Put a fruit fly larva in a spacelike vacuum, and the results aren’t pretty. Within a matter of minutes, the animal will collapse into a crinkled, lifeless husk. Now, researchers have found a way to protect the bugs: Bombard them with electrons, which form a "nano-suit" around their bodies. The advance could help scientists take high-resolution photographs of tiny living organisms. It also suggests a new way that creatures could survive the harsh conditions of outer space and may even lead to new space travel technology for humans.
Snapping a picture with a nanometer-level resolution of the proboscis or muscle cells of a fruit fly isn’t easy—in fact, it’s deadly. Scientists have to use a scanning electron microscope, which must peer at objects in a vacuum because air molecules absorb the electrons that the microscope depends on to take the picture. Only a tiny number of creatures, such as the famously hardy tardigrade, can survive the process. Most other bugs die quickly of dehydration as the vacuum sucks the water out of their bodies.
A fruit fly larva is one such victim. But when Takahiko Hariyama of the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine in Japan and his colleagues placed the millimeter-sized larva in a scanning electron microscope and fired electrons at it, they found that the young fly wiggled in place for an hour as if everything was fine. When they put another larva in the same vacuum and let it sit there for an hour before bombarding it with the microscope’s electrons, it predictably dehydrated to death. Somehow, the electron stream was keeping the larva alive and so unscathed that it later grew to become a healthy fruit fly.
The scientists then used the microscope to peer closely at the edge of the insects’ skin. They found that the energy from the electrons changed the thin film on the larvae’s skin, causing its molecules to link together—a process called polymerization. The result was a layer—only 50- to 100-billionths of a meter thick—that was flexible enough to allow the larva to move, but solid enough to keep its gasses and liquids from escaping. "Even if we touched the surface [of the layer]," Hariyama says, "the surface did not break by our mechanical touch." It was almost like a miniature spacesuit.
Easter - Christian or Pagan? 2014 04 18
Contrary to popular belief, Easter does not represent the "historical" crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In reality, the gospel tale reflects the annual "crossification" of the sun through the vernal equinox (Spring), at which time the sun is "resurrected," as the day begins to become longer than the night.
Rather than being a "Christian" holiday, Easter celebrations date back ...
Man-Made Blood Might Be Used in Transfusions by 2016 2014 04 18 Researchers in the U.K. have created the first man-made red blood cells of high enough quality to be introduced into the human body
The premise of the HBO show and book series True Blood revolves around a technological breakthrough: scientists figure out how to synthesize artificial human blood, which, as an ample new source of non-human food, allows vampires to "come ...
The Trials of the Cherokee Were Reflected In Their Skulls 2014 04 18
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee have found that environmental stressors – from the Trail of Tears to the Civil War – led to significant changes in the shape of skulls in the eastern and western bands of the Cherokee people.
The findings highlight the role of environmental factors in shaping our physical characteristics.
Our Fears May Be Shaped by Ancestral Trauma 2014 04 18
Last December, an unsettling Nature Neuroscience study found that mice who were taught to associate the smell of cherry blossoms with pain produced offspring who feared the smell of cherry blossoms, even if they had never been exposed to it before. We knew that the process was epigenetic—that it was not hard-wired in the permanent genetic structure of the mouse—but ...
Did vitamin B3 come from space? 2014 04 17
Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.
"It is always difficult to put a value on ...