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How to catch a molecule

Single molecules imprisoned by laser light in a doughnut-shaped metal cage could unlock the key to advanced storage devices, quantum computers, and high-resolution instruments
September 21, 2015

With a nano-ring-based toroidal trap, cold polar molecules near the gray shaded surface approaching the central region may be trapped within a nanometer scale volume. (credit: ORNL)

In a paper published in Physical Review AOak Ridge National Laboratory and University of Tennessee physicists describe conceptually how they may be able to trap and exploit a molecule’s energy to advance a number of fields.

“A single molecule has many degrees of freedom, or ways of expressing its energy and dynamics, including vibrations, rotations and translations,” said Ali Passian of Oak Ridge National… read more

‘Tree of life’ for 2.3 million species released

A “Wikipedia” for evolutionary trees
September 21, 2015

This circular family tree of Earth’s lifeforms is considered a first draft of the 3.5-billion-year history of how life evolved and diverged. (credit: Duke University)

A first draft of the “tree of life” for the roughly 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes — from platypuses to puffballs — has been released.

A collaborative effort among eleven institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

Tens… read more

A thermal invisibility cloak that actively redirects heat

Uses may include electronic systems cooling, high-power engines, MRI instruments, thermal sensors, and clothing
September 21, 2015

Active thermal cloak hides a circular object in conductive heat flow by “pumping” heat from hot end to cold end. (credit: Xu & Zhang/NTU)

A new thermal cloak that can render an object thermally invisible by actively redirecting incident heat has been developed by scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. It’s similar to how optical invisibility cloaks can bend and diffract light to shield an object from sight and specially fabricated acoustic metamaterials can hide an object from sound waves.

The system has the potential to fine-tune temperature… read more

Transparent photonic coating cools solar cells to boost efficiency

Radiates heat into space without greenhouse effect
September 21, 2015

Stanford engineers have invented a transparent material that improves the efficiency of solar cells by radiating thermal energy (heat) into space (credit: Stanford Engineering)

Stanford engineers have developed a transparent material that improves the efficiency of solar cells by radiating thermal energy (heat) into space, even in full sunlight.

The invention may solve a longstanding problem for the solar industry: the hotter solar cells become, the less efficient they are at converting sunlight to electricity. The Stanford solution is based on a thin, patterned silica material laid on top of a… read more

First application to pursue genome editing research in human embryos

September 18, 2015

Human embryos are at the centre of a debate over the ethics of gene editing (credit: Dr. Yorgos Nikas/SPL)

The first application to pursue CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing research in viable human embryos has been submitted to the UK’s fertility regulator by a team of researchers affiliated with the Francis Crick Institute in London.

“This research proposal is a troubling and provocative move,” commented Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society.

“Modifying the genes of human embryos is… read more

Minority Report, Limitless TV shows launch Monday, Tuesday

September 18, 2015

(credit: Fox)

A sequel to Steven Spielberg’s epic movie, MINORITY REPORT is set in Washington, D.C., 10 years after the demise of Precrime, a law enforcement agency tasked with identifying and eliminating criminals … before their crimes were committed. Now, in 2065, crime-solving is different, and justice leans more on sophisticated and trusted technology than on the instincts of the precogs. Sept. 21 series premiere Mondays 9/8:00cread more

Massive clash of black holes raises astronomers’ hopes of witnessing gravitational waves

What do the rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 mean?
September 18, 2015

Artist’s conception of a converging supermassive black holes in the Virgo constellation (credit: P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Circling like prizefighters in a ring, a pair of supermassive black holes is heading toward an epic collision. One so powerful it would send a burst of gravitational waves surging through and distorting the very fabric of space-time.

Already, the intensity of the encounter is causing mysterious rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 — 3.5 billion light-years away in the Virgo constellation.

“This is the… read more

3D-printed silicone guide with chemical cues helps regenerate complex nerves after injury

Research could help more than 200,000 people annually who suffer from nerve injuries or disease
September 18, 2015

3D scans of a nerve are used to create a custom regeneration guide. (credit: University of Minnesota)

A national team of researchers used a combination of 3-D imaging and 3-D printing techniques to create a custom silicone guide implanted with biochemical cues to help nerve regeneration after an injury.

