Established in 2020 Monday, September 20, 2021


 
World's first discovery of liquid directional steering on a bio-inspired surface

By mimicking its natural structure, the team designed the Araucaria leaf-inspired surface with 3D ratchets, which enable different water-ethanol mixtures of varying surface tension to spread in three directions: forwards, backwards and bidirectionally. Image courtesy: City University of Hong Kong.

HONG KONG.- Inspired by a kind of tree leaf, scientists at City University of Hong Kong discovered that the spreading direction of different liquids deposited on the same surface can be steered, solving a challenge that has remained for over two centuries. This breakthrough could ignite a new wave of using 3D surface structures for intelligent liquid manipulation with profound implications for various scientific and industrial applications, such as fluidics design and heat transfer enhancement. Led by Professor Wang Zuankai, chair professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MNE) of CityU, the research team found that the unexpected liquid transport behavior of the Araucaria leaf provides an exciting prototype for liquid directional steering, pushing the frontiers of liquid transport. Their findings were published in the prestigious scientific journal Science under the title "Three-dimensional capillary ratchet-induced liquid direct ... More



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Discovery highlights the complex lifestyles of frontline immune cells   Skeletal muscle grown in a dish offers insight into neuromuscular diseases   Fossil bird with fancy tail feathers shows that sometimes, it's survival of the sexiest


WEHI researcher Dr Michael Chopin have made a surprise discovery about how immune ‘sentinel’ cells are maintained, which could have implications for drugs in development for treating cancer. Image courtesy: WEHI.

PARKVILLE.- WEHI researchers have made a surprise discovery about how immune 'sentinel' cells are maintained, which could have implications for drugs in development for treating cancer. The researchers studied the impact of deleting specific proteins in immune cells that were responsible for controlling the ability of cells to silence or switch off genes. They were surprised to find that one population of 'sentinel' immune cells was affected by deletion of a component of the machinery, causing the cells to disappear from skin and lungs completely. This suggests that drugs which inhibit this component to treat diseases, such as cancer, could have unintended consequences for the immune system. The research was led by Dr. Yifan Zhan, Dr. Yuxia Zhang, Mr Shengbo Zhang, Dr. Michael Chopin, Professor Stephen Nutt and colleagues, and was published in Science Immunology. The research team studied the role of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) in ... More
 

Motor neurons (green) are grown on top of skeletal muscle (red). The blue stains show the nuclei of the cells. Image courtesy: USC Laboratory for Living Systems Engineering.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- In the fight against diseases like ALS, USC Viterbi biomedical engineering researchers have created a powerful lab model to better see how our muscles and neurons connect. Neuromuscular diseases are debilitating and mostly incurable, affecting 160 out of every 100,000 people worldwide. Disorders such as ALS and multiple sclerosis impact the function of muscles, causing muscle wastage and loss of motor function. A major hurdle in the fight against these diseases is the fact it is notoriously difficult to grow tissue in a lab that shows the connection between our muscles and the neurons that control them. Until now. Biomedical engineering Ph.D. students at USC Viterbi School of Engineering have created a vastly improved new lab-grown tissue model that offers a more stable view of the neuromuscular junction—an important part of our system that translates electrical impulses generated by the neurons in our spine into electri ... More
 

An illustration showing what Yuanchuavis might have looked like in life. Image courtesy: Haozhen Zhang.

CHICAGO, IL.- If you had to describe a male peacock's tail feathers, you might pick words like "dazzling" or "beautiful." You probably wouldn't go with "stealthy," "aerodynamic," or "subtle." Peacock tails are just one example of how evolution walks a line between favoring traits that make it easier to survive, and traits that make it easier to find a mate— sometimes, it's less about "survival of the fittest" and more about "survival of the sexiest." In a new paper in Current Biology, scientists have found evidence of this age-old conundrum in the form of a fossil bird from the Early Cretaceous with a pair of elaborate tail feathers longer than its body. "We've never seen this combination of different kinds of tail feathers before in a fossil bird," says Jingmai O'Connor, a paleontologist at Chicago's Field Museum and one of the study's authors. "This new discovery vividly demonstrates how the interplay between natural and sexual select ... More



Droplets with coronaviruses last longer than previously thought   Mushballs stash away missing ammonia on Uranus and Neptune   Rare artefacts discovered on the Murray River


Computer simulations show, how long small droplets can remain suspended in the air. Image courtesy: Vienna University of Technology.

