Noisy inner life of cells

Within the smoothly operating factory that is the cell, tiny molecular machines carry out their tasks with order and certainty. Or at least that’s what many scientists once believed. In a recent issue of Science, researchers report the first demonstration that bacterial cells intrinsically possess a significant degree of randomness or “noise.” More precisely, they show that key “gene-reading” machines may operate unpredictably, resulting in randomly fluctuating amounts of individual proteins.

A Smile Really Is Contagious

Scientists in Sweden have figured out why it’s so difficult to keep a straight face if others around you are grinning away. It’s your unconscious mind taking control. The researchers at Uppsala University had volunteers look at pictures of expressionless, happy, and angry faces. In return they were told to adopt blank, happy, or angry expressions. When they had to meet a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile, they had trouble. Twitching in the subjects’ faces — measured with electronic equipment — indicated they simply didn’t have control of their muscles. It’s believed that there’s a shortcut to the part of the brain that recognizes faces and expressions that bypasses the area responsible for conscious processing.

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