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Older people in Germany and England getting smarter, but not fitter

September 1, 2015

smarter not fitter

People over age 50 are scoring better on cognitive tests than people of the same age did in the past — a trend that could be linked to higher education rates and increased use of technology in our daily lives, according to a new study published in an open-access paper in the journal PLOS ONE. But the study also showed that average physical health of the older population has declined.… read more

How mass extinctions can accelerate robot evolution

August 31, 2015

At the start of the simulation, a biped robot controlled by a computationally evolved brain stands upright on a 16 meter by 16 meter surface. The simulation proceeds until the robot falls or until 15 seconds have elapsed. (credit: Joel Lehman)

Robots evolve more quickly and efficiently after a virtual mass extinction modeled after real-life disasters, such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs, computer scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have found.

Mass extinctions speed up evolution by unleashing new creativity in adaptations.

Computer scientists Risto Miikkulainen and Joel Lehman co-authored the study published in an open-access paper in… read more

Soaking up carbon dioxide and turning it into valuable products

August 31, 2015

Conceptual model showing how porphyrin COFs  could  be used to split CO2 into CO and oxygen . (credit: Omar Yaghi, Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley)

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a system that absorbs carbon dioxide and also selectively reduces it to carbon monoxide (which serves as a primary building block for a wide range of chemical products including fuels, pharmaceuticals and plastics).

The trick: they’ve incorporated molecules of carbon dioxide reduction catalysts into the sponge-like crystals of covalentread more

Engineered bacteria form multicellular circuit to control protein expression

Care for some programmed yogurt biocomputers?
August 31, 2015

In a microscopic image created at Rice University, two strains of synthetically engineered bacteria cooperate to create multicellular phenomena. Rice scientists created the biological circuit by programming bacteria to alter gene expression in an entire population. Their fluorescence indicates the engineered capabilities have been activated. (credit: Bennett Lab/Rice University)

Rice University scientists and associates have created a biological equivalent to a computer circuit using multiple types of bacteria that change protein expression. The goal is to modify biological systems by controlling how bacteria influence each other. This could lead to bacteria that, for instance, beneficially alter the gut microbiome (collection of microorganisms) in humans.

The research is published in the journal Science.

Humans’… read more

Light-speed interconnects may lead to ultra-high-speed computers

August 31, 2015

Specially designed, extremely small metal structures can trap light. Once trapped, the light becomes a confined wave known as a surface plasmon. The plasmons propagate from the source to locations several hundred microns away, almost as fast as light through the air. Here the surface plasmons are represented by the blue waves, which begin at the pump beam and are detected hundreds of microns away by the probe beam. (credit: Image courtesy of Hess et al. Nano Lett. 15, 3472-3478 (2015). Copyright 2015 American Chemical Society)

Light waves trapped on a metal’s surface (surface plasmons) travel farther than expected, up to 250 micrometers from the source — which may be far enough to create ultra-fast nanoelectronic circuits, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have discovered.

Future computer circuits could use this phenomenon as interconnects between nanocircuits. Because a surface plasmon travels at near the speed of light, computer circuits with this… read more

Speech-classifier program is better at predicting psychosis than psychiatrists

100% accurate
August 31, 2015

This image shows discrimination between at-risk youths who transitioned to psychosis (red) and those who did not (blue). The 'convex hull' polyhedron contains all the at-risk youth who did NOT develop psychosis (blue). All of the at-risk youth who DID later develop psychosis (red) are outside the polyhedron. Thus the speech classifier had 100 percent discrimination or accuracy. The speech classifier consisted of 'mínimum semantic coherence' (the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next), and indices of reduced complexity of speech, including phrase length, and decreased use of 'determiner' pronouns ('that', 'what', 'whatever', 'which', and 'whichever'). (credit: npj Schizophrenia and Cheryl Corcoran et al./Columbia University Medical Center)

An automated speech analysis program correctly differentiated between at-risk young people who developed psychosis over a later two-and-a-half year period and those who did not.

In a proof-of-principle study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center found that the computerized analysis provided a more accurate classification than clinical ratings.  The study was… read more

‘Artificial leaf’ harnesses sunlight for efficient, safe hydrogen fuel production

Generating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy
August 28, 2015

artificial leaf ft

The first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels has been developed by the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at Caltech, according to Caltech’s Nate Lewis, George L. Argyros Professor and professor of chemistry, and the JCAP scientific director.

