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Tasting light

January 30, 2015 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Human taste receptors are specialized to distinguish several distinct compounds: sugars taste sweet, salts taste salty, and acidic compounds taste sour. Now a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that the worm Caenorhabditis elegans has taken its powers of detection a step further: The worm can taste hydrogen peroxide, triggering it to stop eating the potentially dangerous substance.

Method allows for greater variation in band gap tenability

January 30, 2015 4:10 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

If you can’t find the ideal material, then design a new one. Northwestern Univ.’s James...

Evidence mounts for quantum criticality theory

January 30, 2015 4:01 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A new study by a team of physicists at Rice Univ., Zhejiang Univ., Los Alamos National...

Using a single molecule to create a new magnetic field sensor

January 30, 2015 9:16 am | by Univ. of Liverpool | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Liverpool and Univ. College London have shown a new way to use a...

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Why do zebras have stripes?

January 30, 2015 8:53 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Videos | Comments

One of nature’s fascinating questions is how zebras got their stripes. A team of life scientists led by Univ. of California, Los Angeles has found at least part of the answer: The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live.

Building trustworthy big data algorithms

January 30, 2015 8:41 am | by Emily Ayshford, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Much of our reams of data sit in large databases of unstructured text. Finding insights among emails, text documents and Websites is extremely difficult unless we can search, characterize and classify their text data in a meaningful way. One of the leading big data algorithms for finding related topics within unstructured text (an area called topic modeling) is latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA).

Parallelizing common algorithms

January 30, 2015 8:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every undergraduate computer science major takes a course on data structures, which describes different ways of organizing data in a computer’s memory. Every data structure has its own advantages: Some are good for fast retrieval, some for efficient search, some for quick insertions and deletions and so on. Today, hardware manufacturers are making computer chips faster by giving them more cores, or processing units.

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CAT scan of nearby supernova remnant reveals frothy interior

January 30, 2015 8:00 am | by David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Cassiopeia A, or Cas A, is one of the most well-studied supernova remnants in our galaxy. But it still holds major surprises. Harvard-Smithsonian and Dartmouth College astronomers have generated a new 3-D map of its interior using the astronomical equivalent of a CAT scan. They found that the Cas A supernova remnant is composed of a collection of about a half dozen massive cavities—or "bubbles."

Light-converting materials point to cheaper, more efficient solar power, LEDs

January 30, 2015 7:50 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Engineers are shining new light on an emerging family of solar-absorbing materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels and LEDs. The materials, called perovskites, are particularly good at absorbing visible light, but had never been studied in their purest form: as perfect single crystals.

Hydrogen sulfide could help lower blood pressure

January 29, 2015 4:30 pm | by Univ. of Exter Medical School | News | Comments

A gas that gives rotten eggs their distinctive odor could one day form the basis of new cardiovascular therapies. Research has indicated that a new compound, called AP39, which generates minute quantities of the gas hydrogen sulfide inside cells, could be beneficial in cases of high blood pressure and diseases of the blood vessels that occur with aging and diabetes.

New clues about a brain protein with high affinity for valium

January 29, 2015 4:18 pm | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Valium, one of the best known antianxiety drugs, produces its calming effects by binding with a particular protein in the brain. But the drug has an almost equally strong affinity for a completely different protein. Understanding this secondary interaction might offer clues about Valium's side effects and point the way to more effective drugs.

Eyeglasses that turn into sunglasses

January 29, 2015 3:52 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Imagine eyeglasses that can go quickly from clear to shaded and back again when you want them to, rather than passively in response to changes in light. Scientists report a major step toward that goal, which could benefit pilots, security guards and others who need such control, in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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Qubits with staying power

January 29, 2015 3:41 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Quantum computers are experimental devices that promise exponential speedups on some computational problems. Where a bit in a classical computer can represent either a 0 or a 1, a quantum bit, or qubit, can represent 0 and 1 simultaneously, letting quantum computers explore multiple problem solutions in parallel. But such “superpositions” of quantum states are, in practice, difficult to maintain.

New technique for growing high-efficiency perovskite solar cells

January 29, 2015 3:31 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

In Science, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers reveal a new solution-based hot-casting technique that allows growth of highly efficient and reproducible solar cells from large-area perovskite crystals. The researchers fabricated planar solar cells from pervoskite materials with large crystalline grains that had efficiencies approaching 18%.

Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think

January 29, 2015 3:19 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

  The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98% of surveyed scientists say it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about. Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization.

Neutron beams reveal how two potential pieces of Parkinson’s puzzle fit

January 29, 2015 11:44 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

To understand diseases like Parkinson’s, the tiniest of puzzles may hold big answers. That’s why a team including scientists from NIST have determined how two potentially key pieces of the Parkinson’s puzzle fit together, in an effort to reveal how the still poorly understood illness develops and affects its victims.

