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NASA discovers first near-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone around a Sun-like star

July 23, 2015

This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter (credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star. This discovery joins 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets, marking another milestone in the journey to find another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b, located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid… read more

The CRISPR craze: genome editing technologies poised to revolutionize medicine and industry

July 22, 2015

Genome editing by engineered Cas9 systems (credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers)

CRISPR/Cas systems for genome editing have revolutionized biological research over the past three years, and their ability to make targeted changes in DNA sequences in living cells with relative ease and affordability is now being applied to clinical medicine and will have a significant impact on advances in drug and other therapies, agriculture, and food products.

The power and promise of this innovation are presented in the… read more

Phosphorene could lead to ultrathin solar cells

How to make it using simple sticky tape; peeling off layers changes its properties
July 22, 2015

peeling black phosphorus

Australian National University | Sticky tape the key to ultrathin solar cells

Scientists at Australian National University (ANU) have used simple transparent sticky (aka “Scotch”) tape to create single-atom-thick layers of phosphorene from “black phosphorus,” a black crystalline form of phosphorus similar to graphite (which is used to create graphene).

Unlike graphene, phosphorene is a natural semiconductor that can be switched… read more

3D-printing basic electronic components

Just hit “print” to create an electronic circuit or wireless sensor in the comfort of your own home
July 22, 2015

UC Berkeley engineers created a "smart cap" using 3-D-printed plastic with embedded electronics to wirelessly monitor the freshness of milk. (credit: Photo by Sung-Yueh Wu)

UC Berkeley engineers, in collaboration with colleagues at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, have developed a 3D printing process for creating basic electronic components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors, and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems.

As a test, they printed a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that detected signs of spoilage using embedded sensors.

The findings were published Monday, July 20, in… read more

Common chemicals may act together to increase cancer risk, international study finds

July 22, 2015

Disruptive potential ft

Common environmental chemicals assumed to be safe at low doses may act separately or together to disrupt human tissues in ways that eventually lead to cancer, according to a task force of almost 200 scientists from 28 countries.

In a nearly three-year investigation of the state of knowledge about environmentally influenced cancers, the scientists studied low-dose effects of 85 common chemicals not considered to be carcinogenic to humans.… read more

Deep Genomics launches, uniting deep learning and genome biology

University of Toronto spinoff aims to transform genetic testing, pharmaceutical development, and personalized medicine
July 22, 2015

“Deep learning” reveals the genetic origins of disease. A computational system mimics the biology of RNA splicing by correlating DNA elements with splicing levels in healthy human tissues. The system can scan DNA and identify damaging genetic variants, including those deep within introns.This procedure has led to insights into the genetics of autism, cancers, and spinal muscular atrophy. (credit: Hui Y. Xiong et al./Science)

Deep Genomics, a University of Toronto spinoff, launched today (July 22), combining deep learning and artificial intelligence with the study of the human genome. The company is building on more than a decade of research and expertise in both fields.

Using deep learning allows Deep Genomics to predict the consequences of genomic alteration on various cell mechanisms to make life-changing decisions, potentially via personalized medicine… read more

Korean researchers grow wafer-scale graphene on a silicon substrate

A key step toward using graphene in commercial silicon microelectronics
July 21, 2015

Wafer-scale (4 inch in diameter) synthesis of multi-layer graphene using high-temperature carbon ion implantation on nickel / SiO2 /silicon. (credit: J.Kim/Korea University, Korea)

Taking graphene a step closer to realistic commercial applications in silicon microelectronics, Korea University researchers have developed a simple microelectronics-compatible method for growing multi-layer graphene on a high-quality, wafer-scale (four inches in diameter) silicon substrate.

The method is based on the ion implantation technique — a process in which ions are accelerated under an electrical field and smashed into a semiconductor. The impacting ions change the physical, chemical,… read more

Deep neural network program recognizes sketches more accurately than a human

July 21, 2015

The program could successfully identify a seagull, pigeon, flying bird and standing bird better than humans. (credit: Credit: QMUL, Mathias Eitz, James Hays and Marc Alexa)

The first computer program that can recognize hand-drawn sketches better than humans has been developed by researchers from Queen Mary University of London.

Known as Sketch-a-Net, the program correctly identified the subject of sketches 74.9 per cent of the time compared to humans that only managed a success rate of 73.1 per cent.

