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Cold cases heat up through Livermore approach to identifying remains

October 10, 2012 8:57 am | News | Comments

In an effort to identify the thousands of John/Jane Doe cold cases in the United States, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher and a team of international collaborators have found a multidisciplinary approach to identifying the remains of missing persons. Using "bomb pulse" radiocarbon analysis developed at Livermore Lab, combined with recently developed anthropological analysis and forensic DNA techniques, the researchers were able to identify the remains of a missing child 41 years after the discovery of the body.

Applying information theory to linguistics

October 10, 2012 8:22 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The majority of languages—roughly 85% of them—can be sorted into two categories: those in which the basic sentence form is subject-verb-object and those in which the basic sentence form is subject-object-verb. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe that information theory—the discipline that gave us digital communication—can explain differences between human languages.

What number is halfway between 1 and 9? Is it 5—or 3?

October 9, 2012 9:41 am | News | Comments

Ask adults  what number is halfway between 1 and 9, and most will say 5. But pose the same question to small children and they're likely to answer 3. Cognitive scientists theorize that that's because it's actually more natural for humans to think logarithmically than linearly. A new information-theoretical model of human sensory perception and memory sheds light on these peculiarities of the nervous system.

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Super-microbes engineered to solve world environmental problems

October 8, 2012 1:29 pm | News | Comments

Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.

The art and science of guessing a Nobel Prize

October 5, 2012 5:11 pm | News | Comments

Guessing who will win a Nobel Prize is a bit like forecasting the stock market: Experts don't seem to do it any better than laymen. So if you hear professors and pundits predicting the "God particle" will be the theme of the physics prize next week, or that an American writer—finally—is due for the literature award, check their track record.

Sea urchin's spiny strength revealed

October 4, 2012 4:54 am | News | Comments

Using a process known as microtomography, a team of Australian engineers have created a high-resolution 3D microscopic image of a segment of spine of a sea urchin. This allowed them to identify unique features in the architecture of the spine, which is a single crystal of calcite that supplies an advantageous mix of elasticity and brittleness.

The mathematics of leaf decay

October 4, 2012 4:48 am | by Jennifer Chu | News | Comments

The natural decay of organic carbon contributes more than 90% of the yearly carbon dioxide released into Earth's atmosphere and oceans. Understanding the rate at which leaves decay can help scientists predict this global flux of carbon dioxide. But a single leaf may undergo different rates of decay depending on a number of variables. Researchers have just built a mathematical model that incorporates these variables, and have discovered a commonality within the diversity of leaf decay.

Plasma jet gives “cold” shoulder to superbugs

October 3, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have developed a new technique which has the potential to kill off hospital superbugs like Pseudomonas aeruginosa , C. difficile, and MRSA. The method uses a cold plasma jet to rapidly penetrate dense bacterial structures known as biofilms which bind bacteria together and make them resistant to conventional chemical approaches.

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Innovative new defibrillator offers alternative for regulating heartbeat

October 3, 2012 4:42 am | News | Comments

Conventional defibrillators, known as transvenous defibrillators, are implanted with wires, called the leads, that snake through veins into the heart. Not all patients are suitable for a conventional defibrillator, and complex and invasive surgery is often involved when they are. What makes a new device at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute special is that it is entirely subcutaneous. No part of it actually touches the heart.

Acoustic cell-sorting chip may lead to cell phone-sized laboratories

October 3, 2012 4:32 am | News | Comments

According to a team of Penn State University researchers, a technique that uses acoustic waves to sort cells on a chip may create miniature medical analytic devices that could make Star Trek's tricorder seem a bit bulky in comparison. The device uses two beams of acoustic—or sound—waves to act as acoustic tweezers and sort a continuous flow of cells on a dime-sized chip.

One glue, two functions

October 3, 2012 4:27 am | News | Comments

University of Akron polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that a certain house spider—in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey—performs an uncommon feat. It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths: firm and weak. The researchers who made the finding are already working toward developing a synthetic adhesive that mimics this design strategy.

Watermelon shown to boost heart health

October 3, 2012 4:01 am | News | Comments

Eating an apple a day may keep the doctor away, but eating watermelon may just keep the cardiologist at bay. A study from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky showed that mice fed a diet including watermelon juice had lower weight, cholesterol, and arterial plaque than a control group.

The chemical memory of seawater

October 2, 2012 8:52 am | News | Comments

Water does not forget, says Prof. Boris Koch, a chemist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. With the combination of some new techniques, Koch and colleagues can now identify and retrace some of the biomolecular tracks left by living organism. This dissolved organic matter, detectable with mass spectrometry, is one of the largest active, organic carbon reservoirs on earth.

