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The Lead

Soft, energy-efficient robotic wings

March 31, 2015 12:40 pm | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Dielectric elastomers are novel materials for making actuators or motors with soft and lightweight properties that can undergo large active deformations with high-energy conversion efficiencies. This has made dielectric elastomers popular for creating devices such as robotic hands, soft robots, tunable lenses and pneumatic valves, and possibly flapping robotic wings.

Plants enable highly sensitive temperature sensors

March 31, 2015 12:32 pm | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Scientists from ETH Zurich have developed a thermometer that is at least 100 times more...

Biology in a twist

March 31, 2015 12:21 pm | by Amal Naquiah, National Univ. of Signapore | News | Comments

Researchers at the National Univ. of Singapore have discovered that the inherent handedness of...

Scientists discover elusive secret of how continents formed

March 31, 2015 11:58 am | by John Pastor, Virginia Tech | News | Comments

An international research team, led by a Virginia Tech geoscientist, has revealed information...

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The unseen way organisms cope with climate change

March 31, 2015 10:55 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | News | Comments

Scientists have found a way to measure the unseen toll that environmental stress places on living creatures, showing that they can rev up their metabolism to work more than twice as hard as normal to cope with change. Stresses from climate change such as rising temperatures and increasing ocean acidity can move an organism closer and closer to the brink of death without visible signs.

A “Wikipedia” for neurons

March 31, 2015 8:43 am | by Jocelyn Duffy, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | Videos | Comments

The decades worth of data that has been collected about the billions of neurons in the brain is astounding. To help scientists make sense of this “brain big data,” researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. have used data mining to create www.neuroelectro.org, a publicly available Website that acts like Wikipedia, indexing physiological information about neurons.

Wearable technology can help with public speaking

March 31, 2015 8:34 am | by Leonor Sierra, Univ. of Rochester | Videos | Comments

Speaking in public is the top fear for many people. Now, researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Group at the Univ. of Rochester have developed an intelligent user interface for “smart glasses” that gives real-time feedback to the speaker on volume modulation and speaking rate, while being minimally distracting.

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New tool to understand volcanic supereruptions

March 31, 2015 8:25 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

To understand when and why volcanoes erupt, scientists study the rocks left behind by eruptions past. A method called geobarometry uses the composition of volcanic rocks to estimate the pressure and depth at which molten magma was stored just before it erupted. A research team has tested a new type of geobarometer that is well-suited to study the kind of magma often produced in explosive and destructive volcanic eruptions.

Battery bounce test often bounces off target

March 31, 2015 8:15 am | by John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Don't throw away those bouncing batteries. Researchers at Princeton Univ. have found that the common test of bouncing a household battery to learn if it is dead or not is not actually an effective way to check a battery's charge. 

Scientists reveal mechanism of natural product with powerful antimicrobial action

March 31, 2015 8:04 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have uncovered the unique mechanism of a powerful natural product with wide-ranging antifungal, antibacterial antimalaria and anticancer effects. The new study sheds light on the natural small molecule known as borrelidin.

Microsecond Raman imaging might probe cells, organs for disease

March 30, 2015 1:03 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A vibrational spectroscopic imaging technology that can take images of living cells could represent an advanced medical diagnostic tool for the early detection of cancer and other diseases. High-speed spectroscopic imaging makes it possible to observe the quickly changing metabolic processes inside living cells and to image large areas of tissue, making it possible to scan an entire organ.

As stars form, magnetic fields influence regions big and small

March 30, 2015 12:34 pm | by Christine Pulliam, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Stars form when gravity pulls together material within giant clouds of gas and dust. But gravity isn't the only force at work. Both turbulence and magnetic fields battle gravity, either by stirring things up or by channeling and restricting gas flows, respectively. New research focusing on magnetic fields shows that they influence star formation on a variety of scales, from hundreds of light-years down to a fraction of a light-year.

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Multi-scale Fractal-based Methods for Useful Characterizations of Surface Topographies

March 30, 2015 12:05 pm | by Christopher Brown, Surface Metrology Lab, Worcester Polytechnic Institute | Articles | Comments

Geometrically, fractals have forms, or features, that repeat at different sizes over ranges of scales. These features can repeat exactly, such as the triangles that repeat with scale on a Koch snowflake or Minkowski sausage. Or, these features might repeat statistically, as on ground or abraded surfaces, where these repeating features create self-similar patterns of scratches or over a range of scales.

High-tech method allows rapid imaging of functions in living brain

March 30, 2015 11:49 am | by Julie Flory, Washington Univ. of St. Louis | News | Comments

Researchers studying cancer and other invasive diseases rely on high-resolution imaging to see tumors and other activity deep within the body's tissues. Using a new high-speed, high-resolution imaging method, a team at Washington Univ. in St. Louis were able to see blood flow, blood oxygenation, oxygen metabolism and other functions inside a living mouse brain at faster rates than ever before.

Roll up your screen and stow it away?

