cubbi (cubbi) wrote,
cubbi
cubbi

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August 2011 in science: from antimatter around us to kamikaze E.coli

I know it's already november, but I will catch up!


There was some cool stuff in astronomy, but first, in chemistry news, Molecular orbitals are now visible with a microscope, the same CO-functionalized STM which showed us individual bonds in pentacene and inspired me to start reading (and sharing) science news.

Also, ever-bizarre graphene generates electricity when acidic water flows on top of it.

In biggest astronomy news, samples of the first extraterrestrial body since the Moon arrived to Earth from asteroid 25143 Itokawa. They look like chondrite meteorites, except for anomalous space weathering speed, anomalous heat in the past, and other odd features.

Speaking of the Moon, early Earth may have had two, which merged to give the deeply asymmetric (did you know?) moon we have now.

A belt of antiprotons was discovered around Earth, the most abundant source of antimatter anywhere, so far.

Also, two ultracool brown dwarfs were found only five parsecs away. And yes, "ultracool" is an astronomical term.

Speaking of ultracool, there is a planet made of diamond orbiting some pulsar at a very close orbit.

To fuel the nightmares of general population, killer exploding E.coli was bioengineered: once it senses that the dangerous human pathogen P. aeruginosa is nearby, it fills its own body with a toxin, and bursts, killing 99% of the enemy.

Speaking of pathogens, Salmonella was found to use an unnatural aminoacid, (R)-β-lysine, in one of its vital proteins.

Speaking of unnatural aminoacids, the first mulricellular organism, much abused worm C.elegans, was genetically modified to produce them - the guys who made it just *had* to give their worms evil "cherry red" glow.

Oldest fossil ever discovered, 3.4 billion year old remains of sulfur-powered bacteria, looks way more plausible than the older Apex Chert formations, held as the oldest fossil since the 1980s, which were only shown to be inorganic earlier this year.

African crested rat gnaws on a poisonous tree and drenches highly-specialized porous hairs on its flanks with the spit. Anyone who wants to mouth the rat finds those flanks offered, unprotected. It's the first placental mammal ever found to use acquired toxicity (besides humans, african hunters put the same tree sap on arrowheads to kill elephants)

Mealybugs have gut bacteria that have even smaller bacteria inside them, and can only survive together. Both bacteria lost so much of their genome, the innermost one is almost an organelle.

When a pregnant mouse is starving, the placenta digests its own tissues and recycles the raw materials to feed the fetus during critical stages of brain development.

Hyenas can count, just like primates and lions. Complex social life makes anyone good at math, right?

The gene was identified that is responsible for people without fingerprints -- there are only four families known on Earth where this mutation is present. And yes, once in a while they try to visit the USA.
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