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Metal foams found to excel in shielding X-rays, gamma rays, neutron radiation

May lead to better shielding for nuclear reactors and space travel
July 20, 2015

Research from North Carolina State University shows that lightweight composite metal foams -- like the one pictured here -- are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high impact collisions. The finding means the metal foams hold promise for use in nuclear safety, space exploration and medical technology applications. (credit: Afsaneh Rabiei, North Carolina State University)

North Carolina State University researchers have found that lightweight composite metal foams they had developed are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. The finding holds promise for use in nuclear power plants, space exploration, and CT-scanner shielding.

“This work means there’s an opportunity to use composite metal foam… read more

Russian billionaire, Hawking announce $100 million search for ET

July 20, 2015

100 meter Green Bank Telescope, the world's largest steerable radio telescope (credit: Geremia/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Frank Drake and others announced at The Royal Society today $100 million funding for Breakthrough Listen — the “most powerful, comprehensive, and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth.”

They also announced $1 million prize funding for Breakthrough Message, a competition to generate messages representing humanity and planet Earth.

“It’s time to commit to finding… read more

Brain-inspired algorithms may make for optimized computational networks

Quantifying the rates of synapse pruning in the mammalian neocortex led to new algorithms for constructing adaptive and robust computational networks across several domains
July 19, 2015

Salk and Carnegie Mellon researchers developed a new model for building efficient networks by studying the rate at which the brain prunes back some of its connections during development. In this model, nodes (such as neurons or sensors) make too many connections (left) before pruning back to connections that are most relevant (right). The team applied their synaptic pruning-based algorithm to air flight patterns and found it was able to create routes to allow passengers to reach their destinations efficiently. (credit: Salk Institute and Carnegie Mellon University)

The developing brain prunes (eliminates) unneeded connections between neurons during early childhood. Now researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Carnegie Mellon University have determined the rate at which that happens, and the implications of that finding for computational networks.

Neurons create networks through a process called pruning. At birth and throughout early childhood, the brain’s neurons make a vast number… read more

Can your phone really know you’re depressed?

July 17, 2015

StudentLife app, sensing and analytics system architecture (credit: Rui Wang et al.)

Northwestern scientists believe an open-access android cell phone app called Purple Robot can detect depression simply by tracking the number of minutes you use the phone and your daily geographical locations.

The more time you spend using your phone, the more likely you are depressed, they found in a small Northwestern Medicine study published yesterday (July 15) in the Journal of Medical Internetread more

How to regenerate axons to recover from spinal-cord injury

July 17, 2015

HKUST researchers cut mouse corticospinal tract axons (labeled red). A year later, they deleted the Pten gene in the experimental group (bottom) but not the control group. The Pten gene removal resulted in axon regrowth in seven months, unlike the control group (top). (credit: Kaimeng Du et al./The Journal of Neuroscience)

Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have found a way to help patients recover from chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) by stimulating the growth of axons.

Chronic SCI prevents a large number of injured axons from crossing a lesion, particularly in the corticospinal tract (CST). Patients inflicted with SCI often suffer a temporary or permanent loss of mobility… read more

Could this new electrical brain-zap method help you learn muscle skills faster?

Meanwhile, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has significantly improved tinnitus symptoms
July 17, 2015

Three brain-stimulation methods (credit: adapted from Shapour Jaberzadeh et al./PLoS ONE)

Researchers headed by Shapour Jaberzadeh and his group at Monash University have discovered a new noninvasive technique that could rev up your brain to improve your physical performance — for athletes and musicians, for instance — and might also improve treatments for brain-related conditions such as stroke, depression, and chronic pain.

The two neuroelectrical treatment methods currently in use are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS)… read more

Gigapixel multicolor microscope is powerful new tool to advance drug research

July 17, 2015

Paralleized multispectral imaging. Each rainbow-colored bar is the fluorescent spectrum from a discrete point in a cell culture. The gigapixel multispectral microscope records nearly a million such spectra every second. (credit: Optica)

A new multispectral microscope capable of processing nearly 17 billion pixels in a single image has been developed by a team of researchers from the United States and Australia — the largest such microscopic image ever created.

This level of multicolor detail is essential for studying the impact of experimental drugs on biological samples and is an important advancement over traditional microscope designs, the researchers say. The goal is… read more

Why ‘white graphene’ structures are cool

July 16, 2015

A 3-D structure of hexagonal boron nitride sheets and boron nitride nanotubes could be a tunable material to control heat in electronics, according to researchers at Rice University. (credit: Shahsavari Group/Rice University)


Three-dimensional structures of boron nitride are a viable candidate as a tunable material to keep electronics cool, according to scientists at Rice University researchers Rouzbeh Shahsavari and Navid Sakhavand.

