May 22, 2019

How to Measure the Height a Building… with a Barometer!

(Editor’s Note: This week’s big expose post is totally tongue and cheek, but does serve as a good creative mental exercise in scientific thinking. Back in our High School pre-Internet days, an interesting science dilemma came our way (we used to read BOOKS and NEWSPAPERS in those benighted days). This idea, like so many others, has morphed over decades (via the Internet) to monstrous (re: silly) proportions. It appears to have had its hoary roots way back in a Saturday Review article dated December 21, 1968 and, well, things just get crazier from there…More images are forthcoming!)

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12.10.09: NASA Battles Bacteria in Space.

Astronauts have been growing Salmonella bacterium in orbit, and the results have been astounding. Missions STS-115 and 123 to the International Space Station performed the experiments, showing that the bacterium were up to 7 times more virulent when grown in zero-g than on Earth. The likely culprit; fluid shear, which mimics the environment found in the human gut. But there is more weirdness; add potassium or chlorine ions, and the virulence levels off! Such is the wackiness of cells… Why study microscopic bugs in space? Well, these experiments enable researchers to map the genome of these bacterium by following their explosive growth and also to identify “master switches” such as the protein Hfq that controls certain genes… this in turn will lead to designer drugs in the quest to stay ahead of evolution in the antibiotics battle.