Boat noise disrupts orientation behaviour in larval coral reef fish, according to new research from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Liège. Reef fish are normally attracted by reef sound but the study, conducted in French Polynesia, found that fish are more likely to swim away from recordings of reefs when boat noise is added.
June 28, 2013
‘Wi-Vi’ is based on a concept similar to radar and sonar imaging.
The comic-book hero Superman uses his X-ray vision to spot bad guys lurking behind walls and other objects. Now we could all have X-ray vision, thanks to researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
A study from Karolinska Institutet shows, that our imagination may affect how we experience the world more than we perhaps think. What we imagine hearing or seeing 'in our head' can change our actual perception. The study, which is published in the scientific journal Current Biology, sheds new light on a classic question in psychology and neuroscience - about how our brains combine information from the different senses.
Joint Salk-Gladstone study to help scientists decode circuitry that guides brain function
The power of the brain lies in its trillions of intercellular connections, called synapses that together form complex neural "networks." While neuroscientists have long sought to map these individual connections to see how they influence specific brain functions, traditional techniques have been unsuccessful. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute and the Gladstone Institutes, using an innovative brain- tracing technique, have found a way to untangle these networks. These findings offer new insight into how specific brain regions connect to each other, while also revealing clues as to what may happen, neuron by neuron, when these connections are disrupted.
June 27, 2013
Researchers discover way to use iron as catalyst for widely used chemical process, replacing heavy metals
Researchers from McGill University, RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Wako, Japan) and the Institute for Molecular Science (Okazaki, Japan) have discovered a way to make the widely used chemical process of hydrogenation more environmentally friendly – and less expensive.
Hydrogenation is a chemical process used in a wide range of industrial applications, from food products, such as margarine, to petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. The process typically involves the use of heavy metals, such as palladium or platinum, to catalyze the chemical reaction. While these metals are very efficient catalysts, they are also non-renewable, costly, and subject to sharp price fluctuations on international markets.
Algae species holds potential for dual role as pollution reducer, biofuel source
A hardy algae species is showing promise in both reducing power plant pollution and making biofuel, based on new research at the University of Delaware.
The microscopic algae Heterosigma akashiwo grows rapidly on a gas mixture that has the same carbon dioxide and nitric oxide content as emissions released from a power plant.
Gemini Observatory’s Planet-Finding Campaign finds that, around many types of stars, distant gas-giant planets are rare and prefer to cling close to their parent stars. The impact on theories of planetary formation could be significant.
Finding extrasolar planets has become so commonplace that it seems astronomers merely have to look up and another world is discovered. However, results from Gemini Observatory’s recently completed Planet-Finding Campaign – the deepest, most extensive direct imaging survey to date – show the vast outlying orbital space around many types of stars is largely devoid of gas-giant planets, which apparently tend to dwell close to their parent stars.
A recent report from UT has pinpointed ten game-changing supply chain trends that can help companies improve their operations.
The university’s Global Supply Chain Institute researched the topic and identified and tracked the trends. UT supply chain management faculty surveyed 163 supply chain professionals from 132 global companies to develop the list. As defined by the survey, a game-changing trend is one that greatly impacts a firm’s shareholder value and can be extremely difficult to implement successfully.
“This research confirmed that world-class companies need to revisit these trends on a regular basis to stay abreast in today’s dynamic and rapidly changing environment,” said Paul Dittmann, executive director of UT’s Global Supply Chain Institute. “Companies also must be open to considering new challenges, such as the application of business analytics to big data and cloud-based applications.”
People punish generous group members by rejecting them socially -- even when the generosity benefits everyone -- because the "big givers" are nonconformists, according to a Baylor University study.
The study, published in the journal Social Science Research, showed that besides socially rejecting especially generous givers, others even "paid" to punish them through a points system.
UC Davis researchers say emergency room visits remained stable during the last big Sacramento area-wide sprayings for West Nile virus
In what researchers say is the first public health study of the aerial mosquito spraying method to prevent West Nile virus, a UC Davis study analyzed emergency department records from Sacramento area hospitals during and immediately after aerial sprayings in the summer of 2005. Physicians and scientists from the university and from the California Department of Public Health found no increase in specific diagnoses that are considered most likely to be associated with pesticide exposure, including respiratory, gastrointestinal, skin, eye and neurological conditions.
Seattle is a long way from Detroit, but the West Coast team claimed a key win in last weekend’s student race car competition.
The University of Washington Formula Motorsports team took first place at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers competition held June 19-22 in Lincoln, Neb. It’s one of the largest U.S. competitions that challenges engineering students to design and build a small race car fit for an amateur driver.
