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Self-assembled biological filaments form 3D microelectronics

February 12, 2013 1:24 pm | News | Comments

The size of electronic components is reaching a physical limit. While 3D assembly can reduce bulk, the challenge is in manufacturing these complex electrical connections. Biologists and physicists in France have recently developed a system of self-assembled connections using actin filaments for 3D microelectronic structures. Once the actin filaments become conductors, they join the various components of a system together.

Study: First evidence that magnetism helps salmon find home

February 11, 2013 9:24 am | News | Comments

When migrating, sockeye salmon typically swim up to 4,000 miles into the ocean and then, years later, navigate back to the upstream reaches of the rivers in which they were born to spawn their young. Scientists have long wondered how salmon find their way to their home rivers over such epic distances. A new study suggests that salmon find their home rivers by sensing the rivers' unique magnetic signature.

Sensing the light, but not to see

February 7, 2013 10:54 am | by Diana Kenney, Marine Biology Laboratory | News | Comments

Slender, limbless, and primitive, lancelets are not exciting animals. But one such animal, amphioxus, appeared on the cover of a scientific journal recently because of the melanopsin-producing cells that Marine Biology Laboratory researchers found in this otherwise simple chordate. The light-sensing cells of amphioxus, they discovered, may be the ”missing link“ between the visual cells of invertebrates and the circadian receptors in our own eyes.

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Missouri researchers ID largest prime number yet

February 7, 2013 10:03 am | by Heather Hollingsworth, Associated Press | News | Comments

The University of Central Missouri said Wednesday that a group led by computer science and mathematics professor Curtis Cooper found the largest known prime number last month. The  17 million-digit number is the 48th known Mersenne prime and is the third discovered at the 11,800-student university in Warrensburg, about 50 miles east of Kansas City.

Beer will help power Alaska brewery

February 4, 2013 9:12 am | by Joshua Berlinger, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Alaskan Brewing Co. is going green, but instead of looking to solar and wind energy, it has turned to a very familiar source: beer. The Juneau-based beer maker has installed a unique boiler system in order to cut its fuel costs. It purchased a $1.8 million furnace that burns the company's spent grain—the waste accumulated from the brewing process—into steam which powers the majority of the brewery's operations.

Researchers synthesize first biologically effective perfume

February 1, 2013 9:17 am | News | Comments

Although several hundred different forms of the immune genes exist in humans, individuals only have a few variants which co-determine their typical body odor, their individual “scent”. Scientists in Germany have succeeded in explaining the chemical nature of this individual scent. They have also synthesized it and have tested its effectiveness on people. The results show how perfumes that are completely effective biologically can be produced synthetically without resorting to animal products.

Physicists find new order in quantum electronic material

February 1, 2013 8:36 am | News | Comments

Two Rutgers physics professors have proposed an explanation for a new type of order, or symmetry, in an exotic material made with uranium. When cooled to near absolute zero, the material’s electrons essentially act like electronic versions of polarized sunglasses. The new theory that explains this strange behavior may one day lead to enhanced computer displays and data storage systems and more powerful superconducting magnets for medical imaging and levitating high-speed trains.

Tiny invention may harness big energy from small spores

January 30, 2013 11:05 am | News | Comments

At Columbia University, Ozgur Sahin is using an atomic force microscope to analyze bacterial spores called Bacillus. Curious about the accordion-like wrinkles that disappear when the spores collect moisture from the air, Sahin noticed the forceful response these unfolding spores create against the microscope’s cantilever arm. His laboratory is now attempting to harness this energy, which he describes as something akin to a muscle.

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Beer’s bitter compounds could help brew new medicines

January 29, 2013 3:44 pm | News | Comments

Researchers employing a century-old observational technique have determined the precise configuration of humulones, substances derived from hops that give beer its distinctive flavor. That might not sound like a big deal to the average brewmaster, but the findings overturn results reported in scientific literature in the last 40 years and could lead to new pharmaceuticals to treat diabetes, some types of cancer, and other maladies.

DARPA funds research for electronics that disappear

January 28, 2013 5:23 pm | News | Comments

Advanced electronics are indispensable in modern warfare, but locating and tracking them all on the field of battle is almost impossible. To prevent valuable and strategic technology from falling into enemy hands, DARPA has announced the Vanishing Programmable Resources program, which has the aim of improving “transient” electronics, or electronics capable of dissolving into the environment around them.        

NASA testing vintage engine from Apollo 11 rocket

January 28, 2013 9:46 am | by Jay Reeves, Associated Press | News | Comments

Young engineers who weren't even born when the last Saturn V rocket took off for the moon are testing a vintage engine from the Apollo program. The engine, known to NASA engineers as No. F-6049, was grounded because of a glitch during a test in Mississippi and later sent to the Smithsonian Institution. Now, NASA engineers are using to get ideas on how to develop the next generation of rockets for future missions to the moon and beyond.

