science + technology news

Scientists find key protein for spinal cord repair in zebrafish

The human CTGF protein is 87% similar in its amino acid building blocks to the zebrafish form
November 3, 2016

Duke University | Spinal Cord Injury and Regeneration in Zebrafish

Duke University scientists have found a protein that’s important for the ability of the freshwater zebrafish’s spinal cord to heal completely after being severed. Their study, published Nov. 4  in the journal Science, could generate new leads for what is a paralyzing and often fatal injury for humans.

Searching for the repair moleculesread more

‘Nanobionic’ spinach plants detect explosives, pollution, drought

First dogs. Then honeybees. And now plants with carbon nanotubes.
November 2, 2016

By embedding spinach leaves with carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone. (credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT)

MIT engineers have implanted spinach leaves with carbon nanotubes, resulting in a hybrid electronic system that they call “plant nanobionics” for detecting dangerous (and other) chemicals.

Two years ago, in the first demonstration of plant nanobionics, MIT engineer Michael Strano, PhD, used nanoparticles to enhance plants’ photosynthesis ability and turn them into sensors for nitric oxide, a pollutant produced by combustion.

Detecting trace molecules

In the… read more

New study challenges consensus that math abilities are innate

November 1, 2016

How do you decide which cart to get behind to check out faster? (credit: iStock)

A new theory on how the brain first learns basic math could alter approaches to identifying and teaching students with math-learning disabilities, according to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers.

The widely accepted “sense of numbers” theory suggests people are born with a “sense of numbers,” an innate ability to recognize different quantities, and that this ability improves with age. Early math curricula and tools for diagnosing math-specific… read more

Electroacupuncture lowers hypertension by activating natural opioids

A needle a day keeps the doctor away
November 1, 2016

The UCI study shows that repetitive electroacupuncture evokes a long-lasting action in lowering blood pressure in hypertension. (credit: Chris Nugent / UCI)

A study led by researchers at UC Irvine’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine suggests electroacupuncture can effectively reduce hypertension in rats.

The team led by cardiology researcher Zhi-Ling Guo published evidence in Nature’s Scientific Reports (open access) to show how electroacupuncture remediates high blood pressure “by increasing the gene expression of enkephalin, one of three major opioid peptides produced by the body.”

The new study*… read more

How to 3D-print your own baby universe

November 1, 2016

3D-printed CMB model (credit: D. L. Clements et al./European Journal of Physics)

Researchers have created a 3D-printed cosmic microwave background (CMB) — a map of the oldest light in the universe — and have provided the files for download.

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is the “glow” that the universe had in the microwave range. It maps the oldest light in the universe and tells astronomers more about the early universe and the formation of structures within it, such as galaxies.… read more

New MIT technique reveals the basis for machine-learning systems’ hidden decisions

October 31, 2016

A Stanford School of Medicine machine-learning-based method for automatically analyzing images of cancerous tissues and predicting patient survival was found more accurate than doctors in breast-cancer diagnosis, but doctors don’t trust this method, say MIT researchers (credit: Science/AAAS)

MIT researchers have developed a method to determine the rationale for predictions by neural networks, which loosely mimic the human brain. Neural networks, such as Google’s Alpha Go program, use a process known as “deep learning” to look for patterns in training data.

An ongoing problem with neural networks is that they are “black boxes.” After training, a network may be very good at classifying data, but… read more

Neurons from stem cells replace damaged neurons, precisely rewiring into the brain

October 28, 2016

Neuronal transplants (blue) connect with host neurons (yellow) in the adult mouse brain in a highly specific manner, rebuilding neural networks lost upon injury. Picture: Sofia Grade (credit: LMU/Helmholtz Zentrum München)

Embryonic neural stem cells transplanted into damaged areas of the visual cortex of adult mice were able to differentiate into pyramidal cells — forming normal synaptic connections, responding to visual stimuli, and integrating into neural networks — researchers at LMU Munich, the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Martinsried and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have demonstrated.

The adult human brain has very little… read more

Boosting levels of antioxidant may help resist age-related decline

NAC, used in emergency-room toxic crises, boosts glutathione. Could NAC also help resist aging-related toxins?
October 28, 2016

The chemical structure of glutathione, an antioxidant that may help resist the toxins that are an underlying cause of aging. (credit: Graphic courtesy of Oregon State University)

Researchers at Oregon State University have found evidence in a rat study* that levels of glutathione, which helps resist the toxic stresses of everyday life, decline with age, and this sets the stage for a wide range of age-related health problems, they suggest.

