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"Discovery Files" Features from the National Science Foundation

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-- How Will You Use This Story? --

We are offering produced 90-second "Discovery Files" audio vignettes from the National Science Foundation (NSF); each segment is available as 320 kbps stereo MP3.  The segments are also available via an RSS feed on the NSF site (Last updated on Thursday, September 25th.)

"Genes 'n' Rice"

An international team of researchers led by the University of Arizona has sequenced the complete genome of African rice:  The genetic information will enhance scientists' and agriculturalists' understanding of the growing patterns of African rice--as well as enable the development of new rice varieties that are better able to cope with increasing environmental stressors, to help solve global hunger challenges.  (Posted on September 25th.)

"Breath Control"

To fight back against various forms of counterfeiting--especially counterfeit drugs--researchers at the University of Michigan and in South Korea have developed a way to make labels that change when you breathe on them, revealing a hidden image.  The labels work because an array of tiny pillars on the top of a surface effectively hides images that are written on the material beneath; the hidden images appear when the pillars trap moisture.  (Posted on September 11th.)

"Vision Screen"

Researchers from UC Berkeley and MIT are developing computer algorithms to compensate for an individual's visual impairment--and are creating vision-correcting displays that enable users to see text and images clearly, without wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.  The technology could potentially help hundreds of millions of people who currently need corrective lenses to use their smartphones, tablets, and computers; the displays could also, one day, aid people with more-complex visual problems that can't be corrected by eyeglasses.  (Posted on September 3rd.)


Scientists at the University of Illinois attached RFID tags to hundreds of individual honeybees, and tracked them for several weeks.  They found that some foraging bees are much busier than others--and that, if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.  (Posted on August 28th.)

"Tot Recall"

Researchers from UC Davis have found that--contrary to previous assumptions--preschoolers are able to both gauge the strength of their memories, and make decisions based on their self-assessments.  The research involved investigating whether kids could assess their confidence in their memories, and then use those assessments in deciding whether to exclude answers that they had generated but were unsure of when given the option.  (Posted on August 14th.)

"Tumor Boomer"

The first preclinical study of a new anti-cancer technology has found that a novel combination of existing clinical treatments can instantaneously detect and kill only cancer cells--often by blowing them apart--without harming surrounding normal organs.  According to the report, the Rice University-developed "quadrapeutics" technology was 17 times more efficient than conventional chemoradiation therapy against aggressive, drug-resistant head and neck tumors.  (Posted on August 7th.)

"Pest Test"

Researchers at the University of Missouri--in a collaboration that involved both audio and chemical analysis--have determined that plants respond to the sounds that caterpillars make when eating plants, and that the plants respond with more defenses.  (Posted on July 25th.)

"Berry Thirsty"

Facilitated by both the American Institute of Mathematics and Driscoll's--and with a goal to improve yields while also conserving water--mathematicians and industry representatives have created models that help identify which berry crops to plant where, and when.  (Posted on July 18th.)

"Autism App"

Researchers at Duke have developed software that tracks and records infants' activity during videotaped autism-screening tests; their results show that the program is as good at spotting behavioral markers of autism as experts giving the test themselves--and better than non-expert medical clinicians and students in training.  (Posted on July 15th.)

"Moving Mountains"

Scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno, may have found the cause of the rapid uplift of the Sierra Nevada mountain range:  Their research shows that the draining of the aquifer for agricultural irrigation in California's Central Valley has resulted in an upward flexing of both the earth's surface and the surrounding mountains, due to the loss of mass within the valley.  (Posted on July 8th.)


Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UCLA have found that 15- and 16-year-olds who find pleasure in pro-social activities--such as giving their money to family members--are less likely to become depressed than those who get a bigger thrill from taking risks or keeping the money for themselves.  (Posted on June 27th.)

"Power Structure"

A new type of supercapacitor developed by engineers at Vanderbilt stores electricity by assembling electrically charged ions on the surface of a porous material--instead of storing it in chemical reactions, the way that batteries do.  As a result, they can charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours--and can operate for millions of cycles, instead of thousands of cycles like batteries.  (Posted on June 18th.)

"Bot Smoker"

Complex-networks researchers at Indiana University have developed a tool that helps anyone determine whether a Twitter account is operated by a human or, instead, by an automated software application known as a "social bot":  "BotOrNot" analyzes over 1,000 features from a user's friendship network, their Twitter content, and temporal information, all in real time.  It then calculates the likelihood that the account may or may not be a bot.  (Posted on June 11th.)


