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The Lead

NASA's moon-orbiting robot crashes down as planned

April 18, 2014 10:28 am | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is no more. Flight controllers confirmed Friday that the orbiting spacecraft crashed into the back side of the moon as planned, just three days after surviving a full lunar eclipse, something it was never designed to do. Researchers believe LADEE likely vaporized when it hit because of its extreme orbiting speed of 3,600 mph, possibly smacking into a mountain or side of a crater.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

April 18, 2014 10:22 am | by Mark Nickel, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years...

Impurity size affects performance of emerging superconductive material

April 18, 2014 8:45 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Research from North Carolina State Univ. finds that impurities can hurt performance, or possibly...

Pocket-sized anthrax detector aids global agriculture

April 18, 2014 8:36 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

A credit-card-sized anthrax detection cartridge developed at Sandia National Laboratories and...

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Electrically controlled polymer changes its optical properties

April 18, 2014 8:28 am | News | Comments

An international team of chemists from Italy, Germany and Poland have developed a polymer with unique optical and electrical properties. Components of this polymer change their spatial configuration depending on the electric potential applied. In turn, the polarization of transmitted light is affected. The new material could be used in a windows, polarization filters or chemical sensors.

Researchers predict signs of black holes swallowing stars

April 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Aaron Dubrow, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

Somewhere out in the cosmos an ordinary galaxy spins, seemingly at slumber. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! A flash of light explodes from the galaxy's center. A star orbiting too close to the event horizon of the galaxy's central supermassive black hole has been torn apart by the force of gravity, heating up its gas and sending out a beacon to the far reaches of the universe.

High-temperature plasmonics eyed for solar, computer innovation

April 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New plasmonic metamaterials that operate at high temperatures could radically improve solar cell performance and bring advanced computer data storage technology that uses heat to record information on a magnetic disk. The materials could make it possible to harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.

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Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

Multi-target TB drug could treat other disease, evade resistance

April 18, 2014 7:47 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A drug under clinical trials to treat tuberculosis could be the basis for a class of broad-spectrum drugs that act against various bacteria, fungal infections and parasites, yet evade resistance, according to a study by Univ. of Illinois chemists and collaborators. The team determined the different ways the drug SQ109 attacks the tuberculosis bacterium and how the drug can be tweaked to target other pathogens from yeast to malaria.

Proper stem cell function requires hydrogen sulfide

April 17, 2014 3:02 pm | by Beth Newcomb, USC | News | Comments

A new study has discovered that stem cells in bone marrow need to produce hydrogen sulfide in order to properly multiply and form bone tissue. The presence of hydrogen sulfide produced by the cells governs the flow of calcium ions, which activates a chain of cellular signals that results in osteogenesis, or the creation of new bone tissue, and keeps the breakdown of old bone tissue at a proper level.

Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

April 17, 2014 2:56 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, a newly found planet is the most Earth-like planet yet detected. Astronomers say the distant, rocky world is similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life. The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

The trials of the Cherokee were reflected in their skulls

April 17, 2014 12:00 pm | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these cells individually take on their own unique forms, a team sought to pinpoint the shape-controlling factors in pavement cells, which are puzzle-piece-shaped epithelial cells found on the leaves of flowering plants.

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Neuromorphic computing “roadmap” envisions analog path to simulating human brain

April 17, 2014 11:46 am | by Rick Robinson, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

In the field of neuromorphic engineering, researchers study computing techniques that could someday mimic human cognition. Electrical engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently published a "roadmap" that details innovative analog-based techniques that could make it possible to build a practical neuromorphic computer.

Breakthrough atomic-level observation uses super-resolution microscope

April 17, 2014 9:46 am | News | Comments

A research group in Japan has developed a new advanced system that combines a super-resolution microscope and a deposition chamber for growing oxide thin films. With this system, they successfully observed for the first time the growing of metal-oxide thin films at an atomic level on the surface of single-crystal strontium titanate.

Information storage for the next generation of plastic computers

April 17, 2014 9:41 am | by Gary Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

Although it is relatively cheap and easy to encode information in light for fiber optic transmission, storing information is most efficiently done using magnetism, which ensures information will survive for years without any additional power. But a new proposal by researchers would replace silicon used in these devices with plastic. Their solution converts magnetic information to light in a flexible plastic device.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

April 17, 2014 7:50 am | by Eric Gershon, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Yale Univ. have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. High-quality quantum switches are essential for the development of quantum computers and the quantum Internet.

