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Automatic building mapping could help emergency responders

September 24, 2012 2:47 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A prototype sensor array built by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers can be worn on the chest and automatically maps the wearer’s environment, recognizing movement between floors. The prototype system is envisioned as a tool to help emergency responders coordinate disaster response.

Researchers engineer novel DNA barcode

September 24, 2012 10:17 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a new kind of barcode that uses DNA origami technology. Colored dots can be arranged into geometric patterns or fluorescent linear DNA barcodes, and the combinations are almost limitless—substantially increasing the number of distinct molecules or cells scientists can observe in a sample.

Slow-moving rocks better odds that life crashed to Earth from space

September 24, 2012 9:54 am | News | Comments

Microorganisms that crashed to Earth embedded in the fragments of distant planets might have been the sprouts of life on this one, according to new research. The research team reports that under certain conditions there is a high probability that life came to Earth during the solar system's infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid materials.

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A clock that will last forever

September 24, 2012 9:03 am | News | Comments

Imagine a clock that will keep perfect time forever or a device that opens new dimensions into the study of such quantum phenomena as emergence and entanglement. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have proposed a space-time crystal based on an electric-field ion trap and the Coulomb repulsion of particles that carry the same electrical charge.

Cancer research yields unexpected way to produce nylon

September 24, 2012 3:50 am | News | Comments

In their quest for a cancer cure, researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute made a serendipitous discovery: a molecule necessary for cheaper and greener way to produce nylon. The finding arose from an intriguing notion that some of the genetic and chemical changes in cancer tumors might be harnessed for beneficial uses.

Researchers push boundaries of light measurement

September 21, 2012 9:10 am | News | Comments

An international team of physicists has pushed the boundaries on ultra-precise measurement by harnessing quantum light waves in a new way. It is possible to measure spectacularly small distances using "squeezed" light, but recent work done by scientists in Australia and Japan show that it is now possible to do this even while the target is moving around.

Bacteria’s key innovation helps us understand evolution

September 21, 2012 9:04 am | News | Comments

Several years ago researchers at Michigan State University reported discovering a novel, evolutionary trait in a long-studied population of Escherichia coli . These same biologists have now analyzed this new trait's genetic origins and found that in multiple cases, the bacteria needed more than one mutational step. The finding documents this step-by-step process and highlights the importance of evolutionary changes that alter the physical arrangement of genes, leading to new patterns of gene regulation.

“Space travel” gives computers a more powerful way to detect threats

September 21, 2012 5:46 am | News | Comments

As cloud computing is becoming more popular, new techniques to protect the systems must be developed. Computer scientists in Texas have developed a technique to automatically allow one computer in a virtual network to monitor another for intrusions, viruses or anything else that could cause a computer to malfunction. Dubbed “space travel”, the technique bridges the gap between computer hardware and software systems.

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Tiny electronic tags monitor birds’ social networks

September 21, 2012 5:42 am | by Hannah Hickey | News | Comments

It’s a bit like Twitter, only instead of 140 words or less, the electronic tags needed by ornithologists researching the behavior of small birds had to 1 gram or less. This type of miniaturization for a rugged, mobile tag was previously unavailable until a biologist teamed up with an electrical engineer at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews.

What truly leads to olfaction satisfaction

September 19, 2012 9:04 am | News | Comments

A new study of the sense of small lends support to a controversial theory of olfaction: Our noses can distinguish both the shape and vibrational characteristics of odorant molecules. The study demonstrates the feasibility of the theory that the vibration of an odorant molecule's chemical bonds contributes to our ability to distinguish one smelly thing from another.

Smart fluids could allow chips to assemble themselves

September 19, 2012 4:38 am | by Karen B. Roberts | News | Comments

A University of Delaware research team’s exploration of paramagnetic colloids—microscopic particles that are mere hundredths the diameter of a human hair—has produced the possibility that computer chips could one day build themselves in a scalable fashion. By applying a magnetic field to the colloids, the team build organized crystalline lattices from random solids.

Insight into snake venom evolution could aid drug discovery

September 19, 2012 3:50 am | News | Comments

U.K.-led scientists have made a discovery about snake venom that could lead to the development of new drugs to treat a range of life-threatening conditions. The researchers have discovered that the toxins that make snake and lizard venom deadly can evolve back into completely harmless molecules, raising the possibility that they could be developed into drugs.

