quantumaniac
moderation:

Wrinkles Help Fingers Get a Grip
A long soak in the tub can wreak havoc on your fingertips, transforming your smooth digits into wrinkly eyesores. But this rumply skin may actually serve a purpose, according to a new study. It helps us get a stronger grip on slippery objects, especially those underwater.
Scientists long thought that wrinkly fingers were caused by osmosis—swelling of the outer layer of the skin as water seeped into cells. But experiments conducted in the past few years—as well as observations that water-induced wrinkles don’t form on the tips of previously severed but subsequently reattached fingers—suggest that the wrinkles are instead produced by nerves that automatically trigger constriction of the blood vessels beneath the skin, reducing the volume of the tissues there.
Having something under the direct control of a nerve, even an involuntary one, suggests it serves an evolutionary purpose. But that begged the question of what function finger wrinkles have. In 2011, a team of neuroscientists proposed that the folds improved our grip on wet or submerged objects, just as the treads on tires help improve traction. “That seemed like a clever hypothesis that would be easy to test,” says Tom Smulders, an evolutionary biologist at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.
So, he and his colleagues designed an experiment where volunteers picked up 45 submerged objects such as glass marbles and lead fishing weights from a bin one at a time with their right hand, passed them through a postage stamp-sized hole in a barrier to their left hand, and then dropped them through another hole into a box.  When test subjects had wrinkly fingertips—induced by soaking their hands in 40°C water for 30 minutes—they completed the task about 12% faster than they had when their fingers hadn’t been soaked, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. When performing the same task with dry objects, wrinkly fingertips didn’t provide a performance advantage.
The team’s results are “very interesting,” says Xi Chen, a biomechanical engineer at Columbia University who has analyzed how the skin on fingertips buckles when vasoconstriction causes underlying tissues to shrink. “They show that the wrinkles have a biological function.”
(via sciencemag)

moderation:

Wrinkles Help Fingers Get a Grip

A long soak in the tub can wreak havoc on your fingertips, transforming your smooth digits into wrinkly eyesores. But this rumply skin may actually serve a purpose, according to a new study. It helps us get a stronger grip on slippery objects, especially those underwater.

Scientists long thought that wrinkly fingers were caused by osmosis—swelling of the outer layer of the skin as water seeped into cells. But experiments conducted in the past few years—as well as observations that water-induced wrinkles don’t form on the tips of previously severed but subsequently reattached fingers—suggest that the wrinkles are instead produced by nerves that automatically trigger constriction of the blood vessels beneath the skin, reducing the volume of the tissues there.

Having something under the direct control of a nerve, even an involuntary one, suggests it serves an evolutionary purpose. But that begged the question of what function finger wrinkles have. In 2011, a team of neuroscientists proposed that the folds improved our grip on wet or submerged objects, just as the treads on tires help improve traction. “That seemed like a clever hypothesis that would be easy to test,” says Tom Smulders, an evolutionary biologist at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

So, he and his colleagues designed an experiment where volunteers picked up 45 submerged objects such as glass marbles and lead fishing weights from a bin one at a time with their right hand, passed them through a postage stamp-sized hole in a barrier to their left hand, and then dropped them through another hole into a box. When test subjects had wrinkly fingertips—induced by soaking their hands in 40°C water for 30 minutes—they completed the task about 12% faster than they had when their fingers hadn’t been soaked, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. When performing the same task with dry objects, wrinkly fingertips didn’t provide a performance advantage.

The team’s results are “very interesting,” says Xi Chen, a biomechanical engineer at Columbia University who has analyzed how the skin on fingertips buckles when vasoconstriction causes underlying tissues to shrink. “They show that the wrinkles have a biological function.”

