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Lions Guard Kidnap Victim in Ethiopia

Some news stories make you wonder about divine providence.  Netscape News reported a story of lions that rescued a kidnapped Ethiopian girl who was being beaten by seven men trying to force her to marry one of them.  In Ethiopia, men will often beat and rape a woman who resists a forced marriage; up to […]

Supermen Living in Nepal

There is a race of people at the base of Mt. Everest capable of feats that defy scientific explanation: the Sherpas.  They can carry up to twice their body weight under three hostile conditions that would wear out most of us in a minute: (1) high altitude, (2) long distance, and (3) steep inclines.  Somehow, […]

Cell Wonders Accelerate

Scientific papers on cell biology continue to uncover amazing things as techniques improve to peer into the workings of these units of life.  Here are our Top Ten from the last few weeks: Immunity Tunes:  A press release from Johns Hopkins talked about how, unlike other cells, immune cells undergo a “dizzying loop of activity” […]

Enzymes Chew Like Pac-Man

Evidence is growing that many enzymes have moving parts.  They act like scissors, clamps and little pac-mans.  When precisely-folded chains of amino acids emerge from the ribosome, they fold into unique shapes with the aid of chaperones.  But those shapes are not static globs.  They move, say Dmitry A. Kondrashov and George N. Phillips, Jr. […]

All You Wanted to Know About Spider Webs, Except Their Evolution

Each issue of Current Biology contains a Primer on some interesting subject.  The May 24 issue had one about spider webs.1  Fritz Vollrath shared some amazing details about this unique product of the lowly spider, but gave a strange explanation for how the capability to spin strong-as-steel nets evolved.  First, the factoids: Structure:  …the… common […]

Rotary Clock Discovered in Bacteria

What could be more mechanical than a mechanical clock?  A biochemist has discovered one in the simplest of organisms, one-celled cyanobacteria.  Examining the three complex protein components of its circadian clock, he thinks he has hit on a model that explains its structure and function: it rotates to keep time.  Though it keeps good time, […]

Honeybee Dance Wins Ovation

In the 1960s, Karl von Frisch announced the surprising discovery that scout honeybees announce detailed information to their hivemates about food sources with a “waggle dance”.  This information, conveyed via the dance’s vigor and angle, tells recruit bees what angle to fly relative to the sun, how far to go, and how good the food […]

Your Eyes Do Layered Image Processing

Computer users familiar with Photoshop and other image processing programs know that an image can be divided into “layers” for making color corrections, evening out contrast and enhancing details.  Your eyes do that, too, says Alan Gilchrist in Current Biology.1  He shows a stunning optical illusion to make the point: transparent chess pieces against differing […]

Flower Sets Catapult Speed Record

An American team of two biologists and a physicist found that a common mountain flowering plant holds the plant acceleration record.  Reporting in Nature,1 they calculated that the bunchberry dogwood flower propels its pollen at speeds approaching 14 mph when the catapult-like petals explode open, accelerating at 24,000 meters per second squared within 0.3 second.  […]

The Monarch Butterflies in the Flight Simulator, II

How much software can fit in a butterfly brain?  Scientists are again amazed at the navigating ability of Monarch butterflies.  In the 07/09/2002 entry, we reported about how Canadian researchers used a clever flight simulator to test Monarch butterfly navigation with reference to sun angle.  Now, using an enhanced version of the earlier “butterfly flight […]

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 […]

World’s Smallest Rotary Motors Coming Into Focus

Science April 29 had three articles on the ATP synthase rotary motors that inhabit all living cells.1,2,3  Using creative techniques of extreme microscopy and crystallography, research teams are beginning to get more focused images of the carousel-like rotating engines of both F-type and V-type motors.  (V-type enzymes pump ions into the cell to regulate acidity; […]

Hubble Telescope Celebrates 15th Birthday with Stunning Images

Fifteen years old this month, the Hubble Space Telescope showed off new images of the Whirlpool Galaxy and Eagle Nebula (see ESA press release).  Engineers at JPL who built the WFPC-2 (Wide Field and Planetary Camera), the camera that took most of those famous images that adorn our walls and calendars, took great satisfaction today […]

Bacterial Hydrogen Fuel Cell May Yield Cleaner World

Scientists at Penn State are working on a new, improved fuel cell.  Its secret?  Bacteria that can be coaxed with a little electricity to produce “four times as much hydrogen directly out of biomass than can be generated typically by fermentation alone.”  Will you someday be able to harness hydrogen from organic waste to drive […]

Butterflies Really Know How to Fly

The path of a butterfly may appear haphazard to us, but there is a method to the fluttering.  A UK team of scientists put transponders on butterflies and monitored their flight paths.  They found that the looping paths appear to help with orientation and food detection.  The rest of the time, they flew straight at […]
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