Astounding Biology

According to LiveScience these slugs have found a surprising way to make sure they meet their nutritional needs. The green sea slug appears to be part animal, part plant. It’s the first animal discovered to produce chlorophyll the plant pigment needed for photosynthesis. The slugs seem to have taken the genes for chlorophyll production from algae that they’ve eaten. “This is the first time that multicellar animals have been able to produce chlorophyll,” Pierce told LiveScience.The sea slugs also steal tiny cell parts called chloroplasts, which they use to conduct photosynthesis. The chloroplasts use the chlorophyl to convert sunlight into energy, just as plants do, eliminating the need to eat food to gain energy. “We collect them and we keep them in aquaria for months,” Pierce said. “As long as we shine a light on them for 12 hours a day, they can survive [without food].”

https://www.livescience.com/6030-surprising-sea-slug-plant-animal.html

Inventor Develops Synthetic “Leaf” That Produces Oxygen

Silk Leaf

photo credit: Julian Melchiorri on IFLS

Lisa Winter reports on IFLS that Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, claims to have developed a silk leaf that could create oxygen for space travel as well as make the air nicer here on Earth. 
Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/technology/inventor-develops-synthetic-leaf-produces-oxygen#sH35ITcFsLrJj5Xa.99

How clean is your school?

At the moment in year 10 we’re doing an investigation into disease and exploring the idea that bacteria (and fungus) is all around us every day but only some of them are harmful to us. Most bacteria and fungus play vital roles in maintaining various ecosystems (helping to decompose and break down material back to their basic building blocks etc) and some types of bacteria are vital for our own health (particularly in the digestive system). Bacteria and fungus grow best in warm, moist, dark conditions where nutrients are plentiful – unfortunately this describes the insides of our bodies (and some outside parts) very well so some bacteria grows rapidly in our bodies taking over and damaging our own cells, this is what makes us sick.

Did you know that a typical human body contains more bacteria cells than human cells… check out this link for more info on that disturbing report!

Check out the different colonies that 10B grew from the various surfaces at school..

 

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Student Science Experiment Finds Plants won’t Grow near Wi-Fi Router

Check out this article from Canada:

A group of year 9 girls were able to demonstrate that plants won’t grow near a Wi-Fi router that gives off radiation equivalent to the amount given off by mobile phones. They came up with the idea for their project after noticing that they typically struggled to concentrate at school after sleeping with their mobile phones next to their beds…

Not only are their findings very unexpected and inspiring a round of follow up investigations by professional scientists – they were also awarded a large prize from the local science competition:

Folding@home

Folding@home uses your excess computing power to help scientists at Standford and universities around the world to better understand and find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and many forms of cancer. This means that from home, you can run a small program in the background on your computer that will contribute towards curing cancer – at no cost to you beyond your regular computer usage!

You can find more information here about:

  • the science behind protein folding and it’s link to various diseases
  • how you can help
  • download and run the program
  • help with getting started.

If you decide to join the cause and put your wasted computer resources to a good use, you can join the new WCCS team by inserting our team ID (224373) into your client when prompted!

Why so happy?

Xylem and phloem have never looked so happy!

These are cells inside a blade of Marram grass. Xylem cells are responsible for sucking water and nutrients up from the roots to the rest of the plant. Phloem cells allow the sugar products (glucose) from photosynthesis to flow down to the root cells. Together these tubular cells act similar to veins and arteries in humans (transporting vital nutrients around the organism to every cell), but are able to push these fluids around without the help of a heart!

This unique image is from: http://prostheticknowledge.tumblr.com/post/24610859805/cross-section-tissue-of-marram-grass-leaf

Biology in the classroom

Recently in year 8 we have been studying cells. While studying cells students have learned about all the tiny ‘organelles’ (little organs) inside the cell. An organelle of particular importance is the chloroplast. Chloroplasts absorb light and are the part of plant cells where photosynthesis occurs.

Photosynthesis is a vital chemical reaction that converts and stores energy from the sun into sugar (glucose). The reaction also removes Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and gives off Oxygen. The removal of Carbon Dioxide is vital for a healthy atmosphere – currently our society’s addiction to burning fossil fuels is building up significant levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, which is slowly causing the Earth to get warmer. The addition of Oxygen is also vital as all living things (including plants) use Oxygen to extract energy stored in sugars through the chemical reaction called respiration (which some people refer to as the reverse reaction to photosynthesis).

It is important to remember that plant’s are living things as well. Viewing chloroplasts with a microscope is an easy way to remind students of this fact. One of the criteria used by year 8 to determine if something is living or not is whether it responds to changes in the environment. Chloroplasts are able to directly respond to changes in the amount of light available. In low light they have been seen to spread out, increasing their surface area to absorb the most light possible. In intense light, like the focussed light from the microscope lamp, the chloroplasts attempt to align themselves ‘edge on’ to the light and continually move seeking shelter behind other chloroplasts.

The video below was taken during class using a mobile phone camera held up just in front of the microscope lens (very fiddly, sorry for the unstable video!). If you’re able to see past the shaky filming you will see this amazing stimulus-response reaction from the chloroplast and see conclusive evidence that plants are living!

(if you’re struggling with the shaky film, skip forward to 0:46 seconds).

Or check out this more stable version from mantismundi user on youtube: