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Almost universal SERS sensor could change how we sniff out small things

Identifying fraudulent paintings based on electrochemical data, highlighting cancerous cells in a sea of healthy ones, and identifying different strains of bacteria in samples of food are all examples of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), a sensor system that has only become more in-demand as our desire for precise, instantaneous information has increased. However, the technology has largely failed commercialization because the chips used are difficult and expensive to create, have limited uses for a particular known substance, and are consumed upon use. Researchers led by a team from the University of Buffalo (UB) aim to change nanoscale sensors with an almost-universal substrate that's also low-cost, opening up more opportunities for powerful analysis of our environment.

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Scientists come a step closer to "regrowing" limbs

Currently, recipients of arm or leg transplants need to take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives, in order to keep the donated parts from being rejected. If we could grow our own replacement limbs, however, that wouldn't be necessary. And while we do already possess the progenitor cells needed to grow such parts, what's been lacking is a method of assembling them into the form of the desired limb. Now, however, scientists have created a shortcut of sorts – they've stripped the cells from one rat's forelimb and replaced them with live cells from another rat, creating a functioning limb that the second rat's immune system won't reject.

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University student maps plasma tubes in the sky

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in the Western Australia desert, a Sydney University student, Cleo Loi, has discovered enormous plasma pipes in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Thought to be responsible for possible radio interference with satellite navigation systems, the presence of these objects has been predicted for over 60 years, but never before seen. By imaginatively using the radio telescope to observe in 3D, Loi was able to image large areas of the sky using the fast photography capabilities of the MWA to produce a movie that shows the motions of the plasma in real-time.

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Could "brainprints" replace passwords, fingerprints and retinal scans?

Passwords are the bane of many a computer user's existence. Experts recommend long strings of characters containing a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols that may be difficult to crack, but can also be difficult to remember. Despite there being simple techniques for creating difficult-to-crack passwords that are easy to remember and horror stories of identify theft abound, the top two most common passwords remain "12345" and "password". But a study out of Binghampton University in New York suggests brainwaves could be a promising alternative to verify a user's identity.

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X-raying meat could guarantee its tenderness

Although many retailers already display the tenderness of meat cuts on their packaging, Norwegian research group SINTEF has developed what it believes is a better system. Instead of relying on human interpretations of tenderness, it uses x-rays to give a less subjective and more accurate rating.

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