This tag is associated with 26 posts

Using Silkworms to Make More than Silk

We have a long history with the silkworm (Bombyx mori), which was native throughout Asia and thought to have been domesticated more than 5,000 years ago in China to make silk. Silkworms today are biological silk-producing machines, the products of thousands of years of careful breeding. Silk production is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with … Continue reading »

Magnetoception and Changing Geomagnetic Poles

You may have heard the news that the Earth’s magnetic field (also called the geomagnetic field) is changing. (The field itself is created by the molten iron in the Earth’s outer core and other factors.) Specifically, it’s been significantly weakening over the last 200 years (by about 15%), and the geomagnetic North pole has been … Continue reading »

Making Plastic from Food

As we become more aware of the resources that we’re quickly using up, we increasingly look for ways to recycle and reuse what we’ve got. For example, some people have been figuring out how to “reuse” food waste by turning it into plastic. And not just any type of plastic — it’s actually biodegradable plastic, … Continue reading »

Toxoplasma: A Common Parasite that Affects Height, Personality, and Lots More

Have you ever felt like your reaction time isn’t as good as it should be? Or, if you’re male, have you ever had people comment that you look particularly masculine? These traits might seem unrelated, but they actually can be due to the same thing — infection by a very common parasite called Toxoplasma gondii … Continue reading »

A Parasitic Amoeba Kills Cells by Eating Them

Amoebas are fascinating single-celled organisms. They typically move about by having their internal fluid (their cytoplasm) flow around and they eat their food by surrounding and digesting it with their body, in a process called phagocytosis. Some amoeba are parasites, such as Entamoeba histolytica, which can infect people and cause a potentially fatal diarrheal disease … Continue reading »

Building Computer Circuits from Slime

It might sound like science fiction, but researchers are actually exploring how to make computer circuits using slime molds. Why slime molds? It turns out that while slime molds don’t have a brain or even a nervous system, they’re able to make chemical-based decisions, and this behavior can be utilized to make some basic circuit … Continue reading »

Using Electricity to Heal Wounds

When we get a cut, or a small bruise, the healing process may seem simple — our body knows how to seal up the cut, and repair the bruised tissue over time — but there’s actually a lot that goes into fixing up an injury. For example, cells have to move to the right location, … Continue reading »

Giant Viruses!

In the last year, multiple new “giant viruses” have been discovered that are challenging what it means to be a virus… and what it means to be alive. Giant viruses are so much bigger than other viruses that until the early 2000s some had been miscategorized as bacteria — the upper size limits that defined … Continue reading »

Exploding Termites

A species of rainforest termite makes the ultimate sacrifice to defend its home – these bugs blow themselves up. Self-destructing animals might sound like a B-rated sci-fi movie, but it is a reality when it comes to these termites (of the species Neocapritermes taracua) living in the French Guiana rainforests of South America. Older worker … Continue reading »

How Oxygen Helped Life to Flourish

About 4.5 billion years ago, our planet formed. Around a billion years later, the first life forms appeared, which were mostly single-celled microbes, and this is pretty much how life was on our planet for billions of years. Then, about 540 million years ago (or some three billion years after those microbes first appeared), multicellular … Continue reading »