All Questions

22
votes
1answer
12k views

How does laughing gas (N2O) work?

Laughing gas (N2O), well, makes people laugh. How does just a gas make us do that, there has to be some hormones at work... So, I wanted to know how this works? What is the mechanism?
21
votes
5answers
2k views

Why are there species instead of a continuum of various animals?

As I understand it, various animal traits have to evolve gradually, but what happens to the species that are "neither here nor there"? To put it differently, if a species evolved from another, it did ...
21
votes
4answers
641 views

How many times did endosymbiosis occur?

According to the endosymbiont theory, mitochondria and chloroplasts originated as bacteria which were engulfed by larger cells. How many times is it estimated that this occurred in the past? Are there ...
21
votes
2answers
9k views

If a human takes antibiotics are all bacteria in the body killed?

From my basic understanding, antibiotics kill living things, bacteria for example. Do the antibiotics consumed by a human-being distinguish between what they kill? Or do they just kill every bacteria ...
21
votes
1answer
3k views

How long do your eyes need to adapt to darkness and reach full contrast?

I heard you should wait some time until your eyes adapt to darkness and are able to see smallest luminosity differences, otherwise you might overlook faint objects in the ocular. Are there any rules ...
21
votes
1answer
300 views

Phagemid display

If I'm using a bacteriophage for phage display and I'm trying to avoid avidity effects by using a helper phage what would be the best way to maintain a large library size while keeping everything ...
21
votes
2answers
9k views

Where do migratory birds go when it rains?

I was reading a comic from XKCD which inspired me to ask this question: "well, where do they go when it rains?" I know that when it rains you usually don't see any birds flying through the sky. I ...
20
votes
3answers
1k views

Is it necessary to conduct a power analysis before beginning an experiment?

I know that power analysis is the statistically valid way to ensure you use the correct numer of samples or repeats in an experiment. But I have never seen any biologist actually conduct a power ...
20
votes
2answers
426 views

Smallest viable reproducing population

What is the smallest viable reproducing population, such as in a human population. By viable I mean a population which keeps genetic defects low (enough). A very strongly related question: what is ...
20
votes
5answers
374 views

Are there any substance that are more dangerous at low dose than at higher dose?

It is commonly admitted that The dose makes the poison which means as a person, the more I take a substance, the more risk I take for my health. There is even an indicator called LD50 (see ...
20
votes
5answers
951 views

Why did life not evolve to use radio?

We use electromagnetic communication everywhere these days. Cell phones, wifi, old-school radio transmissions, television, deep space communication, etc. I'm curious about some of the possible ...
20
votes
1answer
515 views

How, on a physical level, does ATP confer energy?

When ATP is used as the energy currency to make, say, reaction X + Y → Z happen, is what happens on a physical level down at the molecular scale that during the reaction ATP + H2O → ADP + Pi ...
20
votes
1answer
14k views

How does cerebrospinal fluid circulate in the central nervous system?

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced in the choroid plexus of the lateral ventricles and in the 4th ventricle of the brain. CSF then circulates through the ventricles of the brain and the ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

What actually happens when my leg 'falls asleep'?

Most people have experienced the temporary loss of feeling and tingling in their leg resulting from sitting in an abnormal position for a short while. Usually you get a loss of feeling in your leg ...
19
votes
7answers
4k views

Why does evolution not make our life longer?

Why does evolution not make life longer for humans or any other species?
19
votes
4answers
6k views

How many genes do we share with our mother?

Somewhere I have read we share more than 99% of our genes with every other other person and 98% of our genes with chimpanzees. What does this mean? Don't we share 50% of our genes with our mother and ...
19
votes
4answers
3k views

Do trees really get a large share of their mass from the carbon in the air?

I remember hearing that trees and other plants actually obtain a large amount of their mass from the carbon floating in the air, not the ground beneath them. Does the makeup of air actually contain ...
19
votes
3answers
391 views

Good source that explains the evolution of single-celled organisms “from scratch”

Are there any books or sites that detail, step-by-step, the evolution of the first single-celled organisms (bacteria, archaea) from a Miller-Urey-like beginning? That is, assumes only amino acids, ...
19
votes
3answers
22k views

If the brain has no pain receptors, how come you can get a headache?

I've read many years ago in books, that the brain has no nerves on it, and if someone was touching your brain, you couldn't feel a thing. Just two days before now, I had a very bad migraine, due to a ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Is “computational biology” different from “bioinformatics”?

Are "computational biology" and "bioinformatics" simply different terms for the same thing or is there a real difference?
19
votes
2answers
641 views

Why is rabies incurable?

I'm still not sure about the mechanics that lead to rabies being incurable. I know that it can be treated before any symptoms show up, but why is it that once symptoms show the person is a dead man ...
19
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do stars disappear when I look at them?

I've noticed that when I'm out at night stars seem to vanish when I focus on them. I assume the reason is physiological and not astronomic. Why does this happen? I would expect that things would be ...
19
votes
1answer
543 views

Are lymphocyte sizes clustered in two groups?

Tortora writes in Principles of Anatomy and Physiology: Lymphocytes may be as small as 6–9 μm in diameter or as large as 10–14 μm in diameter. Those ranges are quite close to each others. Should ...
19
votes
1answer
1k views

Why do ants live so long?

I was surprised to learn that worker ants in some species live many years. I would have expected a lifespan of a few weeks or months (which is apparently the case for many species). What factors ...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Why Is Most Life Symmetrical Externally But Not Internally?

