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Scientists reveal distribution of dark matter around galaxies 12 billion years ago

The radiation residue from the Big Bang, distorted by dark matter 12 billion years ago. Image courtesy: Reiko Matsushita.

NAGOYA.- A collaboration led by scientists at Nagoya University in Japan has investigated the nature of dark matter surrounding galaxies seen as they were 12 billion years ago, billions of years further back in time than ever before. Their findings, published in Physical Review Letters, offer the tantalizing possibility that the fundamental rules of cosmology may differ when examining the early history of our universe. Seeing something that happened such a long time ago is difficult. Because of the finite speed of light, distant galaxies appear not as they are today, but as they were billions of years ago. But even more challenging is observing dark matter, which does not emit light. Consider a distant source galaxy, even further away than the galaxy whose dark matter one wants to investigate. The gravitational pull of the foreground galaxy, including its dark matter, distorts the surrounding space and time, as predicted by Einstein's the ... More

Researchers crack 30-year-old mystery of odour switching in worms   How the genome is packed into chromosomes that can be faithfully moved during cell division   New materials research sees transformations at an atomic level

The head of an adult C. elegans worm, with the olfactory neuron expressing a particular type of odorant receptor shown in green. Image courtesy: Daniel Merritt.

TORONTO.- Soil-dwelling nematodes depend on their sophisticated sense of smell for survival, able to distinguish between more than a thousand different scents – but the molecular mechanism behind their olfaction has baffled scientists for decades. Now, researchers at the University of Toronto's Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research appear to have solved the long-standing mystery – and the implications of their findings stretch beyond nematode olfaction, perhaps offering insights into how the human brain functions. Derek van der Kooy, a professor of molecular genetics at the Donnelly Centre in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, led a research team that uncovered the molecular mechanism behind the worms' sense of smell, suggesting that it involves a conserved protein that helps equilibrate vision in humans. The van der Kooy lab is renowned for its neuroscience research that uses a variety of model organisms, inc ... More

Organization of mitotic chromosomes (magenta) and spindle microtubules (green) at an early phase of cell division. Image courtesy: © Gerlich/IMBA.

VIENNA.- Researchers from the Gerlich Group at IMBA-Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences—discovered a molecular mechanism that confers special physical properties to chromosomes in dividing human cells to enable their faithful transport to the progeny. The team showed how a chemical modification establishes a sharp surface boundary on chromosomes, thus allowing them to resist perforation by microtubules of the spindle apparatus. The findings are published in the journal Nature. When cells divide, they need to transport exactly one genome copy to each of the two daughter cells. Faithful genome segregation requires the packaging of extremely long chromosomal DNA molecules into discrete bodies so that they can be efficiently moved by the mitotic spindle, a filament system composed of thousands of microtubules. The new findings by the Gerlich Research Group at IMBA—Institute of Molecular Bio ... More

Guangwen Zhou is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Image courtesy: Jonathan Cohen.

UPTON, NY.- When manufacturing techniques turn metals, ceramics or composites into a technologically useful form, understanding the mechanism of the phase transformation process is essential to shape the behavior of those high-performance materials. Seeing those transformations in real time is difficult, however. A new study in the journal Nature, led by Professor Guangwen Zhou from the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science's Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Materials Science program at Binghamton University, uses transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to peer into the oxide-to-metal transformation at the atomic level. Of particular interest are the mismatch dislocations that are ever-present at the interfaces in multiphase materials and play a key role in dictating structural and functional properties. Zhou's students Xianhu Sun and Dongxiang Wu are the first co-authors of the paper ("Dislocation-induced stop-and-go kinetics of interfacial transformations"). Sun ... More

Newts unleashed: Limb muscle regeneration needs metamorphosis and body growth   'Youngest' antibiotic kills bacteria via a new two-step mechanism   How bat brains listen for incoming signals during echolocation

The researchers investigated muscle cell dedifferentiation in the Japanese Fire-bellied Newt, Cynops pyrrhogaster. Image courtesy: University of Tsukuba.

