Science

Related images(click to enlarge) The study, published today in Nature Microbiology, holds promise for a new treatment method against antibiotic-resistant bacteria (commonly known as superbugs). The star-shaped structures, are short chains of proteins called ‘peptide polymers’, and were created by a team from the Melbourne School of Engineering. The team included Professor Greg Qiao and PhD candidate Shu Lam, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, as well as Associate Professor Neil O’Brien-Simpson and Professor Eric Reynolds from the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and Bio21 Institute. Professor Qiao said that currently the only treatment for infections caused by bacteria is antibiotics. However, over time bacteria mutate to protect themselves against antibiotics, making treatment no longer effective. These mutated bacteria are known as ‘superbugs’. “It is estimated that the rise of superbugs will cause up to ten million deaths a year by 2050. In addition, there have only been one or two …

The newest and most dangerous island in the world is about to get a robotic sentinel. Since bursting to life 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo in 2013, a massive marine volcano called Nishinoshima has erupted dozens of times, spewing red-hot lava that engulfed a neighboring island. As the volcano has grown, so has the risk it represents to 2,500 people living on the nearby Japanese archipelago of Ogasawara. Should Nishinoshima’s rocky slopes collapse during an eruption, they could trigger a deadly tsunami that would reach the Ogasawara islands within 20 minutes. Now scientists are planning to give the islanders a robotic protector: a $180,000 autonomous Wave Glider drone that harvests wave and solar energy to move and power itself for months at a time. The bot is kind of a high-tech surfboard connected to an array of underwater wings that convert the up-and-down bobbing of waves into forward motion, moving the machine as fast as …

Black-hole analogue: an accelerating plasma mirror An analogue to the creation of Hawking radiation at the event horizon of a black hole could be made by firing an intense laser pulse at specially designed targets. That’s the conclusion of physicists in Taiwan and France, who say that the “plasma mirror” created in the proposed experiment could be used to study the relationship between quantum particles inside and outside a black hole. The researchers have calculated that the experiment could be done using existing technology and that it could shed important light on the black-hole information-loss paradox. The idea of Hawking radiation has been around since the 1970s when Stephen Hawking considered what would happen to pairs of “virtual particles” created near the event horizon of a black hole – the region beyond which not even light can escape the tug of gravity. Quantum mechanics dictates that pairs of such particles can pop into and out …

Pres. Donald Trump’s appointment last week of Ajit Pai as Federal Communications Commission chairman has triggered fears that the short-lived “net neutrality” era will soon come to an end. Many believe Pai’s track record as an FCC commissioner over the past five years suggests he will try to reverse the commission’s past decisions to closely regulate internet service. One of the first regulations on the chopping block is likely to be the 2015 Open Internet Order, which aimed to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) cannot intentionally slow or block any of the content in their networks—a prohibition that forms the essence of net neutrality. Pai, who was nominated to the FCC by Pres. Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2012, follows the Republican party line that cutting regulations will encourage internet and telecom companies to invest in communications infrastructure and new services. On Friday he circulated a plan to waive for five …

Related images(click to enlarge) The gusting westerly winds that dominate the climate in central Asia, setting the pattern of dryness and location of central Asian deserts, have blown mostly unchanged for 42 million years. A University of Washington geologist led a team that has discovered a surprising resilience to one of the world’s dominant weather systems. The finding could help long-term climate forecasts, since it suggests these winds are likely to persist through radical climate shifts. “So far, the most common way we had to reconstruct past wind patterns was using climate simulations, which are less accurate when you go far back in Earth’s history,” said Alexis Licht, a UW assistant professor of Earth and space sciences who is lead author of the paper published in August in Nature Communications. “Our study is one of the first to provide geological constraints on the wind patterns in deep time.” Earlier studies of the Asian climate’s history …

Related images(click to enlarge) Study Links Altered Brain Chemistry, Behavioral Impairments in Fish Exposed to Elevated CO2 Research team studied damselfish behavior and physiology under ocean acidification conditions predicted for year 2300 MIAMI–In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University showed that increased carbon dioxide concentrations alters brain chemistry that may lead to neurological impairment in some fish. Understanding the impacts of increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean, which causes the ocean to become more acidic, allows scientists to better predict how fish will be impacted by future ocean acidification conditions. “Coral reef fish, which play a vital role in coral reef ecosystems, are already under threat from multiple human and natural stressors,” said lead author of the study Rachael Heuer, a UM Rosenstiel School alumna which conducted the study …

Using software tools developed by Near Zero, a research group hosted by the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, a team of researchers has completed the largest expert survey yet on any energy technology, in this case wind energy. Near Zero conducts research and assessment of energy and climate issues, focusing on integrating quantitative analysis with expert judgment. In this way, they inform decision-making to accelerate the global transition to a near-zero emission energy system. To support this work, Near Zero has developed open-source software tools to examine where experts agree and disagree and why. Using Near Zero’s online expert survey platform, researchers were able to gather responses from 163 of the world’s foremost experts on wind energy to forecast future costs for this energy source. The study, led by Ryan Wiser, Group Leader in the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is published in the September 12, 2016, …

Related images(click to enlarge) When it comes to water, some materials have a split personality – and some of these materials could hold the key to new ways of harnessing solar energy. These small assemblies of organic molecules have parts that are hydrophobic, or water-fearing, while other parts are hydrophilic, or water-loving. Because of their schizoid nature, micelles organize themselves into spheres that have their hydrophilic parts turned out while their hydrophobic parts are shielded inside. A new study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory has shown water can serve another previously undiscovered role as these micelles coalesce to spontaneously form long fibers. In a study led by Argonne nanoscientist Subramanian Sankaranarayanan and chemist Christopher Fry, both of Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, supercomputer simulations and as well as lab-based experiments showed that water serves as an invisible cage for the growth of the micelle fiber. The study could help scientists …

Related images(click to enlarge) Farber Cancer Institute investigators report they have discovered a type of immune antibody that can rapidly evolve to neutralize a wide array of influenza virus strains – including those the body hasn’t yet encountered. The body’s ability to make the adaptable antibody suggests potential strategies for creating improved or even “universal” influenza vaccines, according to a team led by Wayne A. Marasco, MD, PhD, a cancer immunologist and virologist at Dana-Farber, reporting in the journal Nature Communications. The novel infection-fighting protein, named 3I14 mAb, is a “broadly neutralizing antibody,” so-called because it can recognize and disable a diverse group of the 18 different strains of influenza virus that circulate around the globe. Marasco reported the discovery of broadly neutralizing antibodies in 2009. According to the new report, the 3I14 antibody demonstrated it could neutralize the two main types of influenza A virus, group 1 and 2, and protected mice against lethal …

Related images(click to enlarge) Technology advancements are expected to continue to drive down the cost of wind energy, according to a survey of the world’s foremost wind power experts led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Experts anticipate cost reductions of 24%-30% by 2030 and 35%-41% by 2050, under a median or ‘best guess’ scenario, driven by bigger and more efficient turbines, lower capital and operating costs, and other advancements (see Figure 1). The findings are described in an article in the journal Nature Energy. The study was led by Ryan Wiser, a senior scientist at Berkeley Lab, and included contributions from other staff from Berkeley Lab, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Massachusetts, and participants in the International Energy Agency Wind (IEA) Wind Technology Collaboration Programme Task 26. The study summarizes a global survey of 163 wind energy experts to gain insight into the possible magnitude of future wind energy cost reductions, …

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