February 28, 2013

Duke scientists link brain activity of rats across long distance

The brains of two rats have been connected over a long distance, creating an artificial communication channel between the two animals.What do you think?

(February 28, 2013)  Scientists studying brain-machine interfaces at the Nicolelis Lab have demonstrated that the real-time transfer of sensory-motor brain signals from a rat in Natal, Brazil to another in Durham, N.C. leads both rats to make similar behavioral selections. The researchers used a brain-to-brain interface, allowing the visual and motor signals of one brain to be transmitted directly to the other. These results give further support to the notion that the brain is capable of processing additional signals from unconventional sources.What do you think?

“The study underscores the brain’s ability to find and exploit regularities between neural patterns of activity, and to use them to increase the rate of reward—even if the thing that’s doing the transduction... is derived from the activity of another animal,” said Marshall Shuler, assistant professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University

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Brown unveils novel wireless brain sensor

A team of neuroengineers based at Brown University has developed a fully implantable and rechargeable wireless brain sensor capable of relaying real-time broadband signals from up to 100 neurons in freely moving subjects. Several copies of the novel low-power device, described in the Journal of Neural Engineering, have been performing well in animal models for more than year, a first in the brain-computer interface field. Brain-computer interfaces coud help people with severe paralysis control devces with their thoughts.

Arto Nurmikko, professor of engineering at Brown University who oversaw the device’s invention, is presenting it this week at the 2013 International Workshop on Clinical Brain-Machine Interface Systems in Houston.

Discoveries Suggest Icy Cosmic Start for Amino Acids and DNA Ingredients

 Above: Structure of cyanomethanimine, newly discovered in interstellar space.
Blue=nitrogen, grey=carbon, white=hydrogen.

Using new technology at the telescope and in laboratories, researchers have discovered an important pair of prebiotic molecules in interstellar space. The discoveries indicate that some basic chemicals that are key steps on the way to life may have formed on dusty ice grains floating between the stars.

The scientists used the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a giant cloud of gas some 25,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. The chemicals they found in that cloud include a molecule thought to be a precursor to a key component of DNA and another that may have a role in the formation of the amino acid alanine.

February 27, 2013

Songbirds’ brains coordinate singing with intricate timing, study shows

Research may help explain how human brain governs speech

As a bird sings, some neurons in its brain prepare to make the next sounds while others are synchronized with the current notes—a coordination of physical actions and brain activity that is needed to produce complex movements, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

In an article in the current issue of Nature, neuroscientist Daniel Margoliash and colleagues show, for the first time, how the brain is organized to govern skilled performance—a finding that may lead to new ways of understanding human speech production.

Reading the Human Genome

Berkeley Lab Researchers Produce First Step-by-Step Look at Transcription Initiation

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have achieved a major advance in understanding how genetic information is transcribed from DNA to RNA by providing the first step-by-step look at the biomolecular machinery that reads the human genome.

“We’ve provided a series of snapshots that shows how the genome is read one gene at a time,” says biophysicist Eva Nogales who led this research. “For the genetic code to be transcribed into messenger RNA, the DNA double helix has to be opened and the strand of gene sequences has to be properly positioned so that RNA polymerase, the enzyme that catalyzes transcription, knows where the gene starts. The electron microscopy images we produced show how this is done.”

Retailers Should Re-Size Maternity Wear for Women Throughout Their Pregnancies

Demand exists for comfortable, visually appealing maternity wear for women earlier in pregnancies

Fashion retailers have seen an increase in demand for maternity wear in recent years, as sales for maternity clothing have increased while overall women’s apparel sales have declined. Currently, most retailers produce maternity wear using a standardized size chart that begins with women in their seventh month of pregnancy. Retailers produce garments for women who are earlier in their terms by adjusting the sizes smaller proportionally based on the standardized chart. In a recent study, University of Missouri researcher MyungHee Sohn, an assistant professor of textile and apparel management in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, has found that retailers should re-produce the industry standardized size chart to size maternity wear for women entering their fifth month of pregnancy.

Researcher Finds Faster, More Efficient Technique for Creating High-Density Ceramics

A researcher from North Carolina State University has developed a technique for creating high-density ceramic materials that requires far lower temperatures than current techniques – and takes less than a second, as opposed to hours. Ceramics are used in a wide variety of technologies, including body armor, fuel cells, spark plugs, nuclear rods and superconductors.

