Slime can see

After more than 300 years of looking, scientists have figured out how bacteria “see” their world. And they do it in a remarkably similar way to us.

A team of British and German researchers reveal in the journal eLife how bacterial cells act as the equivalent of a microscopic eyeball or the world’s oldest and smallest camera eye.

“The idea that bacteria can see their world in basically the same way that we do is pretty exciting,” says lead researcher Conrad Mullineaux…

Cyanobacteria are found in huge numbers in water bodies or can form a slippery green film on rocks and pebbles. The species used in the study, Synechocystis, is found naturally in freshwater lakes and rivers…

As <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-02/e-scs020716.php">Slime can see | EurekAlert! Science News

“>photosynthesis is crucial to the survival of these bacteria, scientists have sought to understand how they sense light. Previous studies have shown that they contain photosensors and that they are able to perceive the position of a light source and move towards it, a phenomenon called phototaxis.

The current study reveals that they are able to do this because the cell body acts like a lens. As light hits the spherical surface, it refracts into a point on the other side of the cell. This triggers movement by the cell away from the focused spot.

Within minutes, the bacteria grow tiny tentacle-like structures called pili that reach out towards the light source. As they attach to the surface that they’re on, they retract and pull the bacteria along…

Synechocystis serves as a spherical lens but the team think that rod-shaped bacteria can also trap light and sense the direction it is coming from using refraction, acting like an optical fibre.

Never stop learning. Never stop looking for something to learn.

Russian Orthodox Church allowed to repay debts with prayers

tax-free-2

A Russian regional court has ruled that an Orthodox Church diocese can repay part of an outstanding debt in prayers rather than money.

In a ruling that went viral Thursday, the Nizhegorodsky Regional Court said the local Russian Orthodox Church diocese can repay 258,000 rubles it owes for the installation of a boiler system — along with an additional 65,000 rubles in fines and legal fees — by praying for the health of the company that installed the system.

According to the court ruling, which was issued in October, the procedure cost 916,000 rubles, of which the diocese originally paid approximately half. The diocese still owes an additional 200,000 rubles for the boiler system, which the court said should be paid in money.

Please, please, let no one tell the religious nutballs in the Republican Party about this. They’ll add it to the combination of tax copouts and social backwardness they call religious liberty. Just one more silly belief seeping from 14th Century minds that fear constitutional democracy and science.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Trump Oops

The start of 2016 has been anything but calm. Falling equity prices in China have destabilized markets worldwide. Emerging economies seem to have stalled. The price of oil has plunged, pushing petroleum producers into crisis. North Korea is flexing its nuclear muscles. And in Europe, the ongoing refugee crisis is fomenting a toxic tide of nationalism, which threatens to tear the European Union apart. Add to this Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions and the threat of Islamic terrorism, and comets streaking across the sky may be the only thing missing from a picture of a year shaping up to be one of prophetic doom.

Wherever one looks, chaos seems to be ascendant. The international order forged in the fires of the twentieth century seems to be disappearing, and we have not had even the faintest glimpse of what will replace it…

Political and economic order – particularly on a global scale – does not simply arise from peaceful consensus or an unchallenged claim by the most powerful. It has always been the result of a struggle for domination – often brutal, bloody, and long – between or among rival powers. Only through conflict are the new pillars, institutions, and players of a new order established.

The liberal Western order in place since the end of World War II was based on the global hegemony of the United States. As the only true global power, it was dominant not only in the realm of hard military power – as well as economically and financially – but in nearly all dimensions of soft power – for example, culture, language, mass media, technology, and fashion.

Today, the Pax Americana that ensured a large degree of global stability has begun to fray – most notably in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula. The US may still be the world’s strongest power, but it is no longer able or willing to play the role of the world’s policeman or make the sacrifices needed to guarantee order. Indeed, in a globalized world, with ever closer integration in terms of communication, technology, and – as we have recently seen – the movement of people, the centers of power are diluted and dispersed; by its very nature, a globalized world eludes the imposition of twentieth-century order…

In fact, the main challenge of the coming years is likely to be managing America’s declining influence. There is no framework for the retirement of a hegemon. While a dominant power can be brought down through a struggle for domination, voluntary retreat is not an option, because the resulting power vacuum would endanger the stability of the entire system. Indeed, overseeing the end of Pax Americana is likely to dominate the tenure of America’s next president – whoever that might be.

Can you imagine any of the policies promoted by the 19th Century hucksters popular today in the Republican Party bringing anything other than war and ruin to the world? Really, the question which should be central in the minds of American voters this coming November is who can we elect to maintain a global economy, a world of commerce, which at least permits some opportunity to resolve questions of democracy and opportunity, health and peace.

I don’t see anyone on the Right with the modicum of good sense required for self-preservation. Reading his article, it’s clear the former Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany would feel the same if he was an American voter. No doubt he clearly recalls his nation’s criminal adventure with alternatives.