Discovered: A neon sign that's alive, a cure-all wonder drug for the common cold and HIV, drought-proof plants (almost), debunking peer influence.
- A neon sign made of bacteria. It sounds kind of gross, but this blue blinking slab pictured above is actually made of millions of living cells. Researchers at UC San Diego attached fluorescent proteins to the biological clocks of the bacteria. Then, synchronized these clocks so that the bacteria would glow on and off in unison. They call the creation biopixels. Get it: Like little living images. Check out this UCSD video on the making of these living images:Not just for aesthetics, the science behind the beauty could help researchers monitor a given sample over long periods of time. "Because the bacteria respond in different ways to different concentrations by varying the frequency of their blinking pattern, they can provide a continual update on how dangerous a toxin or pathogen is at any one time," explains Jeff Hasty as the UCSD News Center. [UC San Diego]
- This wonder-drug could cure both the common cold and HIV. Don't throw the Airborne away quite yet, this one is still in the experimental phase. But Draco (like Malfoy) defeated 15 different viruses, including the common cold, the swine flu, a polio virus, dengue fever and Ebola virus, in research done by MIT's Todd Rider. Unlike bacterial infections, viruses are harder to combat. And most anti-virals only target one specific ailment. Draco, a protein concoction, has so far done the trick. But, the thing has only been tested on rats and it will be "several years" before Draco touches human immune systems, according to the BBC's Stephanie Hegarty. [BBC]
- Preparing plants for the inevitable droughts to come. Climate change isn't just threatening drought and famine and death and apocalypse, (most of) these things are already scary realities, as we saw in Somalia this summer. Lucky for us, science has our back. Researchers at University of California, Riverside have engineered plants to better respond to lack of water. By manipulating the plant's "abscisic acid receptors," the scientists figured out how to heighten its response to stress (ie. dehydration), meaning that the plant will survive these unfavorable conditions and maybe even produce more food. [UC Riverside]
- Friends don't really have that much influence on each other. Though previous research has suggested that our friends influence our likes (movies, music, TV) and behaviors (drugs, sex and fun), a recent Harvard study found that we don't actually spread our tastes and morals to friends. Looking at Facebook friendships -- a loose definition of "friendship" -- these sociologists found that we choose friends like us, which is why it looks like friends have such strong influence on each other. And when we hang out with people unlike us, we don't change their behaviors. So really, delinquents just hang out with other delinquents. [National Science Foundation]