Biology

The physics behind how fire ants band together into robust floating “rafts”

Enlarge / A spinning fire ant raft in David Hu’s biolocomotion lab at Georgia Tech is an example of collective behavior. Hungtang Ko Fire ants can survive floods by linking their bodies together to form large floating rafts. Now researchers at Georgia Tech have demonstrated that fire ants can actively sense changes in forces acting …

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Google attempts to protect users from sketchy stem cell clinics

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images Transplanted stem cells can be as lifesaving as donated organs, but the Food and Drug Administration in September warned consumers that some stem cell clinics only pretend to be in the business of …

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New antibiotic found in bacteria inside a worm inside an insect egg

Enlarge BSIP/Universal Images Group The last antibiotics generated against Gram-negative bacteria—which tend to be the more dangerous type—were developed in the 1960s. Thanks to the rise of antibiotic resistance, we need more. But rather than going through the trouble of trying to make our own, scientists have looked to other species that might need to …

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Major fish nurseries are awash in microplastics

Enlarge / A scribbled filefish in a sea of plastics sampled in surface slicks off Hawai’i Island. David Liittschwager For a brief moment at the start of their lives, fish from different ocean ecosystems live side by side in gigantic fish nurseries, where surface waters converge and the prey is abundant. Prey isn’t the only …

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Scientists find a way to target the protein behind Huntington’s disease

Enlarge Shelley Halpain/UC San Diego Huntington’s disease is caused by a dominant mutation, meaning that anyone who inherits it will develop the disease. Symptoms typically start when people are in their 30s, and those include dementia and the loss of motor control. Despite having identified the gene decades ago, we’ve struggled to find a way …

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As the Arctic heats up, what’s in store for its food webs?

Enlarge / Arctic sea ice is declining as waters heat up. Allan Hopkins / Flickr The view from Kongsfjorden, Svalbard, is endless snow-covered mountains and glassy, frigid water. You need to travel roughly 400 miles west from the remote Norwegian archipelago to reach the northeast coast of Greenland. Kongsfjorden, home to one of the few …

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Researchers find just two plague strains wiped out 30%-60% of Europe

Enlarge / Remains of human plague victims in a mass grave in Toulouse, France, dating back to the Black Death period. Archeodunum SAS, Gourvennec Michaël The Black Death ravaged medieval Western Europe, wiping out roughly one-third of the population. Now researchers have traced the genetic history of the bacterium believed to be behind the plague …

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Cubed wombat poop, why your left nut runs hot, among Ig Nobel winners

Enlarge / A “Moment of Science” in the 2017 Ig Nobel ceremony: Daniel Davis faces a Tesla coil. Mike Binveniste/Improbable Research Over the years, curious intrepid scientists have gleaned insight into why the wombat’s poo is cube-shaped, explored the magnetic properties of living and dead cockroaches, and determined that a man’s left testicle really does …

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Gene editing tool could treat many diseases created by mutations

Sponsored Links Neuron targeted using the SATI technology. Salk Institute The use of gene editing to eliminate diseases has numerous challenges, including the not-so-small problem of dealing with mutation-based conditions like Huntington’s. Existing approaches that replace the gene could cause damage. Salk Institute scientists say they’ve created a tool that can perform edits when mutations …

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