Established in 2020 Saturday, February 24, 2024

Paleontologists discover a 240-million-year-old 'Chinese dragon'

Artist Marlene Donelly has created a lifelike illustration of Dinocephalosaurus orientalis swimming alongside a prehistoric fish called Saurichthys. Image courtesy: Marlene Donelly.

STUTTGART.- An international team of scientists from China, the U.S. and Europe has studied new fossils of the marine reptile Dinocephalosaurus orientalis. This research has made it possible to fully describe the bizarre, very impressive animal for the first time. Dinocephalosaurus orientalis had an unusually long neck and reminded the researchers of the snake-like representation of dragons in Chinese mythology. The research findings on Dinocephalosaurus orientalis have now been published in the journal Earth and Environmental Science: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh—just in time for the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Dragon. In 2003, a skull and the first three cervical vertebrae of Dinocephalosaurus orientalis were uncovered and examined in the Guanling Formation of Guizhou Province. Since then, a number of other specimens have been discovered in southwestern China, which are now housed at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing and the ... More

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UChicago scientists invent ultra-thin, minimally-invasive pacemaker controlled by light   Scientists closer to finding quantum gravity theory after measuring gravity on microscopic level   Neanderthals' usage of complex adhesives reveals higher cognitive abilities, scientists discover

University of Chicago materials researcher Pengju Li with a prototype device that can deliver a thin pacemaker membrane via minimally invasive surgery. Image courtesy: Jean Lachat.

CHICAGO, IL.- Sometimes our bodies need a boost. Millions of Americans rely on pacemakers—small devices that regulate the electrical impulses of the heart in order to keep it beating smoothly. But to reduce complications, researchers would like to make these devices even smaller and less intrusive. A team of researchers with the University of Chicago has developed a wireless device, powered by light, that can be implanted to regulate cardiovascular or neural activity in the body. The featherlight membranes, thinner than a human hair, can be inserted with minimally invasive surgery and contain no moving parts. Published Feb. 21 in Nature, the results could help reduce complications in heart surgery and offer new horizons for future devices. “The early experiments have been very successful, and we’re really hopeful about ... More

Artist impression of the quantum experiment. Image courtesy: University of Southampton.

SOUTHAMPTON.- Scientists are a step closer to unraveling the mysterious forces of the universe after working out how to measure gravity on a microscopic level. Experts have never fully understood how the force that was discovered by Isaac Newton works in the tiny quantum world. Even Einstein was baffled by quantum gravity and, in his theory of general relativity, said there is no realistic experiment that could show a quantum version of gravity. But now physicists at the University of Southampton, working with scientists in Europe, have successfully detected a weak gravitational pull on a tiny particle using a new technique. They claim it could pave the way to finding the elusive quantum gravity theory. The experiment, published in Science Advances, used levitating magnets to detect gravity on microscopic particles—small enough to border on the quantum realm. Lead author Tim Fuchs, from the University of Southampton, said ... More

The stone tool was glued into a handle made of liquid bitumen with the addition of 55% ocher. It is no longer sticky and can be handled easily. Image courtesy: Patrick Schmidt.

NEW YORK, NY.- Neanderthals created stone tools held together by a multi-component adhesive, a team of scientists has discovered. Its findings, which are the earliest evidence of a complex adhesive in Europe, suggest these predecessors to modern humans had a higher level of cognition and cultural development than previously thought. The work, reported in the journal Science Advances, included researchers from New York University, the University of Tübingen, and the National Museums in Berlin. "These astonishingly well-preserved tools showcase a technical solution broadly similar to examples of tools made by early modern humans in Africa, but the exact recipe reflects a Neanderthal 'spin,' which is the production of grips for handheld tools," says Radu Iovita, an associate professor at New York University's Center for the Study of Human ... More

Electrons become fractions of themselves in graphene, study finds   Scientists discover exotic quantum interference effect in a topological insulator device   Neurobiology: Examining how bats distinguish different sounds

A photo of the team. From left to right: Long Ju, Postdoc Zhengguang Lu, visiting undergraduate Yuxuan Yao, graduate student Tonghang Hang. Image courtesy: Jixiang Yang.

