Wood Ants Make Defensive Cocktails Against Microbes Animals Chemistry 

Wood Ants Make Defensive Cocktails Against Microbes

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore Wood ants are natural mixologists, concocting their own defensive cocktails, a new study finds. They protect themselves from infection by mixing self-produced acid with resin collected from trees to create a potent antimicrobial. “This is an unusual case where insects combine plant defenses with their own chemical defenses to produce a potent antimicrobial substance,” says Michel Chapuisat, of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, who is the senior author of the study. We sanitize our homes using cleaners such as alcohol and bleach to protect ourselves from…

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Robust Rice Varieties Cut Costs and Pollution Biology Environment Health 

Robust Rice Varieties Cut Costs and Pollution

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore Climate change coupled with our growing population is putting tremendous pressure on world food production, especially in developing countries. We need crops that use resources more efficiently. Scientists from China and Canada have identified “superstar” rice varieties that can reduce pollution and also save money spent by farmers on nitrogen fertilizers. “Anything we can do to reduce demand for nitrogen, both environmentally and for farmers in the developing world struggling to pay for it, is a significant contribution,” says Herbert Kronzucker,  distinguished professor at the University…

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coffee Animals Biology Chemistry 

Living on Nothing but Coffee?

By Bill Sullivan, Ph.D. @wjsullivan Can you imagine living on nothing but coffee? Some of us would probably like to at times, if not for the taste then for the buzz the caffeine brings. Caffeine makes us feel more alert because it structurally resembles a molecule called adenosine. The longer we stay awake, the more adenosine accumulates in our brains, binding to the receptors that induce the sleepy feeling we all get after a long day. Adenosine is the body’s way of signaling to the brain that it has had…

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Volunteers wearing the rubber soled shoes walk up and down an ice-covered inclined floor in the Challenging Environment Assessment Lab. (Reza Rizvi, Yue Li, and Sharon Ravindran/ Toronto Rehabilitation Institute) Health Physics Technology 

Winter Hack: New Rubber Grips Icy Surfaces

Winter storms dumped record amounts of snow on the East Coast and other regions of the United States this year, forcing many people to navigate icy sidewalks and roads. However, treacherous travel by foot may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a team of researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the University of Toronto, Canada, who are working on a new rubber sole to help pedestrians get a better grip on slippery surfaces. The material is made up of glass fibers embedded in rubber, and it…

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Self-cleaning surfaces (Artwork by Vectorolie via freedigitalphotos.net) Engineering Technology 

New, Durable Self-cleaning Surfaces

Put away the polish!  A new paint that creates self-cleaning surfaces has been developed by a research team at University College London (UCL). The coating can be applied to clothes, paper, glass and steel. When combined with adhesives, the paint maintains its self-cleaning properties after being wiped, scratched with a knife, and scuffed with sandpaper. Self-cleaning surfaces work by being extremely water repellent, but often stop working when damaged or exposed to oil. According to Claire Carmalt, professor of inorganic chemistry at UCL, “The surfaces tend to be mechanically weak…

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Latte foam: Photo by Piyato via freedigitalphotos.net Engineering Physics 

Science of Sloshing: Why Foam is Important

By Kate Stone Most of us know that carrying a full cup of hot coffee can be precarious and just one wrong move could send a wave of java sloshing over the rim. But have you ever noticed that adding a bit of foam to the top of the coffee makes moving with it easier? Scientists have found out why just a few layers of bubbles can significantly dampen the sloshing motion of liquid. However, investigating the effects of foam on fluid dynamics is about more than avoiding coffee spillage….

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Biofuel: Inforgraphic courtesy of Eric Taylor, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Biology Engineering Environment Oceanography 

Fish Food Turned into Two New Biofuels

By Kate S. A common algae commercially grown to make fish food could become a future source of biofuel, according to a new study. The research team, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has pioneered a technique that uses a single species of algae called Isochrysis to make both biodiesel and jet fuel. The scientists believe that the ability to produce two types of biofuel from one algae holds some promise for future commercialization. They stress that this is only…

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