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Box Jellyfish Sees and Reacts with “Human-Like Vision”

Who would expect a jellyfish to have complex eyes?  Updating what we reported previously about complex optics in the 24 eyes of the box jellyfish (see 05/15/2005), Live Science says the most complex eyes are found on the top and bottom of the cube-like “head” of the animal, “giving it an extreme fish-eye view, so […]

Bees Make Beeline to the Headlines

The science journals and media were abuzz with honeybee stories this week.  We counted 18 press releases and half a dozen research papers related to aspects of honeybees, including the publication of the honeybee genome.  Many research labs seem to have gotten into the act of figuring out what makes bees tick.  The major stories […]

Cassini Photographs Earth from Saturn, Discovers New Ring

A new ring, geysers from a distance, and our home planet from 930 million miles away – these and more wonders are visible in new photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn.  Now at opposition (facing the sun), the orbiter’s cameras can pick out fainter details in backlighting.  Highlights of the three published photos […]

Yoke Up Those Bacteria

My, how history repeats itself – often in unexpected ways.  In ancient times, our ancestors got the heavy work done by hitching oxen, horses or slaves (like Samson, see pictures 1 and 2) to a harness and making them turn a grinding wheel.  The same principle is now on the cutting edge of modern applied […]

Grass Shack Makes a Comeback

Oh, what a feeling: Toyota Roof Garden wants to replace your roof with grass.  Bill Christensen at Live Science says that the car company’s grass tiles include imbedded irrigation piping, provide good thermal insulation and reflect less urban heat to the atmosphere.  The special grass only needs mowing once a year.  Company website (Japanese): Toyota […]

Rip Van Winkle Revives

A man in a coma 19 years has regained some brain function, surprising scientists.  Terry Wallis is relearning how to count and speak, and thinks Ronald Reagan is still president.  The story of his remarkable recovery has been reported widely in the news (see Fox News) and was featured on both News@Nature and Science Now.  […]

Ant Pedometer Discovered

Ants have dumbfounded scientists again.  It appears they count their steps when they walk, and keep track how far they have gone.  Reporting in Science,1 a trio of German and Swiss scientists tested desert ants by making some walk on specially-designed stilts and others walk on stumps of cut-off legs.  The first overshot their target, […]

Insects Lead the Way

Why engineer things from scratch, when we can imitate nature?  Two recent examples come from the world of insects.  A press release from UC Berkeley begins, “Using the eyes of insects such as dragonflies and houseflies as models, a team of bioengineers at University of California, Berkeley, has created a series of artificial compound eyes.”  […]

Experimental Biologists Look to Animals for Inspiration

Whether insects, fish, birds or mammals, animals have a lot to teach scientists and engineers.  Here are some recent stories that begin to answer, “How do they do that?” with hopes that humans might be able to mimic their feats. Hard sponges:  Aimee Cunningham in Science News (03/25/2006; 169:12, p. 184) described the astonishment Joanna […]

Of Talking Trees and Plant Perfumes

It’s not just Middle Earth where the trees talk.  The forests of Regular Earth have a language, too: a chemical language called the “invisible bouquet” by Pamela J. Hines, introducing a special series of articles on plant communication in Science.1  Of the thousands of different metabolites that plants can produce, many form a cloud around […]

Undersea Lost World Found in Caribbean

No sooner had news spread about a treasure trove of animals in the jungles of Papua (see 02/07/2006 story) than scientists announced another in Neptune’s realm.  The BBC News and MSNBC reported that “An underwater mountain with some of the richest diversity of marine life in the Caribbean has been found by scientists.”     […]

Treasure Trove of Rare Species Found in Papua New Guinea

There are still untouched areas on our planet.  Scientists announced the discovery of a “lost world” of new species of birds and mammals in a remote section of Papua New Guinea with no sign of trails or roads.  The news media are all abuzz with the exciting announcement: see MSNBC, National Geographic, BBC News, EurekAlert […]

Precision of Cell Quality Control Described

Two research papers in Molecular Cell give more glimpses into the precision of cellular controls to ensure mistakes are detected and weeded out before harm occurs.  Vogel, Bukau and Mayer1 found that the molecular “chaperone” Hsp70 has a “proline switch,” found in all living organisms.  This switch regulates when the polypeptide needing to be folded […]

Birds Sing Duets

The little wrens in your backyard are not only soloists; they sing duets.  A number of birds have been found to sing together in unison, or in antiphonal pairs.  Some alternate melodic lines in rapid-fire succession and some sing in choirs.  This was described by Susan Milius in Science News.1  One ornithologist was stunned in […]

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 […]
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