Petri dishes containing oil producing algae strains that could soon be experimented with using Prof. David Stern's bioreactor chip.

Algal Biofuel Reactors on a Chip to Revolutionize Renewable Energy Research

Most of the world’s oil reserves are buried kilometers under the Earth’s surface. With nations worldwide slowly waking up to its ecological impacts, our newest sources of oil may lie far below Cayuga’s waters, stored in a group of green, slimy organisms: algae. Algae are valuable because the natural oils they produce are remarkably similar to diesel. Using a simple conversion process, these oils can be used in vehicles that currently operate on fossil fuels. The issue, however, is efficiency.

A view of the fading Kilonova, as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Cornell Physicists Contribute to Discovery of Colliding Neutron Stars

On Oct. 16, astronomers announced that they had viewed a cosmic event, the collision of two neutron stars, through both light and gravitational waves. Over a thousand scientists working with LIGO, the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, and Virgo, an Italy based observatory, contributed to the ground-breaking discovery. Three of these researchers were Prof. Saul Teukolsky, physics and astrophysics, research associate Prayush Kumar and senior research associate Larry Kidder. Gravitational waves were first detected in late 2015.


Perils in the Pursuit for Scientific Novelty

Scientific research isn’t perfect, far from it. In fact, according to Richard Harris, correspondent at National Public Radio, the scientific process is in need of repair. Among the many issues, the limited ability to examine existing, mundane findings seems to be a consistent obstacle. At a lecture at Cornell on Oct. 16, Harris discussed his criticisms of the manner in which science research is published and presented.

A colorized image of the structure of the Zika Virus when examined using Cryo-EM.

Nobel Prize Winning Technology Demonstrates Merits of Interdisciplinary Collaboration, says Cornell Prof

Why are the most fundamental structural parts of the human body referred to as cells? Robert Hooke, the man who coined the term, thought they looked like cells in a monastery. But without a picture, this analogy would never have been possible. Microscopes, the fundamental instruments that make these pictures possible have gone a long way from 1665, when Hooke made his discoveries. Hooke looked at dead cells while today, we freeze biochemicals to view metabolic processes as they happen.

E. coli., the bacterium in which CRISPR-Cas was first observed.

Insight Into Jumping Gene Mechanisms to Advance Gene Editing

Apocalyptic movies often cast a dark view of the future of gene editing. In reality though, improved gene editing methods could be used to treat cancer, hepatitis B and other diseases. Though the technology is still in its nascent stages, new research out of the lab of Prof. Joseph Peters, microbiology, sheds light on new mechanisms that could be exploited to carry out more robust gene editing. Peters’ team found that transposons, or ‘jumping genes’, use a bacterium’s primary defense mechanism, CRISPR-Cas, to efficiently jump within the genome. Jumping genes are sequences of DNA that can change their positions within the genome.

A tractor sprays nitrogen-based fertilizers on a corn field in Leesburg, Virginia.

Discovery of New Step in Nitrogen Cycle To Fundamentally Alter Fertilizer Use

Fertilizers form the backbone of many agricultural processes worldwide. Decades worth of work has been poured into understanding the way in which fertilizers function and the ways in which they can affect the environment. In fact, the process by which bacteria break down nitrogen products in fertilizers to help provide plants with nutrients has found its way into high school textbooks, often accompanied by easy to understand diagrams.

A study led by Prof. Kyle Lancaster, chemistry, however, sheds light on a new found process that suggests that there is more to this nitrogen cycle than previously known. According to Lancaster, existing biochemical models state that bacteria convert ammonia into an inorganic compound, Hydroxylamine, before turning that into nitrite. Nitrite can then be converted by other bacteria to form nitrate, a vital plant nutrient.

A computer-generated image of Cassini entering Saturn's atmosphere.

To Infinity and Beyond: Cornell Astronomers Bid Farewell to Cassini

After 20 years, NASA’s Cassini mission ended with the spacecraft’s spectacular plunge into Saturn. To the very end, Cassini had its antenna pointed back at Earth to relay information about the planet’s atmosphere. Over the years, many Cornell astronomers had the opportunity to work closely on the project and have plenty of memories to share. Among them is Prof. Joseph Burns, astronomy, who is a member of Cassini’s imaging teams.

“Were it not for Saturn’s fleet of 62 satellites, the cloud of dust orbiting Saturn would assume the form of a circular disk in the equatorial plane, rather than discrete rings”, Burns said. “Cassini taught us that in order to understand the behavior of planetary ring systems, we need to observe them continuously over an extended period of time.

Tools like AdBlock Plus blunt some commercial surveillance methods.

Prof Shows How Your Internet Activity Is Being Watched

While news of data leaks and malware attacks seem to be on the upswing, there are forms of web surveillance that reveal just as much data, only they are completely legal and receive much less publicity. On Sept. 5, Cornell’s Department of Computing and Information Science kicked off the first of a series of talks that aims to discuss the importance of technological advancements and the law in exploring surveillance, privacy and bias. Prof. Arvind Narayanan, computer science, Princeton University, was the first speaker of the series and presented his research with a talk entitled “Uncovering Commercial Surveillance on the Web.”

Commercial surveillance involves techniques used by companies to discreetly and legally trace the internet activity of users. Such surveillance is so widespread that it affects anyone who uses the internet, even for basic browsing.


Cornell Researchers Highlight Ethical Lapses in Recent Cybersecurity Failures

The internet is everywhere. From simple dial-up connections on bulky computers, the spread of internet access to watches, cameras, printers, refrigerators and televisions demonstrates the progress the computing industry has made. Connectivity is lauded for making our lives convenient and efficient. However, the increasing frequency of malware attacks and data leaks suggests that advancements in cybersecurity are not keeping pace. As a testament to this fact, on Sept.