Nerve regeneration is a complex process, which is why regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is very rare and often permanent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As a test, the researchers used a 3-D scanner… read more

A simulated quantum learning lab in Vienna that you can access virtually

September 17, 2015

Interference of complex molecules are pictured in the Kapitza-Dirac-Talbot-Lau interferometer. (credit: Copyright: Quantum Nanophysics group, University of Vienna; Image: Mathias Tomandl & Patrick Braun)

Ever feel like digging into quantum physics — and actually understanding it? Then you may enjoy a novel virtual hands-on remote learning environment developed by quantum physicists at the University of Vienna in collaboration with university and high-school students, and available free online.

The new teaching concept, called “Simulated Interactive Research Experiments” (SiReX), is described in an open-access paper in the journal Scientificread more

Ultrafast ‘electron camera’ visualizes atomic ripples in 2-D material

Understanding motions of atomic layers may help design solar cells, electronics and catalysts of the future
September 17, 2015

Researchers have used SLAC's experiment for ultrafast electron diffraction (UED), one of the world's fastest 'electron cameras' to take snapshots of a three-atom-thick layer of a promising material as it wrinkles in response to a laser pulse. Understanding these dynamic ripples could provide crucial clues for the development of next-generation solar cells, electronics and catalysts. (credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

A new “electron camera” can capture images of individual moving atoms as they form wrinkles on a three-atom-thick material and in trillionths of a second — one of the world’s fastest. It has been developed by scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.

This unprecedented level of detail could guide researchers in developing more efficient solar cells, fast and flexible… read more

Tunable brain cells that morph on demand

Have implications for educational policies and new therapies for neurological disorders
September 16, 2015

PV+ interneuron (credit: Nathalie Dehorter et al./Science)

King’s College London researchers have developed a new molecular “switch” that controls the properties of certain neurons in response to changes in the activity of their neural network — suggesting that these circuits in our brain are tuneable and could have implications that go far beyond basic neuroscience.

The researchers, from the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology (MRC CDN) at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN),… read more

Changing behavior with synapse engineering

September 16, 2015

Injecting a transgenic nematode worm with tyramine induces it to switch from forward locomotion (dashed red line) to backward locomotion (dashed blue line) (credit: Jennifer K. Pirri et al./PLOS Biology)

In 1963, Yale professor of physiology and psychiatry Dr. Jose Delgado implanted an stimulating electrode in the caudate nucleus of a fighting bull, bravely jumped into the bullring, and stopped the animal in its tracks by remotely activating the electrode. Now UMass Medical School scientists have taken neural control precision down to the synapse level, reversing a C. elegans (nematode) worm’s head position or locomotion direction by simply switching… read more

Controlling brain cells with ultrasound

Sonogenetics may be able to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle, and other cells using ultrasonic waves, similar to optogenetics
September 15, 2015

For the first time, sound waves are used to control brain cells. Salk scientists developed the new technique, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively and noninvasively turn on groups of neurons in worms that could be a boon to science and medicine. (credit: Salk Institute)

Salk scientists have developed a new method, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic waves (the same type of waves used in medical sonograms).

This new method may have advantages over the similar light-based approach known as optogenetics, particularly for human therapeutics. It is described today (Sept. 15, 2015) in the journal Nature Communications.

Sreekanth Chalasani,… read more

Cocoa flavanols lower blood pressure and increase blood-vessel function in healthy people

Poor diet and high blood pressure now number one risk factors for death
September 14, 2015

Cocoa pods (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Two recently published studies in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) demonstrate that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens the burden on the heart that comes with the aging and stiffening of arteries, while reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD)

As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible and less able to expand to let blood flow and circulate normally, and… read more

Japanese paper art inspires new 3-D fabrication method that goes beyond 3-D printing limitations

Strategic ‘Kirigami cuts’ in advanced materials result in strength, not failure; could be useful in tissue engineering and microelectromechanical systems
September 14, 2015

A new assembly method based on an ancient Japanese paper art quickly transforms 2-D structures into complex 3-D shapes. The results, reported by a Northwestern University and University of Illinois research team, could be useful in tissue engineering and microelectromechanical systems. (credit: University of Illinois)

A research team has created complex 3-D micro- and nanostructures out of silicon and other materials used in advanced technologies by employing a new assembly method that uses a Japanese Kirigami paper-cutting method.

The method builds on the team’s “pop-up” fabrication technique — going from a 2-D material to 3-D in an instant, like a pop-up children’s book — reported in January this year onread more

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