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The Lead

Tomorrow will be one second longer

June 29, 2015 8:39 am | News | Comments

The day will officially be a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, because an extra second, or "leap" second, will be added.

All-plastic solar cell could help power future flexible electronics

June 26, 2015 7:06 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

If you picture a solar panel, it’s most likely dark blue or black, and rigid and flat. Now...

Could we one day control the path of lightning?

June 22, 2015 8:14 am | by Stéphanie Thibault, INRS | News | Comments

Lightning darts across the sky in a flash. And even though we can use lightning rods to increase...

Mold unlocks new route to biofuels

June 19, 2015 10:38 am | by Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Scientists at The Univ. of Manchester have made an important discovery that forms the basis for...

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Climate change won’t reduce winter deaths

June 19, 2015 9:12 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

In a study that contradicts the received wisdom on health impacts of climate change, scientists say that we shouldn’t expect substantial reduction in winter deaths as a result of global warming. This new research is published in Environmental Research Letters.

Adapting nanoscience imaging tools to study ants’ heat-deflecting adaptations

June 19, 2015 7:41 am | by Alasdair Wilkins, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

The tiny hairs of Saharan silver ants possess crucial adaptive features that allow the ants to regulate their body temperatures and survive the scorching hot conditions of their desert habitat. According to a new research paper, the unique triangular shape and internal structure of the hairs play a key role in maintaining the ant’s average internal temperature below the critical thermal maximum of 53.6 C (128.48 F).

Carbon nanoparticles you can make at home

June 18, 2015 1:55 pm | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers have found an easy way to produce carbon nanoparticles that are small enough to evade the body's immune system, reflect light in the near-infrared range for easy detection and carry payloads of pharmaceutical drugs to targeted tissues. Unlike other methods of making carbon nanoparticles, the new approach generates the particles in a few hours and uses only a handful of ingredients, including store-bought molasses.

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Humans’ built-in GPS is our 3-D sense of smell

June 18, 2015 7:57 am | by Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Like homing pigeons, humans have a nose for navigation because our brains are wired to convert smells into spatial information, new research shows. While humans may lack the scent-tracking sophistication of, say, a search-and-rescue dog, we can sniff our way, blindfolded, toward a location whose scent we’ve smelled only once before.

Scientists film shock waves in diamond

June 18, 2015 7:50 am | by Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY | News | Comments

Researchers have used ultra-short pulses of x-rays to film shock waves in diamonds. The study headed by DESY scientists opens up new possibilities for studying the properties of materials. Thanks to the extremely bright and short x-ray flashes, the researchers were able to follow the rapid, dynamic changes taking place in the shock wave with a high spatial, as well as a high temporal, resolution.

NASA's Hubble Telescope detects 'sunscreen' layer on distant planet

June 11, 2015 3:31 pm | News | Comments

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a stratosphere, one of the primary layers of Earth's atmosphere, on a massive and blazing-hot exoplanet known as WASP-33b.

Atmospheric signs of volcanic activity could aid search for life

June 11, 2015 10:25 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Planets with volcanic activity are considered better candidates for life than worlds without such heated internal goings-on. Now, graduate students at the Univ. of Washington have found a way to detect volcanic activity in the atmospheres of exoplanets, or those outside our solar system, when they transit, or pass in front of their host stars.

Engineer creates origami battery

June 11, 2015 8:20 am | by Ryan Yarosh, Binghamton Univ. | News | Comments

Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, can be used to create beautiful birds, frogs and other small sculptures. Now a Binghamton Univ. engineer says the technique can be applied to building batteries, too. Seokheun "Sean" Choi developed an inexpensive, bacteria-powered battery made from paper.

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Body’s response to spicy foods guides design of pain relief drugs

June 10, 2015 7:42 am | by Carole Gan, Univ. of California, Davis | Videos | Comments

Univ. of California, Davis, researchers have identified the molecular interactions that allow capsaicin to activate the body’s primary receptor for sensing heat and pain, paving the way for the design of more selective and effective drugs to relieve pain. Capsaicin is the ingredient that makes chili peppers spicy and hot.

Scientists observe photographic exposure live at the nanoscale

June 9, 2015 10:27 am | News | Comments

Scientists have now monitored the chemical processes during a photographic exposure at the level of individual nanoscale grains in real-time. The advanced experimental method enables the investigation of a broad variety of chemical and physical processes in materials with millisecond temporal resolution.

