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All Kingdoms of Life Have Ideas We Need

Inventors aren’t partial.  They are willing to find inspiration in plants, animals, and microbes.  Here are three examples showing that all kingdoms of life have great engineering ideas that researchers involved in biomimetics are seeking to understand. Plants:  We don’t fight walled cities with catapults any more, but storing elastic energy can still be useful.  […]

Windows into the Mind

What would it be like to see things for the first time?  You can watch the reaction on Live Science #1 and Live Science #2.  Blind patients were implanted with a microchip that allowed them, for the first time, to roughly sense the visual input of objects in front of them.  Amazing as it was, […]

Cells Know Their Physics

At the microscopic level of cells, forces come into play that are unfamiliar to us at the macro level: quantum mechanics, Brownian motion, and subtle elastic forces that we might overlook.  Two recent papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explored physical mechanisms cells use to good advantage.  Good thing cells know […]

Amazing Insects Defy Evolution

Two recent articles about insects call for the ring buoy on the H.M.S. Darwin.  The first is about fossil amber from India, reported by the BBC News.  “We have complete, three-dimensionally preserved specimens that are 52 million years old,” one of the discoverers announced with astonishment, “and you can handle them almost like living ones.”  […]

Automatic Turnstiles Found in the Cell

One of the things students learn about in high school biology classes is active transport: the ability to control flow through a semi-permeable membrane.  Contrary to osmosis, in which the flow goes naturally from high concentration to low concentration, cell membranes employ active mechanisms to push or pull the molecules through their membranes according to […]

Weekend Grab Bag

Here’s another unclassified assortment of news stories readers can follow and evaluate on their own (cf. 10/18/2010).  Take your Baloney Detector along and discern the Amazing from the Dumb. Fast Lane: Nick Lane explains how life became complex: cells invented mitochondria (Science Daily).  Gem from his paper in Nature:1 “If evolution works like a tinkerer, […]

A Dozen Leftovers

Here’s a rapid-fire list of links to science stories that looked interesting, but were filling up our backlog.  Thinkers, bloggers and reporters might want to do what they want with them. Baby born after 20 years as a frozen embryo: PhysOrg. Where dinosaurs died reveals how they lived: Live Science. Clues included in diamonds: PhysOrg; […]

Biomimetics Frontier: The Wild Wet

Some animals have figured out how to turn wetness into an ally instead of a nuisance, and some research teams are hard on their heels trying to learn how to settle that frontier. Wet feet:  Geckos cling to walls and ceilings even when their feet are wet.  How do they do it?  It would be […]

Babbage’s Computer May Be Built

The “Analytical Engine,” a 19th-century computer conceived by Charles Babbage, may finally be built 140 years after his death.  The remarkable contraption was to be powered by steam and would fill a warehouse, but the eccentric old man could not get the Royal Society to back it.  His idea, 100 years ahead of its time, […]

Migrating Whales Fertilize the Sea

Two recent discoveries about whales show them to be not only benign but beneficial.  PhysOrg reported on work at the University of Vermont that indicates whale waste carries nitrogen nutrients to the depths of the ocean, fertilizing the food chain and increasing the production of ocean fisheries.     In another article on PhysOrg, a […]

Hairy Bacteria Walk and Talk

Little hair-like projections on some bacteria, nearly invisible with light microscopes, are not just for decoration.  They do amazing things – as a pair of recent discoveries brought to light.  They help bacteria walk and talk. But can they dance?  Bacteria swim, but they also land on surfaces – and when they do, they put […]

Brain Rewires for Lost Senses

Born without vision or hearing?  The brain can apparently rewire itself to accommodate the loss, reported the BBC News.  Dr Stephen Lomber, who led research published in Nature Neuroscience, said: The brain is very efficient, and doesn’t let unused space go to waste.     The brain wants to compensate for the lost sense with […]

DNA Performs the Linking Rings Trick

Those who love a good magic show should be aware of a world-famous trick going on inside their own bodies.  The “Chinese linking rings” trick is done by a team of protein magicians in the cell – but it’s not for entertainment, it’s to repair damage that could lead to cancer.     PhysOrg echoed […]

More DNA Repair Wonders Found

One of the most phenomenal discoveries since the structure of DNA was revealed must surely be the discovery of multitudes of protein machines that repair DNA (01/04/2002).  The repair machines are themselves coded by DNA, but DNA would quickly decay into nonsense without them.  Another “fundamentally new” repair mechanism was discovered by researchers at Vanderbilt […]

Mere Biochemistry: Cell Division Involves Thousands of Complex, Interacting Parts

In biochemistry, the stem -mere means “part” (as in centromere, telomere) and -some means “body” (as in chromosome, ribosome).  Biochemists are learning that these cell organelles are not -mere bit parts, but -some fit bodies. Telomeres and chromosomes:  PhysOrg reported that the chemical “caps” on the end of chromosomes, called telomeres, have a special code […]
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