Learning About Bacterial Biofilms
Posted on November 11, 2016 Comments (0)
Unlike bacterial biofilms can be visible to the naked eye. As with many instances of bacteria they are often harmless to us but when the bacteria are dangerous the biofilm offers them protection (which is why they form such structures).
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 65 percent of chronic inflammatory and infectious diseases are due to biofilms. According to recent studies, biofilm-related infections claim as many lives as heart attack or cancer.
Scientists think there are several reasons for this decrease in susceptibility. First, the slimy layer encasing biofilms can make it hard for disinfectants or antimicrobials to even physically reach the bacteria. Also, bacteria living in biofilms experience high stress levels while growing rather slowly, which can render most antibiotics ineffective since they only work on actively growing cells. My favorite theory is that living in a biofilm changes bacteria and their behavior; something about their mix of active genes and proteins just makes them more resilient. Whatever the contributing factors, bacteria growing in a biofilm can be up to 1,000-fold more resistant to antibiotics than the same bacteria grown planktonically.
The use of biofilms predates our use of anti-biotics but the adaptation of forming biofilm communities serves as a protection against antibiotics and so it isn’t a surprise that with more use of antibiotics more surviving bacteria will be those using biofilm strategies.
Thankfully for us, we have many researchers exploring options to help us figure out how we can protect ourselves when we need to. We are going to need many different strategies to protect us going forward. Our success will depended on thousands of scientists working on these issues.
Related: Scientists Target Bacteria Where They Live (2009) – Using Nanocomposites to Improve Dental Filling Performance (2012) – Fighting Superbugs with Superhero Bugs (2015) – The Search for Antibiotic Solutions Continues: Killing Sleeper Bacteria Cells (2013)
Chimpanzees Solving Numerical Memory Test Better Than People
Posted on October 29, 2016 Comments (5)
I can’t even see all the numbers before they disappear. But chimpanzees are shown seeing a flash of 9 numbers on a screen and then pointing to where they were on the screen in order from 1 to 9. Human test subjects can’t even do 5 numbers most of the time.
Related: Chimpanzees Use Spears to Hunt Bush Babies – Orangutan Attempts to Hunt Fish with Spear – Crows can Perform as Well as 7 to 10-year-olds on cause-and-effect Water Displacement Tasks – Tropical Lizards Can Solve Novel Problems and Remember the Solutions
The Challenge of Protecting Us from Evolving Bacterial Threats
Posted on October 22, 2016 Comments (0)
I have long been concerned about the practices we continue to use increasing the risks of “superbugs.” I have written about this many times, including: The Overuse of Antibiotics Carries Large Long Term Risks (2005) – Are you ready for a world without antibiotics? (2010), Antibiotics Breed Superbugs Faster Than Expected (2010), Entirely New Antibiotic (platensimycin) Developed (2006), Our Poor Antibiotic Practices Have Sped the Evolution of Resistance to Our Last-Resort Antibiotic (2015).
I do also believe the wonderful breakthroughs we make when we invest in science and engineering have made our lives much better and have the potential to continue to do so in many ways, including in dealing with the risks of superbugs. But this is something that requires great effort by many smart people and a great deal of money. It will only happen if we put in the effort.
ROS, or “reactive oxygen species,” include molecules like superoxide and hydrogen peroxide that are natural byproducts of normal metabolic activity. Bacteria usually cope just fine with them, but too many can cause serious damage or even kill the cell. In fact, Collins’ team revealed a few years ago the true antibiotic modus operandi: they kill bacteria in part by ramping up ROS production.
We need to continue to pursue many paths to protecting us from rapidly evolving bacterial risks. Many promising research results will fail to produce usable solutions. We need to try many promising ideas to find useful tools and strategies to protect human health.
Using Rats to Sniff Out TB
Posted on September 1, 2016 Comments (2)
No ordinary lab rats, Apopo’s African giant pouched rats – affectionately named HeroRats – are extremely sensitive to smell, with more genetic material allocated to olfaction than any other mammal species. They are also highly social animals, and can be trained to communicate with humans.
I have written about these wonderful rats previously, Appropriate Technology: Rats Helping Humans by Sniffing Out Land Mines. As I have stated many time I especially enjoy engineering solutions that use affordable and effective methods to help everyone.
Keep these innovations coming. The USA needs them also given the massively costly healthcare system in the USA.
The TB sniffing rat program was developed through Apopo in Tanzania.
How Eratosthenes Estimated the Circumference of the Earth Over 2,000 Years Ago
Posted on August 25, 2016 Comments (4)
In this video Carl Sagan explains how Greek astronomer Eratosthenes, in 200 BC, was able to deduce and calculate the earth was a sphere about 40,000 km in circumference.
It is wonderful to see how a bit of thought and curiosity have lead mankind to learn so much.
Promoting Open Science
Posted on July 30, 2016 Comments (2)
As I have written many times in the past we need to take back science from the closed-science journals. Historically journals were useful (before the internet). With the advent of the internet (and its spread) instead of maintaining the mission they started with the journals sought to maximize their profit and their own pay and jobs at the expense of sharing scientific knowledge with the world.
Elsevier — my part in its downfall by Timothy Gowers provides another good look at what can be done to promote science, math and engineering by addressing the damage to that goal being done by closed science publishers.
Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access from the Max Planck Digital Library provides some good ideas for how to promote science in spite of the closed science journals fighting that goal.
