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Physicists observe rare resonance in molecules for the first time

Two identical molecules that are colliding form an intermediate complex when they are in resonance. The intermediate complex sets off a reaction to transform the molecules into a new state. Image courtesy: Juliana Park.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- If she hits just the right pitch, a singer can shatter a wine glass. The reason is resonance. While the glass may vibrate slightly in response to most acoustic tones, a pitch that resonates with the material’s own natural frequency can send its vibrations into overdrive, causing the glass to shatter. Resonance also occurs at the much smaller scale of atoms and molecules. When particles chemically react, it’s partly due to specific conditions that resonate with particles in a way that drives them to chemically link. But atoms and molecules are constantly in motion, inhabiting a blur of vibrating and rotating states. Picking out the exact resonating state that ultimately triggers molecules to react has been nearly impossible. MIT physicists may have cracked part of this mystery with a new study published in the journal Nature. The team reports that they have for the first time observ ... More

Passive radiative cooling can now be controlled electrically   Ancient fossils shed new light on evolution of sea worm   319-million-year-old fish preserves the earliest fossilized brain of a backboned animal

Debashree Banerjee prepares a device with passive radiative cooling that can be controlled electrically. Image courtesy: Thor Balkhed.

LINKÖPING.- Energy-efficient ways of cooling buildings and vehicles will be required in a changing climate. Researchers at Linköping University have now shown that electrical tuning of passive radiative cooling can be used to control temperatures of a material at ambient temperatures and air pressure. The results have been published in Cell Reports Physical Science. "To cool buildings, for example, traditional air conditioning is mainly used today, which requires large amounts of energy and uses environmentally hazardous refrigerants. With the help of passive radiative cooling, the cold of outer space could be used to complement normal ACs and reduce energy consumption," says Magnus Jonsson, professor and leader of the Organic Photonics and Nano-Optics group at Linköping University. Passive radiative cooling utilizes that thermal energy can leave an object in the form of infrared radiation. All objects emit heat as infrared light—trees, building ... More

Artist's reconstruction of Iotuba, showing front of body with everted head (with branchial filaments and mouth) surrounded by cage of spines (chaetae). Image courtesy: Zhang Zhifei.

DURHAM.- Ancient fossils have shed new light on a type of sea worm linking it to the time of an evolutionary explosion that gave rise to modern animal life. Researchers at Durham University, UK, and Northwest University, Xi'an, China, examined 15 exceptionally preserved fossils of the annelid worm Iotuba chengjiangensis dating from the early Cambrian period 515 million years ago. The fossilized remains included evidence of the worms' guts and kidneys and revealed they had an unexpectedly complex structure similar to that of other annelid worms. The researchers say this means that annelids—or segmented worms—diversified into different lineages some 200 million years earlier than previously thought and were part of the evolutionary leap known as the Cambrian explosion. The Cambrian explosion saw a huge rise in organisms between 540 and 530 million years ago—as shown by fossil records—and saw the appearance of man ... More

Artist's interpretation of a remarkable 319-million-year-old fish that preserves the earliest fossilized brain of a backboned animal. Image courtesy: Márcio L. Castro.

ANN ARBOR, MI.- The CT-scanned skull of a 319-million-year-old fossilized fish, pulled from a coal mine in England more than a century ago, has revealed the oldest example of a well-preserved vertebrate brain. The brain and its cranial nerves are roughly an inch long and belong to an extinct bluegill-size fish. The discovery opens a window into the neural anatomy and early evolution of the major group of fishes alive today, the ray-finned fishes, according to the authors of a University of Michigan-led study scheduled for publication Feb. 1 in Nature. The serendipitous find also provides insights into the preservation of soft parts in fossils of backboned animals. Most of the animal fossils in museum collections were formed from hard body parts such as bones, teeth and shells. The CT-scanned brain analyzed for the new study belongs to Coccocephalus wildi, an early ray-finned fish that swam in an estuary and likely dined on small crustaceans, aquatic ins ... More

A smart contact lens that diagnoses and treats glaucoma   The bubbling universe: A previously unknown phase transition in the early universe   Molecular machines could treat fungal infections

Schematic illustration of a theranostic smart contact lens for glaucoma treatment. Image courtesy: POSTECH.

