science + technology news

Black hole birth captured by ‘armada of instruments’

"A Rosetta-Stone event ... may require physicists to modify existing theories about radiation"
November 25, 2013

star_becomes_black_hole

“Los Alamos’ RAPTOR telescopes in New Mexico and Hawaii received a very bright cosmic birth announcement for a black hole on April 27,” said astrophysicist Tom Vestrand, lead author of a paper n the journal Science Nov. 21 that highlights the unusual event.

“This was the burst of the century,” said Los Alamos co-author James Wren. “It’s the biggest, brightest one to happen in at least 20 years, and… read more

Hubble sees cloudy ‘super-Earth’ 40 light-years away

January 2, 2014

GJ1214b

Two teams of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope report they have characterized the atmospheres of a pair of planets with masses intermediate between gas giants, like Jupiter, and smaller, rockier planets, like Earth.

A survey by NASA’s Kepler space telescope mission previously showed that objects in this size range are among the most common type of planets in our Milky Way galaxy. The researchers described their… read more

New type of molecular tag makes MRI 10,000 times more sensitive

Could detect biochemical processes in opaque tissue without requiring PET radiation or CT x-rays
March 25, 2016

Duke scientists have discovered a new class of inexpensive and long-lived molecular tags that enhance MRI signals by 10,000-fold. To activate the tags, the researchers mix them with a newly developed catalyst (center) and a special form of hydrogen (gray), converting them into long-lived magnetic resonance “lightbulbs” that might be used to track disease metabolism in real time. Credit: Thomas Theis, Duke University

Duke University researchers have discovered a new form of MRI that’s 10,000 times more sensitive and could record actual biochemical reactions, such as those involved in cancer and heart disease, and in real time.

Let’s review how MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) works: MRI takes advantage of a property called spin, which makes the nuclei in hydrogen atoms act like tiny magnets. By generating a strong… read more

‘Nanozyme’ nanoparticles can be programmed to target different diseases

July 19, 2012

Nanozymes (colloidal nanoparticles with a diameter of 48 nm, with a core/shell structure consisting of a 13-nm gold nanoparticle core and a shell of single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides

University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a nanoparticle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins.

In laboratory tests, these newly created nanoparticles eradicated most of a hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it also potentially useful against diseases such… read more

Merging nanoelectronics into 3D engineered human tissues

Researchers grow cyborg tissues with embedded nanoelectronics
August 28, 2012

3D reconstructed confocal microscopy image of synthetic 3D neural tissue with red corresponding to neurons and green/blue corresponding to the macroporous nanoelectronic circuitry seamlessly innervating the neural tissue (credit:  Tian, et al/Harvard University)

Harvard scientists have created a type of “cyborg” tissue for the first time by embedding a three-dimensional network of functional, biocompatible, nanoscale wires into engineered human tissues.

The research team led by Charles M. Lieber, the Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Harvard, and Daniel Kohane, a Harvard Medical School professor in the Departmentread more

The future of space

March 9, 2012

Dragon and Falcon 9 Second Stage, post Second Stage Separation Event (credit: NASA)

In the new book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, Neil deGrasse Tyson says America is at a critical moment for future space exploration, as he explained to The Atlantic.

Give NASA the money it needs, he argues, and the agency will stimulate the economy and inspire students to pursue innovative, ambitious projects. (Say, for example, a way to thwart a wayward asteroid that could… read more

Milky Way may have 100 million life-giving planets

“It seems highly unlikely that we are alone.”
June 5, 2014

Milky Way arch as seen from Chile (credit: Bruno Gilli/European Southern Observatory)

There are some 100 million other places in the Milky Way galaxy that could support life above the microbial level, reports a group of astronomers in the journal Challenges (open access), based on a new computation method to examine data from planets orbiting other stars in the universe.

“This study does not indicate that complex life exists on that many planets; we’re saying that there are planetary conditions that… read more

A computerized house that generates as much energy as it uses

NIST unveils net-zero energy residential test facility to improve testing of energy-efficient technologies
September 18, 2012

NIST Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has unveiled a laboratory in the form of a typical suburban home, designed to demonstrate that a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year.

The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath “Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility“ was built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards — the highest standard for sustainable… read more

Stumped by a problem? The ‘generic parts technique’ technique unsticks you

March 8, 2012

CocaCola

University of Massachusetts psychologist Dr. Tony McCaffrey has developed a systematic way of overcoming “functional fixedness” (the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts, hindering people from solving problems). He calls it the “generic parts technique” (GPT).

He found that people trained in GPT solved eight problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t trained, and the trained group… read more

Homeland Security looking for (more than) a few good drones

September 28, 2012

Reaper Drone (Credit: USAF)

DHS to test unmanned aircraft for variety of applications.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week issued a call for unmanned systems makers to participate in a program that will ultimately determine their safety and performance for use in first responder, law enforcement and border security situations, Network World Layer 8 reports.

In a twist that will certainly raise some eyebrows,  the program’s results  of… read more

Easing brain fatigue with a walk in the park

April 3, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

An innovative new study from Scotland confirms the observation that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park, The New York Times reports.

Researchers have long theorized that green spaces are calming, requiring less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets do, but it had not been possible to study the brains of people while they were actually outside, moving… read more

The highest-resolution immersive visualization facility ever built

November 21, 2012

RealityDeck

Stony Brook University (SBU) recently unveiled its new Reality Deck, with 1.5 billion pixels total on 416 super-high-resolution screens in a four-walled surround-view theater — the highest-resolution  immersive display ever built — and driven by a 220 TFLOPs graphic supercomputer.

Its purpose and primary design principle is to enable scientists, engineers, and physicians to tackle current problems that require the visualization of vast amounts of… read more

Brain cells made from urine

December 11, 2012

neurons_from_urine

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons, Nature News reports.

The method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms… read more

Following Sandy, DHS seeks security ‘Cyber Reserve’

November 3, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The damage to the electrical grid from Superstorm Sandy is just a taste of what could happen from a major cyberattack, says Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, CSO Security and Risk reports.

And a DHS task force said this week that one way to minimize that kind of risk is to recruit a “Cyber Reserve” of computer security pros that could be… read more

Assembling big structures out of small ultralight pieces

"Can you 3-D print an airplane?" question leads to major design breakthrough
August 19, 2013

Assemblies of the cellular composite material are seen from different perspectives, showing the repeating "cuboct" lattice structure, made from many identical flat cross-shaped pieces.<br />
PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNETH CHEUNG

MIT researchers have developed a lightweight structure whose tiny blocks can be snapped together much like the bricks of a child’s construction toy.

The new material, the researchers say, could revolutionize the assembly of airplanes, spacecraft, and even larger structures, such as dikes and levees.

The new approach to construction is described in a paper appearing in the journal Science, co-authored by postdoc Kenneth Cheung and… read more

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