, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Proofs are the key method of mathematics. Until now, it has mainly been humans who have verified whether proofs are correct. This could change, says Russian mathematician Vladimir Voevodsky, who points to evidence that, in the near future, computers rather than humans could reliably verify whether a mathematical proof is correct.

Duality principle is “safe and sound”

August 28, 2014 10:23 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Rochester have cleared up an apparent violation of quantum mechanics’ wave-particle duality that was announced in 2012 by a team of scientists in Germany. They replicated the experiment, which simultaneously determined a photon’s path and observed high contrast interference fringes created by the interaction of waves. But they also found an undiscovered source of bias sampling that explained the strange results.

Materials scientists, mathematicians benefit from newly crafted polymers

August 26, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Polymers come with a range of properties dictated by their chemical composition and geometrical arrangement. Yasuyuki Tezuka and his team at Tokyo Institute of Technology have now applied an approach to synthesize a new type of multicyclic polymer geometry. While mathematicians are interested because these structures have not been realized before, the geometry studies also provide insights for chemists.

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Algorithm gives credit where credit is due

August 18, 2014 8:29 am | by Joe O'Connell, Staff Writer, Northeastern Univ. | News | Comments

It makes sense that the credit for sci­ence papers with mul­tiple authors should go to the authors who per­form the bulk of the research, yet that’s not always the case. Now a new algo­rithm devel­oped at Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research helps sheds light on how to prop­erly allo­cate credit.

Photo editing algorithm changes weather, seasons automatically

August 11, 2014 8:27 am | Videos | Comments

A computer algorithm being developed by Brown Univ. researchers lets users instantly change the weather, time of day, season or other features in outdoor photos with simple text commands. Machine learning and a clever database make it possible. A paper describing the work will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2014.

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

July 30, 2014 4:55 pm | by Claire Sturgeon, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s "Through the Looking Glass", collaborators from Illinois and Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species evolve. The new model, called a mean field model for competition, incorporates the “Red Queen Effect,” which suggests that organisms must constantly increase fitness in order to compete with other ever-evolving organisms in an ever-changing environment.

Research shows oceans vital for alien life

July 21, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. Mathematicians and earth sciences experts in the U.K. have recently taken the next step, creating a computer-simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They hope to learn how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account.

Oxygen extends graphene’s reach

July 11, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

The addition of elements to the surface of graphene can modify the material’s physical and chemical properties, potentially extending the range of possible applications. Recently performed theoretical calculations at RIKEN in Japan show that the addition of oxygen to graphene on copper substrates results in enhanced functionalization. The resulting structure, known as an enolate, make support applications that require catalytic response.

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Gas hydrates by the slice

July 9, 2014 8:00 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A decade of research by Rice Univ. scientists has produced a 2-D model to prove how gas hydrate, the “ice that burns,” is formed under the ocean floor. Gas hydrate has potential as a source of abundant energy, if it can be extracted and turned into usable form. It also has potential to do great harm.

“Deep learning” makes search for exotic particles easier

July 2, 2014 3:12 pm | News | Comments

Fully automated "deep learning" by computers greatly improves the odds of discovering particles such as the Higgs boson, according to a recent study. In fact, this approach beats even veteran physicists' abilities, which now consists of developing mathematical formulas by hand to apply to data. New machine learning methods are rendering that approach unnecessary.

Nineteenth-century math tactic gets makeover, speeds answers up to 200 times

July 1, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

A relic from long before the age of supercomputers, the 169-year-old math strategy called the Jacobi iterative method is widely dismissed today as too slow to be useful. But thanks to a Johns Hopkins Univ. engineering student and his professor, it may soon get a new lease on life. With just a few modern-day tweaks, the researchers say they’ve made the rarely used Jacobi method work up to 200 times faster.

How a wrinkle becomes a crease

June 25, 2014 2:45 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Wrinkles, creases and folds are everywhere in nature, from the surface of human skin to the buckled crust of the Earth. They can also be useful structures for engineers. Wrinkles in thin films, for example, can help make durable circuit boards for flexible electronics. A newly developed mathematical model could help engineers control the formation of wrinkle, crease and fold structures in a wide variety of materials.

World’s first magnetic hose created

June 25, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

An international research team led by scientists in Barcelona has developed a material which guides and transports a magnetic field from one location to the other, similar to how an optical fiber transports light or a hose transports water. The magnetic hose consists of a ferromagnetic cylinder covered by a superconductor material, a surprisingly simple design made possible by complicated theoretical calculations and experimentation.

Crowdsourcing the phase problem

June 17, 2014 4:26 pm | News | Comments

The term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and since then has seen its definition broadened to a wide range of activities involving a network of people. A challenging problem that might benefit from crowdsourcing, according to recently published research, is the phase problem in x-ray crystallography. Retrieving the phase information has plagued many scientists for decades when trying to determine the crystal structure of a sample.

Moscow researcher predicts new state of matter

June 17, 2014 11:25 am | News | Comments

A physicist in Russia, Alexander Rozhkov, has presented theoretical calculations which indicate the possible existence of fermionic matter in a previously unknown state. It is defined as a 1-D liquid, which cannot be described within the framework of existing models. According to Rozhkov, the 1-D liquid state of matter is not necessarily one that can be observed with the naked eye on a macroscopic scale.

NIST: The clumping density of many things seems to be a standard

June 11, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Particles of soot floating through the air and comets hurtling through space have at least one thing in common: 0.36. That, reports a research group at NIST, is the measure of how dense they will get under normal conditions, and it’s a value that seems to be constant for similar aggregates across an impressively wide size range from nanometers to tens of meters. NIST hopes the results will aid climate researchers.

Designing ion “highway systems” for batteries

June 10, 2014 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Since the early 1970s, lithium has been the most popular element for batteries because of it’s low weight and good electrochemical potential. But it is also highly flammable. Researchers have recently married two traditional theories in materials science that can explain how the charge dictates the structure of the material. And using this they may be able to move to other materials, such as block copolymers, for use in batteries.

Direct observations offer a new solution to desorption calculations

May 28, 2014 11:41 am | News | Comments

In recent research in Germany, the desorption of oxygen molecules from a silver surface was successfully visualized for the first time using low-energy electron microscopy. The effects account for the shortcomings of conventional models of desorption, which often deliver rates that do not agree with experimentally determined values.

New engine design could reduce aircraft fuel consumption by 15%

May 27, 2014 12:20 pm | by Christian Johansson, Chalmers University of Technology | News | Comments

According to new research from Sweden, two aircraft engine concepts, a geared turbofan and an open rotor, can enable a significant reduction to aircraft fuel consumption. With an open rotor, the potential reduction is 15%. An open rotor engine generates most of the thrust from two counter-rotating propellers instead of a ducted fan. This enables a larger engine diameter and a higher propulsive efficiency.

Molecules do the triple twist

May 27, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

They are 3-D and yet single-sided: Moebius strips. These twisted objects have only one side and one edge. Using this iconic form, an international team of scientists has succeeded in designing the world’s first “triply” twisted molecule. Because of their peculiar quantum mechanical properties these structures are interesting for applications in molecular electronics and optoelectronics.

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