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Volume 455 Issue 7216, 23 October 2008

Triboluminescence is an optical phenomenon sometimes seen when there is relative motion between two contacting surfaces. Everyday examples include sugar cubes or candies that are rubbed together, and many adhesive tapes will emit a flash of light when they are ripped from a surface. Physicists from the University of California at Los Angeles set out to characterize ‘sticky tape’ triboluminescence, with surprising results. The energy released by peeling sticky tape in a vacuum was observed to extend into the X-ray regime, and was of sufficient intensity to be used for X-ray photography. The cover picture shows the X-ray image of a human finger taken with peeling tape (off-the-shelf ‘Scotch’ tape was used) as the X-ray source. The developed X-ray is superimposed over a view of the experimental set-up. The energy concentrating process at work here poses an interesting challenge for the theorists, since the limits on energies and flash widths involved are beyond the predictions of current theories.


  • Editorial |

    The commercialization of personal genomics is moving with dizzying speed and scientists need to find innovative ways of discussing the implications with consumers.

  • Editorial |

    A series of Essays examines what science has to say about being human.

  • Editorial |

    Europe needs to find a responsible way out of its climate-regulation impasse.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


News in Brief

News Feature

  • News Feature |

    If you want to start an argument, ask the person who just said 'paradigm shift' what it really means. Or 'epigenetic'. Nature goes in search of the terms that get scientists most worked up.



  • Commentary |

    Science policies based on techno-nationalist thinking and fantasies about the past technological revolutions will get us nowhere fast, says David Edgerton.

    • David Edgerton

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    The origins of communication are explored in a landmark compilation that charts the disappearance of writing systems from ancient cuneiform to Turkish Arabic script, explains Andrew Robinson.

    • Andrew Robinson
  • Books & Arts |

    Radiologist Anders Persson of Linköping University Hospital, Sweden, reveals the body's hidden structures to clinicians by applying new techniques in magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography to produce stunning computer-enhanced three-dimensional images. The winner of the 2008 Lennart Nilsson Award for scientific photography, he tells Nature how visualization can revolutionize medicine.

    • Anders Persson


  • Essay |

    Atheism will always be a harder sell than religion, Pascal Boyer explains, because a slew of cognitive traits predispose us to faith.

    • Pascal Boyer
  • Essay |

    Fundamental misunderstandings about classification can lead scientists down unproductive or dangerous paths, argue Jeffrey Parsons and Yair Wand.

    • Jeffrey Parsons
    • Yair Wand


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Metal cofactors are an essential part of many proteins. But how is the right choice of metal made? For bacteria, one answer is to change the cellular compartment where cofactor insertion occurs.

    • Ben C. Berks
  • News & Views |

    Fishermen's aims of increasing their catch seem at odds with preserving fish stocks by limiting catch. A study of more than 11,000 fisheries shows that 'individual tradable quotas' can reconcile these goals.

    • Geoffrey Heal
    • Wolfram Schlenker
  • News & Views |

    Certain transition-metal complexes are thought to exist only fleetingly, perhaps as intermediates in reactions. So the discovery of one such complex that is stable at room temperature is provocative.

    • Craig L. Hill
  • News & Views |

    Apoptotic cell death is an intricate and highly regulated process. To initiate apoptosis, the protein BIM binds to a hitherto unrecognized site on the BAX protein to trigger permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane.

    • Douglas R. Green
    • Jerry E. Chipuk
  • News & Views |

    A study of galaxies indicates that galaxy formation may be regulated by a single parameter. This unexpected finding shows that prevailing views on the process could need revision.

    • Sidney van den Bergh
  • News & Views |

    The discovery of molecular fossils in 2.7-billion-year-old rocks prompted a re-evaluation of microbial evolution, and of the advent of photosynthesis and rise of atmospheric oxygen. That discovery now comes into question.

    • Woodward W. Fischer

News and Views Q&A

  • News and Views Q&A |

    Organisms often respond in complex and unpredictable ways to stimuli that cause disease or injury. By measuring and mathematically modelling changes in the levels of products of metabolism found in biological fluids and tissues, metabonomics offers fresh insight into the effects of diet, drugs and disease.

    • Jeremy K. Nicholson
    • John C. Lindon


  • Feature |

    Countries must learn how to capitalize on their citizens' cognitive resources if they are to prosper, both economically and socially. Early interventions will be key.

    • John Beddington
    • Cary L. Cooper
    • Sandy M. Thomas


  • Article |

    Sequencing of over 600 genes in a large collection of lung adenocarcinoma samples provides an overview of somatic mutations and signalling pathways altered in cancer genes in this tumour type.

    • Li Ding
    • Gad Getz
    • Richard K. Wilson
  • Article |

    A structural analysis of the apoptosis-inducing protein BAX in complex with a peptide derived from its activator BIM reveals an unforeseen interaction site that does not involve the classic hydrophobic groove reported for inhibitors of apoptosis. This identification of BAX's activation site provides mechanistic insights into a cell's demise.

    • Evripidis Gavathiotis
    • Motoshi Suzuki
    • Loren D. Walensky


  • Letter |

    This paper reports that a sample of galaxies (first detected from neutral hydrogen emission) shows five independent correlations amongst six independent observables. This implies that the structure of such galaxies must be controlled by a single parameter, which cannot yet be identified. Such a degree of organization is at odds with hierarchical galaxy formation.

