Is the ozone layer on the road to recovery?

February 12, 2013

Total polar ozone in the northern and southern hemispheres as measured by various instruments. The blue line depicts projections based on the Chemistry Climate Model E39CA. The total ozone reached its lowest levels in both hemispheres in the late 1990s, and it is expected to increase in the coming years.(Credit: ESA/DLR/Eumetsat/NASA/WMO/GAW)

Satellites show that the recent ozone hole over Antarctica was the smallest seen in the past decade. Long-term observations also reveal that Earth’s ozone has been strengthening following international agreements to protect this vital layer of the atmosphere.

According to the ozone sensor on Europe’s MetOp weather satellite, the hole over Antarctica in 2012 was the smallest in the last 10 years.

Since the… read more

Injection-free vaccination

Delivering live vaccines without a refrigerator
February 12, 2013

Scientists at King's have demonstrated the ability to deliver a dried live vaccine to the skin without a traditional needle, and shown for the first time that this technique is powerful enough to enable specialised immune cells in the skin to kick-start the immunising properties of the vaccine.

Scientists at King’s College London have demonstrated the ability to deliver a dried live vaccine to the skin without a traditional needle, and shown for the first time that this technique is powerful enough to enable specialized immune cells in the skin to kick-start the immunizing properties of the vaccine.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers say that although it is an… read more

3D printing: ‘potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything’ — President Obama

February 13, 2013

(Credit: White House)

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama noted that “Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three.

“Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries… read more

Spy-camera robot penguins infiltrate bird colonies

February 13, 2013


A BBC documentary team unleashed 50 spycams into penguin colonies, including cameras that served as eyes for robotic penguins, to capture stunning close-up footage of the unusual birds, CNET reports.

“Penguins: Spy in the Huddle” documents nearly a year hanging out with penguins through the surrogate eyes of 50 different spycams. Some of the spycams were disguised as chunks of snow or small boulders, but… read more

Portable peer review

Author-pays service cuts down on redundant reviews
February 13, 2013


Researchers waiting for their manuscript to emerge from multiple rounds of peer review as it bounces from journal to journal can easily get frustrated at the inefficiencies of the system. Soon, they may have another option: paying for a fast, independent peer review that could travel with the paper from one journal to another, and eliminate redundant peer reviews, Nature News reports.

The concept comes from a… read more

Welcome to the malware-industrial complex

February 13, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The U.S. government is developing new computer weapons and driving a black market in “zero-day” bugs. The result could be a more dangerous Web for everyone, says MIT Technology Review.

A freshly discovered weakness in a popular piece of software, known in the trade as a “zero-day” vulnerability, can be cashed in for much more than a reputation boost and some free drinks at the bar. Information about such flaws can command prices in… read more

‘Artificial atoms’ allow for sensing magnetic fields of individual cells

February 13, 2013

Artist's impression of nanomanipulation of an artificial atom (credit: ICFO)

Researchers in Spain and Australia have developed a new technique that similar to MRI but with the high resolution and sensitivity need to scan individual cells.

The researchers, from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), in collaboration with the CSIC and Macquarie University in Australia, are led by ICFO Prof. Romain Quidant. They used “artificial atoms” — diamond nanoparticles doped with nitrogen impurity — to probe… read more

Imaging fish larvae in 3D could aid drug development

February 13, 2013


Zebrafish larvae — tiny, transparent and fast-growing vertebrates — are widely used to study development and disease. However, visually examining the larvae for variations caused by drugs or genetic mutations is an imprecise, painstaking and time-consuming process.