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Egyptian toes likely to be the world's oldest prosthetics

October 2, 2012 6:28 am | News | Comments

The results of scientific tests using replicas of two ancient Egyptian artificial toes, including one that was found on the foot of a mummy, suggest that they're likely to be the world's first prosthetic body parts.

Skydiver aims to break sound barrier in free fall

October 2, 2012 3:55 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

His blood could boil. His lungs could overinflate. The vessels in his brain could burst. His eyes could hemorrhage. And, yes, he could break his neck while jumping from a mind-boggling altitude of 23 miles. But the risk of a gruesome death has never stopped "Fearless Felix" Baumgartner it won’t likely stop him next Monday over New Mexico, where he will attempt the highest, fastest free fall in history and try to become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier.

First images of Landau levels revealed

October 1, 2012 7:28 am | News | Comments

Using scanning tunnelling spectroscopy, physicists have directly imaged Landau Levels—the quantum levels that determine electron behavior in a strong magnetic field—for the first time since they were theoretically conceived of by Nobel prize winner Lev Landau in 1930. The internal ring-like structure of these levels was revealed at the surface of a semiconductor.

Solar cell consists of a single molecule

October 1, 2012 5:39 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany and Israel have developed a method to measure photocurrents of a single functionalized photosynthetic protein system. The proteins represent light-driven, highly efficient single-molecule electron pumps that can act as current generators in nanoscale electrical circuits. According to the findings these proteins can be integrated and selectively addressed in artificial photovoltaic device architectures while retaining their biomolecular functional properties.

zarre tumor case may lead to custom cancer care

October 1, 2012 5:01 am | by Marilynn Marchone, AP Chief Medical Writer | News | Comments

It's a medical nightmare: a 24-year-old man endures 350 surgeries since childhood to remove growths that keep coming back in his throat and have spread to his lungs, threatening his life. A new discovery, however, allows doctors to grow "mini tumors" from each patient's cancer in a lab dish, then test various drugs or combinations on them to see which works best.

New study says nanoparticles don't penetrate the skin

October 1, 2012 3:46 am | News | Comments

Research by scientists at the University of Bath is challenging claims that nanoparticles in medicated and cosmetic creams are able to transport and deliver active ingredients deep inside the skin. The study discovered that even the tiniest of nanoparticles did not penetrate the skin's surface.

Artificially intelligent game bots pass the Turing test

September 28, 2012 10:15 am | News | Comments

One hundred years after the birth of mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, whose “Turing test” stands as one of the foundational definitions of what constitutes true machine intelligence, a virtual “gamer” created by computer scientists at The University of Texas at Austin has won the annual BotPrize by convincing a panel of judges that their software-based robot was more human-like than half the humans it competed against.

All systems go at the biofactory

September 28, 2012 9:52 am | News | Comments

In order to assemble novel biomolecular machines, individual protein molecules must be installed at their site of operation with nanometer precision. In a technique called “single-molecule cut & paste”, researchers in Germany have found a way to do this using atomic force microscopy. At first, the method was limited only to DNA molecules, but it has since been expanded to proteins.

Laundry additive helps bust pollution

September 28, 2012 4:44 am | News | Comments

Plans are now proceeding to commercialize a new liquid laundry additive called CatClo, which contains microscopic pollution-eating particles. The chemical, developed in the U.K., contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide that grip onto fabric tightly. When the particles then come into contact with nitrogen oxides in the air, they react with these pollutants and oxidize them in the fabric, removing up to 5 g of nitrogen oxides per day.

Bioengineers introduce 'Bi-Fi, the biological Internet

September 27, 2012 11:32 am | News | Comments

If you were a bacterium, the virus M13 might seem innocuous enough. It insinuates more than it invades, setting up shop like a freeloading house guest, not a killer. Once inside it makes itself at home, eating your food, texting indiscriminately. Recently, however, bioengineers at Stanford University have given M13 a bit of a makeover; they have parasitized the parasite and harnessed M13's key attributes to create what might be termed as the biological Internet, or "Bi-Fi."

Biologist discovers mammal with salamander-like regenerative abilities

September 26, 2012 5:38 pm | News | Comments

For years biologists have studied salamanders for their ability to regrow lost limbs. But amphibian biology is very different than human biology, which makes the recent discovery of a small African mammal with an unusual ability to regrow damaged tissues potentially crucial to new research in regenerative medicine.

Bizarre tumor case may lead to custom cancer care

September 26, 2012 1:40 pm | by Marilynne Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

It's a medical nightmare: a 24-year-old man endures 350 surgeries since childhood to remove growths that keep coming back in his throat and have spread to his lungs, threatening his life. Now doctors have found a way to help him by way of a scientific coup that holds promise for millions of cancer...

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