Sunday, December 16, 2007

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

Earth's heat adds to climate change to melt Greenland ice
Scientists have discovered what they think may be another reason why Greenland's ice is melting: a thin spot in Earth's crust is enabling underground magma to heat the ice. They have found at least one "hotspot" in the northeast corner of Greenland -- just below a site where an ice stream was recently discovered.

Building blocks of life formed on Mars
Organic compounds contain carbon and hydrogen and form the building blocks of all life on Earth. By analyzing organic material and minerals in the Martian meteorite Allan Hills 84001, scientists at the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory have shown for the first time that building blocks of life formed on Mars early in its history. Scientists have thought that organics in ALH 84001 was brought to Mars by meteorite impacts or originated from ancient Martian microbes.

Desktop device generates and traps rare ultracold molecules
Physicists at the University of Rochester have combined an atom-chiller with a molecule trap, creating for the first time a device that can generate and trap huge numbers of elusive-yet-valuable ultracold polar molecules. Scientists believe ultracold polar molecules will allow them to create exotic artificial crystals and stable quantum computers.

Truck-safe bamboo bridge opens in China
In China, bamboo is used for furniture, artwork, building scaffolding, panels for concrete casting and now, truck bridges. Yan Xiao, a professor at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering is the designer of a new span in the village of Leiyang, Hunan province, which formally opened for traffic Dec. 12.

How size matters
Scientists have discovered how plants tightly control the size of their leaves and flowers, creating the remarkable uniformity within a given plant species that makes nature so beautiful to look at.

Molecular pathway appears crucial in development of pulmonary fibrosis
A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers may have found a key mechanism underlying idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a usually fatal lung disease for which transplantation is the only successful treatment.

Fuel cells help make noisy, hot generators a thing of the past
Two core technologies developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory -- a fuel desulfurization system and a fuel reforming system -- were instrumental in the demonstration of an electric power system operating on JP-8, a fuel commonly used in military operations.

NIST imaging system maps nanomechanical properties
NIST has developed an imaging system that quickly maps the mechanical properties of materials -- how stiff or stretchy they are, for example -- at scales on the order of billionths of a meter. The new tool can be a cost-effective way to design and characterize mixed nanoscale materials such as composites or thin-film structures.

How molecular muscles help cells divide
Time-lapse videos and computer simulations provide the first concrete molecular explanation of how a cell flexes tiny muscle-like structures to pinch itself into two daughter cells at the end of each cell division, according to a report in Science Express.

Solving solar system quandaries is simple: Just flip-flop the position of Uranus and Neptune
The planets in our solar system weren't always in the order they are today. Four billion years ago, early in the solar system's evolution, Uranus and Neptune switched places.

Cancer cell line developed that is resistant to new cancer therapy
A cancer cell line that is resistant to one of the newest classes of cancer treatments has been developed by researchers who already are using it to determine what else to give patients when this happens.

Why the switch stays on
North Carolina State University scientists have discovered the way in which a specific protein-protein interaction prevents the cell from turning one of its switches off, leading to uncontrolled cell proliferation -- one of the hallmarks of cancer.

Earth's magnetic field could help protect astronauts working on the moon
The Earth's magnetic field can provide some protection from radiation for humans on the moon, new research shows.

'Retrospective rubber' remembers its old identities
Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a shape-memory rubber that may enable applications as diverse as biomedical implants, conformal face-masks, self-sealing sutures, and "smart" labels. The material, described in the journal Advanced Materials, forms a new class of shape-memory polymers, which are materials that can be stretched to a new shape and will stay in that form until heated, at which time they revert to their initial shape.

UCLA engineering researchers capture optical 'rogue waves'
Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have succeeded in creating and capturing rogue waves. In their experiments, they have discovered optical rogue waves -- freak, brief pulses of intense light analogous to the infamous oceanic monsters -- propagating through optical fiber. Their findings appear in the Dec. 13 issue of the journal Nature.

Making gas out of crude oil
An international team of researchers reports in Nature on how crude oil in deposits around the world are naturally broken down by bacteria, resulting in methane production. The discovery could yield dramatic improvements in how fossil fuels are recovered and processed.

Deadly virus strips away immune system's defensive measures
When the alert goes out that a virus has invaded the body, cells that have yet to be attacked prepare by "armoring" themselves for combat, attaching specific antiviral molecules to many of their own proteins to help resist the invader. Unfortunately, the deadly Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus knows a simple but devastating way around this defense: just cut the armor off host cell proteins.



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