Fragments of Science
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Hubble delivers first insight into atmospheres of potentially habitable TRAPPIST-1 planets

Hubble delivers first insight into atmospheres of potentially habitable TRAPPIST-1 planets | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
An international team of astronomers has used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to look for atmospheres around four Earth-sized planets orbiting within or near TRAPPIST-1's habitable zone. The new results further support the terrestrial and potentially habitable nature of three of the studied planets. The results are published in Nature Astronomy.
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Fragments of Science
The history, present and future and nature of science and their relationship
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Most robots dancing simultaneously! - Guinness World Records - YouTube

1,372 Little Robots Dancing Together Is Very Cute And Just A Little Menacing
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Is there life adrift in the clouds of Venus?

Is there life adrift in the clouds of Venus? | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
An international team of researchers led by planetary scientist Sanjay Limaye of UW–Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center lays out a case for the atmosphere of Venus as a possible niche for extraterrestrial microbial life.
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Cat-like 'hearing' with device tens of trillions times smaller than human eardrum

Cat-like 'hearing' with device tens of trillions times smaller than human eardrum | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, are developing atomically thin 'drumheads'-- tens of trillions of times thinner than the human eardrum -- able to receive and transmit signals across a radio frequency range far greater than what we can hear with the human ear. Their work will likely contribute to making the next generation of ultralow-power communications and sensory devices smaller and with greater detection and tuning ranges.
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Team discovers a significant role for nitrate in the Arctic landscape

Team discovers a significant role for nitrate in the Arctic landscape | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Because of the very low nitrate levels found in arctic tundra soil, scientists had assumed that plants in this biome do not use nitrate. But a new study co-authored by four Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Ecosystems Center scientists challenges this notion. The study has important implications for predicting which arctic plant species will dominate as the climate warms, as well as how much carbon tundra ecosystems can store.
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Artificial intelligence identifies 6,000 new craters on the Moon

Artificial intelligence identifies 6,000 new craters on the Moon | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The advanced method could streamline the formerly manual technique.

 

Despite vast developments in technology over the last few decades, our method for counting craters on the Moon hasn’t advanced much, with the human eye still being heavily relied on for identification. In an effort to eliminate the monotony of tracking lunar cavities and basins manually, a group of researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough came up with an innovative technique that resulted in the discovery of 6,000 new craters.

 

“Basically, we need to manually look at an image, locate and count the craters, and then calculate how large they are based off the size of the image. Here we’ve developed a technique from artificial intelligence that can automate this entire process that saves significant time and effort,” said Mohamad Ali-Dib, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto’s Centre for Planetary Sciences and co-developer of the technology, in a news release.

 

The method utilizes a convolutional neural network, the same machine learning algorithm used for computer vision and self-driving cars. The research team used data from elevation maps, collected by orbiting satellites, to train the algorithm on an area that covers two-thirds of the Moon’s surface. They then tested the technology on the remaining third, an area it hadn’t yet seen.

 

The algorithm was able to map the unseen terrain with incredible accuracy and great detail. It identified twice as many craters as manual methods, with about 6,000 new lunar craters being discovered. “Tens of thousands of unidentified small craters are on the Moon, and it’s unrealistic for humans to efficiently characterize them all by eye,” said Ari Silburt, a former University of Toronto Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics grad student, who helped create the AI algorithm. “There’s real potential for machines to help identify these small craters and reveal undiscovered clues about the formation of our solar system.”

 

Because the Moon doesn’t have flowing water, plate tectonics, or an atmosphere, its surface undergoes very little erosion. With its ancient craters remaining relatively intact, researchers are able to study factors like size, age, and impact to gain insight into our solar system’s evolution and the material distribution that occurred early on.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Golden touch: Next-gen optical disk to solve data storage challenge

Golden touch: Next-gen optical disk to solve data storage challenge | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists from Australia and China have drawn on the durable power of gold to demonstrate a new type of high-capacity optical disk that can hold data securely for more than 600 years.

