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Used-cigarette butts offer energy storage solution

August 5, 2014 11:08 am | News | Comments

A group of scientists from South Korea have converted used-cigarette butts into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines to store energy. In published research, the team has demonstrated that the cellulose acetate fibres that cigarette filters are mostly composed of could be transformed into a carbon-based material using pyrolysis.

Scientists solve 2,000-year-old Terracotta Army mystery

August 4, 2014 10:12 am | News | Comments

China's first emperor ordered the building of a glorious underground palace complex, mirroring his imperial capital, that would last for an eternity. Protecting this underworld palace was his imperial guard, cast in terracotta. Efforts to preserve the 1974 archaeological find have been hampered by failures to pinpoint the binding material used in applying pigments to the soldiers. Mass spectrometry studies have recently solved this mystery.

NASA to test making rocket fuel on Mars

August 4, 2014 8:16 am | News | Comments

Taking fuel to Mars for return flights is heavy and expensive. The $1.9 billion Mars 2020 rover that NASA announced on Friday will include an experiment that will turn carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. It could then be used to make rocket fuel and for future astronauts to breathe. The device, named MOXIE, will make about three-quarters of an ounce of oxygen an hour.

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Toward a home test for detecting potentially dangerous levels of caffeine

July 31, 2014 8:37 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The shocking news of an Ohio teen who died of a caffeine overdose in May highlighted the potential dangers of the normally well-tolerated and mass-consumed substance. To help prevent serious health problems that can arise from consuming too much caffeine, scientists are reporting progress toward a rapid, at-home test to detect even low levels of the stimulant in most beverages and even breast milk.

Scientists separate a particle from its properties

July 30, 2014 9:59 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Austria have performed the first separation of a particle from one of its properties. The study showed that in an interferometer a neutron’s magnetic moment could be measured independently of the neutron itself, thereby marking the first experimental observation of a new quantum paradox known as the “Cheshire cat”.

World’s smallest propeller could be used for microscopic medicine

July 30, 2014 9:29 am | by Kevin Hattori, American Technion Society | News | Comments

An Israeli and German research team have succeeded in creating a tiny screw-shaped propeller that can move in a gel-like fluid, mimicking the environment inside a living organism. The filament that makes up the propeller, made of silica and nickel, is only 70 nm in diameter. The entire propeller is just 400 nm long.

Brainwaves can predict audience reaction for TV programming

July 30, 2014 7:47 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Media and marketing experts have long sought a reliable method of forecasting responses from the general population to future products and messages. According to a study conducted at the City College of New York in partnership with Georgia Tech, it appears that the brain responses of just a few individuals are a remarkably strong predictor.

Lead pollution beat explorers to South Pole, persists today

July 29, 2014 9:25 am | by Justin Broglio, Desert Research Institute | News | Comments

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole in December 1911. More than 100 years later, an international team of scientists that includes a NASA researcher has proven that air pollution from industrial activities arrived to the planet’s southern pole long before any human.

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UConn makes 3-D copies of antique instrument parts

July 28, 2014 10:57 am | by Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press | News | Comments

The medical practice of Dr. Robert Howe, a reproductive endocrinologist in Massachusetts, introduced him to how computerized tomography could make precise 3-D images of body parts. As a student of music history, he realized the same technology could help him study delicate musical instruments from the past. With the help of engineers, these rare instruments are now being both imaged and printed printed in 3-D.

Novel virus discovered in half the world’s population

July 25, 2014 7:14 am | by Michael Price, San Diego State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Virologists and biologists in California have identified a highly abundant, never-before-described virus that could play a major role in obesity, diabetes. The virus, named crAssphage, has about 10 times as many base pairs of DNA as HIV and infects one of the most common types of gut bacteria. This phylum of bacteria is thought to be connected with obesity, diabetes and other gut-related diseases.

