An anonymous reader writes: The first known virgin births in smalltooth sawfish have been documented in the wild. Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission used DNA to show that three percent of a Florida sawfish population was created by female-only reproduction. Dr Warren Booth, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Tulsa, who previously discovered an instance of parthenogenesis in snakes, said: "This is basically a very extreme form of inbreeding. Most people think of inbreeding as bad, but it could be helpful in purging deleterious mutations from a population." The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.
An anonymous reader writes: The biostamp--a type of temporary tattoo that feels like skin, yet is laden with electronics--is just about ready for prime time. The technology has entered clinical trials for medical use, and consumer versions, costing just tens of cents, are coming soon. A visit to the University of Illinois researchers developing the technology reveals details about how biostamps work and how they are manufactured. A year from now, don't be surprised if you're wearing one--or two, or three--yourself.
szotz writes: No shrinking machine in an underground military lab (as far as we know). And no Raquel Welch. Still there is a growing microrobotics movement underway, looking at ways that tiny, untethered robots might be used to perform medical interventions in the human body. There have been piecemeal reports for years now of various designs, such as microscallops that can swim through the eye and bots that can be pushed around by bacteria flagella. This article in IEEE Spectrum gives a round-up of recent progress and looks at some of the difficulties that arise when you try to make things tiny and still have them retain a modicum (or give them more than a modicum) of function.
William Robinson writes: While using a laser to cut a sponge made of crumpled sheets of Graphene oxide, Researchers accidentally discovered that it can turn light into motion. As the laser cut into the material, it mysteriously propelled forward. Baffled, researchers investigated further. The Graphene material was put in a vacuum and again shot with a laser. Incredibly, the laser still pushed the sponge forward, and by as much as 40 centimeters. Researchers even got the Graphene to move by focusing ordinary sunlight on it with a lens.Though scientists are not sure why this happens, they are excited with new possibilities such as light propelled spacecraft that does not need fuel.
Zothecula writes: Researchers working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claim to have created a method to better observe fermions – the sub-atomic building blocks of matter – by constructing a microscope capable of viewing them in groups of a thousand at a time. A laser technique is used to herd the fermions into a viewing area and then freeze them in place so all of the captured particles can be imaged simultaneously.
the_newsbeagle writes: It's the tech that type 1 diabetics have long been waiting for: An implanted "closed-loop" system that monitors a person's blood-sugar level and adjusts injections from an insulin pump. Such a system would liberate diabetics from constant self-monitoring and give parents of diabetic children peace of mind. Thanks to improvements in glucose sensors and control algorithms, the first artificial pancreas systems are now in clinical trials.
StartsWithABang writes: When you think about a black hole, you very likely think about a large amount of mass, pulled towards a central location by the tremendous force of gravity. While black holes themselves may be perfectly spherical (or for rotating black holes, almost perfectly spherical), there are important physical cases that can cause them to look tremendously asymmetrical, including the possession of an accretion disk and, in the most extreme case, a merger with another black hole.
An anonymous reader writes: The final preparations for the second run of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are in place. This week, it is expected to start taking new data with collisions at the record-breaking energy of 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV). There are a lot of expectations about this new LHC season. In one of CERN's articles, physicists tell of their hopes for new discoveries during the LHC's second run. "They speak of dark matter,supersymmetry, the Higgs boson, antimatter, current theory in particle physics and its limits as well as new theoretical models that could extend it."
schwit1 writes: Rather than simply turn off the spacecraft when its funding runs out at the end of 2015, Rosetta's science team has proposed that the mission get a nine-month extension, during which they will slowly spiral into the comet and gently land. Their proposal is similar to what American scientists did with their NEAR spacecraft, which hadn't been designed to land on an asteroid but was successfully eased onto the surface of Eros, where it operated for a very short time.
StartsWithABang writes: The heat death of the Universe is the idea that increasing entropy will eventually cause the Universe to arrive at a uniformly, maximally disordered state. Every piece of evidence we have points towards our unfortunate, inevitable trending towards that end, with every burning star, every gravitational merger, and even every breath we, ourselves, take. Yet even while we head towards this fate, it may be possible for intelligence in an artificial form to continue in the Universe for an extraordinarily long time: possibly for as long as a googol years, but not quite indefinitely. Eventually, it all must end.
Yesterday, we noted that the Planetary Society's solar-sail powered craft had lost radio contact with its controllers here on Earth; Engadget reports that the group has issued an update, and the news is good. From the Society's release: "The solar sailing spacecraft test mission, a precursor to a 2016 mission, has now resumed contact after a suspected software glitch affected communications. The LightSail team will soon determine when to attempt deployment of the spacecraft’s Mylar solar sails."
wrp103 links to the BBC's report of a newly engineered alloy that returns to its original shape after deformation even after 10 million cycles more than 10 million times. From the article: "Memory shape alloys" like this have many potential uses, but present incarnations are prone to wearing out. The new material — made from nickel, titanium and copper — shatters previous records and is so resilient it could be useful in artificial heart valves, aircraft components or a new generation of solid-state refrigerators." (Original article in Science Magazine.)
afeeney writes: Researchers at the University of Bristol and Northwestern Polytechnical University in China have created acoustic vortices that can create microscopic centrifuges that rotate small particles. They compare this to a watchmaker's sonic screwdriver. So far, though, the practical applications include cell sorting and low-power water purification, rather than TARDIS operations. Appropriately enough, one of the researchers is named Bruce Drinkwater.
StartsWithABang writes: If you strike the upper atmosphere with a cosmic ray, you produce a whole host of particles, including muons. Despite having a mean lifetime of just 2.2 microseconds, and the speed of light being 300,000 km/s, those muons can reach the ground! That's a distance of 100 kilometers traveled, despite a non-relativistic estimate of just 660 meters. If we apply that same principle to particle accelerators, we discover an amazing possibility: the ability to create a collider with the cleanliness and precision of electron-positron colliders but the high energies of proton colliders. All we need to do is build a muon collider. A pipe dream and the stuff of science fiction just 20 years ago, recent advances have this on the brink of becoming reality, with a legitimate possibility that a muon-antimuon collider will be the LHC's successor.
agent elevator writes: IEEE Spectrum has a feature (part of its Hacking the Human OS issue) on the future of vagus nerve stimulation, a device-based therapy with the potential to treat a ridiculously wide variety of ailments: epilepsy, depression, stroke, tinnitus, heart failure, migraines, asthma, the list goes on. One problem is that, because it required an implant (a bit like a pacemaker), it was never anybody's first-choice therapy. But now there's a non-invasive version, a device you just hold to your neck twice a day for a few minutes. It's being trialed first for migraines and cluster headaches (which sound horrible). If it works, vagus nerve stimulation could compete directly with drug treatments on cost and convenience and it would let doctors find new ways to hack human physiology.