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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2015

( To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our media contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to

CYBERSECURITY - Piranha nets honor ...

Piranha, an award-winning intelligent agent-based technology to analyze text data with unprecedented speed and accuracy, will be showcased at the Smithsonian's Innovation Festival Sept. 26-27. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory technology, which received an R&D 100 Award in 2007, quickly identifies connections in documents that might be difficult or impossible for human analysts to identify. Thirteen companies, universities, government agencies and independent inventors selected by a panel will participate in the festival, which will explore how today's inventors are changing the world. The event, a collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, also gives visitors a chance to learn about the patent and intellectual property systems and how they support invention and innovation. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

SUPERCOMPUTING - Turbocharging materials research ...

Lightweight powertrain materials could play a hefty role in helping automakers meet stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory's supercomputer could accelerate their deployment. Working with industry, ORNL researchers are developing materials that are lighter, affordable and able to withstand the higher temperatures and pressures of high-efficiency turbocharged engines. These engines are increasingly popular because they provide the benefit of improved fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Using Titan, the nation's fastest computer for open science research, researchers are taking a materials genome approach to develop new cast aluminum alloys that have improved properties at much higher temperatures. "Our goal is to take high-temperature cast aluminum where it has never been," said ORNL researcher Amit Shyam. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY - Switchgrass to hydrogen ...

Biorefineries could benefit from a new process developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory that produces hydrogen from plant sources such as switchgrass. The method converts biomass waste streams into hydrogen through heating and processing in microbe-based electrochemical cells. This approach reduces the use of natural gas during biofuel production, which could help biorefineries lower their greenhouse gas emissions. "The production of renewable hydrogen from biomass is a long-sought technology for moving away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon economy," said ORNL's Abhijeet Borole. The team's prototype set-up, which yields more than four liters of hydrogen per day, is detailed in Bioresource Technology. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308;]

CHEMISTY - Mining nature for pharmaceuticals ...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have invented an automated droplet-based sampling probe system that scientists at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are using for quick identification of bioactive compounds in fungi. As more medicines are identified from natural sources, screening processes become vital to the rapid discovery of new drug leads. ORNL researchers Vilmos Kertesz and Gary Van Berkel helped their university collaborators seamlessly integrate ORNL's novel sampling technology to map unique patterns of secondary fungal metabolites in situ for addition to a library of more than 300 biological compounds. ORNL's sampling probe system takes months off of UNCG's traditional protocol. "The robustness and simplicity of the droplet-based sampling probe system makes it a powerful and effective tool for natural products research," Kertesz said. - written by Ashanti B. Washington [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

MATERIALS - Machine learning and microscopy ...

A new technique developed by microscopy and computing experts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could accelerate advances in materials science and engineering. The team's approach combines high-performance computing and machine learning algorithms to analyze atomic-scale images and videos from electron and scanning probe microscopes. The near-real time analysis will help researchers extract more chemical and physical information from high-resolution images than previously possible. The ORNL approach focuses on automatically identifying characteristics in "atomic neighborhoods" because local patterns can define a material's overall properties. This automated data collection lays the framework for building image genomes and libraries to support materials research and design. The team's study is published in Nature Communications. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308;]



How to convince vaccine skeptics -- and how not to

Many people who are skeptical about vaccinating their children can be convinced to do so, but only if the argument is presented in a certain way, a team of psychologists from UCLA and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported today. The research appears in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The finding is especially important because the number of measles cases in the U.S. tripled from 2013 to 2014. The disease's re-emergence has been linked to a trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. What ...

How the finch changes its tune

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. To learn and improve, the songbird brain needs to shake up its tried-and-true patterns with a healthy dose of creative experimentation. Until now, no one has found a specific mechanism by which this could occur. Now, researchers at UC San Francisco have discovered a neurological mechanism that could explain how songbirds' neural creativity-generator ...

New analysis suggests body size increase did not play a role in the origins of Homo genus

WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2015)--A new analysis of early hominin body size evolution led by a George Washington University professor suggests that the earliest members of the Homo genus (which includes our species, Homo sapiens) may not have been larger than earlier hominin species. As almost all of the hows and whys of human evolution are tied to estimates of body size at particular points in time, these results challenge numerous adaptive hypotheses based around the idea that the origins of Homo coincided with, or were driven by, an increase in body mass. In "Body Mass ...