TSUKUBA.- Unknown to passersby, a modest little creature with amazing abilities lives and breeds in the forests and paddy fields of Japan. Now, researchers from Japan have discovered how these amphibians' superpowers are unleashed. In a study published this month in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Tsukuba have revealed that during limb regeneration in newts, two developmental processes—metamorphosis and body growth—are needed to provide the right conditions for muscle cells to be redeployed within the limb stump. Newts, which are a semiaquatic type of salamander, are like most other amphibians in that they undergo metamorphosis. But unlike their relatives, newts are capable of repeated limb regeneration—even in the adult stage after they have undergone metamorphosis. In some newt species, individuals that have already metamorphosed regenerate muscle via dedifferentiation or reprogramming of muscle f ... More

Long fibrils of teixobactin (yellow arrows) and lipid II (red-blue dots) lead to weak spots in the cell membrane of the bacterium. Image courtesy: Barth van Rossum.

UTRECHT.- Scientists at Utrecht University have discovered a new mechanism antibiotics use to kill bacteria. The antibiotic teixobactin uses a dual molecular strategy: it blocks the bacterial cell wall synthesis and destructs the cell membrane, the researchers write in the scientific journal Nature. The new insights will enable the design of powerful antibiotics against which bacteria do not readily develop resistance. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and are among the most widely used drugs worldwide. They are vital to combat many infections in the respiratory and intestinal tracts, and various skin conditions. However, bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, as most antibiotic classes currently used in clinics have been in use for about half a century. In 2015, scientists from Boston (U.S.) succeeded in isolating teixobactin, the first novel antibiotic discovered in about 40 years. Teixobactin came from so ... More

Bats “see” with their ears. Researchers at Goethe University have discovered how the auditory cortex is readied for incoming acoustic signals. Image courtesy: Dr. Julio C. Hechavarría.

FRANKFURT.- Neuroscientists at Goethe University, Frankfurt have discovered a feedback loop that modulates the receptivity of the auditory cortex to incoming acoustic signals when bats emit echolocation calls. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers show that information transfer in the neural circuits involved switched direction in the course of call production. It seems likely that this feedback prepares the auditory cortex for the expected echoes of the emitted calls. The researchers interpret their findings as indicating that the importance of feedback loops in the brain is currently still underestimated. Bats famously have an ultrasonic navigation system: they use their extremely sensitive hearing to orient themselves by emitting ultrasonic sounds and using the echoes that result to build up a picture of their environment. For example, Seba's short-tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata) ... More

Study tracks plant pathogens in leafhoppers from natural areas   Significant advance in 2D material science with diversely behaving layers in a single bulk material   Nanoparticles increase light scattering, boost solar cell performance

Researchers used both traditional and newer genetic sequencing techniques to look for phytoplasmas in leafhoppers. Image courtesy: Fred Zwicky.

CHAMPAIGN, IL.- Phytoplasmas are bacteria that can invade the vascular tissues of plants, causing many different crop diseases. While most studies of phytoplasmas begin by examining plants showing disease symptoms, a new analysis focuses on the tiny insects that carry the infectious bacteria from plant to plant. By extracting and testing DNA from archival leafhopper specimens collected in natural areas, the study identified new phytoplasma strains and found new associations between leafhoppers and phytoplasmas known to harm crop plants. Reported in the journal Biology, the study is the first to look for phytoplasmas in insects from natural areas, said Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Valeria Trivellone, who led the research with INHS State Entomologist Christopher Dietrich. It also is the first to use a variety of molecular approaches to detect and identify phytoplasmas in leafhoppers. “We compared traditional molecul ... More

Electron microscopy image of the synthesized 6R TaS2 with an atomic model of the material on the left. Image courtesy: University of Manchester.

MANCHESTER.- Scientists from The University of Manchester have developed a novel yet simple method for producing vertical stacks of alternating superconductor and insulator layers of tantalum disulphide (TaS2). The findings, from a team led by Professor Rahul Nair, could speed up the process of manufacturing such devices—so-called van der Waals heterostructures—with application in high-mobility transistors, photovoltaics and optoelectronics. Van der Waals heterostructures are much sought after since they display many unique and useful properties not found in naturally occurring materials. In most cases, they are prepared by manually stacking one layer over the other in a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Published last week in the journal Nano Letters, the study—led by researchers based at the National Graphene Institute (NGI)—describes synthesis of a bulk van der Waals heterostructure consisting of alternatin ... More

A researcher holds a perovskite module. Image courtesy: Penn State.

