Light Work

Understanding more about the human brain’s estimated 100 billion interconnected nerve cells, or neurons, could help us develop new treatments for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. One method of investigating brain activity is to genetically engineer an animal, such as a mouse, so that its neurons produce a light-sensitive protein, opsin. Neuron activity can then be triggered by shining light on the brain, once it’s exposed in the anaesthetised animal. The computer simulation here illustrates a light beam hitting clusters of opsin on a neuron surface. The resulting nerve signals can be detected in connected neurons by inserting tiny probes to measure the electrical and genetic activity inside them. Scientists have recently developed a computer-guided robotic arm to insert the probes with greater accuracy than previously possible.

Written by Mick Warwicker

  • Ed Boyden
  • MIT McGovern Institute and Sputnik Animation
Let's Go, Rick Steves, and Walking in London: A Review Comparing different travel guides for London

A good guide can be a total vacation save when you’re exploring an unfamiliar place with a time. First time visitors to London have not finished packing up that led to one or two good travel guides in their backpacks. But with so many choices, taking the right book can actually become one of the most frustrating travel planning: rails are some redundant, some compliment one another, some are complete, others are superficial.Let ’s Go London City guidebooks, Rick Steves’ Great Britain, and Andrew Duncan Walking London are three very different books that have distinct purposes. And while certainly not the only London guides worth checking out, there is a 99% chance that at least one of them suits your individual needs. Let’s Go is probably the hottest business travel literature in the world at this time. They have put out guides that are stylish, economical, and-with a new version published every year, timely and accurate. Their London City Guide is no exception. Within the 350 + pages of the book, you will find heaps of detailed advice on eating, drinking, nightlife, museums and galleries, shopping, transport and accommodation (including hostels, bed & breakfasts, and even living rooms. ) All this information is conveniently organized by district. Within the pages of the guide Let’s Go find one for maps, charts, maps and more maps. lines the streets of London sprawling, casual, old-meets-new can make navigation difficult, but you’ll be fine if you’re carrying the guide Let’s Go: the first 8 and last 31 pages are devoted entirely to the maps. Bottom, Let’s Go has some ‘advertising on its pages, some of which can be intrusive at times. And even more significantly, Let’s Go lacks personality. It 'full of practical information such as addresses, prices and hours, but it lacks that human touch that can be so comforting for a traveler in an unfamiliar place. This is where the game Rick Steves travel stories personal opinions frankly and historical curiosities to Rick Steves’ Great Britain a perfect companion to (or replacement) Let’s Go guide with a section entitled “Delusions of London, you know this guy is pulling no punches. But what really makes it stand out from Steves travel writer and his drawings. He insists that his readers get a visual representation of everything he writes. His guide is filled with easy to follow, hand-drawn maps of everything from entire regions, cities and districts, right down to floorplans of galleries, museums and castles. -And as you probably guessed from the title-Rick Steves’ Britain does not deal exclusively in London. The book covers all the best that England, Wales and Scotland have to offer. This makes it perfect for travelers who plan to spend time outside of London for part of their journey. Steves also publishes a guide of the city of London-specific, but with 80 + pages of the book in Britain devoted exclusively to London, why bother? My only problem with writing Steves’ is that while he certainly does not bear to throw away money, may not be enough for some budget-oriented travelers (like those on a student budget.) For example, his recommendations to address accommodation almost exclusively with hotels, hostels, giving only a hint. And while people in Let’s Go understand that you’re willing to walk eight miles for a cheap drink, Steves’ readers have to resign themselves to the idea that they are going to pay $ 10 for a beer. Last but by no means least, we strongly recommend checking out Walking London by Andrew Duncan. It ’s a very special book, not an all-encompassing guide to the city, but a manual step-by-step tour to 30 do-it-yourself walking through the most famous districts of the city. Even if you’re not one of the turns in its entirety, holding a copy of Walking in London stock exchange days is guaranteed not to miss important points of reference, good food, or photo opportunities as you are walking from place to place. Although I do not recommend using London as a tourist guide Walking alone makes it a striking partner for any of the most complete guides or country. If you decide to take it, I support the "Westminster and St. James 'and’ Bankside and Southwark” missed like two walks. Whatever you decide to go with books, there is an important secret to using them correctly: to study before you go. What better way to ruin a vacation than spending all the time with his face buried in a guidebook.

Watch on moebrowntown.tumblr.com


Ivan Villafuerte

Sin Are Acids In The Eyes

This guy was standing on a corner in Greenpoint, Brooklyn preaching about “the DNA of sin.” He told me, “Sin are acids in the eyes called OpSin…which form free radicals causing aging, disease, and death.” I think he also said his church sell anti-aging products. It was a lot to take in…

More photos of Preachers and Super Religious Folk and from the Random Strangers Series.

Octopus-Inspired Camouflage Flashes to Life in Smart Material! (TECHNOLOGY)

     Octopuses and their cephalopod cousins are the undisputed masters of disguise. An octopus can change its color, texture and luminosity faster than you can say “camouflage.”

     So far our lowly human attempts at imitation have been quite crude. But a flashy new smart material might just be our closest step yet.

     The main tool the octopus uses for its visual display is a cell called a chromatophore. These small, pigment-filled sacs expand and contract to create an array of colors and patterns. How does the octopus decide what colors and patterns to make? Recent research suggests that octopuses can also sense light—and possibly even color—through photo-sensitive cells (called opsins) in their skin.

     The idea of a material that can both sense and create visual change is quite appealing to science (and the military). Renowned cephalopod researcher Roger Hanlon, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and John Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (whose previous work includes flexible temporary tattoo-like circuits), teamed up with a crew of international researchers to create a changing heat- and light-sensitive sheet of pixels, described earlier this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photo sensible nanomaterial, based in octopus skin

More facts and Science in: www.newhorizonshept.tumblr.com


CIRpy - A Python interface for the Chemical Identifier Resolver (CIR)

In the past I have used the ChemSpider API (through ChemSpiPy) to resolve chemical names to structures. Unfortunately this doesn’t work that well for IUPAC names and I found myself wondering whether it was worth setting up a system that would try a number of different resolvers. More specifically, I wanted a system that would first try using OPSIN to match IUPAC names, and if that failed, try a ChemSpider lookup. Just as I was about to start doing this myself, I came across the Chemical Identifier Resolver (CIR) that does exactly that (and much more).

CIR is a web service created by by the CADD Group at the NCI that performs various chemical name to structure conversions. In short, it will (attempt to) resolve the structure of any chemical identifier that you throw at it. Under the hood it uses a combination of OPSIN, ChemSpider and CIR’s own database.

To simplify interacting with CIR through Python, I wrote a simple wrapper called CIRpy that handles constructing url requests and parsing XML responses. It’s available on github here.

Using it is a simple case of copying cirpy.py into a directory on your python path. Here’s an example using the resolve function:

import cirpy

smiles_string = cirpy.resolve('Aspirin','smiles')

There are full details of all available options in the readme.