May 31, 2014

Do cellphones cause radiation?

I imagine you're like me. You have least considered the idea that the phone you hold flat up against your ear day after day might have detrimental health effects. But then you shirk the concept and attribute it to a brief case of paranoia. After all, if cellphones did cause cancer, wouldn't people be openly talking about it?

Morpheus Uses Hazard Detection System to Land Safely in Dark

On May 28, NASA demonstrated that it can land an unmanned spacecraft on a rugged planetary surface in the pitch dark.

The free-flight test was the first of its kind for NASA's Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT.

During testing, Morpheus -- an unmanned spacecraft capable of carrying 1,100 pounds (499 kg) of cargo -- powered its way up to more than 800 feet (244 m) into the dark Florida sky at NASA's Kennedy Space Center using solely ALHAT's Hazard Detection System for guidance.

New NASA/JAXA Precipitation Satellite Passes Check-out, Starts Mission

The new Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory satellite is now in the hands of the engineers who will fly the spacecraft and ensure the steady flow of data on rain and snow for the life of the mission. The official handover to the Earth Science Mission Operations team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on May 29, marked the end of a successful check-out period.

SpaceX Unveils Dragon V2 Spaceship, a Manned Space Taxi for Astronauts (Video, Photos)

Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind the private spaceflight company SpaceX, unveiled his firm's latest innovation — the Dragon V2 manned spaceship —Thursday night (May 29) in a stylish debut for the 21st-century space taxi for astronauts.

SpaceX's Dragon Version 2 crewed spacecraft has a sleek interior design, complete with a large tablet-like computer that swivels down in front of the capsule's tan leather seats. The manned space capsule can ferrying up to seven astronauts to and from destinations like the International Space Station,  Musk said during the reveal, which SpaceX webcast live online from its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Cell Phones and Cash Grants Can Promote Growth and Development

Mobile-finance and direct cash grants are revolutionary tools that can substitute for under-developed financial sectors and help reduce poverty and promote entrepreneurship in developing countries, according to researchers here.

Rodger Voorhies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Christopher Blattman, a Columbia University political scientist, say these two potentially empowering mechanisms can help global efforts to provide needed assistance to vulnerable and poor populations.

Research details how developing neurons sense a chemical cue

Symmetry is an inherent part of development. As an embryo, an organism’s brain and spinal cord, like the rest of its body, organize themselves into left and right halves as they grow. But a certain set of nerve cells do something unusual: they cross from one side to the other. New research in mice delves into the details of the molecular interactions that help guide these neurons toward this anatomical boundary.

New Method of Wormlike Motion Lets Gels Wiggle through Water

A prestigious journal published a UC undergraduate’s research on hydrogels – a special substance that can be equipped to detect bacteria, carry cargo and deliver medicine.

Next time you spot an earthworm sliding through fresh dirt, take a closer look. What you’re seeing is an organic movement called peristaltic locomotion that has been meticulously refined by nature.

Jarod Gregory, an undergraduate student in the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Science, used a worm’s contracting and expanding motion to provide a way for gels to swim in water. This is a product of work by the interdisciplinary team consisting of Jarod Gregory, a chemical engineering major, and his two advisers, Lilit Yeghiazarian, assistant professor of environmental engineering, and Vasile Nistor, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

Better Materials for Safer Sports: Time to Use Our Heads

On Thursday, the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, President Obama highlighted both the need for greater national awareness of the risks our young athletes face from traumatic brain injuries and the need for increased research on how to combat these potentially life-altering injuries.

May 30, 2014

The quantum mechanisms of organic devices for alternative solar panels are revealed

The research, in which the UPV/EHU Professor Angel Rubio is participating, is being published this week in the journal Science

Silicon panel-based technology requires a very costly, contaminating manufacturing process, while organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices have been positioned as one of the most attractive alternatives as a source of solar energy.

Discovery of possible basis for treating circadian clock disorders and associated metabolic problems

Structural biologists have made important progress towards better understanding the functioning of the circadian clock. The circadian or inner clock coordinates the sleep-wake rhythm and many other body processes that regulate, for example, metabolism, blood pressure, and the immune system. A research team led by Professor Eva Wolf, recently appointed Professor of Structural Biology at the Institute of General Botany of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and Adjunct Director at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), has for the first time identified the molecular structure of a protein complex that plays an important role in regulating the circadian rhythm.

