Innovative Microscope Poised to Propel Optogenetics Studies

November 30, 2017

The new Firefly microscope is optimized to perform optogenetic studies examining many neurons at once. Each bright spot here represents a neuron from a genetically modified mouse. [Credit: Vaibhav Joshi, Harvard University]

A newly developed microscope is providing scientists with a greatly enhanced tool to study how neurological disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease affect neuron communication. The microscope is optimized to perform studies using optogenetic techniques, a relatively new technology that uses light to control and image neurons genetically modified with light-sensitive proteins.


Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes

October 27, 2017
artist's rendition of a wormhole

In 1985, when Carl Sagan was writing the novel Contact, he needed to quickly transport his protagonist Dr. Ellie Arroway from Earth to the star Vega. He had her enter a black hole and exit light-years away, but he didn’t know if this made any sense. The Cornell University astrophysicist and television star consulted his friend Kip Thorne, a black hole expert at the California Institute of Technology (who won a Nobel Prize earlier this month).


Pictorial Languages of Mathematics

October 20, 2017
example of Quon language

An article in the November-December 2017 issue of American Scientist on pictorial mathematical languages features the Quon Language created by Harvard mathematicians Zhengwei Liu, Alex Wozniakowski, and Arthur M. Jaffe. The Quon project includes the study of two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and higher-dimensional languages. "This pictorial language for mathematics can give you insights and a way of thinking that you don’t see in the usual, algebraic way of approaching mathematics," says Jaffe.


Growth Patterns for Shape-Shifting Elastic Bilayers

October 17, 2017

Fig. 2. Inverse design of vegetable, animal, and mineral surfaces.*

Nature has a way of making complex shapes from a set of simple growth rules. The curve of a petal, the swoop of a branch, even the contours of our face are shaped by these processes. What if we could unlock those rules and reverse engineer nature's ability to grow an infinitely diverse array of shapes?


Amount of Water in Stem Cells Can Determine Its Fate as Fat or Bone

September 29, 2017

Top images (A): Illustrates the development of stem cells on hydrogel, a soft substrate, to pre-bone cells after the removal of water. Bottom images (B): Depicts the development of stem cells on glass, a hard substrate, to pre-fat cells after the addition of water.*

Adding or removing water from a stem cell can change the destiny of the cell, researchers have discovered in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).