CERN physicists create record-breaking subatomic soup

August 15, 2012

(Credit: CERN)

Physicists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider have achieved the hottest manmade temperatures ever, by colliding lead ions to momentarily create a quark-gluon plasma, a subatomic soup and unique state of matter that is thought to have existed just moments after the Big Bang, Nature News reports.

ALICE physicists, presenting on Monday at Quark Matter 2012 in Washington DC, said they have achieved a quark–gluon plasma 38% hotter than a record… read more

NIST’s superfast ions could speed up quantum computers

August 15, 2012

speedy ions graphic

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can accelerate their beryllium ions from zero to 100 miles per hour and stop them in just a few microseconds. They may be useful in future quantum computers.

The ions (electrically charged atoms) travel 100 times faster than was possible before across a few hundred microns in an ion trap — a single ion can go… read more

World’s most powerful x-ray laser beam refined to scalpel precision

'Self-seeding' promises to speed discoveries, add new scientific capabilities
August 15, 2012

The LCLS’s new self-seeding improvements yield laser pulses focused to higher intensity in a much narrower band of X-ray wavelengths, as you can see in these spectrographs comparing a normal SASE (self-amplified spontaneous emission) pulse (left) and a seeded one (right). The results promise to speed research discoveries and may enable experiments that have never before been possible. Graph from J. Amman, et al. adapted by Greg Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

With a thin sliver of diamond, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have transformed the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) into an even more precise tool for exploring the nanoworld.

The improvements yield laser pulses focused to higher intensity in a much narrower band of X-ray wavelengths, and may enable experiments that have never before been possible.

In a process… read more

Nano, photonic research gets boost from new 3-D visualization technology

August 15, 2012

xray beam

For the first time, X-ray scientists have combined high-resolution imaging with 3-D viewing of the surface layer of material using X-ray vision in a way that does not damage the sample.

This new technique expands the range of X-ray research possible for biology and many aspects of nanotechnology, particularly nanofilms, photonics, and micro- and nano-electronics.

This new technique also reduces “guesswork” by eliminating the need for modeling-dependent structural… read more

Crowdsourcing expertise

August 16, 2012

Can a crowd be an expert? Two UVM scientists think the answer is yes. (photo: James Cridland)

Crowdsourcing — posing a question or asking for help from a large group of people — has allowed many problems to be solved, like scan for new galaxies and climate modeling, that would be impossible for experts alone..

But what if the crowd was asked to decide what questions to ask in the first place?

University of Vermont researchers Josh Bongard and Paul Hines decided to explore  that question… read more

New storage nanoparticle could make hydrogen a practical fuel

August 16, 2012


University of New South Wales researchers have demonstrated that hydrogen can be released and reabsorbed from sodium borohydride, a promising storage material, overcoming a major hurdle to its use as an alternative fuel source.

Considered a major a fuel of the future, hydrogen could be used to power buildings, portable electronics and vehicles — but this application hinges on practical storage technology.

The researchers synthesized nanoparticles of… read more

How noise in brain-cell signals affects neuron response time and thinking

New model of background noise in the nervous system could help better understand neuronal signaling delay in response to a stimulus
August 16, 2012

Neural noise sources and latency measurement (credit: M. Uzuntarla et al./European Physical Journal B)

Biomedical engineer Muhammet Uzuntarla from Bulent Ecevit University, Turkey and colleagues have developed a biologically accurate model of how noise in the nervous system induces a delay in the response of neurons to external stimuli.

A new spike-latency noise model

Information encoding based on spike timing has attracted increasing attention due to the growing evidence for the relation between synchronization in neural networks and higher brain functions, such as memory, attention and… read more

Scientists discover previously unknown cleansing system in brain

Newer imaging technique discovers "glymphatic system"; may hold key to preventing Alzheimer’s disease
August 16, 2012

Glymphatic system (credit: Jeffrey J. Iliff et al./Science Translational Medicine)

A previously unrecognized system that drains waste from the brain at a rapid clip has been discovered by neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The highly organized system acts like a series of pipes that piggyback on the brain’s blood vessels, sort of a shadow plumbing system that seems to serve much the same function in the brain as the lymph system does… read more

New nanoparticles shrink tumors in mice

Nanoparticles that shut off cancer genes could also allow researchers to screen potential drug targets more rapidly
August 16, 2012


MIT researchers have developed RNA-delivering nanoparticles that allow for rapid screening of new drug targets in mice.

By sequencing cancer-cell genomes, scientists have discovered vast numbers of genes that are mutated, deleted or copied in cancer cells. This treasure trove is a boon for researchers seeking new drug targets, but it is nearly impossible to test them all in a timely fashion.

In their first mouse… read more

Increasing glial cells to treat depression

August 16, 2012


In a new study, Elsayed and colleagues from the Yale University School of Medicine report their findings on a relatively novel growth factor named fibroblast growth factor-2 or FGF2.

They found that FGF2 can increase the number of glial cells and block the decrease caused by chronic stress exposure by promoting the generation of new glial cells.

“Our study uncovers a new pathway that can be targeted for… read more

Two major areas of the brain shown to be connected

McGill researchers uncover crucial link between hippocampus and prefrontal cortex
August 16, 2012


A clue to understanding certain cognitive and mental disorders may involve two parts of the brain which were previously thought to have independent functions, according to a McGill University team of researchers led by Prof. Yogita Chudasama, of the Laboratory of Brain and Behavior, Department of Psychology.

The McGill team discovered a critical interaction between two prominent brain areas: the hippocampus, a well-known memory structure… read more

Galaxy cluster creating stars at a record pace

Researchers say Phoenix Cluster activity may cause scientists to rethink how galaxies evolve
August 16, 2012


A National Science Foundation-funded radio telescope in Antarctica has found an extraordinary galaxy cluster that may force astronomers to rethink how galaxy clusters and the galaxies that inhabit them evolve.

Observations made by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in space, by the NSF-managed Gemini Observatory, and the Blanco 4-meter and Magellan telescopes in Chile corroborate the SPT discovery and show that stars are forming in this object… read more

How to store a book in DNA

About four grams of DNA theoretically could store the digital data humankind creates in one year
August 17, 2012


Although Harvard geneticist George Church’s next book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, doesn’t hit the shelves until Oct. 2, but it has already passed an enviable benchmark: 70 billion copies — roughly triple the sum of the top 100 books of all time.

That’s because Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and a founding core faculty member… read more

Inspired by nature, soft robots can camouflage themselves or change color

August 17, 2012


Last year, a team of Harvard University researchers led by George Whitesides, the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, broke new engineering ground when they developed soft, silicone-based robots inspired by creatures like starfish and squid.

Now they’ve developed a system — again, inspired by nature — that allows the soft robots to either camouflage themselves against a background or… read more

MIT-developed ion ‘microthrusters’ could propel small satellites

August 17, 2012


A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space. The device, designed by Paulo Lozano, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, bears little resemblance to today’s bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes and heavy propellant tanks.

Instead, Lozano’s design is a flat, compact square — much like a computer chip — covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated… read more

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