Sci/tech

Gamma Ray Delay, Sign of 'New Physics' Beyond Einstein
October 4, 2007 06:58 PM -

Davis California - Delayed gamma rays from deep space may provide the first evidence for physics beyond current theories.

The MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescope found that high-energy photons of gamma radiation from a distant galaxy arrived at Earth four minutes after lower-energy photons, although they were apparently emitted at the same time. If correct, that would contradict Einstein's theory of relativity, which says that all photons (particles of light) must move at the speed of light.

How 'Mother of Thousands' Makes Plantlets
October 4, 2007 06:48 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Davis, California - New research shows how the houseplant "mother of thousands", a plant officially called "Kalanchoe diagremontiana" makes the tiny plantlets that drop from the edges of its leaves. In an amazing twist of evolution, this houseplant, having lost the ability to make viable seeds, shifted some of the processes that make seeds to the leaves, said Neelima Sinha, professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

Scientists 'Weigh' Tiny Galaxy Halfway Across the Universe
October 4, 2007 06:40 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Santa Barbara, California - Researchers have 'weighed' a galaxy halfway across the universe, six billion light years away, and took a razor sharp image of it to boot. How did they do that? The scientists used a phenomena of nature in deep space and specialized processing techniques on data collected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. This galaxy is about half the size and a tenth the "weight" of the smallest distant galaxies typically observed. It's 100 times lighter than our own Milky Way.

CU Researchers Shed Light on Light-Emitting Nanodevice
October 4, 2007 08:23 AM - Cornell University

An interdisciplinary team of Cornell nanotechnology researchers has unraveled some of the fundamental physics of a material that holds promise for light-emitting, flexible semiconductors.  The discovery, which involved years of perfecting a technique for building a specific type of light-emitting device, is reported in the Sept. 30 online publication of the journal Nature Materials.  The interdisciplinary team had long studied the molecular semiconductor ruthenium tris-bipyridine. 

Make Hay (and a lot more) While The Sun Shines
October 4, 2007 08:19 AM - MIT

A team of MIT students, faculty and volunteers has taken on the challenge of designing and building a house that relies entirely on solar energy to meet the electricity needs of a typical American family, from drying towels to cooking dinner.  MIT's off-grid home, known as Solar7, is en route to the capital now. Designed and built at MIT on an asphalt lot at the corner of Albany and Portland Streets in Cambridge, Solar7 was broken into modules and sent off by flatbed truck.

Ice Age Sabertooth Was a Pussy Cat
October 4, 2007 07:55 AM - Reuters

SYDNEY - The Ice Age sabertooth, with its large protruding fangs, was actually a bit of a pussycat, according to Australian scientists who studied the power of its bite and hunting skills. While most people rank the sabertooth alongside the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur as a killing machine, in reality today's lions are far more powerful, the study found. Using the skull of a modern-day lion for comparison, a team of scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) found the sabertooth had a relatively weak bite. In fact, its bite was about one third as powerful as a lion.

Researchers Discover Link Between Schizophrenia, Autism and Maternal Flu
October 3, 2007 08:05 PM -

PASADENA, Calif.- A team of California Institute of Technology researchers has found an unexpected link connecting schizophrenia and autism to the importance of covering your mouth whenever you sneeze.

It has been known for some time that schizophrenia is more common among people born in the winter and spring months, as well as in people born following influenza epidemics. Recent studies suggest that if a woman suffers even one respiratory infection during her second trimester, her offspring's risk of schizophrenia rises by three to seven times.

Since schizophrenia and autism have a strong (though elusive) genetic component, there is no absolute certainty that infection will cause the disorders in a given case, but it is believed that as many as 21 percent of known cases of schizophrenia may have been triggered in this way. The conclusion is that susceptibility to these disorders is increased by something that occurs to mother or fetus during a bout with the flu.

 

To Treat Patients Doctors' Alter Own Pain Responses: Study
October 3, 2007 07:31 PM -

CHICAGO - Physicians apparently learn to “shut off” the portion of their brain that helps them appreciate the pain their patients experience while treating them and instead activate a portion of the brain connected with controlling emotions, according to new research using brain scans at the University of Chicago.

Because doctors sometimes have to inflict pain on their patients as part of the healing process, they also must develop the ability to not be distracted by the suffering, said Jean Decety, Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry at the University and co-author of “Expertise Modulates the Perception of Pain in Others,” published in the Oct. 9 issue of Current Biology and currently available on-line.

Discovery Supports Theory of Alzheimer's Disease as Form of Diabetes
October 3, 2007 07:24 PM -

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Insulin, it turns out, may be as important for the mind as it is for the body. Research in the last few years has raised the possibility that Alzheimer's memory loss could be due to a novel third form of diabetes.

Now scientists at Northwestern University have discovered why brain insulin signaling -- crucial for memory formation -- would stop working in Alzheimer's disease. They have shown that a toxic protein found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer's removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, rendering those neurons insulin resistant. (The protein, known to attack memory-forming synapses, is called an ADDL for “amyloid ß-derived diffusible ligand.”)

With other research showing that levels of brain insulin and its related receptors are lower in individuals with Alzheimer's disease, the Northwestern study sheds light on the emerging idea of Alzheimer's being a “type 3” diabetes.

Physicists Tackle Knotty Puzzle
October 3, 2007 07:20 PM -

San Diego, California - Electrical cables, garden hoses and strands of holiday lights seem to get themselves hopelessly tangled with no help at all. Now research initiated by an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego has resulted in the first model of how knots form.

The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the likelihood of knot formation and the types of knots formed in a tumbled string. The researchers say they were interested in the problem because it has many applications, including to the biophysics research questions their group usually studies.

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