Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 25, 2021

Science & Technology



New software reduces cost of genome analysis

We all have different hair, different skin colors, and other very different features. Surprisingly, despite all the disparities that make us a unique individual, the order of 99.9 percent of our nucleotide bases are exactly the same. We’ve come to know this through a burgeoning field of research called genomic analysis. Recently, in fact, an advanced software was recently designed by Knome Inc. that can analyze data locally without the use of the Internet, while reducing the price of analysis to an even lower price than other contemporary methods.


Chinese Hackers infiltrate The NYTimes

For the past four months, The New York Times has been attacked by hackers whose activities have been traced back to China. These attacks coincide with an exposé The Times ran about the vast wealth acquired by the family of Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, despite his claims that his family was very poor. Experts, who were hired by The Timesto track and expel the intruders, determined that the hackers used techniques that have been associated with the Chinese military, and that these hackers broke into the email accounts of Shanghai bureau chief David Barboza and the South Asia bureau chief, Jim Yardley.


Watching TV linked to reduction of sperm

Among the myriad of physical insecurities that already plague the male mind – flabby abs, receding hairlines, penile insecurities – it appears young men may have yet another biological fear to contend with – the quality of their sperm.


Evolution of proper protein folding explained

At the core of any life-sustaining process is a protein that must first fold itself from a chain of amino acids, its fundamental building blocks, in order to function properly. Sometimes this folding can go wrong, especially if the protein takes too long or lacks a some assistance.


Infection beats skin defense mechanism

Interestingly, USA300 now constitutes almost 98 percent of skin and soft tissue infections in hospitals, significantly surpassing the infectious rates of other bacterial strains. The sudden surge of USA300 in North America has puzzled scientists, as an increase in virulence could not fully elucidate the reason behind its vast replacement of other bacterial species. Instead, scientists looked into the reasons behind how this species was transmitted from community to community at an astonishingly efficient rate.


DNA explains hawksbill’s survival

Evolution may have finally caught up to one of the most magnificent and long-living creatures still existent in our world: turtles. These reptiles first made their appearance, as far as scientists agree today, approximately 220 million years ago. However, recently increasing numbers of species in the Testudines order are qualifying for the “Critically Endangered” and “Endangered” conservation statuses.


Ozone holes affect ocean patterns

Hopkins scientists found that the thinning of ozone in our atmosphere has been responsible for changes in the ocean circulation, bringing “old” water to the surface of the ocean. This has had a significant impact on the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.


SciTech Talk: Fish thoughts, oil spills and health care

Do fish think?: The vacuous stare that a goldfish gives as it swims around in a tank may belie a false impression that fish don’t have thoughts. However, a tool recently invented by researchers in Japan has paved the way for scientists to observe brain activities in real time and correlate them with complex behaviors of fish. The researchers have also devised a method to genetically incorporate the probe in order to monitor neuronal activity. Soon, fish feasting behaviors, decision-making and movements may be explained by examining their neural signals. For example, Akira Muto, the lead author of the study in Current Biology, studied the behavior and brain activity of zebrafish when they find something good to eat. So next time you assume that your goldfish is thoughtless, think again!


Cats may be deadlier than you think

Vicious killer isn’t necessarily the first thing to come to mind when you think of a cat. However, according to a new study, the cuddly creatures are responsible for a significantly higher body count than scientists had originally anticipated.



Water may have existed in deep Martian basin

Scientists have been collecting evidence to prove the previous existence of water on Mars. There are plenty of sites that may once have been oceans, lakes and rivers. With the help of equipment designed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), researchers think they have discovered a crater that may once have been a standing lake fed by groundwater.


Some cancers find trick to defy genetic instability

Women who carry a mutated copy of the BRCA1 gene have an elevated risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. However, when a cell does not have fully functional BRCA1 along the way to becoming cancerous, it runs the risk of acquiring so many subsequent genetic mutations that it might kill itself before it can evolve into a tumor.


What you missed over winter break

Data storage in DNA: We all know DNA holds all the information we need to divide cells and create the organs and tissues that make us human beings. But have you ever thought whether DNA can hold other types of information? A study published in Nature demonstrated that DNA can potentially be used as a tool to store information in the future. As the cost of storage is increasing while our budget doesn’t, DNA may become a useful and cost-effective method to store your homework and word documents!



Robotic arm reaches toward success

A recent segment on 60 Minutes detailed the successes of the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics team in mind-controlled prosthetics, also called Modular Prosthetic Limbs (MPL). Geoff Ling, DARPA program manager for the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, answered some questions about the team’s work for The News-Letter.


Cholera vaccine campaign funded

The Bloomberg School of Public Health is turning heads as they embark on the cholera vaccine initiative. With the help of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has provided a four-year, $5 million grant to supply the initiative, Hopkins is aiming to promote the benefits of oral vaccinations to prevent cholera all over the world.


Animal Antics: Lemurs endangered by aggressive parasites

Don’t you just hate it when you hear the distinctive buzzing sound of a mosquito right as you’re about to fall asleep? As annoying as your situation seems, the climate change-related challenges that many species of animals have to deal with are far, far worse.


Poles of planet Mercury chill enough for ice

The idea of finding ice on Mercury seems about as plausible as finding snow on the ground in July. And yet, results from NASA’s MESSENGER mission, managed and operated by the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) since 2004, have confirmed the long-held hypothesis that ice can be found on the poles of this scorcher of a planet.


Hopkins iGEM team tackles new projects

Last year the Hopkins iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team engineered yeast with the ability to produce beta-carotene. This year, they divided their efforts into two teams and took on two subprojects: one with yeast, and the second with a new cloud-based platform for plasmid design.


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