• Universal flu vaccine within sight

    People need to be vaccinated against flu every year because the flu virus is a scam artist: it uses a big, showy surface protein — and there are sixteen different varieties of this protein, called Hemagglutinin (HA) — to attract your immune system, then changes it so your immune system would not recognize it next time round; vaccines must thus change yearly to match it; scientists discover HA’s Achilles Heel: a vital part of the HA’s viral machinery does not vary much over time or between viruses, meaning that a vaccine based on the this part would be a universal flu vaccine

  • T cells offer new promise for vaccines for plague and bacterial pneumonias

    There is currently no licensed plague vaccine in the United States, which is too bad because Yersinia pestis is arguably the most deadly bacteria known to man; most of the plague vaccine candidates that have been studied aim to stimulate B cells to produce plague-fighting antibodies, but animal studies suggest that antibodies may not be enough to protect humans from pneumonic plague; new studies show that T cells can also fight plague — and may be better candidates with which to develop a plague vaccine

  • Enzyme provides protection against nerve gas

    Nerve agents disrupt the chemical messages sent between nerve and muscle cells, causing loss of muscle control, and ultimately leading to death by suffocation; protection against nerve gas attack is a significant component of the defense system of many countries around the world; nerve gases are used by armies and terrorist organizations, and constitute a threat to both the military and civilian populations, but existing drug solutions against them have limited efficiency; a multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, succeeded in developing an enzyme that breaks down nerve agents efficiently before damage to nerves and muscles is caused

  • Twelve research teams to develop persistent-stare, visual-intelligence systems

    The U.S. military anticipates a significant increase in the role of unmanned systems in support of future operations, including jobs like persistent stare; by performing persistent stare, camera-equipped unmanned ground vehicles would take scouts out of harm’s way; these machines’ truly transformative feature will be visual intelligence, enabling these platforms to detect operationally significant activity and report on that activity so warfighters can focus on important events in a timely manner

  • Closing of U.K. forensics research centers triggers protest

    The U.K. government announced that the Forensic Science Service — a leading research center based in Birmingham, United Kingdom — will be closed by 2012 because of budgetary reasons; law enforcement leaders and scientists calls on the government to reconsider the decision, saying that “The reputation of forensic science in the U.K. will undoubtedly diminish —- The lack of research means that we will be lagging behind the rest of the world, and justice will suffer”

  • U.S. will carefully watch, but not regulate, synthetic biology

    White House commission says biologists can engineer custom organisms from synthetic genomes, with the government watching but not regulating the research; critics claim synthetic biology will create unnatural organisms likely to wreak havoc on the larger ecosystem if they got loose in the wild — to say nothing of the risks of bioterrorists using design pathogens; self-regulation, say the critics, is equivalent to no regulation

  • Border-security crisis boosts Tucson's economy

    An economic boost for Arizona city from the border crisis; with the University of Arizona, and some fifty companies already involved with border security in some way, Tucson’s future could hold more high-tech, high-paying jobs; research firm MarketResearch.com concludes that worldwide spending on border security products and services will reach $15.8 billion in this year alone

  • WikiLeaks reveals relentless Chinese drive for scientific hegemony

    Among the documents released by WikiLeaks are cables from the science office in the U.S. embassy in Beijing; the cables — some based on Chinese informers — reveal an aggressive, government-funded R&D effort by the Chinese government; among the items of interest: gait biometric device which will be placed under floors and sidewalk to identify people, covertly, by the way they walk; efforts to hack quantum cryptography; and a plan to build 70 nuclear-fusion reactors in 10 years

  • New life form -- thriving on arsenic -- found on Earth

    Life as we know it requires particular chemical elements and excludes others—- But are those the only options? How different could life be?” — asks Arizona State University professor Ariel Anbar; researchers find that the toxic element arsenic can replace the essential nutrient phosphorus in biomolecules of a naturally occurring bacterium; the finding expands the scope of the search for life beyond Earth

  • New congressional majority could scale back U.S. science budgets

    President Barack Obama has ordered all federal agencies that are not linked to national security to reduce by 5 percent their budget requests for 2012 compared to the 2011 budget year; if Republicans hold to their pre-election pledge, non-defense related federal research spending could dip more than 12 percent to around $58 billion — compared to $66 billion requested by the White House for 2011

  • Nuclear power making a come back

    If Germany, where most of the public is suspicious of nuclear power, plans to extend the life of its nuclear reactors, the world must have entered a new atomic age; indeed: around the world, more than 150 reactors with a total net capacity of almost 170,000 megawatts are planned and more than 340 more are proposed, according to the World Nuclear Association

  • India's ambitious thorium-based nuclear energy plans

    With 40 percent of its population not yet connected to the electricity grid and an economy growing by about 8 percent each year, India’s ambitious 3-stage energy security plan includes exploiting the country’s vast reserves of thorium; India could thus find itself a leading global exporter of an alternative nuclear technology that is more efficient than today’s uranium-plutonium fuel cycle

  • Livermore scientists to begin fusion quest before end of month

    Before the end of the month, scientists at Livermore’s National Ignition Facility will conduct an experiment backed by billions of dollars — and which promises to change the world’s energy supply; the scientists are preparing to meet an end-of-month deadline for the first set of experiments in the final stretch of a national effort to achieve the long-sought goal of fusion — a reaction in which more energy is released than put into it

  • Space plane that takes off from runway ready in 10 years

    An unpiloted, air-breathing space plane that takes off from an airport runway and carries up to thirty passengers could be ready to fly in ten years; it will cost an estimated $12 billion to develop the space plane, and an additional $10 million per launch, compared to the approximately $150 million cost of a rocket launch; the company predicts that a trip to orbit for two weeks would cost tourists about $500,000 per seat

  • America losing brainpower advantage, competitive edge

    The United States is losing its competitive edge, as stagnated federal research funding and a dysfunctional educational system are taking their toll; the United States is still a leader in innovation and produces a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth, other countries such as China are investing heavily in research and education and, as a result, are threatening America’s competitiveness; though most of the world’s top universities are located in the United States, the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 48th in math and science education; only 4 of the top 10 companies receiving U.S. patents in 2009 were American companies