Two Caltech Researchers Added to the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team

With the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) well on its way to Mars, the newest members of its science team have been announced. Two Caltech professors—Kenneth Farley and Bethany Ehlmann—are among 18 researchers who have been selected as funded participating scientists on the mission.

Caltech Researchers Develop Gene Therapy to Boost Brain Repair for Demyelinating Diseases

Our bodies are full of tiny superheroes—antibodies that fight foreign invaders, cells that regenerate, and structures that ensure our systems run smoothly. One such structure is myelin, a material that forms a protective cape around the axons of our nerve cells so that they can send signals quickly and efficiently. But myelin becomes damaged in demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis, leaving neurons without their sheaths. Researchers from Caltech now believe they have found a way to help the brain replace damaged myelin.

A Powerful New Astronomy Instrument Gets Ready for Hawaii

It's time to go to Hawaii—at least, if you're MOSFIRE, a new near-infrared spectrometer that's now on its way to the W. M. Keck Observatory, atop Mauna Kea. But the powerful new instrument, six feet in diameter, about a dozen feet in length, and weighing in at 4,500 pounds—10,000 if you include the mount and packing crate—isn't going there to surf. MOSFIRE will be the newest weapon in the Keck's arsenal to survey the cosmos, helping astronomers learn about star formation, galaxy formation, and the early universe. 

Caltech Study Supports Model for Locating Genetic Damage Through DNA Charge Transport

Our genetic information is under constant attack. Luckily, repair proteins are typically hard at work, locating and fixing damaged DNA. Over the past decade, Caltech chemist Jacqueline Barton has been exploring a model that describes how repair proteins might work together in this scouting mission to efficiently home in on lesions or mismatches within the DNA. Recent results from her lab support the model.

Making Sense of Sensory Connections

A key feature of human and animal brains is that they are adaptive; they are able to change their structure and function based on input from the environment and on the potential associations, or consequences, of that input. To learn more about such neural adaptability, researchers at Caltech have explored the brains of insects and identified a mechanism by which the connections in their brain change to form new and specific memories of smells.

 

Neuroscientists Find That Status within Groups Can Affect IQ

Our cognitive abilities and decision-making skills can be dramatically hindered in social settings where we feel that we are being ranked or assigned a status level, such as classrooms and work environments, according to new findings from a team of researchers from Caltech and four other institutions. The finding flies in the face of long-held ideas about intelligence and cognition that regard IQ as a stable, predictive measure of mental horsepower. 

Caltech Chemists Devise Chemical Reaction that Holds Promise for New Drug Development

A team of researchers at  Caltech has devised a new method for making complex molecules. The reaction they have come up with should enable chemists to synthesize new varieties of a whole subclass of organic compounds called nitrogen-containing heterocycles, thus opening up new avenues for the development of novel pharmaceuticals and natural products ranging from chemotherapeutic compounds to bioactive plant materials such as morphine.

Astronomers Release Unprecedented Data Set on Celestial Objects that Brighten and Dim

Astronomers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Arizona have released the largest data set ever collected that documents the brightening and dimming of stars and other celestial objects—two hundred million in total.

Worm Seeks Worm: Caltech Researchers Find Chemical Cues Driving Aggregation in Nematodes

Scientists have long seen evidence of social behavior among many species of animals. Dolphins frolic together, lions live in packs, and hornets construct nests that can house a large number of the insects. And, right under our feet, it appears that roundworms are having their own little gatherings in the soil. Until recently, it was unknown how the worms communicate to one another when it's time to come together. Now, however, researchers from Caltech have identified, for the first time, the chemical signals that promote aggregation.

New Computer Model Explains Lakes and Storms on Titan

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is an intriguing, alien world that's covered in a thick atmosphere with abundant methane. Titan boasts methane clouds and fog, as well as rainstorms and plentiful lakes of liquid methane. The origins of many of these features, however, remain puzzling to scientists. Now, Caltech researchers have developed a computer model of Titan's atmosphere and methane cycle that, for the first time, explains many of these phenomena in a relatively simple and coherent way.

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