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Alaska ice tested as possible new energy source

November 11, 2012 11:28 am | by DAN JOLING - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Researchers are looking into frozen gas that looks like ice but burns like a candle as a possible future source of energy. U.S. Department of Energy researchers and industry partners are analyzing data from trials on Alaska's North Slope that tested a method of extracting methane from methane hydrate.

Gene find turns soldier beetle defence into biotech opportunity

November 8, 2012 11:49 am | News | Comments

Soldier beetles have a potent predator defence system, which a research team in Australia discovered was powered by an exotic fatty acid called dihydromatricaria acid, or DHMA, which is one of a group called polyynes that have known anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties. Researchers have now found the three genes that combine to make this acid, opening a new way to synthesize this difficult-to-reproduce substance.

Medical devices powered by the ear itself

November 8, 2012 7:58 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Deep in the inner ear of mammals is a natural battery—a chamber filled with ions that produces an electrical potential to drive neural signals. A team of researchers has, for the first time, demonstrated that this battery could power implantable electronic devices without impairing hearing.

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Butterfly wings inspire new high-tech surfaces

November 7, 2012 2:33 pm | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University | News | Comments

After carefully studying the structure of butterfly wings and rice leaves, Ohio State University engineers designed a coated plastic surface resembling a butterfly wing’s texture. Butterflies in the wild need to have bright, clean wings for reproduction and flying, and the surface created by engineers was reportedly easier to keep free of dust particles than a flat surface. The finding could inform designs for a variety of surfaces in various industries.

A strange diet for methane-consuming microorganisms

November 6, 2012 12:36 pm | News | Comments

To keep cellular systems running all cells need fuel. For certain ocean-dwelling microorganisms, methane can be such a fuel. But researchers studying these creatures had previously assumed that the methane they consumed was used as a carbon source. However, recent studies have surprisingly shown that is not the case and will force scientists to reevaluate the microorganisms’ role in inactivating environmental methane.

In-sync brain waves hold memory of objects just seen

November 5, 2012 11:38 am | News | Comments

The brain holds in mind what has just been seen by synchronizing brain waves in a working memory circuit, an animal study supported by the National Institutes of Health suggests. The more in-sync such electrical signals of neurons were in two key hubs of the circuit, the more those cells held the short-term memory of a just-seen object.

How silver turns people blue

October 26, 2012 11:17 am | News | Comments

Ingesting silver—in antimicrobial health tonics or for extensive medical treatments involving silver—can cause argyria, condition in which the skin turns grayish-blue. Brown University researchers have discovered how that happens. The process is similar to developing black-and-white photographs, and it's not just the silver.

Treading carefully: Footwear forensics works with partial prints

October 26, 2012 9:57 am | News | Comments

A new computer algorithm developed at the University of Buffalo can analyze the footwear marks left at a crime scene according to clusters of footwear types, makes and tread patterns. The tool is able to group recurring patterns in a database of footwear marks, even if the imprint recorded by crime scene investigators is distorted or only a partial print.

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Oregon scientists make embryos with 2 women, 1 man

October 26, 2012 9:26 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases. The embryos are not being used to produce children, but it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.

Why astronauts experience low blood pressure after return to Earth

October 25, 2012 2:09 pm | News | Comments

When astronauts return to Earth, their altitude isn't the only thing that drops—their blood pressure does too. New research that solves this biological mystery suggests that a major cause of low blood pressure in astronauts—particularly during standing—is the compromised ability of arteries and veins to constrict normally and return blood back to the heart.

Researchers uncover living power cables

October 25, 2012 1:59 pm | by Robert Perkins | News | Comments

A multinational research team has discovered filamentous bacteria that function as living power cables in order to transmit electrons thousands of cell lengths away. These cells are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye. And yet, under the right circumstances, they form a multicellular filament that can transmit electrons across a distance as large as 1 cm as part of the filament’s respiration and ingestion processes.

Satellite data reveals power of solar wind

October 25, 2012 12:28 pm | by Karen C. Fox, NASA | News | Comments

A new study based on data from European Space Agency’s Cluster mission shows that it is easier for the solar wind to penetrate Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, than had previously been thought. Scientists have, for the first time, directly observed the presence of certain waves that show Earth’s atmosphere behaving more like a sieve than a barrier.

Soundtrack to history: 1878 Edison audio unveiled

October 25, 2012 10:29 am | by Chris Carola, Associated Press | News | Comments

The modern masses can now listen to what experts say is the oldest playable recording of an American voice and the first-ever capturing of a musical performance, thanks to digital advances that allowed the sound to be transferred from flimsy tinfoil to computer. The 78-second recording was originally made on a Thomas Edison-invented phonograph, and features both music and the first recorded blooper.

