How To Make Instant Petrified Wood

“Want to petrify wood without waiting a few million years?  Try this,” EurekAlert teases.  The recipe: pick up some pine or poplar wood chips from your local lumber store, soak them in an acid bath for two days, then soak them in silica solution for two more.  Air dry, then put into argon-filled furnace at […]

More Titan Results Announced

A week after the successful landing on Titan, ESA held its second main press conference on the findings.  The scientists were clearly upbeat about the results.  The probe transmitted data for 72 minutes from the surface after its 2.5 hour descent through the atmosphere.  The mesas, observed in stereo, are made of water ice about […]

Ribosome Unties the Messenger-RNA Gordian Knot

Cells needing to translate their DNA into proteins have a problem.  The messenger RNAs, the molecules that carry the genetic code from the nucleus to the translating machine called the ribosome, get tied up in knots.  How does the ribosome untie them before they can begin translating?  Takyar et al., writing in Cell,1 explored this […]

A Proverb a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Short, pithy statements of wisdom can keep you on the right health track, according to a press release from University of Toronto.  Bernard Choi offers some examples, like “seven days without exercise makes one weak.” King Solomon had some pretty good ones: A joyful heart is good medicine (17:22) A wise man is strong (24:5) […]

Are Humans Still Evolving?

Science Now asks the question, “are humans still evolving?”  Comparisons of genes and chromosomes between different people groups from Asia, Europe and Africa are challenging the view that there is one human genome.  Some long stretches of DNA are inverted in some groups, and women so affected seem to have more children on average, even […]

Remember to Exercise, and You’ll Remember More

Old dogs can remember old tricks and learn new ones, say researchers from the National Institutes of Health.  According to an article on EurekAlert, the secret is a program of diet, exercise and stimulating environments.     Scientists got snoopy about old beagles, and found their brains could remain in tip-top shape with lifestyle adjustments.  […]

Lowly Plant Inspires Waterproof Glass

By adopting the lotus position, the glass in your windshield may become so water-repellant you won’t need windshield wipers.  That’s what an Ohio State press release says: “Ohio State University engineers are designing super-slick, water-repellent surfaces that mimic the texture of lotus leaves.”  The leaves of the lotus, or water lily, are covered with microscopic […]

Bart Simpson Moons Saturn

There was a little-known story about the Huygens landing on Saturn’s moon Titan last Friday (see 01/15/2005 entry).  The human race sent a gift to the Titanians.  Four songs recorded by two European rock musicians before launch were included along with the spacecraft.  The website explains the purpose of the project: October 1997: to […]

Simple Darwinian Theories Have to Be Abandoned

Mutate one gene and a cascade of changes can result.  This effect is called pleiotropy (see 10/01/2003 entry).  According to an article by Stephen Strauss reporting for the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail, “The emerging richness of pleiotropy means that any simple Darwinian notion of what is going on during natural selection has to be […]

Flying Saucer Lands on Titan

The Huygens Probe successfully landed on the surface of Titan Friday morning, and appears to have remained active for an hour after impact. See the official European Space Agency site for latest scientific results.  Download this 27-page Mission Description from JPL (2.0mb) for a detailed plan of the now highly successful mission.     At […]

Critical Thinking Outlawed in Georgia School District

A federal judge has ordered the stickers removed from Cobb County, Georgia biology textbooks that encourage students to think critically when examining the theory of evolution (see 11/08/2004 entry), according to Yahoo News.  The attorney defending the stickers tried to argue that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and that the school board was […]

Robots Don’t See as Well as You Do

Robot designers are still working on ways to emulate the human eye.  Just when you thought digital cameras were all the rage, we learn from EurekAlert they are miserable substitutes when put into the eye sockets of robots.  Robot-vision export Vladimir Brajovic explains: Often, when we take a picture with a digital or film camera, […]

This Badger Ate Dinosaurs for Breakfast

BBC News claims a new fossil discovery published in Nature,1 a large badger-like carnivorous mammal, ate dinosaurs for lunch.  But then again, who knows what time of day the Cretaceous restaurants were open?     The fossil, another in a series of spectacular finds from the Liaoning Province in China, is creating a sensation, because […]

DNA Translators Cannot Tolerate Editor Layoffs

We’ve explained elsewhere about the family of molecular machines called aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (see 05/26/2004 entry and its embedded links).  Their job is to associate each word of DNA code (codon) with its corresponding piece of a protein (amino acid).  In a very real sense, they translate the DNA code into the protein code.  One amazing […]

We Were Wrong About Isochrons, Geologists Say

An isochron (a word meaning “equal time”) is supposed to be a line connecting points on a graph that represent the same age, or the same age difference.  If your rain gutter barrel fills fast and the bucket in your garage fills slowly, for instance, you can figure the time the rain started if you […]
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