Boing Boing 

And all the vaginas are well above average

At Double X Science, Jenny Morber has an excellent piece about the wide range of diversity seen in human lady parts. "Are you normal? Yes. Are you average? No. Most likely," she writes. What follows is a fascinating tour of human biology, from the different lengths and colors of labia to the wide range of shapes exhibited by the inside of the vaginal canal, itself. Even better, all of this can change over the course of an individual woman's life, rendering "average" even more meaningless.

Kalashnikov made of bones


New Zealand artist Bruce Mahalski has put a new sculpture of an AK47 assembled from animal bones up for sale, with a starting bid of NZD3500. It's quite a beautiful piece of work.

The latest bone gun by New Zealand bone artist – Mahalski – is a life-size AK47 machine gun(330mm x 940mm) featuring found animal bones from rabbit, stoat, ferret, sheep, hawk, pheasant, wallaby, snapper, snake, blackbird, tarakihi, hedgehog, broad-billed prion , shear water, thrush, seal ,cat and possum (plus part of a skull from the extinct moa ). The gun is made entirely of bones mounted on an invisible wooden frame and is displayed standing upright on two rods on a piece of recycled matai timber (1130mm x 2000mm). You can see more pictures at - www.mahalski.org

KALASHNIKOV - AK47 (LIFE-SIZE REPLICA) Brand new item (Thanks, Bruce!)

HOWTO bake anatomical heart-bread


Here's a fun set of instructions for baking anatomical heart-shaped bread that you rip apart and gorge upon:

Nothing says romance like ritual cannibalism. Use this anatomical heart pull apart loaf to pretend you’re vampires feasting on the heart of that asshole in HR who gave a promotion to Brad. Alternately, you could engage in a little Indiana Jones cosplay where the sexy archaeologist in your life can rescue you from having your heart ripped out by any other man. Gentlemen bakers, you could show up at your vegetarian girlfriend’s house triumphantly holding this and declaring you were successful in the hunt, so tonight you feast. There are so many ways to express your doughy love.

Bitchin’ Bread Battle Day 13: Valentine’s Day Anatomical Heart Pull Apart Bread (via Neatorama)

Toothy tongue


DeviantArt's Jengabean made Tonya, this wonderful, toothy tongue sculpture. Jengabean's whole portfolio is rather wonderful, and worth a look. There's word of an upcoming Etsy store, too.

Tonya (via JWZ)

Crocheted skeleton with organs

Artist Shanell Papp has a project called "Bawdy," which is about bodies and textiles. The centerpiece is "Lab," a yarn skeleton with a complete set of organs.

Lab (skeleton) (via Making Light)

Medieval Europeans knew more about the body than we think

Medieval Europe is generally known for its animosity toward actually testing things out, favoring tradition over experimentation and earning a reputation as being soundly anti-science. In particular, it's easy to get the impression that nobody was doing human dissections at all, prior to the Renaissance. But it turns out that isn't true. In fact, some dissections were even prompted (not just condoned) by the Catholic Church. The knowledge medieval dissectors learned from their experiments didn't get widely disseminated at the time, but their work offers some interesting insight into the development of science. The quest for knowledge in Europe didn't just appear out of nowhere in the 1400s and 1500s.

Sea slug has detachable penis

"A sea slug that is able to detach, re-grow and then re-use its penis has surprised scientists." [BBC]

Grotesque creature housewares and jewelry


DeviantArt's dogzillalives is makes jewelry and housewares studded with eyeballs, tentacles, yellowing fangs, stitched faux-skin, and more. She's got an Etsy Store, too!

Stitched eyes cuff side (via Neatorama)

Anatomical heart pop-up shop in London


The wonderful, edible weirdos at the Eat Your Heart Out blog are throwing an anatomical heart pop-up shop for Valentine's day in east London, at the site of this month's edible horror installation on Bethnal Green Road:

Very excited to share more information about the anatomical heart pop up in London for Valentine’s Day. Indicative of the way Eat Your Heart out has become a cultural leader, the shop is 60% gifts and art 40% cakes and chocolate treats. It’s being run under the guise of Anatomical Snuff Box, a venture from myself and Emily Evans promoting the education of anatomy using cultural channels. You can see all of the gifts here (more being added daily). The wonderful Kraken Rum are also supporting the event so expect lots of free rum shots and rum soaked cakes – if you have not tried this amazing drink yet here is your chance.

