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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Nanodot-based smartphone battery that recharges in 30 seconds showcased

Nanodot-based smartphone battery that recharges in 30 seconds showcased | Amazing Science |

Israeli startup StoreDot recently demonstrated the prototype of a nanodot-based smartphone battery it claims can fully charge in just under 30 seconds. With the company having plans for mass production, this technology could change the way we interact with portable electronics, and perhaps even help realize the dream of a fast-charging electric car.

'In essence, we have developed a new generation of electrodes with new materials – we call it MFE – Multi Function Electrode," StoreDot CEO Doron Myersdorf said. "On one side it acts like a supercapacitor (with very fast charging), and on the other is like a lithium electrode (with slow discharge). The electrolyte is modified with our nanodots in order to make the multifunction electrode more effective."

The company says that unlike other nanodot and quantum-dot technologies that are heavy metal based, making them toxic, its nanodots are made from a vast range of bio-organic raw materials that are environmentally-friendly. These materials are also naturally abundant, and the nanodots employ a basic biological mechanism of self-assembly, making them cheap to manufacture.

Self-discharge characteristics are similar to those of lithium-ion cells and, for its first prototype, the company targeted the approximate capacity of a smartphone battery (around 2,000 mAh).

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Chinese company 3D-prints a house for $4,800

Chinese company 3D-prints a house for $4,800 | Amazing Science |

Shang Hai company WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. has advanced the science of 3D printing by printing all of the parts needed to construct houses and then using those parts to build ten houses, all in just a single day. The finished houses are made of mostly concrete with other materials added for various purposes.

WinSun isn't printing whole houses, instead, the company prints basic parts using concrete (with construction or industrial waste materials or tailing added to help reduce costs) as ink. The parts dry quickly and can then be used to assemble a complete 2,100 square foot house. Purists might argue that the company isn't technically printing houses, but the end result is the same—very little labor, low cost materials, and incredibly inexpensive (approximately $4,800) houses.

The houses built in China are in stark contrast to a project going on in Amsterdam, where a crew has begun work on a project that aims to print an entire 13 room house, including some of the furniture—all in one fell swoop. The timetable is three years and the finished product will likely wind up costing millions.

To print its house parts, WinSun uses a giant printer—it's 490 feet long by 33 feet wide and 20 feet deep—and unlike other companies, plans to use its printer to start printing parts for real houses for sale to consumers. To that end, the company has announced its intention to open 100 recycling factories to convert waste to make it suitable for adding to its concrete ink. Representatives for the country told the press that they believe their system can be used to create a very large number of affordable homes for impoverished people who now cannot afford a traditional house.

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Ancient shrimp-like animals had 'modern' hearts and blood vessels

Ancient shrimp-like animals had 'modern' hearts and blood vessels | Amazing Science |
In 520 million-year-old fossil deposits resembling an 'invertebrate version of Pompeii,' researchers have found an ancestor of modern crustaceans revealing the first-known cardiovascular system in exquisitely preserved detail. The organ system is surprisingly complex and adds to the notion that sophisticated body plans had already evolved more than half a billion years ago.

"This is the first preserved vascular system that we know of," said Nicholas Strausfeld, a Regents' Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Arizona's Department of Neuroscience, who helped analyze the find. Being one of the world's foremost experts in arthropod morphology and neuroanatomy, Strausfeld is no stranger to finding meaningful and unexpected answers to long-standing mysteries in the remains of creatures that went extinct so long ago scientists still argue over where to place them in the evolutionary tree.

The 3-inch-long fossil was entombed in fine dustlike particles – now preserved as fine-grain mudstone - during the Cambrian Period 520 million years ago in what today is the Yunnan province in China. Found by co-author Peiyun Cong near Kunming, it belongs to the species Fuxianhuia protensa, an extinct lineage of arthropods combining advanced internal anatomy with a primitive body plan.

"Fuxianhuia is relatively abundant, but only extremely few specimens provide evidence of even a small part of an organ system, not even to speak of an entire organ system," said Strausfeld, who directs the UA Center for Insect Science. "The animal looks simple, but its internal organization is quite elaborate. For example, the brain received many arteries, a pattern that appears very much like a modern crustacean."

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Duke bioengineered artificial muscle can self-heal inside the body

Duke bioengineered artificial muscle can self-heal inside the body | Amazing Science |
Biomedical engineers have grown living skeletal muscle that looks a lot like the real thing. It contracts powerfully and rapidly, integrates into mice quickly, and for the first time, demonstrates the ability to heal itself both inside the laboratory and inside an animal.

The study conducted at Duke University tested the bioengineered muscle by literally watching it through a window on the back of living mouse. The novel technique allowed for real-time monitoring of the muscle’s integration and maturation inside a living, walking animal.

Both the lab-grown muscle and experimental techniques are important steps toward growing viable muscle for studying diseases and treating injuries, said Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. The results were published on March 31, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

“The muscle we have made represents an important advance for the field,” Bursac said. “It’s the first time engineered muscle has been created that contracts as strongly as native neonatal skeletal muscle.” Through years of perfecting their techniques, a team led by Bursac and graduate student Mark Juhas discovered that preparing better muscle requires two things—well-developed contractile muscle fibers and a pool of muscle stem cells, known as satellite cells.

Every muscle has satellite cells on reserve, ready to activate upon injury and begin the regeneration process. The key to the team’s success was successfully creating the micro-environments—called niches—where these stem cells await their call to duty.

“Simply implanting satellite cells or less-developed muscle doesn’t work as well,” said Juhas. “The well-developed muscle we made provides niches for satellite cells to live in, and, when needed, to restore the robust musculature and its function.”

By genetically modifying the muscle fibers to produce fluorescent flashes during calcium spikes—which cause muscle to contract— the researchers could watch the flashes become brighter as the muscle grew stronger.

“We could see and measure in real time how blood vessels grew into the implanted muscle fibers, maturing toward equaling the strength of its native counterpart,” said Juhas.

