University of Houston researchers say they have developed an electrical conductor that is both highly flexible and transparent, an elusive combination that could help usher in an age of flexible flat-screen TVs and smartphones and new options for medical devices. The conductor consists of gold nanomesh electrodes, essentially a network of tightly interconnected, very small gold wires, said the study published online by Nature Communications. The material is thin enough to achieve "ultrahigh stretchability" — resistance increases only slightly, even at a strain of 160 percent — and porous enough to let light through. Zhifeng Ren, a University of Houston physicist, said the conductor would need to be built and tested at larger sizes.

3-toed sloth is an entire ecosystem

It is true that the three-toed sloth, which lives in the jungles of Central and South America, would barely prevail in a race with a snail. But it is not a sluggard because it is lazy. Rather, it has carved out a remarkably ingenious mode of life in the treetops, but one that imposes constraints on its speed and energy level. The sloth is not so much an animal as a walking ecosystem. This assemblage — an interplay worked out by a University of Wisconsin team — consists of a) the sloth, b) a species of moth that lives nowhere but in the sloth's fleece and c) a dedicated species of algae (which the sloth eats) that grows in the sloth's hairs.

First fish set to come off endangered list

A tiny minnow that lives only in Oregon backwaters is set to become the first fish removed from U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because it is no longer threatened with extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the Oregon chub has recovered, 21 years after it went on the endangered list. The proposal will go through a 60-day public comment period before becoming final.

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