In China the lightest material on Earth has recently been invented. Its weight makes it so light that it can be sustained by a blade of grass or a stalk of a flower. It’s an aerogel that has the form of a paper sheet and has the width of a carbon atom. Thanks to its characteristic shape, the material can take on many forms and dimensions. Also, it has the remarkable capability of absorbing liquid substances up to 900 times its weight.... Read more »
Sun H, Xu Z, & Gao C. (2013) Multifunctional, ultra-flyweight, synergistically assembled carbon aerogels. Advanced materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), 25(18), 2554-60. PMID: 23418099
In Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice wanders into a garden with flowers that can talk — the “garden of Live Flowers”. Of course, all plants are alive, but here the flowers are called “live” because they can talk. One of the greatest examples of human arrogance might be our attitude towards plants. We treat plants as objects, as part of the background, as mere things without any agency. We tend to forget that they’re dynamic, complex living creatures that react and respond to their environment — just in unfamiliar ways and on a different timescale.... Read more »
Sugimoto K, & Arimura GI. (2013) Maize plants prime anti-herbivore responses by the memorizing and recalling of airborne information in their genome. Plant signaling , 8(10). PMID: 23887489
While people cheating on their partners is frowned upon in modern society, monogamy among mammals is something of an evolutionary puzzle. Some stick to one sexual partner for a lifetime. That is why the evolution of monogamy among mammals is hotly debated. Two studies published this week, including one I worked on, weigh in on the debate.
Evolution dictates that genes have the final say. And if there is one thing genes want, it is to spread as far and wide as possible. That is why monogamy is rare among mammals.
Females have to wait for a long gestation period to have a child, where as males could go and inseminate many other females in that time. Most male mammals behave in this manner, but some don’t, and are monogamous.... Read more »
Christopher Opiea, Quentin D. Atkinson, Robin I. M. Dunbarc, and Susanne Shultzd. (2013) Male infanticide leads to social monogamy in primates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1307903110
Genetics is becoming a bigger and bigger part of modern medicine as our knowledge increases. From diagnostics, to research, and even potential treatments, advanced biotechnologies are becoming more common.
Each of these medical fields requires precise analysis and often manipulation of human DNA. Diagnostics may require mutating certain genes to see what the effect is, in the hopes of identifying disease risk. For research and drug testing scientists need to have cell cultures that mimic the genetic characteristics of various diseases. And for many conditions with a genetic component, gene therapy is being researched as a potential cure. The issue was that scientists didn’t have a standard tool for manipulating DNA in this way, until now.... Read more »
Pablo Perez-Pinera et al. (2013) RNA-guided gene activation by CRISPR-Cas9–based transcription factors. NATURE METHODS. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.2600
Never has “feeling blue” carried such a sense of finality. A new study has revealed the simple worm (Caenorhabditis elegans) meets its death in a flash of azure. And, according to researchers, the blue light shows that dying may be a coordinated process that could probably be delayed.
Scientists have known for many years that cells can die in two ways. Necrosis occurs when either the cell’s machinery breaks down with age, or exposure to trauma damages the cell beyond repair. Apoptosis is a programmed process triggered on demand, by which even healthy cells can undergo a series of changes resulting in an orderly death.... Read more »
Cassandra Coburn et al. (2013) Anthranilate Fluorescence Marks a Calcium-Propagated Necrotic Wave That Promotes Organismal Death in C. elegans. PLoS Biology. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001613
Damaging hurricanes are familiar along the US east coast, with the recent hurricane Sandy a dramatic example. In Europe we are unused to such dramatic weather and the widespread destruction that hurricanes can, and do, cause. However, our new research suggests that this is likely to change as Earth’s climate warms over the next century.