The engineers are now beginning work to see if their biomimetic muscle can be used to repair actual muscle injuries and disease.

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Self-assembled superlattices create molecular machines with 'hinges' and 'gears'

Self-assembled superlattices create molecular machines with 'hinges' and 'gears' | Amazing Science |
A combined computational and experimental study of self-assembled silver-based structures known as superlattices has revealed an unusual and unexpected behavior: arrays of gear-like molecular-scale machines that rotate in unison when pressure is applied to them.

Computational and experimental studies show that the superlattice structures, which are self-assembled from smaller clusters of silver nanoparticles and organic protecting molecules, form in layers with the hydrogen bonds between their components serving as "hinges" to facilitate the rotation. Movement of the "gears" is related to another unusual property of the material: increased pressure on the superlattice softens it, allowing subsequent compression to be done with significantly less force.

Materials containing the gear-like nanoparticles – each composed of nearly 500 atoms – might be useful for molecular-scale switching, sensing and even energy absorption. The complex superlattice structure is believed to be among the largest solids ever mapped in detail using a combined X-ray and computational techniques.

"As we squeeze on this material, it gets softer and softer and suddenly experiences a dramatic change," said Uzi Landman, a Regents' and F.E. Callaway professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "When we look at the orientation of the microscopic structure of the crystal in the region of this transition, we see that something very unusual happens. The structures start to rotate with respect to one another, creating a molecular machine with some of the smallest moving elements ever observed."

The gears rotate as much as 23 degrees, and return to their original position when the pressure is released. Gears in alternating layers move in opposite directions, said Landman, who is director of the Center for Computational Materials Science at Georgia Tech. The research studied superlattice structures composed of clusters with cores of 44 silver atoms each. The silver clusters are protected by 30 ligand molecules of an organic material – mercaptobenzoic acid (p-MBA) – that include an acid group. The organic molecules are attached to the silver by sulfur atoms.

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▶ Monster Black Holes and the Passage of Time ! 2014 New Documentary

Why do some stars end up as black holes? [Or,] What does the exclusion principle have to do with whether or not a star becomes a black hole?

How is time changed in a black hole?

Does the E=mc^2 equation apply to a black hole?

If nothing travels at the speed of light, except light, how can a black hole also pull light into itself?

What is the best evidence for the existence of black holes? Is it all really just a theory?

I've heard that a black hole 'belches' light and radiation whenever something falls into its event horizon. What does that mean and why does that happen?

Can you see a black hole? What does a black hole look like?

How big can a black hole get?

How small can a black hole be?

[In reference to the answer to question 1 above.] Why don't the internal electron forces of a star increase at the same rate as gravitational forces?

Will an observer falling into a black hole be able to witness all future events in the universe outside the black hole?

Could black holes be used as an energy source?

I read somewhere that in the VERY distant future black holes could leak and disperse. Can that happen? If it can, how?

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Columbia Scientists Identify Key Cells in Touch Sensation

Columbia Scientists Identify Key Cells in Touch Sensation | Amazing Science |

In a study published online today in the journal Nature, a team of Columbia University Medical Center researchers led by Ellen Lumpkin, PhD, associate professor of somatosensory biology, solve an age-old mystery of touch: how cells just beneath the skin surface enable us to feel fine details and textures.

Touch is the last frontier of sensory neuroscience. The cells and molecules that initiate vision—rod and cone cells and light-sensitive receptors—have been known since the early 20th century, and the senses of smell, taste, and hearing are increasingly understood. But almost nothing is known about the cells and molecules responsible for initiating our sense of touch.

This study is the first to use optogenetics—a new method that uses light as a signaling system to turn neurons on and off on demand—on skin cells to determine how they function and communicate.

The team showed that skin cells called Merkel cells can sense touch and that they work virtually hand in glove with the skin’s neurons to create what we perceive as fine details and textures.

“These experiments are the first direct proof that Merkel cells can encode touch into neural signals that transmit information to the brain about the objects in the world around us,” Dr. Lumpkin said.

Several conditions—including diabetes and some cancer chemotherapy treatments, as well as normal aging—are known to reduce sensitive touch. Merkel cells begin to disappear in one’s early 20s, at the same time that tactile acuity starts to decline. “No one has tested whether the loss of Merkel cells causes loss of function with aging—it could be a coincidence—but it’s a question we’re interested in pursuing,” Dr. Lumpkin said.

In the future, these findings could inform the design of new “smart” prosthetics that restore touch sensation to limb amputees, as well as introduce new targets for treating skin diseases such as chronic itch.

The study was published in conjunction with a second study by the team done in collaboration with the Scripps Research Institute. The companion study identifies a touch-activated molecule in skin cells, a gene called Piezo2, whose discovery has the potential to significantly advance the field of touch perception.

“The new findings should open up the field of skin biology and reveal how sensations are initiated,” Dr. Lumpkin said. Other types of skin cells may also play a role in sensations of touch, as well as less pleasurable skin sensations, such as itch. The same optogenetics techniques that Dr. Lumpkin’s team applied to Merkel cells can now be applied to other skin cells to answer these questions.

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Construction of a Full Vertebrate Embryo from Two Opposing Morphogen Gradients

Construction of a Full Vertebrate Embryo from Two Opposing Morphogen Gradients | Amazing Science |

Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have overcome one of the greatest challenges in biology and taken a major step toward being able to grow whole organs and tissues from stem cells. By manipulating the appropriate signaling, the UVA researchers have turned embryonic stem cells into a fish embryo, essentially controlling embryonic development.

The research will have dramatic impact on the future use of stem cells to better the human condition, providing a framework for future studies in the field of regenerative medicine aimed at constructing tissues and organs from populations of cultured pluripotent cells.

In accomplishing this, U.Va. scientists Bernard and Chris Thisse have overcome the most massive of biological barriers. "We have generated an animal by just instructing embryonic cells the right way," said Chris Thisse of the School of Medicine's Department of Cell Biology.

