Established in 2020 Saturday, February 4, 2023

First solid scientific evidence that Vikings brought animals to Britain

Viking burial mound at Heath Wood, Derbyshire, UK, being excavated. Image courtesy: Julian Richards, University of York.

DURHAM.- Archaeologists have found what they say is the first solid scientific evidence suggesting that Vikings crossed the North Sea to Britain with dogs and horses. Research led by Durham University, UK, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium, examined human and animal remains from Britain's only known Viking cremation cemetery at Heath Wood, in Derbyshire. Scientists looked at strontium isotopes contained within the remains. Strontium is a natural element found in different ratios across the world and provides a geographical fingerprint for human and animal movements. Their analysis showed that within the context of the archaeology, one human adult and several animals almost certainly came from the Baltic Shield area of Scandinavia, covering Norway and central and northern Sweden, and died soon after arrival in Britain. The researchers say this suggests that Vikings were not only stealing animals when they arrived in Brit ... More

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New material makes recycling a wide range of batteries simple and economical   New research computes first step toward predicting lifespan of electric space propulsion systems   Measuring changes in brain tissue oxygenation for personalized cancer radiotherapy

Chen Fang holds a vial (left) containing a current collector copper foil from a battery that has been completely freed of valuable electrode components. Image courtesy: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab.

BERKELEY, CA.- Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized electronics and enabled an accelerating shift toward clean energy. These batteries have become an integral part of 21st century life, but we're at risk of running out before 2050. The main elements used in each battery—lithium, nickel, and cobalt metals as well as graphite—are increasingly scarce and expensive, and there is little environmental or fair-labor oversight of some of the remaining international supply chains. There is a pressing need to start reusing the materials we've already dug up and to make the battery production process safer and more equitable for all. A team of scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has invented an award-winning new battery material that can check both boxes. Their product, called the Quick-Release Binder, makes it simple and affordable to separate the valuable materials in Li-ion batteries from the other components and recover them ... More

Illustration of Hall Thruster plumes impacting the carbon surfaces at the atomistic level. Image courtesy: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN, IL.- Electric space propulsion systems use energized atoms to generate thrust. The high-speed beams of ions bump against the graphite surfaces of the thruster, eroding them a little more with each hit, and are the systems' primary lifetime-limiting factor. When ion thrusters are ground tested in an enclosed chamber, the ricocheting particles of carbon from the graphite chamber walls can also redeposit back onto the thruster surfaces. This changes the measured performance characteristics of the thruster. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign used data from low-pressure chamber experiments and large-scale computations to develop a model to better understand the effects of ion erosion on carbon surfaces —the first step in predicting its failure. "We need an accurate assessment of the ion erosion rate on graphite to predict thruster life, but testing facilities have reported varying sputtering rates, leading to large ... More

Researchers used a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) device attached to the patient's forehead to measure changes in hemoglobin and tissue oxygenation levels.

OULU.- Radiotherapy, which uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells, typically follows a dosing and treatment plan based on clinical research to minimize the impact of the radiation on healthy tissues. However, since the effects of radiotherapy can only be evaluated after the treatment has been completed, it is not possible to predict the immediate effects of the treatment on a patient or the potential side effects that might develop at a later stage because of the treatment. Since the effects of cancer treatment are highly variable, even conventional doses administered to patients can potentially cause long-term side effects in some people. "Cancer therapies produce extensive changes in the physiological and morphological properties of tissues, which are also dependent on the individual," says Associate Professor Teemu Myllylä, at the University of Oulu, Finland, who is part of a team including Chief Physicist Dr. Juha Nikkinen, of the clinical medical physics division of radiotherapy ... More

Liquid windows: Energy-saving inspiration from squid skin   A new catalyst that transforms carbon dioxide into added-value chemical products   Microbes are 'active engineers' in Earth's rock-to-life cycle

Prototypes of a multilayered fluidic system designed by U of T Engineering researchers contain several layers of channels that contain fluids with various optical properties. Image courtesy: Raphael Kay, Adrian So.