Imec demonstrates electronics that flex and stretch like skin

September 18, 2012 6:12 am | News | Comments

Belgium-based semiconductor manufacturing firm imec announced Tuesday that it has integrated an ultra-thin, flexible chip with bendable and stretchable interconnects into a package that adapts dynamically to curving and bending surfaces. The resulting circuitry can be embedded in medical and lifestyle applications where user comfort and unobtrusiveness is key, such as wearable health monitors or smart clothing.

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Blue Brain Project accurately predicts connections between neurons

September 18, 2012 3:47 am | News | Comments

One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is to identify the map, or “connectome”, of synaptic connections between neurons. The Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has recently announced it has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample.

How bees decide what to be

September 18, 2012 3:40 am | News | Comments

Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists have recently reported what is believed to be the first evidence that complex, reversible behavioral patterns in bees—and presumably other animals—are linked to reversible chemical tags on genes. They say the most significant aspect of the new study is that for the first time DNA methylation “tagging” has been linked to something at the behavioral level of a whole organism.

Cutting-edge startup aims for nano-close shave

September 18, 2012 3:37 am | News | Comments

Nano-Sharp Inc., a new company founded using technology developed at the University of California Davis, plans to use silicon wafers to make razor blades and surgical tools far more cheaply than current silicon or ceramic blades. Conventional blades are made by sharpening the edge of a silicon wafer, but the company’s patented new technique creates blades across the surface of the wafer, delivering atom-scale sharpness.

New 'ATM' takes old phones and gives back green

September 17, 2012 10:09 am | News | Comments

Developed by a company in San Diego, a new automated system that lets consumers trade in cell phones and mobile devices for reimbursement or recycling relies artificial intelliigence and sophisticated machine vision diagnostics. The building blocks for the ecoATM have existed for many years, but none, until now, have been applied to the particular problem of consumer recycling.

The first mammalian “cell phone”

September 17, 2012 5:38 am | by Peter Rüegg | News | Comments

Researchers from in Zurich have literally created a “cell phone” from reprogrammed mammalian cells. Using suitable signal molecules and “devices” constructed from biological components, including genes and proteins, the researchers have achieved a synthetic two-way communication system inside a biological cell that also responds to concentration differences in the signal molecules.

X-rays unravel mysterious degradation of a Van Gogh painting

September 14, 2012 8:42 am | News | Comments

With a sophisticated X-ray analysis scientists in Europe have identified why parts of the Van Gogh painting "Flowers in a blue vase" have changed color over time. A supposedly protective varnish applied after the master's death has made some bright yellow flowers turn to an orange-grey color. The cause is a hitherto unknown degradation process at the interface between the paint and the varnish.

Study of giant viruses shakes up tree of life

September 14, 2012 4:10 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, University of Illinois | News | Comments

A new study of giant viruses supports the idea that viruses are ancient living organisms and not inanimate molecular remnants run amok, as some scientists have argued. The study may reshape the universal family tree, adding a fourth major branch to the three that most scientists agree represent the fundamental domains of life.

IBM scientists first to distinguish individual molecular bonds

September 13, 2012 1:04 pm | News | Comments

Using non-contact atomic force microscopy, researchers at IBM have been able to differentiate the chemical bonds in individual molecules for the first time. The results push the exploration of using molecules and atoms at the smallest scale and could be important for studying graphene devices.

Laser-powered “needle” promises pain-free injections

September 13, 2012 7:58 am | News | Comments

Needle injections are among the least popular staples of medical care. A new laser-based system, however, that blasts microscopic jets of drugs into the skin could soon make getting a shot as painless as being hit with a puff of air. The system uses an erbium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet laser to propel a tiny, precise stream of medicine with just the right amount of force.

Luminescent ink produced from eggs

September 13, 2012 7:51 am | News | Comments

A variety of processes have been developed to make miniature objects known as carbon dots or C-dots, which are valued in imaging for their optical properties. Researchers in China have now introduced a new method for making them quickly and inexpensively. These fluorescent carbon dots are made by plasma pyrolysis from egg yolk or egg white and can be used as printer ink.

The boy who played with fusion

September 13, 2012 7:40 am | by Delaynie A Koenig | News | Comments

After four years of work in his parent’s garage, 14-year-old Taylor Wilson built his first successful fusion reactor. Now 18 and old enough to be actually be a student at the university where he shares a laboratory, Wilson is chasing research projects of many kinds and is still fascinated by the science of the atom.

Real-world levitation to inspire better pharmaceuticals

September 13, 2012 5:15 am | News | Comments

It's not a magic trick and it's not sleight of hand—scientists really are using levitation to improve the drug development process, eventually yielding more effective pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals.

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