Sunday, February 17, 2008

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

Laser light creates black holes in the lab
Imagine being able to peek inside a black hole and even perform experiments there. It may not be as far fetched as it sounds, thanks to a team which claims to have simulated a black hole's event horizon in the lab. This could allow physicist to examine what happens to light on both sides of an event horizon -- a feat that is utterly impossible in astrophysics.

Strange fluids may shed light on the universe
It's an ambitious task, recreating the universe in a bucket. But if it is successful, the experiment could help solve the twin puzzles of why we're made of matter rather than antimatter and where the huge magnetic fields that span galaxies come from.

'Lab on a chip' mimics brain chemistry
Johns Hopkins researchers from the Whiting School of Engineering and the School of Medicine have devised a micro-scale tool -- a lab on a chip -- designed to mimic the chemical complexities of the brain. The system should help scientists better understand how nerve cells in the brain work together to form the nervous system.

MIT reveals superconducting surprise
MIT physicists have taken a step toward understanding the puzzling nature of high-temperature superconductors, materials that conduct electricity with no resistance at temperatures well above absolute zero.

Researchers discover new way to reverse poor circulation and heal wounds
Discoveries about how muscles tell arteries that they need more blood to perform could lead to a new treatment for poor circulation in aging patients, which causes amputation in the worst cases and quadruples the risk of heart attack or stroke. A related mechanism controls blood flow to chronic wounds, and the same discoveries could lead to a pro-growth ointment that speeds healing.

Protein's strength lies in h-bond cooperation
Researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT reveal that the strength of a biological material like spider silk lies in the geometric configuration of structural proteins, and the small clusters of weak hydrogen bonds that work cooperatively to resist force and dissipate energy. This structure makes protein-based materials as strong as steel, even though the hydrogen bonds that hold them together are 100 to 1,000 times weaker than the metallic bonds in steel.

Peptide discovered in scorpion venom may hold key to secretory diseases
Researchers have discovered a peptide in scorpion venom that may hold the key to understanding and controlling cystic fibrosis and other secretory diseases. The novel peptide, called GaTx1, can control the movement of ions and water out of cells by interacting with a crucial chloride channel that is commonly mutated in patients with cystic fibrosis.

Sheep in human clothing -- scientists reveal our flock mentality
Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Scientists at the University of Leeds believe they may have found the answer, with research that shows that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals.

Stanford researchers make first direct observation of 3-D molecule folding in real time
Since the discovery of RNA clumps called "riboswitches," in 2002, scientists have been striving to understand how they work and how they form. Now, researchers at Stanford University are looking closer than ever at how the three-dimensional twists and turns in a riboswitch come together by grabbing it and tugging it straight. By physically pulling on this loopy RNA, they have determined for the first time how a three-dimensional molecular structure folds, step by step.

Engineering students: Airbrush not just for artists
The airbrush, that tool behind tattoos and T-shirts, may have an unexpected future... in technology.

A new control mechanism for genetic code translation discovered in bacteria
Almost all organisms share the same genetic code. Identification of the evolutionary differences between the system for the translation of the genetic code in humans and other organisms are useful for the design of new antibiotics. Researchers at IRB Barcelona have discovered that an essential molecular process differs in the bacteria Mycoplasma penetrans, a human pathogen that affects the respiratory tract. The results have been published in the latest issue of Molecular Cell.

Remarkable new clothing may someday power your iPod
Nanotechnology researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing a shirt that harvests energy from the wearer's physical motion and converts it into electricity for powering small electronic devices worn by soldiers in the field, hikers and other users. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and described in the Feb. 14 issue of Nature.

Why anyone can make a sandcastle
Max Planck researcher from Gottingen achieve a high level of understanding of the complex structure of moist granules.

UCSD research team identifies novel anticancer drug from the sea
A collaborative team of researchers spearheaded by Dennis Carson M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego has identified a potent new anticancer drug isolated from a toxic blue-green algae found in the South Pacific.

Dartmouth researchers find the root of the evolutionary emergence of vertebrates
Dartmouth College researchers and colleagues from the University of Bristol in the U.K. have traced the beginnings of complex life, i.e. vertebrates, to microRNA. The researchers argue that the evolution of microRNAs, which regulate gene expression, are behind the origin of early vertebrates.

Evolving complexity out of 'junk DNA'
'Junk DNA' could hold the secret of the evolutionary origin of complex animals, according to new research from Dartmouth College and the University of Bristol.

UCLA stem cell scientists reprogram human skin cells into embryonic stem cells
UCLA stem cell scientists have reprogrammed human skin cells into cells with the same unlimited properties as embryonic stem cells without using embryos or eggs.

How red blood cells nuke their nuclei
Late in their development, mammalian red blood cells lose their nuclei when a ring of actin filaments contracts and pinches off a segment of the cell that mainly contains the nucleus. Relevance: This is the first study to reveal the proteins involved as a red blood cell loses its nucleus. The researchers plan to further investigate the entire process of red blood cell formation, which may lead to insights about genetic alterations that underlie certain red blood cell disorders.

Light echoes whisper the distance to a star
Taking advantage of the presence of light echoes, a team of astronomers have used an ESO telescope to measure, at the 1 percent precision level, the distance of a Cepheid -- a class of variable stars that constitutes one of the first steps in the cosmic distance ladder.

Telecom research leads to solar cell breakthrough
Researchers in the department of engineering physics at McMaster are collaborating with ARISE Technologies and the Ontario Centres of Excellence to apply developments in multi-junction semiconductor technology undertaken for thee telecommunication industry to developing high-efficiency of solar cells.


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