Every year modern medicine brings more and more surprises. It really does seem that the limitations of man’s achievements are solely limited to our creative ability to dream what is possible. This week we bring you the bionic eye. As part of an ongoing trial at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital surgeons implanted a micro electric chip into a patients eye restoring part of her sight.
This week’s FSF is a bit different. Instead of talking about some relatively new discovery or research endeavor, we are going to focus on an old adage, the Theory of Relativity. The Theory of Relativity is one of those concepts that is hugely important but very poorly understood outside of the physics community. Instead of me befuddling this really important concept, I am going to share one of the more concise and readily understandable explanations to Einsteins hugely important Theory.
This kid and his explanation is already blowing up the inter-webs, and he does an amazing job of taking a really complicated concept and making it easily digestible, so I needn’t say anymore. Enjoy!
“The era of the oncolytic virus is… here.” Stephen Russell, Cancer researcher and haematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnessota
…. and let me be the first to welcome our new virus overlords!
Viral-based cancer therapy: T cells (orange) are recruited to attack malignant cells (purple). (Photo credit: Dr. Andrejs Liepins/SPL)
Last week the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decision that received little fanfare, but has huge implications for modern medicine and how we approach cancer treatment in the US. That decision? The FDA granted their approval for a genetically engineered virus to be used to treat cancer. That virus was the herpesvirus called talimogene laherparepvec, and its use is for the treatment of melanoma lesions in the skin and lymph nodes. This huge decision makes it the first oncolytic virus to receive market approval and could pave the way for more oncolytic viruses to enter the “market.”
Happy Fun Science FRIEDay! After a brief hiatus, due to life, hoping this installment represents the regular…err, semi-regular, occurrence of FSF.
So this hit the interwebs pretty big earlier this week, the first documented reptile to glow. That honor belongs to the Hawksbill a sea turtle, observed first by David Gruber, of City University of New York.
Fluorescing hawksbill sea turtle. (Photo credit: David Gruber, of City University of New York)
Lets get one thing out of the way before we delve into the glowing version of Crusher (for my finding Nemo aficionados). The sea turtle is not glowing, its fluorescing… there is a difference. In the ocean lots of organisms fluoresce at longer wavelengths (green, yellow, red) in response to shorter wavelengths (UV, blue, violet). It is a typical property of many biological materials and is noticeable if viewed through restrictive long pass filters, as is the case here.
That being said, documenting a sea turtle fluorescing is still pretty freaking cool! Like many scientific discoveries this was totally by happenstance. David was in the Solomon Islands to film biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs. And during his observations of sharks and corals glowing Crusher just swims by like, “Dude, I’m all glowing and stuff.”
Checkout the awesome video of it below, and Happy FSF!
Recently scientists at NOAA’s South West Fisheries Science Center made a stunning discovery, the worlds first known warm-blooded fish, the moonfish, opah (Lampris guttatus). Until this recent discovery all fish were considered cold-blooded ectotherms – allowing their body temperature to fluctuate with the change in ambient ocean temperature. However, opah’s are different, in that these largely solitary fish regulate their internal body temperature above the ambient temperature of their environment like mammals and birds (other warm-blooded animals).
Opah off the coast of southern California. (Photo credit: Ralph Pace Photography)
Raise your hand if you realized there were frogs so translucent you could see their innards? Ok if you actually raised your hand while reading this, kudos, but put it down now. Glass frogs are tiny green organisms whos organs are visible from their underside given the translucent nature of their bellies. There were 148 species of glass frogs, all of which reside in Central and South America. Well make that 149 species of glass frogs now! Recently a new species of glass frog, Hyalinobatrachium dianae, was discovered in in the forested mountains of eastern Costa Rica.
A new species of glass frog named Hyalinobatrachium dianae. (Photo credit: Brian Kubicki)
The frog is nocturnal and stands out from other glass frogs because of its long, thin feet and black-and-white eyes. This new species also boasts a distinct call, which frogs produce to attract females. This frogs call is a long tiny whistle similar to the noise produced by insects, which helps explain why this frog went unidentified for so long.
Glass frogs are tanslucent, so their organs are visible. (Photo credit: Brian Kubicki)
You can view this study in its entirety at the journal of Zootaxa.
In 2013 a colleague and I were commissioned by Cambridge University Press to write a book about applying to graduate school in the sciences. A large part of the approach was to source knowledge from others with experience in this process (both from admissions offices and former applicants), and to use that information to drive the conclusions in our book. We conducted a national survey of hundreds of graduate admissions programs, and this solicitation is an attempt to gain a perspective from those on the applicant side. What follows is a quick survey (~5 min), and should you choose to help us in this endeavor please read the quick disclaimer below and access the survey link at the end of this article.
You are being invited to participate in a research study about graduate school application in the natural/physical and life sciences. This research project is being conducted by Dr. S. Kersey Sturdivant of Duke University and Dr. Noelle Relles of SUNY Cortland, and is funded by Cambridge University Press. There are no known risks if you decide to participate in this survey, nor are there any costs for participating in the study. The goal of our project is to provide a comprehensive text for potential graduate school applicants in the sciences. We are conducting a survey of former and current graduate students for advice and “words of wisdom” to those undergoing the application process and are asking you to participate. We will incorporate responses to this survey in the advice we provide in our book, and directly quote some responses. If we use a quote from you it will be cited as anonymous, unless we contact you directly asking permission to quote you. We do feel that using direct quotes will make it more personable, but will only quote you after obtaining your permission legally.
You’ve been there before. You are sitting or standing around and get a mental sensation that you need to “pop your knuckles”. A swift squeeze of your fingers and the tension is relieved. Crisis averted. But why do knuckles make that popping sound when you crack them? If questions like this keep you up at night… maybe you need to reevaluate your priorities. But, if the start of this article has piqued your interest, you will be pleased to know that a a team of researchers, led by the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, have confirmed the reasons for knuckle popping.
Pull My Finger experiment. The radiofrequency coil inside the clear housing (left). The metocarpophaangeal (MCP) joint of interest centred over the bore of the radiofrequency coil (middle). The participant’s hand within the imaging magnet (right). (Photo credit: Kawchuck et al. 2015, PLoS ONE)
So this news has been making the rounds, and it is too amazing not to include for FSF. So if you missed it, you are in luck because we highlight it again here. A giant sperm whale was captured by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) piloted as part of Bob Ballard and the Corps of Exploration’s Nautilus cruise. The whale was captured by the ROV Hercules at 598 meter (1,962 ft) below the sea surface in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
Sperm whale captured at 598 meter (1,962 ft) depth by the ROV Hercules. (Photo Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust)
Most people have heard of cone snails. They are the genus of venomous marine snails that shoot a poisonous “dart” (hypodermic-like modified radula tooth attached to a venom gland) to attack and paralyze their prey before feeding on it. Smaller cone snails primarily hunt and prey on marine worms, while the larger ones hunt fish. To humans the sting of a smaller cone snail is similar to that of a bee, but contact with larger cone snails can be fatal! Basically they are the badasses of the snail world.
Cone snails are venomous! Their toxin is estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. (Photo credit: http://www.siart.karoo.net)