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Bright gamma ray burst confounds models of black hole birth

The long gamma ray burst GRB 221009A was generated about 1.9 billion years ago, far beyond our Milky Way galaxy, as simulated here. Image courtesy: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

BERKELEY, CA.- Last October, following one of the brightest flashes of gamma rays ever observed in the sky, telescopes around the world captured a wealth of data from an event that is thought to herald the collapse of a massive star and the birth of a black hole. But that fire hose of data demonstrated clearly that our understanding of how stars collapse and generate enormous jets of outflowing material accompanied by powerful blasts of X-rays and gamma rays — and likely lots of heavy elements — is woefully inadequate. “The data are so good that, basically, the models failed — failed deeply,” said Raffaella Margutti, associate professor of astronomy and of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. “That makes sense because the models are not very complicated. Nature is saying, ‘Well, what you’re seeing is probably an outflow that has way more components than what you think it is.'” Details of ... More

Extinction of steam locomotives derails assumptions about biological evolution, claims researcher   Sydney astronomers provide rapid radio-wave follow-up observation for gamma ray burst GRB 221009A   Generating power with blood sugar

The trilobite Acanthopyge, from Oklahoma, in the collections of the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology in the KU Biodiversity Institute. Image courtesy: Steven Wagner.

LAWRENCE, KS.- When the Kinks' Ray Davies penned the tune "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains," the vanishing locomotives stood as nostalgic symbols of a simpler English life. But for a paleontologist at the University of Kansas, the replacement of steam-powered trains with diesel and electric engines, as well as cars and trucks, might be a model of how some species in the fossil record died out. Bruce Lieberman, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, sought to use steam-engine history to test the merits of "competitive exclusion," a long-held idea in paleontology that species can drive other species to extinction through competition. Working with former KU postdoctoral researcher Luke Strotz, now of Northwest University in Xi'an, China, Lieberman found the fossil record largely lacks the detailed data verifying competitive exclusion found in ... More

The European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray satellite telescope recorded dust rings emerging from the gamma ray burst, displayed here in arbitrary colors. Image courtesy: ESA XMM-Newtown.

SYDNEY.- Australian astronomers have provided vital information in the global effort to understand the brightest-ever detected gamma ray burst, which swept through our solar system on October 9 last year. Detailed findings of that explosion from another galaxy 1.9 billion light years away were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Ph.D. student James Leung from the University of Sydney said, "The exceptional brightness of this gamma-ray burst meant astronomers were able to study it in unprecedented detail in real-time as the light arrived from that distant galaxy. "This gave us a golden opportunity to test intricate physical models that describe what happens before, during and after the death of a star." Mr. Leung is co-author of a complementary study currently published on the pre-print server arXiv and submitted for publication in Nature Astronomy. Scientists believe gamma ray bursts—the brightest known explosions in the ... More

The prototype fuel cell is wrapped in a fleece and is slightly larger than a thumbnail. Image courtesy: Fussenegger Lab / ETH Zurich.

ZURICH.- A fuel cell under the skin that converts blood sugar from the body into electrical energy sounds like science fiction. Yet it works perfectly, as an ETH Zurich research team led by Martin Fussenegger, Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering, has shown. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. This means that patients have to obtain the hormone externally to regulate their blood sugar levels. Nowadays, this is mostly done via insulin pumps that are attached directly to the body. These devices, as well as other medical applications such as pacemakers, require a reliable energy supply, which at present is met primarily by power from either single-​use or rechargeable batteries. Now, a team of researchers led by Martin Fussenegger from the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel have put a seemingly futuristic idea into practice. They have developed an implantable fuel cell that ... More

Eco-efficient cement could pave the way to a greener future   How genome doubling helps cancer develop   Accurate rapid tests made from smart graphene paper

Wei Meng (from left) and Bing Deng have developed a process to remove toxic heavy metals from coal fly ash, making for greener, stronger cement. Image courtesy: Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University.

