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Lindau Lessons: Its OK to be ignorant

Lindau Lessons: Its OK to be ignorant

Jul 30, 2016

In June 2016, 21 young Indian scientists made a trip to the beautiful island of Lindau, in south west Germany, to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, dedicated this year to physics. In this sunny side of Germany, 29 Nobel Laureates met with 400 young scientists from 80 countries in an informal setting, which has come to be celebrated as the hallmark of these meetings. On a boat trip from Lindau to Mainau island, Nature India caught up with the Indian delegation consisting of master’s students, PhDs and Post-docs, freshly chosen every year since 2001 by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the German Research Foundation (DFG) to be part of this science extravaganza. In this blog series ‘Lindau lessons‘, Nature India will bring to you the unique experience of some of the young scientists from India who basked in the Lindau sun this year. Join their online conversation using the #lindaulessons hashtag. Today, we hear from Nishchal Dwivedi, a PhD student at the Bhabha Atomic research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, who dwells upon why being ignorant about large areas in your field of research is fine, as long as you keep working towards overcoming this ignorance with a consistent quest for new knowledge. Nishchal Dwivedi holding the Nobel Prize medal of Klaus von Klitzing, the 1985 physics Nobel Laureate. Klitzing let young researchers take pictures with his prize to encourage them to feel how approachable it is. One of the most celebrated meetings, almost an annual pilgrimage for many Nobel Laureates, is the Lindau Nobel Laureate meet which is held on the shores of Lake Constance, one of the mighty beautiful lakes at the northern foot of Alps, with stalwarts in the field of education. I was picked as part of the 21-member team of physics students (graduate students, PhDs and postdocs) from India through a country-wide selection process that included a written essay and recommendation letters from our home institutes. One of the most overwhelming things was the presence of the 29 Nobel Laureates happily giving us a peek into their vast knowledge. Despite coming from such different fields of study, it was very interesting how they often resonated similar philosophies. The Lindau Nobel Laureates meet has made me a better researcher. As a student, we often...

Gold-144 is a polymorph

Gold-144 is a polymorph

Jun 25, 2016

Au-144 (also known as Gold-144) is an iconic gold nanocluster according to a June 14, 2016 news item announcing its polymorphic nature on ScienceDaily, Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes them unique is their differing arrangement of carbon atoms. Polymorphs, or materials with the same composition but different structures, are common in bulk materials, and now a new study in Nature Communications confirms they exist in nanomaterials, too. Researchers describe two unique structures for the iconic gold nanocluster Au144(SR)60, better known as Gold-144, including a version never seen before. Their discovery gives engineers a new material to explore, along with the possibility of finding other polymorphic nanoparticles. A June 14, 2016 Columbia University news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more insight into the work, “This took four years to unravel,” said Simon Billinge, a physics professor at Columbia Engineering and a member of the Data Science Institute. “We weren’t expecting the clusters to take on more than one atomic arrangement. But this discovery gives us more handles to turn when trying to design clusters with new and useful properties.” Gold has been used in coins and jewelry for thousands of years for its durability, but shrink it to a size 10,000 times smaller than a human hair [at one time one billionth of a meter or a nanometer was said to be 1/50,000, 1/60,000 or 1/100,000 of the diameter of a human hair], and it becomes wildly unstable and unpredictable. At the nanoscale, gold likes to split apart other particles and molecules, making it a useful material for purifying water, imaging and killing tumors, and making solar panels more efficient, among other applications. Though a variety of nanogold particles and molecules have been made in the lab, very few have had their secret atomic arrangement revealed. But recently, new technologies are bringing these miniscule structures into focus. Under one approach, high-energy x-ray beams are fired at a sample of nanoparticles. Advanced data analytics are used to interpret the x-ray scattering data and infer the sample’s structure, which is key...

Fish Called Rays Generate Electricity In The Lab

Fish Called Rays Generate Electricity In The Lab

Jun 24, 2016

Scientists from the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center (QBiC) in Japan have generated power from a torpedo ray in the lab. The scientists removed the electricity producing organ from a torpedo and chemically stimulated the organ by injecting a solution of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine though a syringe. They were able to achieve more than a minute of continuous current, with a peak voltage of 91 mV and 0.25 mA of current. By increasing the number of syringes, they achieved a peak voltage of 1.5 V and a current of 0.64mA. This article, Fish Called Rays Generate Electricity In The Lab, first appeared on New Energy and...

