SCIENCE IS SO COOL LIKE
"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."

This tumblr's for all the great men and women of science for whom we owe our current understanding of the natural world; their achievements, their failures, and even their quirks, we celebrate them all.

For Science. For Inquiry. For Humanity.
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truthogen:

“It is hard to treat Ensatina eschscholtzii and Ensatina klauberi withconfidence as separate species. They are are a ‘ring species’. You’ll recognisethem as separate species if you only sample in the south. Move north, however,and they gradually turn into each other.”
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor’s Tale

truthogen:

“It is hard to treat Ensatina eschscholtzii and Ensatina klauberi with
confidence as separate species. They are are a ‘ring species’. You’ll recognise
them as separate species if you only sample in the south. Move north, however,
and they gradually turn into each other.”

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor’s Tale

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(Source: academicaxolotl)

VIDEO

skeptv:

inFact: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Some say High Fructose Corn Syrup is just another sugar; some say it’s significantly more unhealthy. What does real biochemistry tell us?

http://infactvideo.com

(Source: youtube.com)

PHOTO SET

jtotheizzoe:

fuckyeahmolecularbiology:

Played By Humans, Scored By Nature

Meet eteRNA, your new internet addiction. Not only is it a super-fun way to procrastinate on that thing you should be doing, it also helps to advance biology’s understanding of RNA and its synthesis - in a big way. Scientists from Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University have developed eteRNA as a successor to Foldit, a popular internet-based game that proved the pattern-matching skills of amateurs could outperform some of the best protein-folding algorithms designed by scientists. They’re hedging their bets that eteRNA will work similarly - and are even funding the real-life synthesis of the weekly winner’s RNA molecule to see if it really does fold the same way the game predicts it should. 

The scientists hope to tap the internet’s ability to harness what is described as “collective intelligence,” the collaborative potential of hundreds or thousands of human minds linked together. Using games to harvest participation from amateurs exploits a resource which the social scientist Clay Shirky recently described as the “cognitive surplus” - the idea that together, as a collection of amateurs, we internet people make a very good algorithm because we react to information presented in a game, get better at it as we go along, and make informed decisions based on what has or hasn’t worked for us in the past. 

“We’re the leading edge in asking nonexperts to do really complicated things online,” says Dr. Treuille, an assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon and one of the original masterminds behind the game. “RNA are beautiful molecules. They are very simple and they self-assemble into complex shapes. From the scientific side, there is an RNA revolution going on. The complexity of life may be due to RNA signaling.”

“This [project] is like putting a molecular chess game in people’s hands at a massive level,” he continues. “I think of this as opening up science. I think we are democratizing science.”

And, so far, the democratisation is working. Although the creators warn that game players may start to see legal and ethical issues in gameplay down the road, for now, the collective intelligence is trumping professionally designed algorithms. Significantly, not only do humans outperform their computer adversaries, but the human strategies developed during the course of the game are significantly more flexible and adaptable than those of the algorithms they’re pitted against.

So what are you waiting for? This isn’t procrastination, it’s being a part of a collective intelligence that’s smart enough to take down science’s finest algorithms. Click here (you know you want to) to get synthesising!

Crowdsourced science gaming hits the RNA world? Excuse me while I go ruin my colleagues productivity.

(Source: amolecularmatter)

VIDEO

skeptv:

How Much Humanity Weighs

Hank gives us a summary of a strange new calculation, which estimates the total body mass of all the humans on earth.

Like SciShow on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/scishow
Follow SciShow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/scishow

References:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpublichealth/
http://www.eurekalert.org/emb_releases/2012-06/bc-two061512.php
https://apps.who.int/infobase/Publicfiles/SuRF2.pdf

(Source: youtube.com)

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contemplatingmadness:

10 Ways the Human Microbiome Project Could Change the Future of Science and Medicine

When astronomers talk about the number of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, they talk in terms of hundreds of billions. When microbiologists talk about the Human Microbiome — the bacteria, viruses and fungi living in and on each of our bodies — they talk in terms of hundreds of trillions.
Earlier this month, the Human Microbiome Project published the most extensive investigation on the human microbiome to date. And now, we have the clearest picture ever of the microorganisms that call you home — and this knowledge is likely to affect your life in ways you’d never expect. Here are 10 ways that understanding the organisms inside you could change science and medicine forever.
10. Your medical records will list your enterotypeMuch like there are eight different common blood types, researchers announced last year the existence of at least three distinct human “enterotypes”, or intestinal bacterial communities. Each enterotype is characterized by the predominance of one of three genera: Bacteroides,Prevotellaor or Ruminococcus. Incredibly, the researchers found no link between enterotype and age, nationality, gender, body weight, or even overall health.
9. But enterotypes are just the beginningRemember: “enterotype” refers solely to the microbiota of the gut, but your microbiome extends throughout and over your entire body. Doctors could therefore consider more than just your enterotype when consulting your medical records; they could reference a much larger picture — one that encapsulates the various ecosystems that support your entire body.
The phylogenetic tree featured here, for example (borrowed from this outstanding New York Times feature) gives an overview of the microbes found in or on human ears, vaginas, noses, tongues, teeth and cheeks. Your body is a whole wide world universe of microbial life.
8. Doctors could use your microbiome to custom tailor medical treatmentsAnd yet, every person’s microbial universe is different; for example, a bacterium that dominates the ecosystem of one person’s mouth can be missing entirely from someone else’s. Researchers suspect that the differences in our microbial makeups could allow doctors to custom tailor their diagnoses and treatments. The potential for personalized medicine could be huge.
7. Treat the microbiome by fortifying its allied forcesA person with a bacterial infection in her gut could be said to be in possession of an out-of-balance bacterial ecosystem; somewhere in her intestines, a rebel faction of bacteria is wreaking havoc. One potential form of therapy: manipulate the dynamics of said ecosystem by pitting one (or several) species of virus, bacterium or fungus against another.
A more intimate understanding of the microbiome will allow us to understand how microbial species interact to maintain a healthy, balanced environment (be it in your mouth, your gut, or on the surface of your skin), and how to fix that balance when things get thrown off kilter.
6. A solution to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance?Antibiotic resistance is becoming a more serious issue by the day, due in no small part to the widespread use of broad spectrum antibiotics, which wipe out our bodies’ good bugs and bad bugs indiscriminately.
With a greater understanding of the microbiome could come microbe-boostingtreatments like the ones mentioned above, providing doctors with powerful (and effective) alternatives to antibiotics. In fact,it’s already been shown to work in cases ofClostridium difficile infection. (Note that, because the microbiome comprises not just bacteria, but viruses and fungi, these treatments wouldn’t necessarily be limited to probiotics.)
5. An end to the war on germsBy treating our microbiomes like ecosystems — equipping it with the resources it needs to sort itself out rather than attacking it, guns blazing — some researchers hope to usher in a new way of thinking about our relationship with bacteria and other microorganisms.
“I would like to lose the language of warfare,” said Julie Segre of the National Human Genome Research Institute in an interview with Carl Zimmer, who has written extensively on the subject of the human microbiome. “It does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies.”
4. Blur the line dividing Humanity from NatureTo quote another, different Zimmer article:

Microbes defy a simple notion of individuality. They are essential to our biology, and they travel with us from birth to death. Yet they also flow between us, and can be found in water, food and soil.

In other words, many of the microorganisms that live in and on our bodies can also be found thriving in nature. Because microbes are continuously entering and leaving your body; in many ways, “your” microbiome, while essential to your individual health, extends beyond the confines of your body. The more we understand about the human microbiome, the more we come to realize that everything is, in fact, like, totally connected, man.
3. Treating one person could affect manyOur microbes connect us all. Since these organisms don’t stay confined to any one body, any bugs specifically chosen to treat a person’s ailment have the potential to affect those in that person’s surroundings, as well. (It’s not a perfect analogy, but think of how genetically modified crops are susceptible to spreading to non-GM fields via seed-dispersal). Would roving microbes necessarily be a problem? Doctors aren’t sure yet — but they have the potential to raise a number of bioethical concerns.
2. Do you own your microbes?For instance, here’s a great thought experiment, from the same Zimmer article as above:

Imagine a scientist gently swabs your left nostril with a Q-tip and finds… a previously unknown [bacterial species] that produces a powerful new antibiotic. Her university licenses it to a pharmaceutical company; it hits the market and earns hundreds of millions of dollars. Do you deserve a cut of the profits?

