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Astronomers find Sun’s sibling star

May 12, 2014

HD 162826

A team of researchers led by astronomer Ivan Ramirez of The University of Texas at Austin has identified the first “sibling” of the sun — a star almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as our star.

Ramirez’s methods will help astronomers find other solar siblings, which could lead to an understanding of how and where our sun formed, and how our solar… read more

Anti-aging gene also enhances cognition

Could have broad therapeutic implications
May 12, 2014

How Klotho enhances cognition (credit: Dena B. Duval/Cell)

A variant of the gene KLOTHO is known for its anti-aging effects in people fortunate enough to carry one copy. Now researchers find that it also benefits brain function by increasing overall levels of klotho in the bloodstream and brain.

But the improvements in learning and memory associated with klotho elevation aren’t strictly tied to aging. They do occur in aging mice, but also in young animals, according to… read more

Regenerating plastic material grows back after damage

May 12, 2014

regenerating_plastic

University of Illinois researchers have developed self-repairing materials that not only heal, but also regenerate.

Until now, self-repairing materials (such as the “terminator” polymer) could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. The new materials fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material.

“We have demonstrated repair of a nonliving, synthetic materials system in a way that is reminiscent of repair-by-regrowth as seen in some living systems,”… read more

Can robots be trusted to know right from wrong?

May 12, 2014

HAL 9000 (credit: Warner Bros.)

Is it possible to develop “moral” autonomous robots with a sense for right, wrong, and the consequences of both?

Researchers from Tufts University, Brown University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute think so, and are teaming with the U.S. Navy to explore technology that would pave the way to do exactly that.

“Moral competence can be roughly thought about as the ability to learn,… read more

Scientists create new lifeform with added DNA base pair

May 9, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters” (bases) not found in nature.

The research was intended to created new proteins — and even new organisms — that have never existed before.

“Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G,read more

GaitTrack app makes cellphone a medical monitor for heart and lung patients

May 9, 2014

(Credit: University of Illinois)

By simply carrying around their cellphones, patients who suffer from chronic disease could soon have an accurate health monitor that warns their doctors when their symptoms worsen.

GaitTrack, an app developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the U. of I. at Chicago, doesn’t just count steps. It uses eight parameters to perform a detailed analysis of a person’s gait, orread more

Brain ‘noise’ found to nurture synapses

May 8, 2014

McCabe-CUMC-image-brain-noise

A long-overlooked form of neuron-to-neuron communication called “miniature neurotransmission” plays an essential role in the development of synapses, a study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has shown.

The findings, made in fruit flies, raise the possibility that abnormalities in miniature neurotransmission may contribute to neurodevelopmental diseases. The findings were published in the journal Neuron.

The primary way in which neurons communicate with each… read more

Astronomers create first realistic virtual universe

May 8, 2014

illustris-simulation

Astronomers have created the first realistic virtual universe using a computer simulation called “Illustris.”

Illustris can recreate 13 billion years of cosmic evolution in a cube 350 million light-years on a side with unprecedented resolution.

“Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales simultaneously,” says lead author Mark Vogelsberger (MIT/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics),… read more

Imaging the crystal edges of 2D molybdenum disulfide

Another step toward novel 2D ultrasmall and ultrafast electronic and photonic devices, replacing silicon
May 8, 2014

Xiang-Zhang-crystal-images

Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first observations of a strong nonlinear optical resonance along the edges of a single layer of two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide, which may enable novel ultrasmall and ultrafast electronic and photonic devicesas well as a catalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction in fuel cells, desulfurization, andread more

Are you ready for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?

May 7, 2014

Are-we-ready-for-contact-with-extraterrestrial-intelligence_image_380

Some SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) scientists are considering “Active SETI” to detect possible extraterrestrial civilizations.

Psychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre, professor at the University of Cádiz (Spain) questions this idea, based on results* from a survey taken by students, which revealed a general level of ignorance about the cosmos and the influence of religion on these matters.

Some astrophysicists, such as Stephen… read more

Oculus suggests a massively multiplayer online experience (MMO) for one billion simultaneous users in VR

May 7, 2014

(Credit: Condition-One)

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe suggested at the Techcrunch Disrupt event Monday May 5 that Oculus and Facebook could in the future build a massively multiplayer online experience (MMO) for one billion simultaneous users in VR, according to The Verge. It could also be a metaverse that joins disparate virtual worlds.

Oculus hopes to convince players that they’re having a “real conversation” with another person. … read more

Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation

Initial focus: the almost 400,000 people who die from lung disease, including cancer, each year
May 7, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) is teaming up with United Therapeutics Corporation subsidiary Lung Biotechnology Inc. to use synthetic genomic advances to develop humanized pig lungs.

The collaboration will focus on creating organs that are safe and effective for use in human patients in need of transplantation, with an initial focus on lung diseases — addressing specifically the urgent need… read more

Genetic algorithm used to design broadband metamaterial

May 7, 2014

psu_metamaterial

Penn State engineers have used a genetic algorithm to custom-design a metamaterial to absorb energy over a broad band of infrared wavelengths.

The engineers say this allows the metamaterial to shield objects from view by infrared sensors and protect instruments, for example.

“The metamaterial has a high absorption over broad bandwidth,” said Jeremy A. Bossard, postdoctoral fellow in electrical engineering.… read more

Stem cells from teeth can make neuron-like cells and networks

May 6, 2014

mouse-derived dental pulp stem cell

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that stem cells taken from teeth can grow to form complex networks of neuron-like cells, suggesting a possible therapy for stroke.

Although these cells haven’t developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers believe it’s just a matter of time and the right conditions for it to happen.

“Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve… read more

How to change the crystal structure of graphene from metal to semiconductor

Could lead to smaller, faster microprocessors
May 6, 2014

graphene hexagon Pablo San-Jose ICMM-CSI

A University of Arizona-led team of physicists has discovered how to change the crystal structure of graphene with an electric field — a step toward the possible use of graphene in microprocessors that would be smaller and faster than current, silicon-based technology.

The tricky part is to control the flow of electrons through the material, a necessary prerequisite for using it an electronic circuit.… read more

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