Feb 9, 2009 | 3
Any biology textbook will tell you that all cells—human, bacteria, plant, what have you—build their membranes using phospholipids, fatty molecules that contain phosphorus. But a new study published online in Nature suggests that phytoplankton, the plant-like microorganisms living on the surface of oceans, may be in a league all of their own; unlike other organisms, they don't necessarily make their membranes with phospholipids.
"Phosphorus is an essential nutrient, but in some parts of the ocean that nutrient is very scarce," says lead study author Benjamin Van Mooy, a geochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass. "The phytoplankton that live there are doing just fine. We have found that the reason for this is that they have the ability to make their membranes without using phosphorous."
Feb 4, 2009 | 8
Google's been busy once again demystifying life in the universe and answering all of your burning questions, such as: Is my significant other really working late? What would I see if I were standing on Mars? And what does the Mariana Trench look like?
The blogosphere is abuzz with news about the newest interactive Google Map feature: Google Latitude. The service, which debuted this morning, allows people to track the whereabouts of their friends and family—and have them do the same on internet-connected mobile devices and wireless computers. The way it works: once you opt in and select your group of followers, they can track your—or at least your device's—every move (and vice versa).
Think there may be times you want to escape some of their prying eyes—like if you're still out on the town and want your pals – but not your mom—to know where you are? No problem, according to Google spokesperson Carolyn Penner. There's a way to block anyone at anytime, she says.
Jan 28, 2009 | 9
A now-defunct California company back in 2007 attempted to fertilize the ocean off the coast of Ecuador with iron to prod plankton to grow. Such a bloom, it proclaimed, would suck up carbon dioxide (CO2) and then send it to the ocean floor as the one-celled plants died and sank. The company, Planktos, sank last year before that could ever happen. But new research suggests that its CEO Russ George and his ilk may have been on to something: plankton blooms do eliminate more CO2 than regular growth.
Raymond Pollard of the U.K.'s National Oceanography Center in Southampton and his colleagues observed the natural plankton blooms near the Crozet Islands some 1,400 miles (2,200 kilometers) southeast of South Africa, near Antarctica. The waters to the north of the islands are enriched with iron from their volcanic rocks and, each spring, a more than 46,000 square mile (120,000 square kilometer) bloom blossoms.
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