Ecosystem Services: Looking Forward to Mid-Century

Research by Bren professor projects land-use changes up to 2051 and examines options for auctions that provide incentives for landowners

 As population grows, society needs more — more energy, more food, more paper, more housing, more of nearly everything. Meeting those needs can lead to changes in how land is used.

Native grasslands, forests and wetlands may be converted into croplands, tree plantations, residential areas and commercial developments. Those conversions can, in turn, diminish the health of natural ecosystems and their ability to provide an array of valuable services, such as clean air and water, wildlife and opportunities for recreation, to name a few.

X-ray pulses on demand from Electron Storage Rings

HZB physicists recently devised a new method to pick single x-ray pulses out of the pulse trains usually emitted from synchrotron radiation facilities. The technique is very useful to support studies of electronic properties of quantum materials and superconductors and paves the way for future synchrotron facilities with variable pulse lengths.


Narcissists tend to lack empathy, which can cause problems for themselves, the people around them and society in general. But promising new research from the University of Surrey suggests narcissists do in fact possess the physical capacity to empathise with someone else's distress.

You probably know a narcissist or two. These are people who may seem charismatic at first, but whose charm wears off as we experience their inflated egos, game-playing attention-seeking behaviour and tendency to claim credit for successes while blaming others for failure. Though clinical Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is rare, people with sub-clinical 'high narcissist' tendencies can still be more interested in getting ahead than getting along.

Observing the random diffusion of missing atoms in graphene

Imperfections in the regular atomic arrangements in crystals determine many of the properties of a material, and their diffusion is behind many microstructural changes in solids. However, imaging non-repeating atomic arrangements is difficult in conventional materials. Now, researchers at the University of Vienna have directly imaged the diffusion of a butterfly-shaped atomic defect in graphene, the recently discovered two-dimensional wonder material, over long image sequences. The results are published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

Genome Sequences Show How Lemurs Fight Infection

New technique could aid conservation, disease surveillance

The young lemur named Eugenius started to get sick. Very sick. He was lethargic, losing weight and suffering from diarrhea. Duke Lemur Center veterinarians soon pinpointed the cause of his illness: Eugenius tested positive for Cryptosporidium, a microscopic intestinal parasite known to affect people, pets, livestock and wildlife worldwide.

Bake your own robot

New algorithms and electronic components could enable printable robots that self-assemble when heated.

Printable robots — those that can be assembled from parts produced by 3-D printers — have long been a topic of research in the lab of Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Rus’ group and its collaborators introduce a new wrinkle on the idea: bakable robots.

May 29, 2014

Scientists Pinpoint the Creeping Nanocrystals Behind Lithium-Ion Battery Degradation

Two breakthrough studies track the nanoscale structural changes that degrade battery performance during cycles of charge and discharge

Batteries do not age gracefully. The lithium ions that power portable electronics cause lingering structural damage with each cycle of charge and discharge, making devices from smartphones to tablets tick toward zero faster and faster over time. To stop or slow this steady degradation, scientists must track and tweak the imperfect chemistry of lithium-ion batteries with nanoscale precision.

New test measuring cell bioenergetic health could become key tool in personalized medicine

Researchers at the University of Alabama at BirminghamSchool of Medicine have created an experimental blood test that, for the first time, determines a “Bioenergetic Health Index,” or BHI, by gauging the performance of mitochondria, the cell’s energy powerhouses. They report their laboratory findings in a recent issue of the journal Clinical Science. 

Get ready for the computers of the future

Sandia National Laboratories launches push to innovate next-generation machines

Computing experts at Sandia National Laboratories have launched an effort to help discover what computers of the future might look like, from next-generation supercomputers to systems that learn on their own — new machines that do more while using less energy.

“We think that by combining capabilities in microelectronics and computer architecture, Sandia can help initiate the jump to the next technology curve sooner and with less risk,” said Rob Leland, head of Sandia’s Computing Research Center. Leland recently outlined a major effort into next-generation computing called Beyond Moore Computing that’s part of Sandia’s overall work on future computing.

