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Electronic “tongue” to ensure food quality

November 12, 2014 10:35 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

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.

Synthetic biology for space exploration

November 10, 2014 9:27 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

First peek at how neurons multitask

November 10, 2014 8:01 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

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.

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3-D printing a lunar base

November 7, 2014 9:29 am | by European Space Agency | News | Comments

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.

The origins of multicellular life

November 6, 2014 10:14 am | by Massey Univ. | News | Comments

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.       

Cockroach cyborgs use microphones to detect, trace sounds

November 6, 2014 9:47 am | by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

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.                  

Longhorn beetle inspires ink to fight counterfeiting

November 5, 2014 9:30 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

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.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

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.

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Thirdhand smoke: Toxic airborne pollutants linger long after the smoke clears

November 4, 2014 2:47 pm | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Running robots of future may learn from world’s best two-legged runners

November 3, 2014 10:49 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Cell division, minus the cells

October 31, 2014 12:42 pm | by Elizabeth Cooney, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations

October 31, 2014 8:14 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

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.

Study: Cinematic experience governed by contextual clues, not screen size

October 29, 2014 1:12 pm | News | Comments

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.

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A GPS from the chemistry set

October 27, 2014 12:48 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Europe have developed a chemical “processor” which reliably shows the fastest way through a city maze. Because the method is basically faster than a satellite navigation system, it could be useful in transport planning and logistics in the future, for instance.

How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

Google exec sets records with leap from near-space

October 27, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Google executive Alan Eustace broke the sound barrier and set several skydiving records over the southern New Mexico desert early Friday after taking a big leap from the edge of space. Eustace's supersonic jump was part of a project by Paragon Space Development Corp., which has been working secretly for years to develop a self-contained commercial spacesuit that would allow people to explore some 20 miles above the Earth's surface.

Liquid helium offers a fascinating new way to make charged molecules

October 24, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Helium is a famously unreactive gas but when cooled to just above absolute zero it becomes a superfluid, a strange form of liquid. An Anglo-Austrian team has used this liquid to develop a completely new way of forming charged particles. The team’s key discovery is that helium atoms can acquire an excess negative charge which enables them to become aggressive new chemical reagents.

Breaking the nano barrier

October 24, 2014 8:00 am | by New York Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at the New York Univ. Polytechnic School of Engineering have broken new ground in the development of proteins that form specialized fibers used in medicine and nanotechnology. For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-assembling into fibers, their work has taken place on the nanoscale. For the first time, this achievement has been realized on the microscale.

New 3-D display technology promises greater energy efficiency

October 23, 2014 1:11 pm | News | Comments

At first glance, the static, greyscale display created by a group of researchers in Hong Kong might not catch the eye of a thoughtful consumer in a market saturated with flashy, colorful electronics. But a closer look at the specs could change that: the ultra-thin LCD screen is capable of holding 3-D images without a power source, making it a compact, energy-efficient way to display visual information.

Researchers break the nano barrier to engineer the first protein microfiber

October 23, 2014 1:06 pm | News | Comments

For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-assembling into fibers, scientists’ work has taken place on the nanoscale. For the first time, this achievement has been realized on the microscale, a leap of magnitude in size that presents significant new opportunities for using engineered protein fibers.

Cooling to near absolute zero with magnetic molecules

October 23, 2014 12:56 pm | News | Comments

An international team of scientists have become the first to successfully reach temperatures below -272.15 C, which is just above absolute zero, using magnetic molecules. The effort, which avoids the use of helium, depends on a form of gadolinium that appropriately has a structure resembling a snowflake.

Researchers record sight neurons in jumping spider brain

October 22, 2014 2:43 pm | Videos | Comments

Though neurobiologists have tried for half a century to better understand the brains of jumping spiders, no one has succeeded. The liquid in spiders’ bodies is pressurized, and they move with hydraulic pressure and muscles. But with a new technique using a tiny tungsten recording electrode, researchers have made recordings of neurons associated with visual perception inside the poppy seed-sized brain the spider.

Some scientists share better than others

October 22, 2014 2:31 pm | News | Comments

While astronomers and geneticists embrace the concept, the culture of ecology still has a ways to go. Research by Michigan State Univ., published in the current issue of Bioscience, explores the paradox that although ecologists share findings via scientific journals, they do not share the data on which the studies are built.

Turning waste from whisky-making into fuel

October 22, 2014 10:09 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A startup company in Scotland is working to capitalize on the tons of waste produced by one of the country’s most valued industries and turn the dregs of whisky-making into fuel. Celtic Renewables, formed in 2011, has refined its process based on a century-old fermentation technique and is now taking the next step toward a commercial plant.

Physicists build reversible tractor beam

October 21, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

Laser physicists in Australia have built a tractor beam that can repel and attract objects, using a hollow laser beam that is bright around the edges and dark in its center. It is the first long-distance optical tractor beam and has moved particles one-fifth of a millimeter in diameter a distance of up to 20 cm, around 100 times further than previous experiments.

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