science + technology news

Droplet lens turns a smartphone into a 160X microscope

May 1, 2014

(Credit: Stuart Hay)

Australian scientists have invented a simple and cheap way of making a high-powered lens that can transform a smart phone into a high-resolution microscope.

Costing less than a cent, the lenses promise a revolution in science and medicine in developing countries and remote areas.

Self-forming liquid drops

The lens fabrication technique was invented by Steve Lee from The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of… read more

The molecular secrets behind resveratrol’s health benefits

May 1, 2014


Resveratrol has been much in the news as the component of grapes and red wine associated with reducing “bad cholesterol,” heart disease and some types of cancer. Also found in blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, peanuts and pistachios, resveratrol is associated with beneficial health effects in aging, inflammation and metabolism.

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified one of the molecular pathways that… read more

A new self-assembling graphene-like material for flat semiconductors

May 1, 2014


MIT and Harvard University researchers have found a two-dimensional material whose properties are very similar to graphene*, but with some distinct advantages — including the fact that this material naturally has a usable bandgap, which is essential for making devices such as computer chips and solar cells.

The new material, is a combination of nickel and an organic compound called HITP. Its constituents also naturally… read more

The self-driving car masters city-street driving

May 1, 2014


Google has shifted the focus of its self-driving car project onto mastering city-street driving, according to the Google Official Blog.

“Since the last update, we’ve logged thousands of miles on the streets of our hometown of Mountain View, Calif. A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of… read more

The cosmic web unveiled: observing ‘dim matter’ in 3D

May 1, 2014


Caltech astronomers have taken unprecedented 3D images of the intergalactic medium (IGM) — the diffuse gas that connects galaxies throughout the universe, proving that the speculated “dim matter” of the universe exists.

Theoreticians have predicted since the 1980s that primordial gas from the Big Bang is not spread uniformly throughout space, but is instead distributed in channels that span galaxies and flow between them. This “cosmic web” —… read more

How a synapse stays stable when its proteins are renewed

April 30, 2014


Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried have found an explanation for how a synapse stays stable for a long time despite the fact that its proteins must be renewed regularly.

The researchers studied the growth of synapses in tissue culture dishes following exposure to a learning stimulus. To do this, they activated individual synapses using the neurotransmitter glutamate, which plays an important role… read more

Disney Research creates 3D-printed interactive speakers of any shape

April 30, 2014

3d printed speaker

Scientists at Disney Research, Pittsburgh have developed methods to use a 3D printer to produce electrostatic loudspeakers that can take the shape of anything, from a rubber ducky to an abstract spiral.

The simple speakers require little assembly, but even those few manual steps might be eliminated in the future, said co-developer Yoshio Ishiguro, a Disney Research, Pittsburgh post-doctoral associate. “In five to 10 years, a 3D… read more

A 3D printer for making soft, cuddly stuff

April 30, 2014


A new type of 3D printer developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research Pittsburgh can turn raw wool and wool blend yarns into fabric objects that people might enjoy touching.

The device, which looks like a cross between a 3D printer and a sewing machine, produces 3D objects made of loose felt,  such as clothing, hat, and Teddy bears. It also might be used… read more

Future smart phones could be printed on your clothes

Graphene and carbon nanotubes can generate intense surface plasmons for use in nanoelectronics and cancer therapy
April 30, 2014

Schematic of a proposed spaser made of an optically pumped carbon nanotube located above a square graphene nanoflake resonator (credit: Monash University)

Monash University Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering (ECSE) engineers have modeled the world’s first “spaser” (surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) to be made completely out of carbon.

Spasers are analogous to lasers, but generate surface plasmons (coherent electron oscillations) instead of photons.

PhD student and lead researcher Chanaka Rupasinghe said the modeled spaser design… read more

A cosmic illusion revealed

First example of strong gravitational lensing of a supernova
April 29, 2014


A team of researchers led by Robert Quimby at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) has announced the discovery of a galaxy that magnified a supernova thirtyfold via gravitational lensing. This is the first example of strong gravitational lensing of a supernova and confirms the team’s previous explanation for the unusual properties of this supernova.

The team has also shown… read more

Controlling brain waves to stay visually aware

The car of the future might stimulate your brain electrically to keep you from drifting off into alpha waves and not paying attention to dangers
April 29, 2014

Experimental setup showing the event-related optical signal (EROS) equipment, with source and detector fibers traveling to and from the head attached with a modified motorcycle helmet (credit: Kyle E. Mathewson et al./Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

Researchers at Beckman Institute have used a novel technique to determine how the brain processes external stimuli that reach (or don’t reach) our awareness.

“When we have different things competing for our attention, we can only be aware of so much of what we see,” said Kyle Mathewson, Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow.

“For example, when you’re driving, you might … see something brief or faint while… read more

Graphene’s potential to reshape neurosurgery

April 29, 2014

Schematic illustration of a recently developed graphene electric field stimulator (credit: Biomaterials)

Graphene may lead to exciting new applications in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases, according to a report in the May issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. The paper can also serve as a general introduction to the properties of graphene and its future uses.

Tobias A. Mattei, MD, of Invision Health/Brain & Spine Center, Buffalo, New York and Azeem A.… read more

Electric pulses for delivering gene therapy may restore hearing quality for cochear-implant users

Could also be used for treating other neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease and psychiatric conditions
April 28, 2014


Researchers at UNSW Australia have used electrical pulses from a cochlear implant to deliver gene therapy in animals, successfully regrowing auditory nerves.

The research also heralds a possible new way of treating other neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, and psychiatric conditions such as depression through this novel way of delivering gene therapy, the researchers say.

The research was published Thursday April 24 in the journal Scienceread more

Skin layer grown from human stem cells could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing

April 28, 2014

iPSC-derived keratinocytes colonies

An international team led by King’s College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) has developed the first lab-grown epidermis (the outermost skin layer) with a functional permeability barrier akin to real skin.

The new epidermis, grown from human pluripotent stem cells, offers a cost-effective alternative lab model for testing drugs and cosmetics, and could also help to develop new therapies for rare and… read more

A new ‘off’ switch for neurons

"Will greatly enhance work in large-brained organisms like rats and primates" -- Karl Deisseroth
April 28, 2014

Modified light-sensitive channelrhodopsin structure, with the nine mutations to achieve neuron silencing shown in orange (credit: Andre Berndt et al./Science)

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists have found a way to silence (turn off) individual neurons, using optogenetics, which previously could only turn on neurons.

Optogenetics is a method used by neuroscientists to study how specific neurons work. They shine LED or laser light on genetically modified neurons (light-activated) proteins (such as channelrhodopsin) that function as ion channels, which then turn on the… read more

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