Toward Smarter Underwater Drones

The news was not good. An underwater drone armed with the best technology on the planet had descended repeatedly to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, trying to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Time after time, it turned up nothing.

If Nina Mahmoudian has her way, the next generation of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will have a much better chance of getting it right.

Unexpected Water Explains Surface Chemistry of Nanocrystals

Berkeley Lab Scientists Answer Questions of How Charged Ligands Balance on Surface of Colloidal Nanoparticles

Danylo Zherebetskyy and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) found unexpected traces of water in semiconducting nanocrystals.

Engineering a Better Way to Rebuild Bone Inside the Body

Traumatic bone injuries such as blast wounds are often so severe that the body can’t effectively repair the damage on its own. To aid the recovery, clinicians inject patients with proteins called growth factors. The treatment is costly, requiring large amounts of expensive growth factors. The growth factors also disperse, creating unwanted bone formation in the area around the injury.

UNL team awarded $1.9M to develop new approach to HIV vaccine

Using a genetically modified form of the HIV virus, a team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists has developed a promising new approach that could someday lead to a more effective HIV vaccine.

The team, led by chemist Jiantao Guo, virologist Qingsheng Li and synthetic biologist Wei Niu, has successfully tested the novel approach for vaccine development in vitro and has published findings in the international edition of the German journal Angewandte Chemie.

May 28, 2014

International research group documents unique songbird diversity of the Eastern Himalayas

Article in Nature describes the relevance of ecological niches to the evolution of new bird species

The Eastern Himalayas are home to more than 360 different songbird species, most of which are to be found nowhere else on the planet. This makes the region extending from eastern Nepal to the borderlands of China, India, and Myanmar unique and one of the most important hot spots for biological diversity in the western hemisphere. A recent research paper describes how this impressive bird community came about millions of years ago, emphasizing both the uniqueness and biological significance of this remote area.

Red light for rivals

Tübingen University biologists show marine fish use red biofluorescence to communicate

The ocean is blue because red light is swiftly absorbed by the water. That’s why even a few meters below the surface, the sea and its creatures appear a dull blue color. Evolutionary biologists at the University of Tübingen are carrying out research into marine fish which have developed their own biofluorescence - producing bright red colors in the blue depths of the sea. In the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, they demonstrate for the first time that fish are able to perceive their own biofluorescence and to use if to communicate with members of their own species.

Supersonic spray delivers high-quality graphene layer

A simple, inexpensive spray method that deposits a graphene film can heal manufacturing defects and produce a high-quality graphene layer on a range of substrates, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Korea University.

Their study is available online in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Graphene, a two-dimensional wonder-material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, is strong, transparent, and an excellent conductor of electricity. It has potential in a wide range of applications, such as reinforcing and lending electrical properties to plastics; creating denser and faster integrated circuits; and building better touch screens.

Corning Introduces Fibrance™ Light-Diffusing Fiber

New fiber technology enables thin, colorful, aesthetic lighting

Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) today announced the introduction of Corning® Fibrance™ Light-Diffusing Fiber, a glass optical fiber optimized for thin, colorful, aesthetic lighting. The company will feature this new technology in its booth (8326) at the LIGHTFAIR International trade show and conference in Las Vegas, June 3–5.

May 27, 2014

Journey of Discovery Starts toward Understanding and Treating Networks of the Brain

(Artist Concept) The research team led by Massachusetts General Hospital will use
a combination of commercial-off-the-shelf electrodes and custom technology developed
by Draper Labs to create novel systems. The proposed design will focus on an
ultra-low-profile, hermetically sealed interface device capable of being recharged through
inductive coupling. (Image courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital and Draper Labs)

(May 27, 2014)  SUBNETS program includes two complementary research pathways that emphasize neural plasticity and single-neuron recording.

Work on DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program is set to begin with teams led by UC San Francisco (UCSF), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The SUBNETS program seeks to reduce the severity of neuropsychological illness in service members and veterans by developing closed-loop therapies that incorporate recording and analysis of brain activity with near-real-time neural stimulation. The program, which will use next-generation devices inspired by current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) technology, was launched in support of President Obama’s brain initiative.