Engineers at MIT have now built an automated system that can rapidly produce 3D, micron-resolution images of thousands of zebrafish larvae and precisely analyze their physical traits. The… read more

Protein ‘filmed’ while unfolding at atomic resolution

May contribute to a better understanding of how proteins misfold during illness
February 13, 2013

“Snapshot” of the unfolding of the CylR2 protein from Enterococcus faecalis. If the protein is cooled from 25°C to -16°C, it successively breaks down into its two identical subunits. The latter are initially stable, but at -16°C they form an instable, dynamic protein form, which plays a key role in folding. (Credit: Zweckstetter/Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry & German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases)

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Göttingen — in collaboration with Polish colleagues — have now “filmed” how a protein gradually unfolds for the first time.

By combining low temperatures and NMR spectroscopy, the scientists visualized seven intermediate forms of the CylR2 protein while cooling it down from 25°C to – 16°C.… read more

A nanocopter camera that follows you around, streaming video to your smartphone

February 14, 2013


Always Innovating is developing a $49. tiny flying video camera called the MeCam, due out in 2014.

The camera streams live video to your smartphone, allowing you to stream or upload videos. A nanocopter with 4 spinning rotors houses the camera, with an ARM Cortex-A9 processor, 1GB of RAM, WiFI, and Bluetooth.

The MeCam launches from the palm of a hand and hovers instantly. It streams… read more

Black holes growing faster than expected

February 14, 2013


Black holes are growing faster than previously thought possible, according to new research published Wednesday in the Astrophysical Journal.

Even the black hole in our own Milky Way Galaxy, which otherwise appears very quiet, has probably been consuming the equivalent of one Sun every 3000 years.

Until recently, astronomers thought that black holes grow mostly when galaxies crash into each other, at which time a large… read more

Neuroprosthesis gives rats the ability to ‘touch’ infrared light

Ever wonder what it would be like to see in the infrared (or radio waves, x-rays, etc.)?
February 14, 2013

IR stimulation of mouse-sm

An experiment by Duke University Medical Center researchers has implications for both remediating sight and augmenting perception in the future.

Nicolelis Lab researchers attached a head-mounted infrared (IR) sensor to rats and connected it to the whisker area of the brain (somatosensory cortex), using electrical microstimulation.

Despite the fact that the IR sensations were very different from whisker sensations, the rats readily learned to use… read more

New world-record efficiency for thin-film silicon solar cells

February 14, 2013

Record efficiency with less than 2 micrometers of silicium (credit: PVLab/EPFL)

EPFL’s Institute of Microengineering has reached a remarkable 10.7% efficiency for a single-junction microcrystalline silicon solar cell, surpassing the previous world record of 10.1% held by the Japanese company Kaneka Corporation since 1998.

The efficiency increase was also achieved with with only 1.8 microns of photovoltaic active material — 100 times less material than with standard wafer-based crystalline silicon PV technology.

The new thin-film… read more

Turning off the sensation of cold

Could lead to better pain treatments
February 14, 2013

Schematic diagram of mouse molars indicating the termination zones of cold-sensitive fibers (red and green) localized in the pulp and dentin, respectively. The two types of fibers fire with distinct rates of discharge, latencies, and adaptation, as depicted in green box.


USC neuroscientists have isolated chills at a cellular level, identifying the sensory network of neurons in the skin that relays the sensation of cold.

David McKemy, associate professor of neurobiology in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and his team managed to selectively shut off the ability to sense cold in mice while still leaving them able to… read more

An automated ‘time machine’ to reconstruct ancient languages

Will greatly accelerate and improve the process of reconstructing hundreds of ancestral languages
February 14, 2013

Computer scientists have reconstructed ancient Proto-Austronesian, which gave rise to languages spoken in Polynesia, among other places  (credit: A. Bouchard-Cote et al./University of California - Berkeley)

Researchers from University of California, Berkeley and the University of British Columbia have created a computer program that can rapidly reconstruct “proto-languages” — the linguistic ancestors from which all modern languages have evolved.

These earliest-known languages include Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Afroasiatic and, in this case, Proto-Austronesian, which gave rise to languages spoken in Southeast Asia, parts of continental Asia, Australasia and the Pacific.

Ancient languages hold… read more

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