(via sciencemag)

scinerds
frontal-cortex:

Nano-worlds
Scanning electron microscopes often takes us in unexplored and wild landscapes, natural or not. This one is not, in fact, natural, and it’s not a flower either. These are titanium dioxide nanowires. By “nano” it means that they are measured in the nanoworld of nanometers, the billionth of a meter, way beyond what our eyes can perceive. As in the famous question “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it makes a sound ?”, if something is so small as so to be invisible to the eye, is it even there ? With a scanning electron microscope, an electron beam, condenser lenses, deflectors plates, you can show that it is. There. In all its magnified glory.
Photo credits : Prof. M Welland, Dr. James Bendall, Dr. Natalie Plank (Engineering at Cambridge)

frontal-cortex:

Nano-worlds

Scanning electron microscopes often takes us in unexplored and wild landscapes, natural or not. This one is not, in fact, natural, and it’s not a flower either. These are titanium dioxide nanowires. By “nano” it means that they are measured in the nanoworld of nanometers, the billionth of a meter, way beyond what our eyes can perceive. As in the famous question “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it makes a sound ?”, if something is so small as so to be invisible to the eye, is it even there ? With a scanning electron microscope, an electron beam, condenser lenses, deflectors plates, you can show that it is. There. In all its magnified glory.

Photo credits : Prof. M Welland, Dr. James Bendall, Dr. Natalie Plank (Engineering at Cambridge)

sciencecenter
sciencecenter:

What was the biggest science discovery of 2012?
Was it the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN? Was it the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars? Was it something you may not have even heard of, like the synthesis of XNA (which I’m totally going to go read about, by the way)? Wired Science walks you through some of the best science stories of the year. Check them out, and then be sure to weigh in with your favorite!

sciencecenter:

What was the biggest science discovery of 2012?

Was it the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN? Was it the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars? Was it something you may not have even heard of, like the synthesis of XNA (which I’m totally going to go read about, by the way)? Wired Science walks you through some of the best science stories of the year. Check them out, and then be sure to weigh in with your favorite!

sciencecenter

sciencecenter:

The year’s best microscopy photos

The closer you look, the more amazing nature appears. These amazing microscopy pictures prove just that. Be sure to click through and check out the whole gallery.

Top - Red algae Scagelia

Bottom left - A common East coast U.S. fern, Polypodium virginianum, showing a cluster of spore-filled sporangia and specialized protective hairs called paraphyses.

Bottom right - Beta-tubulin expression of a Drosophila third instar larval brain, with attached eye imaginal discs.

sciencecenter
sciencecenter:

Spider builds its own spider decoys in web
Think the above picture is a spider? Well look a little harder - it’s actually a decoy made out of debris and assembled by the Cyclosa spider. Wired has more: 

A spider that builds elaborate, fake spiders and hangs them in its web has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon.
Believed to be a new species in the genus Cyclosa, the arachnid crafts the larger spider from leaves, debris and dead insects. Though Cyclosa includes other sculpting arachnids, this is the first one observed to build a replica with multiple, spidery legs.
Scientists suspect the fake spiders serve as decoys, part of a defense mechanism meant to confuse or distract predators. “It seems like a really well evolved and very specialized behavior,” said Phil Torres, who described the find in a blog entry written for Rainforest Expeditions. Torres, a biologist and science educator, divides his time between Southern California and Peru, where he’s involved in research and education projects.
“Considering that spiders can already make really impressive geometric designs with their webs, it’s no surprise that they can take that leap to make an impressive design with debris and other things,” he said.

sciencecenter:

Spider builds its own spider decoys in web

Think the above picture is a spider? Well look a little harder - it’s actually a decoy made out of debris and assembled by the Cyclosa spider. Wired has more: 

A spider that builds elaborate, fake spiders and hangs them in its web has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon.

Believed to be a new species in the genus Cyclosa, the arachnid crafts the larger spider from leaves, debris and dead insects. Though Cyclosa includes other sculpting arachnids, this is the first one observed to build a replica with multiple, spidery legs.

Scientists suspect the fake spiders serve as decoys, part of a defense mechanism meant to confuse or distract predators. “It seems like a really well evolved and very specialized behavior,” said Phil Torres, who described the find in a blog entry written for Rainforest Expeditions. Torres, a biologist and science educator, divides his time between Southern California and Peru, where he’s involved in research and education projects.

“Considering that spiders can already make really impressive geometric designs with their webs, it’s no surprise that they can take that leap to make an impressive design with debris and other things,” he said.

sciencenote
sciencenote:


RHIC’s perfect liquid, a.k.a. quark-gluon plasma

At RHIC – the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory – gold ions collide at nearly the speed of light, recreating on a subatomic scale the conditions of the early universe. Scientists had expected to observe a uniform expansion of particles emerging from the collision with little or no interaction among them – characteristics of a gas. Instead, they have observed a dramatic asymmetry with more particles emerging along the reaction plane than perpendicular to it, and strong interactions among these particles. This led RHIC researchers to conclude that the early universe was a nearly perfect liquid.


