Established in 2020 Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Research team exerts electrical control over polaritons, hybridized light-matter particles, at room temperature

Image depicting the control of polariton particles using electric-field tip-enhanced strong coupling spectroscopy. Image courtesy: POSTECH.

POHANG.- A research team has pioneered an innovative technique in ultra-high-resolution spectroscopy. Their breakthrough marks the world's first instance of electrically controlling polaritons—hybridized light-matter particles—at room temperature. The research has been published in Physical Review Letters. Polaritons are "half-light half-matter" hybrid particles, having both the characteristics of photons—particles of light—and those of solid matter. Their unique characteristics exhibit properties distinct from both traditional photons and solid matter, unlocking the potential for next-generation materials, particularly in surpassing performance limitations of optical displays. Until now, the inability to electrically control polaritons at room temperature on a single particle level has hindered their commercial viability. The research team has devised a novel method called "electric-field tip-enhanced strong coupling spectroscopy," enabling ultra-high-resolution electricall ... More

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Archaeologists find that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens organized living spaces similarly   New gravitational wave signal helps fill the 'mass gap' between neutron stars and black holes   Early medieval money mystery solved

This new study underscores the significance of directly comparing the spatial behavior of Neanderthals and ''Homo sapiens'' within the same site, using consistent parameters, to minimize analytical bias. Image courtesy: University of Montreal.

MONTREAL.- In a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, archaeologists from Université de Montréal and the University of Genoa reveal that far from being more primitive, Neanderthals did much the same as their Homo sapiens successors: made themselves at home. Analyzing artifacts and features of the Protoaurignacian and Mousterian levels of the Riparo Bombrini site in northwestern Italy, the scientists uncovered common patterns of settlement between the two populations. By mapping the distribution of stone tools, animal bones, ochre, and marine shells across the surface of the site, they were able to produce clear and interpretable models of the site's spatial patterns, identifying distinct clusters of artifacts and materials to infer the behavioral significance ... More

Artwork of a neutron star–black hole merger. Image courtesy: Carl Knox, OzGrav-Swinburne University.

VANCOUVER.- A collaboration of researchers including UBC scientists have observed gravitational waves from the collision of what is most likely a neutron star and an object likely to be a light black hole, 650 million light-years from Earth. The mass of the black hole is 2.5 to 4.5 times the mass of Earth’s sun, meaning it falls in the so-called ‘mass gap’: heavier than heaviest known and theorized neutron stars but lighter than the lightest black holes in our galaxy. The collision, reported in a preprint paper, was detected by one part of an international network of gravitational wave detectors, comprised of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the Virgo Gravitational Wave Interferometer, and the Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector (KAGRA). “This detection, the first of our exciting results from the fourth LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA observing run, reveals that there may be a higher rate of similar collisions be ... More

Professor Rory Naismith holding a Byzantine silver coin in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Image courtesy: Adam Page.

CAMBRIDGE.- Byzantine bullion fueled Europe's revolutionary adoption of silver coins in the mid-7th century, only to be overtaken by silver from a mine in Charlemagne's Francia a century later, new tests reveal. The findings could transform our understanding of Europe's economic and political development. Between 660 and 750 AD, Anglo-Saxon England witnessed a profound revival in trade involving a dramatic surge in the use of silver coins, breaking from a reliance on gold. Around 7,000 of these silver 'pennies' have been recorded, a huge number, about as many as we have for the rest of the entire Anglo-Saxon period (5th century–1066). For decades, experts have agonized over where the silver in these coins came from. Now a team of researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have solved that mystery by analyzing the make-up of coins held by the Fitzwilliam Museum ... More

Climate change threatens Antarctic meteorites   'Mini kidneys' reveal new insights into metabolic defects in polycystic kidney disease   New diagnostic tool achieves accuracy of PCR tests with faster and simpler nanopore system

Field guide in a blue ice area during a mission to take ice samples. Image courtesy: Veronica Tollenaar, Université libre de Bruxelles.

