Sunday, June 08, 2008

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

Weizmann Institute scientists find new 'quasiparticles'
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science have demonstrated, for the first time, the existence of "quasiparticles" with the one quarter the charge of an electron. While charges with odd denominators have been seen, the new, quarter-charge quasiparticle is significant because it might form the basis of a novel type of quantum computer.

New, flexible computers use displays with any shape
The shape of things to come in the computer world will be anything but flat, predicts Queen's University Computing professor Roel Vertegaal, who is now developing prototypes of these new "non-planar" devices in his Human Media Laboratory.

Weather, stomach bugs and climate change: Refining the model
Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of Western Ontario introduce a model for predicting infectious disease outbreaks that takes into account weather and other factors. Accounting for these factors creates a more accurate model for forecasting infectious disease outbreaks and designing early warning systems.

Synthetic molecules hold promise for new family of anti-cancer drugs
Synthetic molecules designed by two Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have succeeded in reducing and even eliminating the growth of human malignant tissues in mice, while having no toxic effects on normal tissue.

Cartilage regeneration '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'
Rice University bioengineers have discovered that intense pressure -- similar to what someone would experience more than a half-mile beneath the ocean's surface -- stimulates cartilage cells to grow new tissue with nearly all of the properties of natural cartilage. The new method requires no stem cells and may eventually provide relief for thousands of arthritis sufferers. It also holds promise for producing tissues to repair bladders, blood vessels, kidneys, heart valves, bones and more.

Probiotic bacteria protect endangered frogs from lethal skin disease
Laboratory tests and field studies conducted by James Madison University researchers continue to show promise that probiotic bacteria can be used to help amphibian populations, including the endangered yellow-legged frog, fend off lethal skin diseases.

Are microbes the answer to the energy crisis?
The answer to the looming fuel crisis in the 21st century may be found by thinking small, microscopic in fact. Microscopic organisms from bacteria and cyanobacteria, to fungi to microalgae, are biological factories that are proving to efficient sources of inexpensive, environmentally friendly biofuels that can serve as alternatives to oil, according to research presented at the 108th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Neurologically impaired mice improve after receiving human stem cells
Scientists report a dramatic success in what may be the first documented rescue of a congenital brain disorder by transplantation of human neural stem cells. The research may lead the way to new strategies for treating certain hereditary and perinatal neurological disorders.

Manipulation of molecule protects intestinal cells from radiation
A new study identifies a signaling molecule that plays a major role in radiation-induced intestinal damage. The research may lead to new strategies for protecting normal tissues from radiation during cancer therapies.

Hairy blobs found in acidic hell
Colonies of fossilised creatures, dubbed "hairy blobs," have been discovered in one of the harshest environments on Earth. US geologists have found previously unknown fossilised blobs, believed to be evidence of life, in sediment deposited in acidic lakes around 250 million years ago. The find could be crucial for finding life on other planets, such as Mars, where the environment is strikingly similar to the acidity and salinity found in the lakes.

Electricity from the exhaust pipe
Researchers are working on a thermoelectric generator that converts the heat from car exhaust fumes into electricity. The module feeds the energy into the car's electronic systems. This cuts fuel consumption and helps reduce the CO2 emissions from motor vehicles.

Finding clues for nerve cell repair
A new study at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University identifies a key mechanism for the normal development of motor nerve cells (motor neurons) -- cells that control muscles. This finding is crucial to understanding and treating a range of conditions involving nerve cell loss or damage, from spinal cord injury to neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Possible new approach to purifying drinking water
A genetic tool used by medical researchers may also be used in a novel approach to remove harmful microbes and viruses from drinking water.

Groundbreaking UC San Diego research study to measure 'how much information?' is in the world
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, today announced a new study to quantify the amounts and kinds of information being produced worldwide by businesses and consumers alike.

Gene that magnetically labels cells shows potential as imaging tool
Mammalian cells can produce tiny magnetic nuggets after the introduction of a single gene from bacteria, scientists have found. The gene MagA could become a valuable tool for tracking cells' movement through the body via magnetic resonance imaging.

Microsurgery on the brain of the fruit fly leads to new insights into irreparable nerve injuries
Every year, one million Europeans are confronted with potentially irreparable brain or spinal cord injuries resulting from traffic accidents. Because the nerves in a damaged spinal cord cannot, or cannot fully, be repaired, the patient remains (partially) paralyzed. Now, VIB scientists connected to the K.U. Leuven have become the first to successfully develop a simple model that enables the study of injured brain tissue.

Waiting room gadget may prove to be a life-saver
Texting, IM, email -- most kids are comfortable using computers to communicate. It's led to an innovative idea among doctors. Children are given a touch pad and asked a series of questions about topics like sexual activity and depression. Kids hesitate to talk openly to a doctor or in front of a parent, but the study shows they are honest with the computer. That gives doctors more chances to treat proactively and even save lives.

Synergy between biology and physics drives cell-imaging technology
Developing techniques to image the complex biological systems found at the sub-cellular level has traditionally been hampered by divisions between the academic fields of biology and physics. However, a new interdisciplinary zeal has seen a number of exciting advances in super-resolution imaging technologies.

A computer that can 'read' your mind
For centuries, the concept of mind readers was strictly the domain of folklore and science fiction. But according to new research published today in the journal Science, scientists are closer to knowing how specific thoughts activate our brains. The findings demonstrate the power of computational modeling to improve our understanding of how the brain processes information and thoughts.

Knowing looks: Using gaze aversion to tell when children are learning
People use eye contact in a variety of ways every minute of every day but how often do you find yourself staring into space with concentrating on an issue or problem? Psychologists now know that people who are carrying out a complex task tend to look away from anyone else who is nearby. They refer to it as "gaze aversion."

Weizmann Institute scientists show quantum systems could flout physics law
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science have shown how quantum systems might disobey a hard and fast rule of physics: While an ensemble of small systems in a larger heat bath should eventually reach thermal equilibrium, repeated measuring of quantum systems could interfere with the process, causing them to heat further or lose energy to the heat bath.

Microrobots dance on something smaller than a pin's head
Microscopic robots crafted to maneuver separately without any obvious guidance are now assembling into self-organized structures after years of continuing research led by a Duke University computer scientist.


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