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Physicists a step closer to finding mysterious cosmic ray sources

July 8, 2014 8:52 am | News | Comments

An observatory run by the Univ. of Utah has found a “hotspot” beneath the Big Dipper emitting a disproportionate number of the highest-energy cosmic rays. The discovery moves physics another step toward identifying the mysterious sources of the most energetic particles in the universe.

Nanoscale cooling element works in electrical insulators as well

July 8, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

An international research collaboration has designed a miniscule cooling element that uses spin waves to transport heat in electrical insulators. Although physicists have used spin for cooling purposes before, this is the first time that they have successfully done this in insulating materials. The cooling element could be used to dissipate heat in the increasingly smaller electrical components of computer chips.

The new atomic age: Building smaller, greener electronics

July 7, 2014 3:06 pm | by Bryan Alary, Univ. of Alberta | News | Comments

Robert Wolkow and his team at the Univ. of Alberta are working to engineer atomically precise computing technologies that have practical, real-world applications. In recent research, he and his team observed for the first time how an electrical current flows across the skin of a silicon crystal and also measured electrical resistance as the current moved over a single atomic step.

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Ironing out details of the carbon cycle

July 7, 2014 10:02 am | by Steven Powell, Univ. of South Carolina | News | Comments

Iron is present in tiny concentrations in seawater, on the order of a few billionths of a gram in a liter. However, its availability in seawater can have a profound effect on phytoplankton growth and, consequently, the Earth's carbon cycle. In recent research, an assessment was made of the various sources of dissolved iron in the north Atlantic Ocean and surprising discoveries were made about their origins.

Fine-scale climate model projections predict malaria at local levels

July 7, 2014 9:56 am | by Sara LaJeunesse, Penn State | News | Comments

According to a team of researchers who applied a statistical technique to conventional, coarse-scale climate models, population centers in cool, highland regions of East Africa could be more vulnerable to malaria than previously thought, while population centers in hot, lowland areas could be less vulnerable. The new approach improves the accuracy of earlier efforts that used global climate model simulations results.

“Nanojuice” could improve how doctors examine the gut

July 7, 2014 8:05 am | by Cory Nealon, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

Located deep in the human gut, the small intestine is not easy to examine: X-rays, MRIs and ultrasound images each suffer limitations. Univ. at Buffalo researchers are developing a new imaging technique involving nanoparticles suspended in liquid to form “nanojuice” that patients would drink. Upon reaching the small intestine, doctors would strike the nanoparticles with laser light, providing a non-invasive, real-time view of the organ.

New nonlinear metamaterial is a million times better than traditional options

July 2, 2014 3:48 pm | News | Comments

Nonlinear optical materials are widely used in laser systems, but they require high light intensity and long propagation to be effective. A team in Germany and Texas has designed a new 400-nm thick nonlinear mirror that delivers frequency-doubled output using input light intensity as small as that of a laser pointer. Compared to traditional nonlinear materials, the new option offers a million times increase in nonlinear optical response.

Non-invasive advanced image analysis could lead to better patient care

July 2, 2014 3:40 pm | News | Comments

Obtaining evidence of genetic changes to make a cancer diagnosis usually requires a biopsy, which can be problematic for sensitive regions of the body such as the lungs. Based on recent review of patients with lung cancer, researchers have found that scanning the tumor cells with quantitative computed tomography based texture analysis (QTA) determines (with 90% accuracy) whether the patient's tumor had a cancer-causing gene mutation.

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“Deep learning” makes search for exotic particles easier

July 2, 2014 3:12 pm | News | Comments

Fully automated "deep learning" by computers greatly improves the odds of discovering particles such as the Higgs boson, according to a recent study. In fact, this approach beats even veteran physicists' abilities, which now consists of developing mathematical formulas by hand to apply to data. New machine learning methods are rendering that approach unnecessary.

Toward a new way to keep electronics from overheating

July 2, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

Using something called a microchannel heat sink to simulate the warm environment of a working computer, researchers in Malaysia have analyzed three nanofluids for the traits that are important in an effective coolant. The results of their study show that the nanofluids, which are made of metallic nanoparticles that have been added to a liquid, such as water, all performed better than water as coolants, with one mixture standing out.

New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket

July 2, 2014 11:58 am | News | Comments

The light-warping structures known as metamaterials have a new trick in their ever-expanding repertoire. Researchers at NIST have built a silver, glass and chromium nanostructure that can all but stop visible light cold in one direction while giving it a pass in the other. The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.

