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Posts Tagged "bacteria"

Anthropology in Practice

Editor’s Selections: Public Restrooms, Black Death, Social Cooperation, And Resilient Ecosystems

Part of my online life includes editorial duties at ResearchBlogging.org, where I serve as the Social Sciences Editor. Each Thursday, I pick notable posts on research in anthropology, philosophy, social science, and research to share on the ResearchBlogging.org News site. To help highlight this writing, I also share my selections here on AiP. The range for selections [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

On the Curious Motions of Syphilis and Lyme Disease Bacteria

spirochete_flagella_Cell_Harman_et_al_200

The bacteria that cause syphilis and Lyme Disease have something extraordinary in common: they manage to propel themselves through their environment in spite of the fact their tails are located inside their bodies. For bacteria, they’re also unusually shaped and active. In this movie, you can see the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease moving like [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Missing Nitrogen May Be Vanishing in the Tubes of Giant Bacteria

thioploca_flickr_Carola_Espinoza_200

Off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula lies a dark, still, deep place. It is called the Soledad Basin, and in it lies a garden of bacteria so large you can see them with your own eyes. A 250-m high ridge on the edge of the Soledad basin traps water inside. No strong currents disturb [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Archaea Are More Wonderful Than You Know

archeum_thermococcus_gammatolerans_angels_tapias_wiki_cc_200

In the 1970s, an obscure scientist named Carl Woese (pronounced “woes”) was working on something apparently rather mundane: finding a way to classify bacteria. Though that may seem a straightforward task, bacteria had stubbornly resisted all previous attempts. The traditional method — looking at differences in appearance, structure, and metabolism and sort of eyeballing it [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Dark Bacillus Crystal

Bacillus_thuringiensis-toxin-crystals_wiki_pd_200

In this photograph are elegant, microscopic agents of death. They are crystals made not of minerals, but of protein, and are found not in vugs, but in guts. Bug guts. They are Cry protein crystals made by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. You may know them better as Bt toxin. Bt toxin has gotten a lot [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Mycoplasma “Ghosts” Can Rise From the Dead

mycoplasma_mobile_ghosts_200

As the titles of journal articles go, it’s hard to find one more elegant, enticing and — notably, if you’ve been in the business long — succinct than “Gliding Ghosts of Mycoplasma mobile“. Jules Verne short story? Steampunk Western? No. This was the title of an article in “Cell Biology” back in 2005. But the [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Classic Artful Amoeba: The Seafaring Killer Bacterium

cholera_death_200

Blogger’s Note: As I’m on vacation this week, today I present a post from the archive at theartfulamoeba.com. This post originally appeared on my blog on Feb. 14, 2010. Enjoy! Vibrio cholerae is a bacterium of surprising adaptability, tenacity, and Olympic-class swimming ability. Cholera bacteria can swim in both freshwater and saltwater (a feat most [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Legionnaire’s Disease at the Luxor: What Causes It?

legionella_pneumophila_cdc_11151_200

In July 1976, a convention of members of the American Legion — a veterans’ group — was meeting in Philadelphia at the Belleville Stratford Hotel in honor of America’s bicentennial. Soon, 221 attendees would be sickened and 34 dead of an illness it was believed no one had ever seen before. Swine flu was suspected, [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

A Bleeding, Breathing Billboard Starring Serratia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just days after Sci Am published my story on the “bleeding” bacterium Serratia marcescens, a friend sent me this video, in which the marketing department behind the film “Contagion” up north apparently decided to go super-geek and cook up something delightful. Science as art, my friends. Way, way cool, boys. In addition to Serratia, which [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Serratia marcescens: A Tale of Bleeding Statues, Cursed Polenta, Insect Liquefaction, and Contact Lens Cases

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over on the news side today is an article I put together for Scientific American Online on some mysterious, ubiquitous, and sometimes-deadly red bacteria that are probably at this moment living in your shower grout and contact lens case. Plus, when slime molds eat them, their plasmodia turn red like flamingoes eating shrimp turn pink. [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Cow-like Mealybug Home to Sexy Symbiotic Machine

mealybug_Ron_Hemberger_200

If it goes around on six legs, it doesn’t get much dowdier than the mealybug 1. Powdery, bovine, and frightening if you find them binging on your gardenias, these wax-shedding roving syringes are one of many mosquito-like parasites that plague plants. Yes, sexy, mealybugs are not — unless you look inside them. There, you will [...]

