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How a ‘nano-suit’ will let you survive in a vacuum (if you’re a bug)

Attention, future astronauts: this could someday let you survive in the vacuum of space
April 25, 2013

Nano-suit: images of a larva protected by electron-beam-irradiated Tween 20. The small white square in C are is shown magnified (D), with high resolution. [Scale bars: 0.3 mm (C) and 1 μm (D)]

Put a fruit fly larva in a spacelike vacuum, and within minutes, the animal will collapse into a crinkled, lifeless husk.

Now, researchers have found a way to protect the bugs: bombard them with electrons, which form a “nano-suit” around their bodies, according to an open-access paper in Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The advance could help scientists take high-resolution photographs of tiny living… read more

Virtual reality coming to Second Life

April 25, 2013

(Credit: Oculus)

Linden Lab intends to integrate the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset with Second Life, Wagner James Au reports on New World Notes.

“The Oculus could become Second Life’s killer app, but only if Linden Lab is willing to go all in,” said Au. “Sounds like they are doing just that, in an official capacity.

We’ll get to experience Second… read more

Hundreds of tiny untethered surgical tools tested in animal biopsies

Could find early signs of cancer or other diseases
April 25, 2013

Optical image of μ -gripper in the bile duct opening of the porcine<br />
liver. Scale bar represents 200 microns

“So what we plan to do is unleash swarms of hundreds of microscopic ‘grippers’ into your colon and let them just snip away at you, OK?”  — Future gastroenterologist to patient

By using swarms of untethered grippers, each as small as a speck of dust, Johns Hopkins engineers and physicians have devised a new way to perform biopsies that could provide a more effective way… read more

Mars One starts search for the first humans on Mars in 2023

April 24, 2013


Mars One has launched its astronaut selection program for the first humans to set foot on Mars and make it their home.

Mars One invites would-be Mars settlers from anywhere in the world to submit an online application — the first of the four rounds in the selection procedure.

Round One will run for over five months and end on 31st August… read more

NASA successfully launches three tiny smartphone satellites

April 24, 2013


Three “PhoneSats” rode to space Sunday aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia.

The goal of NASA‘s PhoneSat mission is to determine whether a consumer-grade smartphone — such as the Nexus One phones running Android, used here — can be used as the main flight avionics of a capable, yet very inexpensive,… read more

Genetic circuit allows both individual freedom, collective good

Researchers study code that allows bacteria to bet either on the present or future
April 24, 2013

The figure shows a transition in bacterial colonies between two phenotype (credit:

Sophisticated genetic circuits allow an individual bacterium within a colony to act on its own while also ensuring that the colony pulls together in hard times, striking a balance between selflessness and selfishness,.researchers from Rice University’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP), Tel Aviv University, and Harvard Medical School have shown.

“Our findings suggest new principles for collective decisions that allow both random behavior by… read more

How to transform bone marrow stem cells directly into brain cells

April 24, 2013

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have found a simple way to turn bone marrow stem cells directly into brain precursor cells, such as those shown here (credit: Lerner lab, The Scripps Research Institute.)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a way to turn bone marrow stem cells directly into brain cells.

Current techniques for turning patients’ marrow cells into cells of some other desired type are relatively cumbersome, risky and effectively confined to the lab dish.

The new finding points to the possibility of simpler and safer techniques.

Cell therapies derived from patients’… read more

How to create a glowing plant

Natural lighting with no electricity or CO2 (or radioactive elements)
April 24, 2013

glowing plant

Now you can your own glowing plant at home, using synthetic biology and computer software.

All backers from the USA who back this Kickstarter project with $40 or more will receive seeds to grow a glowing plant at home.

From the Kickstarter page:

Once we have the plant, it is just a matter of breeding enough offspring to grow seeds for all backers. You can… read more

NASA’s Kepler discovers its smallest ‘habitable zone’ planets to date

April 23, 2013

The artist's concept depicts Kepler-69c, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun.<br />
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

NASA‘s Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making… read more

An instant path to an online army

April 23, 2013


VizWiz, a free iPhone app, gives real-time help to blind users, The New York Times reports.

VizWiz users take a photograph as best as they can — it may take several tries before the desired object is properly framed — and then record one question about it (“What is on the label of the can?”).

Besides needing help identifying food labels, they may want… read more

New algorithm helps evaluate, rank scientific literature

April 23, 2013


Keeping up with current scientific literature is a daunting task, considering that hundreds to thousands of papers are published each day. Now researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a computer program to help them evaluate and rank scientific articles in their field.

The researchers use a text-mining algorithm to prioritize research papers to read and include in their Comparative Toxicogenomics Databaseread more

Nano compartments may aid drug delivery, catalyst design

April 23, 2013

This false-color image (left) depicts the core lattice in blue, where drugs can be placed in compartment pores for targeting in the body. In the hexagon-shaped cylinder branches, other types of drugs may be place for delivery. Simultaneous delivery of pharmaceuticals can thus be optimized for each drug separately. The accompanying illustration (right) offers a clear vision of the left image. (Credit:

Cornell researchers have created spongelike nanoparticles with separate compartments that could deliver two or more different drugs to the same location, with precise control over the amounts,  avoiding unpleasant side effects.

The technology might also be applied to catalysts used to enhance chemical reactions, which are sometimes formed into porous nanoparticles to expose more surface area. Compartmented particles could allow two or more catalysts to… read more

Breakdowns in DNA copying process lead to cancer, other diseases

April 23, 2013

(credit: University of York)

The cell protein machines that copy DNA in a model organism pause frequently during this copying process, creating the potential for dangerous mutations to develop that can contribute to cancer and other diseases., University of York researchers have discovered.

The project focused on a bacterium called Escherichia coli, a powerful model for studying the DNA copying process.

“We have analyzed what causes most of… read more

A frog-like robot that crawls inside your abdomen

April 22, 2013

intra-abdominal robot on steel plate-1

Researchers at the University of Leeds are using the feet of tree frogs as a model for a tiny robot designed to crawl inside patients’ bodies during keyhole surgery.

It is designed to move across the internal abdominal wall of a patient, allowing surgeons to see what they are doing on a real-time video feed.

The tree frog’s feet provide a solution to the… read more

Smaller thermal cameras with smaller pixels for warfighters

Compact five-micron-pixel LWIR camera demonstrated
April 22, 2013

(credit: DARPA)

DARPA researchers have demonstrated a new five-micron-pixel long-wave infrared (LWIR) camera that could make this class of camera smaller and less expensive. (A micron is a millionth of a meter.)

The military uses LWIR (also know as “far IR”) cameras as thermal imagers to detect humans at night. These cameras are usually mounted on vehicles as they are too large to be carried by a… read more

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