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Ben Thomas
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Ben Thomas

Science Bytes (Memes, Cartoons, Images)  - 
 
This single-celled organism has evolved its own giant "eye" - complete with a basic lens, cornea and retina.

"The light-sensing “retina” at the back of the eye was made up of plastids, structures normally involved in photosynthesis. The team extracted genetic material from inside the plastids and found it rich in algal DNA. The team suspects that at some point during evolution, a warnowiid ancestor gobbled up some algae and adopted its photosynthetic equipment. When the organism later abandoned photosynthesis for the predatory life, it repurposed its light-capturing plastids into a light-sensing organ."

Read more here: https://cosmosmagazine.com/life-sciences/single-cell-eyeball-creature-startles-scientists

Original journal paper here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v523/n7559/full/nature14593.html
A rare sea creature can teach us about the eye's evolution.
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They mentioned this on cosmos. Wonder when the will be another season. 
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Ben Thomas

Science News (Pop Sci)  - 
 
"Dark Sky" simulates the (possible) large-scale behavior of dark matter and dark energy - and its results are available to the public, for free.

"The Dark Sky Simulations are N-body simulations, which is shorthand for dynamic modeling in which particles interact with one another according to a pre-determined set of physical laws. In the case of Dark Sky, the team used data collected from the Planck and WMAP spacecraft, probes which were launched to measure temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, the leftover thermal radiation from the Big Bang. The data collected by these spacecraft helped shape a picture of the universe when it was just a few hundred thousand years old and this data was used to set the initial conditions for the Dark Sky simulation."

Read more here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/dark-sky-is-the-open-source-dark-matter-simulator
Dark Sky provides a statistical model that can be compared against empirical observations of our universe.
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Ben Thomas

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My talk at Northeastern University, "Finding Your Inner Genius," got a pretty great response from the audience. Here's the whole thing!
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Ben Thomas

Science News (Pop Sci)  - 
 
A new electron microscope enables researchers to pick out individual atoms.

"The detector that collects electrons emerging from the sample measures the energy losses, and from this the atoms in the path of the beam can be identified. The detector can simultaneously produce multiple images -- one for every different species of atom in the sample, and these can be color-coded, each color representing a different electron energy signature."

Read more here: http://bit.ly/1BLWcpX

(no journal paper online yet, as fas as I can find)
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Ben Thomas

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+Nature Publishing Group interviewed me about my article "A Disease of Scienceyness," which went viral this week (to my surprise) and set off a debate about who's responsible for spreading misinformation.
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Ben Thomas

• Physics  - 
 
For the first time ever, we've directly observed one of the most notorious (and weirdest) phenomena in quantum mechanics: Researchers create a "frozen" wave of light that interacts with matter as a stream of particles - demonstrating that light is both a series of waves AND a series of particles, at the same time.

"While this phenomenon shows the wave-like nature of light, it simultaneously demonstrated its particle aspect as well. As the electrons pass close to the standing wave of light, they 'hit' the light's particles, the photons. As mentioned above, this affects their speed, making them move faster or slower. This change in speed appears as an exchange of energy "packets" (quanta) between electrons and photons. The very occurrence of these energy packets shows that the light on the nanowire behaves as a particle."

Read more here: http://bit.ly/1Eagv0F

Original journal paper here: http://bit.ly/18EXatj
(Phys.org)—Light behaves both as a particle and as a wave. Since the days of Einstein, scientists have been trying to directly observe both of these aspects of light at the same time. Now, scientists at EPFL have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of this dual behavior.
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+JOHN DOWE99X why are you yelling? I'm just telling you what I know. I don't purport to be a physicist, but I also don't think that light is simply a property of something else. If it is made of stuff, then it exists independently.

Why waves? Um... You figure it out. missionscience.NASA.gov/ems/02_anatomy.html
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New research finds that octopus skin has the same light-sensitive pigment found in eyes - suggesting that octopi may be able to "see" with their skin. | via +Mo Costandi

"[The researchers] stained some skin preparations with fluorescently-labelled antibodies that recognise and bind to opsins and other proteins that interact with them. Sure enough, they found that sensory neurons in the skin synthesize one version of the opsin protein, along with G protein alpha and phospholipase C, two enzymes that relay signals from opsin molecules that have been activated by light to the interior of the cell, and which are needed to initiate the cellular response."

Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2015/may/20/octopus-skin-contains-light-sensors

Journal paper isn't online yet, but it'll appear in this month's issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Octopus skin contains a light-sensitive pigment found in eyes, suggesting that these clever cephalopods can “see” without using their eyes
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P.S. This news story has already been posted to the community, so I'm going to have to delete this one since we remove duplicates. Sorry. 
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Ben Thomas

Science News (Pop Sci)  - 
 
MIT's new 1-trillion-FPS camera actually captures the movement of light waves.