Using a mixture of cervical-cancer cells and a hydrogel substance that resembles an ointment balm, a Drexel-led team of researchers can print out a tumor model that may be used for studying both their growth and their response to treatment--which could give cancer researchers a better look at how tumors behave.  (Posted on June 4th.)

"Cash Pour"

While stimulus programs are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash into the hands of people who are likely to turn around and spend it, sending cash to just the very poor may not be the right approach--according to researchers from Princeton and NYU who analyzed information on the finances of U.S. households from 1989 to 2010.  (Posted on May 28th.)

"Designer Beans"

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new computer model that can help plant scientists breed soybean crops that produce more while using less water.  (Posted on May 21st.)

"Face the Truth"

A joint study by researchers at UC San Diego, the University at Buffalo, and the University of Toronto has found that a computer-vision system can distinguish between real or faked expressions of pain more accurately than can humans.  Beyond its obvious uses, the system could be used to detect deceptive actions in the realms of security, psychopathology, job screening, medicine, and law.  (Posted on May 14th.)

"Grain Strain"

For the first time, a field test led by scientists at UC Davis has demonstrated that elevated levels of carbon dioxide inhibit plants' assimilation of nitrate into proteins--indicating that the nutritional quality of food crops is at risk as climate change intensifies.  (Posted on May 7th.)

"Thinking Cap"

Psychologists at Vanderbilt have demonstrated that it's possible to selectively manipulate our ability to learn, through the application of a mild electrical current to the brain--and that this effect can be enhanced or depressed, depending on the direction of the current.  (Posted on April 30th.)

"Baby's Breath"

A team of environmental engineers from UT Austin has found that infants are exposed to high levels of chemical emissions from crib mattresses while they sleep; analyzing the foam padding in crib mattresses, the team found that the mattresses release significant amounts of "volatile organic compounds"--potentially harmful chemicals that are also found in such household items as cleaners and scented sprays.  (Posted on April 21st.)

"Vitamin Sea"

Once believed to be manufactured only by marine bacteria, researchers at the University of Washington used new tools to measure and track vitamin B-12 in the ocean; their results show that a whole different class of organism--called "archaea"--can likewise supply this essential vitamin.  (Posted on April 8th.)

"Fer-mental State"

Scientists at the University of Washington find that it's the smell of fermentation that draws fruit flies to food--with the flies utilizing their antennae to detect the odors.  (Posted on April 2nd.)

"Light Salad"

Exposing leafy vegetables that are grown during extended spaceflight to a few bright pulses of light each day could increase the amount of eye-protecting nutrients that are produced by the plants--according to researchers at CU-Boulder.  Current research into space gardening tends to focus on getting the plants to grow as large as possible, as quickly as possible, by providing optimal light, water, and fertilizer; however, the conditions that are ideal for producing biomass are not necessarily ideal for the production of many nutrients.  (Originally posted on March 25th; revised on April 3rd.)

"Mean Genes"

Researchers from Iowa State, Penn State, and Grand Valley have found that aggression-causing genes appeared early in animal evolution--and have maintained their roles for millions of years, and across many species--even though animal aggression today varies widely, from territorial fighting to setting up social hierarchies.  (Posted on March 19th.)

"Babble On"

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Connecticut find that what spurs early language development isn't so much the quantity of words that a baby hears as the style of speech and social context in which speech occurs.  They measured parents' use of a regular speaking voice, versus an exaggerated, animated, "baby talk" style--and whether speech occurred one-on-one between parent and child, or in group settings.  (Posted on March 10th.)

"Butterfly Bacteria"

For the first time ever, a team led by CU-Boulder has sequenced the internal bacterial makeup of the three major life-stages of a butterfly species--finding that some surprising events occur during metamorphosis.  (Posted on March 5th.)

"Tank Bank"

A team of scientists and engineers at Harvard has demonstrated a new type of battery that could fundamentally transform the way that electricity is stored on the grid--making power from renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable.  (Posted on February 24th.)

"Tot Thought"

A study on infant cognition at the University of Chicago has found that--even before babies have language skills, or much information about social structures--they can infer whether others are likely to be friends, by observing their likes and dislikes.  The results offer a new window into humans' earliest understanding of the social world around them--and suggest that even nine-month-old infants can engage in reasoning about whether the people they observe are friends.  (Posted on February 14th.)

"Frack Wash"

Much of the naturally occurring radioactivity in wastewater from fracking (hydraulic fracturing) might be removed by blending it with acid mine drainage, according to a Duke University-led study; the researchers also believe that such a blend could help reduce the depletion of local freshwater resources, by giving drillers a source of usable recycled water for the fracking process.  (Posted on February 8th.)