At issue is a process known as “sintering,” which is when ceramic powders (such as zirconia) are compressed into a desired shape and exposed to high heat until the powder particles are bound together into a solid, but slightly porous, material. But new research from Dr. Jay Narayan, John C. Fan Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State, may revolutionize the sintering process.

Research update: Chemists find help from nature in fighting cancer

Study of several dozen compounds based on a fungal chemical shows potent anti-tumor activity.

Inspired by a chemical that fungi secrete to defend their territory, MIT chemists have synthesized and tested several dozen compounds that may hold promise as potential cancer drugs.

A few years ago, MIT researchers led by associate professor of chemistry Mohammad Movassaghi became the first to chemically synthesize 11,11’-dideoxyverticillin, a highly complex fungal compound that has shown anti-cancer activity in previous studies. This and related compounds naturally occur in such small amounts that it has been difficult to do a comprehensive study of the relationship between the compound’s structure and its activity — research that could aid drug development, Movassaghi says.


Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves ­– a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds.

The results, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, the journal of the American Society of Plant Biologists, show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves – an uncommon occurrence for most plants.

Traditional biofuel research has focused on improving the oil content of seeds. One reason for this focus is because oil production in seeds occurs naturally. Little research, however, has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems, as plants don’t typically store lipids in these tissues.

UConn Professor’s Patented Technique Key to New Solar Power Technology

A novel fabrication technique developed by UConn engineering professor Brian Willis could provide the breakthrough technology scientists have been looking for to vastly improve today’s solar energy systems.

For years, scientists have studied the potential benefits of a new branch of solar energy technology that relies on incredibly small nanosized antenna arrays that are theoretically capable of harvesting more than 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and simultaneously converting it into usable electric power.

The technology would be a vast improvement over the silicon solar panels in widespread use today. Even the best silicon panels collect only about 20 percent of available solar radiation, and separate mechanisms are needed to convert the stored energy to usable electricity for the commercial power grid. The panels’ limited efficiency and expensive development costs have been two of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of solar power as a practical replacement for traditional fossil fuels.

February 26, 2013

Higher levels of several toxic metals found in children with autism

 James Adams, a professor of materials science and engineering, 
has done extensive research into autism

In a recently published study in the journal Biological Trace Element Research, Arizona State University researchers report that children with autism had higher levels of several toxic metals in their blood and urine compared to typical children. The study involved 55 children with autism ages five to 16 years old compared to 44 controls of similar age and gender.

The autism group had significantly higher levels of lead in their red blood cells (+41 percent) and significantly higher urinary levels of lead (+74 percent), thallium (+77 percent), tin (+115 percent), and tungsten (+44 percent). Lead, thallium, tin, and tungsten are toxic metals that can impair brain development and function, and also interfere with the normal functioning of other body organs and systems.

February 25, 2013

Calculating unknown eigenvalues with a quantum algorithm


A quantum algorithm solves computational tasks using fewer physical resources than the best-known classical algorithm. Of most interest are those for which an exponential reduction is achieved. The key example is the phase estimation algorithm, which provides the quantum speedup in Shor's factoring algorithm and quantum simulation algorithms. To date, fully quantum experiments of this type have demonstrated only the read-out stage of quantum algorithms, but not the steps in which input data is read in and processed to calculate the final quantum state. Indeed, knowing the answer beforehand was essential.

February 24, 2013

Smart agriculture

 In the future, agricultural machines will be able to communicate with each other 
will be controlled via smartphone or tablet

Integrating embedded systems into the IT infrastructure holds immense potential for the productive sectors of the economy. At the “Embedded World 2013” trade show in Nuremberg from 26 to 28 February, Fraunhofer researchers – using “Smart Farming” as an example – will demonstrate how the interaction of machines in cyber-physical systems operates safely and securely (Hall 5, Booth 228).

Climate change, population growth and increasingly scarce resources are putting agriculture under pressure. Farmers must harvest as much as possible from the smallest possible land surface. Until now, the industry confronted this challenge with innovations in individual sectors: Intelligent systems regulate engines in order to save on gas, for instance.

