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Geology Sinks in the Mud

Question: what is the most abundant sedimentary rock in the world?  Follow-up question: what would happen to the science of geology if the consensus theory of how this most abundant sedimentary rock was deposited turns out to be wrong?  Prepare for a paradigm shift: experiments have shown mistakes in long-held assumptions about mudstone formation. Here’s […]

What Keeps Skin Strong? Velcro!

Skin would fall to pieces were it not for velcro-like molecules that bind its cells together.  These molecules, called cadherins, make skin strong but also supple.  Their secret was explained by Ashraf Al-Amoudi of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, quoted in Live Science.  “The trick is that each cadherin binds twice: once to a molecule […]

Cell Gatekeepers: Diverse, Complex, Accurate

Cargo moves around rapidly and ceaselessly in every cell.  Some moves in and out of the external membrane, and some moves in and out of organelles and the nucleus.  In a system of protected domains surrounded by impermeable membranes, how does the cell control what should pass?  Details of the amazing gatekeeping mechanisms embedded in […]

Dealing with Light at the Extremes

“Light is the most important variable in our environment,” wrote Edith Widder, a marine biologist.  The inhabitants of two different ecosystems have to deal with either too little or too much.  Let your light so shine:  A thousand meters below the sea surface, all sunlight is extinguished.  Yet for thousands of meters more, creatures live […]

Nature Inspires Useful Products

Some day soon you may be able to extract water out of thin air, decorate your walls with detachable wallpaper, read street signs clearly in fog, and employ reusable tape underwater.  These are some of the innovations coming from biomimetics – science inspired by nature’s designs. Venus flytrap:  Alex Crosby at University of Massachusetts was […]

Photo: Earthrise 2007

The Japanese Kaguya spacecraft has taken a series of “Earthrise” photos from lunar orbit, including this sequence.  The complete set of new hi-resolution photos is available at Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.  (Due to the orbital path of the spacecraft, Antarctica is at the top.)     “Earth-rise is a phenomenon seen only from satellites that […]

More Cell Codes and Authentication Mechanisms

Here are more “cool cell tricks” that ensure a smoothly-functioning system inside the cell that can adapt to changes while protecting assets. Ribosome code:  Why don’t all ribosomes look alike?  Perhaps they know a secret code.  Another possible coding mechanism has been found in ribosomes, those important organelles in the cytoplasm that translate messenger RNA […]

Winged Migration Grows Up

Scientists used to rely on metal bands on birds’ legs to find out how they got from here to there.  Now, they can glue tiny radio transmitters to their shoulders and follow them in real time.  What happened when Princeton scientists hijacked 30 white-crowned sparrows and took them from Seattle to New Jersey?  Age has […]

Developing Ear May Have Tuning Fork

What tunes up an embryo’s ears before it hears its first sound?  A new study suggests that support cells in the cochlea, long thought to be inert, have a role in tuning up the hair cells during development.  Experiments by Dr. Dwight Bergles and a team at Johns Hopkins suggest that cells in a tissue […]

Fall Colors Have a Function

Deciduous trees have an investment decision to make when fall chill sets in: do they send their sunlight-produced nutrients to the roots early, and so risk damage to the leaves from autumn sunlight, or should they spend more energy creating a sunscreen that allows them to produce nutrients longer, and thereby increase food storage in […]

Cilia Are Antennas for Human Senses and Development

The little hair-like projections on cells, called cilia, have more functions than previously believed.  A press release from Johns Hopkins University said that researchers found cilia are important for the sense of touch – particularly, for heat sensation.  In fact, cilia are implicated in at least three of the five traditional senses.     The […]

Mega-Dinosaur Found in Argentina

Check out this dinosaur: 105 feet long, 43 feet tall, having a neck 56 feet long.  The spinal column alone probably weighed 9 tons.  That’s Futalognkosaurus dukei, one of the largest dinosaurs ever found, recently reported from Argentina (see BBC News and PhysOrg).  A single vertebral bone was nearly 3 feet long.  National Geographic called […]

Inner Ear More Complex than Thought

Another level of complexity has been added to the mystery of hearing.  Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that another membrane in the cochlea of the inner ear, once thought to be passive, is actively involved in transmitting sound waves to the hair cell receptors.  Their work was published in PNAS.1     […]

Make Your Face Sparkle With Diatoms

Human engineers may join forces with cellular architects to produce the next generation of paints, cosmetics and holograms, reported Science Daily.  Scientists are finding ways to harness the rapid growth of diatoms.  Manufacturing consumer products with these properties currently requires energy-intensive, high-temperature, high-pressure industrial processes that create tiny artificial reflectors.  But farming diatom shells, which […]

Crow Cam Lets Scientists See Intelligence at Work

Ever want to fly like a bird?  Now you can do the next best thing: get a tail-feather view of what it is like to fly from branch to branch.  University of Oxford scientists attached a small video camera to the underside of a New Caledonian Crow to watch it in the wild, reported PhysOrg.  […]
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