We’ve just discussed how our microbiomes are what connect us all — not just with nature, but with one another. But we’ve also established that our microbiomes are very much a part of who we are as individuals. The viruses, bacteria and fungi living in your nostrils are very different from the ones living in mine; who’s to say the bacterial species that produces this powerful new antibiotic didn’t evolve by trading genes with the specific combination of bugs located in yournostrils?
Then again, who’s to say they evolved in your nostrils in the first place?
1. Your microbiome profile will be kept privateOne way to determine if the bacterial species discovered in your nostril evolved in your nose, specifically, would be to look for it in the noses of everyone else. It sounds like a ridiculous feat because it is. For one thing, it would require for the microbiome of every person on earth to be catalogued in a worldwide database. People would need to have their microbiomes updated on a regular basis to account for shifts in the dynamics of their various corporeal ecosystems. Add to this the fact that the genes of your microbiome are thought to outnumber your own by a hundred to one, and your looking at a logistical nightmare — not to mention a technical impossibility.
And even if such a database did exist, you’d still presumably need permission from every single person on Earth to make any comparisons; many researchers argue that your microbiome, like your genes, should remain private, protected information.

contemplatingmadness:

10 Ways the Human Microbiome Project Could Change the Future of Science and Medicine

When astronomers talk about the number of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, they talk in terms of hundreds of billions. When microbiologists talk about the Human Microbiome — the bacteria, viruses and fungi living in and on each of our bodies — they talk in terms of hundreds of trillions.

Earlier this month, the Human Microbiome Project published the most extensive investigation on the human microbiome to date. And now, we have the clearest picture ever of the microorganisms that call you home — and this knowledge is likely to affect your life in ways you’d never expect. Here are 10 ways that understanding the organisms inside you could change science and medicine forever.

10. Your medical records will list your enterotype
Much like there are eight different common blood types, researchers announced last year the existence of at least three distinct human “enterotypes”, or intestinal bacterial communities. Each enterotype is characterized by the predominance of one of three genera: Bacteroides,Prevotellaor or Ruminococcus. Incredibly, the researchers found no link between enterotype and age, nationality, gender, body weight, or even overall health.

9. But enterotypes are just the beginning
Remember: “enterotype” refers solely to the microbiota of the gut, but your microbiome extends throughout and over your entire body. Doctors could therefore consider more than just your enterotype when consulting your medical records; they could reference a much larger picture — one that encapsulates the various ecosystems that support your entire body.

The phylogenetic tree featured here, for example (borrowed from this outstanding New York Times feature) gives an overview of the microbes found in or on human ears, vaginas, noses, tongues, teeth and cheeks. Your body is a whole wide world universe of microbial life.

8. Doctors could use your microbiome to custom tailor medical treatments
And yet, every person’s microbial universe is different; for example, a bacterium that dominates the ecosystem of one person’s mouth can be missing entirely from someone else’s. Researchers suspect that the differences in our microbial makeups could allow doctors to custom tailor their diagnoses and treatments. The potential for personalized medicine could be huge.

7. Treat the microbiome by fortifying its allied forces
A person with a bacterial infection in her gut could be said to be in possession of an out-of-balance bacterial ecosystem; somewhere in her intestines, a rebel faction of bacteria is wreaking havoc. One potential form of therapy: manipulate the dynamics of said ecosystem by pitting one (or several) species of virus, bacterium or fungus against another.

A more intimate understanding of the microbiome will allow us to understand how microbial species interact to maintain a healthy, balanced environment (be it in your mouth, your gut, or on the surface of your skin), and how to fix that balance when things get thrown off kilter.

