Watch zebrafish cells chase each other into patterns!

An amazing article from Ed Yong describes a new mechanism for pattern formation:

Coloured Cells Chase Each Other To Make A Fish’s Stripes

Zebrafish patterns aren’t just controlled by a chemical reaction-diffusion mechanism — the pigment cells actually chase each other! The different color cells sort themselves into stripes, spots, or other patterns depending on their relative speeds.


Underside of the leaf of the giant Amazon water lily. This particular specimen is a hybrid of Victoria amazonica and V. cruziana, and set a world record with its leaf —  2.65m (8’ 6½’’) across!

From The Living Rainforest, via I Fucking Love Science


All Of The Asteroids That Could Potentially End The World

Here’s the path of the nearly 1,400 asteroids that would cause “major devastation” if they hit our planet.

It’s no surprise that NASA is keeping track of all potentially hazardous objects, or PHOs, that surround our planet. If it’s closer than 4.6 million miles away and larger than about 350 feet in diameter, NASA’s watching it. And if a comet or asteroid’s orbit comes close enough to ours that there’s some potential for it to collide with our planet, NASA classifies it as a PHO. If something that size smacked Earth, it’d cause a major tsunami (if it hit water) or major regional destruction (if it hit land).

There are 1,397 known potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) at the moment, which you can see in this list. (The other PHOs are comets.) But why look at a list when you can look at a massive gorgeous picture? The image above, taken from NASA/JPL’s Photojournal, shows all 1,397 of those PHAs as represented by their orbits. Kind of amazing that we haven’t been hit by one, isn’t it?

[via Photojournal]


Facts About Fireflies

  • Fireflies talk to each other with light.

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

  • Fireflies produce “cold light.”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

  • Firefly eggs glow.

Adult fireflies aren’t the only ones that glow. In some species, the larvae and even the eggs emit light. Firefly eggs have been observed to flash in response to stimulus such as gentle tapping or vibrations.

  • Fun Fact: Light Organs

The glow from fireflies or lightning bugs comes from photic organs, or organs that produce light.

  • Fun Fact: Making Light

Fireflies combine three special substances in their photic organs to make light. The three substances are:
luciferin (a pigment),
luciferase (an enzymatic catalyst),
and ATP (nucleotide that provides energy to cells).

  • How to Catch Lightning Bugs

Tips on how best to catch lightning bugs or fireflies. | More

  • Creating Firefly Habitats

What kind of habitat do fireflies like? Why do they like standing water? | More



Gravity Map of the Moon

The GRAIL mission was launched by NASA on September 10, 2011 and consisted of two small spacecraft, GRAIL A and GRAIL B. The acronym GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory and aimed to measure in very high quality the gravitational field of the moon. The two spacecraft, nicknamed Ebb and Flow, orbited the Moon for almost a year, starting on 31 December 2011, and ending on December 17, 2012 when they both impacted the surface of the moon. In the images generated, see above, the red zones are areas of above average gravitational pull, while blue areas are below the average gravitational attraction. The data gathered by Ebb and Flow will be used to help create much more accurate fuel consumption models for future missions to and around the moon.

You are not an encapsulated bag of skin dragging around a dreary little ego. You are an evolutionary wonder, a trillion cells singing together in a vast chorale, an organism – environment, a symbiosis of cell and soul.


A new project to create a life-like simulation of Caenohabditis elegans (pictured above), a roundworm. OpenWorm isn’t like these other initiatives; it’s a scrappy, open-source project that began with a tweet and that’s coordinated on Google Hangouts by scientists spread from San Diego to Russia. If it succeeds, it will have created a first in executable biology: a simulated animal using the principles of life to exist on a computer.

Protein Homology Network, data visualization by Alex Adai, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology – University of Texas, 2002

“The network summarizes the results of aprox. 92 billion pairwise amino acid sequence alignments between 289,069 proteins from 90 genomes. The final network is composed of 27,325 connected sets summing to 7,940,873 edges. An edge is colored blue if it connectes 2 proteins from the same species, and red if it connects 2 proteins from 2 different species. If that information is not available the edges are colored based on layout hierarchy.”

via Visual Complexity


Today’s Smile by qubibi

<meta property=“og:description” content=
This is a website I created after being affected by the 3.11 Earthquake in Japan,
and the nuclear power plant incidents that followed.”


UPDATE 2012-02-05
Shortly after I’ve posted this The Daily Dot wrote more about
qubibi (Kazumasa Teshigawara), the process and emotions behind this work.

R. D. Laing, Knots (1970)


There is something I don’t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don’t know what it is that I don’t know,
and yet am supposed to know,
and I feel I look stupid
if I seem both not to know it
and not to know what it is I don’t know.
Therefore I pretend I know it.
This is nerve-racking
since I don’t know what I must pretend to know.
Therefore I pretend to know everything.

I feel you know what I am supposed to know
but you can’t tell me what it is
because you don’t know that I don’t know what it is.

You may know what I don’t know, but not
that I don’t know it,
and I can’t tell you. So you will have to tell me everything.

R.D. Laing: Wikipedia, Knots, another excerpt of Knots

See also Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory (Wikipedia; article)

Images 1 and 2: Living pluteus larva of the sea biscuit Clypeaster subdepressus under polarized light microscopy. Only the skeleton remains visible. Photos by Bruno C. Vellutini (Wikimedia; Flickr); cc-by-sa

Image 3: Pluteus larva via ccNeLaS

Image 4: Developing pluteus larva. Via Wikimedia. Public domain

Image 5: Sea urchin development tattoo via The Loom

Caption: “Greetings! Here’s a pic of my science tat. I studied sea urchin development for my dissertation. Upon completion 2 yrs ago, I awarded myself this tat for my academic achievement. The tat is of a sea urchin egg, 2 cell embryo, blastula, gastrula, prism stage and pluteus larval stage. Or as my friend’s say, an orange developing into an Alien face-grabber.”

Actinotroch of Phoronis vancouverensis

From Invertebrate Embryology blog

Caption: “These pictures are stacks of confocal images of two different actinotroch larvae of the horseshoe worm Phoronis vancouverensis (Phylum Phoronida). P. vancouverensis is a rather inconspicuous phoronid which lives in small (a few centimeters long) muddy tubes in clumps, attached to some sort of hard substratum (a rock, a floating dock) often in somewhat muddy surroundings. This species broods its larvae in the crown of tentacles, called the lophophore. I gently shook the larvae out of the lophophore of an adult and prepared them for confocal microscopy with my students while teaching the Comparative Embryology course at the Friday Harbor Labs in the Summer 2007.

We preserved the larvae and stained them with fluorescent phallodin (a toxin, derived from the deathcap mushroom Amanita phalloides), which binds to filamentous actin. Muscles are highlighted because they are full of actin, a protein which enables cellular contractility. So, most of what you see on these pictures are muscle fibers. There is also quite a bit of actin in the cell cortex (the region of the cytoplasm adjacent to the plasma membrane). So, the outlines of epidermal cells are often also labeled with phalloidin.”