Blind lead the way in brave new world of tactile technology

July 2, 2014 9:46 am | by Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

New research at UC Berkeley has found that people are better and faster at navigating tactile technology when using both hands and several fingers. Moreover, blind people in the study outmaneuvered their sighted counterparts, perhaps because they’ve developed superior cognitive strategies for finding their way around. These insights are useful as more media companies are implementing tactile interfaces.

License plate readers face hurdles before reaching full potential

July 2, 2014 9:31 am | News | Comments

Systems that automatically read automobile license plates have the potential to save police investigative time and increase safety, but law enforcement officials must address issues related to staffing, compatibility and privacy before the technology can reach its full potential, according to a new RAND Corp. report.

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Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

Nineteenth-century math tactic gets makeover, speeds answers up to 200 times

July 1, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

A relic from long before the age of supercomputers, the 169-year-old math strategy called the Jacobi iterative method is widely dismissed today as too slow to be useful. But thanks to a Johns Hopkins Univ. engineering student and his professor, it may soon get a new lease on life. With just a few modern-day tweaks, the researchers say they’ve made the rarely used Jacobi method work up to 200 times faster.

New method detects infrared energy using a nanoporous photodetector

July 1, 2014 10:09 am | News | Comments

Experiments aimed at devising new types of photodetectors have been triggered by the increasing use of optoelectronic devices. Researchers in China have proposed a new type of infrared photodetector made from zinc oxide and silicon. Its nanoporous nature, synthesized by a simple sol-gel method, allows it to be responsive to infrared wavelengths.

Engineers envision electronic switch just three atoms thick

July 1, 2014 9:53 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Computer simulation has shown Stanford Univ. engineers how to make a crystal that would toggle like a light switch between conductive and non-conductive structures. This flexible, switchable lattice, just three atoms thick, can be turned on or off by mechanically pushing or pulling, and could lead to flexible electronic materials.

Cellular team players

July 1, 2014 9:41 am | News | Comments

Many enzymes work only with a co-trainer, of sorts. Scientists in Germany have shown what this kind of cooperation looks like in detail using a novel methodology applied to the heat shock protein Hsp90, which controls the proper folding of other proteins. Together with a second molecule, the co-chaperone P23, it splits the energy source ATP to yield the energy it needs to do its work.

Researchers show that bacteria can evolve biological timer to survive antibiotics

June 30, 2014 2:14 pm | News | Comments

Using the quantitative approach of physicists, biologists in Israel have developed experimental tools to measure precisely the bacterial response to antibiotics. Their mathematical model of the process has led them to hypothesize that a daily three-hour dose would enable the bacteria to predict delivery of the drug, and go dormant for that period in order to survive.

More pores for more power

June 30, 2014 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a new material the size of a sugar cube that has a surface area equivalent to more than seven tennis courts. This novel type of nanofiber has a highly ordered and porous structure gives it an extraordinarily high surface-to-volume ratio and could be a key enabling technology for lithium-sulfur batteries.

The aeroacoustics of jets

June 30, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

Aerospace engineers from the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are using the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede supercomputer to explore how jets in general, like those on modern aircraft and inside the human body, generate noise. This is important because no simple explanation of how jets generate noise is currently available, and without this understanding making jets quieter is difficult.

Hawaii board advances $1 billion telescope pending review

June 30, 2014 8:45 am | by Cathy Bussewitz, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hawaii's Board of Land and Natural Resources has approved a sublease for a $1.3 billion telescope that would be one of the world's largest, but the approval is on hold until the board hears objections in a separate review process. The board met Friday to discuss issues raised previously about a plan to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

Chemists develop magnetically responsive liquid crystals

June 27, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of California, Riverside have constructed liquid crystals with optical properties that can be instantly and reversibly controlled by an external magnetic field. Unlike conventional liquid crystals, which rotate and align themselves when an electric field is applied, the new crystals are essentially a liquid dispersion of magnetic nanorods.

Hundreds of sensors packed into a single optical fiber

June 26, 2014 2:37 pm | News | Comments

By fusing together the concepts of active fiber sensors and high-temperature fiber sensors, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh has created an all-optical high-temperature sensor for gas flow measurements that operates at record-setting temperatures above 800 C. The new technology should be ideal for use in deep drilling operations, nuclear reactor cores and outer space.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

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