Since Crick and Watson’s historic discovery of DNA, our investigation into coding DNA has gone a long way towards unravelling the key to life—but coding DNA only makes up just a few percent of the human genome. The rest is termed “Junk DNA” or “Non-coding DNA” because it doesn’t appear to have any function. However, new research suggests that this Junk DNA might actually play an important role in evolutionary history. Huge “ultraconserved” sections of it have remained the same for millions of years and are identical in many organisms—when you hear that humans and chimps share 98% of DNA, it’s mostly due to this. Increasing evidence suggests that Junk DNA influences coding DNA by acting as a kind of genetic “switch” in gene regulation, and it may also play a role in inheritance, but our knowledge is incomplete. If Junk DNA were really junk, then its sequence of “syllables” should be completely random, but it’s not random—leading scientists to believe it contains some kind of coded information. It’s been suggested that specific repetitive patterns are associated with susceptibility to cancer and other diseases, so understanding Junk DNA might be the key to understanding, diagnosing and curing disease.
This innocent molecule is called Phenacetin.
Phenacetin was introduced in 1887, and was used principally as an analgesic, and was one of the first synthetic fever reducers to go on the market. It is also known historically to be one of the first non-opioid analgesics without anti-inflammatory properties.
Phenacetin is not used anymore, but.. why?
Our innocent friend can kill you.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered the withdrawal of drugs containing Phenacetin in November 1983, owing to its carcinogenic and kidney-damaging properties. As a result some branded, previously Phenacetin-based preparations continued to be sold, but with the Phenacetin replaced by safer alternatives.
Luminol is an organic compound with the molecular formula C8N3O2H7. In the presence of a catalyst called Potassium Ferricyanide, Luminol reacts with Hydrogen Peroxide to yield Nitrogen gas and 3-Aminophthalic Acid. This product molecule initially forms in an excited state and thus releases energy in the form of a ghostly blue light.
(Image: Nick Ballon)
Nelly Ben Hayoun’s installation, Super K Sonic Booooum 2 opened at the Manchester Science Festival this weekend. The exhibition brings visitors face to face with a replica of the Super Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan.
Visitors are taken down a 22 metre, water-filled tunnel lined with thousands of “detectors” - silver balloons. They are exposed to the loud booms and bright flashes of what could be Cherenkov radiation - representing the interactions between neutrinos and atoms of pure water in a real detector.
The real Super K detector, located in Higashi-Mozumi, Gifu, Japan, consists of a tank 1000m below ground containing 50,000 tons of pure water surrounded by over eleven thousand golden photomultiplier tubes which measure light emitted when neutrinos collide with water nuclei. Physicists monitor these reactions to gain insight into basic nature of matter, the universe, and the laws of physics.
Plasmodesmata (singular, plasmodesma) are small tubes that connect plant cells to each other, establishing living bridges between cells. Similar to the gap junction found in animal cells, the plasmodesmata penetrate both the primary and secondary cell walls, allowing certain molecules to pass directly from one cell to another.
(Photo found here)
That weird blue thing is a pyrosome. Pyrosomes, genus Pyrosoma, are free-floating colonial tunicates (marine filter-feeders, see this post) that live usually in the upper layers of the open ocean in warm seas, although some may be found at greater depths. Pyrosomes are cylindrical or conical shaped colonies made up of hundreds to thousands of individuals, known as zooids. Colonies range in size from less than one centimeter to several meters in length. The individuals that make up this giant, floating, colonial tunicate are only about 1 in (2 cm) long, but the giant pyrosome colony, which resembles a gigantic hollow tube, can be large enough for a person to fit inside. Each individual lies embedded in the wall of the tube, with one end drawing in nutrient-laden water from outside and the other end expelling water and waste inside. The expelled water is used to propel the giant pyrosome colony as a whole. A wave of bioluminescent light travels along the community if it is touched.
Archaeology: Date with history
By revamping radiocarbon dating, Tom Higham is painting a new picture of humans’ arrival in Europe.
Beside a slab of trilobites, in a quiet corner of Britain’s Oxford University Museum of Natural History, lies a collection of ochre-tinted human bones known as the Red Lady of Paviland. In 1823, palaeontologist William Buckland painstakingly removed the fossils from a cave in Wales, and discovered ivory rods, shell beads and other ornaments in the vicinity. He concluded that they belonged to a Roman-era witch or prostitute.
“He did a good job of excavating, but he interpreted it totally wrong,” says Tom Higham, a 46-year-old archaeological scientist at the University of Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. Buckland’s immediate successors did a little better. They determined that the Red Lady was in fact a man, and that the ornaments resembled those found at much older sites in continental Europe. Then, in the twentieth century, carbon dating found the bones to be about 22,000 years old1 and, later, 30,000 years old2— even though much of Britain was encased in ice and seemingly uninhabitable for part of that time. When Higham eventually got the bones, his team came up with a more likely scenario: they were closer to 33,000 years old and one of the earliest examples of ceremonial burial in Western Europe
Scanning electron micrograph image of cells from a plant xylem.