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NASA finds clear skies and water vapor on exoplanet

September 26, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

Astronomers using data from NASA's space telescopes Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

Chemists recruit anthrax to deliver cancer drugs

September 25, 2014 7:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Bacillus anthracis bacteria have very efficient machinery for injecting toxic proteins into cells, leading to the potentially deadly infection known as anthrax. A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers has now hijacked that delivery system for a different purpose: administering cancer drugs.

Tonsil stem cells could someday help repair liver damage without surgery

September 24, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

The liver provides critical functions, such as ridding the body of toxins, but its failure can be deadly, and there are few options for fixing it. A promising alternative in development is transplanting liver cells made using adult stem cells, but the only source identified until now has been bone marrow. Recently, scientists identified another, more convenient, source of adult stem cells that could be used for this purpose:tonsils.

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Island to get first German drone delivery service

September 24, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Deutsche Post DHL says it is starting Germany's first drone package delivery service, a test program transporting medicine to a pharmacy on a North Sea island. The company said the quad-rotor "DHL Paketkopter 2.0" will begin daily flights Friday, bringing a maximum load of 1.2 kg of medicine to the German island of Juist.

Magnetic field opens and closes nanovesicle

September 24, 2014 9:18 am | Videos | Comments

Researchers in the Netherlands have managed to open nanovesicles in a reversible process and close them using a magnet. Previously, these vesicles had been “loaded” with a drug and opened elsewhere using a chemical process, such as osmosis. The magnetic method, which is repeatable, is the first to demonstrate the viability of another method.

Antifreeze proteins in Antarctic fish prevent both freezing and melting

September 24, 2014 8:48 am | News | Comments

Antarctic fish that manufacture their own "antifreeze" proteins to survive in the icy Southern Ocean also suffer an unfortunate side effect: The protein-bound ice crystals that accumulate inside their bodies resist melting even when temperatures warm. Ice that doesn't melt at its normal melting point is referred to as "superheated”, and the phenomenon was an unexpected discovery by scientists in Oregon and Illinois.

Robotic fabric could bring “active clothing”, wearable robots

September 23, 2014 2:20 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors, an approach that could lead to "active clothing" or a new class of "soft" robots. The robotic fabric, developed at Purdue Univ.,  is a cotton material containing sensors made of a flexible polymer and threadlike strands of a shape-memory alloy that return to a coiled shape when heated, causing the fabric to move.

Engineers show light can play seesaw at the nanoscale

September 23, 2014 9:41 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Minnesota electrical engineering researchers have developed a unique nanoscale device that for the first time demonstrates mechanical transportation of light. The tiny device is just .7 micrometers by 50 micrometers and works almost like a seesaw. On each side of the “seesaw benches,” researchers etched an array of holes, called photonic crystal cavities. These cavities capture photons that streamed from a nearby source.

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Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

September 23, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor.

Smallest possible “diamonds” help form ultra-thin nanothreads

September 22, 2014 2:52 pm | Videos | Comments

For the first time, scientists led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State Univ., have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers. The core of the nanothreads is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond's structure.

Engineered proteins stick like glue, even in water

September 22, 2014 1:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

Shellfish such as mussels and barnacles secrete very sticky proteins that help them cling to rocks or ship hulls, even underwater. Inspired by these natural adhesives, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has designed new materials that could be used to repair ships or help heal wounds and surgical incisions.

SpaceX launches space station supplies, first 3-D printer bound for orbit

September 22, 2014 9:01 am | by Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press | News | Comments

A SpaceX cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Sunday, carrying more than 5,000 pounds of supplies, including the first 3-D printer for astronauts in orbit. The printer, developed by Made in Space, is sturdier than Earthly models and is a technology demonstrator. . But NASA envisions astronauts one day using one to crank out spare parts as needed.

Reflected smartphone transmissions enable gesture control

September 22, 2014 8:52 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Some smartphones are starting to incorporate 3-D gesture sensing based on cameras, but cameras consume significant battery power and require a clear view of the user’s hands. Univ. of Washington engineers have developed a new form of low-power wireless sensing technology that could soon contribute to gesture control by letting users “train” their smartphones to recognize and respond to specific hand gestures near the phone.

