Fragments of Science
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Futurity.org – Reef was crawling with crabs when it died

Futurity.org – Reef was crawling with crabs when it died | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have found an amazingly diverse record of 100-million-year-old crustaceans on a fossil reef in northern Spain.
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Marian Locksley's curator insight, January 31, 2013 3:01 PM

"Today’s decapods can adapt to a new environment without reefs, migrate elsewhere, or go extinct," says study author Adiël Klompmaker. "By documenting what happened in the past, we may provide clues as to what could happen to decapod crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp, and lobsters in today’s deteriorating reefs." (Credit: Stefan Alforn/Flickr)

Fragments of Science
The history, present and future and nature of science and their relationship
Curated by Mariaschnee
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Multiregional brain on a chip

Multiregional brain on a chip | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Harvard University researchers have developed a multiregional brain-on-a-chip that models the connectivity between three distinct regions of the brain. The in vitro model was used to extensively characterize the differences between neurons from different regions of the brain and to mimic the system's connectivity.
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Arabica coffee genome sequenced

Arabica coffee genome sequenced | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
University of California, Davis, researchers today announce the sequencing of the genome of Coffea arabica, the species responsible for more than 70 percent of global coffee production. (The researchers are all in San Diego through the weekend for the Plant and Animal Genome Conference and can be reached on cell or by e-mail.)
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Hubble gazes into a black hole of puzzling lightness

Hubble gazes into a black hole of puzzling lightness | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The beautiful spiral galaxy visible in the center of the image is known as RX J1140.1+0307, a galaxy in the Virgo constellation imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and it presents an interesting puzzle. At firs
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Removal of multiple contaminants from water by supported ionic liquid phases

Removal of multiple contaminants from water by supported ionic liquid phases | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Fresh, clean water coming directly from the tap is a true luxury. In developing countries, people often have no choice but to use a contaminated river for drinking water. Water filters can help by quickly converting polluted surface or ground water into safe drinking water. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers have now introduced a novel multifunctional composite material that removes inorganic, organic, radioactive, and microbial impurities from water.

Usually, water purification involves a series of filters, each designed to remove a single type of impurity. In contrast, this new filter material is an all-rounder. Scientists from the Universities of Ulm (Germany) and Zaragoza (Spain) have now seized upon a relatively new approach for designing materials, which allows molecular components to be assembled into multifunctional composites called SILP materials (supported ionic liquid phases). An ionic liquid is a salt that is melted at room temperature, making it liquid without being dissolved in a solvent. When such an ionic liquid is adsorbed onto a solid substrate it forms a solid composite material with properties that can be selectively tuned through chemical modification.

The researchers led by Scott G. Mitchell and Carsten Streb have now produced the first SILPs based on polyoxometallates (POM). POMs are molecular transition metal-oxygen clusters in which the metal atoms are bridged by oxygen atoms to form a three-dimensional network. For the new filter materials, they selected polyoxotungstate anions. These anions have a binding site which can trap heavy metal ions. The counterions they selected are voluminous tetraalkylammonium cations known for their antimicrobial effect. The resulting ionic liquids are hydrophobic, immiscible with water, and form stable thin layers on surfaces. By using a porous silicon dioxide support, the researchers obtained dry, free-flowing powders that are easy to transport and handle.
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Manchester scientists tie the tightest knot ever achieved

Manchester scientists tie the tightest knot ever achieved | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists at The University of Manchester have produced the most tightly knotted physical structure ever known -- a scientific achievement which has the potential to create a new generation of advanced materials.
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Release of water shakes Pacific Plate at depth

Release of water shakes Pacific Plate at depth | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Tonga is a seismologists' paradise, and not just because of the white-sand beaches. The subduction zone off the east coast of the archipelago racks up more intermediate-depth and deep earthquakes than any other subduction zone, where one plate of Earth's lithosphere dives under another, on the planet.

