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Crystallography turns 100

Crystallography turns 100 | Amazing Science |

A special issue of Nature celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first X-ray diffraction experiments, which marked the birth of modern crystallography. A multimedia feature reviews the impact of crystallography on everything from chemistry to structural biology, and a feature article previews how free-electron lasers will change the field, while two experts compare the lasers to traditional synchrotrons. We also cover the role of women in crystallography, the prospects for structural biologists' careers, and much more.

Since modern crystallography dawned with X-ray diffraction experiments on crystals by Max von Laue in 1912 and William and Lawrence Bragg (a father-and-son team) in 1913, and was recognized by Nobel prizes in physics for von Laue in 1914 and the Braggs in 1915, the discipline has informed almost every branch of the natural sciences.

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20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities

20,000+ FREE Online Science and Technology Lectures from Top Universities | Amazing Science |



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♥ princess leia ♥'s curator insight, December 28, 2014 11:58 AM

WoW  .. Expand  your mind!! It has room to grow!!! 

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The democratization of knowledge!
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Elephants Have Developed A Specific Alarm Call For 'Human!', Study Says

Elephants Have Developed A Specific Alarm Call For 'Human!', Study Says | Amazing Science |

Elephants are among the most intelligent animals in the world. Previous studies have found that elephants are able to recognize individual faces and that they have a unique and sophisticated set of social norms which even includes mourning. Recently scientists have discovered that elephants have their own form of rudimentary language which seems primarily designed to warn other members of their herd about potential threats.


Researchers from a collaborative team comprising scientists from Oxford University, Save the Elephants and Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been studying the noises elephants make when exposed to certain threats. The researchers found that if elephants are exposed to the sound of a human voice, specifically speaking in the language of the Samburu tribe of northern Kenya, that elephants become vigilant and emit a distinctive noise that sounds like a low rumble. Other elephants, not exposed to the human voice, reacted to the elephant alarm by running away and making the exact same rumbling noise.

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Big Brother is Watching You – China's Hikvision Probably Filmed You Already

Big Brother is Watching You – China's Hikvision Probably Filmed You Already | Amazing Science |
The U.S. government is considering barring two Chinese video-surveillance giants from purchasing U.S. technology, but their cameras are already scanning suburban streets and Army bases across America.


Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. may not be household names but chances are their security cameras have filmed you. Together, the two companies control one-third of the global market for video surveillance, according to a report by Deutsche Bank AG, with their cameras securing businesses, airports, schools and government offices in the U.S. -- and around the world. In the U.K. for instance, they keep watch over London’s subway system and have reportedly been installed within the Houses of Parliament.

The tightening noose around Chinese technology firms is driven by the Trump administration’s view that China poses an economic, technological and political threat, a stance that country is likely to retaliate against. The two companies prompted concern that they could be employed in espionage, according to people familiar with the matter. Last week, the administration banned Huawei Technologies Co. from purchasing American technology amid similar suspicions of spying capabilities and Chinese laws that could require home-grown firms to hand over information if asked.
The U.S. is also considering curbs on China’s Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co., Beijing Megvii Co., and Iflytek Co., that would bar them from buying U.S. components or software, people familiar with the matter said. All three are technology companies and Megvii is one of the world’s most valuable startups working on artificial intelligence.
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Synthetic biologists hack bacterial sensors

Synthetic biologists hack bacterial sensors | Amazing Science |

Rice University synthetic biologists have hacked bacterial sensing with a plug-and-play system that could be used to mix-and-match tens of thousands of sensory inputs and genetic outputs. The technology has wide-ranging implications for medical diagnostics, the study of deadly pathogens, environmental monitoring and more.


In a project spanning almost six years, Rice bioengineer Jeff Tabor and colleagues conducted thousands of experiments to show they could systematically rewire two-component systems, the genetic circuits bacteria use to sense their surroundings and listen to their neighbors. Their work appears in a study published this week in Nature Chemical Biology.


Tabor's group rewired the outputs of known bacterial sensors and also moved sensors between distantly related bacteria. Most importantly, they showed they could identify the function of an unknown sensor. "Based on genomic analyses, we know there are at least 25,000 two-component systems in bacteria," said Tabor, associate professor of bioengineering at Rice's Brown School of Engineering and the lead scientist on the project. "However, for about 99% of them, we have no idea what they sense or what genes they activate in response."


The importance of a new tool that unlocks two-component systems is underscored by the 2018 discovery of two strains of a deadly, multidrug-resistant bacterium that uses an unknown two-component system to evade colistin, an antibiotic of last resort. But Tabor said the possible uses of the tool extend beyond medicine.


