science + technology news

Scientists Detect Two Decision-making Pathways in Human Brain

October 20, 2004

New research suggests why people are often torn between impulsively choosing immediate rewards or more deliberatively planning for the future: human decision-making is influenced by the interactions of two distinct systems in the brain which are often at odds.

Study participants made choices between immediate and longer-term rewards. When participants chose between incentives that included an immediate reward, fMRI scans indicated heightened activity in parts of the brain, such… read more

Scientists Seek to Create ‘Three-Parent’ Babies

October 20, 2004

UK Scientists are applying for a license to create human embryos with three genetic parents: their cells would contain a nucleus with genes from both parents, and their mitochondria would be from a woman other than the mother.

The aim is ultimately to prevent children from inheriting genetic diseases caused by mutations in DNA housed by their mitochondria — components of cells that produce energy.

‘Knowledge Discovery’ Could Speed Research

October 20, 2004

Purdue University researchers are developing a “data-rich” environment for scientific discovery that uses high-performance computing and artificial intelligence software to display information and interact with researchers in the language of their specific disciplines.

It allows experts to talk naturally in their own specific scientific language, so they don’t have to deal with computerese and can take full advantage of advanced visualization capabilities to enhance the scientific discovery process.… read more

Gravity Constant Called Into Question

October 20, 2004

Researchers suggest that one of nature’s venerable constants — gravity (G) — may not be the same for every type of particle in the universe.

Calculations by John Barrow of Cambridge University and Robert Scherrer of Vanderbilt University suggest that G could have been smaller for photons than for other particles in the early universe.

The work might explain the lower abundance of helium seen, because the expansion… read more

Guiding Light Through Liquids and Gases on a Chip

October 20, 2004

UC Santa Cruz researchers have reported the first demonstration of integrated optical waveguides with liquid cores, a technology that enables light propagation through small volumes of liquids on a chip.

The new technology has a wide range of potential applications, including chemical and biological sensors with single-molecule sensitivity.

UC Santa Cruz news release

‘Energy Blocker’ Kills Big Tumors in Rats

October 20, 2004

Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered that an apparently nontoxic cellular “energy blocker” can eradicate large liver tumors grown in rats.

The chemical, 3-bromopyruvate, blocks cancer cells’ conversion of sugar into usable energy, a process necessary to fuel the cells’ functions and growth, but appears so far to have little or no effect on normal tissues. Clinical trials are not likely for several years.

Johns Hopkinsread more

Plasma Beam Eyed in Space Travel

October 19, 2004

A University of Washington team is pioneering the concept of the Mag-beam, (magnetized-beam plasma propulsion), which could significantly shorten the time it takes to travel to other planets.

A space-based outpost station would generate a high-energy plasma beam aimed at a spaceship equipped with a sail, resulting in it being thrust out into space. Plasma beam stations at each end of the interplanetary flight path would speed up and… read more

Sealing Corneal Incisions with a Drop of Chemistry

October 19, 2004

Boston University researchers have produced an elastic, transparent hydrogel with properties allowing it to seal corneal incision.

The researchers used dendritic macromolecules — polymer complexes capable of extensive molecule-to-molecule linking which can be designed to meet very precise specifications — to formulate the hydrogel.

The hydrogel could have advantages over traditional sutures since the physical barrier that the hydrogel forms on the eye could help prevent infection. In… read more

Power on a Chip

October 19, 2004

MIT researchers have built a turbine engine with blades that span an area smaller than a dime and spin at more than a million revolutions per minute.

The engine is designed to produce enough electricity to power handheld electronics. In the future, a micro gas turbine engine could run for ten or more hours on a container of diesel fuel slightly larger than a D battery; when the fuel… read more

How False Memories are Formed

October 19, 2004

Northwestern University researchers used MRI technology to pinpoint how people form a memory for something that didn’t actually happen.

The new findings directly showed that different brain areas are more critical for accurate memories for visual objects than for false remembering (forming a memory for an imagined object that is later falsely remembered as a perceived object). The neuroanatomical evidence furthermore sheds light on the mental mechanisms responsible for… read more

A Nanowire with a Surprise

October 19, 2004

Brookhaven National Laboratory researchers have discovered that a short organic chain molecule with nanometer dimensions conducts electrons in a surprising way: it regulates the electrons’ speed erratically, without a predictable dependence on the length of the wire.

In research on oligophenyleneethynylene (OPE) nanowires, researchers found that as they increased the length of the OPE wire from one to four PE units, the electrons moved across the wire faster, slower,… read more

Brain-Cell Transplants Correct Muscle Spasms After Aneurysm Surgery

October 19, 2004

UC San Diego researchers found that transplantation of human brain cells corrected involuntary muscle spasms in rats with ischemic spinal cord injury.

Ischemic spinal cord injury is caused by reduced blood flow to the spinal cord. Patients with ischemic spinal cord injury develop a prominent muscle spasticity, or jerkiness of the legs and lower body, due to the irreversible loss of specialized spinal cord cells that control local motor… read more

First Sliver-Sized Sensor to Monitor Glucose Levels

October 19, 2004

Case School of Engineering researchers have developed “sliver-sensor” — a fully functional, minimally invasive, microscopic new monitor that can be placed just under the skin and seen with the naked eye for very accurate, continuous examination of glucose level for diabetics and other bodily fluid levels.

Colors in the tiny sensor, which is smaller than the tip of a pencil, gradually change from orange (low glucose levels) to green… read more

Antibiotic-Boosting Drug Kills Superbugs

October 19, 2004

Researchers at Pharmaceutica claim to have discovered a compound that renders the MRSA superbug vulnerable to the antibiotic it normally resists.

MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — is defined by its ability to resist the antibiotic methicillin. MRSA strains now cause up to 60% of all “staph” infections in some hospitals. Some MRSA strains are also becoming resistant to other antibiotics — including vancomycin, the antibiotic doctors resort to… read more

Long-term phone use doubles occurrence of rare tumour

October 18, 2004

Using a mobile phone for ten or more years doubles the risk of getting an acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor that grows on the nerve connecting the ear to the brain, a Swedish study has found.

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