A team of mathematicians from San Francisco State University and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, has used mathematical modeling to uncover new clues to the three-dimensional organization of mitochondrial DNA in trypanosomes.
Trypanosomes are microscopic, unicellular parasites responsible for widespread, fatal diseases including sleeping sickness. This neglected disease, transmitted by the tse-tse fly, threatens millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Its western counterpart, Chagas disease, affects an estimated 8 to 11 million people across North and South America. Read more!
Researchers are using the NSF-funded, 10-meter South Pole Telescope (SPT) to make precise measurements of the primordial radiation known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The researchers have extracted important information on the dynamics of the early universe by measuring the small-scale structure in the CMB. Read more!
With water resources dwindling as the population continues to rise, many communities in the desert southwest are proactively seeking to make the tough choices now, so they can avoid more drastic measures in the future. University of Arizona civil engineer Kevin Lansey and his colleagues are working to redesign Tucson’s water supply infrastructure to help meet the growing water demands, while using less energy and improving water quality. Read more.
Black holes collide in space all the time but nobody sees them.
An award-winning, interactive computer simulation of such a collision and the gravitational waves the event would generate was created by a team of 13 Louisiana State University (LSU) researchers and students. Read more!
Fueled by climate change, outbreaks of bark beetle infestations affect millions of forest hectacres in western North America. Because trees are killed, an outbreak can affect water supply, carbon storage, water quality and nutrient cycling in forests. Knowing the precise ecological processes that occur after a beetle infestation enables policymakers and foresters to form strategic management plans. Read more!
As we all admire things loud and sparkly on the United State’s annual celebration of freedom, it seemed only fitting that our #CrystaloftheWeek (also in celebration of International Year of Crystallography) pay homage to potassium nitrate. Afterall, it’s potassium nitrate that helps put the “boom” in firecrackers and the “spark” in sparklers!
It’s the nitrate(NO3) in potassium nitrate (KNO3) that provides the oxidizer in fireworks. In other words, it produces the oxygen (that O3 part) that makes the things burn. Mix it with a binder and a fuel, and voila, you’ve got a sparkler. Add in copper chloride or some strontium salts and the next thing you know, you are building blue or red fireworks, respectively.
But potassium nitrate has many uses beyond the 4th of July. Also known as Saltpeter, potassium nitrate has long been a key ingredient in gunpowder. However, its oxidizing capabilities have made it a good fertilizer as well. Other less explosive uses of this unusually multi-purposed crystal include being an ingredient in toothpastes designed for sensitive teeth, as treatments for high blood pressure, asthma and arthritis, and as a way to preserve meat in the Middle Ages.
The Army, on more than one occasion, has been accused of putting Saltpeter in soldiers’ food and drink to reduce libidos and focus attention on military training, however even Snopes.com has declared that rumor as false. Potassium nitrate would cause serious and very apparent side effects, such as anemia, certain blood disorders and kidney damage. Additionally, it has never been proven to be an effective anaphrodisiac, having no impact on sex drives.
But one thing it does do well is help make for great fireworks displays. Happy Independence Day!
Photo credit: http://pdphoto.org
Songbirds are often used as a model to study the overall basis of speech, and specifically the biological mechanisms of vocal learning. Researchers use the model to better understand how experience causes the brain to develop and change. However, little is known about how the brains of songbirds change as they learn a new song. In isolated communities of zebra finches, it is unknown how younger birds process sounds as they learn to imitate older tutors. Read more!
Caption: Zebra finches are often used to study vocal learning.
Image Credit: Beryl John, Zaid Kajani and Melvyn Mathew
There’s no shortage of ideas about how to use nanotechnology, but one of the major hurdles is how to manufacture some of the new products on a large scale. Chemical engineer Jim Watkins and his team are working to make nanotechnology more practical for industrial scale manufacturing. Read more.
When we refer to someone as the “queen bee,” it suggests she might be in charge of the situation. But, in fact, actual queen bees are not in charge of anything. Entomologist Gene Robinson, mechanical engineer Harry Dankowicz and psychologist Whitney Tabor study how coordination emerges in leaderless complex societies, such as a bee hive. Read more.