What is the most interesting science? | ask.fm/ManiCub


See on Scoop.itThe Benefits of Bacteria

Biology. (What is the most interesting science? — Biology. http://t.co/NlejU5ZHzt)

See on ask.fm

Thinking of moving operations to Blogger via JustScience.co.vu


I’ve been thinking about this for a long while. I have had a Blogger site up for a while and I think it is time to make the complete transfer. I love the community of WordPress, but I don’t like the restrictions for free users like myself. So, visit JustScience.co.vu and take a look. Please let me know what you think.

Thanks.

Dolly Parton’s Best Assets: Compassion and the Imagination Library


Dear Imagination Library Graduate,

My, how time flies. It seems it was only yesterday when your family and friends read you your first story. You were just a baby. Now you’re five years old and about to go to school. How exciting!

This may be your last book from my Imagination Library but you have to promise me you will keep on reading. If you go to your local public library you will find a great number of books just for kids your age. Every book is a treasure and every time you open one up you will meet new friends and take wonderful journeys to magical places.

I hope you have a great time in school. I bet your school will even have a library where you can check out books. You and all of your friends are very special. There is no limit to what you can do or how far you can go. Just remember the lessons my family taught me – dream big dreams; learn everything you can learn; and care for all those who care for you. You do all of these things and you can be anyone you want to be.

You are terrific, and remember…

I Will Always Love You,

Dolly

This is the letter from Country Music Legend Dolly Parton on the first page of the 60th and last book given to each child from her Imagination Library. Most of us know Dolly Parton from her decades of music, books, and films, but Dolly comes from very humble beginnings in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. Her life story is a true Cinderella story and is nothing short of amazing; one of twelve children born to a tobacco farmer living in a one room cabin. A replica of this cabin resides at Dolly Parton’s themepark, Dollywood, the largest employer in the county and host to over 2.5 million visitors each year.

Dolly never forgot her home and her family. I live in Knoxville, TN; about an hour from Dollywood thanks to traffic. Having worked at a local hospital, I know Dolly is known to regulary visit hospitalized family members (which there are many). Perhaps much less known, Dolly gives back to her community in many ways mostly through the Dollywood Foundation. This includes the largest bald eagle sanctuary in the country located at Dollywood.

Dolly’s Imagination Library started small with a simple goal: give each child in her home county a free book each month from birth to age 5. The idea quickly took off. In 2000, the program was opened up to any community willing to support it. In 2004, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen started Books from Birth, expanding the Imagination Library statewide. Within a couple of years, research began to accumulate showing the impacts Imagination Library has on families and the learning skills of the children (check here).

My daughter has looked forward to each new book each month and I know many children feel the same way. Through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, children’s dreams, imagination, and creativity are nurtured and celebrated while increasing each child’s love of reading and learning. These combined give me hope these children can do much more with their lives than us.

Thanks, Dolly.

Imagination Library
Imagination Library (Photo credit: United Way of Greater St. Louis)
2013 Imagination Library Launch
2013 Imagination Library Launch (Photo credit: United Way of Greater St. Louis)

News Flash: Cook Your Chicken (like you have been)


I personally have a Google News section for “Bacteria”. I was shocked by the headlines I have read today:

After being told for years not to eat raw chicken, yet again, we are reminded why.
After being told for years not to eat raw chicken, yet again, we are reminded why.

How is this news? We have a general understanding around our house, “Raw chicken is the dirtiest thing you can bring into the house”. Even my four year old knows this. Through many years of research, countless studies have shown the quick adaptability of bacterial species to the over use of antibiotics. This has rendered most common drug treatments for bacterial infection useless.

However, bacteria have NOT adapted ability to resist some common treatments like alcohol, bleach, UV radiation, and heat. *I do not recommend cleaning tomorrow night’s chicken with alcohol or bleach*. I personally would go with heat. So, please, next time you want to make a chicken dinner, be safe and cook it as recommended.

E. coli Up Close and Personal: Scientific Rockstar and Public Enigma


This is an article created as guest post for Kitchen Table Science.

It seems nothing puts fear in the hearts of the masses like mentioning E. coli. Most think of the disease-causing germ that contaminates everything from spinach to beef. I agree the strain Escherichia coli O157:H7 and its cousins O26, O145, STEC O104:H4, and others, are a wretched bunch that give the whole species a bad reputation. What makes these strains so vile are the extra proteins encoded within their genome. For example, E. coli O157:H7 has a larger genome coding for 5561 proteins while the parent strain E. coli W codes for 4739 proteins. Thus is the life of a bacterium. The fact there are so many bacteria means they are usually in close proximity to each other. Physical contact between bacteria, not just those of the same species, allows for the transfer of genetic material between two cells (horizontal gene transfer); the closest thing to sexual reproduction you will find for prokaryotes. If the genes transferred to the recipient give it an advantage or new ability that helps it compete and thrive in its environment, they will remain in the genome. Otherwise, they will be discarded after genome compaction.

Most E. coli are completely harmless and, in fact, beneficial. If the general public knew more than what was broadcasted on the 24 hour news channels, they would see the tiny rockstar scientists have known about for some time now. Beginning in earnest in the 1950s, E. coli is easily cultured in laboratories and very cheaply. Its quick generation time (20 min. at optimum temperature) made it a great model organism to study in many fields of science and medicine. This organism is the work horse of biotechnology due to the relative ease of manipulating its genome or adding complete genetic circuits into the cell using plasmids.

Sidebar

Even after 50 years of intense research, E. coli still holds many unknowns out of the reach of our knowledge. Like all other sequenced genomes, there are a number of “hypothetical proteins” and “proteins of unknown function”. This means by our best abilities, we can locate parts of the genome that code for proteins, however, this doesn’t mean we are able to understand the function of a particular protein.

Image courtesy of Predrag Radivojac. Thanks, Pedra.

The above shows just how much work is left to understand the biological capabilities of Mother Nature. Short version: over 40 gene sequences in databases, but the number of which that we know what the function is holding steady around 500,000 and the number of solved protein structures is over 100,000. This is a growing gap between the known and unknown.

 Where would we be without E. coli?

One advantage of E. coli is their effect on our immune system. Some may find this counter-intuitive, but E. coli can lower the workload of our immune system when pathogens are present, especially in the intestine. When E. coli attach to the GI wall, it changes the acidity of the lining thus making infection from other bacteria less likely. Another benefit is in overall digestion. E. coli promotes better breakdown of food thus preventing accumulation of waste which is a major cause of bloating and constipation.

Many outside the scientific community may not be aware of how integral E. coli are to the advancement of many fields including medicine, pharmacology, biology, and even human physiology. Another reason to not believe the hype.