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Hubble captures rare triple-moon conjunction

February 6, 2015 10:11 am | by Ray Villard, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Firing off a string of action snapshots like a sports photographer at a NASCAR race, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured the rare occurrence of three of Jupiter's largest moons racing across the banded face of the gas-giant planet: Europa, Callisto and Io.

A closer look at flawed studies behind policies used to promote “low-carbon” biofuels

February 6, 2015 8:56 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Nearly all studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels are flawed and need to be redone, according to a Univ. of Michigan researcher. Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuels actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.

Scientists identify nature of candy sculpture

February 6, 2015 8:45 am | by James Devitt, New York Univ. | News | Comments

A team of scientists has identified the complex process by which materials are shaped and ultimately dissolved by surrounding water currents. The study, conducted by researchers at New York Univ. (NYU)’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Florida State Univ., appears in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

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Pigeon power

February 5, 2015 7:50 am | by Sara Agnew, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

The more scientists study pigeons, the more they learn how their brains operate in ways not so different from our own. In a new study from the Univ. of Iowa, researchers found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.

Noncommittal material could make for hypersensitive magnetic direction detector

February 4, 2015 11:07 am | by Mark Esser, NIST | News | Comments

While the mysterious, unseen forces magnets project are now (mostly) well understood, they can still occasionally surprise us. For instance, thin films of cobalt have been observed to spontaneously switch their poles: something that typically doesn’t happen in the absence of an external magnetic field. Physicists at NIST and the Univ. of Maryland have measured this phenomenon on the largest scale yet.

Industrial pump inspired by flapping bird wings

February 4, 2015 8:26 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Birds are unwitting masters of fluid dynamics: They manipulate airflow each time they flap their wings, pushing air in one direction and moving themselves in another. Two New York Univ. researchers have taken inspiration from avian locomotion strategies and created a pump that moves fluid using vibration instead of a rotor.

Penta-graphene: A new structural variant of carbon, discovered

February 4, 2015 8:17 am | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. and universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon called "penta-graphene", a very thin sheet of pure carbon that has a unique structure inspired by a pentagonal pattern of tiles found paving the streets of Cairo.

Getting yeast to pump up the protein production

February 3, 2015 11:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

From manufacturing life-saving biopharmaceuticals to producing energy-efficient biofuels, the cost-effective production of proteins will be essential to revolutionizing the future of health care and energy. For years, scientists have turned to yeast as a quick and inexpensive way to mass-produce proteins for a variety of useful products. Now Northwestern Univ. has found a way to gather more protein without making the yeast produce more.

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Wrinkle predictions

February 3, 2015 8:20 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As a grape slowly dries and shrivels, its surface creases, ultimately taking on the wrinkled form of a raisin. Similar patterns can be found on the surfaces of other dried materials, as well as in human fingerprints. While these patterns have long been observed in nature, and more recently in experiments, scientists have not been able to come up with a way to predict how such patterns arise in curved systems, such as microlenses.

Why moderate drinking might be healthy for some

February 2, 2015 10:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with health benefits in some, but not all, studies. Researchers at the Yale Univ. School of Medicine may have found an explanation, in part, for why non-smokers might benefit from a glass of wine.

Tasting light

January 30, 2015 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Human taste receptors are specialized to distinguish several distinct compounds: sugars taste sweet, salts taste salty, and acidic compounds taste sour. Now a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that the worm Caenorhabditis elegans has taken its powers of detection a step further: The worm can taste hydrogen peroxide, triggering it to stop eating the potentially dangerous substance.

Why do zebras have stripes?

January 30, 2015 8:53 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Videos | Comments

One of nature’s fascinating questions is how zebras got their stripes. A team of life scientists led by Univ. of California, Los Angeles has found at least part of the answer: The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live.

Poll shows giant gap between what public, scientists think

January 29, 2015 3:19 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

  The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98% of surveyed scientists say it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about. Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization.

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Beer compound could help fend off Alzheimer’s

January 28, 2015 10:40 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The health-promoting perks of wine have attracted the spotlight recently, leaving beer in the shadows. But scientists are discovering new ways in which the latter could be a more healthful beverage than once thought. They’re now reporting that a compound from hops could protect brain cells from damage, and potentially slow the development of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

“Bulletproof” battery

January 28, 2015 9:55 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New battery technology from the Univ. of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery. Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.

Weighing gas with sound and microwaves

January 26, 2015 10:30 am | by NIST | News | Comments

NIST scientists have developed a novel method to rapidly and accurately calibrate gas flow meters, such as those used to measure natural gas flowing in pipelines, by applying a fundamental physical principle: When a sound wave travels through a gas containing temperature gradients, the sound wave's average speed is determined by the average temperature of the gas.

Chemists find a way to unboil eggs

January 26, 2015 9:25 am | by Janet Wilson, Univ. of California, Irvine | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites, an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published in ChemBioChem.

Slowing down the speed of light traveling through air

January 23, 2015 9:30 am | by Univ. of Glasgow | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that the speed of light can be slowed slightly as it travels through materials such as water or glass. However, it has generally been thought impossible for particles of light, known as photons, to be slowed as they travel through free space, unimpeded by interactions with any materials.

Trust your gut

January 23, 2015 9:01 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

E. coli usually brings to mind food poisoning and beach closures, but researchers recently discovered a protein in E. coli that inhibits the accumulation of potentially toxic amyloids, a hallmark of diseases such as Parkinson's. Amyloids are formed by proteins that misfold and group together, and when amyloids assemble at the wrong place or time, they can damage brain tissue and cause cell death.

Atomic Scientists: We're getting even closer to doomsday

January 22, 2015 2:18 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Earth is now closer to human-caused doomsday than it has been in more than 30 years because of global warming and nuclear weaponry. But other experts say that's way too gloomy. The advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb moved their famed "Doomsday Clock" ahead two minutes on Thursday.

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.

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.

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