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Your Throat Has Tasteful Antennae

Our airways are lined with cells that have beating oars called motile cilia.  Like galley slaves on a Roman ship, they beat in coordinated waves, setting up currents that propel dust and foreign matter out toward the mouth.  Scientists just found out another amazing capability of these motile cilia: they can “taste” toxic chemicals and […]

Plants Use Hourglass Mechanism

Plants need to know when to flower and produce seed.  They can read the sunshine, but what about plants living in shade or cloudy conditions?  It turns out they have two mechanisms for telling time: a light meter and an hourglass.  If the light meter doesn’t switch on, the hourglass lets the plant know it […]

DNA Translator More Complicated Than Thought

One of the most remarkable molecular machines in your body, the ribosome, is coming to light, nanometer by nanometer, as scientists find new ways to peer into the inner workings of the “black box.”     Science Daily reported on work at Berkeley that has given the clearest imagery yet.  “Ribosomes, which number in the […]

Protein Function: It’s All in the Fold

Most chemical reactions involve atoms or molecules bumping into one another and exchanging electrons.  Proteins, by contrast, derive their immense functional repertoire from their shapes.  Several recent studies explore the amazing potential for strength, motility and catalysis that derives from the way proteins fold. Clots:  A picture of fibrin graces an article in Science Daily.  […]

Crow Fulfills Aesop Story

The fabled intelligence of the crow has been tested, and the crows passed.  Bird and Emery tested an old Aesop fable and were amazed: In Aesop’s fable The Crow and the Pitcher, a thirsty crow uses stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher and quench its thirst.  A number of corvids have […]

Systems Biology Oddly Silent About Darwin

Two papers on the rise of “systems biology” appeared in Nature last week.  Both are astounded by the complexity of the cell, but neither had anything to say about evolution, Darwin, or phylogeny – mildly surprising when the proponents of evolution keep saying that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” […]

Dragonflies Are Marathon Champs

Step aside, monarch butterflies: some of your fellow insects beat your distance flying wings down.  The BBC News reported on findings by a biologist in the Maldives about dragonflies that migrate 14,000 to 18,000 km from southern India to East Africa and back – including 800 km over open sea.  How these insects can navigate […]

A Rat Race to Build Whiskered Robots

Some scientists at Bristol Robotics Lab are pretty proud of themselves for building a robot with whiskers.  It can seek out and identify objects using its whiskers, just like rats do.  But they should still take their hats off to their living model, because the rat’s technology is far superior.  Science Daily mentioned several facts […]

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 […]
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