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The Lead

Mistletoe could fight obesity-related liver disease

December 17, 2014 1:27 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Mistletoe hanging in doorways announces that the holidays are just around the corner. For some people, however, the symbolic plant might one day represent more than a kiss at Christmas time: It may mean better liver health. Researchers have found that a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant can help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

Study: Ancient Earth made its own water

December 17, 2014 10:06 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the...

Big data analysis reveals gene sharing in mice

December 17, 2014 8:01 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have detected at least three instances of cross-species mating that likely...

Scientists trace nanoparticles from plants to caterpillars

December 16, 2014 2:37 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

In one of the most comprehensive laboratory studies of its kind, Rice Univ. scientists traced...

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Turning hydrogen into “graphene”

December 16, 2014 2:13 pm | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

New work from Carnegie Institute's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene under extreme pressures.

Using liquid drops to make solids stiffer

December 15, 2014 2:13 pm | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Engineers at Yale Univ. have discovered that the stiffness of liquid drops embedded in solids has something in common with Goldilocks: While large drops of liquids are softer than the solid that surrounds them, extremely tiny drops of liquid can actually be stiffer than certain solids. But when they’re “just right,” the liquid drops have the exact same stiffness as the surrounding solid.

Squid supplies blueprint for printable thermoplastics

December 15, 2014 10:37 am | by Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Squid, what is it good for? You can eat it and you can make ink or dye from it, and now a Penn State Univ. team of researchers is using it to make a thermoplastic that can be used in 3-D printing. The team looked at the protein complex that exists in the squid ring teeth (SRT). The naturally made material is a thermoplastic, but obtaining it requires a large amount of effort and many squid.

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Image: Clouds fill Grand Canyon

December 12, 2014 10:27 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

A rare weather phenomenon at the Grand Canyon had visitors looking out on a sea of thick clouds just below the rim. The total cloud inversion is expected to hang inside the canyon throughout Thursday.             

Technique offers spray-on solar power

December 8, 2014 8:18 am | by Marit Mitchell, Senior Communications Office, Univ. of Toronto | Videos | Comments

Pretty soon, powering your tablet could be as simple as wrapping it in cling wrap. A Univ. of Toronto team has invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.

Big step toward using light instead of wires inside computers

December 5, 2014 10:36 am | by Chris Cesare, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. engineers have designed and built a prism-like device that can split a beam of light into different colors and bend the light at right angles, a development that could eventually lead to computers that use optics, rather than electricity, to carry data.

Flu vaccine doesn’t protect against most dominant strain

December 5, 2014 9:08 am | by Associated Press, Mike Stobbe | News | Comments

The flu vaccine may not be very effective this winter, according to U.S. health officials who worry this may lead to more serious illnesses and deaths. Flu season has begun to ramp up, and officials say the vaccine does not protect well against the dominant strain seen most commonly so far this year. That strain tends to cause more deaths and hospitalizations, especially in the elderly.

A poisonous cure

December 5, 2014 8:53 am | by Michigan State Univ. Media Communications | News | Comments

Take two poisonous mushrooms, and call me in the morning. While no doctor would ever write this prescription, toxic fungi may hold the secrets to tackling deadly diseases. A team of Michigan State Univ. scientists has discovered an enzyme that is the key to the lethal potency of poisonous mushrooms.

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Geckos are sticky without effort

December 3, 2014 4:56 pm | by Iqbal Pittalwala, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Geckos, found in places with warm climates, have fascinated people for hundreds of years. Scientists have been especially intrigued by these lizards, and have studied a variety of features such as the adhesive toe pads on the underside of gecko feet with which geckos attach to surfaces with remarkable strength.

Cancer uses abdominal stem cells to fuel growth, metastasis

December 3, 2014 9:08 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

New research from Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center shows how ovarian tumors co-opt a specific type of adult stem cell from abdominal tissues to fuel their growth. The research, published online in Cancer Research, suggests a new way to target aggressive ovarian cancers by disrupting the metabolic processes that allow them to thrive.

Chemists fabricate novel rewritable paper

December 2, 2014 12:44 pm | by Iqbal Pittalwala, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

First developed in China in about the year A.D. 150, paper has many uses, the most common being for writing and printing upon. Indeed, the development and spread of civilization owes much to paper’s use as writing material. According to some surveys, 90% of all information in businesses today is retained on paper, even though the bulk of this printed paper is discarded after just one-time use.

