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Hubble finds evidence of persistent water vapor in one hemisphere of Europa

This photograph of the Jovian moon Europa was taken in June 1997 at a range of 776,700 miles by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. Image courtesy: NASA, NASA-JPL, University of Arizona.

WASHINGTON, DC.- NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observations of Jupiter's icy moon Europa have revealed the presence of persistent water vapor—but, mysteriously, only in one hemisphere. Europa harbors a vast ocean underneath its icy surface, which might offer conditions hospitable for life. This result advances astronomers' understanding of the atmospheric structure of icy moons, and helps lay the groundwork for planned science missions to the Jovian system to, in part, explore whether an environment half-a-billion miles from the Sun could support life. Previous observations of water vapor on Europa have been associated with plumes erupting through the ice, as photographed by Hubble in 2013. They are analogous to geysers on Earth, but extend more than 60 miles high. They produce transient blobs of water vapor in the moon's atmosphere, which is only one-billionth the surface pressure of Earth's atmosphere. The new results, however, show similar amo ... More

Early modern human from Southeast Asia adapted to a rainforest environment   Why skyrmions could have a lot in common with glass and high-temperature superconductors   Aided by stem cells, a lizard regenerates a perfect tail for the first time in 250 million years

Researcher Nicolas Bourgon prepares the analysis of a sample using an MC-ICP-MS, an instrument used in geochemistry to measure isotopic ratios. Image courtesy: © MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology.

LEIPZIG.- Although there has been evidence of our species living in rainforest regions in Southeast Asia from at least 70,000 years ago, the poor preservation of organic material in these regions limits how much we know about their diet and ecological adaptations to these habitats. An international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has now applied a new method to investigate the diet of fossil humans: The analysis of stable zinc isotopes from tooth enamel. This method proves particularly helpful to learn whether prehistoric humans and animals were primarily eating meat or plants. Traditional assumptions have often seen tropical rainforests as a barrier to early Homo sapiens. However, growing proof shows that humans adapted to and lived in tropical rainforest habitats of Southeast Asia. Some researchers also suggest that in the past, oth ... More

Images based on simulations show how three phases of matter, including skyrmions, tiny whirlpools created by the spins of electrons, can form in certain magnetic materials. Image courtesy: Esposito et al., Applied Physics Letters, 2020.

MENLO PARK, CA.- Scientists have known for a long time that magnetism is created by the spins of electrons lining up in certain ways. But about a decade ago, they discovered another astonishing layer of complexity in magnetic materials: Under the right conditions, these spins can form little vortexes or whirlpools that act like particles and move around independently of the atoms that spawned them. The tiny whirlpools are called skyrmions, named after Tony Skyrme, the British physicist who predicted their existence in 1962. Their small size and sturdy nature—like knots that are hard to undo—have given rise to a rapidly expanding field devoted to understanding them better and exploiting their strange qualities. "These objects represent some of the most sophisticated forms of magnetic order that we know about," said Josh Turner, a staff scientist at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and principal investi ... More

A mourning gecko can regenerate its tail, but the replacement is an imperfect copy of the original. Image courtesy: Lozito Lab.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Lizards can regrow severed tails, making them the closest relative to humans that can regenerate a lost appendage. But in lieu of the original tail that includes a spinal column and nerves, the replacement structure is an imperfect cartilage tube. Now, for the first time, a USC-led study in Nature Communications describes how stem cells can help lizards regenerate better tails. "This is one of the only cases where the regeneration of an appendage has been significantly improved through stem cell-based therapy in any reptile, bird or mammal, and it informs efforts to improve wound healing in humans," said the study's corresponding author Thomas Lozito, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. These new and improved lizard tails exhibit what is known as "dorsoventral patterning"—meaning they have skeletal and nerve tissue on the upper or dorsa ... More

Gel fights drug-resistant bacteria and induces body's natural immune defense   San Andreas Fault-like tectonics discovered on Saturn moon Titan   Photoinitiators for dental fillings, contact lenses and dentures

The dendritic hydrogel is an antibiotic-free protection for wounds that kills drug-resistant bacteria. Image courtesy: Malkoch Group/KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

