Germany-based company AMSilk has produced the world’s first competitive man-made spider silk fiber, called Biosteel, which is made entirely from recombinant silk proteins. Biosteel has mechanical properties similar to that of natural spider silk when comparing toughness, a measure indicating the kinetic energy absorbed before the fiber breaks.
A research team in Europe has developed a new line of transgenic "Enviropigs." Enviropigs have genetically modified salivary glands, which help them digest phosphorus in feedstuffs and reduce phosphorus pollution in the environment. After developing the initial line of Enviropigs, researchers found that the line had certain genes that could be unstable. The new line of pigs is called the Cassie line, and it is known for passing genes on more reliably.
A rough, whitish block recovered from an Elizabethan shipwreck may be a sunstone, the fabled crystal believed by some to have helped Vikings and other medieval seafarers navigate the high seas, researchers say. That's because of a property known as birefringence, which splits light beams in a way that can reveal the direction of their source with a high degree of accuracy.
Like the extraterrestrial creature in the movie Alien, the "extremophile" red alga Galdieria sulphuraria can survive brutal heat and resist the effects of toxins. Scientists were previously unsure of how a one-celled alga acquired such flexibility and resilience. But recently they made an unexpected discovery: Galdieria's genome shows clear signs of borrowing genes from its neighbors.
Scientists have long known that the young and old brains are very different. Adolescent brains are more malleable or plastic. The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature neuronal connections that allow the brain to bridge the gap between adolescent impressionability and adult stability. Now Yale School of Medicine researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse.
Researchers at the NIST have demonstrated a solid-state refrigerator that uses quantum physics in micro- and nanostructures to cool a much larger object to extremely low temperatures. What's more, the prototype NIST refrigerator, which measures a few inches in outer dimensions, enables researchers to place any suitable object in the cooling zone and later remove and replace it, similar to an all-purpose kitchen refrigerator.
Unlike conventional electrical insulators, which do not conduct electricity, topological insulators have the unique property of conducting electricity on their surface, while acting as an insulator inside. In a step toward understanding and exploiting an exotic form of matter that has been sparking excitement for potential applications in a new genre of supercomputers, scientists are reporting the first identification of a naturally occurring topological insulator that was retrieved from an abandoned gold mine in the Czech Republic.
According to a study by Cornell University neuroscientist Nathan Spreng and his colleagues, it is possible to tell who a person is thinking about by analyzing images of his or her brain. Our mental models of people produce unique patterns of brain activation, which can be detected using advanced imaging techniques such as functionalized magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
University of Chicago physicists have succeeding in creating a vortex knot—a feat akin to tying a smoke ring into a knot. Vortex knots should, in principle, be persistent, stable phenomena. But in practice, physicists have found that they stretch themselves, breaking up in a particular way. As a result, linked and knotted vortex loops have only existed in theory for more than a century.
Just like electronics, living cells use electrons for energy and information transfer. But cell membranes have thus far prevented us from “plugging” in cells to our computers. To get around this barrier that tightly controls charge balance, a research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry has engineered <em>E. coli</em> as a testbed for cellular-electrode communication. They have now demonstrated that these bacterial strains can generate measurable current at an anode.
Football fans have become accustomed to viewing televised games from a dozen or more camera angles, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, working with researchers in Japan, suggest another possible camera position: inside the ball itself. One would think such a camera would deliver an unwatchable blur, but the researchers have also built a computer algorithm that converts the video.
Memristors are made of fine nanolayers and can be used to connect electric circuits and for several years have been considered to be the electronic equivalent of the synapse. A researcher in Germany, physicist Andy Thomas, is now using his memristors as key components for his blueprint for an artificial brain.
Northwestern University’s Yonggang Huang and the University of Illinois’ John A. Rogers are the first to demonstrate a stretchable lithium-ion battery—a flexible device capable of powering their innovative stretchable electronics. Their battery continues to work—powering a commercial light-emitting diode (LED)—even when stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow. The battery can work for eight to nine hours before it needs recharging, which can be done wirelessly.
The University of Iowa recently offered an honors seminar on personal genetics in which students had the option of sending saliva samples so a testing company could use DNA to unlock some of their most personal health and family secrets. The class, taught at Iowa for the first time, is part of a growing movement in higher education to tackle the rapidly advancing field of personal genetics, which is revolutionizing medicine and raising difficult ethical and privacy questions.
Researchers in Finland have shown experimentally that vacuum has properties not previously observed. Vacuum contains momentarily appearing and disappearing virtual pairs, which can be converted into detectable light particles. The researchers conducted a mirror experiment to show that by changing the position of the mirror in a vacuum, virtual particles can be transformed into real photons that can be experimentally observed. In a vacuum, there is energy and noise, the existence of which follows the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics.
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory research physicists and engineers from the Plasma Physics Division, working at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) transmitter facility in Alaska have successfully produced a sustained high density plasma cloud in Earth's upper atmosphere. Previous attempts generated clouds with lifetimes of 10 minutes or less; this one lasted for more than one hour.
An international team of researchers have recently demonstrated that graphene is able to convert a single photon that it absorbs into multiple electrons that could drive electric current. The experiment sent a known number of photons with different energies onto a monolayer of graphene. In most materials, one absorbed photon generates one electron, but in this case many excited electrons were generated.
In Spiderman 2, the superhero uses his webbing to bring a runaway train to a standstill moments before it plummets over the end of the track. But could a material with the strength and toughness of spiders’ web really stop four crowded subway cars? According to University of Leicester physics students, the answer is yes.
When gluing things together, both surfaces usually need to be dry. Gluing wet surfaces or surfaces under water is a challenge. Korean scientists have now introduced a completely new concept. They were able to achieve reversible underwater adhesion by using supramolecular "Velcro".
A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured nearly 1,000 people and frightened countless more. The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the meteor over the Chelyabinsk region entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 km (18-32 miles) above ground.
Engineers at Harvard University have already shown that their unusual “soft” robots can already stand, walk, wriggle under obstacles, and change colors. Now, using small explosions produced by a mix of methane and oxygen, these researchers have designed a soft robot that can leap as much as a foot in the air.
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are helping search for evidence of alien life not by looking into outer space, but by studying some rocks right here on Earth. Some of the rocks are up to 3.5 billion years old. The scientists are looking for crucial information to understand how life might have arisen elsewhere in the universe and guide the search for life on Mars one day.
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.
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.
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.