Archive for July, 2013

En Garde! Gang of Feral Cats Attack Woman, Dog in France

Posted in News with tags , on July 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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En Garde! Gang of Feral Cats Attack Woman, Dog in France

By Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor   |   July 26, 2013 11:21am ET
A gang of feral cats attacked a woman and her dog in France.
Credit: Chayasit Fangem | 

One more reason to love dogs: A gang of feral cats in France attacked a woman and her poodle, forcing both victims to seek medical attention for their injuries.

The cat-attack occurred Sunday (July 21) near the city of Belfort in eastern France. The 31-year-old woman was walking her dog near a wooded area when six felines set upon her, knocking her to the ground,The Independent reports.

The victim was treated for injuries at a nearby hospital where she was also given an injection for rabies. Her poodle was treated at a nearby veterinary clinic. [10 Amazing Facts About Cats]

Josette Galliot, the mother of the victim, said, “The cats jumped on my daughter and managed to knock her over. They bit her on the leg and on her arms. They even pierced an artery.”

“My daughter thought it was a living nightmare. She’s still traumatized and is bordering on depression,” Galliot said.

Veterinarians and local residents are divided over what may have provoked the feline fury. According to some observers, a recent heat wave in the area may have played a part in the unusual mauling.

Veterinary specialist Valerie Dramard believes the cats were protecting their territory from the poodle, and the woman simply got in the way.

“Cats are not new zombies of the apocalypse,” Dramard said reassuringly. “They are just very territorial and unfriendly with unknown species.”

But cats are known as aggressive hunters, too: Recent research has revealed that cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds, and between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion small mammals, each year in the United States.

Some wildlife conservationists have even proposed a ban on cats, or at least prohibitions against free-roaming cats. “We have long accepted the fact that you can’t let your dog run free, and yet cat owners seem to take offense at the idea that they would be asked to keep their cats indoors,” Stanley Temple, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus in conservation, told LiveScience.

About 8,000 feral cats are born every day in France, according to The Independent.

“We must get rid of this scourge,” Galliot said. “There are too many cats in the neighborhood, many of which are strays. There are also lots of children here. We don’t want it to happen again.”

For cat lovers, rest assured: Researchers at the University of Oxford have noted that, while numbers are trickier to come by, domestic dogs are also killers of wildlife and disease-spreaders when they’re allowed to roam free outdoors. The scientists’ review of past studies on the effect of roaming domestic dogs was detailed this year in the journal Biological Conservation.

Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on

The Earth breathes, and it is beautiful

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags , on July 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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The Earth breathes, and it is beautiful


The Earth breathes, and it is beautiful

Using NASA’s latest high-resolution satellite imagery of Earth, datavisualization expert John Nelson has created a pair of captivating animations that track seasonal transformations on the blue marble we call home.

“I downloaded the 12 cloud-free satellite imagery mosaics of Earth at each month of the year,” he explains, “wrapped them into some fun projections, then stitched them together into a couple animated gifs.” The end result is a pulsing visualization he calls “A Breathing Earth”:


The Earth breathes, and it is beautiful


Nelson explains the impetus for the animations on his blog:

Having spent much of my life living near the center of that mitten-shaped peninsulain North America, I have had a consistent seasonal metronome through which I track the years of my life. When I stitch together what can be an impersonal snapshot of an entire planet, all of the sudden I see a thing with a heartbeat. I can track one location throughout a year to compare the annual push and pull of snow and plant life there, while in my periphery I see the oscillating wave of life advancing and retreating, advancing and retreating. And I’m reassured by it.


The Earth breathes, and it is beautiful


Absolutely stunning.

See our previous coverage of Nelson’s work herehere and here. Read more about his inspiration for this and other projects on his blog

If this mushroom were a Smurf home it would be an apartment complex

Posted in News with tags on July 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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If this mushroom were a Smurf home it would be an apartment complex


If this mushroom were a Smurf home it would be an apartment complex


A giant mushroom measuring 36 inches across and weighing 33 pounds has been discovered by locals in China’s Yunnan province. But as grotesquely huge as this fungus appears to be, it’s far from being a world record.

It’s still not known what species this mushroom belongs to, or if it’s even edible. It’s also unclear as to whether it can even be considered a single mushroom. Looking at the AP video, it appears to have a single base from which over 100 caps have sprouted out.

But whatever the hell it is, the remarkable specimen was unearthed by locals in the Yunan forest near the township of Puxiong. Nearly 600 species of edible mushrooms are grown in this region each year.

Now, this mushroom may in fact be a world record — but only for its species. It might even go down as the world’s largest edible mushroom, but that remains to be seen. Overall, however, larger fungi have been found.

An inedible 57-pound mushroom was discovered last July in British Columbia.


If this mushroom were a Smurf home it would be an apartment complex

EXPANDImage: Sebastien Therrien.

And according to LiveScience, a giant honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae) was discovered in 1998 growing underground in Oregon. It’s estimated to be about 2,384 acres (965 hectares) in size — and at least 2,400 years old.

[Science World Report/AP; top image via AP/You Tube]

Brain-Eating Amoeba Infects 12-Year-Old Girl


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Brain-Eating Amoeba Infects 12-Year-Old Girl By Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor

Brain-Eating Amoeba Infects 12-Year-Old Girl

A 12-year-old girl in Arkansas has been hospitalized with a case of parasitic meningitis caused by a rare brain-eating amoeba.

The Arkansas Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Kali Hardig contracted the disease after swimming in the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock, Ark.

Arkansas 12-year-old in critical condition from "brain-eating" amoeba

Girl, 12, Contracts Brain-Eating Amoeba During Swim

Hardig’s mother, Traci, took her daughter to a local hospital one day after visiting the water park. “I couldn’t get her fever down,” Hardig told the Christian Post. “She started vomiting. She’d say her head hurt really bad. She cried, and she would just look at me and her eyes would just kind of roll.”

The brain-eating amoebaNaegleria fowlericauses a type of meningitis known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, according to the CDC. The single-celled microbe — found in warm, freshwater lakes and rivers — enters the body through the nose and travels along the olfactory nerves to the brain, where it destroys brain tissue. [The 9 Oddest Medical Case Reports]

In the United States, most infections occur in the South during the summer months. PAM infections are rare: Between 2001 and 2010, just 32 infections were reported in the United States, according to the CDC. The microbe is not found in oceans or other saltwater bodies.

Early symptoms of an infection with Naegleria fowleri usually show up within seven days of exposure and include neck stiffness, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. Later, confusion, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations can occur.

The disease is usually fatal, even when treatment begins earlyDoctors put Hardig in a medically induced coma in order to stabilize her.

Though the majority of cases are caused by swimming in warm bodies of water, at least two cases have been linked to tap water: In 2011, two people living in different areas of Louisiana contracted PAM after using tap water in neti pots to irrigate their nasal passages and sinuses.

