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Cytobot - an automated underwater microscope gives early red tide warning and detects harmful algal bloom

Cytobot - an automated underwater microscope gives early red tide warning and detects harmful algal bloom | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
An automated underwater microscope developed by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) detected an unexpected bloom of toxic algae in the Gulf of Mexico in February 2008. The fortunate early warning prompted officials to recall shellfish and close down shellfish harvesting, just days before a major regional oyster festival.

 

The instrument, called the Imaging FlowCytobot, was originally designed as a basic research tool to reveal the ebb and flow of a diverse range of microscopic plant and animal life in the ocean, said its developers, Rob Olson and Heidi Sosik. It sits underwater—photographing and counting plankton 24 hours a day for months at a time, and relaying information back to shore via fiber-optic cable.
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A flash of blue light changes cellular activity — and understanding of disease

A flash of blue light changes cellular activity — and understanding of disease | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
With a milliseconds-long flash of blue light, Yale University researchers regulated a critical type of signaling molecule within cell membranes, another illustration of the power of light-based techniques to manipulate cell functions and thus to study mechanisms of disease. One of the most innovative new research approaches of recent years is called optogenetics or the use of genetically encoded probes to make cell functions sensitive to light. The team combined a plant protein that is sensitive to blue light with enzymes that catalyze the metabolism of signaling lipids within the cell membranes. When the complex was expressed in animal cells, scientists changed properties of cells such as their shape or ability to move simply by using blue light. By turning off the light, the researchers were able to rapidly reverse the changes they induced. They were also able to regulate activities within a region of a cell by illuminating the area.
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Stone Age Poison Pushes Back Dawn Of Ancient Civilization by 20,000 Years

Stone Age Poison Pushes Back Dawn Of Ancient Civilization by 20,000 Years | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The late Stone Age may have had an earlier start in Africa than previously thought — by some 20,000 years. A new analysis of artifacts from a cave in South Africa reveals that the residents were carving bone tools, using pigments, making beads and even using poison 44,000 years ago. These sorts of artifacts had previously been linked to the San culture, which was thought to have emerged around 20,000 years ago.

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Project AFFETTO - the most advanced affectional baby robot from Japan

Having previously developed several baby robots, the researchers at Osaka University’s Asada Lab are using that know-how to build the most realistic infant robot ever made. It has been about a year and a half since we saw Affetto, which was just a head capable of making a few expressions. Now the researchers have published a video showing the robot’s new upper-body, which contains 20 pneumatic actuators to move its arms, neck, and spine. This is in addition to the 12 degrees of freedom in its head. Although pneumatic actuators are more difficult to control compared to electric motors, they are flexible, allowing for direct physical interaction (a big plus if you want to be able to cuddle it).
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World’s Smallest Semiconductor Laser Created

World’s Smallest Semiconductor Laser Created | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Physicists at The University of Texas at Austin, in collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan and China, have developed the world’s smallest semiconductor laser, a breakthrough for emerging photonic technology with applications from computing to medicine. Miniaturization of semiconductor lasers is key for the development of faster, smaller and lower energy photon-based technologies, such as ultrafast computer chips; highly sensitive biosensors for detecting, treating and studying disease; and next-generation communication technologies.

 

Such photonic devices could use nanolasers to generate optical signals and transmit information, and have the potential to replace electronic circuits. But the size and performance of photonic devices have been restricted by what’s known as the three-dimensional optical diffraction limit. The new device is constructed of a gallium nitride nanorod that is partially filled with indium gallium nitride. Both alloys are semiconductors used commonly in LEDs. The nanorod is placed on top of a thin insulating layer of silicon that in turn covers a layer of silver film that is smooth at the atomic level.

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3D manufacturing - Print me a Cell Phone - New technology to embed electronics into plastic

3D manufacturing - Print me a Cell Phone - New technology to embed electronics into plastic | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Printing electronics requires “inks” with electrical properties that can act as conductors, resistors or semiconductors. These inks are becoming more versatile. One example comes from Xerox, an American firm which makes office equipment and commercial printing systems. Its research centre in Canada has developed a silver ink which can be used to print flexible electronic circuits directly onto materials like plastic or fabrics.