6. A solution to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is becoming a more serious issue by the day, due in no small part to the widespread use of broad spectrum antibiotics, which wipe out our bodies’ good bugs and bad bugs indiscriminately.

With a greater understanding of the microbiome could come microbe-boostingtreatments like the ones mentioned above, providing doctors with powerful (and effective) alternatives to antibiotics. In fact,it’s already been shown to work in cases ofClostridium difficile infection. (Note that, because the microbiome comprises not just bacteria, but viruses and fungi, these treatments wouldn’t necessarily be limited to probiotics.)

5. An end to the war on germs
By treating our microbiomes like ecosystems — equipping it with the resources it needs to sort itself out rather than attacking it, guns blazing — some researchers hope to usher in a new way of thinking about our relationship with bacteria and other microorganisms.

“I would like to lose the language of warfare,” said Julie Segre of the National Human Genome Research Institute in an interview with Carl Zimmer, who has written extensively on the subject of the human microbiome. “It does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies.”

4. Blur the line dividing Humanity from Nature
To quote another, different Zimmer article:

Microbes defy a simple notion of individuality. They are essential to our biology, and they travel with us from birth to death. Yet they also flow between us, and can be found in water, food and soil.

In other words, many of the microorganisms that live in and on our bodies can also be found thriving in nature. Because microbes are continuously entering and leaving your body; in many ways, “your” microbiome, while essential to your individual health, extends beyond the confines of your body. The more we understand about the human microbiome, the more we come to realize that everything is, in fact, like, totally connected, man.

3. Treating one person could affect many
Our microbes connect us all. Since these organisms don’t stay confined to any one body, any bugs specifically chosen to treat a person’s ailment have the potential to affect those in that person’s surroundings, as well. (It’s not a perfect analogy, but think of how genetically modified crops are susceptible to spreading to non-GM fields via seed-dispersal). Would roving microbes necessarily be a problem? Doctors aren’t sure yet — but they have the potential to raise a number of bioethical concerns.

2. Do you own your microbes?
For instance, here’s a great thought experiment, from the same Zimmer article as above:

Imagine a scientist gently swabs your left nostril with a Q-tip and finds… a previously unknown [bacterial species] that produces a powerful new antibiotic. Her university licenses it to a pharmaceutical company; it hits the market and earns hundreds of millions of dollars. Do you deserve a cut of the profits?

We’ve just discussed how our microbiomes are what connect us all — not just with nature, but with one another. But we’ve also established that our microbiomes are very much a part of who we are as individuals. The viruses, bacteria and fungi living in your nostrils are very different from the ones living in mine; who’s to say the bacterial species that produces this powerful new antibiotic didn’t evolve by trading genes with the specific combination of bugs located in yournostrils?

Then again, who’s to say they evolved in your nostrils in the first place?

1. Your microbiome profile will be kept private
One way to determine if the bacterial species discovered in your nostril evolved in your nose, specifically, would be to look for it in the noses of everyone else. It sounds like a ridiculous feat because it is. For one thing, it would require for the microbiome of every person on earth to be catalogued in a worldwide database. People would need to have their microbiomes updated on a regular basis to account for shifts in the dynamics of their various corporeal ecosystems. Add to this the fact that the genes of your microbiome are thought to outnumber your own by a hundred to one, and your looking at a logistical nightmare — not to mention a technical impossibility.

And even if such a database did exist, you’d still presumably need permission from every single person on Earth to make any comparisons; many researchers argue that your microbiome, like your genes, should remain private, protected information.

PHOTO
jtotheizzoe:

