Sunday, December 17, 2006

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

Sustainable nuclear energy moves a step closer:

In future a new generation of nuclear reactors will create energy, while producing virtually no long-lasting nuclear waste, according to research conducted by Wilfred van Rooijen, who will receive his Delft University of Technology Ph.D. degree based on this research subject on Tuesday, December 12.

Self-assembling nano-ice discovered at UNL -- Structure resembles DNA:

UNL chemist Xiao Cheng Zeng and his team discovered double helixes of ice molecules that resemble the structure of DNA and self-assemble under high pressure inside carbon nanotubes. This discovery could have major implications for scientists in other fields who study the protein structures that cause diseases such as Alzheimer's and bovine spongiform ecephalitis. It could also help guide those searching for ways to target or direct self-assembly in nanomaterials.

New technique studies how plastic solar cells turn sunlight into electricity:

A new analytical technique, featured on the cover of this week's issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, could lead to the development of cheaper, more efficient solar cells. The information that this technique provides is a critical step in the development of a new class of solar cells, which promise significant savings in production costs compared to conventional silicon-based cells.

Protein 'fingerprint' in spinal fluid could spot Alzheimer's disease:

Scientists collaborating at Cornell University in Ithaca and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City have identified a panel of 23 protein biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid that acts as a neurochemical "fingerprint," which doctors might use someday to identify patients living with Alzheimer's disease. The research will be published in the December online edition of the journal Annals of Neurology.

UCR-led research team detects 'top quark,' a basic constituent of matter:

A group of 50 international physicists, led by UC Riverside’s Ann Heinson, has detected for the first time a subatomic particle, the top quark, produced without the simultaneous production of its antimatter partner -- an extremely rare event. The heaviest known elementary particle, the top quark is one of the fundamental building blocks of nature and understood to be an ingredient of the nuclear soup just after the Big Bang.

Yes, Virginia, some snowflakes can look the same!:

Snowflakes, one of the most recognizable and endearing symbols of winter, reveal some fascinating lessons about chemistry and science in general, according to a scientist at Ritsumeikan University in Japan. In an interview with the American Chemical Society, the researcher discusses how snowflakes form, why scientists are interested in studying them, and explains why the adage that "no two snowflakes are alike" may not ring true in all cases.

New observations on properties of water:

Recent experiments on the properties of water by Anatoli Bogdan, Ph.D., University of Helsinki, reveal information relevant for cloud physics and even cryopreservation science.

Forsyth scientists discover early key to regeneration:

Science may be one step closer to understanding how a limb can be grown or a spinal cord can be repaired. Forsyth Institute scientists have discovered that some cells have to die for regeneration to occur. Research may provide insight into mechanisms necessary for therapeutic regeneration in humans, potentially addressing tissues that are lost, damaged or non-functional as a result of genetic syndromes, birth defects, cancer, degenerative diseases, accidents, aging and organ failure.

Molecular structure reveals how botulinum toxin attaches to nerve cells:

A group of researchers, funded in part through two of NIAID's Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, has provided a rare atomic glimpse of the initial step one of botulinu's toxins takes to gain entry into human neurons. In an advanced online publication of the journal Nature, the scientists show structurally how botulinum neurotoxin B (one of seven toxins the bacterium produces) recognizes receptors on the surface of human neurons.

Identification of carbon dioxide receptors in insects may help fight infectious disease:

Mosquitoes use the carbon dioxide people exhale as a way to identify a potential food source. But when they bite, they can pass on a number of dangerous infectious diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever. Now, reporting in Nature, Leslie Vosshall's laboratory at Rockefeller University has identified the two molecular receptors in fruit flies that help these insects detect carbon dioxide. The findings could prove to be important against the fight against global infectious disease.

Squid-inspired design could mean better handling of underwater vehicles:

Inspired by the sleek and efficient propulsion of squid, jellyfish and other cephalopods, a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher has designed a new generation of compact vortex generators that could make it easier for scientists to maneuver and dock underwater vehicles at low speeds and with greater precision.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you -- Why the brain just can't help itself:

Laughter is truly contagious, and now, scientists studying how our brain responds to emotive sounds believe they understand why.

Stanford researchers predict a new state of matter in semiconductors:

Conventional matter exists in three familiar forms-solid, liquid and gas. But under special circumstances, quantum theory predicts exotic states of matter, such as superconductors in which electrons flow with no resistance and Bose-Einstein condensates in which atoms move as a collective whole. Now, in the December 15 issue of the journal Science, three Stanford physicists theorize a new state of matter that may pave the way for electronic devices that dissipate less energy and generate less heat.

Colluding with colloids: Scientists make liquid crystal discovery:

Findings of Kent State University scientists indicate that manipulating the size of colloids, micron-sized or nanometer-sized particles, can produce huge changes in the material properties of liquid crystals.



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