TORONTO.- Inspired by the dynamic color-changing skin of organisms such as squid, University of Toronto researchers have developed a multilayered fluidic system that can reduce the energy costs of heating, cooling and lighting buildings. The platform, which optimizes the wavelength, intensity and dispersion of light transmitted through windows, offers much greater control than existing technologies while keeping costs low due to its use of simple, off-the-shelf components. "Buildings use a ton of energy to heat, cool and illuminate the spaces inside them," says Raphael Kay, who recently graduated with a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and is lead author on a new paper published in the journal PNAS. "If we can strategically control the amount, type and direction of solar energy that enters our buildings, we can massively reduce the amount of work that we ask heaters, coolers and ligh ... More

Graphical abstract. Image courtesy: Chem Catalysis (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.checat.2022.11.021.

CASTELLÓN.- Global warming is an increasingly worrying problem. Although the greenhouse effect is a necessary process to maintain living conditions on Earth, our current societies are increasing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and increasing its temperature by retaining more heat than necessary. Nature is trying to counteract this situation: plants are able to capture energy from sunlight and convert CO2 into chemical energy and organic matter. Inspired by this natural process, the Supramolecular and Sustainable Chemistry Group of the Department of Inorganic and Organic Chemistry at the Universitat Jaume I in Castelló has developed a catalyst that can transform CO2 into high added-value chemical products, especially cyclic carbonates. The technology, validated at an experimental level in the laboratory environment, seeks development and adaptation in specific applications through specific a ... More

An eddy covariance tower helps researchers measure forest-atmosphere exchanges of gas and water in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Arizona. Image courtesy: Department of Environmental Science.

TUCSON, AZ.- The name "critical zone" may give off 1980s action thriller vibes, but it's the term scientists use to refer to the area of Earth's land surface responsible for sustaining life. A relatively small portion of the planetary structure, it spans from the bedrock below groundwater all the way up to the lower atmosphere. "Think of it as Earth's skin," said Jon Chorover, head of the Department of Environmental Science in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "It's sometimes termed the zone where rock meets life." Most people – even geologists – don't typically think about rock as the foundation of life or the way life may alter rock, but that cuts to the heart of critical zone science, Chorover said. A relatively new framework for approaching Earth sciences, the critical zone aligns researchers across disciplines to better understand how the delicate web of physical, chemical and biological process ... More

Researchers develop elastic material that is impervious to gases and liquids   An illuminated water droplet creates an 'optical atom'   Recreating the natural light-harvesting nanorings in photosynthetic bacteria

An international team of researchers has developed a technique that uses liquid metal to create an elastic material that is impervious to both gases and liquids. Image courtesy: Michael Dickey, NC State University.

RALEIGH, NC.- An international team of researchers has developed a technique that uses liquid metal to create an elastic material that is impervious to both gases and liquids. Applications for the material include use as packaging for high-value technologies that require protection from gases, such as flexible batteries. "This is an important step because there has long been a trade-off between elasticity and being impervious to gases," says Michael Dickey, co-corresponding author of a paper on the work and the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. "Basically, things that were good at keeping gases out tended to be hard and stiff. And things that offered elasticity allowed gases to seep through. We've come up with something that offers the desired elasticity while keeping gases out." The new technique makes use of a eutectic alloy of gallium and indium (EGaIn). Eutectic means ... More

When a beam of light is shone into a water droplet, the light is trapped inside the droplet. Image courtesy: Javier Tello Marmolejo.

GOTHENBURG.- Shining light on a water droplet creates effects analogous to what happens in an atom. This can help us understand how atoms work, write researchers from the University of Gothenburg in a new journal article published in Physical Review Letters. If you whisper by the wall in the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in London, you'll discover that the sound bounces off the dome's walls all the way around and is audible on the opposite side. Which is why the Cathedral's dome has been dubbed "the whispering gallery." The same effect is achieved when a beam of light is shone into a water droplet. Rays of light bounce off the inner wall of the water droplet over and over again, going around and around inside the droplet. When its circumference is a multiple of the light's wavelength, a resonance phenomenon occurs, just like the sound inside the Cathedral's dome, making the droplet shine brighter. "In our experiments with laser light, we could see th ... More

Light-harvesting (LH) ring-shaped supramolecules occurring in nature and used by plants and certain types of bacteria to perform photosynthesis have not been artificially prepared so far.