Different species share a “genetic toolkit” for behavioral traits

December 2, 2014 8:44 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The house mouse, stickleback fish and honey bee appear to have little in common, but at the genetic level these creatures respond in strikingly similar ways to danger, researchers report. When any of these animals confronts an intruder, the researchers found, many of the same genes and brain gene networks gear up or down in response.

“Superomniphobic” texture capable of repelling all liquids

December 1, 2014 10:45 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

A pair of researchers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has created the first surface texture that can repel all liquids, no matter what material the surface is made of. Because its design relies only on the physical attributes of the texture, the texture could have industrial or biomedical applications.

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Copper on the brain at rest

December 1, 2014 8:59 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In recent years it has been established that copper plays an essential role in the health of the human brain. Improper copper oxidation has been linked to several neurological disorders. Copper has also been identified as a critical ingredient in the enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Now, a new study has shown that proper copper levels are also essential to the health of the brain at rest.

Gasoline from sawdust

November 26, 2014 8:45 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers at KU Leuven’s Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis have successfully converted sawdust into building blocks for gasoline. Using a new chemical process, they were able to convert the cellulose in sawdust into hydrocarbon chains. These hydrocarbons can be used as an additive in gasoline, or as a component in plastics.

Want a Nobel Prize? You can buy one

November 25, 2014 5:03 pm | by Associated Press | News | Comments

The 1962 Nobel Prize James Watson won for his role in the discovery of the structure of DNA is going on the auction block. The auctioneer says the gold medal could bring $2.5 to $3.5 million on Dec. 4. Christie's says it's the first Nobel medal to be offered at auction by a living recipient. Watson made the 1953 discovery with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.

How turkeys may be lifesavers

November 25, 2014 4:51 pm | by Todd Hollingshead, Brigham Young Univ. | News | Comments

While the turkey you eat on Thursday will bring your stomach happiness and could probably kick-start an afternoon nap, it may also save your life one day. That’s because the biological machinery needed to produce a potentially life-saving antibiotic is found in turkeys. Looks like there is one more reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving.

Angiogenesis drug could provide treatment for TB

November 25, 2014 9:27 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The body responds to tuberculosis infection by locking the bacterial offenders into tiny clusters of immune cells called granulomas, which are a hallmark of the disease. This containment strategy succeeds at first, but eventually the bacteria manage to break out of these intercellular jails and spread throughout the body.

Engineers climb walls using gecko-inspired climbing device

November 25, 2014 8:54 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | Videos | Comments

If you spot someone stuck to the sheer glass side of a building on the Stanford Univ. campus, it's probably Elliot Hawkes testing his dissertation work. Hawkes, a mechanical engineering graduate student, works with a team of engineers who are developing controllable, reusable adhesive materials that, like the gecko toes that inspire the work, can form a strong bond with smooth surfaces but also release with minimal effort.

Bee brains offer insights into how human memories form

November 24, 2014 9:46 am | by Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered that genes switch off as memories are being formed, allowing for new connections between nerve cells. The discovery could eventually lead to a key for treating conditions such as autism and dementia. Researchers studying honeybees during learning activities have shown that memory management in the bee brain is controlled by small genetic elements called microRNAs that help regulate gene expression.

Many older brains have plasticity, but in a different place

November 20, 2014 8:38 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A widely presumed problem of aging is that the brain becomes less flexible or plastic, and that learning may therefore become more difficult. A new study led by Brown Univ. researchers contradicts that notion with a finding that plasticity did occur in seniors who learned a task well, but it occurred in a different part of the brain than in younger people.

Fool’s gold as a solar material?

November 19, 2014 7:47 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison research team explains why that is.

Warmth, flowing water on early Mars were episodic

November 18, 2014 11:46 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Ample evidence of ancient rivers, streams and lakes make it clear that Mars was at some point warm enough for liquid water to flow on its surface. While that may conjure up images of a tropical Martian paradise, new research published in Nature Geoscience throws a bit of cold water on that notion.

As temperatures rise, soil will relinquish less carbon to atmosphere

November 18, 2014 8:26 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Here’s another reason to pay close attention to microbes: Current climate models probably overestimate the amount of carbon that will be released from soil into the atmosphere as global temperatures rise, according to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The findings are from a new computer model that explores the feedbacks between soil carbon and climate change.

Chemical in coffee may help prevent obesity-related disease

November 17, 2014 10:33 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that a chemical compound commonly found in coffee may help prevent some of the damaging effects of obesity. In a recently published paper published, scientists found that chlorogenic acid, or CGA, significantly reduced insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in the livers of mice who were fed a high-fat diet.

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