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Don’t Just Sit There; Evolve

Have you ever wondered why your body doesn’t evolve?  After all, it is kind of like a population of trillions of organisms.  Why shouldn’t it follow the rules of natural selection?  Philip Ball asked this question in News@Nature recently.  “Evolution is usually thought of as something that happens to whole organisms,” he teased.  “But there’s […]

New World Record for Winged Migration

The BBC News reports that a female bar-tailed godwit flew 11,500km (almost 7200 mi) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand.  The journey took about a week.  Observers at Massey University used electronic tags to catalog the birds’ flight.     This distance is nearly double what ornithologists used to consider an “extremely long” flight.  This […]

Eyes Do Precision Digital Sampling

What is the shutter speed of the eye?  Have you ever considered this question?  After all, the eye functions like a camera in some respects.  Shutterbugs know that shutter speed and aperture are factors in proper exposure.  Most of us know that the iris of the eye controls the aperture, but what controls the shutter […]

Crows Use Tools on Tools

Crows can use one tool on another to get food.  A report in Science Daily says they appear to use analogical reasoning, not just trial and error, to figure out how to manipulate objects.  They used a short stick to get a longer stick out of a toolbox in order to reach a snack too […]

DNA Repair Is Highly Coordinated

The remarkable ability of cells to repair DNA damage has been the subject of several recent articles.  As a long, physical molecule subject to perturbing forces, DNA is subject to breakage on occasion.  If repair mechanisms were not in place, the genetic information would quickly become hopelessly scrambled and life would break down.  Studies are […]

Motorized Ears Give Mammals Acoustic Acuity

f=”crev03.htm#amazing11″>03/27/2001), we reported on the discovery of prestin, a motor protein that acts as an amplifier in the inner ear.  One of the fastest-acting molecular motors known (02/21/2002), prestin works by stiffening the rod-shaped cell body with its cilia.  Somehow, the action of this motor protein amplifies hearing in mammalian ears by several orders of […]

Mosquitos Are Water-Walking Champions

We hate ’em, but in one sense we should admire them: mosquitos are the water-walking champions of the animal kingdom.  They even beat out water striders, reported Live Science and EurekAlert based on research from Physical Review E.  Science Daily wrote of “miraculous mosquito legs” and had a picture of the intricate fan-shaped superhydrophobic structures […]

Cool Cell Tricks

Some cell parts act like acrobats, some like rescue workers, and some like I.T. professionals.  Here are some recent stories about the tricks that living cells perform each day. Precision formation flying:  The Scientist expressed amazement at the precision of key factors in development of the body plan in fruit flies.  The levels of expression […]

Roadrunner and Largest Flying Bird Described from Fossils

A bird with a 23-foot wingspan was described in the BBC News.  At an estimated 155 pounds, this bird probably had to jump from a height to get airborne and likely rode on thermals.  The article says the bird rivalled in size some light airplanes.  A diagram shows the Argentinean giant with wings upwardly stretched […]

Elephant Trunk Inspires Robot Arm

A German company took inspiration from the soft, supple, yet powerful trunk of the elephant and built an arm to imitate it.  Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a company engaged in “research of practical utility,” rhapsodized on the abilities of the elephant trunk: It is long, gray, soft and – endowed with no fewer than 40,000 muscles – extremely […]

Mother-of-Pearl Inspires Materials Science

It’s not only beautiful, it’s strong.  EurekAlert described how scientists are intrigued by mother-of-pearl, also called nacre, because of its strength: you can drive a truck over it and it will not break.  It is 3,000 times more resistant to fracture than the aragonite from which the oyster makes it.  95% of it self-assembles in […]

Health News that Brings Hope

Why do we never see articles claiming that exercise is bad?  Here are some more reasons to get moving. Work your brain:  Who wouldn’t mind a few more brain cells?  EurekAlert reported research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden that exercise can stimulate the formation of new brain cells.  They think this helps explain why […]

Our Complex Brains: Lessons from Phrenology

This is your brain on science: it is too complex for simplistic diagrams.  Back in the 19th century, the “science” of phrenology was in full swing.  Phrenologists divided the brain into more than two dozen regions of “mental faculties” that controlled such things as instincts for eating and sex, sensation of color, language ability, and […]

Why Your Eyes Jitter

The coach’s advice “Keep your eye on the ball” is impossible, because your eyes are constantly in motion with tiny jerks called fixational eye movements or saccades.  Why do the eyes move all the time?  Some scientists at Boston University decided to find out.  Reporting in Nature,1 they found that saccades help you discriminate fine […]

Plants’ International Travel Upsets Evolutionary Idea

They may be rooted in soil, but plants really get around.  Some of them make it around the world.  One example has upset a long-believed evolutionary idea.     First of all, plants have a social life.  National Geographic published a story about how plants socialize and communicate.  “Plants have family values, too, it seems, […]
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