The new solar fuel generation system, or “artificial leaf,” is described in the August 27 online issue of the… read more

How to capture and convert CO2 from a smokestack in a single step

Reduces expense of metal-catalysts while generating formic acid, a valuable chemical
August 28, 2015

A novel catalyst transforms carbon dioxide and hydrogen into formic acid (HCOOH) via a two-step (yellow arrows) reaction. This process combines the capture and conversion of carbon dioxide in a single chemical assembly (UiO-66-P-BF2). (credit: Image courtesy of Ye and Johnson, ACS Catalysis 5, 2921-2928 (2015). © 2015 American Chemical Society)

University of Pittsburgh researchers have invented (in computations) a cheap, efficient catalyst that would capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-burning power plants before it reaches the atmosphere and converts the CO2  into formic acid — a valuable chemical that would create a revenue return. 

One current method for capturing CO2 uses Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), which have a porous, cage-like structure that can absorb CO2, but require… read more

Hawking offers new solution to ‘black hole information paradox’

New hope if you fall into a black hole
August 27, 2015

Nobel physics laureate Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, confers with Stephen Hawking at a weeklong conference at KTH Royal Institute of Technology on the information loss paradox. (photo credit: Håkan Lindgren)

Addressing a current controversy in physics about information in black holes, “I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon.”

The event horizon is a boundary around a black hole beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, also known as “the point of no return” — where gravitational pull… read more

Omega-3 supplements fail to stem cognitive decline in the aged, NIH study shows

August 26, 2015

NIH study raises doubt about any benefits omega-3 and dietary supplements like these may have for cognitive decline. (credit: Photo courtesy of NEI)

While some research suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can protect brain health, a large clinical trial by researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that omega-3 supplements did not slow cognitive decline in older persons.

With 4,000 patients followed over a five-year period, the study is one of the largest and longest of its kind. It was published Tuesday August 25 in… read more

3D-printed swimming microrobots can sense and remove toxins

Nanoparticles enable them to be self-propelled, chemically powered, and magnetically steered; could also be used for targeted drug delivery
August 26, 2015

3D-printed microfish contain functional nanoparticles that enable them to be self-propelled, chemically powered and magnetically steered. The microfish are also capable of removing and sensing toxins. (credit: J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

A new kind of fish-shaped microrobots called “microfish” can swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide, and magnetically controlled. They will inspire a new generation of “smart” microrobots that have diverse capabilities such as detoxification, sensing, and directed drug delivery, said nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego.

To manufacture the microfish, the researchers used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed,… read more

Anti-cancer vaccine uses patient’s own cancer cells to trigger immune responses

August 26, 2015

Cancerous melanoma cells shown with their cell bodies (green) and nuclei (blue) are nestled in tiny hollow lumens within the polymeric cryogel (red) structure. (credits: Thomas Ferrante, Sidi A. Bencherif / Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

A new biologically inspired “injectable cryogel whole-cell cancer vaccine” combines patient-specific harvested cancer cells and immune-stimulating chemicals or biological molecules to help the body attack cancer. It has been developed by scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

This new approach is simpler and more economical than other cancer cell transplantation therapies, which harvest tumor cells and then genetically engineer them to trigger immune… read more

How to reprogram cancer cells back to normal

Restoring normal miRNA levels may potentially stop cancer growth, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered
August 25, 2015

Schematic of cell adhesion (credit: Wikipedia)

A way to potentially reprogram cancer cells back to normalcy has been discovered by researchers on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

The finding, published in Nature Cell Biology, represents “an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer,” says the study’s senior investigator, Panos Anastasiadis, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Cancer Biology on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.… read more

Anti-aging effects (in mice) of a dietary supplement called alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can also stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres
August 25, 2015

Shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are both a sign of aging and contribute to it (credit: NIGMS)

Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found that the dietary supplement alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, with positive effects in a mouse model of atherosclerosis.

In human cells, shortened telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, are a sign of aging and also contribute to aging.

The discovery highlights… read more

‘Tricorder’-style handheld MouthLab detects patients’ vital signs, rivaling hospital devices

Could be used by people without special training at home or in the field
August 25, 2015

MouthLab ft

Inspired by the Star Trek tricorder, engineers and physicians at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a hand-held, battery-powered device called MouthLab that quickly picks up vital signs from a patient’s lips and fingertip.

Updated versions of the prototype could replace the bulky, restrictive monitors now used to display patients’ vital signs in hospitals and actually gather more data than is typically collected during… read more

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