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:

(via @rossexton)

Air is all around us and wherever there is air, there is air pressure. This means that everything (including us!) has pressure being applied on it.

Most objects (and us!) stay in their original shape because of internal pressure being exerted from within it. This creates an equilibrium system where internal pressure equals that of the external pressure. 

What’s awesome is that if you take away external pressure, internal pressure will do whatever it can to create an equilibrium!

In this gif, an explainer is using a vacuum to remove air (external pressure) from within the chamber. Shaving cream has many air bubbles in it, so the air in the shaving cream (internal pressure) pushes outward and expands to create an equilibrium! 

Maker Faire 2014 was held this past weekend at the NY Hall of Science. This activity was one of many that explainers discussed during the weekend! You can check out some pictures here!



Vortex rings are wonderful at maintaining coherent vorticity while moving over significant distances. If you stand several meters from a foam cup and try blowing to knock it over, it’s not likely to budge. But move the air impulsively with a vortex cannon, and you can knock it over from the opposite side of the room. The same principle works underwater with added visual effect. Here an impulsive burst of air exhaled by the diver forms a bubble ring with vorticity strong enough to knock over a stack of rocks. It may look like a superpower, but this is science! Dolphins and whales are also known to play with this trick. For the non-scuba-divers among you, it’s also possible to learn to do it in a swimming pool. (Video credit: DjDeutchTv; h/t to coolsciencegifs)

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:

(via Ross Exton)


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.

We all know that ice is supposed to be cold, but can we use science to make ‘hot ice’? Of course!

Sodium acetate is a usually a crystalized powder solution but once it is boiled down with water, it becomes a liquid. If you pack the with a large amount of sodium acetate, you supersaturate the solution. 

The freezing point of sodium acetate is 136.4◦ F ( 58◦ C), so when you leave the solution to cool it will actually supercool which is freezing without solidification or crystallization. 

In the gif, a material with a bit of solid sodium acetate (in its crystal powder form) activates the the supercooled solution and triggers a crystallization! What’s really cool is that this process of crystallization releases heat, so it becomes extremely hot while also being frozen!

Stay Safe!



How to set bubbles on fire | At-Bristol Science Centre

Bubbles can float, pop, and… burst into flames!? Ross & Heather of the Live Science Team investigate the secret behind turning water into bubbles and how to set a bubble on fire!

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(via At-Bristol)

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!

Gif source

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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!


The Rainbow Fizz experiment (Acids and Bases)

“Sodium carbonate solution is added to a burette containing a little hydrochloric acid and Universal Indicator. The two solutions react, with effervescence (fizzing), and the liquid in the burette shows a ‘rainbow’ of all the colours of Universal Indicator from red through orange, yellow, green and blue to purple.”

Find the method here, with my old friends at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Gif source: The CoolScienceGifs lab!



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

source 1, 2, 3

Comets: The Dirty Snowballs of Space

Comets are huge rocky bodies in space, that can be several miles in diameter. The objects are covered in frozen carbon dioxide, water, carbon compounds, and even complex organic molecules like amino acids. Some comets orbit our solar system over the course of hundreds of years, others only survive a single trip before plunging into the Sun. To find out more about comets & how to make a miniature one like this, using with some dry ice and Worcester sauce, check out the source video:


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.

gif sources




We sat down with the Parks and Recreation star, Nick Offerman, who plays the whiskey-quaffing, meat-loving Ron Swanson in the show, and talked about building things. 

Popular Science: One of our favorite Ron Swanson lines is: “Any moron with a crucible, an acetylene torch, and a cast-iron waffle maker could have done the same…. People who buy things are suckers.” How much have your own interests crept into your TV character?

Nick Offerman: A great deal of Ron is taking aspects of my life and writing them in a cartoony way. I would not have the ability to rip a couple sconces off the wall and hand you a couple wedding rings a half an hour later, but I do make a lot of stuff at my shop. It’s a frequent topic around the writers’ room. The fact that I could make a canoe or a paddle or a jig for flattening wood slabs seems like absolute necromancy to them.

Read the rest of the Q&A here.

(Photo by  F. Scott Schafer)