Science Interviews

Interview

Fri, 7th Sep 2012

Stretching Time and Sensing Food

Nobuhiro Hagura, UCL
Stewart Cole, Ecole Polytechnique de Federale
Dominick Spracklen, University of Leeds
Emmanuelle Jaquin-Joly, INRA

Part of the show Is there life under Antarctica?

Take your Time

Justine Henin at the 2006 Medibank Tennis InternationalThe idea that time slows down for athletes as they prepare for actions during a sport, such as hitting a ball, may hold some truth.

By testing the reactions of volunteers to lights flashing on a screen, Nobuhiro Hagura form University College London found that when tests involved a physical movement to tap the screen, individuals felt they had more time to react than when no movement was needed at all.

The results published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggest this slowing down of time could be due to more visual information coming in through the eyes as someone prepares  to move.

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Regional Rain

Deforestation could cause a reduction in rainfall by up to 21% in regions surrounding  the Amazon basin, according to work published in Nature.

When forests are cleared to provide land for crops or pastures, the water returned into the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration is decreased, leading to lower humidity and rainfall in surroundings areas as air passes over the region.

Using satellite data of tropical rainfall and atmospheric models, Dominick Spracklen from the University of Leeds found that air passing over a rainforest region produces at least twice as much rainfall in the following days than air passing over more scarce vegetation. Continued deforestation in these areas could have large effect on local economies.

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Dimensional Drugs

3D imaging has identified the potency  and mechanisms of a new drug to fightMycobacterium Tuberculosis Tuberculosis.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, Stewart Cole and colleagues from the Ecole Polytechnique de Federale in Lausanne used X-ray crystallography to create a 3D model of the benzothiazinone drug BTZ043 and its interaction with an enzyme crucial to the production of the cell wall in Mycobacterium tuberculosis - the bacterium behind the disease.

The team identified the presence of a ‘weakspot’ in the enzyme which the drug targets to inhibit enzyme activity and kill the bacterium, revealing the potency of this potential drug candidate.


Sniffing out Food

Sex pheromones release by adult moths to attract a mate, also attract a hungry caterpillar, as revealed by researchers at  INRA in Versailles.

Working with larvae of cotton leafworms and feeding them with plain food or food mixed with pheromones , Emmanuelle Jacquin-Joly found that the caterpillars were attracted to meals laced with female pheromone regardless of their own gender and their sexual immaturity.

The use of pheromones to find food could be a way to ensure suitable plants as food sources for the growing insect and offers potential for the pheromones to be used in pest control.

And that work was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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