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Brainwaves

The Food Fight in Your Gut: Why Bacteria Will Change the Way You Think about Calories

There’s a food fight in your guts. Not the Tater-Tot-chucking, spoonful-of-mashed potato-flinging, melee-in-the-cafeteria type of food fight. Rather, your intestines are the site of an ancient and complex war between your own cells and trillions of bacteria—a war over what happens to your food as it moves through your body. Some of the bacteria form [...]

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Food Matters

Resistance from the Rear – Hospital Effluent and the Growing Antibiotic Crisis

Not the actual sewer pipe in this story. Click for source.

If you ever worry that you’re a bit too optimistic about the future, try reading Maryn McKenna’s posts about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. The primary tools we’ve had to combat microbial disease for the past century are failing, and it’s largely our own fault. Antibiotic resistance genes (or ARGs) are spreading fast, and [...]

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Food Matters

The 4 Billion-Year-Old Story of Obesity

Source: genome.gov, captivating DNA diologue by author

Once upon a time some amino acids got smooshed together and stuck inside a tiny bubble of lipids. Inside the bubble these molecules were safe and free to duplicate themselves without getting gobbled up or broken down by the reactive acidic environment outside the bubble.  No one knows for sure just how or where this [...]

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Food Matters

What’s eating us?

From wikipedia (click for source)

As #SciAmFood week draws to a close, we’ve heard a lot about the food we consume, from not getting enough to astronaut nutrition (and getting too much) to tricking your brain about what it’s getting. But what about the things in our food that consume us? We humans do not live a sterile life, no [...]

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Guest Blog

The top 10 life-forms living on Lady Gaga (and you)

A new truth about Lady Gaga’s health has recently been revealed. She is covered in other life-forms—“her little monsters” you might call them. Contrary to statements otherwise in the media, these life-forms have nothing to do with Lady Gaga’s meat bikini. (For those who need the extra explanation, Lady Gaga is perhaps the most popular [...]

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Guest Blog

Pimp My Virus: Ocean Edition

Image: The starfish-shaped EZ-open structure of mimivirus, above, and the gray DNA-containing nucleocapsid inside, below. The nucleocapsid has plenty of room to breathe and a concave depression, not unlike the dimple on the Death Star, that always faces the "starfish". From PLoS Biology. In 1992, scientists sampled the water from a cooling tower in Bradford, [...]

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Guest Blog

Science Cafe spreads understanding of bacteria over beers

Sophia Kathariou is the kind of scientist who can turn food-borne bacteria into great dinner conversation. The associate professor of food science and microbiology at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., spoke about her work Thursday night at Mitch’s Tavern, a longtime haunt for professors and students alike. The talk was one of Sigma Xi’s [...]

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Lab Rat

Shooting the messenger: small RNA as a target for antibiotics

A single strand of RNA. "ARNm-Rasmol" by Corentin Le Reun - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ARNm-Rasmol.gif#mediaviewer/File:ARNm-Rasmol.gif

All living cells contain DNA; the code for producing every protein needed by the cell. As DNA is important it needs to be kept safe. Plants and animals keep their DNA tightly twisted and organised inside a double-membrane bound nucleus while bacteria keep their DNA coiled up in a big circle, with the occasional loop [...]

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Lab Rat

Lab Rat Lecture

blogging microbes

Last month I had the privilege of being invited as a speaker for the Blogging Microbes event at the University of Nottingham. Hosted by Ivan Lafayette it was a great discussion of the role of blogs, twitter, and podcasts in communicating science, particularly microbiology, to a wider audience. The full event is below, starting with [...]

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Lab Rat

The viruses that spread antibiotic resistance

Drawing of a bacteriophage. Image from Togo picture gallery maintained by Database Center for Life Science (DBCLS).

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria, and in the great war between humans and pathogenic bacteria they can act as allies for both sides. Phages that destroy their host bacteria can be used as antimicrobial therapy, complementing or replacing antibiotics. On the other hand as phages are essentially little capsules that carry DNA from one [...]

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Lab Rat

Sauerkraut: bacteria making food

This much sauerkraut!

Last week my husband needed some jars for cooking purposes. Tesco sell jars for somewhere around £3 each. However they also sell large jars full of sauerkraut for £1 each. Which means that last weekend we had an awful lot of sauerkraut to try and get through. I’m not a great fan of sauerkraut, which [...]

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Lab Rat

Urease: an anti-microbial target in bacteria and fungi

Proteus bacteria growing on an agar plate

Urea is a small molecule formed as proteins are broken down. It’s excreted in urine, but isn’t particularly toxic at low levels so it’s found in cells throughout the body. The molecular structure of urea is below, and as it contains nitrogen (N) several pathogens have adapted to use it as a nitrogen source using [...]

