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The Discovery Files

8 hours 56 min ago
New research adds to a growing body of evidence that there's a health cost to our increasingly illuminated nights

1 billion suns: World's brightest laser sparks new behavior in light

8 hours 56 min ago

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A team of National Science Foundation-funded physicists are seeing an everyday phenomenon in a new light. By focusing laser light to a brightness 1 billion times greater than the surface of the sun--the brightest light ever produced on Earth--the physicists have observed changes in a vision-enabling interaction between light and matter. Those changes yielded unique X-ray pulses with the potential to generate extremely high-resolution imagery useful for medical, engineering, scientific and security purposes. The team’s findings should also help inform future experiments involving high-intensity lasers.

Image credit: Donald Umstadter and Wenchao Yan

Quiet body, active mind

8 hours 56 min ago

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New optical imaging tools are providing unprecedented views of brain processes. One such technique produced these rainbow brain lobes of a mouse, another popular system researchers use to study the brain. The colors reflect the vivid synchronized patterns of neural activity in a mouse at rest. This research marks the first time brain activity and blood flow were simultaneously imaged. The work provides a completely new view of brain activity and could lead to a better understanding of how various brain regions interact. The work also lays a foundation for pursuing new treatments for various neurological diseases.

Image credit: Ying Ma and Elizabeth Hillman, Columbia's Zuckerman Institute

Changing the New Mexico landscape with the STEM Advancement Program

8 hours 56 min ago
Changing the New Mexico landscape with the STEM Advancement Program

The Academic Minute

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 3:00am
NSF-funded Amnon Kohen of the University of Iowa explains the process for making a drug safe for humans, but bad for bacteria

Drones that drive

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 3:00am

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Imagine machines that could fly into construction areas or disaster zones that aren’t near roads and then squeeze through tight spaces on the ground to transport objects or rescue people. Airborne drones are fast and agile, but generally have too limited of a battery life to travel for long distances. Ground vehicles, on the other hand, are more energy efficient, but slower and less mobile. Researchers are aiming to develop robots that can both maneuver around on land and take to the skies.

Image credit: Brandon Araki, MIT CSAIL

To pay for groundwater, farmers cut use by a third

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 3:00am

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A new study suggests that self-imposed well-pumping fees can play an important role in managing droughts, incentivizing farmers to slash use by a third, plant less thirsty crops and water more efficiently. The study centered around a novel initiative in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where several hundred farmers voted to self-impose a fee on groundwater--which is typically free and largely unregulated--beginning in 2011. The move came after a historic drought in 2002 and subsequent drier-than-average years left the region’s aquifer depleted and some farmers worried that the state might begin shutting down wells, as it had in other areas.

Image credit: Kelsey C. Cody, Environmental Studies Program, Colorado University-Boulder

Improving mobility for people with prosthetic limbs

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 3:00am
Improving mobility for people with prosthetic limbs

Demonstration of the Lombard effect in bats

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 3:00am
Demonstration of the Lombard effect in bats

Sea sponges stay put with anchors that bend but don't break

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 3:00am

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Sea sponges known as Venus’ flower baskets remain fixed to the seafloor with nothing more than an array of thin, hair-like anchors made essentially of glass. It’s an important job, and new research suggests that it’s the internal architecture of those anchors, known as basalia spicules, that helps them do it. The spicules, each about half the diameter of a human hair, are made of a central silica (glass) core clad within 25 thin silica cylinders. Viewed in cross-section, the arrangement looks like the rings in a tree trunk. The new study shows that compared to spicules taken from a different sponge species that lacks the tree-ring architecture, the basalia spicules are able to bend up to 2.4 times farther before breaking.

Image credit: Michael A. Monn, Brown University

Ancient chromosomes offer insight into mammalian evolution

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 3:00am

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What if researchers could go back in time 105 million years and accurately sequence the chromosomes of the first placental mammal? What would it reveal about evolution and modern mammals, including humans? In a study published this week, researchers have gone back in time, at least virtually, computationally recreating the chromosomes of the first eutherian mammal, the long-extinct, shrew-like ancestor of all placental mammals.

Image credit: K. West, California National Primate Research Center