science + technology news

How exercise improves memory

The hippocampus in the brain switches to fat as an energy source after glucose is depleted from exercise), leading to release of BDNF, associated with cognitive improvement. Researchers have found out how.
June 24, 2016

Exercise induces synthesis of a chemical called DBHB in the liver. In the hippocampus, DBHB induces Bdnf expression, which in turn has positive effects on memory, cognition and synaptic transmission. (credit: Sama F. Sleiman et al./eLife)

Physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces if the exercise is done four hours later, and not immediately after learning, according to findings recently reported (open-access) in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

It’s not yet clear exactly how or why delayed exercise has this effect on memory. However, earlier studies of laboratory animals suggest that naturally occurring chemical compounds in the body known as catecholamines, including… read more

Astronomers create first realistic virtual universe

May 8, 2014

illustris-simulation

Astronomers have created the first realistic virtual universe using a computer simulation called “Illustris.”

Illustris can recreate 13 billion years of cosmic evolution in a cube 350 million light-years on a side with unprecedented resolution.

“Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales simultaneously,” says lead author Mark Vogelsberger (MIT/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics),… read more

China and ‘one or two others’ can shut US electric grids and other critical infrastructure, says NSA director

November 21, 2014

(Credit: Achim Hering/Wikimedia Commons)

China and “one or two others” can shut down the U.S. electric grids and other critical infrastructure and is performing electronic reconnaissance on a regular basis, said NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers, testifying Thursday (Nov. 20) at a House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on U.S. efforts to combat cybersecurity.

“All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to… read more

Self-assembled nanoparticles release chemotherapy drug and heat to treat cancer

October 21, 2012

gold nanorods

In new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), researchers have invented self-assembled, multifunctional, near-infrared-light-responsive nanoparticles to treat cancer.

The nanoparticles can deliver a chemotherapy drug specifically targeted to cancer cells and selectively release the drug in response to an external beam of light. They can also create heat for synergistic thermo-chemo-mediated anti-tumor effects.

Excitement around the potential for targeted nanoparticles (NPs) that can be controlled… read more

This is how the universe will end: not with a bang but a rip

First the galaxies are destroyed. Then the solar system breaks apart and the Earth explodes. Finally, the atoms themselves are ripped apart.
July 3, 2015

This is a time line of life of the universe that ends in a Big Rip. (credit: Jeremy Teaford, Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University mathematicians have come up with a new theory of “cosmological viscosity” (how sticky the universe is) that challenges current theories.

For decades, cosmologists have had trouble reconciling the classic notion of viscosity based on the laws of thermodynamics with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, according the the team, which has now come up with a fundamentally new mathematical formulation of the problem that appears to… read more

Space elevator by 2050 planned, to include space solar power

February 22, 2012

space_elevator

Obayashi Corp., headquartered in Tokyo, has unveiled a project to build a space elevator by the year 2050 that would transport passengers to a station 36,000 kilometers above the Earth and transmit power to the ground.

A cable, made of carbon nanotubes, would be stretched up to 96,000 kilometers, or about one-fourth of the distance between the Earth and the moon. One end of… read more

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Next step: transplant stem-cell-derived human dermal papilla cells back into human subjects (any volunteers?)
January 28, 2015

Sanford-Burnham scientists grew human dermal papillae cells from stem cells. (credit: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute)

A method for initiating human hair growth — using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells — has been developed by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) researchers.

Their idea is to coax human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells — a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. (Human dermal papilla cells on their own are… read more

Spintronics advance brings wafer-scale quantum devices closer to reality

June 25, 2015

Light polarizes silicon nuclear spins within a silicon carbide chip. This image portrays the nuclear spin of one of the atoms shown in the full crystal lattice below. (credit: Courtesy of Peter Allen)

Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering have taken a crucial step toward nuclear spintronic technologies that use the “spin” — or magnetization — of atomic nuclei to store and process information. The new technologies could be used for ultra-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging, advanced gyroscopes, and quantum computers.

The researchers used infrared light to make nuclear spins line themselves up in a consistent,… read more

Nontoxic, traceable nanoparticles may be the next weapon in cancer treatment

March 8, 2013

Theranostic NPs (hydrophobic segments are visual-<br />
ized in green and hydrophilic segments in blue)

Swedish scientists have developed “theranostic” (having both a therapeutic and diagnostic function) nanoparticles that can carry cancer drugs to tumor cells without toxicity and are biodegradable and traceable (can be seen in MRI images).

The nanoparticles were developed by a team including KTH Royal Institute of Technology Professor Eva Malmström-Jonsson, from the School of Chemical Science and researchers at Sweden’s Chalmer’s University and the Karolinska… read more

World’s lightest material is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam

November 18, 2011

Ultra light metal

The world’s lightest material — with a density of 0.9 mg/cc — about 100 times lighter than Styrofoam — has been developed by a team of researchers from UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories, and the California Institute of Technology.

The new material, using nickel-phosphorous thin films, redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. The researchers were able to make a material that… read more

Capturing black hole spin could further understanding of galaxy growth

August 1, 2013

black hole spin courtesy of nasa-jpl-caltech

Durham University Astronomers have found a new way of measuring the spin in supermassive black holes, which could lead to better understanding about how they drive the growth of galaxies.

The astronomers observed a black hole — with a mass 10 million times that of our Sun — at the center of a spiral galaxy 500 million light years from Earth while it was feeding on the… read more

Virtual reality coming to Second Life

April 25, 2013

(Credit: Oculus)

Linden Lab intends to integrate the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset with Second Life, Wagner James Au reports on New World Notes.

“The Oculus could become Second Life’s killer app, but only if Linden Lab is willing to go all in,” said Au. “Sounds like they are doing just that, in an official capacity.

We’ll get to experience Second… read more

A laser that could find and zap tumors

Also penetrates the skull for brain tumors, researchers say
August 2, 2012

Femtosecond laser (credit: University of Tennessee Space Institute)

Researchers at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute have invented a system that uses lasers to find, map, and non-invasively destruct cancerous tumors.

The technology uses a femtosecond laser (creating pulses lasting one-quadrillionth of a second). The high speed enables the laser to quickly focus in on a specific region without overheating.

“Using ultra-short light pulses gives us the ability… read more

Tough super-stretchable gel is tougher than cartilage and heals itself

Biocompatible material created at Harvard stretches to 21 times its length, recoils, and heals itself
September 6, 2012

harvard_gel_stretched

A team of experts in mechanics, materials science, and tissue engineering at Harvard have created an extremely stretchy and tough gel that may pave the way to replacing damaged cartilage in human joints or spinal disks.

Called a hydrogel, because its main ingredient is water, the new material is a hybrid of two weak gels that combine to create something much stronger.

This new gel can stretch… read more

LEGO Mindstorms EV3: the better, faster, stronger generation of robotic programming

January 7, 2013

mindstorms

Lego is back with another generation of MindStorms, the company’s consumer robotics line aimed at introducing application programming to a younger generation, TechCrunch reports.

The new kit includes directions for up to 17 different robots, most of which look like scary-style animals, such as snakes and scorpions.

Mindstorms EV3 marks the first time that users can program directly onto the… read more

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