Engineers develop a computer that operates on water droplets

June 9, 2015 9:49 am | News | Comments

Computers and water typically don't mix, but in Manu Prakash's lab, the two are one and the same. Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, and his students have built a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets.

Minecraft can declutter the robotic mind

June 9, 2015 9:35 am | by Brown University | News | Comments

Researchers from Brown University are developing a new algorithm to help robots better plan their actions in complex environments. It’s designed to help robots be more useful in the real world, but it’s being developed with the help of a virtual world — that of the video game Minecraft.

Natural rubber from dandelions

June 8, 2015 10:59 am | by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft | News | Comments

Dandelions are modest plants that are an excellent alternative source for a raw material of high demand: natural rubber, the fundamental ingredient in rubber products. Fraunhofer researchers have established the basis for the large-scale production of high quality rubber with Russian dandelion.

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Pluto’s moons tumbling in absolute chaos

June 4, 2015 7:53 am | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

If you lived on one of Pluto's moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

How to weigh the Milky Way

June 3, 2015 8:18 am | by Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

What if your doctor told you that your weight is somewhere between 100 and 400 lbs.? With any ordinary scale every patient can do better at home. Yet, one patient can't: the Milky Way. Even though today we peer deeper into space than ever before, our home galaxy's weight is still unknown to about a factor of four.

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

June 1, 2015 7:36 am | by Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope of the pheromone plume, and then head upwind. Can understanding such insect behavior be useful for robotics research?

Diagnosing cancer with help from bacteria

May 28, 2015 11:31 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of California at San Diego have devised a new way to detect cancer that has spread to the liver, by enlisting help from probiotics, beneficial bacteria similar to those found in yogurt. Many types of cancer, including colon and pancreatic, tend to metastasize to the liver. The earlier doctors can find these tumors, the more likely that they can successfully treat them.

Expanding the code of life with new “letters”

May 28, 2015 7:29 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The DNA encoding all life on Earth is made of four building blocks called nucleotides, commonly known as “letters,” that line up in pairs and twist into a double helix. Now, two groups of scientists are reporting for the first time that two new nucleotides can do the same thing, raising the possibility that entirely new proteins could be created for medical uses.

Bioresorbable electronic stent could provide feedback, therapy

May 27, 2015 10:39 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Every year, an estimated half-million Americans undergo surgery to have a stent prop open a coronary artery narrowed by plaque. But sometimes the mesh tubes get clogged. Scientists report in ACS Nano a new kind of multi-tasking stent that could minimize the risks associated with the procedure. It can sense blood flow and temperature, store and transmit the information for analysis and can be absorbed by the body after it finishes its job.

Similarities between aurorae on Mars and Earth

May 27, 2015 10:31 am | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers has, for the first time, predicted the occurrence of aurorae visible to the naked eye on a planet other than Earth. Mars' upper atmosphere may be indeed closer to Earth's than previously thought. Researchers showed that the upper atmosphere of Mars glows blue depending on the activity of the sun.

Glancing at greenery can boost concentration levels

May 26, 2015 11:20 am | by Univ. of Melbourne | News | Comments

A Univ. of Melbourne study shows that glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 sec markedly boosts concentration. The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, gave 150 students a boring, attention-sapping task. The students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on a computer screen, unless that number was three.

DNA mutations get harder to hide

May 26, 2015 7:34 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have developed a method to detect rare DNA mutations with an approach hundreds of times more powerful than current methods. The technique allows the researchers to find a figurative needle in a haystack that’s smaller than any needle.

Turn that defect upside down

May 21, 2015 11:01 am | by Allison Mills, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Most people see defects as flaws. A few Michigan Technological Univ. researchers, however, see them as opportunities. Twin boundaries may present an opportunity to improve lithium-ion batteries. The twin boundary defects act as energy highways and could help get better performance out of the batteries. This finding turns a previously held notion of material defects on its head.

Gauging materials’ physical properties from video

May 21, 2015 10:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last summer, MIT researchers published a paper describing an algorithm that can recover intelligible speech from the analysis of the minute vibrations of objects in video captured through soundproof glass. In June, researchers from the same groups will describe how the technique can be adapted to infer material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.

Discovery paves way for homebrewed drugs

May 18, 2015 11:22 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

Fans of homebrewed beer and backyard distilleries already know how to employ yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. But a research team led by UC Berkeley bioengineers has gone much further by completing key steps needed to turn sugar-fed yeast into a microbial factory for producing morphine and potentially other drugs, including antibiotics and anti-cancer therapeutics.

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