Brain-eating amoeba shuts down Ark. water park

Officials in Arkansas have closed the Willow Springs Water Park during their investigation into the case. A 2010Naegleria fowleri infection was also linked to the water park.

To minimize the risk of an infection with Naegleria fowleri, the CDC recommends that swimmers avoid bodies of freshwater when the water is warm, hold the nose shut or use nose clips, and avoid stirring up bottom sediments.

Additionally, people who use neti pots should only use water that is distilled, sterilized, filtered or boiled (and then left to cool), and should clean and dry their pots after each use.

A person cannot become infected from drinking tap water (Naegleria fowleri infections can only be contracted through the nose), and the infection cannot be passed from one person to another.

Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook & Google+. Original article on

Medieval Coffin at King Richard III Site Holds … Another Coffin


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Medieval Coffin at King Richard III Site Holds … Another Coffin

By Megan Gannon, News Editor   |   July 29, 2013 10:26am ET
A lead coffin found inside a stone coffin in the ruins of Grey Friars in Leicester is believed to contain a high-status medieval burial.
Credit: University of Leicester View full size image  

King Richard III’s rediscovered resting place is turning out more mysteries this summer. Excavators finally lifted the heavy lid of a medieval stone coffin found at the site in Leicester, England, only to reveal another lead coffin inside.

The “coffin-within-a-coffin” is thought to have been sealed in the 13th or 14th century — more than 100 years before Richard, an infamous English king slain in battle, received his hasty burial in 1485.

The team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester thinks this grave in the Grey Friars monastery might contain one of the friary’s founders or a medieval knight. [Gallery: In Search of the Grave of Richard III]

“The inner coffin is likely to contain a high-status burial — though we don’t currently know who it contains,” reads a statement from the university.

The outer stone coffin measures about 7 feet (2.1 meters) long and 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide at the head and 1 foot (0.3 meters) at the feet. Eight people were needed to remove its lid.

A team lifts the heavy lid of the stone coffin in Leicester.
Credit: University of Leicester

The lead funerary box inside has been carried off to the university, where researchers will conduct tests to determine the safest way to open it without damaging the remains. But so far, they’ve been able to get a look at the feet through a hole in the bottom of the inner coffin.

The archaeologists suspect the grave may belong to one of Grey Friar’s founders: Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, or William of Nottingham, who died in 1330. Records also suggest “a knight called Mutton, sometime mayor of Leicester,” was buried at the site. This name may refer to the 14th-century knight Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, who died between 1356 and 1362, the researchers say.

“None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before,” archaeologist Mathew Morris, the Grey Friars site director, said in a statement. “We will now need to work out how to open it safely, as we don’t want to damage the contents when we are opening the lid.”

Richard III, the last king of the House of York, reigned from 1483 until 1485, when he was killed in battle during the War of Roses. He received a quick burial at the Grey Friars monastery in Leicester as his defeater, Henry Tudor, ascended to the throne.

Richard’s rise to power was controversial. His two young nephews, who had a claim to the throne, vanished from the Tower of London shortly before Richard became king, leading to rumors that he had them killed. After his death, Richard was demonized by the Tudor dynasty and his reputation as a power-hungry, muderous hunchback was cemented in William Shakespeare’s play “Richard III.” Meanwhile, Grey Friars was destroyed in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, and its ruins became somewhat lost to history.

Setting out to find the lost king, archaeologists started digging beneath a parking lot in Leicester last summer where they believed they would find Grey Friars. They soon uncovered the remains of the monasteryand a battle-ravaged skeleton that was later confirmed through a DNA analysis to be that of Richard III.

In an effort to learn more about the church where Richard was buried — as well as the other people buried alongside him — a fresh dig at the site began in early July.

A King Richard III visitor center is being built at the site and arrangements are being made to reinter the king’s bones. The Cathedral of Leicester recently unveiled its $1.5 million (£1 million) plan to rebury the monarch in a new raised tomb inside the church, with a week of celebrations leading up to the reinterment.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on

Margin Notes Shed New Light on Renaissance Anatomy Masterpiece


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Margin Notes Shed New Light on Renaissance Anatomy Masterpiece

Megan Gannon, News Editor   |   March 27, 2013 04:21pm ET
Enlargement showing Vesalius’s note to the block cutter regarding improvements to the illustration.
Credit: University of Toronto

When the Renaissance physician and expert dissector Andreas Vesalius first published “De humani corporis fabrica” in 1543, he provided the most detailed look inside the human body of his time.

A previously unknown copy of the impressive anatomy textbook resurfaced a few years ago, and it apparently contains more than a thousand handwritten notes and corrections by the author himself. The annotations reveal that Vesalius was meticulously planning a third edition of the book that never made it to print, researchers say.

“This book is his workbench as much as the dissecting table,” Vivian Nutton, a University College London professor emeritus, writes in a recently published analysis of the text in the journal Medical History.

Some edits show that Vesalius wanted to correct mistakes of grammar and syntax and to make his Latin more elegant. Other markings show that he wanted to draw attention to misshapen or illegible letters for his block-cutter. Vesalius also intended to add new information to the text as he learned more about the human body, including what may be one of the oldest references to the practice of female genital mutilation.

In his discussion of circumcision, Vesalius scrawled at the bottom of the page that Ethiopians “cut off the fleshy processes from new born girls in accordance with their religion in the same way as they remove the foreskins of boys, ‘although in their religious ceremonies they are otherwise generally similar to those of us Christians,’” Nutton writes. “This is arguably the first reference in a medical text to female genital mutilation for non-medical purposes.” [5 Things You Didn’t Know About Circumcision]

The copy of the book, on loan from an unnamed German collector, is currently available for study at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

“He is seen constantly attempting to improve his text both scientifically, and stylistically, and to make it clearer and more accessible to his readers,” Philip Oldfield, science and medicine librarian at the University of Toronto, said in a statement. “All the evidence points to the conclusion that Vesalius was preparing a new edition of De fabricathat unfortunately never materialized.”

The book will be featured as part of an exhibition next year in Toronto to mark the 500th anniversary of Vesalius’ birth.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on


Image Gallery: The Oddities of Human Anatomy

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Image Gallery: The Oddities of Human Anatomy

by LiveScience Staff   |   March 05, 2013 09:03am ET

Credit: Leipzig, 1872. Chromolithograph. National Library of Medicine.
A new science of human anatomy arose some 500 years ago, with imagery that was both informative and whimsical, surreal, beautiful and grotesque, according to the National Library of Medicine, whose exhibition “Dream Anatomy” reveals the amazing anatomical imagery.Here, a cross-section from the atlas of anatomist Wilhelm Braune and artist C. Schmiedel.

