Sci/Tech Briefs

Chemistry Nobel Prize for GFP

Winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien, used glowing jellyfish as a tool to study molecular biology.

Several decades ago, Shimomura isolated a glowing protein in a jellyfish called the Aequorea victoria. Chalfie realized that if he put the green fluorescent protein, or GFP, inside a transparent roundworm he was studying, he could see the cells making the roundworm.

Inserting the GFP gene into an animal allows scientists to study where proteins are produced and when certain genes are on or off. Tsein, experimenting further with the insertion of GFP genes, mutated the gene and found some resulting proteins that glowed blue rather than green.

This discovery makes it possible to track multiple biological processes at once.

Source: The New York Times

Global warming affects penguins

Hundreds of young Magellanic penguins were found stranded in northeastern Brazil. The penguins typically migrate north in the spring, but due to changes in currents and water temperature, the penguins found themselves further north than their typical feeding grounds.

Hungry and disoriented, they were unable to stay healthy without their typical food supply. Animal-welfare groups helped feed and care for the penguins, which were then loaded onto a C-130 Hercules military plane and flown 1550 miles to a better environment. The penguins are being released with an older group of penguins that survived an oil spill.


Three win Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics went to three scientists, Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi, and Toshihide Maskawa, who are studying the Standard Model of particle physics.

Nambu’s research covered how the laws of nature can break symmetry on the subatomic level.
Kobayashi’s and Maskawa’s research dealt with changes called broken symmetries, which helped explain why the universe is made up of mostly matter and not anti-matter.

They also predicted three families of quarks, with two types of quarks in each quark family. All six quarks have been discovered by scientists since their prediction.

Source: Reuters

Arctic ice shelf is thinning

The volume of ice in the Arctic Ocean has melted to its lowest volume since measurements began 30 years ago. Volume of ice is considered a good indicator of the long-term health of the ice. In order to survive through the summer, ice must be thick enough to last through the warmer summer temperatures.

Additionally, due to the shielding effect, these low volumes increase the effects of global warming. Thick ice reflects sunlight, preventing ocean water from warming. As ice volume decreases, less sunlight is reflected, and the ocean warms. Jay Zwally, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, predicted that summers in the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free five years from now.

Source: ABC News