March 30, 2015 11:38 am | by George Hunka, Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

From smartphones and tablets to computer monitors and interactive TV screens, electronic displays are everywhere. As the demand for instant, constant communication grows, so too does the urgency for more convenient portable devices, especially devices, like computer displays, that can be easily rolled up and put away, rather than requiring a flat surface for storage and transportation.

Comet dust: Mercury’s “invisible paint”

March 30, 2015 11:26 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury’s dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from passing comets has slowly painted Mercury black over billions of years.

Prototype nanoneedles generate new blood vessels in mice

March 30, 2015 11:20 am | by Imperial College London | News | Comments

Scientists have developed tiny nanoneedles that have successfully prompted parts of the body to generate new blood vessels, in a trial in mice. The researchers, from Imperial College London and Houston Methodist Research Institute, hope their nanoneedle technique could ultimately help damaged organs and nerves to repair themselves and help transplanted organs to thrive.

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Recipe for antibacterial plastic

March 30, 2015 8:21 am | by Cal Powell, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Bioplastics made from protein sources such as albumin and whey have shown significant antibacterial properties, findings that could eventually lead to their use in plastics used in medical applications such as wound healing dressings, sutures, catheter tubes and drug delivery, according to a recent study by the Univ. of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Nanoscale “worms” provide new route to nano-necklace structures

March 30, 2015 8:11 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a novel technique for crafting nanometer-scale necklaces based on tiny star-like structures threaded onto a polymeric backbone. The technique could provide a new way to produce hybrid organic-inorganic shish kebab structures from semiconducting, magnetic, ferroelectric and other materials that may afford useful nanoscale properties.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed world by 2050

March 30, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in Cell.

Solving molybdenum disulfide’s “thin” problem

March 30, 2015 7:55 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

The promising new material molybdenum disulfide has an inherent issue that’s steeped in irony. The material’s greatest asset, its monolayer thickness, is also its biggest challenge. Monolayer molybdenum disulfide’s ultra-thin structure is strong, lightweight and flexible, making it a good candidate for many applications, such as high-performance, flexible electronics.

Precocious GEM

March 30, 2015 7:46 am | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

Scientists working at NIST and the NIH have devised and demonstrated a new, shape-shifting probe, about one-hundredth as wide as a human hair, which is capable of sensitive, high-resolution remote biological sensing that is not possible with current technology. If eventually put into widespread use, the design could have a major impact on research in medicine, chemistry, biology and engineering.

Surface-modified nanoparticles endow coatings with combine properties

March 27, 2015 9:56 am | by Leibniz Institute for New Materials | News | Comments

Nanoparticles are specifically adapted to the particular application by Small Molecule Surface Modification. Thereby surfaces of work pieces or moldings are expected to exhibit several different functions at one and the same time. Fabricators and processors alike demand consistently high quality for their intermediate and final products. The properties of these goods usually also have to meet specific requirements.

First glimpse inside a macroscopic quantum state

March 27, 2015 9:49 am | by Alina Hirschmann, The Institute of Photonic Sciences | News | Comments

In a recent study published in Physical Review Letters, the research group led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Morgan Mitchell has detected, for the first time, entanglement among individual photon pairs in a beam of squeezed light. Quantum entanglement is always related to the microscopic world, but it also has striking macroscopic effects, such as the squeezing of light or superconductivity.

Big data allows computer engineers to find genetic clues in humans

March 27, 2015 8:26 am | by Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Big data: It's a term we read and hear about often, but is hard to grasp. Computer scientists at Washington Univ. in St. Louis tackled some big data about an important protein and discovered its connection in human history as well as clues about its role in complex neurological diseases.

Physicists solve low-temperature magnetic mystery

March 27, 2015 8:19 am | by Chelsea Whyte, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have made an experimental breakthrough in explaining a rare property of an exotic magnetic material, potentially opening a path to a host of new technologies. From information storage to magnetic refrigeration, many of tomorrow's most promising innovations rely on sophisticated magnetic materials, and this discovery opens the door to harnessing the physics that governs those materials. 

Chemists make new silicon-based nanomaterials

March 27, 2015 8:01 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Chemists from Brown Univ. have found a way to make new 2-D, graphene-like semiconducting nanomaterials using an old standby of the semiconductor world: silicon. In a paper published in Nanoletters, the researchers describe methods for making nanoribbons and nanoplates from a compound called silicon telluride. The materials are pure, p-type semiconductors that could be used in a variety of electronic and optical devices.

Dark matter even darker than once thought

March 27, 2015 7:54 am | by Hubble Information Centre | News | Comments

Astronomers using observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have studied how dark matter in clusters of galaxies behaves when the clusters collide. The results, published in Science, show that dark matter interacts with itself even less than previously thought, and narrows down the options for what this mysterious substance might be.

Using magnetic fields to understand high-temperature superconductivity

March 27, 2015 7:44 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Taking our understanding of quantum matter to new levels, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are exposing high-temperature superconductors to very high magnetic fields, changing the temperature at which the materials become perfectly conducting and revealing unique properties of these substances.

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