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Physicists create synthetic magnetic monopoles

May lead to entirely new materials, such as superconductors
January 30, 2014


Nearly 85 years after pioneering theoretical physicist Paul Dirac predicted the possibility of their existence, scientists have created, identified and photographed synthetic magnetic monopoles.

The groundbreaking accomplishment, described by a paper in Nature, paves the way for the detection of the particles in nature, which would be a revolutionary development comparable to the discovery of the electron, according to the scientists.

“The creation of a synthetic magnetic monopole… read more

A brain area unique to humans is linked to strategic planning/decision making/multitasking

January 30, 2014

human brain region

Oxford University researchers have identified a specific area of the human brain that appears to be unlike anything in the brains of some of our closest relatives.

MRI imaging of 25 adult volunteers was used to identify key components in the area of the human brain called the ventrolateral frontal cortex, and how these components were connected up with other brain areas. The results were then compared with equivalent… read more

Interplanetary dust particles carry water and organics

Mars had liquid water 4 billion years ago
January 29, 2014


Interplanetary dust particles could be delivering water and organics to the Earth and other terrestrial planets scientists have found.

Interplanetary dust — dust that has come from comets, asteroids, and leftover debris from the birth of the solar system — continually rains down on the Earth and other Solar System bodies.

These particles are bombarded by the solar wind, predominately hydrogen ions.  This ion bombardment knocks the atoms… read more

DNA-built nanoparticles target cancer tumors, deal with toxicity

January 29, 2014

Nanoparticle superstructures - featured

University of Toronto researchers have discovered a method of assembling building blocks of gold nanoparticles as the vehicle to deliver cancer medications or cancer-identifying markers directly into cancerous tumors while addressing the long-term risk of toxicity from particles that remain in the body.

“To get materials into a tumor they need to be a certain size,” explained Professor Warren Chan. “Tumors are characterized by leaky vessels with… read more

How the brain forms time-linked memories

January 28, 2014


MIT neuroscientists have discovered how two neural circuits in the brain work together to control the formation of time-linked memories, such as the sound of skidding tires, followed by a car crash.*

This is a critical ability that helps the brain to determine when it needs to take action to defend against a potential threat, says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience… read more

Where and when the brain recognizes, categorizes an object

January 28, 2014


MIT researchers scanned individuals’ brains as they looked at different images and were able to pinpoint, to the millisecond, when the brain recognizes and categorizes an object, and where these processes occur.

“This method gives you a visualization of ‘when’ and ‘where’ at the same time. It’s a window into processes happening at the millisecond and millimeter scale,” says Aude Oliva, a principal research scientist in… read more

Crowdsourced ‘EteRNA’ RNA designs outperform computer algorithms

Carnegie Mellon and Stanford project combines global online design challenge with lab experiments
January 28, 2014


An enthusiastic group of non-experts, working through an online interface and receiving feedback from lab experiments, has produced designs for RNA molecules that are consistently more successful than those generated by the best computerized design algorithms, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University report.

The researchers then gathered some of the best design rules and practices generated by players of the online EteRNA design… read more

Wrinkled metamaterials for controlling light and sound propagation

January 28, 2014


MIT researchers have developed flexible, layered metamaterials textured with nanoscale wrinkles that could provide a new way to control the distribution of sound or light signals, such as changing the materials’ color or making it optically or acoustically invisible.

The technology could be used for nondestructive testing of materials, new medical diagnostic tools, and sound suppression in a certain volume (location) in space rather thanread more

A 3D window into living cells, no dye required

January 27, 2014


University of Illinois researchers have developed a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, three-dimensional, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures using conventional microscopes and white light.

Called white-light diffraction tomography (WDT), the imaging technique opens a window into the life of a cell without disturbing it and could allow cellular biologists unprecedented insight into cellular processes, drug effects and stem cell… read more

How to cool microprocessors with carbon nanotubes

January 27, 2014


Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a “process friendly” technique that would use carbon nanotubes to cool microprocessor chips .

Frank Ogletree, a physicist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, led a study in which organic molecules were used to form strong covalent bonds between carbon nanotubes and metal surfaces.

This improved by six-fold the flow of heat from the metal to… read more

Herschel telescope detects water on dwarf planet

January 27, 2014


Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres.

Plumes of water vapor are thought to shoot up periodically from Ceres when portions of its icy surface warm slightly. Ceres is classified as a dwarf planet, a solar system body bigger than an asteroid and smaller than a planet.… read more

Using nanodiamonds to precisely detect neural signals

January 27, 2014


A team in MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group has developed a new method to noninvasively measure how weak magnetic fields change over time, such as when neurons in the brain transmit signals to each other. 

The method uses naturally occurring defects in diamonds called nitrogen-vacancy (N-V) centers, which are sensitive to external magnetic fields, much like compasses… read more

An environmentally friendly, energy-dense sugar battery

January 24, 2014


A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of  biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were… read more

How to monitor drug effects in real time

Eliminating the guesswork
January 24, 2014


A device that can monitor the levels of specific drugs as they flow through the bloodstream may soon take the guesswork out of drug dosing and allow physicians to tailor prescriptions to their patients’ specific biology.

Developed by UC Santa Barbara researchers Tom Soh, Kevin Plaxco and Scott Ferguson, the biosensor combines  engineering and biochemistry and has far-reaching potential.

Doctors… read more

Tapping more of the sun’s energy using heat as well as light

New approach developed at MIT could generate power from sunlight efficiently and on demand
January 24, 2014


A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell.

This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.

In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to… read more

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