In the shadow of the atom

For once, "shadow of the atom" is not just a poetic metaphor for the nuclear age. The black dot at the center of this image is, literally, the shadow cast by a single atom of ytterbium, magnified 6500 times.

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Jello shot orange slices

I am currently mesmerized by these mimosa jello shots, served in the peels of the oranges juiced to make them. They are absolutely ridiculous and I love them. A little something for New Year's Day? Read the rest

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Watch a spider molt

Spider molting from Karli Larson on Vimeo.

Spiders don't have an internal skeleton like we do. Instead, their muscles are anchored to an exoskeleton—a sort of hard, semi-flexible shell that encases a spider's whole body. In order to grow bigger, spiders have to grow new exoskeletons and shed old ones.

Karli Larson found a spider on her window frame in the process of shedding its exoskeleton. Naturally, she filmed it and set the whole thing to music. She says:

The entire molting process took about 30 minutes to fully complete. This is the interesting part, sped up.

The camera is a little shakey, so if that bothers you, well, sorry. But I think this is still way fascinating.

Read more about spiders, their exoskeletons, and the molting process at HowStuffWorks

Thanks, Maggie Ryan Sandford!

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What's inside an elephant?

Sometimes, I get so jealous of British television. Apparently, there's a whole series over there called Inside Nature's Giants. It's basically a zoology dissection show, where scientists break down large, exotic animals in ways that help teach viewers about evolution, biology, and the science of animal locomotion.

John Hutchinson is an American zoologist who works as a professor of evolutionary biomechanics in the UK. He's one of the scientists who works behind the scenes on Inside Nature's Giants. He also blogs at What's in John's Freezer?. It's a great title and it gets right to the point: Hutchinson has a job that is centered around the frozen carcasses of all manner of strange (and usually rather large) creatures. His research is all about the evolution and mechanics of motion. He studies living animals, both through dissection and 3D modeling, and he tries to use that data to better understand how extinct animals—including dinosaurs—might have moved around.

It's fascinating stuff. And the photos are nigh-on mind blowing. Right now, at John Hutchinson's blog, you can see a collection of shots from dissections and CT scans done for Inside Nature's Giants—including the dissection of an elephant.

Because I know that some of you are delicate and it is almost lunchtime, I've opted to not post my favorite photo from that dissection on the main page. But you should check it out below the cut. Read the rest

Volcanic vent surprise

What are all those frothy bubbles rising from the sea floor and coating the submersible craft in this video? Why, it's liquid carbon dioxide, venting off an underwater hot spring connected to Eifuku volcano in Japan's Volcano Islands.

Better yet, life can still survive, even in an environment this extreme. Check out what blogger Caleb Scharf spotted:

... pay attention at 38 seconds into the show. With utter disregard for the extraordinary environment a shrimp-like creature swims purposefully under the robot and exits stage lower right. It may not live in liquid CO2, but it doesn’t seem bothered by it in the slightest. We must also assume that it’s finding plenty of food within this bubbling environment.

Video Link

Via Ed Yong

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