VIENNA.- It is easier to get infected in winter than in summer—this is true for the Corona pandemic, for influenza and for other viral diseases. Relative humidity plays an important role in this. Outdoors, it is much higher outside in winter than in summer, as can be seen from the fact that our breath condenses into droplets in the cold air. Previous models assumed that only large droplets pose a relevant risk of infection because small droplets evaporate quickly. At TU Wien, however, in cooperation with the University of Padova, it has now been shown that this is not true: Due to the high humidity of the air we breathe, even small droplets can remain in the air much longer than previously assumed. The study was published in the scientific journal PNAS. Prof. Alfredo Soldati and his team at the Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer TU Wien are researching flows that are composed of different components—so called "multiphase ... More
 

Composite image of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter. Image: Jupiter from Juno: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran.

GÖTTINGEN.- Mushballs—giant, slushy hailstones made from a mixture of ammonia and water—may be responsible for an atmospheric anomaly on Neptune and Uranus that has been puzzling scientists. A study presented by Tristan Guillot at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 shows that mushballs could be highly effective at carrying ammonia deep into the ice giants' atmospheres, hiding the gas from detection beneath opaque clouds. Recently, remote observations at infrared and radio wavelengths have shown that Uranus and Neptune lack ammonia in their atmosphere compared to the other giant planets in our solar system. This is surprising because they are otherwise very rich in other compounds, such as methane, found in the primordial cloud from which the planets formed. Either the planets formed under special conditions, from material that was also poor in ammonia, or some ongoing process must be responsible. Guillot, a resear ... More
 

Perforated shell artefact from Murrawong (Glen Lossie) on the Lower Murray River in South Austrtalia. Image courtesy: Flinders University.

BEDFORD PARK.- New research by archaeologists has described rare shell artifacts discovered at Calperum Station and Murrawong (Glen Lossie) on the Murray River in South Australia. The artifacts were found in sites known to archaeologists as shell middens during field trips by Flinders and Griffith University scientists, in collaboration with the River Murray and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation and the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation. Two of the modified freshwater mussel shells are perforated, with the other is serrated. The authors say the finely serrated shell is a very rare artifact with few close Australian examples known to exist. The discoveries range in age from around 6000 to 600 years old and more than double the known examples of such artifacts from this region. Professor Amy Roberts at Flinders University, the lead author on the paper, says that whilst midden sites are a common type in many parts of the country, shell artifacts a ... More



New physics research reveals fresh complexities about electron behavior in materials   Behold the humble water flea, locked in a battle of mythological proportions   SARS-CoV-2 is evolving to get better at becoming airborne, new study shows


Physics doctoral student Adbhut Gupta in the lab of Jean Heremans at Robeson Hall. Image courtesy: Steven Mackay / Virginia Tech.

BLACKSBURG, VA.- When electrons flow through a conductor—such as the copper wires in our phone chargers or the silicon chips in the circuit boards of our laptops—they collide with material impurities and with each other in a tiny atomic frenzy. Their interaction with impurities is well known. Yet, while understanding how electrons interact with each other is fundamental to understanding the physics, measuring the strength of these interactions has proven to be a tricky challenge for physicists. A team led by Virginia Tech researchers has discovered that by creating a specific set of conditions, they could quantify electron-electron interactions more precisely than ever. Their findings expand upon existing physics theories and can be applied to improving electronic devices and quantum computers. They recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. To study how electrons interact together, the team fabricated tiny devices tha ... More
 

Water flea (Daphnia sp.). Water fleas are filter feeders that play a key role in local food webs. Image courtesy: Meghan Duffy.

ST. LOUIS, MO.- In Greek mythology, Hydra was a monstrous water serpent that lived in a swamp and terrorized nearby residents. When intrepid Hercules sliced off one of Hydra's multiple heads, two more heads grew back in its place. This counterintuitive result—when an action taken to reduce a problem actually multiplies it—is known as a hydra effect. Scientists propose that ecological systems exhibit something akin to a hydra effect when a higher death rate in a species ultimately increases the size of its population. In other words, what does kill you makes you…more abundant. New research from Rachel Penczykowski, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, investigates why and in what types of systems this hydra effect can occur. The study includes laboratory components and an analysis of 13 fungal epidemics in nature. "Disease epidemics can drive declines in host populations, trigger conserva ... More
 

A participant breathes into a machine developed by UMD Professor Don Milton to measure virus content in breath. Image courtesy: University of Nottingham.

