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2009 Research Press Releases

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"Superatoms" Mimic Elements: Research Reveals New Perspective of Periodic Table
"Superatoms" Mimic Elements: Research Reveals New Perspective of Periodic Table 28 December 2009Transforming lead into gold is an impossible feat, but a similar type of "alchemy" is not only possible, but cost-effective too. Three Penn State researchers have shown that certain combinations of elemental atoms have electronic signatures that mimic the electronic signatures of other elements. According to the team's leader A. Welford Castleman Jr., Eberly Distinguished Chair in Science and Evan Pugh Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, "the findings could lead to much cheaper materials for widespread applications such as new sources of energy, methods of pollution abatement, and catalysts on which industrial nations depend heavily for chemical processing."
Brown Dwarf Pair Mystifies Astronomers
Brown Dwarf Pair Mystifies Astronomers 21 December 2009Two brown dwarf-sized objects orbiting a giant old star show that planets may assemble around stars more quickly and efficiently than anyone thought possible, according to an international team of astronomers.
Probing Question: Is forensic science on TV accurate?
  03 December 2009
From the Edge of Darkness to the Black Abyss: Marine Scientists Census 17,500+ Species and Counting
22 November 2009Census of Marine Life scientists, including Penn State Professor of Biology Charles Fisher, have inventoried an astonishing abundance, diversity and distribution of deep sea species that have ever known sunlight – creatures that somehow manage a living in a frigid black world down to 5,000 meters (~3 miles) below the ocean waves. (22 November 2009)
New Research into the Mechanisms of Gene Regulation
New Research into the Mechanisms of Gene Regulation 19 November 2009A team led by Penn State’s Ross Hardison, T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has taken a large step toward unraveling how regulatory proteins control the production of gene products during development and growth. Working with collaborators including Drs. Mitchell Weiss and Gerd Blobel at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, they focused specifically on the complex process of producing red blood cells (erythrocytes). These cells contain large amounts of hemoglobin, a molecule essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Abnormalities in hemoglobin figure in many serious diseases, such as sickle-cell disease, and abnormalities in producing blood cells can lead to leukemias. The work will be published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Genome Research.
Long After Darwin: Evolution and Our Place in Nature
10 November 2009A conversation with Alan Walker, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology, and links to audio and video recordings of his November 2009 "Research Unplugged" lecture.
Rare Space Experiment Gives Clues About the Fundamental Structure of the Universe
Rare Space Experiment Gives Clues About the Fundamental Structure of the Universe 30 October 2009A physics experiment using a super-fast explosion in a galaxy 7.3 billion light-years away has given scientists rare experimental evidence about the fundamental structure of space and time.
Global Warming Cycles Threaten Endangered Primates
Global Warming Cycles Threaten Endangered Primates 28 October 2009Two Penn State University researchers have carried out one of the first-ever analyses of the effects of global warming on endangered primates. This innovative work by Graduate Student Ruscena Wiederholt and Associate Professor of Biology Eric Post examined how El Niño warming affected the abundance of four New World monkeys over decades. The research will be published on 28 October 2009 in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, a fast-track journal of the Royal Society of London.
Blast from the Past Gives Clues About Early Universe
Blast from the Past Gives Clues About Early Universe 28 October 2009Tantalizing insights into the nature of the most distant object ever observed in the universe have been achieved by an international research team whose leaders include Derek Fox, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University. The team used the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to observed the distant object — a gigantic stellar explosion known as a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB). A scientific report of the team's findings has been submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Time-Keeping Brain Neurons Discovered
21 October 2009Groups of neurons that precisely keep time have been discovered in the primate brain by a team of researchers that includes Dezhe Jin, assistant professor of physics at Penn State University and two neuroscientists from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "This research is the first time that precise time-keeping activities have been identified in recordings of neuron activity," Jin said. The time-keeping neurons are in two interconnected brain regions, the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, both of which are known to play critical roles in learning, movement, and thought control.
A New Search for Dark Energy Begins
A New Search for Dark Energy Begins 01 October 2009The most ambitious attempt yet to trace the history of the universe has seen "first light." Two Penn State scientists, Professors of Astronomy Niel Brandt and Donald Schneider, are members of the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), which has begun a quest to collect electro-magnetic spectra for 1.4 million galaxies and 160,000 quasars by 2014. "These observations should provide quite accurate measurements of the expansion history of the universe, and thus should reveal the relative importance of ordinary matter, dark matter, and dark energy over a wide range of cosmic time," said Brandt.
