Physical Sciences

  • The worm in the bud: Do parasites interfere with immunization? 

    Monday, Jul 27, 2020
    by Liana Wait, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    Vaccines are one of the most important tools we have in our defense against infectious diseases, but not everyone responds to vaccination in the same way. Parasites such as worms and viruses change the way a person or animal’s immune system functions, and this can affect their ability to respond to vaccines. 

  • Complex developmental patterns are under the control of surprisingly simple signals

    Thursday, Jul 23, 2020
    by Caitlin Sedwick for the Department of Molecular Biology

    Proper embryonic development of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is governed by patterns of protein activity bequeathed to the fertilized egg by its mother. While the embryo is still a single cell, the maternal cells surrounding it deposit certain proteins inside it at specific locations. This establishes protein gradients that direct the development of embryonic features along its anterior-posterior and ventral-dorsal axes. Later, the embryo receives another round of maternal information, called terminal patterning, that guides the development of its head and tail.

  • A taste for humans: How disease-carrying mosquitoes evolved to specialize in biting us

    Thursday, Jul 23, 2020
    by Jerimiah Oetting for the Office of the Dean for Research

    There are two paths. One leads to the arm of Noah Rose, a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University. The other leads to a guinea pig.

    For some species of mosquitoes, their preference for humans reveals something about their evolution — and the ecology of their ancestral homes. New research, published July 23 in the journal Current Biology, identifies the genetic components underlying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes’ affinity for humans and indicates that their human-seeking behavior can be traced to two environmental conditions: climate and urbanization.

  • Astrophysicist Adam Burrows wins international prize for brown dwarf and exoplanet research

    Thursday, Jul 23, 2020
    by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

    The Republic of Armenia announced on July 18 that Princeton astrophysicist Adam Burrows is one of three recipients of the Viktor Ambartsumian International Science Prize “for his seminal and pioneering contributions to the theories of brown dwarfs and exoplanets and for his leadership role in educating a generation of scientists at the frontiers of brown dwarf and exoplanet research.”

  • New view of nature’s oldest light adds fresh twist to debate over universe’s age

    Wednesday, Jul 15, 2020
    by The Office of Communications

    From a mountain high in Chile’s Atacama Desert, astronomers with the National Science Foundation’s Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) have taken a fresh look at the oldest light in the universe. Their new observations plus a bit of cosmic geometry suggest that the universe is 13.77 billion years old, give or take 40 million years.

  • Artificial intelligence predicts which planetary systems will survive

    Monday, Jul 13, 2020
    by Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

    Why don’t planets collide more often? How do planetary systems — like our solar system or multi-planet systems around other stars — organize themselves? Of all of the possible ways planets could orbit, how many configurations will remain stable over the billions of years of a star’s life cycle?

    Rejecting the large range of unstable possibilities — all the configurations that would lead to collisions — would leave behind a sharper view of planetary systems around other stars, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

  • Triggering bacteria in the service of medicine

    Monday, Jun 22, 2020
    by Wendy Plump, Department of Chemistry

    Bacteria, as it turns out, are a lot like us. They get complacent in relaxed, non-threatening environments. And when they’re relaxed, they don’t produce defenses that guard against things that want to kill them, like competing organisms or microbial predators.

    But when threatened, bacteria produce a veritable army of molecular defenses. Drilling down into these defenses and the elicitors that trigger them has enabled scientists to discover antibiotics and antivirals, knowledge that might yet prove useful in the fight against the coronavirus.

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