The new study, published in the journal Redox Biology, also highlighted a compound called N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), which is used in… read more

A deep-learning system to alert companies before litigation

"The average cost per lawsuit: at least about $350,000"
October 27, 2016

(credit: Intraspexion, Inc.)

Imagine a world with less litigation.

That’s the promise of a deep-learning system developed by Intraspexion, Inc. that can alert company or government attorneys to forthcoming risks before getting hit with expensive litigation.

“These risks show up in internal communications such as emails,” said CEO Nick Brestoff. “In-house attorneys have been blind to these risks, so they are stuck with managing the lawsuits.”… read more

Ultra-low-power transistors could function for years without a battery

“If we were to draw energy from a typical AA battery based on this design, it would last for a billion years." --- Sungsik Lee, PhD, in the journal Science
October 25, 2016

Schematic cross-section of an Indium-gallium-zinc-oxide thin-film transistor [inset: schematic illustrations of atomic structures for less compensated (LC) and more compensated (MC) IGZO films, respectively) (credit: Sungsik Lee and Arokia Nathan/Science)

Devices based on a new ultra-low-power thin-film transistor design by University of Cambridge engineers could function for months or even years without a battery, by operating on scavenged energy from their environment — ideal for the Internet of Things and for wearable or implantable electronics.

The transistors can be produced at low temperatures and can be printed on almost any material, such as glass, plastic, polyester fabrics, and paper.

Similar to… read more

‘Bits & Watts’: integrating inexpensive energy sources into the electric grid

October 25, 2016

Bits & Watts initiative (credit: Stanford University)

Stanford University and DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory launched today an initiative called “Bits & Watts” aimed at integrating low-carbon, inexpensive energy sources, like wind and solar, into the electric grid.

The interdisciplinary initiative hopes to develop “smart” technology that will bring the grid into the 21st century while delivering reliable, efficient, affordable power to homes and businesses.

That means you’ll be able to feed extra power from… read more

Will AI replace judges and lawyers?

October 25, 2016

(credit: iStock)

An artificial intelligence method developed by University College London computer scientists and associates has predicted the judicial decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) with 79% accuracy, according to a paper published Monday, Oct. 24 in PeerJ Computer Science.

The method is the first to predict the outcomes of a major international court by automatically analyzing case text using a machine-learning algorithm.*

“We don’t… read more

‘Atomic sandwich’ computing material uses 100 times less energy

Could lead to reduction of the forecast 50 percent of global energy consumption by electronics by 2030
October 21, 2016

New magnetoelectric multiferroic material achieves room-temperature multiferroic properties at room temperature (credit: Julia A. Mundy/Nature)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists have developed a new “magnetoelectric multiferroic*” material that could lead to a new generation of computing devices with more computing power while consuming a fraction of the energy that today’s electronics require.

Electronics could be half of our total global energy consumption by 2030

“Electronics are the fastest-growing consumer of energy worldwide,” said Ramamoorthy Ramesh, associate laboratory director for energy technologies at Lawrence… read more

Will we kill (or contaminate) microbial life on Mars?

“This has implications for plans for sample return from Mars and for future human missions.” --- NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay, PhD
October 20, 2016

These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. (credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Recent evidence of water, complex organic molecules, and methane in the Martian environment, combined with findings from the 1976 Viking mission, have led to the conclusion that existing microbial life on Mars is a possibility that must be considered, according to the authors of a paper in the journal Astrobiology (open-access until November 15, 2016).

Coauthors Gilbert V. Levin, Arizona State University, Tempe, and Patricia Ann Straat, National Institutes of… read more

Bendable electronic color ‘paper’ invented

October 19, 2016

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have developed the basis for a new electronic 'paper.' Chalmers' logotype shows how the RGB pixels can reproduce color images. The magnification shows which pixels are activated to create the image. (credit: Kunli Xiong)

Chalmers University of Technology researchers have developed the basic technology for a new kind of reflective electronic “paper” that is micrometer-thin and bendable. It can display all colors displayed on an LED display, but with one tenth the energy required with a Kindle tablet.

The technology is based on electrically controllable optical absorption of a conducting polymer, which is used to modulate the reflected… read more

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