Friday coffee break


Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Sarah: When scientific results have political implications, harassment of scientists is on the rise.

Climate science is just the tip of the iceberg. Seismologists are looking worriedly toward Italy, where six scientists were indicted and prosecuted for failing to adequately warn people prior to the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, which killed more than 300 people. Given that timely earthquake prediction is currently impossible, it is unclear how any scientifically justifiable statement could be considered “adequate.” But whatever the outcome of the trial, the end result will almost certainly discourage geologists from making any public statement about future earthquake hazards, resulting in a less-informed and less-well-prepared public, more at risk from future earthquakes. [Link sic.]

From Devin: Spider silk contains chemical agents to defend against ants. The methods section of this paper gets pretty wild.

Spider webs are made of silk, the properties of which ensure remarkable efficiency at capturing prey. However, remaining on, or near, the web exposes the resident spiders to many potential predators, such as ants. Surprisingly, ants are rarely reported foraging on the webs of orb-weaving spiders, despite the formidable capacity of ants to subdue prey and repel enemies, the diversity and abundance of orb-web spiders, and the nutritional value of the web and resident spider.

From Jon: The New York Times considers the prospects for an HIV cure.

With his own immune system replaced by one resistant to infection, Mr. Brown, 45, who now lives in San Francisco, has apparently been free of the virus for about four years. But bone marrow transplants are grueling, risky and expensive. Moreover, it is hard enough to find an immunologically matching donor, let alone one with mutations in both copies of the CCR5 gene.

So scientists are trying to modify a patient’s own immune cells to make them resistant to infection by eliminating CCR5.

Meanwhile, Nature reports successful trials (in mice) of gene therapy that prevents HIV infection.

From Jeremy: An insect smaller than many single-celled organisms got that way in part by jettisoning the nuclei in its nerve cells.

… Until now, intact neurons without a nucleus have never been described in the wild.

And yet, the fairy wasp has thousands of them. As it changes from a larva into an adult, it destroys the majority or its neural nuclei until just a few hundred are left. The rest burst apart, saving space inside the adult’s crowded head. But the wasp doesn’t seem to suffer for this loss. As an adult, it lives for around five days, which is actually longer than many other bigger wasps.


One comment on “Friday coffee break

  1. Hird says:

    Awesome links – such tiny wasps!

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