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Building a Cell: Staggering Complexity

“The living cell is a self-organizing, self-replicating, environmentally responsive machine of staggering complexity.”  Thus began a special section on “Building a Cell” in Nature last week.1  The section with five papers explores what is known about gene regulation, cell organization and signalling.  It’s an opportunity, as well, to see what scientists think about what they […]

Barefoot Is Better

Who do we wear shoes?  It seems obvious; we expect that they help us avoid injuries and provide comfort.  Maybe we should think of the injuries we are getting by wearing them.     The image of the barefoot person is usually of someone poor, deprived, lower-class, hick, unclean, redneck or something else unattractive.  Shoes […]

Molecular Machines Use Moving Parts

Research papers into the processes of molecular machines continue to reveal moving parts: “fingers” that open and close, ratchets that lock into place, and feet that move along tracks.  Here are a few samples from the voluminous literature that continues to pour from biophysics labs. DNA Polymerase I:  Scientific papers tend to be reserved in […]

Arctic Tern Maintains World Record Title

The arctic tern makes a marathoner look like a wimp.  This little bird has been confirmed as the migratory bird with the longest route, flying annually from pole to pole.  A team of international scientists obtained the results by using an implanted geolocator on several birds, and tracking their actual path.  The story is told […]

To Advance Technology, Make Like Nature

Scientists and engineers continue to find the most elegant solutions to practical problems by looking at plants and animals.  Here are a few of the recent examples. Wet computing:  Cells and brains do a superior job of complex processing, so why are our current computers singing how dry I am?  Not for much longer.  Science […]

Best Look Ever at Life’s Smallest Rotary Motor

All cells trade in energy currency called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).  The molecular energy pellets are produced in profusion by molecular machines with rotary engines.  The engines contain all the standard parts: rotor, stator, energy input, and torque production.  They are embedded in the membranes of mitochondria and run on proton motive force.  We’ve reported many […]

It Takes More than Eyes to See

We think of eyes as objects that see, but vision requires a whole system of parts.  One of the most important is the brain.  Without your thalamus, vision would be a hopeless jumble of jerky signals, reported scientists from the National Eye Institute.     Writing in PNAS,1 Ostendorf, Liebermann and Ploner found that the […]

DNA Repair Requires Teamwork

As if the genetic code itself was’t incredible enough, researchers have been finding systems that repair it.  There are numerous pathways the cell can embark on to fix DNA errors.  Two key players were recently described in more detail in the journal Science.1     A damaged genetic code is worse than a book with […]

Simplest Microbes More Complex than Thought

The smallest, simplest cells are prokaryotes.  These are the bacteria and archaea that lack a nucleus and are usually considered primitive.  Scientists are finding, though, that they know many of the same tricks as the more complex nucleus-bearing eukaryotes.     PhysOrg reported that a species of Mycoplasma, among the smallest independent-living bacteria, is more […]

Clever Animals Inspire Lookers – And Engineers

Incredible animals provide endless delights with their antics.  Even microorganisms are capable of amazing feats.  Sometimes these living things inspire inventors, too. Coconut octopus:  Tool use was supposed to be a late marker of primate intelligence as chimpanzees were evolving upward to manhood.  That’s so 1890.  Now that we know crows can use tools (05/26/2009), […]

Microscopy’s Golden Age Is At Hand

Like test pilots breaking the sound barrier, microscope makers are breaking a light barrier some said was physically impossible: the diffraction limit.  Within the next 5 to 10 years, we may see more and more images of phenomena at the molecular scale – not with electron microscopes, but with light microscopes in real time.  What […]

Taking Inspiration from Nature

In the previous entry, Darwin inspired some geologists, even though he was wrong.  Here are some news stories showing nature inspiring engineers with wonders right under their noses. Aerodynamic seed:  A plant in Java has seeds that are perfect gliders.  The BBC News said of the Alsomitra vine: “The seeds, which are produced by a […]

Seeing Sound and Hearing Light

Synesthesia, the syndrome in which people’s senses become confused, may not be so off the wall.  Research at the University of British Columbia “flips the traditional view of how we perceive the world on its head.” Experiments show that our brains perceive the world by synthesizing multiple inputs.  The latest evidence of this is that […]

Gap Between Origin-of-Life Research and Simplest Life Grows

Evolutionists are celebrating experiments that allegedly showed RNA chains can assemble in water – given nucleotides to start with (see Science Daily).  The suggestive steps over the gap from nonlife to life should be tempered with other discoveries that life is anything but simple.     New Scientist reported today that a “‘Simple’ bacterium shows […]

Hammerhead Sharks Have 360-degree Stereo Vision

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University have found that the strange heads of hammerhead sharks give them exceptional binocular vision.  This has long been debated.  By placing electrodes in the eyes of three hammerhead species, and comparing the visual overlap they obtain compared to other sharks, the scientists confirmed that there is a “massive 32-degree overlap” […]
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