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Nineteenth-century math tactic gets makeover, speeds answers up to 200 times

July 1, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

A relic from long before the age of supercomputers, the 169-year-old math strategy called the Jacobi iterative method is widely dismissed today as too slow to be useful. But thanks to a Johns Hopkins Univ. engineering student and his professor, it may soon get a new lease on life. With just a few modern-day tweaks, the researchers say they’ve made the rarely used Jacobi method work up to 200 times faster.

Engineers envision electronic switch just three atoms thick

July 1, 2014 9:53 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Computer simulation has shown Stanford Univ. engineers how to make a crystal that would toggle like a light switch between conductive and non-conductive structures. This flexible, switchable lattice, just three atoms thick, can be turned on or off by mechanically pushing or pulling, and could lead to flexible electronic materials.

Scientists develop force sensor from carbon nanotubes

June 30, 2014 2:05 pm | News | Comments

A group of researchers from Russia, Belarus and Spain, including MIPT professor Yury Lozovik, have developed a microscopic force sensor based on carbon nanotubes. The device consists of two nanotubes placed so that their open ends are opposite to each other. Voltage of just 10 nA is then applied to the nanocircuit and force is measured by the change in position of the nanotubes.

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“Compressive sensing” provides new approach to measuring a quantum system

June 27, 2014 3:14 pm | News | Comments

In quantum physics, momentum and position are an example of conjugate variables, connected by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which says that both quantities cannot be simultaneously measured precisely. Univ. of Rochester physicists have recently shown that a technique called compressive sensing that offers a way to measure both variables at the same time without violating the Uncertainty Principle.

Diamond plates create nanostructures through pressure, not chemistry

June 27, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

You wouldn’t think that mechanical force could process nanoparticles more subtly than the most advanced chemistry. But researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have created a newly patented and original method that uses simple pressure to produce finer and cleaner results in forming silver nanostructures than do chemical methods, which are not only inflexible in their results but leave harmful byproducts.

Cosmic caffeine: Astronauts getting espresso maker

June 27, 2014 2:37 pm | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

Talk about a cosmic caffeine jolt. The International Space Station is getting a real Italian espresso machine. Astronauts of all nationalities have long grumbled about the tepid instant coffee served in pouches and drunk with straws 260 miles above Earth. The pouches and straws aren't going away, but at least the brew will pack some zero-gravity punch thanks to the ISSpresso, which can also make tea and consommé.

Electric eel genome sequence unlocks shocking secrets

June 27, 2014 12:17 pm | News | Comments

For the first time, the genome of the electric eel has been sequenced. This discovery has revealed the secret of how fishes with electric organs have evolved six times in the history of life to produce electricity outside of their bodies. This research has shed light on the genetic blueprint used to evolve these complex, novel organs.

Study: Squashed extinct volcanoes cause tsunamis

June 27, 2014 9:58 am | News | Comments

Tsunami earthquakes happen at relatively shallow depths in the ocean and are small in terms of their magnitude. However, they create very large tsunamis: just 5.6 on the Richter scale can produce a 10-m wave. New research reveals that tsunami earthquakes may be caused by extinct undersea volcanoes causing a “sticking point” between two sections of the Earth’s crust called tectonic plates, where one plate slides under another.

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Controlling movement with light

June 27, 2014 9:29 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

For the first time, neuroscientists have shown they can control muscle movement by applying optogenetics, a technique that allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical impulses with light, to the spinal cords of animals that are awake and alert. Previously, scientists have used electrical stimulation or pharmacological intervention to control neurons’ activity, but these approaches were not precise enough.

Engineers turn LEGOs into a scientific tool to study plant growth

June 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Iowa State University assistant professor of materials science and engineering Ludovico Cademartiri wanted something modular, scalable and structurally precise to serve as the building blocks for controlled environments to support his study of plants. Microfluidics was too expensive and complex, so he turned to the toy aisle.

Scientists find potential new use for cancer drug

June 27, 2014 7:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists working to make gene therapy a reality have solved a major hurdle: how to bypass a blood stem cell’s natural defenses and efficiently insert disease-fighting genes into the cell’s genome. In a new study, a team of researchers report that the drug rapamycin, which is commonly used to slow cancer growth, enables delivery of a therapeutic dose of genes to blood stem cells while preserving stem cell function.

Crews fight blaze at Stanford linear accelerator

June 26, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

Fire teams battled a smoky blaze at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford Univ., bringing it under control without causing injuries. The fire appears to have started in a large electrical switching cabinet, but the fire chief said its cause will be investigated by firefighters and facility officials. The research center was established in 1962 and is one of 10 Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories.

Crews fight blaze at Stanford linear accelerator

June 26, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Fire teams battled a smoky blaze at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, bringing it under control without causing injuries. The fire appears to have started in a large electrical switching cabinet, but the fire chief said its cause will be investigated by firefighters and facility officials. The research center was established in 1962 and is one of 10 Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories.

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How a wrinkle becomes a crease

June 25, 2014 2:45 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Wrinkles, creases and folds are everywhere in nature, from the surface of human skin to the buckled crust of the Earth. They can also be useful structures for engineers. Wrinkles in thin films, for example, can help make durable circuit boards for flexible electronics. A newly developed mathematical model could help engineers control the formation of wrinkle, crease and fold structures in a wide variety of materials.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

World’s first magnetic hose created

June 25, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

An international research team led by scientists in Barcelona has developed a material which guides and transports a magnetic field from one location to the other, similar to how an optical fiber transports light or a hose transports water. The magnetic hose consists of a ferromagnetic cylinder covered by a superconductor material, a surprisingly simple design made possible by complicated theoretical calculations and experimentation.

Metal particles in solids aren’t as fixed as they seem

June 25, 2014 8:04 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In work that unmasks some of the magic behind memristors and "resistive random access memory," or RRAM, researchers have shown that the metal particles in memristors don't stay put as previously thought. The findings have broad implications for the semiconductor industry and beyond. They show, for the first time, exactly how some memristors remember.

Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

June 24, 2014 10:26 am | News | Comments

Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.

Woman or machine? New robots look creepily human

June 24, 2014 9:46 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

New robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people. The two life-size robots, which have silicon skin, artificial muscles, and can speak in a variety of voices, will be on display starting Wednesday, allowing the public to interact with them extensively.

Ferroelectric switching seen in biological tissues

June 24, 2014 7:32 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Measurements taken at the molecular scale have, for the first time, confirmed a key property that could improve our knowledge of how the heart and lungs function. Univ. of Washington researchers have shown that a favorable electrical property is present in a type of protein found in organs that repeatedly stretch and retract, such as the lungs, heart and arteries.

Researchers develop genetic control mechanism for major livestock pest

June 19, 2014 1:04 pm | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a technique to control populations of the Australian sheep blowfly—a major livestock pest in Australia and New Zealand—by making female flies dependent upon a common antibiotic to survive.

Nature’s chem lab: How microorganisms manufacture drugs

June 19, 2014 8:25 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have obtained the first 3-D snapshots of the "assembly line" within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs. Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.

Collecting light with artificial moth eyes

June 18, 2014 4:00 pm | News | Comments

Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.

Familiar yet strange: Water’s “split personality” revealed by computer model

June 18, 2014 2:01 pm | by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research | News | Comments

Seemingly ordinary, water has quite puzzling behavior. Why, for example, does ice float when most liquids crystallize into dense solids that sink? Using a computer model to explore water as it freezes, a team at Princeton Univ. has found that water's weird behaviors may arise from a sort of split personality: At very cold temperatures and above a certain pressure, water may spontaneously split into two liquid forms.

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