Bionic ankle “emulates nature”

April 17, 2014 7:41 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

These days, Hugh Herr, an assoc. prof. of media arts and sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gets about 100 emails daily from people across the world interested in his bionic limbs. Messages pour in from amputees seeking prostheses and from media outlets pursuing interviews. Then there are students looking to join Herr’s research group.

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Scientists capture ultrafast snapshots of light-driven superconductivity

April 16, 2014 2:34 pm | News | Comments

Carefully timed pairs of laser pulses at the Linac Coherent Light Source have been used to trigger superconductivity in a promising copper-oxide material and immediately take x-ray snapshots of its atomic and electronic structure as superconductivity emerged. The results of this effort have pinned down a major factor behind the appearance of superconductivity, and it hinges around “stripes” of increase electrical charge.

SpaceX will try again Friday to launch station cargo

April 16, 2014 12:22 pm | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

SpaceX is shooting for another launch attempt Friday to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. NASA confirmed the launch date Wednesday, two days after a last-minute rocket leak delayed the mission. Stormy weather, however, is forecast for Friday. Saturday is the backup launch date.

New barcode could make counterfeiters’ lives more difficult

April 16, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Counterfeiters, beware! Scientists are reporting the development of a new type of inexpensive barcode that, when added to documents or currency, could foil attempts at making forgeries. Although the tags are easy for researchers to make, they still require ingredients you can’t exactly find at the local hardware store.

New technique will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis

April 16, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

A type of single-cell green algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a leading subject for photosynthesis research, but few tools are available for characterizing the functions of its genes. A team including Carnegie Institution's Martin Jonikas has developed a highly sophisticated tool that will transform the work of plant geneticists by making large-scale genetic characterization of Chlamydomonas mutants possible for the first time.

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

Electric vehicles could travel farther and more renewable energy could be stored with lithium-sulfur batteries that use a unique powdery nanomaterial. Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery's cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.

Excitons observed in action

April 16, 2014 7:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A quasiparticle called an exciton has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within materials has never been directly observed. Now scientists have achieved that feat, imaging excitons’ motions directly. This could enable research leading to significant advances in electronics, they say, as well as a better understanding of natural energy-transfer processes, such as photosynthesis.

Potent, puzzling and (now less) toxic: Team discovers how antifungal drug works

April 15, 2014 5:18 pm | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Scientists have solved a decades-old medical mystery, and in the process have found a potentially less toxic way to fight invasive fungal infections, which kill about 1.5 million people a year. The researchers say they now understand the mechanism of action of amphotericin, an antifungal drug that has been in use for more than 50 years even though it is nearly as toxic to human cells as it is to the microbes it attacks.

Computational record: Earthquake simulation tops one quadrillion flops

April 15, 2014 4:28 pm | News | Comments

A team of computer scientists, mathematicians and geophysicists in Germany have optimized the SeisSol earthquake simulation software at Leibniz Supercomputing Center to push its performance beyond the one petaflop/sec mark, which equates to one quadrillion floating point operations per second. SeisSol is used to investigate rupture processes and seismic waves.

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 15, 2014 3:29 pm | News | Comments

The chemistry of lithium-ion batteries limits how much energy they can store, and one promising solution is the lithium-sulfur battery, which can hold as much as four times more energy per mass. However, problematic polysulfides usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, however, have developed a new powdery nanomaterial that could solve the issue.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by a team of astronomers. In fact, sometimes it helps because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them, are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

Sensitive detection method may help impede illicit nuclear trafficking

April 15, 2014 12:34 pm | News | Comments

According to a new study, coupling commercially available spectral x-ray detectors with a specialized algorithm can improve the detection of uranium and plutonium in small, layered objects such as baggage. This approach enhances the detection powers of x-ray imaging and may provide a new tool to impede nuclear trafficking.

Google buys drone maker Titan Aerospace

April 15, 2014 12:26 pm | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, has been purchased by Google, which says it could help bring Internet access to remote parts of the world. Titan's atmospheric satellites, which are still in development and not yet commercially available, can stay in the air for as long as five years. Titan's website has cited a wide range of uses for the drones.

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