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Lab Rat

Fussy eaters: the favoured food of Salmonella

The chemical structure of fructose-asparagine, image from the reference.

As antibiotic resistance increases the search for new anti-bacterial treatments becomes more and more important. One way to design anti-bacterials is to find specific biochemical pathways that the bacteria require to survive, and develop drugs that block off these pathways. Some pathways are better targets than others and for Salmonella bacteria it was thought that pathways [...]

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Lab Rat

From the archives: Chameleon bacteria!

colour one

This post was originally published in “Life of a Lab Rat” on Wednesday 3rd February 2010. Chameleon bacteria This is a picture of a small cyanobacteria under red light: And this is a picture of exactly the same organism under blue-green light: Some cyanobacteria have the ability to change their colour depending on external conditions. [...]

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Lab Rat

Breaking down the city walls: small molecules that target bacterial biofilms

Polymicrobic biofilm grown on a stainless steel surface in a laboratory potable water biofilm reactor for 14 days, then stained with 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) and examined by epifluorescence microscopy. Bar, 20 µm.

Although bacteria are single celled organisms, they are capable of working together in massive bacterial colonies known as biofilms. Within the biofilm bacteria will differentiate to perform different tasks, all wrapped up within a sticky substance that holds the cells together. I’ve written about biofilms before; how they form and how they work in space! [...]

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Lab Rat

A universe of nothing but shrimp

The shrimp Langostinos rafax. Photo by Rafael Ortega Díaz via wikimedia commons, credit link below.

When studying bacteria, human pathogens always get a lot of interest and free press. Pathogens of smaller and less important seeming animals, such as shrimp, tend to generate less press interest. After all, what is so exciting about shrimp? Since the 1970s commercial shrimp farming has been expanding rapidly to meet the demands of a [...]

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Lab Rat

The bacteriophages of tuberculosis

The mycobacteriophage Bxb1. At the top is the 'head' where DNA is stored. The long tube at the bottom attaches to the bacteria and injects in the DNA. Image from reference 2.

I’ve written previously about bacteriophages, the viruses that infect bacteria, and I studied them for my first lab project. So I was pretty excited by a lovely little pearl in PLoS Pathogens last month discussing mycobacteriophages; the viruses that specifically attack mycobacteria. Mycobacteria are a group of bacteria that contain some highly dangerous human pathogens, including [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Rock-Eating Martian Microbes?

(Credit: White et al. 2014, NASA/JPL)

A recently published study of a 30-pound martian meteorite found in Antarctica suggests the presence of indigenous carbon-rich material, ancient water erosion, and a number of tiny structures that resemble the sort of features that we see rock-eating microbes leaving in basaltic glasses here on Earth. This rock, Yamato 000593, appears to have formed 1.3 [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Astrobiology: We are the Aliens

Bacterial aliens (NASA)

A funny thing happened recently on the way to Mars. A few days after the successful launch of NASA’s behemoth Curiosity rover with its Mars Science Laboratory instruments on November 26th 2011, a somewhat muted piece of news came out admitting that the strict biological planetary protection rules had not been adhered to quite as [...]

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Observations

Microbes and Pathogen Genes Fill New York City Soil

GoogleMaps plot of 596 soil sample locations. Image courtesy of Kelly Ramirez.

With all the attention to the Ebola virus and other pathogens floating around in bodily fluids and the air, we may not be aware that the dirt beneath our feet is home to thousands of bacteria and other microorganisms. Even the soil in New York City, which we might think is somewhat lifeless given the [...]

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Observations

The FDA’s Action on Agricultural Antibiotics Is Overdue—and Utterly Insufficient

Image: iStock/Thinkstock

Most of the meat on our dinner plates comes from cows and chickens treated with a battery of drugs that helped them grow quickly in dismal, cramped conditions that would otherwise make them sick.  The drugs are blended into their food and water without any requirement for a veterinary prescription. The U.S. Food and Drug [...]

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Observations

Fact Check: New Girl Episode Is All Fun and Games until Someone Gets Legionnaires’ Disease?

Image: Genevieve/Wikimedia Commons

The popular Fox television show “New Girl” provides laughs each week, but last night it veered a bit off course with its Thanksgiving episode. [Spoiler alert ahead – stop reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet and plan to do so.] When Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and the gang decide to spend a “back to [...]

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Observations

Hospital-Based Infections Could Be Moving to Doctors’ Offices

MRSA Image: Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/WIkimedia Commons

When patients check into a hospital, they expect doctors there to fix what ails them, but one in 20 patients seeking care at hospitals contract a health care–based infection. Those infections escalate care costs to the tune of billions of dollars. And many of them–one in five–are part of the scary alphabet soup of superbugs [...]

