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Scientists in Spain have proven the existence of gas-phase electride materials through a computational method with the ability to distinguish electrides from similar ionic compounds.

Ionic compounds usually comprise both positive and negative ions – a typical example being sodium chloride. Electrides are a rare and unique type of ionic compound where isolated electrons held in space through electrostatic forces constitute the anionic part. Owing to their distinctive magnetic, chemical, electric and optical properties, electrides are promising materials for a plethora of applications including catalysts for ammonia production, hydrogen storage agents and optoelectronic devices. However, being difficult to synthesise and characterise, up to now only 10 electrides have been prepared and only three are stable at room temperature. ‘Their experimental characterisation is only possible by indirect means,’ explains Eduard Matito from the University of Girona who led the work. ‘The density of a free electron – or a handful of them – is not large enough to be located in the x-ray of a crystal structure.’

Read more: Computational tool leaves electrides with nowhere to hide

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- Category: Theories

*New mathematical theory may explain patterns in fingerprints, raisins, and microlenses.*

As a grape slowly dries and shrivels, its surface creases, ultimately taking on the wrinkled form of a raisin. Similar patterns can be found on the surfaces of other dried materials, as well as in human fingerprints. While these patterns have long been observed in nature, and more recently in experiments, scientists have not been able to come up with a way to predict how such patterns arise in curved systems, such as microlenses.

Now a team of MIT mathematicians and engineers has developed a mathematical theory, confirmed through experiments, that predicts how wrinkles on curved surfaces take shape. From their calculations, they determined that one main parameter — curvature — rules the type of pattern that forms: The more curved a surface is, the more its surface patterns resemble a crystal-like lattice.

The researchers say the theory, reported this week in the journal *Nature Materials,* may help to generally explain how fingerprints and wrinkles form.

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James Arthur, University of Toronto (Canada), is the winner of the 2015 Wolf Prize in Mathematics

"For his monumental work on the trace formula and his fundamental contributions to the theory of automorphic representations of reductive groups." The citation states that "Arthur's ideas, achievements and the techniques he introduced will have many more deep applications in the theory of automorphic representations, and the study of locally symmetric spaces. Arthur's work is a mathematical landmark that will inspire future generations of mathematicians."

Read more: James Arthur Awarded 2015 Wolf Prize in Mathematics

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- Category: Applications

Light has become one of our most powerful servants, carrying information ranging from a chat room "LOL" to an entire digitized movie through hundreds of miles of fiber optics in seconds. But like many servants, light is sometimes uncooperative. Among other things, it doesn't like to go around tight corners. Cornell and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have a solution that could offer increased bandwidth for fiber-optic communication, both in long-haul transmission and in the dense traffic in large data centers.

"We are tricking the light into thinking it's going in a straight line," explained Michal Lipson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The trick is an irregularly shaped waveguide designed in a collaboration between Lipson's research group and MIT mathematician Steven Johnson's. They reported their work in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Nature Communications. Lucas Gabrielli, a recently graduated Ph.D. student in Lipson's group, is first author.

Read more: Multimode waveguides bring light around corners for compact photonic chips

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- Category: Medical

An international team of mathematicians has proposed a new solution to understanding a biological puzzle that has confounded molecular biologists.

They have applied a mathematical model to work out the functioning of small molecules known as microRNAs – components of the body akin to the electronics in modern airplanes.

For a long time molecular biologists thought that the major role of RNA in living cells was to serve as a copy of a gene and a template for producing proteins, major cell building blocks. This belief had been changed at the end of 90s when it was found that myriads of RNA molecules are involved in regulating speeds of practically all molecular mechanisms in a cell. These abundant molecules are essential in regulating the speed of protein production– a vital function in bodily processes, including development, differentiation and cancer.

Read more: Mathematicians find solution to biological building block puzzle

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Optimizing school bus routes is a lot more complicated than one might think. The International School of Geneva handed their problem over to a group of EPFL mathematicians.

“Our student population is increasing rapidly,” observes Michel Chinal, Director General of the International School of Geneva. And the rising number of parents picking up and dropping off their children is creating traffic problems in the village of Founex, just outside Geneva. The bus service offered by the school is too slow. “Parents often say that they would like to sign their children up, but the bus ride is too long.” The buses pick up students in an area bounded by Morges, Geneva and neighboring France. So how can they improve the routes of 11 different buses carrying a total of 283 students to and from school? That’s the problem that was given to the mathematicians in EPFL’s Discrete Optimization Group.

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