 

Silver is a better conductor of electricity than copper, which is typically used in circuits, but silver is expensive and tricky to print because it melts at 962°C. However, by making silver into particles just five nanometres (billionths of a metre) in size, Xerox has produced a silver ink which melts at less than 140°C. That allows it to be printed using inkjet and other processes relatively cheaply, says Paul Smith, the director of research at the laboratory. Only minuscule quantities of silver are used and there is no waste, unlike chemical-etching processes.

 

Xerox’s PARC research centre in Palo Alto, California, is developing ways to use such inks. These can print circuits for various components, including flexible display screens, sensors and antennae for radio-frequency security tags. With the emergence of additive-manufacturing techniques, it starts to become possible to print such things directly onto the product itself, says Janos Veres, the manager of PARC’s printed-electronics team. That includes products with complex shapes. Optomec, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has developed additive-manufacturing systems for a variety of industries. It can print electronics directly onto a pair of glasses, for “augmented reality”; it can make a plastic water tank that uses embedded electronics to measure how full it is and turn pumps on or off; it can print sensors on military armour; or an antenna on the case of a mobile phone.

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The strange neuroscience of immortality - automatic tape-collecting Lathe microtome and mind uploading

The strange neuroscience of immortality - automatic tape-collecting Lathe microtome and mind uploading | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Neuroscientist Kenneth Hayworth believes that he can live forever, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. But first he has to die.

 

“The human race is on a beeline to mind uploading: We will preserve a brain, slice it up, simulate it on a computer, and hook it up to a robot body,” he says. He wants that brain to be his brain. He wants his 100 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses to be encased in a block of transparent, amber-colored resin — before he dies of natural causes.

 

Among some connectomics scholars, there is a grand theory: We are our connectomes. Our unique selves — the way we think, act, feel — is etched into the wiring of our brains. Unlike genomes, which never change, connectomes are forever being molded and remolded by life experience. A human connectome would be the most complicated map the world has ever seen. Yet it could be a reality before the end of the century, if not sooner, thanks to new technologies that “automate the process of seeing smaller."

 

Hayworth has founded the Brain Preservation Foundation, which offer a cash prize for the first individual or team to preserve the connectome of a large mammal. A dependable brain-preservation protocol is possible within five years, Hayworth says. “We might have a whole mouse brain preserved very soon.”

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Stray Dogs Have Learned To Master Moscows Immense And Complex Subway System

Stray Dogs Have Learned To Master Moscows Immense And Complex Subway System | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Every so often, if you ride Moscow's crowded subways, you notice that the commuters around you include a dog - a stray dog, on its own, just using the handy underground Metro to beat the traffic and get from A to B. Some of Moscow's stray dogs have figured out how to use the city's immense and complex subway system, getting on and off at their regular stops. The human commuters around them are so accustomed to it that they rarely seem to notice.

 

As many as 35,000 stray dogs live in Russia's capital city. They can be found everywhere, from markets to construction sites to underground passageways, scrounging for food and trying to survive. Taking the subway is just one of many tactics the strays have come up with for surviving in the manmade wilderness around them. Only a small fraction of strays have figured out how to navigate the maze that is Moscow's subway system. What's most impressive about the subway dogs, is their ability to deal with the Metro's loud noises and packed crowds, distractions that domesticated dogs often cannot handle.

 

Author Eugene Linden, who has been writing about animal intelligence for 40 years, says that Moscow's resourceful stray dogs are just one of what are now thousands of recorded examples of wild, feral and domesticated animals demonstrating what appears, at least, to be what humans might call flexible open-ended reasoning and conscious thought.

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Meat-eating animals lack genes involved in detecting sweet flavours

Meat-eating animals lack genes involved in detecting sweet flavours | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Many meat-eating animals have lost their ability to taste sugars over the course of evolution. Sea mammals, spotted hyenas and other carnivores have all shed a working copy of a gene that encodes a ‘taste receptor’ that senses sugars.

