rods

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You may all remember that hilarious video that I posted of Meghan Connolly doing an absolutely fantastic Vanishing Lake. What I forgot to mention is that Meghan has suffered from scoliosis for years and when I posted that video it hadn’t even been a year since her surgery for it. Well today she’s celebrating her one year anniversary since the surgery, or in her words, one year of being “Straight”. Meghan has always been the most dedicated dancer I know. For a few years now, she’s been doing two-a-days at the gym, and going to dance class, and helping out at our dance school. I don’t know a lot of 14-16 year olds who do that.

Dancing with scoliosis is a big challenge, and then on top of that going through painful surgery, taking months off because of it, and then coming back and recovering from it, is so, so painful. It’s always so sad to see someone have to go through an injury or surgery, but to see one of the most dedicated dancers you know have to go through it is heartbreaking.

The surgery went well, and her spine went from a 56 degree curve to a 12 degree curve. She had a pretty good recovery too, but that was due in part to her being such a fighter. She pushed the nurses to help her start doing things sooner than most. When she was able to dance again and came back to class, we all tried to tell her to take it easy, and she did for a little bit, somewhat. There were definitely a lot of days when she was in pain, but she hid her pain well and would hide in the bathroom if she had to cry (sorry Meg for telling). She told me she never wanted to take it easy because she didn’t want to seem like she was making excuses.

To this day, she is still the hardest worker I know. She’s back into her full gym and dance routine, she still helps out all the time, and still has some of the highest clicks and lifts in our dance school. There are one or two little things she’s still working on regaining, but she’ll get them back soon. She gets better and better every week and I know she’s only going to keep getting better and is going to reach all of her goals. I can’t wait to see her on the Worlds stage, where she belongs.

She may be 5 years younger than I am, but Meghan is absolutely my biggest inspiration. She is the definition of hard work. She is without a doubt THE funniest person I know, and can be absolutely ridiculously crazy sometimes, but you can also have the most mature conversations with her. When I transferred schools, she was the most welcoming person to me. She will very clearly joke about being cocky, but she is such a humble dancer.

So happy 1 year to Meghan Connolly! And to all “curvy girls” dealing with scoliosis and dancing, I am in awe of you and your dedication.

Into the Red

Can I recommend some tunes to listen to while reading this post? How about this? Or if you’re feeling reggae, then this.

A team of vision scientists has engineered a color vision receptor to be more sensitive and see farther into the red than any human!

The human eye contains two types of light receptors, rods and cones. The three types of cone cells are what gives us color vision. Each type of cone cell is sensitive to a different range of wavelengths, and added together, they cover our “visible spectrum” from violet to red (~390 nm to 750 nm). It’s like the RGB pixels in a screen, only in reverse.

The proteins inside those cones (called “opsins”) actually absorb light and turn it into a chemical signal. It’s one of evolution’s finest bits of magic. I mean, it’s a protein, that absorbs radiation of a very certain wavelength, transfers some charges and shapes, and makes a nerve fire. It’s mind-boggling, man! This new research took one of those opsins and tweaked it so that it can absorb the farthest red light wavelengths better than our own eyes can.

By tweaking the order and charge of the amino acids that make up the red opsin, they changed the wavelengths of light it responds most strongly to (from 587 nm to 644 nm). Since each cone sees a range of wavelengths instead of a narrow few, this means it can absorb a little bit of that far red light that our eyes can’t.

It hasn’t been put into any kind of living thing yet, only played with in a test tube, but it will help us understand how different opsins in different animals let them see different wavelengths of light (like how mantis shrimp can see ultraviolet light). Maybe one day we’ll create a super-sensory mouse or something, but for now we can be happy just to see how we see a little more clearly.

If you’ve got access to Science, you can read about it here.

Previously: Was Van Gogh colorblind? Could Monet see ultraviolet?

This Romanian Priest Blesses Stuff with His Long, Extendable Rod

Romania loves its religion. In fact, over 80 percent of Romanians follow the Orthodox Christian church, meaning its priests have a lot of blessing to do. A few times a year, they’ll go door to door in every village, town, and city, walk through every room and throw holy water at whatever needs blessing with a basil branch—always for a price, of course. 

However, sometimes the basil branch just won’t do. The guy poking the TV screens with a paint-roller in the photo above is the resourceful leader of the Romanian church, Patriarch Daniel, who’s become an internet superstar after developing a new blessing technique that involves dipping a paint roller in holy water and using it to bless hard-to-reach surfaces.

Many Romanians were quick to judge, so back in January the church issued a statement defending their “extendable blesser,” instructing journalists to “read more on holy matters before misinforming the public.”

You can do that if you like, or you can scroll through all these photos of Patriarch Daniel using his blessing rod instead. 

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June 30, 2010
Here’s Patriarch Daniel using the blessing rod to get some holy oil under the roof of the Bârsana Monastery in Romania’s Maramureș region.

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July 11, 2010
His Holiness blessing a church in the city of Brașov. In this one, another priest is holding something that looks like a pine cone covered in M&M’s. This is presumably helpful in some way.

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September 6, 2010
The Patriarch rolling another level of benediction onto a freshly painted cathedral in Alba county. 

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September 18, 2011
At this blessing in Turda, Patriarch Daniel gives a blow-by-blow commentary of what it takes to sanctify a wall with his rod.

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June 1, 2012
On International Children’s Day, Daniel carefully blessed the prayer corner of a kindergarten.

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