Friday, June 21, 2013

The Krogh Principle in Action: Naked Mole Rats and Cancer

A naked mole rat
We have a lot to learn about the world around us.  The number of organisms living on earth is vast, as is the potential for us to learn about ourselves by studying their biology and physiology.

Physiology is the study of the function of living organisms.  Comparative physiology is a branch of physiology that examines differences between various organisms to better understand human physiology and diseases.  The philosophy of comparative physiology is often credited to August Krogh, a Danish scientist and Nobel Prize winner (Physiology or Medicine category; 1920).  However, this philosophy doesn't just apply to physiology.  It applies to all aspects of biology.  In this blog post, we'll discuss how a group of researchers compared cells derived from humans, mice, and naked mole rats to come up with a novel pathway for targeting cancer.  Read more after the jump....    

Friday, June 14, 2013

Scientific Exploits of Ben Franklin Part 3: Heat and Evaporative Cooling

Benjamin Franklin, ca 1783
One snowy but sunny morning in 1760, Ben Franklin carried out an experiment.  He took pieces of cloth of various colors, cut them to the same size, and laid the squares of fabric onto a layer of snow.  Then he waited.  When he came back, he noted that the darker pieces of fabric had sunk farther down into the snow, as more snow below them had melted.  Franklin discovered an important phenomenon that we take for granted today, namely that darker colors absorb more heat.  He took this simple observation further by proposing an important application for his discovery: wear lighter color clothing on sunny or hot days to stay cooler.  That seems like common sense knowledge to us today, but it wasn't back then.  The idea of color absorbing heat wasn't understood or ingrained in the habits of people in the 1700s.   
Franklin was very interested in the science of heat and cooling during his lifetime, and as a consequence he made several important observations about phenomena that we often take for granted today.  Read more after the jump....

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lightening Bugs and Their Light.

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies
That though they never equal stars in size
(And they were never really stars at heart),
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.
-Robert Frost,  Fireflies in the Garden

As June begins and we dive head-first into summer, many people will be seeing a familiar nighttime site outside, the glowing of fireflies, also called "lightening bugs."  Lightening bugs are fascinating little creatures because of their seemingly magical ability to light up through a process called "bioluminescence" (bio means "life," while luminescence is the production of light).  Bioluminescence isn't something that we see often on land.  Most bioluminescent organisms live in the ocean, and their relative uniqueness on land makes them a beloved insect, particularly by children.  Fireflies are amazing, but as you can guess, there's no magic to what they do.  It's all science.  Read more about it after the jump...

Writing and Your Brain.

Regardless of what you do in life, being able to present your ideas clearly and concisely is important for success.  In science, new ideas are often presented in articles that are published in scientific journals, and good writing helps to get those ideas across clearly and understandably.  For new scientific discoveries to take root, people need to be able to understand what research was done, what the results were, and what those results mean.  While other animals communicate in various ways, writing is a distinctly human process.  Writing is not a skill that we should take for granted, and it can have many benefits that we should not overlook.  Let's chat for a minute about writing after the jump.