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Evidence that our Sun could release ‘superflares’ 1000x greater than previously recorded

Could release energy equivalent to a billion megaton bombs, potentially disastrous for life on Earth
December 2, 2015

SUN_B & BORDER: What the Sun might look like if it were to produce a superflare. A large flaring coronal loop structure is shown towering over a solar active region (credit: University of Warwick/Ronald Warmington)

Astrophysicists have discovered a stellar “superflare” on a star observed by NASA’s Kepler space telescope with wave patterns similar to those that have been observed in the Sun’s solar flares. (Superflares are flares that are thousands of times more powerful than those ever recorded on the Sun, and are frequently observed on some stars.)

The scientists found the evidence in the star KIC9655129 in the Milky Way. They suggest… read more

How to make diamond objects with a laser at room temperature

December 1, 2015

This is a scanning electron microscopy image of microdiamonds made using the new technique (credit: Jagdish Narayan, Anagh Bhaumik/APL Materials)

Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered a new phase of solid carbon, called Q-carbon, that is distinct from the known phases of graphite and diamond. They have also developed a technique for using Q-carbon to make diamond-related structures at room temperature and at ambient atmospheric pressure in air.*

Phases are distinct forms of the same material. Graphite is one of the solid phases of carbon;… read more

Supermassive black-hole-eating star ejects high-speed flare

December 1, 2015

Artist’s conception of a star being drawn toward a black hole and destroyed (left), and the black hole later emitting a “jet” of plasma composed of the debris left from the star’s destruction. (credit: modified from an original image by Amadeo Bachar.)

An international team of astrophysicists has for the first time witnessed a black hole swallowing a star and ejecting a flare of matter moving at nearly the speed of light.

The finding, reported in the journal Science, tracks the star — about the size of our sun — as it shifts from its customary path, slips into the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole and is sucked in,… read more

Do fish have emotions and consciousness?

Or are chilled fish just thermotropic?
December 1, 2015

Zebrafish (credit: Azul/CC)

Researchers in Spain and the U.K. have made the first observations infish of an increase in body temperature of 2–4 ºC when zebrafish were subjected to a stressful situation (they were confined in a net inside the tank at an uncomforable 27ºC for 15 minutes).*

This phenomenon is called “emotional fever” because it’s related to the emotions that animals feel in the face of an external stimulus, which been… read more

New inventions track greenhouse gas, remediate oil spills

December 1, 2015

Camera test at Foljesjon, a lake in a research area west of Vanersborg, Sweden. (credit: Linkoping University)

A new camera that can image methane in the air, allowing for precision monitoring of a greenhouse gas, has been developed by a team of researchers from Linköping and Stockholm Universities.

The new camera should help us better understand the rapid but irregular increase of methane in the atmosphere (which has puzzled researchers) and identify the sources and sinks of methane in the landscape. It may also suggest ways… read more

‘Invisible wires’ could improve solar-cell efficiency

November 30, 2015

Silicon pillars emerge from nanosize holes in a thin gold film. The pillars funnel 97 percent of incoming light to a silicon substrate, a technology that could significantly boost the performance of conventional solar cells. (credit: Vijay Narasimhan, Stanford University)

Stanford scientists have discovered how to make the electrical wiring on top of solar cells nearly invisible to incoming light, using nanosize silicon pillars to hide the wires. The new design could dramatically boost solar-cell efficiency, the researchers suggest.

A solar cell is basically a semiconductor that converts sunlight into electricity, sandwiched between metal contacts that carry the electrical current generated by the cell. But with current… read more

Capturing a single photon

Devices based on the research findings may be essential for future quantum communications systems
November 30, 2015

Capturing a single photon from a pulse of light: Devices based on the Weizmann Institute model may be the backbone of future quantum communications systems (credit: Weizmann Institute of Science)

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have managed to isolate a single photon out of a pulse of light. Single photons may be the backbone of future quantum communication systems, the researchers say.

