Fragments of Science
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Is Scientific Genius Extinct?

Is Scientific Genius Extinct? | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The most exciting days for the natural sciences may be over, says an expert in scientific genius.
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Fragments of Science
The history, present and future and nature of science and their relationship
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Nanocar is the first step toward a controlled transport system at the molecular scale

Nanocar is the first step toward a controlled transport system at the molecular scale | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Dr. Saw-Wai Hla and Dr. Eric Masson are thrilled with their team's performance in the world's first nanocar race in April, but for them, it was a fun starting point to a much larger goal.

"The nanocar race is not the end; it is just the very beginning of our project," Hla, a professor of physics and astronomy, said. "We entered this competition not just to win, but to develop a controlled transport system at the molecular scale."

That's the first part of the goal; the second is to help create a new field of study – quantum mechanical engineering – that is now discussed only at the early theoretical stage.

The nanocar race was a unique competition: Six teams worked to build cars that could race each other on a track. However, these cars were no bigger than a few molecules, and the Ohio University team's car wasn't even in France, where the race was held; instead, it was a quarter of the way around the planet, in Hla's lab at Ohio University.
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Methanol detected for first time around young star

Methanol detected for first time around young star | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Methanol, a key building block for the complex organic compounds that comprise life, has been detected for the first time in the protoplanetary disk of a young, distant star. This finding could help scientists better understand the chemistry occurring during a planet's formation that could ultimately lead to the emergence of life.

Scientists made the methanol discovery around TW Hydrae, a star about 80 percent of our sun's mass and roughly 5 million to 10 million years old. It represents a younger version of what our solar system may have looked like during its formation more than 4 billion years ago. At about 170 light-years away, TW Hydrae has the closest protoplanetary disk to Earth.

The methanol appears to be located in a ring peaking 30 astronomical units from the star. (An astronomical unit, or AU, is the average distance between Earth and the sun, or about 93 million miles.)

This methanol gas likely came from methanol ice located slightly further away from the star. The scientists detailed their findings in the paper, "First detection of gas-phase methanol in a protoplanetary disk," published the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"Methanol is an important molecule because it has been shown in laboratory ice experiments to be a feedstock of larger and more complex molecules," said study lead author Catherine Walsh, an astrochemist at the University of Leeds in England. "The successful detection of methanol in a protoplanetary disk provides compelling evidence that larger molecules are also present."
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Researchers help provide first glimpse of organelles in action inside living cells

Researchers help provide first glimpse of organelles in action inside living cells | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development are getting a first glimpse at the inner-workings of live cells thanks to a new microscopy technique pioneered by Nobel laureate Eric Betzig with help from engineers at Drexel University. Their method uses grids of light that activate fluorescent color tags on each type of organelle—the result is a 3-D video that gives researchers their best look at how cells function. It will allow scientists to better understand how cells react to environmental stressors and respond to drug treatment.

In a paper published today in Nature, the team lays out its methodology for using Betzig's lattice light sheet microscope in combination with image-tracking technology developed in Drexel's Computational Image Sequence Analysis Lab, led by Andrew Cohen, PhD, to produce 3-D time lapse videos of organelle movement and generate quantitative data on their interactions.

"The cell biology community has recognized for many years that the cytoplasm is full of many different types of organelles, and the field is recognizing more and more how significant cross-talk between these organelles is in the form of close contacts between these organelles," said Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, PhD, of HHMI's Janelia Research Campus, and senior author of the study. "When two organelles come close to each other they can transfer small molecules like lipids and calcium and communicate with each other through that transfer. But no one has been able to look at the whole set of these interactions at any particular time. This technology is providing a way to do that. But this paper is about a whole new technology, being able to tag six different objects with six different fluorophores, and unmixing the fluorophores so that you can observe the six different objects discretely."
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Study shows human brain pre-plays anticipated events in fast motion

Study shows human brain pre-plays anticipated events in fast motion | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A trio of researchers with Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands has found evidence that suggests the human brain learns how some objects move and then replays it when it predicts a familiar scenario is about to unfold—and it does so in fast motion. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Matthias Ekman, Peter Kok and Floris P. de Lange describe experiments they carried out with volunteers watching moving objects while being observed via fMRI.