In stunning color, new biodiversity research from North Carolina State University maps out priority areas worldwide that hold the key to protecting vulnerable species and focusing conservation efforts.
The research, published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pinpoints the highest global concentrations of mammals, amphibians and birds on a scale that’s 100 times finer than previous assessments. The findings can be used to make the most of available conservation resources, said Dr. Clinton Jenkins, lead author and research scholar at NC State University.
Scientists have discovered a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that have polluted the oceans—a vast new human-made flotilla of microbial communities that they have dubbed the “plastisphere.”
In a study recently published online in Environmental Science & Technology, the scientists say the plastisphere represents a novel ecological habitat in the ocean and raises a host of questions: How will it change environmental conditions for marine microbes, favoring some that compete with others? How will it change the overall ocean ecosystem and affect larger organisms? How will it change where microbes, including pathogens, will be transported in the ocean?
Researchers at LMU have developed a new method for visualizing material defects in thin-film solar cells.
An LMU research team led by Bert Nickel has, for the first time, succeeded in functionally characterizing the active layer in organic thin-film solar cells using laser light for localized excitation of the material. The findings are reported in the scientific journal “Advanced Materials”. “We have developed a method in which the material is raster-scanned with a laser, while the focused beam is modulated in different ways, by means of a rotating attenuator for instance. This enables us to map directly the spatial distribution of defects in organic thin films, a feat which has not previously been achieved,” explains Christian Westermeier, who is first author of the new study.
Internet on the airplane – digital systems are an everyday routine for more and more passengers, but pilots are largely cut off from this development. This is because, up until now, they have had to communicate using a completely separate system that is primarily analogue. Under the leadership of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), a new system that will lead pilots into the digital world of the 21st century has been tested in flight trials. A single device transmits communications with the ground and via satellite, digitally at high speed. Detailed information, such as the weather or the traffic situation can therefore be exchanged between the tower and the aircraft quickly and reliably, which increases air traffic safety. Thirty partners are involved in the development of the new system.
For the first time, a team of researchers at the HZB led by Dr. Roland Mainz and Dr. Christian Kaufmann has managed to observe growth of high-efficiency chalcopyrite thin film solar cells in real time and to study the formation and degradation of defects that compromise efficiency. To this end, the scientists set up a novel measuring chamber at the Berlin electron storage ring BESSY II, which allows them to combine several different kinds of measuring techniques. Their results show during which process stages the growth can be accelerated and when additional time is required to reduce defects. Their work has now been published online in Advanced Energy Materials.
Let’s all fist bump: Spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way appear to be much larger and more massive than previously believed, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study by researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope.
CU-Boulder Professor John Stocke, study leader, said new observations with Hubble’s $70 million Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, or COS, designed by CU-Boulder show that normal spiral galaxies are surrounded by halos of gas that can extend to over 1 million light-years in diameter. The current estimated diameter of the Milky Way, for example, is about 100,000 light-years. One light-year is roughly 6 trillion miles.
A research team at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), S. Korea, found a new physical organogel electrolyte with two unique characteristics: an irreversible thermal gelation and a high value of the Li+ transference number.
A Recent fire on a Boeing 787 on the ground in Boston, US, was caused by a battery failure, it resulted in the release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage and smoke. If they had used a safer electrolyte, the risk would have been reduced.
Electrolytes are essential components of supercapacitors, batteries and fuel cells. The Most widely used electrolyte is a liquid type since its overall ionic conductivity and value of transference numbers are better than solid-type electrolytes. However, safety concerns caused by its leakage and explosive nature, caused an extensive call for the research on the development of solid-type electrolyte.
Scientists have discovered the reasons behind the lifespan of some of the world’s iconic mountain ranges.
The study conducted by the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Aarhus University, Denmark, has revealed that interactions between landslides and erosion, caused by rivers, explains why some mountain ranges exceed their expected lifespan.
Co-author Professor Mike Sandiford of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne said the study had answered the quandary as to why there was fast erosion in active mountain ranges in the Himalayas and slow erosion in others such as the Great Dividing Range in Australia or the Urals in Russia.
Researchers from Vienna University of Technology have built a new interferometer for trapped, ultracold atomic gases. By strongly suppressing the quantum noise, which ultimately limits the performance of interferometers, they were able to curb the effect of atomic interactions, and increase the interrogation time of their interferometer. This should yield more precise measurements.
