Applied Physics

High Arctic ponds -- the most common source of surface water in many polar regions -- are now beginning to evaporate due to recent climate warming, say two of Canada’s leading environmental scientists.

John Smol (Professor of Biology at Queen’s University and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change) and Marianne Douglas (Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Director of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of Alberta) will publish their startling conclusions next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“The final ecological threshold for an aquatic ecosystem is loss of water,” says Dr. Smol. “These sites have now crossed that threshold.”

For the first time, a team of experts is preparing to create tsunami in a controlled environment in order to study their effects on buildings and coastlines - ultimately paving the way for the design of new structures better able to withstand their impact.

Dr Tiziana Rossetto, UCL Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, unveiled plans to develop an innovative new tsunami generator capable of creating scaled-down versions of the devastating waves. The UCL team will be working with marine engineering specialists HR Wallingford (HRW) throughout the project.

“Tsunami are water waves generated by earthquakes, underwater landslides, volcanic eruptions or major debris slides,” said Dr Rossetto.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have developed a novel strategy to expand the natural repertoire of 20 amino acids in mammalian cells, including neurons, and successfully inserted tailor-made amino acids into proteins in these cells. In a powerful demonstration of the method’s versatility, they then used unnatural amino acids to determine the operating mechanism of the “molecular gates” that regulate the movement of potassium ions in and out of nerve cells.

“In the past, this type of engineering has been mainly restricted to bacteria or in yeast, and it was very challenging to efficiently incorporate unnatural amino acids in mammalian cells.

In May, Nobel Laureate James D. Watson, the scientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA, became the first person to receive his own complete personal genome -- all three billion base pairs of his DNA code sequenced. The cost was $1 million, and the process took two months.

A million dollars for a map of all your genes is way out of reach for most people. The National Institutes of Health would like to bring it down to $1,000 by the year 2014, but plenty of technological hurdles remain before you’ll be able to secure your genetic blueprint for this more affordable price.

Tiny plastic fibers could be the key to some diverse technologies in the future -- including self-cleaning surfaces, transparent electronics, and biomedical tools that manipulate strands of DNA.

Ohio State University researchers describe how they created surfaces that, seen with the eye, look as flat and transparent as a sheet of glass. But seen up close, the surfaces are actually carpeted with tiny fibers.

The patent-pending technology involves a method for growing a bed of fibers of a specific length, and using chemical treatments to tailor the fibers' properties, explained Arthur J.

A new paper published in Journal of the American Ceramic Society proposes a new method of producing hydrogen for portable fuel cells.

This new method negates the need for the complicated and expensive equipment currently used. With their ability to work steadily for 10-20 times the length of equivalently sized Lithium-ion batteries, portable fuel cells are ideal energy suppliers for devices such as computers, cell phones and hybrid vehicles.

USC computer scientist Kristina Lerman thinks she has found a new source of artificial intelligence computing power to solve difficult IT problems of information classification, reliability, and meaning - people.

She says that extracting 'metadata' about transactions -- who is talking to whom, who is listening, how conclusions are reached, and how they spread -- can help researchers answer currently refractory problems about documents: their accuracy and quality, their categorization, the relation of their embedded terminology.

Researchers have discovered that calcium ions could play a crucial role in multiple sclerosis by activating enzymes that degrade the fatty sheath that insulates nerve fibers.

Learning exactly how the myelin sheath is degraded might enable scientists to determine how to halt disease progress and reverse damage by growing new myelin, said Ji-Xin Cheng, an assistant professor in Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry.

"Although multiple sclerosis has been studied for many years, nobody knows exactly how the disease initially begins," he said. "The pathway is not clear."

A £9.2m research centre at the University of Nottingham will break new ground in our understanding of plant growth and could lead to the development of drought-resistant crops for developing countries.

The Centre for Plant Integrative Biology (CPIB) will focus on cutting-edge research into plant biology — particularly the little-studied area of root growth, function and response to environmental cues.

Researchers have used nanotechnology to create transparent transistors and circuits, a step that promises a broad range of applications, from e-paper and flexible color screens for consumer electronics to "smart cards" and "heads-up" displays in auto windshields.

The transistors are made of single "nanowires," or tiny cylindrical structures that were assembled on glass or thin films of flexible plastic.

"The nanowires themselves are transparent, the contacts we put on them are transparent and the glass or plastic substrate is transparent," said David Janes, a researcher at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center and a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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