Why carrots taste sweeter in winter

UCLA’s Liz Roth-Johnson explains why carrots have more sugar when it’s cold outside.

Because plants are immobile, they must develop defense techniques against predators and the severe cold in winter. For example, carrots have developed the physiological response of increasing their sugar content when it’s cold outside. This helps stop ice crystal formations and prevents damage to the carrot’s cells.

Frost can do a lot of damage to a plant cell. It can squeeze and rupture the cells until they are completely demolished. But in some cases, the plant’s defense mechanism means a tastier vegetable for us to eat. When a carrot defends itself from frost, we get the benefit of enjoying sweeter carrots all winter long.

FEATURING: Liz Roth-Johnson, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, UCLA

For more information: https://scienceandfooducla.wordpress.com/

Fruit and Liquid Sugar

Liquid sugar, such as in sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks, is the leading single source of added sugar in the American diet, representing 36% of the added sugar we consume.

Research suggests that our bodies process liquid sugar differently than sugar in foods, especially those containing fiber.

Scientists argue that when you eat an apple (for example), you may be getting as many as 18 grams of sugar, but the sugar is “packaged” with about one-fifth of our daily requirement of fiber. Because it takes our bodies a long time to digest that fiber, the apple’s sugar is slowly released into our blood stream, giving us a sustained source of energy.

But when we drink the same amount of sugar in sugary drinks, it doesn’t include that fiber. As a result, the journey from liquid sugar to blood sugar happens quickly, delivering more sugar to the body’s vital organs than they can handle. Over time, that can overload the pancreas and liver, leading to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

Watch the full video with UC Davis nutritional biologist, Dr. Kimber Stanhope:

10 Questions with Nobel winner Randy Schekman

The UC Berkeley Nobel laureate who identified how cells transport and secrete proteins answers a few questions.

What is the most exciting field of science at the moment?
Neuroscience. There is so much that we don’t know about the brain.

Do you believe in God?
No, I don’t. But I respect others who do, in particular if they don’t impose their views. I believe strongly in the separation of church and state.

What book about science should everyone read?
People who are interested in the life sciences will enjoy The Double Helix by James Watson; The Eighth Day of Creation by Horace Judson (it covers the history of molecular biology), and The Statue Within, the autobiography of Nobel laureate François Jacob (right), which is beautifully written.

Has Cern been worth the money?
Yes. Just the idea that you can probe the structure of atoms to that degree… Look at all the money we waste on the military, on the prison system.

What words of advice would you give to a teenager who wants a career in science?
I think having a mentor from an early age is very important.

Do you have a fantasy experiment or study that you have been unable to do for logistical/ethical/ cost reasons?
No. I like the simple experiments and my ideas tend to be very practical. Our very first experiments involved petri dishes, incubators, toothpicks and simple chemicals.

What scientific advance would make the most difference to your daily life?
My wife has dementia, so breakthroughs in understanding Parkinson’s disease would change my daily life measurably. With a disease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, if you had a way of arresting the process – even if you couldn’t prevent it – it would not be a disease at all.

Are you worried about population increase?
Yes. Having effective birth control is crucial. And our agricultural productivity will not keep up unless people lose their irrational fear of GM foods.

Would you like to go on the first one-way journey to Mars?
No. I like it here on Earth, and besides, the trip itself would almost inevitably kill you, because of all the exposure to cosmic radiation.

If I called you a geek would you hold it against me?
No. When I was in high school I got called a nerd. But after I won the Nobel prize they invited me back. I rode up in a limousine and was greeted by a marching band and pompom girls. Kids wanted to take selfies with me. I had replaced Tiger Woods as their most famous graduate… for a day!

Randy Schekman: first, a breakthrough in cell research. Now for one in publishing

 

How dense is a neutron star?

These celestial bodies have some peculiar statistics. For example if you were able to take Mount Everest and cram it into your morning cup of coffee you’d achieve the same density as a neutron star.

The reason why these stars are so dense is because they form from the collapse of a star. The way a star keeps its shape is through chemical reactions such as the conversion of hydrogen atoms bonding to create helium. When these bonds occur they produce an outward force in the form of heat. This force is stronger than gravity and keeps the star from caving in.

One of the outcomes when a star runs out of its energy is that it explodes into a supernova and leaves behind a highly dense remnant the size of the San Francisco Bay which becomes a neutron star.

