August 2011

Volume 25 Issue 8

The Scientist August 2011 Cover

Featured Articles

image: The Root of the Problem

The Root of the Problem

By Richard D. Bardgett | August 1, 2011

New research suggests that the flow of carbon through plants to underground ecosystems may be crucial to how the environment responds to climate change.

It's a Cell-Eat-Cell World

By Jef Akst | August 1, 2011

For more than 100 years, pathologists have observed cancer cells engulfing other live cells, but scientists are only now beginning to understand how it happens and what it means for tumorigenesis.

image: Sharing the Bounty

Sharing the Bounty

By Michelle G. Rooks and Wendy S. Garrett | August 1, 2011

Gut bacteria may be the missing piece that explains the connection between diet and cancer risk.


Bio Business

Make Mine Rare

With mounting interest from biotechs, Big Pharma, and the federal government, research on rare diseases is burgeoning.

Capsule Reviews

Capsule Reviews

First Life, Radioactivity, Brain Bugs, Life of Earth



Meet some of the people featured in the August 2011 issue of The Scientist.

Critic at Large


Ascribing benefits to the experience of devastating illness or trauma is fraught with hidden dangers.


Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Getting the big picture means asking lots of little questions.


Ernst Haeckel’s Pedigree of Man, 1874

After completing his studies in medicine and biology, a restless Ernst Haeckel set off for Italy in 1859 to study art and marine biology. The diversity of life fascinated the 26-year-old Prussian, and in addition to painting landscapes, he spent the


Cell-In-Cell Action

The mechanism by which tumor cells end up harboring other living cells remains elusive, and the sparse evidence acquired thus far has led researchers to propose different hypotheses. 

Helpful Bacterial Metabolites

While gut microbiota appear to have both positive and negative impacts on our  health, in the guts of healthy, lean individuals, the good outweighs the bad.  

Harmful Bacterial Metabolites

Gut bacteria that feed on healthy food appear to amplify the nutritional benefits of those foods. However, they also appear to amplify the undesirable effects of unhealthy food. 


From the Ground Up

As the planet warms plant growth will likely increase—locking up some of that extra carbon dioxide by converting it into vegetative biomass—but that’s not the whole story. 

Lab Tools

Learning to Become a Tree Hugger

A guide to free software for constructing and assessing species relationships

Modus Operandi

The Right Sort

Using the strongest molecular binding partnership in biology to separate different cell types.


Powering Clinical Trials

To ensure high-quality clinical trials of a malaria vaccine, organizers in rural Africa must first upgrade electrical and research infrastructures.

Personalized Athletics

Motivated by a career-ending ligament tear, a former NFL player starts a company to test athletes' genetic predispositions to common sports injuries.

An Unlichenly Pair

A young botanist pays tribute to his mentor by naming a newly discovered, rare species in his honor.

String Theory

New types of biological filaments are turning up in yeast, fly, bacterial cells and in rat neurons, and they may yield clues to how the cytoskeleton evolved from metabolically active enzymes.


3-D Seer

Dissatisfied with the uncertainty of crystallography, Ned Seeman invented a new way of assembling the molecules that encompass the logic of life.

Reading Frames

Faculty Fallout

Administrators have taken over US universities, and they’re steering institutions of higher learning away from the goal of serving as beacons of knowledge.

Scientist to Watch

Seirian Sumner: Wasp Whisperer

Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, London. Age: 37


Battling Malaria in Africa

When general practitioner John Lusingu returned to his native Tanzania to do research on malaria, he was met with a total lack of science infrastructure. 

Haeckel’s Radiolarians

After completing his studies in medicine and biology, Prussian naturalist Ernst Haeckel set off for Italy in 1859, where, in addition to painting landscapes, he spent the climactic months of his stay glued to his microscope observing and sketching.

Speaking of Science

Speaking of Science

August 2011's selection of notable quotes

The Literature

Plant Cells and Soap Bubbles

Editor’s Choice in Plant Biology

Memory Aid

Editor's Choice in Neuroscience

An Eyeful of RNA

Editor's Choice in Physiology

Thought Experiment

Deconstructing the Mosaic Brain

Sequencing the DNA of individual neurons is a way to dissect the genes underlying major neurological and psychological disorders.

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