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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.

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...

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...

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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).

DNA nanoswitches reveal how life’s molecules connect

January 30, 2015 8:17 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

A complex interplay of molecular components governs most aspects of biological sciences: healthy organism development, disease progression and drug efficacy are all dependent on the way life's molecules interact in the body. Understanding these biomolecular interactions is critical for the discovery of new therapeutics and diagnostics to treat diseases, but currently requires scientists to have access to expensive laboratory equipment.

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."

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Extreme oxygen loss in oceans accompanied past global climate change

January 29, 2015 11:58 am | by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Seafloor sediment cores reveal abrupt, extensive loss of oxygen in the ocean when ice sheets melted roughly 10,000 to 17,000 years ago, according to a study. The findings provide insight into similar changes observed in the ocean today. In the study, researchers analyzed marine sediment cores from different world regions to document the extent to which low oxygen zones in the ocean have expanded in the past, due to climate change.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

Ancient star system reveals Earth-sized planets forming near start of universe

January 28, 2015 10:34 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A sun-like star with orbiting planets, dating back to the dawn of the galaxy, has been discovered by an international team of astronomers. At 11.2 billion years old it is the oldest star with Earth-sized planets ever found and proves that such planets have formed throughout the history of the universe. The discovery used observations made by NASA's Kepler satellite.

Early Mesoamericans affected by climate change

January 28, 2015 10:22 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

Scientists have reconstructed the past climate for the region around Cantona, a large fortified city in highland Mexico, and found the population drastically declined in the past, at least in part because of climate change. The research appears in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Bulletproof” battery

January 28, 2015 9:55 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New battery technology from the Univ. of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery. Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.

Laser pulse that gets shorter by itself

January 28, 2015 8:53 am | by Florian Aigner, Vienna Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

In a marathon, everyone starts at roughly the same place at roughly the same time. But the faster runners will gradually increase their lead, and in the end, the distribution of runners on the street will be very broad. Something similar happens to a pulse of light sent through a medium. The pulse is a combination of different colors (or wavelengths), and when they are sent through a medium like glass, they travel at different speeds.

New pathway to valleytronics

January 28, 2015 8:43 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A potential avenue to quantum computing currently generating quite the buzz in the high-tech industry is “valleytronics,” in which information is coded based on the wavelike motion of electrons moving through certain 2-D semiconductors. Now, a promising new pathway to valleytronic technology has been uncovered by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Researchers tune friction in ionic solids at the nanoscale

January 28, 2015 8:26 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Friction impacts motion, hence the need to control friction forces. Currently, this is accomplished by mechanistic means or lubrication, but experiments conducted by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered a way of controlling friction on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale using electrical stimulation and ambient water vapor.

Nanoscale mirrored cavities amplify, connect quantum memories

January 28, 2015 8:11 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

The idea of computing systems based on controlling atomic spins just got a boost from new research performed at MIT and Brookhaven National Laboratory. By constructing tiny "mirrors" to trap light around impurity atoms in diamond crystals, the team dramatically increased the efficiency with which photons transmit information about those atoms' electronic spin states, which can be used to store quantum information.

Scaffolding is in charge of calcium carbonate crystals

January 26, 2015 11:45 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Nature packs away carbon in chalk, shells and rocks made by marine organisms that crystallize calcium carbonate. Now, research suggests that the soft, organic scaffolds in which such crystals form guide crystallization by soaking up the calcium like an "ion sponge". Understanding the process better may help researchers develop advanced materials for energy and environmental uses, such as for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Potential new drug target for lung cancer

January 26, 2015 11:23 am | by Allison Perry, Univ. of Kentucky | Videos | Comments

A new study by Univ. of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center researchers suggests that targeting a key enzyme and its associated metabolic programming may lead to novel drug development to treat lung cancer. Cancer cells undergo metabolic alterations to meet the increased energy demands that support their excess growth and survival.

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