X-ray study reveals division of labor in cell health protein

January 29, 2015 11:24 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Researchers working in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered that a key protein for cell health, which has recently been linked to diabetes, cancer and other diseases, can multitask by having two identical protein parts divide labor. The TH enzyme, short for transhydrogenase, is a crucial protein for most forms of life. In humans and other higher organisms, it works within mitochondria.

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Quantum computer as detector shows space isn’t squeezed

January 29, 2015 10:42 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

Ever since Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity in 1905, physics and cosmology have been based on the assumption that space looks the same in all directions: that it’s not squeezed in one direction relative to another. A new experiment by Univ. of California, Berkeley physicists used partially entangled atoms to demonstrate more precisely than ever before that this is true, to one part in a billion billion.

Refineries challenge EPA plan to cut emissions

January 29, 2015 10:26 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that aims to curb emissions from oil refineries and petrochemical manufacturers is causing tensions to flare between the agency and industry groups. The agency is reviewing a flood of public comments on the issue and is expected to finalize the rule by April 17, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News.

Missing link in metal physics explains Earth’s magnetic field

January 29, 2015 9:58 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Earth’s magnetic field is crucial for our existence, as it shields the life on our planet’s surface from deadly cosmic rays. It is generated by turbulent motions of liquid iron in Earth’s core. Iron is a metal, which means it can easily conduct a flow of electrons that makes up an electric current. New findings show a missing piece of the traditional theory explaining why metals become less conductive when they are heated.

Detecting chemical weapons with a color-changing film

January 29, 2015 8:39 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

In today’s world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). In ACS Macro Letters, scientists are reporting new progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs.

Spiky “hedgehog particles” for safer paints, fewer VOC emissions

January 29, 2015 8:28 am | by Gabe Cherry, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new process that can sprout microscopic spikes on nearly any type of particle may lead to more environmentally friendly paints and a variety of other innovations. Made by a team of Univ. of Michigan engineers, the "hedgehog particles" are named for their bushy appearance under the microscope.

Researchers design tailored tissue adhesives

January 29, 2015 8:17 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

After undergoing surgery to remove diseased sections of the colon, up to 30% of patients experience leakage from their sutures, which can cause life-threatening complications. Many efforts are under way to create new tissue glues that can help seal surgical incisions and prevent such complications; now, a new study reveals that the effectiveness of such glues hinges on the state of the tissue in which they are being used.

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

January 29, 2015 8:06 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Geologists from Brown Univ. have found new evidence that glacier-like ice deposits advanced and retreated multiple times in the mid-latitude regions of Mars in the relatively recent past. For the study, the researchers looked at hundreds of gully-like features found on the walls of impact craters throughout the Martian mid-latitudes.

Using ocean waves to monitor offshore oil and gas fields

January 29, 2015 7:54 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A technology developed by Stanford Univ. scientists for passively probing the seafloor using weak seismic waves generated by the ocean could revolutionize offshore oil and natural gas extraction by providing real-time monitoring of the subsurface while lessening the impact on marine life.

Some potentially habitable planets began as gaseous, Neptune-like worlds

January 29, 2015 7:45 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Two phenomena known to inhibit the potential habitability of planets might instead help chances for life on certain planets orbiting low-mass stars, Univ. of Washington astronomers have found. The astronomers say tidal forces and vigorous stellar activity could combine to transform uninhabitable “mini-Neptunes” into closer-in, gas-free, potentially habitable worlds.

Ancient Israeli skull may document migration from Africa

January 28, 2015 1:17 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Long ago, humans left their evolutionary cradle in Africa and passed through the Middle East on their way to Europe. Now scientists have found the first fossil remains that appear to document that journey, a partial skull from an Israeli cave. The skull dates from around 55,000 years ago, fitting into the period when scientists had thought the migrants inhabited the area.

New mechanism unlocked for evolution of green fluorescent protein

January 28, 2015 10:51 am | by Jenny Green, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

A primary challenge in the biosciences is to understand the way major evolutionary changes in nature are accomplished. Sometimes the route turns out to be very simple. A group of scientists showed, for the first time, that a hinge migration mechanism, driven solely by long-range dynamic motions, can be the key for evolution of a green-to-red photoconvertible phenotype in a green fluorescent protein.

Beer compound could help fend off Alzheimer’s

January 28, 2015 10:40 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The health-promoting perks of wine have attracted the spotlight recently, leaving beer in the shadows. But scientists are discovering new ways in which the latter could be a more healthful beverage than once thought. They’re now reporting that a compound from hops could protect brain cells from damage, and potentially slow the development of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

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