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Liability Laws in the Age of Self-driving Cars

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Inside Science News Service, Joel Shurkin | News | Comments

Ninety percent of automobile accidents involve human error. If scientists succeed in producing computer-driven cars, responsibility may shift to programming errors. In that case, who sues whom? Who is liable?

Hydrogels Fight Invasive Ants

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Pesticide sprays and baits are common tactics for managing pest ants. But sprays can have little long-term impact and carry environmental costs such as chemical contamination of soil and water sources. Water-storing crystals known as hydrogels can effectively deliver pesticide bait to invasive Argentine ants, quickly decimating a colony.

Air Filter Could Help Beijing Breathe Easily

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A professor and his students have turned a material commonly used in surgical gloves into a low-cost, highly efficient air filter. It could be used to improve facemasks and window screens, and maybe even scrub the exhaust from power plants.  

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Igniting the air for atmospheric research

February 19, 2015 9:14 am | by Vienna Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Scientists have created a high-energy mid-infrared laser powerful enough to create shining filaments in the air. Such devices could be used to detect chemical substances in the atmosphere.

New nanogel for drug delivery

February 19, 2015 9:04 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a new type of self-healing hydrogel that could be injected through a syringe. Such gels, which can carry one or two drugs at a time, could be useful for treating cancer, macular degeneration, or heart disease, among other diseases, the researchers say.

For the first time, spacecraft catch a solar shockwave in the act

February 19, 2015 9:02 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New research has shown that a 2013 solar storm produced “ultrarelativistic, killer electrons” in 60 seconds, disrupting Earth's magnetic field and setting off a magnetized sound pulse around the planet. 

Cancer risk linked to DNA 'wormholes'

February 19, 2015 8:58 am | by Institute of Cancer Research | News | Comments

Single-letter genetic variations within parts of the genome once dismissed as 'junk DNA' can increase cancer risk through wormhole-like effects on far-off genes, new research shows.

Does dark matter cause mass extinctions and geologic upheavals?

February 19, 2015 8:56 am | by NYU | News | Comments

Research concludes that Earth's infrequent but predictable path around and through our Galaxy's disc may have a direct and significant effect on geological and biological phenomena occurring on Earth.

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Simple catalyst helps to construct complex biological scaffolds

February 18, 2015 11:01 am | by Technical Univ. Munich | News | Comments

Terpenes and their derivatives exert important biological and pharmaceutical functions. Starting out from a few basic building blocks nature elegantly builds up complex structures. Chemically particularly challenging are bridged ring systems such as eucalyptol. Chemists at the Technical Univ. Munich have developed a catalyst that initiates the formation of such compounds.

Researchers develop a cost-effective, efficient rival for platinum

February 18, 2015 10:39 am | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers succeeded in creating an electrocatalyst that is needed for storing electric energy made of carbon and iron. A challenge that comes with the increased use of renewable energy is how to store electric energy. Platinum has traditionally been used as the electrocatalyst in electrolyzers that store electric energy as chemical compounds.

Epigenomics of Alzheimer’s disease progression

February 18, 2015 9:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our susceptibility to disease depends both on the genes that we inherit from our parents and on our lifetime experiences. These two components—nature and nurture—seem to affect very different processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in Nature.

Voltage tester for beating cardiac cells

February 18, 2015 9:36 am | by ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Electrical impulses play an important role in cells of the human body. For example, neurons use these impulses to transmit information along their branches and the body also uses them to control the contraction of muscles. The impulses are generated when special channel proteins open in the outer envelope of the cells, allowing charged molecules (ions) to enter or exit the cell. These proteins are referred to as ion channels.

Paper-like material could boost electric vehicle batteries

February 18, 2015 8:58 am | by Sean Nealon, University of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery. This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair.

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Paving the way for painkillers with fewer side effects

February 18, 2015 8:40 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought alternatives to morphine that curb its side effects, including dependency, nausea and dizziness. Now, an experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has supplied the most complete atomic-scale map of such a compound docked with a cellular receptor that regulates the body’s pain response and tolerance.

Novel crumpling method takes flat graphene from 2-D to 3-D

February 18, 2015 7:54 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a unique single-step process to achieve 3-D texturing of graphene and graphite. Using a commercially available thermally activated shape-memory polymer substrate, this 3-D texturing, or "crumpling," allows for increased surface area and opens the doors to expanded capabilities for electronics and biomaterials.

Smarter multicore chips

February 18, 2015 7:33 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Computer chips’ clocks have stopped getting faster. To keep delivering performance improvements, chipmakers are instead giving chips more processing units, or cores, which can execute computations in parallel. But the ways in which a chip carves up computations can make a big difference to performance.

Building a more versatile frequency comb

February 17, 2015 7:25 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Frequency combs are the rulers of light. By counting a wavelength's many oscillations, they measure distance and time with extraordinary precision and speed. Since the discovery of optical frequency combs in the 1990s, many applications in metrology, spectroscopy and frequency synthesis have emerged.

Researchers develop algorithm to make simulation of ultra-fast processes possible

February 17, 2015 7:17 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When electronic states in materials are excited during dynamic processes, interesting phenomena such as electrical charge transfer can take place on quadrillionth-of-a-second, or femtosecond, timescales. Numerical simulations in real time provide the best way to study these processes, but such simulations can be extremely expensive.

Fiber-optic monitoring tools could help industry unlock geothermal energy

February 17, 2015 12:43 pm | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientists and engineers are working with industry partners and the U.S. Dept. of Energy to develop a highly detailed monitoring system for geothermal wells. Man-made geothermal systems that emulate natural ones could, by some conservative estimates, produce a total of 100 gigawatts of cost-competitive electricity over the next 50 years.

A close call of 0.8 light years

February 17, 2015 12:35 pm | by Leonor Sierra, Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

A group of astronomers from the U.S., Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system's distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close—five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.

Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

February 17, 2015 12:17 pm | by Univ. of Gothenburg | News | Comments

At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study led by researchers at the Univ. of Gothenburg shows that plants have been very resilient to those events. For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world's surface.

New spin on spintronics

February 17, 2015 11:18 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A team of researchers from the Univ. of Michigan and Western Michigan Univ. is exploring new materials that could yield higher computational speeds and lower power consumption, even in harsh environments. Most modern electronic circuitry relies on controlling electronic charge within a circuit, but this control can easily be disrupted in the presence of radiation, interrupting information processing.

Novel solid-state nanomaterial platform enables terahertz photonics

February 17, 2015 11:11 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Compact, sensitive and fast nanodetectors are considered to be somewhat of a "Holy Grail" sought by many researchers around the world. And now a team of scientists in Italy and France has been inspired by nanomaterials and has created a novel solid-state technology platform that opens the door to the use of terahertz photonics in a wide range of applications.

Ancient rocks show life on Earth 3.2 billion years ago

February 17, 2015 9:13 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth. But what happened next? Life can exist without oxygen; but without plentiful nitrogen to build genes, life on the early Earth would have been scarce. The ability to use atmospheric nitrogen to support more widespread life was thought to have appeared roughly 2 billion years ago.

The future of electronics could lie in material from the past

February 17, 2015 8:31 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, The Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

The future of electronics could lie in a material from its past, as researchers from The Ohio State Univ. work to turn germanium, the material of 1940s transistors, into a potential replacement for silicon. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, Asst. Prof. of Chemistry Joshua Goldberger reported progress in developing a form of germanium called germanane.

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