"This is nature's greatest treasure trove of biosensors," he said. "Based on the exquisite specificity and sensitivity of some of the two-component systems we do understand, it's widely believed bacterial sensors will outperform anything humans can make with today's best technology." Tabor said that is because bacterial sensors have been honed and refined through billions of years of evolution.

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Researchers take a step towards light-based, brain-like computing chip

Researchers take a step towards light-based, brain-like computing chip | Amazing Science |

A technology that functions like a brain? In these times of artificial intelligence, this no longer seems so far-fetched -- for example, when a mobile phone can recognize faces or languages. With more complex applications, however, computers still quickly come up against their own limitations. One of the reasons for this is that a computer traditionally has separate memory and processor units -- the consequence of which is that all data have to be sent back and forth between the two. In this respect, the human brain is way ahead of even the most modern computers because it processes and stores information in the same place -- in the synapses, or connections between neurons, of which there are a million-billion in the brain.


An international team of researchers from the Universities of Münster (Germany), Oxford and Exeter (both UK) have now succeeded in developing a piece of hardware which could pave the way for creating computers which resemble the human brain. The scientists managed to produce a chip containing a network of artificial neurons that works with light and can imitate the behavior of neurons and their synapses.


The researchers were able to demonstrate, that such an optical neurosynaptic network is able to "learn" information and use this as a basis for computing and recognizing patterns -- just as a brain can. As the system functions solely with light and not with traditional electrons, it can process data many times faster. "This integrated photonic system is an experimental milestone," says Prof. Wolfram Pernice from Münster University and lead partner in the study. "The approach could be used later in many different fields for evaluating patterns in large quantities of data, for example in medical diagnoses."


The study is published in the latest issue of the "Nature" journal.

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Planetologists explain how the Earth became an habitable planet

Planetologists explain how the Earth became an habitable planet | Amazing Science |

Planetologists at the University of Münster (Germany) have now been able to show, for the first time, that water came to Earth with the formation of the Moon some 4.4 billion years ago. The Moon was formed when Earth was hit by a body about the size of Mars, also called Theia. Until now, scientists had assumed that Theia originated in the inner solar system near the Earth. However, researchers from Münster can now show that Theia comes from the outer solar system, and it delivered large quantities of water to Earth. The results are published in the current issue of Nature Astronomy.


The formation of the Moon brought water to planet Earth

The Earth formed in the 'dry' inner solar system, and so it is somewhat surprising that there is water on Earth. To understand why this the case, we have to go back in time when the solar system was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. From earlier studies, we know that the solar system became structured such that the 'dry' materials were separated from the 'wet' materials: the so-called 'carbonaceous' meteorites, which are relatively rich in water, come from the outer solar system, whereas the drier 'non-carbonaceous' meteorites come from the inner solar system. While previous studies have shown that carbonaceous materials were likely responsible for delivering the water to Earth, it was unknown when and how this carbonaceous material -- and thus the water -- came to Earth.

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Pet genomics medicine runs wild

Pet genomics medicine runs wild | Amazing Science |

Genetic testing for pets is expanding. Hundreds of thousands of dogs have now been genetically screened, as Petunia was, and companies are beginning to offer tests for cats. But the science is lagging. Most of these tests are based on small, underpowered studies. Neither their accuracy nor their ability to predict health outcomes has been validated. Most vets don’t know enough about the limitations of the studies, or about genetics in general, to be able to advise worried owners.


Pet genetics must be reined in. If not, some companies will continue to profit by selling potentially misleading and often inaccurate information; pets and their owners will suffer needlessly; and opportunities to improve pet health and even to leverage studies in dogs and cats to benefit human health might be lost. Ultimately, people will become more distrustful of science and medicine.

Via Klodeko
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You can teach a honeybee maths in as little as 4 hours

You can teach a honeybee maths in as little as 4 hours | Amazing Science |
The humble honeybee can use symbols to perform basic maths including addition and subtraction, new research shows.


Despite having a brain containing less than one million neurons, the honeybee has recently shown it can manage complex problems – like understanding the concept of zero.


Honeybees are a high value model for exploring questions about neuroscience. In our latest study we decided to test if they could learn to perform simple arithmetical operations such as addition and subtraction.

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Scientists gear up to look for fossils on Mars

Scientists gear up to look for fossils on Mars | Amazing Science |
Mars 2020 can’t analyze every rock it encounters in detail, so researchers are proposing ways to determine the best places to look for fossilized life on the Red Planet.


