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The corrugated galaxy — Milky Way may be much larger than previously estimated

March 12, 2015

The Milky Way galaxy is at least 50 percent larger than is commonly estimated, according to new findings that reveal that the galactic disk is contoured into several concentric ripples. (Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

The Milky Way galaxy is at least 50 percent larger than is commonly estimated, according to new findings that reveal that the galactic disk is contoured into several concentric ripples.

The research, conducted by an international team led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor Heidi Jo Newberg, revisits astronomical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which, in 2002, established the presence of a bulging ring of stars beyond the… read more

A ’3D printer’ for customized small molecules such as drugs

March 12, 2015

3D Printer for Small Molecules1

Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have developed a simpler way to synthesize small molecules, eliminating a major bottleneck in creating new medicines.

As the scientists note in the March 13, 2015, issue of the journal Science, “small-molecule syntheses typically employ strategies and purification methods that are highly customized for each target, thus requiring automation solutions to be developed [inefficiently] on an ad hoc basis.”

According to Martin Burke, an… read more

Bio-inspired eye stabilizes robot’s flight, replaces inertial navigation system

March 11, 2015

The BeeRotor robot, equipped with an eye inspired by that of insects (credit: © Expert & Ruffier (ISM, CNRS/AMU))

Biorobotics researchers have developed the first aerial robot able to fly over uneven terrain that is stabilized visually without an accelerometer.

Called BeeRotor, it adjusts its speed and avoids obstacles thanks to optic flow sensors inspired by insect vision.

It can fly along a tunnel with uneven, moving walls without measuring either speed or altitude. The study was published on February 26 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.… read more

Silk may be the new ‘green’ ultra-high-capacity material for batteries

March 11, 2015

Silk is graphetized (left) to create porous nitrogen-doped carbon nanosheets as an improved ultra-high-capacity material for battery anodes and supercapacitors (credit: Jianhau Hou et al./ACS Nano)

Scientists at Beijing Institute of Technology have developed a new “green” method to boost the performance of widely used lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, using a material derived from silk.

Currently, graphite (a form of  carbon found in “lead” pencils) is used in Li-ion energy storage devices, including batteries and supercapacitors.

Chuanbao Cao and colleagues found a sustainable solution: a one-step process for using natural silk… read more

‘Heart on a chip’ reduces time and cost in drug testing for safety and efficacy

Replaces animal models, which have a high failure rate in predicting human reactions to new drugs
March 10, 2015

The “heart-on-a-chip” developed at UC Berkeley houses human heart tissue derived from adult stem cells. The system could one day replace animal models for drug safety screening. (credit: Anurag Mathur, Healy Lab)

A UC Berkeley research team led by bioengineering professor Kevin Healy has developed a network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells that models human heart tissue.

They have also demonstrated the viability of this system as a drug-screening tool by testing it with cardiovascular medications.

This “organ-on-a-chip,” housed in an inch-long silicone (a rubberlike material) device, represents a major step forward in the development of… read more

Drugs that dramatically increase healthy lifespan discovered by Scripps Research, Mayo Clinic

March 10, 2015

Sprycel (credit: Bristol-Myers Squibb)

A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions has identified a new class of drugs that in animal models dramatically slows the aging process, alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function, and extending a healthy lifespan.

They found two drugs — the cancer drug dasatinib (sold under the trade name Sprycel) and quercetin, a natural compound found… read more

Future farming to be based on robots and big data

March 9, 2015

QUT's AgBot II (credit: QUT)

The farm of the future will involve multiple lightweight, small, autonomous, energy-efficient machines (AgBots) operating collectively to weed, fertilize and control pest and diseases, while collecting vasts amount of data to enable better management decision making,” according to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) robotics Professor Tristan Perez.

“We are starting to see automation in agriculture for single processes such as animal and crop drone… read more

First detailed microscopy evidence of nanobacteria at the lower size limit of life

March 9, 2015

This cryo-electron tomography image reveals the internal structure of an ultra-small bacteria cell like never before. The cell has a very dense interior compartment and a complex cell wall. The darker spots at each end of the cell are most likely ribosomes. The image was obtained from a 3-D reconstruction. The scale bar is 100 nanometers. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria believed to be about as small as life can get.

The existence of ultra-small bacteria (aka “nanobacteria” or “nannobacteria”) has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

They are about 200 nanometers (.2 micrometers) in width with a volume of only… read more

Hidden toxins found in ‘green,’ ‘all-natural,’ and ‘organic’ products

Fewer than three percent of volatile ingredients identified
March 8, 2015

(credit: iStock)

A University of Melbourne researcher has found that common consumer products, including those marketed as “green,” “all-natural,” “non-toxic,” and “organic,” emit a range of compounds that could harm human health and air quality. But most of these ingredients are not disclosed to the public.

Prof. Anne Steinemann* investigated and compared volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 37 different products, such as air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal… read more

New nanodevice defeats drug resistance and releases cancer drugs

March 6, 2015

Gold nanoparticles embedded in a hydrogel and coated with a DNA hairpin labeled with a near-infrared (NIR) dye and a dark-quencher that can be injected or implanted at a tumor site to disrupt any gene involved in cancer (credit: João Conde, Nuria Oliva, and Natalie Artzi/PNAS)

A new nanodevice developed by MIT researchers can help overcome cancer cell drug resistance (after chemotherapy) by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

The device, which consists of gold nanoparticles embedded in a hydrogel that can be injected or implanted at a tumor site, could also be used more broadly to disrupt any gene involved in cancer.… read more

This energy-generating cloth could replace batteries in wearable devices

March 6, 2015

WTNG2

Scientists at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea and University of Wollongong in Australia report in the journal ACS Nano the first durable, flexible cloth that can harness human motion to generate energy, allowing for self-powered smart clothes.

The new technology avoids the need for batteries — a current limitation in wearable electronics.

The new textile can also charge batteries or supercapacitors without an external power… read more

Is your smartphone making you stupid?

March 6, 2015

(credit: Universal Studios)

A study by University of Waterloo researchers suggests that smartphone users who are intuitive thinkers — more prone to relying on gut feelings and instincts when making decisions — frequently use search engines rather than their own brainpower.

“They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it,” said Gordon Pennycook, co-lead author of… read more

A quantum device that detects and corrects its own errors

UC Santa Barbara researchers form partnership with Google
March 5, 2015

A photograph of the nine qubit device. Qubits interact with their nearest neighbors to detect and correct errors. (credit: Julian Kelly)

In what they are calling a major milestone, researchers in the John Martinis Lab at UC Santa Barbara have developed quantum circuitry that self-checks for errors and suppresses them — preserving the qubits’ state(s) and imbuing the system with reliability that is foundational for building powerful large-scale superconducting quantum computers.

“One of the biggest challenges in quantum computing is that qubits are inherently faulty,” said Julian Kelly,… read more

Kids and robots learn to write together

March 5, 2015

Kids and robots2

EPFL researchers have developed a new teaching tool called CoWriter based on the pedagogical principle of “learning by teaching.”

When children experience difficulties in writing, they can easily lose confidence, begin to shut down, or even gradually lose interest in the learning process. Eventually, their entire education can be affected. When students put themselves in the place of a teacher and pass on what they know to their peers,… read more

What happens when we all drive electric vehicles?

March 5, 2015

(credit: Hasselt University)

The European Union predicts that electric vehicles (EV) could be in mass production by 2020. But what might be their impacts, such as new demands on electrical distribution grids and on how and where we travel?

The EU DATA SIM project, a  consortium of nine partners from seven countries with EUR 2,3 million investment from the EU, was created for that purpose.

It has… read more

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