Hurricanes are powered by warm sea water and characterised by heavy rainfall. The energy that is released during this rainfall is the thriving force of hurricanes. They originate during late summer in the western part of the tropical Atlantic where the sea water is sufficiently warm.... Read more »
Reindert J. Haarsma, Wilco Hazeleger, Camiel Severijns, Hylke de Vries, Andreas Sterl, Richard Bintanja, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Henk W. van den Brink. (2013) More hurricanes to hit western Europe due to global warming. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1002/grl.50360
Researchers have been able to consistently create a “false memory”.... Read more »
A speaker’s social status can affect how we interpret their words, a study has found.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, involved researchers showing the study’s 18 German participants videotapes of a powerful politician (the German Federal Minister of Finance at the time of the experiment), and an unknown person, making both true and false statements.
Examples of true statements shown to the German participants included “Michael Jackson is a pop singer”, and “The chancellor advocates a later entry of the Ukraine into the NATO alliance.”... Read more »
Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Sylvia Krauspenhaar,Matthias Schlesewsky. (2013) Yes, You Can? A Speaker’s Potency to Act upon His Words Orchestrates Early Neural Responses to Message-Level Meaning. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069173
An overcast sky is rarely a welcome sight for snorkelers on the Great Barrier Reef. But a generous cover of clouds could be exactly what’s needed for the future survival of the magnificent corals that make the reef the biodiversity wonder that it is.
The Great Barrier Reef hugs the north eastern coastline of Australia across more than 2600 kilometres, earning it the distinction of being the world’s largest coral reef system. A considerable portion of the nearly 3000 individual reefs and 900 islands lies within the protected waters of a marine park, yet human impact is still keenly felt.
Global warming has seen consistently higher sea surface temperatures over the past 45 years. These higher temperatures are the source of one of the greatest threats to reef survival – coral bleaching. Corals are made up of colonies of millions upon millions of tiny marine invertebrates that cement themselves together by secreting a calcium carbonate exoskeleton.... Read more »
Leahy SM, Kingsford MJ . (2013) Do clouds save the Great Barrier Reef? Satellite imagery elucidates the cloud-SST relationship at the local scale. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070400
Most people might think of a shower as a daily ritual that is equal parts hygiene and relaxation: as soap bubbles and cascades down both body and drain, the warm water eases both muscle and mind in its heated caress. However, a small amount of scientific and medical research has hinted that cold water showers have several health and environmental benefits.... Read more »
Tipton MJ, Mekjavic IB, & Eglin CM. (2000) Permanence of the habituation of the initial responses to cold-water immersion in humans. European journal of applied physiology, 83(1), 17-21. PMID: 11072768
Siems WG, Brenke R, Sommerburg O, & Grune T. (1999) Improved antioxidative protection in winter swimmers. QJM : monthly journal of the Association of Physicians, 92(4), 193-8. PMID: 10396606
A male kangaroo’s forearm size could be a sexually selected trait and help them find a mate, a new study has found.
In fact, male kangaroos frequently adopt poses to show off their muscly arms to females, the authors have said.
The study, conducted by researchers from Murdoch University and Curtin University and published in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, centred on data gained from dissecting 13 grey kangaroo males and 15 females.
Each forelimb was dissected and the weight relationships between the individual muscle mass and body mass were examined.... Read more »
Natalie M. Warburton, Philip W. Bateman, Patricia Anne Fleming. (2013) Sexual selection on forelimb muscles of western grey kangaroos (Skippy was clearly a female). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1111/bij.12090
Today's Google Doodle honours pioneering British biophysicist and x-ray crystallographer, Rosalind Franklin... Read more »
In our lab we have a phone that rings several times a day. The conversation is always the same. A man from somewhere in the UK (where I’m from) is desperate to know the answer to one question: “Am I a Viking?”
An answer we could give is: “No. You don’t have a boat or a sword. You’re not a Viking.” But what they really want to know is whether their DNA points to a Scandinavian ancestry.
