Scientists have discovered that genes switch off as memories are being formed, allowing for new connections between nerve cells. The discovery could eventually lead to a key for treating conditions such as autism and dementia. Researchers studying honeybees during learning activities have shown that memory management in the bee brain is controlled by small genetic elements called microRNAs that help regulate gene expression.
A widely presumed problem of aging is that the brain becomes less flexible or plastic, and that learning may therefore become more difficult. A new study led by Brown Univ. researchers contradicts that notion with a finding that plasticity did occur in seniors who learned a task well, but it occurred in a different part of the brain than in younger people.
As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison research team explains why that is.
Ample evidence of ancient rivers, streams and lakes make it clear that Mars was at some point warm enough for liquid water to flow on its surface. While that may conjure up images of a tropical Martian paradise, new research published in Nature Geoscience throws a bit of cold water on that notion.
Here’s another reason to pay close attention to microbes: Current climate models probably overestimate the amount of carbon that will be released from soil into the atmosphere as global temperatures rise, according to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The findings are from a new computer model that explores the feedbacks between soil carbon and climate change.
Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that a chemical compound commonly found in coffee may help prevent some of the damaging effects of obesity. In a recently published paper published, scientists found that chlorogenic acid, or CGA, significantly reduced insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in the livers of mice who were fed a high-fat diet.
Researchers from the Queen Mary Univ. of London gave a computer program the outline of how a magic jigsaw puzzle and a mind-reading card trick work, as well the results of experiments into how humans understand magic tricks, and the system created completely new variants on those tricks which can be delivered by a magician.
From a mechanical perspective, granular materials are stuck between a rock and a fluid place, with behavior resembling neither a solid nor a liquid. Think of sand through an hourglass: As grains funnel through, they appear to flow like water, but once deposited, they form a relatively stable mound, much like a solid.
The continental margins of plates on either side of the Atlantic Ocean are thinner than expected, and an international team led by a Rice Univ. scientist is using an array of advanced tools to understand why. The viscous bottom layers of the continental shelves beneath the Gibraltar arc and northeastern South America are literally being pulled off by adjacent subducting oceanic plates.
A trawl through a library of more than 50,000 small molecules has identified a potential candidate to inhibit the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Reported in Nature Communications, the molecule targets a mechanism of tumor development that had previously been considered “undruggable” and could open the door to further promising new candidates.
It’s not uncommon to see cameras mounted on store ceilings, propped up in public places or placed inside subways, buses and even on the dashboards of cars. Cameras record our world down to the second. This can be a powerful surveillance tool on the roads and in buildings, but it’s surprisingly hard to sift through vast amounts of visual data to find pertinent information, until now.
The “surfactant” chemicals found in samples of fracking fluid collected in five states were no more toxic than substances commonly found in homes, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder. Fracking fluid is largely comprised of water and sand, but oil and gas companies also add a variety of other chemicals, including surfactants.
An electronic “tongue” could one day sample food and drinks as a quality check before they hit store shelves. Or it could someday monitor water for pollutants or test blood for signs of disease. With an eye toward these applications, scientists are reporting the development of a new, inexpensive and highly sensitive version of such a device in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Does synthetic biology hold the key to manned space exploration of the moon and Mars? Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.
Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain. Investigators found that a neuron in C. elegans regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves.
Could astronauts one day be printing rather than building a base on the Moon? In 2013 ESA, working with industrial partners, proved that 3-D printing using lunar material was feasible in principle. Since then, work continues to investigate the technique.
In groundbreaking research reported in this week’s edition of Nature, researchers from New Zealand, Germany and the United States report the real-time evolution of life forms that have all the hallmarks of multicellular organisms.
North Carolina State Univ. researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound.
From water marks to colored threads, governments are constantly adding new features to paper money to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters. Now a longhorn beetle has inspired yet another way to foil cash fraud, as well as to produce colorful, changing billboards and art displays. In ACS Nano, researchers report a new kind of ink that mimics the beetle’s color-shifting ability in a way that would be long-lasting and difficult to copy.
In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.
Ever walked into a hotel room and smelled old cigarette smoke? While the last smoker may have left the room hours or even days ago, the lingering odors are thanks to thirdhand smoke. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who have made important findings on the dangers of thirdhand smoke and how it adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, have published a new study assessing the health effects of thirdhand smoke constituents.
With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds—running birds. Although birds are designed primarily for flight, scientists have learned that species that predominately live on land and scurry around on the ground are also some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals.
The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, cytokinesis, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists but has been notoriously difficult to study. Now Harvard Medical School systems biologists report that they have reconstituted cytokinesis, complete with signals that direct molecular traffic, without the cell.
In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a contentious public policy issue. Yet it’s also an issue that requires a public consensus to support policies that might curb or counteract it. According to research, the task of educating the public about climate change might be made easier or more difficult depending on their perception of short-term versus long-term temperature changes.
If the surroundings are designed to be sufficiently stimulating, even a simple computer screen is enough to generate an intense cinematic experience. After observing some 300 study subjects, researchers in Germany have concluded that the angle of viewing does not play a vital role in the cinematic experience. Instead, the presence of so-called contextual visual cues plays a greater role in actually drawing viewers into a movie.