The importance of that is profound. "If we know how to instruct embryonic cells," she said, "we can pretty much do what we want." For example, scientists will be able one day to instruct stem cells to grow into organs needed for transplant.

The researchers were able to identify the signals sufficient for starting the cascade of molecular and cellular processes that lead to a fully developed fish embryo. With this study came an answer to the longstanding question of how few signals can initiate the processes of development: amazingly, only two.

The study has shed light on the important roles these two signals play for the formation of organs and full development of a zebrafish embryo. Moreover, the Thisses are now able to direct embryonic development and formation of tissues and organs by controlling signal locations and concentrations.

The embryo they generated was smaller than a normal embryo, because they instructed a small pool of embryonic stem cells, but "otherwise he has everything" in terms of appropriate development, said Bernard Thisse of the Department of Cell Biology.

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Architectural design influences which microbes surround us

Architectural design influences which microbes surround us | Amazing Science |

They have us surrounded. Even inside the spaces we build for ourselves — like homes and offices — we are a tiny minority. Invisible bacteria, fungi, and viruses outnumber us by orders of magnitude.

We will always be outnumbered, but we may have a say in which microbes we’re surrounded by, according to a new study that’s one of the first to investigate how building design influences the microbial diversity of indoor spaces. “Design choices at the level of a whole building make a really big impact on the types of invisible organisms that you see in a room,” said microbial ecologist Jessica Green, an author of the new study. The work is part of an emerging body research suggesting that design decisions — from the architect’s blueprint to the choice of ventilation system to the materials picked by the interior designer — help shape the microbes in our midst.

In three recent studies, her team at the University of Oregon dissected the microbial diversity of a single building on campus called Lillis Hall, which houses professor’s offices and classrooms. In one study, they used a modified Shop-Vac to collect 155 dust samples throughout the building. Back in the lab, they extracted bacterial DNA and sequenced a gene called 16S. All bacteria have a copy of this gene, but its sequence differs from one type of bacteria to another, making it a useful ID marker. Classifying fungi and viruses is trickier, but Green hopes to tackle them in future studies.

Restrooms and classrooms, which are visited by many people throughout the day, tended to be dominated by bacteria commonly found on human skin, including Lactobacillus and Staphylococcus. Offices, especially those with windows, tended to have higher levels of soil-dwelling Methylobacterium. Mechanically ventilated offices, on the other hand, had more Deinococcus, which may be better suited to the hot dry air pumped out by the heating system in these rooms, Green says.

In addition to dust, Green and her team have also examined air samples and surfaces in Lillis Hall. In another recent study they found that rooms with a natural ventilation system that brings in outside air at night have microbial profiles more similar to outside air, compared to rooms with mechanical ventilation system that was turned off at night to save money. “What we found is if you have this really expensive mechanical ventilation system and you turn it off at night, you’re leaving this bag of microbes that people are immersed in when they come back in the morning,” Green said.

The interactions between building design, microbial diversity, and health might be stronger in other types of buildings — such as hospitals. Green is part of a consortium studying how microbial communities develop in two newly constructed hospitals, one in Chicago and one in Germany.

But she thinks those interactions will turn out to exist in other types of buildings too. She notes that scientists are only just beginning to discover how the microbiome, the collection of microbes that live inside our guts, can impact our health by interacting with everything from the immune system to the brain. And where do those microbes come from? ”We pick them up from the built environment,” Green said. For a species that spends nearly 90% of its time indoors, that’s something to think about.

Eli Levine's curator insight, April 6, 2014 7:11 PM

Makes a lot of sense.


Imagine if we factored this into our architectural designs, as well as a host of other factors which influence our well being, health and survival.


Think about it.


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We are close to eating bait fish and jelly fish as big fish numbers in oceans plummet

We are close to eating bait fish and jelly fish as big fish numbers in oceans plummet | Amazing Science |

"When you're young, you look at the world and think what you see has been that way for a long time. When you're 5, everything feels "normal." When things change in your lifetime, you may regret what has changed, but for your children, born 30 years later into a more diminished world, what they see at 5 becomes their new "normal," and so, over time, "normal" is constantly being redefined to mean "less." And people who don't believe that the past was so different from the present might have what could be called "change blindness blindness." Because these changes happen slowly, over a human lifetime, they never startle. They just tiptoe silently along, helping us all adjust to a smaller, shrunken world."

Since 1950, one in four of the world’s fisheries has collapsed due to overfishing. 77 percent of the world's marine fish stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted or slowly recovering. The cod fishery off Newfoundland, Canada collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. Twenty years later, the fishery has yet to recover.

Scientists estimate that 90% of the world’s large fish have been removed from our oceans, including many tuna, sharks, halibut, grouper, and other top level predators which help maintain an ecological balance. Of the 3.5 million fishing vessels worldwide, only 1.7 percent are classified as large-scale, industrial vessels, yet these vessels take almost 60 percent of the global fish catch.

Tuna purse seine vessels using Fish Aggregating Devices entangle and kill a million sharks a year in the Indian Ocean alone. Every year, the world's fishing fleet receives roughly $30 billion in government subsidies. Most of the subsidies are given to the large-scale, industrial sector of the fishing industry.

Industrial fishing fleets kill and discard about 27 million tons of fish on average each year. That means that one-quarter of the annual marine fish catch is thrown overboard dead. For every kilo of shrimp landed, over 10 kilos of tropical marine life is caught and dies.

Bottom trawling, a fishing method which involves dragging giant nets and chains across the seafloor, damages fragile corals and sponges which provide habitat for fish and creates scars on the ocean bottom which can even be visible from space.

Globally more than US$20 billion is lost to pirate fishing each year, much of which involves European or Asian vessels. The United Nations estimates that Somalia loses US $300 million a year to the pirates; Guinea loses US $100 million.

The Patagonian toothfish (often sold as Chilean sea bass) fisheries around Crozet, Prince Edward and Marion Islands were fished to commercial extinction in just two years.

