When biologists describe a brain cell firing, they often invoke a sizzle of electricity passing from cell to cell. This is because brain cells, or neurons, work by sending electric pulses. In fact, all of our nerve cells work by using electricity. For example, when we poke someone the nerves in our finger, arm, and spinal cord relay electricity from fingertip to brain. Those impulses tell us what the objects we’ve poked feel like.
What if bacteria are using electricity in the same way?
Continue reading “We’re not so different, bacteria and I: On poking E. coli and what it tells us about ourselves”
Imagine that your friend makes excellent lasagna, and you decide you want lasagna for dinner. Somehow, you want to get yourself invited into his kitchen.
You may start by walking up to his front door and ringing the doorbell. The doorbell signals to your friend that you want to come inside, and maybe even sparks a chain reaction that results in your friend inviting you into his kitchen. Then you can reap the benefits of your visit!
This is what many viruses have to do. Viruses can’t make their own lasagna—ok, not actually lasagna, but the machinery they need to replicate—so they need to steal someone else’s. And to get at the goods, they somehow have to signal to cells from the outside to be let in.
Continue reading “Hello From the Other Side: How Polyomaviruses Bind Host Proteins to Invade a Cell”
Try to imagine a future with self-driving cars. What do you picture? Are you sliding into your own Tesla Model S, or are you calling up Driverless Cars Company X for a ride? Do the cars circle campuses and downtown streets until summoned? Or do they quietly return to driveways and parking lots, ready to be woken up when needed? For all of Elon Musk’s confidence, it is still unclear how self-driving cars will fit into our society.
Continue reading “A Fork in the Road: Jack Stilgoe Considers the Future with Self-Driving Cars”
In our increasingly globalized world, the consequences of climate change and pandemics are far-reaching while vaccine hesitancy, climate skepticism, and the Trump administration’s science and energy policies threaten to block efforts toward finding solutions.
Halfway through its first week, the Trump administration froze the Environmental Protection Agency’s grants and contracts, issued a gag order on public communication, and ordered the agency to remove climate change from its website. Now more than ever, there is a need for individuals who can engage the deeply partisan public in scientific issues, in ways that foster interest and excitement while helping to weed out fear mongering and misinformation.
Continue reading “Science communication lessons from Dr. Julie Gerberding, first woman to head the CDC”
At the Olympics opening ceremony today, we’ll see a lot of excitement, a lot of patriotism, and a lot of hope. What we won’t see are a lot of Russian track athletes.
If you somehow missed the news that Russian athletes and government officials are embroiled in a doping scandal bigger than one of Bilyal Makhov’s thighs, here are a few quick facts.
Continue reading “Rio 2016: This is your Olympian on dope”
In the world of microbiology, the microbial communities we harbor in and on us (our microbiomes) are considered increasingly interesting. In Boulder, Colorado, the dedicated detectives who investigate these complex communities are members of an elite squad known as the forensic microbiologists. These are their stories.
Continue reading “Law & Order: Microbiome Unit”
“Neuroscientists tend to think of our brains as separate entities, or black boxes,” says Aggie Mika, a graduate student in Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder. “But it’s clear we need to start thinking about our central nervous system as being part of the whole.” And Mika doesn’t just mean part of our individual bodies—she means part of the conglomeration of cells that live on us and inside us, not all of them human. We are a walking ecosystem, and the brain must be considered as a part of that.
Continue reading “Exercise, Microbiomes, and You”
How many different words do you use in a day? Take a guess. A couple hundred? A couple thousand? I couldn’t find stats on how many different words people use every day, but I did find that adults know more than 17,000 words, whereas an average five year old knows about 1,500 words. Having so many words makes language complex and nuanced, and virtually anything can be explained. But not everything explained is understood, and science in particular suffers from an overuse of jargon.
Continue reading “Ten-hundred Word Challenge: Part One”
Pop quiz! What’s the fruit proven to prevent ulcers, diabetes, and obesity, that also decreases your blood pressure? If you guessed blueberries, grapefruit, acai berries, or bananas, boy, are you behind the times. The new super fruit is the humble pear.
Continue reading “Eat This, Not That: The Problem with Superfoods Reporting”
Remember that diagram of “The Scientific Process” from every high school science textbook? I’ll jog your memory: data is collected that may conflict with a previously held assumption, so a new hypothesis is devised. Experiments are done, the new data is analyzed, the hypothesis appears to hold true, and a conclusion is made. Science! Only later do many of us learn that the course of science doesn’t always run so smoothly.
Continue reading “Hot Topics: Heat Transfer at Nanoscales”