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Genome editing becomes more accurate

July 22, 2013 8:21 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Earlier this year, MIT researchers developed a way to edit the genomes of living cells. Now, the researchers have discovered key factors that influence the accuracy of the system. With this technology, scientists can deliver or disrupt multiple genes at once, raising the possibility of treating human disease by targeting malfunctioning genes. To help with that process, the team has now created a computer model.

Researchers warn that DNA puzzles are overwhelming computer systems

July 15, 2013 3:19 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in the new but fast-growing field of computational genomics are facing a dilemma. These researchers have begun to assemble the chemical blueprints of the DNA found in humans, animals, plants and microbes. But a flood of unassembled genetic data is being produced much faster than current computers can turn it into useful information, two scholars in the field are warning.

Study: Continuous satellite ice sheet monitoring to better predict sea-level rise

July 15, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

The length of the satellite record for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is currently too short to tell if the recently reported speed-up of ice loss will be sustained in the future or if it results from natural processes, according to a new study. Sheets are losing are about 300 billion tons of ice each year, but no consensus has emerged about the cause of this recent increase in mass loss.

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Supercomputers solve microfluidics at the microscopic level

July 12, 2013 2:52 pm | by Aaron Dubrow, University of Texas at Austin | News | Comments

The Ranger supercomputer in Texas has recently been used to determine how to sculpt fluid flows by precisely placing tiny pillars in microfluidic channels. By altering fluid speed and stacking pillars, a wide arrays of controlled flows can be achieved. This could be a boon for clinicians who would like to separate white blood cells in a sample, or more quickly perform lab-on-a-chip-type operations.

Study provides details on portable generator emissions

July 12, 2013 10:11 am | News | Comments

Despite warnings to the contrary, many people continue to operate portable generators indoors or close to open windows, resulting in more than 500 deaths since 2005. And each year, more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to exposure to toxic levels of carbon monoxide. A new computer modeling study scrutinizes the deadly relationship between carbon monoxide emissions and occupant exposure.

Milestone: First full-scale simulation of an operating nuclear reactor

July 11, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) announced that its scientists have successfully completed the first full-scale simulation of an operating nuclear reactor. CASL is modeling nuclear reactors on supercomputers to help researchers better understand reactor performance, with the goal of ultimately increasing power output, extending reactor life and reducing waste.

Changes in atmosphere affects how much water trees need

July 11, 2013 8:19 am | News | Comments

Studies have long predicted that plants would begin to use water more efficiently, that is, lose less water during photosynthesis, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose. However, an international research team doing work at the Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site has found that forests across the globe are losing less water than expected and becoming even more efficient at using it for growth.

A new way to trap light

July 10, 2013 1:41 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

There are several ways to “trap” a beam of light. But now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a new method to trap light that could find a wide variety of applications. The new system, devised through computer modeling and then demonstrated experimentally, pits light waves against light waves.

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Quantum simulation of low temperature metallic hydrogen

July 1, 2013 5:57 pm | News | Comments

In spite of the tremendous progress made over the last 80 years, important gaps in our understanding of the hydrogen phase diagram remain, with arguably the most challenging issue being the solid-to-liquid melting transition at ultra-high pressures. A new study in the U.K. has looked at the melting of hydrogen by computer simulation, for the first time taking the quantum motion of the protons into account explicitly.

Biomedical research reveals secrets of cell behavior

July 1, 2013 8:27 am | News | Comments

Knowing virtually everything about how the body’s cells make transitions from one state to another would be a major jump forward in understanding the basics of what drives biological processes. An interdisciplinary team of researchers report on taking at least a step toward better comprehension of the fundamentals of “cell fate determination”.

The science of impact: "Shields to maximum, Mr. Scott"

June 27, 2013 2:43 pm | by Aaron Dubrow, TACC | News | Comments

According to NASA, there are more than 21,000 pieces of “space junk roughly the size of a baseball in orbit, and about 500,000 pieces that are golf ball-sized. These pieces can be dangerous, which is why researchers at Texas Advanced Computing Center’s supercomputers are simulating orbital debris impacts on spacecraft and fragment impacts on body armor to help NASA design better shielding.

NIST to create center for advanced materials research

June 27, 2013 8:17 am | News | Comments

The National Institute of Standards and Technology this week announced that it plans to establish a new Advanced Materials Center of Excellence to facilitate collaborations between NIST and researchers from academia and industry on advanced materials development. Fund at about $25 million over five years, the center will emphasize innovations in measurement technology, modeling, simulation, and data and informatics tools

How fish swim

June 25, 2013 7:44 am | News | Comments

How do fish swim? It is a simple question, but there is no simple answer. Researchers at Northwestern Univ. have revealed some of the mechanical properties that allow fish to perform their complex movements. Their findings could provide insights in evolutionary biology and lead to an understanding of the neural control of movement and development of bio-inspired underwater vehicles.