"We have built an imaging solution that allows us to visualize propagation of light. The effective exposure time of each frame is two trillionths of a second and the resultant visualization depicts the movement of light at roughly half a trillion frames per second. Direct recording of reflected or scattered light at such a frame rate with sufficient brightness is nearly impossible. We use an indirect 'stroboscopic' method that records millions of repeated measurements by careful scanning in time and viewpoints. Then we rearrange the data to create a 'movie' of a nanosecond long event."

Full MIT documentation here: http://bit.ly/1FEF45h
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+Kenneth Rothey Each of the individual "stripes" is actually a crest of the light wave, so in between them would be the troughs of that wave.
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Ben Thomas

Applied  - 
 
A brand-new 3-D printing technology creates objects at about 50 times the speed of current printers - not by printing them layer-by-layer, but by "growing" them, in one single piece, out of liquid resin.

"UV light triggers photo polymerization and oxygen inhibits it. By carefully balancing the interaction of light and oxygen, CLIP continuously grows objects from a pool of resin... Parts printed with CLIP are much more like injection-molded parts. CLIP produces consistent and predictable mechanical properties, creating parts that are smooth on the outside and solid on the inside."

Read more here: http://bit.ly/18CBHjY

Original journal paper here: http://bit.ly/1DxEfh3
Carbon3D lives at the intersection of hardware, software and molecular science. Our CLIP technology allows commercial customers to go beyond 3dprinting/additive manufacturing to truly achieve 3D manufacturing
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This newly discovered 480-million-year-old Anomalocaridid was 7 feet long - and it was a relative of the modern lobster, cockroach and tarantula.

"The reconstructed A. benmoulae had side-facing eyes and two articulated appendages jutting from the 'mouth' area, covered in a comb of spines with which it captured plankton... 'We have found the oldest example of gigantism in a freely swimming filter feeder,' Daley said... The researchers said the creature's flaps were likely the precursors of the double-branched legs of today's arthropods, 'but at a stage before they fused together into one leg'."

Read more here: http://bit.ly/1AkNiur

Original journal paper here: http://bit.ly/1EAAqaQ
A 480-million-year-old relative of the lobster, cockroach and tarantula was a sea monster which snared food with spine-covered protrusions on its head, researchers said Wednesday.
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Ben Thomas

• General/Interdisciplinary  - 
 
Why you should think twice before sharing a science headline:

"Sciencey headlines are pre-packaged cultural tokens that can be shared and reshared without any investment in analysis or critical thought — as if they were sports scores or fashion photos or poetry quotes — to reinforce one’s aesthetic self-identification as a “science lover.” One’s actual interest doesn’t have to extend beyond the headline itself."

Full article here: https://medium.com/@writingben/a-disease-of-scienceyness-7b5571a34953
How misguided science fandom hurts actual scientists
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Ben Thomas

• Biology  - 
 
Researchers swell up biological specimens to 4.5x their original size - using the same polymers found in baby diapers.

"After injecting the gel into some chemically treated samples of brain tissue, the researchers triggered the material to expand by adding water – which it did, smoothly, to 4.5 times its original size... Despite the tissue’s 4.5-fold increase in size, the researchers calculated that its shape had changed by less than one percent. This meant their expansion process was effectively identical to a 4.5-fold magnification increase."

Read more here: http://bit.ly/1yCJYya

Original journal paper here: http://bit.ly/1BkJdcS

Video here: http://bit.ly/1Cm4F2A
To see the tiniest of structures under the microscope, researchers employ swellable polymers to expand biological tissue to several times its original size.
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This is really a good example of thinking outside the box. 
If the sample you want to look at is too small for regular light microscope, instead of manipulating the optics, make the sample bigger.

This is one of those ways that impresses me about MIT.  They seem to have a lot of 'out - of - the - box' thinkers.

The press release from MIT has more information and a video.
http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/enlarged-brain-samples-easier-to-image-0115
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Have him in circles
140 people
Zartash Zulfiqar's profile photo
Al DeLeon & Associates Inc's profile photo
Carlos Fabian Diaz Acosta's profile photo
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Professional geek. Knowledge devourer.
Introduction
http://twitter.com/writingben

I blog about science, health and careers for Scientific American, TechRepublic, HuffPost, Nature, Discover Magazine, Forbes ...and anywhere else that'll print my ramblings.

In 2010, I launched The Connectome (the-connectome.com), a neuroscience news agency with feeds on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, as well as a SoundCloud podcast featuring interviews with world-renowned neuroscientists.

In short, I'm addicted to learning.
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I'm an expert at weaving scientific discoveries into compelling narratives. I'm featured regularly on leading science news websites, and I'm engaged in active dialogue with hundreds of scientists, writers, producers and followers. I specialize in explaining the latest research to the public in down-to-earth terms, and promoting discussion about its implications throughout digital and physical spaces.
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