What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word mucus? For most people, it’s probably the last time they had a cold. Mucus is not usually something we think about unless there’s a problem. However, it is always there, working behind the scenes to make sure that our bodies function smoothly. Mucus lines the digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems, covering a surface area of about 400 square meters- about 200 times more area than is covered by skin. In addition to providing lubrication and keeping the underlying tissue hydrated, mucus also plays a key role the human immune system. It serves as a selectively permeable membrane that protects against unwanted pathogens while also helping to support and control the body’s microbiome.
Patterns are ubiquitous in nature, but how do they form? By considering how proteins can interact with each other, Alan Turing gives an explanation of how patterns can be formed without any genetic control, simply by following known laws of physics.
You must have observed a flock of birds or a school of fish form wonderful patterns. The entire group behaves like one big organism. Have you ever wondered if humans behave similarly when many of them get together? Are there similarities between violent mobs or cheering crowds and a herd of sheep or a flock of birds? Today’s paper studies human behaviour in one such form of gathering – A mosh pit!
In the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew shrink to the size of a microbe in order to travel into the body of an escaped Soviet scientist and remove a blood clot in his brain. The film gave viewers a glimpse into a possible future where doctors could treat patients by going directly to the source of the problem instead of being limited by the inaccessibility of most parts of the human body. This dream of a tiny submarine that can be piloted through the human body to deliver medical care remains, even 50 years later, in the realm of science fiction. However, Miskin and coworkers at Cornell University have brought us one step closer to making this a reality with their recent development of autonomous microscale machines.
No one likes being stuck. Whether you are in a car stranded in mud or stuck in a dead-end job, continuing normal behaviour is unlikely to help. Whereas we can see approaching hazards and dead-ends and try to avoid them, bacteria must blindly swim through passageways and channels that are of a similar size to themselves, often resulting in the cell becoming trapped. So, how does a bacterium change its behaviour to free itself?
When I first learned about the coffee ring effect I thought it was super cool, but it seemed like an open-and-shut case. Why do rings form where some liquids, like spilled coffee, are left to dry? Roughness on the table causes the liquid to spread imperfectly across the surface, pinning the edges of the droplet in place with a fixed diameter. Because the diameter of the droplet can’t change during evaporation, new liquid must flow from the droplet’s center to the edges. This flow also pushes dissolved coffee particles to the edges of the droplet, where they are left behind to form a ring as the water evaporates away (Figure 1). More details can be found in our previous post, here. It’s a complicated phenomenon, but after being described in 1997 it doesn’t seem like anything new would be going on here. Right? Well, as it usually happens in science, classic concepts have a way of popping back up in unexpected ways. Last year It?r Bak?? Do?ru and her colleagues in Prof. Nizamo?lu’s group at Koç University, Turkey published a study using the often troublesome coffee ring effect to their advantage: making self-assembling silk lasers.
Sometimes I read papers that enhance my understanding of how the universe works, and sometimes I read papers about fundamental research leading to promising new technologies. Occasionally though, I read a paper that is just inherently cool. The paper by Fernando Soto, Aida Martin, and friends in ACS Nano, titled “Acoustic Microcannons: Toward Advanced Microballistics” is such a paper.
In the beginning there was… what, exactly? Uncovering the origins of life is a notoriously difficult problem. When a researcher looks at a cell today, they sees the highly-polished end product of millennia of evolution-driven engineering. In today’s paper, David Zwicker, Rabea Seyboldt, and their colleagues construct a relatively simple theoretical model for how liquid droplets can behave in remarkably life-life ways.
Ever since its discovery, scientists have known that the DNA molecule is present in every life form. It carries the genetic information of all living organisms and many viruses. Today, however, we will strip DNA of its genetic importance and look at it from a different perspective. We will discuss why DNA attracts attention even outside of the biological context: What is the connection between DNA and liquid crystals? What are end-to-end stacking interactions and why are they important? If you want to get answers on these questions (and many more), keep reading.
Try taking out your earphones from your pocket and, in all probability, you’ll find knots and entanglements between the ends. As it turns out, this knotting effect is not limited to macroscopic objects, but occurs on the nanoscale as well. A DNA molecule that carries the genetic information of a living organism is actually a long string-like polymer, so you can imagine that it would also get tangled up just like the cords of your earphones. In today’s paper, Calin Plesa and his colleagues at TU Delft are able to observe and measure these knots in DNA strands and uncover behaviour which has not been observed before.