February 23, 2013

Reprogramming Cells to Fight Diabetes

For years researchers have been searching for a way to treat diabetics by reactivating their insulin-producing beta cells, with limited success. The "reprogramming" of related alpha cells into beta cells may one day offer a novel and complementary approach for treating type 2 diabetes. Treating human and mouse cells with compounds that modify cell nuclear material called chromatin induced the expression of beta cell genes in alpha cells, according to a new study that appears online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“This would be a win-win situation for diabetics — they would have more insulin-producing beta cells and there would be fewer glucagon-producing alpha cells,” says lead author Klaus H. Kaestner, Ph.D., professor of Genetics and member of the Institute of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Type 2 diabetics not only lack insulin, but they also produce too much glucagon.

Penn Researchers Develop Protein ‘Passport’ That Helps Nanoparticles Get Past Immune System

The body’s immune system exists to identify and destroy foreign objects, whether they are bacteria, viruses, flecks of dirt or splinters. Unfortunately, nanoparticles designed to deliver drugs, and implanted devices like pacemakers or artificial joints, are just as foreign and subject to the same response.

Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science and Penn’s Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics have figured out a way to provide a “passport” for such therapeutic devices, enabling them to get past the body’s security system.

New device better traps viruses, airborne pathogens

Washington University engineering researchers have created a new type of air-cleaning technology that could better protect human lungs from allergens, airborne viruses and ultrafine particles in the air.

The device, known as the SXC ESP, was created by a team led by Pratim Biswas, PhD, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Professor and chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

A recent study of the device, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, found that it could help to prevent respiratory and viral infections and inhalation-induced allergic reactions more efficiently than existing filter-based systems.

February 22, 2013

Has evolution given humans unique brain structures?

Humans have at least two functional networks in their cerebral cortex not found in rhesus monkeys. This means that new brain networks were likely added in the course of evolution from primate ancestor to human. These findings, based on an analysis of functional brain scans, were published in a study by neurophysiologist Wim Vanduffel (KU Leuven and Harvard Medical School) in collaboration with a team of Italian and American researchers.

Lessons from cockroaches could inform robotics

Running cockroaches start to recover from being shoved sideways before their dawdling nervous system kicks in to tell their legs what to do, researchers have found. These new insights on how biological systems stabilize could one day help engineers design steadier robots and improve doctors' understanding of human gait abnormalities.

In experiments, the roaches were able to maintain their footing mechanically—using their momentum and the spring-like architecture of their legs, rather than neurologically, relying on impulses sent from their central nervous system to their muscles.

Physicist's Work Sheds New Light on Possible "Fifth Force of Nature"

In a breakthrough for the field of particle physics, Professor of Physics Larry Hunter and colleagues at Amherst and The University of Texas at Austin have established new limits on what scientists call “long-range spin-spin interactions” between atomic particles. These interactions have been proposed by theoretical physicists but have not yet been seen. Their observation would constitute the discovery of a “fifth force of nature” (in addition to the four known fundamental forces: gravity, weak, strong and electromagnetic) and would suggest the existence of new particles, beyond those presently described by the Standard Model of particle physics.

The new limits were established by considering the interaction between the spins of laboratory fermions (electrons, neutrons and protons) and the spins of the electrons within Earth. To make this study possible, the authors created the first comprehensive map of electron polarization within Earth induced by the planet’s geomagnetic field.

Floral signs go electric

Bees and flowers communicate using electrical fields, researchers discover

Flowers' methods of communicating are at least as sophisticated as any devised by an advertising agency, according to a new study, published today in Science Express by researchers from the University of Bristol.  However, for any advert to be successful, it has to reach, and be perceived by, its target audience.  The research shows for the first time that pollinators such as bumblebees are able to find and distinguish electric signals given out by flowers.

Flowers often produce bright colours, patterns and enticing fragrances to attract their pollinators.  Researchers at Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, led by Professor Daniel Robert, found that flowers also have their equivalent of a neon sign – patterns of electrical signals that can communicate information to the insect pollinator.  These electrical signals can work in concert with the flower’s other attractive signals and enhance floral advertising power.