Commercial fishing boats also kill tens of thousands of albatrosses and hundreds of thousands of other seabirds, mostly by longline fishing.  Considering that albatrosses can live 50+ years, and take over 5 years to reach breeding age, this is an unsustainable loss of a truly impressive species.

Eli Levine's curator insight, April 6, 2014 1:05 PM

Indeed, there are likely to be big consequences for this mass die off that we haven't even begun to realize.


Animals have an effect on the environment, very much like us.  They play a role in sustaining and shaping the environment.  When we kill off a species, we break a piece of the delicate web of the environment in which we evolved and adapted to, such that our lives could be put at risk as a result of the extinction or die off of a species.  It's the tiny changes which have the largest impact on our world, yet we are having a tremendously large impact on the world for the sake of economic activity and money that, ideally, should come second or third to our collective health.  Goodness knows what this is going to yield for us as we wipe out top predators and prey alike, whose natural cycles of birth and death lead to the sustenance of .the environment in which we evolved and adapted into.


Why do we care about money, if we're not able  to spend it in our lifetime?  Why do we care about it if its accumulation leads to our death on the individual and collective levels?


Think about it.


Because this could very well be the final curtain for humanity, because of humanity.  And yet, will anyone listen or care to listen about these things?

Silly maladjusted and dysfunctional brains.


Think about it.

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Caltech: New Method Could Improve Ultrasound Imaging

Caltech: New Method Could Improve Ultrasound Imaging | Amazing Science |

Ultrasound is among the most widely used non-invasive imaging modalities in biomedicine1, but plays a surprisingly small role in molecular imaging due to a lack of suitable molecular reporters on the nanoscale. A recent experiment from Caltech scientists introduces a new class of reporters for ultrasound based on genetically encoded gas nanostructures from microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea.

Gas vesicles are gas-filled protein-shelled compartments with typical widths of 45–250 nm and lengths of 100–600 nm that exclude water and are permeable to gas23. The scientists show that gas vesicles produce stable ultrasound contrast that is readily detected in vitro and in vivo, that their genetically encoded physical properties enable multiple modes of imaging, and that contrast enhancement through aggregation permits their use as molecular biosensors.

The researchers first isolated gas vesicles from the bacterium Anabaena flos-aquae (Ana) and the archaeon Halobacterium NRC-1 (Halo), put them in an agarose gel, and used a home-built ultrasound system to image them. Vesicles from both sources produced clear ultrasound signals. Next, they injected the gas vesicles into mice and were able to follow the vesicles from the initial injection site to the liver, where blood flows to be detoxified. Shapiro and his colleagues were also able to easily attach biomolecules to the surface of the gas vesicles, suggesting that the gas vesicles could be used to label targets outside the bloodstream.

In their work, the researchers found differences in the gas vesicles produced by Ana and Halo. These variations could provide insight into how the vesicle design could be optimized for other purposes. For example, unlike the Ana vesicles, the Halo vesicles produced harmonic signals—meaning that they caused the original ultrasound wave to come back, as well as waves with doubled and tripled frequencies. Harmonics can be helpful in imaging because most tissue does not produce such signals; so when they show up, researchers know that they are more likely to be coming from the imaging agent than from the tissue.

Also, the gas vesicles from the two species collapsed, and thereby became invisible to ultrasound, with the application of different levels of pressure. Halo gas vesicles, which evolved in unpressurized cells, collapsed more easily than the vesicles from Ana, which maintain a pressurized cytoplasm. The researchers used this fact to distinguish the two different populations in a mixed sample. By applying a pressure pulse sufficient to collapse only the Halo vesicles, they were able to identify the remaining gas vesicles as having come from Ana.

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Scientists unveil first wiring diagram of mouse's brain

Scientists unveil first wiring diagram of mouse's brain | Amazing Science |

A year to the day after President Barack Obama announced a $100 million “BRAIN Initiative” to accelerate discoveries in how gray matter thinks, feels, remembers and sometimes succumbs to devastating diseases, scientists stated they had achieved a key milestone toward that goal.

Writing in the journal Nature, they unveiled the mouse “connectome,” a map showing the sinuous connections that neurons make throughout the mouse brain as they form functional circuits.

The mouse connectome “provides the most detailed analysis of brain circuitry currently available for any mammalian brain,” said neuroscientist David Van Essen of Washington University in St. Louis, co-leader of the human connectome project, which aims to do that for Homo sapiens. “It is truly a landmark study.”

A connectome is essentially a wiring diagram. It shows how each of the millions or billions of neurons (gray matter) in a brain each connect to thousands of other neurons through projections called axons, the white matter, and thereby allow brain regions to communicate to produce behavior, intelligence and personality.

Such a diagram could reveal, say, how neurons that register the taste of a cookie fan out to circuits that store memories and unleash a torrent of remembrances of things past. And it could reveal what causes those circuits to malfunction in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Before the mouse, the only species for which scientists had created an essentially complete connectome was the roundworm C. elegans. It has 302 neurons. The human brain has some 86 billion, each making as many as 10,000 connections.

A large-scale map is the goal of the Human Connectome Project, which the National Institutes of Health announced in 2010 and which Van Essen calls "one of the great scientific challenges of the 21st century." It is being produced using special technique called diffusion tensor imaging in living brains.

For the mouse connectome, scientists led by Hongkui Zeng of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, used some of the 21st-century techniques that are required to create a human connectome. For the mouse, the key was to make neuronal connections literally shine.

The map revealed several surprises about brain wiring. Connections that stay on one side of the brain "seem to be always stronger" than those that cross hemispheres, Zeng said. The mouse's neuronal connections also vary widely in strength. That "must be contributing to brain network computation," she said. "We think a small number of strong connections and a large number of weak connections may be a fundamental network organization property to allow greater capacity of information processing."

The human connectome will resemble the Human Genome Project in a key way. Just as the genome project discovered the precise sequence of three billion molecules common to the vast majority of humans' DNA, serving as a reference book against which to measure individual genetic differences, so the connectome will first reveal neuro-commonalities and, eventually, the uniqueness of each individual brain.

