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An infographic on ALS.

(via sciencenebula)

Have you heard of the mystery of the sailing stones? It’s not a Hardy Boys novel — it’s the strange phenomenon of rocks leaving zig-zagging tracks across Death Valley.

Well, they solved the mystery at last.

Image: Momatiuk - Eastcott/Corbis / Video: Jim Norris

(via npr)

A final word on insect venoms, with a look at the Schmidt Pain Index, developed by Dr. Justin Schmidt to rank the pain of the various insect stings he experienced in his line of work. Whilst obviously pain is subjective, and you’d expect some variation from person to person, it still makes for an interesting graphic!

Click the image for a larger version

See images of the very painful Bullet Ants

(via mindblowingscience)

The Sun: Beautiful, Life-Giving, Violent!!

This video footage shows an M-class solar flare erupting from the Sun. The flare erupts from a bright spot on the surface, ejecting a huge amount of plasma into the Sun’s atmosphere. Around half of the material falls back onto the Sun’s surface, some falling ballistically, under the influence of gravity, some being captured by the Sun’s magnetic field and channeled towards sunspot regions. When the cooler, darker infalling material hits the Sun’s surface it causes bright explosions. The rest of the material is thrown into space as a coronal mass ejection (CME).

See more video of Coronal Mass Ejections

Although only a medium-strength M-class flare, the mass ejected was among the highest recorded for a CME. This footage was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on 7th June 2011.

© SDO / NASA / Science Source 

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Nothing Wrong With Being At Bit Dense! 

Dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the preferred technique for measuring bone mineral density (BMD). It has also been called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA. DXA is relatively easy to perform and the amount of radiation exposure is low. A DXA scanner is a machine that produces two X-ray beams, each with different energy levels. One beam is high energy while the other is low energy. The amount of X-rays that pass through the bone is measured for each beam. This will vary depending on the thickness of the bone. Based on the difference between the two beams, the bone density can be measured.

See images of DXA Scans

At present, DXA scanning focuses on two main areas, the hip and the spine. In certain situations, if the hip or spine can’t be measured, it is measured in the forearm. Although osteoporosis involves the whole body, measurements of BMD at one site can be predictive of fractures at other sites. Scanning generally takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete and is painless and noninvasive. -WebMD-

See images of Osteoporosis

Images above © Science Source

What Is ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease)?

Through the power of social media, the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” has brought massive attention to an often times overlooked but devastating disease. Understanding ALS and increasing its awareness can be just as invaluable as donations towards finding a cure.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It affects the neurons which control voluntary movements and is the most common of the five motor neuron diseases.

The top image shows a normal neuron and muscle interface alongside an afflicted neuron. Nerve degeneration and restricted production of the neurotransmitter Dopamine causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to lose their connection to muscle fibers throughout the body. When muscles can no longer be stimulated, they become progressively weaker and inactive.

See more images of the Neuromuscular Junction

This debilitating disease is characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching, spasticity, difficulty speaking (dysarthria), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and difficulty breathing (dyspnea).

ALS does not affect involuntary muscles (such as the heart or smooth muscles), a person’s senses (taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing), or their ability to think.  Since there is no cure, most treatment can only slow down the progression of the disease and provide supportive care for the individual.

Learn more by visiting the ALS Association: 

Images above © Science Source

Ebola has a nasty reputation for damaging the body, especially its blood vessels. But when you look at the nitty-gritty details of what happens after a person is infected, a surprising fact surfaces.

