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Steering reactions with light

2:27pm, May 28, 2002

Waves of electricity or chemicals ripple through living tissues in many processes, including heart-muscle contractions, nerve signaling, and cell metabolism. To learn how those waves form and propagate, researchers examine analogous wave motions in the lab (SN: 2/11/95, p. 84).

In new experiments, Kenneth Showalter of West Virginia University in Morgantown and his colleagues have used light to program the motion of such waves. By varying the pattern and intensity of light projected onto a fingernail-size patch of chemical gel, the team both initiated and steered tiny, bright arcs of reacting chemicals.

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