The technology could offer a more cost-efficient and sustainable solution to the global data storage problem while enabling the critical pivot from Big Data to Long Data, opening up new realms of scientific discovery.

The recent explosion of Big Data and cloud storage has led to a parallel explosion in power-hungry data centres. These centres not only use up colossal amounts of energy - consuming about 3 per cent of the world's electricity supply - but largely rely on hard disk drives that have limited capacity (up to 2TB per disk) and lifespans (up to two years).

Now scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and Wuhan Institute of Technology, China, have used gold nanomaterials to demonstrate a next-generation optical disk with up to 10TB capacity - a storage leap of 400 per cent - and a six-century lifespan.

The technology could radically improve the energy efficiency of data centres - using 1000 times less power than a hard disk centre - by requiring far less cooling and doing away with the energy-intensive task of data migration every two years. Optical disks are also inherently far more secure than hard disks.
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Potassium gives perovskite-based solar cells an efficiency boost

Potassium gives perovskite-based solar cells an efficiency boost | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A simple potassium solution could boost the efficiency of next-generation solar cells, by enabling them to convert more sunlight into electricity.

An international team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge found that the addition of potassium iodide 'healed' the defects and immobilised ion movement, which to date have limited the efficiency of cheap perovskite solar cells. These next-generation solar cells could be used as an efficiency-boosting layer on top of existing silicon-based solar cells, or be made into stand-alone solar cells or coloured LEDs. The results are reported in the journal Nature.
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Hubble solves cosmic 'whodunit' with interstellar forensics

Hubble solves cosmic 'whodunit' with interstellar forensics | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
On the outskirts of our galaxy, a cosmic tug-of-war is unfolding—and only NASA's Hubble Space Telescope can see who's winning.

The players are two dwarf galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud, both of which orbit our own Milky Way Galaxy. But as they go around the Milky Way, they are also orbiting each other. Each one tugs at the other, and one of them has pulled out a huge cloud of gas from its companion.

Called the Leading Arm, this arching collection of gas connects the Magellanic Clouds to the Milky Way. Roughly half the size of our galaxy, this structure is thought to be about 1 or 2 billion years old. Its name comes from the fact that it's leading the motion of the Magellanic Clouds.

The enormous concentration of gas is being devoured by the Milky Way and feeding new star birth in our galaxy. But which dwarf galaxy is doing the pulling, and whose gas is now being feasted upon? After years of debate, scientists now have the answer to this "whodunit" mystery.

"There's been a question: Did the gas come from the Large Magellanic Cloud or the Small Magellanic Cloud? At first glance, it looks like it tracks back to the Large Magellanic Cloud," explained lead researcher Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "But we've approached that question differently, by asking: What is the Leading Arm made of? Does it have the composition of the Large Magellanic Cloud or the composition of the Small Magellanic Cloud?"
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Piezomagnetic material changes magnetic properties when stretched

Piezomagnetic material changes magnetic properties when stretched | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Piezoelectric materials, which generate an electric current when compressed or stretched, are familiar and widely used: think of lighters that spark when you press a switch, but also microphones, sensors, motors and all kinds of other devices. Now a group of physicists has found a material with a similar property, but for magnetism. This "piezomagnetic" material changes its magnetic properties when put under mechanical strain.

"Piezomagnetic materials are rarely found in nature, as far as I'm aware," said Nicholas Curro, professor of physics at UC Davis and senior author of a paper on the discovery published March 13 in the journal Nature Communications.

Curro and colleagues were studying a barium-iron-arsenic compound, BaFe2As2, that can act as a superconductor at temperatures of about 25 Kelvin when doped with small amounts of other elements. This type of iron-based superconductor is interesting because although it has to be kept pretty cold to work, it could be stretched into wires or cables.