Scientists confirm surprisingly small proton radius

January 25, 2013 11:17 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics | News | Comments

Using laser spectroscopy to examine an exotic form of hydrogen, which has a negatively charged muon instead of an electron, physicists at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland have for the first time determined the magnetic radius of the proton. The result significantly different than the one from previous investigations of regular hydrogen.

Men more likely than women to commit scientific fraud

January 22, 2013 8:58 am | News | Comments

It's not hard to see that men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than women, or that crime rates are many times higher among men, but this tendency to break the rules also extends to male scientists, according to a recent study. The study did not examine why men are more likely to commit fraud, but the study’s author suggested one possibility is that misconduct is biologically driven

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Single-celled algae shed light on social lives of microbes

January 21, 2013 4:58 pm | News | Comments

Cheating is a behavior not limited to humans, animals and plants. Even microscopically small, single-celled algae do it, a team of University of Arizona researchers has discovered. Their research adds to the emerging view that microbes often have active social lives. Unlocking the secrets of those lives could help control serious threats to ecological or human health.

Wind in the willows boosts biofuel production

January 21, 2013 9:43 am | News | Comments

A curious characteristic of willows is that when they are cultivated for green energy they can yield five times more biofuel if they grow diagonally, compared with those that grow naturally straight up. Scientists were previously unable to explain why some willows produced more biofuel than others, but researchers have now identified a genetic trait that causes this effect and is activated in some trees when they sense they are at an angle, such as where they are blown sideways in windy conditions.

A light switch inside the brain

January 18, 2013 11:06 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Germany and Switzerland have developed an implant that is able to genetically modify specific nerve cells, control them with light stimuli, and measure their electrical activity all at the same time. This new tool relies on an innovative genetic technique that forces nerve cells to change their activity by shining light of different colors onto them.

Space station to get $18 million balloon-like room

January 17, 2013 3:07 pm | by Hannah Dreier, Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to replace the cumbersome "metal cans" that now serve as astronauts' homes in space with inflatable bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap. A $17.8 million test project will send to the International Space Station an inflatable room that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery.

Researcher uses snail teeth to improve solar cells, batteries

January 16, 2013 2:13 pm | News | Comments

An assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering is using the teeth of a marine snail found off the coast of California to create less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries.

'Smart' potty or dumb idea? Wacky gadgets at CES

January 9, 2013 6:49 pm | by Barbara Ortutay and Ryan Nakashima, The Associated Press | News | Comments

Not everything there is “high-tech”, but the annual Consumer Electronics Show is a great place to see the newest and most fanciful products to reach the market each year. From the iPotty for toddlers to the 1,600-pound (725-kg) mechanical spider and the host of glitch-ridden "smart" TVs, the International CES show is a forum for gadget makers to take big—and bizarre—chances.

Giant squid captured on video in ocean depths

January 9, 2013 6:24 pm | by Malcolm Foster, Associated Press | News | Comments

After years of searching, scientists and broadcasters say they have captured video images of a giant squid in its natural habitat deep in the ocean for the first time. Japanese public broadcaster NHK released photographs of the giant squid this week ahead of Sunday's show about the encounter. The Discovery Channel will air its program on Jan. 27.

A quantum eraser without causality

January 9, 2013 11:23 am | News | Comments

Whether a quantum object behaves like a wave or like a particle depends on the type of measurement performed. When two quantum objects, like photons, are observed, one behaves like a particle or a wave depending on the measurement performed on a second photon. When measurement methods are swapped, information appears to be “erased”. A recent experiment supports this phenomenon even in the absence of causality, when the photons are so far removed that no information can be exchanged between the two.

Stopping leaks the way blood does

January 8, 2013 2:00 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has analyzed the blood clotting process and found, for the first time, exactly how the different molecular components work together to block the flow of blood from a cut. Now, they are working on applying that knowledge to the development of synthetic materials that could be used to control different kinds of liquid flows, and could lead to a variety of new self-assembling materials.

A temperature below absolute zero

January 7, 2013 1:46 pm | News | Comments

According to the physical meaning of temperature, the temperature of a gas is determined by the chaotic movement of its particles. At zero kelvin (-273 C) the particles stop moving and all disorder disappears. Thus, nothing can be colder than absolute zero on the Kelvin scale. Nevertheless, researchers in Germany have now created an atomic gas in the laboratory that has negative Kelvin values.

Discovery: Dragonflies have human-like “selective attention”

December 21, 2012 1:15 pm | News | Comments

In a discovery that may prove important for cognitive science, our understanding of nature and applications for robot vision, researchers in Australia have found evidence that the dragonfly is capable of higher-level thought processes when hunting its prey. The finding is the first that show an invertebrate animal has brain cells for selective attention, which has so far only been demonstrated in primates.

Suspend the crystals, and they grow better

December 21, 2012 12:47 pm | News | Comments

Crystals growing near the bottom of a beaker are subject to convection, but it is much quieter near the top of the beaker. In that case, why not just let them grow hanging in the beaker? A researcher in The Netherlands who had already tried growing crystals in space has used magnets to grow suspended crystals that form more perfectly, allowing better X-ray diffraction.

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