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Chemical makes blind mice see

July 25, 2012 10:02 am | News | Comments

A team of University of California, Berkeley scientists in collaboration with researchers at the University of Munich and University of Washington, in Seattle, has discovered a chemical that temporarily restores some vision to blind mice, and is working on an improved compound that may someday allow people with degenerative blindness to see again.

Single-photon transmitter could enable new quantum devices

July 25, 2012 9:45 am | News | Comments

In theory, quantum computers should be able to perform certain kinds of complex calculations much faster than conventional computers, and quantum-based communication could be invulnerable to eavesdropping. But producing quantum components for real-world devices has proved to be fraught with daunting challenges. Now, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University has achieved a crucial long-term goal of such efforts.

Researchers create artificial mother of pearl

July 25, 2012 6:53 am | News | Comments

Mimicking the way mother of pearl, also called nacre, is created in nature, scientists have, for the first time, synthesized the strong, iridescent coating found on the inside of some mollusks. By recreating the biological steps that form nacre in mollusks, the scientists were able to manufacture a material which has a similar structure, mechanical behavior, and optical appearance of that found in nature.

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Engineers study physics of avalanches

July 25, 2012 3:32 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell University | News | Comments

Snow avalanches, a real threat in countries from Switzerland to Afghanistan, are fundamentally a physics problem: What are the physical laws that govern how they start, grow, and move, and can theoretical modeling help predict them? Cornell University researchers have uncovered some clues.

GPS can now measure ice melt

July 24, 2012 8:07 am | News | Comments

Researchers have found a way to use GPS to measure short-term changes in the rate of ice loss on Greenland—and reveal a surprising link between the ice and the atmosphere above it. The study hints at the potential for GPS to detect many consequences of climate change, including ice loss, the uplift of bedrock, changes in air pressure—and perhaps even sea level rise.

Engineers are designing, building mechanical ray

July 24, 2012 5:26 am | News | Comments

Batoid rays, such as stingrays and manta rays, are among nature's most elegant swimmers. They are fast, highly maneuverable, graceful, energy efficient, can cruise, bird-like, for long distances in the deep, open ocean, and rest on the sea bottom. A team from the University of Virginia and other universities is trying to emulate the seemingly effortless, but powerful, swimming motions of rays by engineering their own ray-like machine modeled on nature.

New proteins inhibit HIV infection in cell cultures

July 24, 2012 4:00 am | News | Comments

Yale University Cancer Center scientists have developed a new class of proteins that inhibit HIV infection in cell cultures and may open the way to new strategies for treating and preventing infection by the virus that causes AIDS.

Microneedles help target therapeutics to the back of the eye

July 23, 2012 9:33 am | News | Comments

Thanks to tiny microneedles, eye doctors may soon have a better way to treat diseases such as macular degeneration that affect tissues in the back of the eye. For the first time, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have demonstrated that microneedles less than a millimeter in length can deliver drug molecules and particles to the eye in an animal model.

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Researchers seek to improve drought-resistance of biofuels grasses

July 23, 2012 9:18 am | News | Comments

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a five-year, $12.1 million grant to a multi-institutional effort to develop drought-resistant grasses for use in biofuels. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis will lead the initiative with researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota, and Washington State University.

New model of disease contagion ranks U.S. airports by spreading influence

July 23, 2012 7:27 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

While epidemiologists and scientists who study complex network systems are working to create mathematical models that describe the worldwide spread of disease, to date these models have focused on the final stages of epidemics, examining the locations that ultimately develop the highest infection rates. But a new study shifts the focus to the first few days of an epidemic, determining how likely the 40 largest U.S. airports are to influence the spread of a contagious disease originating in their home cities.

Fool's gold found to regulate oxygen

July 23, 2012 5:51 am | News | Comments

As sulfur cycles through Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and land, it undergoes chemical changes that are often coupled to changes in other such elements as carbon and oxygen. Although this affects the concentration of free oxygen, sulfur has traditionally been portrayed as a secondary factor in regulating atmospheric oxygen, with most of the heavy lifting done by carbon. However, new findings suggest that sulfur's role may have been underestimated.

Researchers achieve first violet nonpolar vertical-cavity laser technology

July 23, 2012 5:36 am | News | Comments

In a leap forward for laser technology, a team at University of California, Santa Barbara has developed the first violet nonpolar vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) based on m-plane gallium nitride semiconductors. This recent discovery is an achievement in VCSEL technology that opens doors for higher optical efficiency lasers at greatly reduced manufacturing costs for a variety of applications.