POHANG.- Glaucoma is a common ocular disease in which the optic nerve malfunctions due to the increased intraocular pressure (IOP) caused by drainage canal blocking in the eye. This condition narrows the peripheral vision and can lead to vision loss in severe cases. Glaucoma patients have to manage IOP levels for their life-time. Automatic monitoring and control of the IOP in these patients would significantly improve their quality of life. Recently, a research team at POSTECH has developed a smart contact lens by combining an IOP sensor and a flexible drug delivery system to manage IOP measurement and medication administration. A POSTECH research team led by Professor Sei Kwang Hahn and Dr. Tae Yeon Kim (Department of Materials Science and Engineering) has developed a wireless theranostic smart contact lens for monitoring and control of intraocular pressure in glaucoma. Their findings were recently published in Nature Communica ... More

AI generated illustration of colliding bubbles in early universe. Image courtesy: Birgitte Svennevig, University of Southern Denmark.

ODENSE.- Think of bringing a pot of water to the boil: As the temperature reaches the boiling point, bubbles form in the water, burst and evaporate as the water boils. This continues until there is no more water changing phase from liquid to steam. This is roughly the idea of what happened in the very early universe, right after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago. The idea comes from particle physicists Martin S. Sloth from the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics Phenomenology at University of Southern Denmark and Florian Niedermann from the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (NORDITA) in Stockholm. Niedermann is a previous postdoc in Sloth's research group. In this new scientific article, they present an even stronger basis for their idea. "One must imagine that bubbles arose in various places in the early universe. They got bigger and they started crashing into each other. In the end, there was a complicated state of colliding ... More

James Tour is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry and a professor of materials science and nanoengineering. Image courtesy: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University.

HOUSTON, TX.- That stubborn athlete’s foot infection an estimated 70% of people get at some point in their life could become much easier to get rid of thanks to nanoscale drills activated by visible light. Proven effective against antibiotic-resistant infectious bacteria and cancer cells, the molecular machines developed by Rice University chemist James Tour and collaborators are just as good at combating infectious fungi, according to a new study published in Advanced Science. Based on the work of Nobel laureate Bernard Feringa, the Tour group’s molecular machines are nanoscale compounds whose paddlelike chain of atoms moves in a single direction when exposed to visible light. This causes a drilling motion that allows the machines to bore into the surface of cells, killing them. “Dr. Tour posed the question of whether they can also kill fungi, which had never been explored before,” said lead co-author Ana Santos, a Rice alumna ... More

The EPFL Spacecraft Team is launching EPFL back into space   How microbial communities shape the ocean's ecology   Engineers invent vertical, full-color microscopic LEDs

L'assemblage de l'ordinateur de bord dans les laboratoires de l'EPFL. Image courtesy: © 2023 EPFL.

LAUSANNE.- On January 31, the EPFL Spacecraft Team’s onboard computer Bunny was launched in California, USA, hosted on a D-Orbit spacecraft as part of Starlink’s 2-6 mission. This is the first time anything made at EPFL has been launched into space since 2009. "For many, this was just another Starlink launch. For us, this was the return of EPFL to space. A few months ago, we were holding Bunny in our hands, and now it is in orbit. However, the challenge is not over yet. Now we wait for the first contact and hope that our payload survives in the vacuum of space." -Aziz Belkhiria, President of the EPFL Spacecraft Team. Nearly fifteen years after the launch of the SwissCube CubeSat, another piece of EPFL machinery has gone into space: an onboard computer named Bunny, built and designed by the student-run EPFL Spacecraft Team leading the CHESS mission. The aim of the CHESS Mission is to build and launch two CubeSats, miniature satellites ... More

Marine bacteria colonise a sinking nutrient particle and break down the organic material. Recycling of marine snow is a key process in the ocean’s carbon cycle. Image courtesy: Lambert, Fernandez, Stocker / ETH Zurich.

