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Submission + - Stretchy graphene sensor feels the strain (

ckwu writes: Strain sensors that detect subtle body motions can be used in health monitors or other wearable electronics. Researchers have now built a simple, inexpensive strain sensor by layering graphene atop a piece of stretchable adhesive tape. The graphene layers resemble fish scales, with larger pieces on top of smaller ones. As the device is stretched or bent, the graphene layers slip, and the contact area between overlapping layers changes. Measuring the change in electrical resistance reveals the change in strain. The device can measure a strain increase between 0.1 to 82% and is sensitive enough to measure a pulse from a person’s wrist or the throat vibrations of a person speaking.

Submission + - Fabric fixes itself with help from squid proteins (

ckwu writes: Mending ripped clothes could take just a few seconds and some water, thanks to a new self-healing coating based on a squid protein. The protein comes from the teeth ringing the suction cups of squid. When severed, the protein can fuse back together under water. To form the 1-micron-thick coating, researchers dip patches of cotton, linen, and wool into solutions containing a polymer and the squid protein. To mend a tear, they simply sprinkle warm water on the coated fabric and press the torn edges together. The repaired textiles remained just as flexible and strong as they were before the damage. What's more, the researchers can incorporate enzymes into the coating to break down toxins, offering the wearer protection against environmental hazards.

Submission + - Facebook recommended that this psychiatrist's patients friend each other (

Presto Vivace writes:

Facebook’s ability to figure out the “people we might know” is sometimes eerie. Many a Facebook user has been creeped out when a one-time Tinder date or an ex-boss from 10 years ago suddenly pops up as a friend recommendation. How does the big blue giant know? ... While some of these incredibly accurate friend suggestions are amusing, others are alarming, such as this story from Lisa*, a psychiatrist who is an infrequent Facebook user, mostly signing in to RSVP for events. Last summer, she noticed that the social network had started recommending her patients as friends—and she had no idea why. ... “I haven’t shared my email or phone contacts with Facebook,” she told me over the phone.

What could possibly go wrong?

Submission + - The Unintended Consequence of Congress's Ban on Designer Babies (

schwit1 writes: By tucking two crucial sentences inside a federal spending bill last year, the U.S. Congress effectively banned the human testing of gene-editing techniques that could produce genetically modified babies. But the provision, which is up for renewal this year, has also flustered proponents of a promising technique that could help mothers avoid passing certain devastating genetic disorders to their children.

The language in the bill is a clear reference to the use of techniques like CRISPR to modify the human germline (see “Engineering the Perfect Baby”). Most scientists agree that testing germline editing in humans is irresponsible at this point. But regulators have decided that the description also fits mitochondrial replacement therapy, which entails removing the nucleus from a human egg and transplanting it into one from a different person to prevent the transmission of debilitating or even deadly mitochondrial disorders to children.

Submission + - 20% of Scientific Papers On Genes Contain Conversion Errors Caused by Excel (

An anonymous reader writes: A new report from scientists Mark Ziemann, Yotam Eren, and Assam El-Osta says that 20% of scientific papers on genes contain gene name conversion errors caused by Excel. In the scientific article, titled “Gene name errors are widespread in the scientific literature,” article’s abstract section, the scientists explain: “The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.” It’s easy to see why Excel might have problems with certain gene names when you see the “gene symbols” that the scientists use as examples: “For example, gene symbols such as SEPT2 (Septin 2) and MARCH1 [Membrane-Associated Ring Finger (C3HC4) 1, E3 Ubiquitin Protein Ligase] are converted by default to ‘2-Sep’ and ‘1-Mar’, respectively. Furthermore, RIKEN identifiers were described to be automatically converted to floating point numbers (i.e. from accession ‘2310009E13’ to ‘2.31E+13’). Since that report, we have uncovered further instances where gene symbols were converted to dates in supplementary data of recently published papers (e.g. ‘SEPT2’ converted to ‘2006/09/02’). This suggests that gene name errors continue to be a problem in supplementary files accompanying articles. Inadvertent gene symbol conversion is problematic because these supplementary files are an important resource in the genomics community that are frequently reused. Our aim here is to raise awareness of the problem.”

Submission + - Perovskite phosphor could boost visible light communication (

ckwu writes: LEDs are increasingly used to illuminate homes and offices; soon, the same lights could also transmit data to your computer or smartphone in photon pulses so fast the eye can’t see them. But this form of visible light communication--sometimes called Li-Fi--faces two key challenges: The light must flicker fast enough to carry sizeable amounts of data; and at the same time it should provide the warm, balanced color tones needed for pleasant ambient lighting. Nanocrystals of a perovskite, cesium lead bromide, could help to solve both problems. Researchers have found that LEDs coated with the material can reach high data transmission rates of 2 gigabits per second, comparable to Wi-Fi. The device also produced a warm white light with a color rendering index of 89, as good as white LEDs already on the market (natural sunlight itself is rated at 100).

Submission + - Plugged particles pack in natural gas (

ckwu writes: Developing a compact, lightweight, and low-cost technology for storing natural gas has been a critical hurdle for its widespread adoption as a vehicle fuel. Now, researchers have devised a method to boost the methane storage capacity of porous adsorbent materials, which can then be kept and transported at low pressure. The trick is to seal high-pressure methane gas inside porous beads using hydrocarbon plugs that can be slowly removed to release the gas, effectively turning the beads into tiny gas tanks. The coated beads store twice the amount of methane as uncoated beads at a low 0.1 megapascal of pressure. For use in vehicles, adsorbent pellets loaded with natural gas could be stored in lightweight cartridges that could be swapped out at a gas station, the researchers say.