 

Most mammals, including humans, are equipped with taste receptors that detect salty, sour, sweet, bitter and savoury foods. But past studies suggest that some animals lack certain taste receptors. Felines such as house cats, tigers and cheetahs do not favour sugar water over plain water, for example, and they all possess an identical mutation in a gene called Tas1r2 that renders the sweet-taste receptor inactive.

 

DNA from 12 members of the order Carnivora, including spotted hyenas, a cat-like creature from Madagascar called a fossa, a civet called a banded linsang and several species of sea mammal was extracted and studied. Seven of the species contained a broken copy of the gene encoding the sugar taste receptor, but the exact mutations often differed among them. For instance, fur seals and sea lions share many mutations in Tas1r2, but the more distantly related Pacific harbour seal lost its sense of sweetness through different mutations in that gene. The species of land mammals that the researchers examined each contained unique Tas1r2 mutations.

 

That the mutations are not identical across species suggests that carnivores have independently lost their ability to detect sugars, an example of convergent evolution. Plants are the major source of dietary sugars, so it makes sense that animals that consume mainly meat or fish could live without a working sugar taste receptor. There is no evidence, however, that carnivores benefit from losing the ability to sense sugars, and some animals such as the insect-eating aardwolf, which is closely related to hyenas, and the omnivorous spectacled bear have working copies of the genes that encode the sweet taste receptors.

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New Design Makes Previously Inaccessible Proteins Vulnerable to Drugs

New Design Makes Previously Inaccessible Proteins Vulnerable to Drugs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A team of researchers at Yale University have identified a molecular signal that allows potentially therapeutic proteins to hitch a ride into cells using vesicles, possibly making previously inaccessible proteins vulnerable to drugs.

 

One of the most daunting challenges facing pharmaceutical scientists today are “undruggable proteins” – the approximately 80% of proteins involved in human disease that do not interact with current drugs. Most drugs today are very small molecules and fit snuggly into relatively deep pockets in a protein, usually to inhibit a chemical reaction. But many proteins involved in disease do not perform chemical reactions. Instead they bind to other proteins, or DNA, or RNA. It has proven extremely difficult to design small molecules that inhibit these binding interactions.

 

This new discovery of a molecular signal allows therapeutic proteins to hitch a ride into cells using vesicles, or small packets of molecular information that fuse with membranes of cells in a process called endocytosis. The signal helps the protein escape from the vesicle to reach the interior of the cell.

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Enceladus: home of alien lifeforms? Plumes of ice particles, water vapor and organic compounds

Enceladus: home of alien lifeforms? Plumes of ice particles, water vapor and organic compounds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Mars might dominates the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, but a growing number of scientists believe Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn, is a much better bet. Many now believe it offers the best hope we have of discovering life on another world inside our solar system.

 

As a a moon, Enceladus with its mere 310 miles in diameter is quite small, and is orbiting in deep, cold space, 1 billion miles away from the warmth of the sun. However, what makes Enceladus a prime candidate for harboring life -- it got liquid water, organic material and a source of heat. Cassini's observations suggest Enceladus possesses a subterranean ocean that is kept liquid by the moon's internal heat. The unknown source of energy is producing around 16 gigawatts of power and looks very like the geothermal energy sources we have on Earth – like the deep vents we see in our ocean beds and which bubble up hot gases.

 

At the moon's south pole, Enceladus's underground ocean appears to rise close to the surface. At a few sites, cracks have developed and water is bubbling to the surface before being vented into space, along with complex organic chemicals that also appear to have built up in its sea.

 

Equally remarkable is the impact of this water on Saturn. The planet is famed for its complex system of rings, made of bands of small particles in orbit round the planet. There are seven main rings: A, B, C, D, E, F and G, and the giant E-ring is linked directly with Enceladus. The water the moon vents into space turns into ice crystals and these feed the planet's E-ring. If all geysers of Enceladus were turned off, the great E-ring of Saturn would disappear within a few years. For a little moon, Enceladus has quite an impact.

