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New way to probe Earth's deep interior using particle physics proposed

New way to probe Earth's deep interior using particle physics proposed | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers from Amherst College and The University of Texas at Austin have described a new technique that might one day reveal in higher detail than ever before the composition and characteristics of the deep Earth.

There's just one catch: The technique relies on a fifth force of nature (in addition to gravity, the weak and strong nuclear forces and electromagnetism) that has not yet been detected, but which some particle physicists think might exist. Physicists call this type of force a long-range spin-spin interaction. If it does exist, this exotic new force would connect matter at Earth's surface with matter hundreds or even thousands of kilometers below, deep in Earth's mantle. In other words, the building blocks of atoms—electrons, protons, and neutrons—separated over vast distances would "feel" each other's presence. The way these particles interact could provide new information about the composition and characteristics of the mantle, which is poorly understood because of its inaccessibility.


"The most rewarding and surprising thing about this project was realizing that particle physics could actually be used to study the deep Earth," says Jung-Fu "Afu" Lin, associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences and co-author of the study appearing this week in the journal Science.


This new force could help settle a scientific quandary. When earth scientists have tried to model how factors such as iron concentration and physical and chemical properties of matter vary with depth—for example, using the way earthquake rumbles travel through the Earth or through laboratory experiments designed to mimic the intense temperatures and pressures of the deep Earth—they get different answers. The fifth force, assuming it exists, might help reconcile these conflicting lines of evidence.


Earth's mantle is a thick geological layer sandwiched between the thin outer crust and central core, made up mostly of iron-bearing minerals. The atoms in these minerals and the subatomic particles making up the atoms have a property called spin. Spin can be thought of as an arrow that points in a particular direction. It is thought that Earth's magnetic field causes some of the electrons in these mantle minerals to become slightly spin-polarized, meaning the directions in which they spin are no longer completely random, but have some preferred orientation. These electrons have been dubbed geoelectrons.

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Mercor's curator insight, February 22, 2013 1:44 PM

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20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

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Lost Y Chromosome Genes now Found on Autosomes

Lost Y Chromosome Genes now Found on Autosomes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The mammalian Y chromosome has lost many hundreds of genes throughout evolution. Surviving Y chromosome genes were recently shown to havebroadly important cellular functions, rather than male-specific roles, plus corresponding copies on the X chromosome.


Following on a large survey of the evolution of the mammalian Y chromosomepublished last year, Jennifer Hughes, a research scientist in David Page’s laboratory at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and her colleagues now provide evidence to suggest that four presumably essential and highly conserved genes lost from the Y chromosome in several mammalian species—including humans—have been preserved in the genome through transposition onto autosomal chromosomes. The team’s results were published today (May 28) in Genome Biology.


This preservation of essential Y chromosome genes through transposition was previously thought to have occurred only in isolated cases, such as the loss of the entire Y chromosome in the Ryukyu spiny rat. The new work suggests that migration of important genes from a sex chromosome to an autosome is more prevalent in mammals than expected.


“This is an interesting story. It’s remarkable to see how consistently genes that were lost from the Y chromosome were rescued by autosomal copies in multiple species,” said Christine Disteche, who studies the regulation of mammalian sex chromosomes at the University of Washington and was not involved in the current work. “What is amazing is that this seemed to have happened independently in multiple lineages. That stresses how important this is.”


“The observations confirm the view that gene loss from the Y can be compensated for,” Jennifer Marshall Graves, a geneticist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist. While this was known, she continued, “it’s nice to have good evidence of this process.” Graves, who was not involved in the present study, previously demonstrated the transposition of an ancient gene pair from both the X and Y chromosomes onto several autosomes in mammals.


Hughes and her colleagues last year found that evolutionary conserved genes necessary for cellular processes, such as protein translation, were missing from the Y chromosomes of certain mammalian species. Analyzing those same eight species, the researchers recently identified seven single-copy Y chromosome genes with cellular functions normally required by both males and females that were lost in one or more species.


The team found four of these genes on an autosome in species with the missing Y chromosome gene—presumably, the genes were transferred to the new chromosome through a retrotransposition event. The team identified eight instances of apparent retrotransposition, including in a few species in which such gene-jumping occurred more than once.


The EIF2S3Y (eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 subunit) gene, involved in protein synthesis, was missing from the Y chromosome only among primates the team studied. “If this gene is so important, why does it appear to be dispensable in some species?” asked Hughes. So the researchers traced the gene to three different autosomal locations in each of the three primate groups (Old World monkeys, New World monkeys, and apes), which suggested that this gene transposed from the Y chromosome to an autosome and the X chromosome independently on three separate occasions.


Unlike in the New World monkey lineage, EIF2S3 expression in apes and Old World monkeys was restricted to the testes. While previous studies considered this autosomal copy a pseudogene, the current analysis provides evidence that the gene is indeed expressed and may be functional. Several years ago, this gene was shown to be one of just two Y chromosome genes required for assisted reproduction in mice. While not on the Y chromosome in primates, the gene is likely to be performing the same function during spermatogenesis and may be important in male infertility, Hughes and her colleagues suggested.

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Brillo as an underlying operating system for the "Internet of Things"

Brillo as an underlying operating system for the "Internet of Things" | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The Project Brillo announcement was one of the event's highlights making news at Google's I/O conference last week. Brillo fundamentally is Google's answer to the Internet of Things operating system. Brillo is designed to run on and connect various IoT low-power devices. If Android was Google's answer for a mobile operating system, Brillo is a mini, or lightweight, Android OS–and part of The Register's headline on the announcement story was "Google puts Android on a diet".

Brillo was developed to connect IoT objects from "washing machine to a rubbish bin and linking in with existing Google technologies," according to The Guardian.


