Current Event Summaries by Emily N.

5 Responses to Current Event Summaries by Emily N.

  1. Title: Earliest life may have arisen in ponds, not oceans
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190412115059.htm
    Author(s): Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: April 12, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Researchers have found that bodies of water around 10 cm deep rather than oceans, could have been the birthplaces of the earliest life forms. These ponds may have been filled with nitrogen, an element believed to be one of the most important ingredients in the life process. Nitrogen would have easily reacted with other compounds since ponds have less volume over which compounds can be diluted compared to oceans. As a result of this, nitrogen (in the form of nitrogenous oxides) would have built up to higher concentrations. If life had come from nitrogenous oxides, it could have been in oceans, reacting with carbon dioxide from hydrothermal vents. Another possibility may have been that it came into contact with RNA.
    Nitrogenous oxides likely came into the water from the breakdown of nitrogen in our atmosphere. This could have possibly been caused by lightning breaking bonds between nitrogen molecules. However, researchers also discovered effects that could have destroyed oxides, such as interactions with the sun’s UV light. This may have caused the oxides to be sent back into the atmosphere as a gas, lowering the amounts of nitrogen in the ocean significantly compared to what people thought before. Nevertheless, thanks to the higher concentrations of these oxides in shallow waters, any effects that could break them down would have had less of an impact. While a small body of water may not seem important, any water larger would have been too diluted, preventing the creation of any organisms.

    Personal Reaction:
    I thought that this article was very interesting. I was surprised because I would not think that life could have been created in a pond– oceans seem like the type of place since they are more spacious. In this article, I also noticed a few things that we talked about in class. Firstly, the scientific method. The scientists created a hypothesis, made observations, conducted research and collected data, which lead them to create a conclusion supported by evidence. Something else I noticed, was the recurring theme of science is always changing and the door is always open. Most people would not believe that ponds and lakes could have been the origins of early life, but the curiosity of science lead it to discover new ideas and find out information that could be the answers to many of our questions.

  2. Title: Gene linked to needing less sleep identified
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190828111247.htm
    Author(s): Cell Press
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: August 28, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Scientists have recently found a new way to analyze the parts of our brains that contribute to sleep. The families that were studied had a gene called ADRB1, which let them function normally with only 6 hours of sleep. The first step to identifying the genes’ role was examining its protein. It was discovered that the genes’ mutant version was less stable, and it was more likely to function differently in the brain. Scientists decided to conduct experiments on mice to find out what the effect of the gene was. It was found that the mice with the mutated version, on average slept 55 minutes less than the regular ones. Researchers learned that the genes were at high levels in their dorsal pans, a part of the brain that is involved with sleep. These neurons were more active during wakefulness and REM sleep, likely causing a shorter sleeping cycle. It was acknowledged that there were limitations in using mice to study sleep since they have different sleep patterns, but it’s also challenging to study sleep in humans due to our natural behaviors. Investigators plan to further examine the function of this gene in other parts of our brain in the future.

    Personal Reaction:
    I chose this article because I was interested in learning about genetics and something that related to me. I thought that this article was interesting because I’ve always wondered why some people, including me, can sleep less and still function normally. It’s cool that I, along with many other people, may have a gene different than the average person. Even though there is not much known about it, sleeping is such a fascinating subject, and I would like to continue learning more about this gene and other aspects of our sleep cycles as well.

  3. Title: What made humans ‘the fat primate’?
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190626160337.htm
    Author(s): Duke University
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: June 26, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Often people will assume that junk food and lack of exercise is what causes humans to gain weight, but it was found that evolution contributed to our fat too. Chimpanzees and early humans had differences in DNA found inside their fat cells. Scientists found that it was harder for humans to turn white, calorie-storing fat into the brown calorie-burning kind. To figure out how humans became the “fat primate,” scientists used a technique called ATAC-seq and compared fat from humans, chimps, and rhesus macaques (a species of monkeys). Usually, most of the DNA in a cell is in the shape of tightly packed coils and loops, with only some areas loose enough for genes to turn on and off. However, researchers found around 780 areas of DNA in the monkeys that were loosened, while the DNA in humans was all squished together. This is one of the reasons why humans evolved fatter — the regions of the DNA that help white fat become brown were closed off, making it harder to activate the brown fat. Humans and chimps both need fat to protect organs, stay warm, and slow starvation. However, early humans could have needed extra fat to provide energy for our growing brains. This is possible because human brains have tripled in size over the years we have split from apes, whereas chimpanzee brains haven’t grown at all. The human brain uses more energy than any other tissue, and the extra fat would have given us a survival advantage. Evolution is complicated, but scientists believe this research could find ways to learn more about and control fat in humans.