When most people imagine hunting for fossils, they probably think of finding dinosaur bones laid down in layers of rock. But the vast majority of life – and therefore fossils – across Earth’s history has been microorganisms. These tiny lifeforms, either plants, animals or fungi, can be smaller than the width of a human hair. But with the right tools, the fossilized records of these tiny creatures reveal insights into the history of a planet. Even planets that aren’t Earth.

A group of Swedish scientists led by Magnus Ivarsson point out in research published May 1 in Frontiers in Earth Science that instruments already planned for upcoming space missions like the Mars 2020 rover could detect tiny fossils on Mars, if they exist. But Mars 2020 can’t analyze every rock it encounters in detail, so the researchers propose a few ways to determine the best places to look on the Red Planet.

Earthly Beginnings

The researchers point out that most fossils studied on Earth are found in sedimentary rock, which is laid down in layers that slowly hardens into true rock. But most of Mars is made up of volcanic rock, more like the material that lines the bottom of Earth’s ocean floors. This kind of rock does contain fossils on Earth, though they’re harder to find.

Volcanic rocks have lots of cracks and crevices, and micro-organisms are adept at working their way into those cracks, or making more pathways of their own. When they die, they remain inside the rock where they can be preserved for millions of years.

It stands to reason, the researchers point out, that these are the kinds of fossils we should expect to find on Mars, where volcanic rocks dominate.

Of course, there’s no proof that there was ever life on Mars. But the planet might have been a much wetter, more hospitable environment a few billion years ago. There’s even evidence that Mars might have experienced significant flooding just one billion years ago. And organic materials, molecules life as we know it needs in order to function, have been found on the Red Planet as well. So, Mars may have had an environment friendly to life in the past. But even Earth only developed multicellular lifeforms in the past half billion years or so — if life ever existed on Mars, it was likely exceedingly tiny, and buried inside rocky crevices.

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Has Voynich Manuscript Been Decoded? Mysterious Book May Be Written in Proto-Romance Language

Has Voynich Manuscript Been Decoded? Mysterious Book May Be Written in Proto-Romance Language | Amazing Science |

The Voynich manuscript, sometimes described as the ‘world’s most mysterious text,’ may be written in proto-Romance, a language that arose from a blend of spoken Latin (Vulgar Latin) and other languages across the Mediterranean during the early Medieval period following the collapse of the Roman Empire and subsequently evolved into the many Romance languages. The manuscript originates from Castello Aragonese, an island castle and citadel off Ischia, Italy, and was compiled by a Dominican nun as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, according to research by University of Bristol’s Dr. Gerard Cheshire.


The Voynich manuscript, named after the Polish-American antiquarian book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912, is a small book 23.5 x 16.2 cm of about 240 pages.

Nearly every page of the manuscript contains scientific and botanical drawings in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red. The vellum used in the book was carbon dated to 1404-1438.


Although the purpose and meaning of the manuscript had eluded scholars for decades, it took Dr. Cheshire two weeks to identify the language and writing system of the famously inscrutable document. “I experienced a series of ‘Eureka!’ moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realized the magnitude of the achievement, both in terms of its linguistic importance and the revelations about the origin and content of the manuscript,” Dr. Cheshire said.


“The Voynich manuscript is written in proto-Romance — ancestral to today’s Romance languages including Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan and Galician. The language used was ubiquitous in the Mediterranean during the Medieval period, but it was seldom written in official or important documents because Latin was the language of royalty, church and government. As a result, proto-Romance was lost from the record, until now.”


“The manuscript’s alphabet is a combination of unfamiliar and more familiar symbols. It includes no dedicated punctuation marks, although some letters have symbol variants to indicate punctuation or phonetic accents. All of the letters are in lower case and there are no double consonants. It includes diphthong, triphthongs, quadriphthongs and even quintiphthongs for the abbreviation of phonetic components. It also includes some words and abbreviations in Latin.”

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Nearby binary neutron-star merger gave birth to 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest elements

Nearby binary neutron-star merger gave birth to 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest elements | Amazing Science |

According to new research, a nearby binary neutron-star merger gave birth to 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest elements, including gold, platinum and uranium; such an event may have occurred about 1,000 light-years away from the Pre-solar Nebula, approximately 80 million years before the formation of our Solar System.


“This means that in each of us we would find an eyelash worth of these elements, mostly in the form of iodine, which is essential to life,” said Dr. Imre Bartos, an astrophysicist in the Department of Physics at the University of Florida.


