is now available online. This issue, explores the technologies that are helping us to understand the brain, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).
About the cover:
This photograph, taken by Robert Ludlow, shows the surface (cortex) of a human brain belonging to an epileptic patient. The image displays the bright red arteries that supply the brain with nutrients and oxygen and the purple veins that remove deoxygenated blood. This photograph was taken before an intracranial electrode recording procedure for epilepsy, in which electrical activity is measured from the exposed surface of the brain. To find out more about Robert’s image and its creation, view this video on the UCL Institute of Neurology’s website. (Wellcome Image Awards 2012)
Scientists Use Cells to Fold Origami
Picture a gingerbread house. Without the frosting that glues its walls and windows together, it would be nothing but a disorganized pile of cookies and candy. The “glue” makes it all possible.
So it is with our bodies. We are a carefully organized cellular panoply of dozens of cell types, from muscle to bone to nerve, but without connective tissue, we’d just be a pile of cellular mush. Much of our cellular glue is created by a type of cell called a “fibroblast”, which secretes a sticky web called the extracellular matrix that those muscle, bone, nerve and other cells use as a sort of structural scaffold. These fibroblasts, as anyone who’s ever seen them under a microscope knows, are known for their spiky, tentacle-like arms, allowing them to move and squeeze into our the nooks and crannies that make up … well, the inside of us.
The fibroblast cells in this video were placed on the hinges of microscopic origami patterns. When their sticky, prehensile arms pull on those hinges, they are able to fold them into 3D shapes, using the same structural goop and scaffolds that hold our bodies together!
Very cool. Let’s see them make a crane.
Why is science important in young kids’ lives?
- Science involves a lot of communication with other people.
- Science develops patience and perseverance in kids.
- It can help kids form a healthy dose of skepticism.
- Science teaches kids about the world around them.
- Science can spark in kids’ minds that they, too, can help solve the world’s big problems.“It can teach children to form their own opinions, rather than taking those of others for granted.”
Astronomers have spotted seven galaxies that existed just a few hundred million years after the universe’s birth, including one that may be the oldest found to date.
This new image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) 2012 campaign reveals a previously unseen population of seven faraway galaxies, which are observed as they appeared in a period 350 million to 600 million years after the big bang. Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), and the UDF 2012 Team
The potential record-holding galaxy, known as UDFj-39546284, likely existed when the universe was just 380 million years old, researchers said, and may be the farthest galaxy ever seen. The other six distant galaxies all formed within 600 million years of the Big Bang, which created our universe 13.7 billion years ago.
UDFj-39546284 was detected previously, and researchers had thought it formed just 500 million years or so after the Big Bang. The new observations, made using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, push its probable formation time back even further.
The seven galaxies constitute the first reliable census of the epoch from 400 million to 600 million years after the universe’s birth, researchers said. This census detects a steady increase in galaxies over this period, suggesting that the formation of the first stars and galaxies — the so-called “cosmic dawn” — happened gradually rather than suddenly.
“The cosmic dawn was probably not a single, dramatic event,” study lead author Richard Ellis, of Caltech in Pasadena, told reporters today (Dec. 12).
Ellis and his team pointed Hubble at a small patch of sky known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which the telescope observed for many hours to build up enough light to spot extremely faint, distant objects. The researchers used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to study the deep field in near-infrared wavelengths during August and September 2012.
The astronomers used special filters to measure the galaxies’ redshifts — how much their light has been stretched by the expansion of space. From the redshifts, the researchers were able to calculate the distance to each galaxy, revealing their ages.
The results “represent our cosmic roots,” said Harvard astronomer Abraham Loeb, who was not involved in the study. The new Hubble data “comes from the biggest archaeological dig that we have of the universe.”
Located in a relatively vacant region of space about 4200 light-years away and difficult to see using an amateur telescope, the lonesome planetary nebula NGC 7354 is often overlooked.