Throb – anatomical heart gifts for Valentine’s Day

Rhino horns aren't really horns

Last week, I got to visit the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. It's an amazing collection — well worth driving out of your way to see. I was expecting just a selection of different animal skeletons. The actual collection was a lot bigger and more awesome than I'd guessed it would be, and included some really nice exhibits on evolutionary adaptation, convergent evolution, deformed skeletons of both humans and animals, and the process of stripping a body down to a clean and shiny bone structure.

One of the things I found really fascinating was the skeletal features that you can't see just by looking at the outside of an animal. Take this Indian Rhinoceros, for instance. You'll notice that his horn is not a part of the skull. That's because the horn isn't really bone. The "horn" isn't a horn, at all.

Horns are made of bone. They're hard on the outside thanks to a thin layer of keratin — the stuff that makes up your fingernails and hair. But the majority of that material is living bone. Rhinos, on the other hand, have "horns" that are almost 100% keratin. They're really thick bundles of protein fibers.

That's a pretty well-known fact. But it's one thing to know it intellectually, and another thing entirely to see the place where that keratin horn attaches to the animal's actual bone structure. The intricate, lacy network of spongy bone was absolutely fascinating to me. It reminded me of the way ceramic artists will attach one piece of clay to another by scoring little cuts into both pieces and then applying a layer of thin, goopy clay that cements the cuts together as it dries. Seeing the rhino skull really drove home the idea that the "horn" was something else entirely. The horn was attached to the bone. It wasn't part of the bone.

Anatomical Frankenstein limited-edition print


Artist Brian Ewing has produced a limited edition colorway print of his anatomical Frankenstein's monster poster. I love this work -- I gave my wife one of his bubblegum colorways of the Bride of Frankenstein for our anniversary, and I've just put the Frankenstein on my Xmas list (don't buy 'em all, OK?).

Ewing really went to town documenting the production process, with lots of interim shots linked from the post below.

MONSTER ART PRINT (PUMPKIN COLORWAY)

Iron Egghead: Explain biology using eight everyday items

Scientific American has an awesome contest going on right now. They're challenging you to make a video explaining some part, process, or system in the human body using eight objects: Yourself, a writing surface, a writing implement, rubber bands, paper clips, string, cups , and balls. You have to use all eight items. You can't use anything else.

You can read the full instructions and rules online. And check out the sample video, made by Scientific American interns Isha Soni and Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato.

Bonus: The first 100 qualified entries all get a free digital subscription to Sci Am.

Via Bora Zivkovik

How To: Film cheetahs in slow motion

For this project you will need one cat toy on a string, a high-speed camera mounted on a moveable track, and also some cheetahs.

This behind-the-scenes video shows you how National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo captured amazing footage of big cats in motion. It's a complicated process and I wish they'd shown more of the animal-handling part of it. I certainly didn't realize that some zoo animals were so comfortable with humans that you could walk them around on a leash and let them off to run free around a dozen unfamiliar members of a camera crew. Still great to watch, though.

Via Laughing Squid, which has the 7-minute video showing the final footage of running cheetahs.

Sauropods might have had trunks, but probably didn't

Imagine an apatosaurus with a long, elephant-like snout. Plenty of people have. That's because the nostril placement on sauropod dinosaurs is, in some ways, remarkably similar to that of trunked animals that live today. In both cases, the nostrils are large, and they're located up around what we'd call the forehead, kind of smack between the eyes.

On the one hand, this is one of those things that it's really hard to ever know for certain. We don't have preserved soft tissue, so when we make models of what dinosaurs might have looked like we're really going on clues from the bones and comparisons to living animals with similar bone structure. Because of that, it is somewhat reasonable to suggest that hey, maybe, sauropods really did look like grumpy diplodocus in the image above. It's fun to speculate.

