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Gizmorama - September 12, 2016

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It seems our smartphones might be the tool that helps us to show the link between the weather and dealing with chronic pain.

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

Until Next Time,

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Smartphone study reveals link between weather and chronic pain

MANCHESTER, England - Weather has a measurable effect on pain levels experienced by people dealing with chronic pain. That is the conclusion of a recent survey, called the Cloudy project, which had more than 9,000 participants in England record daily pain levels using a smartphone app.

The app helped participants in Leeds, Norwich and London plot their pain symptoms over the course of 18 months. Researchers at the University of Manchester used the data to tease out the relationship between weather and pain.

The smartphone application automatically recorded local weather information when a study participant logged pain symptoms. The data set revealed a consistent correlation between pain and rain and lack of sunshine.

As winter turned to spring, and the sun showed its face more often, pain levels dropped and severe pain was experienced less often. However, as early spring gave way to June and an uptick in rainy days, the frequency of severe pain symptoms rose once again.

Scientists say more research -- and more study participants -- is necessary to explore the links between pain and weather.

"Once the link is proven, people will have the confidence to plan their activities in accordance with the weather," Will Dixon, a professor of digital epidemiology at Manchester's School of Biological Sciences, said in a news release. "In addition, understanding how weather influences pain will allow medical researchers to explore new pain interventions and treatments."

Dixon and his colleagues presented their analysis of the initial Cloud project data at the British Science Festival this week.

"To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms on their smartphone," Dixon said. "If you are affected by chronic pain, this is your chance to take do something personally -- and easily -- to lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of pain."

Material scientists turn nanotubes into super strong carbon

HOUSTON - Microstructures are the foundation of material strength. One of the most useful microstructures is the nanotube.

Researchers at Rice University are working on new ways to utilize the nanometer-scale tube-like structures. Their latest strategy is discovery-by-collision.

Recently, the scientists begin creating nanodiamonds by smashing carbon nanotubes and other microstructures together at high speeds.

Researchers used a light-gas gun to propel the microstructures at an aluminum target at extremely high speeds. The collisions were sometimes strong enough to destroy the nanotubes' atomic bonds and trigger unique structural combinations.

The scientists were just as interested in the newly minted microstructures as they were in the collisions that produced them.

By understanding how microstructures are affected by the impacts of high-velocity projectiles, researchers hope to create more resilient light-weight materials for spacecraft and satellites.

"Satellites and spacecraft are at risk of various destructive projectiles, such as micrometeorites and orbital debris," Rice graduate student Sehmus Ozden said in a news release. "To avoid this kind of destructive damage, we need lightweight, flexible materials with extraordinary mechanical properties. Carbon nanotubes can offer a real solution."

Researchers tested nanotube collisions at a variety of speeds. Most of the nanotubes survived the low-speed collisions, roughly 2.4 miles per second, and many survived the medium-speed collisions, roughly 3.2 miles per second. Few survived the high-speed collisions at 4.3 miles per second. At the highest speeds, the majority split into nanoribbons and recombined to form new microstructures.

"In our previous report, we showed that carbon nanotubes form graphene nanoribbons at hypervelocity impact," said Chandra Sekhar Tiwary, a Rice postdoctoral researcher. "We were expecting to get welded carbon nanostructures, but we were surprised to observe nanodiamond as well."

The new research was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.


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