BaFe2As2 is what is called a "nematic" crystal because its structure goes through a phase transition before it becomes superconducting. In the case of BaFe2As2, its crystal structure goes from a square to a rectangular configuration.
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Modern humans interbred with Denisovans twice in history

Modern humans interbred with Denisovans twice in history | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Modern humans co-existed and interbred not only with Neanderthals, but also with another species of archaic humans, the mysterious Denisovans. While developing a new genome-analysis method for comparing whole genomes between modern human and Denisovan populations, researchers unexpectedly discovered two distinct episodes of Denisovan genetic intermixing, or admixing, between the two. This suggests a more diverse genetic history than previously thought between the Denisovans and modern humans.

In a paper published in Cell on March 15, scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle determined that the genomes of two groups of modern humans with Denisovan ancestry—individuals from Oceania and individuals from East Asia—are uniquely different, indicating that there were two separate episodes of Denisovan admixture.

"What was known already was that Oceanian individuals, notably Papuan individuals, have significant amounts of Denisovan ancestry," says senior author Sharon Browning, a research professor of biostatistics, University of Washington School of Public Health. The genomes of modern Papuan individuals contain approximately 5% Denisovan ancestry."

Researchers also knew Denisovan ancestry is present to a lesser degree throughout Asia. The assumption was that the ancestry in Asia was achieved through migration, coming from Oceanian populations. "But in this new work with East Asians, we find a second set of Denisovan ancestry that we do not find in the South Asians and Papuans," she says. "This Denisovan ancestry in East Asians seems to be something they acquired themselves."
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This is 'nanowood,' an invention that could reduce humanity's carbon footprint

This is 'nanowood,' an invention that could reduce humanity's carbon footprint | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Scientists have designed a heat-insulating material made from wood that is both light and strong and made entirely from tiny, stripped-down wood fibers.

The so-called nanowood, described in the journal Science Advances, could one day be used to make more energy-efficient buildings. It's cheap and biodegradable, too.

"Nature is producing this kind of material," said senior author Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist and engineer at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Managing heat is a major issue in the cities we build. It's hard to keep heat indoors in the winter and keep it outdoors in the summer. The insulating materials currently in use are often very expensive to make, both in terms of money and of energy. They're not usually biodegradable and ultimately contribute to our growing landfills. So scientists have been trying to come up with cheaper, more environmentally friendly options.

Hu has been probing the properties of nanocellulose, nanometer-scale versions of cellulose, the tough carbohydrate in the cell walls of plants that allows tree trunks to grow strong and tall. At these incredibly small scales, cellulose fibers can take on remarkable characteristics, including a strength-to-weight ratio that's about eight times that of steel.
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Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus

Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Like an island nation, the nucleus of a cell has a transportation problem. Evolution has enclosed it with a double membrane, the nuclear envelope, which protects DNA but also cuts it off from the rest of the cell. Nature's solution is a massive—by molecular standards—cylindrical configuration known as the nuclear pore complex, through which imports and exports travel, connecting the bulk of the cell with its headquarters.

In research described March 14 in Nature, scientists at Rockefeller University and their colleagues have delineated the architecture of the nuclear pore complex in yeast cells. The biological blueprint they uncovered shares principles sometimes seen on a much larger scale in concrete, steel, and wire.

"It reminds us of a suspension bridge, in which a combination of sturdy and flexible parts produce a stress-resilient structure," says Michael P. Rout, who led the work together with Brian T. Chait.