As The Guardian also pointed out, they are not just talking about your kitchen where the fridge is telling the phone that it's low on milk; the Brillo vision goes beyond home systems to farms or to city systems where a trashbin could tell the council when it is full and needs collecting. "Bins, toasters, roads and lights will be able to talk to each other for automatic, more efficient control and monitoring."


Brillo is derived from Android. Commented Peter Bright, technology editor, Ars Technica: "Brillo is smaller and slimmer than Android, providing a kernel, hardware abstraction, connectivity, and security infrastructure." The Next Web similarly explained Brillo as "a stripped down version of Android that can run on minimal system requirements."


The Brillo debut is accompanied by another key component, Weave. This is the communications layer, and it allows the cloud, mobile, and Brillo to speak to one another. AnandTech described Weave as "an API framework meant to standardize communications between all these devices."

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Donuts, math, and superdense teleportation of quantum information

Donuts, math, and superdense teleportation of quantum information | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Putting a hole in the center of the donut—a mid-nineteenth-century invention—allows the deep-fried pastry to cook evenly, inside and out. As it turns out, the hole in the center of the donut also holds answers for a type of more efficient and reliable quantum information teleportation, a critical goal for quantum information science.


Quantum teleportation is a method of communicating information from one location to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached. Instead, the sender (Alice) and the receiver (Bob) share a pair of entangled elementary particles—in this experiment, photons, the smallest units of light—that transmit information through their shared quantum state. In simplified terms, Alice encodes information in the form of the quantum state of her photon. She then sends a key to Bob over traditional communication channels, indicating what operation he must perform on his photon to prepare the same quantum state, thus teleporting the information.


Quantum teleportation has been achieved by a number of research teams around the globe since it was first theorized in 1993, but current experimental methods require extensive resources and/or only work successfully a fraction of the time.


Now, by taking advantage of the mathematical properties intrinsic to the shape of a donut—or torus, in mathematical terminology—a research team led by physicist Paul Kwiat of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has made great strides by realizing “superdense teleportation”. This new protocol, developed by coauthor physicist Herbert Bernstein of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, effectively reduces the resources and effort required to teleport quantum information, while at the same time improving the reliability of the information transfer.

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Engineered E. coli turn into tiny factories for producing new forms of common antibiotic

Engineered E. coli turn into tiny factories for producing new forms of common antibiotic | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Like a dairy farmer tending to a herd of cows to produce milk, researchers are tending to colonies of the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) to produce new forms of antibiotics — including three that show promise in fighting drug-resistant bacteria. The research, published in the journal Science Advances, was led by Blaine A. Pfeifer, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His team included first author Guojian Zhang, Yi Li and Lei Fang, all in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.


For more than a decade, Pfeifer has been studying how to engineer E. coli to generate new varieties of erythromycin, a popular antibiotic. In the new study, he and colleagues report that they have done this successfully, harnessing E. coli to synthesize dozens of new forms of the drug that have a slightly different structure from existing versions.


Three of these new varieties of erythromycin successfully killed bacteria of the species Bacillus subtilis that were resistant to the original form of erythromycin used clinically.


“We’re focused on trying to come up with new antibiotics that can overcome antibiotic resistance, and we see this as an important step forward,” said Pfeifer, PhD.


“We have not only created new analogs of erythromycin, but also developed a platform for using E. coli to produce the drug,” he said. “This opens the door for additional engineering possibilities in the future and it could lead to even more new forms of the drug.”

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Wheeler's delayed-choice gedanken experiment confirmed with a single atom

Wheeler's delayed-choice gedanken experiment confirmed with a single atom | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The bizarre nature of reality as laid out by quantum theory has survived another test, with scientists performing a famous experiment and proving that reality does not exist until it is measured.


Physicists at The Australian National University (ANU) have conducted John Wheeler's delayed-choice thought experiment, which involves a moving object that is given the choice to act like a particle or a wave. Wheeler's experiment then asks - at which point does the object decide? Common sense says the object is either wave-like or particle-like, independent of how we measure it. But quantum physics predicts that whether you observe wave like behavior (interference) or particle behavior (no interference) depends only on how it is actually measured at the end of its journey. This is exactly what the ANU team found.

"It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it," said Associate Professor Andrew Truscott from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.


Despite the apparent weirdness, the results confirm the validity of quantum theory, which governs the world of the very small, and has enabled the development of many technologies such as LEDs, lasers and computer chips. The ANU team not only succeeded in building the experiment, which seemed nearly impossible when it was proposed in 1978, but reversed Wheeler's original concept of light beams being bounced by mirrors, and instead used atoms scattered by laser light.


"Quantum physics' predictions about interference seem odd enough when applied to light, which seems more like a wave, but to have done the experiment with atoms, which are complicated things that have mass and interact with electric fields and so on, adds to the weirdness," said Roman Khakimov, PhD student at the Research School of Physics and Engineering.


Professor Truscott's team first trapped a collection of helium atoms in a suspended state known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, and then ejected them until there was only a single atom left. The single atom was then dropped through a pair of counter-propagating laser beams, which formed a grating pattern that acted as crossroads in the same way a solid grating would scatter light. A second light grating to recombine the paths was randomly added, which led to constructive or destructive interference as if the atom had travelled both paths. When the second light grating was not added, no interference was observed as if the atom chose only one path.


However, the random number determining whether the grating was added was only generated after the atom had passed through the crossroads. If one chooses to believe that the atom really did take a particular path or paths then one has to accept that a future measurement is affecting the atom's past, said Truscott.


"The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence," he said.

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What is Complexity Theory?