ZURICH.- Using artificial intelligence, satellite observations, and climate model projections, a team of researchers from Switzerland and Belgium calculate that for every tenth of a degree of increase in global air temperature, an average of nearly 9,000 meteorites disappear from the surface of the ice sheet. This loss has major implications, as meteorites are unique samples of extraterrestrial bodies that provide insights into the origin of life on Earth and the formation of the moon. By 2050, about a quarter of the estimated 300,000—800,000 meteorites in Antarctica will be lost due to glacial melt. By end of the century, researchers anticipate that number could rise approaching a loss of meteorites closer to three-quarters of the meteorites on the continent under a high-warming scenario. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Harry Zekollari co-led the study while working under Professor Daniel Farinotti in the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology ... More

Immunofluorescence image of a polycystic kidney disease organoid. Image courtesy: Nanyang Technological University.

SINGAPORE.- Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have successfully grown 'mini kidneys' in the lab and grafted them into live mice, revealing new insights into the metabolic defects and a potential therapy for polycystic kidney disease. "Mini kidneys," or kidney organoids, are kidney-like structures grown in the lab using stem cells. In the study led by NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), researchers grew the organoids using skin cells derived from patients with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a prevalent form of genetic condition that affects 1 in 1,000 individuals across all ethnicities. People with PKD often progress to end-stage kidney disease between their 50s and 60s, with the standard treatment options available being dialysis or a kidney transplant. However, dialysis significantly compromises a patient's quality of life, while a transplanted kidney can be challenging to acquire. O ... More

The nanopore optofluidic chip used in the new diagnostic system, with a PCR thermocycler in the background for comparison. Image courtesy: Mohammad Julker Neyen Sampad, UC Santa Cruz.

SANTA CRUZ, CA.- Over the past four years, many of us have become accustomed to a swab up the nose to test for COVID-19, using at-home rapid antigen tests or the more accurate clinic-provided PCR tests with a longer processing time. Now a new diagnostic tool developed by UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Holger Schmidt and his collaborators can test for SARS-CoV-2 and Zika virus with the same or better accuracy as high-precision PCR tests in a matter of hours. In a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Schmidt and the project team describe their system, which combines optofluidics and nanopore technology to create a lab-on-a-chip diagnostic system. The team's success with animal models makes them hopeful that this technology could be a major innovation for the future of rapid diagnostics. "This could turn into the ... More

UW-Madison researchers develop better way to make painkiller from trees   Study uncovers multiple lineages of stem cells contributing to neuron production   Mediterranean marine worm has developed eyes 'as big as millstones'

Scientists Steve Karlen and Vitaliy Tymokhin look over a reactor they used for their research on converting biomass into paracetamol. Image courtesy: University of Wisconsin–Madison.

MADISON, WI.- Scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have developed a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way to make a popular pain reliever and other valuable products from plants instead of petroleum. Building on a previously patented method for producing paracetamol – the active ingredient in Tylenol – the discovery promises a greener path to one of the world’s most widely used medicines and other chemicals. More importantly, it could provide new revenue streams to make cellulosic biofuels — derived from non-food plant fibers — cost competitive with fossil fuels, the primary driver of climate change. “We did the R&D to scale it and make it realizable,” says Steven Karlen, a staff scientist at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center who led the research published recently in the journal ChemSusChem. Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, is one of the most widely used pharmaceuti ... More

Diversity of Radial Glia cells in the neonatal ferret cerebral cortex, labeled with green fluorescent protein and seen within the transparent brain. Image courtesy: IN-CSIC-UMH.

ELCHE.- The development of the cerebral cortex largely depends on the stem cells responsible for generating neurons, known as radial glial cells. Until now, it was believed that these stem cells generated neurons following a simple process, that is, a single cell lineage. However, a study led by the Neurogenesis and cortical expansion laboratory, headed by researcher Víctor Borrell at the Institute for Neurosciences (IN), a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche, has discovered not only that there are many more types of radial glial cells than previously thought, but also that there are at least three different processes of neurogenesis that occur in parallel in the same brain areas and at the same moment of development. The results of this work, published in the journal Science Advances, reveal the complexity of neurogenesis through the ... More

Marvelous eyes, but you be the judge of this sea critter's beauty. Vanadis is a byname of the Norse goddess of love, Freya. Image courtesy: Michael Bok.