HOUSTON, TX.- The road to a net-zero future must be paved with greener concrete, and Rice University scientists know how to make it. The production of cement, an ingredient in concrete, accounts for roughly 8% of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, making it a significant target of greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. Toward those efforts, the Rice lab of chemist James Tour used flash Joule heating to remove toxic heavy metals from fly ash, a powdery byproduct of coal-based electric power plants that is used frequently in concrete mixtures. Using purified coal fly ash reduces the amount of cement needed and improves the concrete’s quality. In the lab’s study, replacing 30% of the cement used to make a batch of concrete with purified coal fly ash improved the concrete’s strength and elasticity by 51% and 28%, respectively, while reducing greenhouse gas and heavy metal emissions by 30% and 41%, respectively, accordin ... More

Chromosomes in cells with whole genome doubling. Image courtesy: Elisa Oricchio/Giovanni Ciriello (EPFL/UNIL).

LAUSANNE.- Researchers at EPFL and UNIL have uncovered a new way in which cancer can develop: whole genome doubling (WGD) changes the way DNA is organized in the 3D space, leading to the activation of oncogenes that drive cancer growth. A single cell contains 2-3 meters of DNA, meaning that the only way to store it is to package it into tight coils. The solution is chromatin: a complex of DNA wrapped around proteins called histones. In the 3D space, this complex is progressively folded into a multi-layered organization composed of loops, domains, and compartments, which makes up what we know as chromosomes. The organization of chromatin is closely linked to gene expression and the cell’s proper function, so any problems in chromatin structure can have detrimental effects, including the development of cancer. A common event in around 30% of all human cancers is “whole genome doubling” (WGD), whereby the entire set of chromosomes ... More

The ETH researchers have pooled their expertise to develop a new approach to rapid medical testing. Image courtesy: ETH Zurich / Martin Rütsche.

ZURICH.- A team led by ETH Zurich chemical engineers Chih-​Jen Shih and Andrew deMello have developed a rapid test system made of smart graphene paper. It only costs a few cents per test strip, is easy to use but is as accurate as lab measurements. The approach will impact more than just disease monitoring. Rapid pregnancy and COVID-​19 tests have a great advantage over other medical analyses: they are so simple that anyone can perform the test themselves, virtually anywhere. This is due to the robust principle behind these microfluidic methods, whereby aqueous solutions diffuse through a paper test strip with the aid of capillary forces. During this process, antibodies capture the target substances, such as virus particles or pregnancy hormones, and concentrate them at a desired location. A staining system then slowly makes the increasingly concentrated target substance visible as a stripe. As simple and reliable as this basic p ... More

Modern origami method creates glass shapes by folding   Researchers achieve the first silicon integrated ECRAM for a practical AI accelerator   Rare beetle, rediscovered after 55 years, named in honor of Jerry Brown

Intricate glass designs can be made with origami and cutting techniques, which can be combined with 3D printing to make more complex shapes, such as a 3D lattice. Scale bar 1 cm. Image courtesy: Yang Xu.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The ancient art of origami is well known for transforming sheets of paper and other foldable materials into complex 3D shapes. But now, chemical engineers have extended the centuries-old practice to produce intricate shapes made of glass or other hard materials. Their thoroughly modern method, which can be combined with 3D printing, could have applications ranging from sculpture to catalysis and beyond. The researchers will present their results today at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. ACS Spring 2023 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person March 26–30, and features more than 10,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. In earlier work, the researchers used origami and the related technique of kirigami — which combines cutting with folding — to shape soft materials made of polymers. “But we wanted to extend these techniques to glass and ceramics, which are much harder t ... More

ECRAM array. Image courtesy: The Grainger College of Engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN, IL.- The transformative changes brought by deep learning and artificial intelligence are accompanied by immense costs. For example, OpenAI's ChatGPT algorithm costs at least $100,000 every day to operate. This could be reduced with accelerators, or computer hardware designed to efficiently perform the specific operations of deep learning. However, such a device is only viable if it can be integrated with mainstream silicon-based computing hardware on the material level. This was preventing the implementation of one highly promising deep learning accelerator—arrays of electrochemical random-access memory, or ECRAM—until a research team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign achieved the first material-level integration of ECRAMs onto silicon transistors. The researchers, led by graduate student Jinsong Cui and professor Qing Cao of the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, recently reported an ECRAM device designe ... More

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown (right) and his wife, Anne Brown, with their dogs, Colusa and Cali, on the Browns’ Colusa County ranch. Image courtesy: Evan Westrup.