The female body

Credit: Paris, 1773. Colored mezzotint. National Library of Medicine.
This colored mezzotint by author and artist Jacques Fabien Gautier D’Agoty reveals “the grotesquerie of subject matter, stiffness of the figure, and eccentric arrangement of body parts make for a characteristic dreaminess that eerily anticipates 20th-century modernism,” the National Library of Medicine states.

Life and Death

Credit: Rome, 1691. Copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine
The association between death and anatomy continued in art anatomy, even as it waned in medical texts, as shown here. Bernardino Genga, a Roman anatomist, specialized in studies of classical sculptures, while Charles Errard, court painter to Louis XIV, helped found the Académie Royale de Peinture and was first Director of the Académie de France in Rome.

Anatomical Manakin

Credit: Image Courtesy of the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham
These manikins, between 6 to 7 inches in length, were made from solid pieces of ivory some time between 1500 and 1700. The arms were carved separately and are moveable. The thoracic and abdominal walls can be removed, revealing the viscera. In some manikins the internal organs are carved in the original block and are not removable, while they are formed into separate pieces that can be removed.

Facial Arteries

Credit: Gottingen, 1756. Copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine.
Contemporaries praised the Swiss anatomist Albrecht von Haller for his finely detailed illustrations of finely dissected subjects. This dissection of the arteries of the face was copied and reprinted in numerous other works of anatomy. (Artist: C.J. Rollinus)

Dancing Skeleton

Credit: Rome, 1741. Copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine.
“A skeleton dances a lively step; in the background an arrangement of bones float in the air,” according to the National Library of Medicine. Pietro Berrettini da Cortona’s “exuberant flourishes take their cue from the theatricalism of baroque drama and court entertainments.”

Disembodied Legs

Credit: John Browne (1642-ca. 1702). National Library of Medicine
The muscles of the thigh are illustrated in this drawing reminiscent of men’s breeches.

A New World

Credit: Giulio Casserio. Frankfurt, 1656. Copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine
A frontispiece portrays five anatomists posed around a cadaver. The globe at the top of the illustration, turned toward America, reveals how the anatomists saw themselves: as exploring a “New World” of science.

Harsh Realities

Credit: John Bell. London, 1804. Etching. National Library of Medicine.
Artist John Bell decried overly idealized anatomical art, preferring the harsh realities of dissection.

Pregnancy Pose

Credit: Jacques Fabien Gautier D’Agoty. Paris, 1773. Colored mezzotint. National Library of Medicine
A classic pose of French portraiture meets anatomical art in this painting of a pregnant woman from 1773.

Colorful Muscles

Credit: Paolo Mascagni & Antonio Serantoni. Florence, 1833. Overprinted and hand colored copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine
Colorful images came into fashion in the 1800s, but the flap-like dissection of the muscles heralds back to older styles of anatomical art.


Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on July 30, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Sent By Ben Draper – Canada

Ben & Lesley, 2002


Fabulous photos from long ago, the photo with Frank Sinatra  &

Baseball player Lou Gehrig??

These are vey interesting photos….

September 1933 – Adolf Hitler breaks ground on his ambitious plans to

link all major German cities with highways.  This ceremony

kicked off construction of the Frankfurt-am-Maine –

Darmstadt/Mannheim highway.

Betty White at home with her dog in 1952

An iceberg photographed in 1912 bearing an unmistakable

mark of black and red paint.  It is believed that this is the

iceberg that sake the Titanic. 
Ham the chimp returns to Earth following his historic

16 minute space flight in 1961. 
The rather luxurious seating area of the submarine,

The Protector, in 1902.


Medical students pose with a cadaver around 1890.


The fuel tanks of the B-24H Liberator “Little Warrior”

explode over Germany after being hit by anti-aircraft guns in

The Kennedy family leave the funeral of John F. Kennedy in 1963. 
Native American couple, Situwuka and Katkwachsnea in 1912.

Camp Commandant Amon Goeth, infamous from the movie

“Schindler’s List”, on the balcony of his house overlooking

Plaszow labor camp, Poland. 1943-44. 

Construction of the Sydney Opera House in 1966. 
1945 – German POWs weep and sit in disgust as they watch

footage shot at a German concentration camp. 

June 1915, Gallipoli: a Turkish sniper/sharpshooter,

dressed as a tree, is captured by two Anzacs.

Dinasaurs are trasnsported on the Hudson River to the 1964

World’s Fair….  
Children for sale in Chicago, 1948. 

Some parents sold their children due to poverty….. 
Mourners pay their respect to slain civil rights leader,

Medgar Evars in 1963.  His killer was finally convicted in 1994….  
Union prisoners receive rations at Fort Sumter in 1864…  
The mugshot of Tokyo Rose, 1946.  
A rescue boat comes alongside the crippled USS West Virginia

shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941…  
Two childhood friends unexpectedly reunite on opposite sides

of a demonstration in 1972….  
Survivors of the Titanic are taken on board the Carpathia in

Wielu just after German Luftwaffe bombing the 1st of September

1939. Not only did this bombing provide a spark for World

War II, but it is generally believed to be the first terrorist

bombing in history. 
Soviet soldiers stand dumfounded at a large pile of human ashes

found at the Majdanek concentration camp in 1944….
A burial at sea on board the USS Lexington in 1944…  
Crowds rush through the castle on Disneyland’s opening day

in 1955….

A lion rides in the sidecar during a performance of The Wall of

Death carnival attraction at Revere Beach, Massachusetts in

Future presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush with Governor

George Wallace at a BBQ in 1983…  
Dr. Werhner von Braun and Walt Disney in 1954…  
The Statue of Liberty photographed during a power failure in

The RMS Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship, in wartime

camouflage in 1915.  
Anastasia shares a smoke with her father, Tsar Nicholas II

two years before their assassination in 1916. 

Children rush into a candy store following the end of “sweets

rationing” in 1953…  
Soldiers comfort each other during the Korean war in the early


Albert Einstein brings sexy back in 1932….

What is thought to be the oldest known war photograph: New

Hampshire volunteers depart for the Mexican War in 1846…  
Coney Island in 1905.

George W. Bush plays a little dirty rugby for Yale in 1966.  
Arnold Schwarzenegger shows off to some elderly women in the


Six year-old Arthur Conan-Doyle in 1865…

Construction of Hoover Dam in 1934…

Frank Sinatra asks Lou Gehrig for an autograph in 1939.


Harry Houdini exposes “spirit trickery” in 1925… 
OJ Simpson carries the Olympic Torch in 1984.  Nichole Brown

can be seen on the left.  
A permanent stable cavity caused by the detonation on an

underground nuclear test in 1961.
Vladimir Putin and his childhood friends in 1969.  None

of them have been seen since!
Amelia Earhart receives what proved to be her last haircut

in 1937.  
The Japanese “War Tuba” used to locate enemy aircraft

before the invention of radar.  Circa 1930.
Washington-Hoover Airport which was demolished in 1941.

