September 24, 2011


The GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) exhibits bright green fluorescence when exposed to blue light. Although many other marine organisms have similar green fluorescent proteins, GFP traditionally refers to the protein first isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. Although it has been used by artists around the world, this GFP is especially useful for the biological sciences. In biology, GFP is used for highlighting specific structures. Compared to other fluorescent proteins, it is much less harmful when illuminated in living cells. The discovery and use of GFP has triggered the development of highly automated live-cell fluorescence microscopy systems, which can be used to observe cells over time expressing one or more proteins tagged with fluorescent proteins. In 2008 Martin Chalfie, Osamu Shimomura, and Roger Y. Tsien were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein.

 Wiki - Green Fluorescent Protein

The immortal jellyfish

The lifecycle of the jellyfish is quite remarkable (pictured below). A jellyfish larva first develops into a polyp and it is this polyp that will then asexually produce thousands of jellyfish. This surely is rather bizarre but thanks to Turritopsis nutricula, this lifecycle gets a whole lot weirder.

Turritopsis nutricula is potentially immortal, it is a hydrozoan whose medusa, or jellyfish, form can revert back to the polyp stage after becoming sexually mature. It is the only known case of a metazoan capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary stage. It does this through the cell development process of transdifferentiation. Cell transdifferentiation is when the jellyfish "alters the differentiated state of the cell and transforms it into a new cell". In this process the medusa of the immortal jellyfish is transformed into the polyps of a new polyp colony. First, the umbrella reverts itself and then the tentacles and mesoglea get resorbed. The reverted medusa then attaches itself to the substrate by the end that had been at the opposite end of the umbrella and starts giving rise to new polyps to form the new colony. Theoretically, this process can go on indefinitely, effectively rendering the jellyfish biologically immortal.

September 23, 2011

The modes of vibration made visible

"When the plate is oscillating in a particular mode of vibration, the nodes and antinodes that are set up form complex but symmetrical patterns over its surface. The positions of these nodes and antinodes can be seen by sprinkling sand upon the plates; the sand will vibrate away from the antinodes and gather at the nodes."

 Bonus video: Cymatic experiment
Wiki - Cymatics


Lyrebirds have the amazing capability to replicate almost any sound they come in contact with. This results in some very unusual songs for the lyrebird when he comes into contact with human civilization.

Bonus video: Attenborough finds one that does cameras

Laser microscopy

Feel like exploring a new world from the comfort of your home? If you shine a laser through a water droplet, the droplet will act as a lens and magnify the image. You just built a laser microscope.

Acroban humanoïd

Acroban is a lightweight compliant humanoïd robot. It is capable of semi-passive dynamic movement, including semi-passive dynamic walking. Equipped with a multi-articulated vertebral column, its bio-inspired design relies heavily on the use of adequate morphology and materials for robustness and adaptivity to external perturbations. This allows not only for advanced motor skills, but also affords a new kind of physical human-robot interaction which is made possible by the ability of the human to modify the state (joint positions) of the robot by a direct physical manipulation, thanks to compliance. In this way, joints become the interface between the robot and the human. Especially the interaction between the children and the robot near the end is quite fascinating.

How long is a piece of string?

How long is a piece of string? It sounds like a ridiculous question... but it isn't. This hour long journey to find out the length of a certain piece of string will blow your mind. This trip takes you from the classical to the quantum and leaves you with more questions than answers. Easily one of the best episodes from BBC's Horizon. I know that an hour of your time is a lot to ask for, but believe me, it's worth it.

September 22, 2011

Otter playtime

This otter is having a good time in the sun while effortlessly juggling some pebbles without even looking at them. This game is played by otters all over the world and has been documented numerous times. (another otter doing the same thing)

In the wild they are frequently spotted using rocks as crude tools to smash open shells, but it's not exactly clear what these guys are doing. They might learn to handle rocks through play, but several otter species that don't make use of stone tools also play this game. Otters are highly social animals and appear to engage in various behaviors, for sheer enjoyment and this seems to be such an occasion.

A cosmic voyage

A voyage through the scale of the universe narrated by Morgan Freeman. HD, full screen, open your mind and feel the chills crawl up your spine.

Velvet worm

This remarkable creature, a living fossil, uses a rather unusual but effective technique to capture its prey. Just when you thought you'd seen it all... Nature seems to have an infinite supply of tricks up her sleeve.

