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Perils in the Pursuit for Scientific Novelty

Scientific research isn’t perfect, far from it. In fact, according to Richard Harris, correspondent at National Public Radio, the scientific process is in need of repair. Among the many issues, the limited ability to examine existing, mundane findings seems to be a consistent obstacle. At a lecture at Cornell on Oct. 16, Harris discussed his criticisms of the manner in which science research is published and presented.

A colorized image of the structure of the Zika Virus when examined using Cryo-EM.

Nobel Prize Winning Technology Demonstrates Merits of Interdisciplinary Collaboration, says Cornell Prof

Why are the most fundamental structural parts of the human body referred to as cells? Robert Hooke, the man who coined the term, thought they looked like cells in a monastery. But without a picture, this analogy would never have been possible. Microscopes, the fundamental instruments that make these pictures possible have gone a long way from 1665, when Hooke made his discoveries. Hooke looked at dead cells while today, we freeze biochemicals to view metabolic processes as they happen.

The obelisk depicting the asteroid belt, with the world's only unguarded meteorite at its base.

Ithacans Celebrate Sagan’s Achievements at Planet Walk

For most, travelling to the outer reaches of the solar system is a distant dream. But through the Sagan Planet Walk, organized by the Cornell Society of Physics Students, a tour of all the planets is still possible. The event, attended by over a 100 Ithacans, took place on Saturday. The walk follows 11 monolithic pillars placed along a 0.73 mile path, beginning with one depicting the Sun in the center of the Ithaca Commons and ends with Pluto at Ithaca Sciencenter. Each obelisk contains a circular frame with a small hole, the size of which depicts the planet’s size relative to the Sun.

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 user submitted image of an unafraid bear moving through private property.

Citizen Scientists Lead Wildlife Conservation Effort With New App

Touchdown, Cornell’s unofficial mascot, is the only red bear in New York. But the state is home to at least 6,000 to 8,000 black bears, spread across all forms of terrain. Tracking all of them proves to be a significant challenge for New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency tasked with the welfare of these animals. However, the development of a new mobile app at Cornell, named iSeeMammals, could soon revolutionize how data about bears and their presence is collected. “We have approximately 200 research sites every summer across the Southern Tier, but we still can’t get everywhere.

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Students Develop Smart Note Taking System, Education Themed Software at BigRed Hacks

From Friday to Sunday, teams of programmers, designers and students from a variety of backgrounds raced against the clock to produce impactful software. BigRed Hacks, the oldest student-run hackathon at Cornell, drew upon a large number of students from across the country. “Part of what I feel our mission is, is to relieve tension and show people that you really don’t have to be a genius to have fun and learn things at hackathons. The only thing you need is the will to try,” said Jeffrey Van ’19, a student organizer at the event. Abhishek Velayudham, a sophomore majoring in computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park, reflected on what motivated him to attend the event.

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.