Science Ahoy!

a legacy of our discomgoogolation

Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category


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As if we needed an excuse to drink beer.

a group of Rice University students are […] using genetic engineering to create beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical in wine that’s been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab animals.

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Written by Elgie Shepard

October 17, 2008 at 8:03 am


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So how many cells does it take to screw a light bulb?

One, it seems.

Monkeys taught to play a computer game were able to overcome wrist paralysis with an experimental device that might lead to new treatments for patients with stroke and spinal cord injury.

Remarkably, the monkeys regained use of paralyzed muscles by learning to control the activity of just a single brain cell.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 16, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Slimy Propulsion

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First the gecko.  Now the snail.

`A UC San Diego engineer has revealed a new mode of propulsion based on how water snails create ripples of slime to crawl upside down beneath the surface. […]

Some freshwater and marine snails crawl by “hanging” from the water surface while secreting a trail of mucus. The snail’s foot wrinkles into little rippling waves, which produces corresponding waves in the mucus layer that it secretes between the foot and the air. […]

Anette Hosoi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has already imitated the adhesive/ lubricating propulsive method of land snails to drive a robotic device.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 11, 2008 at 11:57 am

Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely

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Show me the meaning of being lonely
Is this the feeling I need to walk with
Tell me why I can’t be there where you are

Simply because it is inhabitable, baby.

The first ecosystem ever found having only a single biological species has been discovered 2.8 kilometers (1.74 miles) beneath the surface of the earth in the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg, South Africa. There the rod-shaped bacterium Desulforudis audaxviator exists in complete isolation, total darkness, a lack of oxygen, and 60-degree-Celsius heat (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

D. audaxviator survives in a habitat where it gets its energy not from the sun but from hydrogen and sulfate produced by the radioactive decay of uranium.

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Written by Elgie Shepard

October 11, 2008 at 11:27 am

Something’s Fishy

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Electricity from coal? yes.  Wind? yes. Sun? yes.  Atoms? yes.


Applying modern engineering design tools to one of the basic units of life, they [researchers at Yale University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology] argue that artificial cells could be built that not only replicate the electrical behavior of electric eel cells but in fact improve on them. Artificial versions of the eel’s electricity generating cells could be developed as a power source for medical implants and other tiny devices, they say.

It seems electric eels have special cells called electrocytes that can generate electric potentials of up to 600 volts. The article goes on to say that

LaVan and partner Jian Xu developed a complex numerical model to represent the conversion of ion concentrations to electrical impulses and tested it against previously published data on electrocytes and nerve cells to verify its accuracy. Then they considered how to optimize the system to maximize power output by changing the overall mix of channel types.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 4, 2008 at 11:18 am