Magnonic computing: Faster spin waves could make novel computing systems possible

Research is underway around the world to find alternatives to our current electronic computing technology, as great, electron-based systems have limitations. A new way of transmitting information is emerging from the field of magnonics: instead of electron exchange, the waves generated in magnetic media could be used for transmission, but magnonics-based computing has been (too) slow to date. Scientists at the University of Vienna have now discovered a significant new method: When the intensity is increased, the spin waves become shorter and faster – another step towards magnon computing. The results were published in the renowned journal Science Advances.

New Study Sheds Light on the gating mechanism of Ion Channels

Ion channels play a crucial role in many cellular processes, including neuronal communication, muscle contraction or cell proliferation. Most multi subunit ion channels exist in two functional states, either closed or open. During gating, one should expect that all subunits undergo conformational changes. The absence of intermediate conduction levels is surprising and asks for an explanation. A team of researchers from the University of Vienna and the Washington University in St. Louis created a smart model system to answer this important question. The study is currently published in Nature Communications.

Quantum physics secures digital payments

Have you ever been compelled to enter sensitive payment data on the website of an unknown merchant? Would you be willing to consign your credit card data or passwords to untrustworthy hands? Scientists from the University of Vienna have now designed an unconditionally secure system for shopping in such settings, combining modern cryptographic techniques with the fundamental properties of quantum light. The demonstration of such “quantum-digital payments” in a realistic environment has just been published in Nature Communications.

Like human, like dog

A study by researchers at the University of Vienna and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna shows that information from body postures plays a similarly important role for dogs as it does for humans. The results offer new insights into how dogs and humans perceive each other and their environment. They confirm that the temporal lobe plays a central role in social communication and perception. The study is currently published in the journal Communications Biology.

Dynamic plants: Origin and geographic evolution of cycads clarified

Paleobotanist Mario Coiro of the Institute of Paleontology at the University of Vienna and colleagues at the University of Montpellier (France) have made an important breakthrough in understanding the origin and geographic distribution of cycads. By combining genetic data with leaf morphological data from both fossil and living species for the first time, the researchers created a phylogenetic tree of these fascinating and endangered plants. The results of the study, which was funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, have now been published in the journal New Phytologist.

Consistent link between the seaside and better health

Seaside residents and holidaymakers have felt it for centuries, but scientists have only recently started to investigate possible health benefits of the coast. Using data from 15 countries, new research led by Sandra Geiger from the Environmental Psychology Group at the University of Vienna confirms public intuition: Living near, but especially visiting, the seaside is associated with better health regardless of country or personal income.

Covid-19 vaccination reduces mortality also in critically ill corona patients

Previous studies have shown that the mortality rate of Corona patients hospitalized and requiring oxygen therapy is similar no matter if they are vaccinated or unvaccinated. An international research team led by David Gómez-Varela from the Department for Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Vienna has now disproved these findings in a comprehensive multicontinental analysis published in the high-impact Journal of Medical Virology: The number of deaths of hospitalized patients would have been 22% lower if all unvaccinated, oxygen-dependent individuals had been vaccinated.

Tired of being alone: How social isolation impacts on our energy

In a study conducted in the lab as well as during the COVID-19 lockdowns, participants reported higher levels of tiredness after eight hours of social isolation. The results suggest that low energy may be a basic human response to a lack of social contact. The study conducted at the University of Vienna and published in Psychological Science also showed that this response was affected by social personality traits of the participants.

The Mozart effect myth: Listening to music does not help against epilepsy

Over the past fifty years, there have been remarkable claims about the effects of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music. Reports about alleged symptom-alleviating effects of listening to Mozart’s Sonata KV448 in epilepsy attracted a lot of public attention. However, the empirical validity of the underlying scientific evidence has remained unclear. Now, University of Vienna psychologists Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig show in a new study published in the prestigious journal Nature Scientific Reports that there is no evidence for a positive effect of Mozart’s melody on epilepsy.

Jurassic shark – Shark from the Jurassic period was already highly evolved

Cartilaginous fish have changed much more in the course of their evolutionary history than previously believed. Evidence for this thesis has been provided by new fossils of a ray-like shark, Protospinax annectans, which demonstrate that sharks were already highly evolved in the Late Jurassic. This is the result of a recent study by an international research group led by palaeobiologist Patrick L. Jambura from the Department of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna, which was recently published in the journal Diversity.

Artificial sweetener as wastewater tracer

Acesulfame is a sweetener in sugar-free drinks and foods. As it cannot be metabolised in the human body, the sweetener ends up in wastewater after consumption and remains largely intact even in sewage treatment plants. A new study by the University of Vienna shows that the persistence of the sweetener varies with temperature as the concentration of the sweetener in wastewater varies with the seasons.

