Applied Physics

If you’re among the creatures that produce scads of genetically identical offspring – like microbes, plants or water fleas - you have a good evolutionary strategy, a new study says.

These creatures provide a chance to wonder about the clones raised in near-identical environments that turn out differently than their kin. In this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Michigan State University zoologist and others report how the greater good of a genetic pool of identical organisms is affected when a few individuals break from the developmental pack.

James Spivey, professor of chemical engineering at LSU, and Challa Kumar, group leader of nanofabrication at LSU’s Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices, are working with Clemson University and Oak Ridge National Laboratories to boost the efficiency of ethanol.

Both the Department of Energy and Conoco-Phillips are behind the project and have invested $2.9 million.

“We’re working with our project partners to produce ethanol from a coal-derived syngas, a mixture of primarily carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The United States has tremendous reserves of coal, but converting it to affordable, clean fuels is a challenge – one that we are addressing in this DOE-funded project,” said Spivey.

Using selective plant breeding and genetic engineering could be used to reduce the incidence of iron deficiency worldwide by improving the quality of dietary iron, conclude authors of a Seminar in this week’s edition of The Lancet.

Dr Michael Zimmerman, Laboratory for Human Nutrition, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, and colleagues have reviewed published literature worldwide, mainly from the last five years, to prepare the Seminar, which looks at the issue of nutritional iron deficiency in both industrialised and developing countries.

The authors say: “Iron deficiency is one of the leading risk factors for disability and death worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 billion people…the high prevalence of iron deficiency in the developing world has substantial health and eco

Computer scientists at the University of Washington have developed software that is incorporated in new technology allowing television audiences to instantaneously see how air flows around speeding cars.

The algorithm, first presented at a computer graphics conference last August, was since used by sports network ESPN and sporting-technology company Sportvision Inc. to create a new effect for racing coverage.

Computer scientists from UC San Diego have developed a way to generate images like smoke-filled bars, foggy alleys and smog-choked cityscapes without the computational drag and slow speed of previous computer graphics methods.

“This is a huge computational savings. It lets you render explosions, smoke, and the architectural lighting design in the presence these kinds of visual effects much faster,” said Wojciech Jarosz, the UC San Diego computer science Ph.D. candidate who led the study.

Jenna Rickus, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue, has developed a "living electrode" coated with specially engineered neurons that, when stimulated, releases a neurotransmitter to inhibit epileptic seizures.

It's part of a larger collaboration focusing on creating a neuroprosthesis that dispenses a neurotransmitter called GABA and calms the brain once the onset of a seizure is detected.

Just when you thought it was safer to stay out of the water.

Microbes that result in beach closures and health advisories when detected at unsafe levels in the ocean also have been detected in the sand, according to a recent study by a team of Stanford scientists.

Published in the July 1 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, the study found that sand at beaches all along the California coast contained some level of fecal indicator bacteria. Moreover, when the researchers looked closely at the sand quality at a popular beach in Monterey, Calif., they found evidence of human waste-raising doubt about the commonly held belief that some fecal indictor bacteria occur naturally in the sand and are therefore benign.

‘Second generation’ biorefineries – those making biofuel from lignocellulosic feedstocks like straw, grasses and wood – have long been touted as the successor to today’s grain ethanol plants, but until now the technology has been considered too expensive to compete. However, recent increases in grain prices mean that production costs are now similar for grain ethanol and second generation biofuels, according to a paper published in the first edition of Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.

The switch to second generation biofuels will reduce competition with grain for food and feed, and allow the utilization of materials like straw which would otherwise go to waste.

Greenhouse gas emissions from power stations could be cut to almost zero by controlling the combustion process with tiny tubes made from an advanced ceramic material, claim British engineers.

The material, known as LSCF, has the remarkable property of being able to filter oxygen out of the air.

Why do we like some music and not others? Why does music feel right and why does it evoke certain moods? The brain's ability to segment the continual stream of sensory information into perceptual chunks and extract meaning, “event segmentation” functions, have long fascinated researchers.

In a series of experiments, a team led by Vinod Menon of Stanford University School of Medicine asked subjects to listen to symphonies of the English composer William Boyce. The symphonies were chosen because they are relatively short and comprise well-defined movements - changes in tempo, tonality, rhythm, and pitch, and brief silences.