Life’s tiniest architects pinpointed by Yale researchers

If a genome is the blueprint for life, then the chief architects are tiny slices of genetic material that orchestrate how we are assembled and function, Yale School of Medicine researchers report Feb. 21 in the journal Developmental Cell.

The study pinpoints the molecular regulators of epigenetics — the process by which unchanging genes along our DNA are switched on and off at precisely right time and place.

Titanium dioxide nanoreactor

Tiny particles of titanium dioxide are found as key ingredients in wall paints, sunscreens, and toothpaste; they act as reflectors of light or as abrasives. However with decreasing particle size and a corresponding change in their surface-to-volume ratio, their properties change so that crystalline titanium dioxide nanoparticles acquire catalytic ability: Activated by the UV component in sunlight, they break down toxins or catalyze other relevant reactions.

Now, Dr. Katja Henzler and a team of chemists at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin have developed a synthesis to produce nanoparticles at room temperature in a polymer network. Their analysis, conducted at BESSY II, Berlin's synchrotron radiation source, has revealed the crystalline structure of the nanoparticles. This represents a major step forward in the usage of polymeric nanoreactors since, until recently, the nanoparticles had to be thoroughly heated to get them to crystallize. The last synthesis step can be spared due to the special environment inside the PNIPAM network.

When water speaks

Solvents make catalysts more efficient

RUB researchers analyse interfaces between water and catalyst with computer simulations

Why certain catalyst materials work more efficiently when they are surrounded by water instead of a gas phase is unclear. RUB chemists have now gleamed some initial answers from computer simulations. They showed that water stabilises specific charge states on the catalyst surface. “The catalyst and the water sort of speak with each other” says Professor Dominik Marx, depicting the underlying complex charge transfer processes. His research group from the Centre for Theoretical Chemistry also calculated how to increase the efficiency of catalytic systems without water by varying pressure and temperature. The researchers describe the results in the journals “Physical Review Letters” and “Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.”

Heterogeneous catalysis: water or gas as the second phase

Journey to the Limits of Spacetime

Black hole simulations on XSEDE supercomputers present new view of jets and accretion disks

Voracious absences at the center of galaxies, black holes shape the growth and death of the stars around them through their powerful gravitational pull and explosive ejections of energy.

"Over its lifetime, a black hole can release more energy than all the stars in a galaxy combined," said Roger Blandford, director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science. "Black holes have a major impact on the formation of galaxies and the environmental growth and evolution of those galaxies."

February 21, 2013

How human language could have evolved from birdsong

Linguistics and biology researchers propose a new theory on the deep roots of human speech.

“The sounds uttered by birds offer in several respects the nearest analogy to language,” Charles Darwin wrote in “The Descent of Man” (1871), while contemplating how humans learned to speak. Language, he speculated, might have had its origins in singing, which “might have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions.”

Should Grandma Join Facebook? It May Give Her a Cognitive Boost, Study Find

Preliminary research findings suggest that learning to use Facebook may help give adults older than 65 a cognitive boost.

Janelle Wohltmann, a graduate student in the UA department of psychology, set out to see whether teaching older adults to use the popular social networking site could help improve their cognitive performance and make them feel more socially connected.

Her preliminary findings, which she shared this month at the International Neuropsychological Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii, show that older adults, after learning to use Facebook, performed about 25 percent better on tasks designed to measure their ability to continuously monitor and to quickly add or delete the contents of their working memory – a function known in the psychology world as "updating."

Brown researchers build robotic bat wing

The strong, flapping flight of bats offers great possibilities for the design of small aircraft, among other applications. By building a robotic bat wing, Brown researchers have uncovered flight secrets of real bats: the function of ligaments, the elasticity of skin, the structural support of musculature, skeletal flexibility, upstroke, downstroke.

Researchers ‘Nanoweld’ by Applying Light to Aligned Nanorods in Solid Materials

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a way to melt or “weld” specific portions of polymers by embedding aligned nanoparticles within the materials. Their technique, which melts fibers along a chosen direction within a material, may lead to stronger, more resilient nanofibers and materials.