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Observations

New View into Our Guts Reveals Microbiome’s Murky Links to Health

human microbiome gut health

What is living in your gut? It might depend less on your diet, exercise habits, weight and sex than you think, according to new findings. Our health is tied to trillions of organisms that live in and on us. But the extent of their impact has only recently come into focus. And scientists are just [...]

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Observations

Drug-Resistant Superbugs Kill at Least 23,000 People in the U.S. Each Year

Image: CDC

Each year, more than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result, says the first-ever national snapshot of the issue. That toll only rises when other conditions exacerbated by these infections are included in the count. Because it’s difficult to attribute a death [...]

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Observations

Gut Reaction: Human Colon Replica Demonstrates How E. coli Contaminates Groundwater

false color depiction of E. coli bacteria

Scientists are great at growing E. coli in the lab. They know exactly under which conditions various strains thrive. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be learned from the bacteria’s behavior in an ideal, isolated and ultimately unrealistic environment. That is why a group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, decided [...]

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Observations

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found in Sharks and Seals

Bacteria, viruses and parasites from land animals such as cats, cows and humans are sickening and killing sea mammals. Scientists have been finding a daunting number of land-based pathogens in seals, dolphins, sharks and other ocean dwellers that wash ashore dead or dying, according to an article by Christopher Solomon in the May 2013 issue [...]

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Observations

Hurricane-Riding Microbes Make a Home at Cruising Altitude

microbe-culture

Sample a hurricane’s air from a plane high in the stratosphere and, in addition to the expected water and grit, you’ll find an abundance of microbes. Swept up from land and sea by the tropical cyclone’s power, the skyborne bacteria persist in the atmosphere for days—and some may even thrive there. A new survey of [...]

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Observations

Breath Test Could Sniff Out Infections in Minutes

breath test to detect lung infection

Bacteria hiding in the lungs might not be able to hide much longer. Although traditional tests can take days or weeks to culture to determine the presence of certain harmful bacteria—such as those that cause tuberculosis—a much more rapid technique for detecting lung infections might be on the horizon. Researchers have developed a test that [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Glowing Octopus Bacteria Light Up Living Lamp [Video]

glowing octopus

Octopuses might be charismatic, but not many can literally light up a room. One enterprising designer, however, has figured out how to repurpose bacteria from rare glowing deep-sea octopuses for terrestrial illumination. In the form of a stylish lamp—that requires no electricity. [See video below.] Inspired by glowing, bioluminescent waves, graduate student Teresa van Dongen, [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Octopus Eggs Need Helpful Bacteria to Stay Healthy, Too

We’re just learning how important certain microbes can be to our own health. They can help us digest foods and protect us from harmful invaders. New research suggests that certain bacteria are also crucial for octopuses—especially when they’re just starting out. The findings were published online in Aquaculture Research earlier this month. A team of [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

No Shots for the Octopus, Its Immune System Doesn’t Remember

octopus immune system shots

Flu season is almost upon us, so millions of us are already rolling up our sleeves to get the annual shot. This jab is formulated to introduce our immune system to this year’s circulating strains of the virus so that it will remember how to make the specialized antibodies to fend it off the viral [...]

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Oscillator

Fist bumps for germophobes

Figure from Ghareeb et al. (2013) Journal of Hospital Infection.

Fist bumps are back in the news this week after the publication of a study finding that fist bumps transfer fewer bacteria than the more customary handshake. Researchers dipped rubber gloves in a solution of E. coli and measured the number of bacteria transferred onto a clean glove after a variety of different greetings, including [...]

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Oscillator

If you build it, they will come: designing microbial ecosystems in cheese

Colony of Staphylococcus xylosus bacteria isolated from cheese. Image by Ben Wolfe.

Microbes live in dense and diverse communities. There are billions of bacteria from thousands of species living together in your gut or in the soil. Sequencing the total DNA of these communities can give us a catalog of the diversity that’s there, but it can’t tell us much about the relationship between those organisms, how [...]

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Oscillator

Which bacteria are in my poop? It depends where you look…

Figure 1: Sampling strategy

This is a guest post from my friend and former colleague Tami Lieberman. She’s a postdoc in the Kishony Lab in the Department of Systems Biology at the Harvard Medical School, and you follow her on twitter @conTAMInatedsci. As a recently minted PhD, I study the evolution of bacteria during infection. I want to better [...]

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Oscillator

Science as Art: Process, Data, and Context

dirt_poster

I’ve recently been working on a new project with Ellie Harmon about dirt. Ellie hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year, the 2,663 miles from the US border with Mexico to the border of Canada. She collected dirt throughout California and sent them to me in the lab, a total of 62 samples that represent [...]

