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University student of biology. Science enthusiast & avid tea drinker.

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Mirror Matter

"Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it." ~ Niels Bohr. I think this quote best sums up a new theory in quantum mechanics involving parallel worlds.

In various experiments, theoretical physicists have noticed something strange; some of their matter simply vanishes. Because of this, these scientists have theorized the existence of ‘mirror matter’ (also known as ‘shadow matter’ or ‘Alice matter’) to account for this bizarre loss of neutrons.

To learn more about mirror matter and its far-reaching implications, see

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THIS IS A BUTTERFLY! (Scanning Electron Microscope) - Part 2 - Smarter Every Day 105

This is one of my favorite timelapses that I’ve ever made. It’s a Morpho butterfly wing that I applied Isopropanol to.  The Isopropanol neutralizes the nano-structure photo-mechanism in the wing, turning it the color of the wing itself.  When the alcohol dries, it turns back into its irradiant blue color.  SOOO awesome!

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Chemical quote sources: Quote and chemical compound, background image

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#science #chemistry #petrichor



Messier 82 the magnificent starburst galaxy

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#space #science


The amoeba Entamoeba histolytica, in green, takes a bite out of a human cell, outlined in pink. (via

This scares me out of my wits

Excuse my French, but this little shit, E. histolytica, —responsible for a diarrhoeal disease that causes thousands of deaths each year in the developing world— kills intestinal cells through trogocytosis, namely, gnawing them. 

Researchers, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, discovered that the amoeba bites the living cells to the death (which happens for excess damage) and then… the amoeba spits them out. 

Fierce protists are, indeed, dreadful creatures.

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The Hungry Microbiome — Christian Stolte, Christopher Hammang (CSIRO Computational Informatics, Sydney, Australia).

Created for the animation “The Hungry Microbiome”, this study shows resistant starch granules and the bacteria which break them down floating above the surface of the colon. At the bottom, a cut-away view of crypts shows the absorption of butyrate (shown as light blue particles), which is a byproduct of the bacteria and the main energy source of the cells in our colon. A steady supply of butyrate helps to detect mutations and prevent cancer. The main point of this study was to develop an interesting lighting scheme for this scene. 

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A look at some of the chemical compounds that can be used to colour paint. Not all of these are still in use - for example, cadmium & chromium compounds are toxic, so their use is now rare. You can read more about the cause of the colours here:

Thanks to ve-ve-whats-cooler-than-cool for the question that inspired this graphic!


The pigbutt worm or flying buttocks(Chaetopterus pugaporcinus) is a newly discovered species of worm found by scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The worm is round in shape, approximately the size of a hazelnut, and bears a strong resemblance to a disembodied pair of buttocks. Because of this, it was given a Latin species name that roughly translates to “resembling a pig’s rear.”

The worm has been recently observed residing just below the oxygen minimum zonebetween 900 and 1,200 metres (3,000 to 4,000 feet) deep — even when the sea floor is significantly deeper. The worms have also been observed floating with their mouths surrounded by a cloud of mucus. Current theories suggest that they reside in this area of the ocean because of its cornucopia of detritus and marine snow, and that the worms use these mucus clouds to capture particles of food and “snow.”



Thin section of a dinosaur bone preserved in clear agate (10x) (via Thin section of a dinosaur bone preserved in clear agate | 2013 Photomicrography Competition | Nikon Small World)

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Quirky quark combination creates exotic new particle

News from the world’s biggest particle smasher is that they have found a new particle. Image: brookhavenlabCC BY-NC-ND

Since the spectacular discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the gigantic particle accelerator outside Geneva, have suffered a bit of a drought when it comes to finding new particles. In a welcome relief, the LHCb collaboration, who run one of four large experiments at the LHC, have announced one of the most genuinely exciting observations to come out of the 27km super-collider so far – an exotic particle that cannot be explained by current theories.

In 2008 the Belle Collaboration in Japan reported the observation of a new exotic particle – the unfortunately drably named Z(4430) (where  for its negative charge). This has a mass that places it in a dense forest of charmonium states – particles that are made up of a charm quark and a charm antiquark. Crucially though, the Z is electrically charged whereas all charmonium states must be neutral, clearly marking it out as something unusual.