However, thanks to this image captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope we are able to see this brilliant ball of smoky light in spectacular detail.
Just as shooting stars are not actually stars and lava lamps do not actually contain lava, planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. The name was coined by Sir William Herschel because when he first viewed a planetary nebula through a telescope, he could only identify a hazy smoky sphere, similar to gaseous planets such as Uranus.
The name has stuck even though modern telescopes make it obvious that these objects are not planets at all, but the glowing gassy outer layers thrown off by a hot dying star.
It is believed that winds from the central star play an important role in determining the shape and morphology of planetary nebulae. The structure of NGC 7354 is relatively easy to distinguish. It consists of a circular outer shell, an elliptical inner shell, a collection of bright knots roughly concentrated in the middle and two symmetrical jets shooting out from either side. Research suggests that these features could be due to a companion central star, however the presence of a second star in NGC 7354 is yet to be confirmed.
Biggest Structure in the Universe Explained (Infographic)
Astronomers have discovered a huge formation of 73 quasars representing the largest structure yet observed in the universe.
The quasar group is very distant, and therefore existed when the universe was much younger than it is now. A quasar is a very energetic black-hole-powered galactic nucleus. Quasars first appeared in the very early universe, soon after the Big Bang. The light from a quasar is so intense that it can be visible from across the universe.
A remarkable thing about the new discovery is that the structure is larger than cosmological theory says is possible.
The currently accepted Cosmological Principle, based on the work of Albert Einstein, suggests that the largest structures we should be able to find would be about 370 megaparsecs across (more than 1.2 billion light-years). The newly found quasar group is 1,200 megaparsecs across, a distance that would take four billion years to cross at the speed of light.
The largest structures that we know that are close to Earth are super clusters of galaxies surrounding vast voids in space. The Sloan Great Wall is the largest such structure and is at the top end of the size limit set by the Cosmological Principle.
EyeWire: You Play a Game, Scientists Map Neurons
Everyone wins! You guys should really check out EyeWire, an online game that helps you map neurons without any knowledge of biology. It’s revolutionary neuroscience, harnessing the power of thousands of video gamers to do a job that supercomputers can barely do.
EyeWire is a citizen science game created by MIT’s Sebastian Seung and friends. Seung, famous for his work on the connectome (and the book of the same name), studies how mapping the nervous system’s connections help us define its true function. Understanding how our nervous system works requires knowing more than how one neuron works, we have to understand how they connect to each other to create larger networks.
In EyeWire, you tour through pattern-filled cubes, clicking colored blobs to help the software map the arms of J cells (that’s one above), a type of neuron in the retina whose connections are very poorly understood. It’s seriously addictive, and you’ll be making a real difference in our understanding of the brain.
So why make a game? This kind of pattern recognition is very hard for computers to do. The human brain is amazingly adept at picking out patterns, far better than even our most powerful machines.
My only minor complaint is that its popularity is making gameplay a little slow this first week. The great I F*cking Love Science Facebook page helped crash their servers yesterday, which are now back up, but new players are only being allowed in a handful at a time. So follow EyeWire on Facebook to find out when you can sign up. You’ll be glad you did.
I’m sure that the hordes of It’s Okay To Be Smart and other Tumblr science readers can crash the servers better than any Facebook page can, right?
What Makes Cancer Cells Different?
We’ve talked before about how tricky a disease cancer is. Or, if you want to be accurate, how tricky a “set of diseases” it is. I mean, a single tumor is like a world unto itself, full of different populations of cells, each with their own individual set of mutations. That’s crazy to think about.
Cancer is the result of one of our cells’ most basic and core functions, cell division, gone awry. What causes it, in the large sense? How can we use cancer’s tricks against it to try and treat these diseases?
George Zaidan tackles those questions for TED-Ed in the video above. If nothing else, it’s the best combination of beans, fabric and cancer biology I’ve ever seen in a video. Goes nicely with my TED-Ed video on how the human genome is organized in the first place.