The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA’s Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks, which likely originated from beyond our solar system, are more complex in composition and structure than previously imagined. The analysis opens a door to studying the origins of the solar system and possibly the origin of life itself.
A scary problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it from seeding new outbreaks. Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since it first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere—probably bats—but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in nature.
Since 2006, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft delivered its aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors back to Earth, a team of scientists has combed through them. They now report finding seven dust motes that probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion and altered by eons of exposure to the extremes of space. They would be the first confirmed samples of contemporary interstellar dust.
In the age of big data, visualization tools are vital. With a single glance at a graphic display, a human being can recognize patterns that a computer might fail to find even after hours of analysis. But what if there are aberrations in the patterns? Or what if there’s just a suggestion of a visual pattern that’s not distinct enough to justify any strong inferences? Or what if the pattern is clear, but not what was to be expected?
Scientists are racing to begin the first human safety tests of two experimental Ebola vaccines, but it won't be easy to prove that the shots and other potential treatments in the pipeline really work. There are no proven drugs or vaccines for Ebola, a disease so rare that it's been hard to attract investments in countermeasures. But the current outbreak in West Africa is fueling new efforts to speed Ebola vaccine and drug development.
Researchers at the Univ. of California, Santa Cruz have developed a new approach for studying single molecules and nanoparticles by combining electrical and optical measurements on an integrated chip-based platform. In a paper published in Nano Letters, the researchers reported using the device to distinguish viruses from similarly-sized nanoparticles with 100% fidelity.
Graphene may be tough, but those who handle it had better be tender. The environment surrounding the atom-thick carbon material can influence its electronic performance, according to researchers at Rice and Osaka universities who have come up with a simple way to spot contaminants.
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that regulates sleep and wake rhythms. The discovery of the role of this gene, called Lhx1, provides scientists with a potential therapeutic target to help night-shift workers or jet lagged travelers adjust to time differences more quickly. The results, published in eLife, can point to treatment strategies for sleep problems caused by a variety of disorders.
Gene-based personalized medicine has many possibilities for diagnosis and targeted therapy, but one big bottleneck: the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available.
In May 2014, a private company in China, WinSun, printed 10 full-size houses using 3-D printers in the space of a day. The process utilized quick-drying cement and construction water to build the walls layer-by-layer. The company used a system of four 10-m-by-6.6-m-high printers with multi-directional sprays to create the houses.
In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers report that they have designed a sensor in the form of a temporary tattoo that can both monitor a person’s progress during exercise and produce power from their perspiration.
From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the Univ. of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.
A team of materials chemists, polymer scientists, device physicists and others at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst report a breakthrough technique for controlling molecular assembly of nanoparticles over multiple length scales that should allow faster, cheaper, more ecologically friendly manufacture of organic photovoltaics and other electronic devices.
Surgical and trauma patients are at significant risk for morbidity and mortality from bleeding and/or leaking bodily fluids. With the number and complexity of surgeries rising, so is the need for better hemostatic agents to stop bleeding as quickly as possible. The history of approaches to hemostasis goes back to when people simply used their hands or a tool to apply to a wound to stop bleeding.
Imagine your religious beliefs lied between you and your life. This is what happened in mid-April to Julie Penoyer, a 50-year-old U.K. heart patient and Jahovah’s Witness. Following her religious beliefs, her request when undergoing open-heart surgery was to not receive donated blood products.
A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has vastly different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, a new study shows. The research, by scientists in Brown Univ.’s Center for the Capture and Conversion of CO2, suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.
A Purdue Univ. student team has designed, built and tested a critical part of a new a rocket engine as part of a NASA project to develop spacecraft technologies needed to land on the moon, Mars and other cosmic venues. The students are making a central part of the new engine—called the thrust chamber or combustor—as part of NASA's Project Morpheus.
A Rice Univ. laboratory has provided proof that foam may be the right stuff to maximize enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In tests, foam pumped into an experimental rig that mimicked the flow paths deep underground proved better at removing oil from formations with low permeability than common techniques involving water, gas, surfactants or combinations of the three.
Scientists have known for decades that cancer can be caused by genetic mutations, but more recently they have discovered that chemical modifications of a gene can also contribute to cancer. These alterations, known as epigenetic modifications, control whether a gene is turned on or off. Analyzing these modifications can provide important clues to the type of tumor a patient has, and how it will respond to different drugs.
R&D Magazine introduced its annual Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and its Innovator of the Year Award winner, Dr. Hugh Herr. As R&D Magazine's 49th Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Deisseroth is one of the United States’ leading researchers in the rapidly growing field of optogenetics, having invented several new technologies in support of efforts to understand neural functions in the human brain.
Scientists hunting for life beyond Earth have discovered more than 1,800 planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, in recent years, but so far, no one has been able to confirm an exomoon. Now, physicists from The Univ. of Texas at Arlington believe following a trail of radio wave emissions may lead them to that discovery.
To make a better optical fiber for transmitting laser beams, the first idea that comes to mind is probably not a nice long hydrogen bath. And yet, scientists have known for years that hydrogen can alter the performance of optical fibers, which are often used to transmit or even generate laser light in optical devices. Researchers at NIST have put this hydrogen “cure” to practical use.
Nature’s artistic and engineering skills are evident in proteins. Scientists at Rice Univ. have now employed their unique theories to show how the interplay between evolution and physics developed these skills. The team used computer models to show that the energy landscapes that describe how nature selects viable protein sequences over evolutionary timescales employ the same forces as those that allow proteins to fold.
Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria, has proven notoriously resistant to scientists’ efforts to study its genetics. It can take up to a year to determine the function of a single gene, which has slowed efforts to develop new, more targeted drugs and vaccines. Biological engineers have now demonstrated a new genome-editing technique that can disrupt a single parasite gene in a matter of weeks.
Visual impairment comes in many forms, and it's on the rise in America. A Univ. of Cincinnati experiment aimed at this diverse and growing population could spark development of advanced tools to help all the aging baby boomers, injured veterans, diabetics and white-cane-wielding pedestrians navigate the blurred edges of everyday life.