From the perspective of a cell, every viral infection is the start of a zombie apocalypse. One day you and your neighbor are working together in your quaint body community and then the next… they’ve changed. Your unrecognizable fellow cell becomes single-minded with its new obsession: making viruses. When it has spent all of its energy, it spreads the virus to all of its neighbors, turning them, too, into virus-building zombies.
The term “protected area” in the context of wildlife preservation calls to mind an idyllic haven untouched by civilization, where all organisms have the resources they need to thrive. The expectation is that animals–particularly those facing endangerment or extinction–will be kept safe from the humans who contribute to the rapid dwindling of their populations through laws put in place by humans. This paradoxical involvement of people is precisely where issues arise.
The question of what drives animals to cooperate with one other is a compelling one. After all, such behavior contradicts the notion lodged in popular imagination that nature is dominated by ruthless Darwinian battles among feral creatures. Yet, these instances of cooperation serve as a reminder that looking out for others is not limited to the Homo sapiens realm. Several explanations for cooperation in social animals exist, but perhaps the most well-established is kin selection: the idea that organisms can indirectly boost their own fitness by performing actions that help ensure the survival of those with whom they share genetic information.
All the marvelous biology we see, from the smallest bugs to the largest trees, is driven by behavior, function, and characteristics of individual cells. The activity of these cells is driven by molecules called proteins, and different cells derive their different characteristics by which specific proteins they use to carry out necessary biological processes. The proteins that are built within cells are determined by which genes of an organism’s DNA are decoded and transcribed into RNA, the blueprint for protein construction. Modern techniques in genetics measure which genes in a tissue are transcribed, in an effort to infer the drivers of such tissues’ biological activity and thus elucidate which functional characteristics are important in a given tissue. Spatially resolved transcriptomics, a subset of these methods, lets biologists and practitioners view which genes are transcribed and to what level (called gene expression) but in a spatial context, making it clear what location within a tissue slice each gene is expressed.
At first glance, Caenorhabditis elegans might not look like much. Measuring in at about 1 mm, these laboratory worms have much simpler biology than your average human. However, this simplicity makes them convenient subjects to study the most basic functions of life because their entire lives from birth to reproduction to death play out over the course of weeks instead of decades. The Murphy Lab in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton uses these worms to ask questions about the aging process: what happens at a molecular level that causes us to age, and how can we promote longer, healthier lives?
There is a widespread misconception that deserts, arid and extreme in climate, are unaffected by climate change. The truth is that deserts are disproportionately impacted by climate change and are projected to see great changes in the distributions of fauna and the behavior of such species due to current warming trends. Though both cold and warm deserts will be affected by these changes, warm deserts have already sustained damage. Indeed, the surprisingly diverse region has suffered much due to climate change, and the ecosystem harbored by this biome constantly lives at its physiological limits. Further changes to these regions would create conditions even more extreme than those to which these species have already adapted, possibly leading to extinction.
Review written by Mulan Yang (Chemistry, G3) and Brianna Hoff (Chemistry, G3)
One of the main goals of materials science is to develop new materials for fulfilling the various applications we see all around us, from the batteries required to keep our phones running to the plastics we use to store food and drinks. One particular niche is quantum materials science, which focuses on the study and development of materials whose electrons behave differently from how we would expect based on classical models. Quantum materials are especially exciting to study because they have the potential to store information in their electrons more effectively, which is the basis of quantum computing. Finding the perfect material that can be employed in quantum computers would allow tremendous data processing at incredible speeds.
In this episode of Brains, Black Holes, and Beyond, Thiago Tarraf Varella sit down with Benjamin Muhoya, a graduate student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department to learn more about his research. Benjamin discusses his research in hospitals prior to coming to Princeton, his research looking at the evolutionary perspective of the trends noncommunicable diseases among different socioeconomic backgrounds in Turkana, and some exciting research results coming out soon.
This episode of Brains, Black Holes, and Beyond (B cubed) was produced under the 147th board of the Prince in partnership with the Insights newsletter.
For more information about Benjamin's research, check out the original insights article linked below.
In this episode of Brains, Black Holes, and Beyond, Thiago Tarraf Varella sits down with Princeton researcher Dr. Jamey R. Szalay to discuss the science behind Jupiter's auroras. Dr. Szalay also discusses exciting NASA breakthroughs being made by the Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) in learning about Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.
This episode of Brains, Black Holes, and Beyond was produced by Princeton Insights in partnership with the 146th Managing Board of The Daily Princetonian. Insights show host Thiago Tarraf Varella is a graduate student in Department of Psychology at Princeton and can be reached at email@example.com.
To view the transcript for this episode, click “More Info” and then “Full Transcript” in the episode player.
Correction: A previous version of this description referred to the “Stellar Reference Unit” instead of the “Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) plasma instrument.” The 'Prince' regrets this error.
The stream of time flows inevitably forward and stops for no one. This one-way direction defines an “arrow of time”, which we perceive through the lens of irreversible processes that occur in both inanimate and living worlds. Irreversibility is manifested at both microscopic and macroscopic scales, ranging from the dissolution of an ink droplet in water to the concerted flight of large flocks of birds.