What's the buzz...

What's the buzz...

Soon, automatic car that can park itself

Volvo is developing a car that would park itself without the driver sitting inside it.

The car would drop its driver off at the door, drive into the parking lot, find a space and park itself, Discovery News reported.

The driver would initiate the automatic valet service via a smartphone.
The vehicle would have sensors and cameras aboard to navigate the vehicle and ensure that it doesn’t hit people or other cars.

After finding a parking space, it would park and send a message to the smartphone, helping the driver locate the car later.

According to the car company, the technology, which is still in concept cars, would work with existing parking lots, but it would still need what the company calls “Vehicle 2 Infrastructure”- basically systems of radio transmitters in the parking lot that tell the car where the open spaces are.

Lean, mean microbes survive in world’s oceans

A new study has found that planktonic bacteria inhabiting the world’s oceans have streamlined their genetic makeup to become lean, mean survival machines.  The findings by an international team of researchers, including microbiologists at the University of British Columbia, is the first direct evidence of widespread genome reduction--organisms evolving to cast off superfluous genes and traits in favor of simpler, specialized genetic make-ups optimized for rapid growth.  “Microbes are the dominant form of life on the planet and comprise a huge proportion of the oceans’ biomass, but we know next to nothing about how populations exist, evolve and interact outside of the lab,” UBC microbiologist Steven Hallam, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Genomics and author on the paper, said.

 “This widespread, signal cell genome sequencing of marine bacteria in the surface ocean has uncovered a surprising amount of metabolic specialization. This tendency toward genome reduction has profound implications for how microbial communities develop metabolic interactions that couple nutrient and energy flow patterns in the ocean. It could be a matter of survival of the most connected,” he said.

Ramunas Stepanauskas, director of the Bigelow Single Cell Genomics Centre and the paper’s lead author said that they found natural bacterioplankton are devoid of ‘genomic pork’ such as gene duplications and noncoding nucleotides, and utilize more diverse energy sources than previously thought.

Chocolate highs can be seen in the eyes

A new study has found that the brain’s pleasure response to tasting food can be measured through the eyes using a common, low-cost ophthalmological tool.
If validated, this method could be useful for research and clinical applications in food addiction and obesity prevention. Dr. Jennifer Nasser, an associate professor in the department of Nutrition Sciences in Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, led the study testing the use of electroretinography (ERG) to indicate increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine in the retina.  Dopamine is associated with a variety of pleasure-related effects in the brain, including the expectation of reward.

In the eye’s retina, dopamine is released when the optical nerve activates in response to light exposure.  Nasser and her colleagues found that electrical signals in the retina spiked high in response to a flash of light when a food stimulus (a small piece of chocolate brownie) was placed in participants’ mouths.

Plants perform arithmetic sums to survive through night

Plants use precise mathematical calculation to use their starch reserves at a constant rate so they don’t run out of it before dawn, new research has suggested.  It’s a known fact that plants feed themselves during the day by sun’s energy to transform carbon dioxide into sugars and starch, however, after the sun set, to prevent starvation they depend on their store of starch.

 In their research, scientists at the John Innes Centre showed that precise adjustments are made by plants for their starch consumption, which ensures that the store helps them survive till dawn arrives even if the night befalls unexpectedly early or the size of the store of the starch varies.

 During the night, mechanisms inside leaf calculate size of the store of starch and calculate the length of time until dawn.  Their data about time comes from an internal clock, which is quite similar to human’s body clock. The size of the store of the starch is then divided by the length of time until dawn to set the correct rate of starch consumption, so that, by dawn, around 95 percent of starch is used up.
 Metabolic biologist Professor Alison Smith said that if the store of the starch is used fast, plants will starve and stop growing during the night. If the store is used too slowly, some of it will be wasted.