Monthly Archives: September 2017

You just came back from a romantic night out at your favorite restaurant. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the meal tasted a little off. None of the ingredients had gone bad, but they tasted weird together. This feeling is difficult to describe in words.. The meal just didn’t come together the way all the ingredients in a tasty burrito come together. Did you know, though, that your feeling was a great deal more than just a subjective impression? There is math behind this “feeling”, according to the studies by Tiago Simas and his team from Telefonica Research in Barcelona (Spain) and Cambridge University (UK). In a culinary tour-de-force that brings together the two different worlds of flavors and mathematics, the researchers demonstrate quantitatively a new concept that can help analyze cuisines worldwide, and help differentiate them. They introduce the concept of “food-bridging” that complements the already existing concept of…

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The airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a flying observatory aboard a modified Boeing 747 that takes infrared astronomy readings at approximately 41,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. It recently observed a mini-eclipse of the extrasolar planet named “GJ 1214b”. Scientists wanted to find out if this world outside of our solar system is a super-sized Earth or a miniature Neptune. It was the first time SOFIA did observations of this kind and it was demonstrated that SOFIA can indeed help answer questions like this in the future. Daniel Angerhausen, a research scientist with the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, tells us about his experiences working on board SOFIA. When I first saw SOFIA I was an undergraduate student at Cologne University in Germany: a poster at the Astrophysics Institute was advertising science with the ‘Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy’ — a crazy sounding idea of NASA…

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In addition to good diet, exercise is a cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle. Even a short walk during your lunch break can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Going to the gym for a resistance workout can increase that benefit even more. There is a broad spectrum of exercises and intensities that can classify as a workout, so it’s a bit of an art to put data-driven numbers behind your gym routine. You can measure exercise in a variety of ways, like calories burned, time spent exercising, and level of intensity. here are even differences between cardio and resistance exercise. Weight lifting is an example of a resistance exercise often prescribed in weight loss programs. A group of Portuguese researchers wanted to understand more about resistance exercises, specifically the energy use across a variety of types of exercises at increasing intensities. Research on this specific topic is surprisingly…

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When studying the origin of life on Earth, scientists must rely on past data, physical laws, and models  instead of direct observations. After all, we can’t know for sure what the world was like 4 billion years ago, when the first microscopic life was formed from a mixture of non-living molecules. But knowing about early life is important for understanding modern life, as well as the potential for life to exist elsewhere in the universe. Scientists from around the world recently collaborated and used computer models to speculate about important molecules called amino acids. Amino acids are small molecules which all life on Earth use to perform microscopic tasks. DNA, another essential molecule used by all life, is often called the “building blocks of life,” but this comparison would be better given to amino acids. DNA is a long chain of molecules that act more like a blueprint, recording the…

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Bees are important pollinators for plants not only in our home gardens, but in productive agricultural fields and natural environments around the world. If you’ve heard the phrase, ‘Save the Bees!’ at some point, it’s because some bee populations are currently on the decline from threats such as parasites, diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change. Pesticides, in particular, can negatively impact bumblebee behavior, reproduction, and colony success. The most frequently used group of pesticides are called neonicotinoids, and due to their known connection to declining butterfly, bee, mayfly, and other insect populations, have been suspended from use on flowering bee-attractive crops by the European Union. Some countries, like Germany, France, and Italy, have placed bans on use of these chemicals throughout the years due to studies that have identified the detrimental effects. Bee survival is controlled by a large number of factors, but queen bees in particular play…

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Imagine that you make delicious apple pies, but you know nothing about growing apple trees. You make a lot of pies-more than you need or eat. When you need more apples, you go to a farmer friend who has a whole orchard. He doesn’t know how to cook, so you are happy to bake apple pies in exchange. This type of win-win interaction is called mutualism, and it happens all the time in the microbial world. We know how valuable plants are for us.  They are the ones that convert light and carbon dioxide into the food we eat. In the nutrient-poor open ocean, microscopic phytoplankton are the primary producers that transform light into food. Picocyanobacteria, tiny photosynthetic bacteria, are the most numerous population of primary producers on Earth. Scientists have long observed that phytoplankton produce more food than they use, and this extra food is delivered to other marine…

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