Jun 19 Reblogged
Jun 19 Reblogged
Think of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all you really were there at the time, weren’t you?
How else could you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you weren’t there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place …. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that does not make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.
Jun 18 Reblogged
A buoyant plume of smoke rises from a stick of incense. At first the plume is smooth and laminar, but even in quiescent air, tiny perturbations can sneak into the flow, causing the periodic vortical whorls seen near the top of the photo. Were the frame even taller, we would see this transitional flow become completely chaotic and turbulent. Despite having known the governing equations for such flow for over 150 years, it remains almost impossible to predict the point where flow will transition for any practical problem, largely because the equations are so sensitive to initial conditions. In fact, some of the fundamental mathematical properties of those equations remain unproven. (Photo credit: M. Rosic)
Is there anything more unpredictably beautiful than whorls of smoke?
Jun 10 Reblogged
Space Sounds - Symphonies of the Planets
It’s time for another Episode Extra! (which is where you special blog readers get to check out really cool stuff to go along with my YouTube videos, like special features on a DVD, only way more special-er)
In my latest video, “Space Sounds”, we explored some truly awesome musical and sound creations that were literally made from scientific data collected from space. They are spooky, calming, expansive and just plain wonderful. Watch it here if you haven’t seen the episode yet.
Turns out people have been doing this for a while! In 1992, NASA released a now hard-to-find five-volume musical collection called Symphonies of the Planets. They took electromagnetic sensor data from Voyager 1 and 2’s trip past Jupiter and Saturn, which happened over a decade prior. Solar winds and stellar radio waves were converted into sounds accessible to our ears, and the result is some of the most calming ambient music I’ve ever heard. If only the Voyager probes weren’t running low on power today. Imagine the music we could create as they make their way out of the solar system!
These are always strangely soothing to me :-)
Jun 02 Reblogged
Some of the worthy winners of the annual Princeton Art of Science competition. Check out the full gallery for image descriptions and more amazing art.
Oh my Sagan, how can someone look at these and just not want to marry science and grow old with it and raise a whole family of discoveries with it?!?
May 05 Reblogged
At Stanford University, nine men and eight women with no formal music training listened to obscure classical music (four symphonies by late-baroque composer William Boyce) while lying inside fMRI machines. The researchers used a type of imaging that let them examine all different areas of the brain over the entire time that the participants were listening to the recording.
To ensure that the brain activity they were mapping was in response to the music as a whole, and not just to one of its structural features, the researchers also had the subjects listen to altered versions of the symphonies: in one, all rhythm and timing was removed, and in the other, they were made atonal.
During the nine and a half minutes that the subjects spent listening to the music in its unadulterated form, the researchers noted a “highly distinctive and distributed set of brain regions” that was synchronized between each them. In the music from which some of the elements that make it musical were removed, on the other hand, brain activity was markedly different from subject to subject.
Apr 22 Reblogged
Neurons growing in a cell culture
These time lapse animations use phase contrast microscopy to show neural stem cells in a nutrient medium for 4 hours. They reveal the dynamic growth and recycling of dendrites and synapses as neurons establish relationships with each other. The social behavior of these cells creates the incredible properties of the mind and brain.
Credit: University of Victoria Medical Sciences
Apr 11 Reblogged
Why yellow isn’t yellow – fascinating primer on how screens change the way our color vision works. Complement with the science of why the color pink doesn’t exist and this 1938 black-and-white film on how color vision works.
Apr 11 Reblogged
The Amazing Story Of The $300 Glasses That Correct Colorblindness
Mark Changizi and Tim Barber turned research on human vision and blood flow into colorblindness-correcting glasses you can buy on Amazon. Here’s how they did it.
About 10 years ago, Mark Changizi started to develop research on human vision and how it could see changes in skin color. Like many academics, Changizi, an accomplished neurobiologist, went on to pen a book. The Vision Revolution challenged prevailing theories—no, we don’t see red only to spot berries and fruits amid the vegetation—and detailed the amazing capabilities of why we see the way we do.
If it were up to academia, Changizi’s story might have ended there. “I started out in math and physics, trying to understand the beauty in these fields,” he says, “You are taught, or come to believe, that applying something useful is inherently not interesting.”
Not only did Changizi manage to beat that impulse out of himself, but he and Tim Barber, a friend from middle school, teamed up several years ago to form a joint research institute. 2AI Labs allows the pair to focus on research into cognition and perception in humans and machines, and then to commercialize it. The most recent project? A pair of glasses with filters that just happen to cure colorblindness.
