News, Science & Research

Science and Research Roundup, Sept. 12

By and
University News Editors
Thursday, September 12, 2019

U. research examines muscles in bat wings

The muscles in bat wings function at markedly lower temperatures than the other muscles in their bodies, but still effectively keep the mammals airborne, according to findings from Andrea Rummel GS, Professor of Biology and Engineering Sharon Swartz and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Richard Marsh.

The research, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Biology Letters, involved continuously and discretely measuring muscle temperature in different types of bats. Rummel, Swartz and Marsh will next examine properties of the muscles, including how the protein myosin affects their operation, according to a news release.

“We know that bats are able to support super high-performance locomotion with muscles that are really cold,” Rummel said in the news release. “The fact that their muscles are cold indicates that there are probably other small mammals and small birds that are also moving around really well with cold muscles — and presumably they all have some muscular adaptation, behavioral adaptation or other physiological adaptation that helps them do that.”

U. study suggests graphene could protect against mosquito bites

Graphene — an ultrathin, conductive nanomaterial with potential uses ranging from energy storage to protection against ultraviolet radiation — may also be useful for preventing mosquito bites, a new study by University researchers suggests.

The researchers hypothesized that mosquitoes would not be able to pierce through thin sheets of graphene to bite people. But they found another effect of graphene on mosquitoes: The material proved highly effective at preventing mosquitoes from attempting to bite humans altogether. Rather than providing a primarily physical barrier against bites, graphene was found to actually work as a chemical barrier trapping molecular signals that attract mosquitoes.

“The mosquito is the world’s most important vector for transmission of infectious diseases, and chemical agents now used for bite prevention can have environmental or human health side effects,” the researchers wrote in their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Their study proposes graphene as a non-chemical material that could be woven into clothing fabrics to create safer, wearable protection against mosquito bites.

Undergrads answer sustainability questions in radio segments

Students at the University launched a radio show called “Possibly” that digs into questions about sustainability. The weekly series began airing as a two- to four-minute segment during “Morning Edition” on the Public’s Radio back in July.

Supported by the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, the new series aims to explain environmental issues — ranging from Rhode Island’s planned plastic bag ban to the environmental costs of heating buildings in the winter — in understandable terms. At the same time, students working on the segments will gain practice communicating scientific topics to non-experts.

“Possibly” airs during the 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. shows each Tuesday on the Public’s Radio. The segments also stream online.