Brain scientists have noted for some time the human ability to forecast the motion of external objects. Examples include athletes anticipating where a ball will come down after being batted into the air, or sportsmen gauging the distance they have to lead an animal before pulling the trigger. But the neural dynamics have not been understood. In this new effort, the researchers found what they believe is a part of the puzzle—time-compressed preplay of anticipated events.

To learn more about what happens in our brains when we are learning how to anticipate the path of a moving object, the researchers subjected 29 volunteers to fMRI scanning while they watched a white dot move first one way across a screen and then back, repeatedly over several minutes. In looking at the scans, the researchers discovered which parts of the brain were involved in the learning process, particularly in the visual cortex.
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A self-healing structural color hydrogel inspired by nature

A self-healing structural color hydrogel inspired by nature | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A team of researchers at Southeast University in China has developed a self-healing structural hydrogel with a wide variety of applications. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their hydrogel and how it was inspired by healing they observed in animals.

It has been noted for several years that one area where humanoid robots are lacking is skin tone—most robots have a pasty white complexion, which is both disturbing and likely to lead to social problems once robots become mainstream. Most artificial skin is not able to heal itself, which means that robots need skin replacement if it gets damaged or accidentally colored in undesirable ways. There is also the issue of colors fading. When materials such as rubbers or plastics are colored, it is generally done through the use of pigments, which, like clothes, tend to fade over time.

For that reason, robot scientists would like to use other types of coloring options, one of which is structural colors—materials that have their color due to surface nanostructures rather than pigments. As an example, animals such as birds and fish are immune to fading due to structural coloring on scales and feathers. The problem with using such coloring, the researchers note, has been figuring out how to make them strong enough to handle real-world problems like running into things. In this new effort, the researchers report that they looked to nature to overcome this problem.
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Study shows how radioactive decay could support extraterrestrial life

Study shows how radioactive decay could support extraterrestrial life | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
In the icy bodies around our solar system, radiation emitted from rocky cores could break up water molecules and support hydrogen-eating microbes. To address this cosmic possibility, a University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team modeled a natural water-cracking process called radiolysis. They then applied the model to several worlds with known or suspected interior oceans, including Saturn's moon Enceladus, Jupiter's moon Europa, Pluto and its moon Charon, as well as the dwarf planet Ceres.

"The physical and chemical processes that follow radiolysis release molecular hydrogen (H2), which is a molecule of astrobiological interest," said Alexis Bouquet, lead author of the study published in the May edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters. Radioactive isotopes of elements such as uranium, potassium, and thorium are found in a class of rocky meteorites known as chondrites. The cores of the worlds studied by Bouquet and his co-authors are thought to have chondrite-like compositions. Ocean water permeating the porous rock of the core could be exposed to ionizing radiation and undergo radiolysis, producing molecular hydrogen and reactive oxygen compounds.

Bouquet, a student in the joint doctoral program between UTSA's Department of Physics and Astronomy and SwRI's Space Science and Engineering Division, explained that microbial communities sustained by H2 have been found in extreme environments on Earth. These include a groundwater sample found nearly 2 miles deep in a South African gold mine and at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. That raises interesting possibilities for the potential existence of analogous microbes at the water-rock interfaces of ocean worlds such as Enceladus or Europa.
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Researchers discover hottest lavas that erupted in past 2.5 billion years

Researchers discover hottest lavas that erupted in past 2.5 billion years | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
An international team of researchers led by geoscientists with the Virginia Tech College of Science recently discovered that deep portions of Earth's mantle might be as hot as it was more than 2.5 billion years ago.
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Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers converted a staple human ubiquitin protein into an anti-viral tool. Through subtle tweaks, they created an engineered version of the ubiquitin that binds more tightly and paralyzes a key enzyme in MERS to halt viral replication in cells. Other synthetic forms of ubiquitin can be quickly generated to target a diverse range of pathogens.
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Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries

Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Rice University scientists have created a rechargeable lithium metal battery with three times the capacity of commercial lithium-ion batteries by resolving something that has long stumped researchers: the dendrite problem.

The Rice battery stores lithium in a unique anode, a seamless hybrid of graphene and carbon nanotubes. The material first created at Rice in 2012 is essentially a three-dimensional carbon surface that provides abundant area for lithium to inhabit.

The anode itself approaches the theoretical maximum for storage of lithium metal while resisting the formation of damaging dendrites or "mossy" deposits.