STATE COLLEGE, PA.- As demand for solar energy rises around the world, scientists are working to improve the performance of solar devices—important if the technology is to compete with traditional fuels. But researchers face theoretical limits on how efficient they can make solar cells. One method for pushing efficiency beyond those limits involves adding up-conversion nanoparticles to the materials used in the solar devices. Up-conversion materials allow solar cells to harvest energy from a wider spectrum of light than normally possible. A team of scientists testing this approach found the nanoparticles boosted efficiency, but not for the reason they expected. Their research may suggest a new path forward for developing more efficient solar devices. "Some researchers in the literature have hypothesized and showed results that up-conversion nanoparticles provide a boost in performance," said Shashank Priya, associate vice president for research and professor of materials science and engineering at More

Augmented reality could be the future of paper books, according to new research   First map of immune system connections reveals new therapeutic opportunities   Researchers 3D print first high-performance nanostructured alloy that's both ultrastrong and ductile

Surrey has introduced the third generation (3G) version of its Next Generation Paper (NGP) project, allowing the reader to consume information on the printed paper and screen side by side. Image courtesy: University of Surrey.

GUILDFORD.- Augmented reality might allow printed books to make a comeback against the e-book trend, according to researchers from the University of Surrey. Surrey has introduced the third generation (3G) version of its Next Generation Paper (NGP) project, allowing the reader to consume information on the printed paper and screen side by side. Dr. Radu Sporea, senior lecturer at the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), comments: "The way we consume literature has changed over time with so many more options than just paper books. Multiple electronic solutions currently exist, including e-readers and smart devices, but no hybrid solution which is sustainable on a commercial scale. "Augmented books, or a-books, can be the future of many book genres, from travel and tourism to education. This technology exists to assist the reader in a deeper understanding of the written topic and get more through digital means without ruining the experience of r ... More

Immune cells from the blood of a human donor, stained using a novel single-​round multiplexed immunofluorescence protocol. Image courtesy: Yannik Severin, Julien Mena, Berend Snijder / ETH Zürich.

ZURICH.- Researchers of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and ETH Zurich have created the first full connectivity map of the human immune system, showing how immune cells communicate with each other and ways to modulate these pathways in disease. The immune system is made up of specialised cells, some of which individually travel through the body to scan for signs of injury or disease. Once these cells detect a threat, they need to communicate the message to other cells in order to mount an effective immune response. One way this cell-​to-cell signalling is done is through proteins on the surfaces of cells that bind on to matching ‘receptor’ proteins on the surfaces of other cells. Previously, scientists and clinicians only had an incomplete map of these receptor connections between all of the different types of immune cells in the body. Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK) and ETH Zurich are now filling these gaps ... More

UMass Amherst Ph.D. student Jie Ren holds a miniature heatsink fan, one of the 3D printed high-entropy alloy components made in Wen Chen’s lab. Image courtesy: UMass Amherst.

ATLANTA, GA.- A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Georgia Institute of Technology has 3D printed a dual-phase, nanostructured high-entropy alloy that exceeds the strength and ductility of other state-of-the-art additively manufactured materials, which could lead to higher-performance components for applications in aerospace, medicine, energy and transportation. The research, led by Wen Chen, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UMass, and Ting Zhu, professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, was published in the August issue of the journal Nature. Over the past 15 years, high entropy alloys (HEAs) have become increasingly popular as a new paradigm in materials science. Comprised of five or more elements in near-equal proportions, they offer the ability to create a near-infinite number of unique combinations for alloy design. Traditional alloys, such as brass, carbon steel, s ... More