"Tonga is such an extreme place, and that makes it very revealing," said S. Shawn Wei, a seismologist who earned his doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis and now is a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

That swarm of earthquakes is catnip for seismologists because they still don't understand what causes earthquakes to pop off at such great depths.

Below about 40 miles, the enormous heat and pressure in Earth's interior should keep rock soft and pliable, more inclined to ooze than to snap. So triggering an earthquake at depth should be like getting molasses to shatter.

In the Jan. 11 issue of Science Advances, a team of seismologists from Washington University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Carnegie Institution for Science analyze the data from 671 earthquakes that occurred between 30 and 280 miles beneath the Earth's surface in the Pacific Plate as it descended into the Tonga Trench.
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Paleontologists classify mysterious ancient cone-shaped sea creatures

Paleontologists classify mysterious ancient cone-shaped sea creatures | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
One branch on the tree of life is a bit more crowded today. A team of scientists led by 20-year-old University of Toronto (U of T) undergraduate student Joseph Moysiuk has finally determined what a bizarre group of extinct cone-shaped animals actually are.

Known as hyoliths, these marine creatures evolved over 530 million years ago during the Cambrian period and are among the first animals known to have produced mineralized external skeletons.

Long believed to belong to the same family as snails, squid and other molluscs, a study published today in the prestigious scientific journal Nature shows that hyoliths are instead more closely related to brachiopods - a group of animals which has a rich fossil record, although few living species remain today.

Brachiopods have a soft body enclosed between upper and lower shells (valves), unlike the left and right arrangement of valves in bivalve molluscs. Brachiopods open their valves at the front when feeding, but otherwise keep them closed to protect their feeding apparatus and other body parts.

Although the skeletal remains of hyoliths are abundant in the fossil record, key diagnostic aspects of their soft-anatomy remained critically absent until now.
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Physicists 'squeeze' light to cool microscopic drum below quantum limit

Physicists 'squeeze' light to cool microscopic drum below quantum limit | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have cooled a mechanical object to a temperature lower than previously thought possible, below the so-called "quantum limit."

The new NIST theory and experiments, described in the Jan. 12, 2017, issue of Nature, showed that a microscopic mechanical drum—a vibrating aluminum membrane—could be cooled to less than one-fifth of a single quantum, or packet of energy, lower than ordinarily predicted by quantum physics. The new technique theoretically could be used to cool objects to absolute zero, the temperature at which matter is devoid of nearly all energy and motion, NIST scientists said.

"The colder you can get the drum, the better it is for any application," said NIST physicist John Teufel, who led the experiment. "Sensors would become more sensitive. You can store information longer. If you were using it in a quantum computer, then you would compute without distortion, and you would actually get the answer you want."

"The results were a complete surprise to experts in the field," Teufel's group leader and co-author José Aumentado said. "It's a very elegant experiment that will certainly have a lot of impact."

The drum, 20 micrometers in diameter and 100 nanometers thick, is embedded in a superconducting circuit designed so that the drum motion influences the microwaves bouncing inside a hollow enclosure known as an electromagnetic cavity. Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation, so they are in effect a form of invisible light, with a longer wavelength and lower frequency than visible light.
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Neural connection keeps instincts in check

Neural connection keeps instincts in check | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
From fighting the urge to hit someone to resisting the temptation to run off stage instead of giving that public speech, we are often confronted with situations where we have to curb our instincts. Scientists at EMBL have traced exactly which neuronal projections prevent social animals like us from acting out such impulses. The study, published online today in Nature Neuroscience, could have implications for schizophrenia and mood disorders like depression.
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Physicists make first-ever direct observation of collisional plasmoid instability during magnetic reconnection

Physicists make first-ever direct observation of collisional plasmoid instability during magnetic reconnection | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have for the first time directly observed a phenomenon that had previously only been hypothesized to exist. The phenomenon, plasmoid instabilities that occur during collisional magnetic reconnection, had until this year only been observed indirectly using remote-sensing technology. In a paper published in the August 2016 issue of Physical Review Letters, PPPL physicists report that they created the phenomenon in a laboratory setting where they could measure it directly and confirm its existence on the electron scale, which describes the range of motion of electrons and how quickly they move. This research was funded both by the DOE's Office of Science and NASA's Heliophysics Division.