Dendrites have bedeviled attempts to replace lithium-ion with advanced lithium metal batteries that last longer and charge faster. Dendrites are lithium deposits that grow into the battery's electrolyte. If they bridge the anode and cathode and create a short circuit, the battery may fail, catch fire or even explode.

Rice researchers led by chemist James Tour found that when the new batteries are charged, lithium metal evenly coats the highly conductive carbon hybrid in which nanotubes are covalently bonded to the graphene surface.

As reported in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano, the hybrid replaces graphite anodes in common lithium-ion batteries that trade capacity for safety.
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Scientists develop revolutionary eye drops to treat age-related blindness

Scientists develop revolutionary eye drops to treat age-related blindness | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed a type of eye drop which could potentially revolutionise the treatment of one of the leading causes of blindness in the UK.

The results of the collaborative research, published today in Investigative Opthamology and Visual Science, could spell the end of painful injections directly into the eye to treat the increasingly common eye disorder known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and predictions suggest this figure could rise sharply in future because of an ageing population.

A painless condition which causes people to gradually lose their central vision, usually in both eyes, AMD is currently treated by repeated injections into the eye on a monthly basis over at least three years.

This is a problem because, apart from being an unpleasant procedure for patients to undergo, the injections can cause tearing and infections inside the eye and an increased risk of blindness.

Now scientists led by biochemist Dr Felicity de Cogan, from the University of Birmingham's Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, have invented a method of delivering the injected drug as an eye drop instead, and their laboratory research has obtained the same outcomes as the injected drug.
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First timeline of a cancer tracks tumours from origin to spread

First timeline of a cancer tracks tumours from origin to spread | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
There’s rarely a silver lining to a cancer diagnosis. But one man’s illness has led to the first precise tracing of a cancer’s evolution. Knowing the exact time at which a particular tumour developed in the patient’s body allowed scientists to create a timeline for how his cancer evolved from a few cells, all the way through to the tumours that caused his eventual death.

The study provides clues about what makes some cancers spread rapidly, and may in the future help doctors estimate how a tumour might respond to therapies.
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Team solves mystery of colloidal chains

Team solves mystery of colloidal chains | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
When Northwestern Engineering's Erik Luijten met Zbigniew Rozynek, they immediately became united by a mystery.

Presenting at a conference in Norway, Rozynek, a researcher at Adam Mickiewicz University in Pozna?, Poland, demonstrated something that looked almost like magic. When he poked a needle-shaped electrode into a mixture of micron-sized, spherical metal particles dispersed in silicone oil, a sphere stuck to its end. As Rozynek pulled the electrode out of the dispersion, another sphere attached to the first sphere, and then another to the second sphere, and so on, until a long chain formed.

"The spheres behaved like magnetic beads, except no magnetism was involved," said Luijten, professor of materials science and engineering and of engineering and applied mathematics at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering. "The particles have no tendency to cluster. I realized that something more complicated was happening."
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What Deep Blue Tells Us About AI in 2017 – Backchannel

What Deep Blue Tells Us About AI in 2017 – Backchannel | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
When Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess 20 years ago, we learned a huge lesson about humans and artificial intelligence. Just not the one we thought.
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Discovered: Fast-growing galaxies from early universe

Discovered: Fast-growing galaxies from early universe | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A team of astronomers including Carnegie's Eduardo Bañados and led by Roberto Decarli of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has discovered a new kind of galaxy which, although extremely old -- formed less than a billion years after the Big Bang -- creates stars more than a hundred times faster than our own Milky Way.
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Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Water is the Earth's most abundant natural resource, but it's also something of a mystery due to its unique solvation characteristics – that is, how things dissolve in it.

"It's uniquely adapted to biology, and vice versa," said Poul Petersen, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology. "It's super-flexible. It dissipates energy and mediates interactions, and that's becoming more recognized in biological systems."

How water relates to and interacts with those systems – like DNA, the building block of all living things – is of critical importance, and Petersen's group has used a relatively new form of spectroscopy to observe a previously unknown characteristic of water.

"DNA's chiral spine of hydration," published May 24 in the American Chemical Society journal Central Science, reports the first observation of a chiral water superstructure surrounding a biomolecule. In this case, the water structure follows the iconic helical structure of DNA, which itself is chiral, meaning it is not superimposable on its mirror image. Chirality is a key factor in biology, because most biomolecules and pharmaceuticals are chiral.

