Evolution in New York City Wildlife
Posted on July 31, 2011 Comments (0)
Evolution Right Under Our Noses by Carl Zimmer
Dr. Wirgin and his colleagues were intrigued to discover that the Hudson’s population of tomcod, a bottom-dwelling fish, turned out to be resistant to PCBs. “There was no effect on them at all,” Dr. Wirgin said, “and we wanted to know why.”
In March, he and his colleagues reported that almost all the tomcod in the Hudson share the same mutation in a gene called AHR2. PCBs must first bind to the protein encoded by AHR2 to cause damage. The Hudson River mutation makes it difficult for PCBs to grab onto the receptor, shielding the fish from the chemical’s harm.
The AHR2 mutation is entirely missing from tomcod that live in northern New England and Canada. A small percentage of tomcod in Long Island and Connecticut carry the mutation. Dr. Wirgin and his colleagues concluded that once PCBs entered the Hudson, the mutant gene spread quickly.
Carl Zimmer again does a good job of explaining science in an engaging way. It is interesting to learn about science and evolution in urban environments. Lots of life manages to survive the challenges of urban life and it is interesting to learn what scientists are finding about that life.
Related: Trying to Find Pest Solutions While Hoping Evolution Doesn’t Exist Doesn’t Work – Microcosm by Carl Zimmer – New Yorkers Help Robot Find Its Way in the Big City – Parasite Rex – Backyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing Damselfly
How Algorithms Shape our World
Posted on July 29, 2011 Comments (2)
Our modern world is influenced greatly by algorithms. As computing power allowed incredibly complex calculation we have taken advantage of that and used algorithms to find solutions to our desires. Great things are done but we also find ourselves getting into trouble occasionally as we develop these algorithm.
EZ-Builder Robot Control Software
Posted on July 25, 2011 Comments (4)
You can get EZ-Builder Robot Control Software and try this out yourself.
Using a Dremel, hot glue gun, screw drivers and various other tools, you can begin modifying the toy shell to fit your servos. For wheels or mobility, use continuous rotation modified servos. For arms and neck, use a standard servo. To allow your robot to see for object detection, use a Sharp IR Distance Sensor or a HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Ping Sensor.
Great Projects From First Google Science Fair Finalists
Posted on July 20, 2011 Comments (4)
15 finalists (from 3 different age groups – 13-14 years old, 15-16 and 17-18) were selected. 11 finalists were from the USA and 1 each from Singapore, Canada, India and South Africa. These examples of what can be done with imagination, effort and a scientific mindset is great.
The grand prize winner, Shree Boseer’s project:
This is a great project and the experience for the students is wonderful. Still I do think the prizes should be much larger given all the large corporations involved. Get involved with the next Google Science fair.
Google Science Fair 2011 Projects semi finalists – Intel Science and Engineering Fair 2009 Webcasts – Hats off to the winners of the inaugural Google Science Fair – President Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and Engineering
Cambrian Explosion Song
Posted on July 18, 2011 Comments (0)
The video was filmed in the Beaty Biodiversity Museum (Canada) atrium with the blue whale exhibit in the background.
Related: Test it Out, Experiment by They Might Be Giants – Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants – Lobopodians from China a Few Million Years Ago – Google Art Project: View Art from the Hermitage, the Met, etc.
Biologists Identified a New Way in Which Bacteria Hijack Healthy Cells
Posted on July 14, 2011 Comments (1)
Purdue University biologists identified a new way in which bacteria hijack healthy cells during infection, which could provide a target for new antibiotics. Zhao-Qing Luo, the associate professor of biological sciences who led the study, said the team discovered a new enzyme used by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila – which causes Legionnaires’ disease – to control its host cell in order to take up residence.
“Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia, and this finding could lead to the design of a new therapy that saves lives,” Luo said. “At the same time it also provides great insight into a general mechanism of both bacterial infection and cell signaling events in higher organisms including humans.”
Successful infection by Legionella pneumophila requires the delivery of hundreds of proteins into the host cells that alter various functions to turn the naturally hostile environment into one tailor-made for bacterial replication. These proteins tap into existing communication processes within the cells in which an external signal, such as a hormone, triggers a cascade of slight modifications to proteins that eventually turns on a gene that changes the cell’s behavior, he said.
“Pathogens are successful because they know how information in our cells is relayed and they amplify some signals and block others in order to evade the immune system and keep the cell from defending itself,” Luo said. “Despite our understanding of this, we do not know much about how the proteins delivered by the bacteria accomplish this – how they work. This time we were able to pinpoint an enzyme and see how it disrupted and manipulated a specific signaling pathway in order to create a better environment for itself.”
The signaling pathway involved was only recently identified, and the discovery by Luo and graduate student Yunhao Tan also provides a key insight into its process. The signaling pathway involves a new form of protein modification called AMPylation in order to relay instructions to change cell behavior and has been found to be used by almost all organisms, Luo said.
The bacterium affects the host cell’s functions differently during different phases of the infection process, tapping into signaling pathways to turn on and off certain natural cellular activities. SidD stops the AMPylation process four hours after the start of infection in order to reverse an earlier modification that would be detrimental to the cell if left in place, he said.
Read the full press release.
Related: Using Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells – Disrupting Bacterial Communication to Thwart Them – Scientists Target Bacteria Where They Live – Are you ready for a world without antibiotics?
Photo of Fish Using a Rock to Open a Clam
Posted on July 11, 2011 Comments (6)
Tool use, once thought to be the distinctive hallmark of human intelligence, has been identified in a wide variety of animals in recent decades…
There have also been a handful of reports of fish cracking open hard-shelled prey, such as bivalves and sea urchins, by banging them on rocks or coral, but there’s no photo or video evidence to back it up, according to Culum Brown, a behavioral ecologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and a co-author of the present paper, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Coral Reefs.
The more we learn about animals the more tool use we find. It is continually interesting to see the wide variety of behavior documented.
PBS Newshour on Maker Faire
Posted on July 1, 2011 Comments (5)
The maker movement is excellent. As the program suggests it also serves to show many people enjoy engineering and making things work. Kids love to learn to accomplish things. Memorizing boring science details is not as interesting or a very useful way to create the kinds of innovative scientists and engineers that can aid our economy.