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Science Ticker

A robotic arm made of DNA moves at dizzying speed

Electric fields control the bot’s movements, giving the nanomachine its zip

DNA robot illustration

RAPID ROTATION  A robot made entirely of DNA can rotate its arm (purple) 360 degrees or lock it down in certain positions thanks to special latches (yellow) on the bot's platform.

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A new robotic arm made of DNA moves 100,000 times faster than previous DNA machinery.

The DNA nanobot is shaped like a gearshift, with an extendible arm that ranges from 25 to more than 400 nanometers long that’s attached to a 55-by-55-nanometer platform. Researchers remotely control this DNA device, described in the Jan. 19 Science, with electric fields that tug on charged molecules in its arm. Those electric fields help the nanomachine’s arm move much more quickly than previous DNA robots, which relied on chemical interactions between DNA molecules to move (SN: 9/11/10, p. 18).

Friedrich Simmel, a biophysicist at the Technical University of Munich, and his colleagues could swivel their DNA robotic arm 360 degrees in a matter of milliseconds. To lock the arm down in particular positions, the team built latches made of short, single-stranded DNA into the platform.

Such quick, efficient DNA nanobots could someday help move tiny cargo, such as molecules or nanoparticles, in a nanofactory that manufactures new types of materials.

Astronomy

See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

By Emily Conover 6:00am, January 12, 2018
A 360-degree simulation, made with data from several telescopes, shows the center of the Milky Way as seen from the galaxy’s supermassive black hole.
Numbers

The largest known prime number has 23 million-plus digits

By Laurel Hamers 7:00am, January 5, 2018
A newly found prime number smashes the previous record for largest prime.
Planetary Science,, Earth

NASA is headed to Earth’s outermost edge

By Carolyn Gramling 6:03pm, January 4, 2018
NASA’s upcoming GOLD mission will study the charged border between Earth and space.
Health

U.S. life expectancy drops for the second year in a row

By Aimee Cunningham 12:05am, December 21, 2017
Life expectancy for the U.S. population decreased in 2016, the second year in a row this measure has dropped.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

NASA’s next stop will be Titan or a comet

By Lisa Grossman 4:56pm, December 20, 2017
The finalists for NASA’s next solar system mission aim to send a drone to Saturn’s largest moon or to return samples from a comet.
Astronomy,, Cosmology

The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy

By Lisa Grossman 1:00pm, December 6, 2017
The new record-holder for faraway quasars comes from a period of rapid change in the universe.
Animals,, Paleontology

Here’s yet more evidence that the mythical yeti was probably a bear

By Laurel Hamers 7:06pm, November 28, 2017
A more complete genetic analysis amps up the evidence that the legendary creatures known as yetis are actually bears.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Here is Cassini’s last broad look at the Saturn system

By Lisa Grossman 6:00am, November 22, 2017
Two days before plunging into Saturn, Cassini took a mosaic image of the gas giant, its rings and its moons.
Astronomy

The Arecibo Observatory will remain open, NSF says

By Lisa Grossman 3:15pm, November 17, 2017
The iconic Arecibo radio telescope has survived Hurricane Maria and dodged deep funding cuts.
Physics,, Astronomy

Colliding black holes are reported for a fifth time

By Emily Conover 11:40am, November 16, 2017
LIGO spots another merger, this time with less fanfare.
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