“A wedding ring, which expresses a deep human connection, is also a connection to our cosmic past predating humanity and the formation of Earth itself, with about 10 milligrams of it likely having formed 4.6 billion years ago.”


To arrive at their conclusion, Dr. Bartos and his colleague, Columbia University astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka, compared the composition of meteorites to numerical simulations of our Milky Way Galaxy. “Meteorites forged in the early Solar System carry the traces of radioactive isotopes,” Dr. Bartos said. “As these isotopes decay they act as clocks that can be used to reconstruct the time they were created,” Dr. Marka said.


The scientists found that a single neutron-star collision could have occurred about 80 million years before the formation of the Solar System, in our own neighborhood, about 1,000 light-years from the Pre-solar Nebula. “If a comparable event happened today at a similar distance from the Solar System, the ensuing radiation could outshine the entire night sky,” Dr. Marka said.

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Triton is the world’s most murderous malware, and it’s spreading

Triton is the world’s most murderous malware, and it’s spreading | Amazing Science |
The rogue code can disable safety systems designed to prevent catastrophic industrial accidents. It was discovered in the Middle East, but the hackers behind it are now targeting companies in North America and other parts of the world, too.


As an experienced cyber first responder, Julian Gutmanis had been called plenty of times before to help companies deal with the fallout from cyberattacks. But when the Australian security consultant was summoned to a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2017, what he found made his blood run cold.


The hackers had deployed malicious software, or malware, that let them take over the plant’s safety instrumented systems. These physical controllers and their associated software are the last line of defense against life-threatening disasters. They are supposed to kick in if they detect dangerous conditions, returning processes to safe levels or shutting them down altogether by triggering things like shutoff valves and pressure-release mechanisms.


The malware made it possible to take over these systems remotely. Had the intruders disabled or tampered with them, and then used other software to make equipment at the plant malfunction, the consequences could have been catastrophic. Fortunately, a flaw in the code gave the hackers away before they could do any harm. It triggered a response from a safety system in June 2017, which brought the plant to a halt. Then in August, several more systems were tripped, causing another shutdown.


Other notable attacks:


  • 2010 � Stuxnet - Developed by America’s National Security Agency, working in conjunction with Israeli intelligence, the malware was a computer worm, or code that replicates itself from computer to computer without human intervention. Most likely smuggled in on a USB stick, it targeted programmable logic controllers which govern automated processes, and caused the destruction of centrifuges used in the enrichment of uranium at a facility in Iran.
  • 2013 �️‍♂️ Havex - Havex was designed to snoop on systems controlling industrial equipment, presumably so that hackers could work out how to mount attacks on the gear. The code was a remote access Trojan, or RAT, which is cyber-speak for software that lets hackers take control of computers remotely. Havex targeted thousands of US, European, and Canadian businesses, and especially ones in the energy and petrochemical industries.
  • 2015 ⚡️ BlackEnergy - BlackEnergy, which is another Trojan, had been circulating in the criminal underworld for a while before it was adapted by Russian hackers to launch an attack in December 2015 on several Ukranian power companies that helped trigger blackouts. The malware was used to gather intelligence about the power companies’ systems, and to steal log-in credentials from employees.
  • 2016 ⚡️ CrashOverride - Also known as Industroyer, this was developed by Russian cyber warriors too, who used it to mount an attack on a part of Ukraine’s electrical grid in December 2016. The malware replicated the protocols, or communications languages, that different elements of a grid used to talk to one another. This let it do things like show that a circuit breaker is closed when it’s really open. The code was used to strike an electrical transmission substation in Kiev, blacking out part of the city for a short time.
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Ice XVIII or Superionic Ice: The Hottest Ice to Be Invented By Scientists

Ice XVIII or Superionic Ice: The Hottest Ice to Be Invented By Scientists | Amazing Science |
Scientists create an extraordinary, alien form of super hot ice. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created an extremely bizarre form of "superionic ice" which they have also dubbed as "ice XVIII".


Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created an extremely bizarre form of "superionic ice" which they have also dubbed as "ice XVIII". Its properties are quite extraordinary, one can even say that it is out of this world, something you'd only see in a sci-fi novel.


The term "ice XVIII" came from a science fiction classic called Cats Cradle which was written by American writer Kurt Vonnegut. The climax of the story is where all of the world's ocean freezes over when it came into contact with a bizarre form of water, invented by one of the characters, known as "ice-nine" which is solid at room temperature.


