In the next week or so, billions of red-eyed, black-bodied, orange-legged cicadas will emerge from the ground. The latest generation of cicadas, known as Brood II, have spent 17 years in the dark. They have been down there since Derek Jeter’s rookie season, several feet beneath your feet, sucking on liquids from tree roots, waiting for their moment.
And when they do emerge – one night, likely between May 18 and 24, when the soil reaches the magic temperature of 64 degrees – they will attach to a vertical surface, split open their backs and clamber out of their exoskeleton. They will climb into the tops of trees, start to fly, make an ungodly racket in their search of a mate, lay eggs – and, within weeks, drop dead.
They will be gone before Jeter even gets off the disabled list.
“We should feel lucky and special to witness this – there’s nothing like this anywhere else in the world,” said Andrew Liebhold, a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service.
These bugs, known as periodical cicadas, are different from the annual cicadas, which have more of a green body and show up each summer. If you look around the base of trees, you might already be able to spot the holes that periodical cicada nymphs are digging to prepare for their emergence.
The suburbs are generally good habitat for cicadas since they like to lay eggs on young trees and they prefer the edge of forests. How many will emerge “depends on how much development has occurred and how many trees have been cut down since the last emergence,” said George Hamilton, an entomologist at Rutgers University. “They’re stuck in the ground for 17 years, and if they suddenly have no food source, they die.”
This image was obtained with the wide-field view of the Mosaic camera on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.
LDN 810 is a dark nebula that was first cataloged by B.T. Lynds in 1962. The dark region at the center contains gas and dust out of which new stars are forming. A bipolar outflow of gas from one of these stars has also been detected.
A faint trail of dust and gas extends from the center of the image to the upper-left corner. The image was generated with observations in the Us (violet), B (blue), V (green) and I (red) filters. In this image, North is up, East is to the left.
Technology Enables One-Step Genetic Engineering
A new, streamlined approach to genetic engineering drastically reduces the time and effort needed to insert new genes into bacteria, the workhorses of biotechnology, scientists are reporting. Published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the method paves the way for more rapid development of designer microbes for drug development, environmental cleanup and other activities.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2013/05/technology-enables-one-step-genetic-engineering
Research Overcomes the Oxide Barrier
Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have uncovered the characteristics of a low-resistance electrical contact to strontium titanate, SrTiO3, an important prototypical oxide semiconductor. Oxides are likely to be important materials in next-generation electronic devices, and they need to be extremely small. Getting electrical signals into and out of oxide semiconductors is hard because a large energy barrier typically develops at the junction with metal contacts.
Metal contacts are required to get electricity into and out of a semiconductor device in much the same way that jumper cables are needed to transfer power from a healthy car battery to a dead battery. This work shows how to eliminate this barrier while keeping the contact area extremely small, at the nanometer (one billionth of a meter) level.
Read more: http://www.chromatographytechniques.com/news/2013/05/research-overcomes-oxide-barrier
How Bilinguals Switch Between Languages
May 20, 2013 — Individuals who learn two languages at an early age seem to switch back and forth between separate “sound systems” for each language, according to new research conducted at the University of Arizona.
Neurons growing in a cell culture
These time lapse animations use phase contrast microscopy to show neural stem cells in a nutrient medium for 4 hours. They reveal the dynamic growth and recycling of dendrites and synapses as neurons establish relationships with each other. The social behavior of these cells creates the incredible properties of the mind and brain.
Credit: University of Victoria Medical Sciences
Oceanic phytoplankton blooms imaged from space by Envisat. Plankton blooms occur in regions of the ocean that have optimal temperature, sunlight, and nutrient supply for marine algae to grow exponentially. Most blooms are composed of coccolithophores, single celled organisms which grow disk-like exoskeletons of calcium carbonate. Trillions of these disks color the water white, showing the phytoplankton density and beautiful fluid dynamics of ocean currents.
Wee Yeasty Beasties
Fungi are like Rodney Dangerfields of the microbial world. Funny looking, often oddly round, and they get no respect.
I mean, their name suggests that they’d be rather enjoyable to hang out with*. A new survey of the human skin ecosystem has identified some of their diverse influence on human health and biology.
For as much attention as our microbiome gets these days (need a microbiome introduction? I made a video about it), the bacteria receive most of the publicity. But as the photo above shows, many regions of our bodies are teeming with yeast and other fungi (the blue dots are yeast on a human hair). Understanding their diversity is essential to figuring out who’s a good fungi and who’s a yeast beast.
Not only is it important to understand how these various species lead to medical annoyances like toenail infections, athlete’s foot, dandruff, diaper rash, and, of course, yeast infections, but also how they interact with or are held in check by our bacterial copilots. With as many as 60 to 80 different species living on your feet, who’s welcome and who’s a ticking time bomb for a locker-room itch-fest?
*That’s a “fun guy” joke. I hope you got it. Not the fungus. The joke.
Laser Improves Imaging of Biological Molecules
3D structures of biological molecules like proteins directly affect the way they behave in our bodies. EPFL scientists have developed a new infrared-UV laser method to more accurately determine the structure of proteins containing thousands of atoms.
Biological molecules like proteins contain thousands of atoms that form extremely complex 3D structures. Being able to identify such structures is important because they directly affect how a molecule behaves in cells, and can often make the difference between life and death; for example, mad cow disease is caused by the misfolded version of an otherwise harmless prion protein. Determining 3D structures can be challenging, because biological molecules can be made up of the same atoms connected in the same order, but have radically different structures and therefore radically different effects. In a publication that made the cover of Angewandte Chemie, EPFL scientists used a new method based on infrared and UV lasers to more accurately determine the structure of biological molecules.
Read more: http://www.chromatographytechniques.com/news/2013/05/laser-improves-imaging-biological-molecules