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A ‘Google map’ of human metabolism

March 6, 2013

Human Metabolism-excerpt

An international consortium of university researchers has produced the most comprehensive virtual reconstruction of human metabolism to date.

Scientists could use the model, known as Recon 2, to identify causes of and new treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes and even psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Each person’s metabolism, which represents the conversion of food sources into energy and the assembly of molecules,… read more

Graphene’s photovoltaic potential

March 5, 2013


Researchers have demonstrated that graphene is highly efficient at generating electrons upon absorbing light, which suggests that the material could be used to make light sensors and perhaps even more efficient solar cells, MIT Technology Review reports.

Conventional materials that turn light into electricity, like silicon and gallium arsenide, generate a single electron for each photon absorbed. Since a photon contains more energy than one electron can… read more

A solar-to-fuel roadmap for crystalline silicon

March 5, 2013


An MIT research team has published a detailed analysis of all the factors that could limit the efficiency of an “artificial leaf” — a small device that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, would produce bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen for storing energy.

The new analysis lays out a roadmap for a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and… read more

The age of enhancement

March 5, 2013


Technology is starting to give us superpowers once reserved for comic-book heroes, Slate reports.

Human enhancement is happening all the time, largely through incremental improvements on existing technologies.

Wearable technology is taking off. Muscle suits are starting to look more plausible. The military is working on “Spider-Man suits” that let the wearer scale vertical walls.

Devices that interact directly… read more

Rapid point-of-care testing for multiple diseases from a drop of blood

March 5, 2013

color test

A diagnostic system using DNA powder and gold nanoparticles being developed by scientists at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering could provide rapid point-of-care diagnosis of the world’s leading infectious diseases in the near future.

BBME PhD student Kyryl Zagorovsky has developed a rapid diagnostic biosensor that will allow technicians to test for multiple diseases at the same time with one… read more

Mars may get hit by a comet in 2014

March 4, 2013

(Credit: Image credit: Mars: NASA/JPL/MSSS; Comet Halley: Hale Observatory; composite: Phil Plait)

A comet called C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is expected to miss Mars around Oct. 19, 2014 by 37,000 km (23,000 miles), says Bad Astronomy Slate blogger Phil Plait.

Assuming it does hit, while the nucleus size is not well known, it may be as small as 15 kilometers (9 miles) or as big as 50 km (30 miles). Even using the small number means Mars would… read more

Atoms with quantum memory

March 4, 2013


Order tends towards disorder. This is also true for quantum states. Measurements at the Vienna University of Technology show that in quantum mechanics this transition can be quite different from what we experience in our daily lives.

Ice cubes in a cocktail glass melt until an equilibrium state is reached in which the ice cubes are gone. After that, the geometric shape of the ice… read more

Detecting evidence for extraterrestrial life on dying stars

March 4, 2013

A new study finds that researchers can detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a habitable planet orbiting a white dwarf (as shown in this artist’s illustration). Here the ghostly blue ring is a planetary nebula — hydrogen gas the star ejected as it evolved from a red giant to a white dwarf. (Credit: David A. Aguilar/CfA)

Even dying stars could host planets with life — and if such life exists, we might be able to detect it within the next decade.

This encouraging result comes from a new theoretical study of Earth-like planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Researchers found that oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf’s planet could be detected much more easily than in an Earth-like planet orbiting a… read more

Space race underway to create quantum satellite

March 4, 2013


In this month’s special edition of Physics World, focusing on quantum physics, Thomas Jennewein and Brendon Higgins from the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Canada, describe how a quantum space race is under way to create the world’s first global quantum-communication network.

The field of quantum communication — the science of transmitting quantum states from one place to another… read more

Cryopreservation — a chance for highly endangered mammals

March 4, 2013

Iberian lynx, the most endangered wildcat in the world (credit: IZW)

Scientists of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) have successfully performed cryopreservation —  freezing and thawing oocytes (egg cells) from different cat species at minus 196 degrees Celsius.

Successful cryopreservation of ovarian tissue of wild cats is a key element for the establishment of genome resource banks, an important tool for the preservation of genetic diversity. All felid species except for the… read more

What is the Brain Activity Map? A Q&A with George Church

March 4, 2013


Last summer, six scientists proposed a project they compared in scope and ambition to the Human Genome Project: to map the activity of the human brain. In February, news media reported that the Obama administration plans to move forward with that effort, known as the Brain Activity Map.

One of those six scientists was George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School… read more

Eyes ‘see’ without a brain

How can tadpoles see without eyes wired directly to the brain? The answer could lead to new inventions for the blind.
March 4, 2013

Researchers at Tufts University have shown that transplanted eyes located far outside the head in a vertebrate animal model can confer vision without a direct neural connection to the brain. In this image, a "blind" tadpole without its native (normal) eyes is able to see using functioning ectopic eye located in tail. Dark area in midsection is the stomach. (Credit: D. Blackiston and M. Levin/Tufts University)

Transplanted eyes located far outside the head in  tadpoles can give them vision without a direct neural connection to the brain, biologists at Tufts University have found.

The research sheds new light (literally) on one of the major questions in regenerative medicine, bioengineering, and sensory augmentation research.

“Our research reveals the brain’s remarkable ability, or plasticity, to process visual data coming from misplaced eyes,… read more

The brain-computer interface goes wireless

March 3, 2013

Neural interface implanted in pig (credit: David A Borton et al./J. Neural Eng.)

A team of neuroengineers at Brown University has developed a fully implantable and rechargeable wireless brain sensor capable of relaying real-time broadband signals from up to 100 neurons in freely moving subjects.

Several copies of the novel low-power device, described in the open-access Journal of Neural Engineering, have been performing well in animal models for more than year, a first in the brain-computer interface field.… read more

The Google Glass feature no one is talking about

March 3, 2013

When everything is connected --- a scene from Watchdogs, a future PS4 game (credit: Ubisoft)

“Google Glass might change your life, but not in the way you think. There’s something else Google Glass makes possible that no one — no one — has talked about yet, and so today I’m writing this blog post to describe it,” says Mark Hurst on Creative Good.

“It’s lifebits, the ability to record video of the people, places, and events around you, at all times. with a… read more

DNA and amino-acid precursor molecules discovered in interstellar space

March 2, 2013


Researchers have discovered prebiotic (pre-life) molecules in interstellar space that may have formed on dusty ice grains floating between the stars.

The molecules were detected in a giant cloud of gas some 25,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy — specifically, the star-forming region Sagittarius(Sgr) B2(N), which is the richest interstellar chemical environment currently known.

One of the newly-discovered molecules, called… read more

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