You can get a sense of what topics are hot right now by reading the latest blog carnivals:
- ScienceRoll has 7 tips on how to stay up-to-date in genetics and genomics.
- NeuroJournalism Mill sorts news reports about the latest neuroscience developments into "wheat" and "chaff"
- David Whitehouse has an article in The Age about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
- The Age also has an article about recent research on Antarctic microbes suggesting that genetic material would likely be "severely damaged or destroyed" while traveling through space on a comet. The conclusion is that it is unlikely comets seeded life on Earth. Over at the Bad Astronomy blog, Phil Plait points out that microbes buried a mile deep in the cometary ice could be protected form cosmic radiation.
- Live Science asked several scientists whether they think alien life exists.
- Live Science looked at the research on Antarctic microbes from a different angle than The Age. They focused on the literally cool result: microbes frozen in the ice for 100,000 years revived when cultured in the lab. The older the microbes, the more DNA damage, with a "half life" of 1.1 million years.
This suggests that as global warming melts the ice, these ancient genes could flow into the seas, which living microbes could suck up and use "to improve themselves, potentially altering their communities significantly," Bidle said. Although it is unlikely ancient microbes or DNA would be harmful to humans, "it is something some researchers have highlighted the possibility of," he added.
- Marc Pelletier interviews neuroscientist Eric Kandel for the Futures in Biotech podcast.
- Effect Measure posts about the effect of electromagnetic fields on the division of cultured cancer cells.
- At The Voltage Gate Jeremy Bruno writes about the biology of fairy rings.
- At the Loom Carl Zimmer writes about a recent experiment that used electrical stimulation of the brain to wake a man in a minimally conscious state.
- Live Science reports on a recent set of experiments in which scientists genetically manipulated jellyfish so they would grow multiple heads.
- Wired Science writes about why giant bugs (think Mothra) are impossible in our Modern Atmosphere.
- The Bend (Oregon) Weekly reports on the imitation of nature in machinery.
Robotic designs based upon natural organisms are as diverse as the animal world itself. There are devices in the works that mimic caterpillars, spiders, dogs and octopuses. Their goals and purposes are equally varied, from new medical treatments to space labor to being a soldier's best friend.They link to several sites where you can watch videos of nature-inspired robots in action:
- Boston Dynamics "Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move"
- Madeleine, the aquatic robot @ Vassar College
- OCTOR robot field experiments @ Clemson
- The SuperBot @ USC
- At the Philosophy of Memory blog, Mnemosynosis has a fascinating post about bacterial cognition based on a talk given by Pamela Lyon. (via Evolving Thoughts)
She suggests that bacteria are sensitive, communicative and decisive organisms and bacterial responses are more flexible, complex and adaptable than generally believed. In terms of re-defining cognition, Lyon argues that behaviour at the microbial level is precisely what must be understood in order to comprehend how more complex and specialized forms evolved and now function. Lyon claims that cognition is part of basic biological function, like respiration.
Tags:panspermia, frozen microbes, genetic engineering, robots, bacterial cognition