science + technology news

The sixth mass extinction is here, say Stanford researchers

June 19, 2015

extinctions ft

There is no longer any doubt: we are entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity’s existence.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors call for fast action to conserve threatened species, populations and habitat, but… read more

Tissue scaffold technology could help rebuild large organs

June 18, 2015

Membrane interactions of the protein–polymer-surfactant complexes. Schematic showing that in solution, the polymer–surfactant corona surrounding myoglobin (cyan) adopts a compact conformation with the hydrophobic nonylphenyl tails (red) buried by the poly(ethylene glycol) chains (yellow). Contact with the hydrophobic phospholipid bilayer results in a conformational reorganization of the corona that allows the alkyl chains to anchor the complex to the cell membrane. (credit: James P.K. Armstrong et al./Nature Communications)

Researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Liverpool have developed a new tissue scaffold (support structure) technology that could one day make it possible to engineer large organs.

Currently, tissue engineering has been limited to growing small pieces of tissue, because larger dimensions reduce the oxygen supply to the cells in the center of the tissue.

The team of researchers, led by Adamread more

A lifelike bionic hand

June 18, 2015

bebionic small hand perfectly mimics the functions of a real hand via 14<br />
different precision grips (credit: Steeper)

Nicky Ashwell has become the first UK user to receive what the makers call “the world’s most lifelike hand” — the  Stepper bebionic small. The myoelectric device uses miniaturized components designed to provide true-to-life movements, mimicking the functions of a real hand.

The Bebionic small hand works using sensors triggered by the user’s muscle movements that connect to individual motors in each finger and  microprocessors.… read more

How to control GMOs with molecular ‘lock and key’

June 18, 2015


UC Berkeley researchers have developed a low-cost, easy method of biocontainment of bacteria to contain accidental spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The used a series of lock-and-key genetic mutations (in addition to the GMO mutations) that render the microbe inactive unless the right molecule (the key) is added to to the expressed protein to enable its viability.

The work appears this week in the journal ACS Syntheticread more

Reducing the heat generated by the billions of transistors in computers

June 17, 2015

Fermi surface and band structure of (Sr1−xLax)3Ir2O7  (Sr1-xLax)3Ir2O7 for x=0.057.  Fermi surface map featuring two electron pockets (red dashed ellipses) around eachMpoint. Brillouin zone boundary for the distorted (undistorted) lattice is marked by white (grey) dashed boxes. (credit: Junfeng He et al./Nature Materials)

An exotic property that could warp the electronic structure of a material to reduce heat buildup and improve performance in ever-smaller computer components has been observed for the first time in X-ray studies with at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Heat is an obstacle to packing more computing power into ever-smaller devices; excess heat can cause devices to… read more

World’s thinnest light source made from graphene

Can be integrated into chips, paving the way to atomically thin, flexible, and transparent displays and graphene-based on-chip optical communications
June 17, 2015

Illustration of light emission from electrically biased suspended graphene (credit: Young Duck Kim/Columbia Engineering)

The first on-chip visible light source using graphene as a filament has been developed by a team of scientists from Columbia Engineering, Seoul National University (SNU), and Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS).

The scientists attached small strips of graphene to metal electrodes, suspended the strips above the silicon substrate, and passed a current through the filaments to cause them to heat… read more

Magnetically controlled ‘nanoswimmer’ could deliver drugs via bloodstream

June 17, 2015

Schematic of 3-link nanoswimmer with undulation motion driven by oscillating magnetic field  (credit: Bumjin Jang et al./Nano Letters)

ETH Zurich and Technion researchers have developed an elastic “nanoswimmer” polypyrrole (Ppy) nanowire about 15 micrometers (millionths of a meter) long and 200 nanometers thick that can move through biological fluid environments at almost 15 micrometers per second. To propel the nanowire “tail,” two hinged ferromagnetic nickel sections of the wire undulate, controlled by an oscillating magnetic field, causing the tail to allow also undulate and move forward.

The nanoswimmers… read more

Hemp nanosheets could be better than graphene for making the ideal supercapacitor

June 16, 2015

hemp fiber

As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors, according to David Mitlin, Ph.D.

