Sunday, February 18, 2007

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

LSU professor resolves Einstein's twin paradox:
Subhash Kak, Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at LSU, recently resolved the twin paradox, known as one of the most enduring puzzles of modern-day physics.

Quantum hall effect observed at room temperature:
An international team of scientists is able to see the "shimmering quantum world" at ambient temperatures with the help of high magnetic fields and a fascinating material called graphene.

Breakthrough in understanding type-2 diabetes as key genes identified:
The most important genes associated with a risk of developing type-2 diabetes have been identified, scientists report today in a new study. The research, published online in Nature, is the first time the genetic makeup of any disease has been mapped in such detail. It should enable scientists to develop a genetic test to show an individual their likelihood of developing diabetes mellitus type 2, commonly known as type-2 diabetes.

Making operating rooms safer with open communication among equipment:
New research at the University of New Hampshire aims to make hospital operating rooms safer by opening the lines of communication between computerized hospital beds and blood pressure monitors."We're trying to get pieces of equipment that don't normally talk to each other to do so," says John LaCourse, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UNH. "We're doing something that we feel is going to save peoples' lives."

Nanotube, heal thyself:
Pound for pound, carbon nanotubes are stronger and lighter than steel, but unlike other materials, the miniscule carbon cylinders remain remarkably robust even when chunks of their bodies are blasted away with heat or radiation. A Rice University study in the Feb. 16 issue of Physical Review Letters offers the first explanation: tiny blemishes crawl over the skin of the damaged nanotubes, sewing up larger holes as they go.

Molecules under the hammer:
How do you get information from a preparation that is transparent? How can you still see a three-dimensional image through a microscope? Dutch researcher Rajesh S. Pillai investigated a new way of illuminating preparations under the microscope.

Daisies in bloom:
Biochip platforms that work as artificial cells are attractive for medical diagnostics, interrogation of biological processes, and for the production of important biomolecules. In a major breakthrough, a group of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, led by Roy Bar-Ziv, have designed a molecule affectionately called the "daisy" that is able to bind genes onto chips in miniature patterned arrays.

Protein sensor for fatty acid buildup in mitochondria:
Just as homes have smoke detectors, cells have an enzyme that responds to a buildup of fatty acids by triggering the production of a key molecule in the biochemical pathway that breaks down these fatty acids, according to investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Out of Africa -- Bacteria, as well:
Homo sapiens and Helicobacter pylori jointly spread across the globe.

FSU researchers determine a critical factor in workings of proteins:
Scientists know that a better understanding of how proteins bond could lead to more effective treatments for genetic disorders and other life-threatening conditions. Now, a pair of Florida State University researchers' new theory has been proven to accurately predict the association rate for proteins. Their theory is outlined in the February issue of the scientific journal Structure.

Studies identify DNA regions linked to nicotine dependence:
Genetic factors play an important role in cigarette addiction, suggest scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They show that certain genetic variations can influence smoking behaviors and contribute to a person's risk for nicotine dependence.

'Gateway' gene discovered for brain cancer:
Researchers have discovered that the same genetic regulator that triggers growth of stem cells during brain development also plays a central role in the development of the lethal brain cancer malignant glioma. In experiments on mice with such gliomas, they showed that knocking out the function of a particular regulatory protein, Olig2, almost completely eliminated tumor formation.

New accelerator technique doubles particle energy in just one meter:
New research shows that acceleration using plasma, or ionized gas, can dramatically boost the energy of particles in a short distance. The group of researchers -- from the Department of Energy's Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, have published their work in the Feb. 15 issue of Nature.

Super-thin membrane, 50 atoms thick, sorts individual molecules:
A newly designed porous membrane, so thin it's invisible edge-on, may revolutionize the way doctors and scientists manipulate objects as small as a molecule. The 50-atom thick filter can withstand surprisingly high pressures and may be a key to better separation of blood proteins for dialysis patients, speeding ion exchange in fuel cells, creating a new environment for growing neurological stem cells, and purifying air and water in hospitals and clean-rooms at the nanoscopic level.

Researchers create new super-thin laser mirror:
Engineers at UC Berkeley have created a new high-performance mirror that packs the same 99.9 percent reflective punch as current high-grade mirrors, but in a package that is 20 times thinner and easier to manufacture. The new mirror could dramatically improve the design and efficiency of next generation laser optics for such devices as high-definition DVD players, computer circuits and laser printers.

Is there a pilot in the insect?:
CNRS and the Université de la Méditerranée in Marseille, France have revealed an automatic mechanism called the "optic flow regulator" that controls the lift force in insects. They then developed a captive flying robot, a micro helicopter that can reproduce much of the mysterious natural insect behavior.

Controlling the movement of water through nanotube membranes:
By fusing wet and dry nanotechnologies, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found a way to control the flow of water through carbon nanotube membranes with an unprecedented level of precision. The research, which will be described in the March 14, 2007 issue of the journal Nano Letters, could inspire technologies designed to transform salt water into pure drinking water almost instantly, or to immediately separate a specific strand of DNA from the biological jumble.

Scientists use nanoparticle to discover disease-causing proteins:
A complex molecule and snake venom may provide researchers with a more reliable method of diagnosing human diseases and developing new drugs.

Researchers publish first working model that explains how biological clocks work:
Despite the importance of biological clocks, their mechanisms have remained unclear. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Georgia has produced the first working model that explains how biological clocks work.



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