Science Curiosities

Trees have Moms!

Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist has studied how trees nurture each other. Logging companies who clear cut but replant often find the seedlings don’t survive. However, preserving and planting them near the oldest largest trees— the mother trees vastly improved the survival rate. Some time ago I recall basing a blog on how plant roots recognize each other. Plants often compete for water, but interestingly if they recognize their own, they share but slurp up what they can from competitors.

Cells that compose embryos can turn on the fountain of youth

Many women today are postponing having children. It turns out that they need not worry that the age of the cells in their ova will be passed onto their embryos and ultimately children. At one time, developmental biologists thought germline cells were immune to aging somehow. (If true, it would be likely that human eggs would be harvested to create an antiaging pill.) Now, it is believed that the embryo somehow resets the biological clock to zero. The hypothesis has been supported by results from studies of mice embryos. If scientists can discover how it works, they may be able  to develop treatments for age-related diseases.

Bats or Lab-leak responsible for Covid? It could be both.

A sociologist in an article in the NYTimes has investigated laboratories that study infectious diseases and has made some interesting speculations about labs that study bats as carriers. She suggests that in some cases insufficient care might have been taken in the handling of the bats. A lab at UNC Chapel Hill discovered evidence that a SARS-like bat coronavirus could directly infect human airway cells. No intermediate animal needed. She also reports traits of the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1977-78, which affected people in their mid 20s or younger, were nearly identical to a strain from the 1950s. Because  viruses would have normally mutated over the time gap, scientists speculate it came from samples frozen in the 50s.  She speculates that labs designed to prevent disease instead contributed  to its spread.

There are brick-sized robots that are searching for survivors of the building collapse in Florida

These small robots must have been around for years to use to search earthquake rubble, but it’s the first I’ve heard of them. They are equipped with cameras and can be thrown into spaces too small to otherwise investigate for human life.

Hey Moms, your offspring changed you before birth.

I’m reading a fascinating book called Mom Genes. It describes scientific evidence that the cells from a fetus can escape into an expectant mother’s body including her brain. Slivers of mice mom brains were compared with slivers of virgin mice. Among humans, experiment after experiment compared and found differences between Mom reactions and reactions of non-mothers.

Why do scientists always pick on mice? Mice share 80% of their gene structure with us, and share hormones, immunities, etc. Their genome has been completely sequenced.

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