Microscope

The volcanic eruption at the Indonesian island of Sumatra 74,000 years ago threw up enough ash to darken skies worldwide. Signs of it have been found as far as South Africa. Plants may have stopped growing and humans teetered on the brink of extinction, scientists have long thought.

By NYTNS
  • Published 16.04.18
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Volcanic surprise

• The volcanic eruption at the Indonesian island of Sumatra 74,000 years ago threw up enough ash to darken skies worldwide. Signs of it have been found as far as South Africa. Plants may have stopped growing and humans teetered on the brink of extinction, scientists have long thought. Now, a study published in Nature says that anthropologists found more signs of human habitation in the layer above the volcanic debris rather than less, signifying humanity thrived after the event.

Roach mystery

• The American cockroach can survive for a week without its head, eats anything - including human faeces, the glue on book bindings, and other cockroaches - and its genome, larger than the human one, was recently sequenced by Chinese scientists. The research, out in Nature Communications, has identified 1,000 genes that help it detect chemical cues from the environment. This may explain its notorious ability to avoid insecticides.

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Hops-free beer

• Biochemist Charles Denby replaced the hops - small, green flowers that give a bitter, citrusy flavour - in his home-brewed ale with plant molecules called terpenes, which he was working with to create sustainable fuel. He infused brewer's yeast with DNA from basil and mint, two plants that naturally produce the hop-flavoured terpenes and came up with a beer that blind tasters vowed was the hoppiest of the lot.

 

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