"Memory Jolt"

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory in humans; their research shows that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it's consumed.  (Posted on January 31st.)

"Tomato Tweak"

Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have found one genetic mechanism for "hybrid vigor"--a property of plant breeding that has been exploited to boost yield since the early 20th century.  The research may allow commercial tomato growers to coax their plants into producing more fruit--without sacrificing the unique and necessary bushy shape of the plants.  (Posted on January 24th.)

"Reef Relief"

One of the largest and longest experiments ever done to test the impact of nutrient loading on coral reefs has confirmed what scientists have long suspected--that this type of pollution from sewage, agricultural practices, or other sources can lead to coral disease and bleaching.  However, the study--by researchers from Oregon State, Florida International, and the University of Florida--also found that once the injection of pollutants was stopped, the corals were able to recover in a surprisingly short time.  (Posted on January 17th.)

"Neo Geo"

Researchers from Ohio State, the University of Minnesota, and Lawrence Livermore are developing a new kind of geothermal-power plant that will lock away unwanted carbon dioxide underground--and use it as a tool to boost electric-power generation by at least 10 times, compared with existing geothermal-energy approaches.  (Posted on January 10th.)


Engineers at Cornell have created a device that employs your smartphone's camera to read your cholesterol level in about a minute; it optically detects biomarkers in a drop of blood--then discerns the results, using color analysis.  (Posted on January 3rd.)

"Toxic Sop"

Nanoengineers from UC San Diego have found that "nanosponges" that soak up a dangerous pore-forming toxin that's produced by MRSA could serve as a safe and effective vaccine against this toxin; this "nanosponge vaccine" enabled the immune systems of mice to block the adverse effects of the "alpha-haemolysin" toxin from MRSA--both within the bloodstream and on the skin.  (Posted on December 26th.)

"Brain Trust"

People who can accurately remember details of their daily lives going back decades are as susceptible as everyone else to forming fake memories; in a series of tests to determine how false information can manipulate memory formation, psychologists and neurobiologists at UC Irvine discovered that subjects with "highly superior autobiographical memory" logged scores that were similar to those of a control group of subjects with average memory.  (Posted on December 18th.)

"Ink Blocks"

Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon have developed a new password system that incorporates inkblots, in order to provide an extra measure of protection when lists of passwords get stolen; this new type of password would be suitable for protecting high-value, sensitive information--including bank accounts and medical records.  (Posted on December 11th.)

"Heat Shrink"

A research team led by the University of New Hampshire finds that mammal body size decreased significantly during at least two ancient global-warming events--which suggests that a similar outcome is possible in response to human-caused climate change.  (Posted on December 5th.)

"Sear Seer"

Scientists have fingerprinted a distinctive atmospheric wave pattern high above the Northern Hemisphere that can foreshadow the emergence of summertime heat waves in the U.S. more than two weeks in advance; led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the new research could potentially enable probability forecasts 15-20 days out--giving society more time to prepare for these often-deadly events.  (Posted on November 27th.)

"Rat Error"

Researchers at Brown and Yale universities tracked specific similarities in how human and rodent subjects adapted to errors as they performed a simple time-estimation task; their results suggest that people and rats may think alike when they have made a mistake and are trying to adjust their thinking.  (Posted on November 20th.)


Researchers from NC State have developed software that allows them to map unknown environments--such as collapsed buildings--based on the movement of a swarm of insect cyborgs, or "bio-bots".  (Posted on November 12th.)

"Carbon-Based Computer"

A team of Stanford engineers has built a basic computer using carbon nanotubes--a semiconductor material that has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that run faster, while using less energy, than those that are made from silicon chips.  (Posted on November 5th.)

"Beat Cop"

Researchers from UC Davis and Johns Hopkins have identified, for the first time, a biological pathway that's activated when blood-sugar levels are abnormally high--and that causes irregular heartbeats that are linked with heart failure and sudden cardiac death.  (Posted on October 31st.)

"Words and Music"

People who are better able to move to a beat show more-consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm, according to a study by researchers at Northwestern University.  The findings suggest that musical training could possibly sharpen the brain's response to language.  (Posted on October 21st.)

"Falls Alarm"

Electrical engineers at the University of Utah have developed a network of wireless sensors that can detect a person falling; this monitoring technology could be linked to a service that would call emergency help for the elderly, without requiring them to wear monitoring devices.  (Posted on September 24th.)