As sketching becomes more relevant with the increase in the use of touchscreens, it could… read more

Metal foams found to excel in shielding X-rays, gamma rays, neutron radiation

May lead to better shielding for nuclear reactors and space travel
July 20, 2015

Research from North Carolina State University shows that lightweight composite metal foams -- like the one pictured here -- are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high impact collisions. The finding means the metal foams hold promise for use in nuclear safety, space exploration and medical technology applications. (credit: Afsaneh Rabiei, North Carolina State University)

North Carolina State University researchers have found that lightweight composite metal foams they had developed are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. The finding holds promise for use in nuclear power plants, space exploration, and CT-scanner shielding.

“This work means there’s an opportunity to use composite metal foam… read more

Russian billionaire, Hawking announce $100 million search for ET

July 20, 2015

100 meter Green Bank Telescope, the world's largest steerable radio telescope (credit: Geremia/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Frank Drake and others announced at The Royal Society today $100 million funding for Breakthrough Listen — the “most powerful, comprehensive, and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth.”

They also announced $1 million prize funding for Breakthrough Message, a competition to generate messages representing humanity and planet Earth.

“It’s time to commit to finding… read more

Brain-inspired algorithms may make for optimized computational networks

Quantifying the rates of synapse pruning in the mammalian neocortex led to new algorithms for constructing adaptive and robust computational networks across several domains
July 19, 2015

Salk and Carnegie Mellon researchers developed a new model for building efficient networks by studying the rate at which the brain prunes back some of its connections during development. In this model, nodes (such as neurons or sensors) make too many connections (left) before pruning back to connections that are most relevant (right). The team applied their synaptic pruning-based algorithm to air flight patterns and found it was able to create routes to allow passengers to reach their destinations efficiently. (credit: Salk Institute and Carnegie Mellon University)

The developing brain prunes (eliminates) unneeded connections between neurons during early childhood. Now researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Carnegie Mellon University have determined the rate at which that happens, and the implications of that finding for computational networks.

Neurons create networks through a process called pruning. At birth and throughout early childhood, the brain’s neurons make a vast number… read more

Can your phone really know you’re depressed?

July 17, 2015

StudentLife app, sensing and analytics system architecture (credit: Rui Wang et al.)

Northwestern scientists believe an open-access android cell phone app called Purple Robot can detect depression simply by tracking the number of minutes you use the phone and your daily geographical locations.

The more time you spend using your phone, the more likely you are depressed, they found in a small Northwestern Medicine study published yesterday (July 15) in the Journal of Medical Internetread more

How to regenerate axons to recover from spinal-cord injury

July 17, 2015

HKUST researchers cut mouse corticospinal tract axons (labeled red). A year later, they deleted the Pten gene in the experimental group (bottom) but not the control group. The Pten gene removal resulted in axon regrowth in seven months, unlike the control group (top). (credit: Kaimeng Du et al./The Journal of Neuroscience)

Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have found a way to help patients recover from chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) by stimulating the growth of axons.

Chronic SCI prevents a large number of injured axons from crossing a lesion, particularly in the corticospinal tract (CST). Patients inflicted with SCI often suffer a temporary or permanent loss of mobility… read more

Could this new electrical brain-zap method help you learn muscle skills faster?

Meanwhile, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has significantly improved tinnitus symptoms
July 17, 2015

Three brain-stimulation methods (credit: adapted from Shapour Jaberzadeh et al./PLoS ONE)

Researchers headed by Shapour Jaberzadeh and his group at Monash University have discovered a new noninvasive technique that could rev up your brain to improve your physical performance — for athletes and musicians, for instance — and might also improve treatments for brain-related conditions such as stroke, depression, and chronic pain.

The two neuroelectrical treatment methods currently in use are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS)… read more

Gigapixel multicolor microscope is powerful new tool to advance drug research

July 17, 2015

Paralleized multispectral imaging. Each rainbow-colored bar is the fluorescent spectrum from a discrete point in a cell culture. The gigapixel multispectral microscope records nearly a million such spectra every second. (credit: Optica)

A new multispectral microscope capable of processing nearly 17 billion pixels in a single image has been developed by a team of researchers from the United States and Australia — the largest such microscopic image ever created.

This level of multicolor detail is essential for studying the impact of experimental drugs on biological samples and is an important advancement over traditional microscope designs, the researchers say. The goal is… read more

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