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Light-activated, single-ion catalyst breaks down carbon dioxide

A team of scientists has discovered a single-site, visible-light-activated catalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) into “building block” molecules that could be used for creating useful chemicals. The discovery opens the possibility of using sunlight to turn a greenhouse gas into hydrocarbon fuels.   Converting CO2 into simpler parts — carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen…

Disordered materials could be hardest, most heat-tolerant carbides

Materials scientists at Duke University and UC San Diego have discovered a new class of carbides expected to be among the hardest materials with the highest melting points in existence. Made from inexpensive metals, the new materials may soon find use in a wide range of industries from machinery and hardware to aerospace. A carbide…

Dogs know when they don’t know

Researchers at the DogStudies lab at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have shown that dogs possess some “metacognitive” abilities — specifically, they are aware of when they do not have enough information to solve a problem and will actively seek more information, similarly to primates. To investigate this, the researchers…

Gigantic mammal ‘cousin’ discovered

During the Triassic period (252-201 million years ago) mammal-like reptiles called therapsids co-existed with ancestors to dinosaurs, crocodiles, mammals, pterosaurs, turtles, frogs, and lizards. One group of therapsids are the dicynodonts. Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, together with colleagues in Poland, have discovered fossils from a new genus of gigantic dicynodont. The earth is…

Exoplanet stepping stones

Astronomers have gleaned some of the best data yet on the composition of a planet known as HR 8799c — a young giant gas planet about 7 times the mass of Jupiter that orbits its star every 200 years. The team used state-of-the art instrumentation at the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii to…

Dietary fat is good? Dietary fat is bad? Coming to consensus

Which is better, a low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet or a high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet — or is it the type of fat that matters?  researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues with diverse expertise and perspectives on the issues laid out the case for each position and came to a consensus and…

How to mass produce cell-sized robots

Tiny robots no bigger than a cell could be mass-produced using a new method developed by researchers at MIT. The microscopic devices, which the team calls “syncells” (short for synthetic cells), might eventually be used to monitor conditions inside an oil or gas pipeline, or to search out disease while floating through the bloodstream. The…

Precision neuroengineering enables reproduction of complex brain-like functions in vitro

One of the most important and surprising traits of the brain is its ability to reconfigure dynamically the connections to process and respond properly to stimuli. Researchers from Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan) and the University of Barcelona, using neuroengineering tools, have created in vitro neural circuits that reproduce the capacity of segregation and integration of…

Killer whales share personality traits with humans, chimpanzees

Killer whales display personality traits similar to those of humans and chimpanzees, such as playfulness, cheerfulness and affection. Trainers and other staff who worked closely with the killer whales completed surveys ranking each animal on a list of 38 personality traits, including playfulness, independence, stubbornness, bravery, sensitivity and protectiveness. Those traits were analyzed and compared…

How do babies laugh? Like chimps!

Few things can delight an adult more easily than the uninhibited, effervescent laughter of a baby. Yet baby laughter, a new study shows, differs from adult laughter in a key way: Babies laugh as they both exhale and inhale, in a manner that is remarkably similar to nonhuman primates. Along with her colleagues — psychologist…

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