Sunday, April 06, 2008

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

Study finds concerns with biofuels
Biofuels are widely considered one of the most promising sources of renewable energy by policy makers and environmentalists alike. However, unless principles and standards for production are developed and implemented, certain biofuels will cause severe environmental impacts and reduce biodiversity -- the very opposite of what is desired.

UCLA researchers design nanomachine that kills cancer cells
A novel type of nanomachine that traps molecules such as anticancer drugs inside tiny pores and releases them inside cancer cells in response to light has been developed by researchers from the Nano Machine Center at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. It's the first light-powered nanomachine created that operates inside a living cell, a development that has strong implications for use in treating cancer.

Feed that cold!
Researchers studying deer mice have discovered evidence to support what mothers everywhere have long suspected: the immune system needs food to function properly. The findings, which will be published in the May/June 2008 issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, could have profound implications for human health.

Soccer robots compete for the title
Robot soccer is an ambitious high-tech competition for universities, research institutes and industry. Several major tournaments are planned for 2008, the biggest of which is the "RoboCup German Open." From April 21-25, over 80 teams of researchers from more than 15 countries are expected to face off in Hall 25 at the Hannover Messe.

Why we don't always learn from our mistakes
Researchers find that practice doesn't always make perfect; sometimes the effort instills a pattern that dooms us to failure.

Humans have more distinctive hearing than animals, Hebrew U study shows
Do humans hear better than animals? It is known that various species of land and water-based living creatures are capable of hearing some lower and higher frequencies than humans are capable of detecting. However, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and elsewhere have now for the first time demonstrated how the reactions of single neurons give humans the capability of detecting fine differences in frequencies better than animals.

NASA scientists identify smallest known black hole
Using a new technique, two NASA scientists have identified the lightest known black hole. With a mass only about 3.8 times greater than our Sun and a diameter of only 15 miles, the black hole lies very close to the minimum size predicted for black holes that originate from dying stars.

Scientists reshape Y chromosome haplogroup tree gaining new insights into human ancestry
The Y chromosome retains a remarkable record of human ancestry, passed directly from father to son. In an article published online today in Genome Research, scientists have utilized recently described genetic variations on Y chromosome region that does not undergo recombination to significantly refine the Y chromosome haplogroup tree. The print version of this work will appear in the May issue of Genome Research, accompanied by a special poster of the new tree.

Viruses, oxygen and our green oceans
Some of the oxygen we breathe today is being produced because of viruses infecting micro-organisms in the world's oceans, scientists heard Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at the Society for General Microbiology's 162nd meeting being held this week at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

UC San Diego researchers eliminate drug discovery bottleneck
Determining the structure of unknown natural compounds is a slow and expensive part of drug screening and development -- but this may now change thanks to a new combination of experimental and computational protocols developed at the University of California, San Diego and presented at RECOMB 2008 (Research in Computational Molecular Biology) on March 31 in Singapore.

Data storage using ultra-small needles
Dutch researcher Alexander le Febre has demonstrated that a field-emission current signal can be used to arrange the position of thousands of nanometer-sharp needles. These probes can be applied to write and read in new storage media with an extremely high density, using bits on a nanometer scale.

Self-organization of sandpile models
Dutch mathematician Anne Fey has investigated probability calculations in mathematical sandpile models. Although the rules of the model are simple, the wide-ranging behavior that emerges from these is fascinating. Fey's research concerned various forms of self-organization in these models. Practical applications are, for example, movements in the Earth's crust, stock market fluctuations and the formation of traffic jams.

Fire without smoke
Could combustion without flames be used to build industrial gas turbines for power generation that are much more efficient than current models and produce almost no polluting emissions? Researchers in the Middle East provide a possible answer in the current issue of the Inderscience publication, International Journal of the Environment and Pollution.

Study questions 'cost of complexity' in evolution
Higher organisms do not have a "cost of complexity" -- or slowdown in the evolution of complex traits -- according to a report by researchers at Yale and Washington University in Nature.

Engineers make first 'active matrix' display using nanowires
Engineers have created the first "active matrix" display using a new class of transparent transistors and circuits, a step toward realizing applications such as e-paper, flexible color monitors and "heads-up" displays in car windshields.

Stanford researchers develop tool that 'sees' internal body details 1,000 times smaller
A team of Stanford University School of Medicine researchers has developed a new type of imaging system that can illuminate tumors in living subjects-getting pictures with a precision of nearly one-trillionth of a meter.

How HIV hides itself
Researchers have discovered how Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which causes AIDS, can hide itself in our cells and dodge the attention of our normal defences, scientists heard today (Tuesday, April 1, 2008) at the Society for General Microbiology's 162nd meeting being held this week at the Edinburgh International Conference Center.

3-D imaging -- first insights into magnetic fields
Researchers from the Hahn-Meitner-Institute in Berlin in cooperation with University of Applied Sciences in Berlin have succeeded, for the first time, in a direct, 3-D visualization of magnetic fields inside solid, non-transparent materials.

Hybrid computer materials may lead to faster, cheaper technology
A modern computer contains two different types of components: magnetic components, which perform memory functions, and semiconductor components, which perform logic operations. A University of Missouri researcher, as part of a multi-university research team, is working to combine these two functions in a single hybrid material. This new material would allow seamless integration of memory and logical functions and is expected to permit the design of devices that operate at much higher speeds and use considerably less power than current electronic devices.

Graphene gazing gives glimpse of foundations of universe
Researchers at the University of Manchester have used graphene to measure an important and mysterious fundamental constant -- and glimpse the foundations of the universe.

More solid than solid: A potential hydrogen-storage compound
Researchers at NIST's Center for Neutron Research have demonstrated that a novel class of materials potentially could enable a practical hydrogen fuel tank for cars.


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