STOCKHOLM.- In the fight against multidrug-resistant bacteria, scientists in Sweden have developed a new kind of antibiotic-free protection for wounds that kills drug-resistant bacteria and induces the body's own immune responses to fight infections. Reporting in Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital say that the new treatment is based on specially-developed hydrogels consisting of polymers known as dendritic macromolecules. KTH Professor Michael Malkoch says the hydrogels are formed spontaneously when sprayed on wounds and 100 percent degradable and non-toxic. "Dendritic hydrogels are excellent for wound dressing materials because of their soft, adhesive and pliable tactile properties, which provide ideal contact on the skin and maintain the moist environment beneficial for optimal wound healing," he says. The antibacterial effects of ... More

Titan’s eccentric orbit causes variations in gravitational tidal forces. Image courtesy: Burkhard, et al 2021.

HONOLULU, HI.- Strike-slip faulting, the type of motion common to California's well-known San Andreas Fault, was reported recently to possibly occur on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. New research, led by planetary scientists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), suggests this tectonic motion may be active on Titan, deforming the icy surface. On multiple ocean worlds, for example Jupiter's Europa and Saturn's Enceladus, expressions of strike-slip faulting are well documented. Researchers believe the motion along these faults is driven by variations in diurnal tidal stresses—the push and pull caused by the relative motion of a moon and its planet. Titan has a thick crust made of rock-hard water ice. And Titan is the only place besides Earth known to have liquids in the form of lakes and seas on its surface. However, Titan's liquids are hydrocarbons, such as methane and ethane. Wi ... More

Researchers at Graz University of Technology have developed a new, significantly cheaper production method for germanium-based photoinitiators. Image courtesy: Frankl - TU Graz.

GRAZ.- Photoinitiators ensure that liquid plastic—for example for dental fillings—hardens quickly by means of light. Thanks to a new synthesis method developed by TU Graz, these initiators can be produced cheaply, something which will open up further doors for the technology. Anyone who has ever been in the dentist's chair with a hole in their tooth is probably familiar with the procedure. After the hole in the tooth is drilled, a filling made of liquid plastic is inserted. This is then modeled in the mouth and hardened (cured) by UV light. This is made possible by so-called photoinitiators. These are chemical compounds that are added to the filling paste. They decompose when exposed to light and form radicals that cause this paste to harden. For some years now, germanium-based photoinitiators have been used for this purpose. The advantage of these is that they absorb light with longer wavelength and therefore do not require ... More

Researchers build $400 self-navigating smart cane   Surface chemistry reveals corrosive secrets   Molecular mixing creates super stable glass

Stanford PhD candidate Michael John Raitor tests out the augmented cane, created with way-finding capabilities similar to those used in autonomous vehicles. Image courtesy: Andrew Brodhead.

STANFORD, CA.- Most know the white cane as a simple-but-crucial tool that assists people with visual impairments in making their way through the world. Researchers at Stanford University have now introduced an affordable robotic cane that guides people with visual impairments safely and efficiently through their environments. Using tools from autonomous vehicles, the research team has built the augmented cane, which helps people detect and identify obstacles, move easily around those objects, and follow routes both indoors and out. The augmented cane is not the first smart cane. Research sensor canes can be heavy and expensive—weighing up to 50 pounds with a cost of around $6,000. Currently available sensor canes are technologically limited, only detecting objects right in front of the user. The augmented cane sports cutting-edge sensors, weighs only 3 pounds, can be built at home from off-the-shelf parts and free, open-source software, and ... More

Polished iron exposed to electrolyte solutions will degrade and form iron carbonate and calcium carbonate films when exposed to oxygen and a heterogeneous mixture of platelets.

