Caltech Scientists Invent Polymer For Detecting Blood Glucose

PASADENA— Scientists have designed a polymer that could vastly improve the way diabetics measure their blood glucose levels. The polymer is described in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology.

According to Dr. Frances Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, the polymer is superior to the current enzyme-based glucose detectors because it is not of biological origin. The polymer will be easier to make and thus lead to cheaper and more reliable glucose sensors.

Caltech Scientists Find Evidence For Massive Ice Age When Earth Was 2.4 billion Years Old

PASADENA— Those who think the winter of '97 was rough should be relieved that they weren't around 2.2 billion years ago. Scientists have discovered evidence for an ice age at the time that was severe enough to partially freeze over the equator. In today's new issue of Nature, California Institute of Technology geologists Dave Evans and Joseph Kirschvink report evidence that glaciers came within a few degrees of the equator's latitude when the planet was about 2.4 billion years old.

State-of-the-Art Seismic Network Gets First Trial-by-Fire During This Morning's 5.4-magnitude Earthquake

PASADENA—Los Angeles reporters and camera crews responding to a 5.4-magnitude earthquake this morning got their first look at the new Caltech/USGS earthquake monitoring system.

The look was not only new but almost instantaneous. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, Caltech seismologists had already printed out a full-color poster-sized map of the region to show on live TV, and had already posted the contour map on the Internet. Moreover, they were able to determine the magnitude of the event within five minutes — a tremendous improvement over the time it once took to confirm data.

Caltech Question of the Week: Do Earth's Plates Move In a Certain Direction?

Submitted by Frank Cheng, Alhambra, California, and answered by Joann Stock, Associate Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Caltech.

Each plate is moving in a different direction, but the exact direction depends on the "reference frame," or viewpoint, in which you are looking at the motion. The background to this question is the fact that there are 14 major tectonic plates on Earth: the Pacific, North America, South America, Eurasia, India, Australia, Africa, Antarctica, Cocos, Nazca, Juan de Fuca, Caribbean, Philippine, and Arabia.

Researchers Establish Upper Limit of Temperature at the Core-mantle Boundary of Earth

PASADENA— Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have determined that Earth's mantle reaches a maximum temperature of 4,300 degrees Kelvin. The results are reported in the March 14, 1997, issue of the journal Science.

Caltech Geologists Find New Evidence That Martian Meteorite Could Have Harbored Life

PASADENA—Geologists studying Martian meteorite ALH84001 have found new support for the possibility that the rock could once have harbored life.

Moreover, the conclusions of California Institute of Technology researchers Joseph L. Kirschvink and Altair T. Maine, and McGill University's Hojatollah Vali, also suggest that Mars had a substantial magnetic field early in its history.

Finally, the new results suggest that any life on the rock existing when it was ejected from Mars could have survived the trip to Earth.

Scientists Find "Good Intentions" in the Brain

PASADENA—Neurobiologists at the California Institute of Technology have succeeded in peeking into one of the many "black boxes" of the primate brain. A study appearing in the March 13 issue of the journal Nature describes an area of the brain where plans for actions are formed.

Caltech Chemists Design Molecule To Repair a Type of DNA Damage

PASADENA—Chemists have found a way to repair DNA molecules that have been damaged by ultraviolet radiation. The research is reported in the March 7, 1997, issue of the journal Science.

Question of the Week: Why Does an Engine Cooling System Have a Thermostat, and Hos Does It Relate To the Coolant Flow Rate?

Question of the Month Submitted by Bill McLellan, Pasadena, California, and answered by Melany Hunt, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Caltech.

The cooling system is an important part of an automobile engine. I've certainly become more aware of this fact after having my car overheat on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Question of the Week: What Causes a Gene To Mutate or Change?

Submitted by Virginia Salazar, Whittier, Calif. and answered by Dr. Paul Sternberg, Professor of Biology, Caltech

In most cases, the sequence of DNA making up a gene is copied accurately when a cell divides. This accurate process ensures that each cell is like its parent cell. DNA consists of a string of DNA bases, the letters in the genetic alphabet.

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