What is this thing called love? Cole Porter wasn’t the first to ask. From mystified poets to angst-ridden teens, the question of what exactly love is has troubled us since long before the master songwriter put pen to paper.
The drama of Philae’s slow fall, bounce and unfortunate slide into hibernation was one of the most thrilling science stories of a generation. But what in its short 60 hours of life on Comet 67P did it achieve?
The short answer is analytical chemistry.
Philae’s payload included three instruments that are quite common in chemistry labs, but when deployed on a comet could answer questions about the origins of the solar system and life itself.
This week in Nature, two researchers propose that a potential marker for the start of the Anthropocene could be a noticeable drop in atmospheric CO2 concentrations between 1570 and 1620, which is recorded in ice cores (see page 171). They link this change to the deaths of some 50 million indigenous people in the Americas, triggered by the arrival of Europeans. In the aftermath, forests took over 65 million hectares of abandoned agricultural fields — a surge of regrowth that reduced global CO2.
I met my first savant 52 years ago and have been intrigued with that remarkable condition ever since. One of the most striking and consistent things in the many savants I have seen is that that they clearly know things they never learned.
The most important job inside any cell is making proteins, and they are all made using instructions from DNA. This process is practically gospel in the field of molecular biology, but new research identifies some exceptions. Some proteins, it turns out, can make other proteins.
A group of international researchers has just discovered the keys to explaining why certain processes and systems in mice, like the immune system, metabolism and stress response, are so different to those in humans. The scientists have detailed the functional parts of the mouse genome and have compared them with those in humans. A whole set of data has come out of this – which is now to available to the scientific community – which will be significant for research into mammalian biology as well as the study of human illness mechanisms.
The comparison focuses on the genetic and biochemical processes regulating genome activity in humans and mice. The scientists have found that, in general, the systems for controlling genome activity in the two species are very alike, and have been preserved through time. However, they have also detected certain differences in the DNA, and patterns of gene expression that are not shared. “Finding these similarities and studying the aspects of mouse biology that may reflect human biology, allows us to approach the study of human illnesses in a better way”, affirms Bing Ren, one of the principal authors from the ENCODE Consortium and a lecturer in molecular and cellular medicine at the University of California – San Diego.
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