Common bricks can be used to detect past presence of uranium, plutonium

Researchers have demonstrated a technique that can determine whether bricks – the common building material – have ever been near a radiological source, and identify the specific type of source, such as high enriched uranium or plutonium.

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Hubble observes exoplanet atmosphere in more detail than ever before

An international team of scientists has used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study the atmosphere of the hot exoplanet WASP-39b. By combining this new data with older data they created the most complete study yet of an exoplanet atmosphere. The atmospheric composition of WASP-39b hints that the formation processes of exoplanets can be very different from those of our own Solar System giants.

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Successful synthesis of gamma-lactam rings from hydrocarbons

Scientists have designed a novel strategy to synthesize ring-shaped cyclic molecules, highly sought-after by pharmaceutical and chemical industries, and known as gamma-lactams. This study describes how these five-membered rings can be prepared from inexpensive and readily available feedstock hydrocarbons, as well as from complex organic molecules, such as amino acids and steroids.

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Scientists create complex transmembrane proteins from scratch

Molecular engineers have now show that it is possible to build complex, custom-designed transmembrane proteins from scratch. In the living world, transmembrane proteins naturally occur embedded in the membranes of cells and cellular organelles. They are essential for a number of functions, such as movement of signals or substances from inside or outside a living cell. The ability to design synthetic proteins to span membranes could allow scientists to build ones that can perform specific, useful tasks.

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Durable wood ‘sponges’ act as green sensors of mechanical strain

Striking just the right balance between softness and sturdiness, balsa wood is a choice material for crafting anything from model airplanes to full-size wind turbine blades. Scientists have opened up a new realm of possibilities for balsa by hijacking its natural structure with chemical and physical treatments to transform it into a ‘wood carbon sponge’ capable of enduring repeated compression and other extreme mechanical conditions.

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Distortive effects of short distance photographs on nasal appearance: The selfie effect

Nasal distortions in selfies taken at close range are prompting people to seek out surgeons to make their noses smaller. Such was the experience of a facial plastic surgeon who worked with a mathematician to develop a model to show patients how much their nose becomes distorted in close-up photos.

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