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The Lead

“Measuring stick” standard for gene sequencing now available

May 22, 2015 10:53 am | by NIST | News | Comments

The world’s first reference material to help ensure laboratories accurately “map” DNA for genetic testing, medical diagnoses and future customized drug therapies is now available from NIST. The new reference material, NIST RM 8398, is a “measuring stick” for the human genome, the coded blueprints of a person’s genetic traits.

Slinky lookalike “hyperlens” helps us see tiny objects

May 22, 2015 10:27 am | by Cory Nealon, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

It looks like a Slinky suspended in motion. Yet this photonics advancement, called a...

Robot masters new skills through trial-and-error

May 22, 2015 10:04 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn...

Physicists develop efficient method of signal transmission from nanocomponents

May 22, 2015 9:44 am | by Univ. of Basel | News | Comments

Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of...

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Cooling the cloud

May 22, 2015 8:34 am | by Binghamton Univ. | News | Comments

Data centers are one of the largest and fastest-growing consumers of electricity in the U.S. The industry has been shifting from open-air cooling of these facilities to increasingly complex systems that segregate hot air from cold air. When it comes to cost savings, there are definite advantages to the aisle containment systems, which have been estimated to save 30% of cooling energy.

Bacteria cooperate to repair damaged siblings

May 22, 2015 8:17 am | by Chad Baldwin, Univ. of Wyoming | News | Comments

A Univ. of Wyoming faculty member led a research team that discovered a certain type of soil bacteria can use their social behavior of outer membrane exchange (OME) to repair damaged cells and improve the fitness of the bacteria population as a whole.

Watching a protein “quake”

May 22, 2015 8:06 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists, for the first time, have precisely measured a protein’s natural “knee-jerk” reaction to the breaking of a chemical bond—a quaking motion that propagated through the protein at the speed of sound. The result, from an x-ray laser experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, could provide clues to how more complex processes unfold as chemical bonds form and break.

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Mars Rover’s ChemCam gets sharper vision

May 22, 2015 7:51 am | by Nancy Amrbosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam instrument just got a major capability fix, as Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists uploaded a software repair for the auto-focus system on the instrument. The team realized last November that a small laser used to focus the ChemCam telescope on its target fialed. And without this laser rangefinder, the instrument was blind.

Used MRI magnets get second chance at life

May 22, 2015 7:42 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

When it comes to magnets, a doctor’s trash is a physicist’s treasure. Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory recently acquired two decommissioned magnets from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners from hospitals in Minnesota and California that will find a new home as proving grounds for instruments used in high-energy and nuclear physics experiments.

Nicotinoid, fungal disease team to break down termites’ defenses

May 22, 2015 7:31 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Purdue Univ. research shows that a small amount of nicotinoid pesticide substantially weakens termites' ability to fight off fungal diseases, a finding that could lead to more effective methods of pest control. The study also provides clues into termites' robust defense systems and how nicotinoids affect social insects.

Freshly squeezed vaccines

May 22, 2015 7:23 am | by Kevin Leonardi, Koch Institute | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have shown that they can use a microfluidic cell-squeezing device to introduce specific antigens inside the immune system’s B cells, providing a new approach to developing and implementing antigen-presenting cell vaccines.

Uncovering the mysteries of cosmic explosions

May 21, 2015 4:06 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

An automated software system developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory played a key role in the discovery of supernova iPTF 14atg and could provide insight, a virtual Rosetta stone, into future supernovae and their underlying physics.

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Modern alchemy

May 21, 2015 3:58 pm | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a broad and strikingly inexpensive method for synthesizing “amines,” a class of organic compounds prominent in drugs and other modern products. The new reaction is particularly useful for synthesizing complex amines that would be highly valuable in pharmaceuticals, but are impractical—or impossible—to make with standard methods.

Hubble observes one-of-a-kind star nicknamed “Nasty”

May 21, 2015 3:52 pm | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered surprising new clues about a hefty, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before in our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, the star is so weird that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. The star may represent a brief transitory stage in the evolution of extremely massive stars.

Anti-stroke drug effective treatment for middle-ear infections

May 21, 2015 3:13 pm | by LaTina Emerson, Georgia State Univ. | News | Comments

An existing anti-stroke drug is an effective treatment for middle-ear infections, showing the ability to suppress mucus overproduction, improve bacterial clearance and reduce hearing loss, according to researchers at Georgia State Univ. and the Univ. of Rochester. The findings could result in a novel, non-antibiotic treatment for otitis media, or middle-ear infection, possibly through topical drug delivery.