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Team finds Midas touch, changes the color of gold

October 24, 2012 12:20 pm | News | Comments

A University of Southampton team have discovered that by embossing tiny raised or indented patterns onto the metal’s surface they can change the way it absorbs and reflects light—ensuring our eyes don’t see it as “golden” in color at all. Equally applicable to other metals such as silver and aluminium, this breakthrough opens up the prospect of coloring metals without having to coat or chemically treat them.

Scientists build “mechanically active” DNA material

October 23, 2012 4:40 pm | News | Comments

A pair of University of California, Santa Barbara researchers have created a dynamic gel made of DNA that mechanically responds to stimuli in much the same way that cells do. This DNA gel, at only 10 μm in width, is roughly the size of a eukaryotic cell, the type of cell of which humans are made. When “fed”, it can generate forces independently, leading to changes in elasticity or shape.

Mars rover ready for its first soil sample

October 19, 2012 10:12 am | News | Comments

The ability to ingest solid samples and examine them using X-ray diffraction is a core capability for the Curiosity rover. This week that ability was tested using a small scoop of minerals that has been shaken to remove any residues carried from Earth. These particles have been placed inside CheMin, an analytical instrument about the size of a laptop computer inside a carrying case.

Training light to cool the material it strikes

October 17, 2012 9:30 am | News | Comments

Light might one day be used to cool the materials through which it passes, instead of heating them, thanks to a breakthrough by engineers at Lehigh and Johns Hopkins Universities. The discovery could lead to smaller, lighter, and cheaper communication devices with faster switching times, increased output, and higher operating voltages.

Dark matter filament studied in 3D for the first time

October 17, 2012 8:29 am | News | Comments

Extending 60 million light-years from one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, the filament of dark matter examined recently by the Hubble Space Telescope is part of the cosmic web that constitutes the large-scale structure of the Universe, and is a leftover of the very first moments after the Big Bang. If the high mass measured for the filament is representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe.

Earth’s brief polarity reversal linked to other extreme events

October 16, 2012 12:45 pm | News | Comments

For the first time, three separately found extreme Earth events have been compared by researchers who now believe they may be linked. About 41,000 years ago, a complete and rapid reversal of the geomagnetic field occurred, lasting for just a few hundred years. Around the same time, a super volcano erupted and major climate changes occurred.

Freezing electrons in flight

October 16, 2012 8:58 am | by Daniel Stolte, University of Arizona | News | Comments

Using the world’s fastest laser pulses, which can freeze the ultrafast motion of electrons and atoms, physicists have caught the action of molecules breaking apart and electrons getting knocked out of atoms. Their most recent accomplishment is a real-time series of snapshots documenting what happens to an oxygen molecule when it pops apart after absorbing too much energy to maintain the stable bond between its two atoms.

University physics fares well with higher fees

October 15, 2012 1:20 pm | News | Comments

Research assessing the impact of higher tuition fees on future university physics students has found them largely undeterred by fear of debt and determined to pursue a subject they love. The report uses secondary data, focus groups, and a survey, involving more than 500 applicants, to understand better the potential implications of the new funding model.

Jump from 24-miles high provides collective moment

October 15, 2012 1:01 pm | by Juan Carlos Llorca and Oskar Garcia, Associated Press | News | Comments

Felix Baumgartner stood poised in the open hatch of a capsule suspended above Earth, wondering if he would make it back alive. Twenty four miles below him, millions of people were right there with him, watching on the Internet and marveling at the wonder of the moment. Nine minutes later he landed, becoming the world's first supersonic skydiver.

Complex logic circuits can be made from bacterial genes

October 12, 2012 5:07 pm | by Diana Lutz, Washington University in St. Louis, Tae Seok Moon, logic circuit, gene circuit | News | Comments

Logic circuits can be built from just about anything, including billiard balls, pipes of water, or animals in a maze. Tae Seok Moon, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, intends to build logic gates out of genes, and has already built the largest such device yet reported. But the purpose of these circuits is not to crunch numbers.

Study: Initial research manuscript rejection may lead to higher impact

October 12, 2012 4:22 pm | News | Comments

A large-scale survey of the process for submitting research papers to scientific journals has revealed a surprising pattern: Manuscripts that were turned down by one journal and published in another received significantly more citations than those that were published by the first journal to receive them.

Scientists observe quantum effects in cold chemistry

October 12, 2012 10:39 am | News | Comments

At very low temperatures, close to absolute zero, chemical reactions may proceed at a much higher rate than classical chemistry says they should—because in this extreme chill, quantum effects enter the picture. With a new experiment, a research team in Israel has now confirmed this elusive process in a chemical reaction they performed at chilling temperatures of just a fraction of a degree above the absolute zero: 0.01 K.

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