Washington Post Articles

“From beer to bread and back again to solve ‘the world’s dumbest problem”

By Jenna Gallegos, August 18, 2017

Historians have long debated what came first, beer or bread. Both can be made relatively easily using grains, water and yeast, and they were some of the first accomplishments of agricultural societies. Tens of thousands of years later, innovators are looking to these ancient staples to solve a modern dilemma: food waste

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“The best way to drink whiskey, according to science”

By Jenna Gallegos, August 17, 2017 

Two physical chemists walk into a bar. They order whiskeys, and a jolly Scotsman one stool over insists they add a splash of water to optimize the flavor of the spirits. Inspired by the smooth, smoky flavor, they vow to investigate a question whiskey enthusiasts answered decades ago: Does adding water to whiskey really make it taste better?

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“This morbid microbe’s infection strategy is gross but genius”

By Jenna Gallegos, August 16, 2017

Pathogens are real jerks. As if infecting and killing plants and animals isn’t bad enough, they can also turn their hosts into zombies that spread the pathogens to their next victim. Now scientists report that bacteria make some victims summon other victims as their dying act. The bacteria hijack the chemical signaling pathway of insects, making them release a burst of hormones that serve as a beacon to attract friends and potential mates right before the bacteria kill off the host.

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“GMO salmon caught in U.S. regulatory net, but Canadians have eaten 5 tons”

By Jenna Gallegos, August 4, 2017

Genetically modified salmon have been approved for sale in the United States, but labeling complications have prevented them from coming to market. In Canada, however, according to a report released Friday by the company AquaBounty, five tons of genetically modified salmon filets have been sold so far.

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“The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is larger than ever. Here’s what to do about it”

By Jenna Gallegos, August 4, 2017

Scientists just measured the largest dead zone ever recorded for the Gulf of Mexico, a whopping 8,776 square miles, massive enough to cover all of New Jersey. And only dramatic shifts in farming practices are likely to prevent even bigger problems in the future.

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“Streetlights may interfere with a bug’s most important job”

By Jenna Gallegos, August 2, 2017

study published Wednesday in the journal Nature suggests that light pollution, which has already been shown to disrupt the activities of birds and animals, including humans, also interferes with pollination. The study showed for the first time that illuminated flowers were visited by fewer insects, resulting in fewer fruits.

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“Stretch glue inspired by slugs could be the future of sutures”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 27, 2017

Inspired by slug slime, scientists have developed a flexible adhesive that sticks to wet surfaces. This stretchy glue can be attached to a beating, bleeding heart and could someday replace stitches in wound repair. Other commercially available glues create strong but inflexible bonds or stretchy but weak connections. The slug-inspired glue cements tightly and it is held together by a stretchy matrix.

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“One surprising way money can buy happiness, according to scientists”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 24, 2017

If you were given $40 on the condition that you had to spend it on something that would make you really happy, what would you do with the money? Some people might go shopping, others would treat themselves to dinner or a movie, a few might even donate to cause. But what about using that $40 to “buy” yourself more free time? According to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS, people who buy time by paying someone to complete household tasks are more satisfied with life.

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“10 mega myths about farming to remember on your next grocery run”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 24, 2017

corn Most of us don’t spend our days plowing fields or wrangling cattle. We’re part of the 99 percent of Americans who eat food, but don’t produce it. Because of our intimate relationship with food, and because it’s so crucial to our health and the environment, people should be very concerned about how it’s produced. But we don’t always get it right. Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider these 10 modern myths about the most ancient occupation.

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“Nutrition science isn’t broken, it’s just wicked hard”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 21, 2017

My dad is an old-school rancher who uses a flip-phone, refuses to wear a seat belt and swears by the Atkins diet. Like many Americans on both sides of the political aisle, he’s skeptical of science. But not because he thinks Al Gore invented climate change, vaccines cause autism or GMOs are an elaborate corporate conspiracy. He’s skeptical of science because of eggs.

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“New drug restores memories in brain-damaged mice”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 10, 2017

For the first time, scientists have reversed memory and learning deficits in mice following traumatic brain injuries. This new research could someday lead to treatments for head trauma and debilitating cognitive diseases. More than 2 million Americans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are seen in hospital emergency rooms every year. Millions more skip a hospital visit despite suffering a head injury that could cause lasting damage, according to researchers.

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“Brain-training games don’t really train brains, a new study suggests”

By Jenna Gallegos

The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and appear to have no more effect on healthy brains than video games. The study is another blow to companies such as Lumosity that have been accused of falsely claiming their programs can improve mental performance.

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“Rising temperatures could bump you from your flight. Thanks climate change.”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 3, 2017

Over three days in late June, American Airlines canceled 57 regional flights out of Phoenix due to extreme heat of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. More heat waves in the future could mean flights get canceled, delayed or have to lose some weight. That weight could be you. In the aviation business, really hot days are called “weight restriction days,” because when it’s hot, fully loaded planes can’t get off the ground. There’s only three ways for a plane to lose weight: fuel, cargo, or passengers.

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“Controversial pesticides may threaten queen bees. Alternatives could be worse”

By Jenna Gallegos, June 29, 2017

Two large-scale studies published Thursday suggest that common pesticides may harm bee colonies. In some cases, the pesticides contribute to the loss of not only worker bees but also queens. The studies, in the journal Science, have been eagerly anticipated because of concerns about the effect of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators, but the results were not as clear-cut as experts had hoped.

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“This quiet agricultural moonshot could change the future of food”

By Jenna Gallegos, July 24, 2017

The global population is skyrocketing, the climate is changing, and diets are shifting. So how do you tackle the problem of feeding 9 billion people by 2050? Assemble an elite team of scientists for a year-long brainstorming session. The first meeting of “Science Breakthroughs 2030” just convened to discuss the key advances essential for revolutionizing food and agriculture in the next decade. The resounding theme: What’s needed is akin to a moonshot. Or as committee co-chair John D. Floros put it, a “green revolution 2.0.”

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“Our gut talks and sometimes argues with our brain. Now we know how”

By Jenna Gallegos, June 22, 2017

Scientists finally have a better idea why certain meals send you running for the bathroom. The discovery provides insight into the connection between your gut and brain and may point toward new therapies for intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. The team behind this is led by Holly Ingraham and David Julius of the University of California at San Francisco. They’re also married, but until a few years ago, their relationship was strictly personal.

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“In the hunt for new antibiotics, scientists hit pay dirt”

By Jenna Gallegos, June 15, 2017

Scientists have discovered a new kind of antibiotic — buried in dirt. Tests in animals show that it is effective against drug-resistant bacteria, and it could lead to desperately needed treatments for deadly antibiotic-resistant infections. Almost our entire arsenal of antibiotics was discovered in soil, but scientists haven’t gone digging for drugs in decades. That’s because, “screening microbial extracts from soil is thought to be a tapped-out approach,” said Richard Ebright, a scientist at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers.

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