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Vital Ozone Graphics - UNEP/GRID-Arendal - Maps & Graphics library

Vital Ozone Graphics - UNEP/GRID-Arendal - Maps & Graphics library | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Vital ozone Graphics is a compilation of illustrations and case studies intended to describe the issues dealing with the depletion and condition of the Ozone layer encasing earth. The ozone layer filters out dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, thus protecting life on Earth. Scientists believe that the ozone layer was formed about 400 million years ago, essentially remaining undisturbed for most of that time. In 1974, two chemists from the University of California startled the world community with the discovery that emissions of man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a widely used group of industrial chemicals, might be threatening the ozone layer.

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Suicide Bombers - Old Termites Blow Themselves Up to Protect the Nest

Suicide Bombers - Old Termites Blow Themselves Up to Protect the Nest | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

When trekking through a forest in French Guiana to study termites, a group of biologists noticed unique spots of blue on the backs of the insects in one nest. Curious, one scientist reached down to pick up one of these termites with a pair of forceps. It exploded. The blue spots, the team discovered, contain explosive crystals, and they're found only on the backs of the oldest termites in the colony. The aged termites carry out suicide missions on behalf of their nest mates.

 

After their initial observation, the team carried out field studies of Neocapritermes taracua termites and discovered that those with the blue spots also exploded during encounters with other species of termites or larger predators. The researchers found that the secretions released during the explosion killed or paralyzed opponents from a competing termite species. However, if the scientists removed the blue crystal from the termites, their secretions were no longer toxic.

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Reynolds Pest's comment, October 15, 2012 9:33 AM
This is very interesting news on these Termites. Are these the only species of termites that have defensive capabilities this effective?
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First ever slow-motion footage to show a net-casting spider hunting in the wild

First ever slow-motion footage to show a net-casting spider hunting in the wild | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Rarely-seen behaviour of a wild net-casting spider's ambush hunt is recorded on a high-speed camera in Central America "for first time", according to film crew.

 

The crew waited for five hours with the cameras trained on the spider until the cricket strayed into the killing zone beneath the net. "The spider did not move a muscle until the antenna of that prey item, the cricket, touched the thread.

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Europe's space program heads to Jupiter - In search for Life - NASA dropped out

Europe's space program heads to Jupiter - In search for Life - NASA dropped out | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The European Space Agency is preparing a mission to explore Jupiter and its moons.

 

JUICE will launch in 2022 in search of liquid water that could contain life. Europe is to mount a 1 billion-euro mission to Jupiter and its icy moons, moving ahead with an ambitious plan deemed too expensive by the United States. After more than eight years of review, the European Space Agency (ESA) has given the green light to a space program to explore the giant gas planet and several of its moons - in search of liquid oceans that may harbor life. Weighing in at just under five tons, the spacecraft will be one of the heaviest ever to launch to outer planets. It will also be the first solar-powered spacecraft to journey to Jupiter, using massive solar panels to capture enough faint sun rays to keep its instruments running.

 

JUICE beat out two other missions - the space-based New Gravitational-wave Observatory and an X-ray telescope called ATHENA – in part because it is expected to have fewer cost overruns and technical problems.

 

NASA dropped out -- The spacecraft was originally intended to fly in tandem with a NASA orbiter that would explore Jupiter's moon Europa, but the US space administration abandoned the plan after an independent planetary study warned the mission would be too costly.

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How Many Species Are There, Where Are They, How Fast Are They Going Extinct And What Can We Do?

Lecturer: Stuart Pimm, Duke University, USA "Taxonomy, Biodiversity & Beyond: Global Change Science & Society", A scientific meeting that was held at the Tel Aviv University

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Chemical makes blind mice see instantly by turning ganglia cells light sensitive themselves

Chemical makes blind mice see instantly by turning ganglia cells light sensitive themselves | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A team of University of California, Berkeley, scientists in collaboration with researchers at the University of Munich and University of Washington, in Seattle, has discovered a chemical that temporarily restores some vision to blind mice, and is working on an improved compound that may someday allow people with degenerative blindness to see again.