Harvard-based researchers have developed a transparent speaker that involves a high-voltage signal running across and through a thin sheet of rubber that's sandwiched between two layers of a saltwater gel.  It also represents the first demonstration that electrical charges that are carried by ions--rather than electrons--can be put to meaningful use in fast-moving, high-voltage devices.  (Posted on September 18th.)

"Task Master"

Researchers based at Brown University pinpoint the brainwave frequencies and brain region that are associated with sleep-enhanced learning of a sequential finger-tapping task that's akin to either playing the piano or typing.  (Posted on September 9th.)

"Sugar and Mice"

According to a toxicity test that was developed at the University of Utah, when mice ate a diet of 25-percent extra sugar--the mouse equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda daily--females died at twice the normal rate, and males were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce.  (Posted on September 4th.)

"Heated Arguments"

Researchers from Princeton and UC-Berkeley have found that even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have greatly increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history.  (Posted on August 23rd.)

"Crop Climate Control"

A research team led by UC-Riverside has discovered a new drought-protecting chemical that shows high potential for becoming a powerful tool for crop protection in the new world of extreme weather.  Named "quinabactin" by the researchers, the chemical mimics a naturally occurring stress hormone in plants that helps them cope with drought conditions.  (Posted on August 14th.)

"Bee Minus"

Removing even one bumblebee species from an ecosystem can result in both pollination becoming less effective, and plants producing significantly fewer seeds.  That's according to a new study showing that reduced competition among pollinators disrupts floral fidelity, or specialization, among the remaining bees in the system--leading to less-successful plant reproduction.  (Posted on August 4th.)

"Mercurial Thoughts"

Environmental researchers at Harvard say that significant reductions in mercury emissions will be necessary just to stabilize current levels of the toxic element in the environment; in a new study, they report that so much mercury persists in surface reservoirs from past pollution--going back thousands of years--that it will continue to both persist in the ocean and accumulate in fish for decades to centuries to come.  (Posted on July 26th.)


A new technology that was developed by researchers at NYU-Poly may make spotty streaming and data-hogging downloads a thing of the past.  The patent-pending technique--called "streamloading"--essentially splits video into two layers: a "base" layer, which contains a coarse representation of the video; and an "enhancement" layer, which both completes the image quality and includes the fine-grain details.  (Posted on July 16th.)

"Power Print"

Thanks to a team based at both Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 3-D printing can now be used to print lithium-ion microbatteries that are the size of a grain of sand; the printed microbatteries could supply electricity to tiny devices in fields from medicine to communications.  (Posted on July 9th.)

"Testing the Waters"

A toxin that's dangerous to humans may help E. coli fend off aquatic predators--enabling strains of E. coli that produce the toxin to survive longer in lake water than benign counterparts--according to a new study from the University at Buffalo and Mercyhurst University.  The findings have implications for water-quality testing:  They suggest that measuring the overall population of E. coli in a river or lake may be a poor way to find out whether the water poses a danger to swimmers.  (Posted on July 1st.)

"Primal Screen"

A study from Brown University finds that theta-brainwave activity in the prefrontal cortex predicts how well people can overcome the innate biases that tell them to act when they can obtain rewards, and to remain inactive in order to avoid punishment.  (Posted on June 18th.)


Using a state-of-the-art atomic-force microscope, scientists at UC-Berkeley have taken the first atom-by-atom pictures--including images of the chemical bonds between atoms--that clearly depict how a molecule's structure changed during a reaction.  Until now, scientists have only been able to infer this type of information, from spectroscopic analysis.  (Posted on June 11th.)

"Graphic Design"

Adding captivating visuals to a textbook lesson in order to attract children's interest may sometimes make it harder for them to learn; researchers at Ohio State found that six- to eight-year-old children best learned how to read simple bar graphs when the graphs were plain and in a single color.  (Posted on June 4th.)

"Air-Traffic Control"

The explosive popularity of wireless devices is increasingly clogging the airwaves--resulting in dropped calls, wasted bandwidth, and botched connections.  However, new software that's being developed at the University of Michigan works to both control the traffic and dramatically reduce interference.  (Posted on May 23rd.)


By using swarms of untethered grippers--each as small as a speck of dust--Johns Hopkins engineers and physicians say that they've devised a new way to perform biopsies that could provide a more-effective way to access narrow conduits in the body--as well as find early signs of cancer or other diseases.  (Posted on May 15th.)

"Balance of Power"

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed new micro-batteries that out-power even the best supercapacitors--and could drive new applications in radio communications and compact electronics.  (Posted on May 6th.)