BERKELEY, CA.- When University of California, Berkeley, entomologist Kipling Will first heard that former Gov. Jerry Brown was hosting field scientists on his Colusa County ranch, he jumped at the chance to hunt for beetles on the property. “I reached out and said, ‘Hey, I want to sample your beetles,’” Will said. “And [Brown] was quite game to let me come up there.” Will, a professor of environmental science, policy and management, has travelled to all corners of California to study carabid beetles, ground beetles that are important predators of other insects. But Will’s repeated visits to Brown’s ranch proved especially fruitful. While sampling for insects near Freshwater Creek, Will collected a rare species of beetle that had never been named or described — and which, according to records, had not been observed by scientists in over 55 years. The new species will be named Bembidion brownorum, in ho ... More

Study: Keeping T cells active, but not too active, could be key to new immune therapies   New neutrino detection method using water   Study: Endometrial cancer treatment has significant results

Associate Professor Kate Lawlor. Image courtesy: Hudson Institute of Medical Research.

CLAYTON.- While T cells play a critical role in the immune system by protecting the body against infection and cancer, regulation of T cell activity is necessary to prevent excessive inflammation and damage to healthy tissue. A team of researchers including Hudson Institute's Associate Professor Kate Lawlor is investigating how the T cells' life and death is controlled and what molecular mechanisms are at play in the regulation of the T cells' activity. In a study published in the journal Cell Death & Disease, the team worked with mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells—a type of T cells that play a crucial role in protecting our bodies against bacterial infections. The researchers found that MAIT cells have a unique survival and death mechanism compared to other types of T cells. They discovered that a protein, called RIPK3 (Receptor-Interacting Protein Kinase 3), plays a crucial role in regulating MAIT cell numbers, but the same ... More

A view inside the SNO detector when filled with water. In the background, there are 9,000 photomultiplier tubes that detect photons, and the acrylic vessel that (now) holds liquid scintillator. Image courtesy: SNO+ Collaboration.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Research published in the journal Physical Review Letters conducted by an international team of scientists including Joshua Klein, the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the School of Arts & Sciences, has resulted in a significant breakthrough in detecting neutrinos. The international collaborative experiment known as Sudbury Neutrino Observation (SNO+), located in a mine in Sudbury, Ontario, roughly 240 km (about 149.13 mi) from the nearest nuclear reactor, has detected subatomic particles, known as antineutrinos, using pure water. Klein notes that prior experiments have done this with a liquid scintillator, an oil-like medium that produces a lot of light when charged particles like electrons or protons pass through it. "Given that the detector needs to be 240km, about half the length of New York state, away from the reactor, large amounts of scintillator are needed, which can be very expensive," Klein says. "So, our ... More

Ramez N. Eskander, MD, is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, principal investigator and lead author of the study. Image courtesy: UC San Diego.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- In a study published in the March 27, 2023, online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health found the combination of immunotherapy (pembrolizumab) and chemotherapy in patients with advanced or recurrent/advanced endometrial cancer resulted in a significant reduction in disease growth when compared with chemotherapy alone. Endometrial cancer, a type of cancer that begins in the lining of the uterus, is one of the few cancers with a rising incidence and death rate. Experts estimate that by 2040, it is projected to be the third most prevalent cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women. In the past four decades, there have been limited advancements in treatment for patients with advanced endometrial cancer. “These results may transform the way we care for patients ... More