COPENHAGEN.- Scientists are amazed at the discovery of a bristle worm with such sharp-seeing eyes that they can measure up to those of mammals and octopuses. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Lund University suspect that these marine worms may have a secretive language, which uses UV light only seen by their own species. The advanced vision of such a primitive creature helps to settle an epic debate about the evolution of eyes. The Vanadis bristle worm has eyes as big as millstones—relatively speaking. Indeed, if our eyes were proportionally as big as the ones of this Mediterranean marine worm, we would need a big, sturdy wheelbarrow and brawny arms to lug around the extra 100kg. As a set, the worm's eyes weigh about twenty times as much as the rest of the animal's head and seem grotesquely out of place on this tiny and transparent marine critter. As if two giant, shiny red balloons have been strapped to its body. Vanadis ... More

Heart-on-a-chip model used to glean insights into COVID-19-induced heart inflammation   Researchers unveil the largest 3D map of the universe ever made   Finding new chemistry to capture double the carbon

Researchers worked in the Toronto High Containment Facility at U of T to examine the effects of COVID-19 on heart inflammation. Image courtesy: Lisa Lightbourn.

TORONTO.- Researchers at the University of Toronto and its partner hospitals have created a unique heart-on-a-chip model that is helping untangle the causes of COVID-19-induced heart inflammation and uncover strategies to reduce its impact. While COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory infection, clinicians and researchers are increasingly aware of the virus’s effects on other organs – including the heart. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 2020 and January 2021 had 15 times higher risk for developing myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, compared to patients without COVID-19. But the biology behind the association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and heart inflammation had remained unclear – in part because there have not been good models with which to study infection-related ... More

DESI making observations in the night sky. Image courtesy: © KPNO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/T. Slovinský.

LAUSANNE.- The first results from the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI project, with significant contributions from EPFL astrophysicists, has mapped galaxies and quasars with unprecedented detail measuring how fast the universe expanded over 11 billion years. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument project, an international collaboration of more than 900 researchers from over 70 institutions around the world including EPFL, has released its first results – a map of galaxies and quasars with unprecedented detail, creating the largest 3D map of the universe ever made. With 5,000 tiny robots installed on the Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in the United States, researchers can look up to 11 billion years into the past. And, this is the first time that scientists have measured the expansion history of that distant period (8-11 billion years) with a precision of better than 1%. The new map surpasses all previou ... More

An established carbon capture solvent can form clusters that could significantly increase the amount of carbon dioxide stored. Image: Andrea Starr; Courtesy: Cortland Johnson | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

RICHLAND, WA.- Finding ways to capture, store, and use carbon dioxide (CO2) remains an urgent global problem. As temperatures continue to rise, keeping CO2 from entering the atmosphere can help limit warming where carbon-based fuels are still needed. Significant progress has been made in creating affordable, practical carbon capture technologies. Carbon-capturing liquids, referred to as solvents when they are present in abundance, can efficiently grab CO2 molecules from coal-fired power plants, paper mills, and other emission sources. However, these all work through the same fundamental chemistry, or so researchers have assumed. In new work published in Nature Chemistry, scientists were surprised to find that a familiar solvent is even more promising than originally anticipated. New details about the solvent's underlying structure suggest ... More

I believe there is another world waiting for us. A better world. And I'll be waiting for you there. David Mitchell

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New statistical-modeling workflow may help advance drug discovery and synthetic chemistry
BERKELEY, CA.- A new automated workflow developed by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has the potential to allow researchers to analyze the products of their reaction experiments in real time, a key capability needed for future automated chemical processes. The developed workflow—which applies statistical analysis to process data from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy—could help speed the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs, and accelerate the development of new chemical reactions. The Berkeley Lab scientists who developed the groundbreaking technique say that the workflow can quickly identify the molecular structure of products formed by chemical reactions that have never been studied before. They recently reported their findings in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. In addition to drug discovery and chemical ... More

