Fragments of Science
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Fragments of Science
The history, present and future and nature of science and their relationship
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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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Hafnia dons a new face: Materials research creates potential for improved computer chips and transistors

Hafnia dons a new face: Materials research creates potential for improved computer chips and transistors | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
It's a material world, and an extremely versatile one at that, considering its most basic building blocks—atoms—can be connected together to form different structures that retain the same composition.

Diamond and graphite, for example, are but two of the many polymorphs of carbon, meaning that both have the same chemical composition and differ only in the manner in which their atoms are connected. But what a world of difference that connectivity makes: The former goes into a ring and costs thousands of dollars, while the latter has to sit content within a humble pencil.

The inorganic compound hafnium dioxide commonly used in optical coatings likewise has several polymorphs, including a tetragonal form with highly attractive properties for computer chips and other optical elements. However, because this form is stable only at temperatures above 3100 degrees Fahrenheit—think blazing inferno—scientists have had to make do with its more limited monoclinic polymorph. Until now.

A team of researchers led by University of Kentucky chemist Beth Guiton and Texas A&M University chemist Sarbajit Banerjee in collaboration with Texas A&M materials science engineer Raymundo Arroyave has found a way to achieve this highly sought-after tetragonal phase at 1100 degrees Fahrenheit—think near-room-temperature and potential holy grail for the computing industry, along with countless other sectors and applications.
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'Death drag' of ancient ammonite fossil digitized and put online

'Death drag' of ancient ammonite fossil digitized and put online | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A death drag is a mark left behind by a creature that recently died and was moved or dragged by another force—in this case, it was an ammonite, a mollusk with a spiral shell that lived in the sea approximately 150 million years ago. It was dragged along the sea floor after it died by the sea current and left behind a very shallow trench. Finding a death drag from a creature millions of years ago is very rare, of course, because it requires a very specific set of circumstances to occur for preservation and discovery. In this case, it was a team of paleontologists digging at a quarry back in the 1990s at a site near the town of Solnhofen in Germany—many other ancient fossils have been found there. The ammonite and its death drag were preserved and were eventually put on display in a museum in Barcelona.
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Engineering human stem cells to model the kidney's filtration barrier on a chip

Engineering human stem cells to model the kidney's filtration barrier on a chip | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A team at Harvard's Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering now reports an approach in Nature Biomedical Engineering, which enables the differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into mature podocytes with more than 90 percent efficiency. Linking the differentiation process with organ-on-a-chip technology pioneered by his team, the researchers went on to engineer the first in vitro model of the human glomerulus, demonstrating effective and selective filtration of blood proteins and podocyte toxicity induced by a chemotherapy drug in vitro.
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Oldest evidence of life on land found in 3.48-billion-year-old Australian rocks

Oldest evidence of life on land found in 3.48-billion-year-old Australian rocks | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Fossil evidence of early life has been discovered by UNSW Sydney scientists in 3.48 billion year old hot spring deposits in the Pilbara of Western Australia -- pushing back by 3 billion years the earliest known existence of inhabited terrestrial hot springs on Earth. The find has implications for the search for life on Mars.
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Platelets suppress T cell immunity against cancer

Platelets suppress T cell immunity against cancer | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Blood platelets help disguise cancer from the immune system by suppressing T cells, report scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in the May 5, 2017 issue of Science Immunology. In extensive preclinical tests, a promising T cell therapy more successfully boosted immunity against melanoma when common antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin were added.

Zihai Li, M.D., Ph.D., senior author on the article, is chair of the MUSC Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the program leader for the Cancer Immunology Research Program at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, and the SmartState Sally Abney Rose Chair in Stem Cell Biology & Therapy. Li studies how tumors hide themselves from the immune system.