Research from North Carolina State University shows that software which tracks facial expressions can accurately assess the emotions of students engaged in interactive online learning and predict the effectiveness of online tutoring sessions.
“This work is part of a larger effort to develop artificial intelligence software to teach students computer science,” says Dr. Kristy Boyer, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “The program, JavaTutor, will not only respond to what a student knows, but to each student’s feelings of frustration or engagement. This is important because research shows that student emotion plays an important role in the learning process.”
Engineers from Queen Mary, University of London have developed the world’s most precise computer simulation of how red blood cells might travel around the body to help doctors treat people with serious circulatory problems.
Red blood cells have the important task of carrying oxygen around the body but make up less than half of the total blood volume – 45 per cent in men and 40 per cent in women.
Providing auxiliary hydrogen power to docked or anchored ships may soon be added to the list of ways in which hydrogen fuel cells can provide efficient, emissions-free energy.
Hydrogen fuel cells are already powering mobile lighting systems, forklifts, emergency backup systems and light-duty trucks, among other applications. Now, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have found that hydrogen fuel cells may be both technically feasible and commercially attractive as a clean, quiet and efficient power source for ships at berth, replacing on-board diesel generators.
The Sandia study was completed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
Marine genomics has the power to reveal the many undiscovered secrets of the oceans.
The Oceans are filled with a diversity of life forms. This means that getting a complete picture of marine biodiversity is challenging. Now, researchers are exploring new ways of identifying organisms—particularly invasive species—in sea water, as well as monitoring how marine life changes and exploring how we could benefit from this knowledge.
Among those involved are marine scientists, who routinely board research vessels to collect plankton samples, for example, along the Swedish West coast. Historically they would return with the samples and look at individual organisms under the microscope, trying to identify every single organism on their search for invasive species. This is a very difficult task when organisms are in their early life stage and difficult to distinguish. “Invasive species have caused a lot of problems in the last twenty years and they will cause more problems in the future”, says Matthias Obst, marine scientist from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. “So we need to find methods to understand the dynamics of invasive species. And here genomic methods are very powerful.”
Mass DNA sequencing has led to a better knowledge of marine micro-organisms in their environment and helps to discover new genes of interests. However, it is only part of the answer for biotech applications.
One litre of sea water contains about one billion bacteria. This represents at least one thousand species, in addition to the single-cell organisms different from bacteria—referred to as protists—which make up plankton, according to Daniel Vaulot, a researcher at the Station biologique de Roscoff, located in the Brittany region of France. Studying each of these organisms by mass-sequencing their genome could lead up to discover new species. It could also help study species potentially interesting for fundamental research on the origins of life and climate change, or for applications in the industry. Raising the awareness of the possibilities of marine genomics among the wider research and industry communities is precisely what the EU-funded Marine Genomics for Users (MG4U) project is designed to do. Its coordinator, Bernard Kloareg who is the director the Roscoff station, is himself an advocate of marine genomics.
Researchers show that already in infancy imitation promotes a general pro-social orientation toward others and, in early childhood, is a powerful means of social influence in development
Being mimicked increases pro-social behaviour in adults, yet little is known about its social effect on children. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now investigated whether the fact of being imitated had an influence on infants’ pro-social behaviour and on young children’s trust in another person.
A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics conducted the most expensive and most elaborate computer simulations so far to study the formation of neutron stars at the center of collapsing stars with unprecedented accuracy. These worldwide first three-dimensional models with a detailed treatment of all important physical effects confirm that extremely violent, hugely asymmetric sloshing and spiral motions occur when the stellar matter falls towards the center. The results of the simulations thus lend support to basic perceptions of the dynamical processes that are involved when a star explodes as supernova.
University of Alabama archaeologists are getting a glimpse of what life in Tuscaloosa might have been like more than 180 years ago. From bottles and porcelain pieces to soil and flotation samples taken from privies, or outhouses, the analysts are discovering many “stories” of Tuscaloosa’s past.
For the past two months, UA’s Office of Archaeological Research has been analyzing artifacts found at the former City Fest lot, located on the corner of University Boulevard and Greensboro Avenue. The University was contracted by the City of Tuscaloosa to perform an archaeological investigation per federal guidelines in preparation for construction of a new Embassy Suites hotel.
You say tomato, I say comparative transcriptomics. Researchers in the U.S., Europe and Japan have produced the first comparison of both the DNA sequences and which genes are active, or being transcribed, between the domestic tomato and its wild cousins.
