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Doubt cast on global firestorm generated by dino-killing asteroid

January 22, 2015 8:08 am | by Jo Bowler, Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

Pioneering new research has debunked the theory that the asteroid thought to have led to the extinction of dinosaurs also caused vast global firestorms that ravaged planet Earth. A team of researchers from the Univ. of Exeter, Univ. of Edinburgh and Imperial College London recreated the immense energy released from an extraterrestrial collision with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct.

Is glass a true solid?

January 22, 2015 7:54 am | by Hannah Johnson, Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

Does glass ever stop flowing? Researchers have combined computer simulation and information theory, originally invented for telephone communication and cryptography, to answer this puzzling question. Watching a glass blower at work we can clearly see the liquid nature of hot glass. Once the glass has cooled down to room temperature though, it has become solid and we can pour wine in it or make window panes out of it.

The ups and downs of the seemingly idle brain

January 21, 2015 9:24 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Even in its quietest moments, the brain is never “off.” Instead, while under anesthesia, during slow-wave sleep, or even amid calm wakefulness, the brain’s cortex maintains a cycle of activity and quiet called “up” and “down” states. A new study by Brown Univ. neuroscientists probed deep into this somewhat mysterious cycle in mice, to learn more about how the mammalian brain accomplishes it.

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Snails produce weaponized insulin

January 20, 2015 11:06 am | by Joe Rojas-Burke, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

As predators go, cone snails are slow moving and lack the typical fighting parts. They’ve made up for it by producing a vast array of fast-acting toxins that target the nervous systems of prey. A new study reveals that some cone snails add a weaponized form of insulin to the venom cocktail they use to disable fish.

Ocean floor dust gives new insight into supernovae

January 20, 2015 10:32 am | by Phil Dooley, The Australian National Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists plumbing the depths of the ocean have made a surprise finding that could change the way we understand supernovae, exploding stars way beyond our solar system. They have analyzed extraterrestrial dust thought to be from supernovae that has settled on ocean floors to determine the amount of heavy elements created by the massive explosions.

Flu vaccine 23% effective

January 16, 2015 2:04 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

As predicted, this year's flu vaccine is doing a pretty crummy job. It's only 23% effective, primarily because it doesn't include the bug that is making most people sick, according to a government study released today. That's one of the worst performances in the last decade, since U.S. health officials started routinely tracking how well vaccines work. In the best flu seasons, the vaccines were 50 to 60% effective.

The way liquids and glasses “relax”

January 15, 2015 2:04 pm | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

A new insight into the fundamental mechanics of the movement of molecules recently published by researchers at NIST offers a surprising view of what happens when you pour a liquid out of a cup. More important, it provides a theoretical foundation for a molecular-level process that must be controlled to ensure the stability of important protein-based drugs at room temperature.

Chemical dial controls attraction between water-repelling molecules

January 14, 2015 4:12 pm | by Chris Barncard, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Fear of water may seem like an irrational hindrance to humans, but on a molecular level, it lends order to the world. Some substances, in particular greasy, oily ones, are hydrophobic. They have no attraction to water, and essentially appear repelled by the stuff. Combine hydrophobic pieces in a molecule with parts that are instead attracted to water, and sides are taken. Structure appears, as in the membranes that encircle living cells.

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Rainfall can release aerosols

January 14, 2015 7:38 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Ever notice an earthy smell in the air after a light rain? Now scientists believe they may have identified the mechanism that releases this aroma, as well as other aerosols, into the environment. Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps tiny air bubbles at the point of contact.

Slick and slender snake beats short and stubby lizard in sand swimming

January 13, 2015 8:20 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

For swimming through sand, a slick and slender snake can perform better than a short and stubby lizard. That’s one conclusion from a study of the movement patterns of the shovel-nosed snake, a native of the Mojave Desert of the southwest U.S.

Sulforaphane may find possible use for cancer therapy

January 12, 2015 12:29 pm | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

New research has identified one of the key cancer-fighting mechanisms for sulforaphane, and suggests that this phytochemical may be able to move beyond cancer prevention and toward therapeutic use for advanced prostate cancer. Scientists said that pharmacologic doses in the form of supplements would be needed for actual therapies, beyond the amount of sulforaphane that would ordinarily be obtained from dietary sources such as broccoli.

Do viruses make us smarter?

January 12, 2015 10:36 am | by Lund Univ. | News | Comments

A new study from Lund Univ. in Sweden indicates inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterize the human brain. Researchers have long been aware endogenous retroviruses constitute around 5% of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side effect of our evolutionary journey.