COLLEGE PARK, MD.- Results of a new study led by the University of Maryland School of Public Health show that people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 exhale infectious virus in their breath—and those infected with the Alpha variant (the dominant strain circulating at the time this study was conducted) put 43 to 100 times more virus into the air than people infected with the original strains of the virus. The researchers also found that loose-fitting cloth and surgical masks reduced the amount of virus that gets into the air around infected people by about half. The study was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. "Our latest study provides further evidence of the importance of airborne transmission," said Dr. Don Milton, professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD SPH). "We know that the Delta variant circulating now is even more contagious than the Alpha variant. Our research indicate ... More



Jaws: How an African ray-finned fish is helping us to rethink the fundamentals of evolution   Link between inflammation and pancreatic cancer development uncovered   Researchers infuse bacteria with silver to improve power efficiency in fuel cells


One of Lake Malawi’s many cichlids. Image courtesy: Craig Albertson.

AMHERST, MA.- A family of fishes called cichlids in Africa's Lake Malawi is helping researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to refine our understanding of how evolution works. In new research published in Nature Communications, co-authors Andrew J. Conith, postdoctoral researcher in the UMass Amherst biology department, and Craig Albertson, professor of biology at UMass Amherst, focus on the jaws of cichlids—which are notable because they have two sets of them. "Remember the movie 'Alien,'" asks Conith, "when the alien is about to eat Sigourney Weaver's character? It opens its mouth and out comes a second set of jaws. Fast forward twenty years, and here I am, studying animals that have jaws in their throats." Cichlids thankfully don't eat humans, but thanks to their twin pairs of jaws, they are a phenomenally successful group of fishes from an evolutionary standpoint. In Lake Malawi alone, more than 1,000 different species of c ... More
 

Pancreatic cancer cells (blue) growing as a sphere encased in membranes (red). Image courtesy: National Cancer Institute.

HOUSTON, TX.- A new discovery from researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has clarified the long-established connection between inflammation and pancreatic cancer development. According to the study published in Science, pancreatic cells display an adaptive response to repeated inflammatory episodes that initially protects against tissue damage but can promote tumor formation in the presence of mutant KRAS. The authors demonstrated that mutant KRAS—which is found in roughly 95% of all pancreatic cancers—supports this adaptive response, leading to selective pressure to maintain the cancer-causing mutation. "We discovered that a single transient inflammatory event induced long-term transcriptomic and epigenetic reprogramming of epithelial cells that cooperated with oncogenic KRAS to promote pancreatic tumors long after the inflammation was resolved," said corresponding author Andrea Viale, M.D., assistant pro ... More
 

Artist's concept of a microbial fuel cell with efficiencies boosted by silver nanoparticles. Image courtesy: AKang, Sphere Studio, Yu Huang and Xiangfeng Duan.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- A UCLA-led team of engineers and chemists has taken a major step forward in the development of microbial fuel cells—a technology that utilizes natural bacteria to extract electrons from organic matter in wastewater to generate electrical currents. A study detailing the breakthrough was recently published in Science. "Living energy-recovery systems utilizing bacteria found in wastewater offer a one-two punch for environmental sustainability efforts," said co-corresponding author Yu Huang, a professor and chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. "The natural populations of bacteria can help decontaminate groundwater by breaking down harmful chemical compounds. Now, our research also shows a practical way to harness renewable energy from this process."  The team focused on the bacteria ... More


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Those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge, but they will not even stop to learn! Claudius Galenus

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New discovery about meteorites informs atmospheric entry threat assessment
CHAMPAIGN, IL.- Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign watched fragments of two meteors as they ramped up the heat from room temperature to the temperature it reaches as it enters Earth's atmosphere and made a significant discovery. The vaporized iron sulfide leaves behind voids, making the material more porous. This information will help when predicting the weight of a meteor, its likelihood to break apart, and the subsequent damage assessment if it should land. "We extracted samples from the interiors that had not already been exposed to the high heat of the entry environment," said Francesco Panerai, professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at UIUC. "We wanted to understand how the microstructure of a meteorite changes as it travels through the atmosphere." Panerai and collaborators at NASA Ames Research Center used an X-ray microtomography technique that allowed them to observe the samples in place as they were hea ... More

