Fat makes cells fat

Just as people endlessly calculate how to upsize or downsize, bacteria continually adjust their volume (their stuff) to fit inside their membrane (their space). But what limits their expansion? The answer will surprise you.

Legumes are fancy

Most organisms share the biosynthetic pathways for making crucial nutrients because it is is dangerous to tinker with them. But now a collaborative team of scientists has caught plants in the process of altering where and how cells make an essential amino acid.

Detecting diluteness

Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis and Princeton University developed a new way to dive into the cell’s tiniest and most important components. What they found inside membraneless organelles surprised them, and could lead to better understanding of fatal diseases such as cancer, Huntington’s and ALS.

A spillway on Mars?

NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater for signs that they may have been either transported by a flood or eroded in place by wind.

Birds that babysit

It’s easy to make up a story to explain an evolved trait; proving that’s what happened is much harder. Here scientists test ideas about cooperative breeding in birds and find a solution that resolves earlier disagreements.

Shaking Schrödinger’s cat

Frequent measurement of a quantum system’s state can either speed or delay its collapse, effects called the quantum Zeno and quantum anti-Zeno effect. But so too can “quasimeasurements” that only poke the system and garner no information about its state.

Engineers launch experiment into space

An experiment designed by an engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis soon will be performed in space. The experiment, called Flame Design, was on board a SpaceX Dragon rocket that launched into orbit June 3.

A ring to bind them

Using genomics, a chemistry lab has worked out the biosynthetic machinery that makes a new class of antibiotic compounds called the beta-lactones. Like the beta-lactams, such as penicillin, they have an unstable four-member ring. The key to their antibiotic activity, it is also difficult to synthesize.

Death by volcano?

The discovery of anomalously high levels of mercury in rocks from the Ordivician geological period has led to a new interpretation of the ensuing mass extinction. A sequence of disturbances may have led to catastrophic cooling by reflective sulfate aerosols injected into the atmosphere by massive volcanism. The finding is important since aerosol cooling is under consideration as a way to temper global warming.