Related: The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge – Why Copyright Extension is a Very Bad Idea – Publishers Continue to Fight Open Access to Science (2007) – Harvard Steps Up Defense Against Abusive Journal Publishers (2012)
Super Awesome Micro Project – Full Size Lego Car
Posted on July 24, 2016 Comments (6)
Here is an interview with Steve Sammartino (Australia) and Raul Oaida (Romania) on their efforts to build the car. The project built a fullsize car out of lego ($60,000 worth of legos) with a lego engine that works on air. It really is an interesting interview.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Plans to Use Drones to Drop Vaccine Treats to Save Ferrets
Posted on July 16, 2016 Comments (0)
Despite significant recovery successes, the black-footed ferret remains one of the most endangered animals in the world.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a plan to use (UAS) to deliver prairie dog sylvatic plague vaccination.
The primary purpose in this proposal is to develop the equipment, protocols and experience in use of UAS (drones) to deliver oral sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV). It is anticipated that this approach, when fully developed, will offer the most efficient, effective, cost-conscious and environmentally friendly method to apply SPV annually over large areas of prairie dog colonies in support of black-footed ferret recovery.
Plague is a primary obstacle to black-footed ferret recovery. After more than 20 years of intensive reintroduction efforts across 27 reintroduction sites ranging from Mexico to Canada, approximately 300 ferrets were known to exist in the wild at the end of 2015. Ferrets are constantly threatened by plague outbreaks that affect both ferrets, and their primary prey and habitat provider, prairie dogs.
To date, SPV has been applied by hand with people walking pre-defined transects and uniformly dropping single SPV baits every 9-10 meters to achieve a deposition rate of 50 SPV doses per acre. Depending on vegetation and terrain, a single person walking can treat 3-6 acres per hour. All terrain vehicles (ATVs) have been considered but have various problems.
The bait treats are M&Ms smeared in vaccine-laden peanut butter.
Preliminary discussions with people experienced with UAS suggest an aerial vehicle travelling at a modest 9 meters per second could drop a single SPV bait once per second that would result in treating one acre every 50 seconds. If the equipment and expertise can be developed as proposed here, a single UAS operator could treat more than 60 acres per hour.
If the equipment can be developed to deposit 3 SPV doses simultaneously every second, as they envision is possible, some 200 acres per hour could be treated by a single operator. The idea is that the drone would fire the treats in 3 different directions to increase the spread of treats.
The areas to be treated are located in South Phillips County, Montana.
Related: Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Roadless Areas (2014) – The sub-$1,000 unpiloted aerial vehicles UAV Project (2007) – Autonomous Flying Vehicles (2006) – Cat Allergy Vaccine Created (2011) – AlienFly RC Mosquito Helicopter (2007)
Autonomous Delivery Robots Launched in Europe and USA
Posted on July 9, 2016 Comments (3)
Starship Technologies is launching a fleet of autonomous delivery robots on the pavements of the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland as part of the testing program. A similar program will be announced for the United States shortly.
The largest European food delivery company Just Eat, leading German parcel delivery company Hermes, leading German retailer Metro Group, and innovative London food delivery startup Pronto will test the delivery robots developed by Starship Technologies, a company launched in 2014 by Skype co-founders.
As part of the program, dozens of robots will be deployed in five cities to run first test deliveries and introduce the innovative devices to the general public.
“By launching partnerships with major companies we will enter the next phase in our development. While Starship has been testing the robots in 12 countries in the last nine months, we will now develop know-how on running real robotic delivery services,” said Ahti Heinla, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Starship Technologies.
Robots developed by Starship Technologies are meant for delivering packages, groceries and food to consumers in a 2-3 mile radius. The robots can drive autonomously while being monitored by human operators in control centers. Introduced to European and American cities since the end of last year, the robots have already driven close to 5,000 miles and met over 400,000 people without a single accident.
Frank Rausch, CEO of Hermes Germany, said: “We are very proud to be Starship’s exclusive logistics partner in Germany. At Hermes we believe that parcel delivery’s main goal is to fully satisfy the customers’ needs in receiving their online shopping orders as fast and convenient as possible. Nobody likes to spend hours waiting for the courier just to have a parcel delivered. Therefore, individually scheduled delivery services will become increasingly important within the coming years.”
The test programs will run in London, Düsseldorf, Bern and another German city to start, before moving to several other European and American cities. Starship Technologies will also continue testing in Tallinn, Estonia where its R&D facilities are located.
Related: Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Roadless Areas (2014) – Self Driving Cars Have Huge Potential for Benefit to Society (2014) – Autonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to Fly (2008) – Toyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair (2009)
Dinosaur Bird Wing and Feather in Amber
Posted on July 3, 2016 Comments (0)
Skin, muscle, claws, and feather shafts are visible, along with the remains of rows of feathers similar in arrangement and microstructure to modern birds.
The nearly 100 million year old wing shows a structure that is very similar to modern birds.
The piece in this photo, and others samples, were bought at an amber market in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state in northern Myanmar. The region is politically unstable and most of the amber is sold to Chinese consumers for jewelry and decorative carvings.
Read the related posts for more on the wonderful discoveries saved in amber of hundreds of millions of years. We get to read about these amazing discoveries so often it is easy to lose appreciation for how amazing each one is. This photo shows a wind that was used by a dinosaur almost 100 million years ago.
Related: Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in Amber 2008) – Learning About Life over 200 Million Years Ago From Samples Trapped In Amber (2012) – The evolution of birds from small predatory dinosaurs – Dino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber (2008) – Amber Pieces Containing Remains from Dinosaurs and Birds Show Feather Evolution (2011) – Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert
Backyard Wildlife: Great Tailed Grackle
Posted on June 28, 2016 Comments (3)
I think this is a Great Tailed Grackle, please comment if you think I am wrong. This is taken in my backyard in Arlington, Virginia.