Last Week on ResearchBlogging.org

Solar cells made with bismuth vanadate achieve a surface area of 32 square meters per gram.  This compound can be paired with cheap oxides to split water molecules (and make hydrogen) with record efficiency.

Short-term geoengineering could postpone global warming, only to have it happen more quickly in the future.

Carotenoids tinge blackbird bills a deep orange, signalling fitness; birds with oranger bills are “are heavier and larger, have less blood parasites and pair with females in better condition than males with yellow bills.”

Fibroblasts can extrude a tidy biological scaffold for stem-cell growth at a nanometer scale, while provoking a lower immune response than synthetic or animal-derived materials.

Higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood correlate with stronger white matter in the brain.

By first reverting skin cells to endodermal cells instead of stem cells, researchers were able to transform them into better liver cells with true regenerative potential.

Headband cam reveals that babies spend 25% of their waking lives looking at other people’s faces, 96% of which belonged to members of their own race.  By the age of 6 months, the faces of another race begin to all look the same.

Here: everything you ever wanted to know about star spiders.

Rodents are similar enough to humans to be used as laboratory models, so does a cat parasite that manipulates the behavior of rats also alter the behavior of humans (30-40% of whom are infected worldwide)?

Researchers have come within 99.8% of the theoretical limit of light absorption enhancement in solar cells, paving the way for “the next generation of high-efficiency, cost-effective and ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells.”

European utilities, under pressure from a law requiring 20% of all energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, are importing millions of metric tons of wood pellets from the southern United States.  Burning these pellets produces less than half the emissions of fossil fuel, not counting the energy needed to ship them across the Atlantic.

Newly discovered chimpanzee populations in the Congo are thriving, outnumbering their cousins in West Africa, but bushmeat hunters, like researchers, are beginning to encroach.

Another study shows a correlation between use of acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) during pregnancy and the development of ADHD in children.

New process turns algae into biogas compatible with our natural gas infrastructure. “While it takes nature millions of years to transform biomass into biogas, it takes the SunCHem process less than an hour.”

Among single-celled organisms like algae, programmed suicide can benefit relatives while suppressing the growth of non-relatives.

Off-shore wind turbines could significantly slow hurricane winds and decrease storm surges, all while generating electricity.

Novel aerogel made from wood and polymer could be thrown on an oil spill, absorbing nearly 100 times its own weight before being wrung out and used again.

Five-year-olds spanked by their mothers showed increased behavioral problems at age 9.  Those spanked by their fathers showed reduced vocabulary.

During a musical “conversation,” a jazz musician scanned by fMRI showed activation of language and rhythmic centers in the brain, hemispheric mirrors that “perform syntactic processing for both music and speech.”  At the same time, there was a marked deactivation of the angular gyrus, which is involved in interpreting the meaning of words if not their syntactic structure.

And finally if you want to be considered a great artist, it might be worth cultivating an eccentric persona in the most sincere manner possible.

For more visit researchblogging.org.

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Last Week on ResearchBlogging.org

Researchers observed tiny voids forming in silicon used for solar panels; these voids provide physical evidence of the Staebler-Wronski effect, “which reduces the solar cell efficiency by up to 15 percent within the first 1000 hours.”

Using an online avatar with a skin color other than your own makes you less racist in real life; playing a hero makes you less cruel, and playing a villain less benevolent.

Old mouse muscles exhibit “elevated levels of activity in a biological cascade called the p38 MAP kinase pathway” which prevents stem cells from dividing and repairing muscle damage.  By blocking this pathway with a drug, researchers grew a new generation of potent stem cells in a petri dish and transplanted them back into old mice.  “Two months after transplantation, these muscles exhibited forces equivalent to young, uninjured muscles.”

Continuing its exhaustive penetration into the ecosphere, plastic has been observed built into the hives of urban bees.  The researcher notes, “although cells made with plastic may not hold together as well—and might have other, unseen effects on developing bees—they could have advantages too” such as keeping parasites away from eggs.

A protein normally necessary to shut down inflammation is undetectable in triple-negative breast cancer cells.  Without the protein, these cells can proliferate rapidly, but a new drug treatment can prevent the protein degradation.

Boys playing football is not the only recipe for head trauma: girls playing soccer are also at risk.  A total of 351 players were observed for one full season, and cumulatively suffered 59 concussions, mostly from player-to-player contact, heading the ball, and goal-tending.

A study surveying “leaky valves and pipes in the rapidly growing natural gas industry” observed 50% more methane leakage than expected, but the extra atmospheric contribution still causes less global warming than coal.

An isopod that infects California fish is the only known parasite to functionally replace a host’s organ.  The bug latches on to a fish’s tongue and sucks out the blood, causing it to atrophy.  After latching on to the diminished tongue it settles in for a life of “holding food up against the small teeth on the roof of the fish’s mouth” while also getting first dibs on all that fish food.

In the courtroom, weak evidence is strengthened by arbitrary precision.  Precision (along with body language) communicates confidence, which makes people “more likely to believe what you are saying.”

Engineered viruses can deliver instructions for making crucial growth factors to stem cells; when seeded onto a polymer scaffold incorporating the viruses, stem cells can achieve self-sufficient growth and replace the scaffold with (for example) a tailored piece of cartilage.

Alternatively, we could soon be able to print a piece of cartilage: researchers have “successfully printed two types of rat neural cells from the retina” through a piezoelectric inkjet printer without killing or sterilizing the cells.

Why oil spills are bad for fish: crude oil interrupts a cellular pathway “that allows fish heart cells to beat effectively,” causing “slowed heart rate, reduced cardiac contractility and irregular heartbeats that can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death.”

Following a stroke, exercise confers a 91% reduction in mortality risk, versus anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy, which showed no statistically significant benefit.

Silicon nanoparticles packed into a carbon shell like seeds in a pomegranate (so as to prevent silicon degradation) may power a new generation of hyper-efficient lithium-ion batteries.

New fuel cell design can convert any biomass into electricity with a little help from sunlight or waste heat.

When responding to “virtual customer service agents,” people showed equal social engagement with human images and animated helpers.  The VCSAs were regarded as most helpful when they seemed most social.

Like mercury, ionic silver can build up in ocean-dwelling organisms.  In algae cells, silver stows away on a transport protein usually used by copper, and once inside the cell membrane, continues to pose as copper, damaging many proteins including those critical to energy generation and photosynthesis.  The cells do their best to get rid of the silver, but with silver added to everything from “air sanitisers to cleansing face creams to odourless socks,” sea life may be fighting an upstream battle.

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