First Evidence Found for Photosynthesis in Insects
OR
Livin’ on ur plants, harvestin ur sunshine
The ability to gather sunlight and convert it to useable energy has been the plant kingdom’s longstanding trump card (along with some bacteria and fungi) when it comes to “greatest evolutionary adaptation known”. Unlike the rest of the tree of life ,photosynthetic organisms have billions of years worth of free energy to count on. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of solar food. The evolution of the animal world actually wouldn’t have happened if photosynthetic organisms hadn’t started pumping oxygen into our atmosphere in the early years of Earth.
For the first time, scientists have found evidence that an insect shares this ability. Some pea aphids, like the one pictured above, can produce plant-like orange pigments called carotenoids. In addition to chlorophyll, these are the same compounds that leaves use to harvest light, and also why we get those beautiful browns and oranges in autumn.
The aphid seems to have “stolen” the genes from a fungus, and then through some non-photosynthetic mechanism, is using the pigments to create ATP, life’s energy currency.
This isn’t the first time a larger organism has developed the ability to harvest sunlight! A sea slug was discovered a few years ago that borrowed photosynthetic genes from microscopic algae. Looks like the branches on that tree of life cross over more than we thought. 
More at Scientific American.

jtotheizzoe:

First Evidence Found for Photosynthesis in Insects

OR

Livin’ on ur plants, harvestin ur sunshine

The ability to gather sunlight and convert it to useable energy has been the plant kingdom’s longstanding trump card (along with some bacteria and fungi) when it comes to “greatest evolutionary adaptation known”. Unlike the rest of the tree of life ,photosynthetic organisms have billions of years worth of free energy to count on. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of solar food. The evolution of the animal world actually wouldn’t have happened if photosynthetic organisms hadn’t started pumping oxygen into our atmosphere in the early years of Earth.

For the first time, scientists have found evidence that an insect shares this ability. Some pea aphids, like the one pictured above, can produce plant-like orange pigments called carotenoids. In addition to chlorophyll, these are the same compounds that leaves use to harvest light, and also why we get those beautiful browns and oranges in autumn.

The aphid seems to have “stolen” the genes from a fungus, and then through some non-photosynthetic mechanism, is using the pigments to create ATP, life’s energy currency.

This isn’t the first time a larger organism has developed the ability to harvest sunlight! A sea slug was discovered a few years ago that borrowed photosynthetic genes from microscopic algae. Looks like the branches on that tree of life cross over more than we thought. 

More at Scientific American.

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humananatomyfacts:

There are two basic types of cells: Prokaryotes and and Eukaryotes. 

The prefix “pro-” means “before” and the suffix “-karyotic” comes from the Greek word “karyose” which means “kernel” (as in a kernel of grain), and refers to the nucleus of a cell; thus the term prokaryotic means before nuclei. Basically, any cell that lacks a membrane-bound nucleus is classified as a prokaryote. Usually, most prokaryotic cells are also bacteria and-unlike eukaryotic cells- are not dependent on oxygen and contain few determinable internal structures. 
On the other hand, the prefix “eu-” means “true” or “good” and again the suffix “-karyotic” refers to the nuclei of cells; thus the term eukaryotic means possessing a true nucleus. Eukaryotes (more formally known as Eukarya or Eukaryota) contain complex structures (organelles like mitochondria, chloroplasts, and the Golgi apparatus) enclosed within membranes and are usually much larger than Prokaryotes. Basically, all species of large complex organisms are eukaryotes. This includes animals, plants and fungi, although most species of eukaryote are protist microorganisms. 

humananatomyfacts:

There are two basic types of cells: Prokaryotes and and Eukaryotes

The prefix “pro-” means “before” and the suffix “-karyotic” comes from the Greek word “karyose” which means “kernel” (as in a kernel of grain), and refers to the nucleus of a cell; thus the term prokaryotic means before nuclei. Basically, any cell that lacks a membrane-bound nucleus is classified as a prokaryote. Usually, most prokaryotic cells are also bacteria and-unlike eukaryotic cells- are not dependent on oxygen and contain few determinable internal structures. 

On the other hand, the prefix “eu-” means “true” or “good” and again the suffix “-karyotic” refers to the nuclei of cells; thus the term eukaryotic means possessing a true nucleus. Eukaryotes (more formally known as Eukarya or Eukaryota) contain complex structures (organelles like mitochondria, chloroplasts, and the Golgi apparatus) enclosed within membranes and are usually much larger than Prokaryotes. Basically, all species of large complex organisms are eukaryotes. This includes animalsplants and fungi, although most species of eukaryote are protist microorganisms.
 

