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  • Experiences

    Me and my microbiome

    I first suspected I might be inhabited by traitors when I read a research paper linking gut bacteria to obesity. I was a newspaper reporter in St. Louis in 2006 when local researchers in Jeffrey Gordon’s lab at Washington University found that the mix of bacteria in the gut can help determine whether a mouse is lean or obese. I’ve been writing about the microbiome — the microbes that inhabit...

    01/07/2014 - 12:25 Microbes, Health
  • Flightless birds face extinction

    The government of New Zealand is desperately trying to save what is left of its world-famous flightless birds. The man-sized moa has been extinct for two centuries, and the flightless huia for one. Other species, including the remaining varieties of huia, the kiwi, the flightless rail, the takahe and the kakapo are all on the verge of disappearance.

    Of these, the kiwi is perhaps the...

    01/06/2014 - 12:12 Animals
  • Science Visualized

    Gut bacteria respect diets, not borders

    They live on opposite sides of the planet, but people in Malawi and Venezuela have similar microbes in their guts. Americans, on the other hand, have a distinctive microbiome with about 25 percent less diversity than indigenous Venezuelans’.

    It comes down largely to diet, researchers determined after comparing more than 500 people from rural Malawi, the United States and the Guahibo...

    01/06/2014 - 09:56 Microbes, Health
  • Say What?


    A cellular part such as a light-harvesting chloroplast that an organism takes from algae it has eaten. Some sea slugs hold on to these stolen chloroplasts for months. Scientists thought the slugs might get extra food from the photosynthetic organelles (SN: 2/13/10, p. 10).

    But now it appears that two of the four species known to steal chloroplasts don’t use them. The slugs lack genes...

    01/02/2014 - 09:45 Plants, Animals
  • Mystery Solved

    Tea time

    Leave it to the English to solve the mystery of a tea kettle’s whistle.

    English physicist Lord Rayleigh proposed in 1877 that water molecules bouncing back and forth in the spout produce the whistle, but new experiments show that little swirls of steam are responsible.

    University of Cambridge engineers mimicked a tea kettle in the laboratory using tubing and a series of pressure...

    12/31/2013 - 12:15 Physics