KYOTO.- Nearly all the chemical energy available to Earth's lifeforms can be traced back to the sun. This is because light-harvesting (LH) supramolecules (two or more molecules held together by intermolecular forces) enable plants and some types of bacteria (typically at the base of the food chain) to leverage sunlight for driving photosynthesis. For these supramolecules to be effective, they need to have multiple pigments, such as chlorophyll, arranged in special structures that vary among species. For instance, green photosynthetic bacteria have LH antennas in which chlorophyll molecules form spiral structures that, in turn, aggregate into large tubular supramolecules. In contrast, purple photosynthetic bacteria, such as Rhodobacter sphaeroides, exhibit different types of LH antennas in which chlorophyll pigments are arranged into ring-shaped architectures. While researchers have managed to recreate the tubular chlorophyl aggregates in the lab with a self-assembly approach, their ring-shaped ... More

Reducing their natural signals: How sneaky germs hide from ants   Creating 'ghostly mirrors' for high-power lasers   Soil tainted by air pollution expels carbon

Unlike humans, ants react immediately to pathogen contamination and not only to the later-developing symptoms of a disease. Image courtesy: Sina Metzler, Roland Ferrigato/ISTA.

KLOSTERNEUBURG.- Pathogens are disease-causing organisms. By natural selection, they develop evasion mechanisms to outsmart the host's immune system and to get the upper hand. One way to support the immune system and fight back is medical intervention. However, this can lead to unwanted adaptions of pathogens as seen in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Another strategy is social intervention. Some social groups like ants are trying to fight infection with "social immunity," the collective hygiene and health care measures to avoid spread throughout the community. If and how pathogens can respond to this kind of group behavior, is still unknown. The latest study by Professor Sylvia Cremer and her research team at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria shows the extraordinary effects of these kinds of host-parasite interactions. Together, with chemical ecologists at the University of Würzburg in Germany, the scientists took a close look at so ... More

Professor Dino Jaroszynski's experimental setup to investigate plasma photonic structures at the Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Image courtesy: University of Strathclyde.

GLASGOW.- Laser-driven 'mirrors' capable of reflecting or manipulating light have been produced in research led at the University of Strathclyde. The 'mirrors' exist for only a fragment of time but could help to reduce the size of ultra-high power lasers, which currently occupy buildings the size of aircraft hangars, to university basement sizes. They have potential to be developed into a variety of plasma-based, high damage-threshold optical elements that could lead to small footprint, ultra-high-power, ultra-short pulse laser systems. The new way of producing mirrors, and other optical components, points the way to developing the next generation high power lasers, from hundreds of petawatts (1015 watts) to exawatts (1018 watts). The new research has been published in Communications Physics. Professor Dino Jaroszynski, of Strathclyde's Department of Physics, led the research. He said, "High-power lasers are tools that enable research in ma ... More

Researcher sampling Southern California dryland soil to analyze for carbon content. Image courtesy: Johann Püspök/UCR.

RIVERSIDE, CA.- New UC Riverside research suggests nitrogen released by gas-powered machines causes dry soil to let go of carbon and release it back into the atmosphere, where it can contribute to climate change. Industrial manufacturing, agricultural practices, and significantly, vehicles, all burn fossil fuels that release nitrogen into the air. As a result, levels of nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere have tripled since 1850. The research team wanted to understand whether this extra nitrogen is affecting soil's ability to hold onto carbon and keep it from becoming a greenhouse gas. "Because nitrogen is used as a fertilizer for plants, we expected additional nitrogen would promote plant growth as well as microbial activity, thereby increasing carbon put into soils," said Peter Homyak, study co-author and assistant professor in UCR's Department of Environmental Sciences. In dryland soil, the type that covers much of Southern California, this is not what ... More

