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Gizmorama - November 30, 2016

Good Morning,

Think we're not lazy enough? Well, scientist agree and consider that moving walkways could be key to the future of humankind.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Could moving walkways be the key to car-free cities of the future? --*

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Scientists in Switzerland are considering the future of the city, specifically a metropolis without cars. Without vehicles, how will people move quickly and efficiently throughout an urban center?

One seemingly fanciful option is the moving walkway. In a new study, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, or EPFL, considered the potential of moving walkways in the 21st century city, and how they might mix with more traditional forms of eco-friendly transport.

According to EPFL scientists, their analysis revealed promising potential.

Accelerating walkways can move people at speeds upwards of 10 miles per hour -- "...around the average speed at which people travel through most large cities during rush hour," lead study author Riccardo Scarinci said in a news release.

Using the city of Geneva as a model, Scarinci and his colleagues considered how the walkways would fit into existing road networks, where entry and exit points would be best situated. They calculated energy demands and budget constraints, as well as other logistical problems like which combinations of speed, acceleration, length and width would work best.

As researchers explained in their paper, published this week in the European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, moving walkways offer two main advantages: size and carrying capacity. They're much narrower than roads, leaving room for other types of transport -- bikes, buses, trams -- and they can carry as many as 7,000 passengers per hour.

Currently, the major roadblock -- as is often the case with infrastructure investment -- is cost. Installing one moving walkway line would cost the same as installing a new tram line. But scientists suggest walkways would be less expensive if installed on a grand scale, which is why researchers suggest they only be considered in extremely dense cities.

"We have not come up with a turnkey solution," concluded Michel Bierlaire, the director of the Transport and Mobility Laboratory. "But this study proves that the concept is credible and that a car-less, pedestrian-centric city is conceivable. This is a useful starting point for urban planners to evaluate the feasibility of accelerating moving walkways."

*-- Scientists develop bright red fluorescent protein in the lab --*

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Scientists have created a bright red protein that can be used to tag and track cells and cellular processes. The breakthrough will aid stem-cell and cancer research.

Scientists have been using fluorescent proteins to track cells since the 1990s. The first tag was a green protein recovered from a fluorescent jellyfish. Researchers were able to tweak the protein to produce blue, turquoise and yellow tags.

Just more than a decade ago, researchers discovered a red protein in fluorescent coral, but try as they might, scientists have been unable to illuminate cells with it. To solve the problem, researchers at the University of Amsterdam decided to go the synthetic route.

Scientists teased the most essential bits of genetic code from a variety of fluorescent red coral species and stitched together their own DNA strand. They then tinkered with their novel code until they found a sequence that produced the brightest light.

They named their new highly fluorescent red protein mScarlet. After they were satisfied with their creation, researchers sent their protein to a group of scientists in France for further analysis.

"We discovered that mScarlet's bright fluorescence is due to fact that the chromophore, the part of the molecule that absorbs light and then emits red light, is held rigidly flat by the protein wrapped around it," said Antoine Royant, a researcher at France's Institute of Structural Biology.

Scientists hope their new protein -- described this week in the journal Nature Methods -- will advance cancer research and other disease studies. The more color proteins scientists have at their disposal, the greater the number of cells they can track simultaneously.

"Just as other people study the stars and prepare future trips to Mars, we are exploring the universe of the proteins that regulate the cellular processes within our bodies," said molecular biologist Dorus Gadella.


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