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The Lead

DNA supports human migration theory

March 3, 2015 3:55 pm | by Associated Press | News | Comments

A wave of migrants from the eastern fringes of Europe some 4,500 years ago left their trace in the DNA—and possibly the languages—of modern Europeans, according to a new study. Scientists discovered evidence of this Stone Age migration by analyzing the DNA of 69 people who lived across Europe between 8,000 and 3,000 years ago.

New material to produce clean energy

March 3, 2015 3:36 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Houston have created a new thermoelectric material, intended to...

Providing data for nuclear detectives

March 3, 2015 3:26 pm | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Fans of the popular TV series “CSI” know that the forensics experts who investigate crime scenes...

Why seashells’ mineral forms differently in seawater

March 3, 2015 3:16 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the...

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A new level of earthquake understanding

March 3, 2015 3:07 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

As everyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area knows, the Earth moves under our feet. But what about the stresses that cause earthquakes? How much is known about them? Until now, our understanding of these stresses has been based on macroscopic approximations.

NREL refines method to convert lignin to nylon precursor

March 3, 2015 11:50 am | by National Renewable Energy Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory demonstrates the conversion of lignin-derived compounds to adipic acid, an important industrial dicarboxylic acid produced for its use as a precursor to nylon. The demonstration is an important step toward the goal of garnering more uses from lignin, which could be crucial for the economic success of the biofuels industry.

Water in smog may reveal pollution sources

March 3, 2015 11:14 am | by Lee Siegel, Senior Science Writer, Univ. of Utah Communications | News | Comments

The chemical signature of water vapor emitted by combustion sources such as vehicles and furnaces has been found in the smoggy winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City. The discovery may give researchers a new tool to track down the sources of pollutants and climate-changing carbon dioxide gas.

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Researchers devise a faster, less expensive way to analyze gene activity

March 3, 2015 10:53 am | by Vicky Agnew, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A team of Yale Univ. researchers has developed a simple method that could significantly reduce the time and cost of probing gene expression on a large scale. The team created a tool that takes advantage of new high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies to make it easier to simultaneously measure gene activity in large numbers of cells or tissues.

On thin ice

March 3, 2015 10:41 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. Univ. of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed. The results show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65% between 1975 and 2012.

A clearer view of clouds

March 3, 2015 10:25 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Meteorologists sometimes struggle to accurately predict the weather here on Earth, but now we can find out how cloudy it is on planets outside our solar system, thanks to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a paper to be published, the researchers describe a technique that analyzes data from NASA’s Kepler space observatory to determine the types of clouds on planets that orbit other stars, known as exoplanets.

Black phosphorous: A new wonder material for improving optical communication

March 3, 2015 9:18 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Phosphorus, a highly reactive element commonly found in match heads, tracer bullets and fertilizers, can be turned into a stable crystalline form known as black phosphorus. In a new study, researchers from the Univ. of Minnesota used an ultra-thin black phosphorus film, only 20 layers of atoms, to demonstrate high-speed data communication on nanoscale optical circuits.

Pens filled with high-tech inks for DIY sensors

March 3, 2015 9:06 am | by Ioana Patringenaru, Jacobs School of Engineering | Videos | Comments

A new simple tool developed by nanoengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego, is opening the door to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere. The team developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves.

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Glass coating for improved battery performance

March 3, 2015 8:57 am | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles. However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries.

Sizing up cells

March 3, 2015 8:40 am | by John Sullivan, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Modern biology has attained deep knowledge of how cells work, but the mechanisms by which cellular structures assemble and grow to the right size largely remain a mystery. Now, Princeton Univ. researchers may have found the key in a dynamic agglomeration of molecules inside cells.

Giant virus revealed in 3-D using x-ray laser

March 3, 2015 8:31 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers have produced a 3-D image revealing part of the inner structure of an intact, infectious virus, using a unique x-ray laser at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The virus, called Mimivirus, is in a curious class of “giant viruses” discovered just over a decade ago.

Boosting light-water reactor research

March 3, 2015 8:06 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Hard on the heels of a five-year funding renewal, modeling and simulation technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new inter-institutional agreement for intellectual property.

Research gets to the core of Earth’s formation

March 3, 2015 7:54 am | by Anne M Stark, LLNL | News | Comments

Violent collisions between the growing Earth and other objects in the solar system generated significant amounts of iron vapor, according to a new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The results show that iron vaporizes easily during impact events, which forces planetary scientists to change how they think about the growth of planets and evolution of our solar system.

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Fighting parasites with their own genomes

March 3, 2015 7:47 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Tiny parasitic hookworms infect nearly half a billion people worldwide, almost exclusively in developing countries, causing health problems ranging from gastrointestinal issues to cognitive impairment and stunted growth in children. By sequencing and analyzing the genome of one particular hookworm species, Caltech researchers have uncovered new information that could aid the fight against these parasites.  

New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

Syria's civil war linked partly to drought, global warming

March 2, 2015 5:09 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The conflict that has torn Syria apart can be traced, in part, to a record drought worsened by global warming, a new study says. In what scientists say is one of the most detailed and strongest connections between violence and human-caused climate change, researchers trace the effects of Syria's drought from the collapse of farming, to the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, and then to poverty and civil unrest.

An old-looking galaxy in a young universe

March 2, 2015 12:34 pm | by ESO | News | Comments

A team of astronomers from the Univ. of Copenhagen used the Very Large Telescope's X-shooter instrument along with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe one of the youngest and most remote galaxies ever found. They were surprised to discover a far more evolved system than expected.

Breakthrough in OLED technology

March 2, 2015 12:27 pm | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are made from carbon-containing materials, have the potential to revolutionize future display technologies, making low-power displays so thin they'll wrap or fold around other structures, for instance. Conventional LCD displays must be backlit by either fluorescent light bulbs or conventional LEDs whereas OLEDs don't require back lighting.

Unlocking the key to immunological memory in bacteria

March 2, 2015 11:41 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

Forbidden quantum leaps possible with high-res spectroscopy

March 2, 2015 11:27 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new twist on an old tool lets scientists use light to study and control matter with 1,000 times better resolution and precision than previously possible. Physicists at the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated "ponderomotive spectroscopy," an advanced form of a technique that was born in the 15th century when Isaac Newton first showed that white light sent through a prism breaks into a rainbow.

Analysis shows ion slowdown in fuel cell material

March 2, 2015 11:01 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Dislocations in oxides such as cerium dioxide, a solid electrolyte for fuel cells, turn out to have a property that is the opposite of what researchers had expected, according to a new analysis. Researchers had thought that a certain kind of strain would speed the transport of oxygen ions through the material, potentially leading to the much faster diffusion that is necessary in high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells.

How to best harness solar power

March 2, 2015 10:48 am | by Dawn Fuller, Univ. of Cincinnati | News | Comments

A research partnership is reporting advances on how to make solar cells stronger, lighter, more flexible and less expensive when compared with the current silicon or germanium technology on the market. The researchers discovered how a blend of conjugated polymers resulted in structural and electronic changes that increased efficiency three-fold, by incorporating graphene in the active layer of the carbon-based materials.

Supersonic electrons could produce future solar fuel

March 2, 2015 10:38 am | by Lund Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from institutions including Lund Univ. have taken a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. In a new study, they have successfully tracked the electrons' rapid transit through a light-converting molecule. The ultimate aim of the present study is to find a way to make fuel from water using sunlight.

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

March 2, 2015 9:09 am | by Karin Eskenazi, Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight control and testing new therapies for obesity. To make the neurons, human skin cells were first genetically reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

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