This is where the Pentagon stands today…  
Mark Twain in 1883…  
The aftermath of the Great Hurricane of 1900 which killed an

estimated 8,000 people in Galveston, Texas.  
Prosthetic legs in 1900…

Is this the mummified body of John Wilkes Booth?  No… but

it traveled the country for decades as a carnival exhibit under

that claim. Circa 1939…
The earliest known aerial photograph, taken from a balloon

over Paris in 1858.

Incredible Technology: How to Explore the Microscopic World


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Incredible Technology: How to Explore the Microscopic World

By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer   |   July 29, 2013 08:26am ET
scanning electron micrograph of crystals of loperamide
Today’s microscopes provide a view of the unseen. Here, a false-colored scanning electron micrograph showing crystals of loperamide, which is a drug used to treat diarrhea.
Credit: Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy | Wellcome Trust

Ever since Robert Hooke first made his beautiful sketches of magnified insects, scientists have been peering at the world through microscopes.

The microscopic world generally refers to things humans can’t see with the naked eye. But thanks to microscopes, scientists have the tools to visualize the detailed structures and dynamic processes inside living cells. Today’s microscopes can reveal everything from the secretion of insulin in pancreatic cells to the chemical crossfire in slices of living brain tissue.

The Dutch glasses maker Hans Jansen and his son Zacharias invented the first compound microscope in 1595, according to letters by the Dutch envoy to the court of France. The microscope consisted of a tube with a lens at either end, in which changing the distance between the lenses changed the magnification.

Hooke used a compound microscope to create the famous sketches in his tome “Micrographia,” published in 1665. Dutch draper and microscope maker Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was also instrumental, being the first to describe sperm cells and bacteria in droplets of water. [Nature Under Glass: Gallery of Victorian Microscope Slides]

Today’s microscopes

But modern microscopes have come a long way since the days of Hooke and van Leeuwenhoek. “Nobody’s looking with their eye anymore — everything’s digital,” said biophysicist David Piston of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

An mEGFP-mitochondria/mOrange-Histone-H2B image of a beta-TC-3 cell.
Credit: Gert-Jans Kremers / Vanderbilt University

The main advance in microscopy has been in the cameras, Piston told LiveScience. The electronic light sensors in cameras, CCDs, are much more sensitive than the human eye. The consumer camera market has driven the price of a good microscope camera down from about $100 thousand to $30 thousand, Piston said.

Modern microscopes come in three flavors: optical microscopes, electron microscopes and scanning probe microscopes.

Within optical microscopes, there are wide-field microscopes and confocal microscopes. Wide-field scopes include your basic light microscope, which has a lens or lenses to magnify visible light transmitted or reflected by a sample. They’re good for looking at single layers of cells or thin tissues, Piston said.

The main advantage of optical microscopes is their ability to image living cells. But they are limited to a resolution of about 200 nanometers, where one nanometer is a billionth of a meter; for comparison, a sheet of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick.

To see finer details, scientists employ electron microscopes, which produce images using a beam of electrons instead of light. These have much better resolution than optical microscopes, because the wavelength of electrons is about 100,000 times shorter than visible light. However, this type of microscope can’t reveal living cells, because the preparation steps or high-energy electron beams kill them.

Magnified Hydrothermal Worm 

Here, a hydrothermal worm, imaged with an electron microscope.

Scanning probe microscopes use a physical probe to scan a sample and produce an image. These scopes enable scientists to view things on the atomic level or smaller.

Oh the things you’ll see

The uses of microscopes span from the mundane to the arcane. A typical use for wide-field microscopy might be observing how a protein called a transcription factor binds to part of a cell’s DNA to activate a specific gene. Improper binding of transcription factors plays a role in many cancers, for example.

An insulin-GFP lentiviral infection of a murine islet of Langerhans.
Credit: Mark Rizzo / University of Vanderbilt

Neuroscientists often use confocal microscopy to visualize activities at the synapses between neurons. They can even look at living slices of an animal’s brain, Piston said.

Electron microscopes provide a stunning level of detail that reveals fine structures. Scientists have used these microscopes to create the iconic close-up images of red blood cells or human hairs.

But ultimately, microscopy’s importance lies in the dynamics of living cells, Piston said. “The ability to look at how things move around will really revolution how we think about cells.”

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook Google+. Original article on


Magnificent Microphotography: 49 Tiny Wonders


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Magnificent Microphotography: 49 Tiny Wonders

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer   |   June 07, 2013 03:54pm ET

Social Slime Mold

Credit: Scott Solomon
Social amoebae, better known as slime molds, have long been known for their migratory ways. When food gets scarce, they amass and travel to new territory, where they reproduce by sending out spherical fruiting bodies containing spores. 

A new study finds that some strains of this social amoeba, called Dictyostelium discoideum, pack bacteria snacks with them before they travel. Once the amoebae reach their destination, they seed the area with the bacteria, ensuring any amoeba offspring will have plenty to eat. Here, the social amoebae fruiting bodies with spores are shown.

Beauty in Embryos

Credit: Vanja Solin and Andreas Hartl
This dreamy illustration of a zebrafish embryo happens to be attached to some cool research. The compilation photo reflects a centuries-old observation that during a certain point in a vertebrate embryo’s development, the embryo will look just like embryos of other vertebrates. The concept is known as the “developmental hourglass.” Embryos look alike in the middle of development, but early and late in development, the embryos’ appearances diverge, just as an hourglass flares out from its narrow “waist.”

Anarchic Blood Vessels

Credit: Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha – Maisonneuve Rosemont Hospital, Jolanta Sapieha and Minuca Nelea – Ecole Polytecnique
Blood vessels grow out of control in this environmental scanning electron microscopy image of a diseased retina. In diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity, blood vessels grow abnormally in the back of the eye and leak blood, causing blindness. At least 4.1 Americans with diabetes are affected. 

Research has shown that inexpensive omega-3 supplements may ease retinopathy. A new study of mice published Feb. 9 in the journal Science Translational Medicine finds that the supplements do so by reducing runaway blood vessel growth. Clinical trials in humans are underway.

Love in the Time of Giardia

Credit: CDC/ Dr. Stan Erlandsen
Is it love or a diarrheal parasite? In this Valentine’s-appropriate image, it’s the parasite. Caught on scanning electron microscope in the midst of dividing into two separate organisms, this Giardia lamblla parasite forms a heart, flagella untwining as the two new protozoa prepare to go their separate ways. When ingested by humans (usually through drinking contaminated water), Giardia protozoa cause a diarrheal disease called giardiasis.

