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Why Your Brain Has Gray Matter, and Why You Should Use It

Vertebrate brains have an outer layer of “gray matter” over the inner “white matter.”  Why is this?  “By borrowing mathematical tools from theoretical physics,” a press release from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory announced, two researchers found out. Based on no fewer than 62 mathematical equations and expressions, the theory provides a possible explanation for the […]

Health Depends on Robust Cell Machinery

When we think of health, we typically visualize the big things: firm muscles, energy, lack of a protruding stomach and the like.  Cell biology, though, is showing us how our health depends on the proper functioning of countless myriads of molecular machines.  Here are some recent samples from the science journals: Heroic Underdogs in the […]

Sea Monsters Were For Real

A large fossil crocodile-like sea monster with a bullet-shaped snout has been reported in Science.1  See MSNBC News for a summary.  For an artistic rendering of what Dakosaurus andiniensis might have looked like, see National Geographic News, which states that the discovery will be the December cover story of their magazine.  Dubbed “Godzilla” by its […]

Muscle Motor Observed in Action

Myosin proteins have been heavily studied in recent years since they are critical to many cellular and tissue functions, including muscle.  According to EurekAlert Scientists from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the University of Vermont have captured the first 3-dimensional (3D) atomic-resolution images of the motor protein myosin V as it “walks” along […]

“Beautifully Engineered”: Giant Pterosaur Compared to Aircraft

Imagine an “aircraft engineer trying to convert a Eurofighter into a jumbo jet while it was still flying.”  That’s how David Martill (U of Portsmouth, UK) described the abilities of a baby pterosaur growing into a large adult, a BBC News story says.  Evidence suggests that pterosaurs were capable of flying soon after hatching.  Some […]

Cellular UPS Gets Right Packages to Chloroplasts

If all your packages were sent correctly over the holidays, consider the job a plant cell has getting 3000 proteins into a chloroplast.  Mistakes are not just inconvenient.  They can be deadly, or at least bring photosynthesis to a halt.  To guarantee proper delivery of components, plant cells have a remarkable shipping system, described in […]

Now We Know How Birds Fly

Elementary physical science students know how airplane wings generate lift, but bird flight poses special challenges.  The aptly-named swifts, for instance, can practically turn on a dime, dive steeply, and halt in mid-air to catch insects in ways that make a stunt pilot stall.  It’s not just flapping, and it’s not just leading-edge feather shape, […]

Disembodied Brain Flies Jet Aircraft

Researchers at University of Florida claim to have connected rat brains neurons in a dish to electrodes, which learned to run an F22 flight simulator. We can’t speak to the validity of this claim or its interpretation, but what stands out in the article is the awe over the computational abilities of the human brain: […]

Preventing Bird Divorce: Mates Take Different Flights, Arrive Together

A shorebird named the black-tailed godwit presents a puzzle to biologists: “arrival synchrony” (leave it to scientists to give big names to simple concepts).  The males and females of this bird mate for life, but like some humans, live apart for months at a time.  This presents two puzzles: how do they stay apart without […]

Biomimetics Dept: Wear a Pine Cone

EurekAlert says the British are developing new clothes using pine cone technology.  The fabric automatically adjusts to temperature by opening up or closing down, keeping the wearer comfortable in all environments.  “We’ve drawn upon nature,” said one designer of this “fundamental change in clothing.” Makes you wonder how a pine cone figured this out.  The […]

How Plants Send Email: Update

href=”crev07.htm#plant17″>07/13/2001 headline), we reported the startling finding that plants talk to themselves in email.  What’s new in this field?  Is there really an interplant intranet?     In the Oct. 5 issue of Current Biology,1 Norman, Frederick and Sieburth report evidence that a signal molecule named BYPASS1 is sent from the roots to the tips […]

Burnt Bridges, Brownian Ratchets, and Self-Propelled Motors Keep Skin Young Looking

Rock climbers and cavers are familiar with mechanical devices called ascenders that enable them to climb ropes safely and easily.  Ascenders slide up the rope in one direction, but latch onto it tightly when pulled the other direction.  Now imagine the ascender by itself, hanging on the rope, in a flurry of winds blowing in […]

Your Eyes Have Automatic Light Meters

Every pupil knows that pupils constrict in bright light and dilate in dim light, but how?  Physiologists had assumed the retina signalled the iris muscles, but now it appears there is an independent mechanism in the iris itself, at least in birds, and probably in mammals, too.  A report in EurekAlert summarizes a finding from […]

Introducing: The Spinach Cell Phone

The next spinach sandwich you hear about may not be an item at the health food bar but an electronic device powered by the sun.  According to an MIT press release, chloroplasts from spinach leaves have been successfully sandwiched into a solid-state electronic photocell that could be used before long to power cell phones and […]

Termites: If You Can’t Lick ’Em, Mimic ’Em

Termites, despite their bad rap, have something to teach human homebuilders.  Their mounds are self-sufficient, air-conditioned, environmentally friendly and cheap to run, according to a story in EurekAlert.  “The mounds incorporate a complicated network of tunnels and air conduits designed to channel air flow for the control of internal air quality, temperature and moisture levels.” […]
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