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The Lead

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

April 16, 2014 11:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station—that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms could help avoid such consequences in the future.

Fish from acidic ocean waters less able to smell predators

April 16, 2014 8:05 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Fish living on coral reefs where carbon dioxide seeps from the ocean floor were less able to...

Potent, puzzling and (now less) toxic: Team discovers how antifungal drug works

April 15, 2014 5:18 pm | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Scientists have solved a decades-old medical...

Researchers using math to whittle away at jet lag

April 10, 2014 5:22 pm | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Lots of apps claim they can help you fight jet lag. Now Michigan researchers say mathematical...

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New technology unwraps mummies' ancient mysteries

April 10, 2014 8:58 am | by Jill Lawless, Associated Press | News | Comments

Our fascination with mummies never gets old. Now the British Museum is using the latest technology to unwrap their ancient mysteries. Scientists at the museum have used CT scans and sophisticated imaging software to go beneath the bandages, revealing skin, bones, preserved internal organs, and in one case a brain-scooping rod left inside a skull by embalmers. The findings go on display next month in an exhibition.

Scientists firm up origin of cold-adapted yeasts that make cold beer

April 10, 2014 8:35 am | by Terry Devitt, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

As one of the most widely consumed and commercially important beverages on the planet, one would expect the experts to know everything there is to know about lager beer. But it was just a few years ago that scientists identified the South American yeast that somehow hitched a ride to Bavaria and combined with the domesticated Old World yeast used for millennia to make ale and bread to form the hybrid that makes lager or cold stored beer.

Noses, made in Britain: UK touts lab-grown organs

April 9, 2014 3:12 pm | by Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

In a north London hospital, scientists are growing noses, ears and blood vessels in a bold attempt to make body parts in the laboratory. It's far from the only laboratory in the world that is growing organs for potential transplant. But the London work was showcased this week hints at the availability of more types of body parts, including what would be the world's first nose made partly from stem cells.

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Recycling astronaut urine for energy and drinking water

April 9, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

On the less glamorous side of space exploration, there’s the more practical problem of waste: in particular, what to do with astronaut pee. But rather than ejecting it into space, scientists are developing a new technique that can turn this waste burden into a boon by converting it into fuel and much-needed drinking water.

How coughs and sneezes float farther than you think

April 8, 2014 7:42 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The next time you feel a sneeze coming on, raise your elbow to cover up that multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud you’re about to expel. That’s right: A novel study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized.

Tetris in the sky: Gamers play on Philly building

April 7, 2014 9:21 am | by Kathy Matheson, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hundreds of Tetris fans who had a little fun Saturday with a big version of the classic video game on the side of the 29-story Cira Centre in Philadelphia. LED lights embedded in the building's glass facade normally display colorful patterns. On Saturday night, images of super-sized shapes "fell" on two sides of the mirrored tower as competitors used joysticks to maneuver them, creating a spectacle against the night sky.

Energy breakthrough uses sun to create solar energy materials

April 4, 2014 3:32 pm | News | Comments

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible.               

'Unbreakable' security codes inspired by nature

April 4, 2014 3:20 pm | News | Comments

Inspired by human biology, a revolutionary new method of encrypting confidential information has been patented by scientists. This discovery could transform daily life which is reliant on secure electronic communications for everything from mobiles to sensor networks and the internet.

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Researchers design trees that make it easier to produce paper

April 4, 2014 9:43 am | by UBC | News | Comments

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.                 

NIST launches new U.S. time standard

April 4, 2014 9:28 am | by NIST | News | Comments

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has officially launched a new atomic clock, called NIST-F2, to serve as a new U.S. civilian time and frequency standard, along with the current NIST-F1 standard.

Quantum photon properties revealed in another particle

April 4, 2014 9:23 am | by Caltech | News | Comments

Results from a recent applied science study at Caltech support the idea that waveguides coupled with another quantum particle—the surface plasmon—could also become an important piece of the quantum computing puzzle.               

Tiny power generator runs on saliva

April 3, 2014 1:02 pm | News | Comments

Saliva-powered micro-sized microbial fuel cells can produce minute amounts of energy sufficient to run on-chip applications, according to an international team of engineers.                      

An ultrathin collagen matrix biomaterial tool for 3-D microtissue engineering

April 3, 2014 9:53 am | by World Scientific | News | Comments

A novel ultrathin collagen matrix assembly allows for the unprecedented maintenance of liver cell morphology and function in a microscale "organ-on-a-chip" device that is one example of 3-D microtissue engineering.          