"Early Risers"

Scientists have found that reductions in four heat-trapping pollutants that cycle comparatively quickly through the atmosphere--methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon--could temporarily forestall the rate of sea-level rise by roughly 25 to 50 percent.  (Posted on April 26th.)

"Share Tactics"

"Privacy-Preserving Photo-Sharing"--a new tool that was developed by a research team at USC--removes small amounts of crucial data from a photo and encrypts them--allowing cloud file-sharing services to have only the unencrypted, but now unrecognizable, portion.  The photo's owner can then choose to share the encrypted portion with other parties--allowing them to see the whole picture--without ever uploading it to the cloud.  (Posted on April 17th.)

"Twister Fate"

A study led by a University of Iowa psychologist found that residents of a town that was struck by a tornado thought that their risk of injury from a future tornado was lower than that of peers--both a month and a year after the destructive twister.  The researchers believe that such optimism could undermine efforts toward emergency preparedness.  (Posted on April 11th.)


A team of researchers has found the first example of an organism with a nucleus that has adapted to extreme environments based on "horizontal gene transfer": the red alga Galdieria sulphuraria, which can thrive in such diverse environments as hot springs and old mineshafts.  (Posted on April 1st.)

"True Grid"

Scientists at Northwestern University have identified conditions and properties that power companies can consider using to keep power generators in a desired synchronized state--and help make a self-healing power grid a reality.  Their design could help reduce both the frequency of blackouts and the cost of electricity--as well as offer an improved plan for handling the intermittent power sources of renewable energy, which can destabilize the network.  (Posted on March 19th.)

"Sound Bytes"

Electrical engineers at Oregon State have discovered a way to use high-frequency sound waves to enhance the magnetic storage of data--offering a new approach to improve the data-storage capabilities of a multitude of electronic devices.  (Posted on March 8th.)


Using underwater video cameras to record fish feeding on South Pacific coral reefs, scientists from Georgia Tech have found that herbivorous fish can be picky eaters--a trait that could spell trouble for endangered reef systems:  Just four species of fish were primarily responsible for removing common and potentially harmful seaweeds on reefs--and each type of seaweed is eaten by a different species.  The research demonstrates that particular species--and certain mixes of species--are potentially critical to the health of reef systems.  (Posted on February 25th.)

"Vision Realized"

The Food and Drug Administration has granted market approval to an artificial-retina technology--specifically, the first bionic eye to be approved for patients in the U.S.; the prosthetic technology was developed in part with support from NSF.  The device--called the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System--transmits images wirelessly from a small, eyeglass-mounted camera to a microelectrode array that's implanted on a patient's damaged retina; the array sends electrical signals via the optic nerve--and the brain interprets a visual image.  (Posted on February 18th.)

"Getting Wasted"

A new study finds that the heat that's generated by everyday activities in metropolitan areas alters the character of the jet stream and other major atmospheric systems; this affects temperatures across thousands of miles--significantly warming some areas, and cooling others.  (Posted on February 14th.)

"Spike Strip"

Researchers at NC State have come up with a technique to embed needle-like carbon nanofibers in an elastic membrane--creating a flexible "bed of nails" on the nanoscale that opens the door to development of new drug-delivery systems.  (Posted on February 4th.)


Scientists from Michigan State and the Chinese Academy of Sciences forecast how a changing climate may affect the most-common species of bamboo that carpets the forest floors of prime panda habitat in northwestern China.  (Posted on January 28th.)

"Staph Cutbacks"

Researchers from the University of Illinois and UC San Diego have discovered a new compound that restores the health of mice that are infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)--an otherwise-dangerous bacterial infection.  The new compound targets an enzyme that's not found in human cells, but which is essential to bacterial survival.  (Posted on January 18th.)

"Harm's Way"

Research from the University of Chicago finds that people are able to detect--within a split second--if a hurtful action that they're witnessing is intentional or accidental.  Its study is the first to explain how the brain is hard-wired to recognize when another person is being intentionally harmed--and provides new insights into how such recognition is connected with emotion and morality.  (Posted on January 11th.)

"Cutting Edge"

Scientists at the University of Utah uncover how insects domesticate bacteria--after a man who was cutting down a tree cut his hand and then sought medical help.  (Posted on January 2nd.)


Researchers at UCLA have developed a lightweight device that attaches to a cellphone to detect allergens in food samples.  The "iTube" attachment uses the phone's built-in camera--along with an accompanying application that runs a test with the same high level of sensitivity that a laboratory would.  (Posted on December 26th.)