The "superionic ice" that researchers recently invented though doesn't freeze bodies of water that it comes into contact with, still, it is extremely extraordinary since it only exists at incredibly hot temperatures (around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit) and extreme pressures 4 million times greater than Earth's atmospheric pressure. The creation of the "superionic ice" itself is done by using half a dozen giant laser beams to create shockwaves of increasing intensity that could flash-freeze tiny amounts of water.


"We designed the experiments to compress the water so that it would freeze into solid ice, but it was not certain that the ice crystals would actually form and grow in the few billionths of a second that we can hold the pressure-temperature conditions," said Marius Millot, co-lead author on the paper.


The science behind the experiment is complicated and it is explained in detail in Nature journal. Initially, the team demonstrated this form of ice via computer simulation. "Computer simulations have proposed a number of different possible crystalline structures for superionic ice. Our study provides a critical test to numerical methods." But this is the very first time they have actually created and imaged it on Earth.

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War & Violence? Humans Are Genetically Predisposed To Kill Each Other

War & Violence? Humans Are Genetically Predisposed To Kill Each Other | Amazing Science |
Do humans kill each other because it’s in our blood, or is it all based on our environment?


The psychological, sociological and evolutionary roots of conspecific violence in humans are still debated, despite attracting the attention of intellectuals for over two millennia. Back in 2016, after studying more than 4 million murder records across 1,024 mammalian species, evolutionary biologists at the University of Granada found that humans are more vicious than most mammals but generally on par with our primate lineage. Moreover, though we are notorious for killing our own kind, we are not the only ones. In fact, among these 1,024 mammalian species, 60% don't kill their own species, but 40% do. Humans are 6 times more lethal than the average mammal. The average mammal kills 0.3% of its own kind.


But what are roots of this conspecific violence? do we kill each other because it’s in our blood, or is it all based on our social organizations and environment?

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eScienceCommons: Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials

eScienceCommons: Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials | Amazing Science |

Physicists developed a way to determine the electronic properties of thin gold films after they interact with light. Nature Communications published the new method, which adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the interaction of electrons and light.

“Surprisingly, up to now there have been very limited ways of determining what exactly happens with materials after we shine light on them,” says Hayk Harutyunyan, an assistant professor of physics at Emory University and lead author of the research. “Our finding may pave the way for improvements in devices such as optical sensors and photovoltaic cells.”

From solar panels to cameras and cell phones — to seeing with our eyes — the interaction of photons of light with atoms and electrons is ubiquitous. “Optical phenomenon is such a fundamental process that we take it for granted, and yet it’s not fully understood how light interacts with materials,” Harutyunyan says.

One obstacle to understanding the details of these interactions is their complexity. When the energy of a light photon is transferred to an electron in a light-absorbing material, the photon is destroyed and the electron is excited from one level to another. But so many photons, atoms and electrons are involved — and the process happens so quickly — that laboratory modeling of the process is computationally challenging.

For the Nature Communications paper, the physicists started with a relatively simple material system — ultra-thin gold layers — and conducted experiments on it.

“We did not use brute computational power,” Harutyunyan says. “We started with experimental data and developed an analytical and theoretical model that allowed us to use pen and paper to decode the data.”

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Spider-like senses could help autonomous machines see better

Spider-like senses could help autonomous machines see better | Amazing Science |

What if drones and self-driving cars had the tingling “spidey senses” of Spider-Man? They might actually detect and avoid objects better, says Andres Arrieta, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, because they would process sensory information faster.


Better sensing capabilities would make it possible for drones to navigate in dangerous environments and for cars to prevent accidents caused by human error. Current state-of-the-art sensor technology doesn’t process data fast enough – but nature does.

And researchers wouldn’t have to create a radioactive spider to give autonomous machines superhero sensing abilities.


Instead, Purdue researchers have built sensors inspired by spiders, bats, birds and other animals, whose actual spider-like senses are nerve endings linked to special neurons called mechanoreceptors. In nature, ‘spider-senses’ are activated by a force associated with an approaching object. Researchers are giving autonomous machines the same ability through sensors that change shape when prompted by a predetermined level of force. (ETH Zürich images/Hortense Le Ferrand) Download image

The nerve endings – mechanosensors – only detect and process information essential to an animal’s survival. They come in the form of hair, cilia or feathers.


“There is already an explosion of data that intelligent systems can collect – and this rate is increasing faster than what conventional computing would be able to process,” said Arrieta, whose lab applies principles of nature to the design of structures, ranging from robots to aircraft wings. “Nature doesn’t have to collect every piece of data; it filters out what it needs,” he said.


