This week's website comes from an initiative at the Smithsonian that seeks to reflect on what it means to be human. The initiative’s goal is to explore the universal human story at its broadest time scale, and stimulate new research findings that deepen an understanding of what makes our species unique and how we came to be.
New research has given tea and coffee drinkers new information about why their favorite drinks taste as they do. The study shows that sugar has an important effect in reducing the bitterness of tea and coffee, not just by masking it but by influencing the fundamental chemistry.
For consumers searching for just the right sunblock this summer, the options can be overwhelming. But scientists are now turning to the natural sunscreen of algae— which is also found in fish slime— to make a novel kind of shield against the sun’s rays that could protect not only people, but also textiles and outdoor materials.
Wine-making is steeped in age-old traditions, but to address the threat of pests and concerns over heavy pesticide use, vintners are turning to science. With the goal of designing better grape breeds, scientists are parsing the differences between wild American grapes— which make terrible wine but are pest-resistant— and the less hardy grape species pressed for fine wines worldwide.
U.S. farmers have long hoped to extend sugarcane’s growing range northward from the Gulf coast, substantially increasing the land available for sugar and biofuels. Researchers have reported that two miscanes– the offspring of crosses between sugarcane and a hardy, cold-tolerant grass, Miscanthus– perform well at 50 F, staying green and converting carbon dioxide to plant matter at a steady rate.
The world’s largest and deepest pool could be built in the coming years at the University of Essex. The pool would be 50 meters long– and also 50 meters deep, allowing scientists to simulate deep-sea and even outer space environments.
SPECTRO Analytical’s SPECTROSCOUT X-ray fluorescence spectrometer brings laboratory-quality elemental composition monitoring and quality control testing to at-line analysis.
Shimadzu Scientific’s AOC-6000 robotic autosampler features time-saving tools to maximize laboratory productivity.
A clinical MRI scanner can be transformed into an effective preclinical system using a conversion kit from MR Solutions.
Syria experienced some severe and long-lasting droughts between 2006 and 2011. Crops failed, populations fled to the cities, which grew crowded and hard to control. The domino-like effect threw region into chaos leading to the rise of ISIS. Climate change means there could be such chaotic times of political, economic and military stress caused by changes to the world’s sea levels and food and water availability.
The New Horizons mission reached the outer fringes of our solar system in recent weeks, snapping vibrant pictures of Pluto, providing new scientific information from millions of miles away and exciting the curious back here on Earth. But the Dawn mission has continued to seek out new worlds and solve galactic mysteries– just without as much fanfare.
Laboratory Equipment’s scientist of the week is Paul Spagnuolo from the University of Waterloo. He and a team found that molecules derived from avocados could be effective in treating a form of cancer.
Athletes in next year's Summer Olympics will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games, an investigation has found.
An exotic material called gallium nitride (GaN) is poised to become the next semiconductor for power electronics, enabling much higher efficiency than silicon. An MIT spinout has announced a line of GaN transistors and power electronic circuits that promise to cut energy usage in data centers, electric cars and consumer devices by 10 to 20 percent worldwide by 2025.
An analysis of data on stomach acidity and diet in birds and mammals suggests that high levels of stomach acidity developed not to help animals break down food, but to defend animals against food poisoning. The work raises interesting questions about how modern life may be affecting both our stomach acidity and the microbial communities that live in our guts.