How to reverse unknown quantum processes

In the world around us processes appear to follow a certain time-direction: dandelions eventually turn into blowballs. However, the quantum realm does not play by the same rules. Physicists from the University of Vienna and IQOQI Vienna have now shown that for certain quantum systems the time-direction of processes can be reversed. This demonstration of a so-called rewinding protocol has been published in the Journal “Optica”.

How we navigate through crowds

Grid cells not only help us navigate our own paths in a complex environment, but also help us analyse the movements of other people, scientists from the University of Vienna have now shown for the first time. Their new study in Nature Communications also suggests an explanation for a mechanism that could lead to disorientation in dementia patients.

Ocean warming reduced the body sizes of fishes in the “twilight zone” in past interglacial

Fishes living in the twilight zone of the oceans reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and are a huge food resource, but little is known about their response to climate warming. Geologist-Palaeontologist Konstantina Agiadi from the University of Vienna led a study funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) that used fossils to answer this question. The results, published by the international team in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, suggest that mesopelagic fishes overall shrink with warming.

What the inner ear of Europasaurus reveals about its life

Europasaurus is a long-necked, herbivorous dinosaur that lived in the Late Jurassic, about 154 million years ago, on a small island in modern-day Germany. Recently, scientists from the universities of Vienna and Greifswald examined fossil braincase material of Europasaurus with the aid of micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). The digital reconstruction of the inner ear of Europasaurus gave the researchers new insights not only into its hearing ability, but also into its reproductive and social behaviour. The study was recently published in eLife.

European colonial legacy is still visible in today’s alien floras

Alien floras in regions that were once occupied by the same European power are, on average, more similar to each other compared to outside regions and this similarity increases with the length of time a region was occupied. This is the conclusion of a study by an international team of researchers led by Bernd Lenzner and Franz Essl from the University of Vienna, which was recently published in the scientific journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”.

From foe to friend: harmful insects can become pollinators

An international team of researchers including Florian Etl and Jürg Schönenberger from the University of Vienna, Stefan Dötterl and Mario Schubert from the University of Salzburg, and Oliver Reiser and Christian Kaiser from the University of Regensburg, have for the first time succeeded in providing evidence for an important hypothesis on the evolution and diversity of animal pollination.

People who feel less pain are also less willing to help others

A reduced ability to feel pain in one’s own body leads to a reduced willingness to help others who feel pain. This result of a study published in Psychological Science by cognitive psychologists at the University of Vienna led by Claus Lamm and Helena Hartmann points beyond the individual effects of pain medication to its social costs.

Bacteria provide immunity against giant viruses

Amoebae receive surprising support in defense against viruses: The bacteria they are infected with prevent them from being destroyed by giant viruses. A research team led by microbiologist Matthias Horn from the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science at the University of Vienna have investigated how a virus infection proceeds when the amoebae are simultaneously infected with chlamydia. The research team shows for the first time that intracellular bacteria known as symbionts protect their host against viruses. Amoebae are protists, i.e. single-celled microorganisms with a cell nucleus. Protists play a key role in food webs and ecosystem processes. Consequently, the results of the study suggest that the interaction between symbionts and viruses influence the flow of nutrients in ecosystems. The study is now published in the journal PNAS.

The Southern Arc and its lively genetic History

In a trio of papers, published simultaneously in the journal Science, Ron Pinhasi from the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Human Evolution and Archaeological Sciences (HEAS) at the University of Vienna and Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg from the University of Vienna and Harvard University, Iosif Lazaridis and David Reich at Harvard University—together with 202 co-authors—report a massive effort of genome-wide sequencing from 727 distinct ancient individuals with which it was possible to test longstanding archaeological, genetic and linguistic hypotheses. They present a systematic picture of the interlinked histories of peoples across the Southern Arc Region from the origins of agriculture, to late medieval times.

Asian elephants have a nasal pronunciation

With the help of an acoustic camera that visualizes sound pressure, researchers from the University of Vienna investigated the calls of Asian elephants. The elephants emitted their low frequency “rumbles” mainly through their trunk or through their mouth and trunk simultaneously, and only seldomly through their mouth alone. This is the first study to conclusively demonstrate the combined oral and nasal call emission in a non-human animal. The study has recently been published in the journal “Animals”.

Caterpillar-like bacteria crawling in our mouth

Likely to survive in the oral cavity, bacteria evolved to divide along their longitudinal axis without parting from one another. A research team co-led by environmental cell biologist Silvia Bulgheresi from the University of Vienna and microbial geneticist Frédéric Veyrier from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) just published their new insights in Nature Communications. In their work, they de-scribed the division mode of these caterpillar-like bacteria and their evolution from a rod-shaped ancestor. They propose to establish Neisseriaceae oral bacteria as new model organisms that could help pinpoint new antimicrobial targets.

