TED : http://on.ted.com/g0Ghi
Amazing GIF image created using images from a scanning electron microscope:
As the incredibly powerful microscope zooms in, it goes from showing an amphipod (a type of shell-less crustacean), to a diatom (a type of algae) that’s on the amphipod, to a microscopic bacterium that’s on the diatom that’s on the amphipod. It’s life, on life, on life:
The GIF was created by James Tyrwhitt-Drake back in 2012, when he captured the images at the University of Victoria’s Advanced Microscopy Facility and posted the final product to his Tumblog, Infinity Imagined.
A charming guide to cacti and other desert plants… Click the image to see it larger. I’m afraid I couldn’t identify the source of the image.
There was apparently a time in our planet’s history when plants evolved into trees (in order to be able to grow taller while still supporting themselves structurally) but there was no type of fungi yet evolved that could break down the trees when they died. So for a long period trees just piled up. This interesting BBC documentary on decay explains the Carboniferous period. (via reddit)
He said: “The way birds navigate is that they use a compass and they use a map. The compass is usually the position of the Sun or the Earth’s magnetic field, but the map has been unknown for decades.
“I have found they are using sound as their map… and this will tell them where they are relative to their home.”
The pigeons, he said, use “infrasound”, which is an extremely low-frequency sound that is below the range of human hearing.
He explained: “The sound originates in the ocean. Waves in the deep ocean are interfering and they create sound in both the atmosphere and the Earth. You can pick this energy up anywhere on Earth, in the centre of a continent even.”
He believes that when the birds are at their unfamiliar release site, they listen for the signature of the infrasound signal from their home – and then use this to find their bearings.
However, infrasound can be affected by changes in the atmosphere.
Watch a time-lapse video showing the Museum’s smallest workers, flesh-eating beetles, preparing the skeletons of a great green macaw, tawny owl and mountain peacock-pheasant for our collections. Chemical preparation of skeletons can cause damage to the bones so a special beetle species, Dermestes haemarrhoidalis, is used to strip off the flesh while leaving the bones and collagen untouched.
The Natural History Museum is using a species of flesh-eating beetles to clean-up skeletons of bird specimens. They were kind enough to upload a video for the curious.
Here’s a BBC documentary about the human cell and its relationship over billions of years with the virus cell.
It takes a nice, broad perspective and presents the story with impressive visuals. Quite impressed as I am, I didn’t like the incredibly tedious camera work for the in-between segments, and the drone of David Tennant’s narration throughout the entire film. You can’t have it all.
Update: Pity the video has been taken down. It was called Secret Universe: The Hidden Life of the Cell.
Researchers at Stanford university compare the the networking of an ant colony to the mechanism of the internet. A lesson in harnessing the collective power of individual units! (via sciencedump)
He understands, as Darwin would, that there is a war of nature. But, where in Darwinian wars some species flourish while others go extinct, in Aristotelian wars the combatants simply fight forever.
A documentary exploring Aristotle’s biological investigations and comparing his understanding to our current knowledge.
Reuben Margolin‘s wave inspired mechanical sculptures.
Like some eccentric prominent family, whose genius shades easily into the occult, the evil and the mad, Solanaceae, the family of the nightshade (so often prefixed by “deadly”), both contains several of our most ubiquitous food plants (typically of New World origin) and many of the multifarious toxins and deliriants beloved of witches, shamans and poisoners throughout history. The plants of Solanaceae are a dramatic-looking group, full of trumpet-like flowers that open at dusk and branches and stems that curl together like gnarled witches claws. They are also the source of eerie legends and origin myths, as exemplified by mandrake, said to grow from the ejaculate of a hanged man, and whose scream (when pulled out of the ground) will kill everyone in earshot.
To anyone who has ever shuddered at or been baffled by the thought that for most of history the Italians have had no tomatoes, the South Asians have had no chillies and no one in the Old World (including the Irish, the Germans and the Russians) has had potatoes, the gifts of Solanaceae are apparent. These are the bounty of the New World, plants that were brought over from the Americas by European explorers, introduced into their home countries and then spread to the rest of the world (many of the sins of the Portuguese colonists should be offset by their introduction of the chilli to India). Traces of this recency exist on the linguistic map, and several cultures label tomatoes and potatoes as some sort of eggplant or apple1.