Just 8.2% of our DNA is “functional”

July 25, 2014 6:59 am | News | Comments

According to recently published research, scientists in the U.K. say that just 8.2% of human DNA is likely to be doing something important, or “functional”. This figure is very different from one given in 2012, when some scientists involved in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project stated that 80% of our genome has some biochemical function.

The microbes make the sake brewery

July 25, 2014 6:56 am | News | Comments

According to recent research that marks the first time investigators have taken a microbial census of a sake brewery, the microbial populations found on surfaces in the facility resemble those found in the product, creating the final flavor. This means a sake brewery has its own microbial terroir.

Study: Forward osmosis desalination not energy efficient

July 24, 2014 7:37 am | by Alissa Mallinson | MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering | News | Comments

In a recent study published in the Journal of Membrane Science, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team reported that, contrary to popular support, forward osmosis desalination of seawater is significantly less energy efficient, compared to reverse osmosis. In forward osmosis, water is drawn from the seawater into a concentrated salt solution, known as a draw solution.

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Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye

July 23, 2014 4:07 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

A new approach in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: Targeting alien polluters

July 23, 2014 11:09 am | by David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Humanity is on the threshold of being able to detect signs of alien life on other worlds. By studying exoplanet atmospheres, we can look for gases like oxygen and methane that only coexist if replenished by life. But those gases come from simple life forms like microbes. What about advanced civilizations? Would they leave any detectable signs?

Researchers pioneer a Google street view of galaxies

July 23, 2014 9:55 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving Australian astronomers the first “Google street view” of the cosmos—incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. Developed by researchers at the Univ. of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the optical-fiber bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time.

NASA’s Fermi space telescope finds a “transformer” pulsar

July 23, 2014 9:19 am | Videos | Comments

In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It was as if someone flipped a switch on the pulsar.

Researchers create vaccine for dust-mite allergies

July 23, 2014 8:32 am | by Richard C. Lewis, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

If you’re allergic to dust mites, help may be on the way. Researchers at the Univ. of Iowa have developed a vaccine that can combat dust-mite allergies by naturally switching the body’s immune response. In animal tests, the nano-sized vaccine package lowered lung inflammation by 83% despite repeated exposure to the allergens.

Technique simplifies the creation of high-tech crystals

July 22, 2014 2:29 pm | News | Comments

Highly purified crystals that split light with precision are valued in specialized optics. But photonic crystals are difficult to make with current techniques, namely electron beam etching. Researchers at Princeton and Columbia universities have proposed a new method derived from colloidal suspensions that could allow scientists to customize and grow optimal crystals with relative ease.

Reconstructing an animal’s development cell by cell

July 21, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Janelia Research Campus experts have built a new computational method that can essentially automate much of the time-consuming process of reconstructing an animal's developmental building plan cell by cell. Using image data obtaining using a sophisticated form of light sheet microscopy, the tool can track the movement of cells in an animal’s body in 3-D.

Steam from the sun

July 21, 2014 7:55 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new material structure developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure—a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam—is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam.

Medical marijuana researcher fired by university

July 18, 2014 9:21 pm | by Astrid Galvan - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Veterans, medical marijuana activists and scientists welcomed the first federally approved research into pot as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. But their hopes for the research were dashed when the Univ. of Arizona fired researcher Suzanne Sisley, who undertook the study after clearing four years of bureaucratic hurdles.

Researchers create new method to draw molecules from live cells

July 18, 2014 12:30 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Most current methods of identifying intracellular information result in the death of the individual cells, making it impossible to continue to gain information and assess change over time. Using magnetized carbon nanotubes, scientists in Texas have devised a new method for extracting molecules from live cells without disrupting cell development.

Nature’s strongest glue comes unstuck

July 18, 2014 11:23 am | News | Comments

Barnacle glue, or cement, sticks to any surface, under any conditions. And it’s still far better than anything we have been able to develop synthetically. Now, over 150 years since it was first described by Charles Darwin, scientists are finally uncovering the secrets behind the super strength of barnacle glue.

Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

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