Their work appears this month in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

In its two-dimensional form, hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), aka white graphene, looks just… read more

Miniature brain organoids made from patient skin cells reveal insights into autism

July 16, 2015

This is a human brain organoid showing complex internal organization, with immature proliferating cells (red) and a surrounding layer of maturing neurons (green) (credit: Jessica Mariani)

Taking a radical research approach to understanding autism, Yale School of Medicine researchers converted skin cells from autism patients into stem cells and then grew them into tiny brains in a dish — revealing unexpected mechanisms of the disease.

The study was published in an open-access paper today (July 16) in the journal Cell.

Most autism research has taken the approach of combing through… read more

Scientists ‘watch’ rats exploring their memories

Could lead to learning how to preserve memories
July 16, 2015

Each of the five panels shows a memory snapshot created by hundreds of place cells while the rat was physically stationary at the top of the 1.8 m track (black). The time difference between the first and last snapshot is a mere one-fifth of a second; the positions represented by the neurons are shown in bright colors. (credit: Reprinted with permission from Pfeiffer and Foster, Science, 349:180)(2015)

How do you visualize your memory? As a continuous video recording, or as a series of snapshots strung together?

According to Johns Hopkins scientists, who actually watched nerve cells firing in the brains of rats as they planned where to go next, it’s a series of snapshots — more like jumping across stepping stones than walking across a bridge.

“Our data from rats suggest that our… read more

Wireless device delivers drugs to brain and triggers neurons via remote control

July 16, 2015

Tiny, implantable devices are capable of delivering light or drugs to specific areas of the brain, potentially improving drug delivery to targeted regions of the brain and reducing side effects. Eventually, the devices may be used to treat pain, depression, epilepsy and other neurological disorders in people. (credit: Alex David Jerez Roman)

A team of researchers has developed a tiny “wireless optofluidic neural probe” the width of a human hair that can be implanted in the brain and triggered by remote control to deliver drugs and activate targeted populations of brain cells.

The technology, demonstrated for the first time in mice, may one day be used to treat pain, depression, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders in people by targeting therapies to… read more

Nanospheres safely deliver high chemotherapy doses to attack tumors

Trojan-horse strategy make the cancer's own enzymes rip up nanoparticles, releasing drugs
July 15, 2015

Tumors secrete enzymes the slice open peptide coatings (blue) that help to safely deliver an anti-cancer drug (red) (credit: Cassandra E. Callmann et al./Advanced Materials)

Scientists have engineered a drug delivery system that uses specially designed nanoparticles that release drugs in the presence of a specific enzymes — the very ones that enable cancers to metastasize.

“We can start with a small molecule and build that into a nanoscale carrier that can seek out a tumor and deliver a payload of drug,” said Cassandra Callmann, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry… read more

Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humankind in jeopardy, say researchers

July 15, 2015

Earth-space battery. The planet is a positive charge of stored chemical energy (cathode) in the form of fossil and nuclear fuels and biomass. As this energy is dissipated by humans, it eventually radiates as heat toward the chemical equilibrium of deep space (anode). The battery is rapidly discharging without replenishment. (credit: John R. Schramski et al./PNAS)

Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” said the study’s lead author,… read more

Memory-loss case ‘like nothing we have ever seen before’

Man has anesthetic at dentist, leaves with 90-minute memory and belief that every day is the same
July 15, 2015

(credit: Newmarket Films)

Gerald Burgess, a University of Leicester lecturer in clinical psychology, has described treating an individual who suffered a “Memento/Before I Go to Sleep“-style anterograde amnesia memory loss after a treatment at a dentist — “like nothing we have ever seen before.”

Since the one-hour root-canal treatment, during which the a 38-year-old man from the UK was given a local anesthetic, the individual cannot remember anything… read more

A jet engine powered by lasers and nuclear explosions?

July 14, 2015

lasers vaporize the radioactive material and cause a fusion reaction — in effect a small thermonuclear explosion.<br />
Lasers vaporize radioactive material and cause a fusion reaction --- in effect a small thermonuclear explosion (credit: Patent Yogi/YouTube)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded a patent (US 9,068,562) to Boeing engineers and scientists for a laser- and nuclear-driven airplane engine.

“A stream of pellets containing nuclear material such as Deuterium or Tritium is fed into a hot-stop within a thruster of the aircraft,” Patent Yogi explains. “Then multiple high powered laser beams are all focused onto the hot-spot. The pellet is… read more

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