As E.O. Wilson accepts his 2007 TED Prize, he makes a plea on behalf of his constituents, the insects and small creatures, to learn more about our biosphere. We know so little about nature, he says, that we’re still discovering tiny organisms indispensable to life; yet we’re still steadily destroying nature. Wilson identifies five grave threats to biodiversity (a term he coined), using the acronym HIPPO, and makes his TED wish: that we will work together on the Encyclopedia of Life, a web-based compendium of data from scientists and amateurs on every aspect of the biosphere. [TED] [480p video]]]>
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The ultra crisp Time-Lapse Plants collection on NatureFootage (shot on 35mm film)
New data suggest that molecular communication between the plant sexes–specifically the pollen of males and pistils of females–is more complicated than originally thought. Plants, like animals, avoid inbreeding to maximize genetic diversity and the associated chances for survival. Image: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
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New software developed by Purdue University’s Wen Jiang enables scientists to observe viruses at an unprecedented level of detail.
“While before we could only see virus parts that were symmetric, we can now see those that have non-symmetric structures, such as portions of the one our paper focuses on, the Epsilon 15 virus that attacks salmonella. . .This software will enable a substantial expansion of what we can see and study. We remain limited to observing those viruses that are identical from one individual viral particle to the next â€” which, sadly, is still only a small portion of the viral species that are out there. But it is a major step forward toward our goal of seeing them all.”
An indigenous group called the MundurukÃº, who live in isolated villages in several Brazilian states in the Amazon jungles, have no words in their language for square, rectangle, triangle or any other geometric shape except circles. . .Yet, researchers have discovered, they appear to understand many principles of geometry as well as American children do, and in some cases almost as well as American adults. An article describing the findings appears in the Jan. 20 issue of Science. [NY Times article]
Despite the prevailing belief that adult brain cells don’t grow, a researcher at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory reports in the Dec. 27 issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology that structural remodeling of neurons does in fact occur in mature brains. . . In 3-D time-lapse images, the brain cells look like plants sprouting together. Some push out tentative tendrils that grow around, or retract from contact with, neighboring cells. Dendrite tips that look like the thinnest twigs grow longer. [press release]
VRML and animations of polyp oriented modeling of coral growth [article]
The morphogenesis of colonial stony corals is the result of the collective behavior of many coral polyps depositing coral skeleton on top of the old skeleton on which they live. Yet, models of coral growth often consider the polyps as a single continuous surface. In the present work, the polyps are modeled individually. Each polyp takes up resources, deposits skeleton, buds off new polyps and dies. In this polyp oriented model, spontaneous branching occurs.