‘’Your weekly informant’’

17 February-23 February

1. Scientists have discovered how Venus flytrap plants close

The three-dimensional structure of Flycatcher1, a protein channel that may enable Venus flytrap plants to snap shut in reaction to prey, has been unveiled by Scripps Research. The structure of Flycatcher1, which was published in Nature Communications on February 14, sheds insight on long-standing problems concerning Venus fly traps’ incredibly acute touch sensitivity. The structure also helps researchers understand how similar proteins in animals such as plants and bacteria, as well as proteins in the human body with similar activities function. The researchers analyzed the precise arrangement of molecules that create the Flycatcher1 protein channel in Venus flytrap plants using cryo-electron microscopy, a cutting-edge technology that exposes the locations of atoms within a frozen protein sample.

2. Flowers have undergone a rapid evolutionary transformation

When Charles Darwin initially formulated the notion of evolution by natural selection, he envisioned it as a slow and laborious process. Darwin, on the other hand, didn’t have the whole picture. Hodges, doctoral student Zachary Cabin, and colleagues have just discovered a case of a quick evolutionary transition. The researchers describe a group of columbines that have lost their petals, including the characteristic nectar spurs – a dramatic alteration caused by a single gene mutation, in the journal ‘Current Biology’. The discovery supports the theory that adaptation can occur in huge leaps rather than slogging along over long periods of time.

3. Over the course of a lifetime, mental speed barely changes

Mental speed, or how quickly we can deal with challenges that need quick decisions, does not alter significantly over time. This is the conclusion reached by Heidelberg University psychologists. According to the findings of the current study, cognitive information processing speed is essentially consistent between the ages of 20 and 60 and only deteriorates as people get older. The widespread belief is that as we get older, we react more slowly to environmental stimuli. The researchers reevaluated data from a large-scale American study on implicit biases to test this notion. Subjects had to push a button to classify photographs of people into the categories “white” or “black” and words into the categories “good” or “bad” in an online experiment with over a million participants. When analyzing the data, Dr. von Krause and his colleagues discovered that, on average, the test subjects’ response times increased as they became older. They were able to demonstrate that this phenomenon was not caused by variations in mental speed using a mathematical model. “Rather, we believe that older test-takers are slower because they respond more cautiously and focus more on avoiding errors,” adds Mischa von Krause. At the same time, as people age, their motor execution speed slows down: older participants in the experiment took longer to push the appropriate key after they had identified the correct answer.

4. Solar energy is being used to turn carbon dioxide into fuel

The amount of sunlight that reaches Earth in one hour is nearly equivalent to humanity’s annual energy use. In addition, our worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are rising. Many scientists are interested in harnessing the sun’s energy to collect greenhouse gases and convert them to fuel or another useful molecule. However, while no adequate solution has yet been found, an international research team has recently identified a possible path ahead.

“The research employs a combination of materials that collect sunlight and transform carbon dioxide using its energy.” We were able to map exactly what happens in that process using ultra-fast laser spectroscopy. COF (covalent organic framework) is a porous organic substance investigated by researchers. The material is well-known for its ability to absorb a lot of light. They converted carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide without using any additional energy by adding a so-called catalytic complex to COF.

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