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Computational model identifies potential pathways to improve plant oil production

October 8, 2012 8:21 am | News | Comments

Using a computational model they designed to incorporate detailed information about plants' interconnected metabolic processes, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified key pathways that appear to "favor" the production of either oils or proteins. The research may point the way to new strategies to tip the balance and increase plant oil production.

Researchers create a universal map of vision in the human brain

October 4, 2012 9:52 am | News | Comments

Nearly 100 years after a British neurologist first mapped the blind spots caused by missile wounds to the brains of soldiers, University of Pennsylvania scientists have perfected his map using modern-day technology. Their results create a map of vision in the brain based upon an individual's brain structure, even for people who cannot see. Their result could, among other things, guide efforts to restore vision using a neural prosthesis that stimulates the surface of the brain.

The mathematics of leaf decay

October 4, 2012 4:48 am | by Jennifer Chu | News | Comments

The natural decay of organic carbon contributes more than 90% of the yearly carbon dioxide released into Earth's atmosphere and oceans. Understanding the rate at which leaves decay can help scientists predict this global flux of carbon dioxide. But a single leaf may undergo different rates of decay depending on a number of variables. Researchers have just built a mathematical model that incorporates these variables, and have discovered a commonality within the diversity of leaf decay.

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A one-of-a-kind energy grid simulator

October 3, 2012 7:38 am | News | Comments

A one-of-a-kind, high-tech modeling tool designed to simulate different situations on the electric power grid will be on display at the White House. The result of a multi-year funding effort, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers will joining Energy Secretary Steven Chu to demonstrate how GridLAB-D can help power system operators, industry, innovators, and entrepreneurs understand how making a change to one part of the power system impacts other parts on the grid.

Computer model identifies candidate refrigerants to combat global warming

September 19, 2012 5:26 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a new computational method for identifying candidate refrigerant fluids with low global warming potential—the tendency to trap heat in the atmosphere for many decades—as well as other desirable performance and safety features. The NIST effort is the most extensive systematic search for a new class of refrigerants that meet the latest concerns about climate change.

Climate scientists put predictions to the test

September 18, 2012 6:30 am | News | Comments

A new study has found that climate-prediction models are good at predicting long-term climate patterns on a global scale, but lose their edge when applied to time frames shorter than three decades and on sub-continental scales.

Blue Brain Project accurately predicts connections between neurons

September 18, 2012 3:47 am | News | Comments

One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is to identify the map, or “connectome”, of synaptic connections between neurons. The Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has recently announced it has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample.

Study estimates increasing rate of extreme rainfall with global warming

September 17, 2012 10:03 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Global warming is expected to intensify extreme precipitation, but the rate at which it does so in the tropics has remained unclear. Now, a new study has given an estimate based on model simulations and observations: With every 1 C rise in temperature, the study finds, tropical regions will see 10% heavier rainfall extremes, with possible impacts for flooding in populous regions.

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Study: Solar and wind energy may stabilize the power grid

September 14, 2012 8:49 am | News | Comments

If increasing numbers of wind turbines and photovoltaic systems feed electrical energy into the energy grid, it becomes denser—and more distributed. Researchers in Germany, using model simulations, have discovered that consumers and decentralized generators can easily self-synchronize. Their results indicate that a failure of an individual supply line in the decentralized grid less likely implies an outage in the network as a whole. But care must be taken when adding new lines.

Predicting a die throw

September 12, 2012 5:20 am | News | Comments

Vegas, Monte Carlo, and Atlantic City draw people from around the world who are willing to throw the dice and take their chances. Researchers in Poland, however, have spotted something predictable in the seemingly random throw of the dice. By applying chaos theory and some high school level mechanics, they determined that by knowing the initial conditions it should be possible to predict the outcome when rolling the dice.

More accurate method for predicting hurricane activity

September 11, 2012 7:37 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new method for forecasting seasonal hurricane activity that is 15% more accurate than previous techniques. The method, called the "network motif-based model", evaluates historical data for all variables in all places at all times in order to identify those combinations of factors that are most predictive of seasonal hurricane activity.

