Scientists solve long-standing mystery by a whisker

Neuroscientists have experimented on mice to identify the brain region that functions beyond sensory encoding and motor encoding, potentially opening up new directions to studying the cellular and circuit mechanisms of sensory-motor transformations. The researchers report a cortical region traditionally defined as whisker motor cortex in mice is most directly related to the transformation process.

It’s elemental: Ultra-trace detector tests gold purity

Unless radon gas is discovered in a home inspection, most people remain blissfully unaware that rocks like granite, metal ores, and some soils contain naturally occurring sources of radiation. In most cases, low levels of radiation are not a health concern. But some scientists and engineers are concerned about even trace levels of radiation, which can wreak havoc on sensitive equipment. The semiconductor industry, for instance, spends billions each year to source and “scrub” ultra-trace levels of radioactive materials from microchips, transistors and sensitive sensors.

The ‘smell’ of coral as an indicator of reef health

A study conducted in the southern Great Barrier Reef reveals the chemical diversity of emissions from healthy corals. The researchers found that across the reef-building coral species studied on Heron Island, the abundance and chemical diversity of their gas emissions fell significantly during heat stress experiments. With the increasing frequency of heat stress events, understanding coral emissions may prove to be a key reef conservation tool.

Recycled concrete could be a sustainable way to keep rubble out of landfill

Results of a new five-year study of recycled concrete show that it performs as well, and in several cases even better, than conventional concrete. Researchers conducted side-by-side comparisons of recycled and conventional concrete within two common applications — a building foundation and a municipal sidewalk. They found that the recycled concrete had comparable strength and durability after five years of being in service.

New drone technology improves ability to forecast volcanic eruptions

Specially-adapted drones have been gathering data from never-before-explored volcanoes that will enable local communities to better forecast future eruptions. The cutting-edge research at Manam volcano in Papua New Guinea is improving scientists’ understanding of how volcanoes contribute to the global carbon cycle, key to sustaining life on Earth.