Applied Physics

Several genes with strong associations to schizophrenia have evolved rapidly due to selection during human evolution, according to researchers who found a higher prevalence of the influence of so-called positive selection on genes or gene regions known to be associated with the disorder than a comparable control set of non-associated genes, functioning in similar neuronal processes.

This is consistent with the theory that positive selection may play a role in the persistence of schizophrenia at a frequency of one per cent in human populations around the world, despite its strong effects on reproductive fitness and its high heritability from generation-to-generation.

It also provides genetic evidence consistent with the long-standing theory that schizophrenia represents, in part, a ma

Scientists are researching new ways of harnessing the sun’s rays which could eventually make it cheaper for people to use solar energy to power their homes.

The experts at Durham University are developing light-absorbing materials for use in the production of thin-layer solar photovoltaic (PV) cells which are used to convert light energy into electricity.

The four-year project involves experiments on a range of different materials that would be less expensive and more sustainable to use in the manufacturing of solar panels.


Mr. Hank Campbell, founder of Scientific Blogging, requested that I respond to a recent posting by Seth Roberts, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. Roberts attacks me as part of his continuing defense of another psychology professor, Michael Bailey of Northwestern University. In my judgment, Bailey’s work is bigoted and fraudulent.

Roberts quotes from an op-ed I wrote in 2003 for the Stanford student newspaper describing a talk Bailey presented to the Stanford psychology department. The talk included film clips, animated cartoons, pictures and voice recordings to train people’s “gaydar”, and it elicited back-slapping laughs from the audience. I stand by my description of that incident, including the quotation Roberts cites.

Also in 2003, Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would be Queen, appeared under an imprint of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. On National Academies’ letterhead, the publicity advertised, “Gay, Straight or Lying? Science Has The Answer”, and promised conclusions that “may not always be politically correct, but… are scientifically accurate, thoroughly researched and occasionally startling.” The book’s thesis is that all male-to-female transsexuals are either gay men or straight fetishists. In 2004 I wrote a review of the book and its surrounding context that has now been translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, courtesy of Lynn Conway, a computer scientist in Michigan. The situation has not changed materially since then.

In studying how neurotransmitters travel between cells -- by analysis of events in the dimensions of nanometers -- Cornell researchers have discovered that an electrical current thought to be present during that process does not, in fact, exist.

These results were reported July 22 in the online edition of the journal Nature Cell Biology by Cornell researchers Liang-Wei Gong and Manfred Lindau, applied and engineering physics, as well as their colleague Guillermo Alvarez de Toledo at the University of Seville, Spain.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) can kill bacteria like the common pathogen E. coli by severely damaging their cell walls, according to a recent report from Yale researchers in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Langmuir.

“We began the study out of concerns for the possible toxicity of nanotubes in aquatic environments and their presence in the food chain,” said Menachem Elimelech, professor and chair of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale and senior author on the paper.

New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science says that the pace of evolution might speed up if the goals themselves change continuously.

Nadav Kashtan, Elad Noor and Prof. Uri Alon of the Institute’s Molecular Cell Biology and Physics of Complex Systems Departments create computer simulations that mimic natural evolution, allowing them to investigate processes that, in nature, take place over millions of years.

In these simulations, a population of digital genomes evolves over time towards a given goal: to maximize fitness under certain conditions. Like living organisms, genomes that are better adapted to their environment may survive to the next generation or reproduce more prolifically. Such computer simulations, though sophisticated, don’t yet have all the answers.

Engineers at Purdue are working on technology that produces hydrogen by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium. When water is added to the alloy, the aluminum splits water by attracting oxygen, liberating hydrogen in the process. The Purdue researchers are developing a method to create particles of the alloy that could be placed in a tank to react with water and produce hydrogen on demand.

The gallium is a critical component because it hinders the formation of an aluminum oxide skin normally created on aluminum's surface after bonding with oxygen, a process called oxidation. This skin usually acts as a barrier and prevents oxygen from reacting with aluminum.

Between 5 and 10 degrees of cooling was the success criteria for the first milestone in a project involving magnetic cooling at Risø National Laboratory – Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the first milestone has been achieved.

The figure is currently at 8.7°C; this means that a refrigerator at room temperature (20°C) can be cooled to almost 11°C, not quite enough to keep milk cold, but the project’s test setup is enough to achieve the objective of conducting research in different materials, varying operating conditions and the strength of the magnetic field.

“The setup is not the largest of its type, but the most important thing is that it ’s easy to exchange parts in the machine.

Combine a mechanical arm with a miniature rocket motor: The result is a prosthetic device that is the closest thing yet to a bionic arm.

A prototype of this radical design has been successfully developed and tested by a team of mechanical engineers at Vanderbilt University as part of a $30 million federal program to develop advanced prosthetic devices.

“Our design does not have superhuman strength or capability, but it is closer in terms of function and power to a human arm than any previous prosthetic device that is self-powered and weighs about the same as a natural arm,” says Michael Goldfarb, the professor of mechanical engineering who is leading the effort.

Michael Goldfarb, professor of mechanical engineeri


Chemical engineers at Purdue believe they have discovered a fundamental flaw in the conventional view of how liquids form bubbles that grow and turn into vapors and that their findings cast into doubt some aspects of a theory dating back to the 1920s, said David S. Corti, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University.

The research could lead to a more precise understanding of the "phase transition" that takes place when bubbles form, grow and then become a vapor, which could, in turn, have implications for industry and research, Corti said.