Sunday, April 09, 2006

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

MIT researchers build tiny batteries with viruses
MIT scientists have harnessed the construction talents of tiny viruses to build ultra-small "nanowire" structures for use in very thin lithium-ion batteries.

Possible brain hormone may unlock mystery of hibernation
The discovery of a possible hibernation hormone in the brain may unlock the mystery behind the dormant state, researchers reported in the April 7, 2006 issue of Cell. Hibernation allows animals from bears to rodents to survive unscathed--in a state of suspended animation--under the harshest of winter conditions.

Study finds two supermassive black holes spiraling toward collision
A pair of supermassive black holes in the distant universe are intertwined and spiraling toward a merger that will create a single super-supermassive black hole capable of swallowing billions of stars, according to a new study.

Aha! Favors the prepared mind
But why do "Aha!" moments sometimes come easily and sometimes not at all? A newstudy reveals that patterns of brain activity before people even see a problem predict whether they will solve it with or without such an insight, and these brain activity patterns are likely linked to distinct types of mental preparation.

Blind mice recover visual responses using protein from green algae
This study raises the intriguing possibility that visual function might be restored by conveying light-sensitive properties to other surviving cells in the retina after the rods and cones have died. This is a clever approach that offers the possibility of some exten o fvision restoration at some time in the future.

New Arctic fossils fill evolutionary gap between fish and limbed animals
The recent discovery above the Arctic Circle of remarkably well preserved fossils from a new species of ancient fish provides a key marker in the evolutionary transition of fish to limbed animals. In two related articles highlighted on the April 6 cover of the journal Nature, Dr. Ted Daeschler of The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and his colleagues announced the discovery of fossils with numerous features that place them squarely at the evolutionary transition from fish to limbed animals.

Chameleon T-shirts
Soon you won't need to buy different coloured T-shirts to match your wardrobe, just flick a switch on your new chameleon shirt to change its colour based on your mood or outfit. American researchers have developed the first threads that can change colour in response to an applied electric field. Different coloured threads, made of electrochromic polymers, would be woven into a T-shirt along with a small number of thin metal wires connected to a battery and controller.

Flying tip of bees: Leave your legs dangling!
Unlike airplanes, leaving their landing gear down makes bees fly faster. When bees extend their hind-legs they pitch forward to achieve maximal speed, and the legs produce lift forces to either side that help prevent the bee rolling. "The hind-legs resemble airplane wings, which probably explains why they also generate lift," says Dr Stacey Combes from the University of California who will elaborate on how her research might contribute to the development of miniature flying robots.

Chaos=Order: Physicists make baffling discovery
According to a computational study conducted by a group of physicists at Washington University in St. Louis, one may create order by introducing disorder.

Experiments examine hydrogen-production benefits of clean coal burning
Experiments are underway at Sandia to optimize the combustion of coal to produce the most energy and the least possible pollution. Researchers say coal may remain competitive with other fuels after figuring in the possible benefits of sequestering carbon dioxide and generating both electricity and hydrogen in coal-fired power plants.

One big biology question solved
An Australian research team has solved one of biology's most fundamental questions - why males produce sperm and females produce eggs.

Conscious and unconscious memory linked in storing new information
The way the brain stores new, conscious information such as a first kiss or a childhood home is strongly linked to the way the human brain stores unconscious information.

Device only atoms across may allow infinitesimal but powerful computers
Using the power of modern computing combined with innovative theoretical tools, an international team of researchers has determined how a one-way electrical valve, or diode, made of only a single molecule does its job.



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