 

The approach could eventually help those with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that is the most common inherited form of blindness, as well as age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of acquired blindness in the developed world. In both diseases, the light sensitive cells in the retina — the rods and cones — die, leaving the eye without functional photoreceptors.

 

The chemical, called AAQ, acts by making the remaining, normally “blind” cells in the retina sensitive to light, said lead researcher Richard Kramer, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology. AAQ is a photoswitch that binds to protein ion channels on the surface of retinal cells. When switched on by light, AAQ alters the flow of ions through the channels and activates these neurons much the way rods and cones are activated by light. Because the chemical eventually wears off, it may offer a safer alternative to other experimental approaches for restoring sight, such as gene or stem cell therapies, which permanently change the retina. It is also less invasive than implanting light-sensitive electronic chips in the eye.

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Electronic sensor rivals sensitivity of human skin

Electronic sensor rivals sensitivity of human skin | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A flexible electronic sensor made from interlocking hairs can detect the gentle steps of a ladybird and distinguish between shear and twisting forces, just as human skin can. It can also be strapped to the wrist and used as a heart-rate monitor.

 

The described device was inspired by beetle wings and could give robots a more nuanced sense of touch. When some beetles are resting, a row of hairs on their wings locks into an array of hairs on their body through a type of static attraction called van der Waals' forces. In Suh’s sensors, the 'hairs' are sheets of polymer fibres that are 100 nanometres in diameter and one micrometre long, and coated with metal to make them electrically conductive. When the sheets are sandwiched together, the nanohairs are attracted to one another and locked in, just like the beetle hairs. The device is then wired up so that an electrical current can be applied, and covered in a layer of soft, protective polymer.

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Breakthrough in development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films leads to most efficient solar cell ever

Breakthrough in development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films leads to most efficient solar cell ever | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Researchers from the University of Toronto (U of T) and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) have made a breakthrough in the development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, leading to the most efficient CQD solar cell ever.

 

Quantum dots are semiconductors only a few nanometres in size and can be used to harvest electricity from the entire solar spectrum – including both visible and invisible wavelengths. Unlike current slow and expensive semiconductor growth techniques, CQD films can be created quickly and at low cost, similar to paint or ink. This research paves the way for solar cells that can be fabricated on flexible substrates in the same way newspapers are rapidly printed in mass quantities.

 

The new technology represents a 37% increase in efficiency over the previous certified record. In order to improve efficiency, the researchers needed a way to both reduce the number of “traps” for electrons associated with poor surface quality while simultaneously ensuring their films were very dense to absorb as much light as possible. The solution was a so-called “hybrid passivation” scheme.

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End of Chinese manufacturing and rebirth of US industry based on robotics, AI, 3D printing and nanotech

End of Chinese manufacturing and rebirth of US industry based on robotics, AI, 3D printing and nanotech | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

There is great concern about China’s real-estate and infrastructure bubbles. But these are just short-term challenges that China may be able to spend its way out of. The real threat to China’s economy is bigger and longer term: its manufacturing bubble.

 

Rising costs and political pressure aren’t what’s going to rapidly change the equation. The disruption will come from a set of technologies that are advancing at exponential rates and converging. These technologies include robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and nanotechnology. China has many reasons to worry, and manufacturing will undoubtedly return to the U.S. — if not in this decade then early in the next. But the same jobs that left the U.S. won’t come back: they won’t exist.

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industry-index.com's curator insight, January 17, 2013 8:23 AM

Will new technologies be the solution for the rebirth of western manufacturing? 

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New membrane can block helium, yet allow water to flow freely

New membrane can block helium, yet allow water to flow freely | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Membranes and barriers are used all the time in industrial and lab settings, and you may even have a few of them around the home. They can help keep materials apart that need to be separated, or can selectively allow certain materials to mix while holding others back. Graphene, the two-dimensional hexagonal lattice of carbon, is thought to be completely impermeable to all gases and liquids. That would obviously make it an extremely effective barrier film.