HOUGHTON, MI.- One can easily see with the naked eye that leaving an old nail out in the rain causes rust. What does require the keen eyes and sensitive nose of microscopy and spectroscopy is observing how iron corrodes and forms new minerals, especially in water with a pinch of sodium and calcium. Thanks to a new technique developed by chemists at Michigan Technological University, the initial stages of this process can be studied in greater detail with surface analysis. The team, led by Kathryn Perrine, assistant professor of chemistry, recently published their latest paper in The Journal of Physical Chemistry A. The group's main finding is that the cation in solution—positively charged sodium or calcium ions—influences the type of carbonate films grown when exposed to air, which is composed of atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide. The gradual exposure of oxygen and carbon dioxide produces carbonate films specific to the cation. The ir ... More

Researcher Sandra Hultmark works with a sample of the new glass material using a FSC (Fast Scanning Calorimetry) machine. Image courtesy: Sepideh Zokaei, Chalmers University of Technology.

GOTHENBURG.- Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have succeeded in creating a new type of super-stable, durable glass with potential applications ranging from medicines, advanced digital screens, and solar cell technology. The study shows how mixing multiple molecules—up to eight at a time—can result in a material that performs as well as the best currently known glass formers. A glass, also known as an "amorphous solid," is a material that does not have a long-range ordered structure—it does not form a crystal. Crystalline materials on the other hand are those with a highly ordered and repeating pattern. The fact that a glass does not contain crystals is what makes it useful. The materials that we commonly call "glass" in every day life are mostly silicon dioxide-based, but glass can be formed from many different materials. Researchers are therefore always interested in finding new ways ... More

New, non-invasive blood sugar testing methods using saliva   Physicists propose a new method for defending the Earth against cosmic impacts   After two hours, sunscreen that includes zinc oxide loses effectiveness, becomes toxic: study

Wenyu Gao, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo. Image courtesy: University of Waterloo.

WATERLOO.- Despite breakthrough diabetes research over the past century, people with diabetes still need to rely on obtaining blood samples to monitor their sugar levels. Daily glucose monitoring by tracking blood sugar levels is essential for managing both types 1 and 2 diabetes, however the current method—finger pricking—is invasive and can become burdensome with how often it needs to be done. Since 2014, flash glucose monitoring was first introduced in Europe and this method uses a small, water-resistant sensor applied to the back of the upper arm. Compared with finger pricking monitor, this approach is more convenient but these sensors have known accuracy issues and some could fail altogether. In the quest to eliminate invasive glucose monitoring for people with diabetes, research led by Wenyu Gao, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo, explores using saliva instead of blood to monitor glucose ... More

Key to the PI strategy is the deployment of an array of penetrator rods, possibly filled with explosives, laid in the path of the asteroid to "slice and dice" the threatening object. Image courtesy: Alexander Cohen.

SANTA BARBARA, CA.- In February of 2013, skywatchers around the world turned their attention toward asteroid 2012 DA14, a cosmic rock about 150 feet (50 meters) in diameter that was going to fly closer to Earth than the spacecraft that bring us satellite TV. Little did they realize as they prepared for the once-in-several-decades event that another bit of celestial debris was hurtling toward Earth, with a more direct heading. On Feb. 15, 2013, the Chelyabinsk meteor, a roughly 62-foot (19 meter)-diameter asteroid exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, as it entered Earth's atmosphere at a shallow angle. The blast shattered windows and damaged buildings, and nearly two thousand people were hurt, though thankfully no one died. "It turned out that two completely independent asteroids were coming by that day," said Philip Lubin, UC Santa Barbara professor of physics, and one of the many scientists anticipating 2012 DA14's near-Earth rendezvous. "One ... More

Sunscreen that includes zinc oxide, a common ingredient, loses much of its effectiveness and becomes toxic after two hours of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Image: Unsplash.

CORVALLIS, OR.- Sunscreen that includes zinc oxide, a common ingredient, loses much of its effectiveness and becomes toxic after two hours of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, according to a collaboration that included Oregon State University scientists. The toxicity analysis involved zebrafish, which share a remarkable similarity to humans at the molecular, genetic and cellular levels, meaning many zebrafish studies are immediately relevant to people. Findings were published in Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences. The research team, which included College of Agriculture Sciences faculty Robyn Tanguay and Lisa Truong and graduate fellow Claudia Santillan, sought to answer important but largely neglected questions regarding the massive global sunscreen market, predicted by market data firm Statista to be worth more than $24 billion by the end of the decade. The questions: How stable, safe, and effective are sunscreen ingredients in combinatio ... More

