Our editors round up of the 2nd September Top 10 STEM news

New virus just broke the rules of infection

A new type of virus has been identified, and it’s so weird, it’s challenging long-held notions of what it takes for a virus to infect and proliferate in an animal host.

Conventional wisdom states that if a single virus manages to insert its genes into a cell, the host becomes infected. But what if you chopped up that virus, and tried stuffing the pieces into an animal cell separately? It wouldn’t work, right?

Well, scientists from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases have just discovered the viral equivalent of a bag full of body parts, and if you throw them at a cell wall, somehow, against all odds, they stick.

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Physicists just revealed plans to build the most viable nuclear fusion devices ever

Physicists around the world have been racing to build a nuclear fusion machine that can replicate the atom-fusing process that’s fuelled our Sun for the past 4.5 billion years, in a bid to provide humanity with clean, safe, and practically limitless energy.

And now the US government has just backed plans for physicists to build a new kind of nuclear fusion device that could be the most viable and efficient design yet.

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Scientists just emerged from a year in isolation after an epic NASA-funded Mars simulation

The longest-running NASA experiment of its kind designed to simulate living conditions on Mars has come to an end, with six volunteers emerging from a year-long stay in a sealed dome in Hawaii.

For 365 days, the HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) crew lived in isolation in a geodesic dome on the barren slopes of the Big Island’s Mauna Loa, with the rocky, sparse terrain outside chosen for its similarity to the red planet’s natural environment.

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Antibody reduces harmful brain amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s patients

Aducanumab, a new antibody has been shown to trigger a meaningful reduction of harmful beta-amyloid plaques in patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. These protein deposits in the brain are a classic sign of Alzheimer’s disease and contribute to the progressive degeneration of brain cells. The researchers furthermore demonstrated in an early stage clinical study that, after one year of treatment with Aducanumab, cognitive decline could be significantly slowed in antibody-treated patients as opposed to the placebo group.

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Invisibility cloak with photonic crystals

Almost as elusive as unicorns, finding practical materials for invisibility cloaking is challenging. Michigan Technological University researchers have new ideas how to solve that.

Metamaterials made from metal elements initially proposed for constructing invisibility cloaks, did not solve some important cloaking problems.

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Amputees’ brains remember missing hands even years later

Our brains have a detailed picture of our hands and fingers, and that persists even decades after an amputation, researchers have found. The finding could have implications for the control of next generation prosthetics.

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A better way to learn if alien planets have the right stuff

A new method for analyzing the chemical composition of stars may help scientists winnow the search for Earth 2.0. Researchers describe a computational modeling technique that gives a clearer sense of the chemistry of stars, revealing the conditions present when their planets formed.

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Scientists show that a ‘Superman’ disguise could actually work

Researchers at the University of York have shown that small alterations to a person’s appearance, such as wearing glasses, can significantly hinder positive facial identification.

The research has the potential to contribute to future policies concerning photo identification, such as drivers’ licences or passports, where an individual has to be matched correctly to their image in order to inform important security decisions.

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Engineers develop a plastic clothing material that cools the skin

Stanford engineers have developed a low-cost, plastic-based textile that, if woven into clothing, could cool your body far more efficiently than is possible with the natural or synthetic fabrics in clothes we wear today.

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Engineers treat printed graphene with lasers to enable paper electronics

The researchers in Jonathan Claussen’s lab at Iowa State University (who like to call themselves nanoengineers) have been looking for ways to use graphene and its amazing properties in their sensors and other technologies.

Graphene is a wonder material: The carbon honeycomb is just an atom thick. It’s great at conducting electricity and heat; it’s strong and stable. But researchers have struggled to move beyond tiny lab samples for studying its material properties to larger pieces for real-world applications.

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