The Sun as comet snatcher

New simulations suggest that the Sun may have captured more than its fair share of comets from the primordial star-forming soup. The study, led by Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, seeks to account for the abundance of comets in the outer reaches of the Solar System.

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Fruitfly larvae smell the light

Researchers in Germany have genetically modified fruitfly larvae so that they can smell light. The team, led by Klemens Störtkuhl of Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, managed to change the larvae’s odour receptors so that they respond to blue light instead of smells. The researchers hope that the move will allow them to unravel the way in which the larvae detect and interpret smells.

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Imperial units or metric?

Braving Iceland’s Volcano

The propeller-driven six-seater churns straight toward the brown plume over Eyjafjallajökull, unlike other aircraft taking off from Reykjavík airport. Inside, accompanied by a seasoned pilot, sits Björn Oddsson, a graduate student at the University of Iceland, entrusted with an infrared sensor derived from military bombing systems. But the only bombs Oddsson talks about are the lava boulders erupting from the volcano 80 miles away.

As they approach the volcano Oddsson opens the window so that the infrared sensor can function properly. A frigid wind whips in, chilling the cabin to near-Arctic temperatures, but Oddsson doesn’t mind; he is focused on calibrating the temperature scale on the device. The sensor, which looks like a video camera, is still relatively new and he’s eager to get it right. His supervisors expect him to report his findings at a briefing the next afternoon, April 19, the sixth day of the present eruption.

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How green biotech turned white and blue

This year, midway through Argentina’s 2005–2015 Strategic Plan for Biotechnology, a long-stalled update of the Seed Law circulating in Buenos Aires may finally reach the legislative floor. The current law, which facilitated the rapid boom of transgenic crops in Argentina in the 1990s—60% of Argentina’s soy crop was genetically modified for herbicide resistance within three years of the introduction of Roundup Ready soy—is a source of conflict over intellectual property rights, as it permits farmers to retain seeds without paying royalties.

However, the meteoric rise in GM crop production was not solely the function of the seed law. Compatible agricultural practices in the early 1990s and a welcoming government contributed. Critics and fans alike say it’s a model from which other developing countries can learn important lessons. Continue reading

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