Showing posts from May, 2012


It turns out that what we see is not always what we think we see. The visual system is highly modular, and different modules are used to perform different tasks. I’m reading a book called Sight Unseen: An Exploration of Conscious and Unconscious Vision, by Goodale and Milner. It provides a fascinating look at the visual system. In a nutshell, the authors found that we process visual information differently depending on how we will use that information. Hypotheses of separate visual systems have been proposed for years, but they particularly struck the researchers when they met Dee (a pseudonym). Dee was unable to distinguish shapes or orientations, but she could see colors and textures. During one experiment, where Goodale and Milner were testing how well she could see a pencil’s shape and orientation, Dee became frustrated. She reached out and took the pencil to examine it more closely. Think about this a minute. Dee’s visual disability was so severe that her world was a mere blur …

Species species of the Week week #4 OR Hiphopopotamus

Post previously published at Rah Rah Radula.Hippopus hippopus (The Horse's Hoof Clam OR
The Strawberry Clam OR
The Bear Paw Clam)
Figure 1. What a wacky looking clam!!
Photo Credit: Mehmet Atatur Figure 2. Yup, wacky from this angle too! Right, so the radness of the shell alone (Figs 1 & 2) is pretty much enough coolness for this tautonym to stand on, but there is so much more to Hippopus hippopus (Disambiguation: Did you mean "Hiphopopotamus"?) that makes it cool. And for that we need to see a picture of it in situ, up close: Figure 3. Open live H. hippopus, looking even wackier Go closer... Figure 4. Siphon and wacky mantle tissue.
Photo Credit: Closer still... Figure 5. Extreme close-up. Reflective proteins in mantle tissue of Tridacna.
Micrograph Credit: Griffiths et al. 1992 Too close, a little too close! Figure 6. Dinoflagellates (non-algae algae) of the genus Symbiodinium.
They live in giant clam flesh!There! Living right in the mantle tissues o…

Weekend links: awesome women

Sorry for the quiet week, all -- we're low on submissions (send me some!) and I'm at Wiscon, the feminist science fiction convention. In honor and in hope of equality, here are some women who did and some who still do excellent science. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought variolation, a precursor to smallpox vaccination, to Europe from her travels in the Ottoman Empire. (I also appreciate her for not having been terribly impressed by Alexander Pope.) Jaisri Lingappa right here at UW has done great work on virus capsid assembly, specifically in HIV. Sylvia Earle, ocean explorer, took ALVIN all the way down and dived solo to one kilometer deep. Rita Levi Montalcini did not let the Nazis stop her from discovering nerve growth factor (NGF). And, as we should all know by now, Marie Curie was ridiculously amazing. Want more?
72 Women in Science at Double X Science
Ten Historic Female Scientists You Should Know at the Smithsonian
Women in Science Gallery at the Mary Sue

Weekend links: sort by location

Species species of the Week week #3 OR Foaming with rage and bruised all over the chest

Post previously published at Rah Rah Radula.Grapsus grapsus (The Sally Lightfoot Crab) Dang, Sally, you pretty!
The whimsically named and colored Grapsus grapsus. John Steinbeck will undoubtedly provide a much more interesting perspective on this whimsically named (in both Latin and common) Grapsus grapsus than I ever could. So, I leave it to him to describe this tropical member of the Grapsid family: Many people have spoken at length of the Sally Lightfoots. In fact, everyone who has seen them has been delighted with them. The very name they are called by reflects the delight of the name. These little crabs, with brilliant cloisonné carapaces, walk on their tiptoes, They have remarkable eyes and an extremely fast reaction time. In spite of the fact that they swarm on the rocks at the Cape, and to a less degree inside the Gulf, they are exceedingly hard to catch. They seem to be able to run in any of four directions; but more than this, perhaps because of their rapid reaction time, the…

Weekend links: imitative and incredible

Red-eyed tree frog seeks job in kung fu movie (Agalychnis callidryas) European bee-eaters dress up as caterpillar (Merops apiaster) Bats continue to have amazing noses (Hipposideros griffini; but surely the very plain ears are used for sound reception?) Even nonvocal iguanas can learn when birdcalls mean danger (Amblyrhynchus cristatus, Mimus parvulus) Fierce, brilliant crabs (Insulamon palawenese) Dapper dinos (various spp.)