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Where The Milky Way Stands In The 'Council Of Giants' of Neighboring Galaxies

Where The Milky Way Stands In The 'Council Of Giants' of Neighboring Galaxies | Amazing Science |

What is in the vast unknown remains a mystery but a recent paper shed light on our immediate neighborhood - bright galaxies within 35-million light years of the Earth. 

"All bright galaxies within 20 million light years, including us, are organized in a 'Local Sheet' 34-million light years across and only 1.5-million light years thick" said Professor Marshall McCall of York University, Canada. "The Milky Way and Andromeda are encircled by twelve large galaxies arranged in a ring about 24-million light years across – this 'Council of Giants' stands in gravitational judgment of the Local Group by restricting its range of influence."

McCall says twelve of the fourteen giants in the Local Sheet, including the Milky Way and Andromeda, are "spiral galaxies" which have highly flattened disks in which stars are forming. The remaining two are more puffy "elliptical galaxies", whose stellar bulks were laid down long ago. Intriguingly, the two ellipticals sit on opposite sides of the Council. Winds expelled in the earliest phases of their development might have shepherded gas towards the Local Group, thereby helping to build the disks of the Milky Way and Andromeda.

McCall also examined how galaxies in the Council are spinning. He comments: "Thinking of a galaxy as a screw in a piece of wood, the direction of spin can be described as the direction the screw would move (in or out) if it were turned the same way as the galaxy rotates. Unexpectedly, the spin directions of Council giants are arranged around a small circle on the sky. This unusual alignment might have been set up by gravitational torques imposed by the Milky Way and Andromeda when the universe was smaller."

The boundary defined by the Council has led to insights about the conditions which led to the formation of the Milky Way. Most importantly, only a very small enhancement in the density of matter in the universe appears to have been required to produce the Local Group. To arrive at such an orderly arrangement as the Local Sheet and its Council, it seems that nearby galaxies must have developed within a pre-existing sheet-like foundation comprised primarily of dark matter.

Reference: Marshall L. McCall, 'A Council of Giants', MNRAS May 01, 2014 440 (1): 405-426. doi:10.1093/mnras/stu199

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The challenge of cancer genomics: Embarking on CLARITY 2

The challenge of cancer genomics: Embarking on CLARITY 2 | Amazing Science |

There is tremendous potential for genome sequencing to improve clinical diagnosis and care once it becomes routinely accessible, but this will require formalizing research methods into clinical best practices in the areas of sequence data generation, analysis, interpretation and reporting. The CLARITY Challenge was designed to spur convergence in methods for diagnosing genetic disease starting from clinical case history and genome sequencing data.

DNA samples were obtained from three families with heritable genetic disorders and genomic sequence data was donated by sequencing platform vendors. The challenge was to analyze and interpret these data with the goals of identifying disease causing variants and reporting the findings in a clinically useful format. Participating contestant groups were solicited broadly, and an independent panel of judges evaluated their performance.

Results: A total of 30 international groups were engaged. The entries reveal a general convergence of practices on most elements of the analysis and interpretation process. However, even given this commonality of approach, only two groups identified the consensus candidate variants in all disease cases, demonstrating a need for consistent fine-tuning of the generally accepted methods. There was greater diversity of the final clinical report content and in the patient consenting process, demonstrating that these areas require additional exploration and standardization.

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It's a computer inside a cockroach: DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living animals based on calculations

It's a computer inside a cockroach: DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living animals based on calculations | Amazing Science |

A swarm of nanobots made of DNA can store molecules in their folds and deliver them to specific cells by performing complex calculations.

Nano-sized entities made of DNA that are able to perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer have been introduced into a living animal. The DNA computers – known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA – travel around the insect's body and interact with each other, as well as the insect's cells. When they uncurl, they can dispense drugs carried in their folds.

"DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication," says Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

Levner and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, made the nanobots by exploiting the binding properties of DNA. When it meets a certain kind of protein, DNA unravels into two complementary strands. By creating particular sequences, the strands can be made to unravel on contact with specific molecules – say, those on a diseased cell. When the molecule unravels, out drops the package wrapped inside. The team has now injected various kinds of nanobots into cockroaches. Because the nanobots are labelled with fluorescent markers, the researchers can follow them and analyse how different robot combinations affect where substances are delivered. The team says the accuracy of delivery and control of the nanobots is equivalent to a computer system.

"This is the first time that biological therapy has been able to match how a computer processor works," says co-author Ido Bachelet of the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar Ilan University. "Unlike electronic devices, which are suitable for our watches, our cars or phones, we can use these robots in life domains, like a living cockroach," says Ángel Goñi Moreno of the National Center for Biotechnology in Madrid, Spain. "This opens the door for environmental or health applications."

DNA has already been used for storing large amounts of information and circuits for amplifying chemical signals, but these applications are rudimentary compared with the potential benefits of the origami robots.

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BOSS uses quasars to track the expanding universe—most precise measurement yet

BOSS uses quasars to track the expanding universe—most precise measurement yet | Amazing Science |

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), pioneered the use of quasars to map density variations in intergalactic gas at high redshifts, tracing the structure of the young universe. BOSS charts the history of the universe's expansion in order to illuminate the nature of dark energy, and new measures of large-scale structure have yielded the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies first formed.

he latest quasar results combine two separate analytical techniques. A new kind of analysis, led by physicist Andreu Font-Ribera of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and his team, was published late last year. Analysis using a tested approach, but with far more data than before, has just been published by Timothée Delubac, of EPFL Switzerland and France's Centre de Saclay, and his team. The two analyses together establish the expansion rate at 68 kilometers per second per million light years at redshift 2.34, with an unprecedented accuracy of 2.2 percent.

"This means if we look back to the universe when it was less than a quarter of its present age, we'd see that a pair of galaxies separated by a million light years would be drifting apart at a velocity of 68 kilometers a second as the universe expands," says Font-Ribera, a postdoctoral fellow in Berkeley Lab's Physics Division. "The uncertainty is plus or minus only a kilometer and a half per second." Font-Ribera presented the findings at the April 2014 meeting of the American Physical Society in Savannah, GA.