Physicists Jason Bochinski and Laura Clarke, with materials scientist Joe Tracy, placed specifically aligned gold nanorods within a solid material. Gold nanorods absorb light at different wavelengths, depending upon the size and orientation of the nanorod, and then they convert that absorbed light directly into heat. In this case, the nanorods were designed to respond to light wavelengths of 520 nanometers (nm) in a horizontal alignment and 800 nm when vertically aligned. Human beings can see light at 520 nm (it looks green), while 808 nm is in the near infrared spectrum, invisible to our eyes.

Scientists make older adults less forgetful in memory tests

Finding could impact how older adults remember appointments and manage busy daily schedules

Scientists at Baycrest Health Sciences’ Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and the University of Toronto’s Psychology Department have found compelling evidence that older adults can eliminate forgetfulness and perform as well as younger adults on memory tests.

Scientists used a distraction learning strategy to help older adults overcome age-related forgetting and boost their performance to that of younger adults. Distraction learning sounds like an oxymoron, but a growing body of science is showing that older brains are adept at processing irrelevant and relevant information in the environment, without conscious effort, to aid memory performance.

Balsam for the Bones

Chemists at the UDE develop a nanopaste for the repair of bone defects

Following accidents or cancer surgery surgeons often have to transplant healthy bone tissue or synthetic material to repair the resulting bone defects. Unfortunately, these procedures do not always have the desired effect. Now Prof. Dr. Matthias Epple and his research team at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) have developed a nanoparticle paste which can be injected into the defect and results in improved healing. The trick: the researchers have combined synthetic calcium phosphate with DNA.

Now a professor for inorganic chemistry, Matthias Epple was attracted to the interface between biology and medical science. “We have been investigating the impact of mineral tissue such as teeth, bone and sea shells for many years and are now using the knowledge we have gained to produce new biomaterials.” To achieve this he has collaborated closely with medical scientists and his current project – carried out with three of his doctoral students – was no exception.

February 20, 2013


The base pairs that hold together two pieces of RNA, the older cousin of DNA, are some of the most important molecular interactions in living cells. Many scientists believe that these base pairs were part of life from the very beginning and that RNA was one of the first polymers of life. But there is a problem. The RNA bases don’t form base pairs in water unless they are connected to a polymer backbone, a trait that has baffled origin-of-life scientists for decades. If the bases don’t pair before they are part of polymers, how would the bases have been selected out from the many molecules in the “prebiotic soup” so that RNA polymers could be formed?

Mushroom-supplemented soybean extract shows therapeutic promise for advanced prostate cancer

A natural, nontoxic product called genistein-combined polysaccharide, or GCP, which is commercially available in health stores, could help lengthen the life expectancy of certain prostate cancer patients, UC Davis researchers have found.

Men with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, known as metastatic cancer, and who have had their testosterone lowered with drug therapy are most likely to benefit. The study, recently published in Endocrine-Related Cancer, was conducted in prostate cancer cells and in mice.

Lowering of testosterone, also known as androgen-deprivation therapy, has long been the standard of care for patients with metastatic prostate cancer, but life expectancies vary widely for those who undergo this treatment. Testosterone is an androgen, the generic term for any compound that stimulates or controls development and maintenance of male characteristics by binding to androgen receptors.

Functional organization of human sensorimotor cortex for speech articulation

Speaking is one of the most complex actions that we perform, but nearly all of us learn to do it effortlessly. Production of fluent speech requires the precise, coordinated movement of multiple articulators (for example, the lips, jaw, tongue and larynx) over rapid time scales. Here we used high-resolution, multi-electrode cortical recordings during the production of consonant-vowel syllables to determine the organization of speech sensorimotor cortex in humans. We found speech-articulator representations that are arranged somatotopically on ventral pre- and post-central gyri, and that partially overlap at individual electrodes. These representations were coordinated temporally as sequences during syllable production. Spatial patterns of cortical activity showed an emergent, population-level representation, which was organized by phonetic features.

What sleeping seals reveal about how the brain works

A new study led by an international team of biologists from the University of Toronto and UCLA has identified some of the brain chemicals that allow seals to sleep with half of their brain at a time.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, identified the chemical cues that allow the seal brain to remain half awake and asleep.

Scientists said their findings may explain the biological mechanisms that enable the brain to remain alert during waking hours and go off-line during sleep.

