Author Archives: Breanna Draxler

Horses for Herding Cats

by Breanna Draxler

Modern Morgan horse (left) goes head to head with North America's earliest horse, Sifrhippus (right). (Image/Danielle Byerley, Florida Museum of Natural History).

Early horses were too small for cowboys and probably only big enough for herding cats.

When they first appeared in North America–some 55 million years ago–horses stood about 12 inches tall and weighed about 12 pounds.

Scientists in Wyoming recently conducted a study of ancient horse teeth to see how their size reacted to changing temperatures over time.

Bergmann’s rule states that when a warm-blooded animal has a large distribution, animals in the warmer parts of the range will be smaller than those found in the colder areas.

About 70 percent of warm-blooded animals exhibit this temperature-related trend today. But was it the same in ancient environments?

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Superfood Takes on Super Bacteria

by Breanna Draxler

Photo/Elsa4Sound via Flickr

The avocado has long been touted as a super food. Now it may have another health benefit: killing super bacteria.

Yellow staphylococci is the most common bacteria linked to post-operation infections in hospitals. These staph infections can be life-threatening and are becoming more and more resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them.

Jes Gitz Holler, a young Danish scientist, found that the leaves of the Chilean avocado plant can overcome the bacteria’s resistance.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have developed a pump that flushes antibiotics out of the bacterial cells before they can take effect. The avocado leaf breaks down this defense by turning off the pump and allowing the antibiotics to do their job.

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MRI Goes Beyond the Brain

Lithium batteries. Photo/anaulin via Flickr

by Breanna Draxler

MRIs usually assess human health, but scientists are now using the technology to look at the health of batteries.

A team of scientists from Cambridge, Stony Brook and New York Universities has come up with a way to measure the functionality and safety of batteries with magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.

MRI technology uses magnetic fields and radio frequency fields to create visualizations—usually of brains, hearts, or other soft tissues inside the human body.

In the medical context, metal is a bad thing because the radio frequency fields can’t penetrate it. But for analyzing batteries, this limitation actually proved to be an advantage. Continue reading