CAMBRIDGE, MA.- The electron is the basic unit of electricity, as it carries a single negative charge. This is what we’re taught in high school physics, and it is overwhelmingly the case in most materials in nature. But in very special states of matter, electrons can splinter into fractions of their whole. This phenomenon, known as “fractional charge,” is exceedingly rare, and if it can be corralled and controlled, the exotic electronic state could help to build resilient, fault-tolerant quantum computers. To date, this effect, known to physicists as the “fractional quantum Hall effect,” has been observed a handful of times, and mostly under very high, carefully maintained magnetic fields. Only recently have scientists seen the effect in a material that did not require such powerful magnetic manipulation. Now, MIT physicists have observed the elusive fractional ... More

A schematic representation of quantum interference of the topological motion of electrons along the symmetry-allowed sample hinges. Image: Shafayat Hossain, postdoctoral research associate in the Zahid Hasan group at Princeton University.

PRINCETON, NJ.- In a novel experiment, physicists have observed long range quantum coherence effects due to Aharonov-Bohm interference in a topological insulator-based device. This finding opens up a new realm of possibilities for the future development of topological quantum physics and engineering. This finding could also affect the development of spin-based electronics, which may potentially replace some current electronic systems for higher energy efficiency and may provide new platforms to explore quantum information science. The research, published in the February 20 issue of Nature Physics, is the culmination of more than 15 years of work at Princeton. It came about when Princeton scientists developed a quantum device—called a bismuth bromide (α-Bi4Br4) ... More

Seba’s short-tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata) filters out important signals from ambient sound and distinguishes between echolocation and communication calls. Image courtesy: Julio Hechavarría, Goethe University Frankfurt.

FRANKFURT.- Seba's short-tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata) lives in the subtropical and tropical forests of Central and South America, where it mostly feeds on pepper fruit. The animals spend their days in groups of 10 to 100 individuals in hollow trunks and rocky caverns, and at night they go foraging together. They communicate using sounds that create distinct ambient noise in the colony—like the babble of voices at a lively party. At the same time, the bats also use vocalizations to navigate their surroundings, a phenomenon known as echolocation, for which they emit ultrasonic sounds that reflect off solid surfaces. The animals then assemble these echoes into an "image" of their surroundings. But how does Seba's short-tailed bat manage to filter out important sounds from constant ambient noise? A common explana ... More

Physicists discover a quantum state with a new type of emergent particles: Six-flux composite fermions   Astronomers find first strong evidence of neutron star remnant of exploding star   Killer instinct drove evolution of mammals' predatory ancestors, scientists suggest

PhD student and lead author Haoyun Huang is credited by Gabor Csathy as having conceived, led the measurements and writing a large part of the manuscript. Image courtesy: Brian Powell.

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN.- If the fractional quantum Hall regime were a series of highways, these highways would have either two or four lanes. The flow of the two-flux or four-flux composite fermions, like automobiles in this two- to four-flux composite fermion traffic scenario, naturally explains the more than 90 fractional quantum Hall states that form in a large variety of host materials. Physicists at Purdue University have recently discovered, though, that fractional quantum Hall regimes are not limited to two-flux or four-flux and have discovered the existence of a new type of emergent particle, which they are calling six-flux composite fermion. They have recently published their groundbreaking findings in Nature Communications. Gabor Csathy, professor and head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Purdue University College of Science, along with Ph.D. students Haoyun Huang, Waseem Hussain ... More

Combination of a Hubble Space Telescope image of SN 1987A and the compact argon source. Image courtesy: Hubble Space Telescope WFPC-3/James Webb Space Telescope NIRSpec/J. Larsson.

LONDON.- An international team of astronomers including UCL's (University College London's) Professor Mike Barlow has discovered the first conclusive evidence that a neutron star exists at the center of Supernova 1987A, a star explosion observed 37 years ago. Supernovae are the spectacular end result of the collapse of stars more massive than 8–10 times the mass of the sun. They are the main sources of chemical elements (such as carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron) that make life possible. The collapsed core of these exploding stars can result in much smaller neutron stars, composed of the densest matter in the known universe, or black holes. Supernova 1987A, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring dwarf galaxy, was the nearest, brightest supernova seen in the night sky in 400 years. Neutrinos, unimaginably small sub-atomic particles, were produced in the supernova and detected on Earth ... More

Infographic showcasing the differences in jaw functional anatomy and body size and the potential ecological inferences found in the study of more mammal-like behaviors among ancient predatory synapsids.

