Ready for Your Close-Up?

As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." For people in certain professions—acting, modeling, and even politics—this phrase rings particularly true. Previous studies have examined how our social judgments of pictures of people are influenced by factors such as whether the person is smiling or frowning, but until now one factor has never been investigated: the distance between the photographer and the subject. According to a new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), this turns out to make a difference—close-up photo subjects, the study found, are judged to look less trustworthy, less competent, and less attractive.

Moving Targets

At any given moment, millions of cells are on the move in the human body, typically on their way to aid in immune response, make repairs, or provide some other benefit to the structures around them. When the migration process goes wrong, however, the results can include tumor formation and metastatic cancer. Little has been known about how cell migration actually works, but now, with the help of some tiny worms, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have gained new insight into this highly complex task.

Martian Clay Minerals Might Have Much Hotter Origin

Several hypotheses have been proposed to explan how clay minerals detected on the surface of Mars were formed. Now, publishing in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of French and American scientists including Caltech's Bethany Ehlmann, has suggested a new possibility. The Los Angeles Times recently spoke to Ehlmann about the paper and its implications.

Happy 35th Birthday, Voyager!

Today, September 5, marks the 35th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1, which lifted off in 1977 on a Titan III–Centaur launch system just 16 days after its twin, Voyager 2. Now 11 billion and 9 billion miles from the sun, respectively, the spacecraft are the farthest-flung man-made objects, traveling every 100 days a distance equal to that between sun and Earth.

Showing the Way to Improved Water-Splitting Catalysts

Scientists and engineers around the world are working to find a way to power the planet using solar-powered fuel cells. Such green systems would split water during daylight hours, generating hydrogen that could be stored and used later to produce water and electricity. But robust catalysts are needed to drive the water-splitting reaction. Now Caltech chemists have determined the mechanism by which some highly effective cobalt catalysts work.

Modeling the Genes for Development

As an animal develops from an embryo, its cells take diverse paths, eventually forming different body parts—muscles, bones, heart. In order for each cell to know what to do during development, it follows a genetic blueprint, which consists of complex webs of interacting genes called gene regulatory networks. Now, for the first time, biologists at Caltech have built a computational model of one of these networks.

Weighing Molecules One at a Time

A team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has made the first-ever mechanical device that can measure the mass of individual molecules one at a time.

Learning One of Cancer's Tricks

Caltech researchers have shown for the first time that a specific sugar, known as GlcNAc ("glick-nack"), plays a key role in helping cancer cells grow rapdily and survive under harsh conditions. The finding suggests new potential targets for therapeutic intervention. 

Thinking and Choosing in the Brain

The frontal lobes are the largest part of the human brain, and damage to this area can result in profound impairments in reasoning and decision making. To find out more about what different parts of the frontal lobes do, neuroscientists at Caltech teamed up with researchers at the world's largest registry of brain-lesion patients. By mapping the brain lesions of these patients, the team was able to show that reasoning and behavioral control are dependent on different regions of the lobes than the areas called upon when making a decision.

Keeping Up with Curiosity

When Curiosity touched down safely on Mars on August 5, John Grotzinger, the mission's chief scientist and the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology at Caltech, was given the "keys" to the car-sized rover. Since then, most of Curiosity's time has been taken up by a series of checkouts, but she has relayed hundreds of images back to Earth, giving the science team plenty to study and discuss.

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