by Molly Sargen figures by Daniel Utter Water makes up 60-75% of human body weight. A loss of just 4% of total body water leads to dehydration, and a loss of 15% can be fatal. Likewise, a person could survive a month without food but wouldn’t survive 3 days without water. This crucial dependence on water broadly governs all life forms. Clearly water is vital … Continue reading Biological Roles of Water: Why is water necessary for life?
If you saw the blockbuster Gravity, then you probably had the dangers of orbiting space debris impressed upon you by a 90-minute emotional Hollywood roller coaster. While such catastrophic events haven’t ever happened, the risks of in-space collisions are certainly very real. In 2009, two satellites collided and rapidly produced thousands of smaller orbiting objects. It is this high production of smaller material from a … Continue reading Taking out the (space) trash
Is this apple safe to eat? Did that course of antibiotics work? To answer these types of questions we often need to know how to find and count illness-causing bacteria. Several bacteria counting techniques already exist. However, these approaches are slow and sensitive to laboratory conditions. Sam Nugen and his team from Cornell University are streamlining this process using a type of virus called phages, … Continue reading Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?
An ultrasound is probably most popularly recognized as a doctor’s tool to peer into the womb and take a look at a growing fetus during a woman’s pregnancy. But what if sound could be used to take a look at even smaller things – like the microorganisms in your gut? Mikhail Shapiro’s research group at the California Institute of Technology has been able to track … Continue reading Can we locate bacteria by listening to them?
In a rainbow, the shortest visible wavelength of light is approximately 400nm (blue) and the longest 700nm (red), where all others colors outside this range are invisible to humans.
Except not quite. Artal et. al. demonstrate that the eye’s visual acuity for infrared light (1000nm), is almost the same as for visible green light. The exploited effect in the eye converts two-invisible photons into a single visible one. Importantly, this demonstrated sensitivity to infrared light could enable future ophthalmic devices to help patients with eye conditions, such as cataracts, that make them opaque to visible light. Continue reading It takes two to see (infrared photons anyway)
The LIGO collaboration has reported the merger of two neutron stars. Another collaboration (Virgo) was able to detect the signal. Scientists were able to make a tighter estimate on where the merger happened. The merger suggests gravity propagates at the speed of light, proves that photons (light particles) are even closer to massless than previously measured, and heavy elements like platinum might primarily come from colliding stars instead of supernovae. Continue reading Ripples in Spacetime from Colliding Stars detected by LIGO-Virgo Collaboration
AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based company, began growing genetically modified (GM) salmon nearly three decades ago. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that the FDA approved the fish for human consumption. Health Canada made the same decision in 2016. While a current law prevents US sales until a labeling system is established, Canada has imported roughly 5 tons of the GM salmon since May 2016. Although the fish sell unlabeled, Canadians appear to be embracing the next frontier in aquaculture. Continue reading Canadians bringing genetically modified salmon to their tables
Over 17,000 Americans are currently waiting for liver transplants, with millions more living with chronic liver disease. There simply aren’t enough healthy organs to go around. So why not engineer them? Growing a liver “from scratch” by using its constituent cells could replace the need for whole organ transplants. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology generated hydrogels containing three different types of human cells, … Continue reading From Seed to Organ: Growing a Liver
Are you interested in learning more about what the field of science journalism looks like from the inside? Check out our next Science by the Pint event: The (Sometimes Messy) Science of Communicating Science. Coming this Monday (Jan. 9), 6:30pm, to The Burren in Davis Square, free and open to the public! Panelists from the Boston-based publication STAT will discuss what led them to a … Continue reading January 9 – Science Journalism by the Pint with STAT
Forensic investigators often rely upon the uniqueness of human DNA and fingerprints, but a recent study suggests that many people may also be identified by the microorganisms that call that person home. Thousands of different species of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes live on and inside of our bodies, many of which perform tasks that are essential for human survival. Intriguingly, the compositions of these … Continue reading Of Microbes and Men: How Our Small Sidekicks Influence Human Individuality