In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. Now scientists at Stanford Univ. have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.
As anyone who has bitten into a chili pepper knows, its burning spiciness—though irresistible to some—is intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper’s effect are using their findings to develop a new drug candidate for many kinds of pain, which can be caused by inflammation or other problems. They reported their progress on the compound, which is being tested in clinical trials, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
While it's becoming commonplace for patients to see the results of laboratory work electronically, a new Univ. of Michigan study suggests that many people may not be able to understand what those numbers mean. The research found that people with low comprehension of numerical concepts—or numeracy—and low literacy skills were less than half as likely to understand whether a result was inside or outside the reference ranges.
By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere. The new technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 10 m away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.
For the past 10 years, scientists have been fascinated by a type of “electric bacteria” that shoots out long tendrils like electric wires, using them to power themselves and transfer electricity to a variety of solid surfaces. A team led by scientists has now turned the study of these bacterial nanowires on its head, discovering that the key features in question are not pili as previously believed.
Rice Univ. scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of the first virus known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth. The Rice laboratories of structural biologist Yizhi Jane Tao and geneticist Weiwei Zhong, with help from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington Univ., analyzed the Orsay virus that naturally infects a certain type of nematode, the worms that make up 80% of the living animal population.
This could be a classic win-win solution: A system proposed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology recycles materials from discarded car batteries—a potential source of lead pollution—into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power. The system is based on a recent development in solar cells that makes use of a compound called perovskite.
Since 2006, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft delivered its aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors back to Earth, a team of scientists has combed through them. They now report finding seven dust motes that probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion and altered by eons of exposure to the extremes of space. They would be the first confirmed samples of contemporary interstellar dust.
Previous research into the health impacts of in utero exposure to the 9/11 dust cloud on birth outcomes has shown little evidence of consistent effects. But according to a new paper pregnant women living near the World Trade Center during 9/11 experienced higher-than-normal negative birth outcomes. These mothers were more likely to give birth prematurely and deliver babies with low birth weights.
The “Bearded Man, 170-180 A.D.” is a Roman-Egyptian portrait that adorned the sarcophagus sheltering his mummified remains. The details of who he was have been lost to time, but a microscopic sliver of painted wood could hold the keys to unraveling the first part of this centuries-old mystery. Figuring out what kind of pigment was used, and the exact materials used to create it, could help scientists unlock his identity.
A large international study questions the conventional wisdom that most people should cut back on salt, suggesting that the amount most folks consume is okay for heart health—and too little may be as bad as too much. The findings came under immediate attack by other scientists. Limiting salt is still important for people with high blood pressure.
In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers report that they have designed a sensor in the form of a temporary tattoo that can both monitor a person’s progress during exercise and produce power from their perspiration.
Injuries, birth defects (such as cleft palates) or surgery to remove a tumor can create gaps in bone that are too large to heal naturally. And when they occur in the head, face or jaw, these bone defects can dramatically alter a person’s appearance. Researchers have developed a “self-fitting” material that expands with warm salt water to precisely fill bone defects, and also acts as a scaffold for new bone growth.
Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have developed a model that explains how geckos, as well as spiders and some insects, can run up and down walls, cling to ceilings and seemingly defy gravity with such effortless grace. This ability is a remarkable mechanism in the toes of geckos that uses tiny, branched hairs called “seta” that can instantly turn their stickiness on and off, and even “unstick” their feet without using any energy.
An international team of researchers has taken a significant step towards understanding the fundamental properties of the 2-D material silicene by showing that it can remain stable in the presence of oxygen. In a study published in 2D Materials, the researchers have shown that thick multi-layers of silicene can be isolated from parent material silicon and remain intact when exposed to air for at least 24 hrs.
The Jurassic and Cretaceous periods were the golden age of dinosaurs, during which the prehistoric giants roamed the Earth for nearly 135 million years. Paleontologists have unearthed numerous fossils from these periods, suggesting that dinosaurs were abundant throughout the world. But where and when dinosaurs first came into existence has been difficult to ascertain.
Rutgers Univ. researchers have shown that GPS technology is not needed to show where a driver traveled. A starting point and the driver's speed are enough when using a technique dubbed “elastic pathing”, which predicts pathways by seeing how speed patterns match street layouts. This could cause concerns for privacy, however, since many insurance companies offer discounts in return for customers allowing their driving habits to be monitored.
The universe’s oldest, brightest beacons may have gorged themselves in the dense, cold, gas flows of the early cosmos—creating a kind of energy drink for infant black holes in the young universe—according to new research by scientists at Yale Univ. and the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
A multi-institutional team has resolved a long-unanswered question about how two of the world’s most common substances interact. In a paper published recently in Nature Communications, an international team reported fundamental discoveries about how water reacts with metal oxides. The paper opens doors for greater understanding and control of chemical reactions in fields ranging from catalysis to geochemistry and atmospheric chemistry.
A bug can turn you into a vegetarian, or at least make you swear off red meat. Doctors across the nation are seeing a surge of sudden meat allergies in people bitten by a certain kind of tick. This bizarre problem was only discovered a few years ago but is growing as the ticks spread from the Southwest and the East to more parts of the United States.
For the first time, researchers have succeeded in "growing" single-wall carbon nanotubes (CNT) with a single predefined structure, and hence with identical electronic properties. The method involved self-assembly of tailor-made organic precursor molecules on a platinum surface. In the future, carbon nanotubes of this kind may be used in ultra-sensitive light detectors and ultra-small transistors.
It's long been known that faulty BRCA genes greatly raise the risk for breast cancer. Now scientists say a more recently identified, less common gene can do the same. Mutations in the gene can make breast cancer up to nine times more likely to develop, an international team of researchers reports in the New England Journal of Medicine.
MIT engineers have fabricated a new elastic material coated with microscopic, hairlike structures that tilt in response to a magnetic field. Depending on the field’s orientation, the microhairs can tilt to form a path through which fluid can flow; the material can even direct water upward, against gravity. Researchers say structures may be used in windows to wick away moisture.
To help them further the study of cell function, a team of Stanford Univ. bioengineers has designed a suite of protein motors that can be controlled remotely by light. Splicing together DNA from different organisms such as pig, slime mold and oat, which has a light-detecting module, the team created DNA codes for each of their protein motors. When exposed to light, the new protein motors change direction or speed.
Scientists report they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain. Their study, of fruit flies and honey bees, shows a direct, causal link between brain metabolism and aggression. The new research follows up on previous work from the laboratory of Univ. of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who also led the new analysis.