I remember reading about the initial experiment when I was a sophomore in high school… so cool.

sciencenote:

RHIC’s perfect liquid, a.k.a. quark-gluon plasma

At RHIC – the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory – gold ions collide at nearly the speed of light, recreating on a subatomic scale the conditions of the early universe. Scientists had expected to observe a uniform expansion of particles emerging from the collision with little or no interaction among them – characteristics of a gas. Instead, they have observed a dramatic asymmetry with more particles emerging along the reaction plane than perpendicular to it, and strong interactions among these particles. This led RHIC researchers to conclude that the early universe was a nearly perfect liquid.

I remember reading about the initial experiment when I was a sophomore in high school… so cool.

sciencenote
sciencenote:

Quantumgravity is an overall term for theories that attempt to unify gravity with the other fundamental forces of physics (which are already unified together). It generally posits a theoretical entity, a graviton, which is a virtual particle that mediates the gravitational force. This is what distinguishesquantum gravity from certain other unified field theories … although, in fairness, some theories that are typically classified asquantum gravity don’t necessary require a graviton.
… The major problem in experimentally testing any theory ofquantumgravity is that the energy levels required to observe the conjectures are unattainable in current laboratory experiments.
Even theoretically, quantumgravity runs into serious problems. Gravitation is currently explained through the theory of general relativity, which makes very different assumptions about the universe at the macroscopic scale than those made byquantummechanics at the microscopic scale.

sciencenote:

Quantumgravity is an overall term for theories that attempt to unify gravity with the other fundamental forces of physics (which are already unified together). It generally posits a theoretical entity, a graviton, which is a virtual particle that mediates the gravitational force. This is what distinguishesquantum gravity from certain other unified field theories … although, in fairness, some theories that are typically classified asquantum gravity don’t necessary require a graviton.

… The major problem in experimentally testing any theory ofquantumgravity is that the energy levels required to observe the conjectures are unattainable in current laboratory experiments.

Even theoretically, quantumgravity runs into serious problems. Gravitation is currently explained through the theory of general relativity, which makes very different assumptions about the universe at the macroscopic scale than those made byquantummechanics at the microscopic scale.

holymoleculesbatman
holymoleculesbatman:

Belousov Zhabotinsky Reaction

The Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction is a family of oscillating chemical reactions. During these reactions, transition-metal ions catalyze oxidation of various, usually organic, reductants by bromic acid in acidic water solution. Most BZ reactions are homogeneous. The BZ reaction makes it possible to observe development of complex patterns in time and space by naked eye on a very convenient human time scale of dozens of seconds and space scale of several millimeters. The BZ reaction can generate up to several thousand oscillatory cycles in a closed system, which permits studying chemical waves and patterns without constant replenishment of reactants.
Watch a video

holymoleculesbatman:

Belousov Zhabotinsky Reaction

The Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction is a family of oscillating chemical reactions. During these reactions, transition-metal ions catalyze oxidation of various, usually organic, reductants by bromic acid in acidic water solution. Most BZ reactions are homogeneous. The BZ reaction makes it possible to observe development of complex patterns in time and space by naked eye on a very convenient human time scale of dozens of seconds and space scale of several millimeters. The BZ reaction can generate up to several thousand oscillatory cycles in a closed system, which permits studying chemical waves and patterns without constant replenishment of reactants.

Watch a video

scinerds

siphonophora:

People, it’s time I tell you about Siphonophores.
They are an order of colonial sea jellies in the class Hydrozoa.  Colonial, meaning their bodies, though seemingly one orgamism, are constructed of many miniscule individual organisms.  most of ya’ll know the Portuguese Man O’ War, with its iconic bell (the floaty bit, it looks like a helmet) and its reputation for being a scuba-diver-entangling, murderin’ douchebag, but fewer are acquainted with the impressive and creepy (read: cuddly + adorable) Praya dubia.  It’s one of the largest invertebrates in the world, it’s bioluminescent, and its sting could paralyse and/or kill you.
Just sayin’.