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First-ever chemical bond established between carbon and a superheavy element

September 19, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Chemical experiments with superheavy elements, which have atomic numbers beyond 104, are extremely challenging because they must be synthesized in a particle accelerator and they decay rapidly. An international team has, for the first time, established a chemical bond between a superheavy element, in this case element 106, seaborgium, and a carbon atom. The experiment opens the door to new investigations of relativity effects.

Smart-material chinstrap harvests energy from chewing

September 19, 2014 10:10 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A chinstrap that can harvest energy from jaw movements has been created by a group of researchers in Canada. It’s hoped that the device will be able to generate electricity from eating, chewing and talking, and power a number of small-scale implantable or wearable electronic devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, electronic hearing protectors and communication devices.

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

September 19, 2014 8:49 am | by Mark Pratt, Associated Press | News | Comments

There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center. Dr. Sonal Saraiya and her colleagues in Michigan found that packing strips of cured pork in the nose of a child who suffers from uncontrollable, life-threatening nosebleeds can stop the hemorrhaging. The discovery won a 2014 Ig Nobel prize, the annual award for sometimes inane, but often practical, scientific discoveries.

Artificial “beaks” collect water from fog: A drought solution?

September 18, 2014 1:20 pm | News | Comments

By opening and closing their beaks, shorebirds drive food-containing liquid drops into their throats. Researchers have mimicked this phenomenon by building simple, fog-collecting, rectangular “beaks” out of glass plates connected by a hinge on one side. Providing a large surface area where beads of fog condense, the “beak” improved collection rates over alternatives by up to 900 times.

First water-based nuclear battery can be used to generate electrical energy

September 16, 2014 6:51 pm | News | Comments

Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s. Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.

Team is first to capture motion of single molecule in real time

September 16, 2014 6:23 pm | News | Comments

Chemists at the Univ. of California, Irvine, have scored a scientific first: capturing moving images of a single molecule as it vibrates, or “breathes,” and shifts from one quantum state to another. The groundbreaking achievement, led by Ara Apkarian, professor of chemistry, and Eric Potma, associate professor of chemistry, opens a window into the strange realm of quantum mechanics.

EEG study findings reveal how fear is processed in the brain

September 16, 2014 8:51 am | News | Comments

Building on previous animal and human research, a new study has identified an electrophysiological marker for threat in the brain. The findings illustrate how fear arises in the brain when individuals are exposed to threatening images, and the study is the first to separate emotion from threat by controlling for the dimension of arousal, the emotional reaction provoked, whether positive or negative, in response to stimuli.

“Squid skin” metamaterials project yields vivid color display

September 16, 2014 7:41 am | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The quest to create artificial “squid skin”—camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background—is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled by Rice Univ. The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

Scientists now closer to industrial synthesis of a material harder than diamond

September 15, 2014 12:16 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Russia have developed a new method for the industrial synthesis of an ultra-hard material that exceeds diamond in hardness. An article recently published in Carbon describes in detail a method that allows for the synthesis of ultrahard fullerite, a polymer composed of fullerenes, or spherical molecules made of carbon atoms.

Slimy fish and the origins of brain development

September 15, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Lamprey—slimy, eel-like parasitic fish with tooth-riddled, jawless sucking mouths—are rather disgusting to look at, but thanks to their important position on the vertebrate family tree, they can offer important insights about the evolutionary history of our own brain development, a recent study suggests.

Alien-like giant water-living dinosaur unveiled

September 12, 2014 8:57 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Picture the fearsome creatures of "Jurassic Park" crossed with the shark from "Jaws." Then super-size to the biggest predator ever to roam Earth. Now add a crocodile snout as big as a person and feet like a duck's. The result gives you some idea of a bizarre dinosaur scientists unveiled Thursday. This patchwork of critters, a 50-foot predator, is the only known dinosaur to live much of its life in the water.

The sound of an atom has been captured

September 11, 2014 4:46 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Sweden have shown how to use sound to communicate with an artificial atom, in this case an electric circuit that obeys quantum laws. By coupling acoustic waves to the atom, they can demonstrate phenomena from quantum physics with sound taking on the role of light.

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