Antibiotic resistance: How do antibiotics kill bacteria?

Posted on December 31, 2006  Comments (3)

Antibiotic resistance: How do antibiotics kill bacteria?

Many, if not most, antibiotics act by inhibiting the events necessary for bacterial growth. Some inhibit DNA replication, some, transcription, some antibiotics prevent bacteria from making proteins, some prevent the synthesis of cell walls, and so on. In general, antibiotics keep bacteria from building the parts that are needed for growth.

It seems funny to think that not growing can be a mechanism for survival. But if you’re a bacteria, and you can hang around long enough in an inactive, non-growing state, eventually your human host will stop taking antibiotics, they will disappear from your environment and you can go back to growing.

Related: How do antibiotics kill bacterial cells but not human cells?Entirely New Antibiotic DevelopedOveruse of Antibiotics

Bald Eagle Carry a Fish Over Manhattan

Posted on December 31, 2006  Comments (0)

Famed NYC hawk sees bald eagle soar by (page deleted by AP)

A bald eagle carries a fish in its talons over New York City’s Central Park, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006. The eagles flight didn’t go unnoticed by Pale Male, the famed red-tailed hawk of Central Park, who was perched on the 22nd floor of the Beresford apartment building as the eagle flew by. “Pale Male usually sits there sort of relaxed, but he sat up straight when he saw the bald eagle,” said Lincoln Karim

Related: Bueatiful site for Pale MaleEvolution in Darwin’s FinchesBirds Fly Early

via: AP: Bald eagle, dangling a big fish in its talons, over NY City

Northwest FIRST Robotics Competition

Posted on December 30, 2006  Comments (5)

photo of FIRST robots competition

The Pacific Northwest FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules.

Newport High students look to future with robotics venture by Terry Dillman:

Founded in 1989 to “inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology,” the not-for-profit, New Hampshire-based FIRST designs “accessible, innovative programs” to encourage students to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while simultaneously building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.

Teams build their robots using the parts kit for the basics, and procuring other parts as needed to augment the kit and make the robot do what’s required in competition.

Related: Robot Football2006 FIRST Robotics Competition Regional EventsRI FIRSTBoosting Engineering, Science and Technology

Mixing Memory: Coolest Experiment

Posted on December 29, 2006  Comments (0)

Coolest… Experiment… Ever

In short, change blindness is an issue of attention and representation. If we fail to represent an object in a scene either before or after a change, then we won’t notice the change, and we tend not to represent objects that aren’t important to the meaning of what we’re looking at, because we’re just not paying attention to them (though paying attention to them doesn’t guarantee representation).

At this point, you’re thinking, “This is insane! I would notice if the stranger I was talking to suddenly looked like a completely different person!” I thought the same thing, and we’re not alone. In fact, this disbelief is so common that it has its own name: change blindness blindness.

Related: Illusion of Explanatory Depth50 Top Science Blogs

Brain Research on Sea Slugs

Posted on December 29, 2006  Comments (1)

How many genes does it take to learn? Lessons from sea slugs

“In the human brain there are a hundred billion neurons, each expressing at least 18,000 genes, and the level of expression of each gene is different,” said Moroz, who is affiliated with UF’s Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute and the UF Genetics Institute. “Understanding individual genes or proteins is important, but this is a sort of molecular alphabet. This helps us learn the molecular grammar, or a set of rules that can control orchestrated activity of multiple genes. If we are going to understand memory or neurological disease at the cellular level, we need to understand the rules.”

Scientists also analyzed 146 human genes implicated in 168 neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and genes controlling aging and stem-cell differentiation. They found 104 counterpart genes in Aplysia, suggesting it will be a valuable tool for developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Related: Nanoparticles to Aid Brain Imaginganti-microbial ‘grammar’Nanofibers Knit Severed Neurons Together

Robot Heading for Antarctic Dive

Posted on December 28, 2006  Comments (1)

Robot heading for Antarctic dive, BBC News:

Isis, the UK’s first deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV), will be combing the sea-bed in the region in its inaugural science mission. Researchers hope to uncover more about the effects of glaciers on the ocean floor, and also find out about the animals that inhabit these waters. The mission begins in mid-January and will last for about three weeks. While the scientists and engineers begin their long journey to the Antarctic at the start of January, Isis left the UK shores in November and has only just arrived at its destination.

Ten kilometres of cable connect it to its “mother ship”, allowing scientists to control the vehicle and receive the data it collects in real-time. On the ROV, Mr Mason said, were lights, cameras to produce high-quality video and still pictures, sonars for acoustic navigation and imaging, and two remotely controlled manipulator arms to collect samples or place scientific instruments on the sea-bed.

“We are hoping to see a whole bunch of large creatures such as star fish, sea cucumbers, sea fans, sea pens, etc, that inhabit the deep shelf slope and abyssal depths.” He added: “Essentially no-one has explored Antarctica using a ROV at these depths.”

Related: More Unmanned Water VehiclesSwimming Robot Aids ResearchersArctic SharksOcean Life

Delaying the Flow of Light on a Silicon Chip

Posted on December 28, 2006  Comments (2)

IBM Milestone Demonstrates Optical Device to Advance Computer Performance

IBM today announced its researchers have built a device capable of delaying the flow of light on a silicon chip, a requirement to one day allow computers to use optical communications to achieve better performance.