BOSS employs both galaxies and distant quasars to measure baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), a signature imprint in the way matter is distributed, resulting from conditions in the early universe. While also present in the distribution of invisible dark matter, the imprint is evident in the distribution of ordinary matter, including galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic hydrogen.

"Three years ago BOSS used 14,000 quasars to demonstrate we could make the biggest 3-D maps of the universe," says Berkeley Lab's David Schlegel, principal investigator of BOSS. "Two years ago, with 48,000 quasars, we first detected baryon acoustic oscillations in these maps. Now, with more than 150,000 quasars, we've made extremely precise measures of BAO."

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NASA's global warming factsheet

NASA's global warming factsheet | Amazing Science |
Global warming is happening now, and scientists are confident that greenhouse gases are responsible. To understand what this means for humanity, it is necessary to understand what global warming is, how scientists know it's happening, and how they predict future climate.

Once the world’s fourth largest lake, the mighty Aral Sea is now in it’s death throws. Starved of it’s lifeblood of the waters of the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya rivers, the sea has been shrinking for the last 40 years.

  1. Are the ozone hole and global warming related?
  2. What can we do about global warming?
  3. What if global warming isn’t as severe as predicted?
  4. Why is global warming a problem?
  5. Has the Sun been more active in recent decades, and could it be responsible for some global warming?
  6. If Earth has warmed and cooled throughout history, what makes scientists think that humans are causing global warming now?
  7. How do scientists know that Mauna Loa’s volcanic emissions don’t affect the carbon dioxide data collected there?
  8. Do satellite observations of atmospheric temperatures agree with surface-based observations and model predictions?
  9. What does NASA have to do with global warming?
  10. Are there natural processes that can amplify or limit global warming?
  11. If we immediately stopped emitting greenhouses gases, would global warming stop?
  12. If we stabilized greenhouse gas emissions at today’s rates, would global warming stop?
Eli Levine's curator insight, April 8, 2014 8:10 AM

It is an idiot who believes that humanity does not impact their own home through their activity.  It is also pretty stupid to select financial, material wealth over health, well being and sustainability, from a biological and sociological point of view.


Yet this is precisely what humanity has chosen to do.


At least, the sections of humanity who make decisions as to what happens in our world.  The rest of us are merely guilty of complacency and lack of access to real power (which is proactively enforced by those who currently hold defacto power in our world; the same people who are responsible for making the policy regimen that is causing global warming and greenhouse gas emissions to increase, remain the same or insignificantly decrease).


There's a reason how we're all going to die.  Looks like humanity is just going to be one brief little spark in the geological and cosmological history of our planet and universe.


A shame, since we have so much potential, if it weren't for those diseased brains sitting in places of power, consequence and authority.


Think about it.

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A mollusk's unique bioceramic nanostructure may lead to see-through body armor

A mollusk's unique bioceramic nanostructure may lead to see-through body armor | Amazing Science |
MIT researchers uncover the secrets behind a marine creature's defensive armor—one that is exceptionally tough, yet optically clear.

The shells of a sea creature, the mollusk Placuna placenta, are not only exceptionally tough, but also clear enough to read through. Now, researchers at MIT have analyzed these shells to determine exactly why they are so resistant to penetration and damage—even though they are 99 percent calcite, a weak, brittle mineral.

The shells' unique properties emerge from a specialized nanostructure that allows optical clarity, as well as efficient energy dissipation and the ability to localize deformation, the researchers found. The results are published this week in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper co-authored by MIT graduate student Ling Li and professor Christine Ortiz.

Ortiz, the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering (and MIT's dean for graduate education), has long analyzed the complex structures and properties of biological materials as possible models for new, even better synthetic analogs.

Engineered ceramic-based armor, while designed to resist penetration, often lacks the ability to withstand multiple blows, due to large-scale deformation and fracture that can compromise its structural integrity, Ortiz says. In transparent armor systems, such deformation can also obscure visibility.

Creatures that have evolved natural exoskeletons—many of them ceramic-based—have developed ingenious designs that can withstand multiple penetrating attacks from predators. The shells of a few species, such as Placuna placenta, are also optically clear.

To test exactly how the shells—which combine calcite with about 1 percent organic material—respond to penetration, the researchers subjected samples to indentation tests, using a sharp diamond tip in an experimental setup that could measure loads precisely. They then used high-resolution analysis methods, such as electron microscopy and diffraction, to examine the resulting damage.

The material initially isolates damage through an atomic-level process called "twinning" within the individual ceramic building blocks: Part of the crystal shifts its position in a predictable way, leaving two regions with the same orientation as before, but with one portion shifted relative to the other. This twinning process occurs all around the stressed region, helping to form a kind of boundary that keeps the damage from spreading outward.

The MIT researchers found that twinning then activates "a series of additional energy-dissipation mechanisms … which preserve the mechanical and optical integrity of the surrounding material," Li says. This produces a material that is 10 times more efficient in dissipating energy than the pure mineral, Li adds.

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Liquid biopsy blood test could provide rapid, accurate method of detecting solid cancers, study finds

Liquid biopsy blood test could provide rapid, accurate method of detecting solid cancers, study finds | Amazing Science |

A blood sample could one day be enough to diagnose many types of solid cancers, or to monitor the amount of cancer in a patient’s body and responses to treatment. Previous versions of the approach, which relies on monitoring levels of tumor DNA circulating in the blood, have required cumbersome and time-consuming steps to customize it to each patient or have not been sufficiently sensitive.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a way to quickly bring the technique to the clinic. Their approach, which should be broadly applicable to many types of cancers, is highly sensitive and specific. With it they were able to accurately identify about 50 percent of people in the study with stage-1 lung cancer and all patients whose cancers were more advanced.