What is Complexity Theory? | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Chaos & Complexity are related; both are forms of Coarse Damping. While chaos is a form of coarse damping in “Time”, complexity on the other hand is a form of coarse damping in “Structure”!


Complexity arises from the ubiquitous “Collaborative Interplay of Entropy and Symmetry-Breaking” in all naturally damped-driven systems  –  Complexity is a form of coarse damping to uniformity!  A form of coarse symmetry! “Complexity is Coarse Entropy!”


Progressive Complexity arises from the ubiquitous “Competitive Interplay of Entropy and Coarse Entropy” in all naturally damped-driven systems  –  Evolution is a form of coarse damping to complexity! “Evolution is the Progressive Upheaval and Rejuvenation of Coarse Entropy!”


There are two fundamental forces at work in nature and all evolutionary systems; one is the entropic force of spontaneous decay and disorder (otherwise known as “The Second Law of Thermodynamics”); the other is a universal, and somewhat mysterious, capacity for self-organization and spontaneous emergence!


Via Philippe Vallat
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Philippe Vallat's curator insight, May 12, 11:31 AM

Excellent and clear article, describing many of the concepts of complexity theory. Must read!

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Massive beams of selenite dwarf human explorers in Mexico’s Cave of Crystals

Massive beams of selenite dwarf human explorers in Mexico’s Cave of Crystals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Massive beams of selenite dwarf human explorers in Mexico’s Cave of Crystals, deep below the Chihuahuan Desert. Formed over millennia, these crystals are among the largest yet discovered on Earth. It's 50˚C and has a humidity of 100%, less than a couple of hundred people have been inside and it's so deadly that even with respirators and suits of ice you can only survive for 20 minutes before your body starts to fail. It’s the nearest thing to visiting another planet – it’s going deep inside our own.


Cueva de los Cristales is the incarnation of our most awesome science fiction imaginations - Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Superman's Fortress of Solitude. At about the same time as humans first ventured out of Africa, these crystals began to slowly grow. For half a million years they remained protected and nurtured by a womb of hot hydrothermal fluids rich with minerals.

Undisturbed, one can only guess how big they may have eventually grown. Yet when mining began here over a hundred years ago, the water table was lowered and the cave drained. The crystals seemingly interminable development was frozen forever leaving them as relics of the deep earth. It wasn't until 2000 that miners, searching for lead, eventually penetrated the cave wall and brought it to light. Who knows what other wonders lie hidden deep inside the earth.
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New technique harnesses everyday seismic waves to image Earth

New technique harnesses everyday seismic waves to image Earth | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new technique developed at Stanford University harnesses the buzz of everyday human activity to map the interior of the Earth. "We think we can use it to image the subsurface of the entire continental United States," said Stanford geophysics postdoctoral researcher Nori Nakata.


Using tiny ground tremors generated by the rumble of cars and trucks across highways, the activities within offices and homes, pedestrians crossing the street and even airplanes flying overhead, a team led by Nakata created detailed three-dimensional subsurface maps of the California port city of Long Beach.


The maps, detailed in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, marks the first successful demonstration of an elusive Earth-imaging technique, called ambient noise body wave tomography. "It's a technique that scientists have been trying to develop for more than 15 years," said Nakata, who is the Thompson Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.


There are two major types of seismic waves: surface waves and body waves. As their name suggests, surface waves travel along the surface of the Earth. Scientists have long been able to harness surface waves to study the upper layers of the planet's crust, and recently they have even been able to extract surface waves from the so-called ambient seismic field. Also known as ambient noise, these are very weak but continuous seismic waves that are generated by colliding ocean waves, among other things.


Body waves, in contrast, travel through the Earth, and as a result can provide much better spatial resolution of the planet's interior than surface waves. "Scientists have been performing body-wave tomography with signals from earthquakes and explosives for decades," said study coauthor Jesse Lawrence, an assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford. "But you can't control when and where an earthquake happens, and explosives are expensive and often damaging."


For this reason, geophysicists have long sought to develop a way to perform body wave tomography without relying on earthquakes or resorting to explosives. This has proven challenging, however, because body waves have lower amplitudes than surface waves, and are therefore harder to observe. "Usually you need to combine and average lots and lots of data to even see them," Lawrence said.


In the new study, the Stanford team applied a new software processing technique, called a body-wave extraction filter. Nakata developed the filter to analyze ambient noise data gathered from a network of thousands of sensors that had been installed across Long Beach to monitor existing oil reservoirs beneath the city. Using this filter, the team was able to create maps that revealed details about the subsurface of Long Beach down to a depth of more than half a mile (1.1. kilometers). The body-wave maps were comparable to, and in some cases better than, existing imaging techniques.


One map, for example, clearly revealed the Newport-Inglewood fault, an active geological fault that cuts through Long Beach. This fault also shows up in surface-wave maps, but the spatial resolution of the body-wave velocity map was much higher, and revealed new information about the velocity of seismic waves traveling through the fault's surrounding rocks, which in turn provides valuable clues about their composition and organization.

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World's first ocean cleaning system will be deployed by 2016

World's first ocean cleaning system will be deployed by 2016 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Deployment will become longest floating structure in world history.


Boyan Slat, 20-year old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, today announced that the world’s first system to passively clean up plastic pollution from the world’s oceans is to be deployed in 2016. He made the announcement at Asia’s largest technology conference, Seoul Digital Forum, in South-Korea.


The array is projected to be deployed in Q2 2016. The feasibility of deployment, off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South-Korea is currently being researched.


The system will span 2000 meters, thereby becoming the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean (beating the current record of 1000 m held by the Tokyo Mega-Float). It will be operational for at least two years, catching plastic pollution before it reaches the shores of the proposed deployment location of Tsushima island. Tsushima island is evaluating whether the plastic can be used as an alternative energy source.


The scale of the plastic pollution problem, whereby in the case of Tsushima island, approximately one cubic meter of pollution per person is washed up each year, has led the Japanese the local government to seek innovative solutions to the problem.


The deployment will represents an important milestone in The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to remove plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. Within five years, after a series of deployments of increasing scale, The Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy a 100km-long system to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.


Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup: “Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time."

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Rapid dynamic reprogramming of matter

Rapid dynamic reprogramming of matter | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Engineering switchable reconfigurations in DNA-controlled nanoparticle arrays could lead to dynamic energy-harvesting or responsive optical materials


The rapid development of self-assembly approaches has enabled the creation of materials with desired organization of nanoscale components. However, achieving dynamic control, wherein the system can be transformed on demand into multiple entirely different states, is typically absent in atomic and molecular systems and has remained elusive in designed nanoparticle systems. Here, we demonstrate with in situ small-angle X-ray scattering that, by using DNA strands as inputs, the structure of a three-dimensional lattice of DNA-coated nanoparticles can be switched from an initial ‘mother phase into one of multiple ‘daughter phases. The introduction of different types of reprogramming DNA strands modifies the DNA shells of the nanoparticles within the superlattice, thereby shifting interparticle interactions to drive the transformation into a particular daughter phase. Moreover, we mapped quantitatively with free-energy calculations the selective reprogramming of interactions onto the observed daughter phases.


Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed the capability of creating dynamic nanomaterials — ones whose structure and associated properties can be switched, on-demand. In a paper appearing in Nature Materials, they describe a way to selectively rearrange nanoparticles in three-dimensional arrays to produce different configurations, or “phases,” from the same nano-components.


“One of the goals in nanoparticle self-assembly has been to create structures by design,” said Oleg Gang, who led the work at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. “Until now, most of the structures we’ve built have been static.” KurzweilAI covered that development in a previous article, “Creating complex structures using DNA origami and nanoparticles.”


The new advance in nanoscale engineering builds on that previous work in developing ways to get nanoparticles to self-assemble into complex composite arrays, including linking them together with tethers constructed of complementary strands of synthetic DNA.


“We know that properties of materials built from nanoparticles are strongly dependent on their arrangements,” said Gang. “Previously, we’ve even been able to manipulate optical properties by shortening or lengthening the DNA tethers. But that approach does not permit us to achieve a global reorganization of the entire structure once it’s already built.”

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New Invention captures wasted cell phone energy and feeds it back to battery

New Invention captures wasted cell phone energy and feeds it back to battery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Engineers  at The Ohio State University have created a circuit that makes cell phone batteries last up to 30 percent longer on a single charge. The trick: it converts some of the radio signals emanating from a phone into direct current (DC) power, which then charges the phone’s battery.

This new technology can be built into a cell phone case, adding minimal bulk and weight.


“When we communicate with a cell tower or Wi-Fi router, so much energy goes to waste,” explained Chi-Chih Chen, research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We recycle some of that wasted energy back into the battery.”


“Our technology is based on harvesting energy directly from the source, explained Robert Lee, professor of electrical and computer engineering. By Lee’s reckoning, nearly 97 percent of cell phone signals never reach a destination and are simply lost. Some of the that energy can be captured.

The idea is to siphon off just enough of the radio signal to noticeably slow battery drain, but not enough to degrade voice quality or data transmission.


Cell phones broadcast in all directions at once to reach the nearest cell tower or Wi-Fi router. Chen and his colleagues came up with a system that identifies which radio signals are being wasted. It works only when a phone is transmitting.


Next, the engineers want to insert the device into a “skin” that sticks directly to a phone, or better, partner with a manufacturer to build it directly into a phone, tablet or other portable electronic device.

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Memories that have been "lost" as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light

Memories that have been "lost" as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers at MIT reveal that they were able to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved, using a technology known as optogenetics.

The finding answers a fiercely debated question in neuroscience as to the nature of amnesia, according to Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor in MIT's Department of Biology and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, who directed the research by lead authors Tomas Ryan, Dheeraj Roy, and Michelle Pignatelli.


Neuroscience researchers have for many years debated whether retrograde amnesia -- which follows traumatic injury, stress, or diseases such as Alzheimer's -- is caused by damage to specific brain cells, meaning a memory cannot be stored, or if access to that memory is somehow blocked, preventing its recall. "The majority of researchers have favored the storage theory, but we have shown in this paper that this majority theory is probably wrong," Tonegawa says. "Amnesia is a problem of retrieval impairment."


Memory researchers have previously speculated that somewhere in the brain network is a population of neurons that are activated during the process of acquiring a memory, causing enduring physical or chemical changes. If these groups of neurons are subsequently reactivated by a trigger such as a particular sight or smell, for example, the entire memory is recalled. These neurons are known as "memory engram cells."


In 2012 Tonegawa's group used optogenetics -- in which proteins are added to neurons to allow them to be activated with light -- to demonstrate for the first time that such a population of neurons does indeed exist in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. However, until now no one has been able to show that these groups of neurons do undergo enduring chemical changes, in a process known as memory consolidation. One such change, known as "long-term potentiation" (LTP), involves the strengthening of synapses, the structures that allow groups of neurons to send signals to each other, as a result of learning and experience.


To find out if these chemical changes do indeed take place, the researchers first identified a group of engram cells in the hippocampus that, when activated using optogenetic tools, were able to express a memory. When they then recorded the activity of this particular group of cells, they found that the synapses connecting them had been strengthened. "We were able to demonstrate for the first time that these specific cells -- a small group of cells in the hippocampus -- had undergone this augmentation of synaptic strength," Tonegawa says.