“Today’s more powerful microprocessors are capable of performing much more work if we can only find a way to increase the flow of information within a computer,” said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president of Science and Technology for IBM Research. “As more and more data is capable of being processed on a chip, we believe optical communications is the way to eliminate these bottlenecks. As a result, the focus in high-performance computing is shifting from improvements in computation to those in communication within the system.”

Additional information on silicon nanophotonics

Engineering Education Advocate

Posted on December 27, 2006  Comments (1)

Jolly Good Fellow by Thomas K. Grose

He thinks one reason for the decline is the way engineering is taught in the United Kingdom, with a heavy, early emphasis on theory and math. “Kids come in and they want to design and build cars, but instead they’re fed theory and hard math. And they say, ‘What the heck is this?’” Degree programs should be made more palatable and exciting early on, Sharkey says, with more hands-on learning to go along with the theoretical so students can more easily see how it relates to real-life applications. “We need to get out the idea that engineering can be creative—and then make it so. Somehow, we need to teach innovation.”

But Sharkey also realizes that few schools have either the time or the money to reshape their curricula. “So we could use a government initiative.”Sharkey also takes a more long-term view toward revitalizing engineering enrollments, noting that it’s best to capture the imagination of budding engineers when they’re as young as 10 or 11. Toward that goal, and with EPSRC funding, he runs a series of robot-control and construction competitions for children and young adults. A recent one was in Rotherham, a hardscrabble area outside Sheffield. About 2,000 inner-city kids made and took home simple cardboard robots from kits he devised that use a photoelectric sensor. Many of these kids are considered unteachable, “but to me, they seemed happy to learn. They didn’t see me as a teacher.” Moreover, constructing robots engages and entertains youngsters, which makes learning easier.

Single Gene Could Lead to Long Life

Posted on December 26, 2006  Comments (0)

Single Gene Could Lead to Long Life, Better Mental Function by Charles Q. Choi:

The CETP gene variant makes cholesterol particles in the blood larger than normal. The researchers suggest smaller particles can more readily lodge in the lining of blood vessels, leading to fatty buildups, which are a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

Whether or not this gene variant protects the brain by preventing this buildup, or through some other mechanism, remains uncertain, says Barzilai. Future research should also investigate whether this gene has an effect on dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease, says pathologist and human geneticist George Martin at the University of Washington.

Pharmaceutical companies are currently developing drugs that mimic the effect of this gene variant, says Barzilai. Unfortunately, one known as torcetrapib, manufactured by Pfizer, was pulled in December due to increased death and heart problems among study subjects, “but others in development aren’t seeing that, so it might just have been a problem with that drug,”

Related: Brain Development Gene is Evolving the FastestAnother Paper Questions Scientific Paper Accuracy

Knowledge Is Power – Teaching Math

Posted on December 26, 2006  Comments (0)

Knowledge Is Power Program:

IM was the second charter school founded for low-income D.C. students by KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program. KIPP had gained a national reputation for math instruction. The KIPP leaders in D.C. had good reason to think, as they told Suben, that “we have math pretty much figured out.” Suben, 23 at the time, still thought she could do better. She told her supervisors she was going to produce her own fifth-grade math curriculum. A year later, her students achieved the largest one-year math score jump ever seen at a KIPP school (or any other school that I know of), from the 16th to the 77th percentile.

Suben said: “My primary goal as a teacher is to help my students understand the reasoning behind math rules and procedures. I have several core beliefs about this: (1) Understanding is constructed by the learner, not passively received from the teacher. (2) Understanding is built by making connections between as many strands of knowledge as possible. (3) Understanding is galvanized through communication. (4) Understanding is only valuable when you reflect on it and question it.”

The core of her method is the workbook she produced last year on the fly. It “lets students build their own notes and create their own examples. It is incredibly active learning,” she said. They were encouraged to write down the meaning of important terms and strategies they used that worked with certain kinds of problems.

Related: The Economic Benefits of MathMath for AmericaInspire Students to Study Math and ScienceThe Emperor of Math

Engineering Basketball Flop

Posted on December 26, 2006  Comments (0)

Despite innovation, basketball maker loses grip on customers (newspaper broke the link so I removed it)

However, NBA players found many problems with the new ball, claiming that it caused finger cuts and friction burns. More important, they complained of control problems because of inconsistent bouncing by the new ball, its tendency to stick to the floor and backboards when dry, and the difficulty in gripping it when wet.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, asked researchers at the University of Texas in Arlington to compare the performances of both the synthetic and leather balls. Their investigation found that the microfiber composite ball did not bounce as high as the leather design and that it bounced 30 percent more erratically.

The investigators also used silicon sheets to replicate the surface of a player’s hands as they conducted frictional tests on the balls. The new balls were found to be slippery even when slightly moistened, whereas the leather balls actually became tackier when wet, making them easier to grip.

These results are not surprising because the synthetic covering is not as moisture absorbent as leather. These findings seemed to confirm the players’ concerns about the new ball.

Related: NBA to ditch new ball, return to oldThe Science of the Football SwerveBaseball Pitch Designed in the Lab