Many biological mechanosensors filter data – the information they receive from an environment – according  to a threshold, such as changes in pressure or temperature. A spider’s hairy mechanosensors, for example, are located on its legs. When a spider’s web vibrates at a frequency associated with prey or a mate, the mechanosensors detect it, generating a reflex in the spider that then reacts very quickly. The mechanosensors wouldn’t detect a lower frequency, such as that of dust on the web, because it’s unimportant to the spider’s survival.

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Scientists break record for highest-temperature superconductor

Scientists break record for highest-temperature superconductor | Amazing Science |

University of Chicago scientists are part of an international research team that has discovered superconductivity—the ability to conduct electricity perfectly—at the highest temperatures ever recorded.


Using advanced technology at UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory, the team studied a class of materials in which they observed superconductivity at temperatures of about minus-23 degrees Celsius (minus-9 degrees Fahrenheit)—a jump of about 50 degrees compared to the previous confirmed record.


Though the superconductivity happened under extremely high pressure, the result still represents a big step toward creating superconductivity at room temperature—the ultimate goal for scientists to be able to use this phenomenon for advanced technologies.


The results were published May 22 in the journal Nature; Vitali Prakapenka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, and Eran Greenberg, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, are co-authors of the research.


Just as a copper wire conducts electricity better than a rubber tube, certain kinds of materials are better at becoming superconductive, a state defined by two main properties: The material offers zero resistance to electrical current and cannot be penetrated by magnetic fields. The potential uses for this are as vast as they are exciting: electrical wires without diminishing currents, extremely fast supercomputers and efficient magnetic levitation trains.


But scientists have previously only been able to create superconducting materials when they are cooled to extremely cold temperatures—initially, minus-240 degrees Celsius and more recently about minus-73 degrees Celsius. Since such cooling is expensive, it has limited their applications in the world at large.

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New laser microscope that could be ‘revolutionary’ for treatment of diseases such as skin cancer

University of British Columbia researchers have developed a specialized microscope that has the potential ability to both diagnose diseases that include skin cancer and perform incredibly precise surgery—all without cutting skin. The researchers describe the technology in a study published today in Science Advances.


“Our technology allows us to scan tissue quickly, and when we see a suspicious or abnormal cell structure, we can perform ultra-precise surgery and selectively treat the unwanted or diseased structure within the tissue—without cutting into the skin,” said Yimei Huang, co-lead author of the study and a former postdoctoral fellow at the department of dermatology and skin science at UBC and BC Cancer.


Huang co-led the study with Zhenguo Wu, a UBC PhD student.

The device is a specialized type of multiphoton excitation microscope that allows imaging of living tissue up to about one millimeter in depth using an ultrafast infrared laser beam. What sets the researchers’ microscope apart from previous technology is that it’s capable of not only digitally scanning living tissue, but also treating the tissue by intensifying the heat produced by the laser.


When applied to treating diseases of the skin, the microscope allows medical professionals to pinpoint the exact location of the abnormality, diagnose it and treat it instantly. It could be used to treat any structure of the body that is reached by light and that requires extremely precise treatment, including nerves or blood vessels in the skin, eye, brain or other vital structures.


“We can alter the pathway of blood vessels without impacting any of the surrounding vessels or tissues,” said study co-author Harvey Lui, professor at the department of dermatology and skin science at UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and a dermatologist at BC Cancer. “For diagnosing and scanning diseases like skin cancer, this could be revolutionary.”

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Giant Telescope on Sea Floor Will Study Neutrinos from Space

Giant Telescope on Sea Floor Will Study Neutrinos from Space | Amazing Science |

Curtin University researchers are part of an international project that will use a huge underwater neutrino telescope at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea to help explain some of the most powerful and mysterious events in the universe. Located at two sites at depths of up to 3,500 meters, the KM3NeT telescope will occupy more than a cubic kilometer of water, and will comprise of hundreds of vertical detection lines anchored to the seabed and held in place by buoys when complete.


Dr. Clancy James, from the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said such a huge volume of water was required to surround the instruments because neutrinos were otherwise difficult to detect. "Neutrinos very rarely interact, however when a neutrino hits water it generates light, which the KM3NeT telescope is able to detect," Dr. James said. "The underwater telescope is bombarded by millions of different particles but only neutrinos can pass through the Earth to reach the detector from below so, unlike normal telescopes, it looks down through the Earth at the same sky viewed by upward-facing telescopes in Australia."