Li's team found that platelets release a molecule that suppresses the activity of cancer-fighting T cells. That molecule, unsurprisingly, was TGF-beta, which has been recognized for decades for its role in cancer growth.
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Molybdenum-coated catalyst splits water for hydrogen production more efficiently

Molybdenum-coated catalyst splits water for hydrogen production more efficiently | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Hydrogen is one of the most promising clean fuels for use in cars, houses and portable generators. When produced from water using renewable energy resources, it is also a sustainable fuel with no carbon footprint.

However, water-splitting systems require a very efficient catalyst to speed up the chemical reaction that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, while preventing the gases from recombining back into water. Now an international research team, including scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, has developed a new catalyst with a molybdenum coating that prevents this problematic back reaction and works well in realistic operating conditions.

A key part of the development centered on understanding how the molybdenum coating worked using experiments at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. The scientists reported their results April 13 in Angewandte Chemie.
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Good vibrations no longer needed for speakers as research encourages graphene to talk

Good vibrations no longer needed for speakers as research encourages graphene to talk | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A pioneering new technique that encourages the wonder material graphene to "talk" could revolutionise the global audio and telecommunications industries.

Researchers from the University of Exeter have devised a ground-breaking method to use graphene to generate complex and controllable sound signals. In essence, it combines speaker, amplifier and graphic equaliser into a chip the size of a thumbnail.

Traditional speakers mechanically vibrate to produce sound, with a moving coil or membrane pushing the air around it back and forth. It is a bulky technology that has hardly changed in more than a century.

This innovative new technique involves no moving parts. A layer of the atomically thin material graphene is rapidly heated and cooled by an alternating electric current, and transfer of this thermal variation to the air causes it to expand and contract, thereby generating sound waves.
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Atlases of immune cells surrounding tumors may guide immunotherapy

Atlases of immune cells surrounding tumors may guide immunotherapy | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Two independent studies have begun mapping the connections between and identities of the thousands of immune cells surrounding human tumors. One research group, looking at kidney cancer, found that tumors with different clinical outcomes have unique immune cell profiles. These profiles can also estimate a cancer patient's prognosis. The other group, looking at lung cancer, showed that even early tumors have disturbed immune cell activity. Both papers, appearing May 4 in the journal Cell, could inspire a new wave of precision immunotherapy clinical trials.

"We've found that immune cells start to be dysfunctional very early during tumor formation, but immunotherapy is not typically given until patients relapse and the cancer is advanced," says senior author of the lung cancer study Miriam Merad, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "We want to advocate for starting immunotherapy early, before it is too late."

"Basic researchers are going to be very excited for this toolbox because they can study their immune cell or pathway of interest with higher resolution and compare it across individual tumors or tumor types," says senior author of the kidney cancer study Bernd Bodenmiller, of the University of Zürich in Switzerland. "For translational researchers, knowing that there are these immune cell differences among patients' tumors presents a tantalizing possibility for personalized immunotherapy."
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Scientists Just Found a Completely New Kind of Symbiotic Relationship

Scientists Just Found a Completely New Kind of Symbiotic Relationship | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
In a scientific first, researchers have discovered a bizarre inter-species relationship in which salamanders and algae cozy up together to share cells. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why these two very different organisms have adopted such an intimate arrangement, but the discovery could represent a completely new form of symbiotic relationship.

Cell-within-cell arrangements between species are common in nature, but up until this point it’s only been seen in creatures like coral, clams, and insects. New research published in the science journal eLife describes the first known example of photo-cellular symbiosis involving the cells of a fully grown vertebrate animal, that is, an animal with a spinal column or backbone.
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'Valleytronics' advancement could help extend Moore's Law

'Valleytronics' advancement could help extend Moore's Law | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
In the world of semiconductor physics, the goal is to devise more efficient and microscopic ways to control and keep track of 0 and 1, the binary codes that all information storage and logic functions in computers are based on.

A new field of physics seeking such advancements is called valleytronics, which exploits the electron's "valley degree of freedom" for data storage and logic applications. Simply put, valleys are maxima and minima of electron energies in a crystalline solid. A method to control electrons in different valleys could yield new, super-efficient computer chips.