Plasmoid instabilities create magnetic bubbles within plasma, superhot gas whose atoms have separated into electrons and atomic nuclei. The magnetic bubbles then cause fast magnetic reconnection, when a plasma's magnetic field lines break apart and join together again, releasing large amounts of energy. Before now, physicists at NASA and other institutions had only been able to directly confirm the existence of these instabilities in collisionless plasmas, like those surrounding Earth in the upper atmosphere, in which the plasma particles do not collide often.

Scientists had not been able to confirm the existence of plasmoid instabilities in collisional plasmas, in which the particles frequently collide, because such plasmas occur in outer space, far from Earth. Collisional plasmas like those on the surfaces of stars are so far away that scientists have difficulty measuring them directly. But physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere had predicted their existence years ago.
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Captured on video: DNA nanotubes build a bridge between 2 molecular posts

Captured on video: DNA nanotubes build a bridge between 2 molecular posts | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have coaxed DNA nanotubes to assemble themselves into bridge-like structures arched between two molecular landmarks on the surface of a lab dish.
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New microscope chemically identifies micron-sized particles

New microscope chemically identifies micron-sized particles | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have developed a microscope that can chemically identify individual micron-sized particles. The new approach could one day be used in airports or other high-security venues as a highly sensitive and low-cost way to rapidly screen people for microscopic amounts of potentially dangerous materials.

In the journal Optics Letters, from The Optical Society (OSA), researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, USA, demonstrated their new microscope by measuring infrared spectra of individual 3-micron spheres made of silica or acrylic. The new technique uses a simple optical setup consisting of compact components that will allow the instrument to be miniaturized into a portable device about the size of a shoebox.

"The most important advantage of our new technique is its highly sensitive, yet remarkably simple design," said Ryan Sullenberger, associate staff at MIT Lincoln Labs and first author of the paper. "It provides new opportunities for nondestructive chemical analysis while paving the way towards ultra-sensitive and more compact instrumentation."
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Mysterious cosmic radio blasts traced to surprising source

Mysterious cosmic radio blasts traced to surprising source | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it

"Astronomers have pinpointed the location of an enigmatic celestial object that spits out brief, but powerful, blasts of radio waves. Surprisingly, the source of these intermittent signals lies not in a bright galaxy but in a small, dim one, some 2.5 billion light-years from Earth.

The discovery begins to lift the curtain on the mystery of fast radio bursts, which have puzzled astronomers since they first described the signals in 2007.“This detection has really broken open the gates of a new realm of science and discovery,” says Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico, and West Virginia University in Morgantown. She spoke in Grapevine, Texas, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society."

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Deep mantle chemistry surprise: Carbon content not uniform

Deep mantle chemistry surprise: Carbon content not uniform | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Even though carbon is one of the most-abundant elements on Earth, it is actually very difficult to determine how much of it exists below the surface in Earth's interior. Analysis by Carnegie's Marion Le Voyer and Erik Hauri of crystals containing completely enclosed mantle magma with its original carbon content preserved has doubled the world's known finds of mantle carbon.
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Research sheds new light on high-altitude settlement in Tibet

Research sheds new light on high-altitude settlement in Tibet | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Early Tibetan Plateau settlers managed to survive at high elevation at least 7,400 years ago, before the development of an agricultural economy between 5,200-3,600 years ago.
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Scientists engineer animals with ancient genes to test causes of evolution

Scientists engineer animals with ancient genes to test causes of evolution | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists at the University of Chicago have created the first genetically modified animals containing reconstructed ancient genes, which they used to test the evolutionary effects of genetic changes that happened in the deep past on the animals' biology and fitness.
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Scientists discover mechanisms behind aggressive forms of cancer

