Sunday, November 18, 2007

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

Scientists discover record-breaking hydrogen storage materials for use in fuel cells
Scientists at the University of Virginia have discovered a new class of hydrogen storage materials that could make the storage and transportation of energy much more efficient -- and affordable -- through higher-performing hydrogen fuel cells.

MIT: Remote-control nanoparticles deliver drugs directly into tumors
MIT scientists have devised remotely controlled nanoparticles that, when pulsed with an electromagnetic field, release drugs to attack tumors. The innovation, reported in the Nov. 15 online issue of Advanced Materials, could lead to the improved diagnosis and targeted treatment of cancer.

MIT's 'electronic nose' could detect hazards
A tiny "electronic nose" that MIT researchers have engineered with a novel inkjet printing method could be used to detect hazards including carbon monoxide, harmful industrial solvents and explosives.

Two-faced miniatures
A team headed by Edwin L. Thomas and Patrick S. Doyle at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts has developed a new method for the large-scale synthesis of three-dimensionally patterned polymer particles with morphological characteristics in the submicrometer range. With the use of stop-flow interference lithography, the team has even been able to produce microparticles with two chemically different hemispheres.

People can put a price tag on economic justice, economists say
Economists at Carnegie Mellon University and the Free University of Berlin have developed a mathematical model to measure the value that people place on distributive justice -- whether goods are distributed fairly among all members of society. The authors found that, on average, people are willing to sacrifice about 20 percent of their disposable income to live in an equitable society.

Researchers push transmission rate of copper cables
You may not be able to get blood out of a turnip, but according to Penn State engineers, you can increase the data transmission of Category-7 copper cables used to connect computers to each other and the Internet.

Parasites might spur evolution of strange amphibian breeding habits
Parasites can decimate amphibian populations, but one University of Georgia researcher believes they might also play a role in spurring the evolution of new and sometimes bizarre breeding strategies.

Scientific evidence of the significant anti-cancer effect of milk thistle
A research team led by Dr. Ke-Qin Hu at the University of California, Irvine, demonstrated the significant anti-cancer effects of milk thistle. They found that the major biologically active compound of this plant, silibinin, could suppress the growth of cancerous liver cells. These scientists further studied the mechanisms of the anti-cancer effects of silibinin.

Grape powder blocks genes linked to colon cancer
Low doses of freeze-dried grape powder inhibit genes linked to the development of sporadic colorectal cancer, University of California, Irvine, cancer researchers found.

Scientists get first look at how water 'lubricates' proteins
Scientists are one step closer to understanding how proteins move when they perform functions essential for supporting life. For the first time, scientists have directly observed how water lubricates the movements of protein molecules to enable different functions to happen.

Artificial arms move at the speed of thought
Prosthetic limbs controlled by thought alone could soon be capable of making more complex movements. Researchers in the US who developed the technique earlier in the year used an approach called targeted muscle reinnervation to control the motorised prosthetic. The same team have now built new pattern recognition software by asking volunteers to imagine making a broad range of movements. The software can distinguish between the electrical signals produced by 16 different arm and hand movements.

How to make the brightest supernova ever: Explode, collapse, repeat
A supernova observed last year was so bright -- about 100 times as luminous as a typical supernova -- that it challenged the theoretical understanding of what causes supernovae. But astrophysicist Stan Woosley had an idea that he thought could account for it -- an extremely massive star that undergoes repeated explosions. When he worked out the detailed calculations for this model, the results matched the observations of the supernova known as SN 2006gy, the brightest ever recorded.

Simple reason helps males evolve more quickly
Evolutionary biologists have focused on sex differences since Darwin's "Origin of Species." A straightforward but seemingly underappreciated explanation for the ability of males to answer the call of sexual selection may be that their genetic machinery is simpler.

MIT lecture search engine aids students
Imagine you are taking a biology course. You're studying for an exam and would like to revisit the professor's explanation of RNA interference. Fortunately, a digital recording of the lecture is online, but the 10-minute explanation you want is buried in a 90-minute lecture you don't have time to watch. A new lecture search engine developed at MIT could help. The Web-based technology allows users to search hundreds of MIT lectures for key topics.

Left brain helps hear through the noise
Our brain is very good at picking up speech even in a noisy room, an adaptation essential for holding a conversation at a cocktail party, and now we are beginning to understand the neural interactions that underlie this ability. An international research team reports today, in the online open-access journal BMC Biology, how investigations using neuroimaging have revealed that the brain's left hemisphere helps discern the signal from the noise.

'Time-sharing' tropical birds key to evolutionary mystery
Whereas most birds are sole proprietors of their nests, some tropical species "time share" together -- a discovery that helps clear up a 150-year-old evolutionary mystery, says Queen's University biology professor Vicki Friesen.

Ultrasound may better classify ovarian tumors
Experts examining patterns in ultrasound images can more accurately classify ovarian tumors as benign or malignant than can pre-surgical blood tests, according to a study published online in the Nov. 13 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

That friendly car is smiling at me: When products are perceived as people
A forthcoming study looks at how consumers anthropomorphize products, endowing a car or a pair of shoes with human characteristics and personalities. The researchers, from the University of Toronto and the University of Chicago, find that people are more likely to attribute human qualities or traits to inanimate objects if the product fits with their expectations of relevant human qualities -- and are also more likely to positively evaluate an anthropomorphized item.

Synthetic compound promotes death of lung-cancer cells, tumors
Human lung cancer tumors grown in mice have been shown to regress or disappear when treated with a synthetic compound that mimics the action of a naturally occurring 'death-promoting' protein found in cells, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center report.


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