How to improve cheese quality and taste? Understand the cheese’s microbial community.

What makes all the different cheeses taste so wonderful? All of the different microbes that help make your cheese! Scientists have begun linking specific flavors to specific bacteria – meaning sometime soon we can start making designer cheese flavors. Continue reading How to improve cheese quality and taste? Understand the cheese’s microbial community.

Et tu, Okmok? Alaska’s Okmok Volcano Contributed to Fall of Roman Republic and the Ptolemaic Kingdom

As the Roman Republic began to fall, the Earth suffered from extreme cold and famine that helped push Rome’s instability to its ultimate collapse. The cause of the extreme climate? The eruption of an Alaskan volcano on the opposite side of the world. Continue reading Et tu, Okmok? Alaska’s Okmok Volcano Contributed to Fall of Roman Republic and the Ptolemaic Kingdom

Fairness in Machine Learning

by Isabella Grabski figures by Nicholas Lue It’s no secret that bias is present everywhere in our society, from our educational institutions to the criminal justice system. The manifestation of this bias can be as seemingly trivial as the timing of a judge’s lunch break or, more often, as fraught as race or economic class. We tend to attribute such discrimination to our own internalized … Continue reading Fairness in Machine Learning

Biological Roles of Water: Why is water necessary for life?

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?

Taking out the (space) trash

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

Viruses to the Rescue: Can we use viruses to find bacteria in our environment?

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?

Can we locate bacteria by listening to them?

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?

It takes two to see (infrared photons anyway)

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)

Ripples in Spacetime from Colliding Stars detected by LIGO-Virgo Collaboration

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