The World Under Our Feet is Filled With Smart Roots

A tiny tomato seed is planted just a quarter-inch below ground and watered. In about a week, the first stirrings of life become apparent–a tiny seedling punches up through the soil’s surface and unfurls baby cotyledon leaves. Over the ensuing weeks, the tiny plant grows to as much as eight feet high, with branches, dark green leaves and, later, bright yellow flower clusters and fruits cutting a robust silhouette. 

At the same time, that same expansion is happening just out of sight below ground. As the seedling emerges, the first white root starts plunging into the soil, providing support and searching for the water and nutrients the aboveground portion needs to fuel growth. Root growth is a critical aspect of plant health and agriculture, yet the process has remained obscured from view because it happens in the dirt. Careful inspection by scientists still generally requires they dig the plant up and remove the soil. 

Now researchers say they have a new way of watching the intricacies of root growth thanks to input from an unexpected source–fireflies. A science team has figured out how to get roots to glow by adding genes into them that produce the enzymes fireflies use to produce light. 

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Reasons Joss Whedon is a Good Feminist

I was disappointed by how quickly Black Widow’s infamous “monster” line in Age of Ultron became ammunition against Joss Whedon. I had a different reaction, I felt as though Joss was using the Hollywood blockbuster, a platform that is classically rather sexist and misogynistic, to make a point about a woman’s right to choose. Black Widow’s pathos didn’t rest within the fact that she was not able to conceive but that she wasn’t given a choice in the matter, that she wasn’t allowed to be both a mother and an operative. Instead, misunderstanding led to outrage which led to condemnation, not only of the movie and the line but of Joss as a feminist.

I personally think Joss is a great feminist, nobody bats a thousand but I think Joss has an exceptionally good record of staying true to his feminist beliefs within his work. It is a darn shame that this has been swept over by the instinctual outrage of people who were gunning for him for any reason they could muster- like that Wanda was going to be a River Tam clone which turned out to be a categorically incorrect and premature assumption. 

So, without further adieu, here’s EverVexingHexes’ reasons why he deserves better than to be picked apart….

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Top 5 Reasons to Be Excited About ‘Firefly Online’

Created by Quantum Mechanix in partnership with Spark Plug Games, Firefly Online (FFO) is the latest in fan-endorsed creations attempting to bring us back to the ‘Verse. But with an experienced team of developers, designers, actors, and musicians behind the project, it just might be the most ambitious and successful one yet. Moreover, while FFO promises to be a playground for Browncoats old and new alike, the developers have expressed a desire to make FFO a welcoming gaming experience even for people unfamiliar with the source material.

One of the things I’m most excited about for FFO is the deliberate choice by the developers and designers to make FFO an experience that can be accessed and appreciated by all players, regardless of race, gender, age, or body type. Women especially will appreciate the choice to create character models that go beyond just the typical hourglass figure and present a range of body types that better reflect the diversity of women in the real world.

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Hunting for fireflies at dusk is a staple of summertime fun, but for years, no knew exactly how the bugs emitted their signature glow. Now, new research claims to have the answer.

Bruce Branchini said 60 years of science has given us a pretty good understanding of firefly biology. We know a lot about the chemicals and proteins going into the reaction that lights up a firefly’s belly, he said, but what we didn’t know until now are the exact details of how those chemicals react.

To answer that question, Branchini, who studies chemistry at Connecticut College, paired up with some researchers at Yale to look at a the common eastern firefly (Photinus pyralis).

They created a model of the glowing chemical reaction and, using some fancy equipment, detected a form of molecular oxygen called “superoxide.”

Gary Brudvig worked on the project at Yale. “It’s a new pathway for the reaction that we think is more efficient and faster than the one that was previously believed to be the mechanism,” he said.

Bruce Branchini said when you understand the basic chemical mechanism for how something works, innovation usually follows and “we are hopeful that our work will lead to the development of brighter bioluminescent sources for improved applications,” he said.

Innovations like more efficient kits detecting contamination in hospital operating rooms or better ways to image tumor cells.

The results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.