"Goby Dessert"

According to a recent study, threatened corals send signals to fish "bodyguards" that quickly respond to trim back noxious algae--which can kill the coral, if not promptly removed.  Scientists at Georgia Tech found evidence that these "mutualistic" fish respond to chemical signals from the coral in a matter of minutes--like an emergency call.  (Posted on December 18th.)

"Weather Beaten"

A study finds that decades of extreme weather crippled--and ultimately decimated--first the political culture and later the human population of the ancient Maya.  (Posted on December 11th.)

"Catalytic Converted"

A chemist at Princeton has developed a way to make common metals act like precious ones--specifically, to make iron function like platinum.  The process could help reduce companies' dependence on rare elements that are used as catalysts in the manufacturing process.  (Posted on November 29th.)


Researchers at Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati have discovered why plants and animals had a hard time recovering from the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, 250 million years ago:  According to their study, the species that survived the extinction didn't fully recover for five million years because of the environmental consequences of rising temperatures.  (Posted on November 21st.)

"Stand Down"

Researchers at Harvard find that--when it comes to the health of forests, native plants, and wildlife--the best management decision may be to do nothing.  (Posted on November 15th.)


University of Akron polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that the common house spider--in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey--performs an uncommon feat:  It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths--firm and weak.  (Posted on November 4th.)

"Insect Aside"

Research from Cornell University indicates that getting rid of insects could trigger some unwelcome ecological consequences--such as the rapid loss of desired traits in plants, including their good taste and high yields.  (Posted on October 26th.)

"Phone Feed"

Researchers from Rice University, Bell Labs, and Yale University have created a multi-antenna technology that could help wireless providers keep pace with the voracious demands of data-hungry smartphones and tablets.  The technology aims to dramatically increase network capacity by allowing cell towers to simultaneously beam signals to more than a dozen customers on the same frequency.  (Posted on October 22nd.)


A team of researchers based at Oregon State University has, for the first time, confirmed some of the mechanisms by which overfishing and nitrate pollution can help destroy coral reefs:  It appears that they allow an overgrowth of algae that can bring with it unwanted pathogens, choke off oxygen, and disrupt helpful bacteria.  (Posted on October 10th.)

"Disease Detective"

Johns Hopkins researchers have created a synthetic protein that--when activated by ultraviolet light--can guide doctors to places within the body where cancer, arthritis, and other serious medical disorders can be detected.  (Posted on September 28th.)

"New Threads"

Responding to an urgent need for better antibacterial coatings on surgical sutures, scientists at UMass-Amherst report the discovery of a new coating that's almost 1,000 times more effective than the most-widely-used commercial coating.  (Posted on September 21st.)

"Crustacean Invasion"

Research by a professor at the Florida Institute of Technology finds that predatory crabs are poised to return to warming Antarctic waters and disrupt the primeval marine communities that have lived there for millions of years.  (Posted on September 13th.)

"Heads Up"

Princeton University researchers find that the "pulvinar"--a mysterious region deep in the human brain--could be where we sort through the onslaught of stimuli from the outside world, and focus on the information that's most important to our behavior and survival.  (Posted on September 6th.)

"Mega-Size Me"

Researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research conduct a study attempting to quantify the impact of rapidly expanding "megapolitan" areas--such as Arizona's "Sun Corridor"--on regional climate.  (Posted on August 29th.)


Enormous volcanic "super-eruptions" with the potential to end civilizations may have surprisingly short fuses, a Vanderbilt University-led study finds.  (Posted on August 17th.)

"Fungal Fuel"

A new study--which includes the first large-scale comparison of fungi that cause rot decay--suggests that the evolution of a type of fungi known as "white rot" may have brought an end to a 60-million-year-long period of coal deposition known as the "Carboniferous period".  In addition, the study provides insights about diverse fungal enzymes that might be used in the future to help generate biofuels--which are currently among the most-promising and -attractive alternatives to fossil fuels for powering vehicles.  (Posted on August 10th.)

"Acid Redux"

Scientists at the Hubbard Brook Long-Term Ecological Research site discover that a combination of today's higher atmospheric carbon-dioxide level and its atmospheric fallout is altering the hydrology and water quality of forested watersheds.  (Posted on August 3rd.)

"Light Rain"

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute have invented a "smart" headlight system that can improve visibility for drivers by constantly redirecting light to shine between particles of precipitation.  (Posted on July 26th.)

