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Engineers turn LEGOs into a scientific tool to study plant growth

June 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Iowa State University assistant professor of materials science and engineering Ludovico Cademartiri wanted something modular, scalable and structurally precise to serve as the building blocks for controlled environments to support his study of plants. Microfluidics was too expensive and complex, so he turned to the toy aisle.

Scientists find potential new use for cancer drug

June 27, 2014 7:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists working to make gene therapy a reality have solved a major hurdle: how to bypass a blood stem cell’s natural defenses and efficiently insert disease-fighting genes into the cell’s genome. In a new study, a team of researchers report that the drug rapamycin, which is commonly used to slow cancer growth, enables delivery of a therapeutic dose of genes to blood stem cells while preserving stem cell function.

Crews fight blaze at Stanford linear accelerator

June 26, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

Fire teams battled a smoky blaze at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford Univ., bringing it under control without causing injuries. The fire appears to have started in a large electrical switching cabinet, but the fire chief said its cause will be investigated by firefighters and facility officials. The research center was established in 1962 and is one of 10 Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories.

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Crews fight blaze at Stanford linear accelerator

June 26, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Fire teams battled a smoky blaze at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, bringing it under control without causing injuries. The fire appears to have started in a large electrical switching cabinet, but the fire chief said its cause will be investigated by firefighters and facility officials. The research center was established in 1962 and is one of 10 Department of Energy Office of Science laboratories.

How a wrinkle becomes a crease

June 25, 2014 2:45 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Wrinkles, creases and folds are everywhere in nature, from the surface of human skin to the buckled crust of the Earth. They can also be useful structures for engineers. Wrinkles in thin films, for example, can help make durable circuit boards for flexible electronics. A newly developed mathematical model could help engineers control the formation of wrinkle, crease and fold structures in a wide variety of materials.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

World’s first magnetic hose created

June 25, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

An international research team led by scientists in Barcelona has developed a material which guides and transports a magnetic field from one location to the other, similar to how an optical fiber transports light or a hose transports water. The magnetic hose consists of a ferromagnetic cylinder covered by a superconductor material, a surprisingly simple design made possible by complicated theoretical calculations and experimentation.

Metal particles in solids aren’t as fixed as they seem

June 25, 2014 8:04 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In work that unmasks some of the magic behind memristors and "resistive random access memory," or RRAM, researchers have shown that the metal particles in memristors don't stay put as previously thought. The findings have broad implications for the semiconductor industry and beyond. They show, for the first time, exactly how some memristors remember.

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Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

June 24, 2014 10:26 am | News | Comments

Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.

Woman or machine? New robots look creepily human

June 24, 2014 9:46 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

New robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people. The two life-size robots, which have silicon skin, artificial muscles, and can speak in a variety of voices, will be on display starting Wednesday, allowing the public to interact with them extensively.

Ferroelectric switching seen in biological tissues

June 24, 2014 7:32 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Measurements taken at the molecular scale have, for the first time, confirmed a key property that could improve our knowledge of how the heart and lungs function. Univ. of Washington researchers have shown that a favorable electrical property is present in a type of protein found in organs that repeatedly stretch and retract, such as the lungs, heart and arteries.

Researchers develop genetic control mechanism for major livestock pest

June 19, 2014 1:04 pm | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a technique to control populations of the Australian sheep blowfly—a major livestock pest in Australia and New Zealand—by making female flies dependent upon a common antibiotic to survive.

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Nature’s chem lab: How microorganisms manufacture drugs

June 19, 2014 8:25 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have obtained the first 3-D snapshots of the "assembly line" within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs. Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.

Collecting light with artificial moth eyes

June 18, 2014 4:00 pm | News | Comments

Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.

Familiar yet strange: Water’s “split personality” revealed by computer model

June 18, 2014 2:01 pm | by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research | News | Comments

Seemingly ordinary, water has quite puzzling behavior. Why, for example, does ice float when most liquids crystallize into dense solids that sink? Using a computer model to explore water as it freezes, a team at Princeton Univ. has found that water's weird behaviors may arise from a sort of split personality: At very cold temperatures and above a certain pressure, water may spontaneously split into two liquid forms.

Human sweat can reduce bacteria defenses in hospitals, schools

June 18, 2014 8:35 am | News | Comments

Sweaty hands can reduce the effectiveness of bacteria-fighting brass objects in hospitals and schools after just an hour of coming into contact with them, according to scientists at the Univ. of Leicester. While copper found in everyday brass items has an antimicrobial effect on bacteria the team has discovered that peoples’ sweat can produce sufficient corrosion to adversely affect its use to kill a range of microorganisms.

Moscow researcher predicts new state of matter

June 17, 2014 11:25 am | News | Comments

A physicist in Russia, Alexander Rozhkov, has presented theoretical calculations which indicate the possible existence of fermionic matter in a previously unknown state. It is defined as a 1-D liquid, which cannot be described within the framework of existing models. According to Rozhkov, the 1-D liquid state of matter is not necessarily one that can be observed with the naked eye on a macroscopic scale.

Strange physics turns off laser

June 17, 2014 10:59 am | News | Comments

Inspired by anomalies that arise in certain mathematical equations, researchers have demonstrated a laser system that paradoxically turns off when more power is added rather than becoming continuously brighter. The finding could lead to new ways to manipulate the interaction of electronics and light, an important tool in modern communications networks and high-speed information processing.

Solar photons drive water off the moon

June 17, 2014 8:29 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Water is thought to be embedded in the moon’s rocks or, if cold enough, “stuck” on their surfaces. It’s predominantly found at the poles. But scientists probably won’t find it intact on the sunlit side. New research at indicates that ultraviolet photons emitted by the sun likely cause water molecules to either quickly desorb or break apart.

A virus reveals the physics of nanopores

June 16, 2014 4:36 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Nanopores may one day lead a revolution in DNA sequencing. By sliding DNA molecules one at a time through tiny holes in a thin membrane, it may be possible to decode long stretches of DNA at lightning speeds. Scientists, however, haven’t quite figured out the physics of how polymer strands like DNA interact with nanopores.

With the right rehabilitation, paralyzed rats learn to grip again

June 16, 2014 2:58 pm | News | Comments

After a large stroke, motor skills barely improve, even with rehabilitation. An experiment conducted on rats demonstrates that a course of therapy combining the stimulation of nerve fiber growth with drugs and motor training can be successful. The key, however, is the correct sequence: Paralyzed animals only make an almost complete recovery if the training is delayed until after the growth promoting drugs have been administered.

Sensor in eye could track pressure changes, monitor glaucoma

June 16, 2014 2:21 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Your eye could someday house its own high-tech information center, tracking important changes and letting you know when it’s time to see an eye doctor. Univ. of Washington engineers have designed a low-power sensor that could be placed permanently in a person’s eye to track hard-to-measure changes in eye pressure.

Bionic pancreas may revolutionize diabetes treatment

June 16, 2014 10:39 am | by Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists have made big progress on a "bionic pancreas" to free some people with diabetes from the daily ordeal of managing their disease. A wearable, experimental device passed a real-world test, constantly monitoring blood sugar and automatically giving insulin or a sugar-boosting drug as needed, doctors say.

How cormorants emerge dry after deep dives

June 16, 2014 7:46 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Feathers have long been recognized as a classic example of efficient water-shedding—as in the well-known expression “like water off a duck’s back.” A combination of modeling and laboratory tests has now determined how both chemistry—the preening oil that birds use—and the microstructure of feathers, with their barbs and barbules, allow birds to stay dry even after emerging from amazingly deep dives.

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