Submission + - Methamphetamine Vaccine Appears to Block High in Mice

JMarshall writes: "To help overcome the destructive brain chemistry of drug addiction, scientists are developing vaccines that block drugs from generating a high or even reverse an overdose. Researchers have now created a vaccine that cultivates a potent immune response against methamphetamine. Rodents given the vaccine didn’t become as hyperactive after a dose of methamphetamine as those that weren’t immunized against the stimulant."

Submission + - Stale beer? There's an app for that (

ckwu writes: Chemists have developed a simple way to measure a beer’s freshness, using only a smartphone and a color-changing polymer film. The film detects the compound furfural, which rises in concentration as beer ages and gives it a musty taste. When dipped in beer, the polymer film changes color from pale yellow to pink based on the amount of furfural present, and a smartphone app interprets the color and provides the furfural concentration. The app is not really designed for consumers, but for brewers who want to do a quick check on their beer immediately before shipping.

Submission + - Simple Method Yields A Wrinkly, Durable, Water-Repellent Coating (

ckwu writes: Superhydrophobic coatings that make water droplets dance and roll off of a surface show promise for applications such as self-cleaning cars, buildings, and food processing equipment. A new method creates a durable superhydrophobic coating by combining two common materials—Teflon and a shrinkable plastic—in a few simple steps. The researchers took inspiration from work done with the polystyrene material found in Shrinky Dinks--the children's crafting kit. They deposited Teflon onto a similar material called PolyShrink, heated it, and found that the Teflon formed a crinkled surface that helped water to bead and roll off easily. The best results came from putting Teflon onto polyolefin, a shrink wrap material. What's more, the surface is durable and repels water even after being scratched.

Submission + - Insect sugar could treat fatty liver disease

JMarshall writes: Fatty liver disease is a major health problem, affecting about a billion people worldwide. A simple sugar may point the way to a treatment. Researchers have known that trehalose, a sugar made by insects and other organisms, initiates “spring cleaning” in cells—clearing out old proteins and other cluttery molecules. In a new study, they show that by triggering this process, trehalose can help liver cells in mice remove excess fat, preventing fatty liver disease in the animals. Animals that drank trehalose-spiked water and then ate an unhealthy diet had significantly lower levels of genetic markers for fatty liver disease, as well as lower amounts of triglycerides and cholesterol in their livers, compared with mice that ate the diet but didn’t consume trehalose.

Submission + - Insects and plants inspire a water-harvesting surface (

ckwu writes: Taking inspiration from beetles, cacti, and pitcher plants, scientists have created a water-harvesting surface that condenses moisture six times faster than state-of-the art synthetic surfaces. The researchers created an aluminum surface with millimeter-sized asymmetric bumps modeled after those on the backs of Namib Desert beetles, which help the insects collect water in their dry home climate. The team decided to make the bumps asymmetric based on the asymmetric spines cacti use to efficiently transport water. Finally, the researchers took inspiration from the pitcher plant’s molecularly smooth surface and applied a nanocoating of either mineral oil or polydimethylsiloxane to the bumps to make water drops move faster. The new surface could be used for heat exchange, dehumidification, and desalination applications.

Submission + - How Lead Ended Up In Flint's Tap Water (

JMarshall writes: Lead contamination is the most troubling in a series of water problems that have plagued Flint, Michigan since the summer of 2014. All of them were caused by corrosion in the lead and iron pipes that distribute water to city residents. When the city began using the Flint River as its water source in April 2014, it didn’t adequately control the water’s ability to corrode those pipes. This led to high lead levels, rust-colored tap water, and possibly the growth of pathogenic microbes.

Environmental engineers talk about the chemistry behind the Flint water crisis and explain the one thing the city could have done to prevent the whole catastrophe.

Submission + - Self-Propelling Microparticles Spot Ricin In Minutes (

ckwu writes: Tiny rocketlike particles that move around on their own in a hydrogen peroxide solution can detect trace amounts of the lethal toxin ricin within minutes. The tube-shaped, microsized particles--made of graphene oxide lined with platinum--carry sensor molecules that glow when they bind to ricin. In a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution, the platinum catalyzes the breakdown of the peroxide into water and oxygen. The oxygen bubbles shoot out one end of the tube, propelling them in the liquid like little rockets. The swimming motors could actively seek out ricin in a sample and speed up detection, paving the way toward a quick, easy way to detect the bioterrorism agent in food and water samples without having to bring them back to a lab.

Submission + - How Lead Ended Up In Flint's Tap Water (

MTorrice writes: Lead contamination is the most troubling in a series of water problems that have plagued Flint, Michigan since the summer of 2014. All of them were caused by corrosion in the lead and iron pipes that distribute water to city residents. When the city began using the Flint River as its water source in April 2014, it didn’t adequately control the water’s ability to corrode those pipes. This led to high lead levels, rust-colored tap water, and possibly the growth of pathogenic microbes.

Environmental engineers talk about the chemistry behind the Flint water crisis and explain the one thing the city could have done to prevent the whole catastrophe.

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