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Writer Fuel: Is This the Ancestor of Us All?

Asgard archaeon - Image credit: © Thiago Rodrigues-Oliveira, Univ. Wien

Ancient microbes whose existence predates the rise of nucleus-carrying cells on Earth may hold the secrets to how such complex cells first came to be. Now, for the first time, scientists have grown a large enough quantity of these microbes in the lab to study their internal structure in detail, Science reported (opens in new … Read more

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Writer Fuel: How to Make Yourself Invisible (If You’re a Frog)

Glass Frog - Deposit Photos

When a glassfrog falls asleep, it vanishes. Nestled atop a lush leaf, the frog’s bright green back blends right in, while its underbelly’s reddish hue quickly grows transparent. Now, a new study in the journal Science (opens in new tab) reveals that the northern glassfrog (Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni) pulls off this feat by removing almost 90% … Read more

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Writer Fuel: Lab-Grown Meat Could Go On Sale This Year

growing meat in a lab - deposit photos

Once the stuff of science fiction, lab-grown meat could become reality in some restaurants in the United States as early as this year. Executives at cultivated meat companies are optimistic that meat grown in massive steel vats could be on the menu within months after one company won the go-ahead from a key regulator. In … Read more

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Writer Fuel: What Are “Zombie Viruses” and Are They Dangerous?

virus - deposit photos

There is a frozen soup of viruses, bacteria and fungal spores lurking beneath the frigid Arctic soil. Unlike the icy leftovers in the back of your freezer, some of these microbes haven’t interacted with a cell since well before ancient Egyptians built the Pyramids of Giza. As climate change continues to cook the planet, however, … Read more

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Writer Fuel: Why Are Octupuses So Smart?

Octopus - Deposit Photos

Octopuses may have gained some of their exceptional intelligence from the same evolutionary process that humans went through, a new study suggests. The process involved a sudden explosion of microRNAs (miRNAs) — small, noncoding molecules that control how genes are expressed. This increase may have helped the brains of octopuses and humans to develop new … Read more

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Writer Fuel: Bacteria Could Survive Underground On Mars for a Long, Long Time

Mars - Pixabay

As Elton John once sang, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids; in fact, it’s cold as hell.” But new research suggests that Martian chill could allow bacteria to survive for up to 280 million years below the planet’s surface.  The finding raises hopes that traces of ancient life — or even … Read more

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Writer Fuel: How Long Does Evolution Take?

human evolution - pixabay

Charles Darwin famously marveled at the “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful” produced by evolution, and indeed, Earth today teems with an estimated 1 trillion species. But how long did it take those species to evolve? The answer varies widely across lifeforms, “depending on taxa [type of creature] and environmental conditions,” Thomas Smith, a … Read more

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Writer Fuel: How Water Bears Survive Being Dried Out

tardigrade / water bear - deposit photos

Tiny tardigrades can survive conditions that would kill most other forms of life. By expelling their body’s water and transforming into a seemingly lifeless ball called a tun, they enter a state of dried-up suspended animation in which they can survive for decades without food and water and withstand extreme temperatures, pressures and even the … Read more

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Writer Fuel: Do Spiders Dream of Lightning Bugs?

spider - pixabay

Imagine a spider hanging from a silky thread, as still as a corpse, until its eight legs unexpectedly tremble. While this might sound like a horror movie, it’s actually a nightly experience for jumping spiders (Evarcha arcuate) who can reach rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage in which most dreaming occurs, a new study … Read more

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WRITER FUEL: Do Trees Exist?

tree - pixabay

If you look at an evolutionary diagram, you can see where Homo sapiens branched off from other primates. You can see where apples branched off from the rest of the rose family. But you won’t see where trees branched off from other plants. That’s because they never did. Trees are not a species, or even … Read more