How Ebola Kills You: It’s Not The Virus

Illustration credit: Lisa Brown for NPR

(via npr)

Slippin’ And A-Slidin’ - Different Types of Earthquake Faults

Image BX1676 (Types of Fault Lines)

Image BC5953 (Normal Earthquake Fault)

Image BV9643 (Normal Fault) 

Image 7J2476 (Reverse Fault)

Image BZ0972 (Thrust Fault)

Image SK5591 (San Andreas Fault)

Images showing the different types of earthquake faults. Each is differentiated by the relative position of the fault plane. A normal fault occurs where the crust is being pulled apart, which extends the earth’s crust. The Basin and Range Province in North America and the East African Rift Zone are two examples of this. A reverse fault also called a thrust fault, squeezes the earth’s crust, pushing two blocks of on top of each other. A good example of this would be mountain ranges like the Himalayas and Rocky Mountains. The 1994 Northridge quake occurred along a thrust fault that, at the time, no one knew existed. A strike slip fault occurs when plates of the earth’s crust slide passed each other. Both the San Andreas and Anatolian Faults are strike slip. 

© Science Source

(via sciencesourceimages)

School Starts Too Early

by Mark Fischetti/Scientific American

Parents, students and teachers often argue, with little evidence, about whether U.S. high schools begin too early in the morning. In the past three years, however, scientific studies have piled up, and they all lead to the same conclusion: a later start time improves learning. And the later the start, the better.

Biological research shows that circadian rhythms shift during the teen years, pushing boys and girls to stay up later at night and sleep later into the morning. The phase shift, driven by a change in melatonin in the brain, begins around age 13, gets stronger by ages 15 and 16, and peaks at ages 17, 18 or 19.

See images dealing with Melatonin

Does that affect learning? It does, according to Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. She published a large study in February that tracked more than 9,000 students in eight public high schools in Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming. After one semester, when school began at 8:35 a.m. or later, grades earned in math, English, science and social studies typically rose a quarter step—for example, up halfway from B to B+.

Two journal articles that Wahlstrom has reviewed but have not yet been published reach similar conclusions. So did a controlled experiment completed by the U.S. Air Force Academy, which required different sets of cadets to begin at different times during their freshman year. A 2012 study of North Carolina school districts that varied school times because of transportation problems showed that later start times correlated with higher scores in math and reading. Still other studies indicate that delaying start times raises attendance, lowers depression rates and reduces car crashes among teens, all because they are getting more of the extra sleep they need.

See images dealing with Circadian Rhythm

And the later the delay, the greater the payoff. In various studies, school districts that shifted from 7:30 to 8:00 a.m. saw more benefits than those that shifted from 7:15 to 7:45 a.m. Studies in Brazil, Italy and Israel showed similar improvements in grades. The key is allowing teens to get at least eight hours of sleep, preferably nine. In Europe, it is rare for high school to start before 9:00 a.m.

Read the entire article

Images above © Science Source

I’ve Got Rocks In My Head…

…and so do all of you. The image at the top is a colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of crystals of calcium carbonate on the surface of an otolith. They are the “balancing stones” of the inner ear and are found in our Acoustic Macula.

See more images of the Acoustic Macula

The acoustic macula is responsible for our static equilibrium (position of the head) and participates in dynamic equilibrium (recognition of the linear accelerations). Located at the level of the inner ear, the macula is composed of hair cells (in orange), constituting the sensorial receptors, and of supporting cells (in pink). Each hair cell possesses between 40 to 70 stereocilia and a single kinocilium.

See SEMs of Inner Ear Hair Cells

The supporting cells secrete a gelatinous substance forming the otolithic membrane, in which embed the stereocilia and kinocilia. This membrane is covered with a layer of those calcium carbonate crystals (shown at top). Each hair cell forms a synapse with a sensitive neuron (in yellow) and a motor neuron (in green) of the vestibular branch of the auditory nerve.

See more images of the Inner Ear

During a sharp acceleration leading the head forward (during the ascension in the roller coaster, for example), the inertia causes a sliding movement backwards of the otolithic membrane and the otoliths, that move the stereocilia and kinocilia with them. This leads to a stimulation of the vestibular nerve, enabling the recognition of the movement. 

What would a trip to an amusement park be without your inner ear?!

All images © Science Source 



What exactly is going on inside of a depressed person? We look at the scientific basis for depression, and shed light on the fact that it is a disease with biological, psychological, and social implications.

