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Archive for the ‘biological’ category: Page 3

Oct 4, 2020

DARPA’s SIGMA Program Transitions to Protect Major U.S. Metropolitan Region

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, chemistry, terrorism, transportation

On a blustery winter day last December, a car carrying radioactive material approached one of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s major transportation hubs. As the car got closer, an alarm flashed and sounded on a large monitor in the police operations center, identifying on a digital map the exact location of the vehicle and the specific radioactive isotope radiating from the car – Cesium-137. Within minutes, officers in the Port Authority Police Department – equipped with vehicle-mounted and pocket-sized radiation sensors displaying the same real-time digital map – tracked the vehicle and apprehended the suspects in a parking lot. Thankfully, the potential terrorists and radiation-emitting isotope were not a threat, as the scenario was only a drill.

The December exercise marked the capstone for DARPA’s SIGMA program, culminating a five-year effort to develop and deploy an automated, high-performance, networked radiation detection capability for counterterrorism and continuous city-to-region scale radiological and nuclear threat monitoring. The transition of the radiation-detection system took place prior to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. In the eight months since the SIGMA transition, DARPA has been developing and testing additional sensors under its SIGMA+ effort to detect chemical, biological and explosive threats as well.

“We want to thank the Port Authority for their outstanding support throughout the SIGMA program and their continued support as we test SIGMA+ sensors,” said Mark Wrobel, DARPA program manager in the Defense Sciences Office. “Being able to test and refine the system in the country’s largest metropolitan region was invaluable in taking SIGMA from a research project to an operationally deployed system in just five years.”

Oct 3, 2020

Synthetic biology brings the hard science of engineering to the basics of life

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, computing, science

Synthetic biology startups raised some $3 billion through the first half of 2020, up from $1.9 billion for all of 2019, as the field brings the science of engineering to the art of life.

The big picture: Synthetic biologists are gradually learning how to program the code of life the way that computer experts have learned to program machines. If they can succeed — and if the public accepts their work — synthetic biology stands to fundamentally transform how we live.

What’s happening: SynBioBeta, synthetic biology’s major commercial conference, launched on Tuesday, virtually bringing together thousands of scientists, entrepreneurs, VCs and more to discuss the state of the field.

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Sep 30, 2020

Mutations that affect aging: More common than we thought?

Posted by in categories: biological, evolution, life extension

The number of mutations that can contribute to aging may be significantly higher than previously believed, according to new research on fruit flies. The study by scientists at Linköping University, Sweden, supports a new theory about the type of mutation that can lie behind aging. The results have been published in BMC Biology.

We live, we age and we die. Many functions of our bodies deteriorate slowly but surely as we age, and eventually an organism dies. This thought may not be very encouraging, but most of us have probably accepted that this is the fate of all living creatures—death is part of life. However, those who study find it far from clear why this is the case.

“The evolution of aging is, in a manner of speaking, a paradox. Evolution causes continuous adaptation in organisms, but even so it has not resulted in them ceasing to age,” says Urban Friberg, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at Linköping University and leader of the study.

Sep 30, 2020

Buried lakes of water discovered on Mars

Posted by in categories: biological, space

Liquid water is vital for biology, so the finding will be of interest to researchers studying the potential for life elsewhere in the Solar System.


The underground lakes were detected in the Red Planet’s south polar region.

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Sep 27, 2020

First Compelling Evidence of Organisms That Eat Viruses as a Food Source

Posted by in categories: biological, food

Eat or be eaten: It’s an edict of Mother Nature that connects every corner of the biosphere in a sprawling web of producers, consumers, detritivores, and scavengers.

Every corner but one, it seems. Just what the hell dines on viruses?

Scientists may have just discovered the answer.

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Sep 27, 2020

US city warned over brain-eating microbe in water

Posted by in category: biological

People in Lake Jackson, Texas, are urged to take precautionary measures amid contamination concerns.

Sep 16, 2020

Light-based ‘tractor beam’ assembles materials at the nanoscale

Posted by in categories: biological, computing, nanotechnology, quantum physics, tractor beam

Modern construction is a precision endeavor. Builders must use components manufactured to meet specific standards — such as beams of a desired composition or rivets of a specific size. The building industry relies on manufacturers to create these components reliably and reproducibly in order to construct secure bridges and sound skyscrapers.

Now imagine construction at a smaller scale — less than 1/100th the thickness of a piece of paper. This is the nanoscale. It is the scale at which scientists are working to develop potentially groundbreaking technologies in fields like quantum computing. It is also a scale where traditional fabrication methods simply will not work. Our standard tools, even miniaturized, are too bulky and too corrosive to reproducibly manufacture components at the nanoscale.

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that could make reproducible manufacturing at the nanoscale possible. The team adapted a light-based technology employed widely in biology — known as optical traps or optical tweezers — to operate in a water-free liquid environment of carbon-rich organic solvents, thereby enabling new potential applications.

Sep 16, 2020

‘Venus is a Russian planet,’ Russian space agency director says

Posted by in categories: biological, space

In a statement, Roscosmos noted that the first missions to explore Venus were carried out by the Soviet Union.

“The enormous gap between the Soviet Union and its competitors in the investigation of Venus contributed to the fact that the United States called Venus a Soviet planet,” Roscosmos said.

The Russians claim to have extensive material that suggests that some objects on the Venusian surface have changed places or could be alive, although these are hypotheses that have yet to be confirmed.

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Sep 15, 2020

Making 3D objects disappear: Researchers create ultrathin invisibility cloak

Posted by in categories: biological, nanotechnology

Circa 2015


Invisibility cloaks are a staple of science fiction and fantasy, from Star Trek to Harry Potter, but don’t exist in real life, or do they? Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have devised an ultra-thin invisibility “skin” cloak that can conform to the shape of an object and conceal it from detection with visible light. Although this cloak is only microscopic in size, the principles behind the technology should enable it to be scaled-up to conceal macroscopic items as well.

Working with brick-like blocks of gold nanoantennas, the Berkeley researchers fashioned a “skin cloak” barely 80 nanometers in thickness, that was wrapped around a three-dimensional object about the size of a few biological cells and arbitrarily shaped with multiple bumps and dents. The surface of the skin cloak was meta-engineered to reroute reflected waves so that the object was rendered invisible to optical detection when the cloak is activated.

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Sep 14, 2020

Attosecond pulses reveal electronic ripples in molecules

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, particle physics

In the first experiment to take advantage of a new technology for producing powerful attosecond X-ray laser pulses, a research team led by scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University showed they can create electronic ripples in molecules through a process called “impulsive Raman scattering.”

Exploiting this unique interaction will allow scientists to study how electrons zipping around kick off key processes in biology, chemistry, materials science and more. The researchers described their results in Physical Review Letters.

Typically, when X-ray pulses interact with matter the X-rays cause the molecules’ innermost “core” electrons to jump to higher energies. These core-excited states are highly unstable, decaying in just millionths of a billionth of a second. In a majority of X-ray experiments, that’s how the story ends: The excited electrons quickly return to their rightful places by transferring their energy to a neighboring electron, forcing it out of the atom and producing a charged ion.

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