With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds—running birds. Although birds are designed primarily for flight, scientists have learned that species that predominately live on land and scurry around on the ground are also some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals.
The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, cytokinesis, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists but has been notoriously difficult to study. Now Harvard Medical School systems biologists report that they have reconstituted cytokinesis, complete with signals that direct molecular traffic, without the cell.
In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a contentious public policy issue. Yet it’s also an issue that requires a public consensus to support policies that might curb or counteract it. According to research, the task of educating the public about climate change might be made easier or more difficult depending on their perception of short-term versus long-term temperature changes.
If the surroundings are designed to be sufficiently stimulating, even a simple computer screen is enough to generate an intense cinematic experience. After observing some 300 study subjects, researchers in Germany have concluded that the angle of viewing does not play a vital role in the cinematic experience. Instead, the presence of so-called contextual visual cues plays a greater role in actually drawing viewers into a movie.
Scientists in Europe have developed a chemical “processor” which reliably shows the fastest way through a city maze. Because the method is basically faster than a satellite navigation system, it could be useful in transport planning and logistics in the future, for instance.
Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful.
Google executive Alan Eustace broke the sound barrier and set several skydiving records over the southern New Mexico desert early Friday after taking a big leap from the edge of space. Eustace's supersonic jump was part of a project by Paragon Space Development Corp., which has been working secretly for years to develop a self-contained commercial spacesuit that would allow people to explore some 20 miles above the Earth's surface.
Helium is a famously unreactive gas but when cooled to just above absolute zero it becomes a superfluid, a strange form of liquid. An Anglo-Austrian team has used this liquid to develop a completely new way of forming charged particles. The team’s key discovery is that helium atoms can acquire an excess negative charge which enables them to become aggressive new chemical reagents.
Researchers at the New York Univ. Polytechnic School of Engineering have broken new ground in the development of proteins that form specialized fibers used in medicine and nanotechnology. For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-assembling into fibers, their work has taken place on the nanoscale. For the first time, this achievement has been realized on the microscale.
At first glance, the static, greyscale display created by a group of researchers in Hong Kong might not catch the eye of a thoughtful consumer in a market saturated with flashy, colorful electronics. But a closer look at the specs could change that: the ultra-thin LCD screen is capable of holding 3-D images without a power source, making it a compact, energy-efficient way to display visual information.
For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-assembling into fibers, scientists’ work has taken place on the nanoscale. For the first time, this achievement has been realized on the microscale, a leap of magnitude in size that presents significant new opportunities for using engineered protein fibers.
An international team of scientists have become the first to successfully reach temperatures below -272.15 C, which is just above absolute zero, using magnetic molecules. The effort, which avoids the use of helium, depends on a form of gadolinium that appropriately has a structure resembling a snowflake.
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.