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Physical Sciences

Study finds possible connection between U.S. tornado activity, Arctic sea ice

The effects of global climate change taking place in the Arctic may influence weather much closer to home for millions of Americans, researchers report.

Nowhere to hide: Molecular probe illuminates elusive cancer stem cells in live mice

After a primary tumor is treated, cancer stem cells may still lurk in the body, ready to metastasize and cause a recurrence of the cancer in a form that’s more aggressive and resistant to treatment. University of Illinois researchers have developed a molecular probe that seeks out these elusive cells and lights them up so they can be identified, tracked and studied not only in cell cultures, but in their native environment: the body.

New model reveals rips in Earth’s mantle layer below southern Tibet

Seismic waves are helping researchers uncover the mysterious subsurface history of the Tibetan Plateau, possibly lending insight to future earthquake activity in the region.

Chemicals that keep drinking water flowing may also cause fouling

Many city drinking water systems add softening agents to keep plumbing free of pipe-clogging mineral buildup. According to new research, these additives may amplify the risk of pathogen release into drinking water by weakening the grip that bacteria – like those responsible for Legionnaires’ disease – have on pipe interiors.  

What is a neutrino and why do they matter?

Scientists recently announced the discovery of a subatomic particle that made its way to Earth from an event that occurred 3.7 billion light-years away. Sensors buried within Antarctic ice detected the ghostly cosmic particle, called a neutrino, and traced its origin to a rapidly spinning galactic nucleus known as a blazar. Physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with physics professor Liang Yang about the significance of the discovery.

High-power electronics keep their cool with new heat-conducting crystals

The inner workings of high-power electronic devices must remain cool to operate reliably. High internal temperatures can make programs run slower, freeze or shut down. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The University of Texas, Dallas have collaborated to optimize the crystal-growing process of boron arsenide – a material that has excellent thermal properties and can effectively dissipate the heat generated in electronic devices.

Study reveals how polymers relax after stressful processing

The polymers that make up synthetic materials need time to de-stress after processing, researchers said. A new study has found that entangled, long-chain polymers in solutions relax at two different rates, marking an advancement in fundamental polymer physics. The findings will provide a better understanding of the physical properties of polymeric materials and critical new insight to how individual polymer molecules respond to high-stress processing conditions.

Study yields a new scale of earthquake understanding

Nanoscale knowledge of the relationships between water, friction and mineral chemistry could lead to a better understanding of earthquake dynamics, researchers said in a new study. Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used microscopic friction measurements to confirm that, under the right conditions, some rocks can dissolve and may cause faults to slip. 

DNA enzyme shuffles cell membranes a thousand times faster than its natural counterpart

A new synthetic enzyme, crafted from DNA rather than protein, flips lipid molecules within the cell membrane, triggering a signal pathway that could be harnessed to induce cell death in cancer cells. It is the first such synthetic enzyme to outperform its natural counterparts.

New aircraft-scheduling models may ease air travel frustrations

Flight schedules that allow for a little carefully designed wiggle room could prevent the frustration of cascading airport delays and cancellations. By focusing on the early phases of flight schedule planning and delays at various scales, researchers have developed models to help create schedules that are less susceptible to delays and easier to fix once disrupted.

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