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The Lead

Engineers take step toward photonic circuits

August 20, 2014 8:35 am | by Richard Cairney, Univ. of Alberta | News | Comments

The invention of fiber optics revolutionized the way we share information, allowing us to transmit data at volumes and speeds we’d only previously dreamed of. Now, electrical engineering researchers at the Univ. of Alberta are breaking another barrier, designing nano-optical cables small enough to replace the copper wiring on computer chips.

Bubbling down: Discovery suggests surprising uses for common bubbles

August 20, 2014 8:29 am | by John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Anyone who has ever had a glass of fizzy soda knows that bubbles can throw tiny particles into...

NMR using Earth’s magnetic field

August 20, 2014 8:19 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Earth’s magnetic field, a familiar directional indicator over long distances, is routinely...

Solar energy that doesn’t block the view

August 20, 2014 8:05 am | by Tom Oswald, Media Communications, Michigan State Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. has developed a new type of solar concentrator...

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Biomarker in aggressive breast cancer identified

August 20, 2014 7:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Two Northwestern Univ. scientists have identified a biomarker strongly associated with basal-like breast cancer, a highly aggressive carcinoma that is resistant to many types of chemotherapy. The biomarker, a protein called STAT3, provides a smart target for new therapeutics designed to treat this often deadly cancer.

The power of salt

August 20, 2014 7:46 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Where the river meets the sea, there is the potential to harness a significant amount of renewable energy, according to a team of mechanical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The researchers evaluated an emerging method of power generation called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), in which two streams of different salinity are mixed to produce energy.

AstraZeneca says DOJ closes probe into drug trial

August 19, 2014 1:23 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

British drugmaker AstraZeneca says the U.S. Dept. of Justice has closed its investigation into a clinical trial of the company's blood thinner Brilinta, and plans no further action. The company announced in October 2013 that federal officials were looking into the 18,000-patient study, which began in 2009.

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U.S. wants cars to talk to each other

August 19, 2014 10:34 am | by Associated Press, Joan Lowy | News | Comments

The Obama administration has said it is taking a first step toward requiring that future cars and light trucks be equipped with technology that enables them to warn each other of potential danger in time to avoid collisions. A research report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the technology could eventually prevent 592,000 left-turn and intersection crashes a year, saving 1,083 lives.

500-million-year reset for the immune system

August 19, 2014 10:22 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics re-activated expression of an ancient gene, which is not normally expressed in the mammalian immune system, and found that the animals developed a fish-like thymus. To the researchers' surprise, while the mammalian thymus is utilized exclusively for T cell maturation, the reset thymus produced not only T cells, but also served as a maturation site for B cells.

First indirect evidence of so-far undetected strange baryons

August 19, 2014 10:06 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

New supercomputing calculations provide the first evidence that particles predicted by the theory of quark-gluon interactions but never before observed are being produced in heavy-ion collisions at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a facility that is dedicated to studying nuclear physics. These heavy strange baryons, containing at least one strange quark, still cannot be observed directly.

Supermaterials: Five reasons to embrace synthetic diamond

August 19, 2014 9:48 am | by Element Six | News | Comments

Synthetic diamond’s molecular structure makes it the world’s most versatile supermaterial. With greater hardness than all other materials, its strength is ideal for cutters used in oil and gas drilling, where it enables longer tool lifetime by minimizing wear, reduces downtime and drives down operating costs and carbon footprints.

Study: Price of wind energy in U.S. at all-time low

August 19, 2014 9:42 am | by Allen Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report released by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged just $25/MWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2013, spurring demand for wind energy.

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Our connection to content

August 19, 2014 9:34 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

It’s often said that humans are wired to connect: The neural wiring that helps us read the emotions and actions of other people may be a foundation for human empathy. But for the past eight years, MIT Media Lab spinout Innerscope Research has been using neuroscience technologies that gauge subconscious emotions by monitoring brain and body activity to show just how powerfully we also connect to media and marketing communications.

Laser “lightning rods” channel electricity through thin air

August 19, 2014 8:49 am | News | Comments

By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere. The new technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 10 m away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.