Nano-sponges with potential for rapid wastewater treatment

Efficient adsorbents for industrial wastewater treatment are important to minimize potential environmental damage. In particular, organic dyes, as a significant group of industrial pollutants, are usually highly water soluble, non-degradable and many are toxic to carcinogenic. Changxia Li and Freddy Kleitz from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Vienna together with colleagues now presented a new approach to design an innovative composite material, consisting of a nanoporous, ultrathin covalent organic framework (COF) anchored on graphene, that is highly efficient at filtering organic pollutants from water. The study was published in “Angewandte Chemie”.

Progress in bioanalytics: Production of RNA chips significantly simplified

Biochips (microarrays) are modern analytical tools that allow thousands of individual detections to be performed simultaneously in a small amount of sample material. A team led by Mark Somoza from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna has now presented a new method in “Nature Communications”. With this method, commercially available DNA chips can be quickly and easily converted into RNA chips, which are otherwise much more difficult to produce. Such RNA microarrays help to elucidate the still unknown functions of RNA molecules in cells – an important prerequisite for advancing the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer.

Higher voice pitch lets female faces appear younger

Psychologists and biologists around Christina Krumpholz and Helmut Leder from the University of Vienna investigated whether voice pitch can influence how female faces are evaluated. Their conclusion: a higher voice does indeed influence how the corresponding face is evaluated. However, this does not apply to all ratings. Faces with a higher voice were rated as younger, but other assumptions that the faces are also rated as more attractive, more feminine or healthier do not apply. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

“Hot” graphene reveals migration of carbon atoms

The migration of carbon atoms on the surface of the nanomaterial graphene was recently measured for the first time. Although the atoms move too swiftly to be directly observed with an electron microscope, their effect on the stability of the material can now be determined indirectly while the material is heated on a microscopic hot plate. The study by researchers at the Faculty of Physics of the University of Vienna was published in the journal Carbon.

1.700-year-old Korean genomes show genetic heterogeneity in Three Kingdoms period Gaya

An international team led by The University of Vienna and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in collaboration with the National Museum of Korea has successfully sequenced and studied the whole genome of eight 1,700-year-old individuals dated to the Three Kingdoms period of Korea (approx. 57 BC-668 AD). The first published genomes from this period in Korea and bring key information for the understanding of Korean population history. The Team has been led by Pere Gelabert and Prof. Ron Pinhasi of the University of Vienna together with Prof. Jong Bhak and Asta Blazyte from the UNIST and Prof. Kidong Bae from the National Museum of Korea.

Chemical pollution threatens biodiversity

Environmental chemical pollution threatens biodiversity. However, the complexity of this pollution remains insufficiently recognised by decision-makers – this is what international researchers led by Gabriel Sigmund from the University of Vienna and Ksenia Groh from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) argue in the most recent issue of “Science”. Their letter appears shortly before the international negotiations on the “post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework”. These will take place from 21st of June in Nairobi (Kenya).

Parasitic worms reveal new insights into the evolution of sex and sex chromosomes

Studying two highly divergent phyla of worms that contain numerous parasites that cause human and livestock diseases, the research group of Qi Zhou from the University of Vienna and Zhejiang University, sheds light on how sexual reproduction and subsequent great diversity of sex chromosomes might have evolved.

Early Earth: Tungsten isotopes in seawater provide insights into the co-evolution of Earth’s mantle and continents

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Andrea Mundl-Petermeier and Sebastian Viehmann of the Department of Lithospheric Research at the University of Vienna have demonstrated that a new geochemical archive – 182Tungsten in banded iron formations – can be used to simultaneously trace both the evolution of the Earth’s mantle and continents throughout Earth’s history. This offers new opportunities to better understand the Precambrian Earth in the future.

How shark teeth can decipher evolutionary processes

From embryo to turtle cracker: a team led by palaeobiologist Julia Türtscher from the University of Vienna studied the multiple changes in tooth shape in the tiger shark. The study, recently published in the Journal of Anatomy, is also central in drawing conclusions about extinct species from the myriad of preserved shark teeth in the field of palaeontology.

How our brain influences language change

Our language is changing constantly. Researchers of the University of Vienna found that, over centuries, frequently occurring speech sound patterns get even more frequent. The reason for this development is that our brain can perceive, process and learn frequent, and thus prototypical sound patterns more easily than less frequent ones. The results of the study were published in the journal Cognitive Linguistics.

How to decode the meaning of melodies in animal vocalizations

When listening closely, the melodies of human languages and animal vocalizations are very similar. However, it is not yet fully resolved if similar patterns in languages and animal vocalizations also have similar meanings. Researchers of the University of Vienna present a new method to decode the meaning of animal vocalizations: the comparison of their melodies with human languages.

Gut bacteria influence brain development

Extremely premature infants are at a high risk for brain damage. Researchers at the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna have now found possible targets for the early treatment of such damage outside the brain: Bacteria in the gut of premature infants may play a key role. The research team found that the overgrowth of the gastrointestinal tract with the bacterium Klebsiella is associated with an increased presence of certain immune cells and the development of neurological damage in premature babies. The study is now published in journal Cell Host & Microbe.