Science Art: Ecphora gardnerae, by J.C. McConnell

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A shellfish that was around when megalodons swam and the first crows flew.

It was drawn by J.C. McConnell, a doctor who officially worked as a clerk for the Army Medical Museum, and gained a reputation for his shells, especially prehistoric ones.

If you’re going to be known for anything, I guess, why not that?

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SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

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Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Flesh Velcro fixes hearts.

31 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Irish Examiner looks into the “biological Velcro” that could soon help repair damaged hearts: Velcro uses two sheets of material, one covered by hooks and the other loops, that bind when brought together. In a similar way, the scientists used a biodegradable polymer implant containing interlocking T-shaped hooks to assemble different layers of heart cells into a 3D structure. The system allows individual layers to be given different kinds of treatment to maximise their survival. It also means assembled tissue can easily be dismantled, without causing damage. … The team, led by Professor Milica Radisic, from the University of Toronto in Canada, wrote in the journal Science Advances: “We envisioned designing living tissues that could be as easily and firmly assembled as two pieces of Velcro.

Laser “tricorder” diagnoses malaria through the skin.

23 June 2015 // 0 Comments

I couldn’t really improve on New Scientist‘s headline there. This device shines a laser through an earlobe or wrist and detects malaria parasites through light absorption: It works by pulsing energy into a vein in a person’s wrist or earlobe. The laser’s wavelength doesn’t harm human tissue, but is absorbed by hemozoin – waste crystals that are produced by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum when it feeds on blood. When the crystals absorb this energy, they warm the surrounding blood plasma, making it bubble. An oscilloscope placed on the skin alongside the laser senses these nanoscale bubbles when they start popping, detecting malaria infections in only 20 seconds. “It’s the first true non-invasive diagnostic,” says Dmitri Lapotko of Rice University in Houston, Texas, whose team used the probe to correctly identify which person had malaria in a test of six individuals. They even managed to use the device to show whether dead mosquitoes were carrying […]

Young blood heals old bones. (Literally. Go figure.)

21 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Smithsonian reveals a new way to heal the easily-broken bones of the elderly – by exposing the fractures to younger blood: “The traditional concept is that as you get older, your bone cells kind of wear out so they can’t heal as well, and we thought we’d find that during this study as well,” explains study co-author Benjamin Alman, of the Hospital for Sick Children. “But it turns out that it’s not the bone cells, it’s the blood cells. As you get older, the blood cells change the way they behave when you have an injury, and as a result the cells that heal bone aren’t able to work as efficiently.” … The researchers paired lab mice, one old and one young, and subjected them to bone fractures, but that wasn’t all they had in common. The living animals’ circulatory systems were also joined together by a 150-year-old surgical technique known as parabiosis. Scientists removed […]

Mobile phone microscope saving lives (and eyes) in Africa

12 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature has more on a cell phone gizmo that’s changing how medicine is done in remote places: In a study in Science Translational Medicine on 6 May, bioengineer Daniel Fletcher of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues give one example of how mobile phones may change medicine in far-flung areas. They describe a camera-phone microscope and app that can immediately detect the presence of the African eye worm parasite Loa loa in a blood sample. An endemic problem in Central Africa, L. loa grows into a worm that wiggles into the tissue of the eye. The worms are even more problematic when they are picked up along with two other parasitic nematodes, Onchocerca volvulus (which causes river blindness) and Wuchereria bancrofti (which can cause severe limb swelling). This is because one drug typically given to treat those two other parasites, called ivermectin, can cause serious side effects such as brain swelling if a […]

Science Art: From Die Frau als Hausärztin by Anna Fischer-Dückelmann, 1911

10 May 2015 // 0 Comments

This is a naked woman, as seen in 1911 by a German medical expert. The book’s title translates to “The Woman As Family Doctor,” and it’s pretty much a home health guide specializing in those mysterious conditions that affect women and children. Gynecology and pediatrics, basically. It’s full of some amazing illustrations and wonderful typography, so check it out on

New Alzheimer’s hope?

15 April 2015 // 0 Comments

The Independent reports on Duke University researchers who think they’ve figured out how Alzheimer’s happens… and how to stop it: Researchers at Duke announced that their studies of Alzheimer’s in mice had thrown up a new process they believe contributes to the disease’s development. They observed that in Alzheimer’s, immune cells that normally protect the brain instead begin to consume a vital nutrient called arginine. By blocking this process with a drug, they were able to prevent the formation of ‘plaques’ in the brain that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and also halted memory loss in the mice. … The drug that was used to block the body’s immune response to arginine – known as difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) – is already being investigated in drug trials for certain types of cancer and may be suitable for testing as a potential Alzheimer’s therapy.

Full body transplants.

26 February 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist seems to be going a little around the bend with transplants this week (witness hand enthusiasm), especially when it comes to the prospect of putting your head on an all-new body: The idea was first proposed in 2013 by Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy. He wants to use the surgery to extend the lives of people whose muscles and nerves have degenerated or whose organs are riddled with cancer. Now he claims the major hurdles, such as fusing the spinal cord and preventing the body’s immune system from rejecting the head, are surmountable, and the surgery could be ready as early as 2017. Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June. Is society ready for such momentous surgery? And does the science even stand up? … The first successful head transplant, […]

Recreating trepanation: how they poked holes in people’s heads (to heal them).

