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The Lead

Sensor could improve one of nano research’s most useful microscopes

December 17, 2014 3:31 pm | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

Spotting molecule-sized features may become both easier and more accurate with a sensor developed at NIST. With their new design, NIST scientists may have found a way to sidestep some of the problems in calibrating atomic force microscopes (AFMs). The AFM is one of the main scientific workhorses of the nano age.

Switching to spintronics

December 17, 2014 3:18 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a development that holds promise for future magnetic memory and logic devices, researchers...

Lens-free microscope can detect cancer at the cellular level

December 17, 2014 3:07 pm | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles researchers have developed a lens-free microscope that can be...

New conversion process turns biomass “waste” into lucrative chemical products

December 17, 2014 2:58 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | Videos | Comments

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative...

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Microscopy pencils patterns in polymers at the nanoscale

December 17, 2014 2:50 pm | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have used advanced microscopy to carve out nanoscale designs on the surface of a new class of ionic polymer materials for the first time. The study provides new evidence that atomic force microscopy, or AFM, could be used to precisely fabricate materials needed for increasingly smaller devices.

Study shows how breast cancer cells break free to spread in the body

December 17, 2014 2:41 pm | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

More than 90% of cancer-related deaths are caused by the spread of cancer cells from their primary tumor site to other areas of the body. A new study has identified how one important gene helps cancer cells break free from the primary tumor.

Mistletoe could fight obesity-related liver disease

December 17, 2014 1:27 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Mistletoe hanging in doorways announces that the holidays are just around the corner. For some people, however, the symbolic plant might one day represent more than a kiss at Christmas time: It may mean better liver health. Researchers have found that a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant can help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

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Study: Ancient Earth made its own water

December 17, 2014 10:06 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of Earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system? The answer is likely both.

Research unlocks a mystery of albinism

December 17, 2014 9:54 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Newly published research provides the first demonstration of how a genetic mutation associated with a common form of albinism leads to the lack of melanin pigments that characterizes the condition. About 1 in 40,000 people worldwide have type 2 oculocutaneous albinism, which has symptoms of unusually light hair and skin coloration, vision problems and reduced protection from sunlight-related skin or eye cancers.

New class of synthetic molecules mimics antibodies

December 17, 2014 9:43 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A Yale Univ. laboratory has crafted the first synthetic molecules that have both the targeting and response functions of antibodies. The new molecules attach themselves simultaneously to disease cells and disease-fighting cells. The result is a highly targeted immune response, similar to the action of natural human antibodies.

Rover finds methane spikes on Mars

December 17, 2014 8:32 am | by Associated Press, Marcia Dunn | News | Comments

NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, has detected spikes of methane in the planet's atmosphere. That suggests something is producing or venting the scientifically tantalizing gas, but no one knows what. Most of Earth's atmospheric methane comes from animal and plant life, and the environment itself. So the Martian methane raises the question of past or present microbial life.

Big data analysis reveals gene sharing in mice

December 17, 2014 8:01 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have detected at least three instances of cross-species mating that likely influenced the evolutionary paths of “old world” mice, two in recent times and one in the distant past. The researchers think these instances of introgressive hybridization are only the first of many needles waiting to be found in a very large genetic haystack.

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Life on an aquaplanet

December 17, 2014 7:43 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nearly 2,000 planets beyond our solar system have been identified to date. Whether any of these exoplanets are hospitable to life depends on a number of criteria. Among these, scientists have thought, is a planet’s obliquity—the angle of its axis relative to its orbit around a star.

Researchers reveal Ebola virus spreads in social clusters

December 16, 2014 3:45 pm | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

An analysis of the ongoing Ebola outbreak reveals that transmission of the virus occurs in social clusters, a finding that has ramifications for case reporting and the public health. Prior studies of Ebola transmission were based on models that assumed the spread of infection occurred between random pairs of individuals.

Technology advances eye tracking as biomarker for brain function

December 16, 2014 3:19 pm | by Stacey Harris, NYU Langone Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have developed new technology that can assess the location and impact of a brain injury merely by tracking the eye movements of patients as they watch music videos for less than four minutes, according to a study published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Cells build “cupboards” to store metals

December 16, 2014 3:06 pm | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers in conjunction with collaborators at Univ. of California, Los Angeles have found that some cells build intracellular compartments that allow the cell to store metals and maintain equilibrium. Nearly 40% of all proteins require metal ions such as zinc, copper, manganese or iron for activity.

