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Cell Cargo Speeds On Bidirectional Highways

As reported here numerous times (e.g., 06/14/2004, 12/04/2003, 04/14/2003, 03/28/2003, 02/25/2003, 12/17/2002, 09/26/2002, 03/26/2002, 02/01/2002, 12/06/2001, 08/17/2001, 06/19/2001, 02/21/2001), cells have an elaborate interstate highway system with molecular trucks hauling cargo back and forth.  Scientists have known that the cellular highways have polarities labeled plus and minus, and that molecular motors typically go one way.  […]

“Domesticated Computer Viruses” Demonstrate Adaptive Radiation

Lenski and Adami are at it again (see 05/08/2003 headline), attempting to demonstrate Darwinian evolution in the computer with “digital organisms” which they describe as ”domesticated computer viruses”  Their digital organisms are small computer programs with logic functions that can reproduce and respond to mutations.  They reward the ones that evolve with more resources (CPU […]

Key to Evolution of Culture Suggested

Visualize chimpanzees exercising their antics in the jungle: grooming, screeching at one another, chasing off rivals.  Now shift the scene to human activities in a large city: fans cheering their team at a stadium, an audience applauding a concert, kids screaming on an amusement park roller coaster, a congregation singing hymns at church, students taking […]

Biochemists Mutate Protein, Make a Catalyst

“Enzymes are among the most proficient catalysts known,” wrote three Duke University scientists, “and they catalyze a wide variety of reactions in aqueous solutions under ambient conditions with exquisite selectivity and stereospecificity.”  The team set out to rationally design their own enzyme.  Their work is reported in the June 25 issue of Science.1  Building on […]

Spiderman No Match for Real Spider

National Geographic News took the occasion of the upcoming Spiderman sequel to investigate the superpowers of real spiders.  If you were spidy, you could: Jump 50 times your body length.  That would be like a man jumping 300 feet (the world record is 29 feet, 4.5 inches). Walk upside down on smooth surfaces, with 170 […]

Fungi Supply Plant Communities With Underground Nutrient Pipeline

Dig up a cubic yard of soil, and you may have disturbed 12,000 miles of an extensive network of passageways that supply plant roots with carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus.  This highway is made of fungi.  Their secret lives in the soil rarely see the light of day, but down in their cryptic, dark, subsurface world, […]

NASA-Ames Gives Darwin Credit for Antenna Design Project

A press release from NASA-Ames Research Center claims, “NASA ‘Evolutionary’ Software Automatically Designs Antenna.”  Using artificial intelligence software, their approach converged on the best design.  The article explains: “The AI software examined millions of potential antenna designs before settling on a final one,” said project lead Jason Lohn, a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, […]

How Molecular Trucks Build Your Sensors

In the film Unlocking the Mystery of Life, biochemist Michael Behe, describing the intricacies of cells as we know them today, claimed that there are “little molecular trucks that carry supplies from one end of the cell to the other.”  If that seems an overstatement, you should look at the illustration in Cell June 11 […]

How Many Neurons Does It Take to See a Picture?

Israeli scientists publishing in Current Biology1 attempted to determine how many neurons participate in the representation of a single image.  At least a million was their conservative answer: probably more like 30 or 300 million or more.  They made careful measurements of neural activity when subjects were shown a face or a house.  In the […]

The Evolution of Infidelity

The BBC News placed a sultry photo of a likely-undressed man and woman about to kiss alongside the headline of a story, “Genes may be to blame for infidelity.”  They report on the speculation by Tim Spector (Twin Research Unit, St. Thomas Hospital) that “if one of a pair of twins had a history of […]

DNA Folds With Molecular Velcro

Many have heard how the inventor of Velcro got the idea from plant seeds that stick to clothing, but now Carlos Bustamente and team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute have found a velcro-like principle operating at a scale millions of times smaller.  Small proteins called condensins are involved in the elaborate folding that DNA undergoes […]

Can a Cell Improve by Lowering Its Standards?

The title of a paper in PNAS is intriguing: “Artificially ambiguous genetic code confers growth yield advantage.”  An international team claims to have created a beneficial mutation.  They removed the editing ability of a protein involved in translating the genetic code, and got it to survive in a nutrient-starved environment.  They suggest that the resulting […]

Hippos Sweat Their Own Sunscreen

You know that reddish fluid on hippo skin that turns brown?  It’s not just funny colored sweat.  Japanese scientists reported in Nature1 that it acts as a sunscreen and an antibiotic.  See also the BBC News report on this finding. 1Saikawa et al., “Pigment chemistry: The red sweat of the hippopotamus,” Nature 429, 363 (27 […]

Plant Evolution Modeled in Computer

Simulation games are popular on computers.  Darwinian biologists seem to like them, too.  What they cannot go back in time to observe, they sometimes try to recreate in silico, inside the silicon chips of a computer.  Karl J. Niklas (Cornell) tried to simulate plant evolution, and wrote about it in Annual Review of Earth and […]

Cormorant Eyes Rapidly Refocus in Dives Into Murky Water

You’re hang gliding over a lake, and you spot a fish below.  From your hovering position, you drop into a rapid, steep dive headfirst into the water.  Whoops; your eyes just went out of focus, and you lost your fish in the murky depths.  Too bad you’re not a cormorant.     Cormorants (a kind […]
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