The mechanism relies on a physical effect that they call “single-photon Raman interaction” (SPRINT). “The advantage of SPRINT is that it is completely passive; it does not require any control fields — just the interaction… read more

Army ants’ ‘living’ bridges suggest collective intelligence

Could we use ant-based rules to program swarms of simple robots to build bridges and other structures by connecting to each other?
November 25, 2015

Researchers from Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology report for the first time that the "living" bridges army ants of the species Eciton hamatum (pictured) build with their bodies are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants automatically assemble with a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive robots that can cooperate as a group. (credit: Courtesy of Matthew Lutz, Princeton University, and Chris Reid, University of Sydney)

Researchers from Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) report for the first time that army ants of the species Eciton hamatum that form “living” bridges across breaks and gaps in the forest floor are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants exhibit a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive… read more

Biologists induce flatworms to grow heads and brains of other species

Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects, regeneration of organs
November 25, 2015

Tufts biologists induced one species of flatworm -- G. dorotocephala, top left -- to grow heads and brains characteristic of other species of flatworm, top row, without altering genomic sequence. Examples of the outcomes can be seen in the bottom row of the image. (credit: Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University.)

Tufts University biologists have electrically modified flatworms to grow heads and brains characteristic of another species of flatworm — without altering their genomic sequence. This suggests bioelectrical networks as a new kind of epigenetics (information existing outside of a genomic sequence) to determine large-scale anatomy.

Besides the overall shape of the head, the changes included the shape of the brain and the distribution of the worm’s adult stem cells.… read more

Master genetic switch for brain development discovered

November 24, 2015

Figure 1: Cells in which NeuroD1 is turned on are reprogrammed to become neurons. Cell nuclei are shown in blue (Höchst stain) and neurons, with their characteristic long processes, are shown in red (stained with neuronal marker TUJ1). (credit: A. Pataskar/J. Jung & V. Tiwari)

Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz, Germany have unraveled a complex regulatory mechanism that explains how a single gene, NeuroD1, can drive the formation of brain cells. The research, published in The EMBO Journal, is an important step towards a better understanding of how the brain develops and may lead to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine.

Neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, are often… read more

An ultrafast 3-D imaging system to investigate traumatic brain injury

November 24, 2015

Still frame filmed at 200,000 frames/sec of a violently collapsing vapor bubble inside a brain-mimicking collagen gel (bubble size is approximately 100 microns). Inside the gel are thousands of brain cells (neurons). (credit: J. Estrada (Franck Lab)/Brown U)

Researchers at Brown University are using an ultrafast 3-D imaging system to investigate the effects of microcavitation bubbles on traumatic brain injury (TBI), experienced by some soldiers and football players.

In the fleeting moments after a liquid is subjected to a sudden change in pressure, microscopic bubbles rapidly form and collapse in a process known as cavitation.

In mechanical systems such as propellers, the resulting shock waves and… read more

First real-time imaging of neural activity invented

November 24, 2015

A series of images from a Duke engineering experiment show voltage spreading through a fruitfly neuron over a matter of just 4 milliseconds, a hundred times faster than the blink of an eye. The technology can see impulses as fleeting as 0.2 millisecond -- 2000 times faster than a blink. (credit: Yiyang Gong, Duke University)

Researchers at Stanford University and Duke University have developed a new technique for watching the brain’s neurons in action with a temporal (time) resolution of about 0.2 milliseconds — a speed that is just fast enough to capture the action potentials in mammalian brains in real time for the first time.

The researchers combined genetically encoded voltage indicators, which can sense individual action potentials from… read more

Quantum entanglement achieved at room temperature in macroscopic semiconductor wafers

November 23, 2015

quantum entanglement in silicon chip

Researchers in Prof. David Awschalom’s group at the Institute for Molecular Engineering have demonstrated macroscopic entanglement at room temperature and in a small (33 millitesla) magnetic field.

Previously, scientists have overcome the thermodynamic barrier and achieved macroscopic entanglement in solids and liquids by going to ultra-low temperatures (-270 degrees Celsius) and applying huge magnetic fields (1,000 times larger than that of a typical refrigerator magnet) or… read more

Physicists plan a miniaturized particle accelerator prototype in five years

November 23, 2015

Three “accelerators on a chip” made of silicon. A shoebox-sized particle accelerator would use a series of these “accelerators on a chip” to boost the energy of electrons. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded $13.5 million to Stanford University for an international effort to build a working particle accelerator the size of a shoebox, based on an “accelerator on a chip” design, a novel technique using laser light to propel electrons through a series of glass chips, with the potential to revolutionize science, medicine, and other fields by dramatically shrinking the size and cost… read more

Storing solar, wind, and water energy underground could replace burning fuel

November 23, 2015

WWS solution

Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers have a solution to the problem of storing energy from wind, water and solar power overnight (or in inclement weather): store it underground. The system could result in a reliable, affordable national grid, replacing fossil fuel, they believe.

How it would work

  • Summer heat gathered in rooftop solar collectors could be stored in soil or rocks and used for heating

read more

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