"If you want to understand reactivity and biology, then it's not just water on its own," Petersen said. "You want to understand water around stuff, and how it interacts with the stuff. And particularly with biology, you want to understand how it behaves around biological material – like protein and DNA."
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Physicists find a way to control charged molecules -- with quantum logic

Physicists find a way to control charged molecules -- with quantum logic | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physicists have solved the seemingly intractable puzzle of how to control the quantum properties of individual charged molecules, or molecular ions. The solution is to use the same kind of "quantum logic" that drives an experimental NIST atomic clock. The new technique achieves an elusive goal, controlling molecules as effectively as laser cooling and other techniques can control atoms. Quantum control of atoms has revolutionized atomic physics, leading to applications such as atomic clocks. But laser cooling and control of molecules is extremely challenging because they are much more complex than atoms.

 

The NIST technique still uses a laser, but only to gently probe the molecule; its quantum state is detected indirectly. This type of control of molecular ions -- several atoms bound together and carrying an electrical charge -- could lead to more sophisticated architectures for quantum information processing, amplify signals in basic physics research such as measuring the "roundness" of the electron's shape, and boost control of chemical reactions.

 

The research is described in the May 11, 2017 issue of Nature and was performed in the NIST Boulder group that demonstrated the first laser cooling of atomic ions in 1978. "We developed methods that are applicable to many types of molecules," NIST physicist James Chinwen Chou said. "Whatever trick you can play with atomic ions is now within reach with molecular ions. Now the molecule will 'listen' to you -- asking, in effect, 'What do you want me to do?'"

 

"This is comparable to when scientists could first laser cool and trap atoms, opening the floodgates to applications in precision metrology and information processing. It's our dream to achieve all these things with molecules," Chou added. Compared to atoms, molecules are more difficult to control because they have more complex structures involving many electronic energy levels, vibrations and rotations. Molecules can consist of many different numbers and combinations of atoms and be as large as DNA strands more than a meter long.

 

The NIST method finds the quantum state (electronic, vibrational, and rotational) of the molecular ion by transferring the information to a second ion, in this case an atomic ion, which can be laser cooled and controlled with previously known techniques. Borrowing ideas from NIST's quantum logic clock, the researchers attempt to manipulate the molecular ion and, if successful, set off a synchronized motion in the pair of ions. The manipulation is chosen such that it can only trigger the motion if the molecule is in a certain state. The "yes" or "no" answer is signaled by the atomic ion. The technique is very gentle, indicating the molecule's quantum states without destroying them.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Neutrons provide the first nanoscale look at a living cell membrane

Neutrons provide the first nanoscale look at a living cell membrane | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A research team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has performed the first-ever direct nanoscale examination of a living cell membrane. In doing so, it also resolved a long-standing debate by identifying tiny groupings of lipid molecules that are likely key to the cell's functioning.

The methods developed provide a new experimental platform for biophysical studies of membranes and, potentially, other cell components. It could prove useful for future research on important interactions such as drug-membrane, biofuel-membrane, and even antibiotic-membrane interactions.

The multidisciplinary project—led by biophysicist John Katsaras, chemist Bob Standaert and microbiologist James Elkins—was performed at the lab's High Flux Isotope Reactor and Spallation Neutron Source using the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. The team published its findings in the journal PLoS Biology.
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Off-the-shelf, power-generating clothes are almost here: Scientists introduce coating that turns fabrics into circuits

Off-the-shelf, power-generating clothes are almost here: Scientists introduce coating that turns fabrics into circuits | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A lightweight, comfortable jacket that can generate the power to light up a jogger at night may sound futuristic, but materials scientist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst could make one today. In a new paper this month, she and colleagues outline how they have invented a way to apply breathable, pliable, metal-free electrodes to fabric and off-the-shelf clothing so it feels good to the touch and also transports enough electricity to power small electronics.

She says, "Our lab works on textile electronics. We aim to build up the materials science so you can give us any garment you want, any fabric, any weave type, and turn it into a conductor. Such conducting textiles can then be built up into sophisticated electronics. One such application is to harvest body motion energy and convert it into electricity in such a way that every time you move, it generates power." Powering advanced fabrics that can monitor health data remotely are important to the military and increasingly valued by the health care industry, she notes.