BRISTOL.- The evolutionary success of the first large predators on land was driven by their need to improve as killers, researchers at the University of Bristol and the Open University suggest. The forerunners of mammals ruled the Earth for about 60 million years, long before the origin of the first dinosaurs. They diversified as the top predators on land between 315–251 million years ago. Researchers studied the jaw anatomy and body size of carnivorous synapsids, using these traits to reconstruct the likely feeding habits of these ancient predators and chart their ecological evolution through time. They found a major shift in synapsid jaw function roughly 270 million years ago linked to a significant shift in predatory behavior that has important implications for the evolution of our earliest ancestors. The paper, "Predatory synapsid ecomorphology signals growing dynamism of late Palaeozoic terrestrial ecosystems," is published in th ... More

Bio-inspired neuroprosthetics: sending signals the brain can understand   Snakes' rapid evolution might be the secret of their success   New tool for assessing diarrhea-related dehydration is built for global deployment

Restoring natural sensory feedback results in functional and cognitive benefits for leg prosthesis users. Image courtesy: Pietro Comaschi.

ZURICH.- Prostheses that connect to the nervous system have been available for several years. Now, researchers at ETH Zurich have found evidence that neuroprosthetics work better when they use signals that are inspired by nature. A few years ago, a team of researchers working under Professor Stanisa Raspopovic at the ETH Zurich Neuroengineering Lab gained worldwide attention when they announced that their prosthetic legs had enabled amputees to feel sensations from this artificial body part for the first time. Unlike commercial leg prostheses, which simply provide amputees with stability and support, the ETH researchers’ prosthetic device was connected to the sciatic nerve in the test subjects’ thigh via implanted electrodes. This electrical connection enabled the neuroprosthesis to communicate with the patient’s brain, for example relaying information on the constant changes in pressure detected on the sole of the prosthetic ... More

Fossils of ancient lizards like Dorsetisaurus were used to help produce a timeline of evolutionary events. Image courtesy: © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

LONDON.- They might not have legs, but snakes are outpacing their relatives in the race to evolve. New research reveals that snakes evolve up to three times faster than lizards as they develop new ways of feeding, moving and sensing the world around them. This burst of evolution appears to have started soon after the reptiles became recognisably snake-like, and continues to this day. Professor Daniel Rabosky, the senior author of the research, says, ‘Snakes evolved faster and, dare we say it, better than some other groups. They are versatile and flexible and able to specialize on prey that other groups cannot use.’ ‘Fundamentally, this study is about what makes an evolutionary winner. We found that snakes have been evolving faster than lizards in some important ways, and this speed of evolution has let them take advantage of new opportunities that other lizards could not.’ Dr Marc Jones, a co-author as well as Curator of Fossil Reptiles at the ... More

A study program coordinator demonstrates a stool culture to a local health worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image courtesy: Adam C. Levine, M.D.

GAINESVILLE, FL.- For adults and older children, dehydration from diarrhea is a common, pervasive threat: Annually, more than 1 million die from it. Now, a novel software tool that makes diagnosing and treating diarrhea-related dehydration faster, simpler and more accurate has been launched by an international team that includes a University of Florida Health pediatrics researcher. The solution is as unique as the problem is massive. Worldwide, there are 5.7 billion cases of diarrhea a year among adults and older children. Even so, there has not been a convenient, easy-to-use, evidence-based tool for assessing dehydration in patients. Seeing a large and urgent need, researchers at UF Health, Brown University and in Bangladesh teamed up to create FluidCalc. Using an algorithm that runs through a cell phone app, FluidCalc quickly and consistently determines the extent of a patient's dehydration and calculates how much fluid they need. The tool uses two pr ... More

