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How They Do It: Amazing Organisms

The plants and animals around us seem so ordinary, but they all are so extraordinary, the extraordinary becomes ordinary simply because of their numbers. But if you expanded the sample space to include the entire solar system, what we have in earth’s biosphere should astonish everyone. Here are nine notable fellow creatures.

Small Animals Astound, Inspire

Elephants and great whales impress us with their bulk, but there are smaller critters that are no less impressive.  Here are a few fantastic animals that come in very small packages. Bears in space:  Here’s an animal so bizarre, so well-armed, so scary looking, if you knew they were in your back yard you would […]

Hummingbird Tongue More Clever Than Thought

Humans sip their nectar by tipping a glass and slurping, but how can a hummingbird pull liquid out of flowers with a tongue alone?  Up until now, scientists thought that hummingbird tongues acted like capillary tubes.  New research with high-speed cameras show that the action is much more clever – so clever it might lead […]

The Eyes Have It: Pro Software

You have a biological version of Photoshop in your eyes.  That’s what Richard Robinson, a freelance science writer from Massachusetts, said in PLoS Biology.1  The eye is not a camera, and the retina is not a piece of film.  Indeed, the retina might be better likened to a computer running Photoshop, given the extent of […]

Animal Tricks Inspire

Here we are in the millennium of science, and we are still trying to figure out how animals do such nifty things.  Some of their nifty tricks we didn’t even know about till researchers took a look.  With high-tech monitoring tools, we might even learn the tricks for our own good. Owl fowl:  The flapping […]

Seeing Is Believing, or v.v.

What you see is not what is out there in the world – not exactly, at least.  Scientists have shown that your brain is tweaking the light coming in from your eyes and making predictions about what you expect to see.     The “blind spot” experiment is well known to students.  That’s where it […]

Plants Generate Their Own Sunscreen

Ultraviolet radiation hits plants as well as humans, but plants can’t reach for a tube of sunscreen.  Too much exposure can damage them; what do they do?  They have a sensor that turns on production of their own brand of sunscreen and spreads it on their skin automatically.     UV-B rays are the most […]

Plants Have Social Networks

Plants may be mostly stationary, but they have connections.  They are so well connected, in fact, that they have both intranets, extranets and internets.  Inside their own vessels, they communicate with proteins and RNA molecules from root to shoot (04/23/2010); outside, they have many social relationships with other organisms.  They even “friend” their partners, just […]

Your DNA Repairman Is Handy as an Octopus

Some 10 times a day in a given cell, your DNA breaks on both strands.  This is an emergency.  Unless repaired quickly, serious diseases, like cancer, can develop.  But no fear: the first responder is an octopus-shaped protein complex that rushes to the rescue, wraps around the damaged site, and brings in all the parts […]

Neurons Know What to Do

Neurons are among the most vital cells in the body: after all, your brain is largely composed of neurons.  Neurons are transmission lines of information that keep a body in touch with itself and the world.  None of the other body organs would work without neurons.  The increasingly powerful tools of microscopy are allowing neuroscientists […]

Plants Spring into Action

We shouldn’t take plants for granted.  They seem so slow and stationary, but actually they move and breath and carry on their lives in truly amazing ways.  Plants really show off their glory in the spring.  But how do they know, without eyes, what time it is?     In “The science of spring,” PhysOrg […]

Sensing the World Requires Intelligent Design

How do our bodies make sense of the external world?  Through our senses, of course; at least they are the entry points of data into the mind.  Behind those senses are remarkable mechanisms that we use but do not actively operate.  The design in their automatic operations is slowly being revealed with better observing techniques. […]

Double Ratchet Found in ATP Synthase

ATP synthase, the rotary engine in all living things, has another trick in its design specs: a ratcheting mechanism that improves the efficiency of ATP synthesis.  ATP is the “energy currency” of cellular life, so the efficiency of production of ATP is of vital importance.  (For background and animation, see CMI article.)     Three […]

Feather Color Is a Costly “Complex System Design”

The brilliant, shimmering colors in the breast feathers of the Bird of Paradise have long fascinated ornithologists.  Alfred Russell Wallace was perhaps the first Englishman to see the magnificent birds in their native Malaysian habitats and wrote, “the richness of their glossy orange colouring, and the exquisite delicacy of the loosely waving feathers, were unsurpassable.”1 […]

You Have Electronic Skin

Your skin has resistance with memory.  That makes it like a memristor, researchers at the University of Oslo are saying.  A memristor is a device that remembers the last current it experienced, and varies its resistance accordingly.     New Scientist explained what they found: They found that when a negative electrical potential is applied […]
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