Researchers bring 60-year-old dormant algae cells to life
TURKU.- New research at Ĺbo Akademi University, Finland, has managed to circumvent previous challenges in finding out how microalgae adapt to global warming by studying up to 60-year-old microalgae cells from the Archipelago Sea. Some microalgae form resting cells that sink to the seabed after the blooming is over. Researchers have now managed to awaken these dormant cells from sediment cores with different chronological layers that geological methods can date. The findings, published in Nature Climate Change, are unique on a global level as microalgae have not previously been shown to adapt to global warming in natural environments where complex evolutionary selection pressures govern adaptation to new conditions. Experimental studies with the awakened cell lines have enabled scientists at Ĺbo Akademi University to establish that the species adapts to t ... More

New technique sheds light on memory and learning
NEW YORK, NY.- Less than twenty minutes after finishing this article, your brain will begin to store the information that you've just read in a coordinated burst of neuronal activity. Underpinning this process is a phenomenon known as dendritic translation, which involves an uptick in localized protein production within dendrites, the spiny branches that project off the neuron cell body and receive signals from other neurons at synapses. It's a process key to memory—and its dysfunction is linked to intellectual disorders. That makes the inner workings of dendritic translation a "holy grail for understanding memory formation," says Rockefeller's Robert B. Darnell, whose team just published a study in Nature Neuroscience describing a new platform capable of identifying the specific regulatory mechanisms that drive dendritic translation. The team leveraged a method, dubbed TurboID, to discov ... More

First-of-its-kind integrated dataset enables genes-to-ecosystems research
OAK RIDGE, TN.- A team of Department of Energy scientists led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released the first-ever dataset bridging molecular information about the poplar tree microbiome to ecosystem-level processes. The project aims to inform research regarding how natural systems function, their vulnerability to a changing climate, and, ultimately, how plants might be engineered for better performance as sources of bioenergy and natural carbon storage. The data, described in Scientific Data, provides in-depth information on 27 genetically distinct variants, or genotypes, of Populus trichocarpa, a poplar tree of interest as a bioenergy crop. The genotypes are among those that the ORNL-led Center for Bioenergy Innovation previously included in a genome-wide association study linking genetic variations to the trees' physical traits. ORNL researchers collected leaf, soil ... More

How the moon turned itself inside out
TUCSON, AZ.- About 4.5 billion years ago, a small planet smashed into the young Earth, flinging molten rock into space. Slowly, the debris coalesced, cooled and solidified, forming our moon. This scenario of how the Earth's moon came to be is the one largely agreed upon by most scientists. But the details of how exactly that happened are "more of a choose-your-own adventure novel," according to researchers in the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory who published a paper in Nature Geoscience. The findings offer important insights into the evolution of the lunar interior, and potentially for planets such as the Earth or Mars. Most of what is known about the origin of the moon comes from analyses of rock samples, collected by Apollo astronauts more than 50 years ago, combined with theoretical models. The samples of basaltic lava rocks brought back from the moon show ... More

Magnetic levitation: New material offers potential for unlocking gravity-free technology
OKINAWA.- Researchers at the Quantum Machines Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) are studying levitating materials—substances that can remain suspended in a stable position without any physical contact or mechanical support. The most common type of levitation occurs through magnetic fields. Objects such as superconductors or diamagnetic materials (materials repelled by a magnetic field) can be made to float above magnets to develop advanced sensors for various scientific and everyday uses. Prof. Jason Twamley, head of the unit, and his team of OIST researchers and international collaborators have designed a floating platform within a vacuum using graphite and magnets. Remarkably, this levitating platform operates without relying on external power sources and can assist in the development of ultra-sensitive sensors for highly precise and efficien ... More

When an antibiotic fails: MIT scientists are using AI to target "sleeper" bacteria
CAMBRIDGE, MA.- Since the 1970s, modern antibiotic discovery has been experiencing a lull. Now the World Health Organization has declared the antimicrobial resistance crisis as one of the top 10 global public health threats. When an infection is treated repeatedly, clinicians run the risk of bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics. But why would an infection return after proper antibiotic treatment? One well-documented possibility is that the bacteria are becoming metabolically inert, escaping detection of traditional antibiotics that only respond to metabolic activity. When the danger has passed, the bacteria return to life and the infection reappears. “Resistance is happening more over time, and recurring infections are due to this dormancy,” says Jackie Valeri, a former MIT-Takeda Fellow (centered within the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine ... More