Favorite Microbe Hangouts

Credit: Alex Valm
Microbes crawling around our bodies gravitate to and “hang out” with certain other types of bacteria in their little community. Researchers have known this much about microbes. But until now they could not see these cliques in action. A new microscope technique called CLASI-FISH (combinatorial labeling and spectral imaging fluorescent in situ hybridization), gave scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., a peak at the spatial arrangement of up to 20 microbes in a single field of view. They used the technique to analyze dental plaque, a complex biofilm known to contain at least 600 species of microbes. They were able to visually discriminate 15 different microbial types (shown here), and to determine which two types – Prevotella and Actinomyces – showed the most interspecies associations.

Viral Impact

Credit: Image courtesy of Ivan Konstantinov, Yury Stefanov, Aleksander Kovalevsky, Yegor Voronin – Visual Science Company
A detailed 3-D model of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) won first prize in the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored jointly by the journal Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF), announced Thursday (Feb. 17).
Currently in its eighth year, the international competition honors recipients who use visual media to promote understanding of scientific research. The criteria for judging the entries included visual impact, effective communication, freshness and originality.
That was surely the case for the HIV illustration. Ivan Konstantinov and his team’s winning illustration depict the most highly detailed 3D structural model of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) ever made. “We consider such 3-D models as a new way to present and promote scientific data about ubiquitous human viruses,” said Ivan Konstantinov, one of the scientists who created the illustration.
Konstantinov said his team tried to show the viral particle in as real a light as possible. “While working on the HIV model, over 100 articles from leading scientific journals were analyzed,” he said. “For this project, Dr. Yegor Voronin from the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise helped us evaluate the data, shared recent findings and views in the field, and provided general advice.”

Small Packages

Credit: Randolph Femmer
Phytoplankton never looked so sparkly. These diatoms, or single-celled algae species, glitter under the microscope like tiny jewels. Diatoms form the basis of many a marine food chain, and they’re protected by cell walls made of silica, seen here. When diatoms die, their cell walls form diatomaceous earth, a sediment used in pool filters and some kitty litter. Researchers use diatom deposits as one way to understand the conditions of ancient lakes and bogs.

Ephemeral Beauty

Credit: Kevin MacKenzie, University of Aberdeen
The scales of a moon moth look like palm fronds under the electron microscope. Moon moths, native to Madagascar, don’t have mouths. They do all their eating as larvae. After their metamorphosis into fluttering moths, they live only 10 days. 

The image snagged a spot on the Wellcome Image Awards 2011, which chooses the most striking and technically excellent images acquired by the Wellcome Images picture library in the prior 18 months.

Cellular Starbursts

Credit: Bissell group, UC Berkeley
Three breast cells grown in a lab reveal the trademark starburst shape of a protein called laminin. Like the framework of a house, laminin provides support to body tissue. A new study from UC Berkeley researchers finds that laminin’s interactions with other cellular proteins are also key to the development of breast cancer. The findings are far from being translated into a treatment for breast cancer, but the researchers say the study gives them new molecular targets to investigate.

How Does Your Embryo Grow?

Credit: Georgia Tech/Evan Zamir
Ultra-magnified, a quail embryo reveals the secrets of its rapid growth. According to a new study published in the journal Developmental Dynamics, the radius of the quail yolk doubles every day for the first few days of development, representing a hundreds-fold increase in the egg yolk surface area. For the cells that have to cover that yolk as it grows, the migration across its expanse is “like an ant walking across the earth,” study researcher Evan Zamir of Georgia Tech said in a statement. 

The new study finds that the cells at the edges of the sheet covering the yolk don’t divide. Instead, actively dividing cells in the interior (shown here in blue, purple and orange) migrate out to grow the sheet. But the study isn’t just an excuse to label cells with pretty colors; researchers hope an understanding of how cells migrate over large distances will help them develop treatments for wound healing and cancer.

Mouse Vision

Credit: © Science/AAAS
Here, the ocular lens from a 12-day-old mouse embryo shows expression of a protein called TDRD7 in specialized lens fiber cells, forming foci of so-called RNA granules (stained here in red). The nuclei of the fiber cells are stained blue. Research published in the March 24, 2011, issue of the journal Nature revealed that mice without the protein develop cataract and glaucoma. Mutations in the protein in humans can also lead to cataract, they found.

In a Drop of Water

Credit: Adrian Marchetti, University of Washington, and Andrew Allen, JCVI
These tiny phytoplankton, called diatoms, are the workhorses of the sea, producing much of the carbon and oxygen in the oceans. A new study in the journal Nature finds that diatoms share at least one molecular process once thought unique to animals, suggesting that the ancestors of diatoms were possibly more closely related to the ancestors of animals than to plants.

Hitch a Ride on a Dragonfly

Credit: Janice Haney Carr/CDC
A close-up look at a dead dragonfly found in Georgia revealed this miniature hanger-on. The tiny insect seen in this scanning electron microscope image may have been a dragonfly parasite. Or the bug could be nothing more than debris picked up by the dragonfly on its travels.

Small But Social

Credit: Juergen Berger and Supriya Kadam
Coming to a clump of dirt near you… Myxococcus xanthus is a social bacterium that preys on other microbes in the soil. When food is abundant, the bacteria take a rod-shaped form, shown here in yellow. When times are tough, bacteria cells clump together into multicellular fruiting bodies containing long-lasting spores, seen here in green. 

Some bacteria try to game the system, however, by jockeying to become the hardy spore rather than the supporting fruiting body.

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that some bacteria in the community evolve to “police” these cheaters, a very primitive form of social cooperation.

It’s Not Grandma’s Lace

Credit: Robert Ricker, NOAA/NOS/ORR
A half-finished crochet project? A tattered scarf? Nope — this is a close-up of Claudea elegans, sea algae found off the coast of Australia. 

— Stephanie Pappas

Are We In Outer Space?

Credit: Aoife Roche, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Nope. This is inner space. 

The space between cells is a freeway when you’re a Staphylococcus bacterium. A tight barrier of cells is supposed to prevent outside invaders like these Staph bugs (red and purple) from entering the body. The fact that we get sick is testimony that those barriers sometimes fail. Now, University of Pennsylvania researchers have found one reason why: Some pathogenic bugs have the key that opens secret passages in this cellular wall.

The surface cells in the respiratory system (shown here in blue) let their guard down when they come in contact with certain pathogen molecules. These molecules trigger the respiratory cells to stop producing proteins that keep the junctions between cells tight. Once that happens, it’s no problem for the tiny, deadly microbes to breeze through like they own the place.

— Stephanie Pappas

Who’s Doing the Wave?

Credit: Science/AAAS
Here’s a hint: Something really small. 