“We set out to develop a method that overcomes two major hurdles in the circulating tumor DNA field,” said Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology. “First, the technique needs to be very sensitive to detect the very small amounts of tumor DNA present in the blood. Second, to be clinically useful it’s necessary to have a test that works off the shelf for the majority of patients with a given cancer.”

Even in the absence of treatment, cancer cells are continuously dividing and dying. As they die, they release DNA into the bloodstream, like tiny genetic messages in a bottle. Learning to read these messages — and to pick out the one in 1,000 or 10,000 that come from a cancer cell — can allow clinicians to quickly and noninvasively monitor the volume of tumor, a patient’s response to therapy and even how the tumor mutations evolve over time in the face of treatment or other selective pressures.

“The vast majority of circulating DNA is from normal, non-cancerous cells, even in patients with advanced cancer,” Bratman said. “We needed a comprehensive strategy for isolating the circulating DNA from blood and detecting the rare, cancer-associated mutations. To boost the sensitivity of the technique, we optimized methods for extracting, processing and analyzing the DNA.

The researchers’ technique, which they have dubbed CAPP-Seq, for Cancer Personalized Profiling by deep Sequencing, is sensitive enough to detect just one molecule of tumor DNA in a sea of 10,000 healthy DNA molecules in the blood. Although the researchers focused on patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (which includes most lung cancers, including adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma), the approach should be widely applicable to many different solid tumors throughout the body. It’s also possible that it could one day be used not just to track the progress of a previously diagnosed patient, but also to screen healthy or at-risk populations for signs of trouble.

Tumor DNA differs from normal DNA by virtue of mutations in the nucleotide sequence. Some of the mutations are thought to be cancer drivers, responsible for initiating the uncontrolled cell growth that is the hallmark of the disease. Others accumulate randomly during repeated cell division. These secondary mutations can sometimes confer resistance to therapy; even a few tumor cells with these types of mutations can expand rapidly in the face of seemingly successful treatment.

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Color pixels made of nanowires offer new paradigm for digital cameras

Color pixels made of nanowires offer new paradigm for digital cameras | Amazing Science |

Most of today's digital cameras achieve color by using red, green, and blue Bayer color filters through which light passes on its way to the camera's image sensors, which then convert the light into electrical signals.

In a new study, researchers successfully fabricated 100 x 100 arrays of vertical nanowires with radii of 80, 100, 120, and 140 nm, allowing the nanowires to absorb different wavelengths of light. The scientists demonstrated that these nanowire-based photodetectors can photograph color images of test scenes and the Macbeth ColorChecker card with a quality that is very similar to that obtained with a conventional camera.

The new filter-free color imaging technique has some key advantages compared with the conventional filter technique, with perhaps the most important being a higher absorption efficiency that allows for higher pixel densities and higher resolution. The researchers predict that adding a bottom photodetector to the nanowire array would make it possible, in principle, for the device to absorb all incoming light and convert it into photocurrent. Such a device has the potential for extremely high photon efficiencies compared to filter-based devices, which by their nature absorb approximately half of the incoming light before it reaches the image sensor. The greater efficiency would then pave the way for cameras with higher resolutions. In addition to an improved efficiency, this approach simplifies the fabrication process. As the researchers explain, the pixels with different color responses can be defined at the same time through a single lithography step.

Furthermore, the nanowire-based photodetectors also offer the opportunity for multispectral imaging. Cameras use multispectral imaging to capture light at different frequencies of the spectrum, including frequencies beyond the visible light range. With the new method, different parts of the spectrum can be targeted for absorption by fabricating nanowires with specific radii, a relatively simple process compared to fabricating filters and other methods. The researchers plan to work on further improving the photodetectors in the future.

"We are currently working on incorporating substrate photodetectors to increase the efficiency as we mentioned above," said coauthor Hyunsung Park at Harvard University. "In addition, we are developing elliptical nanowire-based photodetectors for polarization-resolved imaging. The major hurdle for commercialization is the higher dark current level of these devices, due to the fact they are produced by etching. This comes from the fact that there are many surface states, due to the large surface-to-volume ratio of the nanowires and damage to the silicon crystal structure from dry etching. We believe that this will be resolved in the future through alternative fabrication process or by adding passivation layers."

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Samsung: Growing great defect-free graphene on germanium will speed up commercialization

Samsung: Growing great defect-free graphene on germanium will speed up commercialization | Amazing Science |

Samsung Electronics announced a breakthrough synthesis method to speed the commercialization of graphene, a unique material ideally suited for electronic devices. Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), in partnership with Sungkyunkwan University, became the first in the world to develop this new method.

"This is one of the most significant breakthroughs in graphene research in history," said the laboratory leaders at SAIT's Lab. "We expect this discovery to accelerate the commercialization of graphene, which could unlock the next era of consumer electronic technology."

Graphene has one hundred times greater electron mobility than silicon, the most widely used material in semiconductors today. It is more durable than steel and has high heat conductibility as well as flexibility, which makes it the perfect material for use in flexible displays, wearables and other next generation electronic devices.

Through its partnership with Sungkyungkwan University's School of Advanced Materials Science and Engineering, SAIT uncovered a new method of growing large area, single crystal wafer scale graphene. Engineers around the world have invested heavily in research for the commercialization of graphene, but have faced many obstacles due to the challenges associated with it. In the past, researchers have found that multi-crystal synthesis – the process of synthesizing small graphene particles to produce large-area graphene – deteriorated the electric and mechanical properties of the material, limiting its application range and making it difficult to commercialize.

The new method developed by SAIT and Sungkyunkwan University synthesizes large-area graphene into a single crystal on a semiconductor, maintaining its electric and mechanical properties. The new method repeatedly synthesizes single crystal graphene on the current semiconductor wafer scale.

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Butterfly Wings Inspire Better Sensors

Butterfly Wings Inspire Better Sensors | Amazing Science |

Researchers at GE Global Research are taking a closer look. Not at Lorenz’s question but at the wings themselves. They are using nanotechnology to mimic the iridescent sheen of butterflies from the Morpho genus and develop fast and super sensitive thermal and chemical imaging sensors. In the future, the technology could be used in night vision goggles, surveillance cameras and even medical diagnostic devices.

