Editors' Choice

Science  03 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6290, pp. 1186
  1. Plant Science

    Salt-accumulating glands reveal metabolic complexity

    1. Pamela J. Hines

    Salt accumulating trichomes in ice plants are metabolically flexible.

    PHOTO: STEPHANIE STARR/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

    The ice plant thrives in salty ocean-side mist. Barkla et al. used proteomics to identify proteins in these halophytes that are critical to the defense against too much salt. Specialized trichomes, known as epidermal bladder cells (EBCs), found on the surface of the ice plant can accumulate a concentration of over 1 M Na+. Several dozen proteins, including some involved in Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), as well as several transporters in the EBCs are responsive to salty conditions. Ionomics showed the accumulation of Mn, V, and Zn as well as NaCl. Thus, more than a storage tank for salty water, the EBC is metabolically nimble, shifting physiological and developmental systems in response to environmental conditions.

    BMC Plant Biol. 10.1186/s12870-016-0797-1 (2016).

  2. Education

    Inclusion in school gifted programs

    1. Barbara R. Jasny

    In the United States, teacher recommendations are crucial in deciding which students will be referred for placement in gifted programs. Nicholson-Crotty et al. used data from a nationally representative early childhood study to look at factors underlying differences in placement. Self-identified black students were recommended more by black teachers, but recommendation was not increased by having more black teachers in the school. The authors propose that more minority teachers be hired and that all students automatically be considered for gifted programs.

    J. Publ. Adm. Res. Theory 10.1093/jopart/muw024 (2016).

  3. Education

    Mistakes as a pathway to learning

    1. Melissa McCartney

    In STEM education, memorizing facts is out and thinking like a scientist is in. Practicing scientists often reflect upon their mistakes, a technique that traditionally does not happen in classrooms. To promote this type of reflective thinking, Brown et al. gave students in a quantum physics course identical problems on the midterm and final exam. All students were provided solutions after the midterm exam while only half of the students were given incentives to correct their mistakes. Students who had incentives to reflect and learn from their mistakes performed significantly better on the final exam than students without incentives, suggesting that encouraging and training students to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity is an intervention that encourages authentic scientific practices.

    Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.12.010121 (2016).

  4. Neuroscience

    Perception of dangerous animals

    1. Peter Stern

    How do we understand and evaluate other creatures? Whenever we watch animals, we don't simply recognize that they are birds or mammals. We automatically evaluate whether they could be a threat. Connolly et al. scanned people's brains while they viewed images of insects, reptiles, and mammals. Half of the animals were classified as low threat, such as ladybugs and deer, and half were high threat, such as crocodiles and wolves. Taxonomic class was represented in the lateral occipital complex, a brain region involved in object perception and recognition. However, threat was processed in the superior temporal sulcus, a region used for understanding facial expressions and deciphering others' intentions. Evaluating the intentions of a potentially threatening animal and those of another human appear to be related functions.

    We may use the same part of our brain to evaluate potentially threatening animals, like this crocodile, as we do to evaluate human intentions.

    PHOTO: WARWICK LISTER-KAYE/STOCKPHOTO.COM

    J. Neurosci. 36, 5373 (2016).

  5. Robotics

    Do as I dance

    1. Marc S. Lavine

    The conditions under which a multirobot search and rescue team might be most needed are also the conditions in which communication between robots might be the most challenging and prone to failure. For example, direct wireless communication or long-range visual observation from one robot to another may be blocked by debris, smoke, or other obstacles. Das et al. engineered their unmanned autonomous vehicles to behave like honey bees, in which a forager bee communicates through a wiggle dance to explain a pattern of motion to follower bees. Three different flight patterns were tested and conveyed with high precision, although some errors arose because of limitations of uncorrected computer vision in perceiving specific shapes.

    One of a group of unmanned autonomous vehicles.

    PHOTO: © BRENDAN FITTERER/TAMPA BAY TIMES/ZUMAPRESS.COM

    Robotics Auton. Syst. 10.1016/j.robot.2016.04.002 (2016).

  6. Chemical Physics

    A theoretical glance at CH5+ rotations

    1. Jake Yeston

    For most molecules, it is possible to decompose the internal motion of the nuclei into rotations and vibrations. In the case of CH5+, things are not so simple. The rapid shuffling of hydrogens every which way about the central carbon causes inextricable mixing of rotations and vibrations and greatly complicates assignment of the dense spectrum. Wang and Carrington Jr. report theoretical calculations of rotational energy levels (J > 0) with fixed C-H stretch coordinates. They propose an assignment that differs from that of a recent experiment. The experimentalists assumed that they saw molecules of just one parity. The new assignment can only be correct if molecules of both parities exist in the experiment.

    J. Chem. Phys. 10.1063/1.4948549 (2016).

  7. Protein Misfolding

    Disaggregating proteins ameliorate disease

    1. Stella Hurtley

    A variety of debilitating neuro-degenerative diseases are caused by the defective folding of particular proteins. A case in point is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), which can be caused by the misfolding of superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1). The misfolded proteins aggregate in the cytosol of motor neurons, eventually causing their death, and thereby the progressive paralyzation characteristic of the disease. Nagy et al. found that overexpression of an Hsp110 protein in motor neurons improved the survival of SOD1 mutant mouse models of ALS. Hsp110 proteins are part of a cytosolic protein disaggregation machinery. Thus, increasing the disaggregation capacity of the cytosol can help to alleviate the progression of a neurodegenerative disease.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 5424 (2016).

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