Archive for May, 2011

Top banana fights fungal infection

Posted on May 28th 2011 in News with Comments Off on Top banana fights fungal infection

A new genetically modified strain of banana resistant to a fungal disease may help boost profit yields for some of the poorest farmers in East Africa. For the past 30 years, the humble banana has been under attack from a fungal invader known as Black sigatoga disease. Caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, it causes dark leaf spots which eventually kill the plant, decimating fruit yields. The disease has spread throughout East Africa by airborne spores or from contaminated fruit being exported. The team from Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Laboratories Institute added genes for chitinase – a protein that breaks…

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Titanic Antics

Posted on May 21st 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Titanic Antics

Last year, I had the good fortune of going on a white water rafting trip. Shivering uncontrollably from the combination of the cold and the dangerousness, it was, all things considered, an amazing adventure. One factor, which at the time, I was very grateful for was the raft – a study construction of rubber and glass fibre. Without it, well, I would just look stupid.  It turns out, however, that not everybody needs a raft to go rafting. Ants, in their near-infinite behavioural plasticity, have evolved a way of escaping floods by constructing a raft from their own bodies. Although…

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The Forest Garden

Posted on May 16th 2011 in Video with Comments Off on The Forest Garden


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Sting bomb detector

Posted on May 10th 2011 in News with Comments Off on Sting bomb detector

An instrument capable of detecting single molecules of explosives such as TNT has been cobbled together using carbon nanotubes and bee venom proteins. The detector draws upon the discovery that carbon nanotubes emit a specific spectrum of infra-red light dependent on the chemical environment. Carbon nanotubes, by themselves, are not able to detect TNT. When coated with a protein derived from bumble bee venom known as bomboliti, however, the nanotubes became sensitive to the TNT molecules. TNT alters the 3D structure of the bomboliti protein, which in turn cause the nanotubes to emit a characteristic fingerprint of infra-red light that…

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Surveillance society

Posted on May 7th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Surveillance society

Ever found yourself doing something that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing? And, when you’re doing said unscrupulous act, are you constantly wary of anyone who might discover and judge you? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It turns out this fear of being caught is part of our evolved psychology. Acts of moral dubiousness are seen as being far worse when in the presence of another – as a study published this week has shown. To test this idea, the authors of the paper wrote two stories of malfeasance – one involving taking money from a missing wallet,…

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