Listen to the story behind the science. SciPod boasts a rich reputation of bringing a new, authentic and easy communication style to lovers of science and technology. Best of all, you can listen for free! so what are you waiting for, click play and start enjoying.
Corrosion and scaling processes in water heating and cooling systems can create the need for hugely
costly repairs. Until now, however, techniques to monitor the extent of the damage they inflict have
been severely limited. In a 2013 study, Dr Oliver Opel and his colleagues at Leuphana University of
Luenburg in Germany made significant strides towards tackling the issue by devising a method to
accurately monitor corrosion and scaling in a large aquifer thermal storage system. Their technique
was based on an easily determinable value named the redox potential.
New advances in neural engineering have led to devices that can be operated using the nerves of the user, but the effectiveness and safety of these devices over long periods of use is a key concern. Professor Dominique Durand, Director of the Neural Engineering Center at Case Western Reserve University, leads a team of scientists looking to improve neuroprosthetics through developing new methods of interfacing with the nervous system.
As we develop ever more complex medical diagnostic tools and tests with ever increasing sensitivity, detection of disease becomes quicker and easier. However, recent work by Professor Wendy Rogers at Macquarie University in Australia and her team of international colleagues shows that the early detection of some cancers is not as beneficial as we might first think. Their work looks at the negative impact on patients and healthcare services when conditions are overdiagnosed, and they consider the complicated ethical issues surrounding this.
Despite many years of research aiming to unite quantum mechanics with cosmological theories, researchers in fields across physics and philosophy remain in disagreement about a solution. Now, Dr Peter Evans at the University of Queensland sheds new light on the debate. He argues that on quantum scales, the idea of cause and effect does not need to follow the one-way passage of time, as we understand it. If correct, his theories could dispel some of the most puzzling mysteries of quantum theory – a significant step forward in understanding the true nature of the universe.
Science education is critical to prepare students for the world and jobs of the future, yet many institutions in the United States are using outdated educational models to teach science. The PULSE working group is a team of educators and administrators working to shift the culture of biology departments for stronger student outcomes in the life sciences.
‘Biological control’ refers to the practice of controlling invasive pest populations by introducing their natural enemies into an ecosystem. Although biological control can reduce reliance on toxic chemicals and protect natural ecosystems, this approach is not without its challenges. Dr Peter McEvoy and his colleagues at Oregon State University discovered that certain biological control organisms show unexpectedly fast rates of evolution, which can lead to unforeseen impacts on ecosystems and agriculture. These scientists believe that it is time to develop an all-embracing theory to help assess the evolutionary potential of biological control organisms that may influence the efficacy and safety of future introduction programs.
Forest wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity across the globe, and this trend is expected to continue as climate change worsens. However, measuring the impacts of wildfire on forest ecosystems is extremely difficult. Dr Bianca Eskelson from the University of British Columbia and her colleagues at the United States Forest Service utilise vast datasets and investigate conditions before and after wildfires, to quantify their immediate and long-term effects on forest ecosystems. The team’s research is improving our understanding of the effects of forest wildfires to inform better forest management.
Atherosclerosis is a global health issue. Atherosclerosis is a multifactorial chronic inflammatory disease characterised by the accumulation of modified lipoproteins and immune cells in the aortic wall, vascular dysfunction, low-grade chronic inflammation, and formation of dangerous atherosclerotic plaques within the medium and large size vessels. Atherosclerosis is a prominent cause of cardiovascular diseases and mortality in many countries and this disease is closely associated with type 2 diabetes. Dr Elena Galkina, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Cell Biology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, USA, has been working to determine the immune processes involved in an attempt to identify much-needed novel therapies.
Dr Korbinian Moeller and a team of researchers at the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien are endeavouring to identify the cognitive and neuronal processes underpinning an individual’s mathematical ability, by exploring the concept of embodied numerical training.
Corrosion, the gradual destruction of metals, is a significant physical and economic problem worldwide. Traditional heavy metal-based coatings used to protect metals are now viewed negatively due to their impact on the environment. Research led by Jianguo Wang of AnCatt Inc reveals why ion-barrier coatings are the next generation of anticorrosion coating technology.
Researchers from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Massachusetts have pioneered the use of tomography for assessing carbon storage in trees. While assessing this technique’s capabilities, they found that tree damage caused by wood-decaying fungi means that forests store less carbon than previously thought. As forests play a vital role in sequestering atmospheric carbon, the team’s work has important implications in the fight against climate change. Their results suggest that tomography could offer greater insight into forest carbon cycles, allowing decision makers to implement more effective policies to mitigate climate change.
Dr Elizabeth Nance has an impressive track record. Now a Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington, USA, Dr Nance’s work centres around the use of nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic agents to the brain, a seemingly simple operation which is confounded by a highly regulated blood brain barrier which prevents access to the brain and a complex brain environment which prevents access to diseased cells. Her current work also investigates the potential use of nanoparticles to probe tissue environments to map tissue structure, and how tissue structure changes in the presence of a disease.
Dairy farming is a tough business, where farmers experience countless challenges on a regular basis, from ensuring the health and welfare of their cattle to protecting the safety of their employees. Dr Amber Adams-Progar and her team in the Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University are involved in many research projects, which aim to improve various aspects of the dairy industry, by protecting farm profits, worker safety and animal welfare.