But not all speculations are created equal. In a fascinating post at the Tetrapod Zoology blog, Darren Naish explains why a superficial similarity to trunked animals isn't enough to counteract the much-more prevalent evidence against sauropod trunks. One of the more interesting lines of evidence he points out is the fact that dinosaurs apparently lacked the facial which form the trunk in living animals. We know this partly because muscles leave their signature on bone, and Naish says there's no evidence sauropods had the right facial muscles. It's further bolstered by the fact that the animals most closely related to sauropods don't have those facial muscles, either.

Naish's piece reminds me of the last time we talked about sauropod biology here. That, too, dealt with the fact that superficial similarities aren't enough to infer that two animals must have identical biology. Only, in that case, we were talking about the differences between the long necks of giraffes and the long necks of sauropods.

Doktor A's immortality helmet


Doktor A's beautiful immortality helmet was produced on commission and looks like a spectacular way to extend your lifespan:

1. Remove strap and leads from the storage drawer.
2. Place electrodes against forehead and tighten strap.
3. Attach bulldog clips to terminals in the jaw.
4. Set over-ride timer to desired duration.
5. Crank the main handle to build electrical charge.
6. Close the main switch to engage the electrical flow.
7. Increase the electrical voltage using dial.
8. Wait until your Asphyx manifests within the tube.
9. Shut off charge to electrodes using the main switch.
10. Transfer the Asphyx to a long term containment device.
11. Congratulations you have gained immortality.

Congratulations you have gained immortality. (via Super Punch)

Artist 3D prints replica of his own skull


A Dutch artist called Caspar Berger is producing a "self-portrait" by 3D printing a replica of his own skull, then layering "flesh" atop it.

In this project, Self-portrait 21, the 3D copy of the skull represents the true image (vera icon). This image has formed the basis for a facial reconstruction by a forensic anthropologist, who received the skull anonymously accompanied only by the information that it belonged to a man in his mid-40s born in Western Europe. This facial reconstruction is based on the available scientific documentation of tissue structure, skin thickness and muscle groups. The clay reconstruction has been cast in bronze to be presented as Self-portrait 21, a self-portrait that has not been made by the artist.

Skeleton / Self-portrait 21 (via Beyond the Beyond)

Charles Babbage's dissected brain


A paper in a 1909 edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London described the dissection of Charles Babbage's brain. The whole article is on the Internet Archive, from which the Public Domain Review has plucked it.

Babbage himself decided that he wanted his brain to be donated to science upon his death. In a letter accompanying the donation, his son Henry wrote:

I have no objection…to the idea of preserving the brain…Please therefore do what you consider best…[T]he brain should be known as his, and disposed of in any manner which you consider most conducive to the advancement of human knowledge and the good of the human race.

Half of Babbage’s brain is preserved at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London, the other half is on display in the Science Museum in London.

The Brain of Charles Babbage (1909)

Toothy ladies' shoes


These toothy ladies' shoes (origin unknown) are a nice complement for the tooth-soled Apex Predator shoes we wrote about last month.

teethwh!!!!!!!!!!!!!11 (via Kadrey)

Hominid: predation among the human-skeleton'ed prehistoric creatures

Brian Andrews has spent many years producing his striking "Hominid" images, described as "photo composites made from human and veterinary images creating hominid creatures." Now, these images have been animated, and the result is beautiful and haunting and profoundly, wonderfully disturbing.

Hominid is an animated teaser based on the Hominid series of photo composites by Brian Andrews. The series has been exhibited internationally, including at SIGGRAPH, in the Hong Kong Exhibition Center, and at numerous galleries. This animated teaser was produced at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts. Be on the lookout for future Hominid animations.

Hominid (via JWZ)

Skull watch, 1780


Hayden sez, "A good one for Halloween - this skull-shaped memento mori clock is historically important and even a little spooky today. The Art of Mourning site is all about death and love in jewelry and art, so there are many examples of the symbols of death throughout history."