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How electrodes charge and discharge

April 3, 2014 9:17 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

The electrochemical reactions inside the porous electrodes of batteries and fuel cells have been described by theorists, but never measured directly. Now, a team at MIT has figured out a way to measure the fundamental charge transfer rate — finding some significant surprises.

Fighting cancer with lasers and nanoballoons that pop

April 3, 2014 9:11 am | by University at Buffalo | News | Comments

Chemotherapeutic drugs excel at fighting cancer, but they're not so efficient at getting where they need to go. Now, researchers are developing a better delivery method by encapsulating the drugs in nanoballoons – which are tiny modified liposomes that, upon being struck by a red laser, pop open and deliver concentrated doses of medicine.

Scientists solve the riddle of zebras’ stripes

April 1, 2014 4:49 pm | News | Comments

Why zebras have black and white stripes is a question that has intrigued scientists and spectators for centuries. A research team in California has examined this riddle systematically and have found that biting flies, including horseflies and tsetse flies, are the evolutionary driver for zebra stripes.

Phage “cocktail” wipes out 99% of E. coli in meat, spinach

April 1, 2014 3:24 pm | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteriophages are viruses that target and kill bacteria. Recent research at Purdue Univ. shows that treating food products with select bacteriophages could significantly reduce concentrations of E. coli. The study demonstrated that an injection of bacteriophages nearly eradicated a toxin-producing strain of E. coli in contaminated spinach and ground beef, in some cases decreasing E. coli concentrations by about 99%.

Satellite shows high productivity from U.S. corn belt

March 31, 2014 12:39 pm | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere's growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to NASA and university scientists who have figured out how to obtain plant fluorescence data from existing satellites.

Flipping the switch on magnetism in strontium titanate

March 31, 2014 8:09 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Interest in oxide-based semiconductor electronics has exploded in recent years, fueled largely by the ability to grow atomically precise layers of various oxide materials. One of the most important materials in this burgeoning field is strontium titanate, a nominally nonmagnetic wide-bandgap semiconductor, and researchers have found a way to magnetize this material using light, an effect that persists for hours at a time.

The ringed asteroid

March 28, 2014 11:51 am | News | Comments

Benefited from a rare occultation on June 3, 2013, researchers observed the asteroid Chariklo when it passed by a star that concealed it for several seconds. Although the astronomer planned only to measure its size, they were surprised to discover this “centaur”, which has an unstable orbit that passes through the outer planets, has two thin rings made of ice. It is only the fifth Solar System object to exhibit such a system.

Science with “bling”

March 28, 2014 8:49 am | by Manuel Gnida, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A research team led by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory scientists has uncovered a potential new route to produce thin diamond films for a variety of industrial applications, from cutting tools to electronic devices to electrochemical sensors. The scientists added a few layers of graphene to a metal support and exposed the topmost layer to hydrogen.

Study: Married folks have fewer heart problems

March 28, 2014 8:22 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

What's good for the heart? Marriage, researchers say. A study of more than 3.5 million Americans finds that married people are less likely than singles, divorced or widowed folks to suffer any type of heart or blood vessel problem. This was true at any age, for women as well as for men, and regardless of other heart disease risk factors they had such as high cholesterol or diabetes.

Researcher invents “mini heart” to help return venous blood

March 27, 2014 2:20 pm | News | Comments

A new organ has been developed at George Washington Univ. to help return blood flow from veins lacking functional valves. A rhythmically contracting cuff made of cardiac muscle cells surrounds the vein acting as a 'mini heart' to aid blood flow through venous segments. The cuff can be made of a patient’s own adult stem cells, eliminating the chance of implant rejection.

Newfound pink world lurks at solar system fringes

March 27, 2014 9:30 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Until now, the lone known resident in the region of the solar system beyond Pluto was an oddball dwarf planet spotted in 2003 named Sedna. For years, astronomers hunted in vain for other Sednas in the little-studied fringes of the solar system. Now, they’ve found one: a pink frozen world 7.5 billion miles from the sun. And astronomer think they will find others.

Desktop human “body” could reduce need for animal drug tests

March 26, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Call it “homo minutus”. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing four human organ constructs (liver, heart, lung and kidney) that will work together to serve as a drug and toxicity analysis system that can mimic the actual response of human organs. Called ATHENA, for Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer, the system will fit neatly on a desk.

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