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.
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.
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.
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.
Sensors developed by SmartCardia, a spin-off from EPFL in Switzerland, use various biological vital signs to transmit data to a host of everyday objects. This data, which includes heart rate, respiration activity, skin conductivity and physical exertion, can be used dim a light, control immersive playing on a computer, and track yoga exercises in real time.
Scientists report that they have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide. This finding has resulted in a unique electric generator and could point the way to mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.
The European Space Agency has confirmed the time and place it will attempt to land the first spacecraft on a comet. The unmanned probe Rosetta will release a 100-kg (220-lb) lander on Nov. 12 in a maneuver that will take about seven hours.
Mark Skwarek has raised over $30,000 on the group fundraising site Kickstarter to launch Semblance Augmented Reality (AR). His company aims to liberate video games from the TV and turn them into physical experiences, such as battling militants in New York’s Central Park. He's poised to release Semblance AR's first app for iOS and Android phones.
Researchers from the Univ. of Sheffield have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s. Mutations in a gene called LRRK2 carry a well-established risk for Parkinson’s disease, however the basis for this link is unclear.
It’s not as bizarre as it sounds. Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times throughout the planet’s history. Its dipole magnetic field, like that of a bar magnet, remains about the same intensity for thousands to millions of years, but for incompletely known reasons it occasionally weakens and, presumably over a few thousand years, reverses direction.
Swedish and Chinese researchers have recently shown how a unique nano-alloy composed of palladium nano-islands embedded in tungsten nanoparticles creates a new type of catalysts for highly efficient oxygen reduction, the most important reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Some people might consider mucus an icky bodily secretion best left wrapped in a tissue, but to a group of researchers in North Carolina, snot is an endlessly fascinating subject. The team has developed a way to use gold nanoparticles and light to measure the stickiness of the slimy substance that lines our airways. The new method could help doctors better monitor and treat lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have created a synthetic molecule that mimics “good” cholesterol and have shown it can reduce plaque buildup in the arteries of animal models. The molecule, taken orally, improved cholesterol in just two weeks.
Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.
The advent of digital cameras and smartphones killed the traditional mall portrait studio, but 3-D printing has sparked a new trend. Overloaded with digital photos, statues may be moving in to fulfill our desire for portraits that stand out. New York's Museum of Art and Design offered scans and statues earlier this year. Shapeways, the company that supplied the exhibit, scanned about 6,000 people and sold about 1,500 statues for $30.
What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin? Much more than you might imagine. Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is applying “morphometrics”, which statistically tests hypotheses about factors that affect shape, to changes in the shape of violins over time. His work revealed a strong degree of design transmission and imitation.
An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called "radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers.
Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as “dark” spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for “bright” spin-singlet excitons.
It is estimated that as many as half of patients taking cancer drugs experience a decrease in mental sharpness, but what causes “chemo brain” has eluded scientists. In the study involving a sea snail that shares many of the same memory mechanisms as humans and a drug used to treat cancer, scientists in Texas identified memory mechanisms blocked by the drug. Then, they were able to counteract the mechanisms by administering another agent.
Anyone who has blown a bubble and seen how quickly it pops has first-hand experience on the major challenge in creating stable foams. At its most basic level, foam is a bunch of bubbles squished together. Liquid foams, a state of matter that arises from tiny gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid, are familiar in everyday life, from beer to bathwater. They also are important in commercial products and processes.
Scientists have long known that your DNA influences how much java you consume. Now a huge study has identified some genes that may play a role. Their apparent effect is quite small. But variations in such genes may modify coffee's effect on a person's health, and so genetic research may help scientists explore that.
According to two recent studies, viruses can convert their DNA from solid to fluid form, explaining how viruses manage to eject DNA into the cells of their victims. The researchers in one study, which focused on herpes infections, say the discovery was surprising: No one was previously aware of the “phase transition” from solid to fluid form in virus DNA.
Trying on clothes when a shop is closed could become a reality thanks to new research that uses semi-transparent mirrors in interactive systems. The innovation, which builds on a mirror’s ability to map a reflection to one unique point behind the mirror, independently of the observer’s location, could change the way people interact and collaborate in public spaces, such as museums and shop windows.
Beneath the waves, many creatures sport iridescent structures that rival what scientists can make in the laboratory. A research team has now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new solar panels or improved ways to grow biofuel.
Washington State University undergraduate Kellie Wall, 21, recently looked for evidence that water influenced crystal formation in basalt, the dark volcanic rock that covers most of eastern Washington and Oregon. She then compared this with volcanic rock observations made by the rover Curiosity on Mars’ Gale Crater, inventing a new method for detecting water on Mars.