Maybe they could find some food for thought in a paper published in the journal PLOS Biology, which recently caught the attention of the mainstream media due to its supposedly surprising conclusion that Europeans shared common ancestors in the past 1,000 years. But re-examining this claim when you know a little about population genetics, makes it a subtle and more interesting phenomenon, but also a much less surprising one.... Read more »
Peter Ralph, & Graham Coop. (2012) The geography of recent genetic ancestry across Europe. PLoS Biology 11(5) 2013: e1001555. arXiv: 1207.3815v5
Every wolf has its own distinct voice.... Read more »
Holly Root-Gutteridgea, Martin Bencsikb, Manfred Cheblib, Louise K. Gentlea, Christopher Terrell-Nieldb, Alexandra Bouritb . (2013) Identifying individual wild Eastern grey wolves (Canis lupus lycaon) using fundamental frequency and amplitude of howls. Bioacoustics: The International Journal of Animal Sound and its Recording. DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2013.817317
he display of a frozen mammoth in Japan has again raised questions as to the possibility of creating a live born clone of extinct animals.
Theoretically, mammoths could be cloned by recovering, reconstructing or synthesizing viable mammoth DNA and injecting it into the egg cell of a modern elephant whose nuclear DNA has been removed; alternatively, mammoth genetic material could be introduced into an elephant genome in order to create a mammoth-elephant hybrid or chimera.
This raises an ethical question as to whether we should start the journey down one of these paths.... Read more »
Douglas T, Powell R, & Savulescu J. (2013) Is the creation of artificial life morally significant?. Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences. PMID: 23810562
Oxytocin, sometimes called ”The Love Hormone“, has emerged over the past decade as somewhat of a magical substance. It has been known for some time to be central in mother-child bonding in animals, but more recently has been implicated in human behaviors, like increasing trust in strangers. The excitement over oxytocin has encouraged scientists to better understand its effects and some studies have recently revealed a “dark side” to oxytocin, like increased anxiety.... Read more »
Guzmán YF, Tronson NC, Jovasevic V, Sato K, Guedea AL, Mizukami H, Nishimori K, & Radulovic J. (2013) Fear-enhancing effects of septal oxytocin receptors. Nature neuroscience. PMID: 23872596
For more than a decade, studies have reported a drop in the numbers of pollinator species, such as bees and butterflies, but so far computer models have predicted that plant communities would be able to recover from this cutback. However, it turns out that losing just a single bumblebee species can have a dramatic impact on plant reproduction, by changing how remaining pollinators react, says a study published in PNAS.
“I had been sceptical of the computer models that predict strong resilience of plant communities to pollinator species losses for some time”, said Dr Berry Brosi, ecologist from Emory University and first author in the study. “I was particularly dubious of the assumption that there will be no change in the interactions between plants and pollinators when you lose species from the system.”... Read more »
Brosi BJ, & Briggs HM. (2013) Single pollinator species losses reduce floral fidelity and plant reproductive function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23878216
by Terrific T in Science, I Choose You
This is part 2 of my 4-part series about studying gender bias in science (See part 1). For studies using existing data, we look at information that is already available, and learn from the information through data analysis. The difficulty in these studies is that because you are not in control of how the information […]... Read more »
Isbell Lynne A., Young Truman P., Harcourt Alexander H., & Lambert Joanna E. (2012) Stag Parties Linger: Continued Gender Bias in a Female-Rich Scientific Discipline. PLoS ONE, 7(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049682.g002
Schroeder J., Dugdale H. L., Radersma R., Hinsch M., Buehler D. M., Saul J., Porter L., Liker A., De Cauwer I., & Johnson P. J. (2013) Fewer invited talks by women in evolutionary biology symposia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jeb.12198
Taking antioxidant supplements when exercising could do more harm than good.... Read more »
Gliemann, L., Schmidt, J.F., Olesen, J., Biensø, S.U., Mortensen, S.P., Nyberg, M., Bangsbo, J., Pilegaard, H. and Hellsten, Y. (2013) Resveratrol blunts the positive effects of exercise training on cardiovascular health in aged men. The Journal of Physiology. DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.258061
Nanoparticles heated by an alternating magnetic field could be used to treat cancers.... Read more »
Huang TE . (2013) Intravenous magnetic nanoparticle cancer hyperthermia. International Journal of Nanomedicine . DOI: 10.2147/IJN.S43770
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