The researchers then attempted to discover what happens to memories without this consolidation process. By administering a compound called anisomycin, which blocks protein synthesis within neurons, immediately after mice had formed a new memory, the researchers were able to prevent the synapses from strengthening. When they returned one day later and attempted to reactivate the memory using an emotional trigger, they could find no trace of it. "So even though the engram cells are there, without protein synthesis those cell synapses are not strengthened, and the memory is lost," Tonegawa says.


But startlingly, when the researchers then reactivated the protein synthesis-blocked engram cells using optogenetic tools, they found that the mice exhibited all the signs of recalling the memory in full.

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Cancer On The Rise Globally: 15 Million Cancer Cases Diagnosed in 2013

Cancer On The Rise Globally: 15 Million Cancer Cases Diagnosed in 2013 | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The number of new cases of cancer in the world is rising, according to a new report that looked at cancer in 118 countries. Globally, the number of new cancer cases increased from 8.5 million in 1990 to 14.9 million in 2013, the study found. The world population rose from 5.3 billion to 7.1 billion during that time. In addition, cancer is accounting for an increasingly greater proportion of deaths: In 1990, 12 percent of all deaths in the countries studied were due to cancer, but in 2013, it was 15 percent.


The researchers specifically looked at 28 different types of cancer, and found that cases from nearly all of these types of cancer have increased in the last two decades — ranging from a 9 percent increase in cervical cancer cases to a 217 percent increase in prostate cancer cases. The only cancer that decreased during the study period was Hodgkin's lymphoma, which saw a 10 percent decrease in the number of new cases between 1990 and 2013.


The overall rise in cancer cases is partly due to longer life spans, since the risk of cancer increases with age. "With life expectancy increasing globally, the future burden of cancer will likely increase," the researchers said. The growing global population, increases in obesity and poor dietary habits also have contributed to the rise, they said.


Cancer is more common in men than in women, with 1 in 3 men worldwide developing cancer before age 79, compared with 1 in 5 women. The most common cancer overall was cancer of the lungs, trachea or bronchus, with 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2013, followed by breast cancer and colon cancer. The most common cancer in men was prostate cancer, and the most common cancer in women was breast cancer.


A particularly concerning trend is an increase in cancer cases in developing countries, the researchers said. In 2013, the rates of new cancer cases were higher in developing countries than in developed countries for stomach cancer, liver cancer, esophageal cancer, cervical cancer, mouth cancer, and nose and throat cancer.

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Researchers prove that magnetism can control heat and sound

Researchers prove that magnetism can control heat and sound | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Phonons—the elemental particles that transmit both heat and sound—have magnetic properties, according to a landmark study supported by Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) services and recently published by a researcher group from The Ohio State University.


In a recent issue of the journal Nature Materials, the researchers describe how a magnetic field, roughly the size of a medical MRI, reduced the amount of heat flowing through a semiconductor by 12 percent. Simulations performed at OSC then identified the reason for it—the magnetic field induces a diamagnetic response in vibrating atoms known as phonons, which changes how they transport heat.


"This adds a new dimension to our understanding of acoustic waves," said Joseph Heremans, Ph.D., Ohio Eminent Scholar in Nanotechnology and a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State whose group performed the experiments. "We've shown that we can steer heat magnetically. With a strong enough magnetic field, we should be able to steer sound waves, too."


People might be surprised enough to learn that heat and sound have anything to do with each other, much less that either can be controlled by magnets, Heremans acknowledged. But both are expressions of the same form of energy, quantum mechanically speaking. So any force that controls one should control the other.

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NCI-MATCH trial will link targeted cancer drugs to gene mutations

NCI-MATCH trial will link targeted cancer drugs to gene mutations | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Investigators for the nationwide trial, NCI-MATCH: MolecularAnalysis for Therapy Choice (EAY131), announced today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago that the precision medicine trial will open to patient enrollment in July. The trial seeks to determine whether targeted therapies for people whose tumors have specific gene mutations will be effective regardless of their cancer type. NCI-MATCH will incorporate more than 20 different study drugs or drug combinations, each targeting a specific gene mutation, in order to match each patient in the trial with a therapy that targets a molecular abnormality in their tumor. The study was co-developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group, part of the NCI-sponsored National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). It is being led by ECOG-ACRIN.


NCI-MATCH is a phase II trial with numerous small substudies (arms) for each treatment being investigated. It will open with approximately 10 substudies, moving to 20 or more within months. The study parameters for the first 10 arms are being sent to 2,400 participating sites in the NCTN for review in preparation for patient enrollment beginning in July. The exact date for the opening of patient enrollment will be decided shortly after the ASCO meeting. Additional substudies are in development and will be added over time as the trial progresses.


Via Integrated DNA Technologies
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A patient’s budding brain in a dish? Networking neurons thrive in 3-D human "organoid"

A patient’s budding brain in a dish? Networking neurons thrive in 3-D human "organoid" | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A patient tormented by suicidal thoughts gives his psychiatrist a few strands of his hair. She derives stem cells from them to grow budding brain tissue harboring the secrets of his unique illness in a petri dish. She uses the information to genetically engineer a personalized treatment to correct his brain circuit functioning. Just Sci-fi? Yes, but...


An evolving “disease-in-a-dish” technology, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is bringing closer the day when such a seemingly futuristic personalized medicine scenario might not seem so far-fetched. Scientists have perfected mini cultured 3-D structures that grow and function much like the outer mantle – the key working tissue, or cortex — of the brain of the person from whom they were derived. Strikingly, these “organoids” buzz with neuronal network activity. Cells talk with each other in circuits, much as they do in our brains.


