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Overcoming barriers to medical use of microrockets and micromotors

April 11, 2013 2:13 am | News | Comments

An advance in micromotor technology akin to the invention of cars that fuel themselves from the pavement or air, rather than gasoline or batteries, is opening the door to broad new medical and industrial uses for these tiny devices, scientists said here today. Their update on development of the motors—so small that thousands would fit inside this "o"—was part of the American Chemical Society national meeting.

GUMBOS technology promises new drugs, electronic devices

April 10, 2013 1:06 pm | News | Comments

Mention a breakthrough involving "gumbo" technology in this city, and people think of a new twist on The Local Dish, the stew that's the quintessence of southern Louisiana cooking. But scientific presentations at a meeting of the world's largest scientific society this week are focusing on what may be an advance in developing GUMBOS-based materials with far-reaching medical, electronic and other uses.

Researchers engineer “protein switch” to dissect role of cancer's key players

April 10, 2013 12:45 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the Uniersity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have "rationally rewired" some of the cell's smallest components to create proteins that can be switched on or off by command. These "protein switches" can be used to interrogate the inner workings of each cell, helping scientists uncover the molecular mechanisms of human health and disease.  

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Recruiting engineered cells to work for warfighters

April 10, 2013 12:22 pm | News | Comments

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) this week launched a collaborative initiative with university researchers focused on synthetic, or engineered, cells—part of a larger effort to use the smallest units of life to help Sailors and Marines execute their missions. ONR currently has multiple ongoing projects in the field of synthetic biology.

“Artificial leaf” gains ability to self-heal damage, produce energy from dirty water

April 9, 2013 5:47 am | News | Comments

Another innovative feature has been added to the world’s first practical “artificial leaf,” making the device even more suitable for providing people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity, scientists reported at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting & Exposition this week. It gives the leaf the ability to self-heal damage that occurs during production of energy.

Newly discovered blood protein solves 60-year-old riddle

April 9, 2013 5:21 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a new protein that controls the presence of the Vel blood group antigen on our red blood cells. The discovery makes it possible to use simple DNA testing to find blood donors for patients who lack the Vel antigen and need a blood transfusion. This is significant because there is a global shortage of Vel-negative blood

Innovative method to treat Alzheimer's in mice

April 5, 2013 4:57 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute report that they successfully used a virus vector to restore the expression of a brain protein and improve cognitive functions, in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Because it is impossible to deliver genes directly to the brain without surgery, the researchers injected the virus in the left ventricle of the heart, as this provides a direct route to the brain.

Foldable ceramic is wafer-thin, electrically conductible

March 28, 2013 12:25 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany have produced a paper-like material from a vanadium pentoxide ceramic which is as hard as copper, yet flexible enough to be rolled up or folded. The material is also different from other ceramics, as it is electrically conductive. Its special mechanical properties are derived from its structure, which resembles that of mother-of-pearl, and looks promising for applications in batteries, flat and flexible gas sensors, and actuators in artificial muscles.

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Engineers enable bulk silicon to emit visible light for the first time

March 27, 2013 2:56 pm | News | Comments

Certain semiconductors, when imparted with energy, in turn emit light; they directly produce photons, instead of producing heat. This phenomenon is commonplace and used in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Research from the University of Pennsylvania has enabled "bulk" silicon to emit broad-spectrum, visible light for the first time, opening the possibility of using the element in devices that have both electronic and photonic components.

Researchers find new way for plants to pass traits to next generation

March 26, 2013 12:50 pm | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State University | News | Comments

Scientists have shown that an enzyme in corn responsible for reading information from DNA can prompt unexpected changes in gene activity—an example of epigenetics that breaks accepted rules of genetic behavior. Though some evidence has suggested that epigenetic changes can bypass DNA’s influence to carry on from one generation to the next, this is the first study to show that this epigenetic heritability can be subject to selective breeding.

Chinese university creates world's lightest material

March 25, 2013 3:55 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in China say they have developed the world's lightest material, which they expect to play an important role in tackling pollution. Call graphene aerogel, or simply carbon aerogel, the new material has a density of just 0.16 milligrams per cubic centimeter, a sixth that of air. It is derived from a gel, with the liquid component replaced by a gas. It appears in solid state with extremely low density.

Scientists build a nanoscale glass blower

March 25, 2013 3:43 pm | News | Comments

Using a principle similar to the way plastic bags shrivel and crumple in a fire, researchers at EPFL in Switzerland are using the electrical properties of a scanning electron microscope to change the size of glass capillary tubes at the nanoscale. Their method has already been patented and it could pave the way to many novel applications.

