The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories include unicellular organisms working together in a ‘multicellular’ fashion, new scientific categories for loneliness and why grapes are the craziest fruit on the planet.
By Tom Phillips
Unicellular to multicellular: pals provide protection from predation
In a widely circulated story, an American team of biologists have shown a rapid development of multicellularity in populations of unicellular organisms. These unicellular green algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, were exposed to the fearsome predatory Paramecium tetraurelia, which provided a strong selection pressure. Interestingly, the group found that 2 out of 5 experimental populations evolved multicellular structures and that these structures provide effective protection against predators in survival assays. They suggest that selection pressures in the form of predation may have played a role in the origin of multicellularity.
Click here to read more about the amazing teamwork of these organisms!
Which way are you feeling lonely?
When thinking of loneliness, it’s normally thought of as either ‘lonely’ or ’not lonely’. However, a recent study has indicated that loneliness may be categorised into 3 sub-types. Philip Hyland and his colleagues of Trinity College Dublin utilised ’social loneliness’, a measure of the quantity of one’s relationships, and ‘emotional loneliness’, a measure of the quality of one’s relationships, to investigate the issue. Notably, they discovered that people who have greater ‘emotional loneliness’ are more predisposed to mental health issues than those with greater ’social loneliness’, indicating that the quality of your relationships, rather than sheer volume of relationships, may be more important to mental health.
Read more about this study here.
Grapes are crazy!
I’m not really a physicist, but apparently, they’ve been puzzling over the phenomenon of grapes spitting out plasma when placed in a microwave for many years now. Sounds like a cool problem to look at, and cheaper than most research. A recent study from a group in Illinois has found that the phenomenon is linked to – in their words – ‘formation of plasma is due to electromagnetic hotspots arising from the cooperative interaction of Mie resonances in the individual spheres. The large dielectric constant of water at the relevant gigahertz frequencies can be used to form systems that mimic surface plasmon resonances that are typically reserved for nanoscale metallic objects. The absorptive properties of water furthermore act to homogenize higher-mode profiles and to preferentially select evanescent field concentrations such as the axial hotspot’.
Make of that what you will, folks.