Sergiu Pasca, M.D. , of Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, and colleagues, debut what they call “human cortical spheroids,” May 25, 2015 online in the journal Nature Methods.


“There’s been amazing progress in this field over the past few years,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, which provided most of the funding for the study. “The cortex spheroids grow to a state in which they express functional connectivity, allowing for modeling and understanding of mental illnesses. They do not even begin to approach the complexity of a whole human brain. But that is not exactly what we need to study disorders of brain circuitry. As we seek advances that promise enormous potential benefits to patients, we are ever mindful of the ethical issues they present.”


Prior to the new study, scientists had developed a way to study neurons differentiated from stem cells derived from patients’ skin cells — using a technology called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). They had even produced primitive organoids by coaxing neurons and support cells to organize themselves, mimicking the brain’s own architecture. But these lacked the complex circuitry required to even begin to mimic the workings of our brains.

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Microscopic sonic screwdriver invented

Microscopic sonic screwdriver invented | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The research by academics from the University of Bristol’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Northwestern Polytechnical University in China, is published in Physical Review Letters.


The researchers have shown that acoustic vortices act like tornados of sound, causing microparticles to rotate and drawing them to the vortex core. Like a tornado, what happens to the particles depends strongly on their size.


Bruce Drinkwater, Professor of Ultrasonics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and one of the authors of the study, said: “We have now shown that these vortices can rotate microparticles, which opens up potential applications such as the creation of microscopic centrifuges for biological cell sorting or small-scale, low-power water purification.


“If the large-scale acoustic vortex devices were thought of as sonic screwdrivers, we have invented the watchmakers sonic screwdriver.” The research team used a number of tiny ultra-sonic loudspeakers arranged in a circle to create the swirling sound waves. They found that when a mixture of small microparticles (less than 1 micron) and water were introduced they rotated slowly about the vortex core. However, larger microparticles (household flour) were drawn into the core and were seen to spin at high speeds or become stuck in a series of circular rings due to acoustic radiation forces.


Dr ZhenYu Hong, of the Department of Applied Physics at Northwestern Polytechnical University in China, added: “Previously researchers have shown that much larger objects, centimeters in scale, could be rotated with acoustic vortices, proving that they carry rotational momentum.”

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New Camera Chip Provides Superfine 3-D Resolution

New Camera Chip Provides Superfine 3-D Resolution | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Imagine you need to have an almost exact copy of an object. Now imagine that you can just pull your smartphone out of your pocket, take a snapshot with its integrated 3-D imager, send it to your 3-D printer, and within minutes you have reproduced a replica accurate to within microns of the original object. This feat may soon be possible because of a new, tiny high-resolution 3-D imager developed at Caltech.


Any time you want to make an exact copy of an object with a 3-D printer, the first step is to produce a high-resolution scan of the object with a 3-D camera that measures its height, width, and depth. Such 3-D imaging has been around for decades, but the most sensitive systems generally are too large and expensive to be used in consumer applications.


A cheap, compact yet highly accurate new device known as a nanophotonic coherent imager (NCI) promises to change that. Using an inexpensive silicon chip less than a millimeter square in size, the NCI provides the highest depth-measurement accuracy of any such nanophotonic 3-D imaging device.


The work, done in the laboratory of Ali Hajimiri, the Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, is described in the February 2015 issue of Optics Express.


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Industry 4.0: A 'fourth industrial revolution' is about to begin (in Germany)

Industry 4.0: A 'fourth industrial revolution' is about to begin (in Germany) | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Factories are about to get smarter. The machines that make everything from our phones to our sandwiches rely on creaking technology -- but not for long. "We will have a fourth industrial revolution," says professor Detlef Zühlke, a lead researcher in the factories of the future. And that fourth revolution is all about making factories less stupid.


Zühlke and his team have spent the past decade developing a new standard for factories, a sort of internet of things for manufacturing. "There will be hundreds of thousands of computers everywhere," Zühlke tells WIRED.co.uk. "Some of these technologies will be disruptive".


In Germany this impending revolution is known as Industry 4.0, with the government shovelling close to €500m (£357m) into developing the technology. In ChinaJapan, South Korea and the USA big steps are also being made to create global standards and systems that will make factories smarter. The rest of the world, Zühlke claims, is "quite inactive". Zühlke is head of one of the largest research centers for smart factory technology in the world. The facility, located at the German Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (DFKID) in the south-western city of Kaiserslautern, houses a row of boxes packed with wires and circuitry.


At first it looks like any factory, but then you notice all the machines are on wheels. This, Zühlke explains, is the factory of the future. His vision is based on cyber physical systems, combining mechanical systems with electronics to connect everything together. And the wheels? One day different modules in the factory could potentially drive themselves around to allow factories to alter the production line. For now, moving the modules is done by humans.


The demo factory is currently producing business card holders. Each module performs a different task and they can be rearranged into any order, with the modules able to understand when it is their turn to carry out a task. A storage module feeds into an engraver, a robot arm, a laser marker, a quality control module and so forth. New modules can be added at any time, a process Zühlke compares to playing with Lego.


The idea owes a lot to how we've all been using home computers for years. For more than a decade it has been easy to plug in a new printer or other USB device and have it instantly recognized. On a computer this is known as "plug and play", in a factory Zühlke describes it as "plug and produce". A key breakthrough has been the development of a USB port on an industrial scale, Zühlke explains. This cable, which looks more like a giant hose, sends data and pressurized air to modules in a smart factory, with a control centre receiving information back.


In two years Zühlke expects the first wave of factories using smart technology to be fully operational, with widespread adoption in factories around the world in the next decade. For now, smart factories remain a research project.

