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Virus: Like DNA in a Hard Plastic Shell

A European team of biophysicists studied the mechanical properties of a virus and found the shell, made of protein, to act like hard plastic.  Writing in PNAS,1 they described the coat of a bacteriophage they studied: The protective proteinaceous shells (capsids) of viruses are striking examples of biological materials engineering.  These highly regular, self-assembled, nanometer-sized […]

Minimal Cell Modeled in Computer

“The basic design rules relating the regulation of cellular function to genomic structure is of broad interest,” begin three Cornell microbiologists writing in PNAS,1 and so they have turned their attention to the smallest theoretical living cell: A �minimal cell� is a hypothetical cell possessing the minimum functions required for sustained growth and reproduction in […]

Eugenics Documentary Opens at Holocaust Museum

Michael Ollove at the Baltimore Sun reports on a new exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum entitled Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.  The exhibit shows a 1937 Nazi propaganda film that invokes the law of natural selection as support for weeding out the unfit.  Ollove writes, The narrator declares that “we humans have sinned […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Cell Networks

A team of Chinese scientists analyzed protein interactions in yeast cells, and titled their paper in PNAS1 “The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed.”  They “demonstrated that the cell-cycle network is extremely stable and robust for its function,” and “able to survive perturbations.”  The beginning of the paper expresses the wonder the stimulated their research: […]

Cellular Cowboys: How the Cell Rounds Up Chromosomes Before Dividing

Two cancer researchers from UC San Diego describe mitosis (cell division) in the Mar. 4 issue of Nature.1  Pulling together the latest findings about this elaborate and important process, they begin by describing the puzzle that the cell needs to solve: At the beginning of mitosis, the process of cell division, chromosomes are organized randomly […]

DNA Is a Code Operated by Another Code

The discovery in the 1950s that DNA stored a coded language was amazing, but recently a new level of complexity has come to the awareness of biochemists.  Apparently, another code determines which DNA genes will be opened for expression and which should be suppressed.     The Feb. 14 issue of Science News1 describes the […]

Your Internal Motors Can Run Nanotech

In each cell in your body, and in that of every living thing, there exists a tiny motor named ATP synthase that Science News1 calls “the ultimate molecular machine.”  It converts electrical to chemical energy, writes Alexandra Goho, “with amazing efficiency.”  Now, Japanese have harnessed some of these motors (only 12 millionths of a millimeter […]

“Utmost Precision” Found in DNA Repair Enzyme

The cell has many helper enzymes that can repair DNA damage.  One such enzyme, named MutY, has been described in the Feb. 12 issue of Nature.1  Reviewer Tomas Lindahl sets the stage: “Damaged DNA must be removed with the utmost precision, as mistakes are costly.  The structure of a repair enzyme bound to its substrate […]

How Do Plants Know When to Bloom?

Scientists like to use big words to impress the rest of us, so they have a term for how a plant decides when to bloom: vernalization.  But making up a word for a phenomenon is not the same as explaining it.     Everybody observes that plants seem to just “know” that spring is here, […]

Intracellular Railroad Has Park-and-Ride System

Cells are like miniaturized cities, with elaborate transportation systems ferrying their cargo to and fro (see Feb. 25 headline).  Just like a city may have railroads, busses, cars and monorails, the cell has multiple kinds of transport motors: dyneins, kinesins, and myosins.  Scientists have learned that most of the roadways are like one-way monorails: actin […]

Cells Find Signal in the Noise

Parents at an amusement park know the challenge of picking out their child’s voice, or even hearing their own hollering, in the noise of the crowd.  Yelling won’t help much if the rest of the crowd is yelling also.  Acoustic engineers know that raising the volume while playing back a noisy tape amplifies the noise […]

Human-Ape Gap Quadruples

Remember that old truism that humans and chimpanzees share 98.5% of their genes?  Try 94% instead.  That’s a new estimate by Matthew Hahn (Indiana U) and a team who published in a new online journal, PLoS One.1  J.R. Minkel, writing for Scientific American, said “The 6 percent difference is considerably larger than the commonly cited […]

Evolution As Assumption

51; Reasoning requires premises: axioms or truths taken for granted.  Notice the premise of reasoning stated in a recent article on Science Daily: “Because all living organisms inherit their genomes from ancestral genomes, computational biologists at MIT reasoned that they could use modern-day genomes to reconstruct the evolution of ancient microbes.”  They used an evolutionary […]

Stem Cell Breakthrough

Stem cells from skin cells: it’s all over the news – see EurekAlert 1, EurekAlert 2, EurekAlert 3, EurekAlert 4, National Geographic News, BreitBart.com, BBC News 1, BBC News 2, MSNBC and and PhysOrg for sample reports.  Two teams working independently, one in Japan and one in America, were able to tinker with just four […]

Evolutionists Reduce Human Ideals to Molecules

Two recent stories illustrate the attempt by some evolutionary biologists to reduce complex human behaviors to chance events among molecules. You Are What You Get High On:  Michael Balter in ScienceNow asked, “Did endorphins make us more human?”  Pondering that question is a photo of a chimp and a naked ape (i.e., man) facing opposite […]
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