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard P. Feynman

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How chronic stress spreads cancer
COLD SPRING HARBOR, NY.- Stress is inevitable. But too much of it can be terrible for our health. Chronic stress can increase our risk for heart disease and strokes. It may also help cancer spread. How this works has remained a mystery—a challenge for cancer care. Xue-Yan He, a former postdoc in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Adjunct Professor Mikala Egeblad's lab, says, "Stress is something we cannot really avoid in cancer patients. You can imagine if you are diagnosed, you cannot stop thinking about the disease or insurance or family. So it is very important to understand how stress works on us." Now, He and Egeblad may have reached a breakthrough in understanding exactly that. The work has been published in Cancer Cell. Working with CSHL Professor Linda Van Aelst, they discovered that stress causes certain white blood cells called neutrophils to form sticky w ... More

Super strong magnetic fields leave imprint on nuclear matter
UPTON, NY.- A new analysis by the STAR collaboration at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a particle collider at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, provides the first direct evidence of the imprint left by what may be the universe's most powerful magnetic fields on "deconfined" nuclear matter. The evidence comes from measuring the way differently charged particles separate when emerging from collisions of atomic nuclei at this DOE Office of Science user facility. As described in the journal Physical Review X, the data indicate that powerful magnetic fields generated in off-center collisions induce an electric current in the quarks and gluons set free, or deconfined, from protons and neutrons by the particle smashups. The findings give scientists a new way to study the electrical conductivity of this "quark-gluon plasma" (QGP) to learn more about ... More

Chemical labeling method provides new approach for recording cellular activities
HEIDELBERG.- In living cells, a vast number of transient events occur simultaneously, each of them important for a given cell in carrying out its function. The faithful recording of these transient activities is a prerequisite for a molecular understanding of life, yet obtaining such recordings is extremely challenging. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg and their collaboration partners have created a novel technology that allows cellular events to be recorded through chemical labeling with fluorescent dyes for later analysis, opening up completely new ways to study cellular physiology. The new method has now been published in Science. The recording of transient cellular events plays a decisive role in examining and understanding biological processes, yet it presents significant technical challenges. An ideal recording method would observe large popul ... More

Study shows orchid family emerged in northern hemisphere and thrived alongside dinosaurs for 20 million years
LONDON.- In a new study published in New Phytologist, scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, along with partners in Latin America, Asia and Australia, present an updated family tree of orchids, tracing their origins to the northern hemisphere some 85 million years ago. Not only does the study shed new light on their complex and fascinating evolutionary history, but the study's authors hope their findings will help inform future orchid conservation planning. The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is often lauded by scientists as one of the greatest evolutionary marvels within the plant world. Not only are these flowering plants found on every continent except the Antarctic and in virtually every habitat, including north of the Arctic Circle, but they are also incredibly diverse ... More

Cracking the code of neurodegeneration: New model identifies potential therapeutic target
ZURICH.- Scientists at the University of Zurich have developed an innovative neural cell culture model, shedding light on the intricate mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. Their research pinpointed a misbehaving protein as a promising therapeutic target in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Neurodegenerative diseases cause some of the neurons in our brains to die, resulting in different symptoms depending on the brain region affected. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), neurons in the motor cortex and spinal cord degenerate, leading to paralysis. In frontotemporal dementia (FTD), on the other hand, neurons located in the parts of the brain involved in cognition, language and personality are affected. Both ALS and FTD are relentlessly progressive diseases and effective treatments are still lacking. As the population ages, the prevalenc ... More

Researchers harness 2D magnetic materials for energy-efficient computing
CAMBRIDGE, MA.- Experimental computer memories and processors built from magnetic materials use far less energy than traditional silicon-based devices. Two-dimensional magnetic materials, composed of layers that are only a few atoms thick, have incredible properties that could allow magnetic-based devices to achieve unprecedented speed, efficiency, and scalability. While many hurdles must be overcome until these so-called van der Waals magnetic materials can be integrated into functioning computers, MIT researchers took an important step in this direction by demonstrating precise control of a van der Waals magnet at room temperature. This is key, since magnets composed of atomically thin van der Waals materials can typically only be controlled at extremely cold temperatures, making them difficult to deploy outside a laboratory. The researchers used pulses of electrical curr ... More

Amorphous solar cells with FIDO technology are more efficient, stable and lightweight
NAGOYA.- A group led by researchers at Nagoya University in Japan has created a material based on fullerene indanones (FIDO), which promises to improve the durability of next-generation solar cells. Durability has been one of the biggest hurdles in their practical application and commercialization. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The next generation of solar cells will probably use perovskite-based cells. These crystal-based cells are highly efficient, even generating electricity indoors under weak light conditions. They are also lighter and more flexible than conventional silicon solar cells. As a result, they are more suitable for installation on vertical surfaces, such as windows and walls. Many of the unique properties of these solar cells come from fullerene (C60). Its unique shape, which resembles a soccer ball, makes fullerene instantly recogn ... More

Graphene research: Numerous products, no acute dangers
DÜBENDORF.- Think big. Despite its research topic, this could well be the motto of the Graphene Flagship, which was launched in 2013: With an overall budget of one billion Euros, it was Europe's largest research initiative to date, alongside the Human Brain Flagship, which was launched at the same time. The same applies to the review article on the effects of graphene and related materials on health and the environment, which Empa researchers Peter Wick and Tina Bürki just published together with 30 international colleagues in the journal ACS Nano; they summarize the findings on the health and ecological risks of graphene materials, the reference list includes almost 500 original publications. A wealth of knowledge—which also gives the all-clear. "We have investigated the potential acute effects of various graphene and graphene-like materials on the lungs, in the gastroin ... More

Experiment paves the way for new set of antimatter studies by laser-cooling positronium
GENEVA.- AEgIS is one of several experiments at CERN's Antimatter Factory producing and studying antihydrogen atoms with the goal of testing with high precision whether antimatter and matter fall to Earth in the same way. In a paper published today in Physical Review Letters, the AEgIS collaboration reports an experimental feat that will not only help it achieve this goal but also pave the way for a whole new set of antimatter studies, including the prospect to produce a gamma-ray laser that would allow researchers to look inside the atomic nucleus and have applications beyond physics. To create antihydrogen (a positron orbiting an antiproton), AEgIS directs a beam of positronium (an electron orbiting a positron) into a cloud of antiprotons produced and slowed down in the Antimatter Factory. When an antiproton and positronium meet in the antiproton cloud, the positronium gives up its position to the ... More

Astronomers observe the effect of dark matter on the evolution of the galaxies
SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LA LAGUNA.- Dark matter comprises around 85% of all the matter in the universe. Although ordinary matter absorbs, reflects and emits light, dark matter cannot be seen directly, which makes its detection difficult. Its existence is inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, the material that forms stars, planets, and other objects in the cosmos. Galaxies are made up of these two types of material The dark matter is distributed in halos, which are huge structures surrounding galaxies, while the ordinary matter is mainly present in the central regions where most of the stars are found. Traditionally observational studies of galactic evolution have centered on the role of ordinary matter, even though it is quite a small fraction of the mass of a galaxy. For decades there have been theoretical predictions about the effect that dark matter should have on the evolution of gala ... More

Protein integral to sperm development and male fertility identified
DAVIS, CA.- Early in the development of sperm, a strange event happens: the X and Y chromosomes condense into tight packages and are sequestered away from the other 44 human chromosomes. If any part of this process goes awry, the cells cannot mature into sperm. Researchers in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences have now identified an important link in this process—a little-known protein called ATF7IP2. "This could be a critical factor for ensuring male fertility," said Satoshi Namekawa, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, whose team contributed to the new findings. Their results, published in Genes & Development, could help elucidate the causes of male infertility. The discovery sheds light on a pivotal moment in the production of sperm that is necessary for the health of our species—but also potentially dangerous. The cells that give rise to sperm contain 46 chr ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Renato Dulbecco was born
February 22, 1914. Renato Dulbecco (February 22, 1914 - February 19, 2012) was an Italian–American virologist who won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on oncoviruses, which are viruses that can cause cancer when they infect animal cells. He studied at the University of Turin under Giuseppe Levi, along with fellow students Salvador Luria and Rita Levi-Montalcini, who also moved to the U.S. with him and won Nobel prizes. He was drafted into the Italian army in World War II, but later joined the resistance. n the late 1950s, he took Howard Temin as a student, with whom, and together with David Baltimore, he would later share the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for "their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell." Temin and Baltimore arrived at the discovery of reverse transcriptase simultaneously and independently from each other; although Dulbecco did not take direct part in either of their experiments, he had taught the two methods they used to make the discovery.

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