The pore complex contains 552 component proteins, called nucleoporins, and scientists hadn't previously known how they all fit together. It took a combination of approaches to assemble a comprehensive map of these pieces. The researchers hope this new molecular structure will enable new studies of how the nuclear portal functions normally, and how defects in it lead to diseases such as cancer.
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Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy' | EurekAlert! Science News

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy' | EurekAlert! Science News | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
The journal Science published the research by biologists at Emory University, showing that a process known as hemimethylation plays a role in looping DNA in a specific way. The researchers also demonstrated that hemimethylation is maintained deliberately -- not through random mistakes as previously thought -- and is passed down through human cell generations.
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Computer searches telescope data for evidence of distant planets

Computer searches telescope data for evidence of distant planets | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
MIT researchers have used physics principles to improve the performance of a machine-learning system, trained on data from a NASA crowdsourcing project, that searches astronomical data for evidence of debris disks around stars, which can indicate the presence of an exoplanet.
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Strings of electron-carrying proteins may hold the secret to 'electric bacteria'

Strings of electron-carrying proteins may hold the secret to 'electric bacteria' | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Could a unique bacterium be nature's microscopic power plant? USC scientists who work with a species of bacteria that essentially 'breathe' rocks think it's possible.
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A synthetic chameleon has been developed

A synthetic chameleon has been developed | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
An international team of researchers including Dmitry Ivanov, the head of laboratory of functional soft-matter systems, MSU, announced the development of a synthetic chameleon skin. Similar to its biological analogue, the synthetic skin reacts to mechanical stimuli by changing its stiffness and color. The scientists see their development as quite promising. The work was published in the recent issue of the Science journal.
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Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of living zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
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For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
It's easy and economical to make shiny pellets of graphite from functionalized graphene, according to scientists at Rice University.

A report in Carbon shows how chemically altered graphene powder can be pressed into a lightweight, semiporous solid that retains many of the strong and conductive qualities of graphite, the form of carbon found in pencils, lubricants and many other products that normally requires high-temperature processing to make.

Mohamad Kabbani, a former graduate student of Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and lead author of the paper, demonstrated the environmentally friendly, scalable process can be done in minutes by hand by grinding chemically modified graphene into a powder and using a hand-powered press to squeeze the powder into a solid pellet.

Kabbani previously showed how carbon nanotubes could be turned into graphene with a mortar and pestle rather than harsh chemicals. This time, he and his colleagues demonstrated how to make a battery-sized pellet, but the graphene powders with chemical functionalities attached to it can be pressed into any form. Kabbani said the material could be suitable for structural, catalytic, electrochemical and electronic applications.
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Blue holes bring forgotten chemical element back on stage

Blue holes bring forgotten chemical element back on stage | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
About a third of all Swiss exports result from fundamental discoveries in synthetic chemistry. Certain drugs and perfumes, as well as food and agricultural products -- and even Ferrari's famous red color -- are derived from new molecular structures invented by Swiss scientists. Chemists at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, have just discovered that chemical bonds based on antimony yield powerful new catalysts that can be used to accurately stimulate the transformation of a molecule from within.
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Researchers discover new accuracies in cancer-fighting, nano drug delivery

Researchers discover new accuracies in cancer-fighting, nano drug delivery | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A promising discovery for advanced cancer therapy reveals that the efficiency of drug delivery in DNA nanostructures depends on their shapes, say researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Kansas in a scientific paper published today.

"For the first time, a time-lapse live cell imaging system was used to observe the absorption and controlled release of the drug doxorubicin (DOX) in live breast cancer cells," says Dr. Risheng Wang, assistant professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T.

Wang and her colleagues packed the drug into three different DNA "origami"—"the shapes we deliberately create by assembling strands of DNA molecules into target structures," she says.

Wang is the lead investigator and author of the study, "Time-lapse live cell imaging to monitor doxorubicin release from DNA origami nanostructures," published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the March 21, 2018, Journal of Materials Chemistry B, and featured on the cover of this issue.

"Shapes matter," says Wang. "The optimization of the shape and size of self-assembled DNA nanostructures loaded with anti-cancer drugs may allow them to carry a greater quantity of the drugs, rendering them more effective."
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It's givin' me excitations: Study uncovers first steps of photosynthesis

It's givin' me excitations: Study uncovers first steps of photosynthesis | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Photosynthesis has driven life on this planet for more than 3 billion years—first in bacteria, then in plants—but we don't know exactly how it works.