These are a laboratory-built version of cilia, tiny hair-like projections off of a cell body. In a cell, cilia beat in synchronization much like “The Wave” so beloved by sports fans, propelling a cell or brushing away foreign material (cilia in our lungs help expel inhaled particles, for example.)

Using just four cellular components, researchers at Brandeis University in Massachusetts found that they could build super-simple cilia that automatically sync up with one another, beating in perfect rhythm. We’d like to see a bunch of drunk baseball fans manage that.

— Stephanie Pappas

Tiny Feet Take Big Steps for Cancer Cells

Credit: Courtneidge lab, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

The spread of cancer from one its initial outpost to someplace else in the body, called metastasis, is the most common reason cancer treatments fail. Some cancer cells rely on microscopic “feet” called invadopodia, which are projections on the cellular membrane that help the cells “walk” to surrounding tissues. Now researchers are reporting online in the July 26, 2011, issue of the journal Science Signaling that they have identified compounds that inhibit invadopodia formation without causing toxicity. The team also found a number of compounds that increased a cancer cell’s invadopodia.

Here, invadopodia (bright red dots) form on metastatic cancer cells.

The Forest in Your Eye

Credit: MPI for Medical Research
These candy-colored “trees” are actually the cells that enable you to see in the dark. They’re called rod cells, and humans have some 120 million of them lining the back of the eye, shooting signals to the brain when they’re stimulated by light. Rods are sensitive to very dim light, unlike their counterparts, cones, which allow us to see color. 

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg made this image using new brain-mapping software that traces the connections between nerve cells 50 times faster than earlier methods. The process has now been tested on the mouse retina, as seen above, and researchers plan to tackle the rodent’s cerebral cortex next. For more amazing brain images, check out LiveScience’s gallery,Inside the Brain: A Journey Through Time.

—Stephanie Pappas

How Do Your Guts Grow?

Credit: T. Savin.
As fetal you developed in the womb, your intestines grew faster than your body, forcing the guts to loop around on themselves. A new study published Aug 4 in the journal Nature found that the patterns of this fold depend on the elasticity, geometry and rate of growth of the gut and the muscles it’s anchored to. 

Here, a chick’s gut melds with a numerical simulation of chicken gut development.

— Stephanie Pappas

Eggshells Hold Hidden Worlds

Credit: Copyright: Hanna Jackowiak
This image taken by Hanna Jackowiak shows the microstructures of the lower parts of eggshell wall in a pheasant. The eggshell in birds is composed of a thick layer of mineral column and underlying thin, fibrous membrane. Scanning electron microscopy was used to show the space between these layers. 

This image was taken during microscopic studies on the spatial structure of the eggshell in the pheasant and was an entry in the 2005 Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge (SciVis) competition, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Journal Science. The competition is held each year to recognize outstanding achievements by scientists, engineers, visualization specialists and artists who are innovators in using visual media to promote the understanding of research results and scientific phenomena. To learn more about the competition and view all the winning entries, see theSciVis Special Report. (Date of Image: May 30, 2005.)

Worm’s Inner World

Credit: Courtesy of the Sanchéz Alvarado lab, Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Flatworms, or planaria, have a network of fine tubules running through their bodies that function much like the kidneys of a mammal. Instead of shunting waste fluids toward the bladder, though, the tubules send it out of the worm’s body through pores on the skin. 

The tubes accomplish this trick thanks to bulb-like structures called flame cells, which contain cilia that move the fluids out toward the skin.

— Stephanie Pappas

Scintillating Cells

Credit: Torsten Wittmann, Scripps Research Institute
Actin (purple), microtubules (yellow), and nuclei (green) are labeled in these cells by immunofluorescence. This image won first place in the Nikon 2003 Small World photo competition. See some of this year’s competition entries here. 

— Stephanie Pappas

Amazing Itsy-Bitsy Rainbow

Credit: Michael Shribak, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass. Image via the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
Do you think of algae as gloopy green slime? Think again. This unicellular diatom (Diatom Arachnoidiscus), a type of algae, reveals an intricate rainbow pattern under 40x magnification. The colorful effect is due to the diatom’s silica cell wall, which encases the organism like a glassy shell.

Tiny, But Deadly

Credit: Cynthia Goldsmith, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Like a parasite clinging to a host, the deadly HIV virus buds from a white blood cell grown in the laboratory. The HIV-1 virus, seen here, is the most common (and deadliest) strain of the disease. It infects immune cells like this lymphocyte, causing their deaths and opening the door for opportunistic infections to swoop in.

Miniature Monster

Credit: H. Freitag (2009)
This creepy-crawly is a spider water beetle, a water-loving bug that lives in mountain rivers on Palawan Island in the Philippines. The beetles get their name from their long, spindly legs (imagine if this fellow stretched his out!). They also create their own little scuba-diving bubbles called “plastrons,” which allow them to live permanently under the water.

What in the World?

Credit: Eva M. Fast & Horatio M. Frydman
This may look like a terribly wonky Christmas tree, but it’s actually a succession of fruit fly egg chambers. The red dots are Wolbachiabacteria, which infect most insect species. The odd thing about aWolbachia infection is that female insects that carry the bacteria lay four times the eggs as females without an infection. 

One reason for this extra fecundity, a new study finds, is that cells divide more readily into gametes (the cells that combine to form offspring, like sperm and egg in humans) in infected female insects. Programmed cell death also drops in developing egg chambers, like those seen in the photograph. Because disease-carrying bugs such as mosquitoes are infected by Wolbachia, researchers hope their results, reported online in Science Oct. 20, will help in developing controls on insect reproduction.

New Age-Defying Trick

Credit: Courtesy of Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Restricting calorie intake has been shown to extend an organism’s life span, and now researchers think they know the secret to this age-defying trick. A new study in fruit flies shows that tweaking a gene called PGC-1 in the intestinal stem cells of fruit flies delayed aging of their intestines and extended their life span by as much as 50 percent. Humans also carry that gene. 

The researchers speculate that boosting the fruit fly version of PGC-1 stimulates the stem cells that replenish the intestinal tissues, keeping the flies’ intestines healthier. The findings, which are detailed in the journal Cell Metabolism, suggest that the fruit fly version of PGC-1 can act as a biological dial for slowing the aging process and might serve as a target for drugs or other therapies to put the breaks on aging and age-related diseases.

(Shown here is a fruit-fly intestine with the different colors representing different cell types; as fruit flies age unregulated stem cell activity and the inability to form cells with specialized functions goes awry.)

Colorful and Cerebral

Credit: Hermann Cuntz, modified by Klas Pettersen
This tangled forest is a false-color representation of the cells that make you who you are: neurons. Brain cells communicate in complex networks, but researchers are getting better and better and unraveling their signals. 