Watch the full video with Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz at UC Santa Cruz:

Warming Seas Drive Rapid Acceleration of Melting Antarctic Ice

As warm ocean water rises up to melt them, glaciers around the Amundsen Sea are losing half a Mount Everest a year.

A second study, published Thursday in the journal Science, helps explain the accelerating ice melt: Warm ocean water is melting the floating ice shelves that hold back the glaciers.

The two new pieces of research come as officials of the World Meteorological Organization announced Wednesday that 2014 is on track to be the warmest year on record.

Scientists have long worried that the West Antarctic ice sheet is a place where climate change might tip toward catastrophe. The ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea level by 16 feet (5 meters). The region along the Amundsen Sea is the sheet’s soft underbelly, where the ice is most vulnerable. (See “Rising Seas” in National Geographic magazine.)

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of California, Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported that the glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea—notably the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers—were already doomed to collapse, and at the current rate of melting would be gone in 200 years.

Read more

The influence of fatherhood on the science of Charles Darwin

There are drawings in Charles Darwin’s manuscripts that defy explanation — until we remember that Darwin and his wife Emma had a huge family of ten (rambunctious) children. Scholars believe that a young Francis Darwin —the naturalist’s son— drew this on the back of Darwin’s manuscript for On the Origin of Species.

UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has noted that Darwin’s family life may have inspired some of his scientific writing. When his daughter Annie died at age 10, Darwin started to have deep insights about the place of suffering and compassion in human experience.

That led him to argue, in The Descent of Man, that sympathy is our strongest instinct, sometimes stronger than self-interest, and he argued that it would spread through natural selection, for “the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.”

This point was totally forgotten by evolutionary science for quite some time. Well, given all the awful things humans do to each other, how could you make the case that sympathy is our strongest instinct?

The answer lies in the dependence and vulnerability of our children. Little baby chimpanzees eat by themselves; human babies can’t. Baby chimpanzees sit up on their own; you sit up a human baby, and they go, “Watch out, man, my head’s really big!” Boom!

Their heads are so big because their brains are so big. To fit their big heads through the human birth canal—which narrowed as we started to walk upright on the African savanna—our babies were born profoundly premature and dependent upon people to take care of them.

In fact, our babies are the most vulnerable offspring on the face of the Earth. And that simple fact changed everything. It rearranged our social structures, building cooperative networks of caretaking, and it rearranged our nervous systems. We became the super caregiving species, to the point where acts of care improve our physical health and lengthen our lives. We are born to be good to each other.

Watch how the vulnerability of our children transformed human relationships and made compassion essential to our survival:

 

 

 

How Power Makes People Selfish

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said the British historian Lord Acton. Unfortunately, this is not entirely a myth.

A great deal of research—especially from social psychology—lends support to Acton’s claim: Power leads people to act in impulsive fashion, both good and bad, and to fail to understand other people’s feelings and desires.

It is commonly thought that you must be misleading, forceful, and even conniving, to hold a position of power. New research reveals that instead, the most successful leaders are empathetic and receptive to the needs of others. Social intelligence is one of the highest ranking qualities a person in power should have. The Machiavellian type of power loses out much more often.

The strategy and manipulation that are core to the Machiavellian power structure, are not likely to help in obtaining and holding onto power. A successful leader is one who works to advance the goals of others around him/her, and is much more aware of group dynamics. Even in the case of primates, it was discovered that chimpanzees are much less reliant on strength and fighting to establish power. Instead, things like making sure everyone has enough food, working to resolve conflicts, and enforce normative group guidelines, were much more likely to make one chimp more powerful than another.

The irony is that once most people become powerful, they often stop exhibiting the qualities that got them there in the first place. Dacher Keltner, the UC Berkeley psychologist featured in the video above, says “When you give people power, they basically start acting like fools. They flirt inappropriately, tease in a hostile fashion, and become totally impulsive.” They actually begin to exhibit behavior similar to neurology patients with brain damage, which prevents them from relating to others.

This is because they are less able to sympathize with the emotions of their subordinates. They stop making eye contact with those in a less powerful position, and tend to rely on stereotypes when judging others in the workplace. While it takes a lot of empathy and social intelligence in the process of gaining power, it is a very easy thing to lose once the power is obtained.