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Oscillator

Biological Decision Making: The Strange Connection Between Cows and Bacteria

Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand? This apparently simple question turns out to have an unexpected answer. The study, by a team of Scottish sustainable livestock systems researchers, won the 2013 IgNobel Prize for probability and has left many people puzzled about the mysteries of cow behavior. Unlike horses, cows [...]

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Oscillator

Human Cheese and the Microbial Superhighway

Cheese is a fascinating model for studying the intersection of human and microbial cultures. My project with Sissel Tolaas explores these connections through the process of making cheese using microbes sampled from the human body. Here is a short film for the project featuring interviews with microbiologist Benjamin Wolfe, cheesemaker Seana Doughty, anthropologist Heather Paxson, [...]

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Oscillator

Fractal Bacteria

Figure from Rudge et al. "Cell Polarity-Driven Instability Generates Self-Organized, Fractal Patterning of Cell Layers"

Bacteria are single celled organisms that can do amazing things in multicellular groups, with complex coordinated behaviors emerging from the interaction of genetic networks, chemical environments, and the physics of cell growth. Last year I wrote about the work of Tim Rudge and Fernan Federici and their incredible images of bacterial growth patterns. Their paper, [...]

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Oscillator

Bacterial Encounters at the Salton Sea

salton_sea

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake, stretching 35 miles along the San Andreas fault about 150 miles east of Los Angeles and 200 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by harsh desert as well as productive agricultural land irrigated by water from the Colorado River and draining back into the Sea. The Salton [...]

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Oscillator

Bacteriophone: Microbial Wallpapers

I take a lot of photos of bacteria on my phone, and sometimes I use those pictures as my phone’s wallpaper. These photos are meta-phone bacteria wallpapers: photographs of bacteria that I collected off the surface of my phone (h/t to Nick for the microbial inspiration). To sample the phone’s microbiome I simply placed it [...]

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Oscillator

Seeing Bacteria

moyashimon6

I got a really fun early Christmas gift yesterday, Moyasimon 1: Tales of Agriculture, a manga series about a boy who can see microbes. His skills lead to some exciting fermentation-related adventures at his agriculture college. I learned a lot about miso, sake, and meats that ferment underground! The microbes are super cute, and it [...]

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PsiVid

YouTube SpaceLab top 60 Global Finalists Chosen!

YouTube SpaceLab Entrants

Take a look at what some clever American teens have come up with as an idea for an experiment on the International Space Station!     The 60 global  finalists for the YouTube.com/SpaceLab competition were announced Tuesday, January 17th.  Recall from my post in November, that YouTube challenged 14-18 year-old students to design a science [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

When Sleeping Turns Deadly and Other Strange Tales from Scientific American MIND

The July/August issue of Scientific American Mind made its debut online late last week. Here I divulge some of the more surprising and useful lessons from its pages. Dozing Dangerously Sleepwalking is one of the strangest phenomena I have ever witnessed. Despite its name, it doesn’t resemble any other kind of sleep I’ve seen. To [...]

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Symbiartic

What’s Worse Than Fecal Transplants? This Gal.

13-029FEATURE

Have you caught wind of the latest in medical technology: fecal transplants between friends? The latest commentary (and funniest to date) is a piece by Steve Mirsky in the August 2013 edition of Scientific American telling us to just get over the ick factor “because everything” in life, medicine, and yes, fecal transplants, “is disgusting.” [...]

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Symbiartic

Bacteriography – SciArt needs a Kickstart to Escape the Lab

StarStuff_ZCopfer_mini

Bringing sciart to the public isn’t always an easy task – and the growing (culturing, har har) field of bioart is some of the toughest art to showcase of all. It’s harder than hanging a painting without using nails, as many contemporary galleries insist, leading to those dangling chains from ceiling braces. Bioart, the field [...]

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Symbiartic

One Man’s Poo is Another Man’s PhD

Scientists collect crazy things. I’m not talking thimble-crazy or frog-themed-crazy. That kind of tchotchke barely ranks on the crazy scale. The collections I’m talking about are things like bellybutton lint, whale vomit, and human poo. You mean raw sewage?! Yes, sort of… but straight from the source. Fresh, unadulterated. Yup. And to supersize the irony, [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: Fermented Fashions

12-033FEATURE

What happens when you take a bag of sweaty hockey gear and throw it in a vat of beer for a week? I’m not sure (although I’m sure this must have been tried before), but a researcher and an artist at the University of Western Australia are trying their own fermented fashion experiment. Using a [...]

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