The woman with a nose on her back

There are some pretty freakish, but well-substantiated, reports this week that demonstrate just how much we still have to learn about stem cells and how they work (and don't work).

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Solid gold DNA-strand rings


Zanders Creations' solid 18k gold DNA Strand Ring starts at $750 and is available in four colors. The image is a computer render, and the Arizona-based team that makes the rings consists of a 3D artist and a jeweler who collaborate on some very beautiful pieces.

Nudibranch pancakes


Every week, a new delight from Pancake Master Nathan "Saipancakes" Shields: this week, An assortment of Pacific coast nudibranchs. (previously)

Kickstarting an augmented reality, artificial lifeform in a kids' picture-book

Wagner James Au sez, "Created by virtual world/avatar pioneer Jeffrey Ventrella, Wiglets are self-animated, augmented reality creatures for mobile devices powered by an open source AI system, and have genomes that are stored in the cloud along with their geo-locations. 'This means they can exist in specific locations in the real world,' Jeffrey explains. The overall goal with Wiglets is to encourage kids to find/play with their creatures in the natural world."

$65 gets you the book and a virtual Wiglet.

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Peter Watts's The Scorched Earth Society: A Suicide Bomber's Guide to Online Privacy


Science fiction writer and biologist Peter Watts gave a spectacular talk to the Symposium of the International Association of Privacy Professional, called The Scorched Earth Society: A Suicide Bomber's Guide to Online Privacy (PDF); Watts draws on his two disciplines to produce a stirring, darkly comic picture of the psychological toll of the surveillance society.

Watts is the writer who was beaten, maced, and convicted of a felony for asking a US border guard why he'd walked up behind his rental car and opened his trunk without any discussion or notice. His take on surveillance and its relationship to control, authoritarianism and corruption is both sharp-edged and nuanced. And his proposal for a remedy is provocative and difficult to argue with. I only wish I'd been in the room to give the talk, as he's a remarkable and acerbic storyteller.

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The oldest living things in the world

The Oldest Living Things in the World is an amazing hybrid,” says Carla Sinclair, “part traditional coffee table book displaying gorgeous photographs, and part memoir of Rachel Sussman’s journey trekking around the world to photograph the oldest living things that she could find.”

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Could this simple sea creature hold the key to treating Parkinson's?

A comb jelly, via Whitney laboratory for Marine Biosciences, University of Florida.  REUTERS/Whitney laboratory for Marine Biosciences, University of Florida.


A comb jelly (University of Florida).

A scientist in Florida who studies simple sea animals known as comb jellies says he has discovered a path to a new form of brain development that may one day lead to treatments for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

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Cephalopod pancakes


More gorgeous pancakes from Nathan "Saipancakes" Shields: this week, it's cephalopod flapjacks. Dig that chambered nautilus!



Kickstarting Openworm: a cellular-level-up simulated worm

Wagner James Au writes, "Openworm, the open source collaborative project to construct an artificial life form from the cellular level, now has a Kickstarter so supporters can back the project and also get a copy of the worm itself, Wormsim, to put on their browser and even tweak the code. Here's some background from the project coordinator, who I also ask if this Kickstarter is, you know, contributing to the ultimate creation of a completely artificial sentient life form that will turn against humankind and enslave our children.

They're mostly raising money for core engineering, with the balance going to administration and educational outreach. The code is all MIT-licensed free/open source software.

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Documentary about the only penis musuem in the world

[Video Link] The Final Member "follows the aging curator of one of the world's only penis museum as he races against his own mortality to complete his comprehensive collection." He needs a human penis.

Bioengineer builds 50-cent paper microscope

Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash devised a pretty amazing paper microscope that uses cheap tiny spherical lenses. The "Foldoscope" costs around 50 cents.

“I wanted to make the best possible disease-detection instrument that we could almost distribute for free,” Prakash says. “What came out of this project is what we call use-and-throw microscopy.”

"Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope"

Sponges sneeze

In Evolutionary origins of sensation in metazoans: functional evidence for a new sensory organ in sponges, Danielle A Ludeman and her team at the University of Alberta document the heretofore unsuspected phenomenon of sneezing in freshwater sponges. When these sponges are stimulated with damaging sediment, they close their chimneys and inflate themselves to bursting, then abruptly "sneeze" out the irritants -- a process that unfolds very slowly (documented above in timelapse). I found out about this thanks to a fascinating interview (MP3) with the researcher on CBC Radio's As It Happens.

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A biological mechanism for fire-breathing dragons

Say dragons did exist. In that alternate universe, how would they breathe fire? (Where the answer is not "magic".) Kyle Hill has a nice explanation for how real-life fire breath might work, and how it could have evolved over time. (Although, slight spoiler, Hill's idea won't be terribly surprising to those of us raised on Ken Hamm Creationism videos.)

Sperm Journey

An educational video for you, from Japan. [Video Link. Thanks, Heather!]

Why do dog farts stink so bad?

Because puppies are filled with love ... and also hydrogen sulfide.