    • M. J. Disney
    • J. D. Romano
    • L. Cortese
  • Letter |

    The transfer of information between processing entities and memory is crucial for quantum computation; it is challenging because the process must remain coherent at all times to preserve the quantum nature of the information. This paper demonstrates coherent storage and readout of information between electron-spin processing elements and memory elements based on a nuclear spin.

    • John J. L. Morton
    • Alexei M. Tyryshkin
    • S. A. Lyon
  • Letter |

    Relative motion between two contacting surfaces can produce visible light, a process known as triboluminescence. Scientists now fully characterize the energy emissions from peeling sticky tape in a vacuum and show the generation of X-rays with sufficient intensity that they were used for X-ray imaging.

    • Carlos G. Camara
    • Juan V. Escobar
    • Seth J. Putterman
  • Letter |

    Terminal oxo complexes of transition metals are important in biological and chemical processes, for example, the catalytic oxidation of organic molecules and the activation of dioxygen on metal surfaces are thought to involve oxo complexes. This paper explored the reactivity of a d6 Pt(IV) complex, a dn (n > 5) terminal oxo complex that is not stabilized by an electron withdrawing ligand framework. The complex exhibits reactivity as an inter- and intra-molecular oxygen donor and as an electrophile.

    • Elena Poverenov
    • Irena Efremenko
    • David Milstein
  • Letter |

    It is shown that the amount and geometry of seismic anisotropy measured in the forearc regions of subduction zones strongly depend on the preferred orientation of hydrated faults in the subducting oceanic plate. The anisotropy originates from the crystallographic preferred orientation of highly anisotropic hydrous minerals formed along steeply dipping faults and from the larger-scale vertical layering consisting of dry and hydrated crust–mantle sections, the spacing of which is several times smaller than teleseismic wavelengths.

    • Manuele Faccenda
    • Luigi Burlini
    • David Mainprice
  • Letter |

    The oldest widely accepted evidence for oxygenic photosynthesis comes from hydrocarbon biomarkers extracted from 2.7-billion-year-old shales in the Pilbara Craton, Australia, thought to be evidence of eukaryotes and photosynthetic cyanobacteria. But evidence now shows that the organic biomarkers were not indigenous to the rocks containing them, and must have entered the rocks after 2.2 Gyr ago. The earliest unambiguous fossil evidence for eukaryotes and cyanobacteria thus reverts to 1.78–1.68 and 2.15 Gyr, respectively.

    • Birger Rasmussen
    • Ian R. Fletcher
    • Matt R. Kilburn
  • Letter |

    This paper presents another chapter in the earliest history of birds, with the discovery of a feathered dinosaur from the Mid to Late Jurassic of China. Living a little earlier than the famous fossil bird Archaeopteryx, the newly discovered creature is birdlike in many ways including the presence of four very long tail feathers, but otherwise no sign of flight feathers of the kind seen in birdlike dinosaurs such as Microraptor.

    • Fucheng Zhang
    • Zhonghe Zhou
    • Corwin Sullivan
  • Letter |

    The effect of deficiency of MyD88 on the generation of type 1 diabetes (T1D) has been investigated through the generation of congenic strains in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model. It is found that in specific pathogen-free conditions, MyD88-deficiency attenuates T1D, indicating that the interaction of intestinal microbes with the innate immune system is a critical factor in modifying susceptibility to type 1 diabetes.

    • Li Wen
    • Ruth E. Ley
    • Alexander V. Chervonsky
  • Letter |

    In the Drosophila midgut, multipotent intestinal stem cells (ISCs) produce daughters that differentiate into either enterocytes or enteroendocrine cells. It is shown that canonical Wnt signalling pathway controls ISC self-renewal, and that Notch acts downstream of the Wg pathway and a hierarchy of Wg/Notch signalling pathway controls the balance between self-renewal and differentiation of ISCs.

    • Guonan Lin
    • Na Xu
    • Rongwen Xi
  • Letter |

    The coding regions of several genes that encode transcription factors involved in maintenance of stem cell identity, such as Nanog, Oct4, and Sox2, have miRNA target sites. Three miRNAs that are upregulated when embryonic stem cells are induced to differentiate bind these sites in various combinations, and thereby confer specific phenotypes.

    • Yvonne Tay
    • Jinqiu Zhang
    • Isidore Rigoutsos
  • Letter |

    In a mouse model, it is found that the loss of the tumour suppressors p53 and Pten leads to the development of tumours resembling human primary glioblastomas, and both p53 and PTEN are frequently lost in the human cancer. Loss of these tumour suppressors impairs the differentiation of neural stem cells, due to upregulation of Myc by the concerted action of p53 and PTEN loss.

    • Hongwu Zheng
    • Haoqiang Ying
    • Ronald A. DePinho
  • Letter |

    This study identifies the most abundant Cu2+- and Mn2+-containing proteins in the periplasm of a cyanobacterium and determines that the cellular compartment in which each of those proteins fold is responsible for the insertion of the correct metal ion into the metalloprotein.

    • Steve Tottey
    • Kevin J. Waldron
    • Nigel J. Robinson



  • Regions |

    The Fusionopolis towers are the latest signs of Singapore's determination to build its future on science. But can the city-state meet the expectations it has raised? David Cyranoski reports.

    • David Cyranoski



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