A University at Buffalo team, led by Hao Zeng, PhD, professor in the Department of Physics, worked with scientists around the world to discover a new way to split the energy levels between the valleys in a two-dimensional semiconductor.

The work is described in a study published online today (May 1, 2017) in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
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Study finds bonobos may be better representation of the last common ancestor with humans than common chimpanzees

Study finds bonobos may be better representation of the last common ancestor with humans than common chimpanzees | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A new study examining the muscular system of bonobos provides firsthand evidence that the rare great ape species may be more closely linked, anatomically, to human ancestors than common chimpanzees. Previous research suggeste
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Scientists surprised to discover lymphatic 'scavenger' brain cells

Scientists surprised to discover lymphatic 'scavenger' brain cells | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The brain has its own inbuilt processes for mopping up damaging cellular waste—and these processes may provide protection from stroke and dementia.

University of Queensland scientists discovered a new type of lymphatic brain "scavenger" cell by studying tropical freshwater zebrafish—which share many of the same cell types and organs as humans.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Ben Hogan from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience said the fundamental discovery would help scientists understand how the brain forms and functions.

"It is rare to discover a cell type in the brain that we didn't know about previously, and particularly a cell type that we didn't expect to be there," he said.
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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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Jurassic drop in ocean oxygen lasted a million years

Jurassic drop in ocean oxygen lasted a million years | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Dramatic drops in oceanic oxygen, which cause mass extinctions of sea life, come to a natural end - but it takes about a million years.

The depletion of oxygen in the oceans is known as "anoxia", and scientists from the University of Exeter have been studying how periods of anoxia end.

They found that the drop in oxygen causes more organic carbon to be buried in sediment on the ocean floor, eventually leading to rising oxygen in the atmosphere which ultimately re-oxygenates the ocean.

Scientists believe the modern ocean is "on the edge of anoxia" - and the Exeter researchers say it is "critical" to limit carbon emissions to prevent this.

"Once you get into a major event like anoxia, it takes a long time for the Earth's system to rebalance," said lead researcher Sarah Baker, a geographer at the University of Exeter.

"This shows the vital importance of limiting disruption to the carbon cycle to regulate the Earth system and keep it within habitable bounds."
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Molecular Mechanisms of Bipolar Disorder: Progress Made and Future Challenges

Molecular Mechanisms of Bipolar Disorder: Progress Made and Future Challenges | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Bipolar disorder (BD) is a chronic and progressive psychiatric illness characterized by mood oscillations, with episodes of mania and depression. The impact of BD on patients can be devastating, with up to 15% of patients committing suicide. This disorder is associated with psychiatric and medical comorbidities and patients with a high risk of drug abuse, metabolic and endocrine disorders and vascular disease. Current knowledge of the pathophysiology and molecular mechanisms causing BD is still modest. With no clear biological markers available, early diagnosis is a great challenge to clinicians without previous knowledge of the longitudinal progress of illness. Moreover, despite recommendations from evidence-based guidelines, polypharmacy is still common in clinical treatment of BD, reflecting the gap between research and clinical practice. A major challenge in BD is the development of effective drugs with low toxicity for the patients. In this review article, we focus on the progress made and future challenges we face in determining the pathophysiology and molecular pathways involved in BD, such as circadian and metabolic perturbations, mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) dysfunction, autophagy and glutamatergic neurotransmission; which may lead to the development of new drugs.
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Scientists solve 400-year-old mystery of Prince Rupert's drops

Scientists solve 400-year-old mystery of Prince Rupert's drops | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers have finally answered a question that has stumped scientists since the early 1600s: Why are the heads of tadpole-shaped pieces of glass called "Prince Rupert's drops" so strong?