New law for superconductors

December 16, 2014 2:47 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have discovered a new mathematical relationship—between material thickness, temperature and electrical resistance—that appears to hold in all superconductors. The result could shed light on the nature of superconductivity and could also lead to better-engineered superconducting circuits for applications like quantum computing and ultra-low-power computing.

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Scientists trace nanoparticles from plants to caterpillars

December 16, 2014 2:37 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

In one of the most comprehensive laboratory studies of its kind, Rice Univ. scientists traced the uptake and accumulation of quantum dot nanoparticles from water to plant roots, plant leaves and leaf-eating caterpillars. The study found that nanoparticle accumulation in both plants and animals varied significantly depending upon the type of surface coating applied to the particles.

New tracers can identify coal ash contamination in water

December 16, 2014 2:20 pm | by Tim Lucas, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. scientists have developed new forensic tracers to identify coal ash contamination in water and distinguish it from contamination coming from other sources. Previous methods to identify coal ash contaminants in the environment were based solely on the contaminants’ chemical variations. The newly developed tracers provide additional forensic fingerprints that give regulators a more accurate and systematic tool.

Turning hydrogen into “graphene”

December 16, 2014 2:13 pm | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

New work from Carnegie Institute's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene under extreme pressures.

Researchers generate tunable photon-pair spectrum

December 16, 2014 9:14 am | by Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

A team of researchers have demonstrated a way to emit and control quantum light generated using a chip made from silicon—one of the most widely used materials for modern electronics. The researchers say practical applications of quantum optics will seem more feasible if devices for generating and controlling these photons can be manufactured using conventional materials from the semiconductor industry.

Carbon-trapping “sponges” can cut greenhouse gases

December 16, 2014 8:56 am | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell Univ. materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

Is the Higgs boson a piece of the matter-antimatter puzzle?

December 16, 2014 8:28 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Several experiments, including the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have helped explain some, but not all, of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Now a SLAC theorist and his colleagues have laid out a possible method for determining if the Higgs boson is involved.

Getting bot responders into shape

December 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is tackling one of the biggest barriers to the use of robots in emergency response: energy efficiency. Through a project supported by DARPA, Sandia is developing technology that will dramatically improve the endurance of legged robots, helping them operate for long periods while performing the types of locomotion most relevant to disaster response scenarios.

All-electric cars may be worse for environment

December 16, 2014 8:02 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | News | Comments

People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming. Ethanol isn't so green, either. The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire lifecycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries.

Proteins drive cancer cells to change states

December 16, 2014 7:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology implicates a family of RNA-binding proteins in the regulation of cancer, particularly in a subtype of breast cancer. These proteins, known as Musashi proteins, can force cells into a state associated with increased proliferation.

Cancer patients employ mice as avatars

December 15, 2014 3:23 pm | by Associated Press, Marilynn Marchione | News | Comments

Scientists often test drugs in mice. Now some cancer patients are doing the same—with the hope of curing their own disease. They are paying a private lab to breed mice that carry bits of their own tumors so treatments can be tried first on the customized rodents. The idea is to see which drugs might work best on a specific person's cancer.

Fraud-proof credit cards possible with quantum physics

December 15, 2014 3:11 pm | by Lyndsay Meyer, The Optical Society | News | Comments

Credit card fraud and identify theft are serious problems for consumers and industries. Though corporations and individuals work to improve safeguards, it has become increasingly difficult to protect financial data and personal information from criminal activity. Fortunately, new insights into quantum physics may soon offer a solution.

New algorithm a Christmas gift to 3-D printing

December 15, 2014 2:23 pm | by Carol Thorbes, Univ. Communications, Simon Fraser Univ. | News | Comments

Just in time for Christmas, Simon Fraser Univ. computing science professor Richard Zhang reveals how to print a 3-D Christmas tree efficiently and with zero material waste, using the world’s first algorithm for automatically decomposing a 3-D object into what are called pyramidal parts. A pyramidal part has a flat base with the remainder of the shape forming upwards over the base with no overhangs, much like a pyramid.

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