Non-igniting lithium-ion battery developed by researchers

A “lithium-ion battery that does not catch fire” was developed by a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). It is a water-based lithium battery, according to the press release, designed to continue operating even in extreme conditions, for example underwater or following an impact or a gash.

Lithium-ion batteries have always been susceptible to sudden fires, events that arrive without substantially any warning, so much so that many smartphone manufacturers have had to withdraw their models. No significant steps have been taken in improving this aspect despite the fact that the battery sector, not only the lithium-ion ones, is one of the most active in the research field.

The new study, presented in Chemical Communications and carried out by a team led by Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, saw the use of a new class of electrolytes for the new battery which reduces water activity and increases the energy capacity of the battery as well as its life cycle. These electrolytes, incorporated in a polymer matrix, eliminate the problem of flammable solvents as well as highly reactive toxic solvents that can be present in current lithium-ion batteries.

“Our team’s efforts have generally focused on replacing the flammable liquid with a polymer that improves safety and form factor. We are excited about where we are today. Our recent paper shows improved usability and performance of water-based flexible polymer lithium-ion batteries that can be built and operated outdoors,” explains Gerasopoulos.

A prototype could be ready as early as this year, according to one of the APL managers Jeff Maranchi.


Speed ​​of expansion of the universe, make new measurements: it is increasingly a mystery

A new study once again shows that the universe is expanding faster than calculated in previous years. This research, this time conducted by astronomers from the University of California at Davis, only further increases the debate about the fact that we cannot measure the acceleration of the universe’s expansion with a good degree of precision: the measurements made in recent years are in fact in disagreement.

This time the researchers used the Hubble Space Telescope together with an instrument from the WM Keck observatory called Adaptive Optics (AO). With this tool, researchers have been able to exploit the so-called “gravitational lenses,” a phenomenon also predicted by Einstein in which even light is gravitationally attracted and when this happens it can, among other things, also enlarge objects too far away for be viewed with normal telescopes. In the new study, which appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the researchers performed measurements of three known quasars with the gravitational lens method: PG1115 + 080, HE0435-1223 and RXJ1131-1231.

In particular, they measured the flicker of their brightness. These flickers, since each image corresponds to a slightly different length of the quasar distance from the telescope, do not all arrive on Earth at the same time. The researchers accurately measured these delays because they are inversely proportional to the value of the Hubble constant indicating the rate of expansion of the universe. In this way, they were able to measure how much the universe expanded during the time when the light of these quasars headed for Earth. The results they obtained are consistent with some measurements of the same Hubble constant made by observing objects near Earth, such as supernovae or other systems with gravitational lenses.

These further measurements highlight that there is a problem with the standard model of cosmology. This model predicts that the universe has expanded very rapidly during the big bang, or in any case immediately thereafter, and that this expansion has then slowed down, perhaps due to the gravitational attraction of dark matter. At some point, the same rate of expansion began to accelerate again this time due to a new force called dark energy. This model is mainly based on the analysis of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), that is, on the residual radiation of the big bang that occurred about 13.8 billion years ago.

Recently several attempts to measure the Hubble constant have led to inconsistent results, especially as regards measurements made by observing objects close to those made by observing distant objects.

“This is where the crisis in cosmology lies,” says physics professor Chris Fassnacht and one of the authors of the study. “While the Hubble constant is constant everywhere in space at any given moment, it is not constant over time. So when we compare by comparing the Hubble constants that result from various techniques, we are comparing the primordial universe (using distant observations) vs the later and more modern part of the universe (using local and close observations).”

There are two possibilities: either there is a problem with the CMB measurements, the cosmic background radiation in the microwaves, which the researchers behind this study consider unlikely, or the standard model must be modified in order for this discrepancy to be corrected.

Now the researchers intend to further develop this new method, based on gravitational lenses and quasar observation, to further improve the accuracy of the Hubble constant measurements to perhaps reach a more “universal” cosmological model.


Scientists study when the best time to take blood pressure medications is

According to a study that appeared in the European Heart Journal, and according to the related press release that presents it, people with hypertension who take antihypertensive drugs before going to sleep seem to have better blood pressure control and therefore lower risks of death or diseases caused by heart problems, compared to people taking drugs in the morning.

The researchers analyzed data from 19,084 patients who had to take a pill to treat hypertension in the morning or at bedtime. These people were followed on average for six years and their blood pressure was checked at least once a year. The researchers found that patients who took the drugs before bedtime showed a risk of nearly half (45%) of death or heart attacks, strokes, heart failure or conditions that require a procedure to unblock the restricted blood vessels ( coronary revascularization), compared to patients who took the pills after waking up. The researchers also considered various other factors including gender, age, possible occurrences of other conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and cholesterol.

According to Ramón C. Hermida, director of the bioengineering and chronobiology laboratories of the University of Vigo and one of the authors of the study, currently the guidelines for taking antihypertensive drugs do not mention the preferable time of day in which to take the intake. Sometimes doctors advise taking medications in the morning but according to the researcher, it would be a recommendation based on a misleading goal, that of reducing the typical blood pressure levels in the morning.