Effective treatments for cognitive dysfunction, such as declines in memory and other mental faculties often associated with depression or old age, may be within reach, according to Professor Etienne Sibille at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Toronto, Canada. Professor Sibille has shown for the first time that newly synthesised compounds targeting GABA receptors improve specific types of memory in mice, opening the door to the development of effective new pharmacological options.
For many years, Dr Matthew Boisen, Director of Diagnostics Development at Zalgen Labs, has focussed on trying to understand Lassa fever. Part of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium, his group’s objectives are threefold: first, to develop fast and accurate diagnostics for Lassa fever; second, to design new therapeutic approaches; and third, to create an effective vaccine providing long-term protection against this condition.
Research into animal fear typically utilises laboratory techniques based on Pavlovian fear conditioning, but these approaches are limited. Professor Jeansok Kim, from the Department of Psychology, University of Washington (USA) has developed a much more realistic way to study fear that closely mimics risky conditions in the wild. New discoveries by Professor Kim and his team are challenging existing paradigms and providing exciting insights into the underlying brain mechanisms of fear in both animals and humans.
To accomplish even a simple goal, our brain must coordinate thousands of pieces of information, remember which parts are relevant, and ignore anything that is extraneous. Professor Mark D’Esposito of the University of California, Berkeley, studies how different parts of the brain work together to create working memory, the cognitive system that temporarily and actively holds information in mind allowing us to complete complex tasks.
The brain is the most mysterious organ in the human body – despite decades of research, we have just begun to scratch the surface in understanding how the brain works and how we can help it to heal following an injury. Professor Mark D’Esposito of the University of California, Berkeley, uses advanced imaging technology to illuminate how the connections in our brain function in order to find new ways to aid brain healing after injury.
The US dairy industry has undergone major restructuring over the past couple of decades, with growing herd sizes and an increased reliance on labour from outside the family. These changes have brought about new challenges to prevent infectious diseases among cattle. To address these challenges, a team led by Professor Ronald Erskine of Michigan State University created a ‘hands on’ farm evaluation and an education program for dairy veterinarians.
Our nervous system has such an important function in our body that neurons have their own bodyguards. Known as glial cells, they protect brain cells against injury and prevent damage. Dr Mary Logan and Dr Sean Speese, both based at the Jungers Center for Neuroscience Research, School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, USA, want to understand how these glial cells sense and respond to neuronal stress and damage in the adult brain.
Dr Oliver Opel of the West-Coast University of Applied Sciences in Germany reports on how Leuphana University was transformed into a climate-neutral and environmentally sustainable campus. In the face of accelerating climate change, this exemplary case study provides guidance to other universities and institutions that also wish to become leaders in climate action.
Global market demands for forest-risk commodities such as soy, palm oil, beef, rubber, metals, minerals, gemstones and fossil fuels from Central and South America, Africa and Asia have increased significantly over the past 20 years, representing over four trillion US dollars in 2016 alone. Driven by the over-consumption of a small number of consumer nations, this global trade is responsible for the permanent conversion of native forests into monocultures and pastures, leading to polluted, fragmented and degraded habitats that are unsuitable for wildlife.
Water heating and cooling systems have become incredibly efficient in recent years, but unfortunately, their pipes and components provide ideal environments for corrosion. Dr Oliver Opel at the West Coast University of Applied Sciences in Germany explores the reasons why this corrosion problem appears to be growing. His team’s work could soon provide engineers with updated techniques to tackle corrosion in modern heating and cooling systems, which could prove critical in ensuring that new, energy-efficient buildings continue to operate smoothly.
Cannabis is a plant that remains largely stigmatised, along with people who consume or condone it. However, Dr Andrea Holmes and her colleagues at Precision Plant Molecules are revealing the numerous hidden benefits of cannabis, when processed with precision. This Colorado-based company is using advanced chemical and analytical techniques to isolate naturally produced medicinal compounds and tailor effective medicines for its global consumer base.
Equilibrium is the cornerstone of industrial chemical processes, especially when optimising chemical production. But what if the equilibrium models that engineers use to predict product yields under different conditions were fundamentally inaccurate? Dr Yousef Haseli of Central Michigan University has found that there can often be a large discrepancy between expected and actual results, and that this is because common equilibrium models are flawed from the outset.
Online education has recently experienced a surge in popularity, and this trend is set to continue. Through online learning, individuals who are unable to take courses on campus, due to family, work or financial pressures, now have the opportunity to pursue university degrees. However, one shortfall of online education is that it often fails to develop students’ deep-learning skills, which are required for effectively tackling complex problems. In a recent study, Dr Yianna Vovides of Georgetown University investigated this issue.
People are becoming increasingly aware about the health benefits of eating a diet that’s rich in fruit and nuts. However, farmers are struggling to meet the increasing demand, due to crop damage caused by climate change and emerging plant diseases. As a solution, Dr Vladimir Orbovic, based at the University of Florida, develops and evaluates new methods to manipulate the genetic make-up of plants to rapidly create resilient crops for sustainable future.
Scar tissue formed after surgery or injury often ends up being painful and limiting movement for patients. Although there are a number of possible treatments, these options are expensive and often have only limited success. According to Drs. Michael Mont, Morad Chughtai, Jared Newman, and their colleagues, a revolutionary new approach is now available. Called Astym therapy, the new method works by stimulating the body’s own mechanisms of regeneration for soft tissues and re-absorption of scar tissue. Crucially, after treatment, patients report significant improvements in mobility and pain relief.