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Asteroids’ close encounters with Mars

November 19, 2013 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For nearly as long as astronomers have been able to observe asteroids, a question has gone unanswered: Why do the surfaces of most asteroids appear redder than meteorites—the remnants of asteroids that have crashed to Earth? Scientists have now found that Mars, not Earth, shakes up some near-Earth asteroids.

South Africa cemeteries to microchip tombstones

November 15, 2013 11:13 am | by Carley Petesch, Associated Press | News | Comments

Amid a rash of tombstone thefts from cemeteries in Johannesburg, a company will be offering relatives of the deceased a high-tech solution: microchips that can be inserted into the memorial that will sound an alarm and send a text message to their cell phones if it is disturbed.

Quantum state world record smashed

November 15, 2013 8:22 am | News | Comments

In a recent experiment, quantum bits of information, "qubits", were put into a "superposition" state in which they can be both 1s and 0s at the same time—enabling them to perform multiple calculations simultaneously. This normally fragile quantum state has been shown to survive at room temperature for a world record 39 minutes, overcoming a key barrier towards building ultrafast quantum computers.

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Where did dogs first appear? DNA points to Europe

November 14, 2013 2:16 pm | by MALCOLM RITTER - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

For years, scientists have been dogged by this evolution question: Just where did man's best friend first appear? The earliest known doglike fossils come from Europe. But DNA studies have implicated east Asia and the Middle East. Now a large DNA study is lining up with the fossils, suggesting dogs originated in Europe some 19,000 to 32,000 years ago.

Penguin-inspired propulsion system

November 14, 2013 1:10 pm | News | Comments

Back in 1991, Nature published a picture from the IMAX movie Antarctica, pointing out that emperor penguins can accelerate from 0 to 7 m/s in less than a second. That got the attention of Flavio Noca, now an aerodynamics professor in Switzerland, who will present a new spherical joint mechanism inspired by penguin propulsion at the next American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Pittsburgh.

Scientists peek into hidden sea worm’s light

November 14, 2013 7:27 am | News | Comments

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers are unraveling the mechanisms behind a little-known marine worm that produces a dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of blue light released into seawater. This effect, produced by mucus, hasn’t been studied in more than 50 years. But two recent studies have helped reignite the quest to decode the inner workings of the worm’s bioluminescence.

Phonons may block sound, channel heat with unprecedented precision

November 13, 2013 1:48 pm | News | Comments

The phonon, like the photon or electron, is a physical particle that travels like waves, representing mechanical vibration. Phonons transmit everyday sound and heat. Recent progress in phononics by a research scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology has led to the development of new ideas and devices that are using phononic properties to control sound and heat, even to the point of freeing bustling city blocks from the noise of traffic.

Artificial heart to pump human waste into future robots

November 13, 2013 8:16 am | News | Comments

A new device capable of pumping human waste into the “engine room” of a self-sustaining robot has been created by a group of researchers from Bristol. Modeled on the human heart, the artificial device incorporates smart materials called shape memory alloys and could be used to deliver human urine to future generations of EcoBot—a robot that can function completely on its own by collecting waste and converting it into electricity.

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Structure of bacterial nanowire protein hints at secrets of conduction

November 12, 2013 6:39 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

Tiny electrical wires protrude from some bacteria and contribute to rock and dirt formation. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers studying the protein that makes up one such wire have determined the protein's structure and have shown that the protein's shape and form suggest possible ways for the bacteria to shuttle electrons along the nanowire.

Evidence of 3.5 billion-year-old bacterial ecosystems found in Australia

November 12, 2013 3:08 pm | News | Comments

Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost always altered by hydrothermal and tectonic activity. The Pilbara district in Australia is a rare exception. A new study has revealed the well-preserved remnants of a complex ecosystem in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old sedimentary rock sequence.

Triboelectric generator harvests energy from vibration of walking

November 12, 2013 8:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have recently demonstrated an integrated rhombic gridding based triboelectric nanogenerator, or “TENG”, that has been proven to be a cost-effective and robust approach for harvesting ambient environmental energy.

Bacteria may allow animals to send quick, voluminous messages

November 11, 2013 3:41 pm | News | Comments

Twitter clips human thoughts to a mere 140 characters. Animals’ scent posts may be equally as short, relatively speaking, yet they convey an encyclopedia of information about the animals that left them. Recent research show that the detailed scent posts of hyenas are, in part, products of symbiotic bacteria, microbes that have a mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts.

