This just in: spiders tune the silk threads of their webs like guitar strings
… and they use the distinct vibrational frequencies to help them locate meals and mates. Hear the full story of these good vibrations, from NPR’s Christopher Joyce, here.
And watch our video!
Light micrograph of a mouse embryo, approximately 10.5 days post-fertilisation. The specimen was stained with a fluorescent marker that highlights the presence of precursor cells to nerve tissue then chemically treated to make it optically transparent.
Credit: Jim Swoger.
Paramecium Escaping an Amoeba
Mr. Ralph Grimm
Differential Interference Contrast, 20x Objective
He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and your pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and the magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again.
Chromosome chart made out of gummy worms by artist Kevin Van Aelt
The Incredible Eye
The eye stands as a testament to the effectiveness and magnitude of what can be achieved through natural selection. These extraordinary false-colour SEM images of the human eye were the brainchild of Professor Pietro Motta at the Institute of Human Anatomy of the University La Sapienza in Rome.
Top Left: Surface cells on the iris of the eye. Pigment cells (melanocytes, blue and brown) can be seen here, joined loosely together by connective tissue fibres (white). Smaller macrophage cells dot the surface.
Top Right: Lens of the eye. Lens cells run diagonally (dark green) across this field of view. The transparency of the lens (width 4 millimetres) is due to the absence of nuclei in these cells, and to the crystalline precision of their arrangement.
Centre: The inner surfaces of the iris and adjoining structures in the human eye. At far right (blue) is the edge of the pupil, the hole that allows light into the eye. Coloured mauve is the iris which controls the size of the pupil and therefore how much light will enter. The band of folds down the centre (red) are the ciliary processes.
Bottom left: The surface of the cornea. The matrix- like pattern (seen here) consists of individual flattened transparent cells. This is a stratified squamous epithelium which is 5 cell layers deep. Although full of nerves, there are no blood vessels in the cornea.
Bottom right: The human retina featuring the central fovea, a crater-like depression in the photosensitive layer of the eye. The foveal retina is the area of greatest visual acuity and contains only cone receptor cells. When an eye looks at an object, that part focused on the fovea is the portion most accurately registered by the brain.
All image credit goes to Professor Pietro Motta and Science Photo Library.
According to a study in the journal Animal Cognition, chimpanzee’s do something that seems altogether arbitrary: ear accoutrements.
“Our observation is quite unique in the sense that nothing seems to be communicated by it,” says study author Edwin van Leeuwen, a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in The Netherlands.
To figure out if this was really a tradition, and not just chimpanzees sticking grass in their ears at random, van Leeuwen and his colleagues spent a year observing four chimp groups in Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, a sanctuary in Zambia.
There’s no genetic or ecological factors, the scientists believe, that would account for this behavior — only culture.
Chimpanzees putting grass in their ears is like us wearing earrings.
Floral anatomy from artist Camila Carlow’s project Eye Heart Spleen
Carlow on her project:
The most fascinating and intricate of biological structures, yet we rarely pay heed to the organs inside our body. Regardless of whether we fill ourselves with toxins or nourishing food, whether we exercise or not - our organs sustain us, working away effortlessly and unnoticed.
In a similar way, plants flourishing in the urban environment are a testament to nature’s indifference to our goings on. They grow out of the sides of buildings, in brick walls and between the cracks in concrete, despite of the traffic and pollution.
Click on the images to see which organs are represented.
From Ebola in West Africa to chikungunya in the Caribbean, the world has had plenty of strange — and scary — outbreaks this year.
Some pathogens have even landed in the U.S. Just a few months ago, two men boarded planes in Saudi Arabia and brought a new, deadly virus from the Middle East to Florida and Indiana.
Nobody along the way caught Middle East respiratory syndrome. But all of these plane-hopping pathogens got us wondering: How easily do bacteria and viruses spread on commercial jets? And is there anything we can do to cut our risk?
Microbiologist James Barbaree and his team at Auburn University have been trying a few simple experiments to figure out the first question.
The airlines gave the scientists parts on commercial jets where spread might take place — a steel toilet button, the rubber armrest, the plastic tray table and, of course, “the seat pocket in front of you.”
Barbaree and his team sterilized the surfaces and then painted on two dangerous microbes: the antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA and E. coliO157, which will give you an unforgettable case of diarrhea.
Several days later, the microbes were still happily thriving on the plane parts. E. coli survived about four days. MRSA lasted at least a week, the team reported at a scientific meeting in May.
Such hardiness is common for MRSA and E. coli, Barbaree says. “I’m not surprised at all the bacteria survived so long on the surfaces,” he says. “MRSA has been tested on other surfaces. And in one case, it lasted over a year.”
In general, the bacteria tended to stick on the plane surfaces instead of hopping onto a pig skin — an experimental proxy for a traveler’s hand. But some of the bugs did make the jump from the plane onto the fake hand.
Illustration by Benjamin Arthur for NPR