February 19, 2013

Stanford researchers develop tool for reading the minds of mice

Stanford scientists have developed a system for observing real-time brain activity in a live mouse. The device could prove useful in studying new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

If you want to read a mouse's mind, it takes some fluorescent protein and a tiny microscope implanted in the rodent's head.

Stanford scientists have demonstrated a technique for observing hundreds of neurons firing in the brain of a live mouse, in real time, and have linked that activity to long-term information storage. The unprecedented work could provide a useful tool for studying new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.


A single mutation in a moth gene has been shown to be able to produce an entirely new scent. This has been shown in a new study led by researchers from Lund University in Sweden. In the long run, the researchers say that the results could contribute to tailored production of pheromones for pest control.

Male moths can pick up the scent of a female moth from a distance of several hundred metres. The females produce sexual pheromones – scent substances that guide the males to them. There are around 180 000 species of moth and butterfly in the world, and most of them communicate using pheromones. Small differences between the different scents enable the males to find females of their own species.

Males' superior spatial ability likely is not an evolutionary adaptation

Males and females differ in a lot of traits (besides the obvious ones) and some evolutionary psychologists have proposed hypotheses to explain why. Some argue, for example, that males’ slight, but significant, superiority in spatial navigation over females – a phenomenon demonstrated repeatedly in many species, including humans – is probably “adaptive,” meaning that over the course of evolutionary history the trait gave males an advantage that led them to have more offspring than their peers.

Is There a Link Between Coffee Drinking and Mortality?

A large study of nearly half a million older adults followed for about 12 years revealed a clear trend: as coffee drinking increased, the risk of death decreased. Study author Neal Freedman, PhD, MPH, National Cancer Institute, discusses the significance of these findings and the potential links between coffee drinking, caffeine consumption, and various specific causes of disease in an interview in Journal of Caffeine Research, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available on the Journal of Caffeine Research website.

Engineering cells for more efficient biofuel production

Yeast research takes a step toward production of alternatives to gasoline.

In the search for renewable alternatives to gasoline, heavy alcohols such as isobutanol are promising candidates. Not only do they contain more energy than ethanol, but they are also more compatible with existing gasoline-based infrastructure. For isobutanol to become practical, however, scientists need a way to reliably produce huge quantities of it from renewable sources.

Pathway controlling cell growth revealed

A Melbourne-based research team has discovered a genetic defect that can halt cell growth and force cells into a death-evading survival state.
The finding has revealed an important mechanism controlling the growth of rapidly-dividing cells that may ultimately lead to the development of new treatments for diseases including cancer.

A solution to sinusitis from the sea

A team of scientists and surgeons from Newcastle are developing a new nasal spray from a marine microbe to help clear chronic sinusitis.
They are using an enzyme isolated from a marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis found on the surface of seaweed which the scientists at Newcastle University were originally researching for the purpose of cleaning the hulls of ships.

Publishing today in PLOS ONE, they describe how in many cases of chronic sinusitis the bacteria form a biofilm, a slimy protective barrier which can protect them from sprays or antibiotics. In vitro experiments showed that the enzyme, called NucB dispersed 58% of biofilms.

Loyalty is trump

Customer retention: RUB study on price reduction
Good negotiators save an average of five percent in their favourite shop

A skilful negotiator can save a lot of money when shopping in his favourite store. This was found out by researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) in a large-scale study. An extra five percent discount is, on average, no problem - as long as you know how to use your customer loyalty as a trump.

The credo turned on its head

For loyal customers, the price is not so important – at least, that was the credo in marketing and sales up to now. The recently published study by the Bochum scientists Prof. Jan Wieseke, Sascha Alavi and Johannes Habel of the Faculty of Economics at the RUB has turned this perception fundamentally on its head: “Many customers consciously play out their loyalty in price negotiations, and thus gain an extra five percent discount without any problem” says Wieseke. When buying a car worth 30,000 Euros, a buyer thus saves up to 1,500 Euros without any great effort.

February 18, 2013

Ancient Fossilized Sea Creatures Yield Oldest Biomolecules Isolated Directly from a Fossil

Though scientists have long believed that complex organic molecules couldn’t survive fossilization, some 350-million-year-old remains of aquatic sea creatures uncovered in Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa have challenged that assumption.