Bonus video: Velvet Worm Attack
Wiki - Velvet Worm

Flu virus invasion

A virus is something so strange and alien that we don't really know what to make of it. It's a bizarre collection of molecules, configured in such a particular way that enables it to kill you. The fact that opinions differ on whether a virus is alive or not tells you something about the mysterious nature of these things. Although they posses genes and evolve by natural selection, they don't have their own metabolism or even a cell-wall or cell-structure for that matter. Unlike normal life it does not reproduce by mitosis (division) but through spontaneous self-assembly. They are said to be right at the edge of life and their ability to just pop into existence out of chemical soup provides key insights into how the earliest life might have come about.

The hidden world of the virus exposed... Beautiful isn't it?

September 21, 2011

Breaking up light into its spectral colors

I am afraid that by now there are more people who recognize this as the cover of a pink floyd album then there are those who know of this as a very real and iconic scientific experiment. Many people will have seen this image in some form, but if you glaze over it like any other picture, you are missing out. Give yourself a few minutes to really think about it.

"Dispersive prisms are used to break up light into its constituent spectral colors because the refractive index depends on frequency; the white light entering the prism is a mixture of different frequencies, each of which gets bent slightly differently. Blue light is slowed down more than red light and will therefore be bent more than red light." Wiki - Prism Optics

Voyager 1

After 33 years, the Voyager 1 is nearing the edge of our solar system. This ambassador to the stars carries with it the historic golden record on which the following hopeful message was recorded.


HD and fullscreen is recommended but be careful not to drown.

Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction

Nature producing some mesmerizing patterns... Business as usual.
Wiki - Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction

Total Internal Reflection

I recently posted a video showing off the peculiar effect of light being transmitted through 2 mediums without refraction which makes it impossible to distinguish between the mediums resulting in an object becoming invisible.

Here we see another beautiful effect, total internal reflection, which is used to transmit information in fiber optic cables.

An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made of very pure glass not much wider than a human hair that acts as a waveguide to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber.

September 20, 2011

Briggs–Rauscher oscillating reaction

The Briggs-Rauscher reaction is one of the few chemical oscillators we know of.
Wiki - Briggs–Rauscher reaction

Swarming sea stars

The following beautiful spectacle takes place in antarctic waters where three-foot nemertean worms and carnivorous sea stars prowl the sea floor in search of flesh. Finding a dead seal, the sea stars inject it with digestive juices... then suck it up like soup.

Iridescent Cloud

The multicoloured halo surrounding the peak of this dark cloud looks heavenly, but it's actually an iridescent pileus cloud.

Tiny wasps vs ants

Tiny wasps, 2.0 mm in size, pull off amazing aeronautical stunts to inject their eggs into the bodies of ants.

The magic of reality

When light moves between two substances with the same index of refraction, the materials cannot be distinguished from one another. The only reason you can see the transparent rod under normal conditions is because light refracts at the edges as it enters another medium (air).

The mating of leopard slugs

Have you ever wondered how slugs get it on? If so, this video is for you. Depending on your personality it will either make you marvel at nature's beautiful and strange complexity or give you nightmares. The clip is from the BBC's Life in the undergrowth.

Is reality a mathematical structure?

Is math the foundation of our universe? Max Tegmark seems to thinks so.

Pendulum waves

Fifteen uncoupled simple pendulums of monotonically increasing lengths dance together to produce visual traveling waves, standing waves, beating, and (seemingly) random motion. As a bonus the clip's score is provided by the legendary composer Philip Glass which sets the mood perfectly.

Cybernetics today

Filmmaker Rob Spence aka Eyeborg (a self proclaimed cyborg who lost an eye and replaced it with a wireless video camera) investigates prosthetics, cybernetics and human augmentation. How far are we from the future presented to us in the critically acclaimed video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution?

The strange new world of nanoscience

Stephen Fry breaks down nanotechnology to the basics. Before this century is over, every aspect of our lives will have been touched by this rapidly growing field.

When ideas have sex

"At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It's not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is."

Science saved my soul

This might just be one of the best videos you will ever see.

September 19, 2011

Active Cumulonimbus

From down on the ground, clouds tend to look rather flat and unimposing. It's only when you get on an airplane that you can truly see them for the giant swirling masses of water vapor that they are. A very lucky traveler encountered this active Cumulonimbus on his way to Buenos Aires.

A tribute to the space shuttles

The end of an era... Goosebumps.

Dear Human

Letters from our founding fathers and mothers.