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Protons found to pass through graphene, raising hopes for efficient fuel cells

Graphene membranes could also extract hydrogen gas out of the atmosphere
December 1, 2014

Graphene is an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Graphene, which is impermeable to all gases and liquids, can actually allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found, to their surprise.

Published in the journal Nature, the discovery could revolutionize fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies, the researchers say, because that’s exactly what fuel cells require: a barrier that only allows protons (hydrogen atoms with their electrons stripped off) to pass through, while blocking hydrogen.… read more

The Imitation Game

November 30, 2014

The_Immitation_Game

Released in theaters in the U.S. on Friday (Nov. 28) and in the UK on Nov. 14, The Imitation Game portrays the race by Alan Turing and his team of code-breakers to crack the German Enigma machine code at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during World War II.

The title of the film

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Decoding nervous-system signals to the brain could speed up diagnosis of infections or inflammation

The nervous system may play a bigger role in infections and autoimmune diseases than previously known
November 28, 2014

Peripheral nervous system (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In a commentary published Thursday (Nov. 27) in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reviewed new pre-clinical trials that show that the nervous system may play a bigger role in infections and inflammation than previously known.

The researchers, at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, noted that neurons of the peripheral nervous system are known to send information about… read more

DNA survives rocket return from space

November 28, 2014

Launch of the TEXUS-49 rocket from the Esrange Space Center in Sweden (credit: Adrian Mettauer)

DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and still pass on genetic information, scientists from the University of Zurich (UZH) found during a March 2011 experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket, the researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE (open access) Thursday (Nov. 26, 2014).

The researchers applied plasmid DNA molecules to the outer shell of the payload section… read more

Disruptive sounds help aging brain ignore distractions

November 26, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

As we age, we have an increasingly harder time ignoring distractions. But by learning to discriminate a sound amidst progressively more disruptive distractions, we can diminish our distractibility, new research in Cell Press journal Neuron reveals.

A similar strategy might also help children with attention deficits or individuals with other mental challenges.

Distractibility (the inability to sustain focus on a goal due to attention to irrelevant stimuli) can have… read more

New targeted, noninvasive treatments for mental illness to combine TMS and ultrasound

November 26, 2014

Transcranial magnetic stimulation can stimulate brain circuits near the surface for treating conditions like depression and anxiety; ultrasound (right) can reach deeper into the brain and more precisely. Stanford researchers hope to combine them. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons and Stanford University)

A new interdisciplinary Stanford University initiative called NeuroCircuit aims to find the specific brain circuits that are responsible for mental-health conditions and then develop ways of noninvasively stimulate those circuits to potentially lead to improved treatments for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You see things activated in brain images but you can’t tell just by watching what is cause and what is effect,” said Amit Etkin, Neurocircuit co-leader… read more

Wireless electronic implants deliver antibiotic, then harmlessly dissolve

November 25, 2014

coil + resistor

Imagine an electronic implant that delivers a drug when triggered by a remote wireless signal — then harmlessly dissolves (no post-surgical infection concerns, no fuss, no muss) within minutes or weeks.

That’s what researchers at Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have demonstrated* in mice, using a resistor (as a source of heat for releasing drug and help dissolving the implant) and a power-receiving coil made… read more

Does virtual reality space you out?

November 25, 2014

(Credit: IMAX Corporation)

Put rats in an IMAX-like surround virtual world limited to vision only, and the neurons in their hippocampi* seem to fire completely randomly — and more than half of those neurons shut down — as if the neurons had no idea where the rat was, UCLA neurophysicists found in a recent experiment.

Put another group of rats in a real room (with sounds and odors) designed to look likeread more

How permanent stress may lead to mental disorders

November 24, 2014

Microglia cells from rat cortex before (left) and after (right) traumatic brain injury (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells in the brain can cause changes to the brain, resulting in mental disorders, a research team headed by professor Georg Juckel, Medical Director of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) LWL university clinic, has found. The research was based on psychoneuroimmunology, the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.

The team focused mainly on … read more

A wearable to help measure stress, epileptic seizures, activity, and sleep

November 24, 2014

Embrace (credit: Empatica)

MIT spinoff Empatica, which is developing a medical-quality wearable device to monitor epileptic seizures* and alert caregivers, has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund its development.

“When people that have epilepsy wear Embrace, they will get an alert when an unusual event happens, like a convulsive seizure,” the Indiegogo site says. “It will go via their smartphone to parents, roommates or caregivers, so somebody can check… read more

Low-cost 2D-printed ‘paper electronics’

Could make health care and other uses more accessible
November 21, 2014

Paper-baaed touch pad functioning on a curved surface (credit: Ruo-Zhou Li et al./ ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces)

An international team of scientists has developed a fast, low-cost way of making low-cost medical electronic touch sensors by printing conductive silver nanowire inks directly on paper, using a 2D programmed printing machine.

Anming Hu of the University of Tennessee Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering and colleagues point out that paper, which is available worldwide at low cost, makes an excellent surface for lightweight, foldable “paper electronics: that… read more

Spooky alignment of quasar axes across billions of light-years with large-scale structure

November 21, 2014

This artist's impression shows schematically the mysterious alignments between the spin axes of quasars and the large-scale structures that they inhabit that observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed. These alignments are over billions of light-years and are the largest known in the Universe. The large-scale structure is shown in blue and quasars are marked in white with the rotation axes of their black holes indicated with a line around them. This picture is for illustration only and does not depict the real distribution of galaxies and quasars. (Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to… read more

Robotic walker helps patients regain natural gait and increases productivity of physiotherapists

November 21, 2014

Robotic walker (credit: NUS)

A novel robotic walker that helps patients carry out therapy sessions to regain their leg movements and natural gait has been invented by a team of researchers led by assistant professor Yu Haoyong from the National University of Singapore Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Survivors of stroke or other neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson’s disease often struggle with mobility. To regain… read more

China and ‘one or two others’ can shut US electric grids and other critical infrastructure, says NSA director

November 21, 2014

(Credit: Achim Hering/Wikimedia Commons)

China and “one or two others” can shut down the U.S. electric grids and other critical infrastructure and is performing electronic reconnaissance on a regular basis, said NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers, testifying Thursday (Nov. 20) at a House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on U.S. efforts to combat cybersecurity.

“All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to… read more

Georgia Tech professor proposes another alternative to the Turing test

The Lovelace 2.0 Test of Artificial Creativity and Intelligence assesses a computer's capacity for human-level intelligence by its ability to create, rather than to converse or deceive
November 20, 2014

But would mathematician-programmer Countess Lady Lovelace have approved?

Georgia Tech associate professor Mark Ried has developed a new kind of “Turing test” — a test proposed in 1950 by computing pioneer Alan Turing to determine whether a machine or computer program exhibits human-level intelligence.Most Turing test designs require a machine to engage in dialogue and convince (trick) a human judge that it is an actual person. But creating certain types of art also requires intelligence, leading Reid to consider… read more

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