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A low-cost ‘super-resolution’ microscopic optical device

June 22, 2014

Microsphere-based image of a nanoscale object. The scale bar is 20 microns. (Credit: Leonid A. Krivitsky et al./Scientific Reports)

A simple, low-cost “super-resolution” optical device using a microsphere capable of imaging surfaces 75 nanometers wide has been developed by researchers at A*STAR Data Storage Institute in Singapore.

Optical-microscope resolution is limited to half the wavelength of light (due to the diffraction limit), so optical microscopes can’t normally resolve structures smaller than a few hundred nanometers.

A*STAR’s Boris Luk’yanchuk and his colleagues previously showed… read more

Self-repairing mechanism helps to preserve brain function in neurodegenerative diseases

June 20, 2014

Prion-infected tissue (credit: Dr. Al Jenny - Public Health Image Library)

Neurogenesis, the self-repairing mechanism of the adult brain by creating new neurons, can help to preserve brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Prion, and Parkinson’s, new research led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found.

The progressive degeneration and death of the brain, occurring in many neurodegenerative diseases, is often seen as an unstoppable and irrevocable process.

But now, a research team,… read more

SpaceX to launch ORBCOMM OG2 mission Friday

June 20, 2014

Falcon 9 planned ORBCOMM OG2 launch (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is targeted to launch the first satellite in the ORBCOMM OG2 mission on Friday, June 20th, 2014 at 6:08pm ET, with a back-up date of Saturday, June 21.

The launch from from Cape Canaveral will be webcast live beginning at 5:35 pm ET.

In this flight, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver six next-generation OG2 satellites to an elliptical 750 x 615 km… read more

‘Superradiant’ discovery opens new path to superfast quantum computing

June 19, 2014

The atom trapping apparatus used to observe the physics described in the article (credit: Washington State University)

Washington State University researchers have used a super-cold cloud of atoms that behaves like a single atom, opening a new experimental path to potentially powerful quantum computing.

Physicist Peter Engels and his colleagues cooled about one million atoms of rubidium to 100 billionths of a degree above absolute zero.

There was no colder place in the universe, said Engels, unless someone was doing a similar experiment… read more

How to see around a corner without a mirror

June 19, 2014

(Credit: Felix Heide, Lei Xiao, Wolfgang Heidrich, Matthias B. Hullin)

A novel camera system that can detect objects hidden by obstructions — without using a mirror — has been developed by scientists at the University of Bonn and the University of British Columbia.

It uses diffusely reflected, time-coded light to reconstruct the shape of objects outside of the field of view.

Scattered light as a source of information

In the researchers’ prototype system, a laser… read more

Musk announces plans to build ‘one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world’ and send people to Mars in ten years

"Solar panels, paired with batteries to enable power at night, can produce several orders of magnitude more electricity than is consumed by the entirety of human civilization" --- Elon Musk
June 18, 2014

Utility-scale solar farm (credit: Silevo)

Elon Musk, chairman of SolarCity, America’s largest solar power provider, announced Tuesday with other SolarCity executives that the company plans to acquire Silevo, a solar panel technology and manufacturing company whose modules have “demonstrated a unique combination of high energy output and low cost.”

“Our intent is to combine what we believe is fundamentally the best photovoltaic technology with massive economies of scale to… read more

Targeting tumors using silver nanoparticles

June 18, 2014

Prostate cancer cells were targeted by two separate silver nanoparticles (red and green), while the cell nucleus was labeled in blueusing Hoescht dye (credit: UCSB)

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have designed a silver spherical nanoparticle encased in a shell coated with a peptide that enables it to target tumor cells.

The shell is etchable so those nanoparticles that don’t hit their target can be broken down and eliminated. The research findings appear in the journal Nature Materials.

The core of the nanoparticle employs a phenomenon called plasmonics. In plasmonics, nanostructured… read more

Discovery of abnormal GABA levels may lead to improvements in diagnosing, treating Alzheimer’s disease

Drugs focusing only on plaque buildup have failed; reducing GABA inhibition may also be needed
June 18, 2014

A new drug target to fight Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by a research team led by Gong Chen at Penn State that also has potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease. The research also suggests that an ultimate successful therapy may be a cocktail of compounds acting on several drug targets simultaneously. This image shows a microscopic view of the high concentration (red) of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the reactive astrocytes (green) in the human brain with Alzheimer's disease. (credit: Gong Chen lab, Penn State University)

A new drug target to fight Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered by a Penn State research team.