High academic stress linked to increased illness, injuries among college football players

High academic stress linked to increased illness, injuries among college football players
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Coaches and trainers strive to keep their players healthy so they can perform at their maximum potentials. Injury restrictions, or limits on athletes' physical activity due to illnesses or injuries, can keep athletes on the bench for a game or even an entire season. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found college football players are more likely to experience injuries during test weeks than during training camp. The effects of academic stress on injury occurrences are even more pronounced among starting players, the researchers found. "Stress ...

Low levels of endocrine disruptors in the environment may cause sex reversal in female frogs

Many studies have been conducted on the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals that mimic or block estrogen, the primary female hormone. Now new research shows that similar harm can be done by chemicals that affect male hormones, or androgens. Natural androgenic steroids excreted by humans and animals and synthetic androgenic steroids widely used in daily life and livestock are important androgenic endocrine disrupting chemicals because of their constant discharge into the aquatic environment via wastewater. A new Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry study shows that ...

Internet accessibility an important factor in government transparency

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Public affairs experts say easy and constant access by citizens to important government information, referred to as government transparency, is vital for good governance as well as the perception by citizens that the government is trustworthy. However, many local governments suffer from a lack of transparency. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that county governments in densely populated urban areas tend to be more transparent on their official websites if their citizens have good Internet access. On the other hand, in counties with large ...

Unsuccessful fertility treatments not linked with clinically diagnosed depression in women

An analysis of data on more than 41,000 Danish women who received assisted reproductive fertility treatment shows that unsuccessful treatment is not linked with an increased risk of clinically diagnosed depression compared with successful treatment. The analysis also found that becoming a mother is an important trigger of clinically diagnosed depression after childbirth among women who conceive after fertility treatment, even though the child is long-awaited. The stress of having a new child thus seems to matter more in terms of developing clinical depression than undergoing ...

NYU scientists bring order, and color, to microparticles

A team of New York University scientists has developed a technique that prompts microparticles to form ordered structures in a variety of materials. The advance, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) as an "Editors' Choice" article, offers a method to potentially improve the makeup and color of optical materials used in computer screens along with other consumer products. The work is centered on enhancing the arrangement of colloids--small particles suspended within a fluid medium. Colloidal dispersions are composed of such everyday items ...

Residential location affects pregnant women's likelihood of smoking

Women are more likely to smoke during pregnancy when they live in areas where socio-economic resources are lower but also where smoking is more socially accepted, according to new study from Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research. "Where There's Smoke: Cigarette Use, Social Acceptability and Spatial Approaches to Multilevel Modeling" will appear in the September edition of Social Science and Medicine. The study examines how local factors impact health behavior. Heather O'Connell, a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice's Kinder Institute, finds contextual ...

Punctuating messages encoded in human genome with transposable elements

Punctuating messages encoded in human genome with transposable elements
San Francisco, CA - Since the classical studies of Jacob and Monod in the early 1960s, it has been evident that genome sequences contain not only blueprints for genes and the proteins that they encode, but also the instructions for a coordinated regulatory program that governs when, where and to what extent these genes and proteins are expressed. The execution of this regulatory code is what allows for the creation of very different cell- and tissue-types from the same set of genetic instructions found in the nucleus of every cell. A recent study published in PNAS (July ...


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COVID-19 associated with increased risk for autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases up to a year after infection

UC Irvine receives $15 million NSF grant for integrative movement research

University of Houston engineer Metin Akay featured in study highlighting 50 scientists' contributions to biomedical engineering advancements

JWST captures the end of planet formation

Good news—MS drugs taken while breastfeeding may not affect child development

Programs intended to reduce health insurance premiums may make coverage less affordable for the middle class

PrEP discontinuation in a US national cohort of sexual and gender minority populations, 2017–22

USC Study: Medicare Part D plans increased restrictions on drug coverage

Sacituzumab govitecan plus platinum-based chemotherapy in breast, bladder, and lung carcinomas

Global study unveils "problematic" use of porn

Newly discovered protein prevents DNA triplication

Less ice in the arctic ocean has complex effects on marine ecosystems and ocean productivity

Antarctica’s coasts are becoming less icy

New research shows migrating animals learn by experience

Modeling the origins of life: New evidence for an “RNA World”

[] Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2015