Archive for July, 2017

Decoding the E. coli Defenses

E. coli or Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative gammaproteobacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. It is responsible for many stomach infections and can be quite harmful to the gut bacteria already present. The bacteria is also increasingly drug resistant, which makes it a worthy adversary to doctor’s prescriptions.

Now researchers at the Cornell University have come up with a study that has revealed the ability of the E. coli bacteria to defend itself against antibiotics and other poisons. Essentially the space between the inner and outer membranes of the bacteria’s cells have defensive proteins which not only detect a threat to the cell, but also line up like barrel staves to form a tunnel between pumps in the cell’s inner and outer membranes to eject the intruders.

While the study in of itself is fascinating, what’s more important is that the researchers can now customize medication to hinder this defense mechanism of the bacteria. That is now being considered as the subject of a separate scientific study. The results of which would be extremely beneficial to those who may suffer from E. coli infections in the future.

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Earth’s Final Survivor

Ever wondered what would be the last survivor on Earth? The hardiest inhabitant of the planet. One that could outlast all other life forms at the end of the planet? Some curious scientists at the University of Oxford decided to conduct a study to find the answer to that question. The answer will surprise you.

The study focused on surviving possible astrophysical events such as asteroid hits, supernova explosions or gamma-ray bursts. Basically it’s all natural disasters they were studying and nothing quite as catastrophic as a nuclear war fallout.

The study which was published in Scientific Reports mentioned the tardigrade as the last survivor in case of these astrophysical events.  The tardigrade is an eight-legged micro-animal that can live without food or water for 30 years.

Also known as the water bear, this microscopic animal is able to endure temperature extremes of up to 150 degrees Celsius. Imagine surviving the deep sea and even the frozen vacuum of space. They live up to 60 years and at a size of 0.5 mm are best observed under a microscope.

Well this is once science study that does not bode too well for the future of homo sapiens in the event that a star bursts close by.

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Charging a Smartphone in Minutes

The current woe for all smartphone users is the need to constantly recharge the battery. While some progress has been made towards having batteries that can store energy for longer periods of time, it is still time consuming to recharge them. This is the reason why carrying battery banks along with the phone has become more of a necessity than a luxury.

Research students in the College of Engineering at Drexel University have come up with a science project which hopes to improve the manner in which batteries are charged. They managed to create a new electrode design from a highly conductive, two-dimensional material called MXene.

Professor Yury Gogotsi, who led the research team hopes that using the new electrode design will help make chemical charge storage, used in batteries and pseudocapacitors, as effective as physical storage used in electrical double-layer capacitors, also known as supercapacitors.

To support his hope the researchers managed to charge the thin MXene electrodes in tens of milliseconds. While there is much more work to be done in making an actual battery which can be charged in seconds, it is interesting to note that the commercial applications for such a product will be phenomenal.

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The Smartphone and Your Health

The smartphone is powered by a chip which is more powerful than the one powering the space craft Voyager 1 which recently left the solar system. Yes that is the kind of computing power that your mobile smartphone has.

While you may not be looking to launch space crafts for exploration of outer space anytime soon, you can still do a multitude of things with your smartphone that will better help you utilize it’s untapped potential. Trust me, you can do a lot more than update your social media status with your smartphone which will be beneficial to you.

One such field is your health. The smartphone comes equipped with sensors that can be linked with medical apps that allow you to better understand the functioning of your body. They can remind you to take your pills, monitor your heart beats and even tell you just how many calories you burnt when you last exercised.

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering is actually using smartphone in a scientific study to help them track the physical activities of volunteers in more than a hundred countries. One of the more illustrative manners in which a smartphone can be put to really good use.

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Does Brain Training Help Cognitive Function?

In the last decade a number of brain training programs have become popular. The concept is that by training your brain you can improve your cognitive functioning and make better decisions, thereby improving the quality of your life. The researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, decided to test this assumption.

Associate professor Joseph Kable, who co-led the study wanted to find out more about how the brain functioned, specially regarding addictive behavior. The study had two groups of which one received brain training 30 minutes a day, five days a week for 10 weeks. The second group played online video games for the same duration.

At the end of this duration both groups were given a series of cognitive tests to perform. It was found that the group with brain training did not do any better than the group who played video games. Both group participants showed a mild improvement over their initial performances before the ten weeks activities.

Eventually the finding of this science experiment which were published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggested that the commercial brain training programs really did not make a big difference to the cognitive functioning ability of the person undergoing the training.

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