Scientists discover mechanisms behind aggressive forms of cancer | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists have discovered a new mechanism that can explain how cancer genes are switched on and off.
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Paper examines potential—for better or worse—of 'in vitro gametogenesis'

Paper examines potential—for better or worse—of 'in vitro gametogenesis' | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Even in such game-changing reproductive advances as in vitro fertilization or mitochondrial replacement therapy, what has remained necessary is that the gametes—the sperm and the egg—come from the father's testes and the mother's ovaries, respectively. But a new lab technology rapidly advancing in mouse studies could upend that biological imperative by, at its hypothetical endpoint, creating embryos from sources such as repurposed skin cells.

The implications of "in vitro gametogenesis" (IVG), three experts write in a perspective essay in Science Translational Medicine, could be helpful for infertility patients and for research, but also deeply vexing for society and policymakers.

IVG holds the promise of radically advancing fertility and the ability to intervene against disease at the pre- or post-embryonic stage, wrote Dr. Eli Adashi of Brown University, I. Glenn Cohen, professor at Harvard Law School, and Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School. But it also could lead to ethical nightmares—if people become empowered to create and choose among scores of embryos in the pursuit of ideal children, for example.

"There's something troubling about an inexhaustible supply of gametes that can be fertilized into an inexhaustible supply of embryos," said Adashi, professor of medical science and former dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown University.
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Recreating conditions inside stars with compact lasers

Recreating conditions inside stars with compact lasers | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The energy density contained in the center of a star is higher than we can imagine - many billions of atmospheres, compared with the 1 atmosphere of pressure we live with here on Earth's surface.

These extreme conditions can only be recreated in the laboratory through fusion experiments with the world's largest lasers, which are the size of stadiums. Now, scientists have conducted an experiment at Colorado State University that offers a new path to creating such extreme conditions, with much smaller, compact lasers that use ultra-short laser pulses irradiating arrays of aligned nanowires.

The experiments, led by University Distinguished Professor Jorge Rocca in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics, accurately measured how deeply these extreme energies penetrate the nanostructures. These measurements were made by monitoring the characteristic X-rays emitted from the nanowire array, in which the material composition changes with depth.

Numerical models validated by the experiments predict that increasing irradiation intensities to the highest levels made possible by today's ultrafast lasers could generate pressures to surpass those in the center of our sun.

The results, published Jan. 11 in the journal Science Advances, open a path to obtaining unprecedented pressures in the laboratory with compact lasers. The work could open new inquiry into high energy density physics; how highly charged atoms behave in dense plasmas; and how light propagates at ultrahigh pressures, temperatures, and densities.
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New laser based on unusual physics phenomenon could improve telecommunications, computing

New laser based on unusual physics phenomenon could improve telecommunications, computing | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers at the University of California San Diego have demonstrated the world's first laser based on an unconventional wave physics phenomenon called bound states in the continuum. The technology could revolutionize the development of surface lasers, making them more compact and energy-efficient for communications and computing applications. The new BIC lasers could also be developed as high-power lasers for industrial and defense applications.

"Lasers are ubiquitous in the present day world, from simple everyday laser pointers to complex laser interferometers used to detect gravitational waves. Our current research will impact many areas of laser applications," said Ashok Kodigala, an electrical engineering Ph.D. student at UC San Diego and first author of the study.

"Because they are unconventional, BIC lasers offer unique and unprecedented properties that haven't yet been realized with existing laser technologies," said Boubacar Kanté, electrical engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering who led the research.
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Semiconductor eyed for next-generation 'power electronics'

Semiconductor eyed for next-generation 'power electronics' | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have demonstrated the high-performance potential of an experimental transistor made of a semiconductor called beta gallium oxide, which could bring new ultra-efficient switches for applications such as the power grid, military ships and aircraft.

