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A mollusk of a different stripe

February 26, 2015 10:59 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

The blue-rayed limpet is a tiny mollusk that lives in kelp beds along the coasts of Norway, Iceland, the U.K., Portugal and the Canary Islands. These diminutive organisms might escape notice entirely, if not for a very conspicuous feature: bright blue dotted lines that run in parallel along the length of their translucent shells. Depending on the angle at which light hits, a limpet’s shell can flash brilliantly even in murky water.

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The body’s transformers

February 26, 2015 8:59 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | Comments

Like the shape-shifting robots of "Transformers" fame, a unique class of proteins in the human body also has the ability to alter their configuration. These so-named intrinsically disordered proteins lack a fixed or ordered 3-D structure, which can be influenced by exposure to various chemicals and cellular modifications. A new study looked at a particular IDP called tau, which plays a critical role in human physiology.

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Carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at Earth’s surface

February 26, 2015 8:12 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Comments

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect at the Earth’s surface for the first time. The researchers, led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s increasing capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface over an eleven-year period at two locations in North America.

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A simple way to make and reconfigure complex emulsions

February 26, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a new way to make complex liquid mixtures, known as emulsions, that could have many applications in drug delivery, sensing, cleaning up pollutants and performing chemical reactions. Many drugs, vaccines, cosmetics and lotions are emulsions, in which tiny droplets of one liquid are suspended in another liquid.

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New flow battery to keep big cities lit, green and safe

February 25, 2015 10:27 am | by Frances White, PNNL | Comments

Ensuring the power grid keeps the lights on in large cities could be easier with a new battery design that packs far more energy than any other battery of its kind and size. The new zinc-polyiodide redox flow battery, described in Nature Communications, uses an electrolyte that has more than two times the energy density of the next-best flow battery used to store renewable energy and support the power grid.

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Geysers have loops in their plumbing

February 25, 2015 8:25 am | by Robert Sanders, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Comments

Geysers like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park erupt periodically because of loops or side-chambers in their underground plumbing, according to recent studies by volcanologists at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. The key to geysers is an underground bend or loop that traps steam and then bubbles it out slowly to heat the water column above until it is just short of boiling.

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First glimpse of a chemical bond being born

February 13, 2015 1:49 pm | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Comments

Scientists have used an x-ray laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to get the first glimpse of the transition state where two atoms begin to form a weak bond on the way to becoming a molecule. This fundamental advance, long thought impossible, will have a profound impact on the understanding of how chemical reactions take place.

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New tool monitors effects of tidal, wave energy on marine habitat

February 6, 2015 12:07 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Comments

Researchers building a new underwater robot they’ve dubbed the “Millennium Falcon” certainly have reason to believe it will live up to its name. The robot will deploy instruments to gather information in unprecedented detail about how marine life interacts with underwater equipment used to harvest wave and tidal energy.

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How oxygen is kryptonite to titanium

February 6, 2015 11:00 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley scientists have found the mechanism by which titanium, prized for its high strength-to-weight ratio and natural resistance to corrosion, becomes brittle with just a few extra atoms of oxygen. The discovery has the potential to open the door to more practical, cost-effective uses of titanium in a broader range of applications.

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High-efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

February 6, 2015 8:23 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | Comments

Ultra-high-efficiency solar cells similar to those used in space may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar concentration technology. The falling cost of typical silicon solar cells is making them a smaller and smaller fraction of the overall cost of solar electricity, which also includes "soft" costs like permitting, wiring, installation and maintenance that have remained fixed over time.

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Octopus robot makes waves with ultra-fast propulsion

February 5, 2015 10:47 am | by Glenn Harris, Univ. of Southampton | Comments

Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot, which can zoom through water with ultra-fast propulsion and acceleration never before seen in man-made underwater vehicles. Most fast aquatic animals are sleek and slender to help them move easily through the water but cephalopods, such as the octopus, are capable of high-speed escapes by filling their bodies with water and then quickly expelling it to dart away.

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Tiny robotic hands could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery

February 4, 2015 10:08 am | by American Chemical Society | Comments

Many people imagine robots today as clunky, metal versions of humans, but scientists are forging new territory in the field of “soft robotics”. One of the latest advances is a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper. The development could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures or perform biopsies. The materials also could someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places.

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Why do zebras have stripes?

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

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Potential new drug target for lung cancer

January 26, 2015 11:23 am | by Allison Perry, Univ. of Kentucky | Comments

A new study by Univ. of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center researchers suggests that targeting a key enzyme and its associated metabolic programming may lead to novel drug development to treat lung cancer. Cancer cells undergo metabolic alterations to meet the increased energy demands that support their excess growth and survival.

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New way to model sickle cell behavior

January 20, 2015 10:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Patients with sickle cell disease often suffer from painful attacks known as vaso-occlusive crises, during which their sickle-shaped blood cells get stuck in tiny capillaries, depriving tissues of needed oxygen. Blood transfusions can sometimes prevent such attacks, but there are currently no good ways to predict when a vaso-occlusive crisis, which can last for several days, is imminent.

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