Not Exactly Rocket Science

Archives for May, 2008

Children can be fed with good food but they will only become productive members of society if they’re raised in a rich, nurturing environment. Now scientists have shown that the same is true for stem cells. Our bodies are made up of hundreds of different types of cells, but stem cells can become all of…

Think of celery, an airplane or a dog. Each of these words, along with the thousands of others in the English language, create a different and unique pattern of activity in your brain. Now, a team of scientists has developed the first computer programme that can predict these patterns for concrete nouns – tangible things…

The realm of science-fiction has just taken a big stride towards the world of science fact, with the creation of a prosthetic arm that can be moved solely by thought. Two monkeys, using only electrodes implanted in their brains, were able to feed themselves with the robotic arm complete with working joints. Bionic limbs have…

In the X-Men comics, the superhero Wolverine is armed with three sharp claws on each arm. They extend through the skin of his hand, and the resulting wounds are closed by up his superhuman ability to heal. Now, in a bizarre case of life imitating art, scientists from Harvard University have discovered that a group…

The prisoner was plucked from a free-living existence and plunged, without trial, into a cell from which it will never leave. It will be provided with food but will have to cater to the needs of its jailer, bereft of its own independence. And yet, this apparent injustice will go unchallenged. No liberal hackles will…

Our bodies are rife with genes and the majority of them aren’t even ours. We all have a strong sense of our own individuality, but the truth is that our bodies are hotels for a diverse array of microbes including bacteria and fungi. The numbers are simultaneously creepy and humbling. Tot up all the cells…

The era of genetic sequencing has revealed as much about the ties that bind us to other animals as the differences that set us apart. Often, comparing the genomes of different species shows that large changes in body size, shape and form are not mirrored by similar changes at a genetic level. New adaptations typically…

In the late 19th century, asbestos became a building material of choice. Resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion, it found many uses including  home insulation, brake pads and ship-building. By the time that the first health problems were reported, the material was commonplace. In the UK, the material was only restricted in 1983 after thousands…

Feeling powerless is no fun. A lack of control can make the difference between contented and unhappy employees. But new research shows that a lack of power doesn’t just make people feel disgruntled. It has a more fundamental effect on their mental skills. In a series of experiments, Pamela Smith from Radboud University Nijmegen has…

Aphids get superpowers through sex

As far as humans are concerned, sexually-transmitted infections are things to avoid. But imagine if these infections didn’t cause death and disease, but gave you superpowers instead. It may sound like a bizarre fantasy, but it’s just part of life for aphids. Aphids mostly reproduce without sex, giving rise to many all-female generations that are…