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Warning: Do NOT Mutate This Protein Complex

In each cell of your body there is a complex of 8 or more proteins bound together called the BBSome.  This protein complex, discovered in 2007, should not be disturbed.  Here’s what happens when it mutates: “A homozygous mutation in any BBSome subunit (except BBIP10) will make you blind, obese and deaf, will obliterate your […]

How Cells Proofread DNA Is Still Mysterious

An amazing fact about DNA transcription is that the machinery not only copies DNA onto RNA, but checks it for errors.  A story in Science Daily says that researchers would expect 100 times more errors statistically than the actual results of transcription in the cell.     One of the mechanisms revealed in more detail […]

Computer Programmers Borrow Eye Technology

Computer processing of video images may become twice as accurate with 10 times the speed of earlier models, thanks to what scientists are imitating in the human eye.  “The linear solution to one of the most vexing challenges to advancing computer vision has direct applications in the fields of action and object recognition, surveillance, wide-base […]

Cells Use Cloud Computing

“Cloud computing” is the up-and-coming trend in information technology.  It allows processes to run in parallel on multiple networked processors with more robustness, because other processors can pick up the slack if a major server fails.  Scientists are finding that cells have been using this technology all along.     Science Daily reported on work […]

Plants Use the Perfect Propeller

What kid hasn’t played with maple seeds to watch them spin in the air like helicopters?  Scientists watch them, too.  A team from the Netherlands and California found out how they stay in the air for so long without engines to drive them.  One would think in an era of advanced aeronautical engineering the physics […]

Fighter Jet of the Animal World

A male hummingbird in its aerial display achieves speeds proportionally faster than a jet fighter with its afterburners on, reported the BBC News – and that’s on nectar and wings, without jet fuel.  The tiny birds even resemble top-gun fighter jets in the pictures accompanying the article.     It took a camera shooting 500 […]

Bees’ Knees Bridle the Breeze

Bees stabilize their flight in windy conditions by extending their hind legs.  Even though this costs 30% more energy and produces more drag, it provides stabilization against turbulence by increasing their moment of inertia (i.e., their resistance to being flipped over).     A team of scientists videotaped the insects flying when blasted by powerful […]

Grasses Ratchet Their Seeds Into Distance Travelers

John Muir said we should not pity plants as prisoners to one spot.  In their own ways, they travel the world as we humans do.  Anyone who has walked through wild dry grass may have been annoyed at how many foxtails get buried in their socks and how hard it is to get them out.  […]

Protein Springs Keep Crabs Happy

Crabs and crayfish contain “exquisite” protein springs around their mouth parts that enhance motion, signaling, and sensing of their environment, Science Daily reported, about work done at the University of Cambridge.     The protein involved, called resilin, is almost perfectly elastic.  “The exquisite rubbery properties of resilin are known to be put to use […]

Another Crow Species Impresses Scientists with Tool-Making Skills

Who would have thought that crows rival chimpanzees in intelligence?  Members of the corvid group, which includes crows and ravens, are amazing researchers with their ability to make tools.     Previous studies with New Caledonian crows (08/09/2002, 10/07/2007, 02/23/2007) impressed researchers with the birds’ abilities to fashion simple tools out of available materials to […]

World’s Smallest Rotary Engine Highlighted

The smallest rotary motor in the world keeps your body humming.  It also keeps bacteria, plants, polar bears, giraffes, salmon, sea urchins and just about everything else humming.  It’s a nano-wonder called ATP synthase.  This molecular motor has been reported many times in these pages, but not recently; what’s new?  The state of our knowledge […]

Cool Bird Tricks

Evidence continues to mount that a lot of capability is packed into a little bird’s brain.  We should use the phrase bird-brain to honor smart animals. I C U:  Mockingbirds can recognize individual humans.  Disturb a mockingbird nest, and the parents will single you out from a crowd and go into attack mode, researchers at […]

Cuttlefish Inspire Reflective Screens

“Cuttlefish are masters of disguise, able to change their skin color in less than a second to hide from predators or draw in prey for the kill,” begins an article on MSNBC News.  A team at MIT, fascinated with the physics of this capability, tried to imitate it.  They found they could electrically control the […]

Better Solar Cells with Diatoms

Let’s start with the operative quote before the subject matter: “Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools.  This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.”  OK, now the subject: how to build better solar cells, by imitating diatoms.  See the story on […]

Your Eye Works a Precision Jigsaw Puzzle

You have twin 125 megapixel video cameras in your eyeballs.  Each pixel, a rod or cone connected to a neuron, sees only a small bit of the total image.  How do these bits, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, fit together?  Scientists at the Salk Institute have found that they are finely tuned to fit […]
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