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Cells Perform Nanomagic

The cell is quicker than the eye of our best scientific instruments.  Biochemists and biophysicists are nearing closer to watching cellular magic tricks in real time but aren’t quite there yet.  They know it’s just a trick of the eye, but it sure is baffling how cellular machines pull off their most amazing feats.  Think, […]

Cells Perform Sporting Interactions

The components of living cells perform such acrobatic moving interactions, one would think they are having fun.  Here’s the news from the Wide World of Cellular Sports. Speedway:  A news release from Penn Medicine talks about how motor proteins step on the gas and the brakes in their motions around the cell.  The announcer from […]

Cell Quality Control Runs a Tight Ship

Without the surveillance and rapid response of quality control, cells would collapse and die.  Here are some recently-published examples of nanoheroes in action. Plant checkpoints:  Picture a child watching the wonder of a seedling breaking through the soil into the light for the first time.  Within hours, the ghostly-white stem turns green, and a day […]

Squid Eye Beats Zeiss

A squid whose scientific name means “vampire from hell” wears specs with excellent specs (that’s lenses with excellent specifications, for the pun-challenged).  Elisabeth Pennisi in Science reported on a talk given at an Arizona science conference about the vampire squid, whose “lenses are designed for seeing details, even in virtual darkness.”  Researchers studying cephalopod eyes […]

Muscles Use Gears, Automatic Transmission

Analogies may not be perfect representations of reality, but it must pique the interest of all of us the way Elisabeth Pennisi in Science1 compared muscle to cars and bicycles: One look at a ballerina as she pirouettes and poses drives home the remarkable ability of our muscles to adapt to diverse biomechanical demands.  Manny […]

Cell Membrane Has Ticket-Operated Turnstiles

Cells are like castles surrounded by walls.  A wall without gates, however, would prevent commerce and trap the inhabitants inside.  The cell has ingenious gates that control the flow of goods and services through its outer membrane under tight surveillance and quality control.  This controlled flow, as opposed to passive diffusion or osmosis, is termed […]

Robot Legs Can’t Keep Up With Animals

Robot designers are envious of animals.  Insects, crabs and lizards leave them in the dust.  Alison Abbott in Nature (Jan 18) described the latest attempts to get the bugs out of insect-imitating “biological robots.”1  “Programming a robot to think like an insect is tough,” the subtitle reads, “but it could help breed machines as manoeuvrable […]

Your Body Knows Its Allies at Gut Level

How come your body doesn’t fight its good bacteria?  It sounds like a question only a scientist or a kid would ask, but think about it.  Your body jumps to arms to fight off pathogens, but lets millions of bacteria live in the intestines.  These bacteria help you digest your food, but are not “you.”  […]

Tiny Fish Smell for Miles

Fish hatchlings no more than a few millimeters in size are able to find their way home by smell, scientists from James Cook University found.  After hatching from a reef, baby fish are often swept out to sea for miles.  The scientists were curious how they are able to get back to the particular spot […]

This Bug Is Whiter than White, Brighter than Bright

Detergent manufacturers should get a load of this beetle.  Cyphochilus, a resident of southeast Asia, is clothed in one of the brightest white surfaces (per unit thickness) known.  British scientists reporting in Science1  were intrigued how the bug accomplishes this shining performance.  Most bright-white surfaces, such as paint and paper, need a hundred times the […]

Woodpecker Heads Absorb Shocks

Pounding a tree with your head 12,000 times a day would tend to give one a headache, but for woodpeckers, it’s all in a day’s work.  How do they manage?  Corey Binns on Live Science interviewed Ivan Schwab (UC Davis) who explained some of the specialized adaptations in a woodpecker head: thick muscles, spring-like bones, […]

This Bacterium Moves Like a Tank

Mark McBride (U of Wisconsin) has been trying for a decade to figure out how a gliding bacterium glides.  His conclusion: the microbe has tire treads like a conveyor belt that make it roll over a variety of surfaces, like an all-terrain vehicle.     According to a U of Wisconsin press release, the Department […]

Human Endurance: Is It Evolutionary?

Some people are gluttons for punishment.  Many a couch potato is probably content to watch an Ironman or Ultramarathon on HDTV from a recliner, but the ones who take part in the grueling endurance contests gaining popularity illustrate some human capabilities scientists are only beginning to understand.  Nature1 described one called the Primal Quest adventure […]

Cell Zippers, Linemen and Editors Put on a Show

The golden age of cell biology continues.  Scientists keep unlocking the secrets of cellular machinery with newer and better techniques.  With the curtain rising on a show we could not previously imagine, played out on a stage so small it took centuries of scientific work to even see it, biochemists are discovering amazing tricks that […]

How Your Brain Conducts Itself at Attention

The conductor taps the stand.  All the musicians, who had been warming up or conversing with neighbors, suddenly hush and rivet their attention on the conductor.  The downbeat comes, and a marvel of coordination comes to life, each skilled player contributing to a unified yet diverse exhibition of harmonious sound.     Something like that […]
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