Ceramics Don't Have To Be Brittle

Caltech materials scientist Julia Greer and her students have developed a method for constructing new structural materials by taking advantage of the unusual properties that solids can have at the nanometer scale, where features are measured in billionths of meters. In a paper published in the September 12 issue of the journal Science, the Caltech researchers explain how they used the method to produce a ceramic (e.g., a piece of chalk or a brick) that contains about 99.9 percent air yet is incredibly strong, and that can recover its original shape after being smashed by more than 50 percent.

Tipping the Balance of Behavior

Caltech researchers have discovered a seesaw-like circuit in the brain that controls the choice between social and repetitive self-oriented behaviors in mice.

Textbook Theory Behind Volcanoes May Be Wrong

In the typical textbook picture, volcanoes, such as those that are forming the Hawaiian islands, erupt when magma gushes out as narrow jets from deep inside Earth. But that picture is wrong, according to a new study.

Seeing Protein Synthesis in the Field

Caltech researchers have developed a novel way to visualize proteins generated by microorganisms in their natural environment—including the murky waters of Caltech's lily pond.

Programmed to Fold: RNA Origami

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark and Caltech have developed a new method for organizing molecules on the nanoscale. Inspired by techniques used for folding DNA origami—first invented by Paul Rothemund, a senior research associate in computation and neural systems in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech—the team, which includes Rothemund, has fabricated complicated shapes from DNA's close chemical cousin, RNA.

Study of Aerosols Stands to Improve Climate Models

Researchers from Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have provided a global observational study of the effect that changes in aerosol levels have on low-level marine clouds—the clouds that have the largest impact on the amount of incoming sunlight that Earth reflects back into space.

Looking Forward to 2020 . . . on Mars

Ken Farley, Caltech's W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry and chair of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, is serving as project scientist for Mars 2020. We recently sat down with him to talk about the mission and his new role.

Biology Made Simpler With "Clear" Tissues

Thanks to new techniques developed at Caltech, scientists can now see through tissues, organs, and even an entire body, offering new insights into the cell-by-cell makeup of organisms—and the promise of novel diagnostic medical applications.

Future Electronics May Depend on Lasers, Not Quartz

Caltech researchers stabilize microwave oscillators with optical frequencies from a silicon chip. The approach could ultimately replace more conventional methods that rely on crystal references—a technology in use since the 1920s.

Corals Provide Clues for Climate Change Research

Just as growth rings can offer insight into climate changes occurring during the lifespan of a tree, corals have much to tell about changes in the ocean. At Caltech, climate scientists Jess F. Adkins and Nivedita Thiagarajan use manned submersibles, like Alvin operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, to dive thousands of meters below the surface to collect these specimens—and to shed new light on the connection between variance in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the deep ocean and historical glacial cycles.

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