Posts from the ‘Online’ Category
Microbes are principally used by industry to turn larger organic compounds into smaller, more useful ones – fermenting corn sugars to produce ethanol, for instance. More desirable, though, is direct conversion of carbon dioxide into organic compounds. But current methods that use blue-green algae are not attractive.
Now US researchers have engineered a heat-loving microbe to produce a bulk chemical from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Their results may provide a viable industrial alternative to blue-green algae, which have a much lower efficiency for such chemical transformations.
Engineered extremophile brews bulk chemical, Chemistry World, 10 April 2013.
Image credit: Chemistry World
In recent years, massive open online courses (MOOCs), through the likes of Coursera, have attracted hundreds of thousands of students from across the world. But are they really improving learning? The evidence is not fully convincing. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that students suffer from attention lapses when learning through videos.
Given those findings, an improvement in students’ attentiveness is bound to pay significant dividends. To that end, Karl Szpunar, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard University, might have a rather simple solution to rein in distractions, one that focuses attention in real-world classrooms: intersperse pop quizzes into the online lectures.
Testing students during video lectures improves learning, Ars Technica, 8 April 2013.
Image credit: UPenn
April 2, 2013
The organising committee of the upcoming global gathering of science journalists has made sudden changes to the programme last month, cutting several sessions that focused on developing country issues and leaving journalists disappointed. In recent years the World Conference of Science Journalists has attracted up to half its attendees from the developing world. That seems unlikely now.
Developing-world sessions purged from WCSJ2013 programme, SciDev.Net, 2 April 2013.
Biology and nanotechnology are moving ever closer together. I recently wrote about the use of nanoparticles to aid delivery of stem cells in cardiac therapy. Now, Swiss researchers have developed nanoparticles that can detect, and one day could combat, viruses.
Nanoparticles formed using human viruses, to fight human viruses, Ars Technica, 1 April 2013.
Image credit: Emil Alexov
Some time in humanity’s past, a small group of Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa before spreading out to every possible corner of the Earth. All the women of that group carried DNA inherited from just one woman, commonly known as mitochondrial Eve, whose DNA was inherited by all humans alive today. But the exact timing of this migration is not clear, and it has sparked debate among geneticists. Now, new research published in Current Biology may help calm both sides.
Fossil DNA used to reset humanity’s clock, Ars Technica, 28 March 2013.
Image credit: Dongyi Liu
Heart-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising new way of reducing those numbers, but its application has proven to be less effective than hoped. Now researchers at Stanford University have developed nanoparticles that can be used to image stem cells implanted into the heart. They claim this will help improve the efficiency of these transplants drastically.
Doctors track stem cells with nanoparticles during cardiac therapy, Ars Technica, 22 March 2013.
Image credit: trialx.com
Nearly three-fourths of all diseases caused in India are due to water contaminants. Despite that, one in eight Indians still lacks access to clean drinking water. The poor now realise that paying for clean water can save much more in health-care costs later. It was this market that Sarvajal, a social enterprise in India, wanted to cater to.
Water for all, The Economist’s Schumpeter blog, 20 March 2013.
Image credit: Sarvajal
Researchers from 15 developed and developing countries have called for better global coordination of research and prevention efforts against cancer, which kills 7.5 million people each year (about 15% of all deaths). A joint report published earlier this month (6 March) in Science Translational Medicine focuses on five areas that will help slash cancer cases and deaths: better and more coordinated registries, stronger action on prevention, easier and cheaper screening methods, better access to treatment, and the open exchange of research findings.
Global team urges cancer R&D collaboration, SciDev.Net, 18 March 2013.
Image credit: Visual Photos
Beyond all the needs that it fulfils, all technological innovation is underpinned by a common driving force: how to make information flow more efficiently. From when the first modern humans walked the earth, we’ve assumed that it was their survival instinct that drove innovation. It certainly has, but we forget that without the ability to efficiently pass on information from one generation to the next, our ancestors would’ve had to reinvent the most basic things every time they needed it.
Rethinking the information revolution, Medium, 16 March 2013.
Written with Alex Flint.
Image from here.
In 1948 Angus John Bateman, an English geneticist, proposed that females invest more in producing and caring for their offspring than males because sperm are cheaper than eggs. Since then, however, many species, in particular egg-laying ones, have been found to violate what became known as Bateman’s principle. Such role reversal has left evolutionary biologists baffled.
The numbers game, The Economist’s Babbage blog, 14 March 2013.
Image from Greg Schneider.