Gardiner’s frogs from the Seychelles islands, one of the smallest frogs in the world, do not possess a middle ear with an eardrum yet can croak themselves, and hear other frogs. An international team of scientists using x-rays has now solved this mystery and established that these frogs are using their mouth cavity and tissue to transmit sound to their inner ears.
Biological cells are surrounded by a membrane, which researchers in Denmark have can contain beautiful, mysterious patterns. Formed by highly organized lipids, the patterns vary according to conditions such as temperature and the type of lipid molecules. Extremely difficult to detect, these patterns have as yet no known biological function.
By lowering the expression of a single gene, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have extended the average lifespan of a group of mice by about 20%—the equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years. The research team targeted a gene called mTOR, which is involved in metabolism and energy balance, and may be connected with the increased lifespan associated with caloric restriction.
Steven Benner of Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology will tell geochemists gathering Thursday at the annual Goldschmidt conference that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available on the surface of Mars and not on Earth.
As blind people can testify, humans can hear more than one might think. The blind learn to navigate using as guides the echoes of sounds they themselves make. This enables them to sense the locations of walls and corners by tapping a stick to generate sound waves that bounce off surfaces. Biologists in Germany have now shown that sighted people can also learn to echolocate objects in space.
When a beating heart slips into an irregular, life-threatening rhythm, the treatment is well known: deliver a burst of electric current from a pacemaker or defibrillator. But because the electricity itself can cause pain, tissue damage and other serious side-effects, a Johns Hopkins-led research team wants to use laboratory data and an intricate computer model replace these jolts with a kinder, gentler remedy: light.
Leveraging the amazing natural properties of the Morpho butterfly's wings, scientists have developed a hybrid material that shows promise for wearable electronic devices, highly sensitive light sensors and sustainable batteries. A honeycomb network of carbon nanotubes has actually been grown on Morpho butterfly wings, creating a composite material that can be activated with a laser.
Professor Jim Geelen of the Univ. of Waterloo, Ontario, and his colleagues in The Netherlands and New Zealand have, after almost 15 years of work, solved a mathematical problem posed by the famous mathematician and philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota in 1970. The problem, called Rota’s Conjecture, relates to a specialized area of mathematics known as matroid theory, a modern form of geometry.
Univ. of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher. Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.
A simple pendulum has two equilibrium points, “down” and “up”. The “up”, or inverted, position is dynamically unstable, but it has been known that an inverted pendulum can be stabilized by vibrating the pivot point. This non-intuitive phenomenon is known as dynamic stabilization, and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have utilized the phenomenon to steady an unstable quantum system by applying bursts of microwave radiation.
Google Glass is designed to work like a smartphone that's worn like a pair of glasses. Although it looks like a prop from a science fiction movie, the device is capturing imaginations beyond the realm of nerds. Some 10,000 people are trying out an early version of Glass, most of them selected as part of a contest. Their feedback reveals some advantages and shortcomings of the technology.
A simple kitchen sink experiment helped Northwestern Univ. researchers discover that green tea leaves not only can be used to steep a good cup of tea, but they make an excellent antibacterial coating, too. And so can red wine, dark chocolate and cacao beans, they found. It's the powerful and healthful polyphenols at work in a new way.
So far, it not been possible to build x-ray lasers as compact devices based on a solid, such as conventional laser diodes. The energy required is too high and the intensity is too great. Now, by taking advantage of the laser principle of stimulated emission, scientists in Germany have used a free-electron laser to create an x-ray based on a solid. In so doing, they have opened up an unusual new avenue of analysis.
The world’s most expensive coffee can cost $80 a cup, and scientists now are reporting development of the first way to verify authenticity of this crème de la crème, the beans of which come from the feces of a Southeast Asian animal called a palm civet.
Using a modern twist on a technology developed in the 1920s, researchers at Princeton Univ. have embedded ultrathin radios directly on plastic sheets, which can be applied to walls and other structures. The innovation could serve as the basis for new devices ranging from an invisible communications system inside buildings to sophisticated structural monitors for bridges and roads.
Liquid crystals are composed of long, thin, rod-like molecules which align themselves so they all point in the same direction. By controlling the alignment of these molecules, scientists can literally tie them in a knot. Researchers in the U.K. have done just this, tying knots in liquid crystals using a miniature Möbius strip made from silica particles.
By determining the 3-D structure of proteins at the atomic level, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered how some commonly used flame retardants, called brominated flame retardants (BFRs), can mimic estrogen hormones and possibly disrupt the body’s endocrine system. BFRs are chemicals added or applied to materials to slow or prevent the start or growth of fire.
Virginia Tech’s Sunny Jung has recently published work on fluid flow that speaks to the reaction of thin films of liquid when compressed vertically between two objects. The “outburst” of fluid motion is captured in a simple experiment involving the clapping of wet hands. The film is ejected radially and generates fluid treads and droplets at a high speed.
Fingerprints are not the only thing that killers can leave behind—add cat hair to that list. A British university said Wednesday that its DNA database of British felines helped convict a man of manslaughter, illustrating how the genetic material of pets can be used by crime scene investigators.
Scientists in France and China have embedded dye molecules in a liquid crystal matrix to throttle the group velocity of light back to less than one billionth of its top speed. The team says the ability to slow light in this manner may one day lead to new technologies in remote sensing and measurement science.
Watermelon juice’s reputation among athletes is getting scientific support in a new study, which found that juice from the summer favorite fruit can relieve post-exercise muscle soreness. The report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry attributes watermelon’s effects to the amino acid L-citrulline.
Officials demanded Monday that an advertising firm stop using a network of high-tech trash cans to track people walking through London's financial district. The Renew ad firm has been using technology embedded in the hulking receptacles to measure the Wi-Fi signals emitted by smartphones, and suggested that it would apply the concept of "cookies"—tracking files that follow Internet users across the Web—to the physical world.
One of the biggest mysteries in contemporary particle physics and cosmology is why dark energy, which is observed to dominate energy density of the universe, has a remarkably small (but not zero) value. Now, two physicists suggest that the recently discovered Higgs boson could provide a possible “portal” to physics that could help explain some of the attributes of the enigmatic dark energy and help resolve the cosmological constant problem.
If aliens ever target Earth, Jon Gibson and Amanda White are counting on them having an appreciation for pop art and a sense of humor. The duo has created an elaborate, Andy Warhol-like design that has been etched into a satellite's panel, transforming the spacecraft into a replica of an oversized electrical charging device. Is it the world’s first orbiting work of art? Possibly.
Twice as fast as an airplane, cheaper than a bullet train and completely self-powered: that's the mysterious transportation system that inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk is promising to reveal design plans for Monday. Musk has been dropping hints about his "Hyperloop" system for more than a year, mentioning that it could never crash, would be immune to weather and would move people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour.