biochemistry

Science Art: Giant Animals: Modern and Extinct (detail), by Mary McLain

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These are prehistoric animals compared to their modern relatives and, for scale, a human. A human who’s interested in what they’re like… except when…

Look out! HELL PIG!

There are plenty more of the majestic giants (and some terrifying ones) at NPR’s Skunk Bear tumblog.

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Science Art: Jupiter's Rings by LORRI, 2007.

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The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust …

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SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..”

ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is).

So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a mes…

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Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan

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Three names for one little fish. And those are just the beginning.

I found this one on the Scientific Illustration tumblog, which quoted Wikipedia on the doree (etc.):

John Dory, St Pierre or Peter’s Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an ‘evil ey…

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Science Art: Her Majesty's Cochins; Imported in 1843, published 1904.

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These are ostensibly Cochin chickens, or forerunners of what we’d call Cochins today. They’re a breed with a *lot* of character, and are uniquely suited, temperamentally, for being “pet” chickens moreso than egg factories or walking meat supplies. Despite the name (after a part of India), they’re originally from China.

This picture is from The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their ma…

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Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

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This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited.

It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it ou…

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One drink makes you cuter. (Not the people around you, but the person doing the drinking.)

3 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Live Science grants us deep insight into the biochemistry of the bar pickup, revealing that prospective partners look a whole lot better after they’ve had one drink than they do after two: In the study, 40 students at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom volunteered to get a little tipsy. To see how the students’ appearances changed with each drink, the researchers photographed their faces three times: when sober, after drinking the equivalent of one glass of wine, and after drinking a second alcoholic drink. The participants were asked to make a neutral facial expression for each photo. A separate group of heterosexual students then rated how attractive they found each headshot in side-by-side comparisons. They saw either a photo of a person sober next to a photo of the person taken after one drink, or a sober photo next to a photo taken after two drinks. It turned out that the photos […]

Love (hormone) against alcoholism.

25 February 2015 // 0 Comments

L.A. Times examines the biochemical power that love – or at least the “love hormone” oxytocin – has to neutralize alcohol and beat alcoholism: …[N]ew research finds that, in male rats at least, oxytocin also blunts the inebriating effects of moderately heavy doses of alcohol. It does so, the study found, by suppressing the activity of receptors in the brain–GABA receptors, which respond to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid–that are key nodes in the circuitry of reward-related behaviors and addiction. That finding prompted the study’s authors to suggest the intriguing proposition that oxytocin might reduce cravings across a range of addictive behaviors. To explore the interaction between oxytocin and alcohol, researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia first gave young adult male rats an infusion of oxytocin and then administered a dose of alcohol roughly equivalent to a human drinking a bottle of wine over a few hours. On a battery of tests, a comparison […]

SONG: White coffee and omelets.

24 February 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “White Coffee and Omelets.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Cut Sugary Drinks; Add Coffee, Eggs“, Laboratory Equipment, 20 February 2015,as used in the post “Breakfast is championed (at last)”. ABSTRACT: Yeah, this is a song about high-cholesterol food as deus ex machina. The first thing that came to me was the chorus about General La Salle (while I was doing yard work, naturally). I’d been reading “The Pit and the Pendulum” to my son as a bedtime story (for peaceful sleep, of course) and we were both disconcerted by the ending. And the way nutritional guidelines keep veering off the expected route… similarly disconcerting. The percussion was inspired by a recent (or at least recent to me) Song Exploder on The Books. I couldn’t get my turntable to do the cool analog loopy thing with the runoff groove (the arm always wants to return home), but did get some interesting sounds using PVC […]

Breakfast is championed (at last)

21 February 2015 // 0 Comments

Laboratory Equipment preaches the (newly embraced) health benefits of a cholesterol-laden, high-caffeine breakfast, championing the joys of coffee and eggs, hold the sugar, not the salt: Recommendations this week from a government advisory committee call for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats. But the panel would reverse previous guidance on limiting dietary cholesterol. And it says the caffeine in a few cups of coffee could actually be good for you. The committee also is backing off stricter limits on salt, though it says Americans still get much too much. It’s recommending the first real limits on added sugar, saying that’s especially a problem for young people. The Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments will take those recommendations into account in writing final 2015 dietary guidelines by the end of the year. The guidelines affect nutritional patterns throughout the country — from federally subsidized school lunches to food package labels to […]

Honeybee stuff makes your hair grow.

19 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily takes a look at propolis, the sticky putty-like stuff honeybees use to seal up their hives. There are all kinds of health claims made about it, but one study shows that it can boost hair growth: People from ancient times had noticed propolis’ special properties and used it to treat tumors, inflammation and wounds. More recently, research has shown that the substance promotes the growth of certain cells involved in hair growth though no one had yet tested whether that in turn would result in new locks. … When [Ken Kobayashi and his team] tested propolis on mice that had been shaved or waxed, the mice that received the treatment regrew their fur faster than those that didn’t. The scientists also noticed that after the topical application, the number of special cells involved in the process of growing hair increased.

Antimicrobial soap might be killing you.

18 November 2014 // 0 Comments

Sorry, was that overdramatic? Science Daily is calmer in reporting that University of California researchers have found that Triclosan, the stuff that makes antibacterial soap work, causes liver fibrosis and cancer: “Triclosan’s increasing detection in environmental samples and its increasingly broad use in consumer products may overcome its moderate benefit and present a very real risk of liver toxicity for people, as it does in mice, particularly when combined with other compounds with similar action,” said Robert H. Tukey, PhD, professor in the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Pharmacology. Tukey led the study, together with Bruce D. Hammock, PhD, professor at University of California, Davis. … Tukey, Hammock and their teams, including Mei-Fei Yueh, PhD, found that triclosan disrupted liver integrity and compromised liver function in mouse models. Mice exposed to triclosan for six months (roughly equivalent to 18 human years) were more susceptible to chemical-induced liver tumors. Their tumors were also larger and […]

“Amaze balls: Testicles site of most diverse proteins”

7 November 2014 // 0 Comments

Yes, New Scientist comes up with another headline you just can’t beat: Congratulations testicles, you make more unique proteins than any other tissue in the body. The proteins in our cells and tissues are responsible for everything from repair and maintenance to the production of signalling chemicals. You might expect that the brain, being our most sophisticated organ, would produce the widest array of proteins. But while the brain hosts 318 unique proteins that we know of, testicles are home to 999. Can’t beat the angle there, either.

Clean up E. coli by spilling some human proteins on it.

30 June 2014 // 0 Comments

OK, maybe “spilling” is a little imprecise, but Scientific American has the details on how to use a blood plasma extract to clean E. coli out of drinking water: The elegant method, devised by Teruyuki Komatsu and co-workers at Chuo University, Tokyo, begins by depositing microtubes made from alternating layers of human serum albumin (HSA) and poly-L-arginine onto a polycarbonate template. The template is then dissolved away to leave a hollow tube, which is just the right size to fit the E. coli bacterium. Key to removing E. coli from a solution is its strong binding affinity for HSA, which attracts the bacteria into the tube. So effective is this binding, that just 1.5?g of microtubes, added to a liter of contaminated water containing 100,000 bacteria were able to remove the bacteria with almost 100% efficiency. The final touch is the incorporation of a layer of magnetite (iron (II) oxide) nanoparticles into the microtubes to […]

Tobacco will save us all.

15 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has the skinny on how we might wind up using fast-growing, high-density tobacco to save the planet from global warming – by creating bioethanol: In the course of the research, which has been echoed by the journal Molecular Breeding, tobacco plants of the Virginia Gold and Havana commercial cultivars have been grown. The plants were genetically modified to increase their production of starch and sugars, which contributes to the increase in ethanol production. As Prof [Jon Veramendi, head of the Basque Research Agrobiotechnology research group] explained, “what has been done now is fieldwork with these two tobacco cultivars and it has been found that the starch and sugars in the tobacco leaf are in fact higher.” Traditional tobacco growing allows the plant to develop and the leaves to grow and get bigger, as the nicotine is synthesised when the plant is more mature. However, if the plants are used for producing biofuels, the […]

A cure for love.

14 February 2014 // 0 Comments

New Scientist examines the biochemical roots of the emotion we call “love” – and the chemicals we could take to reverse the symptoms: …[E]thics aside, what could a cure for love look like? First things first: what is love? For Shakespeare, it “is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken”. For neuroscientists, it’s less poetic: a neurobiological phenomenon that falls into three subtypes: lust, attraction and attachment – all of which increase our reproductive and parental success. Each aspect is grounded in a suite of overlapping chemical systems in the brain. There are ways to diminish each of them, says Helen Fisher at Rutgers University in New Jersey, but they aren’t always palatable. … Drugs that boost serotonin can offer relief to people with OCD, so it’s reasonable to think that they could also help to dampen lustful feelings. These drugs include antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are known […]

Let’s bake up some stem cells!

