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The Lead

Turning waste from whisky-making into fuel

October 22, 2014 10:09 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A startup company in Scotland is working to capitalize on the tons of waste produced by one of the country’s most valued industries and turn the dregs of whisky-making into fuel. Celtic Renewables, formed in 2011, has refined its process based on a century-old fermentation technique and is now taking the next step toward a commercial plant.

Physicists build reversible tractor beam

October 21, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

Laser physicists in Australia have built a tractor beam that can repel and attract objects,...

When emotions control objects

October 20, 2014 11:51 am | by Cécilia Carron, EPFL | Videos | Comments

Sensors developed by SmartCardia, a spin-off from EPFL in Switzerland, use various biological...

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Spacecraft to attempt comet landing next month

October 15, 2014 11:56 am | News | Comments

The European Space Agency has confirmed the time and place it will attempt to land the first spacecraft on a comet. The unmanned probe Rosetta will release a 100-kg (220-lb) lander on Nov. 12 in a maneuver that will take about seven hours.

Can it be real? Augmented reality melds work, play

October 15, 2014 9:12 am | by Salim Essaid, Associated Press Writer | News | Comments

Mark Skwarek has raised over $30,000 on the group fundraising site Kickstarter to launch Semblance Augmented Reality (AR). His company aims to liberate video games from the TV and turn them into physical experiences, such as battling militants in New York’s Central Park. He's poised to release Semblance AR's first app for iOS and Android phones.

Effects of high-risk Parkinson’s mutation are reversible

October 15, 2014 9:01 am | by Amy Pullan, Media Relations Office, University of Sheffield | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Sheffield have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s. Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s disease, however the basis for this link is unclear.  

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Earth’s magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime

October 15, 2014 7:56 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | News | Comments

It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.

Unique catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells synthesized in ordinary kitchen microwave oven

October 14, 2014 12:09 pm | by Ingrid Söderbergh, Umea Univ. | News | Comments

Swedish and Chinese researchers have recently shown how a unique nano-alloy composed of palladium nano-islands embedded in tungsten nanoparticles creates a new type of catalysts for highly efficient oxygen reduction, the most important reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

All that glitters is...slimy? Gold nanoparticles measure snot stickiness

October 13, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Scientists create mimic of “good” cholesterol to fight heart disease, stroke

October 13, 2014 10:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.

Plasmonic paper detects trace amounts of chemicals and molecules

October 10, 2014 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.

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The new family portrait? 3-D-printed statue selfies

October 10, 2014 11:52 am | by Peter Svensson, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

The advent of digital cameras and smartphones killed the traditional mall portrait studio, but 3-D printing has sparked a new trend. Overloaded with digital photos, statues may be moving in to fulfill our desire for portraits that stand out. New York's Museum of Art and Design offered scans and statues earlier this year. Shapeways, the company that supplied the exhibit, scanned about 6,000 people and sold about 1,500 statues for $30.

Plant scientist discovers basis of evolution in violins

October 9, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin? Much more than you might imagine. Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is applying “morphometrics”, which statistically tests hypotheses about factors that affect shape, to changes in the shape of violins over time. His work revealed a strong degree of design transmission and imitation.

Electrically conductive plastics promising for batteries, solar cells

October 9, 2014 10:46 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called "radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers.

Hybrid materials could smash the solar efficiency ceiling

October 9, 2014 8:57 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as “dark” spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for “bright” spin-singlet excitons.

Neuroscientists use snail research to help explain “chemo brain”

October 8, 2014 12:00 pm | News | Comments

It is estimated that as many as half of patients taking cancer drugs experience a decrease in mental sharpness, but what causes “chemo brain” has eluded scientists. In the study involving a sea snail that shares many of the same memory mechanisms as humans and a drug used to treat cancer, scientists in Texas identified memory mechanisms blocked by the drug. Then, they were able to counteract the mechanisms by administering another agent.

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New way to make foams could lead to lightweight, sustainable materials

October 8, 2014 8:30 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Anyone who has blown a bubble and seen how quickly it pops has first-hand experience on the major challenge in creating stable foams. At its most basic level, foam is a bunch of bubbles squished together. Liquid foams, a state of matter that arises from tiny gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid, are familiar in everyday life, from beer to bathwater. They also are important in commercial products and processes.