ZURICH.- A research collaboration led by ETH Zurich and MIT will receive a further USD 15 million from the New York-​based Simons Foundation to investigate the behaviour of marine bacteria and microalgae. The research will focus on microbial communities that impact the ocean’s carbon cycle. Without microorganisms, higher life forms would not exist. Bacteria and single-​celled algae form dynamic communities that drive fundamental ecological processes: they build biomass, break down dead organic matter and recycle the elements of life. “Despite their huge importance, little is known about the nature of microbial communities,” says ETH Professor Roman Stocker from the Institute of Environmental Engineering. Since May 2017, Stocker and his team have collaborated with nine research groups from various universities to research the underlying functional principles of microbial ecosystems in the ocean. The Principles of Mi ... More

Instead of patterning red, green, and blue diodes side by side in a horizontal patchwork, the team has invented a way to stack the diodes to create vertical, multicolored pixels. Image courtesy: Younghee Lee.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Take apart your laptop screen, and at its heart you’ll find a plate patterned with pixels of red, green, and blue LEDs, arranged end to end like a meticulous Lite Brite display. When electrically powered, the LEDs together can produce every shade in the rainbow to generate full-color displays. Over the years, the size of individual pixels has shrunk, enabling many more of them to be packed into devices to produce sharper, higher-resolution digital displays. But much like computer transistors, LEDs are reaching a limit to how small they can be while also performing effectively. This limit is especially noticeable in close-range displays such as augmented and virtual reality devices, where limited pixel density results in a “screen door effect” such that users perceive stripes in the space between pixels. Now, MIT engineers have developed a new way to make sharper, defect-f ... More

Squirrels roll the dice on their offspring   When your supernova's a dud: Rare binary star features weirdly round orbit, researchers report   'BirdFlow' model could reveal mysteries of bird migration

Researcher safely traps and releases red squirrel for data collection. Image courtesy: William Westrick.

BOULDER, CO.- You’ve probably seen plenty of squirrels throughout your life: in your back yard, on campus, in the park and on the way to work. New evidence suggests that the behaviors of those furry creatures could help explain the evolutionary processes of all life on Earth, including ours. In a paper published by Science, a team of researchers including Andrew McAdam, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that the red squirrels of Yukon, Canada, sometimes make mistakes when adapting to the boom-and-bust cycles of cones produced by spruce trees, their primarily food source. However, some mistakes are less severe than others and can actually help red squirrels survive in the long run. “If what we see in nature is the result of natural selection, then organisms ought to fit with their environment pretty well. When you find these situations where there's not a good match ... More

This infographic illustrates the evolution of the star system CPD-29 2176, the first confirmed kilonova progenitor. Image courtesy: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/P. Marenfeld.

PRESCOTT, AZ.- After crunching a mountain of astronomy data, Clarissa Pavao, an undergraduate at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Prescott, Arizona campus, submitted her preliminary analysis. Her mentor's response was swift and in all-caps: "THERE'S AN ORBIT!" he wrote. That was when Pavao, a senior space physics major, realized she was about to become a part of something big—a paper in the journal Nature that describes a rare binary star system with uncommon features. The paper, published on Feb. 1, 2023, and co-authored with Dr. Noel D. Richardson, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at Embry-Riddle, describes a twin-star system that is luminous with X-rays and high in mass. Featuring a weirdly circular orbit—an oddity among binaries—the twin system seems to have formed when an exploding star or supernova fizzled out without the usual bang, similar to a dud firecracker. The binary's round orbit was a key clue tha ... More

Osprey migration routes cover much of North America into South America. It’s one of the species used to test the BirdFlow model. Image courtesy: Brian E. Kushner/Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

ITHACA, NY.- A new computer model using machine learning to predict migratory bird movement could open the door to new insights on migration timing, stopover sites, bird response to climate change, light pollution and more, as it learns the patterns and variations in movement for individual species. The model, called BirdFlow, spearheaded by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is explained in “BirdFlow: Learning Seasonal Bird Movements From eBird Data,” published Feb. 1 in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution. “A particularly exciting aspect of this research is being able to take limited information from different sources and run it through BirdFlow,” said study co-author and Cornell Lab postdoctoral researcher Benjamin Van Doren. “We’ll be able to learn as much as we can about species movement through space and time.” There are still many unanswered ... More