Generating small electric currents through relative movement of layers is called triboelectric charging, explains Andrew, who trained as a polymer chemist and electrical engineer. Materials can become electrically charged as they create friction by moving against a different material, like rubbing a comb on a sweater. "By sandwiching layers of differently materials between two conducting electrodes, a few microwatts of power can be generated when we move," she adds.
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Researchers uncover new gravitational wave characteristics

Researchers uncover new gravitational wave characteristics | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Monash researchers have identified a new concept - 'orphan memory' - which changes the current thinking around gravitational waves.

The research, by the Monash Centre for Astrophysics, was published recently in Physical Review Letters.

Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts that cataclysmic cosmic explosions stretch the fabric of spacetime.

The stretching of spacetime is called 'gravitational waves.' After such an event, spacetime does not return to its original state. It stays stretched out. This effect is called 'memory.'

The term 'orphan' alludes to the fact that the parent wave is not directly detectable.

"These waves could open the way for studying physics currently inaccessible to our technology," said Monash School of Physics and Astronomy Lecturer, Dr Eric Thrane, one of the authors of the study, together with Lucy McNeill and Dr Paul Lasky.
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Discoveries Fuel Fight Over Universe’s First Light

Discoveries Fuel Fight Over Universe’s First Light | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A series of observations at the very edge of the universe has reignited a debate over what lifted the primordial cosmic fog.
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Rising seas set to double coastal flooding by 2050: study

Rising seas set to double coastal flooding by 2050: study | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Rising sea levels driven by global warming are on track to dramatically boost the frequency of coastal flooding worldwide by mid-century, especially in tropical regions, researchers said Thursday.

A 10-to-20 centimetre (four-to-eight inch) jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050—a conservative forecast—would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Major cities along the North American seaboard such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found.

But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa.

Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected.

"We are 95 percent confident that an added 5-to-10 centimetres will more than double the frequency of flooding in the topics," lead author Sean Vitousek, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told AFP.
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Researchers build brain on a chip

Researchers build brain on a chip | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
ANU researchers have developed a suitable material to allow brain cells to grow and form predictable circuits, which could lead to the development of prosthetics for the brain.

Researchers grew the brain cells on a semiconductor wafer patterned with nanowires which act as a scaffold to guide the growth of brain cells.

Lead researcher Dr Vini Gautam from the Research School of Engineering at ANU said the scaffold provides a platform to study the growth of the brain cells and how they connect with each other.

"The project will provide new insights into the development of neuro-prosthetics which can help the brain recover after damage due to an accident, stroke or degenerative neurological diseases," Dr Gautam said.

The study is the first to show the neuronal circuits grown on the nanowire scaffolds were functional and highly interconnected, opening the potential to apply their scaffold design for neuro-prosthetics.

Project group leader Dr Vincent Daria from The John Curtin School of Medical Research hopes to use the brain on a chip to understand how neurons in the brain form computing circuits and eventually process information.
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Nano fiber feels forces and hears sounds made by cells

Nano fiber feels forces and hears sounds made by cells | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a miniature device that's sensitive enough to feel the forces generated by swimming bacteria and hear the beating of heart muscle cells.

The device is a nano-sized optical fiber that's about 100 times thinner than a human hair. It can detect forces down to 160 femtonewtons—about ten trillion times smaller than a newton—when placed in a solution containing live Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are swimming bacteria found in the gut. In cultures of beating heart muscle cells from mice, the nano fiber can detect sounds down to -30 decibels—a level that's one thousand times below the limit of the human ear.

"This work could open up new doors to track small interactions and changes that couldn't be tracked before," said nanoengineering professor Donald Sirbuly at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, who led the study.

Some applications, he envisions, include detecting the presence and activity of a single bacterium; monitoring bonds forming and breaking; sensing changes in a cell's mechanical behavior that might signal it becoming cancerous or being attacked by a virus; or a mini stethoscope to monitor cellular acoustics in vivo.

The work is published in Nature Photonics on May 15.
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Neuroscientists Discover A Song That Reduces Anxiety By 65% (Listen)

Neuroscientists Discover A Song That Reduces Anxiety By 65% (Listen) | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
This song was created in collaboration with sound therapists. It’s designed to slow down heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of stress.
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