Applied Physics

In a landmark test flight, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a team of research partners this month successfully launched a solar telescope to an altitude of 120,000 feet, borne by a balloon larger than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The test clears the way for long-duration polar balloon flights beginning in 2009 that will capture unprecedented details of the Sun's surface.

"This unique research project will enable us to view features of the Sun that we've never seen before," says Michael Knölker, director of NCAR's High Altitude Observatory and a principal investigator on the project.

Scientists have obtained core samples from deep inside California's San Andreas Fault for the first time, a finding that may lead to a better understanding of the underground molecular events associated with earthquakes, according to an article in the Oct. 22 issue of Chemical&Engineering News.

The 800-mile-long fault that bisects California is infamous as the source of the region's most devastating earthquakes. Conventional sampling of the fault yields slurries of rock chips that are fragmented and difficult to study.

A study published by Nutrition Journal says they can demonstrate substantial advances in long term weight management and blood glucose levels as a result of personalizing patients' diets based on their genetic information (nutrigenetics).  They found significant improvement in long term (more than 300 days) weight management for individuals whose nutrient requirements were tailored to individual variations in the genes known to affect nutrient metabolism and transport.


MIT researchers have created a new structured gel that can rapidly change color in response to a variety of stimuli, including temperature, pressure, salt concentration and humidity.

Among other applications, the structured gel could be used as a fast and inexpensive chemical sensor, says Edwin Thomas, MIT's Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. One place where such an environmental sensor could be useful is a food processing plant, where the sensor could indicate whether food that must remain dry has been overly exposed to humidity.

A critical component of the structured gel is a material that expands or contracts when exposed to certain stimuli.

Antimatter is made up of antiparticles in the same way that normal matter is made up of particles.

Antihydrogen, for instance, is the simplest atom comprised entirely of antiparticles, with an antiproton as a nucleus and a positron in place of the electron normally found in ordinary hydrogen.

Now a Swansea University physicist is leading a project worth more than £835,000, which could change our understanding of the structure of the Universe. Professor Mike Charlton has been awarded a five-year Senior Research Fellowship by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The Fellowship will now enable him to dedicate his time entirely to research, and the project’s aim is to make the first measurements of the properties of antimatter.

Slow or troubled healing processes are one of the many negative outcomes of diabetes and many other human diseases. Diabetes patients not only show deficient tissue healing of sharp wounds but they are also more prone to suffer from chronic wounds, such as ulcers in the lower limbs.

Looking for ways to improve the healing process in diabetes patients, the research group for the Traslacional Investigation of Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering of the “Universidad de Alcalá” managed by Doctor Juan Manuel Bellón and Doctor Julia Buján and working in collaboration with the CSIC have developed an experimental model that releases growth hormone (GH) in a gradual and controlled manner directly over the wounded area.

Although nearly 500 people have died in the UK over the last 12 years as a result of accidental CO poisoning, small quantities of CO are produced naturally within the human body and are essential to life.

Chemists at the University of Sheffield have discovered an innovative way of using targeted small doses of CO which could benefit patients who have undergone heart surgery or organ transplants and people suffering from high blood pressure.

Although the gas is lethal in large doses, small amounts can reduce inflammation, widen blood vessels, increase blood flow, prevent unwanted blood clotting – and even suppress the activity of cells and macrophages ( macrophage cells are part of the human body’s natural defence system ) which attack transplanted organs.

On November 13-15 astronomers will meet at the "Astrophysics 2020: Large Space Missions Beyond the Next Decade" conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. to discuss the space observatories and science investigations that could be realized in the 2020-2030 decade.

Though the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, NASA started planning two decades earlier by establishing, in 1970, committees to plan the engineering of the space telescope and to determine the scientific goals of the mission.

The year 2020 is 13 years away, but astronomers now need to start envisioning astrophysics that could be accomplished from space in the 2020 era and beyond. Lead times of at least a decade are required for the most ambitious of space observatories.

In process that is shrouded in mystery, rod-shaped bacteria reproduce by splitting themselves in two. By applying advanced mathematics to laboratory data, a team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has solved a small but important part of this reproductive puzzle.

The findings apply to highly common rod-shaped bacteria such as E. coli, found in the human digestive tract. When these single-celled microbes set out to multiply, a signal from an unknown source causes a little-understood structure called a Z-ring to tighten like a rubber band around each bacterium’s midsection. The Z-ring pinches the rod-like body into two microbial sausages that finally split apart.

Biophysicists at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that the nuclei of human stem cells are particularly soft and flexible, rather than hard, making it easier for stem cells to migrate through the body and to adopt different shapes, but ultimately to put human genes in the correct nuclear ¡°sector¡± for proper access and expression.

Researchers pulled cell nuclei into microscopic glass tubes under controlled pressures and visualized the shear of the DNA and associated proteins by fluorescence microscopy. The study showed that nuclei in human embryonic stem cells were the most deformable, followed by hematopoietic stem cells, HSCs, that generate a wide range of blood and tissue cells.