Sweet Potato DNA Challenges Historic Notions of Crop Transport

geek.com – Pre-Columbian history just got a lot clearer, thanks to root vegetables. New research from Oxford University suggests the sweet potato arrived naturally in Polynesia, not transported from America to the island region. The …

Source: Pablo Muñoz-Rodríguez, et al. Reconciling Conflicting Phylogenies in the Origin of Sweet Potato and Dispersal to Polynesia. Current Biology, 2018.

Humans have shrunk the planet's mammals

upi.com – Humans have been altering the course of mammalian evolution for thousands of years, according to new research.

Source: Body size downgrading of mammals over the late Quaternary. Science, 2018.

Robot builds an Ikea chair. Everyone goes nuts.

zdnet.com – The two-arm robot performed the 50 step assembly in about 20 minutes, making a mockery of the average dorm-dweller

Source: Francisco Suárez-Ruiz, Xian Zhou, Quang-Cuong Pham. Can robots assemble an IKEA chair?. Science Robotics, 2018.

New microscope captures detailed 3-D movies of cells deep within living systems

sciencedaily.com – Merging lattice light sheet microscopy with adaptive optics reveals the most detailed picture yet of subcellular dynamics in multicellular organisms.

Source: Observing the cell in its native state: Imaging subcellular dynamics in multicellular organisms. Science, 2018.

The world’s best freedivers seem to have evolved super-sized spleens

popsci.com – The indigenous group live among the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. To find food, groups of the Bajau take daily plunges, often more than 230 feet down, to spear fish and other sea animals. In fact, some spend as much as 60 percent of the day diving for food. If an average human tried, they’d probably not survive. So how do the Bajau manage it?

Source: Melissa A. Ilardo, et al. Physiological and Genetic Adaptations to Diving in Sea Nomads. Cell, 2018.

This plastic-gobbling enzyme just got an upgrade

sciencenews.org – Scientists tweaked a bacterial enzyme and made it more efficient in breaking down plastics found in polyester and plastic bottles.

Source: Harry P. Austin, et al. Characterization and engineering of a plastic-degrading aromatic polyesterase. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018.

Fruit Flies Sure Enjoy Ejaculating

discovermagazine.com – Researchers used light to control fruit fly ejaculation to see if they actually enjoy it.

Source: Shir Zer-Krispil, et al. Ejaculation Induced by the Activation of Crz Neurons Is Rewarding to Drosophila Males. Current Biology, 2018.

Immune Therapy Improves Lung Cancer Patients Survival

the-scientist.com – Pembrolizumab combined with chemotherapy nearly doubles survival rates and shrinks tumors in some individuals.

Source: Leena Gandhi, et al. Pembrolizumab plus Chemotherapy in Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, 2018.

Genetically modified plant may boost supply of a powerful malaria drug

sciencenews.org – Using a DNA study and genetic engineering, researchers tripled the amount of an antimalarial compound naturally produced by sweet wormwood plants.

Source: Qian Shen, et al. The Genome of Artemisia annua Provides Insight into the Evolution of Asteraceae Family and Artemisinin Biosynthesis. Molecular Plant, 2018.

How to Bend A Diamond

discovermagazine.com – Make a diamond tiny enough, and it will bend under pressure, researchers discover.

Source: Ultralarge elastic deformation of nanoscale diamond. Science, 2018.

It's rude to ask a galaxy's age. Luckily, its shape offers a clue.

popsci.com – Previous research suggested the 3-D shape of a galaxy may hold important hints about its history. Now astrophysicists find these shapes may reveal clues about the age of galaxies, a discovery that could in turn yield insights on the dramatic ways galaxies can form and evolve over time.

Source: Jesse van de Sande, et al. A relation between the characteristic stellar ages of galaxies and their intrinsic shapes. Nature Astronomy, 2018.