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.
The common fruit fly (drosophila melanogaster) has a long and remarkable history in science. The drosophila family was first described by Swedish botanist and entomologist Carl Frederick Fallen in 1815. The name drosophila comes from the Ancient Greek words δρόσος (drosos) meaning dew, and φίλος (philos, with a Latinate feminine ending as phila) meaning lover. The name melanogaster also comes from Ancient Greek, from the words μέλας (melas) meaning dark-coloured, and γαστήρ (gaster) meaning belly. The species melanogaster was first systematically studied and described by the self-taught German entomologist known as the father of dipterology Johann Wilhelm Meigen. Meigen was involved in a dispute with the Great taxonomist Fabricius, when Fabricius visited the self-taught Meigen and criticized his classification system of diptera. Meigen pointed out that even Fabricius deviated from his own taxonomic classification system (see post on the Polygonia for more of Fabricius’s difficulties), but it would be another 18 years before Meigen had the stature to undertake a full revision of Fabricius.
The drosophila melanogaster did not come to full fame until the 1880s when American entomologist Charles W. Woodworth chose the melanogaster for use in genetic experiments while studying at Harvard University. Not long after Thomas Hunt Morgan of Columbia University started using melangaster for heredity experiments, confirming Mendelian theories systematically over many generations. Final fascinating fact of the drosophila family: the males have some of the longest sperm in the animal kingdom, some having sperm that measure as long as two inches! (!), delivered to the female in tightly wound bunches. By comparison, the human sperm is microscopic, measuring only tenths of milimeters across.
Image of a male drosophila melanogaster courtesy Max Westby, used with permission under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.
A siphuncle is the tube that connects the old abondoned sections of a chambered nautilus to the chamber that is in use by the cephalapod. The word siphuncle comes from the Latin word siphunculus meaning a little tube, which comes from the Greek word σιφων meaning siphon.
Image of a siphuncle in a chambered nautilus courtesy Biodidac, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.
Motherboard Earth by Alain Bousquet
Encoded in our DNA is the organic circuitry of life, programming everything from our physical structure to the hardwired commands needed to run, fight, or play. Alain’s series of interlaced circuits create a user interface for the abstract ideas we use to build our world.
Love this interpretation of biological “circuitry”. Although, I’d say that DNA is more the biological program, and the temporal interactions of the proteins and higher-order structures it codes for are really the “circuit board” … but that’s just me :)
Vascularized human forearm
Spacetime is a single substance; to talk about space and time separately is nonsensical. When you want to travel in time, you must also consider travelling in space (see above). So when anyone mentions travelling backward or forward in space and time, one must consider the complicated nature of physical location in that. There is a lot to consider there. The earth is moving, the Sun is moving, the galaxy is moving, the universe is expanding. This is another reason that time travel as we imagine it is a lot further off than we would all like to hope.
The human body by Andreas Vesalius, 1543 – one of 100 diagrams that changed the world
In the 16th century, people had very developed gluteus maximus muscles, because they had to walk everywhere. But life expectancy was low, on account of not having skin.
A common way of drawing out the structure of molecules (esp. in organic chemistry) is to use a skeletal formula.
In a skeletal formula, a C-C bond is symbolized by a straight line. A C-C-C chain would be a straight line with another straight line coming off the first at an angle (to distinguish the bonds). C-H bonds are not shown in skeletal formulae. Instead, you are assumed to know which Carbon atoms should have C-H bonds and how many they should have.
Any atoms that are not C or H are called heteroatoms, and their element symbols must be explicitly written into the structure (as well as any bonds between heteroatoms and hydrogen atoms)
In a more modern twist of astronauts taking super-hip photos while in space, here’s Japanese ISS astronaut Aki Hoshide taking a self-portrait during a spacewalk earlier this year.
It seems size does matter in the brain. Even the smallest stroke can cause widespread damage.
Researchers led by David Kleinfeld of the University of California, San Diego, induced tiny strokes in rats by blocking blood vessels called arterioles, stopping blood from reaching capillaries deeper in the brain.
Blocking just a single arteriole caused cell death in all directions for hundreds of micrometres after the blockage. Block several and you can knock out entire brain regions as the damage travels even in areas still fed by intact vessels. It was previously assumed that strokes on this scale would be innocuous.
The damage impaired the animals’ ability to judge when a gap between two platforms was too wide to cross. But giving the rats injections of memantine – a drug already approved to treat people with Alzheimer’s disease – within 45 minutes of the stroke prevented both the damage and loss of function even when multiple vessels were blocked.
In people, these “silent” mini-strokes go unnoticed and are undetectable by brain scans, says Kleinfeld, but could have an impact on brain function over time.
Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.3278