More News
Study paves way to more efficient production of 2G ethanol using specially modified yeast strain
SÃO PAULO.- A Brazilian study paves the way to increased efficiency of second-generation (2G) ethanol production based on the discovery of novel targets for metabolic engineering in a more robust strain of industrial yeast. An article on the study is published in the journal Scientific Reports. The databases compiled by the authors are at the disposal of the scientific community in the repository of the State University of Campinas, which is a member of the Dataverse Project, an international collaborative initiative. First-generation (1G) ethanol is produced from sources rich in carbohydrates (such as sucrose), especially sugarcane in the Brazilian case. Processing of sugarcane generates large amounts of fibrous residues, such as bagasse, which can be used to produce steam and electricity in power plants ... More

Marijuana-derived compounds could reverse opioid overdoses
WASHINGTON, DC.- There’s been a recent push in the U.S. to make naloxone — a fast-acting opioid antidote — available without a prescription. This medication has saved lives, but it’s less effective against powerful synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. In an interesting twist, researchers are now looking to cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana, as a possible alternative to the popular antidote. Today, a team reports compounds based on CBD that reduce fentanyl binding and boost the effects of naloxone. The researchers will present their results at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. ACS Spring 2023 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person March 26–30, and features more than 10,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. “Fentanyl-class com ... More

Pulsing ultrasound waves could someday remove microplastics from waterways
WASHINGTON, DC.- Colorful particles of plastic drift along under the surface of most waterways, from headwater streams to the Arctic Ocean. These barely visible microplastics — less than 5 mm wide — are potentially harmful to aquatic animals and plants, as well as humans. So, researchers are devising ways to remove them and to stop them at their source. Today, a team reports a two-stage device made with steel tubes and pulsing sound waves that removes most of the plastic particles from real water samples. The researchers will present their results at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. ACS Spring 2023 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person March 26–30, and features more than 10,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. “The idea came from a discussio ... More

Third pole darkening affects local and remote climates, finds study
BEIJING.- Owing to global warming effects, the Tibetan Plateau (TP) region has experienced drastic changes in its land surface, characterized by melting glaciers, loss of snow cover, and vegetation greening. These, in turn, have led to a darkening of the land surface, characterized by a lower surface albedo and higher absorption of shortwave radiation. This has resulted in increased surface temperatures, contributing to the surface darkening. However, the climatic and glaciological effects of such darkening over the TP have not been assessed or quantified. Against this backdrop, an international team of researchers, led by Prof. Shilong Piao from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the new Third Pole Environment (TPE) leader, set out to investigate how surface da ... More

Improved chip-scale color conversion lasers could enable many next-generation quantum devices
GAITHERSBURG, MD.- In two new studies, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have greatly improved the efficiency and power output of a series of chip-scale devices that generate laser light at different colors while all using the same input laser source. Many quantum technologies, including miniature optical atomic clocks and future quantum computers, will require simultaneous access to multiple, widely varying laser colors within a small region of space. For instance, up to six different laser colors are needed for all the steps required for a leading atom-based design for quantum computation, including preparing the atoms, cooling them, reading out their energy states, and performing quantum logic operations. To create multiple laser colors on one chip, NIST researcher Kartik S ... More

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On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate John Vane was born
April 29, 1927. Sir John Robert Vane (29 March 1927 - 19 November 2004) was a British pharmacologist who was instrumental in the understanding of how aspirin produces pain-relief and anti-inflammatory effects and his work led to new treatments for heart and blood vessel disease and introduction of ACE inhibitors. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1982 along with Sune Bergström and Bengt Samuelsson for "their discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances". Vane held a post at the University of London for 18 years, progressing from senior lecturer to Professor of Experimental Pharmacology in 1966. During that time he developed certain bioassay techniques and focussed his research on both angiotensin-converting enzyme and the actions of aspirin, eventually leading to the publication with Priscilla Piper of the relationship between aspirin and the prostaglandins that earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1982.


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