The results give insight into the genetic changes involved in domestication and may help with future efforts to breed new traits into tomato or other crops, said Julin Maloof, professor of plant biology in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Maloof is senior author on the study, published June 26 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
All stars begin their lives in groups. Most stars, including our Sun, are born in small, benign groups that quickly fall apart. Others form in huge, dense swarms that survive for billions of years as stellar clusters. Within such rich and dense clusters, stars jostle for room with thousands of neighbors while strong radiation and harsh stellar winds scour interstellar space, stripping planet-forming materials from nearby stars.
Research could guide business and political decisions as well as charity work
A business may build a better reputation as a good corporate citizen by donating $100,000 to ten charities, as opposed to $1 million to one charity, suggested University of Missouri anthropologist Shane Macfarlan. Contrary to earlier assumptions in theoretical biology, Macfarlan’s research found that helping a greater number of people builds a positive reputation more than helping a few people many times. The results of this research can offer guidance to businesses and politicians on how to improve their public images.
ScreenPass adds security to app logins on touchscreen devices
Imagine downloading a NetFlix app to your phone so that you can watch movies on the go. You would expect the app to request your account's username and password the first time it runs. Most apps do.
But, not all apps are what they appear to be. They can steal log-in and password information. In 2011, researchers at North Carolina State University discovered a convincing imitation of the real Netflix app that forwarded users' login details to an untrusted server. And, in June, the security firm F-Secure discovered a malicious, fake version of the popular game "Bad Piggies" in the Google Play Store.
Primates from big tribes have more social intelligence, study shows.
Lemurs from species that hang out in big tribes are more likely to steal food behind your back instead of in front of your face.
This behavior suggests that primates who live in larger social groups tend to have more "social intelligence," a new study shows. The results appear June 27 in PLOS ONE.
June 26, 2013
Demand has grown recently to find more natural ways to reduce the adverse effects of the two major methods for cancer treatment, ionizing radiation and chemotherapy. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that garlic oil reduced the decrease of white blood cells affected by chemotherapy and radiation treatment in mice with cancerous tumors.
George Washington University researcher, in Nature study, collected motion data from baseball players to uncover why humans are such good throwers.
Little leaguers and professional baseball players alike have our extinct ancestors to thank for their success on the mound, shows a study by George Washington University researcher Neil Roach, which is featured on the cover of the June 27 edition of the journal Nature.
Of course, the ability to throw fast and accurately did not evolve so our ancestors could play ball. Instead, Dr. Roach’s study proposes that this ability first evolved nearly 2 million years ago to aid in hunting. Humans are unique in their throwing ability, even when compared to our chimpanzee cousins.
700,000-year-old fossil discovered in Yukon permafrost yields genome world record.
When University of Alberta researcher Duane Froese found an unusually large horse fossil in the Yukon permafrost, he knew it was important. Now, in a new study published in the journal Nature, this fossil is rewriting the story of equine evolution as the ancient horse has its genome sequenced.
Froese, a researcher in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Northern Environmental Change at the U of A, had spent years visiting Yukon placer gold mining exposures to understand the permafrost and the ice age environments that supported megafauna including mammoths, horses and bison.
Caltech researchers find evidence of an early manganese-oxidizing photosystem
For most terrestrial life on Earth, oxygen is necessary for survival. But the planet's atmosphere did not always contain this life-sustaining substance, and one of science's greatest mysteries is how and when oxygenic photosynthesis—the process responsible for producing oxygen on Earth through the splitting of water molecules—first began. Now, a team led by geobiologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has found evidence of a precursor photosystem involving manganese that predates cyanobacteria, the first group of organisms to release oxygen into the environment via photosynthesis.
Someone finds that piece of chewing gum you pitched today, uses the saliva to sequence your DNA and surreptitiously reads your book of life — including genetic secrets like your susceptibility to diseases. If that scenario, posed in an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, causes a little discomfort, consider this: That stranger also uses the DNA to reconstruct a copy of y-o-u.
Physicist Joseph Formaggio seeks new ways to detect and measure the elusive particles.
Every second, trillions of particles called neutrinos pass through your body. These particles have a mass so tiny it has never been measured, and they interact so weakly with other matter that it is nearly impossible to detect them, making it very difficult to study their behavior.
Since arriving at MIT in 2005, Joseph Formaggio, an associate professor of physics, has sought new ways to measure the mass of neutrinos. Nailing down that value — and answering questions such as whether neutrinos are identical to antineutrinos — could help scientists refine the Standard Model of particle physics, which outlines the 16 types of subatomic particles (including the three neutrinos) that physicists have identified.