According to the researchers behind this study, however, it is a person’s average systolic blood pressure when he is asleep that is the most significant and independent indication of cardiovascular disease risk. Also, there are no studies that would show that treating high blood pressure during the morning reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The results of this study show that patients who habitually take their antihypertensive drugs at bedtime, as opposed to when they wake up, have better blood pressure and, above all, a significantly reduced risk of death or heart disease and problems with blood vessels,” the researchers report.


Fungi consumption linked to lower risk of prostate cancer according to a new study

Mushroom consumption may be linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer according to a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer . The researchers used data from 36,000 Japanese men who spanned several decades, aged between 40 and 79. These men came from the Miyagi and Ohsaki areas of Japan.

The data had also been collected thanks to questionnaires that included questions such as those relating to the consumption of mushrooms or other particular foods, as well as questions relating to physical activity and personal and family medical conditions.

Researchers discovered a link between regular mushroom consumption and a reduction in prostate cancer risk in men and this link was even more significant for men 50 years of age and older and in those men in whom the diet was mainly made from meat and dairy products with limited consumption of vegetables and fruit.

“Although our study suggests that regular consumption of mushrooms can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, we also want to emphasize that a healthy and balanced diet is much more important than filling the trolley with mushrooms,” says Shu Zhang, professor of epidemiology at Tohoku University and lead author of the study who adds that in the past, test-tube studies and studies on living organisms had shown that fungi can potentially prevent prostate cancer.

According to the researcher, this is to be explained in the good amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants present in mushrooms, in particular L-ergothioneine. The latter regulates cell imbalance caused by unwise dietary choices and long-term exposure to environmental toxins.

Zhang himself admits that new research is needed to understand the extent of this connection also because this study was carried out only on a limited population.


Jade Rollers – Maybe Kinda Worth It, But Not Really

We’re always interested in checking out new products and verifying the scientific claims behind them. Today, we’re going to take a look at jade rollers, which are devices with a jade stone that you roll across your face. Apparently, this is supposed to help you look younger, reduce wrinkles and feel better.

And if you head to Amazon today, you can find a ton of jade rollers for sale.

In investigating these products, and reading a lot of reviews on them, we can’t really say much in favor of them. There’s been many sites that have rambled on about them like this CNN article. However, the best article on them is this one here from our website at It gets straight to the point and just says, well, jade rollers can work, but there’s nothing “magical” about them.

Buy a jade roller if you want. But don’t expect it to do much of anything.


Researchers discover the best method for determining the sex of skeletons by measuring the elbow

Examining the distal bone of the humerus (elbow) can be a better technique than the existing ones to identify sex in skeletal remains in non-Asian populations: this is the result achieved by a group of researchers from the School of Medicine of the University of Boston (BUSM).

Currently, forensic anthropologists determine the sex of a person’s remains, when these remains are represented only by the skeleton, the morphology of the pelvis or the skull or by the measurements of the longest bones. However, as Sean Tallman, professor of anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM explains, very often these areas are missing or damaged due to trauma, poor conservation or other causes. In many cases, therefore, it is substantially impossible to examine these areas of the skeleton with a good degree of precision.

The researchers examined more than 600 skeletons, 198 of female and 418 of male, from a collection located in Khon Kaen, Thailand. In the course of the analysis, as Tallman himself explains, the researchers found that when “classic” methods usually developed on non-Asian populations were applied to these skeletons, these same methods malfunctioned. In fact, most of the methods currently in use to determine sex through the remains of a skeleton were created and adapted by studying the skeletons of North American populations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The researchers found that in modern Thai individuals the measurement of the distal humerus differs between females and males and that this can be used as the best method for determining sex. The study was published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.


Gut bacteria found to affect brain health

We have known for some time that there is a strong connection between the intestine and the brain, so much so that over the past twenty years, various researches have discovered links between autoimmune disorders and different psychiatric conditions. The strong suspicion is that the intestinal microbiome, that is the set of all bacteria that live in the various tracts of our intestine, strongly influences brain health but this relationship is fundamentally unknown.

Now a new study, conducted by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College, provides new insights into the molecular cellular processes that underlie communication between the same microbes in the gut and brain cells. As David Artis, director of the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease and professor of immunology, explains, this research represents a sort of initial path to understanding “the whole picture” about the chronic gastrointestinal conditions that affect mental health and even the behavior.

The researchers used experiments on mice to understand the changes that occur in brain cells when the gut microbiome begins to run out. In fact, the researchers reduced the microbial populations in the intestines of mice through antibiotics. These mice showed very limited learning abilities, for example in learning that a danger or threat was no longer present. By analyzing the microglia of the brain of mice, the researchers discovered an altered gene expression in these cells that influenced the connection between brain cells during the learning processes.

Furthermore, in mice with a smaller quantity of bacteria in the intestine, changes in the concentrations of different metabolites linked to various neuropsychiatric disorders that also occur in humans, such as schizophrenia or autism, could be noted.

“Brain chemistry essentially determines how we feel and respond to our environment, and evidence is showing that chemicals derived from gut microbes play an important role,” says Frank Schroeder, professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute and one of the authors of the study.

