In a first, tiny diamond anvils trigger chemical reactions by squeezing

Scientists have turned the smallest possible bits of diamond and other super-hard specks into ‘molecular anvils’ that squeeze and twist molecules until chemical bonds break and atoms exchange electrons. These are the first such chemical reactions triggered by mechanical pressure alone, and researchers say the method offers a new way to do chemistry at the molecular level that is greener, more efficient and much more precise.

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Amateur astronomer captures rare first light from massive exploding star

First light from a supernova is hard to capture; no one can predict where and when a star will explode. An amateur astronomer has now captured on film this first light, emitted when the exploding core hits the star’s outer layers: shock breakout. Subsequent observations by astronomers using the Lick and Keck observatories helped identify it as a Type IIb supernova that slimmed down from 20 to 5 solar masses before exploding.

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Microscopic solution prevents tip of scanning tunneling microscope from hitting surface

Researchers believe they have addressed a long-standing problem troubling scientists and engineers for more than 35 years: How to prevent the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope from crashing into the surface of a material during imaging or lithography.

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Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

Astronomers reveal a new high resolution map of the magnetic field lines in gas and dust swirling around the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy. The team created the map, which is the first of its kind, using the CanariCam infrared camera attached to the Gran Telescopio Canarias sited on the island of La Palma.

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MEMS chips get metalenses

Lens technologies have advanced across all scales, from digital cameras and high bandwidth in fiber optics to the LIGO instruments. Now, a new lens technology that could be produced using standard computer-chip technology is emerging and could replace the bulky layers and complex geometries of traditional curved lenses. Researchers have developed a device that integrates mid-infrared spectrum metalenses onto MEMS.

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Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

Lead magnesium niobate (PMN) is a prototypical “relaxor” material, used in a wide variety of applications, from ultrasound to sonar. Researchers have now used state-of-the-art microscopy techniques to see exactly how atoms are arranged in PMN – and it’s not what anyone expected.

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How health authorities fight the spread of infectious diseases

Public outreach campaigns can prevent the spread of devastating yet treatable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and gonorrhea. But ensuring these campaigns effectively reach undiagnosed patients, who may unknowingly spread the disease to others, is a major challenge for cash-strapped public health agencies. Now, a team of researchers has created an algorithm that can help policymakers reduce the overall spread of disease.

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