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.
Melting Steel With Bacon!
Thanks to the elaborate hydrocarbon chains in pork fat, there’s enough chemical energy stored in bacon to melt steel. You just have to find some way to get at all that energy.
By using pure oxygen to power the combustion reaction, nearly all of the chemical energy in the bacon’s bonds is converted to heat. He’s literally running the oxygen through the meat like a flaming hose of delicious thermal destruction. It goes to show you how much chemical energy is wasted in normal combustion (also known as “burned bacon”).
Non-meat-eaters, rejoice. He also tests out a vegan version made from a cucumber and breadsticks. As for me, I think it’s the second-best use of bacon I’ve ever seen, next to eating it.
This visualization shows the moon’s phase and libration throughout the year 2013, at hourly intervals.
Each frame represents one hour. In addition, this visualization also shows other relevant information, including moon orbit position, subearth and subsolar points, distance from the Earth. Click each graphic to learn more about what it means! Finally, to learn more about this visualization, or to see what the moon will look like at any hour in 2013, visit here.
Learn about your lunar satellite, folks. It’s the only one we have. You might notice the Moon is sort of rocking back and forth. That’s called libration, and you can learn how it works here.
Stars, Stars, Everywhere Stars!
A stunning and beautiful in-browser visualization of over 100,000 stars nearby Earth, from Google Chrome labs. It uses actual star location data to draw a 3D map of our Milky Way ‘hood.
The video above is a demo, which is amazing on its own. The full visualization can be found here for those with enough computing horsepower to run it. We may not have warp drive, but we can travel the cosmos from right here in our own browser windows!
Billions and billions!!! Whooooooaaa!!!
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.
Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra both love NASA and would like to tell you that supporting our space program helps develop technology that can benefit society at large, like medical imaging.
I can scarcely believe that this is a thing, that happened.
Wired has a collection of these 80’s gems, featuring everyone from Ray Charles to Charlton Heston. Or you can watch them all (plus some newer ones) on the NASA Spinoff YouTube channel. So how about that NASA science, WIllie?
“It’s led to a lot of things that have helped all of us, city dudes and country cousins alike.”
Right on, man. Right on.
From the archives: a ladybug swarm + more slow motion.
I’ve had the proverbial “lucky ladybug” land on me a number of times, always to fly off again within a few seconds. But I’ll admit, until now it never occurred to me how strange and intricate a process it is for them to unsheath their wings from beneath that spotted shell.
It’s like a tiny, beautiful Transformer, designed by nature, rollin’ out.