Mission possible: This device will self-destruct when heated

May 21, 2015 3:06 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Where do electronics go when they die? Most devices are laid to eternal rest in landfills. But what if they just dissolved away, or broke down to their molecular components so that the material could be recycled? Univ. of Illinois researchers have developed heat-triggered self-destructing electronic devices, a step toward greatly reducing electronic waste and boosting sustainability in device manufacturing.

Using seismic signals to track above-ground explosions

May 21, 2015 2:58 pm | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (lLNL) researchers have determined that a tunnel bomb explosion by Syrian rebels was less than 60 tons as claimed by sources. Using seismic stations in Turkey, LLNL scientists created a method to determine source characteristics of near-earth surface explosions.

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World’s biggest atom smasher sets energy record

May 21, 2015 11:55 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists operating the world's biggest particle collider say they have set a new energy record ahead of the massive machine's full restart in June. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, says it succeeded late Wednesday in smashing together protons at 13 trillion electronvolts.

Finding the fluffiest galaxies

May 21, 2015 11:34 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A fluffy galaxy is hard to find, but that didn’t stop a Yale Univ. astronomer and an international research team from identifying the fluffiest galaxies in the universe. These “ultra-diffuse” galaxies are located about 300 million light years from Earth, in the Coma cluster of galaxies. What makes them fluffy? It is this: Although they are as wide as our own Milky Way galaxy, they harbor only 1% as many stars.

Turn that defect upside down

May 21, 2015 11:01 am | by Allison Mills, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Most people see defects as flaws. A few Michigan Technological Univ. researchers, however, see them as opportunities. Twin boundaries may present an opportunity to improve lithium-ion batteries. The twin boundary defects act as energy highways and could help get better performance out of the batteries. This finding turns a previously held notion of material defects on its head.

Survey on academic diversity shows little progress

May 21, 2015 10:49 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Despite efforts over decades to diversify the ranks of university faculty, only 4% of chemistry professorships at 50 leading U.S. colleges and universities are held by underrepresented minorities. That key finding and others related to diversity in academia came from a new survey conducted by a program called Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE) in partnership with Chemical & Engineering News.

Gauging materials’ physical properties from video

May 21, 2015 10:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last summer, MIT researchers published a paper describing an algorithm that can recover intelligible speech from the analysis of the minute vibrations of objects in video captured through soundproof glass. In June, researchers from the same groups will describe how the technique can be adapted to infer material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.

New class of magnets could energize the world

May 21, 2015 10:30 am | by Temple Univ. | News | Comments

A new class of magnets that expand their volume when placed in a magnetic field and generate negligible amounts of wasteful heat during energy harvesting, has been discovered by researchers at Temple Univ. and the Univ. of Maryland. This transformative breakthrough has the potential to not only displace existing technologies but create altogether new applications due to the unusual combination of magnetic properties.

Technology could change future wireless communications

May 21, 2015 10:22 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

Radio systems, such as mobile phones and wireless Internet connections, have become an integral part of modern life. However, today's devices use twice as much of the radio spectrum as is necessary. New technology is being developed that could fundamentally change radio design and could increase data rates and network capacity, reduce power consumption, create cheaper devices and enable global roaming.

Simulations predict flat liquid

May 21, 2015 10:11 am | by Academy of Finland | News | Comments

Computer simulations have predicted a new phase of matter: atomically thin 2-D liquid. This prediction pushes the boundaries of possible phases of materials further than ever before. Two-dimensional materials themselves were considered impossible until the discovery of graphene around 10 years ago.

Designing microwave devices from scratch

May 21, 2015 10:03 am | by Umea Univ. | News | Comments

For decades, the fundamental design of microwave devices, such as antennas for mobile communication and waveguides used in radars, has essentially relied on the inventiveness of a professional designer. Computer simulations are usually used only in final design stages to fine-tune details in the design.

Experimental Ebola treatment boosts survival in mice

May 21, 2015 8:25 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The number of new Ebola cases is tapering off, but the search for new treatments continues. Now, one research team has found potential drug candidates that successfully treated up to 90% of mice exposed to the Ebola virus. They report their findings in ACS Infectious Diseases.

Shape-shifting plastic

May 21, 2015 8:18 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Not all plastics are created equal. Malleable thermoplastics can be easily melted and reused in products such as food containers. Other plastics, called thermosets, are essentially stuck in their final form because of cross-linking chemical bonds that give them their strength for applications such as golf balls and car tires.

Defects can “Hulk-up” materials

May 21, 2015 8:09 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the story of the Marvel Universe superhero known as the Hulk, exposure to gamma radiation transforms scientist Bruce Banner into a far more powerful version of himself. In a study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, exposure to alpha-particle radiation has been shown to transform certain thermoelectric materials into far more powerful versions of themselves.

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