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Friday, September 24, 2021
Holding a mirror to life’s key molecules

Holding a mirror to life’s key molecules

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Enlarge / The left- and right-handed forms of an amino acid. Every living thing uses the left-handed form exclusively. The central dogma of molecular biology holds that DNA gets transcribed into RNA, which then gets translated into proteins. Of course, there are exceptions—some viruses, like coronaviruses, forego DNA altogether and encode their genetic information in…
Evolutionary chaos as butterflies, wasps, and viruses have a three-way war

Evolutionary chaos as butterflies, wasps, and viruses have a three-way war

We're currently watching—often in horror—what happens as a virus and its hosts engage in an evolutionary arms race. Measures to limit infectivity and enhance immunity are selecting for viral strains that spread more readily and avoid at least some of the immune response. All of that is easily explained through evolutionary theory and has been…
Mergers, twists, and pentagons: The architecture of honeycombs

Mergers, twists, and pentagons: The architecture of honeycombs

Bees manage some impressive feats. They not only remember the location of good food sources, but they're able to communicate this information to their peers. They also care for their hive's young and organize attacks against intruders. They're brilliant builders, too. Almost every honeycomb in a hive is a perfect hexagon, with each side the…
Spiral shark intestines work like Nikola Tesla’s water valve, study finds

Spiral shark intestines work like Nikola Tesla’s water valve, study finds

Enlarge / A CT scan image of the spiral intestine of a Pacific spiny dogfish shark (Squalus suckleyi). The beginning of the intestine is on the left, and the end is on the right.Samantha Leigh/California State University, Dominguez Hills In 1920, Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla designed and patented what he called a "valvular conduit": a…
Maybe not so fast with the phage therapy?

Maybe not so fast with the phage therapy?

Every living thing on the planet plays host to viruses, and bacteria are no exception. Bacteriophages—or just “phages” to those in the know—are the viruses that attack bacteria. And we are in dire need of things that attack bacteria, since many pathogenic bacterial species have developed resistance to the antibiotics we’ve thrown at them for…
The 7 Types of Rest, and How to Get the Kind You Need

The 7 Types of Rest, and How to Get the Kind...

Photo: maxpetrov (Shutterstock)For a long time, our default answer to the question “How are you?” has been “fine,” or some variation of it. But over the past few years—and especially during the pandemic—another response is becoming increasingly common: Telling the person who asked that you’re “tired,” or even “exhausted.”There’s a lot to unpack there, but…
Venus’ clouds too dry, acidic for life

Venus’ clouds too dry, acidic for life

Enlarge / Venus' thick atmosphere was photographed in ultraviolet light in 1979 by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter. Last year, a study made waves by suggesting a chemical that had been proposed as a potential indicator of life was present in the atmosphere of Venus. While the hellish conditions on the planet's surface preclude the existence…
The human family tree keeps getting more complicated

The human family tree keeps getting more complicated

Avi Levin and Ilan Theiler, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University It's long past time to stop thinking of humanity's nearest relatives as forming a family tree. Our close relatives like the Neanderthals and Denisovans clearly interbred both with us and each other. There are also indications that an older African lineage contributed to…
A DNA-based storage system with files and metadata

A DNA-based storage system with files and metadata

Enlarge / Fluorescent tagged DNA is the key to a new storage system. DNA-based data storage appears to offer solutions to some of the problems created by humanity's ever-growing capacity to create data we want to hang on to. Compared to most other media, DNA offers phenomenal data densities. If stored in the right conditions,…
We have another highly effective COVID vaccine, based on different tech

We have another highly effective COVID vaccine, based on different tech

Enlarge / A participant gets his second dose of the Novavax vaccine during the clinical trial. Today, a company called Novavax announced that it had completed a large efficacy trial of its COVID-19 vaccine, and the news was good. The vaccine is highly effective, it blocked severe disease entirely, and it appeared to work against…

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