Printed photonic crystal mirrors shrink on-chip lasers down to size

July 23, 2012 4:14 am | News | Comments

Electrical engineers at The University of Texas at Arlington and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised a new laser for on-chip optical connections that could give computers a huge boost in speed and energy efficiency.

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River networks on Titan point to puzzling geologic history

July 23, 2012 4:00 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

While images of Titan have revealed its present landscape, very little is known about its geologic past. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have analyzed images of Titan's river networks and determined that in some regions, rivers have created surprisingly little erosion.

NaCl to give way to RockSalt

July 20, 2012 8:12 am | News | Comments

A team led by Harvard University computer scientists, including two undergraduate students, has developed a new tool that could lead to increased security and enhanced performance for commonly used Web and mobile applications. Called RockSalt, the clever bit of code can verify that native computer programming languages comply with a particular security policy.

Diamond in the rough: Half-century puzzle solved

July 20, 2012 5:43 am | News | Comments

A Yale University-led team of mineral physicists has for the first time confirmed through high-pressure experiments the structure of cold-compressed graphite, a form of carbon that is comparable in hardness to its cousin, diamond, but only requires pressure to synthesize. The researchers believe their findings could open the way for a super hard material that can withstand great force and can be used for many electronic and industrial applications.

Bioengineers to develop smart suit that improves endurance

July 19, 2012 9:18 am | News | Comments

A $2.6 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University will enable bioengineers to develop a smart suit that helps improve physical endurance for soldiers in the field. The novel wearable system would potentially delay the onset of fatigue.

Researchers crack decades-old equation

July 19, 2012 5:45 am | News | Comments

A researcher at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and two collaborators from University of Toronto have solved a decades-old equation that models several real-world systems, such as the development of cracks in materials, the formation of bacteria, and the growth of liquid crystals.

Research update: Chips with self-assembling rectangles

July 19, 2012 3:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new approach to creating the complex array of wires and connections on microchips, using a system of self-assembling polymers. The work could eventually lead to a way of making more densely packed components on memory chips and other devices.

Dripping faucets inspire new way of creating structured particles

July 19, 2012 3:34 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Central Florida have developed a versatile new fabrication technique for making large quantities of uniform spheres from a wide variety of materials—a technique that enables unprecedented control over the design of individual, microscopic particles. The particles, including complex, patterned spheres, could find uses in everything from biomedical research and drug delivery to electronics and materials processing.

Scientists pinpoint key ingredient in fighting pneumonia

July 18, 2012 10:07 am | News | Comments

A mysterious protein produced by a wide spectrum of living things is crucial in regulating the immune response to the most common form of pneumonia, a new Yale University School of Medicine study shows.

Innovation promises to cut power use at big data companies

July 18, 2012 10:00 am | News | Comments

Big data needs big power. The server farms that undergird the Internet run on a vast tide of electricity. Even companies that have invested in upgrades to minimize their eco-footprint use tremendous amounts: The New York Times estimates that Google, for example, uses enough electricity in its data centers to power about 200,000 homes. Now, a team of Princeton University engineers has a solution that could radically cut that power use.

Scientists use X-ray imaging to observe running batteries in action

July 18, 2012 6:25 am | News | Comments

Using high-power X-ray imaging of an actual working battery, a Stanford University-SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory team discovered that sulfur particles in the cathode largely remain intact during discharge. Their results could help scientists find new way to develop commercially viable lithium-sulfur batteries for electric vehicles.

Bioengineers find objects moving in a stream create constructive wakes

July 18, 2012 5:57 am | News | Comments

From driftwood traveling down a river to a blood cell flowing through your artery, objects moving in a stream of fluid are mostly thought to passively go with the flow but not disturb it in controllable ways. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have recently found that objects within a confined stream create controllable disturbances that can be used to move mass or heat at high rates, potentially providing simple solutions to performing chemical reactions on particles or cooling microelectronic chips.

Hopping bacterial enzyme gives insight into epigenetic gene expression

July 18, 2012 5:00 am | News | Comments

University of California, Santa Barbara researchers' discovery of a variation of an enzyme's ability to "hop" as it moves along DNA, modifying the genetic material of a bacteria—and its physical capability and behavior—holds much promise for biomedical and other scientific applications.

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