DNA linked to how much coffee you drink

October 7, 2014 2:15 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that your DNA influences how much java you consume. Now a huge study has identified some genes that may play a role. Their apparent effect is quite small. But variations in such genes may modify coffee's effect on a person's health, and so genetic research may help scientists explore that.

Liquid DNA behind virus attacks

October 6, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

According to two recent studies, viruses can convert their DNA from solid to fluid form, explaining how viruses manage to eject DNA into the cells of their victims. The researchers in one study, which focused on herpes infections, say the discovery was surprising: No one was previously aware of the “phase transition” from solid to fluid form in virus DNA.

Through the combining glass

October 6, 2014 11:35 am | Videos | Comments

Trying on clothes when a shop is closed could become a reality thanks to new research that uses semi-transparent mirrors in interactive systems. The innovation, which builds on a mirror’s ability to map a reflection to one unique point behind the mirror, independently of the observer’s location, could change the way people interact and collaborate in public spaces, such as museums and shop windows.

Research shows how giant clams harness the sun

October 3, 2014 9:39 am | News | Comments

Beneath the waves, many creatures sport iridescent structures that rival what scientists can make in the laboratory. A research team has now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new solar panels or improved ways to grow biofuel.

Undergrad helps develop method to detect water on Mars

October 3, 2014 9:25 am | by Eric Sorensen, Washington State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Washington State University undergraduate Kellie Wall, 21, recently looked for evidence that water influenced crystal formation in basalt, the dark volcanic rock that covers most of eastern Washington and Oregon. She then compared this with volcanic rock observations made by the rover Curiosity on Mars’ Gale Crater, inventing a new method for detecting water on Mars.

Study: Lift weights, improve your memory

October 2, 2014 9:21 am | Videos | Comments

A new Georgia Institute of Technology study shows that an intense workout of as little as 20 min can enhance episodic memory, also known as long-term memory for previous events, by about 10% in healthy young adults. The research isn’t the first to find that exercise can improve memory. But the study took a few new approaches, including testing memory after just single period of exercise.

“Smart” bandage emits phosphorescent glow for healing below

October 1, 2014 9:37 am | News | Comments

Inspired by a desire to help wounded soldiers, an international team has created a paint-on, see-through, “smart” bandage that glows to indicate a wound’s tissue oxygenation concentration. Because oxygen plays a critical role in healing, mapping these levels in severe wounds and burns can help to greatly improve the success of surgeries to restore limbs and physical functions.

Swimming sea-monkeys reveal how zooplankton may help drive ocean circulation

October 1, 2014 9:17 am | by Marcus Woo, Caltech | Videos | Comments

Brine shrimp, which are sold as pets known as sea-monkeys, are tiny—only about half an inch long each. With about 10 small leaf-like fins that flap about, they look as if they could hardly make waves. But get billions of similarly tiny organisms together and they can move oceans.

Glaciers in the Grand Canyon of Mars?

September 30, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

For decades, planetary geologists have speculated that glaciers might once have crept through Valles Marineris, the 2000-mile-long chasm that constitutes the Grand Canyon of Mars. A research team has now identified what could be the first mineralogical evidence of past glaciers within the Valles Marineris: a layer of mixed sulfate minerals halfway up three-mile-high cliffs in the canyon system.

Scientists make droplets move on their own

September 29, 2014 12:51 pm | Videos | Comments

Droplets are simple spheres of fluid, not normally considered capable of doing anything on their own. But now researchers have made droplets of alcohol move through water, even moving through complex mazes. The droplets can be led to certain targets, using a surprisingly simple impetus. In the future, such moving droplets may deliver medicines, moving entire chemistries to targets.

Simulations reveal an unusual death for ancient stars

September 29, 2014 11:01 am | by Linda Vu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Certain primordial stars—those between 55,000 and 56,000 times the mass of our sun, or solar masses—may have died unusually. In death, these objects—among the universe’s first-generation of stars—would have exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no remnant black hole behind.

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