Reproducibility: a pathological perspective

Reproducibility: a pathological perspective

Jun 22, 2016

” the ability to reproduce experimental findings remains essential for the forward movement of science and the application of laboratory findings to the clinic”   This is an extract from a Special Article article that originally appeared in Disease Models and Mechanisms (available here Open Access) Paul Schofield, Jerrold Ward, John P. Sundberg   Reproducibility of data from experimental investigations using animal models is increasingly under scrutiny because of the potentially negative impact of poor reproducibility on the translation of basic research. Histopathology is a key tool in biomedical research, in particular for the phenotyping of animal models to provide insights into the pathobiology of diseases. Failure to disclose and share crucial histopathological experimental details compromises the validity of the review process and reliability of the conclusions. We discuss factors that affect the interpretation and validation of histopathology data in publications and the importance of making these data accessible to promote replicability in research.   Reproducibility: an age-old quest “A good physiological experiment … requires that it should present anywhere, at any time, under identical conditions, the same certain and unequivocal phenomena that can always be confirmed.” – Johannes Peter Müller, German physiologist and comparative anatomist (1801-1858).   Illustrated by this quote from Müller, a formal concept of reproducibility existed even in the beginnings of modern experimental biology. Today, the ability to reproduce experimental findings remains essential for the forward movement of science and the application of laboratory findings to the clinic.   Polypoid adenoma in the small intestine of an apc mutant mouse   There has been much discussion in recent years about the reported irreproducibility of preclinical data obtained using animal models (Begley and Ioannidis, 2015; Collins and Tabak, 2014; Freedman et al., 2015; Mak et al., 2014) and the cost to the success of both translational research and the public purse. The inability to replicate drug-target discovery studies and to reliably replicate phenotype observations from the literature (Begley and Ellis, 2012) has caused profound concern amongst investigators and funding agencies alike, which has been mirrored in discussions and commentaries in the literature. Several issues are tied up inextricably in these discussions. Reproducibility depends first and foremost on the accurate and comprehensive reporting of key experimental procedures and conditions,...

Universe Expanding Faster Than Expected, Confounds Current Understanding of Physics

Universe Expanding Faster Than Expected, Confounds Current Understanding of Physics

Jun 5, 2016

By Alton Parish.   Astronomers have obtained the most precise measurement yet of how fast the universe is expanding, and it doesn’t agree with predictions based on other data and our current understanding of the physics of the cosmos. A Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy UGC 9391, one of the galaxies in the new survey. UGC 9391 contains the two types of stars – Cepheid variables and a Type 1a supernova – that astronomers used to calculate a more precise Hubble constant. Click on the image to see the red circles that mark the locations of Cepheids. The blue “X” denotes the location of supernova 2003du, a Type Ia supernova. The observations for this composite image were taken between 2012 and 2013 by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3     The discrepancy — the universe is now expanding 9 percent faster than expected — means either that measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation are wrong, or that some unknown physical phenomenon is speeding up the expansion of space, the astronomers say. “If you really believe our number — and we have shed blood, sweat and tears to get our measurement right and to accurately understand the uncertainties — then it leads to the conclusion that there is a problem with predictions based on measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation, the leftover glow from the Big Bang,” said Alex Filippenko, a UC Berkeley professor of astronomy and co-author of a paper announcing the discovery. “Maybe the universe is tricking us, or our understanding of the universe isn’t complete,” he added. The cause could be the existence of another, unknown particle — perhaps an often-hypothesized fourth flavor of neutrino — or that the influence of dark energy (which accelerates the expansion of the universe) has increased over the 13.8 billion-year history of the universe. Or perhaps Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the basis for the Standard Model, is slightly wrong. “This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don’t emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter and dark radiation,” said the leader of the study,...

NC States Barrangou Wins Canada Gairdner Award

NC States Barrangou Wins Canada Gairdner Award

Jun 4, 2016

Rodolphe Barrangou, an NC State professor and pioneer of the discovery of the adaptive bacterial immune system known as CRISPR, has been named a recipient of the 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award, one of the world’s most esteemed medical research prizes. Barrangou is one of seven researchers receiving Canada Gairdner Awards this year, and one of five associated with CRISPR research. He and Philippe Horvath, a senior scientist at DuPont, will receive the Gairdner International Award “for establishing and characterizing CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune defense system.” Three other winners – Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang – will receive Gairdner International Awards “for development of CRISPR-Cas as a genome editing tool for eukaryotic cells.” The prize comes with a cash award of $100,000 (Canadian). This is the second major award announcement for Barrangou in the past month; he was named a recipient of a Warren Alpert Foundation Prize in early March. “The Canada Gairdner Awards distinguish Canada as a leader in biomedical research, raising the profile of science both nationally and on the world stage,” said Dr. John Dirks, president and scientific director of the Gairdner Foundation. “This year’s International winners are an exceptional example of the future of gene editing which is taking the research world by storm.” Barrangou, associate professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences and the Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research at NC State, focuses on understanding the genetic basis for health-promoting and fermentative properties of beneficial bacteria used in foods. His work has shown that CRISPR systems defend bacteria against unwanted invaders. Barrangou is mostly concerned with CRISPR-Cas systems that use Cas9 proteins as scalpels to cleave away foreign DNA. Possible applications include genome editing, antibacterial and antimicrobial production, food safety, food production and plant breeding. While working at Danisco, a food ingredients company, Barrangou, Horvath and colleagues published a seminal CRISPR paper in the journal Science in 2007. That paper showed that CRISPR is an adaptive immune system that can acquire genetic snapshots of bacterial virus attacks. Barrangou joined the NC State faculty in 2013. He received the 2014 NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award and the 2015 NC State Faculty Scholars Award. He...