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Cell Zippers, Linemen and Editors Put on a Show

The golden age of cell biology continues.  Scientists keep unlocking the secrets of cellular machinery with newer and better techniques.  With the curtain rising on a show we could not previously imagine, played out on a stage so small it took centuries of scientific work to even see it, biochemists are discovering amazing tricks that […]

How Your Brain Conducts Itself at Attention

The conductor taps the stand.  All the musicians, who had been warming up or conversing with neighbors, suddenly hush and rivet their attention on the conductor.  The downbeat comes, and a marvel of coordination comes to life, each skilled player contributing to a unified yet diverse exhibition of harmonious sound.     Something like that […]

Plant Pores March to Their Own Beat

Plants have pores called stomata that open and close (see 09/13/2006).  These gates of the leaf surface provide plant protection from invaders, and allow the transpiration of gases and water vapor in and out, depending on conditions.  The stomata of many plants open wide during the day to allow in carbon dioxide, but close at […]

Animal Plan IT

Imitating animal technology is one of the hottest areas in science.  The engineering and information technology (IT) observable in living things continues to astonish scientists and makes engineers want to imitate nature’s designs.  Biomimetics is leading to productive, useful discoveries helping solve human problems and leading to a better life for all.  Here are some […]

How Your Joints Auto-Lubricate Themselves

Motion sets up an automated process that produces more lubricant for the joints, scientists at UC San Diego found.  EurekAlert explains how shear forces on cartilage stimulated it to produce proteoglycan 4, which secretes joint fluid where it coats and lubricates cartilage surfaces.  This way, the fluid is produced according to the need of the […]

The Physics of Gecko Toes

Why would anyone want to know the details of physical forces when gecko feet walk on glass?  Here’s why: “The results have obvious implications for the fabrication of dry adhesives and robotic systems inspired by the gecko’s locomotion mechanism.”  A team of scientists from Santa Barbara and China watched gecko toes peel off glass and […]

Darwin Missed the Beetle Can Opener Trick

You know those big horns on rhinoceros beetles?  They’re not just for showing off.  Scientists at Indiana University found a “surprising function” for them.  It turns out “horned beetles use their young horns as a sort of can opener, helping them bust out of thick larval shells.”  The function of horned beetles’ wild protrusions has […]

How Does the Emperor Penguin Dive So Deep?

Using a small recorder mounted on an emperor penguin, researchers at Scripps Institute measured the bird diving as deep as 1,800 feet – six times the depth any human has survived unassisted.  This is much deeper than scientists had expected.  Live Science surmises that if we could figure out how they do it without getting […]

The Nature of Cellular Tech

For molecule-size entities working in the dark, cellular machines seem pretty clever.  Here are some tricks they perform day and night to keep life functioning, described this month in Nature and PNAS.  Cell biology is sounding more and more like a mixture of Popular Mechanics and Wired. Energy balancing act:  Cells have to use oxygen […]

Little Animals, Big Technologies

You can’t always say bigger is better.  In the animal world, some of the smallest critters have capabilities that belie their size and compare well with their less dimensionally-challenged brethren.  Bee secure:  Honeybees are being trained to sniff bombs.  Really.  Read all about it in a press release from Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Bees were […]

Plants Have an Immune System, Too

We know that animals fight disease with an army of patrols swimming in blood, but how do plants cope?  They are exposed to pathogens, too: everything from bacteria to fungi, worms and insects.  Without a central nervous system or circulatory system to help, are our gentle green friends at the mercy of what comes?  The […]

New Technology Visualizes Animals in the Womb

Many have seen the videos of human babies developing in the womb, but what do animals look like before birth?  Rhiannon Edward began an article in The Scotsman with some glimpses: An unborn elephant, tiny but perfect in every way.  A dolphin swimming in the womb, just as it will have to swim in the […]

Take Your Flu Pill: Vitamin D

Vitamin D may be a multi-purpose germ fighter.  An article by Janet Roloff in Science News1 gathered evidence from several research labs that strongly suggests this molecule triggers the formation of one of the body’s effective antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal agents: cathelicidin.  In its activated form, vitamin D binds to a short section of DNA called […]

Outsource Our Energy Woes to the Microbes

Do we need to dig for oil forever?  Do we need to fret and fume over energy policy as more consumers compete for decreasing resources?  What if there were a virtually inexhaustible supply right under our noses?  That’s what the American Society for Microbiology asked in a press release reproduced by EurekAlert.  “The answer to […]

A Cell Technology Show

The basic units of life continue to astound scientists with their tricks.  Here are a few recent samples: Valuable junk:  The complementary or “antisense” strands of certain RNAs that latch onto messenger RNAs are not just junk anymore.  Science Daily reported that these genetic oddities, “previously thought to have no function, may in fact protect […]
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