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Category Archives: Science
British scientists have developed genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to the vegetable’s biggest threat – blight. A three-year trial has shown that these potatoes can thrive despite being exposed to late onset blight. That disease has plagued farmers for generations and it triggered the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. EU approval is needed before commercial cultivation of this GM crop can take place. The research is published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Via … Continue reading
New insights into one of the molecular mechanisms behind light harvesting, the process that enables photosynthetic organisms to thrive, even as weather conditions change from full sunlight to deep cloud cover, will be presented at the 58th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting, taking place in San Francisco from Feb. 15-19. At the meeting, Hsiang-Yu Yang, a graduate student, and Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, a postdoc in W.E. Moerner’s research group at Stanford University, will describe how probing these natural systems at the single … Continue reading
Patients at a North Carolina hospital got an apology this week after being exposed to the deadly organism that causes the brain-wasting Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD), but it could take years to determine whether or not they are safe. Experts say the toxic protein, or prion, responsible for CJD is hard to detect and nearly impossible to destroy. “People are looking for a silver bullet, but there isn’t one yet,” said Byron Caughey, senior investigator at the National Institute of Allergies … Continue reading
From warp drives to hyperspace, science fiction has continuously borrowed from, and sometimes anticipated, the state of the art in scientific progress. This has resulted in the perception that science and science fiction have a causal relationship, one finding direction from and fulfilling the science fantasy laid out before it. But that is rarely the case, according to Lawrence Krauss, a Foundation professor in the School of Space and Earth Exploration and the Department of Physics at Arizona State University. … Continue reading
I think this is the longest video we have ever put on Deskarati, but if you get time it is really worth the effort. ”What Darwin Never Knew” offers answers to riddles that Darwin couldn’t explain. Breakthroughs in a brand-new science—nicknamed “evo devo”—are linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature’s great mysteries, the development of the embryo. NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the explosion of animal forms half a … Continue reading
A drawing of the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will be set up in the Atacama Desert in Chile and allow an even deeper look into the early universe. Todd Mason/Giant Magellan Telescope Organization Four years ago, Anna Frebel, a young astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found an ancient star in a neighboring galaxy whose chemical composition proved nearly identical to some unusual stars on the outskirts of our own galaxy, which are older than the Milky Way itself. It was … Continue reading
A year ago on Saturday, inhabitants of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk looked skyward, some frozen in fear that a nuclear war had begun. Overhead, an asteroid exploded in a ball of fire, sending debris plummeting to Earth in brilliant streaks. The shockwave blew out windows, hurting about 1,600 people, and the burst of ultraviolet light was so strong that more than two dozen people suffered skin burns. Today, enshrined in Russia’s folk memory as a big scare, the Chelyabinsk Meteorite, for … Continue reading
This microscope image of a cell shows some of the gold-ruthenium nanomotors For the first time, scientists have placed tiny motors inside living human cells and steered them magnetically. The advance represents another step towards molecular machines that can be used, for example, to release drugs into specific locations within the body. There is interest in the approach because it could enhance the benefits of drugs while minimising side effects. The rocket-shaped metal particles were propelled using ultrasound pulses. Materials scientist Prof Tom … Continue reading
Many woodland plants rely on ants to disperse their seeds; such seed dispersal increases the plant population’s chance of survival. Robert Warren, assistant professor of biology, has recently demonstrated that ant-dispersed plants (myrmecochores) compete for ant dispersers by staggering seed release. “Competition as a mechanism structuring mutualisms” by Warren and coauthors Itamar Giladi and Mark A. Bradford was published online on January 13 in the Journal of Ecology. The researchers hypothesized that the staggered timing of seed release by ant-dependent … Continue reading
Australian astronomers on Sunday said they had found a star 13.6 billion years old, making it the most ancient star ever seen. The star was formed just a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang that brought the Universe into being, they believe. Previous contenders for the title of oldest star are around 13.2 billion years old—two objects described by European and US teams respectively in 2007 and 2013. Stefan Keller at the Australian National University in the Australian capital, … Continue reading
There’s a fundamental mystery at the core of our evolution. No, it’s not how we went from fuzzy shrews to humans — it’s how bacteria made the jump from single-celled existence to something more complex. The weird part is that evolutionary jump only happened once. Over at Nautilus, Ed Yong has a terrific essay about that moment, roughly 2 billion years ago, when bacteria made an incredible evolutionary leap. It put them on a path that eventually led to the … Continue reading
Figure 1: This pseudocolored image taken with a scanning electron microscope shows an axon terminal that was broken open to reveal synaptic vesicles (blue and orange) inside the neuron. (credit: modification of work by Tina Carvalho, NIH-NIGMS; scale-bar data from Matt Russell) The synapse or “gap” is the place where information is transmitted from one neuron to another. Synapses usually form between axon terminals and dendritic spines, but this is not universally true. There are also axon-to-axon, dendrite-to-dendrite, and axon-to-cell body synapses. … Continue reading
Pain sensitivity is controlled by a genetic “dimmer switch”, which can be re-set, UK scientists have discovered. Twins sharing 100% of genes have different pain thresholds, which can potentially be altered by lifestyle or medication, say researchers at King’s College, London. The study could lead to new painkillers or lifestyle interventions, they report in Nature Communications. One in five of the population suffers from acute or chronic pain. Lead researcher Dr Jordana Bell said the potential to regulate genes involved in pain sensitivity … Continue reading
Antifreeze proteins from fish living in icy seas have inspired a new way to freeze blood which could one day increase the precious stocks available for medical procedures. University of Warwick researchers have found a new application for a common polymer which allows blood cells to better survive being stored at freezing temperatures. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications. Polyvinyl alcohol – which mimics antifreeze properties found in cold-acclimatised fish like arctic cod – works by inhibiting the … Continue reading
Scientists have long focused their search for extraterrestrial life on Earth-like planets – but that may be a mistake, according to a McMaster researcher. Astrophysicist René Heller of McMaster’s Origins Institute says our planet may not be the most ideal place for life and scientists need to consider non-Earth-like, so-called “superhabitable” planets. These planets would probably be two or three times more massive and much less mountainous than Earth. They would probably be older, too. “The Earth just scrapes the inner edge … Continue reading
Ultrathin slices of mouse brains offer a mesmerizing look at how brain cells communicate at the tiniest scale. This research may offer clues about how the dance of our own synapses guides and animates us.
Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine would have formed far from its current location in the Star Wars universe, a new University of Bristol study into its real world counterparts, observed by the Kepler space telescope, suggests. Like the fictional Star Wars planet, Kepler-34(AB)b is a circumbinary planet, so-called because its orbit encompasses two stars. There are few environments more extreme than a binary star system in which planet formation can occur. Powerful gravitational perturbations from the two stars on the … Continue reading
Are viruses life forms or not? Scientists have been fighting about it for years, and Anthony has more on the latest wrinkle in this seemingly simple yet age-old debate.
In studying the impact of DNA damage on the Golgi, a research team from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have discovered a novel pathway activated by DNA damage, with important consequences for the body’s cellular response to chemotherapy. Standard cancer treatments, including many chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, act on cells by causing DNA damage. In many cancer cells, DNA damage turns on signaling pathways that lead to cell … Continue reading