Mammals, reptiles, arachnids, insects, etc are all as far as I am aware symmetrical in appearance. Take a human for instance, make a line from the top of our head right down the middle. However, ...
19
votes
2answers
101 views

How is duration of efficacy estimated for vaccines?

Vaccines, especially those given in adulthood, usually have term limits attached, eg: 10 years for yellow fever or 3 years for typhoid. Since presumably the time course of an immune response is no ...
19
votes
2answers
7k views

What causes fingerprints to form and why is the pattern formed unique?

I've found research that suggests that the reason we develop fingerprints is because they aid us with feeling surfaces (Scheibert, et al. 2008) and not to increase friction and help with the gripping ...
19
votes
1answer
350 views

Extremely rare occurence of Heart cancer?

The occurrence of Heart cancer (similar, but not the same as Rhabdomyosarcoma) is extremely rare, about 1 per year according to MayoClinic. The reason for this rarity is explained to be the ...
19
votes
1answer
406 views

Regulation of chromatin structure

Recently, I reviewed the different levels of chromatin structure. The primary level is nucleosomes, where DNA is bound to histones, and has structural similarity to "beads on a string." The secondary ...
19
votes
1answer
270 views

Evolutionary origin and exogenous cues of ~28 day infradian rhythm?

The most obvious example of an approximately monthly biological cycle is the human menstrual cycle. My questions are the following: Is it known when and where this cycle or one like it arose? What ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

Which organism has the smallest genome length?

Which animal/plant/anything has smallest length genome?
18
votes
2answers
1k views

Can rats pass on memories of a maze to their offspring?

A friend of mine told me once about a documentary movie he saw some years ago. On this movie he saw scientists talking about particular experiment. This experiment involved rats and probably ...
18
votes
3answers
885 views

Why are there no organisms with metal body parts, like weapons, bones, and armour? (Or are there?)

Reading this question, Why are there no wheeled animals?, I wondered why no organisms seem to make use of the tensile and other strengths of metal, as we do in metal tools and constructions. I am ...
18
votes
3answers
782 views

How is RNAse contamination in RNA based experiments prevented?

Does anyone have any suggestions to prevent RNAse contamination when working with RNA? I tend to have issues with degradation regardless of whether I use DEPC treated / RNAse free water and filtered ...
18
votes
3answers
20k views

Why do mammalian red blood cells lack a nucleus?

How did the red blood cell in humans get to lose its nucleus (and other organelles)? Does the bone marrow just not put the nucleus in, or is it stripped out at some stage in the construction of the ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

Do gene expression levels necessarily correspond to levels of protein activation?

I have seen a lot of research into molecular mechanisms of diseases/phenotypes use measures of RNA as a 'proxy' for the level of protein available in the cell. Is this actually valid? My problem ...
18
votes
3answers
241 views

How crowded is the bacterial cell?

I was wondering what is the protein concentration in an E. coli cell. When studying enzyme kinetics and activity in vitro, I would argue that the substrate and enzyme concentrations resemble those in ...
18
votes
2answers
325 views

Can an adult without genetic lactase persistence still develop a tolerance for dairy foods?

While investigating the rise of adult lactose tolerance, I came across the news that China has been encouraging its citizens to drink more milk, even though most of the Asian population lacks the SNP ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do we need red blood cells?

From what I know, the main function of red blood cells is hemoglobin transport. So, why do we need cells packed with hemoglobin: why can't it travel freely in the bloodstream? My own thoughts were: ...
18
votes
1answer
242 views

Is there any convincing evidence for the existence of nanobacteria?

The existence of nanometer scale microorganisms has been proposed and used explain several phenomena including morphological structures in a martian meteorite (ALH 84001) and implication in the ...
18
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the criticality of the ribosome binding site relative to the start codon in prokaryotic translation?

In prokaryotic translation, how critical for efficient translation is the location of the ribosome binding site, relative to the start codon? Ideally, it is supposed to be -7b away from the start. ...
18
votes
1answer
522 views

Do trees age on a microscopic level?

Most animals age via at least two mechinisms: at a "macroscopic" level, basically wear and tear to the point where (on evolutionary time scales) it's more genetically advantageous to optimize for ...
18
votes
3answers
8k views

Why do cockroaches flip over when they die?

This question has always mystified me since young. For beetles, I can reason that they flip over because they have a higher centre of gravity causing them to be in unstable equilibrium when they tuck ...
18
votes
1answer
441 views

Natural examples of XOR functions at the cellular level

We can often think of cells as a sort of circuit on macromolecules, and can show that they can accurately and robustly implement functions like $\text{MAJ}(x_1,...,x_n)$ (return $1$ if more than half ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

How to understand influenza strain designations?

What do the strain designations for flu mean? For example avian flu is classified as H5N1, what do the letters H, ...
17
votes
2answers
465 views

How is temperature sensed?

Can anyone summarize the mechanism by which when an object of a given temperature is placed in contact with, say, the skin on a human fingertip, the average speed of the particles of the object is ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

How do trees manage to grow equally in all directions?

I was walking down a road with these beautifully huge trees when this question occurred to me. Large trees with many thick branches have to grow equally in all directions, or they would tip over. Is ...
17
votes
4answers
6k views

Can humans eat grass?

Can a human eat grass and digest it? Could it be possible to use it as food just like other plants such as wheat or beans?
17
votes
5answers
3k views

Why do the two hemispheres of the brain control the opposite sides of the body?

Why does the left hemisphere control the right and the right hemisphere control the left? I googled it but didn't find a good answer regarding this. Could someone explain? Does this adaptation help ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

How does the immune system “learn” from a vaccine?

According to Wikipedia: A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins or one ...

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