Reporting Dec. 12 in the journal Neuron, Norwegian and German scientists say they’ve used a supercomputer to better understand how the babble of thousands of nerve cells “talking” to one another translates when recorded onto an electrode of the sort used for electroencephalograms (EEGs). This translation effort should make it easier to design brain implants that help control epilepsy, or even enable a paralyzed patient to move his or her limbs with brain waves, the researchers said.

Deadly Gold

Credit: Cynthia Goldsmith, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This tiny virus has made big news lately, killing a man in southern China and causing a national security scare in the United States. The culprit, shown here in gold? H5N1, or avian flu. 

Avian flu rarely jumps from human to human, which is fortunate because the virus kills about 60 percent of people it does infect (they usually get it from close contact with poultry). Researchers from the Netherlands and from Wisconsin caused a stir in December when they published a paper revealing how they’d made avian flu go airborne in ferrets, genetically engineering H5N1 to be highly contagious in mammals. It’s likely the strain would work the same way in humans. This research could be important for understanding how the flu virus evolves and if it’s likely to become highly transmissible on its own, but U.S. government officials, citing biosecurity fears, convinced the researchers and the journals that published the research to redact key details.

Meanwhile, avian flu flexed its muscles in Shenzhen, China, killing a 39-year-old bus driver and triggering a poultry import ban from that area in Hong Kong. The man was the first human avian flu death in 18 months.

Sewing Cells Together

Credit: Reiner Wimmer, Max F. Perutz Laboratories
As we grow, our body must build new blood vessels to feed expanding tissues. Now, new research reveals a critical protein that stitches cells together, allowing new pathways for blood to grow. The protein, called Raf-1, allows cells to stick together and migrate as a group. These cell connections are a bit like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears: If the junctions are too loose, the cells break apart. If they’re too tight, the cells can’t shift and migrate. They have to be just right. 

This image shows the beginnings of cell-cell connections between endothelial cells, the type that make up our blood vessel walls. In green, the transmembrane protein VE-Cadherin mediates the formation of cellular junctions. The cells’ nuclei are stained blue, while the red is actin, the internal “skeleton” of a cell.

Alien Life or Sparkly Decor?

Credit: Dr. Howard J. Spero, University of California, Davis
Alien life? An odd extrasolar planet? Maybe an eyeball? 

Perhaps just as exotic, this planktonic foraminifera called Orbulina universa evolved about 13 million years ago. The single-celled, shelled organism was captured by scuba divers from surface waters off Santa Catalina Island, Calif.

Living inside the calcite spines of this creature are other simple organisms called dinoflagellates; the dinoflagellates have formed a partnership with the foraminifera, using photosynthesis to produce foods while living in the calcium-rich spines.

At the end of their four-week life cycle, the shells from both protists (foraminifera and dinoflagellate) sink to the seafloor where they become part of the microfossil assemblage in deep-sea sediments. The geochemical compositions of such shells are used to reconstruct past ocean changes. Researchers reported in the Jan. 26 issue of the journal Science Express the importance of such geochemistry; they reported that lithium isotopes in sea sediments reflect several intense episodes of mountain-building and other major geologic events in the last 60 million years.

A Mouse’s Hair Trigger

Credit: Image courtesy of Hagen Wende and Carmen Birdmeier
The lightest touch can trigger sensation thanks to these colorful filaments. This image is of nerve fibers wrapped around the hair follicle of a mouse. Run your finger ever-so-lightly across your arm hair: That tickle you feel is the result of nerves like this that detect minute changes in the position of a hair. 

New research on sensory signals finds that a protein crucial to eye development is also important for the ability of both humans and mice to sense vibrations. The c-Maf protein is known for its importance in proper eye development; when something goes wrong with c-Maf, cataracts result. It turns out that when c-Maf mutates, Pacinian corpuscles, a kind of touch receptor specialized to detect fast vibrations, also atrophy. Humans have Pacinian corpuscles in our fingertips, meaning that one messed-up protein can damage multiple senses.

Inflamed Beauty

Credit: Lawrence Marnett and colleagues and Nature Chemical Biology
In brilliant blues and greens, this image reveals a tangle of spinal nerve cells, with neurons in green and supportive glial cells all around. Cell nuclei are shown in blue. The red marks the expression of a gene called COX-2, which is stimulated by inflammation. 

Vanderbilt University researcher Lawrence Marnett and his colleagues have discovered that COX-2 metabolizes endocannabinoids, which are naturally-occurring painkillers in the body that activate the same brain receptors as marijuana. Intriguingly, certain forms of ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) block this metabolism, the researchers find. That means the pain-killing endocannabinoids stick around longer, partially explaining why popping an Advil can kill a headache.

The Claw

Credit: CDC/ Janice Haney Carr
Fancy a handshake with a hornet? This spiky appendage is the foot of an unidentified hornet found in Decatur, Ga. Magnified 87 times, this image is of the insect’s “pretarsus,” or the tip of one of its six legs. The sucker-like pad in the middle of the hornet’s claw is the arolium, and the hair-like projections all over the leg are called setae. This image was taken with a scanning electron microscope in 2007.

Unwelcome Visitor

Credit: CDC/ Dr. Stan Erlandsen
If this fellow is in your well water, don’t quench your thirst. This is a scanning electron microscope image of Giardia muris, a protozoan parasite that causes nasty diarrhea when it infects the intestines of its hosts. 

Giardia has two phases in its life cycle: the cyst, a dormant phase, and the active trophozoite phase, seen here. People can contract the parasite by drinking water contaminated with cysts; from there, the parasite becomes active, with very unpleasant digestive results. Anti-parasite medication can help fight off these fierce freeloaders, which attach to the intestine lining (seen here in blue). The worm-like flagella seen in this image allow the trophozoites to swim freely in the host’s gut.

The Parasite and the Protector

Credit: Image courtesy of Gilles Vanwalleghem, Daniel Monteyne and David Pérez-Morga (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and the Center for Microscopy and Molecular Imaging (Gosselies, Belgium)
An immune cell tangles with a protozoan parasite in a life-or-death struggle. The ribbon-like parasite is Trypanosoma brucei, a microscopic menace that causes African sleeping sickness. The parasite is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly. New research, published June 14, 2012 online by the journal Science, finds that once in the body, this parasite is well-adapted to give the immune system the slip. By releasing certain messenger chemicals, the parasite can shut down the anti-trypanosome proteins in immune cells. 

The findings are important, given that at least 7,000 people per year in sub-Saharan Africa contract sleeping sickness, according to the World Health Organization. As the parasite infiltrates the brain, symptoms include disturbed sleep, confusion and poor coordination. If caught early, African sleeping sickness is treatable; left untreated, it is almost always fatal.

What in the World?

