science + technology news

Pigeons diagnose breast cancer on X-rays as well as radiologists

When "flock-sourcing," they do better, with 99 percent accuracy --- and they work for seeds
November 19, 2015

pigeon training environment

“Pigeons do just as well as humans in categorizing digitized slides and mammograms of benign and malignant human breast tissue,” said Richard Levenson, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC Davis Health System and lead author of a new open-access study in PLoS One by researchers at the University of California, Davis and The University of Iowa.

“The pigeons were able to generalize what they had… read more

Exercise may protect against neurodegenerative diseases

November 19, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Exercise may protect aging brains against the neurodegenerative diseases resulting from energy-depleting stress caused by neurotoxins and other factors, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

They found that running-wheel exercise increased the amount of SIRT3 in neurons of normal mice and protected them against degeneration.

However, mice models genetically modified to not produce SIRT3 became… read more

50 corporations track third-party data from 88 percent of 1 million top websites

November 17, 2015

sites tracked ft

A survey of 1 million top websites finds that 88 percent share user data with third parties, according to Tim Libert, a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. The study was published in an open-access paper in the International Journal of Communication.

These websites, listed on Alexa, contact an average of nine external domains, indicating that… read more

How to control information leaks from smartphone apps

November 17, 2015

location tracking

A Northeastern University research team has found “exten­sive” leakage of users’ information — device and user iden­ti­fiers, loca­tions, and passwords — into net­work traffic from apps on mobile devices, including iOS, Android, and Win­dows phones. The researchers have also devised a way to stop the flow.

David Choffnes, an assis­tant pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence, and his col­leagues devel­oped a simple, effi­cient cloud-based system called … read more

Can humans empathize with robots? The knife test.

November 16, 2015

robot pain

Researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Kyoto University have found the first neurophysiological evidence of humans’ ability to empathize with robots in perceived pain — at least when it comes to losing a finger.

They monitored event-related electroencephalography (EEG) signals from 15 healthy adults who were observing pictures of either a human or robotic hand in painful or non-painful situations, such as a finger… read more

A molecular light-driven nanosubmarine

Potential medical and other uses
November 16, 2015

Rice University scientists have created light-driven, single-molecule submersibles that contain just 244 atoms (credit: Loïc Samuel/Rice University)

The Rice University lab of chemist James Tour has created single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles with motors powered by ultraviolet light, as they reported this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers, but with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into almost 1 inch per second —… read more

‘Super natural killer cells’ destroy cancer in lymph nodes to halt metastasis

November 16, 2015

Nanoscale liposomes (orange) with TRAIL protein (green) attach to the surface of white blood cells and bump into cancer cells (brown) and program them to die (credit: Cornell University)

Cornell biomedical engineers have developed specialized white blood cells they call “super natural killer cells” that seek out cancer cells in lymph nodes with only one purpose: to destroy them, halting the onset of cancer tumor cell metastasis.

“We want to see lymph-node metastasis become a thing of the past,” said Michael R. King, the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor of Biomedical Engineering and senior author of a… read more

Reprogramming neurons and rewiring the brain

A new way to fix defective neural communication in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental diseases, such as schizophrenia and autism
November 16, 2015

Projection neurons of the cerebral cortex targeted for reprogramming are displayed in green. (credit: Caroline Rouaux/Arlotta Lab)

In previous research, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers disproved neurobiology dogma by “reprogramming” neurons — turning one form of neuron into another — in the brains of living animals. Now they’ve taken it a step further, showing that networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or “rewired.”

The finding, by Paola Arlotta, a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, in close collaboration… read more

Beyond telomerase: another enzyme discovered critical to maintaining telomere length

New discovery expected to speed understanding of short-telomere-related diseases and cancer
November 13, 2015

Telomeres glow at the ends of chromosomes (credit: Hesed Padilla-Nash and Thomas Ried of the NIH)

Johns Hopkins researchers report they have uncovered the role of an another enzyme crucial to telomere length in addition to the enzyme telomerase, discovered in 1984.