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Bacterial DNA may integrate into human genome more readily in tumor tissue

June 21, 2013 10:57 am | News | Comments

After analyzing genomic sequencing data from the Human Genome Project and other sources, scientists in Maryland have found evidence that lateral gene transfer is possible from bacteria to the cells of the human body, known as human somatic cells. They also found that bacterial DNA was more likely to integrate in the genome in tumor samples than in normal, healthy somatic cells.

Maplesoft, JSOL partner to combine powerful modeling techniques

June 21, 2013 9:08 am | News | Comments

JMAG is a powerful finite element analysis (FEA) tool that allows engineers to develop, analyze, and fine-tune electric motors and generators, taking into account such diverse factors as thermal, structural, and vibration issues.  This week, Maplesoft has launched a new product that allows users to combine JMAG with the advanced physical modeling approach of MapleSim.  This allows engineers to produce high-fidelity system models.

Mismatched materials can be tough enough

June 11, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have for the first time detailed the molecular mechanism that makes a particular combination of cement and polymer glue so tough. The theoretical research led to a fine picture of how hydrogen bonds control the properties of hybrid organic-inorganic materials. The finding has implications for understanding the interface bonding that is often a roadblock to improved composite properties.

How do you feed 9 billion people?

June 10, 2013 9:23 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has developed crop models to better forecast food production to feed a growing population—projected to reach 9 billion by mid-century—in the face of climate change. The team recently unveiled an all-encompassing modeling system that integrates multiple crop simulations with improved climate change models.

Study: Earthquake acoustics can indicate if a massive tsunami is imminent

June 7, 2013 12:07 pm | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford University | News | Comments

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake occurred 43 miles off the shore of Japan. It generated an unexpectedly massive tsunami that washed over eastern Japan roughly 30 minutes later. Scientists at Stanford University have identified key acoustic characteristics of this quake that indicated it would cause a large tsunami.

Quantum model helps solve mysteries of water

June 4, 2013 12:16 pm | News | Comments

Water is one of the most common and extensively studied substances on Earth. It is vital for all known forms of life but its unique behavior has yet to be explained in terms of the properties of individual molecules. A research team has now revealed a major breakthrough in the modeling of water that could shed light on its mysterious properties.

Crash-testing lithium-ion batteries

June 4, 2013 8:06 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight, fully rechargeable and can pack a lot of energy into a small volume—making them attractive as power sources for hybrid and electric vehicles. However, there’s a significant downside: Overheating and collisions may cause the batteries to short-circuit and burst into flames. Engineers have worked to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries and now there may be ways to make batteries more resilient.

Wit, grit, and a supercomputer yield chemical structure of HIV capsid

May 29, 2013 5:43 pm | News | Comments

Researchers report that they have determined the precise chemical structure of the HIV capsid, a protein shell that protects the virus’s genetic material and is a key to its virulence. The capsid has become an attractive target for the development of new antiretroviral drugs. The researchers used the University of Illinois’ supercomputer Blue Waters to determine the complete HIV capsid structure.

Computational study tracks E. coli cells’ regulatory mechanisms

May 22, 2013 8:58 am | News | Comments

Environment is not the only factor in shaping cell regulatory patterns—and it might not even be the primary factor, according to a new Rice University study that looks at how cells’ protein networks relate to a bacteria’s genome. When environmental factors are eliminated from an evolutionary model, the researchers say, mutations and genetic drift can give rise to the patterns that appear.

Cells must use their brakes moderately for effective speed control

May 15, 2013 11:34 am | News | Comments

All living cells have a regulatory system similar to what can be found in today's smartphones. Just like our phones process a large amount of information that we feed them, cells continuously process information about their outer and inner environment. Researchers have recently modeled how cells regulate this processing function.

Sulfate aerosols cool climate less than assumed

May 15, 2013 10:47 am | News | Comments

Sulfur dioxide has been pegged as a significant cooling element in atmospheric climate models because of its ability to form sulfate aerosol particles that reflect sunlight. Recent findings from a team suggest that it is likely most models overestimate the cooling effect of these particles. The reason is a largely disregarded reaction pathway catalyzed by mineral dust within clouds.

Revising Darwin's sinking-island theory

May 13, 2013 7:41 am | by Genevieve Wanucha, Oceans at MIT | News | Comments

The three different formations of South Pacific coral-reef islands, fringing, barrier, and atoll, have long fascinated geologists. The question of how reefs develop into these shapes over evolutionary time produced an enduring conflict between two hypotheses, one from Charles Darwin and the other from Reginald Daly. But in a recently published paper, researchers use modern measurements and computer modeling to resolve this old conundrum.

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