Turning Up the Voltage Stops Opposites from Attracting, Study Finds
Turning Up the Voltage Stops Opposites from Attracting, Study Finds 16 September 2009Whether gazing into lava lamps or watching balsamic vinegar mix with olive oil, people have long been transfixed by the seemingly mystical way that droplets of one liquid find each other within another liquid and join together. Conventional scientific wisdom has held that this merging of liquid droplets, a process called coalescence, is enhanced by applying an electrical field. But a new study, which will be published in the 17 September 2009 issue of the journal Nature, shows that an increased electrical field actually can prevent droplets from merging.
Dramatic Biological Responses to Global Warming in the Arctic
Dramatic Biological Responses to Global Warming in the Arctic 10 September 2009"The Arctic as we know it may soon be a thing of the past," says Eric Post, associate professor of biology at Penn State University. Post leads a large, international team that carried out ecosystem-wide studies of the biological response to Arctic warming during the fourth International Polar Year, which ended in 2008.
Global Warming Causes Outbreak of Rare Algae Associated with Corals, Study Finds
Global Warming Causes Outbreak of Rare Algae Associated with Corals, Study Finds 09 September 2009A rare opportunity has allowed a team of biologists to evaluate corals and the essential, photosynthetic algae that live inside their cells before, during, and after a period in 2005 when global warming caused sea-surface temperatures in the Caribbean Ocean to rise. The team, led by Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Todd LaJeunesse, found that a rare species of algae that is tolerant of stressful environmental conditions proliferated in corals as the more-sensitive algae were being expelled from corals.
Major Advance Made in Understanding the Birth and Early Evolution of the Universe
Major Advance Made in Understanding the Birth and Early Evolution of the Universe 24 August 2009A significant advance in our understanding of the early evolution of the universe has been achieved by a team of scientists associated with the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration. The team's results will appear in the 20 August 2009 issue of the journal Nature.
New Insights Into the Smell of Death Could Help Recover Bodies in Disasters and Solve Crimes
17 August 2009In an advance toward the first portable device for detecting human bodies buried in disasters and at crime scenes, two Penn State forensic scientists report early results from a project to establish the chemical fingerprint of death. According to Dan Sykes, senior lecturer and director of analytical instructional laboratories at Penn State and the project's leader, "Acertaining a profile of the chemicals released from decomposing bodies could lead to a valuable new addition to the forensic toolkit: an electronic device that could determine the time elapsed since death quickly, accurately, and onsite." The team is presenting its research in a poster at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society at 7:00 p.m. on 16 August 2009.
Male Sex Chromosome Losing Genes by Rapid Evolution, Study Reveals
Male Sex Chromosome Losing Genes by Rapid Evolution, Study Reveals 16 July 2009Scientists have long suspected that the sex chromosome that only males carry is deteriorating and could disappear entirely within a few million years, but until now, no one has understood the evolutionary processes that control this chromosome's demise.
Active Genes Discovered in the Developing Mammal Brain
Active Genes Discovered in the Developing Mammal Brain 13 July 2009A study by scientists at Penn State provides new information about the genes that are involved in a mammal's early brain development, including those that contribute to neurological disorders. The study is the first to use high-throughput sequencing to uncover active genes in developing brains, and it is likely the best evidence thus far for the activity in the brain of such a large number of genes.
Penn State Astronomers Ranked High in Scientific Impact
Penn State Astronomers Ranked High in Scientific Impact 07 July 2009Two Penn State astronomers, Peter Mészáros and Donald Schneider, are among the scientists whose research has the most scientific impact worldwide, according to ScienceWatch, an organization that monitors performance in basic research. Mészáros, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics and a Professor of Physics, was ranked recently as the most highly-cited scientist in the field of gamma-ray-burst astronomy throughout the past decade. Schneider, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, was cited as among the 13 scientists in all scientific disciplines who have the largest number of high-impact papers from 2007 to 2008.
Secrets Revealed About How Disease-Causing DNA Mutations Occur
Secrets Revealed About How Disease-Causing DNA Mutations Occur 01 July 2009A team of Penn State scientists has shed light on the processes that lead to certain human DNA mutations that are implicated in hundreds of inherited diseases such as tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis type 1. The results one day could influence the way couples who seek to have children receive genetic counseling.

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