NASA uses ‘extremophile’ microbes to grow nanostructures

NASA scientists have invented a biological method to make ultra-small structures that could be used to produce electronics 10 to 100 times smaller than today’s components. As part of their new method, scientists use modified proteins from ‘extremophile’ microbes that live in near-boiling, acidic hot springs to grow mesh-like structures so small that an electron microscope is needed to see them.
“Our innovation takes advantage of the innate ability of proteins to form into ordered structures and for us to use genetic engineering to change nature’s plans, transforming these structures into something useful,” said one of the project’s lead researchers.

Transplanted muscle cells can take root in damaged hearts

The first direct evidence that muscle cells transplanted from within a heart patient’s body could help heal their damaged heart muscle is being reported today. In the study, a small sample of cells from patients’ thigh muscles were taken, and “satellite” myoblast cells were isolated and grown in culture until they multiplied. These cells were then injected into the hearts of four patients who were receiving heart-assisting implants to help them survive until they could get a heart transplant. The results showed that the injected cells not only survived in their new environment, but began to form muscle fibers.

Key to global warming prediction within reach

The search for a Holy Grail of climate science may be nearing an end, if an MIT-led project is launched by NASA to measure soil moisture?data needed to predict global change, assess global warming and support the Kyoto Protocol. That measurement has been missing from the array of clues?rainfall, atmospheric chemistry, humidity and temperature?used by scientists to predict change in the local and global climate. Using soil moisture, they can calculate evaporation?the process that links the water, energy and carbon cycles?giving them a better understanding of global change.

Researchers catch stem cells in the act of morphing

Researchers at Stanford University have tracked the path of bone marrow stem cells as they transform into an adult tissue. This work, published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Cell, marks the first time scientists have seen the individual steps of the progress. In previous work, researchers have seen injected bone marrow cells integrate into the muscles, livers and brains of mice. But until now, they have not witnessed the sequence of events that leads to this transformation. In their Cell paper, the researchers describe how they saw transplanted bone marrow cells first locate to the muscle as a muscle-specific stem cell called a satellite cell. These former bone marrow cells lurked in the muscle until exercise-induced muscle damage signaled them to help repair the injury by fusing with existing muscle cells.

Exceptionally Bright Eruption on Io Rivals Largest in Solar System

Routine monitoring of volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moon Io has turned up the largest eruption to date on Io’s surface or in the solar system. The eruption took place in February 2001, though image analysis was only recently completed by a team of University of California, Berkeley, astronomers. Their results are published in the November issue of the planetary sciences journal Icarus. “The Surt eruption appears to cover an area of 1,900 square kilometers, which is larger than the city of Los Angeles and even larger than the entire city of London,” said the lead researcher. “The total amount of energy being released by the eruption is amazingly high, with the thermal output from this one eruption almost matching the total amount of energy emitted by all of the rest of Io, other volcanoes included.”

Image shows Mars glows in X-rays

This image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory has given scientists their first look at X-rays from Mars. In the sparse upper atmosphere of Mars, about 75 miles above its surface, the observed X-rays are produced by fluorescent radiation from oxygen atoms. X-rays from the Sun impact oxygen atoms, knock electrons out of the inner parts of their electron clouds, and excite the atoms to a higher energy level in the process. The atoms almost immediately return to their lower energy state and may emit a fluorescent X-ray in this process with an energy characteristic of the atom involved ? oxygen in this case. A similar process involving ultraviolet light produces the visible light from fluorescent lamps.

Physicists Puzzle Over Unexpected Findings in ‘Little’ Big Bang

Scientists have recreated a temperature not seen since the first microsecond of the birth of the universe and found that the event did not unfold quite the way they expected. The interaction of energy, matter, and the strong nuclear force in the ultra-hot experiments conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was thought to be well understood, but a lengthy investigation has revealed that physicists are missing something in their model of how the universe works.

Magnetic processes in space can accelerate electrons to near light speed

A chance observation of high-energy electrons emanating from a tiny region of space where the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields intertwine provides the first solid evidence that a process called magnetic reconnection accelerates electrons to near the speed of light in the Earth’s magnetosphere and perhaps throughout the universe where magnetic fields entangle.

Researchers Say Tiny Phytoplankton Plays Large Role in Earth’s Climate

The ecological importance of phytoplankton, microscopic plants that free-float through the world’s oceans, is well known. Among their key roles, the one-celled organisms are the major source of sustenance for animal life in the seas. Now, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego say that phytoplankton exert a significant and previously uncalculated influence on Earth’s climate.

Physicists to ‘boost’ satellite with microwaves

A California physicist will announce plans for the first known attempt to push a spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit with energy beamed up from the ground. The satellite will be called the Cosmos Sail, the first solar-sail craft to orbit Earth. The physics team developed the sail with researchers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Made from lightweight layers of aluminized mylar, the sail will allow a craft to be propelled from low orbit to high orbit and ultimately into interplanetary space, driven by microwave energy, similar to the way wind pushes a sailboat across the sea.

NASA develops tool to improve accident investigations

Nasa has developed a Web-based software tool meant to help scientists and engineers investigating accidents work more effectively and efficiently. The InvestigationOrganizer, developed at NASA Ames Research Center, is a Web-based tool that provides information storage, management, and analysis capabilities to accident investigation teams. Current investigating and reporting methods used by NASA’s mishap investigation teams tend to be disparate and cumbersome. Teams have no standard methods or tools for information storage, management, dissemination or analysis ? all issues that InvestigationOrganizer is designed to address.

NASA’s Stardust Comet-Chaser Passes Asteroid Test

All systems on NASA’s Stardust spacecraft performed successfully when tested in a flyby of asteroid Annefrank on Friday, heightening anticipation for Stardust’s encounter with its primary target, comet Wild 2, 14 months from now. As a bonus, Stardust discovered that Annefrank is about twice the size anticipated, but with a dimmer surface. The dimmer surface increased the challenge of sighting the object as the spacecraft approached.