DARPA is an interesting and innovative agency, not only because it pushes the science and technology envelopes, providing funding, purpose, and goals to R&D houses looking to create next-gen technology, but also because its talents are unparalleled when it comes to acronyms.
Take, for instance, the agency's two newest initiatives: Biochronicity and Temporal Mechanisms Arising in Nature, and Robustness of Biologically-Inspired Networks. That's right: BaTMAN and RoBIN.
Watching grass grow is way more interesting than you think. In an effort to understand cellular development in plants, a team of French scientists made a surprisingly exciting video animation of grass growing at the cellular scale.
Just about everyone can think of some memory he or she would rather forget. For some, it's something like a relationship gone wrong, or high school. For others -- like soldiers returning from war zones -- those bad memories can be highly disruptive, impeding the ability to live a normal life. But Puerto Rican researchers may have found a way to reduce the fear associated with our memories by injecting a naturally occurring chemical directly into the brain, replacing anxiety with feelings of security.
When the J. Craig Venter Institute announced last week that it had created the first "synthetic cell," whose genome had been synthesized artificially one base pair at a time, Venter himself mentioned that the genetic code had been tagged throughout with watermarks that identify it as man-made rather than natural code. Now we're hearing that those watermarks weren't arbitrary.
If figuring out how to quickly sequence genomes was but the first small step for genetics, Craig Venter has gone ahead and made a giant leap for the discipline. The J. Craig Venter Institute announced today that it has created the world’s first synthetic cell, boasting a completely synthetic chromosome produced by a machine.
“This is the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” Venter said in a press conference.
Tiny organisms such as algae offer great promise for a clean energy future by creating biofuels or even hydrogen, if only scientists can figure out how to use them in a cost-efficient way. A startup named Joule Unlimited has hit upon a possible solution, with a genetically tailored organism that sweats out its fuel and lives on to continue making more, New York Times reports. The company broke ground recently on a Texas pilot plant that will house the single-cell plant organisms in flat structures resembling solar panels facing the sun.
There are plenty of ways to cut down on your food intake -- you can observe the methods of fasting holy men, or perhaps toss back an appetite-suppressing hydrogel capsule -- but at last week's synthetic biology conference in Boston, one Harvard biologist presented a particularly novel idea: photosynthesis. It's not just for plants anymore.
Dieters know the powerful temptations of just seeing or smelling food. Certain odors might have such a strong effect as to actually change the body's metabolism and lead to an early grave. At least, that's the case for fruit flies on a diet, according to Science Now.
A stinking, poisonous lake filled with carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons might not seem like the kind of place for living things to thrive, but researchers have discovered life in Trinidad's Pitch Lake, a hot asphalt lake teeming with all kinds of noxious gases and containing very little water. But the discovery isn't just of interest to biologists; Pitch Lake is thought to be the closest thing we have on Earth to the hydrocarbon lakes on Saturn's Titan moon.
In the 236 years since oxygen was identified as a life-giving necessity, no scientist anywhere has discovered a multicellular animal capable of living without the stuff. Until now. Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, Italy*, have discovered three new species that live their entire life in an anoxic pit beneath the Mediterranean Sea.
Natural silk, as we all know, has a strength that manmade materials have long struggled to match. In a discovery that sounds more like an ancient Chinese proverb than a materials science breakthrough, MIT researchers have discovered that silk gets its strength from its weakness. Or, more specifically, its many weaknesses. Silk gets its extraordinary durability and ductility from an unusual arrangement of hydrogen bonds that are inherently very weak but that work together to create a strong, flexible structure.
Rainbow trout with six-pack abs and burly shoulders have emerged from a University of Rhode Island laboratory, and could someday find their way to humans' dinner tables. That's assuming diners don't panic at the sight of the muscular ichthyoid awaiting their knives and forks.
Despite the impact of mankind, the size of trees, and the sheer numbers of bugs, multicellular terrestrial life only makes up a small portion of the planet's biomass. The majority of life on Earth lives at the bottom of the ocean, much of it beneath the ocean floor.
Thanks to those extreme depths, science knows virtually nothing about the majority of the planet's lifeforms. But a series of deep sea drilling expeditions over the course of the next year looks to finally shine a light on our planet's richest, and most mysterious, habitats.
There’s not a whole lot to we can say to preface this photo except yes, it is real. The image of the tiny Asian weaver ant clinging upside-down to a smooth surface holding a 500 mg weight – that’s 100 times its body weight – captured first prize in the first Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition, and with good cause; not only is it an amazing close-up of a tiny creature, but it captures some pretty amazing biology as well.
What would you do with $25 million? If you answered "create a center to research the development of programmable, highly sophisticated biological machines," we regret to inform you the National Science Foundation and MIT have beaten you to the punch. The Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems Center (EBICS), will not only advance research in the emerging experimental discipline of engineered biological systems, but will lay an extensive educational groundwork for research in the field going forward.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.