"Eat, Prey, Decompose"

A grasshopper's change in diet to high-energy carbohydrates while being hunted by spiders may affect the way that soil releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere--according to a study by researchers at Yale and Hebrew universities.  (Posted on July 22nd.)

"Vac to the Future"

With the advent of semiconductor transistors has come the consistent demand for faster, more-energy-efficient technologies.  To fill this need, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are proposing a new spin on an old method: a switch from the use of silicon electronics back to vacuums as a medium for electron transport.  (Posted on July 13th.)

"Sleep Study"

Participants in a study at Northwestern University learned how to play two artificially generated musical tunes with key presses.  Then, while the participants took a nap, the researchers presented one of the tunes--but not the other.  The study results show that such stimulation during sleep can indeed enhance skill learning.  (Posted on July 6th.)

"Ice Curbs"

Researchers from Harvard University have invented a way to keep any metal surface free of ice and frost.  The technology prevents ice sheets from developing on surfaces--and any ice that does form slides off effortlessly.  (Posted on June 29th.)

"Small Wonder"

A laboratory test that's used to both detect disease and perform biological research could be made more than three million times more sensitive--according to Princeton University researchers who combined standard biological tools with a breakthrough in nanotechnology.  (Posted on June 22nd.)

"Bee Bots"

The Harvard-based "RoboBees" project aims to artificially mimic the collective behavior and "intelligence" of a bee colony, with the goal of gaining a greater understanding of fields such as entomology, developmental biology, amorphous computing, and electrical engineering.  (Posted on June 14th.)

"Text Effects"

Researchers from the University of Michigan and The New School for Social Research find that text messaging is a surprisingly good way to get candid responses to sensitive questions.  (Posted on June 6th.)

"Status Simian"

A study by researchers at Notre Dame, Princeton, and Duke universities finds that high-ranking male baboons recover more quickly from injuries--and are less likely to become ill--than other males.  (Posted on May 31st.)

"Pod Cast"

Birds and other animals change their behavior in response to manmade noise.  However, research conducted by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center finds that such clamor doesn't just affect them:  Because many animals also pollinate plants or disperse their seeds, human noise can also have ripple effects on plants.  (Posted on May 25th.)

"Taken to 'Task"

An Ohio State University study suggests that people aren't very good at "media multitasking" (for example, reading a book while watching TV), but do it anyway because it makes them feel good.  (Posted on May 17th.)


Researchers at Purdue University are developing a technique that uses nanotechnology to harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components, in order to potentially recover energy that's wasted in factories, power plants, and cars.  (Posted on May 11th.)

"Blue-Light Special"

Analysis of data from the "IceCube Neutrino Observatory"--a massive detector that's deployed in deep ice at the geographic South Pole--provides new insight into one of the most-enduring mysteries in physics: the production of cosmic rays.  (Posted on May 3rd.)

"Foot Find"

A fossil that was found in Ethiopia by researchers from The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Case Western Reserve University indicates that--between three million and four million years ago--there were at least two pre-human species living on the Earth.  (Posted on April 27th.)

"Brain Matrix"

A study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital has revealed a remarkably simple--but previously hidden--organizational structure within the brain.  (Posted on April 20th.)

"Math Classification"

Do some high-school teachers think that math is harder for girls than for boys?  Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin who looked at grades, test scores, and how teachers rated their students' abilities found bias against white girls that can't be explained by their academic performance.  (Posted on April 12th.)

"Water Mark"

New research finds that sea levels will likely rise between 40 and 70 feet over at least the next several centuries--even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).  (Posted on April 6th.)

"Naked Truths"

A University of Illinois at Chicago biologist and his colleagues think that the subterranean lifestyle of the naked mole-rat may hold clues to keeping brain cells alive and functioning when oxygen is scarce.  The key may lie in how brain cells regulate their intake of calcium.  (Posted on April 2nd.)

"Calculated Risk"

Mathematicians at the University of Utah have developed a set of calculus equations to make it easier for doctors to save acetaminophen-overdose patients, by quickly estimating how much painkiller they took, when they consumed it, and whether they will require a liver transplant to survive.  (Posted on March 22nd.)

"Motor Skills"

An engineer at Iowa State University is working to develop computer-modeling technology that will show engineers how to chip away at the surfaces of electric motors, in order to help them create new designs and shapes that can increase power generation.  (Posted on March 15th.)

"Head Bangers"

A two-year study of high-school football players conducted by Purdue University suggests that concussions are likely caused by many hits over time--and not from a single blow to the head, as is commonly believed.  (Posted on March 9th.)

"Past Restored?"