Game-changer for clean hydrogen production
PERTH.- Curtin University research has identified a new, cheaper and more efficient electrocatalyst to make green hydrogen from water that could one day open new avenues for large-scale clean energy production. Typically, scientists have been using precious metal catalysts, such as platinum, to accelerate the reaction to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. Now Curtin research has found that adding nickel and cobalt to cheaper, previously ineffective catalysts enhances their performance, which lowers the energy required to split the water and increases the yield of hydrogen. Lead researcher Dr. Guohua Jia, from Curtin's School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said this discovery could have far-reaching implications for sustainable green fuel generation in the future. "Our research essentially saw us take two-dimensional iron-sulfur nanocrystals, which don't usually work as catalysts for the electricity-driven reaction that gets hydrogen ... More

The microbial molecule that turns plants into zombies
NORWICH.- A newly discovered manipulation mechanism used by parasitic bacteria to slow down plant aging, may offer new ways to protect disease-threatened food crops. Parasites manipulate the organisms they live off to suit their needs, sometimes in drastic ways. When under the spell of a parasite, some plants undergo such extensive changes that they are described as "zombies". They stop reproducing and serve only as a habitat and host for the parasitic pathogens. Until now, there's been little understanding of how this happens on a molecular and mechanistic level. Research from the Hogenhout group at the John Innes Centre and collaborators published in Cell, has identified a manipulation molecule produced by Phytoplasma bacteria to hijack plant development. When inside a plant, this protein causes key growth regulators to be broken down, triggering abnormal growth. Phytoplasma bacteria belong to a group of microbes that are notorious for their ... More

Fiber tracking method delivers important new insights into turbulence
OKINAWA.- Whether it's heart murmurs and pipeline transport of oil, or bumpy airplanes and the dispersal of pollutants, turbulence plays an important role in many everyday events. But despite being commonplace, scientists still don't fully understand the seemingly unpredictable behavior of the swirls and eddies in turbulent flows. Now, a new technique for measuring turbulent flows has been developed by an international collaboration of scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan, along with the University of Genova, Italy, KTH Stockholm, Sweden and ETH Zurich, Switzerland. By using fibers rather than particles—the usual method of measurement—the researchers could get a more detailed picture of turbulent flows. Their method was published in the journal Physical Review X. "Turbulence is a very unique and complicated phenomena, it's even been called the last unsolved problem in class ... More

How do cells acquire their shapes? A new mechanism identified
BETHLEHEM, PA.- Working with light to activate processes within genetically modified fission yeast cells is among the research performed by the experimental biologists in the Martin Lab at the University of Lausanne, led by faculty member Sophie Martin. Team members there were conducting such experiments when they noticed that a certain protein, when introduced into the cell, would become displaced from the cell growth region. So, they reached out to Dimitrios Vavylonis, who leads the Vavylonis Group in the Department of Physics at Lehigh University, to find out why. "We proceeded to make a computational simulation that coupled cell membrane 'growth' to protein motion as well as model a few other hypotheses that we considered after discussions with them," says Vavylonis, a theoretical physicist. This multidisciplinary collaboration combined modeling and experiments to describe a previously-unknown biological process. The teams discovered and chara ... More







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Flashback
On a day like today, Scottish-English chemist and physicist James Dewar was born
September 20, 1842. Sir James Dewar (20 September 1842 - 27 March 1923) was a British chemist and physicist. He is best known for his invention of the vacuum flask, which he used in conjunction with research into the liquefaction of gases. He also studied atomic and molecular spectroscopy, working in these fields for more than 25 years. His name is most widely known in connection with his work on the liquefaction of the so-called permanent gases and his researches at temperatures approaching absolute zero. His interest in this branch of physics and chemistry dates back at least as far as 1874, when he discussed the "Latent Heat of Liquid Gases" before the British Association. By 1891, he had designed and built, at the Royal Institution, machinery which yielded liquid oxygen in industrial quantities, and towards the end of that year, he showed that both liquid oxygen and liquid ozone are strongly attracted by a magnet.



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