In this artist’s concept, a miniature electronic device placed between a patient's skull
and scalp would serve as an interface between a series of electrodes placed at varying
depths in different regions of the brain and a clinician who could wirelessly review neurological
data recorded by the electrodes and communicate with the device to prescribe tailored therapies.
Photos on either side show a sampling of existing devices that could serve as inspiration
or building blocks for SUBNETS technologies. DARPA will evaluate multiple designs from
both performer teams over the course of the program.
(Image courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital and Draper Labs)

UCSF and MGH will oversee teams of physicians, engineers, and neuroscientists who are working together to develop advanced brain interfaces, computational models of neural activity, and clinical therapies for treating networks of the brain. The teams will collaborate with commercial industry and government, including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Medtronic, to apply a broad range of perspectives to the technological challenges involved.

SUBNETS is premised on the understanding that brain function—and  dysfunction, in the case of neuropsychological illness—plays out across distributed neural systems, as opposed to being strictly relegated to distinct anatomical regions of the brain. The program also aims to take advantage of neural plasticity, a feature of the brain by which the organ’s anatomy and physiology can alter over time to support normal brain function. Plasticity runs counter to previously held ideas that the adult brain is a “finished” entity that can be statically mapped. Because of plasticity, researchers are optimistic that the brain can be trained or treated to restore normal functionality following injury or the onset of neuropsychological illness.   

DARPA’s SUBNETS program seeks new neurotechnology for analyzing neuronal
activity across sub-networks of the brain to enable next-generation therapies
tailored to individual patients. (DARPA image)

“The brain is very different from all other organs because of its networking and adaptability,” said Justin Sanchez, the DARPA program manager for SUBNETS. “Real-time, closed-loop neural interfaces allow us to move beyond the traditional static view of the brain and into a realm of precision therapy. This lack of understanding of how mental illness specifically manifests in the brain has limited the effectiveness of existing treatment options, but through SUBNETS we hope to change that. DARPA is looking for ways to characterize which regions come into play for different conditions—measured from brain networks down to the single neuron level—and develop therapeutic devices that can record activity, deliver targeted stimulation, and most importantly, automatically adjust therapy as the brain itself changes. The research teams we selected for SUBNETS will pursue bold approaches to reach those goals and we’re excited to get started because this research could prove to be transformative for people with mental illness.”

Read also (CHIPS news) >>

Light-coloured butterflies and dragonflies thriving as European climate warms

(May 27; 2014)  Butterflies and dragonflies with lighter colours are out-competing darker-coloured insects in the face of climate change.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, scientists from Imperial College London, Philipps-University Marburg and University of Copenhagen have shown that as the climate warms across Europe, communities of butterflies and dragonflies consist of more lighter coloured species. Darker coloured species are retreating northwards to cooler areas, but lighter coloured species are also moving their geographical range north as Europe gets warmer.

Wood waste biofuel could cut greenhouse gas emissions

(May 27, 2014)  A sustainable biofuel made from Norwegian forest wood waste could help transform the shipping industry and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternative sustainable fuels are urgently needed in the marine transport sector due to stringent upcoming regulations demanding reduced sulphur and carbon content in diesels and oils from January 2015.

Aircraft fuel consumption can be reduced by 15 per cent

Two aircraft engine concepts, geared turbofan and open rotor, can enable a significant reduction to aircraft fuel consumption. With open rotor, the potential reduction is 15 per cent. These are the findings of Linda Larsson, who has analysed and evaluated the two concepts.

​The average annual increase in passenger kilometres travelled by air has been 5.8% over the last 40 years, and fuel sales have increased by 2.2 per cent annually during the same period. New technological solutions are needed if aviation is to reduce its impact on the climate.

Melatonin makes old bones stronger

(May 27, 2015)  Research on elderly rats suggests possible avenue for prevention of osteoporosis

Faleh Tamimi, a professor in McGill’s School of Dentistry, is the leader of a research team that has just discovered that melatonin supplements make bones stronger in elderly rats and therefore, potentially, in elderly humans too. “Old rats are tedious to work with because they get sick a lot and that means they also cost a lot more. But if you’re interested in diseases like osteoporosis, they’re an essential part of the process.”

May 24, 2014

Peaceful Transitions From The Nuclear To The Solar Age

In this column, Hazel Henderson, futurist and economic iconoclast that today’s systemic breakdowns are producing new plans and breakthroughts long-proposed by futurist and planetary citizens.

