science + technology news

Expanding the brain achieves super-resolution with ordinary confocal microscopes

January 16, 2015

expansion microscopy -ft

Engineers at the MIT-based Center for Brains, Minds and Machines have developed a way to make a brain expand to about four and a half times its usual size, allowing nanoscale structures to appear sharp with an ordinary confocal microscope.

The new “expansion microscopy” technique uses an expandable polymer and water to  enable researchers to achieve “super-resolution” to resolve details down to… read more

Planets outside our solar system more hospitable to life than thought

January 16, 2015

Exoplanet, artist's impression

A study by astrophysicists at the University of Toronto suggests that exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — are more likely to have liquid water and be more habitable than we thought.

Scientists have thought that exoplanets behave in a manner contrary to that of Earth — that is, they always show their same side to their star.

If so, exoplanets would rotate in sync… read more

‘Methuselah fly’ created by selecting best cells

Could open new possibilities in human anti-aging research
January 16, 2015

A deceased Drosophila melanogaster. (Credit: Institute for Cell Biology, University of Bern)

University of Bern researchers have prolonged the lifespan of flies by activating a gene that destroys unhealthy cells. The results could also open new possibilities in human anti-aging research.

The researchers at the Institute of Cell Biology from the University of Bern in Switzerland, led by Eduardo Moreno, developed a new method to extend the lifespan of flies, based on improved selection of… read more

BPA and BPS plastics affect embryonic brain development in zebrafish, linked to hyperactivity

"Our results show that BPA-free products are not necessarily safer and support the removal of all bisphenols from consumer merchandise"
January 15, 2015

Plastic bottles (credit: Kyle LeBoeuf/Creative Commons)

University of Calgary have found evidence that both BPA in bottles (and elsewhere) and its substitute, BPS, cause alterations in brain development leading to hyperactivity in zebrafish.

Bisphenol A, known as BPA, is produced in massive quantities around the world for use in consumer products, including household plastics. BPA is a ubiquitous endocrine disruptor that is present in many household products.

It has been… read more

Programmable 3D-printed tissues and organs using DNA ‘smart glue’

January 15, 2015

DNA glue holds together this 3-D printed gel, a precursor step to building tissues. (Credit: American Chemical Society)

University of Texas at Austin researchers  have created “smart glue” based on DNA that could one day be used to 3D-print tissues to repair injuries or even create organs.

They coated plastic (polystyrene or polyacrylamide) microparticles with 40 base pairs of DNA, forming gel-like materials that they could extrude from a 3D printer* to form solid shapes (up to centimeters in size). These were used as scaffolds… read more

Elon Musk donates $10M to ‘keep AI beneficial’

January 15, 2015


Elon Musk has decided to donate $10M to the Future of Life Institute (FLI) to run a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

Musk, who warned last August that “we need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes,” said there is now a “broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society… read more

Machine learning helps Stanford physicists predict dangerous solar flares earlier

January 14, 2015

This solar flare was captured Jan. 14 by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Stanford physicists are using artificial intelligence techniques in an attempt to predict such flares. (Credit: NASA/SDO and the AIA; EVE; and HMI science teams)

Using artificial intelligence techniques to forecast solar flares*, Stanford solar physicists have automated the analysis of the largest-ever set of solar observations, using data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

Solar physicists identify which features are most useful for predicting solar flares, which requires processing more data — some 1.5 terabytes a day — than any other satellite in NASA history, according to solar physicists… read more

First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

Could revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine, say Duke University researchers
January 14, 2015

A microscopic view of lab-grown human muscle bundles stained to show patterns made by basic muscle units and their associated proteins (red), which are a hallmark of human muscle. (Credit: Duke University)

In a laboratory first that could “revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine,” Duke researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals.

The lab-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body, according to study leader Nenad Bursac, associate… read more

Energy-harvesting discovery generates 200 times higher voltage to power wearables, other portable devices

January 13, 2015

Left: Zink oxide nanogenerator (gray: top electrode; gold: zink oxide layer; blue: bottom electrode; lime: substrate). Right: aluminum oxide insulating interlayer (purple) added, improving voltage up to 200 times and other characteristics. (Credit: Eunju Lee et al./Applied Physics Letters)

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) researchers have discovered how to radically improve conversion of ambient energy (such as body movement) to electrical energy for powering wearable and portable devices.

As has been noted on KurzweilAI, energy-harvesting devices can convert ambient mechanical energy sources — including body movement, sound, and other forms of vibration — into electricity. The energy-harvesting devices or “nanogenerators” typically use piezoelectric materials… read more

Solar at grid parity in most of the world within 2 years

January 13, 2015

solar capacity adds ft

In their 2015 solar outlook, investment bank Deutsche Bank is predicting that solar systems will be at grid parity (when an alternative energy source cost is lower or equal to that of electricity from the electrical grid) in up to 80 per cent of the global market within 2 years, Renew Economy notes.

That’s because grid-based electricity prices are rising across the world… read more

How to create the world’s most complex 3D-motion nanomachines from DNA

New technique uses DNA origami; allows for new biomedical applications
January 12, 2015

A machine design (left) made with DNA "origami" (image: right) (Credit: The Ohio State University)

Mechanical engineers at The Ohio State University have designed and constructed complex nanoscale mechanical parts using “DNA origami” — proving that the same basic design principles that apply to typical full-size machine parts can now also be applied to DNA — and can produce complex, controllable components for future nanorobots.

In a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the engineers… read more

One million metric tons of CO2 stored underground in Illinois

Goal is to help slow global warming trends
January 12, 2015

Carbon storage concept (credit: U.S. Department of Energy)

One of the largest carbon sequestration projects in the U.S., the Illinois Basin – Decatur Project (IBDP), has reached its goal of capturing 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and injecting it deep underground in the Mount Simon Sandstone formation beneath Decatur, Illinois, a Deep Saline reservoir.

For context, three million tons are emitted annually from a typical medium-sized, coal-fired power plant.… read more

Using flashes from faster-than-light spots to view objects in the universe

January 9, 2015

Hubble's variable nebula. (Credit: William Sparks (STScI), Sylvia Baggett (STScI) et al., & the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA))

If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light

At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle Thursday Jan. 8, Robert Nemiroff, a physics professor at Michigan Technological University, reported that this theoretical curiosity may turn out to be practically useful out in the cosmos.

When a superluminal sweep occurs,… read more

Finally, an antibiotic that kills pathogens like MRSA without resistance

January 9, 2015

The iChip houses growing microorganisms, using semi-permeable membranes (shown as circles) on each side of the plate. After adding agar nutrient, it is placed in the soil from which the sample originated. (Credit: Losee L. Ling et al./Nature)

North­eastern University researchers have dis­cov­ered an antibi­otic called “teixobactin” that elim­i­nates pathogens without encoun­tering any detectable resistance — a finding that chal­lenges long-held sci­en­tific beliefs and holds great promise for treating chronic infec­tions like tuber­cu­losis and those caused by MRSA.

Pathogens’ resis­tance to antibi­otics is causing a public health crisis, according to Northwest’s Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Kim Lewis.

Lewis’ lab played a key role in ana­lyzing and… read more

‘Pop-up’ fabrication technique trumps 3D printing

January 8, 2015

3D silicon microstructures formed using concepts similar to those in children's "pop-up" books, based on colorized scanning electron micrograph (credit: University of Illinois College of Engineering)

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a simple new fabrication technique to create beautiful, complex 3D micro- and nanostructures with advantages over 3D printing for a variety of uses.

The technique mimics the action of a children’s pop-up book — starting as a flat two-dimensional structure and popping up into a more complex 3D structure. Using a variety… read more

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