This study confirms the existence of a strong link between the intestine and the brain and how this same connection affects our day-to-day life and only now is it starting to understand how the intestine itself, or rather the bacteria inside it, can even affect diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s and depression.

Maybe in the future, we will be able to identify new objectives for the treatment of these diseases, as suggested by Conor Liston, associate professor of neuroscience in the Feil Family Brain & Mind Research Institute and the other author of the study.


Skiing, snowboarding and snow sports can cause serious skull fractures in young children

The injuries that children and young people can cause in winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding have been the subject of a new study presented later at the conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this year. The study was carried out by analyzing a database of 845 children hospitalized between 2009 and 2012 for injuries caused by snow sports.

More than half of the children/teenagers had to undergo surgery, with 75.8% of them being male. Among the lesions that the subjects showed were fractures of the lower limbs (28.7%), intracranial lesions (22.7%), splenic lesions (15.6%), fractures of the upper limbs (15.5%) and skull fractures (9.1%).

Researchers found that elementary school-age children were more likely than high school boys to suffer from skull or face fractures. Middle school and high school boys, however, showed greater chances of getting intra-abdominal injuries.

According to Robert J. McLoughlin, one of the authors of the study, some of these injuries can also be quite serious and this should give parents due concern and attention when children play these sports, especially when it comes to young children given that a quarter of those he analyzed showed major intracranial lesions.


Big bang and cosmic inflation: here’s what it could have done as a “bridge” between these two phases

According to the most accepted theory regarding the origin of the universe, the latter would have been born with an initial big bang. However, shortly before or at the same time or shortly thereafter (it depends on the various versions of theories) a phenomenon, called cosmic inflation, would have taken place which lasted less than a trillionth of a second, which would have produced a much larger inflationary expansion than is taking place with the big bang itself.

During cosmic inflation, according to the theory, a cold and homogeneous “soup” swelled exponentially before the processes themselves of the big bang and its expansion took over.

The two processes, that of cosmic inflation and that of the big bang, are very different from each other so much that scientists have always struggled to connect them and to understand what could have acted as a “bridge” between these two phases.

According to a new study conducted by physicists from MIT, Kenyon College and other institutes, a third phase known as “warm-up” would have acted as a “bridge” between these two phases. This brief phase would have occurred at the end of cosmic inflation and in a sense would have triggered the “bang” of the big bang, as stated by David Kaiser, professor of History of Science of Germeshausen and professor of physics at MIT. According to the scientist during this brief period of the history of the universe, hell would have unleashed and matter would have behaved in very strange ways that go beyond our understanding.

According to Kaiser, during the early stages of “warming” a form of high energy matter dominated. This matter stirred back and forth synchronously across large expanses of space and this led to the explosive production of new particles. Once this energy moved to a second form of matter, these oscillations became more unstable and irregular in space. It would have been a “crazy period,” as Kaiser himself calls it, a period during which matter interacted so strongly that it could also suddenly relax to lay the foundations for the big bang.

The researcher, together with his colleagues, tried to simulate the final stage of inflation on the computer to understand how it could have developed. They realized that the extreme energy that triggered inflation could have been redistributed very quickly, we are talking about very small fractions of a second, and in such a way as to produce those conditions necessary for the start of the big bang. This change would have been even more efficient, and therefore more acceptable at a theoretical level, if we take into account the quantum effects: the latter would have changed the ways in which the “soup” of matter responded to gravity at very high energies. In this way, the physics of the universe itself could deviate significantly from Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

“This allows us to tell an uninterrupted story, from inflation to the post-inflation period, to the Big Bang and beyond,” says Kaiser. “We can trace a continuous series of processes, all with known physics, to say that this is a plausible way in which the universe has come to be as we see it today.”


Conscience: a new theory inspired by thermodynamics tries to explain what it is

What does consciousness depend on and how does it originate? This is one of the most fascinating questions but also one of the most inexplicable of all science, also because studying consciousness itself often poses problems related to the sector from which to start in order to lay the foundations for a study. Now new research, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, tries to answer this question by referring to what can be considered a new theory inspired by thermodynamics.

If in the past it has been hypothesized that consciousness may derive from a highly coordinated activity among neurons, the researchers behind this study believe instead that the key to awareness is a flow and a reflux of energy: when neurons connect to each other for processing information, the patterns of these activities tune in like ocean waves. According to the authors of the study, this would be a process intrinsically related to that of thermodynamic principles.

The latter would be the basis of the same neural connections and therefore of consciousness. Furthermore, interruptions of this process of energy ebb and flow would lead to the interruption of communication between the neural networks and would give rise to the most common neurological and disturbances that we know, such as epilepsy, autism, and schizophrenia.

It is a study that combines classical physics (basically the laws of thermodynamics) with all that is known today about neural activity: it follows a general picture in which changes in free energy help to temporarily synchronize the activity in neuronal networks.

The study was produced by researcher Jose L. Perez Velazquez affiliated with the Ronin Institute of Montclair who worked together with colleagues Diego M. Mateos and Ramon Guevara Erra.