Synthetic biology allows researchers to program cells to perform novel functions such as fluorescing in response to a particular chemical or producing drugs in response to disease markers. In a step toward devising much more complex cellular circuits, MIT engineers have now programmed cells to remember and respond to a series of events.
These cells can remember, in the correct order, up to three different inputs, but this approach should be scalable to incorporate many more stimuli, the researchers say. Using this system, scientists can track cellular events that occur in a particular order, create environmental sensors that store complex histories, or program cellular trajectories.
"You can build very complex computing systems if you integrate the element of memory together with computation," says Timothy Lu, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering, and head of the Synthetic Biology Group at MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics.
They can’t be explained by our existing laws of physics.
The new particles have been named X(4140), X(4274), X(4500), and X(4700) after their respective masses, and each one has been found to contain a unique combination of two charm quarks and two strange quarks.
This makes them the first four-quark particles found to be composed entirely of heavy quarks, Symmetry reports.
By 'exciting' the individual quarks inside their new tetraquark particles, the researchers were able to observe their unique internal structure, mass, and quantum numbers. In doing so, they discovered something that doesn’t fit with current physics models that work with so-called ordinary particles, such as composite hadrons built from either a quark and an anti-quark, or three separate quarks, CERN reports.
Physicists are now trying to come up with new models to explain their results. The results have been published in two papers on the pre-print website arXiv.org here and here, so are now going to be scrutinized by independent physicists ahead of the formal peer-review process.
The discovers are expecting one of two possibilities to be confirmed with further research: theoretical physicists are either going to have to explain the existence of this new family of particles, or they could be identified as the result of strange 'ripple effects' emanating from never-before-seen behaviors of existing particles.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, a tiny green microbe joined forces with a fungus, and together they conquered the world. It’s a tale of two cross-kingdom organisms, one providing food and the one other shelter, and it’s been our touchstone example of symbiosis for 150 years. Trouble is, that story is nowhere near complete.
A sweeping genetic analysis of lichen has revealed a third symbiotic organism, hiding in plain sight alongside the familiar two, that has eluded scientists for decades. The stowaway is another fungus, a basidiomycete yeast. It’s been found in 52 genera of lichen across six continents, indicating that it is an extremely widespread, if not ubiquitous, part of the symbiosis. And according to molecular dating, it’s probably been along for the ride since the beginning.
“I think this will require some rewriting of the textbooks,” said Catharine Aime, a mycologist at Purdue University and co-author on the study published today in Science.
The juvenile Issus - a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe - has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing ‘teeth’ that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronize the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump.
The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the “first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure”.
Through a combination of anatomical analysis and high-speed video capture of normal Issus movements, scientists from the University of Cambridge have been able to reveal these functioning natural gears for the first time. The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Science.
The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box.
Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to man-made gears such as bike gears – essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.
The gear teeth on the opposing hind-legs lock together like those in a car gear-box, ensuring almost complete synchronicity in leg movement - the legs always move within 30 ‘microseconds’ of each other, with one microsecond equal to a millionth of a second.
Her computer, Karin Strauss says, contains her "digital attic"—a place where she stores that published math paper she wrote in high school, and computer science schoolwork from college.
She'd like to preserve the stuff "as long as I live, at least," says Strauss, 37. But computers must be replaced every few years, and each time she must copy the information over, "which is a little bit of a headache."
It would be much better, she says, if she could store it in DNA—the stuff our genes are made of.
Strauss, who works at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, is working to make that sci-fi fantasy a reality.
She and other scientists are not focused in finding ways to stow high school projects or snapshots or other things an average person might accumulate, at least for now. Rather, they aim to help companies and institutions archive huge amounts of data for decades or centuries, at a time when the world is generating digital data faster than it can store it.
A new detailed study of notes and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci has identified a page of scribbles in a tiny notebook as the place where Leonardo first recorded the laws of friction. The research also shows that he went on to apply this knowledge repeatedly to mechanical problems for more than 20 years.
Scribbled notes and sketches on a page in a notebook by Leonardo da Vinci, previously dismissed as irrelevant by an art historian, have been identified as the place where he first recorded his understanding of the laws of friction.
The research by Professor Ian Hutchings, Professor of Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John's College, is the first detailed chronological study of Leonardo's work on friction, and has also shown how he continued to apply his knowledge of the subject to wider work on machines over the next two decades.
It is widely known that Leonardo conducted the first systematic study of friction, which underpins the modern science of "tribology", but exactly when and how he developed these ideas has been uncertain until now.
Professor Hutchings has discovered that Leonardo's first statement of the laws of friction is in a tiny notebook measuring just 92 mm x 63 mm. The book, which dates from 1493 and is now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, contains a statement scribbled quickly in Leonardo's characteristic "mirror writing" from right to left.
Ironically the page had already attracted interest because it also carries a sketch of an old woman in black pencil with a line below reading "cosa bella mortal passa e non dura", which can be translated as "mortal beauty passes and does not last". Amid debate surrounding the significance of the quote and speculation that the sketch could represent an aged Helen of Troy, the Director of the V & A in the 1920s referred to the jottings below as "irrelevant notes and diagrams in red chalk".
In the world of quantum, infinitesimally small particles, weird and often logic-defying behaviors abound. Perhaps the strangest of these is the idea of superposition, in which objects can exist simultaneously in two or more seemingly counterintuitive states. For example, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, electrons may spin both clockwise and counter-clockwise, or be both at rest and excited, at the same time.
The physicist Erwin Schrödinger highlighted some strange consequences of the idea of superposition more than 80 years ago, with a thought experiment that posed that a cat trapped in a box with a radioactive source could be in a superposition state, considered both alive and dead, according to the laws of quantum mechanics. Since then, scientists have proven that particles can indeed be in superposition, at quantum, subatomic scales. But whether such weird phenomena can be observed in our larger, everyday world is an open, actively pursued question.
Now, MIT physicists have found that subatomic particles called neutrinos can be in superposition, without individual identities, when traveling hundreds of miles. Their results, to be published later this month in Physical Review Letters, represent the longest distance over which quantum mechanics has been tested to date.
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