See-through skin

A ‘vein-viewer' works by using infrared light to image the presence of veins underneath the skin: The IR light is absorbed by the deoxygenated haemoglobin within veins. The locations of absorption and reflection are detected and the machine generates a corresponding projection using visible light. Find out more about how these devices are used in medicine in this video: http://youtu.be/lk0HMqwreIo

(via @rossexton)

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GIFs: Deep-Sea Creatures 

Introducing: Amazing creatures that live at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, as captured on this live-stream for the past three weeks. Keep in mind, some of these animals are experiencing bright light for the first time (pic #2, the “wow-what-is-this-thing" fish).  

More GIFs here - you also get to find out what they are.

Brought to you by: Researchers aboard the Okeanos Explorer who operated the sub; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who led the expedition; and GIF-extraordinaire Rose.

Pouring an ice cube using supercooled water:

The temperature of the liquid water is reduced below its freezing point, without becoming a solid. The ice wont form without the presence of a nucleation point (a crystal or impurity around which an ice crystal can begin to grow). However, on contact with another surface, the water instantly freezes. Check out how to make instant ice at home in this video: http://youtu.be/sBFK5-JvBAc

(via Ross Exton)

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Aerogel 

It looks like frozen smoke. And it’s the lightest and lowest density solid material on the planet. Aerogel insulates space suits, makes tennis rackets stronger and could be used one day to clean up oil spills.

Aerogel is made by removing all liquid from silica gel whilst leaving its molecular structure intact. You’ve probably seen silica gel already- you get grains of it in those tiny packets labeled “DO NOT EAT” which you find in things you’ve bought. Inside the aerogel being held in the hand are millions of tiny nanoparticles of silicon dioxide, the same stuff that makes up sand and glass, interconnected.

If you were to take 1g of aerogel and flatten out its nanostructure, you would have something covering the size of an American football field. However, it would be pretty difficult to do that- aerogel can hold up to 4,000 times its own weight in force. 

And yes, in the second GIF above, that IS somebody blowtorching their hand. The only thing separating hand from debilitating hand-death is a thin sheet of ridiculously efficient thermo-insulating aerogel- it’s a terrible heat conductor.

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Frog legs dance when salt is sprinkled on them

A frog’s muscles do not succumb to rigor mortis as quickly as most warm-blooded animals which makes it possible for the muscles to move post-mortem if energy is applied to them some how. This can be done either by cooking (heat/energy) or by salting (ions).

Salt,also known as NaCl, can work like electricity because it is made up of ions (Sodium and Chlorine to be exact) and ions carry an electrical charge. In living animals, sodium delivers a signal to cause muscles to contract.


The frog legs in the video are fresh so energy (ATP) is still stored in the cells. When the electrical impulse is applied, the legs contract even though the frog is dead!

Of course this doesn’t apply to only frog legs!

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Phosphoric acid and tooth over 365 days

If you didn’t know already, phosphoric acid is in cola and other soft drinks. THIS is what it does to your teeth… tooth enamel erosion and tooth decay. 

This is post number 12 from the “Acid + things” series for today.

Edit: Weds 9th April, 2014: I’ve been criticised for this post exaggerating the effects of phosphoric acid on tooth enamel. Just to clarify, this tooth was submerged in cola for a whole year. Your teeth would not degrade to this extent unless you kept your mouth constantly full of soft drink and practised absolutely no dental hygiene whatsoever. However, the fact remains that phosphoric acid in soft drinks can damage teeth by contributing to enamel erosion and tooth decay.

Brush your teeth, kids!

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Green Fire!

Making green fire involves mixing borax with ethanol and setting it alight in a pyrex/borosilicate vessel (normal glass will just crack and shatter from the heat).

The Science:

This is just like a great big flame test. When boron compounds are heated, electrons absorb a certain amount of heat energy that causes them to jump to higher energy levels. After some time, the electrons lose this energy and fall back down to their original levels, emitting this energy in the form of light. Because the energy absorbed by electrons is different per element, each element will give a different colour. Boron gives a bright green colour. Any other colours such as orange and yellow are probably due to impurities in the mixture such as carbon.

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Images + GIFs : Deep-Sea Creatures

Continued: Last week we used GIFs to introduce some creatures that live at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, as captured on this live-stream for the past weeks. Here’s more! 

There’s a lot more photos and explanations where that came from.

Brought to you by: Researchers aboard the Okeanos Explorer who operated the sub; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who led the expedition; and GIF-extraordinaire Rose.

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Egg + Acetic Acid (vinegar)- The bouncy egg

If you leave an uncooked egg in white spirit vinegar for a couple of days, the shell will dissolve. The acetic acid in the vinegar will dissolve the carbonates in the egg shell, leaving behind the rubbery, thick permeable membrane beneath. This makes for a squishy bouncy egg!

This is the 13th (and last) post in the “Acid + things” series for today.

I hope you enjoyed!