    Personal Reaction:
    I have always been intrigued by the history and similarities between chimpanzees/apes and humans. There is still so much left to learn about evolution, and the mystery is what makes it such an interesting subject. Putting this study into a real world situation, there is a big obesity and hunger/starvation problem throughout the world, so this research could be helpful in finding ways to solve those problems and to learn more about the fat genes in humans. This relates to class because we learned about evolution, as well as fats and lipids in our bodies and how they are formed.

  4. Title: Coastal birds can weather the storm, but not the sea
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190918122508.htm
    Author(s): University of Connecticut
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: September 18, 2019

    Article Summary:
    For a long time, people have wondered how populations of small, coastal birds could survive in disastrous hurricanes. Usually, you would expect that these birds are in a lot of danger when a natural disaster strikes, but it turns out that they are very resilient and the impacts of hurricanes are much smaller compared to other threats they face. Researchers began to study the resilience of four species of coastal birds using a simulation that allowed them to examine how problems like hurricanes would affect the birds’ populations over time. The team observed how the population would be affected by various sizes of hurricanes, how well they absorbed the impact, and their ability to recover. It was found that these birds were able to push through a large range of hurricane severity. The purpose of this experiment was to test the risk species may face in the long run, when hurricanes could become heavily strengthened due to climate change. Scientists are still wondering if this means that the birds would also be resistant towards climate change since there are other threats like sea-level rise and coastal flooding that are also the results of it. Dr. Chris Elphick suggests that this provides a lesson for people too, saying that we will often rush into rebuilding an area where a hurricane hit, but it’s just as important to address the less noticeable changes to help improve coastal conditions and birds’ lives for the future.

    Personal Reaction:
    I found it very interesting how these tiny birds could thrive in conditions such as hurricanes. It was also interesting how the scientists created a simulation to predict the future. This relates to what we learned in class because the scientists made observations, created an experiment, and eventually came upon a possible conclusion using the evidence collected from the data. Another way this relates to class is because the birds could adapt to their surroundings and push through hurricanes, and we learned about natural selection and adaptation of organisms.

  5. Title: Artificial cells that can sense and respond to their environment
    URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190729181640.htm?scrlybrkr=4217de83
    Author(s): Imperial London College
    Published by: Science Daily
    Date: July 29, 2019

    Article Summary:
    Scientists from Imperial College in London have created artificial cells that can feel a chemical change in their surroundings to imitate biological cells. Sensing chemical changes are an important function of biological cells, so obviously a chemical response is a very complex process. However, the researchers from Imperial College figured out how to create these cells in a much simpler way, making the first unnatural cells that can both sense and respond to a chemical signal. They did this by designing a shortened and more efficient version of a chemical response pathway found in nature. These cells can be used in many ways, like detecting cancer and in response releasing drug molecules in the body. The cells work by sensing calcium ions and then glowing as a response. The calcium ions enter through membrane pores and inside they can activate enzymes (from an existing biological system) that cause the cells’ vesicles to release glowing particles. The researchers’ system is much simpler because it doesn’t need to worry about many of the problems cells encounter in natural systems (such as a toxic side-effect). The scientists say this system is easy to set-up and can be used to test any combination of elements in the future.

    Personal Reaction:
    This article was really interesting. It’s so cool how there are hundreds of discoveries being made every day, and how scientific knowledge continues growing. This relates to a “quote of the day” we talked about in class. Ralph W. Sockman said, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” I thought this fit with my reaction, because the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. What the scientists created was only the start of a new line of discoveries, because there is still so much we haven’t seen yet, but could find using this data.

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