 

Initial experiments with gases such as helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, and argon found that almost no gas was able to move across the membrane over a period of a few days. Calculations on these results yielded a helium permeation rate below 10-12 g/cm2*s*bar, consistent with values reported elsewhere for pure graphene films—basically no gas was getting through. Computing the bulk permeability of the material gave a value of approximately 10-15mm*g/cm2*s*bar. Put into more useful terms, this means that less gas will seep through a submicron thick GO film than would pass through a 1 mm thick glass barrier in an equivalent amount of time!

 

Carrying out a similar experiment with common liquids (ethanol, hexane, acetone, decane, and propanol) revealed that no weight loss could be detected after several days of the fluid resting on the membrane. This set an upper limit on liquid bulk permeability of 10-11 mm*g/cm2*s*bar. However, something unexpected happened when they repeated the test with water. There was a huge weight and the evaporation rate was nearly the same as though there was no membrane or barrier in place.

 

After this unexpected result, the authors repeated the test with helium to ensure that no physical damage had occurred to the membrane; no helium leakage was observed. In fact, it was only when the membrane was a couple of microns thick that any resistance to the flow of water was observed. Computing the bulk permeability of water gave a result of 10-5 mm*g/cm2*s*bar, a value 1010 (10,000,000,000) times greater than that for helium. This membrane was essentially impermeable to a small, inert gas, but allowed water to freely move through it.

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Computer-enhanced imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49 million-year-old spider in Baltic Amber

Computer-enhanced imaging technology reveals intricate details of 49 million-year-old spider in Baltic Amber | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have used the latest computer-imaging technology to produce stunning three-dimensional pictures of a 49 million-year-old spider trapped inside an opaque piece of fossilized amber resin.

 

University of Manchester researchers, working with colleagues in Germany, created the intricate images using X-ray computed tomography to study the remarkable spider, which can barely be seen under the microscope in the old and darkened amber. As well as documenting the oldest ever huntsman spider, especially through a short film revealing astounding details, the scientists showed that even specimens in historical pieces of amber, which at first look very bad, can yield vital data when studied by computed tomography.

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Lysin PlyC - a new natural antibiotic with remarkable anti-bacterial properties

Lysin PlyC - a new natural antibiotic with remarkable anti-bacterial properties | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists have discovered the structure and operating procedures of a powerful anti-bacterial killing machine that could become an alternative to antibiotics.The bacteriophage-encoded lysin, PlyC, kills a large spectrum of bacteria --- species that can cause symptoms ranging from sore throats to pneumonia and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. First identified in 1925, PlyC was purified in the 1960s by Professor Fischetti, but its atomic structure proved elusive until now.

 

Bacteriophages, viruses that specifically infect and kill bacteria using special proteins called lysins, have been investigated as possible treatments since 1919. However, with the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940s, 'phage therapy' was generally abandoned. Because of multi-resistancy development against many antibiotics, there is renewed interest in phage-encoded lysins.

 

PlyC is actually made from nine separate protein 'parts' that assemble to form a very effective bacterial killing machine. It actually resembles a flying saucer carrying two warheads. It operates by locking onto the bacterial surface using eight separate docking sites located on one face of a flying saucer-like structure. The two warheads can then chew through the surface of the cell, rapidly killing the bacteria.

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Stunning Infrared Photographs

Stunning Infrared Photographs | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

We're no strangers to infrared photography, yet the visual results of the technology never cease to amaze us. Photographer Oleg Stelmach, aka Elektraua, tackles the art of using infrared film to transform viridescent landscapes into mesmerizing expanses of white, icy foliage. His location of choice is the newly reopened part of Kiev called "Andrew's Descent." The urban setting with a healthy dose of towering trees and plant life is given a brand new, wintery look, boasting ivory leaves against a sapphire sky.

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