The researchers say the new test they used to find the enzyme should speed discovery of other proteins and processes that determine telomere length. Shortened telomeres have been implicated in aging and in diseases as diverse as lung and… read more

‘Porous liquid’ invention could lead to improved carbon capture

November 13, 2015

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, have invented the world's first 'porous liquid' (credit: Queen's University Belfast)

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and partners have invented a “porous liquid” that can dissolve unusually large amounts of gas, with the potential for a wide range of new uses, including carbon capture.

They designed the new liquid from the bottom up, designing the shapes of the “cage molecules” to form empty holes. The researchers say the concentration of unoccupied cages can be around 500… read more

IBM’s Watson shown to enhance human-computer co-creativity, support biologically inspired design

Watson Engagement Advisor AI system was trained to "learn" about biologically inspired design from biology articles, then answer questions
November 13, 2015

Using Watson for enhancing human-computer co-creativity (credit: Georgia Tech)

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers, working with student teams, trained a cloud-based version of IBM’s Watson called the Watson Engagement Advisor to provide answers to questions about biologically inspired design (biomimetics), a design paradigm that uses biological systems as analogues for inventing technological systems.

Ashok Goel, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing who conducts research on computational creativity. In an… read more

‘Golden window’ wavelength range for optimal deep-brain near-infrared imaging determined

November 11, 2015

Raleigh scattering ft

Researchers at The City College of New York (CCNY) have determined the optimal wavelengths for bioimaging of the brain at longer near-infrared wavelengths, which permit deeper imaging.

Near-infrared (NIR) radiation has been used for one- and two-photon fluorescence imaging at near-infrared wavelengths of 650–950 nm (nanometers) for deep brain imaging, but it is limited in penetration depth. (The CCNY researchers dubbed this Window I, also known as the therapeutic… read more

Multi-layer nanoparticles glow when exposed to invisible near-infrared light

Emit light for bioimaging, solar energy, and currency security
November 11, 2015

An artist's rendering shows the layers of a new, onion-like nanoparticle whose specially crafted layers enable it to efficiently convert invisible near-infrared light to higher energy blue and UV light. (credit: Kaiheng Wei (

A new onion-like nanoparticle developed at the State University of New York University at Buffalo could open new frontiers in biomaging, solar-energy harvesting, and light-based security techniques.

The particle’s innovation lies in its layers: a coating of organic dye, a neodymium-containing shell, and a core that incorporates ytterbium and thulium. Together, these strata convert invisible near-infrared light to higher energy blue and UV light with record-high efficiency.… read more

New technology senses colors in the infrared spectrum

Could lead to low-cost infrared cameras and heat-cloaking systems
November 11, 2015

A closer look at a coated surface using a scanning electron microscope shows a tiny silver nanocubes sitting on a gold surface. (credit: Maiken Mikkelsen and Gleb Akselrod, Duke University)

Duke University scientists have invented a technology that can identify and image different wavelengths of the infrared spectrum.

The fabrication technique for the system is easily scalable, can be applied to any surface geometry, and costs much less than current light-absorption technologies, according to the researchers. Once adopted, the technique would allow advanced infrared imaging systems to be produced faster and cheaper than today’s counterparts and with higher sensitivity.… read more

New electron microscopy method sculpts 3-D structures with one-nanometer features

Think of it as atomic-level, bottom-up 3-D printing
November 10, 2015

ORNL researchers used a new scanning transmission electron microscopy technique to sculpt 3-D nanoscale features in a complex oxide material. (credit:<br />
Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a way to build precision-sculpted 3-D strontium titanate nanostructures as small as one nanometer, using scanning transmission electron microscopes, which are normally used for imaging.

The technique could find uses in fabricating structures for functional nanoscale devices such as microchips. The structures grow epitaxially (in perfect crystalline alignment), which ensures that the same electrical and mechanical properties extend… read more

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