Applied Physics

University of Utah scientists discovered a strange method of reproduction in primitive plants named cycads: The plants heat up and emit a toxic odor to drive pollen-covered insects out of male cycad cones, and then use a milder odor to draw the bugs into female cones so the plants are pollinated.

The unusual form of sexual reproduction used by some species of cycads – primeval plants known as “living fossils” – may represent an intermediate step in the evolution of plant pollination, the researchers say.

“People think of plants as just sitting there and looking pretty and sending out some odors to attract pollinators, but these cycads have a specific sexual behavior tuned to repel, attract and deceive the thrips [small flying insects] that pollinate them,” says Irene Terry, research

In a report this week in Cell, researchers have identified a biological basis for why events that happen during heightened states of emotion such as fear, anger and joy are more memorable than less dramatic occurrences: a hormone released during emotional arousal “primes” nerve cells to remember events by increasing their chemical sensitivity at sites where nerves rewire to form new memory circuits.

Researchers at UCLA have developed a model that could help engineers and scientists speed up the development of hydrogen-fueled vehicles by identifying promising hydrogen-storage materials and predicting favored thermodynamic chemical reactions through which hydrogen can be reversibly stored and extracted.

The new method, published in Advanced Materials, was developed by Alireza Akbarzadeh, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher in the department of materials science and engineering; Vidvuds Ozolins, UCLA associate professor of materials science and engineering; and Christopher Wolverton, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Neural prosthetic devices represent an engineer's approach to treating paralysis and amputation. Electronics are used to monitor the neural signals that reflect an individual's intentions for the prosthesis or computer they are trying to use.

We all know about the advanced machines of the ancient Greeks, like the water pumps and the steam engines devised by their greatest minds, but what is less known is how those with little theoretical background were still able to make well-calibrated devices with alarming precision.

Recent analysis of technical treatises and literary sources dating back to the fifth century B.C. reveals that technology flourished among practitioners with limited theoretical knowledge.

“Craftsmen had their own kind of knowledge that didn’t have to be based on theory,” explains Mark Schiefsky, professor of the classics in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The gender ratio in math science and engineering is approximately 3 men to every 1 woman, say Stanford psychologists Mary Murphy and Claude Steele, and situational cues, like being outnumbered, may contribute to a decrease in women’s performance expectations, as well as their actual performance.

Murphy and colleagues showed a group of advanced MSE undergraduates a gender balanced or unbalanced video depicting a potential MSE summer leadership conference. To assess identity threat, the researchers measured the participant’s physiological arousal during the video, cognitive vigilance, sense of belonging and desire to participate in the conference.

Folding is very important in human brain development because some of the worst neurological problems such as schizophrenia, autism and lissenchephaly (smoothness of the cortex, found with severe retardation) are associated with abnormal brain folding.

On the other hand, Albert Einstein's abnormally folded brain made him a genius

Larry A.Taber, Ph.D., the Dennis and Barbara Kessler Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Phillip Bayly, Ph.D., Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering, are examining mechanical and developmental processes that occur in the folding of the brain's surface, or cortex, which gives the higher mammalian brain more surface area (and hence more intellectual capacity) than a brain of comparable volume with a smooth surface.

Cell phones are increasingly sophisticated -- sporting such features as cameras, music players, games, video clips, Internet access and, lest we forget, the capability to phone someone -- but these features come at a price: memory.

Now computer engineers at Northwestern University and NEC Laboratories America, Inc. are the first to do what many thought impossible -- they have developed technology that doubles the usable memory on cell phones and other embedded systems without any changes to hardware or applications.

Two major steps toward putting quantum computers into real practice — sending a photon signal on demand from a qubit onto wires and transmitting the signal to a second, distant qubit — have been brought about by a team of scientists at Yale.

Over the past several years, the research team of Professors Robert Schoelkopf in applied physics and Steven Girvin in physics has explored the use of solid-state devices resembling microchips as the basic building blocks in the design of a quantum computer. Now, for the first time, they report that superconducting qubits, or artificial atoms, have been able to communicate information not only to their nearest neighbor, but also to a distant qubit on the chip.

Engineers at Ohio State University have found a way to turn discarded chicken eggshells into an alternative energy resource.

The patented process uses eggshells to soak up carbon dioxide from a reaction that produces hydrogen fuel. It also includes a unique method for peeling the collagen-containing membrane from the inside of the shells, so that the collagen can be used commercially.

L.S. Fan, Distinguished University Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, said that he and former Ohio State doctoral student, Mahesh Iyer, hit upon the idea when they were trying to improve a method of hydrogen production called the water-gas-shift reaction.