After a careful analysis of data from 25,000 decays of mesons resulting from more than 180 trillion collisions at the LHC in 2011 and 2012, the new announcement confirms the existence of Z(4430) with extremely high confidence. The particle was observed with an overwhelming significance of 13.9 sigma, well above the usual 5 sigma threshold required to declare a discovery. LHCb also went further than Belle by measuring the spin and parity of Z(4430), two quantum-mechanical properties that give a firm handle on the internal makeup of the particle.

The observation by LHCb is important because few physicists will take a result seriously until it has been seen by two independent experiments. This is why hundreds of millions of Euros were spent building two large detectors at the LHC. The observation of the Higgs boson by two independent teams, ATLAS and CMS, was what really convinced the scientific community that the particle was real.

This result is the clearest evidence yet of the existence of a tetraquark – a four-quark state, with the LHCb analysis suggesting that Z(4430) is most likely to be made of a charm, anti-charm, down and anti-up quark. Theorists are now able to add a whole new type of particle to the quark model and begin the hard work of trying to understand exactly how these four quarks are bound together.

Meanwhile, physicists working at the LHC experiments will continue to explore unmapped regions of the subatomic world, with the hope of turning up more members of this exotic new family. Now that we know that at least one is out there, it is very unlikely that Z(4430) is alone.


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Scientific engravings from 1850

by John Philipps Emslie

(via the Wellcome Collection)

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#yesss #science #history


A couple months ago I shared some GIFs of invisible things, and I finally got around to putting them together in this video:

When light travels through areas of different air density, it bends. You’ve probably noticed the way distant pavement seems to shimmer on a hot day, or the way stars appear to twinkle. You’re seeing light that has been distorted as it passes through varying air densities, which are in turn created by varying temperatures and pressures.

Schlieren Flow Visualization can be used to visually capture these changes in density: the rising heat from a candle, the turbulence around an airplane wing, the plume of a sneeze … even sound.  Special thanks to Mike Hargather, a professor of mechanical engineering at New Mexico Tech, who kindly provided a lot of these videos.

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Fruit flies, fighter jets use similar nimble tactics when under attack

When startled by predators, tiny fruit flies respond like fighter jets – employing screaming-fast banked turns to evade attacks.

Researchers at the University of Washington used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of flies after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator.

“Although they have been described as swimming through the air, tiny flies actually roll their bodies just like aircraft in a banked turn to maneuver away from impending threats,” said Michael Dickinson, UW professor of biology and co-author of a paper on the findings in the April 11 issue of Science. “We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and which is faster than we ever imagined.”

In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times, said Florian Muijres, a UW postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper.

“These flies normally flap their wings 200 times a second and, in almost a single wing beat, the animal can reorient its body to generate a force away from the threatening stimulus and then continues to accelerate,” he said.

The fruit flies, a species called Drosophila hydei that are about the size of a sesame seed, rely on a fast visual system to detect approaching predators.

“The brain of the fly performs a very sophisticated calculation, in a very short amount of time, to determine where the danger lies and exactly how to bank for the best escape, doing something different if the threat is to the side, straight ahead or behind,” Dickinson said.

“How can such a small brain generate so many remarkable behaviors? A fly with a brain the size of a salt grain has the behavioral repertoire nearly as complex as a much larger animal such as a mouse. That’s a super interesting problem from an engineering perspective,” Dickinson said.

The researchers synchronized three high-speed cameras each able to capture 7,500 frames per second, or 40 frames per wing beat. The cameras were focused on a small region in the middle of a cylindrical flight arena where 40 to 50 fruit flies flitted about. When a fly passed through the intersection of two laser beams at the exact center of the arena, it triggered an expanding shadow that caused the fly to take evasive action to avoid a collision or being eaten.

With the camera shutters opening and closing every one thirty-thousandth of a second, the researchers needed to flood the space with very bright light, Muijres said. Because flies rely on their vision and would be blinded by regular light, the arena was ringed with very bright infrared lights to overcome the problem. Neither humans nor fruit flies register infrared light.

How the fly’s brain and muscles control these remarkably fast and accurate evasive maneuvers is the next thing researchers would like to investigate, Dickinson said.

A fruit fly’s brain is the size of a grain of salt, yet it controls these super fast and accurate manoeuvres. That’s pretty darn amazing.


Microorganisms: “Microscopic Life: The World of the Invisible” 1958 Encyclopaedia Britannica Films

All this beautiful life we never see,

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Which house do you belong to? (via LISACommunity on Facebook)

Science is coming.

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