In the 17th century, Prince Rupert from Germany brought some of these glass drops to England's King Charles II, who was intrigued by their unusual properties. While the head of the drop is so strong that it can withstand the impact of a hammer, the tail is so fragile that bending it with your fingers will not only break the tail, but cause the entire droplet to instantly disintegrate into a fine powder.

Prince Rupert's drops are easily made by dropping red hot blobs of molten glass into water. Although researchers have tried to understand what causes the unusual properties of these drops for many years, it was not until recently that modern technology has allowed researchers to thoroughly investigate them.

In 1994, S. Chandrasekar at Purdue University and M. M. Chaudhri at the University of Cambridge used high-speed framing photography to observe the drop-shattering process. From their experiments, they concluded that the surface of each drop experiences highly compressive stresses, while the interior experiences high tension forces. So the drop is in a state of unstable equilibrium, which can be easily disturbed by breaking the tail.
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Deep-diving technology finds little filter feeder has giant carbon cycling impact

Deep-diving technology finds little filter feeder has giant carbon cycling impact | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Using a novel deep-sea technology, scientists have measured for the first time how a species of zooplankton called giant larvaceans contributes to the transfer of atmospheric carbon to the deep ocean. Data from the instrument DeepPIV revealed that giant larvaceans filter carbon particles at higher rates than any other zooplankton filter feeder.
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'Smart' denim promises touchscreen tech clothes

'Smart' denim promises touchscreen tech clothes | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A young man in a white t-shirt pulls on a dark blue denim trucker jacket, tucks his smartphone in an inside pocket and puts in-ear headphones in his right ear.

He mounts a fixed-gear bike with flat, slightly curved wide handlebars. Riding through the streets of San Francisco, he occasionally taps or swipes his right hand over the left cuff of his jacket, as the directions he's listening to continually pop up on the screen of this advertisement.

It's an ad from iconic US jeans maker Levi Strauss for Project Jacquard, an initiative with Google that the companies started two years ago for so-called "smart" denim.

The future of the popular fabric was the focus at a recent international fashion fair in Paris—after all most believe the word denim derives from the French "serge de Nimes", a serge from the city of Nimes.
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Researchers identify 6,500 genes that are expressed differently in men and women

Researchers identify 6,500 genes that are expressed differently in men and women | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Men and women differ in obvious and less obvious ways—for example, in the prevalence of certain diseases or reactions to drugs. How are these connected to one's sex? Weizmann Institute of Science researchers recently uncovered thousands of human genes that are expressed—copied out to make proteins—differently in the two sexes. Their findings showed that harmful mutations in these particular genes tend to accumulate in the population in relatively high frequencies, and the study explains why. The detailed map of these genes, reported in BMC Biology, provides evidence that males and females undergo a sort of separate, but interconnected evolution.
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Printing bricks from moondust using the sun's heat

Printing bricks from moondust using the sun's heat | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Bricks have been 3-D printed out of simulated moondust using concentrated sunlight – proving in principle that future lunar colonists could one day use the same approach to build settlements on the moon.

"We took simulated lunar material and cooked it in a solar furnace," explains materials engineer Advenit Makaya, overseeing the project for ESA.

"This was done on a 3-D printer table, to bake successive 0.1 mm layers of moondust at 1000°C. We can complete a 20 x 10 x 3 cm brick for building in around five hours."

As raw material, the test used commercially available simulated lunar soil based on terrestrial volcanic material, processed to mimic the composition and grain sizes of genuine moondust.

The solar furnace at the DLR German Aerospace Center facility in Cologne has two working setups. As a baseline, 147 curved mirrors focus sunlight into a high-temperature beam to melt the soil grains together. But the weather in northern Europe does not always cooperate, so the sun is sometimes simulated by an array of xenon lamps more typically found in cinema projectors.

The resulting bricks have the equivalent strength of gypsum, and are set to undergo detailed mechanical testing.