Measuring the magnetism of antimatter

March 25, 2013 3:28 pm | News | Comments

In a breakthrough that could one day yield important clues about the nature of matter itself, a team of Harvard University scientists have made a major leap in measuring the magnetic charge of single particles of matter and antimatter. By precisely measuring the oscillations of each particle, the team was able to measure the magnetism of a proton more than 1,000 times more accurately than an antiproton had been measured before.

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Researchers discover third type of motor found in nature

March 20, 2013 3:21 pm | News | Comments

Scientists have cracked a 35-year-old mystery about the workings of a revolving molecular motor that is now serving as a model for development of a futuristic genre of synthetic nanomotors that pump therapeutic DNA, RNA, or drugs into individual diseased cells. Their report reveals the mechanisms of these nanomotors in a bacteria-killing virus—and a new way to move DNA through cells

Scientists discover layer of liquified molten rock in Earth’s mantle

March 20, 2013 2:30 pm | News | Comments

Using advanced seafloor electromagnetic imaging technology, scientists with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution imaged a 25-km-thick layer of partially melted mantle rock below the edge of the Cocos plate where it moves beneath Central America. The finding of this layer, which may be responsible for the sliding motions of the planet’s massive tectonic plates, could have far-reaching implications to our understanding of geologic processes.

Under California: An ancient tectonic plate

March 18, 2013 4:39 pm | News | Comments

Large chunks of an ancient tectonic plate that slid under North America millions of years ago are still present under parts of central California and Mexico, according to new research led by Brown University geophysicists. Called the Isabella anomaly—a large mass of cool, dehydrated material about 100 km beneath central California—is in fact a surviving slab of the ancient Farallon oceanic plate driven deep into the Earth’s mantle about 100 million years ago.

New research paper says we are still at risk of the plague

March 18, 2013 8:57 am | News | Comments

Archaeologists recently unearthed a “Black Death” grave in London, containing more than a dozen skeletons of people suspected to have died from the plague. The victims are thought to have died during the 14th century and archaeologists anticipate finding many more as they excavate the site. Results of their reveal a number of factors that show we are still at risk of plague today. 

Scientists create flexible mineral inspired by deep-sea sponges

March 15, 2013 11:10 am | News | Comments

Imitating the structural elements found in most sea sponges, researchers in Germany have created a new synthetic hybrid material that is extremely flexible yet has a mineral content of almost 90%. They recreated the sponge’s spicules using natural calcium carbonate and integrated a protein of the sponge. The invention is even more flexible than its natural counterpart.

Mysterious bacterium found in Antarctic lake

March 13, 2013 9:57 am | by Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press | News | Comments

A new form of microbial life has been found in water samples taken from a giant freshwater lake hidden under kilometers of Antarctic ice, Russian scientists said Monday. In a prepared statement, the researchers said that the "unidentified and unclassified" bacterium has no relation to any of the existing bacterial types. They touched the lake water Sunday at a depth of 12,366 feet (3,769 m), about 800 miles (1,300 km) east of the South Pole in the central part of the continent.

Steganography is no laughing matter

March 12, 2013 3:47 pm | News | Comments

Encrypting a message with a strong code is the only safe way to keep your communications secret, but it will be obvious to anyone seeing such a message that the sender is hiding something. Steganography, on the other hand, can hide a secret message in plain sight, using binary numbers, for example. Researchers, however, now suggest that instead of using a humdrum text document and modifying it in a codified way to embed a secret message, correspondents could use a joke to hide their true meaning.

Biological wires carry electricity thanks to special amino acids

March 12, 2013 10:11 am | News | Comments

In nature, the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens uses a type of natural nanowire, called pili, to transport electrons to remote iron particles or other microbes. The benefits of these wires could also be harnessed by humans for use in fuel cells or bioelectronics.  A new study reveals that a core of aromatic amino acids are required to turn these hair-like appendages into functioning electron-carrying biological wires.

MIT “cheetah” robot rivals running animals in efficiency

March 11, 2013 10:28 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A 70-pound “cheetah” robot designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may soon outpace its animal counterparts in running efficiency: In treadmill tests, the researchers have found that the robot, which is about the size and weight of an actual cheetah, wastes very little energy as it trots continuously for up to an hour and a half at 5 mph. The key to the robot’s streamlined stride can be found in the shoulders.

Graphene researchers create superheated water that can corrode diamonds

March 11, 2013 10:11 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has successfully altered the properties of water, making it corrosive enough to etch diamonds. This strange result was achieved by attaching a layer of graphene on diamond and heated to high temperatures. Water molecules trapped between them become highly corrosive, as opposed to normal water.

AMSilk develops first man-made, scalable spider silk fiber

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

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.

Scientists improve transgenic “Enviropigs”

March 8, 2013 3:48 pm | News | Comments

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.

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