Atoms seen in highest resolution ever
Scientists at Cornell University have built a high-powered detector that has captured the image of atoms at the highest-ever resolution — breaking a world record the same team had set in 2018.
In 2018, the team had managed to triple the resolution of a state-of-the-art electron microscope.
However, the approach only worked with ultrathin samples that were a few atoms thick.
Now the team has bested its own record by a factor of two with an electron microscope pixel array detector that incorporates even more sophisticated 3D reconstruction algorithms.
The resolution is fine-tuned such that the only blurring that remains is the thermal jiggling of the atoms themselves.
The team now says that they can easily figure out where the atoms are. It opens up the possibilities of making a new set of measurements that would solve many long-standing problems in physics.
This latest form of electron ptychography will enable scientists to locate individual atoms in all three dimensions when they might be otherwise hidden using other imaging methods.
Researchers will also be able to find impurity atoms in unusual configurations and image them and their vibrations, one at a time.
This could be particularly helpful in imaging semiconductors, catalysts, and quantum materials — including those used in quantum computing — as well as for analysing atoms at the boundaries where materials are joined together. Read more here
Scientists restore partial vision in blind man
In a first, scientists have managed to partially restore the vision of a blind patient by genetically altering their cells so they produce more light-sensitive proteins.
The technique known as optogenetics has been developed in the field of neuroscience over the last 20 years.
In some cases of blindness, known as inherited photoreceptor diseases, light-sensing cells in the retina that use proteins to deliver visual information to the brain via the optic nerve progressively degenerate.
The team began treating a man who had lost his sight due to an inherited photoreceptor disease 40 years ago using optogenetic techniques.
This involved injections in his eye, along with light-emitting goggles, which transformed images of the visual world into light pulses projected into the retina in real-time.
They were eventually able to restore partial sight for the 58-year-old patient, leaving him able to recognise, count, locate and touch different objects laid out on a table in front of him.
However, it will still take time until this therapy can be offered to patients. More here
Monkeys adopt accents of other species to avoid conflict
In a new study, scientists have discovered that monkeys pick up the “accent” of another species when they enter their territory to help them better understand one another and potentially avoid conflict.
The study is the first to show such behaviour in primates.
Researchers from the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) studied the behaviour of 15 groups of pied tamarins (Saguinus bicolor) and red-handed tamarins (Saguinus midas) in the Brazilian Amazon.
Pied tamarins are critically endangered and have one of the smallest ranges of any primate in the world, much of it around the city of Manaus, while red-handed tamarins are found throughout the north-eastern Amazon region.
The researchers found that when groups of red-handed tamarins entered territory shared with pied tamarins, the red-handed tamarins adopted the long calls used by the pied tamarins.
Red-handed tamarins have greater vocal flexibility and use calls more often than pied tamarins, and the scientists believe they might alter their calls to avoid territorial disputes over resources. Read more here
World likely to be 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter in next five years
The world is likely to be 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter at least once in the next five years, breaching the lower of two temperature limits set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Research published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has shown that by 2025, there’s a 40 per cent chance of at least one year being 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than the pre-industrial level.
The analysis is based on modelling by the UK Met Office and climate researchers in 10 countries including the US and China.
In the last decade, it was estimated that the chance of any one year reaching the 1.5C threshold was only 20 per cent. This new assessment puts that risk at 40 per cent. Read more here
Giant tortoise thought to be extinct a century ago still exists
A giant tortoise found in 2019 in the Galapagos Islands is a species considered extinct a century ago.
Ecuador confirmed that the Galapagos National Park is now preparing an expedition to search for more of the giant tortoises in an attempt to save the species.
In 2019, the turtle was found during an expedition in Ecuador.
Using genetic studies, scientists from Yale University had then identified it as the Chelonoidis phantasticus species, which had been considered extinct more than a century ago.
The DNA comparison was made using a specimen extracted in 1906.
The Galapagos Islands — home to a variety of species — also served as the basis for the British scientist Charles Darwin’s theory of the evolution of species in the 19th century.
It also houses a large variety of flora and fauna under threat of extinction. More here