Watches and clocks with the memento mori motifs were not uncommon, dating from the mid 17th Century to the 1930s. This early Verge silver skull pivots at the top of the cranium, whereas others pivot from the jaw. There are others created that fold open at the top of the head with enamel and diamonds, but pieces like these are extremely rare and command a high price. Examples exist from Switzerland, France, Germany and England. As written by the Taft Museum:

“The skull and watch are part of the standard subject matter of 17th-century vanitas still lifes. Vanitas is from the Latin for “emptiness” or “untruth,” from which comes the English word “vanity.” Such pictures depict objects that have an underlying moral message—usually about the fleeting nature of physical reality. Therefore, it is not surprising that the skull and watch, two reminders of the passage of time, should merge in a single object. The use of the skeleton hand, however, is unusual.1“

Thomas White Memento Mori Watch, c.1780

Temple Grandin's brain doesn't just think differently, it is physically different

This is kind of neat. Scientists conducted several psychological and neuro-imaging tests on Temple Grandin — the woman who has used her own autism as a model for designing better livestock control systems. What they found is that Grandin's brain looks different, structurally, from that of a neuro-typical person.

Grandin’s brain volume is significantly larger than that of three neurotypical controls matched on age, sex and handedness. Grandin’s lateral ventricles, the chambers that hold cerebrospinal fluid, are skewed in size so that the left one is much larger than the right. “It’s quite striking,” Cooperrider says. On both sides of her brain, Grandin has an abnormally large amygdala, a deep brain region that processes emotion. Her brain also shows differences in white matter, the bundles of nerve fibers that connect one region to another. The volume of white matter on the left side of her brain is higher than that in controls, the study found.

Grandin isn't the only person with autism to have had their brain scanned. But the differences that have been found aren't always consistent from one study to another. That, of course, makes some sense, given the fact that the word "autism" encompasses a whole spectrum of differences and disabilities which may or may not represent one single thing. But there have been several studies that did find differences similar to the ones found in Temple Grandin.

And here's the really interesting thing. Some scientists think that the common differences we do keep seeing — especially the bit about the larger brain volume — might be a clue that what eventually becomes autism actually begins in the womb. Here's a quick excerpt from a story that Carl Zimmer wrote about this stuff last spring:

When autistic children are born, Courchesne’s research suggests, they have an abundance of neurons jammed into an average-size brain. Over the first few years, the neurons get bigger and sprout thousands of branches to join other neurons. The extra neurons in the autistic brain probably send out a vast number of extra connections to other neurons. This overwiring may interfere with normal development of language and social behavior in young children. It would also explain the excess brain size seen in the MRI scans.

Read the story about Temple Grandin's brain

Read Carl Zimmer's story on structural differences in brains of people with autism

Special thanks to GrrlScientist!

Image: Photograph by Jonathunder for Wikipedia, used under CC license.

A closer look at that freaky, giant fish eye

Last week, Mark told you about a giant eyeball that washed up on the beach in Florida. Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released their preliminary analysis of who that eyeball once belonged to and how it likely ended up becoming the temporary toast of the Internet.

The Deep Sea News blog called it last week, but the official word from the experts is that this was the eye of a swordfish. The distinction is based on the size, the color, and the fact that there are bits of bone present around the edges (something you wouldn't see attached to a giant squid eye).

How do you get a swordfish eye without a swordfish attached? Simple: It's swordfish season. In the press release, Joan Herrera, curator of collections at the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, said that, "Based on straight-line cuts visible around the eye, we believe it was removed by a fisherman and discarded."

But before we pack this mystery away, I think you should take one more close look at the giant eyeball, because it offers a great view a really interesting feature of fish eye anatomy. Fish eyes are similar to those of land-dwelling vertebrates. But there are some key differences. In particular, the shape of the lens...

Read the rest

Wax anatomy-model cake

Conjurer’s Kitchen created this anatomical wax-model cake for the mad bakers at Eat Your Heart Out. Delicious and educational!

Anatomical Wax Model Cake

Shoes with teeth


From London's Fantich and Young: Apex Predator shoes, whose soles have been covered with denture teeth:

Apex predators are predators with no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain. Materials: Savile Row Oxford Shoes, Size UK15, 1050 teeth dentures. Apex predators are predators with no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain.

