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How They Do It: Amazing Organisms

The plants and animals around us seem so ordinary, but they all are so extraordinary, the extraordinary becomes ordinary simply because of their numbers. But if you expanded the sample space to include the entire solar system, what we have in earth’s biosphere should astonish everyone. Here are nine notable fellow creatures.

Nature’s Designs Excite Inventors

The imitation of nature – biomimetics – is one of the hottest areas in science these days.  Recent reports tell about research teams racing to move natural designs to market, and there’s no end in sight. Pack it green:  Got parcels?  Don’t use styrofoam peanuts and bubble wraps; that’s so 2009.  Why manufacture plastic and […]

Farm Algae for Energy

June 29, 2010 — Why manufacture fuels when microbes can do it faster, better and cheaper?  Researchers at the University of Cambridge are wiring electrodes to algae to produce “green energy” – solar-powered fuel that is carbon-neutral, “cheaper to produce, self-repairing, self-replicating, biodegradable and much more sustainable – real green energy.”     The team […]

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 […]

Bacteria and Plants Know Network Tech

An article on Science Daily says, “plants have their own chat systems that they can use to warn each other.”  Many herbal plants such as strawberry, clover, reed and ground elder naturally form networks.  Individual plants remain connected with each other for a certain period of time by means of runners.  These connections enable the […]

Is a 100-Year Misunderstanding about Plants Solved?

Part of “one of the biggest misunderstandings in botanical history,” a plant has moved from an upper part of the family tree down to the bottom.  Trithuria submersa, an underwater flowering plant from India and Australia that was thought to be a monocot is really not a cot at all, says Science Daily reporting on […]

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 […]

It’s Official: Mangroves Would Have Prevented Most Tsunami Damage

EurekAlert summarized a paper in Science1 that confirmed an earlier claim (02/10/2005) that intact mangrove forests along the Asian coastlines would have prevented the bulk of damage and death from last year’s mega-tsunami.  A large, diverse research team from seven nations estimated that more than 90% of the damage could have been prevented by the […]

Reader Project: Calculate the Speed of Plant Package Delivery

Get out your pencil and hand calculator.  A team of Swedish and French scientists measured the velocity of a message traveling on the intraplant internet (see 08/12/2005, 11/09/2004, 10/04/2004 and 07/13/2001 entries).  Publishing in Science,1 they believe they have witnessed a signaling molecule, in the form of a messenger-RNA (mRNA; see yesterday’s entry) moving through […]

Roses Are Red, Darwinists Are Blue

Roses have a special pigment molecule, a particular form of anthocyanin, responsible for all the rich red-to-blue shades in the petals that delight gardeners and attract pollinating insects.  This molecule is different from the pigments in every other flowering plant; it is glycosylated at two positions instead of one.2  A single enzyme does the job […]

Darwin Is Alive and Well at Down House

Chris Darwin, that is – the great, great grandson of Charles, and his fellow descendants Erasmus, Sarah, Allegra, Randal Keynes, and Leo Darwin Vogel.  The family members are retracing his footsteps in the fields around his old house by inventorying the plants, reports the BBC News.  The survey will help show if the flowering plants […]

David Attenborough Finds Living Fossil Tree Romantic, Not Devastating

England’s famous Kew Royal Botanical Gardens is getting a Wollemi Pine, and David Attenborough, naturalist and evolution popularist, is proud of it.  This “living fossil” was thought extinct for 200 million years, but was found alive and well a few years ago in Australia (see 12/15/2000 entry).     Grinning like a kid at Christmas, […]

Weeds Hold Promise for Miracle Drugs

We’d like weeds if we knew them better, says John Roach for National Geographic News, especially if we realized they may contain wonder drugs.  “It’s often said that plants hidden in the tangle of the Amazonian rain forest may harbor an undiscovered cancer cure,” he writes; “John Richard Stepp thinks the same can be said […]

Selecting Corn Oil Genes Produces More Corn Oil, but What Else?

Breeders have been trying to squeeze more corn oil out of corn for over a century, one of the longest-running scientific experiments ever.  They have made pretty dramatic gains in yield, from 5% to 20%, in 100 generations, says William G. Hill in Science.1  Now also, geneticists have the tools to look for which genes […]

Lowly Plant Inspires Waterproof Glass

By adopting the lotus position, the glass in your windshield may become so water-repellant you won’t need windshield wipers.  That’s what an Ohio State press release says: “Ohio State University engineers are designing super-slick, water-repellent surfaces that mimic the texture of lotus leaves.”  The leaves of the lotus, or water lily, are covered with microscopic […]
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