The spindly animals with feathery arms—called crinoids, but better known today by the plant-like name “sea lily”—appear to have been buried alive in storms during the Carboniferous Period, when North America was covered with vast inland seas. Buried quickly and isolated from the water above by layers of fine-grained sediment, their porous skeletons gradually filled with minerals, but some of the pores containing organic molecules were sealed intact.

February 17, 2013

Aviation industry dons 'shark skins' to save fuel

In its never-ending quest to develop more aerodynamic, more fuel-efficient aircraft, the aviation industry believes the ocean's oldest predator, the shark, could hold the key to cutting energy consumption.

Germany's biggest airline Lufthansa announced earlier this month that two of its Airbus A340-300 jets would take part in trials starting this summer to test the properties of shark skin in flight.

For the two-year trials, eight 10 by 10 centimetre (4 by 4 inch) patches of a new type of coating are being painted on to the fuselage and wing edges of the aircraft.

A new state-of-the-art varnish, developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (FAM) in Bremen, attempts to mimic the skins of fast-swimming sharks.

The skin of sharks is covered in tiny riblets that reduce turbulent vortices and the drag they cause, thereby diminishing surface resistance when moving at speed.

February 15, 2013

Nano-machines for "Bionic Proteins"

Physicists of the University of Vienna together with researchers from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna developed nano-machines which recreate principal activities of proteins. They present the first versatile and modular example of a fully artificial protein-mimetic model system, thanks to the Vienna Scientific Cluster (VSC), a high performance computing infrastructure. These "bionic proteins" could play an important role in innovating pharmaceutical research. The results have now been published in the renowned journal "Physical Review Letters".

A researcher develops new 3D reconstruction algorithms that are less complex and more accurate

A researcher of the UPNA-Public University of Navarre develops new 3D reconstruction algorithms that are less complex and more accurate

In his PhD thesis, Leonardo deMaeztu-Reinares is proposing 3D reconstruction algorithms; they are on a par with the results of the best available techniques and can be executed more rapidly on a computer. His work is based on stereoscopic vision, a technique for obtaining three-dimensional images and which, in order to get accurate results, calls for a computationally heavy load and considerable algorithmic complexity. His work has been published in international journals like the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence.

IQC researchers propose quantum walk-based computing model

The IQC team of Andrew Childs, David Gosset and Zak Webb have proposed a new universal computational model.

The IQC team of Andrew Childs (Associate Professor of Combinatorics and Optimization), David Gosset (Post-Doctoral Fellow) and Zak Webb (PhD student) have proposed a new universal computational model. This model has the potential to become an architecture for a scalable quantum computer without the need to actively manipulate qubits during the computation. The team’s findings will be published in the February 15, 2013 issue of Science.

Feeding All While Avoiding a Collapse of Civilization: Science's Greatest Challenge

Today, at least two billion people are hungry or need better diets, and most analysts think doubling food production will be required to feed the human population adequately by 2050.  A recent excellent study outlined how a required doubling could be achieved, based on five essential steps: stop increasing land for agriculture (to preserve ecosystem services); raise yields where possible; increase efficiency in use of fertilizers, water, and energy; become more vegetarian; and reduce food wastage.  One could add: stop wrecking the oceans, enlarge investment in agricultural research, and move feeding everyone to the very top of the policy agenda.

Self-Objectification May Inhibit Women’s Social Activism

Women who live in a culture in which they are objectified by others may in turn begin to objectify themselves. This kind of self-objectification may reduce women’s involvement in social activism, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Psychological scientist Rachel Calogero of the University of Kent, Canterbury hypothesized that women who self-objectify — valuing their appearance over their competence — would show less motivation to challenge the gender status quo, ultimately reducing their participation in social action.

In a survey study with undergraduate women, Calogero found that women who reported higher levels of self-objectification were less likely to have participated in gender-based social activism in the previous six months. This association was explained, at least in part, by increased justification of the gender status quo, supporting Calogero’s original hypothesis.

Stay cool and live longer?

Scientists have known for nearly a century that cold-blooded animals, such as worms, flies and fish all live longer in cold environments, but have not known exactly why.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute have identified a genetic program that promotes longevity of roundworms in cold environments—and this genetic program also exists in warm-blooded animals, including humans.