Science Scanner: Exploding Watermelons and Silk-Shooting Tarantulas

Posted May 17th, 2011 at 8:09 pm (UTC-4)
Comments are closed

Fruit Land Mines

Watermelons are exploding all over Eastern China. It sounds like the storyline from a movie but, unfortunately, its true. And it’s causing havoc for farmers who had hoped to quickly grow bigger melons.

An investigative report by China Central Television finds farms in Jiangsu Province are losing acres of fruit to the problem. Anxious for a more bountiful harvest, the farmers reportedly sprayed too much growth chemical on the crops during wet weather.

So, instead of an abundance of melons, the farmers are coping with fields of fruit land mines.

>>> Read more…

Stopping HIV Transmission with a Molecular Barrier

Boston researchers have developed a topically-applied molecular microbicide, an agent that kills microbes, which is capable of preventing the transmission of HIV.

The microbicide works by silencing the genes that promote infection. The researchers continue to test the medication on mice and are optimistic about its long-term effects. The findings could lead to the development of a similar solution to protect women against HIV infection, potentially for weeks at a time, boosting the global efforts to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The study, led by Lee Adam Wheeler and Judy Lieberman of the Immune Disease Institute and the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, was published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

>>> Read more

Keep Hackers and Crackers Away with a Good Beat

Computer scientists in Beirut are working on technology that would render stolen passwords useless.

Keeping your computer and confidential information secure is increasingly difficult. No matter how sophisticated and guarded, passwords aren’t  100 percent secure. Hackers, crackers and others who want to snoop or steal valuable data can always find ways to gain access to a password and, subsequently, to your information.

The Beirut computer scientists are approaching the verification of passwords in a  unique way. They take the speed with which a user types in their login into account. With this technique, the gaps between the entry of characters by someone unfamiliar with the password would render a stolen password useless.

>>> Read more

Ancient Egyptian Princess had Coronary Artery Disease

Researchers using whole body computerized tomography scanning techniques on mummified remains have determined that an Egyptian princess who lived between 1580 and 1550 BC is the first person in human history  to be diagnosed coronary artery disease.

Unlike many patients with coronary artery disease today, Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, who lived in Thebes (Luxor), didn’t eat a poor diet loaded with red meats and fatty foods. She didn’t live a sedentary lifestyle, either. Plus, tobacco and trans-fats were unknown during her time.

In fact, researchers believe she lived an active life and ate a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and a limited amount of meat from domesticated (but not fattened) animals. The princess also ate bread and drank beer – two of ancient Egypt’s dietary staples of this period – made from wheat and barley, which were grown along the banks of the Nile.

>>> Read more

Tarantulas Shoot Silk from their Feet

Back in 2006, research scientists in Germany published a paper that suggested tarantulas save themselves from falling by releasing silk threads from their feet.

The findings of Dr. Stanislav Gorb and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute appeared in Nature. However, they were soon disputed by other researchers who said that they couldn’t find any proof of the tarantula’s silk.

Fast forward five years. Dr. Claire Rind from the University of Newcastle, UK, intrigued by spiders and the scientific controversy, decided to continue the investigation. She discovered that tarantulas do indeed shoot silk from their feet when they lose their footing.

Rind published the results of her research in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

>>> Read More


Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

Comments are closed.