Credit: Image courtesy of C. Marks and D.H.H.Hall
Any guesses as to what this unusual tendril might be? Squid arm? Elephant trunk? Scroll down for the answer … 

You’re looking at the rear end of a tiny worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, one of the most common lab animals in science. These little soil-living nematodes are only about 0.04 inches (1 millimeter) long. They’re handy for scientists because they’re easy to analyze genetically and simple to keep alive in the laboratory. C. elegans can even survive being frozen and thawed, making long-term storage easy.

This image comes courtesy a recent study published July 27 in the journal Science. Researchers mapped the neural connections in the nervous system of the C. elegans posterior, revealing the sexual circuits that play an important role in mating. The nerves of a worm’s rear end may seem like an odd topic of study, but scientists believe that tracing these simple circuits will help them understand how the more complex neural circuits of humans and other mammals work.

The (Tiny) Face of a Killer

Credit: CDC/ Michael and Paula Smith
The visage of a tiny velvet ant peers up in this scanning electron microscope image magnified 23 times. This tiny creature, genusDasymutilla is not actually an ant at all, but a wasp. She (this is a female) boasts a nasty sting, especially if you’re another wasp or bee. In order to reproduce, velvet ants lay their eggs inside the larvae of wasps and bees. When the eggs hatch, they feed on the still-living but paralyzed larvae that house them.

There’s Hair Where!?

Credit: Michigan State University
These odd appendages may look alien, but they’re definitely terrestrial. In fact, they’re practically mundane. These are trichomes, hair-like projections found on plants — in this case, a tomato plant. Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered a gene that allows these trichomes to make acyl sugars, compounds that protect the plants against pests, in cultivated tomatoes. As it turns out, cultivated tomatoes aren’t as prolific as wild ones at making acyl sugars, meaning they’re more vulnerable to insects and other critters that like to chow down on their leaves. The findings could help researchers engineer heartier tomatoes, the scientists reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Snagged It!

Credit: CDC/ Dr. Barry S. Fields
It’s a trap! In this awesome microscopic image, an amoeba reaches out a spindly pseudopod to trap a Legionella pneumophila bacterium. This isn’t curtains for the little green bacterium, though; once ingested, L. pneumophila can live inside the amoeba (Hartmannella vermiformis, for those keeping track at home). In fact, getting engulfed by an amoeba can be the best thing to happen to one of these bacterium, given that the new host then protects it from environmental stresses.L. pneumophila is the agent that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a respiratory illness that can sometimes be fatal.

Guess What?

Credit: Courtesy Edwards Lab/Brown University
What do you see in this finely detailed image? A monster with teeth bared? A scrape of delicate lace? In reality, you’re looking at a cross-section of a leaf of grass. This particular segment comes from a real tough cookie called Eriachne ciliata, which is found in Australia and can make its home in gravelly or stony soil. Researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island examined the anatomy of this and other grasses to better understand how some plants evolved to survive in tough climates. They reported their findings the week of Dec. 24 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What Is This?

Credit: Optics Express
Can you guess what this image is? 

As the 10 nanometer scale bar gives away, you’re looking at the very small. These are the scales covering the abdomen of a firefly. As it turns out, the jagged shape of the scales actually enhances the fireflies’ glow, researchers report Jan. 8, 2013 in the journal Optics Express. [Top 10 Things to See With Your First Microscope]

The scientists used the example of the fireflies (genus Photuris) to design a new overlayer for LED lights that likewise brightens up the bulbs’ output, making them 1.5 times more efficient than the originals.

Biomineral Single Crystals

Credit: Pupa U.P.A. Gilbert and Christopher E. Killian; University of Wisconsin-Madison
Biomineral crystals found in a sea urchin tooth. Geologic or synthetic mineral crystals usually have flat faces and sharp edges, whereas biomineral crystals can have strikingly uncommon forms that have evolved to enhance function. The image here was captured using environmental scanning electron microscopy and false-colored. Each color highlights a continuous singlecrystal of calcite (CaCO3) made by the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata, at the forming end of one of its teeth. Together, these biomineral crystals fill space, harden the tooth, and toughen it enough to grind rock.

Mighty Mitochondria

Credit: Rand lab/Brown University
Your cells need energy to function, and providing that energy is the job of mitochondria, seen here stained dark orange in fruit fly ovary cells. These small but serious structures convert energy from food into forms that the cell can use. Mitochondria also contain their own DNA, passed down from mother to child. Researchers are now learning that mismatches between mitochondrial DNA and the DNA found in a cell’s nucleus can cause disease. Reporting Jan. 31 in PLOS Genetics, Brown University researchers found that when the two genomes clash, enzymes that require both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA for production work less efficiently, resulting in sluggish flies. The findings are a first step in understanding similar disease in humans, the researchers said.

Lil’ Spiky

Credit: Kirsi Rilla
This strange specimen is an ordinary cell, transformed by scientists into a cancer-promoting monster. Using gene transfer, researcher from the University of Eastern Finland coaxed this cell into producing large quantities of a carbohydrate compound called hyaluronan. The spiky protuberances that make this cell look like a Koosh ball are actually hyaluronan factories. 

Hyaluronan is part of the body’s chemical toolbelt for healing, but it can also promote inflammation and cancer. New research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry finds that high sugar concentrations in the blood promote the production of hyaluronan, which may explain why diabetics have an elevated risk of breast cancer. Researchers hope that slowing hyaluronan production could slow the spread of cancerous cells.

So Smooth

Credit: Vira V. Artym, LCDB/NIDCR
This shot may look like a far-off alien galaxy, but it’s quite close to home. Using fluorescent dyes and a laser-scanning confocal microscope, researchers captured this image of an embryonic smooth muscle cell. Smooth muscle is the muscle not under voluntary control, such as the muscle lining the gut. Here, the structural underpinning, or cytoskeleton, of the cell glows in green.

Spiking Out to Settle Down

Credit: Brian Gaylord/UC Davis
Sea urchin larvae begin their transformation into adulthood by sprouting spikes. These microscopic larvae ply the tides for about a month before settling down on rocky shorelines. New research published April 8, 2013 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that high turbulence near rocky reefs gives larvae a clue to start searching for a grown-up home. The turbulence signals keeps larvae from wasting their time looking for rocks on sandy beaches.

What in the World?

Credit: Dekker Lab, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Here’s a hump day guessing game for the visually inclined: What is this odd black-and-white object? Helpful hint: It acts something like your nose. 

Are all the guesses in? This is an ultra-close look at a moth antenna. Male moths use their antennae to detect pheromones from females, which travel through the air in plumes (look out, your porch light may be surrounded). A new study published April 15, 2013 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that male moths aren’t perfect at sniffing out the chemicals in these plumes, so they sometimes mate with strains of moths they wouldn’t otherwise approach. The finding explains the number of hybrid moths in nature.