MI weekly selection #34


Varied smelling ability linked to genes

Scientists at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research sequenced test subjects’ genomes to see if they could predict an individual’s smelling ability, and found clusters of genes that reliably predicted the person’s ability to smell four of 10 chemicals. “All of these genes are on different chromosomes, acting independently, so all these different people — even just for these four compounds — are having totally different experiences of the chemical world through their sense of smell,” said geneticist Richard Newcomb.

Nature News


Relativity explains mercury is a liquid at room temperature

Scientists have simulated the melting of mercury using quantum molecular dynamics, solving the Schrodinger equation, calculating forces and velocities from quantum mechanics and allowing the atomic clusters to sample different geometric orientations randomly. They carried out the calculations first by excluding relativity and then by including it, and the results were unambiguous; when relativistic effects were taken into account, the melting point of mercury dropped from 355 kelvin to 250 kelvin, in excellent agreement with experiment and accompanied by a sudden change in the heat capacity.

The curious wavefunction / Scientific American


Evidence that machines learn like us

“Neural network” computer models behave surprisingly like actual brains when performing certain tasks

Quanta Magazine


Exercise seems able to drastically alter how genes operate

The role of physical activity in gene methylation has been poorly understood, even though exercise, like diet, greatly changes the body. So several groups of scientists recently set out to determine what working out does to the exterior of our genes. The answer, their recently published results show, is plenty.

Well / The New York Times


How practice of monogamy evolved

A pair of studies focusing on monogamy have come to different conclusions. Evolutionary biologists at the University of Cambridge in England found that species became monogamous because the females lived apart from the males, while researchers from University College in London said the practice came about so that males could protect their offspring from rivals.

LA Times / Science Now

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