Archive for September 1st, 2011

September 1, 2011

Superconductors: how do they work? Better with magnets, apparently

Superconductors: how do they work? Better with magnets, apparently – Nobel Intent

High-temperature superconductivity, about 25 years after it was first discovered, still hasn’t resulted in the widespread applications that were expected. Part of the reason is that it is still not understood theoretically.

Magnetic fields applied in parallel to ultrathin films increase the critical temperature for superconductivity, which can’t be explained by current theory.

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September 1, 2011

Localizing language in the brain

Localizing language in the brain – MIT News Office

The contentious issue is whether there are areas of the brain that are exclusively “for” certain higher-level functions. The issue is known as “modularity”. Are there high-level functions that are handled by specific subsystems, rather than more general-purpose brain tissue?

New study pinpoints areas of the brain used exclusively for language, providing a partial answer to a longstanding debate in cognitive science.

September 1, 2011

Lizard genome sequence solves a human genetic mystery

Lizard genome sequence solves a human genetic mystery – io9

The interesting finding is that a number of non-coding regions of human DNA correspond to active transposons (“jumping genes”) in the lizard DNA.

Another surprise is that the lizards have essentially the same sex chromosomes as mammals – unlike birds.

320 million years ago, mammals and reptiles reached an evolutionary parting of the ways. We’ve now sequenced a lizard genome for the first time ever, and it’s vastly different from our own…but in a few crucial ways, it’s shockingly similar.

September 1, 2011

Promiscuousness results in genetic ‘trade-up,’ more offspring

Promiscuousness results in genetic ‘trade-up,’ more offspring – ScienceBlog.com

It’s all about the grandkids! That’s what a team led by an Indiana University biologist has learned about promiscuous female birds and why they mate outside their social pair.

Many humans find the idea of mating for life a romantic ideal, but in the natural world, non-monogamous relationships may have their benefits. According to new research published online today (Aug. 31) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, IU postdoctoral research associate Nicole Gerlach and colleagues have uncovered one of the benefits of this promiscuity: more grandkids!

September 1, 2011

Stone tools shed light on early human migrations

Stone tools shed light on early human migrations – Nature News

The discovery of stone axes in the same sediment layer as cruder tools indicates that hominins with differing tool-making technologies may have coexisted.

The axes, found in Kenya by Christopher Lepre, a palaeontologist at Columbia University in New York, and his team are estimated to be around 1.76 million years old. That’s 350,000 years older than any other complex tools yet discovered.

September 1, 2011

Your brain chemistry existed before animals did

Your brain chemistry existed before animals did – New Scientist.

When wondering about the origins of our brain, don’t look to Homo sapiens, chimpanzees, fish or even worms. Many key components first appeared in single-celled organisms, long before animals, brains and even nerve cells existed. …

Choanoflagellates are aquatic organisms found in oceans and rivers around the globe. Being a single cell, they do not have nerves, yet the team found both proteins in the choanoflagellate Monosiga brevicollis, and the interaction between the two was the same as in neurons

September 1, 2011

Word association: Study matches brain scans with complex thought

Word association: Study matches brain scans with complex thought – ScienceBlog.com.

In an effort to understand what happens in the brain when a person reads or considers such abstract ideas as love or justice, Princeton researchers have for the first time matched images of brain activity with categories of words related to the concepts a person is thinking about. The results could lead to a better understanding of how people consider meaning and context when reading or thinking.

September 1, 2011

Ginormous Black Hole Caught Eating Another

Ginormous Black Hole Caught Eating Another – Space.com

A monstrous black hole at the heart of one galaxy is being devoured by a still larger black hole in another, scientists say. The discovery is the first of its kind.

At the centers of virtually all large galaxies are black holes millions to billions of times the mass of the sun. Models simulating the formation and growth of galaxies predict their black holes evolve as the galaxies do, by merging with others.

Astronomers had witnessed the final stages of the merging of galaxies of equal mass, so-called major mergers. Minor mergers between galaxies and smaller companions should be even more common, but, strangely, these had not been seen until now.

September 1, 2011

Maybe a hydrogen fuel tank that’s good? Maybe a way to make hydrogen that’s green?

Hydrogen-fueled cars may happen yet….

A few reporters notice: Maybe a hydrogen fuel tank that’s good? Maybe a way to make hydrogen that’s green? – Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

September 1, 2011

Quantum computer chips pass key milestones

Quantum computer chips pass key milestones – physics-math – 01 September 2011 – New Scientist.

 

Quantum computer users may soon have to wrestle with their own version of the “PC or Mac?” question. A design based on superconducting electrical circuits has now performed two benchmark feats, suggesting it will be a serious competitor to rival setups using photons or ions. …

Previously, setups using photons or trapped ions as qubits have made the most headway in early calculations. Now Matteo Mariantoni of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues have boosted the computing power of a rival design, first demonstrated in 2003, that uses tiny, superconducting wires instead.