Cooling when there's too much heat

November 11, 2013 2:18 pm | by Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative | News | Comments

When an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, crews sprayed cooling seawater on the reactors, but to no avail. One possible reason: Droplets can’t land on surfaces that hot and instantly begin to evaporate, forming a thin layer of vapor and then bouncing along it. Now, MIT researchers have come up with a way to cool hot surfaces more effectively by keeping droplets from bouncing.

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Hubble spots strange asteroid with six tails of dust

November 11, 2013 10:07 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a six-tailed asteroid in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Scientists say they've never seen anything like it. Incredibly, the comet-like tails change shape as the asteroid sheds dust. The streams have occurred over several months.

Surgeons describe new ligament in the human knee

November 8, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

Two knee surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have provided the first full anatomical description of a previously enigmatic ligament in the human knee. The ligament appears to play an important role in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

Rare new microbe found in two distant clean rooms

November 7, 2013 10:46 am | News | Comments

A rare, recently discovered microbe that survives on very little to eat has been found in two places on Earth: spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and South America. Some other microbes have been discovered in a spacecraft clean room and found nowhere else, but none previously had been found in two different clean rooms and nowhere else.

Researchers unveil carbon nanotube jungles to better detect molecules

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich have developed a new method of using nanotubes to detect molecules at extremely low concentrations enabling trace detection of biological threats, explosives and drugs.

Nanostructures filter light to order

November 6, 2013 11:41 am | News | Comments

An international team of engineers has now fabricated arrays of silver nanoscale pillars that can selectively reflect light of any desired color. The team, led by Jinghua Teng and Yan Jun Liu at the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore, show that the color can be selected by varying the size of the pillars.

Three-dimensional carbon goes metallic

November 6, 2013 11:37 am | News | Comments

A theoretical, three-dimensional (3D) form of carbon that is metallic under ambient temperature and pressure has been discovered by an international research team. The findings, which may significantly advance carbon science, are published online this week

Big beats bolster solar cell efficiency

November 6, 2013 11:31 am | News | Comments

Playing pop and rock music improves the performance of solar cells, according to new research. The high frequencies and pitch found in pop and rock music cause vibrations that enhanced energy generation in solar cells containing a cluster of 'nanorods', leading to a 40 percent increase in efficiency of the solar cells.

A single-atom light switch

November 5, 2013 4:34 pm | News | Comments

In a demonstration at the Vienna Univ. of Technology in Austria, scientists have shown that light can be switched between two fiber optic cables with just a single rubidium atom. The breakthrough relies on light capture devices called “bottle resonators”. The switch could enable quantum phenomena to be used for information and communication technology.

Bulletproof suit uses military-grade carbon nanotube technology

November 5, 2013 4:20 pm | News | Comments

The Toronto-based luxury bespoke tailoring house Garrison Bespoke launched the first fashion-forward bulletproof suit with a live ammo field-testing event at the Ajax Rod and Gun Club at in Ontario. The Garrison Bespoke bulletproof suit is made with carbon nanotubes created using nanotechnology and originally developed to protect U.S. forces in Iraq. The patented material is thinner, more flexible and 50% lighter than Kevlar.

Study: 8.8 billion Earth-size, just-right planets

November 5, 2013 9:12 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Space is vast, but it may not be so lonely after all: A study finds the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and are not too hot or cold for life. For the first time, NASA scientists have calculated, not estimated, what percent of stars that are just like our sun have planets similar to Earth: 22%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 8 percentage points.

New chemistry: Drawing and writing in liquid with light

November 4, 2013 2:27 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Helsinki, FInland, have managed to draw in an alcohol-based solution using laser light. Light-sensitive polymers are not new, but a new soluble, photosensitive polymer can be dissolved partially by a 365-nm laser, allowing a ray of light can “draw” in an ethanol-based dispersion of the polymer.

Synaptic transistor learns while it computes

November 4, 2013 2:07 pm | News | Comments

Our brains have upwards of 86 billion neurons, connected by synapses that not only complete myriad logic circuits; they continuously adapt to stimuli, strengthening some connections while weakening others. Materials scientists have now created a new type of transistor that mimics the behavior of a synapse. The novel device simultaneously modulates the flow of information in a circuit and physically adapts to changing signals.

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