Some bricks show some warping at the edges, Advenit adds, because their edges cool faster than the centre: "We're looking how to manage this effect, perhaps by occasionally accelerating the printing speed so that less heat accumulates within the brick.
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Brain 'relay' also key to holding thoughts in mind

Brain 'relay' also key to holding thoughts in mind | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Long assumed to be a mere "relay," an often-overlooked egg-like structure in the middle of the brain also turns out to play a pivotal role in tuning-up thinking circuity. A trio of studies in mice funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are revealing that the thalamus sustains the ability to distinguish categories and hold thoughts in mind.

By manipulating activity of thalamus neurons, scientists were able to control an animal's ability to remember how to find a reward. In the future, the thalamus might even become a target for interventions to reduce cognitive deficits in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, researchers say.

"If the brain works like an orchestra, our results suggest the thalamus may be its conductor," explained Michael Halassa, M.D., Ph.D., of New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center, a BRAINS Award grantee of the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and also a grantee of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). "It helps ensembles play in-sync by boosting their functional connectivity."
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The king of northern lights

The king of northern lights | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Norwegian professor Kristian Birkeland (1867–1917) was the very first scientist in the world to realize that the northern lights had something to do with the electromagnetic storms from the sun. He was also the man behind the fantastic invention that enabled the making of fertilizer by harvesting nitrogen from the air. The discovery was the basis for the foundation of Norsk Hydro and the industrial bonanza at Notodden and Rjukan. Last, but not least: Birkeland was responsible for 60 new patents for everything from margarine and caviar to an elctromagnetic cannon. But most important from our perspective today is perhaps that he laid the foundation for much of the modern research conducted in the field of space and solar physics.
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Quantum effects lead to more powerful battery charging

Quantum effects lead to more powerful battery charging | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Physicists have theoretically shown that, when multiple nanoscale batteries are coupled together, they can be charged faster than if each battery was charged individually. The improvement arises from collective quantum phenomena and is rooted in the emerging field of quantum thermodynamics—the study of how quantum effects influence the traditional laws governing energy and work.

The researchers, Francesco Campaioli et al., have published a paper on the fast charging of nanoscale batteries in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

Although a great deal of research has shown that quantum phenomena provide advantages in information processing applications, such as computing and secure communication, there have been very few demonstrations of quantum advantages in thermodynamics. In one recent study in this area, researchers showed that quantum entanglement can allow more work to be extracted from a nanoscale energy-storage device, or "quantum battery," than would be possible without entanglement.

In the new study, the researchers build on this result to show that quantum phenomena can also enhance the charging power of quantum batteries. They also found that the process does not necessarily require entanglement, although it does require operations that have the potential to generate entangled states.

"Our work shows how entangling operations—that is, interactions between two or more bodies—are necessary to obtain a quantum advantage for the charging power of many-body batteries, whereas entanglement itself does not constitute a resource," Campaioli, at Monash University in Australia, told Phys.org. "Additionally, we show that for locally coupled batteries the quantum advantage scales with the number of interacting batteries."
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Flexible, organic and biodegradable: Researchers develop new wave of electronics

Flexible, organic and biodegradable: Researchers develop new wave of electronics | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Stanford engineer Zhenan Bao and her team are rethinking electronics. "In my group, we have been trying to mimic the function of human skin to think about how to develop future electronic devices," Bao said. She described how skin is stretchable, self-healable and also biodegradable – an attractive list of characteristics for electronics. "We have achieved the first two [flexible and self-healing], so the biodegradability was something we wanted to tackle."

The team created a flexible electronic device that can easily degrade just by adding a weak acid like vinegar. The results were published May 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This is the first example of a semiconductive polymer that can decompose," said lead author Ting Lei, a postdoctoral fellow working with Bao.

In addition to the polymer – essentially a flexible, conductive plastic – the team developed a degradable electronic circuit and a new biodegradable substrate material for mounting the electrical components. This substrate supports the electrical components, flexing and molding to rough and smooth surfaces alike. When the electronic device is no longer needed, the whole thing can biodegrade into nontoxic components.
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