Japanese Buddhist and president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Daisaku Ikeda’s Peace Proposal 2014 elevated my focus from the daily news to my longer term concerns for more peaceful, equitable and sustainable human societies to assure our common future. These broader concerns are now shared by millions of humans who have transcended purely personal, local and nationalistic goals and become prototypical global citizens.

Measuring Fine Dust Concentration via Smartphone

KIT Computer Scientists Work on a Measurement System for Mobile End Devices to Compile a Pollution Map in Collaboration with Users

Big cities in the smog: Photos from Beijing and, more recently, Paris clearly illustrate the extent of fine dust pollution. But what about our direct environment? What is the pollution concentration near our favorite jogging route? Scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are developing a sensor that can be connected easily to smartphones. In the future, users are to take part in drawing up a pollution map via participatory sensing. The precision of the map will be the higher, the more people will take part.

Electricity use slashed with efficiency controls for heating, cooling

Field test of advanced controls in commercial buildings reveals more savings than expected

Commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57 percent with advanced energy-efficiency controls, according to a year-long trial of the controls at malls, grocery stores and other buildings across the country. The study demonstrated higher energy savings than what was predicted in earlier computer simulations by the same researchers.

Untangling whole genomes of individual species from a microbial mix

New method opens window on invisible world

A new approach to studying microbes in the wild will allow scientists to sequence the genomes of individual species from complex mixtures. It marks a big advance for understanding the enormous diversity of microbial communities —including the human microbiome. The work is described in an article published May 22 in Early Online form in the journal G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, published by the Genetics Society of America. 

“This new method will allow us to discover many currently unknown microbial species that can’t be grown in the lab, while simultaneously assembling their genome sequences,” says co-author Maitreya Dunham, a biologist at the University of Washington’s Department of Genome Sciences.

Babbling brooks adding to climate change?

Studying stream bubbles isn’t exactly a walk in the park. What, with the mud and ticks, the long days hiking and swimming through mucky streams, the sun exposure and scratching brush.

But in the end, it may prove to be insightful. The bubbles coming from freshwater sources, new research suggests, may be a key and currently unaccounted for source of methane, the second-largest greenhouse gas contributor to human-driven global climate change.

May 23, 2014

Flatland optics with graphene

Researchers from CIC nanoGUNE, in collaboration with ICFO and Graphenea, introduce a platform technology based on optical antennas for trapping and controlling light with the one-atom-thick material graphene. The experiments show that the dramatically squeezed graphene-guided light can be focused and bent, following the fundamental principles of conventional optics. The work, published yesterday in Science, opens new opportunities for smaller and faster photonic devices and circuits.

A new way to make sheets of graphene

Technique might enable advances in display screens, solar cells, or other devices.

Graphene’s promise as a material for new kinds of electronic devices, among other uses, has led researchers around the world to study the material in search of new applications. But one of the biggest limitations to wider use of the strong, lightweight, highly conductive material has been the hurdle of fabrication on an industrial scale.

Green and yellow – straw from oilseed as a new source of biofuels

The bright yellow fields of oilseed rape are a familiar sight at this time of year, but for scientists what lies beneath is just as exciting.

Researchers at the Institute of Food Research are looking at how to turn straw from oilseed rape into biofuel. Preliminary findings are pointing at ways the process could be made more efficient, as well as how the straw itself could be improved.

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DNA Testing to Help Save Corals

“We are seriously tackling conservation of coral reefs in Okinawa,” said Dr. Chuya Shinzato of the OIST Marine Genomics Unit. Coral reefs face various extinction risks. To avert coral demise, Shinzato is providing his expertise to the Coral Reef Preservation and Restoration Project spearheaded by the Okinawa Prefectural Government. In a paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science, Shinzato and colleagues reported the establishment of DNA markers that might be applicable to all species of the Acropora reef-building coral, giving accurate identification to individual corals. The technique, similar to DNA profiling in humans, enables scientists to study genetic diversity and connectivity among the Acropora coral populations, thus finding clues to help with the conservation of coral reef ecosystems in waters around Okinawa and the world.

dynamically-scaled robotic fly

Strategies for the stabilization of longitudinal forward flapping flight revealed using a dynamically-scaled robotic fly

