Science News in Brief
Scientists have photographed “upwards lightning”, a rare meteorological phenomenon where electricity flows from the ground to the the upper atmosphere. The photograph was taken during Tropical Storm Cristobal. The “gigantic jets” reached 60 km into the atmosphere and are just as powerful as their opposite-direction travelling cousins.
Weird Weather: A red rain storm hit England in 1968. Dust from the Sahara desert travelled with the rain clouds and fell along with the rain, leaving red sand everywhere.
According to Canadian scientists, if zombies actually existed, an attack would lead to the collapse of civilization unless dealt with quickly and aggressively. Mathematically, only forceful, frequent uninfected human strikes with great would kill off the zombies.
Huh?!: A zombie attack resembles a lethal, rapidly spreading infection. The researchers say the exercise could help scientists model the spread of unfamiliar diseases through human populations.
A team of Israeli scientists has developed a patch made from heart muscle that can be used to fix scarring after heart attacks.
Lub Dub: A quick anatomy lesson:
Feature Story: Plant Locomotion
While a Venus Flytrap is waiting for an insect, its leaves are curved like an inside-out half of a tennis ball. The swelling of cells with extra water triggers the leaf to flip back to its original curved position, closing the fly trap leaves.
This rapid plant movement is called “snap buckling.” It gives the Venus flytrap a quick way to close its leaves and trap an insect for nutrients.
Aldrovanda, a smaller , is so small that its cells become turgid so quickly that it does not even have to use the snapping movements based on leaf curvature.
Although viewed as an interesting phenomenon for many years, a serious investigation into the movements of sensitive plants was not started started until the 19thcentury. Soon after research began, it was discovered that a loss in pressure in specifically located cells cause the leaves of the sensitive plant to fold and droop when touched.
Scientists still do not know how the specialized cells in the leaves lose their turgor pressure so rapidly. Researchers have found that as the leaves are stimulated to fold together, changes in cellular membrane permeabilityallow for the rapid movement of calcium ions. This shift in calcium ion concentration causes increased cell wall pliability. This lack of rigidity and lack of turgor pressure probably causes the plant’s “locomotion.”
Scientists also do not know how the sensitive plant transmits the signal from one part of the plant to another. Some scientists believe it is done through changes in electrical potential. Others believe it is a chemical hormone-like substance.
We can only guess as to why the sensitive plant evolved to exhibit nyctinastic (in response to light changes) and seismonastic (in response to changes in pressure, touch) movements. Perhaps the droopy leaves do not appear to be big and succulent and are therefore less delectable to herbivorous animals. Or the decreased surface area may help conserve water.
The Cosmic Perspective
New things are always being discovered. Every day it seems that new advances are being made in different scientific fields (I wouldn’t have a blog if they weren’t. Just this week: a new way to reduce heart damage, upward lightning, and zombie disease models! Who would have thought (certainly not me). And, as this research establishes new knowledge, we learn more about the world, and the cosmos, in which we reside.
That being said, there is still much to learn. As we found out, scientists still do not know much about the mechanisms of sensitive plants: something that almost every middle schooler finds fascinating during their trips to the botanical gardens.
Even if a fact is known to the scientific community, it can still be new and exciting to somebody else. For example, I learned about Bladderwort, a carnivorous plant we can find in ponds throughout the world, from a blog I follow (http://winterwoman.net/2009/08/21/bladderwort/). Science is all about making connections between facts and observations. People can only make those when they understand a wide variety of concepts, like the ones we are learning and exploring on a daily basis.
PS: Sorry about the belated post. I was moving back into the ol’ university.