A new study into meat tenderness could refine the way Australians cook steak. Meat Scientist Prof. Robyn Warner from the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems at The Univ. of Melbourne and her collaborators conducted studies using microscopes on what happens to meat cells while it was being cooked.
“We know meat shrinks when it’s cooked but we saw something surprising; meat shrinks not just once but twice and we have captured it in video,” Warner said. “Our observation is two separate meat proteins must change shape during the cooking process, one at about 55 to 60 C and another at about 75.”
Strange Quantum Changes Studied Near Absolute Zero
Heat drives classical phase transitions — think solid, liquid and gas — but much stranger things can happen when the temperature drops. If phase transitions occur at the coldest temperatures imaginable, where quantum mechanics reigns, subtle fluctuations can dramatically transform a material.
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook Univ. have explored this frigid landscape of absolute zero to isolate and probe these quantum phase transitions with unprecedented precision.
Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they’re going.
But the property manager says it’s intended to be ironic — to remind people that it’s dangerous to tweet while walking the street.
Cheetah Robot Can Run, Jump, Untethered, Across Grass
Speed and agility are hallmarks of the cheetah: the big predator is the fastest land animal on Earth, able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop.
Now, MIT researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a robotic cheetah — a sleek, four-legged assemblage of gears, batteries and electric motors that weighs about as much as its feline counterpart. The team recently took the robot for a test run on MIT’s Killian Court, where it bounded across the grass at a steady clip.
During cancer development, tumor cells decorate their surfaces with sugar compounds called glycans that are different from those found on normal, healthy cells. In PNAS, researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine report that sialic acids at the tips of these cancer cell glycans are capable of engaging with immune system cells and changing the latter’s response to the tumor – for good and bad.
“These cell surface glycans can promote or inhibit cancer progression, depending upon the stage of the disease,” said principal investigator Ajit Varki, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “Our findings underscore the complexity of cancer and the consequent challenges in conquering it. The immune system may be a double-edged sword in cancer, tumor-promoting or tumor-inhibiting, depending upon circumstances.”
Image of the Week: Approach Creates Strong, Conductive Carbon Threads
The very idea of fibers made of carbon nanotubes is neat, but Rice Univ. scientists are making them neater — literally. The single-walled carbon nanotubes in new fibers created at Rice line up like a fistful of uncooked spaghetti through a process designed by chemist Angel Martí and his colleagues.
The tricky bit, according to Martí, whose lab reported its results this month in the journal ACS Nano, is keeping the densely packed nanotubes apart before they’re drawn together into a fiber. Left to their own devices, carbon nanotubes form clumps that are perfectly wrong for turning into the kind of strong, conductive fibers needed for projects ranging from nanoscale electronics to macro-scale power grids.
ADHD Brain Study Finds Slower Development of Key Connections
A peek inside the brains of more than 750 children and teens reveals a key difference in brain architecture between those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and those without. Kids and teens with ADHD, a new study finds, lag behind others of the same age in how quickly their brains form connections within — and between — key brain networks.
The result: less-mature connections between a brain network that controls internally-directed thought — such as daydreaming — and networks that allow a person to focus on externally-directed tasks. That lag in connection development may help explain why people with ADHD get easily distracted or struggle to stay focused.
Mars Meteorite Yields Evidence of Possibility for Life
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding of a cell-like structure — which investigators now know once held water — came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology.
While investigating the Martian meteorite, known as Nakhla, Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical Univ. of Athens found an unusual feature embedded deep within the rock. In a bid to understand what it might be, he teamed up with long-time friend and collaborator Prof. Ian Lyon at the Univ. of Manchester.
The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal is to speed up medical research and put hospitals on alert should an infected traveler arrive.
Amid criticism that the world still is not acting fast enough against the surging Ebola epidemic, President Barack Obama travels today to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the outbreak with health officials who’ve been there.
Conditions on Earth for the first 500 million years after it formed may have been surprisingly similar to the present day, complete with oceans, continents and active crustal plates.
This alternate view of Earth’s first geologic eon, called the Hadean, has gained substantial new support from the first detailed comparison of zircon crystals that formed more than 4 billion years ago with those formed contemporaneously in Iceland, which has been proposed as a possible geological analog for early Earth.
Sounds are integral to Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” the book about two years he spent living in a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond in Massachusetts in 1846-47 — the wind blowing through the rushes, the rumbling of the ice melting in the spring, owls screeching in the night.
Oh, and the whistle of the steam engines from passing trains and church bells ringing in Concord on Sundays, miles away. Thoreau went to Walden to live simply amid nature. The sounds of humanity followed him. Now, there is hardly a spot on the planet where our noise doesn’t mix with (or intrude on, from another perspective) the sounds of the natural world, says Purdue Univ. Prof. Bryan Pijanowski.
Eventually, the only way people may be able to hear nature on its own terms is through an artificial digital world, much like “Star Trek,” says Pijanowski, an ecologist leading a Purdue-centered international effort to collect a digital archive of high-resolution video — and especially sound — from signature natural areas around the world.
Archaeologists slowly digging through a huge 2,300-year-old tomb in northern Greece have uncovered two life-sized marble female statues flanking the entrance to one of three underground chambers.
A Culture Ministry statement says the statues show “exceptional artistic quality.” Their upper sections were discovered last week, but their bodies — in semi-transparent robes — emerged after part of a blocking wall was removed Thursday.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ., Duke Univ. and the Univ. of Copenhagen have created the world’s largest DNA origami, which are nanoscale constructions with applications ranging from biomedical research to nanoelectronics.
“These origami can be customized for use in everything from studying cell behavior to creating templates for the nanofabrication of electronic components,” says Thom LaBean, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work.
Understanding Physics of Fire Imperative for Space Safety
Unlike flames on Earth, which have a tear-drop shape caused by buoyant air rising in a gravitational field, flames in space curl themselves into tiny balls. Untethered by gravity, they flit around as if they have minds of their own. More than one astronaut conducting experiments for researchers on Earth below has been struck by the way flameballs roam their test chambers in a lifelike search for oxygen and fuel.
Biologists confirm that fire is not alive. Nevertheless, on Aug. 21, astronaut Reid Wiseman on the ISS witnessed some of the best mimicry yet.
Scientists have successfully reset human pluripotent stem cells to the earliest developmental state – equivalent to cells found in an embryo before it implants in the womb (seven to nine days old). These pristine stem cells may mark the true starting point for human development but have been impossible to replicate in the lab until now.
The discovery, published in Cell, will lead to a better understanding of human development and could in future allow the production of safe and more reproducible starting materials for a wide range of applications including cell therapies.