Apex Predator Shoes. 2010 (via Crazy Abalone)

Replacement ear grown on an arm

A woman whose exterior ear was removed during her fight with cancer has grown a replacement ear made from starter-tissue harvested from her rib, which was cultured and scaffolded on her arm. Once the ear was ripe, it was removed from her arm and affixed to the side of her head.

“I thought of this exact strategy many years before and really was looking for the right patient to try it on,” said renowned plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Patrick Byrne.

Byrne used cartilage from Walters’ ribs to stitch together a new ear matching her right ear. He then implanted it under the skin of her forearm, where it grew for months.

..Byrne later surgically attached the ear and its blood vessels. Then surgery Tuesday added shape and detail to the ear.

Hopkins Doctors Grow New Ear On Woman’s Arm (via /.)

(Image: Johns Hopkins)

Why don't giraffes have necks as long as a brachiosaurus?

We think of giraffes as long-necked creatures, but compared to ancient sauropod dinosaurs (a family that includes the brachiosaurus and apatosaurus) even the longest-necked giraffe may as well be nicknamed "Stumpy". In a paper published online at arXiv site, two paleontologists analyzed the biology of sauropods in an attempt to figure out which features allowed the dinosaurs to grow necks six times longer than giraffes.

Turns out, there are some distinct differences — especially in the anatomical architecture of the vertebra closest to both animals' skulls — that really stand out. As this helpful slide shows, a sauropod with the vertebra of a giraffe would be in very bad shape, indeed.

This paper, by the authors' own account, began life "as a late-night discussion over a couple of beers", which means it's basically the paleontology equivalent of "Who would win in a fight: Darth Vader or Superman?" Which is awesome. Better yet, the paper is quite easy to read and the information is organized in a way that will probably make more sense to you than the typical scientific research paper. So dig in! It's worth it! Here's one short excerpt taken from a part discussing some of those differences in the cervical vertebra (the aforementioned vertebra closest to the skull):

Many groups of animals seem to be constrained as to the number of cervical vertebrae they can evolve. With the exceptions of sloths and sirenians, mammals are all limited to exactly seven cervicals; azdarchids are variously reported as having seven to nine cervical vertebrae, but never more; non-avian theropods do not seem to have exceeded the 13 or perhaps 14 cervicals of Neimongosaurus, with eleven or fewer being more typical.

By contrast, sauropods repeatedly increased the number of their cervical vertebrae, attaining as many as 19 in Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis. Modern swans have up to 25 cervical vertebrae, and as noted above the marine reptile Albertonectes had 76 cervical vertebrae. Multiplication of cervical vertebrae obviously contributes to neck elongation.

Read the full study at arXiv

Read a blog post about the study by one of the authors

Via Bora Zivkovic

Pistols made of bones


Bruce Mahalski, an artist in New Zealand, created a set of sculptural "dueling pistols" out of bone. Bidding opens at NZD1500.

Two bone dueling pistols (with spare bullets) mounted in a custom altered case which has been counter-sunk into a specially made rimu table. All of the bones have been found locally by the artist. The head on the bottom gun is from a ferret and the top one is from a black-backed gull. Both have barrels made from cat’s vertebrae. This archival quality work by Wellington artist, Bruce Mahalski (with assistance from local jeweler, Vaune Mason) has not yet been exhibited and this is the first time it is being offered for sale.

Bone Pistol Set #1 Brand new item

Re-grown lizard tails are cheap knock-offs of the original

A new study suggests that the "miracle" of re-growing a lost tail is less awesome than it might first appear. Sure, growing a new tail is cool and all. But the new tails have completely different anatomy — a tube of cartilage in place of vertebra, for instance — and are likely less flexible than the original model. (Via Brian Switek)

Anatomically correct, full-sized chocolate skulls

Eat Your Heart Out has announced that they'll soon be taking reservations for these anatomically correct, full-sized chocolate skulls at £50 each. They're made by the cats at Two Little Cats bakery.

EXCITING NEWS! WE HAVE CHOCOLATE SKULLS…

Wide variety of human innards in delicious macaron form


Further to the anatomically correct macaron hearts from Evil Cake Shop; the project has blossomed into a full-blown set of anatomical macarons.

Anatomical Macarons – MUST SEE!