The ability to regulate forward speed is an essential requirement for flying animals. Here, we use a dynamically-scaled robot to study how flapping insects adjust their wing kinematics to regulate and stabilize forward flight. The results suggest that the steady-state lift and thrust requirements at different speeds may be accomplished with quite subtle changes in hovering kinematics, and that these adjustments act primarily by altering the pitch moment. This finding is consistent with prior hypotheses regarding the relationship between body pitch and flight speed in fruit flies. Adjusting the mean stroke position of the wings is a likely mechanism for trimming the pitch moment at all speeds, whereas changes in the mean angle of attack may be required at higher speeds. To ensure stability, the flapping system requires additional pitch damping that increases in magnitude with flight speed. A compensatory reflex driven by fast feedback of pitch rate from the halteres could provide such damping, and would automatically exhibit gain scheduling with flight speed if pitch torque was regulated via changes in stroke deviation. Such a control scheme would provide an elegant solution for stabilization across a wide range of forward flight speeds.

Bioinspired flight control

The invention and deployment of small flying robots (drones) is beginning to influence our everyday lives. Their applications are frightening to some and exciting to others. From military surveillance, to city courier services, to near-future flying camera phones, this technology is bound to end up on everyone's doorstep. Setting privacy issues aside, the biggest challenge in successfully integrating the versatile use of drones in our society is to make them safe and reliable. Whereas we have succeeded in doing so with large passenger aircraft, it has proven remarkably difficult to adapt this technology on a smaller scale to flight in urban environments. From windy street canyons to highly cluttered alleys and parks, keeping drones in the air is actually a more difficult task than first imagined, as any hobby drone pilot can confirm. Making these flights more useful and versatile is yet another challenge. How can we adapt and innovate our technology to succeed?

Need a new fuel cell? Let’s print one using inkjet printing!

Researchers at DTU Energy Conversion has transformed an ordinary HP 1000 ink jet printer into a printer able to print efficient energy conversion devices such as Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC).

SOFCs have attracted increasing attention over the last two decades due to high energy conversion efficiency, efficiency, fuel flexibility and low environmental impact, but the technology still has some challenges related to cost and durability before gaining entry at commercial markets. Some of those challenges might be solved using inkjet printers, both as a development tool to reduce  the design-prototype-test cycle time for the development of new cell types, and as a manufacturing tool where entire SOFC stacks are printed using significantly smaller amounts of materials than traditional manufacturing processes.

May 22, 2014

Devastating human impact on the Amazon rainforest revealed

The human impact on the Amazon rainforest has been grossly underestimated according to an international team of researchers led by Lancaster University.

They found that selective logging and surface wildfires can result in an annual loss of 54 billion tonnes of carbon from the Brazilian Amazon, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is equivalent to 40% of the yearly carbon loss from deforestation - when entire forests are chopped down.

Lower mantle chemistry breakthrough

Breaking research news from a team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Ho-kwang “Dave” Mao reveals that the composition of the Earth’s lower mantle may be significantly different than previously thought. These results are to be published by Science.

The lower mantle comprises 55 percent of the planet by volume and extends from 670 and 2900 kilometers in depth, as defined by the so-called transition zone (top) and the core-mantle boundary (below). Pressures in the lower mantle start at 237,000 times atmospheric pressure (24 gigapascals) and reach 1.3 million times atmospheric pressure (136 gigapascals) at the core-mantle boundary.

Not all diamonds are forever

Rice University researchers see nanodiamonds created in coal fade away in seconds

Images taken by Rice University scientists show that some diamonds are not forever.

The Rice researchers behind a new study that explains the creation of nanodiamonds in treated coal also show that some microscopic diamonds only last seconds before fading back into less-structured forms of carbon under the impact of an electron beam.

The research by Rice chemist Ed Billups and his colleagues appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

A new kind of media theory

MIT professor Fox Harrell works to enrich the subjective and ethical dimensions of the digital media experience.

Unlike most people, MIT’s Fox Harrell knew what he wanted to do in life from a young age. According to Harrell, an associate professor of digital media who studies self-expression in online media and creates tools to help developers add depth to their work, the impetus for his career came from an epiphany he had one day while doing computer programming as a kid in San Diego.