This 3D printer can figure out how to print with an unknown material
CAMBRIDGE, MA.- While 3D printing has exploded in popularity, many of the plastic materials these printers use to create objects cannot be easily recycled. While new sustainable materials are emerging for use in 3D printing, they remain difficult to adopt because 3D printer settings need to be adjusted for each material, a process generally done by hand. To print a new material from scratch, one must typically set up to 100 parameters in software that controls how the printer will extrude the material as it fabricates an object. Commonly used materials, like mass-manufactured polymers, have established sets of parameters that were perfected through tedious, trial-and-error processes. But the properties of renewable and recyclable materials can fluctuate widely based on their composition, so fixed parameter sets are nearly impossible to create. In this case, users must come up with all these par ... More

MIT engineers design flexible "skeletons" for soft, muscle-powered robots
CAMBRIDGE, MA.- Our muscles are nature’s perfect actuators — devices that turn energy into motion. For their size, muscle fibers are more powerful and precise than most synthetic actuators. They can even heal from damage and grow stronger with exercise. For these reasons, engineers are exploring ways to power robots with natural muscles. They’ve demonstrated a handful of “biohybrid” robots that use muscle-based actuators to power artificial skeletons that walk, swim, pump, and grip. But for every bot, there’s a very different build, and no general blueprint for how to get the most out of muscles for any given robot design. Now, MIT engineers have developed a spring-like device that could be used as a basic skeleton-like module for almost any muscle-bound bot. The new spring, or “flexure,” is designed to get the most work out of any attached ... More

'Swallowed,' torn up or live on: How Earth will fare when the sun dies
LONDON.- Our solar system and everything within it—including the Earth—will look very different when the sun dies. But whether the planet we call home is "swallowed" up by our dying star or manages to escape its clutches, only time will tell. The inner planets Mercury and Venus will almost certainly be crushed and engulfed by the sun, according to a new paper titled "Long-term variability in debris transiting white dwarfs," published today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. But even if Earth does outlive its star, unfortunately it still wouldn't be habitable. On the plus side, it would at least fare better than some of Jupiter's moons, which an international team of astrophysicists say could be dislodged and shredded as the sun runs out of energy. They came up with the terrifying prophecy of what our solar system may look like five billion years from now after studying what happens to ... More

New insights into cholesterol dynamics shed light on neurodegenerative disease
AARHUS.- Usually, the word "cholesterol" prompts a negative reaction because of its role in cardiovascular disease. While this is true, cholesterol is also vital for cells to function correctly—for example, cholesterol is a component of cell boundaries, the building block for vitamin D and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. To have these positive effects, cholesterol needs to be accessible and distributed throughout the cell. If cholesterol becomes trapped in a compartment within the cell, a disease called Niemann-Pick type C develops. This is a neurodegenerative disease that is also described as "childhood Alzheimer's." The reason why cholesterol accumulates within these compartments is due to defective proteins within the compartment itself. To understand the fundamental aspects of cholesterol distribution, the research group studied one of the proteins that have been linked to t ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Robert Burns Woodward was born
April 10, 1917. Robert Burns Woodward (April 10, 1917 - July 8, 1979) was an American organic chemist. He is considered by many to be the preeminent synthetic organic chemist of the twentieth century, having made many key contributions to the subject, especially in the synthesis of complex natural products and the determination of their molecular structure. He worked closely with Roald Hoffmann on theoretical studies of chemical reactions. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1965. The first major contribution of Woodward's career in the early 1940s was a series of papers describing the application of ultraviolet spectroscopy in the elucidation of the structure of natural products. Woodward collected together a large amount of empirical data, and then devised a series of rules later called the Woodward's rules, which could be applied to finding out the structures of new natural substances, as well as non-natural synthesized molecules. The expedient use of newly developed instrumental techniques was a characteristic Woodward exemplified throughout his career, and it marked a radical change from the extremely tedious and long chemical methods of structural elucidation that had been used until then.

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