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dailyfossil:

Tiktaalik - the fishapod 
Model by Tyler Keillor and this particular set up on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History 
When: Late Devonian (~375 million years ago)
Where: Found on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada
What: Tiktaalik is a very critical specimen on the line of tetrapod evolution. In the tetrapod family tree it falls between sarcopterygians (‘lobed fin’ fish) that looked much like the living Coelacanth and more advanced tetrapods, such as Acanthostega.The discovery and announcement of Tiktaalik was very exciting, as fossils on both side of  transitional period were known for a long time, but nothing really in the middle. Of course as with the discovery of any ‘missing link’ now we have two more ‘links missing’: one on either side of Tiktaalik ;). The most important part of the specimen is the anatomy of its forelimb - there was a well developed wrist inside the fin of Tiktaalik! Not only that, but it possibly has the first ‘fingers’ seen in the tetrapod lineage. Unfortunately the back end of Tiktaalik is unknown… for now! 
In life Tiktaalik would have been an aquatic animal, as its limbs could not support its weight on land - but they would have been very helpful for maneuvering the creature around the shallow waters of prehistoric Canada. Based on the spiracles - openings behind the eyes- of the skull it has been preposed Tiktaalik could have had a form of primitive lung.  
If you want to know more about Tiktaalik - check out its website at: http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/. And for more in depth reading, I cannot recommend the book ‘Your Inner Fish’, written by the discover of Tiktaalik - Neil Shubin, enough! It is a really great explanation of how Tiktaalik fits into the evolution of tetrapods and explaining homology in general! Shubin has done a fantastic job of promoting public science education using this great Tiktaalik specimen as a starting point. 
Just look at all of these models getting ready to go out to museums. Maybe one is near you!

dailyfossil:

Tiktaalik - the fishapod 

Model by Tyler Keillor and this particular set up on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History 

When: Late Devonian (~375 million years ago)

Where: Found on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada

What: Tiktaalik is a very critical specimen on the line of tetrapod evolution. In the tetrapod family tree it falls between sarcopterygians (‘lobed fin’ fish) that looked much like the living Coelacanth and more advanced tetrapods, such as Acanthostega.The discovery and announcement of Tiktaalik was very exciting, as fossils on both side of  transitional period were known for a long time, but nothing really in the middle. Of course as with the discovery of any ‘missing link’ now we have two more ‘links missing’: one on either side of Tiktaalik ;). The most important part of the specimen is the anatomy of its forelimb - there was a well developed wrist inside the fin of Tiktaalik! Not only that, but it possibly has the first ‘fingers’ seen in the tetrapod lineage. Unfortunately the back end of Tiktaalik is unknown… for now! 

In life Tiktaalik would have been an aquatic animal, as its limbs could not support its weight on land - but they would have been very helpful for maneuvering the creature around the shallow waters of prehistoric Canada. Based on the spiracles - openings behind the eyes- of the skull it has been preposed Tiktaalik could have had a form of primitive lung.  

If you want to know more about Tiktaalik - check out its website at: http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/. And for more in depth reading, I cannot recommend the book ‘Your Inner Fish’, written by the discover of Tiktaalik - Neil Shubin, enough! It is a really great explanation of how Tiktaalik fits into the evolution of tetrapods and explaining homology in general! Shubin has done a fantastic job of promoting public science education using this great Tiktaalik specimen as a starting point. 

Just look at all of these models getting ready to go out to museums. Maybe one is near you!

PHOTO
k-rin:

Artwork of a molecular model of a DNA nucleosome, the repeating unit used to package DNA (genetic material) inside the nucleus of cells. The spiral helix of DNA (red, blue) is seen coiled around a core of histone proteins (centre, multicoloured) and each set of two DNA loops around a histone core is known as a nucleosome.

k-rin:

Artwork of a molecular model of a DNA nucleosome, the repeating unit used to package DNA (genetic material) inside the nucleus of cells. The spiral helix of DNA (red, blue) is seen coiled around a core of histone proteins (centre, multicoloured) and each set of two DNA loops around a histone core is known as a nucleosome.

(via k-rin-deactivated20120525)