In a scene from the popular television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, two forensic scientists carefully crawl across the floor of a dark room. Their tiny flashlights leave little pools of light on the floor as the scientists search for clues. After watching the scene, real-life forensic scientist Max Houck, declares: "They always use flashlights. I don't know why. I always turn on the lights."
Somewhere near the tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu on the island of Flores in Indonesia, amid the hoards of Komodo dragons and the giant rats that are endemic to the island, there lies a cave. This large limestone cave, named Liang Bua, rose to fame last year when an international research team led by Mike Morwood, associate professor at the University of New England, and Radien Soejono, professor at the Indonesian Research Centre for Archaeology, unearthed the 18,000-year-old bones of a one-meter-tall adult female whom they would later classify as a specimen of a new human species: Homo floresiensis.
Chug, chug, chug. An enzyme bustles down a DNA molecule, carefully matching sequences of nucleotides to the new molecule of RNA that it is synthesizing.Sounds like an excerpt from a high school biology textbook, a simple explanation of the flow of biological information from DNA to RNA, which then codes for a protein. Known as the Central Dogma, this fundamental tenet of biology, developed only within the past 60 years, has truly revolutionized the study of living organisms. But recently a wrinkle seems to have appeared in our understanding of the basic molecules of life and their role in the regulation of genes; a wrinkle that may bring about a second coup in our knowledge of genetics: that of microRNA.
Spotted recently at a grocery store: a huge stand of strawberries, $2.50 a pint. Yet five lonely baskets of fruit, isolated in the far corner of the display, went for $3.99 a pint. Why so much more for fruit that looked pretty much the same? A closer look at the labels showed the difference: the more expensive berries were organic.
The rise and fall of civilizations has captured the interest of world leaders, scientists, and general readers alike. We look at past civilizations and wonder what went wrong, and why no one stopped it. Finally, we ask could our civilization fall apart too?