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. Carl Sagan

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Scientists report on a quasiparticle that can transfer heat under electrical control
COLUMBUS, OH.- Scientists have found the secret behind a property of solid materials known as ferroelectrics, showing that quasiparticles moving in wave-like patterns among vibrating atoms carry enough heat to turn the material into a thermal switch when an electrical field is applied externally. A key finding of the study is that this control of thermal conductivity is attributable to the structure of the material rather than any random collisions among atoms. Specifically, the researchers describe quasiparticles called ferrons whose polarization changes as they "wiggle" in between vibrating atoms—and it's that ordered wiggling and polarization, receptive to the externally applied electrical field, that dictates the material's ability to transfer the heat at a different rate. "We figured out that this change in position ... More

Digital revolution inspires new research direction in ecosystem structural diversity
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN.- A special issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment lays the foundation for pursuing structural diversity as a new research direction in ecology. The issue also describes the digital data collection methods that enable the new research direction, and the applications of the work in various ecosystems. "Structural diversity is thinking about what elements occupy a space and how they have been arranged in the space," said the special issue's lead editor, Songlin Fei, a professor of forestry and natural resources and the Dean's Chair of Remote Sensing at Purdue. "The hope is that we're providing a framework that can be applied regardless of the system that you're working in, from terrestrial to aquatic." As Fei and three co-editors wrote in their overview, the special issue's con ... More

Will revitalizing old blood slow aging?
NEW YORK, NY.- Young blood has a rejuvenating effect when infused into older bodies, according to recent research: Aging hearts beat stronger, muscles become stronger, and thinking becomes sharper. Many scientists are looking for the elements of young blood that can be captured or replicated and put into a pill. But what if the best way to get the benefits of young blood is to simply rejuvenate the system that makes blood? "An aging blood system, because it's a vector for a lot of proteins, cytokines, and cells, has a lot of bad consequences for the organism," says Emmanuelle Passegué, Ph.D., director of the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative, who's been studying how blood changes with age. "A 70-year-old with a 40-year-old blood system could have a longer healthspan, if not a longer lifespan." Rejuvenating an older p ... More

Silver nanoparticles show promise in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria
GAINESVILLE, FL.- In a new study, scientists with the University of Florida have found that a combination of silver nanoparticles and antibiotics is effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers hope to turn this discovery into viable treatment for some types of antibiotic-resistant infections. Antibiotic-resistant infections kill more than a million people globally each year. For centuries, silver has been known to have antimicrobial properties. However, silver nanoparticles—microscopic spheres of silver small enough to operate at the cellular level—represent a new frontier in using the precious metal to fight bacteria. In this study, the research team tested whether commercially available silver nanoparticles boost the power of antibiotics and enable these drugs to counter the very bacteria that have evolved to withs ... More

New software enables automated analysis of biomedical image data without programming knowledge
JENA.- The software JIPipe was developed by scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology and significantly simplifies the analysis of images generated in research. Users can create flowcharts according to their application needs and thus perform automatic image analyses using artificial intelligence without any programming knowledge. JIPipe is based on ImageJ, a standard program for scientific analysis of biomedical microscopic images. The authors now present their development in Nature Methods. Images, especially microscopic images, play a major role in biomedical research. With the help of fluorescent labels, for example, processes in cells become visible. "A picture is worth a thousand words—that is still true," says Thilo Figge, head of the Applied Systems Biology rese ... More

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On a day like today, American astronomer and academic Clyde Tombaugh was born
February 04, 1906. Clyde William Tombaugh (February 4, 1906 - January 17, 1997) was an American astronomer. He discovered Pluto in 1930, the first object to be discovered in what would later be identified as the Kuiper belt. At the time of discovery, Pluto was considered a planet, but was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. Tombaugh also discovered many asteroids, and called for the serious scientific research of unidentified flying objects. It was at Lowell in 1930 that Tombaugh discovered Pluto. Following his discovery, Tombaugh earned bachelor's and master's degrees in astronomy from the University of Kansas in 1936 and 1938. While a young researcher working for the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, Tombaugh was given the job to perform a systematic search for a trans-Neptunian planet (also called Planet X), which had been predicted by Percival Lowell based on calculations performed by his student mathematician Elizabeth Williams and William Pickering.

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