2015: An Exciting Year for Space Research

international-space-station

Image: NASA

With war, terrorism and climate change dominating the headlines of 2015, it’s easy for good news to get lost in the noise. However, 2015 also saw many more positive, albeit lesser known headlines, including those highlighting some of the most impressive scientific discoveries of recent times. In the world of astronomy and exploration, 2015 will hopefully be remembered as the year Pluto was explored by a robotic space probe for the first time and water was discovered on Mars. Read More →

Packaging and Unpacking the Genome

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DNA represents a dynamic form of information, balancing efficient storage and access requirements. Packaging approximately 1.8m of DNA into something as small as a cell nucleus is no mean feat, but unpacking it again to access the required sections and genes? That requires organization.

In a nutshell, this is achieved through DNA condensed and packaged as chromatin, a complex of DNA and proteins called histones, which is constantly modified as the DNA is accessed. Read More →

Television of the Future – Customizable & in 3D

The MPEG-H 3D Audio standard will allow television viewers to individually customize their TV audio by changing the volume of dialog and background noise elements independently of one another. © Fraunhofer IIS/Boxler/Schilling

The MPEG-H 3D Audio standard will allow television viewers to individually customize their TV audio by changing the volume of dialog and background noise elements independently of one another. © Fraunhofer IIS/Boxler/Schilling

The next generation of Ultra High Definition televisions (UHDTV) offers not only crystal-clear images, but also perfect sound. At the IBC trade show (September 11-15 in Amsterdam), Fraunhofer researchers are presenting a TV audio system based on the recently published MPEG-H 3D Audio standard, which lays the groundwork for the television audio of the future. Besides offering immersive audio capability, this new technology allows viewers to customize the audio playback of the television or other devices. Read More →

Searching for Life in the Alpha Centauri System

Alpha Centauri

An international team has discovered that biopigments of plants, so-called biological photosynthetic pigments, leave behind unique traces in the light they reflect. Prof. Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina from the Institute of Physics of the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics studied these biosignatures together with researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, USA, and the University of Aarhus, Denmark, with the help of polarization filters. If biopigments were present as a sign of life on a planet, they would leave behind a detectable polarized signature in the reflected light. The scientists have now published their findings in the International Journal of Astrobiology. Read More →

Where Memory is Encoded and Retrieved

Hippocampus

Are the same regions and even the same cells of the brain area called hippocampus involved in encoding and retrieving memories or are different areas of this structure engaged? This question has kept neuroscientists busy for a long time. Researchers at the Mercator Research Group “Structure of Memory” at RUB have now found out that the same brain cells exhibit activity in both processes. They have published their results in the journal “Hippocampus” (citation below). Read More →

The Last Viking and His Magical Sword?

VikingIllustration

A deadly weapon and symbol of power – jewelery for a man, with magical properties. The sword gave power to the warrior, but the warrior’s strength could also be transferred to the sword. That is how they were bound together: man and weapon, warrior and sword. This sword below was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold, inscriptions and other ornamentation. Read More →

Reconstructing Speech from Brain Activity

Brain activity

Speech is produced in the human cerebral cortex. Brain waves associated with speech processes can be directly recorded with electrodes located on the surface of the cortex. It has now been shown for the first time that is possible to reconstruct basic units, words, and complete sentences of continuous speech from these brain waves and to generate the corresponding text. Researchers at KIT and Wadsworth Center, USA present their ”Brain-to-Text“ system in the scientific journal Frontiers in Neuroscience (citation below). Read More →

The Science of Black Holes: Hawking Radiation Explained

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Black holes are one of the most intriguing features of our universe. They were originally predicted by the equations in Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1915. Many scientists doubted the existence of black holes throughout the 20th century, assuming they were merely a mathematical glitch in an incomplete theory. However, modern physicists almost unanimously accept that black holes exist. In fact, current theories in cosmology posit that supermassive black holes are at the center of almost every major galaxy. Read More →

Improved Detection of Radio Waves from Space

The dish of the radio telescope based in Yebes, Spain, measures more than 13 meters across. Here, the researchers will implement their high-performance radio wave reception technology for the first time. © Instituto Geográfico National

The dish of the radio telescope based in Yebes, Spain, measures more than 13 meters across. Here, the researchers will implement their high-performance radio wave reception technology for the first time. © Instituto Geográfico National

Together with their Spanish colleagues from the Instituto Geográfico Nacional and the University of Cantabria, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF in Freiburg have developed a very sensitive high frequency amplifier for radio telescopes used on Earth. The amplifier generates extremely little internal electromagnetic noise and will help measure our planet from space more precisely than ever before. Read More →

Creating the World’s Largest Music Service

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Music is the most popular YouTube content by several measures, including video views and search activity. The world’s first academic study on YouTube music consumption by Aalto University in Finland shows that one reason for its popularity lies in users’ own video. People re-use original music by popular artists to create their own alternative video variations, which may reach an audience of millions and can be found alongside any popular music title. Read More →