Imitating nature is not a new idea. Swiss engineer George de Mestro invented Velcro after his dog came home covered with thistle burrs, Speedo came up with fast sharkskin swimsuits, and every aircraft engineer since Leonardo has been aping birds.

When the GE team put Morpho wings under a powerful microscope, they saw a layer of tiny scales just tens of micrometers across. In turn, each of the scales had arrays of ridges a few hundred nanometers wide. This complex structure absorbs and bends light and gives Morfo butterflies their trademark shimmering blue and green coat.

But the GE team also observed that the color of the wings changed when they came into contact with heat, gases and chemicals. Working with DARPA, the scientists started exploring and enhancing the wing’s properties and geometry to build better sensors. 

Detectors based on their research could one day they help doctors create visual heat maps of internal organs, assess wound healing, test food and water safety and monitors power plant emissions.

The findings could also lead to new sensors for detecting warfare agents and explosives.

Radislav Potyrailo, principal scientist at GE Global Research who leads the photonics program, found that when infrared radiation hits the wing, the nanostructures on the wing heat up and expand, causing iridescence and color change.

He and his team added tiny nanotubes to the wings and were able to increase the amount of radiation the wings can absorb, improving their heat sensitivity.

“This new class of thermal imaging sensors promises significant improvements over existing detectors in their image quality, speed, sensitivity, size, power requirements and cost,” Potyrailo says.

Via Miguel Prazeres, Jocelyn Stoller
Monica S Mcfeeters's curator insight, April 6, 2014 5:50 PM

Great ideas are often taken from nature! Check this one out!

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Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel | Amazing Science |
Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.

"One of the largest impediments for the pulp and paper industry as well as the emerging biofuel industry is a polymer found in wood known as lignin," says Shawn Mansfield, a professor of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia.

Lignin makes up a substantial portion of the cell wall of most plants and is a processing impediment for pulp, paper and biofuel. Currently the lignin must be removed, a process that requires significant chemicals and energy and causes undesirable waste.

Researchers used genetic engineering to modify the lignin to make it easier to break down without adversely affecting the tree's strength.

"We're designing trees to be processed with less energy and fewer chemicals, and ultimately recovering more wood carbohydrate than is currently possible," says Mansfield.

Researchers had previously tried to tackle this problem by reducing the quantity of lignin in trees by suppressing genes, which often resulted in trees that are stunted in growth or were susceptible to wind, snow, pests and pathogens.

"It is truly a unique achievement to design trees for deconstruction while maintaining their growth potential and strength." The genetic modification strategy employed in this study could also be used on other plants like grasses to be used as a new kind of fuel to replace petroleum.

Genetic modification can be a contentious issue, but there are ways to ensure that the genes do not spread to the forest. These techniques include growing crops away from native stands so cross-pollination isn't possible; introducing genes to make both the male and female trees or plants sterile; and harvesting trees before they reach reproductive maturity.

In the future, genetically modified trees could be planted like an agricultural crop, not in our native forests. Poplar is a potential energy crop for the biofuel industry because the tree grows quickly and on marginal farmland. Lignin makes up 20 to 25 per cent of the tree.

"We're a petroleum reliant society," says Mansfield. "We rely on the same resource for everything from smartphones to gasoline. We need to diversify and take the pressure off of fossil fuels. Trees and plants have enormous potential to contribute carbon to our society."

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After 22 million years, hummingbird evolution is still soaring

After 22 million years, hummingbird evolution is still soaring | Amazing Science |

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds and the smallest warm-blooded animals on Earth. They have the fastest heart and the fastest metabolism of any vertebrate. They are the only birds that can fly backward. And according to a new report they also have a complicated evolutionary history.

Researchers constructed the family tree of these nectar-eating birds using genetic information from most of the world's 338 hummingbird species and their closest relatives. They say hummingbirds can be divided into nine groups, with differences in size, habitat, feeding strategy and body shape.

The common ancestor to all species in existence today lived about 22 million years ago in South America, several million years after hummingbirds were known to be flourishing in Europe, they write. Today's hummingbirds are found only in the Americas.

They boast a unique set of capabilities, says University of New Mexico ornithologist Christopher Witt, one of the scientists in the study published in the journal Current Biology.

They can hover stationarily or move in any direction with precision, even in a strong wind. They also have the highest rate of energy consumption per gram of any animal. Hummingbirds come in a spectacular range of colours, with males more colourful than females. They often have green feathers on the body, with the head coming in "virtually every colour you can imagine: gold, red, blue, purple, magenta, often iridescent," says biologist Jimmy McGuire of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study.

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World's largest nests are made by socialist bird collectives

World's largest nests are made by socialist bird collectives | Amazing Science |

NO, IT'S not a giant haystack - it's an example of one of the largest structures constructed by birds. Sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) build huge communal nests - multistorey apartment complexes - from sticks and grass. The structures last for decades, sometimes over 100 years. Multiple families live together and even help raise each other's young; you could call them socialist weavers, though that might bring to mind a collective of 19th-century Lancashire textile workers.

The birds - anything up to 100 pairs per nest - live in the harsh Kalahari desert in southern Africa. The thick thatched roof protects them from the sweltering sun, and retains heat during the chill desert night. Photographer Dillon Marsh is interested in how humans and other animals interact, and the weaver's habit of building their nests on telegraph poles attracted him as a subject. "I then became intrigued by the way the nests, although inanimate, almost seemed to be living organisms as they are in a continual state of collapse and repair," he says.

Food is not super-abundant in the desert, so the birds, pictured below, delay breeding until they are 2 years old. It's one of the reasons that it makes evolutionary sense to live communally. In the past the birds had to nest in trees, something else not commonly available in the desert. Telephone poles have allowed the weavers to expand their range.

Leonard Howard's curator insight, February 7, 2015 1:04 PM