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Thermodynamics: The Real Theory of Everything

Need a theory of everything?  Try thermodynamics.  Mark Haw reviewed a new book by Peter Atkins on the subject in Nature,1 Four Laws that Drive the Universe (Oxford, 2007).  He had high praise for the achievements of the “19th century grandees” Joule, Maxwell and Kelvin: Thermodynamics ought to be the cornerstone of any scientist’s understanding […]

DNA Repair Is Highly Coordinated

The remarkable ability of cells to repair DNA damage has been the subject of several recent articles.  As a long, physical molecule subject to perturbing forces, DNA is subject to breakage on occasion.  If repair mechanisms were not in place, the genetic information would quickly become hopelessly scrambled and life would break down.  Studies are […]

Immune System Appeared Early

“Social amebas” or slime molds have gotten praise recently as inventors of the immune system.  These amebas can band together in a “slug” that can move as a unit and generate stalks and spores.  Science Daily reported on research at Baylor College of Medicine that found “sentinel cells” in a colony of amebas that patrol […]

Can Life Survive for Millions of Years?

How long can cells and tissues last?  Two different yet related stories should raise questions about the dates claimed, because the observations are astonishing. Trees of the living dead:  Cypress trees in Hungary supposedly buried for eight million years look pristine.  The wood is unfossilized and uncoalified, said the report on Breitbart.com.  All that remained […]

Motorized Ears Give Mammals Acoustic Acuity

f=”crev03.htm#amazing11″>03/27/2001), we reported on the discovery of prestin, a motor protein that acts as an amplifier in the inner ear.  One of the fastest-acting molecular motors known (02/21/2002), prestin works by stiffening the rod-shaped cell body with its cilia.  Somehow, the action of this motor protein amplifies hearing in mammalian ears by several orders of […]

Photosynthesis Requires the Right Kind of Star

Where can photosynthesis occur?  The answer depends on the energy of starlight, the atmosphere, the amount of water vapor, and the organisms equipped to harvest it.     A new kind of photosynthetic bacterium was just discovered in a Yellowstone hot spring (see Science Daily).  Exciting as this is (and the discoverer felt he had […]

Keep the Stem Cell News Straight

Stem cell technology continues to make news, but the phrase “stem cells” alone can mask serious ethical issues.  Adult stem cells (AS) and embryonic stem cells (ES) are both being investigated for their ability to transform into any cell type in the body.  Both are advertised as promising dramatic cures for debilitating diseases, with their […]

Cool Cell Tricks

Some cell parts act like acrobats, some like rescue workers, and some like I.T. professionals.  Here are some recent stories about the tricks that living cells perform each day. Precision formation flying:  The Scientist expressed amazement at the precision of key factors in development of the body plan in fruit flies.  The levels of expression […]

Crisis at Both Ends of Darwin’s Tree

Two assumptions about evolution – one about the earliest multicellular organisms and one about the rise of mammals – have run into trouble.  Eukarya sans Mechanista:  “In the absence of direct evidence, science should proceed cautiously with conjecture,” wisely advised Anthony Poole and David Penny in Nature.1  They scorned the researchers who glibly invent fables […]

Could Germ Toxicity Be an Environmental Effect?

Listeria becomes nasty when starved of oxygen, reported EurekAlert.  “Limiting oxygen produces bacteria up to 100 times more invasive than similar bacteria grown with ample oxygen supplies.” Could this imply that a world with different atmospheric or soil conditions could have been less prone to disease?  Could the bacteria we fear most have been placid […]

No More Need for Embryonic Stem Cells?

Harvesting human eggs and creating embryos for embryonic stem cells may soon become a thing of the past.  Nature Science Update reported that four teams have verified that normal skin cells in mice can be reprogrammed to act identically to embryonic stem cells.     The technique, called “induced pluripotent stem cell” (iPS), holds promise […]

Molecular Motors Move You

The realization that cells are filled with molecules that move like machines fascinates many people.  Students who grew up thinking of chemistry as bouncing molecules that did little more than link up and separate have a whole new paradigm to consider: molecules that walk, fold and unfold, spin and operate like ratchets, robots, wrenches and […]

Think Fast: News Briefs

Of the many news items that cross the CEH desk, many are noteworthy but go unreported due to lack of time.  Here are a few that deserve honorable mention lest they pass into oblivion. Cosmology: Dark future – Several sources like Science Now and Space.com commented on the dark future of the universe if cosmic acceleration […]

Details of Photosynthesis Coming to Light

New tools of science are unveiling the secrets of what was long a “black box” in biology: photosynthesis.  A paper in Nature last week1 described the structure of the plant PhotoSystem I complex (PSI) in near-atomic resolution.  Next day, a paper in Science2 described some of the protein interactions that occur when plants turn light […]

Fatty Acid Synthesis: A Machine with “High Degree of Architectural Complexity”

As Bruce Alberts said in 1998, the biology of the future was going to be the study of molecular machines: “the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines.”1  One of those machines is […]
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