Supercapacitors are energy storage devices that have huge potential to transform the way future electronics are powered. Unlike today’s rechargeable batteries, which sip up energy… read more

‘Brain-to-Text’ system converts speech brainwave patterns to text

June 16, 2015

Brain activity recorded by electrocorticography electrodes (blue circles). spoken words are then decoded from neural activity patterns in the blue/yellow areas. (credit: CSL/KIT)

German and U.S. researchers have decoded natural continuously spoken speech from brain waves and transformed it into text — a step toward communication with computers or humans by thought alone.

Their “Brain-to-Text” system recorded signals from an electrocorticographic (ECoG)* electrode array located on relevant surfaces of the frontal and temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex of seven epileptic patients, who participated voluntarily in the study during their… read more

Does a black hole create a hologram copy of anything that touches it?

June 16, 2015

Simulated view of a black hole (credit: Alain Riazuelo of the French National Research Agency, via Wikipedia. (

According to Samir Mathur. professor of physics at The Ohio State University, the recently proposed idea that black holes have “firewalls” that destroy all they touch is wrong. He believes that a black hole converts anything that touches it into a hologram — a near-perfect copy of itself that continues to exist just as before.

Mathur says he proves that in a open-access paper posted online to theread more

AI program predicts key disease-associated genetic mutations for hundreds of complex diseases

June 15, 2015

A depiction of the double helical structure of DNA. Its four coding units (A, T, C, G) are color-coded in pink, orange, purple and yellow. (credit: NHGRI)

A decade of work at Johns Hopkins has yielded a computer program that predicts, with far more accuracy than current methods, which mutations are likely to have the largest effect on the activity of the “dimmer switches” (which alter the cell’s gene activity) in DNA — suggesting new targets for diagnosis and treatment of many diseases.

A summary of the research was published online today… read more

First full genome of a living organism sequenced and assembled using smartphone-size device

June 15, 2015

MinION MkI device for portable, real time biological analyses (credit: Oxford Nanopore)

Researchers in Canada and the U.K. have sequenced and assembled de novo (from the ground up) the full genome of a living organism, the bacteria Escherichia Coli, using Oxford Nanopore’s MinION device, a genome sequencer that can fit in the palm of your hand.

The findings, published today in the journal Nature Methods, provide proof of concept for the new genome sequencer technology.

The researchers expect to use… read more

First glimpse of new concepts developing in the brain

June 12, 2015

concepts in brain-ft

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) scientists have for the first time documented the actual formation of newly learned concepts inside the brain.

Thanks to recent advances in brain imaging technology at CMU and elsewhere, it is now known how specific concrete objects are coded in the brain — neuroscientists can identify which object, such as a house or a banana, someone is thinking about from its… read more

A 3-D human ‘organoid’ brain in a dish

Growing a miniature brain from cell scrapings could help diagnose brain disorders in the future, Gattaca-style
June 12, 2015

Neurons and supporting cells in the spheroids form layers and organize themselves according to the architecture of the developing human brain and network with each other. (credit: Sergiu Pasca, M.D., Stanford University)

Sergiu Pasca, M.D., of Stanford University and colleagues have developed “human cortical spheroids” — miniature cultured 3-D structures that grow and function much like the cortex of the brain of the person from whom they were derived.

These “organoids” (3-D complexes of cells that function like an organ) buzz with neuronal network activity. Cells talk with each other in circuits, much as they do in our brains.… read more

Researchers demonstrate ‘no-ink’ color printing with nanomaterials

June 11, 2015

Missouri S&T researchers have developed a method to accurately print high-resolution images on nanoscale materials. To demonstrate the process, they printed the Missouri S&T athletic logo (left) at the nanoscale level (right; scale bar: 10 micrometers) (credit: Missouri University of Science and Technology)

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed a “no-ink” color printing process using nanomaterials, with features visible only with the aid of a high-powered electron microscope.

The researchers describe their  printing method in an open-access article in the latest issue of Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports  and illustrate their technique by reproducing the Missouri S&T athletic logo on a nanometer-scale surface.… read more

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