Sunday, May 18, 2008

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

Researchers discover architecture for fundamental processes of life
A team of Canadian researchers has completed a massive survey of the network of protein complexes that orchestrate the fundamental processes of life. In the online edition of the journal Science, researchers from the Université de Montréal describe protein complexes and networks of complexes never before observed -- including two implicated in the normal mechanisms by which cells divide and proliferate and another that controls recycling of the molecular building blocks of life called autophagy.

OHSU Cancer Institute researchers pinpoint how smoking causes cancer
Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute researchers have pinpointed the protein that can lead to genetic changes that cause lung cancer. Researchers discovered the production of a protein, FANCD2, is slowed when lung cells are exposed to cigarette smoke. Low levels of FANCD2 leads to DNA damage, triggering cancer. Cigarette smoke curbs the production of 'caretaker' proteins, like FANCD2, which prevent cancer by fixing damages in DNA and causing faulty cells to die.

MIT creates new material for fuel cells
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology) MIT engineers have improved the power output of one type of fuel cell by more than 50 percent through technology that could help these environmentally friendly energy storage devices find a much broader market, particularly in portable electronics.

Mouse study: When it comes to living longer, it's better to go hungry than go running
A study investigating aging in mice has found that hormonal changes that occur when mice eat significantly less may help explain an already established phenomenon: a low calorie diet can extend the lifespan of rodents, a benefit that even regular exercise does not achieve.

Tooth loss strongly linked to risk of esophageal, head and neck, and lung cancer
Studying thousands of patients, Japanese researchers have found a strong link between tooth loss and increased risk of three cancers -- esophageal, head and neck, and lung. They suggest that preservation of teeth may decrease risk of developing these diseases.

Deep sea methane scavengers captured
Scientists of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena succeeded in capturing syntrophic microorganisms that are known to dramatically reduce the oceanic emission of methane into the atmosphere. These microorganisms that oxidize methane anaerobically are an important component of the global carbon cycle and a major sink for methane on Earth.

Discovery of cell linked to learning and memory
Queensland Brain Institute neuroscientists at The University of Queensland have discovered a fundamental component of the process that regulates memory formation.

New efficiency record for solar cells
Physicist Bram Hoex and colleagues at Eindhoven University of Technology, together with the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, have improved the efficiency of an important type of solar cell from 21.9 to 23.2 percent (a relative improvement of 6 per cent). This new world record is being presented on Wednesday May 14 at a major solar energy conference in San Diego.

Satellite communications by laser
Satellites currently use radio waves to exchange data. Now the data rate has been increased a hundredfold by using lasers instead of radio signals. Two test satellites each carried a diode laser pump module developed with the help of Fraunhofer researchers.

Illumination made to measure
Light-emitting diodes save energy. In terms of their light output, however, they have so far been unable to compete with light bulbs. A new, low-priced optical component is set to change that situation: It concentrates the light and directs it precisely to where it is needed.

Rensselaer student invents alternative to silicon chip
Even before Weixiao Huang received his doctorate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his new transistor captured the attention of some of the biggest American and Japanese automobile companies. The 2008 graduate's invention could replace one of the most common pieces of technology in the world -- the silicon transistor for high-power and high-temperature electronics.

Shrimps see beyond the rainbow
Dr Sonja Kleinlogel and professor Andrew White have shown that mantis shrimp not only have the ability to see colors from the ultraviolet through to the infrared, but have optimal polarization vision -- a first for any animal and a capability that humanity has only achieved in the last decade using fast computer technology. The findings are published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

ASU researchers synthesize molecule with self-control
Plants have an ambivalent relationship with light. They need it to live, but too much light leads to the increased production of high-energy chemical intermediates that can injure or kill the plant. The intermediates do this because the efficient conversion of sunlight into chemical energy cannot keep up with sunlight streaming into the plant. "The intermediates don’t have anywhere to go because the system is jammed up down the line," says ASU chemist Devens Gust.

Physicists demonstrate how information can escape from black holes
Physicists at Penn State have provided a mechanism by which information can be recovered from black holes -- and the first plausible mechanism for how information might escape from black holes, those regions of space where gravity is so strong that, according to Einstein's theory of general relativity, not even light can escape. The team's findings pave the way toward ending a decades-long debate sparked by renowned physicist Steven Hawking.


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