Bacterial nanowires not what scientists thought they were

August 19, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | Videos | Comments

For the past 10 years, scientists have been fascinated by a type of “electric bacteria” that shoots out long tendrils like electric wires, using them to power themselves and transfer electricity to a variety of solid surfaces. A team led by scientists has now turned the study of these bacterial nanowires on its head, discovering that the key features in question are not pili as previously believed.

Shale oil dividend could pay for smaller carbon footprint

August 19, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Unanticipated economic benefits from the shale oil and gas boom could help offset the costs of substantially reducing the U.S.'s carbon footprint, Purdue Univ. agricultural economists say. Wally Tyner and Farzad Taheripour estimate that shale technologies annually provide an extra $302 billion to the U.S. economy relative to 2007, a yearly "dividend" that could continue for at least the next two decades, Tyner said.

Worm virus details come to light

August 19, 2014 8:10 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of the first virus known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth. The Rice laboratories of structural biologist Yizhi Jane Tao and geneticist Weiwei Zhong, with help from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington Univ., analyzed the Orsay virus that naturally infects a certain type of nematode, the worms that make up 80% of the living animal population.

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Engineering new bone growth

August 19, 2014 7:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.

Bionic liquids from lignin

August 19, 2014 7:44 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon—bionic liquids. Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries.

No one-size-fits-all approach in a changing climate, land

August 19, 2014 7:31 am | by Kelly April Tyrrell, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

As climate change alters habitats for birds and bees and everything in between, so too does the way humans decide to use land. Researchers have, for the first time, found a way to determine the potential combined impacts of both climate and land-use change on plants, animals and ecosystems across the country.

Microchip reveals how tumor cells transition to invasion

August 18, 2014 11:06 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Using a microengineered device that acts as an obstacle course for cells, researchers have shed new light on a cellular metamorphosis thought to play a role in tumor cell invasion throughout the body. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process in which epithelial cells, which tend to stick together within a tissue, change into mesenchymal cells, which can disperse and migrate individually.

Artificial cells act like the real thing

August 18, 2014 10:55 am | News | Comments

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, but mimicking the intricate networks and dynamic interactions that are inherent to living cells is difficult to achieve outside the cell. Now, as published in Science, Weizmann Institute scientists have created an artificial, network-like cell system that is capable of reproducing the dynamic behavior of protein synthesis.

Why the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle rollout may new succeed

August 18, 2014 10:42 am | by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

A convergence of factors is propelling a market rollout of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, according to a new study. A key to hydrogen’s potential success is a new smart solution that clusters hydrogen fuel infrastructure in urban or regional networks, limiting initial costs and enabling an early market for the technology before committing to a full national deployment.

Promising ferroelectric materials suffer from unexpected electric polarizations

August 18, 2014 9:46 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Electronic devices with unprecedented efficiency and data storage may someday run on ferroelectrics—remarkable materials that use built-in electric polarizations to read and write digital information, outperforming the magnets inside most popular data-driven technology. But ferroelectrics must first overcome a few key stumbling blocks, including a curious habit of "forgetting" stored data.

Researchers develop molecular probes for the study of metals in brain

August 18, 2014 8:59 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The human brain harbors far more copper, iron and zinc than anywhere else in the body. Abnormally high levels of these metals can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Chris Chang, a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Div., has spent the past several years developing new probes and techniques for imaging the molecular activity of these metals in the brain.

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.

Bats bolster brain hypothesis, maybe technology, too

August 18, 2014 8:19 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Amid a neuroscience debate about how people and animals focus on distinct objects within cluttered scenes, some of the newest and best evidence comes from the way bats “see” with their ears, according to a new paper. In fact, the perception process in question could improve sonar and radar technology. Bats demonstrate remarkable skill in tracking targets such as bugs through the trees in the dark of night.

Mysteries of space dust revealed

August 18, 2014 8:03 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA’s Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks, which likely originated from beyond our solar system, are more complex in composition and structure than previously imagined. The analysis opens a door to studying the origins of the solar system and possibly the origin of life itself.

Moore quantum materials: Recipe for serendipity

August 18, 2014 7:44 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Thanks to a $1.5 million innovation award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Rice Univ. physicist Emilia Morosan is embarking on a five-year quest to cook up a few unique compounds that have never been synthesized or explored. Morosan is no ordinary cook; her pantry includes metals, oxides and sulfides, and her recipes produce superconductors and exotic magnets.

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