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Biological Nanomachines Inspire Nanotechnology

Nano, nano; we’re hearing that morkish prefix a lot these days.  It means 10-9 of something: most often, of meters (see powers of ten).  A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.  This gets down into the range of protein molecules and small cellular components.  A DNA molecule, for instance, is about 20 nanometers across; […]

Japanese Man Sets Memory Record

Item: a Japanese man, Akira Haraguchi (age 60), quoted pi to 100,000 decimal places, reported Live Science.  It took 16 hours to say the digits from memory.  This broke his personal best of 83,431 set in 1995, and the Guinness record of 42,195, also set in 1995. Incredible feats like this hint at the innate […]

Whiskers Inspire Technology

The latest gadget on robots or Mars rovers could be whiskers.  These tactile sensors provide ways to see in 3D, says a report on National Geographic News.  Information about latitude, longitude and elevation can be gleaned from whiskers.  Rodents continually rotate their whiskers to gather information, but seals and sea lions let the ocean currents […]

Tarantula Spins Silk from Feet

Surprise: a Costa Rican tarantula can spin silk from the tips of its feet.  A team of German and American scientists writing in Nature1 coaxed one of these heavy, hairy spiders to walk vertically up glass, and was astonished to find it ejecting silky threads that arrested its slipping and enabled it to cling.  They […]

Genetic Toolkit Manages Dangerous Tools with Safety Switch and Lockbox

Laymen appreciate scientists who can express complex concepts in everyday terms.  Here’s a good example from the Wistar Institute: Around the home, regularly used tools are generally kept close at hand: a can opener in a kitchen drawer, a broom in the hall closet.  Less frequently used tools are more likely to be stored in […]

What’s Inside a Spore?  Nanotechnology

The spores that are emitted from fungi and ferns are so tiny, the appear like dust in the wind.  Who would have ever thought such specks could exhibit nano-technological wonders like scientists have found recently: Evapo-Motors:  Scientists at U of Michigan were intrigued by how ferns turn the power of evaporation into launching pads.  The […]

Another Rotary Machine Found in Bacteria

A molecular “garbage disposer” in the cell membrane bearing some resemblance to the rotating motor ATP synthase has been described in Nature.1  This machine, called AcrB, expels toxins from the cytoplasm through the cell membrane to the outside.  Like ATP synthase, it has three active sites at one end where the binding occurs, and it […]

Plant Protection: A Modern Medieval Castle Story

Vigilant guards stand at the gates.  In times of peace, they let down the drawbridge, and the townspeople carry on their trade.  Farmers bring in their crops for the marketplace, and local craftsmen and pedlars keep the local economy bustling.  Yet the sentries maintain a watchful eye, aware that numerous interlopers are about.  Aliens constantly […]

Flagellar Swimmers Attain Mechanical Nirvana

Those little germs that scientists love, E. coli – you know, the ones with the flagella that intelligent-design folk get all excited about – well, they move through the water pretty efficiently with those high-tech outboard motors of theirs.  Some Pennsylvania physicists reporting in PNAS1 measured the “swimming efficiency of bacterium Escherichia coli” and concluded, […]

Another Flagellum Excites Scientists

“The bacterial flagellar motor excites considerable interest because of the ordered expression of its genes, its regulated self-assembly, the complex interactions of its many proteins, and its startling mechanical abilities,” begins a paper in Nature by three Caltech scientists.1  They performed electron cryotomography imaging on the flagella of Triponema primita, a different critter with a […]

Birds Excel in Distance, Harmony

Bird feats are outstanding.  Two notable cases were announced this week: Air Marathon:  The longest animal migration in the animal kingdom is performed by the sooty shearwater, reported National Geographic News.  They migrate 40,000 miles a year from New Zealand to the North Pacific, in complex figure-eight patterns that touch the coasts of South America, […]

Bacteria Rule the World – Benevolently

We should love bacteria, not annihilate them.  Bacteria are our friends, according to Dianne K. Newman of Caltech:1 As a microbiologist, I’m appalled when I go to buy soap or dishwashing detergent, because these days it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t say ‘antibacterial’ on it…. It’s a commonly held fallacy that all bacteria are […]

Eye Sends Information at Ethernet Rates

Neuroscientists from Pennsylvania and New Jersey calculated the information rate of the eye.  Using guinea pigs (real guinea pigs, not humans as guinea pigs), they came up with a number and interpolated it for humans: In the classic “What the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain,” Lettvin and colleagues showed that different types of retinal […]

A Second Code Controls the DNA Code

More has been discovered about the histone or nucleosome code (see 02/17/2004), a second genetic code independent of the DNA genetic sequence that directs the formation of proteins.  The New York Times (see also Science Daily) reported on work by scientists at Northwestern University who found that the wrapping of DNA around nucleosomes (made of […]

Titan’s Land-o’-Lakes Found

The Cassini spacecraft has found features that look like methane lakes in the northern latitudes of Titan (see JPL press release).  The large dark patches, some about 30 miles across with rounded edges, appear to be associated with fluid channels.  Radar echoes cannot determine for sure whether the surface is liquid (dark means smooth, light […]
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