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‘Star in a jar’ could lead to limitless fusion energy

New compact spherical tokamak design may overcome physics challenges
August 30, 2016

Spherical torus/tokamak design for fusion nuclear science facility showing magnets and other systems and structures (credit: J.E. Menard et al./Nucl. Fusion)

Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)* are building a “star in a jar” — a miniature version of the how our Sun creates energy through fusion. It could provide humankind with near limitless energy, ending dependence on fossil fuels for generating electricity — without contributing greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and with no long-term radioactive waste.

But that requires a… read more

Mystery radio signal may be from distant star system — or a military transmitter

August 29, 2016

RATAN-600 radio telescope (credit: nat-geo.ru)

A star system 94 light-years away known as HD 164595 is a possible candidate for intelligent life, based on an announcement by an international team of researchers.

On May 15, 2015, Russian astronomers picked up a radio signal on the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Russia “in the direction of HD164595,” an international group of astronomers stated in a document* now being circulated through contact person Alexander Panov,… read more

3-D-printed structures that ‘remember’ their shapes

Heat-responsive shape-memory materials may aid in controlled drug delivery and solar panel tracking, for example
August 29, 2016

In this series, a 3-D printed multimaterial shape-memory minigripper, consisting of shape-memory hinges and adaptive touching tips, grasps a cap screw. (credit: Photo courtesy of Qi (Kevin) Ge)

Engineers from MIT and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) are 3D-printing structures based on shape-memory polymers that “remember” and spring back to their original shapes when heated to a certain temperature “sweet spot” — even after being stretched, twisted, and bent at extreme angles.

That makes them useful for applications ranging from soft actuators that turn solar panels toward the sun to tiny drug capsules… read more

Designing new ultrasound imaging tools with Lego-like proteins

Imaging specific cells and molecules deeper in the body
August 26, 2016

Protein-shelled structures called gas vesicles, illustrated here, can be engineered with Lego-like proteins to improve ultrasound methods. The gas vesicles can help detect specific cell types and create multicolor images. (credit: Barth van Rossum for Caltech)

The next step in ultrasound imaging will let doctors view specific cells and molecules deeper in the body, such as those associated with tumors or bacteria in our gut.

A new study from Caltech outlines how protein engineering techniques might help achieve this milestone. The researchers engineered protein-shelled nanostructures called gas vesicles (which reflect sound waves) to exhibit new properties useful for ultrasound technologies. In the future,… read more

Ultrasound jump-starts brain of man in coma

New non-invasive technique may lead to low-cost therapy for patients with severe brain injury --- possibly for those in a vegetative or minimally conscious state
August 26, 2016

The technique uses ultrasound to target the thalamus. (credit: Martin Monti/UCLA)

UCLA neurosurgeons used ultrasound to “jump-start” the brain of a 25-year-old man from a coma, and he has made remarkable progress following the treatment.

The technique, called “low-intensity focused ultrasound pulsation” (LIFUP), works non-invasively and without affecting intervening tissues. It excites neurons in the thalamus, an egg-shaped structure that serves as the brain’s central hub for processing information.

“It’s almost as if we were jump-starting the… read more

Implantable cell-size ‘neural pixel’ device senses and blocks epileptic seizures

August 26, 2016

A biochemical pathway for reducing chemically induced epileptic activity by delivering the natural neurotransmitter GABA via PEDOT:PSS electrodes, which also sensed the epileptic attack and recorded the subsequent electrophysiological activity to confirm effecctiveness (credit: Amanda Jonsson et al./PNAS)

Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden and in France have developed a “neural pixel” device that when implanted in a mouse hippocampus brain slice detects the initial signal of an epileptic attack and also locally administers the exact dose of the natural neurotransmitter GABA needed to stop the attack.

The researchers used a conducting polymer called poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) doped with poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS) for electrodes. It has ten times… read more

‘We are probably one of the last generations of Homo sapiens’ — Yuval Noah Harari

August 25, 2016

(credit: Cognitive)

Historian and author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari predicts the future of humanity.

“We are probably one of the last generations of Homo sapiens,” he tells BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

Animation by Cognitive.

The first autonomous soft robot powered only by a chemical reaction

The 3D-printed "octobot" is powered by oxygen released from hydrogen peroxide and controlled by microfluidics --- no electronics
August 24, 2016

The octobot is powered by a chemical reaction and controlled with a soft logic board. A reaction inside the bot transforms a small amount of liquid fuel (hydrogen peroxide) into a large amount of oxygen gas, which flows into the octobot's arms and inflates them like a balloon. The team used a microfluidic logic circuit, a soft analog of a simple electronic oscillator, to control when hydrogen peroxide decomposes to gas in the octobot. SD card shown for scale only. (credit: Lori Sanders)

The first autonomous, untethered, entirely soft 3-D-printed robot (powered only by a chemical reaction) has been demonstrated by a team of Harvard University researchers and described in the journal Nature.