The discovery also has potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia and one for which no cure has yet been found.

A scientific paper describing the discovery was published in Nature Communications on June 13.

The… read more

Algae can switch quantum coherence on and off

Could allow the energy to test every possible pathway simultaneously before traveling via the quickest route
June 18, 2014

Scanning electron microscope image of cryptophytes (credit: CSIRO)

Algae that survive in very low levels of light and are able to switch quantum coherence on and off have been discovered by a UNSW-led team of researchers.

The function for this effect, which occurs during photosynthesis, remains a mystery. But working out its role in a living organism could lead to technological advances, such as better organic solar cells and quantum-based electronic devices.

The research… read more

Single dose of sleeping-sickness drug reverses autism-like symptoms in mice

June 18, 2014

This image depicts the transmission electron micrograph of a cell mitochondrion (credit: Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR, UC San Diego)

An almost century-old drug approved for treating sleeping sickness also restores normal cellular signaling in a mouse model of autism, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report.

The mice were the human biological age equivalent of 30 years old.

The drug, Suramin, was first synthesized in 1916 and is used to treat trypanosomiasis or African sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease.… read more

How background electrical brain noise drives our decisions

Is "free will" an illusion? Implications for "pre-crime" detection?
June 17, 2014

Topographic map of alpha wave power in the left hemisphere of the brain in the 800 milliseconds before a decision significantly influences the decision (credit: Jesse J. Bengson et al./Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

Our ability to make choices — and sometimes mistakes — might arise from random fluctuations in the brain’s background electrical noise, according to a recent study from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.

The brain has a normal level of “background noise,” Bengson said, as electrical activity patterns fluctuate across the brain. In the new study, decisions could be… read more

Synchronized brain waves enable rapid learning

Why brain-wave resonance may be the key to learning, not synapses
June 17, 2014

MIT neuroscientists found that brain waves originating from the striatum (red) and from the prefrontal cortex (blue) become synchronized when an animal learns to categorize different patterns of dots (credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

MIT neuroscientists have found that as monkeys learn to categorize different patterns of dots, two brain areas involved in learning — the prefrontal cortex and the striatum — synchronize their brain waves to form new communication circuits.

“We’re seeing direct evidence for the interactions between these two systems during learning, which hasn’t been seen before,” says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at… read more

Leukemia drug found to stimulate immunity against many cancer types

June 17, 2014

A UCL research mouse (credit: David Bishop, UCL)

A class of drug called p110δ inhibitors, currently being used to treat leukemia, has the unexpected side-effect of boosting immune responses against many different cancers, reports a new study led by scientists at UCL (University College London) and the Babraham Institute, Cambridge.

The drugs have shown such remarkable efficacy against certain leukemias in recent clinical trials that patients on the placebo were switched to the real drug.… read more

A gene that stimulates growth of new brain cells in adults

Discovery could provide new strategy for treating neurodegenerative disease and memory loss
June 16, 2014

Increased length of the hippocampus dentate girus (DG) for TLX gene overexpressed (Tg or transgenic mice) vs control group (WT, or wild type) (credit: Kiyohito Mura et al./PNAS)

Over-expressing a specific gene could prompt growth in adults of new neurons in the hippocampus, where learning and memory are regulated, City of Hope researchers have found.

The study, which used an animal model, found that over-expression of the TLX gene resulted in smart, faster learners that retained information better and longer.

Understanding the link between this gene and the growth of new neurons — or… read more

Charging portable electronics will be super-fast, widely accessible

June 16, 2014

Powermat charge rings (credit: Starbucks)

Two innovations for on-the-go mobile-device users seeking a quick charge are in the works: Starbucks plans to install wireless charging devices in all of its stores; and a new battery design could enable rapid charging of lithium-ion batteries in ten minutes.

Starbucks stores will have “Powermat Spots” — designated areas on tables and counters where customers can place their compatible device and charge them wirelessly. The system uses… read more

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