We can see it in our biology, in our genes and in our actions. For those who are depressed, it’s not simply something they can ‘get over’ and ‘be more positive about’. If you know somebody who is suffering, please be compassionate and know that depression is a serious illness and requires genuine recovery/help. 

(via science-junkie)

Why Can’t I Make This Work?!!

This video shows a Veined Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) trying to form a protective shelter from two pieces of a broken jar. This species is also known as the “coconut octopus” because it is often found using two discarded coconut shells to hide in.

See more video clips of the Veined Octopus

It is found in tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean. It commonly preys upon shrimp, crabs, and clams, and displays unusual behaviour, including bipedal walking and gathering and using coconut shells and seashells for shelter. Like hermit crabs with shells, it will actively investigate other items for protective potential. Here the octopus tries in vain to make two broken glass halves fit together. It’s amazing to watch his repeated attempts to make this work. Filmed in the Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

© Peter Scoones / Science Source

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Happy National Aviation Day!!

The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday, August 19th, to be National Aviation Day. Mr. Wright, born in 1871, was still alive when the proclamation was first issued, and would live another nine years.

See photos of Aviation’s Pioneers

The three images above show a plastic 1/48-scale model of an F-18 aircraft inside the “water tunnel” more formally known as the NASA Dryden Flow Visualization Facility. Water is pumped through the tunnel in the direction of normal airflow over the aircraft; then, colored dyes are pumped through tubes with needle valves. The dyes flow back along the airframe and over the airfoils highlighting their aerodynamic characteristics. Water tunnels such as the one at Dryden are used as a “first step” in providing important information about anomalies and phenomena revealed in wind tunnel tests or in actual flight tests.

See more images of Aerodynamics

Images above © NASA Dryden Flight Research Center / Science Source

BY9867 (F-18 Aerodynamics Test #1)

BY9869 (F-18 Aerodynamics Test #2)

BY9868 (F-18 Aerodynamics Test #3)

Shake That Body For Me!

A Honeybee (Apis mellifera) near center of frame performing a waggle dance. Waggling enables a bee to communicate to others the direction of a food source.

See more video clips of the Waggle Dance!

The direction and duration of waggle runs are closely correlated with the direction and distance of the resource being advertised by the dancing bee. For cavity-nesting honey bees, flowers that are located directly in line with the sun are represented by waggle runs in an upward direction on the vertical combs, and any angle to the right or left of the sun is coded by a corresponding angle to the right or left of the upward direction. The distance between hive and recruitment target is encoded in the duration of the waggle runs. The farther the target, the longer the waggle phase. The more excited the bee is about the location, the more rapidly it will waggle, so it will grab the attention of the observing bees, and try to convince them. If multiple bees are doing the waggle dance, it’s a competition to convince the observing bees to follow their lead, and competing bees may even disrupt other bees’ dances or fight each other off. The frequency of the waggles tells other bees the distance to the food source. The faster the waggling, the closer the source. Honeybees also communicate by touching antennae and by pheromone fanning.

Video © Peter Matulavich / Science Source

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Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It usually affects the intestines, but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum

See endoscopic photos of Crohn’s Disease

The top image shows a barium X-ray of the transverse colon of a patient suffering from Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation, thickening and ulceration (red mottled region at upper left) of the intestinal tract, most often the small intestine and the colon (large intestine). Its cause is unknown. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and the malabsorption of food, leading to weight loss. Crohn’s disease is treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgical removal of inflamed regions of the intestine is sometimes also required. Barium is a radio-opaque medium that allows soft structures to be seen on X-ray.

See barium x-rays of Crohn’s Disease

Below this are 4 images taken with a pill camera that show the lining of the ileum which is the last part of the small intestine. It is red and inflamed due to Crohn’s disease. The inflammation has led to narrowing (stricture) of the intestinal passage. 

Treatment normally involves controlling the symptoms and maintaining remission where possible, using anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosupressants. Surgical removal of inflamed regions of the intestine is sometimes also required.

Images above © Science Source