The semiconductor is promising for next-generation "power electronics," or devices needed to control the flow of electrical energy in circuits. Such a technology could help to reduce global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by replacing less efficient and bulky power electronics switches now in use.

The transistor, called a gallium oxide on insulator field effect transistor, or GOOI, is especially promising because it possesses an "ultra-wide bandgap," a trait needed for switches in high-voltage applications.
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How the scientific method came from watching children play – Henry Cowles | Aeon Essays

How the scientific method came from watching children play – Henry Cowles | Aeon Essays | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The authoritative statement of scientific method derives from a surprising place — early 20th-century child psychology
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Using light to make single cells self-destruct

Using light to make single cells self-destruct | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The human brain may be the most complex object in the universe – 86 billion cells of many different types making more than 100 trillion information-bearing connections. This complexity is a daunting prospect for researchers hoping to unravel how the brain's intricately interwoven networks produce both normal cognition and neurological disease.

As usual when confronted with an overwhelming problem, it's best to start small. In the past 10 years, neuroscientists have developed so-called "optogenetic" tools that let them use beams of light to turn particular cells or networks of cells on and off with both genetic and spatial precision. Using these tools, researchers hope to reverse engineer the principles of brain function.

Now researchers at UC San Francisco have developed a new optogenetic tool that can be used to completely eliminate single cells from brain networks in live animals. The researchers believe the new tool – called miniSOG2 – will enable exquisitely precise experiments to help researchers understand how each cell contributes to the whole.
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Data from 2102 earthquake suggests new plate boundary may be forming in Indian Ocean

Data from 2102 earthquake suggests new plate boundary may be forming in Indian Ocean | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in Singapore, France and Indonesia has found evidence of a possible new plate boundary forming on the floor of the Indian Ocean in the Wharton Basin. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team reports that they studied seismic and ocean floor topology to learn more about tectonic plate deformations in the region and what they found by doing so.

Most people are aware of earthquakes that occur when tectonic plates push against one another, but there is another kind called a slip-strike quake. It occurs when two plates slide horizontally against one another. Such quakes can be caused by deformations that occur in plates distant from fault lines as pressure builds up across a plate. In some cases, such deformations can cause what are known as interpolate earthquakes, and they can also sometimes cause a plate to break, resulting in a new plate boundary, which in turn can lead to even more quakes. It is this scenario that the researchers believe happened in 2012 when two earthquakes struck the Andaman-Sumatran region (northwest part) of the Indian Ocean—the largest interpolate earthquakes ever recorded.

To better understand what occurred during the 2012 quakes, the researchers studied seismic data that was recorded before, during and after the quakes and also conducted sea floor depth analysis by venturing into the ocean aboard the research vessel Falkor—that allowed them to create high-resolution imagery of the sea floor, which in turn allowed them to note the deformations that had occurred.
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Nanotechnology enables new insights into chemical reactions

Nanotechnology enables new insights into chemical reactions | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Eighty percent of all products of the chemical industry are manufactured with catalytic processes. Catalysis is also indispensable in energy conversion and treatment of exhaust gases. It is important for these processes to run as quickly and efficiently as possible; that protects the environment while also saving time and conserving resources. Industry is always testing new substances and arrangements that could lead to new and better catalytic processes. Researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI in Villigen and ETH Zurich have now developed a method for improving the precision of such experiments, which may speed up the search for optimal solutions. At the same time, their method has enabled them to settle a scientific controversy more than 50 years old. They describe their approach in the journal Nature.

With a new process, Swiss scientists are making it easier for the chemical industry to investigate and optimise catalytic processes: "We have found a way to construct catalytic model systems - that is, experimental set-ups - accurate to one nanometre and then to track the chemical reactions of individual nanoparticles", says Waiz Karim, who is affiliated with both the Laboratory for Micro and Nanotechnology at the PSI and the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering at ETH Zurich. "This makes it possible to selectively optimise the efficiency of catalytic processes."
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