Nicknamed “octobot,” the bot combines soft lithography, molding, and 3-D printing.

“One longstanding vision for the field of soft robotics has been to create robots that are entirely soft, but the struggle has always been in replacing… read more

A possible habitable planet is only four light-years away, astronomers discover

Proxima b's estimated temperature would allow for a liquid state on its surface, placing it within the "habitable zone" around the star (assuming water is present) --- Hawking's $100 million Breakthrough Starshot vindicated
August 24, 2016

Artist's impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of the star Proxima. (credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

A rocky planet called Proxima b — the closest exoplanet to us — is in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System, a team of astronomers has found after painstaking observation and data analysis.

The new world orbits its cool red-dwarf parent star every 11.2 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. A paper describing… read more

Beyond Wi-Fi

Two low-energy innovations that promise to transform home and business data communications
August 22, 2016

A nanocrystal-based material converts blue laser emission to white light for combined illumination and data communication. (credit: KAUST 2016)

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed a system that uses high-speed visible light communications (VLC) to replace slower Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing ceiling lights, for example, to provide an internet connection to laptops.

“VLC has many advantages compared with lower frequency communications approaches (including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), such as energy efficiency, an unregulated communication spectrum, environmental friendliness, greater security, and no… read more

Neuroscientists identify cortical links to adrenal medulla (mind-body connection)

May help explain why meditation and exercises such as yoga and Pilates can be helpful in dealing with stress
August 19, 2016

Cortical pathways to the adrenal medulla. Cortical areas on the lateral surface and the medial wall of the hemisphere are the source of neurons that influence the adrenal medulla. (credit: Richard P. Dum et al./PNAS)

Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have identified the neural networks that connect the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla — the inner part of the adrenal gland, located above each kidney, which is responsible for the body’s rapid response in stressful situations.

These findings, reported in the online Early Edition of the journal read more

Mayo Clinic, collaborators working to advance aging research via clinical trials

Aging is the largest risk factor for most chronic diseases, and care for the elderly currently accounts for 43 percent of the total health care spending in the U.S. --- about 1 trillion dollars a year
August 19, 2016

(credit: iStock)

Mayo Clinic and other members of the Geroscience Network* have developed strategies for taking new drugs to clinical trials — specifically, drugs that target processes underlying multiple age-related diseases and disabilities. And they’ve written six supporting articles that appeared Wednesday Aug. 17 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A – Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

The Geroscience Network consists of 18 academic aging center, with the participation… read more

How to separate out semiconducting carbon nanotubes

August 17, 2016

Artistic rendition of a metallic carbon nanotube being pulled into solution, in analogy to the work described by the Adronov group. (credit: Alex Adronov, McMaster University)

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada have developed a radically improved way to purify single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) — flexible structures that are one nanometer in diameter and thousands of times longer, ­and that may revolutionize computers and electronics, replacing silicon.

To do that, we need to separate out semiconducting (sc-SWNTs) and metallic (m-SWNTs) nanotubes. That’s a challenging problem, because both are created simultaneously in the process*… read more

Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference to be live-streamed Aug. 16–17

August 16, 2016

rb2016-logo

The Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference will be live-streamed Tuesday Aug. 16, starting at 1 PM PDT, and Wednesday Aug. 17.

The 2016 Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference is focused on taking the Rejuvenation Biotechnology Industry to the next level by addressing the question: what will it take to push emerging breakthroughs in regenerative medicine from proof-of-concept to implementation?

This year’s conference seeks to answer this critical inquiry by… read more

New cancer-drug delivery system uses magnetically guided bacteria to target cancerous tumors with high precision

August 15, 2016

The legions of nanorobotic agents are actually composed of more than 100 million flagellated bacteria -- and therefore self-propelled -- and loaded with drugs that moved by taking the most direct path between the drug's injection point and the area of the body to cure. (credit: Montréal Nanorobotics Laboratory)

Researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Université de Montréal, and McGill University have designed a new cancer-drug-delivery nanotransporter system using more than 100 million flagellated, self-propelled bacteria that are capable of navigating through the bloodstream to administer a drug to tumors with precision.* The goal of the research is to avoid jeopardizing the integrity of organs and surrounding healthy tissues while reducing drug dosage.

In an experiment… read more

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