While the major Solanaceae food crops that we eat are from the New World, most of the family members used in the Old World were used as hallucinogens, medicines (in small doses) or as poisons (with the notable exception of eggplant). Both tomatoes and potatoes suffered from these associations, and it took a while before people became convinced that they were safe to eat. One is generally not responsible for one’s relatives (except children), but there is some truth to this fear. The leaves and stems of tomato plants are mildly toxic, and potato sprouts can be quite dangerous (in recent years, much of this has been bred out of the plant varieties that we eat, though the same is probably not true for non-mass-market varieties). Once they broke through to acceptance, though, they spread widely and now both are cultivated widely all over the world. Potatoes in particular were an essential new source of cheap calories for the Industrial Revolution and were declared by Engels to be the equivalent of iron for their historically revolutionary role. They are thought to be responsible for a significant fraction of Old World population growth in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the downside that potato crop failures lead to severe famines.
The classical Old World members of Solanaceae are plants like deadly nightshade (belladonna), datura, mandrake, angel’s trumpet and henbane; these are famously the plants of Hecate and the occult. They are striking examples of the weird intersection of the toxic, the medicinal and the religious that characterize our relationship with a number of plants, and of the thin line between the altered states of revelation and transcendent experience and those of poisoning and death.
More at 3QD.
Image: Leif Parsons.
Justin Smith speaks of the loss of a bygone approach to science — a philosophical, curiosity-bound sort — leaving philosophy out in the cold as a separate and constrained entity in contemporary society.
Now surely it is a good thing that today there are, say, helminthologists, who can devote all their time to the study of worms without having to worry about how these creatures fit into the cosmic order, or into God’s design, as you wish. But if helminthology has cleared away the cosmological dross that weighed it down back when it was part of natural philosophy, philosophy meanwhile may have lost something that once helped to fuel it: a curiosity about the world in all its detail, a desire to know everything encyclopedically, rather than to bound its pure activity off from the impure world of worms and so on, a world philosophy might approach through that succinct preposition, of — as in “philosophy of physics,” “philosophy of law” — which permits philosophy to stand apart, and implicitly above, the mundane objects of its attention.
Nature doesn’t need an audience. These wonderful orchids come from the south-eastern Ecuadorian and Peruvian cloud forests from elevations of 1000 to 2000 meters and as such not many people throughout history got to see them. However, thanks to intrepid collectors we do get to see this wonderful Monkey Orchid. Someone didn’t need much imagination to name it though, let’s face it.
This is one of the most incredible adaptations I’ve seen.. More about the Monkey Orchid at kuriositas.
English designer Suzanne Lee is working with a biodegradable leather-like material she grows herself in a bathtub, using bacteria, yeast and green tea. BBC Video.
See her website biocouture.co.uk
Wonderful example of biomimicry… The use of slime mould to plan out an optimal motorway infrastructure for Canada (and other countries), via boingboing.
Demonstration of the human voice box. Via the blog Machinatorium by Henning Lederer.
These naturally magnetic microorganisms usually live in aquatic environments such as ponds and lakes, below the surface where oxygen is scarce.
They swim following the Earth’s magnetic field lines, aligning in the magnetic field like compass needles, in search of preferred oxygen concentrations.
When the bacteria ingest iron, proteins inside their bodies interact with it to produce tiny crystals of the mineral magnetite, the most magnetic mineral on Earth.
Having studied the way the microbes collect, shape and position these nano-magnets inside themselves, the researchers copied the method and applied it outside the bacteria, effectively “growing” magnets that could in future help to build hard drives.
“We are quickly reaching the limits of traditional electronic manufacturing as computer components get smaller,” said lead researcher Dr Sarah Staniland of the University of Leeds.
“The machines we’ve traditionally used to build them are clumsy at such small scales.
“Nature has provided us with the perfect tool to [deal with] this problem.”
More: BBC Technology