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REWRITABLE PAPER AND WATER INK COULD SIGNIFICANTLY CUT PAPER WASTE

A new type of rewritable paper that uses water as ink could slash the amount of paper that’s wasted daily, researchers say. The paper contains hydrochromic dyes — chemicals that change color when wet — and a single page can be reused dozens of times, the scientists report in Nature Communications. Other types of rewritable papers have been developed, but they are all more expensive and energy-intensive to produce, and some versions use inks that pose environmental and safety hazards. The new system costs less than 1 percent of standard inkjet printing, the researchers estimate, primarily because ink cartridges are expensive. The researchers found they could refill standard ink cartridges with water and use them, along with the rewritable paper, in typical desktop printers. Print on the rewritable paper is only visible for about 22 hours, or as long as it takes the paper to dry completely. The scientists note that, while 90 percent of business information is retained on paper, most printed documents are read only once before being discarded.

Hydrochromatic dyes are already used across the world and are not a new discovery. The first gif above shows hydrochromatic dye painted on the inside of a shower room, so that when the cubicle becomes wet, brilliant designs become visible. 

The second gif shows hydrochromic inks in a paper advertisement, that only become readable when doused in water

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Naeglaria fowleri, The brain eating amoeba

The term “brain-eating amoeba” makes the amoeba sound like a tiny zombie stalking your skull. But brains are accidental food for them.

There are many species of Naeglaria all over the planet which are present in warm soils and warm fresh standing water, however, only one species can infect humans. Like other amoebas, Naegleria reproduces by cell division. When conditions aren’t right, the amoebas become inactive cysts. When conditions are favorable, the cysts turn into trophozoites — the feeding form of the amoeba. After infection, it attacks the human nervous system and brain, causing deadly primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)

Naeglaria fowleri was discovered in 1965. Since this date, only around 144 cases have been officially documented worldwide. At only 8 micrometers to 15 micrometers in size, depending on its life stage and environment (roughly 1/3 the diameter of a human hair), it’s hard to believe that infection by this amoeba has a 95% mortality rate. Even though infection is relatively rare, mortality is extremely high. There is no vaccine or standard treatment method.

 How do you catch it?!

The parasite exists in very warm standing water and sediment, so many people have caught the parasite from swimming or doing water sports in water that contains it, e.g. lakes and swimming holes. A whole glass of Naegleria water can be swallowed without incident, as your stomach acids make short work of burning them up. However, when people jump or fall into water, the pressure can force water (and therefore the parasite) up the nasal passages of the nose. This gives Naegleria easy access to the olfactory nerves in the nose and a quick route to the brain.

It eats brains?!

Yep. Braaaaains. In the first big gif above, you’re looking at Naegleria fowleri consuming human nerve cells. When the parasite has access to a host’s nerve and brain tissue it’s in its ideal habitat- somewhere warm and safe with lots of food. Studies suggest that N. fowleri amoebas are attracted to the chemicals that nerve cells use to communicate with one another. Once infected, the parasite moves its way into the brain where it multiplies and starts feasting. It is only usually discovered days after infection- when tissue damage starts to cause symptoms (and it’s too late).

In the second gif above, you can see a Naegleria fowleri amoeba destroying a cell. The organism begins to consume cells of the brain,piece by piece, by means of an amoebostome, a unique actin-rich, sucking apparatus extended from its cell surface. It attaches itself to the cell surface and chemically makes a cut in the cell wall. When the contents of the cell spills forth the parasite consumes them by breaking them down with enzymes that dissolve protein. It eventually causes necrosis (tissue death) and haemorrhaging. 

In response to this, the body sends out its A-team, the white blood cells, to deal with the attack. As you can see in the second gif, the white blood cells attempt to attack the Naeglaria fowleri organism, but are thwarted. The amoeba grows a ‘coating’ that the white blood cells cannot adhere to so they cannot attack it, which it then discards and uses to escape. The immune system goes into overdrive at this point and causes inflammation and swelling of the brain. 

Despite such a large mortality rate, studies show that many people may have antibodies to N. fowleri. That suggests that they became infected with the amoeba but that their immune systems fought it off.

So what are the symptoms?! 

Symptoms include: Problems with taste and smell, headache, fever, stiff neck, loss of appetite, vomiting, altered mental state, coma and seizures. It takes two to 15 days for symptoms to appear after N. fowleri amoebas enter the nose. Death usually occurs three to seven days after symptoms appear. The average time to death is 5.3 days from symptom onset. Only a handful of patients worldwide have been reported to have survived an infection.

How can I NOT catch N. fowleri?!

Firstly, be really careful when swimming in fresh standing water during warm weather when N. fowleri loves to multiply. Also, if you’re swimming or doing water sports, you can wear nose plugs and make sure you don’t swallow any water. When drinking water from lakes, or performing nasal irrigation (yes…I know), always use boiled or distilled water. Boiling water kills off the parasite. If you own a pool, make sure that it is chlorinated and if you drink water make sure that it is treated. 

It’s VERY RARE to be infected by N. fowleri and develop PAM. Nonetheless, not allowing this remarkable little creature access to your brain is the first step to not having it eaten.

Another thing to think about…. N. fowleri LOVES warm water. As temperatures rise, more cases could be seen in more temperate areas that are less favourable to its growth. Be careful with any standing water (wherever you are) in warm weather.

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Cheeseburger in hydrochloric acid

Your stomach has hydrochloric acid of around 0.1M. The acid used in these gifs are a higher molarity, and just shows the importance of chewing, enzymes and bile salts in the digestion process (as just our stomach acid wouldn’t be enough!).

The cheeseburger was also left for a couple of hours in the acid, and the GIFs have been sped up.

This is post number 6 in the “Acid + things” series for today.

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