The Department of Extraordinary Embroidery is delighted to present further proof that Science + Art = Awesome. Plainville, CT-based artist Alicia Watkins creates cross-stitch illustrations of bacteria, germs, viruses and microbes. Ordinarily you wouldn’t want to come into contact with any of these microscopic beasties, but these embroidered versions are 100% delightful instead of infectious.

Watkins sells her sciencetastic needlework via her Etsy shop, Watty’s Wall Stuff and Cross Stitchery. Head over there to check out many more examples of her crafty geekery, including lots of cross-stitch patterns and kits.

[via Colossal]


Grand Prismatic Spring

Located in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest natural hot spring found in the US. The spring has a scalding temperature of 160 °F (70 °C), a total depth of 160 feet and a diameter of 300 feet. The vivid, rainbow colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water.


I present, a microbiologist magical girl! Or a microbe magical girl, whichever you prefer i guess, with guest stars from Moyashimon Microbes!

This was a commission from a really cool MCB grad student, and i was more than happy to work on it because it combines so many many many of my favorite things :D I was basically given more or less free reign with some input on the science side of things, so cookies to people who see all the little references in the picture to microbiology and lab work :3 I may do a rework of this with generic microbes and not moyashimon ones to bring to otakon and awa as a print, but we’ll see in a week or two. 

I wanted to post this earlier but a giant headache basically pooped on the last 8 hours of my life v_v


Once upon a slide…the first microbiology book for 5 year olds!

At last! No more bed time fairy tales about damsels in distress, princesses in pink and knights in white shining armor.

Move over Disney. This is a world we should be opening our kids up to. Steeped in reality. A world 1000x more exciting than those lands too far far far away, and it is all playing out under our very noses, inside our refrigerators, outside our back doors and throughout our own bodies.

Thank you to Nicola Davies (author) and Emily Sutton (illustrator) for this beautiful non-fiction children’s book that introduces young readers to microscopy.

I can’t wait to buy this for my nieces.

Let me know if you need help with the histological sequel ;)



View more of Emily’s beautiful artwork at her website

Find out more about award winning author Nicola at her blog/website

Images and book (ISBN:1406341045) seen at amazon.com and via Walker Books 


Cute Little Pathogens: Colorful Microbe Embroidery By Alicia Watkins

Many artists have been inspired by the remarkable shapes of the microscopic world. Glass blower Luke Jerram sculpted beautiful maladies out of glass and now Alicia Watkins combines crafting with science with her colorful embroidery. Germs have never looked so cute as they do in these colorful cross-stitched patterns.

Aside from creating these clever patterns for her own work, Watkins will make you any silly pattern you can dream up. For a super fun pattern, you won’t find at JoAnn Fabrics, head over to Alicia Watkins’ Etsy shop.  You can see her entire collection and purchase one of her works or request something different.


Bacteria that thrive on your Mobile Phone

This week the University of Surrey in England released images of the types of bacteria that live on cell phones.

Scientist at the university put their phones in petri dishes containing agar—a gelatinous substance, obtained from algae that is supplemented with nutrients—to document the bacteria’s growth over three days. Though the images look gross most of the bacteria are harmless, and the final photos give a close-up view of the microscopic world with which we all intimately interact on a daily basis.

The most troublesome bacterium found was staphylococcus aureus that can cause skin rash, respiratory disease and food poisoning. The boffins at Surrey thought the staphylococcus aureus contamination had been caused by someone picking their nose.

Dr. Simon Park, senior lecturer in molecular biology told the Daily Mirror:

“From these results, it seems that the mobile phone doesn’t just remember telephone numbers, but also harbours a history of our personal and physical contacts such as other people, soil and other matter,” he said.

“[The experiment] was a way of showing [our students] directly and quite strikingly how contaminated their phones could be.”

The best advice to stopping this kind on bacteria thriving on your smart or cell phone is simply to clean it every week with some disinfectant. [Daily Mirror]

+Previously: The hidden life on your phone – the bacteria that lurk on your mobile

Why scientists need to search for alien life on purple planets

Billions of years ago, when microbial life first emerged on Earth, our planet would have appeared purple from space. Armed with this knowledge, scientists now say we should be on the lookout for exoplanets tinged in a similar purple hue — a possible sign of extraterrestrial life.

Back during the Archean era, some three billion years ago, one of the more widespread forms of life were purple bacteria — photosynthetic microorganisms that inhabited both aquatic and terrestrial environments. These conditions would have been similar to the one recently discovered by Australian scientists, an ecosystem dating back 3.5 billion years.

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streptococcus forming chains in a laboratory sample

while many strains of streptococcus inhabit our bodies as normal flora, other strains can cause strep throat infections, scarlet fever, pneumonia, and deadly toxic shock syndromes

false color SEM

credit: Martin Oeggerli

After analyzing the microbes with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and next-generation genetic sequencing, the researchers discovered a diverse community of heterotrophs (organisms that feed off of complex organic substances), autotrophs (organisms that feed off simple inorganic substances like carbon dioxide), predators, and symbionts. It’s a a rich and dynamic ecosystem they’re now calling theplastisphere.

And in fact, the plastic communities were more diverse — and isolated — from those in other seawater samples (which are typically dominated by only a few species). Over 1,000 species were discovered, including plants, algae, and bacteria (some of which are still unidentified). 

The researchers say that the plastic is acting as a veritable reef onto which the microbes are clinging. These “microbial reefs” are offering a distinct place that selects for and supports advantageous microbes to settle, succeed — and evolve.


Read the study here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es401288x?tokenDomain=presspac&tokenAccess=presspac&forwardService=showFullText&journalCode=esthag



SCIENCE NEWS! There’s life way, way below Antarctica — chilling out in a subglacial lake. Just a few weeks ago, a team of scientists confirmed that half a mile beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, a bunch of tiny, single-celled organisms are alive and well… in a lake boasting sub-zero temperatures and no access to sunlight. 

The discovery is groundbreaking, leading some to wonder if there might also be life on a similar place — Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. 

John Priscu is one of the lead scientists behind the study. In a talk at TEDxBozeman, he explains what it’s like to be a scientist drilling though thousands of feet of ice while living in a tent in Antarctica. 

Watch the whole talk here»

Photos courtesy of NASA


Microbes Discovered In Massive Aquifers Two Miles Below Seafloor

Scientists probing the mysterious world buried under two miles of ocean water and seafloor have discovered new species of microbes that live on sulfates.

The organisms, found by researchers at NASA and the universities of Southern California and Hawaii, have yet to be classified or named and appear to live in buried aquifers under the crust that makes up ocean bottoms.

Scientists now estimate up to a third of the planet’s total mass of living organisms exist in these isolated aquifers made of porous basaltic rock below the oceans. Such large stores of living microbes could play a major role in the global carbon cycle.

See below for a video, a graphic on the work and to read more.

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