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Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory say they have devised an inexpensive way to produce plastic sheets containing billions of nanoantennas that collect heat energy generated by the sun and other sources.

They say this technology is the first step toward a solar energy collector that could be mass-produced on flexible materials.

Traditional solar cells rely on a chemical reaction that only works for up to 20 percent of the visible light they collect. Scientists have developed more complex solar cells with higher efficiency, but these models are too expensive for widespread use.

Neither snap judgements nor sleeping on a problem are any better than conscious thinking for making complex decisions, according to new research that the researchers say debunks a controversial 2006 research result asserting that unconscious thought is superior for complex decisions, such as buying a house or car.

If anything, the new study suggests that conscious thought leads to better choices.

Since its publication two years ago by a Dutch research team in the journal Science, the earlier finding had been used to encourage decision-makers to make "snap" decisions (for example, in the best-selling book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell) or to leave complex choices to the powers of unconscious thought ("Sleep on it", Dijksterhuis et al., Science, 2006).

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have for the first time engineered 3-D materials that can reverse the natural direction of visible and near-infrared light, a development that could help form the basis for higher resolution optical imaging, nanocircuits for high-powered computers, and, to the delight of science-fiction and fantasy buffs, cloaking devices that could render objects invisible to the human eye.

Two breakthroughs in the development of metamaterials - composite materials with extraordinary capabilities to bend electromagnetic waves - are reported separately this week in the Aug. 13 advanced online issue of Nature, and in the Aug. 15 issue of Science.


In a study on fetal alcohol syndrome, researchers were able to prevent the damage that alcohol causes to cells in a key area of the fetal brain by blocking acid sensitive potassium channels and preventing the acidic environment that alcohol produces. The cerebellum, the portion of the brain that is responsible for balance and muscle coordination, is particularly vulnerable to injury from alcohol during development.

The researchers also found that although alcohol lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood of the mother, it is not the lack of oxygen that damages the fetal cerebellum, but the drop in pH.

A study of 228 women has revealed genetic variants responsible for body shape, according to research published in BMC Genetics.

Based on work in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the study identifies natural variation in the human LAMA5 gene as a key determinant of weight.

As the prevalence of obesity and related health problems continues to increase worldwide, there is considerable effort being devoted to identify genetic mechanisms that control fat storage. Maria De Luca led a team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA, who identified candidate genes using different strains of Drosophila.

Scientists have discovered a new species of bacteria in the mouth. The finding could help scientists to understand tooth decay and gum disease and may lead to better treatments, according to research published in the August issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

"The healthy human mouth is home to a tremendous variety of microbes including viruses, fungi, protozoa and bacteria," said Professor William Wade from King's College London Dental Institute. "The bacteria are the most numerous: there are 100 million in every millilitre of saliva and more than 600 different species in the mouth. Around half of these have yet to be named and we are trying to describe and name the new species."