Changizi and Barber didn’t set out to cure colorblindness. Changizi just put forth the idea that humans’ ability to see colors evolved to detect oxygenation and hemoglobin changes in the skin so they could tell if someone was scared, uncomfortable or unhealthy. “We as humans blush and blanche, regardless of overall skin tone,” Barber explains, “We associate color with emotion. People turn purple with anger in every culture.” Once Changizi fully understood the connection between color vision and blood physiology, Changizi determined it would be possible to build filters that aimed to enhance the ability to see those subtle changes by making veins more or less distinct—by sharpening the ability to see the red-green or blue-yellow parts of the spectrum. He and Barber then began the process of patenting their invention.
When they started thinking about commercial applications, Changizi and Barber both admit their minds went straight to television cameras. Changizi was fascinated by the possibilities of infusing an already-enhanced HDTV experience with the capacity to see colors even more clearly.
“We looked into cameras photo receptors and decided that producing a filter for a camera would be too difficult and expensive,” Barber says. The easiest possible approach was not electronic at all, he says. Instead, they worked to develop a lens that adjusts the color signal that hits the human eye and the O2Amp was born.
Apr 11 Reblogged
London neuroscience centre to map ‘connectome’ of foetal brain
A state-of-the-art imaging facility at St Thomas’ Hospital in London has been awarded a 15m euro grant to map the development of nerve connections in the brain before and just after birth.
The Centre for the Developing Brain — which is partly funded by King’s College London (KCL) — has built a unique neonatal Magnetic Resonance Imaging Clinical Research Facility based in the intensive care unit of the Evelina Children’s Hospital at St Thomas’. It is one of two centres in the world — the other being at Imperial College — to have such a clinical research facility and associated scanner within a neonatal intensive care unit.
Over the next few years a team headed up by David Edwards, a consultant neonatologist and KCL Professor of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine, will build up a diagram of connections in the brain of babies as they develop in the womb and then after they are born. The aim is to understand how the human brain assembles itself from a functional and structural perspective. The resulting map is called a connectome and is the brain equivalent of the human genome. It will be made available to the research community to help improve understanding of neurological disorders.
At the heart of the project is the development of motion tolerant MRI image analysis techniques. MRI scanners work by taking a series of cross-sectional images of a body and are then are reconstructed by software into 3D images. Conventionally, subjects entering an MRI scanner must remain as still as possible and are often held in place to make sure that the resulting scans are clear.
Babies from the intensive care unit at the Centre are lulled to sleep and swaddled (wrapped tightly in fabric to make sure their limbs are secured) before being placed into the MRI scanner. However, this is obviously not possible with foetuses, which are floating in the womb and therefore continually moving (see video below). Until recently, the only way of scanning foetuses has been to use single shot techniques that “freeze” motion.
Edwards told Wired.co.uk: “Sophisticated neuroscience doesn’t work on a slice. If we are to do a connectivity map of the brain or understand malformation, we need 3D structures.”
The team at the centre — which includes KCL Professor of Imaging Physics Jo Hajnal and Imperial Professor of Visual Information Processing Daniel Rueckert — has developed a technique that allows for a much richer image of the foetus’s brain in the womb. It involves taking a number of cross sectional images of the brain at different angles and reconstructing these 2D images into a 3D model. This makes it possible — for the first time — to see individual nerve connections forming in the baby’s brain while it is still in the womb. This is central to developing the connectome.
The same scanning system will also be used for diagnosing sick newborn babies. Prior to the launch of the unit, babies in intensive care would have to wait until they were healthier before being transferred to an MRI scanner. This allows clinicians and researchers to monitor the effect of certain treatments, such as drugs administered to protect brains and help them develop under the stress of a premature birth.
Edwards told Wired.co.uk: “We are looking at the characteristics of the brain tissue and the integrity of membranes, which are very vulnerable to asphyxia. There is very little literature on very pre-term babies. Unless you have a scanner on the intensive care unit, it’s not safe.”
The Developing Human Connectome Project is part of the Human Connectome Project. Researchers in the US have embarked on a multi-year project to map the adult human brain by gathering structural and functional imaging data from 1,200 healthy adults aged between 22 and 35.
The centre will also be used for studying conditions such as autism and other neurological disorders in young children. One of the most charming aspects of the new centre, is how much effort the team has made to make patients and parents feel comfortable. Lighting can be dimmed and swirling galaxies can be projected onto the walls to turn a visit to the MRI scanner into a space mission for imaginative children. According to Edwards, the team has even considered getting children to wear white “astronaut suits” before they venture into the MRI “spacecraft”.
For more information, visit The Centre for the Developing Brain site.