Scientists find brain protein aids influenza recovery

January 12, 2015 7:55 am | by Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. Spokane scientists have found a brain protein that boosts the healing power of sleep and speeds an animal's recovery from the flu. The research has determined that a brain-specific protein is uniquely involved in sleep responses triggered by the influenza virus in mice. Without the protein, animals develop more severe symptoms of infection and die at higher rates than regular or control mice.

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How the “Beast Quake” is helping scientists track real earthquakes

January 9, 2015 10:31 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s not just the football players who have spent a year training. Univ. of Washington seismologists will again be monitoring the ground-shaking cheers of Seahawks fans, this year with a bigger team, better technology and faster response times. Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network will install instruments this Thursday to provide real-time monitoring of the stadium’s movement during the 2015 NFL playoffs.

Shedding light on why blue LEDs are so tricky to make

January 8, 2015 11:19 am | by Rebecca Caygill, Univ. College London | News | Comments

Scientists at Univ. College London, in collaboration with groups at the Univ. of Bath and the Daresbury Laboratory, have uncovered the mystery of why blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are so difficult to make, by revealing the complex properties of their main component—gallium nitride—using sophisticated computer simulations.

Honeybee hive sealant promotes hair growth in mice

January 7, 2015 2:58 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Hair loss can be devastating for the millions of men and women who experience it. Now scientists are reporting that a substance from honeybee hives might contain clues for developing a potential new therapy. They found that the material, called propolis, encouraged hair growth in mice. The study appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cold virus replicates better at cooler temperatures

January 7, 2015 11:27 am | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | Videos | Comments

The common cold virus can reproduce itself more efficiently in the cooler temperature found inside the nose than at core body temperature, according to a new Yale Univ.-led study. This finding may confirm the popular, yet contested, notion that people are more likely to catch a cold in cool-weather conditions.

Nanowire clothing could keep people warm

January 7, 2015 9:26 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

To stay warm when temperatures drop outside, we heat our indoor spaces—even when no one is in them. But scientists have now developed a novel nanowire coating for clothes that can both generate heat and trap the heat from our bodies better than regular clothes. They report on their technology, which could help us reduce our reliance on conventional energy sources, in Nano Letters.

Freshman-level chemistry solves the solubility mystery of graphene oxide films

January 5, 2015 3:21 pm | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

A Northwestern Univ.-led team recently found the answer to a mysterious question that has puzzled the materials science community for years—and it came in the form of some surprisingly basic chemistry. Like many scientists, Jiaxing Huang didn't understand why graphene oxide films were highly stable in water.

Testing anti-drinking drug with help of a fake bar

January 2, 2015 3:39 pm | by By Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The tequila sure looks real, so do the beer taps. Inside the hospital at the National Institutes of Health, researchers are testing a possible new treatment to help heavy drinkers cut back, using a replica of a fully stocked bar. The idea: Sitting in the dimly lit bar-laboratory should cue the volunteers' brains to crave a drink, and help determine if the experimental pill counters that urge.

Neutrinos can deliver full-on hits and “glancing blows”

January 2, 2015 8:03 am | by Leonor Sierra, Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

In what they call a “weird little corner” of the already weird world of neutrinos, physicists have found evidence that these tiny particles might be involved in a surprising reaction. Neutrinos are famous for almost never interacting. As an example, ten trillion neutrinos pass through your hand every second, and fewer than one actually interacts with any of the atoms that make up your hand.

Mistletoe could fight obesity-related liver disease

December 17, 2014 1:27 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Mistletoe hanging in doorways announces that the holidays are just around the corner. For some people, however, the symbolic plant might one day represent more than a kiss at Christmas time: It may mean better liver health. Researchers have found that a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant can help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

Study: Ancient Earth made its own water

December 17, 2014 10:06 am | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of Earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system? The answer is likely both.

Big data analysis reveals gene sharing in mice

December 17, 2014 8:01 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have detected at least three instances of cross-species mating that likely influenced the evolutionary paths of “old world” mice, two in recent times and one in the distant past. The researchers think these instances of introgressive hybridization are only the first of many needles waiting to be found in a very large genetic haystack.

Scientists trace nanoparticles from plants to caterpillars

December 16, 2014 2:37 pm | by Jade Boyd, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

In one of the most comprehensive laboratory studies of its kind, Rice Univ. scientists traced the uptake and accumulation of quantum dot nanoparticles from water to plant roots, plant leaves and leaf-eating caterpillars. The study found that nanoparticle accumulation in both plants and animals varied significantly depending upon the type of surface coating applied to the particles.

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