Now, a University of Michigan biophysicist and her group have been able to image the moment a photon sparks the first energy conversion steps of photosynthesis.

In photosynthesis, light strikes colored molecules that are embedded within proteins called light-harvesting antenna complexes. These same molecules give trees their beautiful fall colors in Michigan. From there, the energy is shuttled to a photosynthetic reaction center protein that starts to channel energy from light through the photosynthetic process. The end product? Oxygen, in the case of plants, and energy for the organism.

Jennifer Ogilvie, U-M professor of physics and biophysics, studied photosynthetic reaction centers in purple bacteria. These centers are similar to the reaction centers in plants, except they use different pigments to trap and extract energy from light. There are six slightly differently colored pigments in purple bacteria's reaction centers.

"In photosynthesis, the basic architecture is that you've got lots of light-harvesting antennae complexes whose job is to gather the light energy," Ogilvie said. "They're packed with pigments whose relative positions are strategically placed to guide energy to where it needs to go for the first steps of energy conversion."
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northamerica's curator insight, March 30, 2:29 PM
A University of Michigan biophysicist and her group have been able to image the moment a photon sparks the first energy conversion steps of photosynthesis.
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Plasmons triggered in nanotube quantum wells

Plasmons triggered in nanotube quantum wells | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
A novel quantum effect observed in a carbon nanotube film could lead to the development of unique lasers and other optoelectronic devices, according to scientists at Rice University and Tokyo Metropolitan University.

The Rice-Tokyo team reported an advance in the ability to manipulate light at the quantum scale by using single-walled carbon nanotubes as plasmonic quantum confinement fields.

The phenomenon found in the Rice lab of physicist Junichiro Kono could be key to developing optoelectronic devices like nanoscale, near-infrared lasers that emit continuous beams at wavelengths too short to be produced by current technology.

The new research is detailed in Nature Communications.
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Laser-heated nanowires produce micro-scale nuclear fusion with record efficiency

Laser-heated nanowires produce micro-scale nuclear fusion with record efficiency | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Nuclear fusion, the process that powers our sun, happens when nuclear reactions between light elements produce heavier ones. It's also happening—at a smaller scale—in a Colorado State University laboratory.

Using a compact but powerful laser to heat arrays of ordered nanowires, CSU scientists and collaborators have demonstrated micro-scale nuclear fusion in the lab. They have achieved record-setting efficiency for the generation of neutrons—chargeless sub-atomic particles resulting from the fusion process. Their work is detailed in a paper published in Nature Communications, and is led by Jorge Rocca, University Distinguished Professor in electrical and computer engineering and physics. The paper's first author is Alden Curtis, a CSU graduate student.
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A neuron can cause a domino effect

A neuron can cause a domino effect | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
Loss of the sense of smell can indicate a neural disease like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. However, contrary to previous belief, degenerations in the nervous system do not play a leading role in the loss of the sense of smell with increasing age. Rather, individual nerve cells or classes of nerves are responsible.

Some nerve cells (neurons) or neuron classes in the brain seem to age faster than others. For example, the loss of the olfactory sense is one of the first clinical signs of natural aging. This can be accompanied by a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's.

"Age is the major risk factor for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease," says Prof. Ilona Grunwald Kadow from the School of Life Sciences at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). "Only a small proportion of these diseases are due to known genetic reasons". The question is why do some neurons age faster than others. Why are some more sensitive? And is the damage to certain types of neurons the reason why entire nerve networks fail to function properly?
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Researchers create a protein 'mat' that can soak up pollution

Researchers create a protein 'mat' that can soak up pollution | Fragments of Science | Scoop.it
In a breakthrough that could lead to a new class of materials with functions found only in living systems, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have figured out a way to keep certain proteins active outside of the cell. The researchers used this technology to create mats that can soak up and trap chemical pollution.
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