Archive for October, 2011

Levitating Superconductor!?

So here’s a video that Diego uncovered, which is pretty awesome.

As the page describes, the superconductor is cooled to very low temperatures allowing it to levitate when placed above a magnet.  This is still very odd to me, so I’ll do some more reading to understand this.  Nevertheless, to describe this in one word: awesome (period).

And here’s another awesome video showing the same thing

Click the image

October 21, 2011 at 7:01 am Leave a comment

New Cell Pictures Show on Hearing!!

To go along with a previous post on how hair cells dance with vibrations (from music), here’s the most recent Cell Pictures show on hearing (link at bottom).  Actin-rich bundles called Stereocilia that protrude from hair cells lining the inner ear vibrate in response to sound waves.

The image below highlights the hearing mechanism in flies, which has similar characteristics to hearing in vertebrates: sensory neurons react to sound-wave induced vibrations, converting mechanical force into electrical signals.  The sensory neurons in flies reside in a stretch receptor called the Johnston’s Organ.

I wonder if social behavior in certain animals would be altered  by replacing their hearing sensory cells and proteins with those of different animals.  For instance, would a cat still be intimidated by a dog’s bark if it had a dog’s hearing organs?

How Flies Hear

October 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm Leave a comment


Did you know that Slime Mold, despite its moldy name, is not a fungus? As an organism capable of inching along like a caterpillar or of pseudopodia, Slime Mold is a truly unique organism.

Here’s a wonderful NYTimes slideshow titled “Beauty and the Blob,” with images showcasing the different types of slime molds.  To all those people who think they’re disgusting, I say they’re beautiful 🙂

One of our undergraduate alumni , Emerson Glassey, is teaching a class on slime molds at Stanford’s Splash program this year (October 29, 30 for all those people interested!) and I’ll provide an update on his class, hopefully with some pictures!


October 20, 2011 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

Arjun and Jack present their work at the 2011 AIChE conference in Minneapolis

I believe a “pat-on-the-back” and a statement of “nicely-done” is in order for Arjun Adhikari and Jack Chai.  This week, the two of them took the journey to Minneapolis, Minnesota to present their work at the 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) conference.  Arjun’s talk was titled “Mechanical Strain Decreases the Rate of Fibrin Gel Degradation by Plasmin” and Jack’s talk was titled “Monitoring the Effect of Mechanical Load on Fibronectin Conformation Using 3-D Magnetic Tweezers.”  Both of their presentations were warmly received and we congratulate them on this milestone towards academic and intellectual maturity.  I cannot say enough to commend their efforts and highlight the exquisite nature of their work, especially the fibrin project data analysis 😉

Courtesy of Google Images

October 20, 2011 at 6:29 am Leave a comment

Cell Picture Show

Courtesy of Cell Press, a slideshow on cell motility.

I’ll let the pictures to do the talking. (link at bottom)

Fire the Filopodia

October 13, 2011 at 8:01 am Leave a comment

“10-fold symmetry???”

Congratulations to Dr. Dan Shechtman for being awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering quasicrystals.

Apart from the information on the Nobel Prize website, there is an excellent New York Times article about his work and how much criticism he received from other scientists, including Linus Pauling (famous for discovering the structure of the alpha helix secondary structure in proteins).  Essentially, the 10-fold symmetry refers to the pattern formed when electrons were bounced off his quasicrystal, which is unique from previous notions that crystals in all materials contained repeating patterns due to the periodicity of the lattice.

This is an excellent example of a scientist who does not back down from his/her hypothesis and trusts their experimental data and physical intuition.  There are many more examples of this type of confidence and desire to prove a physical/chemical phenomena that drives many scientists to continue working towards groundbreaking discoveries; I will post these as I run across them.

Until then, enjoy the information on quasicrystals!

Ames Laboratory, via Agence France-Presse --Getty Images

An atomic model of an Ag-Al quasicrystal.

October 13, 2011 at 12:13 am Leave a comment

DNA Replication… animated!

Hi everyone, just wanted to share an awesome video I was introduced to in class (shoutout to Zev Bryant)

This was shown as a motivation for the single-molecule study done on the replication machinery of bacteriophage T7.

Lee et al, “DNA primase acts as a molecular brake in DNA replication,” Nature, 439, 621-624 (2006).

To summarize the study, single-molecule experiments were set up in a very elegant fashion demonstrating that the primase prevents leading-strand synthesis from outpacing the slower enzymatic steps on the lagging strand by transiently halting progression of the replication fork.

October 11, 2011 at 7:36 am Leave a comment

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