A great nanoscale resolution

Summaries of newsworthy papers: A great nanoscale resolution; Punishment as a defence mechanism; Engineering on-chip quantum devices; Semiconductor prodigies outperform their parents; King penguin chicks prove cool customers

This press release contains:

• Summaries of newsworthy papers:

A great nanoscale resolution
Punishment as a defence mechanism
Engineering on-chip quantum devices
Semiconductor prodigies outperform their parents
And finally… King penguin chicks prove cool customers

• Mention of papers to be published at the same time
• Geographical listing of authors

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[1] A great nanoscale resolution
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1441

A method which determines the structural properties of individual nanoparticles at resolutions almost 20 times greater than before is reported in Nature Communications this week. As nanoparticles are used for drug delivery this work could potentially have implications for the development of drugs with specific properties.

Nanoparticles at fluid interfaces are central to a range of applications including drug delivery, uptake through biological membranes and the fabrication of nano-composites. Understanding the wetting properties of individual nanoparticles has so far remained a challenge. Lucio Isa and colleagues develop an in situ imaging method which can be used to determine the wetting properties of individual nanoparticles as small as 10 nanometres in diameter.

This resolution greatly surpasses that of current state of the technologies, and may provide new insights in the understanding of nanoscale wetting.

Lucio Isa (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 44 633 63 76; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Punishment as a defence mechanism
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1442

Evolution can favour antisocial punishment strategies which maintain the status quo reports a paper in this week’s Nature Communications. As opposed to an altruistic act that particularly promotes cooperation, this work suggests that punishment is mostly a self interested tool for protecting oneself against potential competitors.

When studying the cooperation in the laboratory, it has been demonstrated that people are willing to incur costs to free-riders, and that this punishment can promote cooperation. The positive role of punishment, however, has recently been challenged experimentally by the existence of antisocial punishment where cooperators are punished.

Now David Rand and Martin Nowak explore whether this antisocial punishment can be explained in an evolutionary framework. By creating an evolutionary game theory model which allows all types of punishment, they show that natural selection does not particularly favour punishment of non-cooperators. Instead, evolution leads to substantial amounts of punishment targeted at all three groups within an optional public goods game – cooperators who contribute to the task, defectors who don’t contribute and loners who work alone. They find that punishment does not increase cooperation or lead to greater payoffs, yet there is still an incentive to punish.

Indeed once punishment is available their model finds that it is essential for each strategy type within the game to adopt it so as to protect against dominance by those with other strategies that use punishment.
Their model also suggests that ultimately punishment is destructive for all parties, with the average payoff being reduced without creating any benefits.

In addition to an evolutionary model, this work also presents preliminary experimental evidence collected using the internet. The experimental data support the predictions of the model, and point towards future experiments to further clarify these issues.

David Rand (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 607 592 0218; E-mail: [email protected]

Martin Nowak (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Engineering on-chip quantum devices
DOI: 10.1038/ ncomms1439

A technique for making practical quantum devices, without the need for many bulky optical elements, is demonstrated in Nature Communications this week. The findings may enable the development of versatile, stable quantum technologies.

The key to many quantum experiments is the creation and control of entangled photon pairs. Ping Xu and colleagues engineered nano-scale crystals that combined multiple optical functions into one small element, removing the need for additional lenses or mirrors. These devices act as an entangled photon source and guide, steering and focusing the light to specific locations. The team found that the range of manipulations could be controlled by tailoring the design of the crystals.

The on-chip nature of these devices makes them an attractive step towards real-world quantum applications. More work is required to extend their variety of functions but the authors hope they will be of interest in a variety of optical research and technology fields.

Ping Xu (Nanjing University, China)
Tel: +86 025 8359 3091; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Semiconductor prodigies outperform their parents
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1451

New high-performance semiconductors can be synthesized by screening derivatives of known organic semiconductors according to a study in Nature Communications this week. The development of new organic semiconductors with high mobility and air stability will facilitate the field of organic electronics.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik and colleagues perform computational screening of potential organic semiconductors known as extended oligothiophenes. They identify a new compound expected to be twice as mobile as the parent molecule. Synthesis and characterization of this compound reveals that it has promise as a high-performance semiconductor. The authors suggest that this approach can be used to synthesize and characterize novel materials for applications in electronics, such as photovoltaics, flexible displays and sensors.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 384 8188; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] And finally… King penguin chicks prove cool customers
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1436

King penguin chicks lower their body temperature to conserve energy, reports a study in Nature Communications this week. This process, known as heterothermy, is a surprising find in such a large bird, but may explain how the chick is able to fast for up to five months in winter while waiting for the parents’ return.
Götz Eichhorn and colleagues measured the body temperature of free-ranging king penguin chicks and found that the chicks dropped their body temperature in response to factors such as cold meals and adverse weather. This process enables them to conserve energy during their long period of growth in a harsh climate while also having to intermittently fast over many months.

Götz Eichhorn (University of Strasbourg, France)
Tel: +33 388 106919; E-mail: [email protected]

Papers to go live at the same time…

[6] Highly aligned carbon nanotube forests coated by superconducting NbC
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1438

[7] Fermi-surface reconstruction by stripe order in cuprate superconductors
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1440

[8] SIRT6 is required for maintenance of telomere position effect in human cells
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1443

[9] A CLASP-modulated cell edge barrier mechanism drives cell-wide cortical microtubule organization in Arabidopsis
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1444

[10] Critical roles for EphB and ephrin-B bidirectional signalling in retinocollicular mapping
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1445

[11] Editing of human KV1.1 channel mRNAs disrupts binding of the N-terminus tip at the intracellular cavity
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1446


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Vienna: 1

Québec: 7
Toronto: 7
Vancouver: 7, 9

Valparaiso: 11

Nanjing: 3
Suzhou: 6

Grenoble: 7
Paris: 7
Strasbourg: 5
Toulouse: 7

Dresden: 7

Kashiwa: 7

Zürich: 1

Cambridge: 6

Menlo Park: 4
Palo Alto: 8
Stanford: 4, 8
Cambridge: 2, 4
Worcester: 4
Bethesda: 11
North Carolina
Raleigh: 6
New Mexico
Las Cruces: 6
Los Alamos: 6
Haverford: 4
Puerto Rico
San Juan: 11
Dallas: 8, 10

From North America and Canada
Neda Afsarmanesh, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail: [email protected]

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

From the UK
Rachel Twinn, Nature, London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 17 Aug 2011

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