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'Gravity'-style space debris threat from giant satellite explored

Physics students have pointed out that the huge observational satellite Envisat – which lost contact with Earth in 2012 – could potentially pose a threat similar to the events which plague Sandra Bullock in the Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller Gravity.

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Diamonds in the tail of the scorpion: Star cluster Messier 7

A new image shows the bright star cluster Messier 7. Easily spotted with the naked eye close to the tail of the constellation of Scorpius, it is one of the most prominent open clusters of stars in the sky — making it an important astronomical research target.

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Better way to make sense of 'Big Data?'

Big data is everywhere, and we are constantly told that it holds the answers to almost any problem we want to solve. But simply having lots of data is not the same as understanding it. New mathematical tools are needed to extract meaning from enormous data sets. Researchers now challenge the most recent advances in this field, using a classic mathematical concept to tackle the outstanding problems in big data analysis.

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Regenerating orthopedic tissues within the human body

Performing tissue repair with stem cells typically requires applying copious amounts of growth factor proteins -- a task that is very expensive and becomes challenging once the developing material is implanted within a body. A team of biomedical engineers has developed a polymer scaffold for growing cartilage that includes gene therapy vectors to induce stem cells to produce the growth factors they need. The new technique -- biomaterial-mediated gene delivery -- is shown to produce cartilage at least as good biochemically and biomechanically as if the growth factors were introduced in the laboratory.

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Synthetic molecular oscillator discoveries may help create artificial cells

Researchers have made important discoveries regarding the behavior of a synthetic molecular oscillator, which could serve as a timekeeping device to control artificial cells. The team developed methods to screen thousands of copies of this oscillator using small droplets, and found, surprisingly, that the oscillators inside these small droplets behave in a very diverse way in terms of period, amplitude and phase.

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Rife with hype, exoplanet study needs patience and refinement

Despite many trumpeted results, few 'hard facts' about exoplanet atmospheres have actually been collected, and most of these data are of 'marginal utility,' according to a review of exoplanet research by an astrophysicist. The dominant methods for studying exoplanet atmospheres are not intended for planets trillions of miles from Earth. Instead, the future of exoplanet study should focus on the more difficult but comprehensive method of spectrometry.

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Scientists successfully simulate 'neutronics' — the behavior of neutrons in a reactor core

Scientists and engineers developing more accurate approaches to analyzing nuclear power reactors have successfully tested a new suite of computer codes that closely model “neutronics” — the behavior of neutrons in a reactor core.

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