More News
A quantitative snapshot of the human impact on the planet
PASADENA, CA.- If you are in a major city anywhere in the world, it is probably quite easy to grab a cheap hamburger from a nearby fast-food restaurant. But what you may not realize is that the meat in that cheap burger can actually illustrate a grand narrative about how humans have shaped the planet. From the land used to raise cattle for beef consumption, to the water used to feed those cattle, to the fuel used to transport the beef all over the world, the human progress that enables us to easily buy a burger—and, for that matter, hop on a plane, charge our phones, and take part in the multitude of activities that make up our everyday experiences—has changed the biosphere. Now, Caltech researchers have developed a database containing global data on how humans have impacted the planet. The Human Impacts Database ... More

HKUMed reveals the mechanism of how coronaviruses exploit the host antiviral defence mechanisms
HONG KONG.- Researchers from Department of Microbiology, School of Clinical Medicine, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong revealed insights into the mechanism of how coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and MERS-CoV exploit a host protease called ‘cysteine-aspartic protease 6’ (caspase-6) for efficient replication. The findings are peer reviewed and recently accepted for publication in the leading scientific journal Nature. Upon entering the host cells, the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of coronaviruses will trigger the infected cells to secrete interferons that can inhibit virus replication within the infected cells, and reduce the risk of infection among other uninfected cells. Meanwhile, the host cells will also undergo apoptosis process, a programmed cell death process which will ... More

Novel tech converts sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into acetate and oxygen for high-value fuels and chemicals
NEWCASTLE.- Scientists have created a novel technology that can help to tackle climate change and address the global energy crisis. Northumbria University's Dr. Shafeer Kalathil is among a team of academics behind the project, which uses a chemical process that converts sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into acetate and oxygen to produce high-value fuels and chemicals powered by renewable energy. As part of the process, bacteria are grown on a synthetic semiconductor device known as a photocatalyst sheet, which means that the conversion can take place without the assistance of organic additives, creation of toxins or use of electricity. The aim of the project is to curtail the rise i ... More

How highly resistant strains of fungi emerge
BOCHUM.- An international research team has deciphered the mechanism by which the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans is resistant to fungus-specific drugs. It is a yeast-like fungus that can infect humans. Specific drugs, named antifungals, are available for treatment, but they don't always work—a phenomenon similar to antibiotic resistance. A team from Duke University in the U.S. and Ruhr-Universität Bochum has used genetic, bioinformatic and microbiological techniques to decipher the mechanism underlying this resistance. They describe it in the journal Nature Microbiology, published online on 2 August 2022. "The results are highly relevant for combating fungal infections in clinical practice, veterinary medicine and agriculture," says Professor Ulrich Kück, Senior Professor in General and Molecular Botany at RUB. He c ... More

Investigating drivers of Antarctic ice retreat
TUSCALOOSA, AL.- An investigation of how an Antarctic ice sheet melted thousands of years ago will improve contemporary climate models and projections of rising sea level, according to a recently published study with contributions from The University of Alabama. Led by the University of Tokyo, researchers identified the mechanism for large-scale melting and retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 9,000 to 6,000 years ago, and current conditions suggest this mechanism is also a major driver of extensive melting events over the past 30 years, according a paper published in Nature Communications in May. The research team analyzed sediment samples from the seafloor near part of the ice sheet in the Amundsen Sea. "The samples were actually collected during my first expedition to Antarctica many years ago, and ... More

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On a day like today, Irish physicist and astronomer William Rowan Hamilton was born
August 04, 1805. Sir William Rowan Hamilton (4 August 1805 - 2 September 1865) was an Irish mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. He was the Andrews Professor of Astronomy at Trinity College Dublin, and a director at Dunsink Observatory. He made major contributions to optics, classical mechanics and abstract algebra. His work was of importance to theoretical physics, particularly his reformulation of Newtonian mechanics, now called Hamiltonian mechanics. It is now central both to electromagnetism and to quantum mechanics. In pure mathematics, he is best known as the inventor of quaternions. Hamiltonian mechanics was a powerful new technique for working with equations of motion. Hamilton's advances enlarged the class of mechanical problems that could be solved. His principle of "Varying Action" was based on the calculus of variations, in the general class of problems included under the principle of least action.


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