Dr. James said KM3NeT needed to be incredibly sensitive because the light detected from neutrino interactions was about as faint as the light from a lightbulb in Sydney as seen from Perth. "Each line has 18 modules equipped with light sensors along its length and, in the darkness of the deep ocean, these sensors register the faint flashes of a special light that signals the interaction of neutrinos with the seawater," Dr. James said. "This project will help us answer some of the major questions around particle physics and the nature of our universe, potentially ushering in a new era in neutrino astronomy."

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Plants and microbes shape global biomes through local underground alliances

Plants and microbes shape global biomes through local underground alliances | Amazing Science |
Dense rainforests, maple-blanketed mountains and sweeping coniferous forests demonstrate the growth and proliferation of trees adapted to specific conditions. The regional dominance of tree species we see on the surface, however, might actually have been determined underground long ago.

Princeton University researchers report that the organization of forests worldwide—such as conifers in northern boreal forests or the broad-leafed trees of the tropics—are based on the ancient relationships that plant species forged with soil-dwelling microbes such as fungi and bacteria. These tiny organisms, known as symbionts, enhance the roots' uptake of the crucial nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus.

Via Jean-Michel Ané
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Wildly wobbling jets of particles spewing out of a black hole because it is spinning extremely fast and warping space-time

Wildly wobbling jets of particles spewing out of a black hole because it is spinning extremely fast and warping space-time | Amazing Science |

Astronomers have spotted wildly wobbling jets of particles spewing out of a black hole, and they think this unusually rapid motion could be happening because the black hole's strong gravity is warping space around it. 


The black hole, named V404 Cygni, is located about 8,000 light-years from Earth and is relatively small as far as black holes go — only nine times the mass of Earth's sun. It is part of a binary system in which it and a sun-like star orbit one another. The black hole is constantly siphoning material from its stellar companion, and as that material gets sucked in, it forms an accretion diskaround the black hole. 


Some of the particles falling into the black hole escape through relativistic jets, long beams of energetic plasma that flow from the black hole's axis of rotation at more than half the speed of light. Astronomers have seen black hole jets before but have never seen jets that wobble as rapidly as those from V404 Cygni, which were observed oscillating over time periods of only a few minutes. 


"We've never seen this effect happening on such short time scales," James Miller-Jones, a researcher with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) who led the new study, said in a statement


Miller-Jones and colleagues observed V404 Cygni using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a network of 10 radio telescopes spread out across the globe that are owned and operated by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The black hole has been the subject of observations since 1938, when it released a bright burst of energy. Its most recent outburst, in 2015, spawned a new wave of interest in the black hole, and it was then that Miller-Jones and his team began the observations for this study. 

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TESS Detects Exocomets in Beta Pictoris System

TESS Detects Exocomets in Beta Pictoris System | Amazing Science |
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS) has spotted the long tails of extrasolar comets orbiting the very young star beta Pictoris.


Beta Pictoris is one of the brightest stars in the sky and the second brightest star in the constellation Pictor, about 63 light-years away from Earth. Also known as HD 39060, the star is estimated to be about 23 million years old and is known to host a gas giant, beta Pictoris b.


The star also harbors a warped debris disk composed of dust and gas that could, in time, evolve into a torus of icy bodies much like Solar System’s Kuiper Belt. The disk is easily seen because it is tilted edge-on and is especially bright due to a very large amount of starlight-scattering dust.


“Because of its close proximity and circumstellar disk, the beta Pictoris system can be considered an ideal test bed to study the formation and evolution of planetary systems, including minor bodies such as exocomets and exomoons,” said Universität Innsbruck astronomer Sebastian Zieba and colleagues.


The researchers analyzed data from TESS and found three transits of short-period exocomets in front of beta Pictoris. “We use data collected by TESS from October 19, 2018 to February 1, 2019 in Sectors 4 through 7,” they said.

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Bedbugs Arose 115 Million Years Ago, Roamed Earth alongside Dinosaurs

Bedbugs Arose 115 Million Years Ago, Roamed Earth alongside Dinosaurs | Amazing Science |

Bedbugs are blood-sucking parasites in the family Cimicidae. A multinational research team led by University of Sheffield, the University Museum Bergen and Dresden University has compared the DNA of dozens of bedbug species and discovered that bedbugs are 50 million years older than bats — a mammal that scientists had previously believed to be their first host 50-65 million years ago.


“To think that the pests that live in our beds today evolved more than 100 million years ago (Cretaceous period) and were walking the Earth side by side with dinosaurs, was a revelation,” said University of Sheffield’s Professor Mike Siva-Jothy, co-author of the study.


