March 28, 2019

Heard through the vitis vinifera (grapevine)

Science News Roundup – April 4, 2019

A Calamity Frozen in Time

About 66 million years ago, a meteor hit earth, possibly causing the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. In an astonishing find in North Dakota, a fossil treasure trove has now been found that seems to date from the very day of that deadly impact. Paleontologists are stating that this unprecedented discovery shows how the meteor impact – and subsequent earthquakes, tsunamis, and fires – almost instantly killed and preserved the animals in this fossil bed.

Read more about this literally ground-breaking discovery in The New York Times.

Read about this fascinating find in Discover.

Not So Dark After All

The universe is made up of about 85% dark matter, right? Well, astronomers have now found a galaxy that seems to exist without the elusive stuff. In fact, this is the second galaxy in that neighborhood to be found containing little-to-no dark matter, which indicates that last year's discovery of a similar galaxy was correct. What does it all mean? That remains to be seen.
“The fact that we’re seeing something that’s just completely new is what’s so fascinating,” said Shany Danieli, lead author of the latest study.


A fix for some hereditary blood diseases has possibly been found, through the use of the CRISPR genome-editing tool. Researches seem to have developed a reliable way to edit the genes that cause misshapen red blood cells – the mutation behind sickle-cell anaemia and β-thalassaemia. This procedure, if made available to humans, could be revolutionary in the treatment and prevention of these life-threatening diseases.

Read about the procedure in Nature.

Read about the technological development in TechXplore.

Try This on for Size

A new wearable biosensor has been created that mimics the skin and can help analyze wound healing. This kind of technology has lots of potential for the medical field, as it's much more functional than other kinds of biosensors, because it's easier to connect with the body. The sensor is elastic and flexible like skin, so it can be placed directly on the wound, helping scientists better understand how the wound heals.

Tough as Silk

Synthetic biologists have finally succeeded at what seemed to be an impossible feat: They've created a material that is as strong as spider silk. Researchers have tried – and failed – for decades to create synthetic dragline silk, which is stronger and tougher than steel. But now, using E. coli bacteria to produce the correct DNA sequence, they've done something almost as well as our eight-legged friends.

Read about the amazingly tough fibers in ScienceNews.

Science News Roundup – March 28, 2019

Chemical subterfuge

Did you know that when plants are attacked by insects, they release a chemical alarm into the air? They can use this system to warn other nearby plants about the invader or even call out to other insects who then come and eat the attackers!

But a new finding by Peng-Jun Zhang and Xiao-Ping Yu from China Jiliang University has shown that one sneaky bug has cracked the system. The silverleaf whitefly somehow changes the chemical mixture that the plant releases into the air, which sends out the wrong message to neighboring plants, leaving them even more defenseless against the whitefly!

You can read more about this insect spy thriller in The Atlantic's article.

To Triton we may go

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has announced that it has plans on sending a spacecraft to Neptune's moon Triton, with the goal of investigating how habitable it may be. The proposed spacecraft's name? Trident. How fitting!
Read more on Science Alert.

Use the force

A new study has shown that humans – yes, us! – can subconsciously sense the Earth's magnetic field. Scientists have known for a while that many animals, such as birds and fish (and maybe even insects), use the Earth's magnetic field for navigating. But now an experiment has shown that humans' brainwaves respond to exposure to a magnetic field as powerful as Earth's. So what do we use this "sixth sense" for? Biophysicists don't have the answer to that yet, but stay ~tuned~ for more developments!

To learn more about the experiment, check out the article in Science News.

Where have all the apple trees gone?

Johnny Appleseed would not be happy: Across the United States, for decades now, more and more apple trees are dying. But scientists are stumped as to why this is happening. They haven't seemed to pinpoint the cause of the affliction – which they're calling Sudden Apple Decline, or SAD – and have theorized that it may be a combination of a number of factors (such as viruses, insects, and climate change).
Read more at Science Alert.

The power you're supplying - it's electrifying!

Your skin's eumelanin – the pigment that gives skin color – is conductive. Now, organic chemists are working on a way to harness that ability. It's still pretty far off, but they hope that one day it could be used to coat medical implants or other devices meant to go inside the body, since it can both conduct electricity and is harmless to humans.

Read the full article in Popular Science.