What’s the News: Going undercover can require some sacrifices–burning off your fingerprints, for instance, a la Gattaca. It’s the same story with bacteria: they can slip below antibiotics’ radar without any mutations, but only using an elaborate system of self-sabotage. A new study reveals the workings of this biochemical disguise.
What’s the News: British scientists searching for signs of climate change in banded snail shells have completed one of the largest evolutionary studies ever, a massive survey across 15 European countries. Their research associates? More than 6,000 snail-hunting volunteers.
Metastatic melanoma cells
What’s the News: Souped-up cells from a patient’s own immune system could one day be used to treat advanced melanoma, according to a preliminary study published in Science Translational Medicine investigating the safety of the technique. The researchers manipulated a patient’s immune system cells to better recognize cancer cells in the lab and then re-introduced those cells into the body—an approach called “adoptive T-cell therapy.”
The chip at the core of the Sprite
microsatellite is smaller than a dime.
What’s the News: Imagine a cloud of tiny satellites, each no larger than a postage stamp, sailing like dust on solar winds through a planet’s atmosphere and sending radio signals home, with no need for fuel. When a small patch of real estate opened up on an International Space Station experiment, researchers jumped at the chance to test the durability of such tiny “satellites on a chip,” which they hope to eventually deploy in atmospheres like Saturn’s, and three of the miniature objects are being delivered to the Space Station by Endeavor on its final flight (which was just scrubbed for today). They will allow researchers to see how well such microsatellites hold up to radiation and other rigors of space.
What’s the News: Please back away from the armadillo, ma’am. You can watch them from a distance, even take pictures, but don’t play with or eat Texas’s state mammal: scientists have just confirmed that it is a source of leprosy infections in humans.
What’s the News: Astronomers have known for a while that white dwarfs can sometimes ignite in massive explosions known as Type Ia supernovae, but they haven’t been sure what pulls the trigger. One theory says that the explosion occurs when two white dwarfs merge into each other, while an opposing theory says that it happens when a single white dwarf pulls material from a Sun-like companion star. Using the Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have discovered an arc-shaped material emitting X-rays in the Tycho supernova that gives hints about the supernova’s origin. “This stripped stellar material was the missing piece of the puzzle for arguing that Tycho’s supernova was triggered in a binary with a normal stellar companion,” says Fangjun Lu. “We now seem to have found this piece.”
What’s the News: As a European court looks poised to ban the patenting of technologies using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), a group of prominent scientists has issued a warning: regenerative medicine is never going to leave the lab if no one can make money on it.
The International Space Station
What’s the News: On Monday, China unveiled its plan to build a manned space station in the next decade. This announcement comes from a space program whose development has been, well, skyrocketing; China launched its first astronaut into Earth orbit in 2003 and completed its first spacewalk in 2008. If things go as planned, the station would be the third ever multi-module space station, after Russia’s Mir and the International Space Station.
What’s the News: Nature invented the wheel a good long time before we did: just look at the crazy antics of the mother-of-pearl moth caterpillar, which, when attacked, springs into an airborne coil in less than 60 milliseconds, spinning and twisting in the air like a snake from a can. Now robotics researchers have build a caterpillar robot that mimics that behavior, providing insight into how caterpillars manage it and suggesting new uses for some types of robots.
Coming to a desert far, far away from you?
What’s the News: Server farms are the Hummers of the information age: they use a substantial 1.5% of the world’s electricity, and that number’s growing fast. But by sticking them out in the middle of sunny, windy nowhere, computer scientists posit, we could make use of renewable energy that’s otherwise too far from civilization to be used.