Earth

Secrets of sharks' success

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 23, 2010 -- New research from the University of South Florida suggests that one of the evolutionary secrets of the shark's success hides in one of its tiniest traits -- flexible scales on the bodies of these peerless predators that make them better hunters by allowing them to change directions while moving at full speed.

Clouds play a major role in the climate-change equation, but they are the least-understood variable in the sky, observes a Texas A&M University geoscientist, who says mid-level clouds are especially understudied. The professor, Shaima Nasiri, is making those "in-between" clouds the focus of her research, which is being funded by NASA.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Nov. 23, 2010 -- A systematic study of phase changes in vanadium dioxide has solved a mystery that has puzzled scientists for decades, according to researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Scientists have known that vanadium dioxide exhibits several competing phases when it acts as an insulator at lower temperatures. However, the exact nature of the phase behavior has not been understood since research began on vanadium dioxide in the early 1960s.

Self-assembly of nano-rotors

In the nanoworld many things are different. Scientists only recently started unveiling and harnessing the underlying laws and principles. A team associated with Professor Johannes Barth from the Physics Department of the TU Muenchen have now succeeded in capturing rod-shaped molecules in a two-dimensional network in such a way that they autonomously form small rotors that turn in their honeycomb-like cages.

 Magnetic domains shown for the first time in 3-D

So far, it has only been possible to image magnetic domains in 2 dimensions. Now, for the first time, Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin have managed to create 3-dimensional images of these domains deep within magnetic materials.

A research team led by the University of Bristol has used STFC's ISIS Neutron Source to come up with a new way to treat carbon dioxide (CO2), so that it can be used in efficient and environmentally friendly methods for extracting oil. These new CO2 soluble additives can also be used to reduce the environmental damage caused by every day industrial processes such as food processing and the manufacture of electronics. The results of this work are published in the journal Langmuir.

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have made a major breakthrough that could help shape the future of nanotechnology, by demonstrating for the first time that 3-D molecular structures can be built on a surface.

The discovery could prove a significant step forward towards the development of new nano devices such as cutting-edge optical and electronic technologies and even molecular computers.

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 23, 2010 -- To the causal aquarium visitor, the jellyfish doesn't seem to be a particularly powerful swimmer; compared to a fish, it glides slowly and peacefully.

But for Janna Nawroth, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the undulations of this simple invertebrate hold secrets that may make possible a new generation of tiny pumps for medical applications and soft robotics -- work she describes today at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2010 -- Jump ropes are used by kids for fun and by athletes for training. But what about the underlying physics? How do jump ropes work? Can important engineering principles be studied?

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2010 -- For centuries, hunters have imitated their avian prey by whistling through their fingers or by carving wooden bird calls. Now a team of physicists at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has reproduced many of the characteristics of real bird song with a simple physical model made of a rubber tube.

How hummingbirds fight the wind

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 21, 2010 -- Hummingbirds rank among the world's largest and most accomplished hovering animals, but how do they manage it in gusty winds?

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 22, 2010 -- From a baby's first blurted "bowl!'" for the word "ball" to the whispered goodbye of a beloved elder, the capacity for complex vocalizations is one of humankind's most remarkable attributes -- and perhaps one we take for granted most of our lives.

Busy microbial world discovered in deepest ocean crust ever explored

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The first study to ever explore biological activity in the deepest layer of ocean crust has found bacteria with a remarkable range of capabilities, including eating hydrocarbons and natural gas, and "fixing" or storing carbon.

Researchers from Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), and other universities have published a special section in the journal Ecological Economics that analyzes the link between ecological economics and political ecology. This issue stems from the institute's research on impacts and resistance at the "commodity frontiers", where the extraction of natural resources and the disposal of toxic wastes produce a range of economic, environmental, cultural and social conflicts.