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Smart fruit flies remember the time of day

Smart fruit flies remember the time of day | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to connect different scents with the sweet reward of sugar, depending on the hour: menthol in the morning and mushrooms in the afternoon.


Researchers say that the findings show the surprising mental abilities of animals, no matter how small. "If even the fly, with its miniature brain, has the sense of time, most animals may have it," says Martin Heisenberg of Rudolf Virchow Center in Germany.


In earlier studies, researchers showed that mice and honeybees can associate a reward--food or a mate, for instance--with a particular time of day. To understand how this memory for time works in the new study, Heisenberg and his colleagues looked to the fruit fly.


The researchers trained hungry flies to associated two different chemical odors with sugar in the morning or in the afternoon on two consecutive days. On the third day, they tested the flies' preference for one scent or the other.


The results were clear: the flies learned to switch their scent preference over the course of the day. Flies tested in the morning preferred the odor paired during training with sucrose in the morning, while flies tested in the afternoon preferred the odor paired with sucrose in the afternoon. Their ability to tell time remained as long as the two separate events were separated by a period of at least four hours.


The researchers found that the flies' time-keeping ability remained both in constant darkness and with a regular light-dark cycle. The flies couldn't keep time, however, when the lights were kept on around the clock. Flies lacking clock genes known to be important for maintaining a daily circadian rhythm still learned to like certain odors, but they couldn't associate those scents with the time.


The findings show that flies can use time as an additional clue to find what's good to eat. The next step is to explore the underlying molecular mechanism for this time-odor learning in greater detail.

"Given the formidable collection of genetic tools for studying the fly brain, this can now be achieved," Heisenberg says.

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Chemists discover key reaction mechanism behind the highly touted sodium-oxygen battery

Chemists discover key reaction mechanism behind the highly touted sodium-oxygen battery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Chemists at the University of Waterloo have discovered the key reaction that takes place in sodium-air batteries that could pave the way for development of the so-called holy grail of electrochemical energy storage. The key lies in Nazar's group discovery of the so-called proton phase transfer catalyst. By isolating its role in the battery's discharge and recharge reactions, Nazar and colleagues were not only able to boost the battery's capacity, they achieved a near-perfect recharge of the cell. When the researchers eliminated the catalyst from the system, they found the battery no longer worked. Unlike the traditional solid-state battery design, a metal-oxygen battery uses a gas cathode that takes oxygen and combines it with a metal such as sodium or lithium to form a metal oxide, storing electrons in the process. Applying an electric current reverses the reaction and reverts the metal to its original form.


Understanding how sodium-oxygen batteries work has implications for developing the more powerful lithium-oxygen battery, which is has been seen as the holy grail of electrochemical energy storage. Their results appear in the journal Nature Chemistry.


"Our new understanding brings together a lot of different, disconnected bits of a puzzle that have allowed us to assemble the full picture," says Nazar, a Chemistry professor in the Faculty of Science.


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One step closer to single-molecule devices

One step closer to single-molecule devices | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Columbia Engineering researchers have created the first single-molecule diode — the ultimate in miniaturization for electronic devices — with potential for real-world applications in electronic systems. The diode that has a high (>250) rectification and a high “on” current (~ 0.1 microamps), says Latha Venkataraman, associate professor of applied physics. “Constructing a device where the active elements are only a single molecule … which has been the ‘holy grail’ of molecular electronics, represents the ultimate in functional miniaturization that can be achieved for an electronic device,” he said.


With electronic devices becoming smaller every day, the field of molecular electronics has become ever more critical in solving the problem of further miniaturization, and single molecules represent the limit of miniaturization. The idea of creating a single-molecule diode was suggested by Arieh Aviram and Mark Ratner who theorized in 1974 that a molecule could act as a rectifier, a one-way conductor of electric current.


Researchers have since been exploring the charge-transport properties of molecules. They have shown that single-molecules attached to metal electrodes (single-molecule junctions) can be made to act as a variety of circuit elements, including resistors, switches, transistors, and, indeed, diodes. They have learned that it is possible to see quantum mechanical effects, such as interference, manifest in the conductance properties of molecular junctions.


Since a diode acts as an electricity valve, its structure needs to be asymmetric so that electricity flowing in one direction experiences a different environment than electricity flowing in the other direction. To develop a single-molecule diode, researchers have simply designed molecules that have asymmetric structures. “While such asymmetric molecules do indeed display some diode-like properties, they are not effective,” explains Brian Capozzi, a PhD student working with Venkataraman and lead author of the paper.


“A well-designed diode should only allow current to flow in one direction, and it should allow a lot of current to flow in that direction. Asymmetric molecular designs have typically suffered from very low current flow in both ‘on’ and ‘off’ directions, and the ratio of current flow in the two has typically been low. Ideally, the ratio of ‘on’ current to ‘off’ current, the rectification ratio, should be very high.”


To overcome the issues associated with asymmetric molecular design, Venkataraman and her colleagues — Chemistry Assistant Professor Luis Campos’ group at Columbia and Jeffrey Neaton’s group at the Molecular Foundry at UC Berkeley — focused on developing an asymmetry in the environment around the molecular junction. They created an environmental asymmetry through a rather simple method: they surrounded the active molecule with an ionic solution and used gold metal electrodes of different sizes to contact the molecule. Their results achieved rectification ratios as high as 250 — 50 times higher than earlier designs. The “on” current flow in their devices can be more than 0.1 microamps, which, Venkataraman notes, is a lot of current to be passing through a single-molecule. And, because this new technique is so easily implemented, it can be applied to all nanoscale devices of all types, including those that are made with graphene electrodes.

