VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

Reach Out and Touch Some Robot

The news media were excited to report an advance in materials science last week that could pave the way for touchy-feely robots (see BBC News, News @ Nature, LiveScience and National Geographic News, for instance).  Two scientists produced a thin film with touch resolution comparable to that of a human finger, an order of magnitude […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Handy Dandy Modus Operandi

Charles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar win the prize for this gem in Science1 from a book review of The Sensory Hand by Vernon B. Mountcastle (Harvard, 2006): In one of the first systematic attempts to describe the differences between primates and other mammals, Thomas Huxley argued that the former are distinguished by virtue […]

Comparing Preferences for Pain or Gain

A group of researchers published in the Journal of Political Economy introduced the idea economic loss and gain incentives are innate, not learned.  To demonstrate this concept, the researchers presented capuchin monkeys two opportunities leading to two different outcomes for the monkey: pain or gain.  The capuchin monkeys had a tendency to choose the opportunity […]

Can We Not Perform Similar Functions?

Researchers from King’s College London claim their data evidences the “Human [thyroid] gland probably evolved from gills.”1  According to speculation, gills were internalized as the thyroid gland when marine life evolved into land animals.  The possibility for this comes from the similar functions of gills and of the gland: both act as calcium level controls.  […]

No Pain, No Gain Explained: Lactic Acid Supercharges Your Engines

The old paradigm: lactic acid buildup during exercise is like poison to your muscles, producing stiffness and agony.  The new paradigm: lactic acid is your friend, a fuel additive that helps keep your mitochondrial motors in top-notch condition.  Read all about it in a press release from UC Berkeley. What are you waiting for?  It’s […]

In Praise of Fat

Well, great balls of fat.  Cells have spherical globs of lipid (fat) molecules that never had gotten much attention nor respect.  They have been called lipid droplets, oil bodies, fat globules and other names suggesting they were just the beer bellies of the cell.  Not any more.  Scientists have been taking a closer look at […]

Why You Have Snail Shells in Your Ears

The inner ear has a part, the cochlea, that resembles a snail shell.  Why is that?  First, let’s talk about iPods and stereos.  In recent years, manufacturers have hyped “mega-bass” and other buzzwords that boast about how their devices beef up the bass frequency for that sound that rocks.  Scientists have wondered if the cochlea […]

Space Travel Too Hazardous for Humans

Astronomy magazine’s March 2006 issue contains a couple of sobering articles for those who like to dream of humans mastering the universe.  Asking “Will moon dust stop NASA?”, Trudy E. Bell described the dangers of space dust: “it sticks to spacesuits, wreaks havoc on equipment, and may be physically harmful,” she wrote, citing the experiences […]

Where Did Humans Learn Geometry?

In Plato’s dialogue Meno, Socrates illustrated his view that certain foundations of knowledge are innate rather than learned.1  He took an untutored slave boy and, with a series of sketches in the sand, got the boy to deduce the Pythagorean Theorem by his own reasoning (see Encarta).     In a modern version, Harvard scientists […]

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 […]

These Feet Were Made for Walking (and Running)

We usually walk or run.  When walking, we roll from heel to arch to toe and rock our arms back and forth.  When running, we bounce up and down slightly while pumping our arms.  Did you know that many other gaits are possible?  Why do we use only two?  A team of specialists in bio-robotics […]

How You Tune In

Studies on rats have shown there are certain neurons that respond to changes in the background sound (see LiveScience story on MSNBC News).  We humans probably have these, too.  Rather than firing continuously, they search for changes in the auditory landscape that might be of interest: changes in pitch, loudness or duration in single sounds […]

Eyesight: More Reasons to Be Thankful

So much is going on in your body when you look at that sliced turkey and raise it to your salivating mouth, a human mind can only fathom bits and pieces of the story.  Everyone knows the eye is the quintessential example of a complex organ, but Current Biology1 focused on one of the wonders […]

Living Wonders at a Glance

Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency […]

Red Blood Cells Are Master Contortionists

Biophysicists have analyzed why red blood cells are able to squeeze through tight spaces on their journeys through our tissues, reports the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.  Their membranes contain a network of 33,000 hexagons arranged in a complex geodesic dome formation.  Each hexagon vertex is joined with flexible lines to a central maypole-like proto-filament, […]
All Posts by Date