Engineers create simple method for analyzing car designs

It may be too late for this one, howeverEngineers have developed a new mathematical formula that can spot flaws in automobile designs before they get to the costly assembly line stage. Engineers now use complicated models in which numerous car parts are represented by mathematical expressions that must take into consideration many precise mechanical details. The models have to include information such as the mass of components, their stiffness and dampening characteristics, and the exact forces involved. These models are themselves flawed, the researchers believe, because they rely on approximations about the characteristics and interactions of automotive parts. “A major difference in our method is that we don’t use approximations,” said one of the Purdue team. “We have found that you don’t need to know all of those parameters.”

Experiment could reveal ‘extra dimensions,’ exotic forces

Physicists have devised a new experiment that will be used in the quest for exotic forces in nature and “additional spatial dimensions.” The researchers have shown what they say is a new way to measure a phenomenon known as the Casimir effect ? findings that also could have implications for the design of microscopic machines that contain tiny parts on the size scale of nanometers ? or billionths of a meter. The Casimir effect, predicted in 1948 by Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir, is a force that pushes together two plates of metal placed near each other in empty space ? or a vacuum. The closer the plates are to each other, the stronger the force.

Screening technique may speed hunt for genes

The hunt to find a gene that causes a disease typically costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and requires years of research – and it still may fail to turn up the sought-after culprit, driving the research back to square one. The result is that while the genes involved in a few inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis have been identified, many have not. Now, two scientists say they may have found a way to make the search more economical and speed it up. In an article to appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences next week, scientists from the University of Florida and Purdue University report merging two established genetic-screening techniques to create one that’s better. The new technique narrows the pool of “candidate” genes in a study from thousands of possibilities to fewer than 100 – perhaps as few as 20.