More News
A crystal ball into our solar system's future
WAIMEA, HI.- Astronomers have discovered the very first confirmed planetary system that resembles the expected fate of our solar system, when the Sun reaches the end of its life in about five billion years. The researchers detected the system using W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi; it consists of a Jupiter-like planet with a Jupiter-like orbit revolving around a white dwarf star located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. "This evidence confirms that planets orbiting at a large enough distance can continue to exist after their star's death," says Joshua Blackman, an astronomy postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tasmania in Australia and lead author of the study. "Given that this system is an analog to our own solar system, it suggests that Jupiter and Saturn might survive the Sun's red g ... More

Nuclei on the move for muscle self-repair
LISBON.- Muscle is known to regenerate through a complex process that involves several steps and depends on stem cells. Now, a new study led by researchers at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular Joćo Lobo Antunes (iMM; Portugal) and the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF Barcelona; Spain) and published in the scientific journal Science, describes a new mechanism for muscle regeneration after physiological damage relying on the rearrangement of nuclei. This protective mechanism opens the road to a broader understanding of muscle repair in physiology and disease. Skeletal muscle tissue, which is important for locomotion, is formed by cells that have more than one nucleus, an almost unique feature in the human body. Despite the plasticity of muscle cells, their contraction can be accompanied by mus ... More

Colorblind fish reveal how vision evolved
TOKYO.- After decades of studying color vision in mice, new research in zebrafish has allowed experts at the University of Tokyo to uncover how some animals regulate their ability to see blue light. The results, published in Science Advances, allow researchers to better understand the evolutionary history and current control mechanisms of color vision. "In 1989 when I began studying the evolution of vision, the textbooks said that light sensitivity and color differentiation all came from the same protein. Since then, our group identified color-sensitive proteins, mapped their evolution between species, and now understand their regulation," said Emeritus Professor Yoshitaka Fukada from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Science. As new color-sensitive cone cells grow in the eye, controlled patterns ... More

Researchers identify key brain circuit regulating cocaine addiction, relapse
BLACKSBURG, VA.- Relapse is a common feature of addiction recovery—two in three patients treated for substance use disorder in the United States relapse within 12 months, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Substances of misuse hijack the brain's pleasure and reward systems, reinforcing drug-seeking behaviors by flooding the system with "feel good" chemicals, while also producing long-lasting functional changes in brain regions that regulate decisions and motivation. Combined, these hard-wired biological changes make drug cravings harder to ignore for some, but researchers are developing new ways to prevent relapse by chemically tweaking individual components of neuronal networks, leaving the rest of the brain intact. In new findings published in Neuron, neuroscientists at the Universi ... More

Big differences found in male and female jojoba plant sex genes
BRISBANE.- The hot and dry desert environment has led to big genetic differences between male and female jojoba plants, a discovery which could boost jojoba production and shed light on how plants adapt to environmental stress. A team of researchers in a collaboration between King Faisal University and The University of Queensland have identified a wide divergence of sex chromosomes in jojoba. UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation research leader Professor Robert Henry said that most plants were hermaphrodites and contained both male and female parts. “Just six percent are dioecious, like jojoba, requiring both a male plant and female plant to reproduce. “Jojoba plants reproduce through sexual reproduction, the way humans do, but male and female genomes in humans are 9 ... More

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Leonardo: The Skateboarding, Slacklining Robot

On a day like today, American mathematician Abraham Nemeth was born
October 16, 1918. Abraham Nemeth (October 16, 1918 - October 2, 2013) was an American mathematician and inventor. He was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit, Michigan. Nemeth was blind, and was known for developing a system for blind people to read and write mathematics. As the coursework became more advanced, he found that he needed a braille code that would more effectively handle the kinds of math and science material he was tackling. Ultimately, he developed the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, which was published in 1952. The Nemeth Code has gone through 4 revisions since its initial development, and continues to be widely used today. Nemeth is also responsible for the rules of MathSpeak, a system for orally communicating mathematical text.


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