Those discoveries could also shed light on why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe, even though they were formed in equal amounts during the Big Bang
Atom-thick photovoltaic sheets could pack hundreds of times more power per weight than conventional solar cells.
Most efforts at improving solar cells have focused on increasing the efficiency of their energy conversion, or on lowering the cost of manufacturing. But now MIT researchers are opening another avenue for improvement, aiming to produce the thinnest and most lightweight solar panels possible.
Proposed method could be more efficient than previous systems and easier to retrofit in existing power plants.
Many researchers around the world are seeking ways to “scrub” carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of fossil-fuel power plants as a way of curbing the gas that is considered most responsible for global climate change. But most such systems rely on complex plumbing to divert the steam used to drive the turbines that generate power in these plants, and such systems are not practical as retrofits to existing plants
Bullfinches learn from human teachers to sing melodies accurately, according to a new study by the late Nicolai Jürgen and researchers from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany. Their analysis of human melody singing in bullfinches gives insights into the songbirds' brain processes. The work is published online in Springer's journal Animal Cognition.
Music performance is considered to be one of the most complex and demanding cognitive challenges that the human mind can undertake. Melody singing requires precise timing of several organized actions as well as accurate control of different pitches and durations of consecutive notes.
Physicists working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) are edging ever closer to getting really random.
Their work—a source that provides the most efficient delivery of a particularly useful sort of paired photons yet reported*—sounds prosaic enough, but it represents a new high-water mark in a long-term effort toward two very different and important goals, a definitive test of a key feature of quantum theory and improved security for Internet transactions.
Research paves the way for the designing and engineering of more efficient autonomous underwater vehicles for wide-range applications, including military and underwater terrain exploration.
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering has developed a robot fish that mimics the movements of a carp. This robot which is essentially an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is ready for applications, as it can be programmed to perform specific functions, for example, for underwater archaeology such as exploring nooks and corners of wreckage -- or sunken city which are difficult for divers or traditional AUVs to access. Other applications include military activities, pipeline leakage detection, and the laying of communication cable.
June 25, 2013
Global sustainability is like a high-stakes jigsaw puzzle – and an international group of scientists have created a new framework to assemble the big picture without losing pieces.
Scientists led by Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, have built an integrated way to study a world that has become more connected – with faster and more socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. They say “telecoupling” describes how distance is shrinking and connections are strengthening between nature and humans.
An international team of astronomers has found that a nearby star previously thought to host two or three planets is in fact orbited by six or seven worlds, including an unprecedented three to five “super-Earths” in its habitable zone, where conditions could be right for life.
This is the first time that so many super-Earths — planets more massive than Earth but less than 10 times more massive — have been detected in the same system.
Conversion-efficiency mark is a world record for a two-junction solar cell measured under one-sun illumination
The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Lab has announced a world record of 31.1% conversion efficiency for a two-junction solar cell under one sun of illumination.
NREL Scientist Myles Steiner announced the new record June 19 at the 39th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Tampa, Fla. The previous record of 30.8% efficiency was held by Alta Devices.
The tandem cell was made of a gallium indium phosphide cell atop a gallium arsenide cell, has an area of about 0.25 square centimeters and was measured under the AM1.5 global spectrum at 1,000 W/m2. It was grown inverted, similar to the NREL-developed inverted metamorphic multi-junction (IMM) solar cell – and flipped during processing. The cell was covered on the front with a bilayer anti-reflection coating, and on the back with a highly reflective gold contact layer.
Engineered E. coli mass-produce key precursor to potent biofuel
New lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline, scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School report in the June 24 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The same lines can also produce precursors of pharmaceuticals, bioplastics, herbicides, detergents, and more.
Theoretically, hydropower can step in when wind turbines go still, but barriers to this non-polluting resource serving as a backup are largely policy- and regulation-based, according to Penn State researchers.
"We have a very clear realization that we need to make energy systems more sustainable," said Seth A. Blumsack, assistant professor of energy policy. "We want to reduce the environmental footprint -- carbon dioxide and conventional pollutants."
Weizmann Institute scientists discover that spontaneously emerging brain activity patterns preserve traces of previous cognitive activity
What if experts could dig into the brain, like archaeologists, and uncover the history of past experiences? This ability might reveal what makes each of us a unique individual, and it could enable the objective diagnosis of a wide range of neuropsychological diseases. New research at the Weizmann Institute hints that such a scenario is within the realm of possibility: It shows that spontaneous waves of neuronal activity in the brain bear the imprints of earlier events for at least 24 hours after the experience has taken place.