“It shows that the evolutionary history of bed bugs is far more complex than we previously thought.” Professor Siva-Jothy and colleagues spent 15 years collecting samples from wild sites and museums around the world, dodging bats and buffaloes in African caves infected with Ebola and climbing cliffs to collect from bird nests in South East Asia.


“The first big surprise we found was that bedbugs are much older than bats, which everyone assumed to be their first host,” said co-lead author Dr. Steffen Roth, a researcher at the University Museum Bergen. “It was also unexpected to see that evolutionary older bedbugs were already specialized on a single host type, even though we don’t know what the host was at the time when T. rex walked the Earth.”

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Stanford researchers' artificial synapse is fast, efficient and durable

Stanford researchers' artificial synapse is fast, efficient and durable | Amazing Science |

The brain's capacity for simultaneously learning and memorizing large amounts of information while requiring little energy has inspired an entire field to pursue brain-like - or neuromorphic - computers. Researchers at Stanford University and Sandia National Laboratories previously developed one portion of such a computer: a device that acts as an artificial synapse, mimicking the way neurons communicate in the brain.


In a paper published online by the journal Science on April 25, the team reports that a prototype array of nine of these devices performed even better than expected in processing speed, energy efficiency, reproducibility and durability.


Looking forward, the team members want to combine their artificial synapse with traditional electronics, which they hope could be a step toward supporting artificially intelligent learning on small devices.


"If you have a memory system that can learn with the energy efficiency and speed that we've presented, then you can put that in a smartphone or laptop," said Scott Keene, co-author of the paper and a graduate student in the lab of Alberto Salleo, professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford who is co-senior author. "That would open up access to the ability to train our own networks and solve problems locally on our own devices without relying on data transfer to do so."

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The Black Hole Picture Could Be So Much Better If You Employ Space Telescopes

The Black Hole Picture Could Be So Much Better If You Employ Space Telescopes | Amazing Science |

Our first picture of a black hole was a huge moment for science. But we can’t stop there. We need better pictures that deliver more information. That’s how we’ll learn even more about these strange, rule-breaking behemoths. Now a group of astronomers from the Radboud University in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands, along with the … Continue reading "The Black Hole Picture Could Be So Much Better If You Add Space Telescopes".


Now a group of astronomers from the Radboud University in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands, along with the European Space Agency and other partners, are developing a plan to get much sharper pictures of black holes.


The Event Horizon Telescope’s (EHT) first picture of a black hole was a scientific triumph and a feat of cooperation, engineering, and technology. Throw in our species’ innate curiosity about nature, too. It’s a potent, effective mix.


But, the picture was kind of blurry, wasn’t it? It’s still a triumph, and lots of research and new papers will result from it. But could it be even better?


The group of scientists has a plan for launching radio telescopes into space to get clearer images of black holes. They’ve published a paperin the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics detailing their plans. Their end goal? To test Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, again.

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Better Microring Sensors for Optical Applications

Better Microring Sensors for Optical Applications | Amazing Science |
Tweaking the design of microring sensors enhances their sensitivity without adding more implementation complexity.

Optical sensing is one of the most important applications of light science. It plays crucial roles in astronomy, environmental science, industry and medical diagnoses. 

Despite the variety of schemes used for optical sensing, they all share the same principle: The quantity to be measured must leave a “fingerprint” on the optical response of the system. The fingerprint can be its transmission, reflection or absorption. The stronger these effects are, the stronger the response of the system.

While this works well at the macroscopic level, measuring tiny, microscopic quantities that induce weak response is a challenging task. Researchers have developed techniques to overcome this difficulty and improve the sensitivity of their devices. Some of these techniques, which rely on complex quantum optics concepts and implementations, have indeed proved useful, such as in sensing gravitational waves in the LIGO project. Others, which are based on trapping light in tiny boxes called optical resonators, have succeeded in detecting micro-particles and relatively large biological components.

Nonetheless, the ability to detect small nano-particles and eventually single molecules remains a challenge. Current attempts focus on a special type of light trapping devices called microring or microtoroid resonators — these enhance the interaction between light and the molecule to be detected. The sensitivity of these devices, however, is limited by their fundamental physics.

In their article “Sensing with Exceptional Surfaces in Order to Combine Sensitivity with Robustness” published in Physical Review Letters (DOI:, physicists and engineers from Michigan Technological University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Central Florida propose a new type of sensor. They are based on the new notion of exceptional surfaces: surfaces that consist of exceptional points.
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