Forcing the molecular bond issue

September 6, 2012 3:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Molecular Foundry developed a first-of-its-kind model for providing a comprehensive description of the way in which molecular bonds form and rupture. This model enables researchers to predict the "binding free energy" of a given molecular system, a key to predicting how that molecule will interact with other molecules.

Simulating the birth of a planet

September 5, 2012 7:51 am | News | Comments

Over the past few decades, the hunt for extrasolar planets has yielded incredible discoveries. Now, planetary researchers have a new tool—simulated models of how planets are born. A team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are using supercomputers to model and simulate the protostellar disks that precede the formation of planet.

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Space shuttle exhaust reveals behavior of atmospheric winds

August 29, 2012 11:45 am | by Karen C. Fox | News | Comments

When the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off from Cape Canaveral on its final flight more than a year ago, a research team took advantage of this opportunity to track the 350-ton plume of water vapor exhaust that it released shortly after launch. Crossing through the paths of seven separate sets of instruments, the vapor spread far faster than expected and quickly moved to the Arctic. Such information will be used to inform global circulation models.

Biologists create first predictive computational model of gene networks

August 29, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

As an animal develops from an embryo, its cells take diverse paths, eventually forming different body parts. In order for each cell to know what to do during development, it follows a genetic blueprint, which consists of complex webs of interacting genes called gene regulatory networks. Biologists at the California Institute of Technology have spent the last decade or so detailing how these gene networks control development in sea-urchin embryos and, for the first time, have built a computational model of one of these networks.

A new way to predict heat layer troublemaker in fusion research

August 22, 2012 5:47 am | News | Comments

A scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has developed a model for predicting the outflow of heat during fusion experiments, which may help overcome a key barrier to the fusion process. The model predicts the width of what physicists call the "scrape-off layer" in tokamaks.

Scientists move toward rational design of artificial proteins

August 21, 2012 9:38 am | News | Comments

Past efforts to predict the structure of proteins have met with limited success. But now a scientific team in collaboration with investigators from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have demonstrated that a computer modeling approach similar to one used to predict protein structures can accurately predict peptoid conformation as well.

Speeding the search for better carbon capture

August 21, 2012 3:46 am | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers helped develop the first computational model to accurately predict the interactions between flue gases and a special variety of the carbon dioxide-capturing molecular systems known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). This new model should greatly accelerate the search for new low-cost and efficient ways to burn coal without exacerbating global climate change.

Researchers improve soil carbon cycling models

August 17, 2012 3:35 am | News | Comments

A new carbon cycling model developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory better accounts for the carbon dioxide-releasing activity of microbes in the ground, improving scientists' understanding of the role soil will play in future climate change.

Researchers reveal behaviors of the tiniest water droplets

August 15, 2012 9:58 am | News | Comments

A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Emory University has uncovered fundamental details about the hexamer structures that make up the tiniest droplets of water, the key component of life–and one that scientists still don’t fully understand.

Recreating a slice of the universe

August 15, 2012 9:07 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have invented a new computational approach that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.

Modeling reveals climatic impacts of megapolitan expansion

August 13, 2012 9:12 am | News | Comments

In the first study to attempt to quantify the impact of rapidly expanding megapolitan areas on regional climate, a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research has established that local maximum summertime warming resulting from projected expansion of the urban Sun Corridor could approach 4 C.

3D facial reconstruction tools “shaves” faces virtually

August 13, 2012 4:48 am | News | Comments

Conventional face capturing is well established and widely utilized in the entertainment industry to capture a 3D model of an actor's face. However, up to now, no method was capable of reconstructing facial hair or even handling it appropriately. A new method developed at Disney Research in Switzerland captures individual strands of facial hair and stores them separately from the actual human face until added. Or “shaved” away.

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.

Animation research could offer control of skeleton-free characters

August 3, 2012 7:45 am | News | Comments

While bipeds and quadrupeds have reigned supreme in CG animation, attempts to create and control their skeleton-free cousins using similar techniques has proved time-consuming and laborious. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have found a possible solution to this challenge by developing a way to simulate and control movement of computer-generated characters without a skeletal structure, anything from starfish and earthworms to an elephant’s trunk or the human tongue.

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