Download PDF by : Nature (Vol. 438, No.7065, 10 November 2005)

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Binding of neurotransmitter causes the channels to open, allowing ions to flood across the postsynaptic-cell membrane and change the cell’s activity. So ligand-gated ion channels can be thought of as transducers that rapidly convert chemical signals into an electrical output. Their opening and closing regulate information flow throughout the brain, and mutations in these channels are responsible for a number of ‘channelopathies’, such as congenital myasthenic syndromes, epileptic disorders and hereditary hyperekplexia.

Trends Neurosci. 27, 329–336 (2004). 11. Reeves, D. , Lemster, T. & Akabas, M. J. Neurosci. 25, 9358–9366 (2005). 12. Samson, M. S. P. & Weinstein, H. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 21, 445–451 (2000). MATERIALS SCIENCE Erasing electron mass Charles L. Kane Two-dimensional graphite could be useful in carbon-based electronic devices. How electrons move in these structures seems best described by relativistic quantum physics, modelling them as if they have no mass at all. Graphite, the form of carbon found in pencil lead, leaves its mark thanks to weakly coupled layers of atoms that slide easily over one another.

SEISMOLOGY The start of something big? Rachel Abercrombie Can we predict the final size of an earthquake from observations of its first few seconds? An extensive study of earthquakes around the Pacific Rim seems to indicate that we can — but uncertainties remain. How does a seismic fault, initially essentially immobile, start to slip at speeds of metres per second as an earthquake rupture front runs along it at speeds of up to 3 kilometres per second? Does the eventual size of an earthquake depend on the nature of this process?

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