More News
Researchers reveal microscopic quantum correlations of ultracold molecules
PRINCETON, NJ.- Physicists are increasingly using ultracold molecules to study quantum states of matter. Many researchers contend that molecules have advantages over other alternatives, such as trapped ions, atoms or photons. These advantages suggest that molecular systems will play important roles in emerging quantum technologies. But, for a while now, research into molecular systems has advanced only so far because of long-standing challenges in preparing, controlling and observing molecules in a quantum regime. Now, as chronicled in a study published this week in Nature, Princeton researchers have achieved a major breakthrough by microscopically studying molecular gases at a level never before achieved by previous research. The Princeton team, led by Waseem Bakr ... More

Numerical simulations of planetesimal formation reproduce key properties of asteroids, comets
HEIDELBERG.- With simulations that go into finer details than ever before, Brooke Polak of the University of Heidelberg and Hubert Klahr at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have modeled a key phase in the formation of planets in our solar system: the way that centimeter-size pebbles aggregate into so-called planetesimals tens to hundreds kilometers in size. The simulation reproduces the initial size distribution of planetesimals, which can be checked against observations of present-day asteroids. It also predicts the prevalence of close binary planetesimals in our solar system. In a new study published on arXiv and accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, astrophysicists Brooke Polak from the University of Heidelberg and Hubert Klahr from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy used simulatio ... More

Researchers develop 100% biodegradable paper straws that do not become soggy
DAEJEON.- The paper straws that are currently available are not entirely made of paper alone. Straws made with 100% paper become too soggy when they come in contact with liquids and cannot function as straws. Accordingly, their surfaces should be coated. The most commonly used coating materials for paper straws are polyethylene (PE) or acrylic resin—the same materials used for making plastic bags and adhesives. Paper cups are also coated with the same materials as paper straws. A large number of previous studies have reported that polyethylene coating on discarded paper cups can disintegrate into small particles without being fully decomposed and become microplastics. Moreover, these paper products are made with paper and plastics (two very different materials) and thus it is difficu ... More

Voice-activated system for hands-free, safer DNA handling
WASHINGTON, DC.- Smart voice assistants are a popular way for people to get quick answers or play their favorite music. That same technology could make the laboratory safer for scientists and technicians who handle potentially infectious samples. Researchers in ACS Sensors now report a small, voice-activated device that can extract and pretreat bacterial DNA, helping protect those on the front lines of disease outbreaks. The system could also help scientists with disabilities conduct studies more easily. Scientists working with samples containing pathogens need to work with the smallest amounts possible to avoid accidental infection. And for highly contagious bacterial diseases, on-site sample analysis is ideal for rapid diagnoses. In addition, scientists who have visual or other physical impairm ... More

Plasma-structural coloring: A new colorful approach to an inkless future
MATSUMOTO.- New developments for achieving structural coloring through plasma irradiation of graphite can reduce the reliance upon harmful color dyes. Colors achieved by plasma irradiation are completely erasable and can be manipulated using time exposed to the plasma irradiation, intensity of the irradiation and the thickness of the graphite layer applied. The application of plasma-structural coloring aims to lessen the environmental toll typical adverse dyes have and combat them with the technology surrounding structural colors. Structural colors look different than how we perceive colors dyed by pigment, because structural colors are based on viewing how the light scatters when reflected, giving an iridescent quality to the observed colors. In nature, this type of coloring can be seen in peacock feathers and so ... More

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On a day like today, American physician Elizabeth Blackwell was born
February 03, 1821. Elizabeth Blackwell (3 February 1821 - 31 May 1910) was a British physician, notable as the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council for the United Kingdom. Blackwell played an important role in both the United States and the United Kingdom as a social awareness and moral reformer, and pioneered in promoting education for women in medicine. Her contributions remain celebrated with the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal, awarded annually to a woman who has made a significant contribution to the promotion of women in medicine. Blackwell's inaugural thesis on typhoid fever, published in 1849 in the Buffalo Medical Journal and Monthly Review, shortly after she graduated,[3][4] was the first medical article published by a female student from the United States.


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