Wetland restoration is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the U.S. that aims to create ecosystems similar to those that disappeared over the past century.  However, a new analysis of restoration projects shows that restored wetlands seldom reach the quality of a natural wetland.  (Posted on February 28th.)

"Power Plants"

Researchers have developed a system that taps into photosynthetic processes to produce efficient and inexpensive energy.  Specifically, the system improves the efficiency of generating electric power by using molecular structures that were extracted from plants--which has the potential to make "green" electricity dramatically cheaper and easier.  (Posted on February 22nd.)

"Bloodless Coup"

Engineers at Brown University have designed a biological device that can measure glucose concentrations in human saliva--which could eliminate the need for diabetics to draw blood to check their glucose levels.  (Posted on February 15th.)

"Animal Futures"

Predictions of the loss of animal and plant diversity around the world are common under models of future climate change.  But, a new study by researchers at both the University of Connecticut and the University of Washington shows that--because these climate models don't account for species competition and movement--they could grossly underestimate future extinctions.  (Posted on February 8th.)

"Mutation Revelation"

Researchers at Michigan State University demonstrate how a new virus evolves--which sheds light on how easy it can be for diseases to gain dangerous mutations.  (Posted on February 2nd.)

"Evacuation Evaluation"

An NSF-sponsored study in Chicago-area communities where neighborhood evacuations are likely due to large amounts of toxic materials that are transported nearby found that most respondents felt that the evacuation of New Orleans residents to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina was a "failure"--and that this opinion has shaped their willingness to accept shelter, if offered, in an emergency evacuation.  (Posted on January 25th.)

"Bug Juice"

A group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University report that an insect's internal chemicals can be converted to electricity--potentially providing power for sensors or recording devices, or even to control the bug itself.  (Posted on January 16th.)

"Brain Train"

For the first time, scientists at the University of Southern California have unlocked a mechanism behind the way that short- and long-term motor memory both work together and compete against one another.  The research could potentially pave the way to more-effective rehabilitation for stroke patients.  (Posted on January 16th.)


Low-income women with children who move from high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhoods experience notable, long-term improvements in some aspects of their health--specifically, reductions in diabetes and extreme obesity--according to a study led by the University of Chicago.  (Posted on January 5th.)

"Flood Plan"

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, and The University of Nottingham have discovered how plants sense low oxygen levels to survive flooding--which could eventually lead to the production of high-yielding, flood-tolerant crops that would benefit farmers, markets, and consumers everywhere.  (Posted on December 29th.)

"Mental Floss"

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method to design antibodies that are aimed at combating disease.  Specifically, the process was used to make antibodies that neutralize the harmful protein particles that lead to Alzheimer's disease.  (Posted on December 20th.)

"Sound Mined"

A new software tool called MediaMined™ provides unprecedented searches of audio files that go beyond just keywords--because it analyzes and categorizes the actual characteristics of the sounds themselves.  (Posted on December 13th.)

"Space Cadets"

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that preschool children who hear their parents describe the size and shape of objects--and then use those words themselves--perform better on tests of their spatial skills.  The study is the first to show that learning to use a wide range of spatial words predicts children's later spatial thinking--which, in turn, is important in mathematics, science, and technology.  (Posted on December 4th.)

"Raw Data"

A first-of-its-kind study from Harvard shows that cooked meat provides more energy than raw meat.  The finding may challenge the current food-labeling system--and suggests that humans are evolutionarily adapted to take advantage of the benefits of cooking.  (Posted on November 26th.)

"Juicy Details"

A new study from researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute shows that cranberry juice is better than extracts at fighting urinary-tract infections.  (Posted on November 14th.)

"Mind Control"

Scientists have created an EEG-based, noninvasive brain-computer interface that allows users to control a virtual helicopter using only their minds.  (Posted on November 8th.)

"Defect Detect"

A decade-long study by a team of U.S. and Chinese researchers is one of the first to provide hard evidence that certain environmental pollutants are indeed linked to birth defects.  (Posted on November 5th.)

"New Breed"

Cassava, banana, and plantain--staple foods for millions of the world's poorest people--are notoriously difficult to breed.  But, an international team of scientists aims to change that--using a revolutionary new approach to plant breeding developed at the University of California, Davis.   (Posted on November 5th.)

"Game Changer"

Gamers have solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade.  The gamers achieved their discovery by playing Foldit, an online game that allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules.   (Posted on November 5th.)

"Power Nap"

Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a new "subconscious mode" for smartphones and other Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices that could greatly extend battery life.   (Posted on November 5th.)

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