Sat, 03/24/2018 - 12:15am

NC Science Now Reporter's blog

Spiders' webs help them do more than just catch prey

If you’re a fan of E.B. White’s popular children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web,” or maybe the famed giant spiders of the wizarding world of Harry Potter, it's understandable why you may have the perception that all spiders spin large ornamental webs. But in reality, not all spiders even spin webs. What’s more, those that do, turn their silk in a variety of ways.

The Greenhouse Effect vs. What Actually Happens in a Greenhouse

Walk into a greenhouse, as I did at Bayer's Crop Science Division in Research Triangle Park, and you will likely feel as if you are walking into an oven. It’s hot. It’s humid. And, especially if the temperature outside is cool, you are probably amazed by just how a glass or plastic covered building converts light into warmth.

It’s the “greenhouse effect” at work, right? It’s that same phenomena that is blamed for causing man-made global warming.

Well, not exactly.

All the Rain that Ever was, Still is

We’ve all heard the words of wisdom using rain as a metaphor: “Into every life some rain must fall,” according to Longfellow; or, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust,” as written in the Bible, Matthew 5:45.

But whatever figurative meaning rain holds, consider this fact: all the rain that ever was, still is. The rains that fell at the Earth’s beginning are still falling from the clouds—soaking into the soil, running into rivers and oceans and evaporating back into clouds. All the rain that ever was, still is—it’s called the hydrologic cycle.

Bioprocessing's Key Role Today and Thousands of Years Ago

Bioprocess engineering is known by many names: biochemical engineering, biotechnology engineering and even biotechnical engineering. 

Whatever the name, it's referring to the process of using biologic materials to develop new process, products and by-products. 

Ironically, with all of the cutting edge technology deployed in the field today, bioprocess engineering has been around for thousands of years. 

So Go the Trees, So Go the Carolina Chickadees

I hate to sing the blues about our nation’s songbirds, but after reporting the story about the concerns for the future of the Carolina Chickadee, I think I should. 

That’s because scientists say that since the end of World War II, there has been a decline in the songbird population over much of the eastern United States. And that includes the Carolina Chickadee. 

It’s not an even decline, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. 

Firefly Light Shows could become a Thing of the Past

Seeing fireflies appear all at once in your own backyard, as if a sparkling cloud hovering above the grass, is pretty cool—almost magical. It’s as if a Disney movie is coming to life right in front of you. 

Researchers know fireflies glow as part of the adult mating ritual. What’s not known, is how long fireflies will continue to light the night. Scientists all agree that fireflies are disappearing from forests, fields and marshes all over the country. In fact, fireflies may eventually fade forever, all over the world. 

One Man's Nobel Idea

Winning a Nobel Prize is definitely a life-changing experience. But the way Nobel laureates find out the good news is pretty unassuming. 

Dr. Aziz Sancar’s experience is typical for a Nobel Prize recipient. Someone from Stockholm, Sweden, where the awards are announced, called him on the telephone. And since the awards are announced during the day in Sweden, it was the middle of the night in North Carolina. 

A Torn ACL and a Long Recovery

I take serious interest in every science story I report on, but I must admit I had a special interest in this story due to personal experience. I tore my ACL a couple years ago. Ironically, I didn’t injure my ACL playing football or basketball or skiing; I tore it while hiking. I was stepping down onto a lower trail and my leg gave out. The doctor told me that many ACL injuries he treats stem from fairly routine activities like what I was doing. This didn’t make me feel any better.