3 February 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature‘s sharing a recipe to make your own stem cells from scratch – by reprogramming ordinary cells in an acid bath: In 2006, Japanese researchers reported1 a technique for creating cells that have the embryonic ability to turn into almost any cell type in the mammalian body — the now-famous induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. In papers published this week in Nature2, 3, another Japanese team says that it has come up with a surprisingly simple method — exposure to stress, including a low pH — that can make cells that are even more malleable than iPS cells, and do it faster and more efficiently. “It’s amazing. I would have never thought external stress could have this effect,” says Yoshiki Sasai, a stem-cell researcher at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, and a co-author of the latest studies. It took Haruko Obokata, a young stem-cell biologist at the same centre, five years […]

Boeing announces (with much hype) new way to turn deserts into biofuel farms.

30 January 2014 // 0 Comments

Energy Post calls it “the BIGGEST BREAKTHROUGH EVER!” That seems a bit much, but it is interesting that a Boeing-sponsored group in Abu Dhabi has figured out how to make super-clean, super-cheap oil from salt-tolerant desert plants: What researchers at the Masdar Institute have been studying is a category of plants called halophytes. These plants have naturally evolved to be able to live on salt water. Not only that: they are also able to live in arid lands, in deserts. “If you look around you here [in Abu Dhabi], most of the plants you see are halophytes.” Clearly if it is possible to grow plants in deserts around the world, and use them for biofuels, that would be an ideal solution. It would solve the major problems of traditional biofuels – use of fresh water and arable land – at one stroke. “Twenty per cent of the world’s land is either desert or becoming desert […]

Lab-grown meat: first taste “feels like a conventional hamburger”

5 August 2013 // 0 Comments

AP (via Yahoo!) has the first reactions to meat grown in a petri dish rather than on a farm: Two volunteers who participated in the first public frying of hamburger grown in a lab said Monday that it had the texture of meat but was short of flavor because of the lack of fat. Mark Post, whose team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands developed the burger, hopes that making meat in labs could eventually help feed the world and fight climate change. That goal is many years distant, at best. … “I would say it’s close to meat. I miss the salt and pepper,” said Austrian nutritionist Hanni Ruetzler, one of the volunteer tasters. Both shunned the bun and sliced tomatoes to concentrate on the meat. “The absence is the fat, it’s a leanness to it, but the bite feels like a conventional hamburger,” said U.S. journalist Josh Schonwald. He added that he had […]

“Human meat is not on the menu. Sorry.”

27 February 2013 // 0 Comments

Reddit’s just had a Q&A with the CEO of a company dedicated to 3D printing edible meat: At Modern Meadow we’re developing technology to 3D-bioprint meat and leather. In fact, we’ve already made some, which you can see my co-founder and father eat in his TED talk here (at 5:33). Why are we doing this? Meat is one of the most environmentally taxing resources, taking up one third of all available (ice-free) land and is a leading contributor to climate change. Conversely, growing cultured meat requires 99% less land, 96% less water, emits 96% fewer greenhouse gases, and harms no animals in the process. … [–]newyankee What is the input , what is the output ? Explain like i am five, for 1 kg of meat , what is needed ? [–]aforgacs[S] The input are largely animal cells (muscle, fat and a couple other types – taken from a donor animal through a biopsy) and […]

Tadpole tails are strong medicine

15 January 2013 // 0 Comments

Laboratory Equipment goes all comic book superhero with a medical story on researchers taking the power of regeneration from tadpole tails: For several years Prof. Enrique Amaya and his team at The Healing Foundation Centre in the Faculty of Life Sciences have been trying to better understand the regeneration process, in the hope of eventually using this information to find new therapies that will improve the ability of humans to heal and regenerate better. In an earlier study, Amaya’s group identified which genes were activated during tail regeneration. Unexpectedly, that study showed that several genes that are involved in metabolism are activated, in particular those that are linked to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) – chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen. What was unusual about those findings is that ROS are commonly believed to be harmful to cells. … To examine ROS during tail regeneration, they measured the level of H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide, a […]

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