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A chip implanted under the skin allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring

A chip implanted under the skin allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
It’s only a centimetre long, it’s placed under your skin, it’s powered by a patch on the surface of your skin and it communicates with your mobile phone. The new biosensor chip developed at EPFL is capable of simultaneously monitoring the concentration of a number of molecules, such as glucose and cholesterol, and certain drugs.
The future of medicine lies in ever greater precision, not only when it comes to diagnosis but also drug dosage. The blood work that medical staff rely on is generally a snapshot indicative of the moment the blood is drawn before it undergoes hours – or even days – of analysis.

Several EPFL laboratories are working on devices allowing constant analysis over as long a period as possible. The latest development is the biosensor chip, created by researchers in the Integrated Systems Laboratory working together with the Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit Group. Sandro Carrara is unveiling it today at the International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS) in Lisbon.

Autonomous operation
“This is the world’s first chip capable of measuring not just pH and temperature, but also metabolism-related molecules like glucose, lactate and cholesterol, as well as drugs,” said Dr Carrara. A group of electrochemical sensors works with or without enzymes, which means the device can react to a wide range of compounds, and it can do so for several days or even weeks.

This one-centimetre square device contains three main components: a circuit with six sensors, a control unit that analyses incoming signals, and a radio transmission module. It also has an induction coil that draws power from an external battery attached to the skin by a patch. “A simple plaster holds together the battery, the coil and a Bluetooth module used to send the results immediately to a mobile phone,” said Dr Carrara.

Contactless, in vivo monitoring
The chip was successfully tested in vivo on mice at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Bellinzona, where researchers were able to constantly monitor glucose and paracetamol levels without a wire tracker getting in the way of the animals’ daily activities. The results were extremely promising, which means that clinical tests on humans could take place in three to five years – especially since the procedure is only minimally invasive, with the chip being implanted just under the epidermis.

“Knowing the precise and real-time effect of drugs on the metabolism is one of the keys to the type of personalised, precision medicine that we are striving for,” said Dr Carrara.
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Medical ‘millirobots’ could replace invasive surgery

Medical ‘millirobots’ could replace invasive surgery | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Using a “Gauss gun” principle, an MRI machine drives a “millirobot” through a hypodermic needle into your spinal cord and guides it into your brain to release life-threatening fluid buildup.


University of Houston researchers have developed a concept for MRI-powered millimeter-size “millirobots” that could one day perform unprecedented minimally invasive medical treatments. This technology could be used to treat hydrocephalus, for example. Current treatments require drilling through the skull to implant pressure-relieving shunts, said Aaron T. Becker, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston. But MRI scanners alone don’t produce enough force to pierce tissues (or insert needles). So the researchers drew upon the principle of the “Gauss gun.”


Here’s how the a Gauss gun works: a single steel ball rolls down a chamber, setting off a chain reaction when it smashes into the next ball, etc., until the last ball flies forward, moving much more quickly the initial ball. Based on that concept, the researchers imagine a medical robot with a barrel self-assembled from three small high-impact 3D-printed plastic components, with slender titanium rod spacers separating two steel balls.


Aaron T. Becker, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, said the potential technology could be used to treat hydrocephalus and other conditions, allowing surgeons to avoid current treatments that require cutting through the skull to implant pressure-relieving shunts.


Becker was first author of a paper presented at ICRA, the conference of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, nominated for best conference paper and best medical robotics paper. “Hydrocephalus, among other conditions, is a candidate for correction by our millirobots because the ventricles are fluid-filled and connect to the spinal canal,” Becker said. “Our noninvasive approach would eventually require simply a hypodermic needle or lumbar puncture to introduce the components into the spinal canal, and the components could be steered out of the body afterwards.”


Future work will focus on exploring clinical context, miniaturizing the device, and optimizing material selection.

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New Shape-Shifting-Memory Metal Withstands 10 Million Transformations

New Shape-Shifting-Memory Metal Withstands 10 Million Transformations | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In theory, shape-memory metals ought to be revolutionizing every corner of technology already, from the automotive industry to biotech. These futuristic metals—which can be bent and deformed but pop back to their original shape when heated or jolted with electricity—have already existed for decades. Until now, though, every shape-memory alloy has faced the same glaring issue: they wear out, and fast. Depending on the alloy, the metals will slowly lose their ability to change shape after just a few (or if you're lucky, a few thousand) transformations. That's kept the metals in the lab and out of your car or phone.


Today a team of German and American scientists have stumbled across an alloy of shape-memory metal that just won't quit—not even after being bent and reshaped an astonishing 10 million times, an unparalleled feat.


Manfred Wuttig, a material scientist at the University of Maryland who helped lead the team, said the metal's "fortuitous discovery," was part of a long, frustrating hunt for durable shape-memory metal. As Wuttig and his colleagues detail in a new paper in the journal Science, understanding the secret to this material's hardiness may open the floodgates to a new generation of shape-memory materials that make it into the real world.


"This really is a huge breakthrough, and could make shape-memory alloys much more widely used in everyday technology" says Richard James, a leading shape-memory materials scientist at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the research, "I've personally made many, many [shape-memory] alloys that have various super interesting properties, but no one would be able to use them as they last only a few cycles."


The new metal keeps its astounding durability, Wuttig and James agree that scientists now have a platform to test and create new hyper-durable shape-changing alloys. While Wuttig's new alloy was only created in a thin film measuring several hundred micrometers, "the next step is to scale this up into a bulk alloy. But I see no reason why this would be an issue."


This isn't just a steppingstone to bringing shape-shifting materials into everyday products (finally), James says. "We may even start to see all the various applications we've been dreaming about over the last few decades," like biomedical metallic heart-valves or hyper-efficient solar energy converters.

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