E. coli., the bacterium in which CRISPR-Cas was first observed.

Insight Into Jumping Gene Mechanisms to Advance Gene Editing

Apocalyptic movies often cast a dark view of the future of gene editing. In reality though, improved gene editing methods could be used to treat cancer, hepatitis B and other diseases. Though the technology is still in its nascent stages, new research out of the lab of Prof. Joseph Peters, microbiology, sheds light on new mechanisms that could be exploited to carry out more robust gene editing. Peters’ team found that transposons, or ‘jumping genes’, use a bacterium’s primary defense mechanism, CRISPR-Cas, to efficiently jump within the genome. Jumping genes are sequences of DNA that can change their positions within the genome.

A tractor sprays nitrogen-based fertilizers on a corn field in Leesburg, Virginia.

Discovery of New Step in Nitrogen Cycle To Fundamentally Alter Fertilizer Use

Fertilizers form the backbone of many agricultural processes worldwide. Decades worth of work has been poured into understanding the way in which fertilizers function and the ways in which they can affect the environment. In fact, the process by which bacteria break down nitrogen products in fertilizers to help provide plants with nutrients has found its way into high school textbooks, often accompanied by easy to understand diagrams.

A study led by Prof. Kyle Lancaster, chemistry, however, sheds light on a new found process that suggests that there is more to this nitrogen cycle than previously known. According to Lancaster, existing biochemical models state that bacteria convert ammonia into an inorganic compound, Hydroxylamine, before turning that into nitrite. Nitrite can then be converted by other bacteria to form nitrate, a vital plant nutrient.

A computer-generated image of Cassini entering Saturn's atmosphere.

To Infinity and Beyond: Cornell Astronomers Bid Farewell to Cassini

After 20 years, NASA’s Cassini mission ended with the spacecraft’s spectacular plunge into Saturn. To the very end, Cassini had its antenna pointed back at Earth to relay information about the planet’s atmosphere. Over the years, many Cornell astronomers had the opportunity to work closely on the project and have plenty of memories to share. Among them is Prof. Joseph Burns, astronomy, who is a member of Cassini’s imaging teams.

“Were it not for Saturn’s fleet of 62 satellites, the cloud of dust orbiting Saturn would assume the form of a circular disk in the equatorial plane, rather than discrete rings”, Burns said. “Cassini taught us that in order to understand the behavior of planetary ring systems, we need to observe them continuously over an extended period of time.

Tools like AdBlock Plus blunt some commercial surveillance methods.

Prof Shows How Your Internet Activity Is Being Watched

While news of data leaks and malware attacks seem to be on the upswing, there are forms of web surveillance that reveal just as much data, only they are completely legal and receive much less publicity. On Sept. 5, Cornell’s Department of Computing and Information Science kicked off the first of a series of talks that aims to discuss the importance of technological advancements and the law in exploring surveillance, privacy and bias. Prof. Arvind Narayanan, computer science, Princeton University, was the first speaker of the series and presented his research with a talk entitled “Uncovering Commercial Surveillance on the Web.”

Commercial surveillance involves techniques used by companies to discreetly and legally trace the internet activity of users. Such surveillance is so widespread that it affects anyone who uses the internet, even for basic browsing.

Picture2

Cornell Researchers Highlight Ethical Lapses in Recent Cybersecurity Failures

The internet is everywhere. From simple dial-up connections on bulky computers, the spread of internet access to watches, cameras, printers, refrigerators and televisions demonstrates the progress the computing industry has made. Connectivity is lauded for making our lives convenient and efficient. However, the increasing frequency of malware attacks and data leaks suggests that advancements in cybersecurity are not keeping pace. As a testament to this fact, on Sept.

The result of the combination of the two images displayed below.

Deep Neural Networks Transfer The Style of an Image Onto Another

Editing a picture to make it “Instagram worthy” can be difficult. Most simple apps have the basic filters, highlighting and exposure tools that you might expect. But apps that transform photos into a custom portrait in the style of your favorite artist need to use something more complex. This is because imposing, for example, the distinctive brushstrokes and features of Vincent can Gogh’s The Starry Night onto an average photo can often distort the structure of the image. Existing programs focus on the content and style of images, but usually do not preserve the edges and contours of the subjects photographed. This causes the final image to lose the structural details of the original photograph.

Prof. Edward Buckler at one of the laboratory's greenhouses.

Cornell Professor Receives Award For Studies on Crop Genomics

On a daily basis, most of us do not think about the crops that our food comes from. And yet, the importance of commercial crop studies cannot be overstated, especially for human health. Without the crucial genetic mapping resources developed by Prof. Edward Buckler, plant breeding and genetics, these studies would be impossible. As a geneticist at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Buckler is in a unique position to manage a variety of national resources to lead such studies. These efforts culminated in a Washington, D.C. ceremony in April, where Buckler was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agricultural Studies.

TImelapse images of the origami machines unfolding

Inspired by Japanese Origami, Researchers Create Microscopic Self Folding Machines

In the 1960s, most computers took up an entire room. Faster computers now find themselves on the wrists of people all over the world. As devices get smaller, humanity seems to be on track to create the sorts of machines that physicist Richard Feynman predicted in his 1959 talk, “Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” Feynman discussed the two main outcomes of technological progression: the miniaturization of information and ultimately, the miniaturization of machines. In order to get a step closer to achieving the second goal, researcher Marc Miskin developed a method for creating machines the size of human cells by taking inspiration from the Japanese art of origami. Just like folding origami to create various complex shapes, these machines are capable of folding in on themselves to reproduce many simple shapes.

Demonstrators listen to a keynote speaker at Ithaca's March for Science.

Hundreds Participate in Ithaca’s March for Science

For some, science is more than a lifelong passion or a suitable career path: it’s the difference between life and death. Carrie Lazarre, a Tompkins County resident who has been suffering from stage IV colon cancer for the past decade, says that sustained colon cancer research has been crucial in keeping her alive all these years. Along with hundreds of others, Lazarre chose to participate in the March for Science at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on Ithaca Commons on April 22 to showcase the importance of science for everyday Americans. The march was part of a larger endeavor across the United States and the world to stand up for science research, funding and policy. The main event, which attracted approximately 40,000 people, took place in Washington D.C., with satellite marches in around 500 locations across the United States.