30 January 2015 // 0 Comments

Siberian Times, the paper of record for the taiga, reports on the first successful reconstruction of ancient brain surgery: Neurosurgeons have been working with anthropologists and archaeologists over the past year following the discovery of holes in the skulls of three ancient sets of remains in the Altai Mountains. Evidence at the time suggested they were examples of trepanation – the oldest form of neurosurgery – with speculation it showed the early nomads had learned the skilful technique from the medical centres of the ancient world, or had uncovered it at the same time as prominent doctors in Greece and the Middle East. … Among the findings made by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, were that the surgeons were highly skilful with the operations carried out with only one primitive tool scraping at the skull. In addition, it was clear that the ancient doctors […]

Birth control hormones linked to brain tumors

27 January 2015 // 0 Comments

Eurekalert releases results of a study that’s found hormonal birth control increases risk of brain tumors: Taking a hormonal contraceptive for at least five years is associated with a possible increase in a young woman’s risk of developing a rare tumour, glioma of the brain. This project focussed on women aged 15 -49 years and the findings are published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. … While only a little is known about the causes of glioma and other brain tumours, there is some evidence that female sex hormones may increase the risk of some cancer types, although there is also evidence that contraceptive use may reduce the risk in certain age groups. “This prompted us to evaluate whether using hormonal contraceptives might influence the risk of gliomas in women of the age range who use them,” says research team leader Dr David Gaist of the Odense University Hospital and University of Southern Denmark.

Stem cell therapy puts multiple sclerosis in remission.

9 January 2015 // 0 Comments

Healthline spells out the basics of rebooting an immune system from scratch – which means a pretty dramatic step forward in medicine: Studying 24 study volunteers who underwent stem cell transplants between 2006 and 2010, Dr. Richard A. Nash of the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute in Denver and his colleagues recently published their findings in JAMA Neurology. Researchers found that more than 86 percent of the patients remained relapse free after three years, and nearly 91 percent showed no sign of disease progression. … The study involved patients with relapsing-remitting MS whose disease did not respond to at least one FDA-approved disease-modifying drug. Patients also had to score between 3.0 and 5.5 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), a set of tests to measure walking, cognition, dexterity, and quality of life in MS patients. People who fall into this range typically have mild to moderate disability. Patients were given high-dose immunosuppressive therapy, or HDIT, […]

Life-extension wonder-drug: Advil. In multiple species.

22 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reveals a bizarre hidden power of one of the world’s most common over-the-counter analgesics: Regular doses of ibuprofen extended the lifespan of multiple species, according to research published in the journal Public Library of Science, Genetics. “We first used baker’s yeast, which is an established aging model, and noticed that the yeast treated with ibuprofen lived longer,” said Dr. Michael Polymenis, an AgriLife Research biochemist in College Station. “Then we tried the same process with worms and flies and saw the same extended lifespan. Plus, these organisms not only lived longer, but also appeared healthy.” He said the treatment, given at doses comparable to the recommended human dose, added about 15 percent more to the species lives. In humans, that would be equivalent to another dozen or so years of healthy living. … Polymenis said the three-year project showed that ibuprofen interferes with the ability of yeast cells to pick up tryptophan, an […]

Sugar (especially the kind in fruit juice) is replacing salt as blood pressure enemy No. 1.

15 December 2014 // 0 Comments

MedPage Today is among the sources spreading the determination (with no mincing of words) that sugar is just as bad as salt – if not worse – for your blood pressure: In a research review published Dec. 11 in the BMJ journal Open Heart, James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, Mo., and Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, of Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York argued that the emphasis on lowering dietary sodium in guidelines aimed at reducing hypertension is misguided and not evidence-based. “Added sugars probably matter more than dietary sodium for hypertension, and fructose in particular may uniquely increase cardiovascular risk by inciting metabolic dysfunction and increasing blood pressure variability, myocardial oxygen demand, heart rate, and inflammation,” the authors wrote. DiNicolantonio, who is an associate editor of Open Heart, was more blunt in an interview with MedPage Today, calling sodium restriction guidelines “the greatest con in preventive […]

Consciousness after death – as long as you’re not on sedatives.

16 October 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reveals some interesting (and counter-intuitive) findings following the world’s largest medical study of human consciousness at time of death: The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals concludes the following. The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences. In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events. A higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits. Widely used yet scientifically imprecise terms such as near-death and out-of-body experiences may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death. … In 2008, a large-scale study involving 2060 patients from 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, […]

Vampire science: a red fountain of youth for Alzheimer’s patients.

27 August 2014 // 0 Comments

Young blood. New Scientist sketches out the future of rejuvenation with experiments based on using young blood to keep old brains lively: Disregarding vampire legends, the idea of refreshing old blood with new harks back to the 1950s, when Clive McCay of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, stitched together the circulatory systems of an old and young mouse – a technique called heterochronic parabiosis. He found that the cartilage of the old mice soon appeared younger than would be expected. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the mechanisms behind this experiment were more clearly understood. In 2005, Thomas Rando at Stanford University in California and his team found that young blood returned the liver and skeletal stem cells of old mice to a more youthful state during heterochronic parabiosis. The old mice were also able to repair injured muscles as well as young mice (Nature, … Once the researchers had ruled out the […]

Triathlete uses internet to defeat her rare genetic disease

21 August 2014 // 0 Comments

The Atlantic gives hope to the new generation of WebMD obsessives with a fascinating tale of an athlete who used the internet to figure out what was *really* going on in her malfunctioning body: She cycled, ran, climbed and skied through the Rockies for hours every day, and was a veteran of Ironman triathlons. She’d always been the strong one in her family. When she was four, she would let her teenage uncles stand on her stomach as a party trick. In high school, she was an accomplished gymnast and an ardent cyclist. By college, she was running the equivalent of a half marathon on most days. It wasn’t that she was much of a competitor, exactly—passing someone in a race felt more deflating than energizing. Mostly Kim just wanted to be moving. So when her limbs started glitching, she did what high-level athletes do, what she had always done: She pushed through. But in […]

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