Apr 11 Reblogged
Dr. Michael Bridge
University of Utah School HSC Core Facilities - Cell Imaging Lab,
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Specimen: Eye organ of a Drosophila melanogaster (third-instar larvae) (60x)
Apr 11 Reblogged
Seeing the Brain With New CLARITY
A new brain imaging technique called CLARITY allows neural structures to be reconstructed in three dimensions better than ever before. It does so by turning the brain “transparent”.
Truly understanding the inner workings of the brain means studying not only how individual neurons function, but also how they are wired together. Even with techniques like the beautiful “brainbow”, untangling spaghetti-like long-range connections has proven difficult.
Stanford University neuroscientists have taken a step in that direction with their new CLARITY method. Neurons and other cells are normally labeled by sticking fluorescent tags on various proteins and other molecules that a researcher wants to study. That way we can literally see where and how they function. But looking into a three-dimensional brain is like peering into murky water: the fatty cell membranes and neuron sheaths just get in the way.
The Stanford researchers immobilized these mouse brains in a gel, then washed away all the murky muck. This left all the connections and proteins in their right place, free to be labeled in a clear block of brain Jell-O.
For more: Head over to Nature News to read more, and be sure to watch their great, detailed video to find out more about how it was done. If you’re interested, here’s the research paper in this week’s Nature.
Apr 03 Reblogged
How old are you? (The answer is not what you think)
My 4 year old brother can tell you how old he is even though his concept of time is essentially nonexistent. He can’t wait to be “big”, which in his mind is 5 years old. However, the rest of us are not much better at answering the question about how old we are. Yes, we are correct about our legally recognized age, but we are way off on our natural age.
We’re all the same age… really old
Since everything is made up of matter, we all consist of atoms. These atoms all come together to make us who we are, but my brothers atoms are not 4 years old or even 4 billion years old. At some point shortly after the big bang, atoms came together thus forming the different elements (think periodic chart). Here we are 13.7 billion years later; all of us made of the same elements. This makes me shake my head when I think of nations going to war. We’re all made of the same elements, same matter. It doesn’t seem natural. With this argument, we are all really old at about 13.7 billion years old.
We’re all about the same age… really young
Humans consist of around 10 trillion human cells (excluding the 100 trillion microbial cells). These cells have a turnover rate that suggests each human consists of entirely different cells every 7 years. With this argument, we are all pretty young with no one older than 7 years old.
We’re all tenants… really big compared to our landlords
Almost everything we see or touch is completely covered with a thin layer of life, i.e. bacteria. They cover us. They cover our loved ones. They cover our…everything! Also, they have been around a lot longer than we have as species. We are just using the same space they are. Heck, we are a space they live! So, in this sense, they are allowing us to use this space as tenants. They are very nice landlords, too. Consider all the benefits we receive from their generosity (think microbiome).
We’re all rentals… really short-lived
Since we’re all made up of the same atoms and these atoms have essentially been around forever, they have been used by other matter before us. And, most certainly, they will be used by matter long after we as humans are gone. Mother Nature sees us as atomic renters, but definitely not rent-to-own.
Apr 03 Reblogged
The Giant Magellan Telescope - GMT
WIth the James Webb telescope launch set for 2015, the GMT, and a lot more telescopes being built, the questions of our universe almost seem to be closer and closer waiting to be solved. I wrote about the GMT almost a year ago and it quickly became one of my favorite telescopes. It will be operational in 10 years the engineers say. I don’t know if that’s too short or too long. Either way let me tell you a little about this amazing telescope.
The Namesake - Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan, everybody knows the famous explorer, he led an expedition in 1522 which was the first to circumnavigate the earth, an ambitious feat for exploration. Astronomy was the primary tool of navigation of that time and Magellan was a certainly a student of astronomy. The expedition saw in the southern hemisphere obscure clouds in the night sky, later named the Magellanic Clouds. These clouds turned out to be island universes, filled with millions of stars orbiting another island universe, our Milky Way.
The Giant Magellan Telescope will continue the tradition of exploration that was set forth 500 years ago. The telescope is also peering into the unknown, maybe finding new questions to our Universe and searching for new worlds.
The Telescope - A Giant
The GMT will utilize a new and unique design. There will be seven 27ft segmented mirrors surrounding a central segment forming a single optical surface. This precision will give the telescope a resolving power 10x that of the Hubble Telescope. The light will be concentrated into CCD (Charge Coupled Device) image cameras which will measure the distance of objects and what their composition is.
This is Where is Gets More Interesting
The telescopes segmented mirrors are flexible. Under each mirror there are hundreds of ‘actuators’ that constantly adjust the mirrors to counteract atmospheric turbulence. These actuators will turn flickering stars into sharp points of light.
High and Dry
A huge advantage is the location of the GMT. Located in Chile in the Atacama Desert at an altitude of approximately 8,500 ft it is the highest and driest location on Earth.