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Scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars

August 10, 2012 7:19 am | News | Comments

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a University of California, Los Angeles scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars.

Soft autonomous robot inches like earthworm

August 10, 2012 4:09 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Earthworms creep along the ground by alternately squeezing and stretching muscles along the length of their bodies, a mechanism called peristalsis, inching forward with each wave of contractions. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Seoul National University have engineered a soft autonomous robot that moves via peristalsis, crawling across surfaces by contracting segments of its body, much like an earthworm.

Gecko feet hold clues to creating bandages that stick when wet

August 10, 2012 3:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists already know that the tiny hairs on geckos' toe pads enable them to cling, like Velcro, to vertical surfaces. Now, University of Akron researchers are unfolding clues to the reptiles' gripping power in wet conditions in order to create a synthetic adhesive that sticks when moist or on wet surfaces.

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Cheaper, cleaner, more efficient catalyst for burning methane

August 9, 2012 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, along with collaborators from Italy and Spain, have created a material that catalyzes the burning of methane 30 times better than currently available catalysts. The discovery offers a way to more completely exploit energy from methane, potentially reducing emissions of this greenhouse gas from vehicles that run on natural gas.

Using years of cell evolution in the fight against cancer

August 9, 2012 8:47 am | News | Comments

As the medical community continues to make positive strides in personalized cancer therapy, scientists know some dead ends are unavoidable. Drugs that target specific genes in cancerous cells are effective, but not all proteins are targetable. In fact, it has been estimated that as few as 10% to 15% of human proteins are potentially targetable by drugs. For this reason, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are focusing on ways to fight cancer by attacking defective genes before they are able to make proteins.

Simple mathematical computations underlie brain circuits

August 9, 2012 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The brain has billions of neurons, arranged in complex circuits that allow us to perceive the world, control our movements, and make decisions. Deciphering those circuits is critical to understanding how the brain works and what goes wrong in neurological disorders. Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have now taken a major step toward that goal.

Discovered: New atmospheric compound tied to climate change

August 9, 2012 3:39 am | News | Comments

An international research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Helsinki has discovered a surprising new chemical compound in Earth's atmosphere that reacts with sulfur dioxide to form sulfuric acid, which is known to have significant impacts on climate and health.

New device could improve fiber-optic quantum data transmission

August 8, 2012 7:06 am | News | Comments

Tests performed at NIST show that a new method for splitting photon beams could overcome a fundamental physical hurdle in transmitting electronic data. The findings confirm that a prototype device developed with collaborators at Stanford University can double the amount of quantum information that can be sent readily through fiber-optic cables, and in theory could lead to an even greater increase in the rate of this type of transmission.

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Computer models calculate systems-wide costs of gene expression

August 8, 2012 6:16 am | News | Comments

Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a method of modeling, simultaneously, an organism’s metabolism and its underlying gene expression. In addition to serving as a platform for investigating fundamental biological questions, this technology enables far more detailed calculations of the total cost of synthesizing many different chemicals, including biofuels.

Caught on camera: Quantum mechanics in action

August 8, 2012 5:59 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have captured images of quantum entanglement on camera for the first time. Making use of a 201 by 201 pixel array, the highly sensitive camera observed the full field of the quantum light at the same time, allowing the team to see up to 2,500 different entangled dimensions or states.

Chemists advance clear conductive films

August 7, 2012 11:36 am | News | Comments

Thin, conductive films are useful in displays and solar cells. A new solution-based chemistry developed at Brown University for making indium tin oxide films could allow engineers to employ a much simpler and cheaper manufacturing process.

Micron-scale swimming robot could deliver drugs using simple motion

August 7, 2012 6:52 am | News | Comments

When you're just a few microns long, swimming can be difficult. At that size scale, the viscosity of water is more like that of honey, and momentum can't be relied upon to maintain forward motion. Microorganisms, of course, have evolved ways to swim in spite of these challenges, but tiny robots haven't quite caught up, until now.

Evolutionary molecule identified by researchers

August 7, 2012 3:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Dundee have identified a molecule that could play a key role in how cells develop into the building blocks of life. The molecule, called cyclic-di-GMP, has been identified as being the signal which can induce differentiation into stalk cells.

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Extreme plasma theories put to the test

August 7, 2012 3:34 am | News | Comments

The first controlled studies of extremely hot, dense matter have overthrown the widely accepted 50-year-old model used to explain how ions influence each other's behavior in a dense plasma. The results should benefit a wide range of fields, from research aimed at tapping nuclear fusion as an energy source to understanding the inner workings of stars.

Study finds link between cell division and growth rate

August 6, 2012 4:32 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It's a longstanding question in biology: How do cells know when to progress through the cell cycle? In simple organisms such as yeast, cells divide once they reach a specific size. However, determining if this holds true for mammalian cells has been difficult, in part because there has been no good way to measure mammalian cell growth over time, until now.

Scientists find way to make disease-causing proteins vulnerable to drugs

July 27, 2012 5:15 am | News | Comments

One of the most daunting challenges facing pharmaceutical scientists today are "undruggable proteins"—the approximately 80% of proteins involved in human disease that do not interact with current drugs. Yale University researchers have identified a novel way to design drugs for these previously inaccessible proteins.

Unexpected ozone loss observed above United States

July 27, 2012 4:45 am | News | Comments

A team of Harvard University scientists announced the discovery of serious and wholly unexpected ozone loss over the United States in summer. The finding is startling because the complex atmospheric chemistry that destroys ozone has previously been thought to occur only at very cold temperatures over polar regions where there is very little threat to humans.

Deadly E. coli strain decoded

July 26, 2012 10:57 am | News | Comments

The secret to the deadly 2011 E. coli outbreak in Germany has been decoded, thanks to research conducted at Michigan State University. The deadliest E. coli outbreak ever was traced to a particularly virulent strain that researchers had never seen in an outbreak before. By focusing on the bacteria's biofilm, the researchers have devised a way to potentially tame the killer bacteria.

Entropy can lead to order, paving the route to nanostructures

July 26, 2012 10:42 am | News | Comments

Researchers trying to herd tiny particles into useful ordered formations have found an unlikely ally: entropy, a tendency generally described as "disorder." Computer simulations by University of Michigan scientists and engineers show that the property can nudge particles to form organized structures. By analyzing the shapes of the particles beforehand, they can even predict what kinds of structures will form.

Need it, print it

July 26, 2012 7:01 am | News | Comments

Imagine being able to design a new aircraft engine part on a computer, and then being able to it. Not the design; the actual part. And not just a lightweight, nonfunctional model, but an actual working part to be installed in an engine. The University of Dayton Research Institute was awarded $3 million for the Ohio Third Frontier to provide specialized materials for use in additive manufacturing.

Robot mimics water striders' jumping abilities

July 26, 2012 5:39 am | News | Comments

The first bio-inspired microrobot capable of not just walking on water like the water strider, but continuously jumping up and down like a real water strider, now is a reality. Scientists have developed the agile microrobot, which could use its jumping ability to avoid obstacles on reconnaissance or other missions.

Newfound gene may help bacteria survive in extreme environments

July 26, 2012 4:22 am | News | Comments

In the days following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, methane-eating bacteria bloomed in the Gulf of Mexico, feasting on the methane that gushed, along with oil, from the damaged well. The sudden influx of microbes was a scientific curiosity: Prior to the oil spill, scientists had observed relatively few signs of methane-eating microbes in the area. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a bacterial gene that may explain this sudden influx of methane-eating bacteria.

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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